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Coupon To Be Redeemed

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Coming to was an unfortunate experience he would rather never repeat. It wasn’t so much the being conscious part that sucked, although that sucked a lot, in his book. What sucked most was the grogginess that clung to his mind like cobwebs, the heaviness to his limbs, and the struggle that ensued as he tried to pry his eyelids open.

His memory wasn’t as foggy as he expected it to be as he woke up from whatever drug had been coursing through his system—probably due to the fact that he hadn’t been fully knocked out by whatever it had been—and he thought hazily that he was most certainly going to kill Max for that little stunt, threat to his balls or not. You didn’t just do that kind of shit. What if he had been allergic to whatever the fuck she had injected him with? He could’ve died.

Teeth gritting, he shoved himself to sit up, feeling the soreness in his jaw and in his knuckles, feeling the tackiness of the blood staining his upper lip. Running his tongue along his teeth, lips pursing, he swallowed the metallic taste, shoving himself up onto his feet. The momentary imbalance was more internally felt than externally, too used to feeling temporarily off-kilter, and he moved over to the kitchen, fingers idly pressing into the bruise developing on his jaw, fingers skating up to brush over the bruise he knew was developing around his eye.

He didn’t even want to imagine the amount of shit he might end up getting from his dad for it. The man knew he hadn’t left that bruised up. Gritting his teeth, he spit into the sink, shoving open the tap and cupping the water in his hands, splashing his face, rinsing his mouth out and letting the liquid run over his stinging knuckles, tongue running along the edges of his teeth.

He hoped there was some sort of ice in this house because he had absolutely no desire to let the swelling on his face get worse than it needed to be. Closing the tap and wiping his face and hands free of excess water with a dish towel, he turned to the fridge, slinging the towel over his shoulder.

Opening the fridge was like resigning himself to his fate, at this point, a tired sigh escaping him at the body that flopped out.

Seriously, talk about one of the worst days ever.

Crouching, he poked the fabric covered thing with his bruised knuckles, watching as the—was that the head?—lolled to the side, opening slightly, letting him see a hint of the razor teeth inside. “What the fuck have you gotten yourself into, Maxine?” he grumbled, nose crinkling in disgust even as he reached out further and forced the maws of the thing open, grimacing at the flower petal head and rows of long knives, the coolness of the body.

Holding back any bile that threatened to come up, he forced the petals closed, throwing the blanket around the creature before getting up and looking in the fridge. Resigning himself to no ice being in there, he looked around the kitchen, looking at the contents that typically would occupy a fridge scattered across the counters.

Tapping his fingers along the things, he settled on what seemed to be a still fairly frozen bag of peas and pressed that to his eye, a grin taking over his lips as he saw a six pack of beers lying lopsided on the counter, tearing out one and moving to sit on the couch, looking at the pictures around him.

He attributed his lack of freak-out to the drugs, or maybe it was how absolutely done he felt, the bone deep exhaustion he was currently feeling—the rage that had been propelling all but completely evaporated at this point. All he felt was sore and powerless, the backs of his eyes burning. He took a swig of the beer and pressed his eyes shut.

The peas were mercifully cold and numbing on his eye.

When he opened his eyes again, he looked over at the creature lying on the ground in front of the fridge, covered in a blanket. The fuck was that thing, he wondered. He then wondered why it hadn’t occurred to him to ask that question before. That would’ve been a more logical reaction.

Frankly, he wondered if he even cared.

Pursing his lips as he took another swig of the beer, he pushed himself to his feet, wandering back over to the creature. Fuck, it was gross, he noted idly as he looked at it, holding the corner of the fabric away from the body. He would consider the preservation of food more important than the preservation of the body of this thing, but those kids were weird, completely and utterly creepy—potentially insane, he added, looking at the space around him.

Not like he was one to talk.

Fuck, he couldn’t even really remember what he did really, the images hazy in his mind.

Sighing, he drained the last of the beer, shoving the fridge door open, letting the blanket fall. Whatever the thing was, he was fairly certain he wasn’t supposed to have seen it. And, as much as he didn’t care for what he was or wasn’t supposed to do, he had no desire to get involved with whatever shit fest this was.

Hoisting the creature into his arms, he shoved it into the fridge, hooking his foot around the fridge door and kicking it shut the second the thing was completely out of his arms.

He felt distinctly gross.

He grabbed another beer and plopped himself on the couch to wait.

 

 

 

When they came back, Billy was on the porch, sitting on the railing, legs swinging, and cigarette between his lips. The sight of his Camaro did little to calm him down, if anything riling him up as he took in the state of it, heart beating fast, and he took another drag of his cigarette, jumping off of the railing.

He watched them get out of the car, flicking the rest of the fag onto the ground, grinding his heel into it, thumbs hooked in his pockets, running his tongue over the edges of his teeth. As they unloaded, he took in how they looked, the harrowed expressions, the glimmer of excitement in their eyes, and the slump of relief in their shoulders.

“Maxine,” he called, marching over, easily bypassing the kids, tearing his keys from the red head’s fingers, “get in the car.”

“No,” she hissed, glaring up at him and he leaned down, towering over her, his eyes cold.

“Get,” he glared, teeth clenching, “in the car.”

He didn’t dare put a hand on her, not with Harrington right there with that bat with nails, but he ended up not having to, Max’s glare intensifying, her jaw clenching before she was turning and marching to the car, getting into the shotgun, slamming the door shut.

Sparing none of them a glance, he got into the car, revving the engine, flicking the radio on and tearing out of the driveway, car careening dangerously, the screams of alarm from the other kids only barely reaching his ears before he was on the road and unable to give a shit.

 

 

 

Billy isn’t really sure how Max got to school the next day, but he didn’t really care, eyes fixed on the ceiling, his ribs aching and muscles trembling. His mind felt slow and his limbs felt heavy, tongue thick in his mouth. He craved a cigarette or a drink, but he didn’t feel like moving, didn’t really feel like breathing.

He wasn’t even sure if there was school.

Scrubbing his hands over his face, he sat up, pressing the heels of his palms into his eyes, letting out a slow, measured breath through his mouth. His body felt warm with sleep, but Billy could feel the cold inside of him, how it made him shiver and made his limbs stutter to move, helpless against it.

Grunting, he swung his legs over the side of the bed, planting his feet on the ground, walking over to the table where his mirror sat, snatching up the calendar and a cigarette, idly glancing at the date as he tugged one of the sticks into his mouth and lit it up, taking a slow drag.

So, it was Saturday. Go figure.

He let the smoke fill his lungs, felt it warm his insides, the cold returning as he exhaled. The clock on the wall said that it was roughly eight in the morning, something he automatically scowled at, letting the smoke escape past his lips as he tossed the calendar back onto the table. “What to do? What to do?” he muttered to himself, walking to his window and peeking out of it.

He could go outside.

He cast a glance back.

Or he could stay in bed.

He thought of that creature that tumbled out of the Byers’ fridge. He thought of how Max stole his car and how those kids had all piled in, thought of how they all got out, looking tired, smudged with dirt, relieved about something he didn’t know about.

Curiosity hadn’t been something he had indulged in ages, and he hesitated to do so now.

He glanced back at his bed.

The cigarette was ground into the ash tray as he passed it.

 

 

 

The tire tracks were hard to follow, but Billy had time to kill, if nothing else, so he drove as close to the Byers’ house as he dared before following the tracks that were etched into the road where the car had torn out of the Byers’ driveway. The tracks stopped after the turn and he followed the road until he came across the next ones etched into the concrete, taking that turn. It had to be the slowest he had ever driven on the roads in Hawkins, but he didn’t want to miss one of the tracks by being careless.

The next turn went off the road and onto dirt, into a pumpkin patch, he guessed, going off of the broken wooden sign that crunched under the wheels a bit even as Billy did his best to avoid it. The last thing he needed was a flat tire. He followed the tracks scoured into the dirt where they paused at what seemed to be a hole in the ground.

“What the fuck is wrong with these kids?” he muttered, turning off the ignition and getting out of the car, feeling the dirt shift beneath him as he walked to the edge of the ditch, looking over into it. He debated whether or not to continue, but his legs made the decision for him, hesitantly walking over the edge of the crater and to the cavity at the center.

The hole opened up to nothingness below and he frowned, looking around. Marching back to his car, he pursed his lips in contemplation. It didn’t seem like a good idea to entertain his curiosity at the moment, but what if it was something dangerous? Max had gone and gotten involved in something without thinking of the consequences, as per fucking usual, and if something happened to her, Billy would be the one to pay for it, not her. He let out a small groan of resignation before jogging to where the broken wooden sign advertising the pumpkin patch laid; taking the longest of the pieces, the piece that had originally held the sign up, and the second longest piece with it, he jogged back to his car.

In the glove compartment there was a roll of duct tape and he grabbed it, wrapping a long strip of it around the middle of the wooden piece, sliding the wood behind the front wheels of his car, rolling out the strip of tape to the mouth of the hole and a bit further. Wrapping the end of the tape around the middle of the second piece of wood, he dropped it into the hole, going back and applying a second layer of tape to the original strip connecting the two pieces of wood.

It was definitely some serious improvising, but Billy really wasn’t feeling going back to his house or to a hardware store to get some rope. Grabbing the flashlight in the glove compartment—because you never know when something could happen to your car—he took a deep breath.

“Alright, let’s see what this is about,” he whispered to himself, shaking out his limbs even as he moved to the edge of the hole, placing the flashlight between his teeth, grabbing onto the wood and swinging himself down, pleased when the tape held strong, dropping down onto to the ground, the wooden piece swinging by his head.

Clicking on the flashlight, he let it shine around him, staring at what appeared to be a tunnel. This was absolutely ridiculous and insane, he told himself, but moved down the tunnel nonetheless, tucking his nose under the collar of his shirt, the smell strange and unpleasant.

The ground was firm beneath him, but every few steps, something squelched or there was something protruding from the ground. Vines, he assumed, going from what he could make out with the light from the flashlight.

And it was ridiculously gross, the walls shining with what seemed to be a viscous substance he was nowhere near dumb enough to touch, the walls of the tunnel uneven, but not seeming to be man-made.

He hated how he sounded like some sort of conspiracy theorist in his own head.

And then, lying on the ground, there was the creature.

Well, maybe not the creature, but apparently one severely similar to the one from the fridge, seeming to be dead next to what seemed to be a Three Musketeers candy bar wrapper.

What even was this anymore?