The end of the world is always expected to come sudden, unexpected, and uncontrollable. That much is true, but it doesn’t come with a bang, really just screams turning into strangled cries and the sounds of people dropping one after another. It came without warning at possibly the worst time. But isn’t any time a bad time for humanity to end?
Beverly had been in the car, another driver swerved at her, sending the car flying off to the side like it was weightless. Surreal. She has to climb out of the car when it’s turned upside down, gripping her pregnant stomach. She never felt much attachment to the fetus inside, now isn’t any different. It just makes it worse that she’s doing this on her own.
The baby has a father somewhere technically. Tom Rogan, the idea of him makes her goddamn blood boil. She could sometimes handle him when it was just the two of them, but she made the choice to up and leave the moment the pregnancy test revealed a cross to her on that dim night. He just can’t raise a child, he really thinks he could, but with how he treats her, like her own father, makes his lack of paternal instinct clear.
She reflects on all of this now, sitting on the wood floors of this unfamiliar home as she tries to catch her breath, tries to wrap her head around what she’d seen out there, some of the most unseeable things anyone could see. But it’s not over yet. She brushes a reddish strand of hair behind her ear with a scratched up hand, finally studying the faces of the people around her.
The one standing over her looks angry with her, showing his dominance, filling her with a hope that she’s not already on his bad side just being here. The next one is in the red vest she can only attribute to the local supermarket, she doesn’t recognize the man though. The next one she tries to read is standing near the stern looking dark-haired man, he has skin of a deep brown, his face set similarly, though more determined than angry, an undertone of warmth coming through. It’s hard for her gaze not to snap to the next one, an ashy blond man, gripping an inhaler and taking a puff from it, he’s thin and nervous, though he holds a similar determined energy.
What makes her most curious is a man in a bright pink button up, tossing a ball at the wall to catch it, over and over, like he’s just trying to keep his sanity. Suddenly one who wasn’t there before appears in the archway, crossing his arms over his chest, his hair having almost the same copper tones as Beverly’s own. “Another one? G-good, this thing doesn’t work as fast as we thought it did.”
Bev just nods to the group, “Who are you all? And who- who was that woman who tried to get me here?” she asks, having a habit to be automatically suspicious of people after all she’s been through, especially strange groups of men she’s never met before. She pulls herself to her feet, a bit difficult with her center of gravity so drastically changed by the child growing within her.
The intimidating man of the dark hair and olive-y toned skin looks her up and down before speaking. “I think considering this is my home I hold the right to ask that question first, who are you?” he asks, wrapping his arms across his chest. It’s obvious he’s trying to be an authoritative presence, but really he just seems bossy and largely insecure.
She nods and sighs out, she should have known she would be asked that. “I’m Beverly Marsh, I live a couple blocks down, now can I know who you and that woman are?” she asks, feeling unsafe and impatient, who could blame her?
“Call ourselves the survivors for now. I’m Stanley, the one in the red is Ben, not to be confused with Richie, the one in the eye bleeding bright pink. Eddie’s the one that looks like a shaking chihuahua. Bill is the blunt asshole in the archway there. The one next to me is Mike, he’s about the only other sane one here. And that woman who saved you? That was my wife. Patricia. Much rather her over you,” the last sentence is spit out bitterly like a stab to the chest. The man keeps his arms crossed across his chest, swiftly turning around to leave the foyer, it’s as if he can’t even look at her without thinking of Patty and making his green eyes swim with tears. Too fresh.
She looks at the others, her own green eyes pulling in everything around her, the room is dimly lit so it’s hard to catch all their features, but besides Stan they don’t seem too upset to have her around. The next one to talk is the one he’d gestured to calling him Richie. The man doesn’t look away from his game of ball, his eyes trained on the bouncing and the wall. “Don’t worry about the bitch boy, he’s just an elderly man in a young adult man’s body, but he couldn’t hurt a fly, bet he’s got the joints of one too,” the man runs a big hand through his brown hair, snorting at his own playful insult. Whatever keeps them sane, for Richie it’s quite obvious that it’s his humor.
Eddie isn’t so much entertained by Richie’s rudeness and vulgarity, he’s been dealing with it for more consecutive hours than the others, they’re sure to get fed up too. The two of them are in police training, they were in the same carpool at the time everything outside started to go awry. Richie would call them buddies, Eddie, not so much. He takes his inhaler and slips his backpack off his shoulders, hastily unzipping it and putting the asthma medicine away, not wanting to seem even weaker than their pregnant newbie. He’ll have to pretend he’s not wheezing every breath he takes out of sheer anxiety.
Bill seems the most stable of them all, standing taller than everyone except for Mike, he seems to be constantly scanning every bit of everything happening as it does. The observer, quite useful to have around, but maybe not in a situation plagued by a monster who can only hurt you once you’ve seen It. they haven’t come up with a name for it yet, so it’s simply It. Or the shadow, but once you’ve seen it you don’t call it anything, all you can do is cry for mercy.
“You w-want a glass of water?” he asks, also seemingly the warmest to the newbies. He’s cautious yes, but he’s not cold and uncaring by any means. She nods at his offer, trying not to be so timid. Be a big girl, Beverly, be strong, she tells herself, she’s been telling herself that since her childhood years. It’s sung by a harsher voice in her head now that she’s going to be a mother, she hopes that voice stays in there and never has the need to spring from her own mouth.
She follows him to the kitchen, sitting on a stool at the island in the center, looking around, it really is a nice home. The counters are marble, the chandelier is modern, the appliances all stainless steel. Stan maybe be an asshole, but either he or his wife are excellent interior decorators, or at least know how to hire one. “How long do you think this will last? Like how long do you think we’ll be stuck staying here?” she asks, leaning her elbows on the cold counter, she’s not sure if the shiver that goes down her spine is because the temperature or the grave look that Bill returns her with.
She’ll never forget the way he says it. “I’m n-not so sure, we don’t know exactly when it b-began. The news can’t p-pinpoint it. We aren’t s-sure what causes it either. It’s i-indefinite. Hopefully you can go home soon, though,” he talks with words on unconfidence but his tone is unwavering. “It always could be worse though, a-at least it hasn’t gotten you,” he says as he stops the tap and passes her the glass. A nice cool glass of water is about the only method he knows to calm people down, his own methods of self soothing are to ignore the problem, and he can’t exactly ignore people’s problems for them without being some level of rude.
She nods slowly. She doesn’t know how to respond, of course the idea of it terrifies her. She watched person after person on the street just fall dead. A glassy look grows in their eyes, they go bloodshot for a moment before anything else happens, a sign It’s hit. She’ll never forget the look. That woman, Patty, she had these beautiful golden brown eyes before they shifted. She had kind eyes, she can understand why Stan cared about her so deeply. She gave her life to help a stranger, there’s about no greater sacrifice than that.
“How’d you end up here?” she asks, her voice soft, he seems to be able to hold his own, she wonders why he hadn’t been hiding out at his own residence, he seems fully capable of it. His expression changes, a little less so sure, less full of determination and hope. One more of… grief.
“Was at the h-high school tennis team’s m-match at the park. S-supporting my brother, George. We were f-far from home, he got injured d-during the match, can’t run a-as fast as I can,” Bill says, chewing the inside of his cheek and letting his eyes trace discernable patterns in the swirls of the black and white marble. There it his, his reason to bottle this all up. He looks early ready to cry but instead looks up. “But it’s l-like all you are m-my siblings now. G-gonna protect you guys, if you’re o-okay with that,” he says, it’s like he can snap back into his role any time, like he’s had practice.
“Bill? You know it’s not your fault, right?” she asks, she doesn’t know him but she feels her heart pound with pain for him. She watched people die, but nobody she cares about. As morbid and evil as that may sound, she lives alone and she’s never cared much for anyone in this goddamn town. Derry is supposed to be a pit stop between her shitty life before and the greatness she knows she’s destined to become.
“Moving on,” he says, walking around the counter, “You’re gonna have a baby? Do y-you know where the dad is? M-maybe we can help find him for you i-if he’s still alive?” he asks, his God complex and need to save everyone around him becoming increasingly evident. It’s endearing.
“Oh God no I hope he’s dead, if he’s not could you do me a favor and make him look into the light? He could use a fucking lesson,” she grumbles, smacking her hand on the counter in front of her in emphasis. She may have loved him sometime, at some point, when he was someone else. But the man she left wasn’t the man she loved, she wants absolutely nothing to do with him.
“Understood,” he says, the conversation getting cut short with Ben coming in and settling himself on the couch with a beat up notebook, dozens of post-its sticking out, the frilly edges of paper sticking out at several angles from the spiral spine of it. Obviously well loved and constantly used, Bill knows what it is already, but Bev is curious.
“Whatcha got there, supermarket guy?” she asks, not even minding to check his nametag, still in his work clothes. She gets up and squats herself on the couch next to him, even eyeing coffee stains and ribs on the pages, it’s almost like he takes that ratty old thing everywhere with him.
“First draft of my novel” the man says distractedly, running his hand over the scruffy beard starting on his chin and jawline. If he were to even look over he knows he’d be intimidated by her beauty like he had been in the hall, so now he simply refuses. “It’s about the end of the world. Won’t market well now,” he jokes with bitterness in every undertone of his words.
She smiles just as dryly as his words had come out, “Good talk,” she says, patting him on the shoulder and standing up. She feels like a character in a video game, walking around the room and speaking to all the different people she’ll be stuck with. It’s for the best after all, probably. She sees Mike, she knows she hasn’t spoken to him yet, he seems to be another one of the quiet ones.
“Mike, that’s your name, right?” she asks as she taps him on the shoulder carefully. Not a good time and environment to sneak up on someone, but she doesn’t know how else to get his attention. Like Stan and Bill, he seems to be a leader, she likes that about him. He’s the quiet leader, not too stern and not too soft.
“Yeah, Beverly you said?” he says after his shoulder twitches and he whips around, sighing in relief at the sight of something actually human. “You know, I’m glad we saved you, the idea of a dead pregnant woman would haunt me forever if we hadn’t. My sister is pregnant, she’s up in Canada though, moved for college,” he says, revealing his own flaw, he rambles when he’s nervous.
Stan is the quick wit. Richie is the jokester. Eddie is the anxious one. Ben keeps to himself. Bill feigns a bravery he doesn’t truly have to make the others feel safer. Mike is the rambly handsome one who seems to know the place as well as Stan does. And Bev? Beverly is so far just here for the ride, but she’ll find her place.
A newbie joins the gang, she takes a particular liking to Beverly.
Beverly has never been so unsettled by the things that go bump in the night. She’s like to consider what she was a brave little girl, but really she was no more than a little girl who couldn’t find it in her trauma muddled mind to be afraid. Now, however, in the wake of what all the news channels are calling “the end of the world- at least how we know it,” she summons her courage to try and will herself to even close her eyes.
She’s the only woman here and she can feel all of their eyes on her in the hours that they’re awake. She’s young, pregnant, and seen as the weakest link in this band of misfits. Now they rely on the clocks to keep a more normal circadian rhythm. The windows are all shaded by large chunks of cardboard taped stiffly over the glass. No chances should be taken against this monster. It has no mercy, ruthless and evil. It’s almost like It has no mind or shape of It’s own, just taking people over for small bits of time just to destroy them. It can and will bring a fall to anything in its path. Derry has never known something more evil, it’s just a quiet town in rural Maine.
There’s a knock on the front door. Everything in the Uris house seems to freeze at the sound. The timid knocks grow louder, more desperate and scared. Stan pads down the stairs in his fluffy blue robe. Mike follows close behind, a long gun propped up on his shoulder. Bill joins them down the stairs carrying a handful of pretty fashion scarves, all silk and floral. They’d been Patty’s, but they can be easily used as blindfolds. It’s important to mourn the dead, but you can’t mourn if you yourself haven’t made it to a point of survival.
Beverly rolls off the guest bed, socked feet slipping out silently to the foyer with the boys. The three of them are whispering, all tying the scarves at the back of their heads, “Pass me one,” she demands in a hushed tone. She finds that part of being the only girl is useful, her voice is more distinct. Bill knows it’s her and shoves one in her direction. There’s no time to argue. May as well keep her safe if she insists on being involved.
“State your name and purpose,” Mike commands, projecting his voice loud enough to be heard through the door. Never once does the gun falter from it’s position poised on his shoulder. He may not be able to see through the scarf, but it’s easy to tell what his target is. Right in the center of the front door, right where he heard the voice from.
“Kay. Kay McCall. I live alone and my power’s gone out. I’ve been looking for anyone else who may be alive,” a woman’s voice calls back. She holds the same confidence that Mike’s command had held. It’s almost intimidating, but the team can definitely use another powerhouse like her.
“Listen K-Kay, I’m going to pass you a big blanket, o-okay? Hang it over the lamps o-outside the door. Then I’ll le-let you all the way in. It’s just for our pr-protection.” Bill tries to keep his voice steady, not wanting to stutter over the important instructions. By this interaction, Bev can tell that the man’s always stuttered that way. It’s been a part of his day to day life for years. He opens the door a crack, keeping the chain locked to keep them safe.
A hand with nails that were once painted but now chipping reaches in carefully, non threateningly. They can’t see it now, but it’ll become obvious without the blindfolds that she may be confident, but she’s definitely a nail biter. She does what she’s told as efficiently as she can, her own blindfold leaving her to her other senses. All the survivors will get good without their sight. They won’t be able to safely see the outside any time in the foreseeable future.
Finally she gets it draped over the outdoor lanterns, it’s meant to keep what could be seen outside the house out. They finally do open the door fully to reveal a short woman with curly black hair, shutting the door hastily and fearfully behind herself. They pull up their blindfolds, hers is a nice sleeping mask that matches her solid colored maternity pajamas. The pale pink of her tank top contrasts her deeply tan skin. The lack of blindfold reveals brown eyes chocked full of fear and worry.
“My name is Kay McCall,” she repeats, hoping to prompt some sort of chain of introductions. There’s less of them than it seemed like outside the door. She wants to come off as least scary as she possibly can. She’d like to be able to say that people don’t automatically assume her to stereotypes, but as soon as they know that her dad is black, she’s seen as nothing more than an angry black woman with a lot to say. She can prove herself otherwise though, as long as people give her a chance to explain her points. She’s just as useful and valuable. Though she sees Mike and lets out a breath that she forgot she’d been holding. He’s like her, and he’s very obviously trusted and in a position of leadership.
After their eyes meet hers they travel down. It would take an idiot to not realize she’s pregnant, about as big as Beverly’s own stomach. Kay takes note of this. “How far along are you?” she asks, her hand resting on the top of her stomach, still breathing hard from the journey here.
“Almost full term,” Bev responds. The boys take a different shade of shocked then Kay does. Their shock only increases at her response.
“Me too.” Two babies born around the same time. Two babies who will know nothing but living with no grass and no sunshine. The miracle of birth should be exciting, but really it just fills the awake group with a fresh wave of fear.
“Welcome to the club, Kay, us losers stuck living through this hell,” Mike says, finally lowering his gun. They used to exclusively call themselves the survivors, but now it feels less hopeful, only making them feel more stuck. There’s not much to do now. Rations are lowering, there’s no cell service, and the streets aren’t getting much quieter. There’s no end in sight of whatever this is. They don’t feel like winners, like success, quite the opposite. Losers. They feel like losers.
“Thanks,” Kay says in a small whisper. It’s not like she was expecting the warmest of welcomes, but she didn’t expect the entire group to disperse out before even introducing themselves properly. She rubs her arm awkwardly, left alone in the foyer with Beverly. She already sees an ally in her. She’s the only other woman she’s seen in this group, and even better they’re both at the same point in their pregnancies. It would do them good to become close.
“Your name?” Kay asks, the wording comes out sounding a bit entitled but it wasn’t meant to. She’s used to comfort at least most of the time. When she divorced her husband a long while ago she ended up with most of the money. She knew exactly what she was doing. She’s a published author, quite wealthy, and ready to bring her baby girl into the world. That is until this thing came along. Her books don’t feel as important now that life itself is on the line.
“Beverly. Beverly Marsh,” Bev tries to speak as smoothly as Kay does, but she nearly always comes off as rude or uncaring when she must be serious. Her voice comes out in an unsure quiver instead. Like her hesitant tongue wasn’t ready to say anything. She’s short and small in stature, but the way she carries herself gives off more power than Beverly thinks she ever could- key would thinks she could ever.
The dim light of the foyer gets tiring and soon Bev decides that since she’s been here longer it’s her job to direct. “You probably need somewhere to sleep. Pillows and blankets are in the closet down the hall, I’ll get some for you,” it’s her excuse to walk away, and hopefully bring her closer to going back to sleep. Growing a human inside of her body is showing itself to be exhausting.
She pulls open the sliding closet door and sees something even worse than all the horrors she’s seen in the past few days. In the closet, illuminated by the light bulb at the top of the closet, are Richie and Eddie. Not just Richie and Eddie but Richie and Eddie naked, Eddie’s dick up Richie’s ass, panting in a way he couldn’t blame on his asthma. It takes them a few moments to notice Beverly and the door opening, a look of horror crossing their faces. “It’s not what it looks like,” Richie rushes out, pushing his glasses up his nose, pulling away from Eddie as fast as he can even though it hurts.
“Uh, I just need a pillow and a blanket and a minor case of amnesia,” Beverly says in a hushed voice with a sarcastic smile. She just reaches up for the top shelf to pull down what she needs. “Use protection, be safe, goodnight,” she says as she closes the door again. She lets out a deep sigh, that was another thing she definitely did not want to witness. No wonder they hadn’t been there for Kay’s arrival, they’d been in the closet getting started on whatever they were doing.
Bev hugs the pillow and quilt to her chest, waddling her way down to the foyer. She starts to pass them to Kay, “Where do you want to sleep? I can help you find somewhere,” Bev asks, she wants to get this over with but she remembers being the new one. She can be the Bill for Kay, he explained to her most of what she needed, and she can help Kay.
“Where are you sleeping? I hear pregnant woman shouldn’t be alone all the time, it can make their baby not develop well,” Kay suggests. Really all her time alone has gotten lonely. She didn’t think that not having a partner would feel so much like a loss, but it’s just something new to learn about herself. Self discovery is important.
Beverly looks a bit uncomfortable for a moment or two, before just nodding. She’s been pretty lonely too. Leaving Tom was the best thing she could have done, but she still has an ounce of regret. She leads Kay to the guest room, she got lucky to sleep in a nice bed, they decided that she should because she’s pregnant. Kay is also pregnant, it’s just fair.
“So who’s your baby’s father?” Bev asks, she remembers that Kay said she’d been living alone, maybe she’s like her. Solidarity sounds refreshing.
“A sperm donor, number thirty three to be exact,” the shorter woman says with a sly smile, trying to set her pillow and blanket alongside Bev’s. She’s learned that relationships aren’t very fulfilling to her, but she wants to be a mother. She wants to bring a child into this world, who knows? Her child could bring the change the world needs. Self reliance was alright before, but what seems to be an apocalypse brings a completely different set of rules and goals. “What about yours?”
“An asshole. I loved him, I really did. But he hit me and hurt me and I don’t think he’d make a safe father. So I got out of there. I’m still not sure I’d make a safe mother either, but I can’t take the baby away from myself,” Beverly explains, too exhausted to have a filter. Besides, she’s stuck with these people for now, they’re allowed to know.
“You’ll make a great mother,” Kay says in a sure voice.
“How do you know?” Bev asks, laying in her spot, pulling a strand of her hair behind her ear.
“Because you’re questioning if you will be. Sign of intelligence,” Kay says, laying beside her and looking over at her, trying to get herself comfortable. “The best way to be a good mom now is to get some rest.”
The group realizes that they can't go on forever with just what's in Stan's house, and they have to find a way to venture out of the home and out into the world for supplies.
Rations start to go down and now everyone’s moods are even lower. With two women growing children inside of them, of course the food goes quick. Better than starving the fetuses when they’re this far along. It would only make the losers feel inhumane. But their morality doesn’t make them run out of food any slower.
“You know we’re all just gonna die here, not of It, but of our own human needs. Frankly, human bodies are awful and I’m ashamed to have one,” Stan says, straightening his baby blue sweater on his torso as he paces the living room back and forth. They may all be in the worst time of their lives, but he still insists on fully dressing up, down to the polished black shoes. They click on the wood floor, it only reminds them how the clock is ticking.
For now they’re thinking of what they could do, “We could try and make a run for it? Make our way to the store, run with as much as we can carry,” Richie suggests, of course the hyperactive one suggests the one that takes the most physical activity. “We could even keep the blindfolds on, we’ll find our way there eventually,” his voice gets quieter and he shrugs embarrassedly as he gains the looks of doubts from his peers.
“Richie, how do I say this? You’re fucking stupid,” Eddie says, his voice coming loudly from his chest. Beverly hasn’t seen his hot head come out this badly yet, but it’s clear Richie is used to the behavior. “Even if we somehow could get there at some point, we’d expend too much energy! We need to manage ourselves better now, it’s not like we can consume all two thousand calories we need!” he rambles and paces even more angrily than Stan does. He’s had to be careful all of his life because his mom, but now he’s stuck here being careful again because of a monster he can’t even lay his eyes on. He can’t size it up, and that’s what scares him the most. He wants to know what he’s dealing with.
Richie slumps in his chair, picking at the skin around his fingernails, biting at it once he can’t do much more with his hands. He just wants to keep occupied, though Eddie’s ranting doesn’t phase him too much. They’ve known each other for a while, he’s been on the receiving end of this rage on more than one occasion. If he’s being honest, it turns him on a little, and that’s why he’s trying to ignore it.
“What about with some sort of camera night vision goggles? You could see what’s around you but maybe since it picks up heat signatures it wouldn’t get… that thing,” Ben suggests, his voice comes out nervously, he’s not much of a leader himself. But his writing has gotten him some ideas, if it works in the real world it’s all the better. He chews his lip as he watches Mike consider the idea.
“It could work, but we can’t risk it. Even some ghosts pop up on camera. But it’s something to try. Stan, can we test it out somehow? Any ideas?” Mike asks, letting his warm brown eyes meet with Stan’s hazel ones.
“Mike, you fucking idiot, ghosts aren’t real. My security system only picks up heat signatures for that very reason. It’s a lost cause though, Hanlon, we can’t risk it,” Stan says, sitting in his recliner with a huff. He really feels as if it’s hopeless. He hates when his perception of things change, change in general messes with him badly. He’s in shutdown mode with his anxiety, without his Patricia to comfort him like she had for years of their life together.
“Believe what you want, Uris,” Mike says, straightening up from where he’d leaned on the counter, walking around the kitchen island as he thinks. “Your control stuff for the cameras is in your office, right?” he asks, obviously very seriously considering it. He’s always had a self sacrificing attitude. He’s basically the most valuable member of this team aside from Bill. At the moment the two of them are damn near in a real power struggle. They both just want to be partners in this, but have too big of egos to actually let it happen.
“Michael, don’t you even think about it,” Beverly says, her voice smooth despite her fear. She doesn’t want to lose any of them, especially someone who plays such an important role in the group. She doesn’t want to see anyone else die, particularly someone she’s learned to be close to by now. But there’s no avoiding it. Risk one of them or risk all of them slowly and painfully.
“No, Bev, my mind is made up, if something happens it happens. If nothing happens, I can help save you guys, and your baby,” he says, going about the usual hero spiel. He gestures to her, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath. “But we’ll make it so nothing happens,” Mike says, opening his eyes again. “I know how, I just need your help.”
They all get up from their spots basically in sync, coming together to help him. He has them get rope and duct tape, to which Richie comments sounds “kinky.” they bring everything up to Stan’s office, though Stan stays downstairs in his spite. He knows it won’t work, they told him to stay there because they don’t need his negative energy.
They tie his back to the back of the leather chair, taping his arms down to the arm rests. They tie his legs together and then tape them to the chair as well. They want him completely immobile, it’s for his own safety. If he can’t move he can’t get hurt, right? He looks at Beverly as the others leave the room and wish him luck.
“You’re so strong, you’ll make it through this,” he says, his eyes welling with tears. It’s like he knows what’s to happen to him in the span of the next few minutes. “Now, little red, make your way downstairs to where it’s safe. I’ll see you guys all soon.” Beverly nods, evading his tearing eyes with her own. She turns and leaves the room, shutting the door behind her as he’s left to do what he knows he has to.
He pushes the button to turn on the computer. The screen comes up, panels of the security cameras coming up, mostly all aimed at the outside of the house, it’s fine at first. A bright light passes over the screen, his eyes flicker in response. He blinks quickly and shakes his head, he thinks he was just seeing something.
It’s only a few more moments until it gets worse. He feels pressure on his throat and in his ears. He sees another kind of light and lets out what he can of a scream. The group hears it from downstairs. They’d already been on the edge of their seats but the scream makes them jump into action. They grab blindfolds from the coffee table. They need to save him but they can’t see whatever has got him. It would only be counterproductive.
They push and shove each other up the stairs, throwing the door open, finding him on the wood floor, still attached to the chair, the chair had fallen with him with a crash unlike anything they’d heard before. The thump of a body combined with the fall of a heavy chair is a sound like no other. They fight to get the computer turned off without looking, and they finally do. It all feels like a blur of yelling and pushing. This must be what it feels like to be completely hopeless, Beverly believes. She’s the first one to remove her blindfold.
She sees him lying there, his eyes wide open, all black, his sclera covered with something dark, which she realizes later, realizes in the near future, was blood. There was blood coming from his ears, bruising all around his neck. It looks like a goddamn crime scene. She doesn’t want to be so emotional. She’s pregnant and hormonal, she’ll blame it all on that, but she falls to her knees and sobs. Eddie has to pull her out of the room by her shirt sleeve. They close the door, they don’t know what to do about his body. Probably nothing. They’ll probably just never open that door again.
They spend the rest of the day in complete silence, they dim the lights. It just feels right to them, they need to spend time honoring his life, and the man he was. They still need food though. Grief doesn’t stop time, even though it feels like it. They sleep together in the living room, but when morning comes they need to talk about what to do about their supply. It may be insensitive, but that’s survival. Sometimes survival breaks morality, especially in cases like this.
In the beginning there is no conversation to this meeting. Until finally Kay speaks up, “If we’re going, I want to go. It’s partially my fault that the food is running out. I need to help,” she says, looking around to see the reactions and opinions of the others. She’s met with disagreement.
“No, you’re more vulnerable,” Stan spits out. He’s still not the happiest about Beverly and Kay and their unborn babies. He thinks that they just make it harder to move on with the idea of dying. New life connected with the idea of dying is never a pleasant combination.
“What if we c-couldn’t see out of the c-c-car windows?” Bill asks, looking among the group. A plot hatches in his head. He’s used to ignoring his grief, which is probably why his mind is clear enough to even come up with a plan. For the rest of them his avoidance of his problems almost seems like a superpower.
“We could cover the windows like the ones in here, right?” Eddie suggests, crossing his leg over his other knee in a pattern that mimics a number four. Now they have the ball rolling on what they could do. It seems in natural order for Eddie to follow Bill’s lead, he’s obviously got an amazing and creative mind, he and Bill both do, they could put it to wonderful use. In this scenario and otherwise.
“Right!” Ben jumps into the conversation, it gave him another reason for his novel. As he listens now he scribbles in his notebook with his dull pencil. It makes Beverly smile, at least he can find inspiration in this. Watching someone benefit somehow makes this all that much easier. Keeping their hopes up is the best they can do now.
“We should get to it,” Richie says with an enthusiastic slap to his knee, getting up to his feet. He still never fails to try and be a beacon of sunshine and smiles for the group, he’s decided that’s his mission. He may not be the smartest when it comes to living, his mom still cut his food for him up until the day that he ended up in Stanley’s house. But jokes, he can do jokes.
They all head for the closed garage. Stan’s car isn’t the nicest, but it is good enough to still drive. They find cans of paint on the shelves, no more cardboard though, it’s all been used up for the inside windows. Paint will do, though Stan whines and complains about how he’ll never be able to use his car again. As far as they know though, the situation may never return to how the world was before. The idea of getting food now seems much more important than trying to get a new car when this is all over. God they can only hope it’ll get any better soon.
They go to work slathering thick layers of paint over the windows, they’re scared that missing a spot could be their entire undoing. It’s almost cathartic to paint on something that in their old lives would never be okay to ruin this way. It makes them feel powerful, they definitely needed that before the journey they’re bound to make later. It’ll take more than luck, confidence is the best they can do. Driving blind isn’t of skill, just of throwing away their fear and just going for it.
“Well, w-we’ve been avoiding this b-but. Who o-of us are going?” Bill asks, looking among his group, his blue eyes don’t shine so much in here, they look more like a dreary and dark gray. He doesn’t just look sad, he truly seems to be nervous in a way the others have never seen him. “I’m d-definitely going. I’m driving,” he states before anyone else speaks up.
Beverly raises her hand slowly, “I really need to get out for a while. I’m going stir crazy,” she admits, trying not to be ashamed of wanting to go, but it doesn’t stop it entirely. Bill nods in her direction, letting her know that he’ll allow it. It’s as if he understands her endlessly restless spirit.
Ben cowers near the door to go back into the house. Bill stops him as soon as he realizes though. “Hey! Y-you worked at the supermarket, r-right? Means you kn-know the security system. N-need you,” he says, gesturing for Ben to come back into the group.
“Eddie, R-Richie, you guys too, we need Eddie’s t-tactfulness.” Bill says, then he looks at Kay and Stan, “You guys st-stay here,” Bill commands.
They finally venture out, learning that they may not be the only ones alive and that that may not be a good thing.
The group finally did talk out who would go and who would stay behind and hold up the fort. Getting settled in the car is a completely different story. Bill obviously takes front seat, not letting go of his promise to drive. Bev is given the passenger seat so she can have more room. Ben is in the back between Richie and Eddie, the idea of him being in the middle being to avoid pda as much as possible.
“You sure about this blind driving thing?” Beverly asks, her eyebrows furrowed in worry, she trusts Bill, or at least she wants to. But driving to the store without even being able to see anything at all seems like an idea that’s not the smartest. She doesn’t even know if he can drive well. Hell, he hasn’t even shown proof of a driver’s license.
“It’s n-not completely blind,” Bill shrugs, clicking on the navigation to type in the address. “Technology d-don’t fail me n-now,” he says with a nervous chuckle. He hears Stan open the garage from the inside of the house with the remote. It’s go time now, no turning back at this time. The lives of all of the losers are on his back now. And he’d feel bad if he left Kay alone with a grumpy Stan for longer than he needs to.
The gps calculates their location, contacting the satellites to calibrate how Bill can get them to the supermarket. He pulls forward out of the garage, it feels completely wrong to do without sight. The atmosphere outside is eerie, and it feels unsafe to be out in the open like this, even if they can’t be affected by the monster by sight. The most concern builds when they roll over something large and hear a crunch. Bill excuses it as a speed bump and the others hesitantly agree for their own sanity.
Until the car crawls over another, Bev closes her eyes and breathes out a deep breath, her mouth in an anxious o shape. “Another speed bump?” she asks, the denial is so much better than the truth they all know. They’ve all been out here at least once in their process to get to safety. They saw what was happening to people. Just like what happened to their own Mike but out in the open, one after another after another.
“Yeah. K-kids live around here. It’s to keep them safe from speeding cars,” the explanation almost hurts more. All the kids, It can get kids. It’s probably easiest to get kids, they’re smaller and more vulnerable. It’s done before anyone could think to save a child. They could even run over a kid. Running over people like useless roadkill is one of the hardest things the group has gone through this far. At least Kay isn’t here for it, she’s much too soft and cares too much about people for this not to traumatize her forever.
Suddenly the car goes off beeping. They’re too close to something on the right side, and the suddenly the left too, and in front and behind. They’re surrounded by something. The car is shaking and quivering like something on the outside is touching it and attacking. It does stop though, only after Bill slams hard on the breaks. He speeds ahead, finally the car stops beeping and signifying that something is too close. They’ve gotten away.
The gps lady announces their arrival at the supermarket after what feels like it’s been forever. They’ve never been so relieved as when they can stop the car and return the blindfolds to their eyes. The next challenge is getting in, and that’s where bringing Ben along comes in. He has a key tethered to his vest, which he has along to ensure their entry, and the ability to lock the doors up behind them again. They walk together, all connected like a chain of preschool toddlers. Ben leads, fingering around the door for the lock, finally able to shove the key up the hole of the lock and getting it to fall to the pavement with a cracking sound.
He takes more strength than necessary to pry open the sliding doors. The place is barren, nobody is here so of course the door has to be opened manually. Who knows if it’ll ever be opened automatically ever again. He gets it closed again after they all file in. They take role before the door gets entirely closed to be sure that they’re not leaving anyone else there. Finally they all pull up their blindfolds to reveal the scene they’ve entered.
The lights all slowly turn on, one box on the ceiling by one. It’s even more eerie than driving in the dark, a supermarket entirely empty is the oddest sight they’ve witnessed this far. Everything is mostly in order, as much as it can be after people rushed to grab things in the wake of this tragedy. They all start walking through the aisles on their own, separating but not dropping their guard by any means. They may never learn to trust the world around them again.
Beverly walks down the frozen foods aisle, looking up and down, trying to find something that would be of use to them. Nothing perishable, she has to remind herself, then wandering her way to where the canned goods are, those should be the best. She grabs a basket from the end of the aisle, picking up some beans and some corn, questioning whether or not the group would want peas or not. Ben looks around the entire store, wrinkling his face up.
“I’m not cleaning any of this up, I hope you’re not expecting me to,” he says with a sheepish chuckle, making his way down to the staff room to see if anything useful was left back there, though it’s not likely. Bill makes his way to where the potato chips and soda is, figures for a man of his age, probably taking community college courses. It doesn’t take a lot for them to constantly realize how actually little they know about each other other than the fact that they’re alive together in whatever this bullshit is.
“Attention shoppers, losers, meeting in aisle 27,” a voice slurs over the loudspeaker. They all listen and make their way to the same aisle that the voice had commanded. The apocalypse is like the military, it teaches people to follow instructions without question. They find Richie with the microphone for the speaker in one hand and a bottle in the other. Pinot grigio, they should have known that he’d be a wine drinker, too much of a pussy for harder liquor and not having the taste for whiskey or scotch. It brings some of them small chuckles, Richie always brings them laughs when they think they can’t even smile. A perfect buddy for a situation like this.
“We should stay here forever,” he slurs out with a grin, holding up the bottle as if it was a toast. A toast to them. “Food, safety, space, most of us,” he suggests. He seems really proud of the revelation, though all the others question him.
“Richie, what about Kay and Stan? And Kay’s baby, huh?” Eddie asks, his voice daring Richie to argue with him, he’s smaller than Richie but it’s always been very clear that he’s the one who’s in charge of the two. They’d all say Eddie was the logical one, not the smart one necessarily, but he’d be damned if you couldn’t call him logical.
Richie looks almost embarrassed as he keeps speaking, “What about them? Isn’t it every man for themselves?” he asks, adjusting his glasses on the bridge of his nose. He wouldn’t normally be selfish, but drunk Richie is a different kind of Richie, a Richie they wouldn’t want to know. At least he hasn’t been much of a drinker in the past few months of his life, though the stress of now may bring it back.
“Richie, no,” Eddie says sternly, pulling the bottle fr’s hand, it shatters on the floor, leaving the yellow liquid to spread across the floor, Richie wearing a pout on his face. “Get yourself a bottle of water and drink it all, dickhead,” Eddie spits out bitterly. He especially doesn’t like drunk Richie, he’s a big reason it took them so long to actually get together.
The conversation is cut short, though, by a loud banging on a door in the back of the store, the loading door where deliveries are often received. Ben tells them that as he walks carefully in the direction of that door. “Hello?” he calls, patting his palm against the door firmly to let the person know how close he is now.
“Ben? Is that you?” a voice calls back in near hysterics, he’s very obviously sobbing, hiccups and choked coughs loud enough to hear through the door, it breaks the losers’ hearts to hear it, though they still question whether to help or not.
“Yes, Victor?” he replies, softening more than the other losers, it’s a coworker of his. The coworker has always been a little out of it, someone hired so the company could prove they hired people who have had a troubled past. He was an ex con, though he’s not sure if Vic was actually guilty or not, he just knows he’d been in prison for two years after his senior year of highschool. But Ben doesn’t judge. Vic has been nice enough to him, at least for someone who wasn’t in normal society for how long he wasn’t.
“Let me in, please, they’ve left me here to die,” Victor sobs, Ben doesn’t know how else to react. He starts to open the door slightly only for Vic to push on it roughly, Ben tries to keep it closed. He wants to help but the desperation only makes him nervous. The door gets pushed open again and as Vic starts into the entrance Ben sees his eyes and knows what they’re under and knows what he has to do, he runs at Vic, pushing both of them out into the parking lot. The losers hear a scream behind the slammed door. It hurts, but it just means they need to get going faster. Loss is growing to be a normal part of their current situation.
Bev can only distract herself by going back into an aisle. She hears chirping a few aisles down. She’s shocked to find them alive, but there’s three parakeets in a white wire cage. It hurts her deep inside. None of them had really thought of the animals. With hardly any thought she opens the cage and puts them in a small box with some holes poked for air. She can’t just leave them. Maybe it’s maternal instinct or hormones, but she knows she just can’t.
She even remembers a poster in the guest room. It identifies different species, Stan is obviously interested by them. There’s something like that in the office too. Maybe Stan would even care about the birds, something to make him smile once they get back. An apology for making him stay at the house in that time.
She hides them in the basket, finally meeting up with the others at the front of the store, they’re returning their blindfolds to their heads to carry their load to the car. For some reason it almost feels like a normal family shopping trip. Maybe this will be the life that becomes normal in their eyes. Bev doesn’t know if she finds that thought comforting or if it’s just plain sad.
another new person joins the losers- survivors- and he may or may not have been a really bad person to let into their space.
The drive home goes mostly uneventfully, thank goodness. The homecoming with the groceries is exciting for them all. It’s the first time they’ve been truly successful at what their goal was. It gives them a sense of hope that they can be strong despite the hardships. They can’t be brought down, laughing and talking as they put the groceries away into the kitchen.
After they finish, Beverly finds her way back to the living room, spotting the notebook that was Ben’s. It brings a pang to her heart, she hadn’t known him well but it still hurts when she remembers the scream they’d heard from outside the door. It hurts even more to realize how numb they already have become to the pain that loss brings. Ben seemed nice, and she wonders how intrusive it would be to read bits and pieces of his story. She hopes it wouldn’t be too awful, because she already finds herself picking it up to read through. The first page is dated, it’s from months and months ago. It brings a small smile to her lips, it’s almost like Ben had predicted the apocalypse. It’s very good actually, his words string together like song lyrics or prose. It’s nice to read, although his ideas could have used so much more development, and she wished he was still here to finish them off, or even explain them out loud to her.
She doesn’t even feel Bill sit next to her on the couch, “I used t-to write, lost motivation to a-after a while,” he says, looking over her shoulder, reading a few of the scribbled words at the top of the page, “Thriller w-was never my genre, usually h-horror,” he admits, before this he never really talked about his writing to anyone, he found it embarrassing and thought of it as something to be ashamed of, that since he likes to write about fearful things that people would see he himself as creepy or weird. But y’know, there’s no reason to keep it private anymore. With what he’s seen, he’s not even sure he’ll be around for much longer. He can only hope, and he doesn’t know what he really hopes for. Life is the human instinct to want to hold on, but does he really want to stick around to see how far this will go?
“Did you ever write something about everyone in the world dying?” she asks with a little smirk, trying to make light of it the way Richie does. They are all learning from each other and picking up on each other’s traits, it’s inevitable with their close proximity. The more jokes the better, and it’s even better if they don’t pick up on all of Stan’s grumpiness, because he doesn’t seem anywhere near lightening up, they wish he would but they can’t force him to. He’ll come to terms with everything on his own time.
“I can’t say so, m-mostly just the n-normal amount of death,” he says with his own chuckle to her. At least they can keep the conversation light, they jive well. It’s important, if they were getting into fights it would probably be the most counterproductive thing they could do. Facing death tends to bring people together, all fighting for a common goal instead of each other, at a point personal inhibitions and views don’t seem so important on an individual basis. They’re distracted from the conversation when there’s a rustling in a box on the kitchen island. The birds.
Beverly suddenly remembers her little secret passengers, getting up quickly to check on them, opening the top slowly and peering in at the scared creatures. She wishes she could comfort them, but she knows next to nothing on birds and grabbing them to try and give them a chance at life had been fully on impulse, but now she feels worse. They’re in her full responsibility and if something happens to them it’s her fault. Maybe that’s why she’s so scared to be a mother and why she had been so close to having an abortion but then didn’t. It’s just like the birds. Wanting not to take away any of their chances, but not wanting to actually have to follow through with all the care. Maybe caring for the birds can almost be like practice motherhood in some simple way.
She sees the three of them cowered into the corner of the cardboard box, she feels bad for them. She’s never been a big fan of birds, they’re finicky and unpredictable which is a reason most people aren’t a fan of them, but now she realizes how much bigger and more powerful she is than them and most of that anxiety evaporates. She opens it fully to expose them to the light. “Hey, Stanley, anything you can tell me about the kind of birds these are? What do they need to eat?” she asks, she hopes that he is as interested in birds as he seems by his decor. She wants to see him replace that scowl with at least a little smile for once. She knows the joy pets can bring people, she hopes he’s one of those people.
“Parakeets. I don’t think we have proper bird food but let’s see,” he says, trying not to get too worked up over the fact that she’s kidnapped live animals into his home. At least they’re not something too wild like a squirrel or coyote. Birds are beautiful, and they’re gentle if you’re gentle with them. He likes that about them, they’re an easy animal to admire from afar, he’s not ever owned one. He doesn’t like to trap them. Birds are different than humans, if they’re out in the open they can fly. They can’t fly as well in a building, you can be an amazing bird owner. But a golden cage is still a form of cage.
He learns to be less peeved though as they work on setting them up a place to be, Beverly even thinks she sees the ghost of a smile on his face for the first real time since she’s met him. Night falls and they’re almost even some sort of content. Life feels normal, they’re creating their own sort of normal and it’s almost beautiful.
Kay and Bev are cuddled up in the guest bedroom, they’ve come to find endless comfort in the other’s touch. It’s a pure kind of friendship, one Beverly has never has had before. Kay isn’t so sure she’s had this before either. It feels safe. It feels better than it had ever felt with her ex husband. It feels like some sort of intimacy and closeness she’s never experienced. It almost feels like feelings.
“Beverly, if something happens to me, I want you to be my daughter’s mom,” Kay whispers to a half asleep Beverly, who is at least awake enough to nod and agree, letting the information sink in. She leans her forehead against Bev’s with a soothed sigh, and the two of them both fall into a light sleep void of any dreams or nightmares.
There’s a knock on the door like when Kay had come originally, the first one to flinch awake is her. She pulls gently away from Beverly, sitting up and rolling off the bed, waddling her way to the front door with her hand on her stomach. “Hello? Who are you?” she asks, tapping back onto the door to let the other person know she’s there. Soon she’s joined by Bill also woken by the pounding. It feels better to not be alone with whoever the stranger is.
“I need help, they’re trying to kill me, please!” a man’s voice yells, continuing to pound so desperately that Bill is sure he could definitely break the door down or at least punch a hole in it. He’d rather listen and help the have them exposed to the danger of a broken door, not after they’ve come as far as they have.
“I’m g-going to open the door,” he says in a calm voice, cracking it only slightly. Stan is awoken now by the noise, he has the same gun on his shoulder that Mike had been ready with when it came to Kay’s arrival. He looks livid, his eyes burning with the anger, it’s almost like the normal hazel has been replaced by pure fire.
Bill cracks it open and a lanky man with dark hair tumbles in through the door and falls to the floor. Bill slams the door behind him. The man wails and squirms on the floor. If anyone in the house had still been asleep they aren’t possibly anymore, just too exhausted and out of it to make their way to the foyer.
“Put your hands in the air and state your name and where you’ve come from right now or risk being shot on the spot,” Stan says in a voice loud and clear, it’s not a bluff. He may seem cold, but by now he’s here to protect himself and his new friends, he’s got enough friends, he doesn’t need any newbies. Newbies means change and change is dangerous, it always has been.
The man collects himself up to his feet. “I’m Patrick, I was hiding but a group of men found us and opened our eyes to see that thing, I was the only one to get away,” he says, choking and hiccuping on a sob at the thought of what he’s gone through. He’s loud and dramatic, Stan doesn’t like that. The man’s eyes are red and irritated, his pupils enlarged as he takes in his new location.
Stan shoots a warning shot but it only hits the wood floor as the man dodges the aim. Stan grumbles out a sigh and drops the gun, putting the safety back on, “You’re on thin fucking ice, Pat,” he says, it’s almost a trigger for him. His wife died only recently, and she’d been a dark haired woman named Pat, and now here’s a threatening dark haired man named Pat sitting on the floor of his home.
“Stan, put that thing down!” Bill scolds, grabbing the gun from him as soon as the safety is on it and it’s safe. “Be nice, y-you know how hard this is f-for everyone,” he grumbles himself. “If you have a pr-problem with it you can take the garage.
And that’s how it end up. Stan ends up staying in the garage of his own home due to his massive distrust of the new guy, the rest of them all returning to bed and Patrick to the couch in the living room, laying there in the dark fully clothed with his shoes on before he starts rifling through the backpack he travelled with, a sketchbook coming out in his hands with a devious smile on his face. In due time.
The babies are born on the same day. Patrick should never have been trusted.
The next morning brings what nobody would have expected. New life and the loss of someone else’s, a true example of the circle that life is. Kay feels the early signs of contractions and labor right around when the sun would be coming up and it tells her that she will be in for a long and painful day. She’s been to all the mommy and labor seminars and has done everything she can to prepare, but she still doesn’t feel ready. She doesn’t think any first time moms ever truly feel ready for what’s ahead of them. She doesn’t tell anyone until it becomes unbearable, she simply elects to sit on the couch and sip at a cold glass of water between the contractions she tries to bite back. Eventually she just knows that she’s close enough, and when she gets to that point she decides to tell someone. She doesn’t want to alarm anyone so she just quietly waddles her way to the room where Bill is staying. He’s a leader figure for the group, he feels like a good person to ask for help. She’s more comfortable with Bev, but Bev is still asleep so Bill is the next best thing.
“William,” she says to him in a hushed voice to catch his attention without making a commotion among anyone else. He looks over at her with his big, blueish gray eyes. “I’m having this baby, like right now I think,” she says with a quiet and hurried sense of urgency. She lets out another hiss of pain as another contraction plagues her. Though she’s been trying to avoid this exact situation, a look of panic crosses Bill’s face before he starts shouting what are probably directions to the others but Kay is too deep into focusing on the pain in her lower regions to pay attention to him telling them to get Bev and water and towels. They get her set up on some towels on the bed in the master bedroom to try and prepare her. Eddie sees the baby’s head and nearly throws up then and there so Bill tells he and Richie to leave the room (knowing Richie probably isn’t mature enough to handle a situation like this).
Bev crouches at Kay’s side, letting her hold her hand as tightly as she needs to. Bev has never been in the room while someone gives birth before, it’s an interesting and unique experience. Kay almost likes the pain, able to feel her pulse nearly everywhere in her body, it’s empowering. It’s almost funny how people used to tell her to “grow a pair” when balls can be so fragile but a vagina can expand enough to let out another human being and still heal and return to normal. It reminds her just how powerful and resilient she is, she really needed something like this.
“Oh m-my God I s-see the head,” Bill stammers out, ready to help any way he is able to. He’s never done something like this but the videos in eighth grade health class are bound to be enough, right? Before Kay can push again to further how far out the baby is, Beverly tries to bite back a scream of her own. They’d had similar due dates, but they think that fate decided that their kids needed to be born on the same day. It’s a stressful miracle.
She can’t hide it that easily, soon assuming a similar position to what Kay’s been in. They hold each other’s hands so tightly that they feel they might break, their groans and screams sounding like some sort of off key duet. The labor and delivery process is a complete blur for all of them from there. Bill cuts the umbilical cords and presses the babies to their moms’ chests. The screams of Beverly and Kay are replaced by those of the infants, it’s a surprisingly serene feeling despite how loud it is. Beverly has a little boy. He seems to have Tom’s nose, but most of Beverly’s other features. Kay has a little girl, a seemingly more healthy baby than Beverly’s little one, probably because of how much more Kay had paid attention to her pregnancy from the beginning, she’d also been under less stress than Bev has been.
Patrick is downstairs, alone. He pulls out his sketchbook again. It’s so much easier to leaf through and admire when the lights are on. He’s drawn that thing, It. He finds it beautiful. The perfect subject of his art and of most of his thoughts. Though he doesn’t think drawings really do It any justice. He longs to see it again, and he realizes that there’s nobody to stop him. He jumps up and rips the cardboard from over the windows, letting the sunlight penetrate the glass and into the home. He just wants to share it, with all of them, it’s the most wonderful thing the human eye can ever witness.
He sees the birds in the small cage in the room, he doesn’t want them to escape, these annoying creatures in his opinion. They don’t deserve to see it. He covers the cage with a thick blanket, laughing at the panicked chirps that erupt from them.
Stan watches part of this though the window in the door to the garage. He pounds with his palms against the door in his sudden fury, “Hey! What the fuck do you think you’re doing? Cover the windows before we all fucking die!” he yells, straining his vocal cords to sound more intimidating with his commands, while also keeping his eyes shielded to try and protect himself. He knew he had a bad feeling about this guy, and he’s almost filled with a sort of spiteful relief to know that it wasn’t just his own selfishness.
Patrick only turns his head to face him with a maniacal smile that he’ll never forget. His eyes are blank, he’s completely expressionless besides the creepily wide grin. His eyes trail over to the button on the counter that closes the garage. The lightbulb in his mind brightens. He grabs the small remote and prompts the garage to open to let the light stream in. He watches as Stan dies and he can only shrug to himself. Guess he doesn’t understand true beauty, Patrick thinks. The next mission is to go upstairs and show the others, it’s his duty as someone who’s seen the light.
He almost runs up the stairs, giddy with the excitement of the fresh sighting. Richie and Eddie are simply sitting on the floor in the hallway with their backs against the wall and their hands intertwined. They hardly hear Patrick, he’s rather light on his feet for such a tall and lanky man. They hardly notice or acknowledge him until he starts to rip down the cardboard, he ignores their screams and cries for him to stop, they wish the hall didn't have a window at all. They try to cover their eyes but it doesn’t do them much use. They’re still holding hands when their bodies hit the floor. Patrick hears the babies’ cries from the master bedroom and that’s the motivation he needs to go in there, opening the door and stepping inside.
In the bedroom, Kay and Beverly lay side by side on the bed with Bill sitting with his legs hanging over the edge of the bed. The three of them talk softly. Patrick watches the soothed scene in his manic awe. They’re happy, but he thinks he can make them even happier by showing them what he knows. He smiles at them as sweetly as he can, noticing how he’s worrying them with his look. “Babies,” he says in a soft tone, drawing nearer to them. They don’t tell him not too, though Kay gets very visibly uncomfortable when he strokes the hairs on her daughter’s head.
“I have to bless them,” Patrick says, not stopping and then shifting his hand to Beverly’s son’s head. They think he’ll be done there. Maybe this guy is a religious figure of some sort and thinks this is somehow meaningful. But instead he pulls away as suddenly as he’d come into the room. He walks his way to the window, starting to pick at the tape on the edges. When the girls notice it they throw the blankets over them and their children for protection.
Bill springs up from his spot, it seems like he’s abandoning them but really he’s on a mission to find the gun, the same one they’d scolded and punished Stan for aiming at Patrick only a day before. Patrick really does pull all the tape off successfully, the cardboard falling and the light pushing into the room like how it had filled the hallway only minutes before this. Though nobody but him knows it until Bill sees Richie and Eddie there. He wants to break down crying but he knows he can’t leave Beverly and Kay alone and defenseless with their children.
Patrick is very obviously upset about them all avoiding to look at what he loves more than anything. “Hey! Look! It’s beautiful,” he says in an airy and excited voice, gesturing wildly. He wants to show them more desperately than he’s ever wanted to do anything in the world. It doesn’t phase him to see the aftermath when it sometimes makes people die. It’s like when he was a kid, he’s numb to it at this point. He goes over to the bed, yanking at Kay’ side of the blanket because she’s closer to him and the window than Beverly is.
Beverly already goes to grab Kay’s baby from her. She doesn’t know why she does, it’s completely instinctual. Like her brain decides that if she can’t protect Kay as easily she needs to protect her child. She eventually gets the infant pried away from her friend as Patrick exposes her to the light. She’s crying, sobbing really. She’s grown so much to love Kay and feel comfort in her presence. And she can hear her now best friend hit the floor after seeing what she shouldn’t have. She didn’t deserve that fate by any means. Kay proved herself to be a kind soul and one of the most interesting people Beverly has ever talked to. She’ll never forget the time she’s known her.
Bill comes racing back in as Patrick starts tugging at the blanket to get Bev and the screaming infants. He’s blindfolded so he can’t see the windows and he’s holding a handgun from the basement an arm’s length away from his body, he’s not used to the idea of shooting with intent to kill, especially not a human being. He’s not a hunter but he has tuned his ears better to about everything, so he uses Patrick’s movements to find where in the room he is. He shoots once and he misses, and misses two more times before he hears the thud. Bev is too busy crying to know, so when he comes behind her under the blanket so he can remove his blindfold and make sure that she’s okay. She squirms and tells him to leave her alone, bringing back bad memories.
He stops as soon as she seems to be upset, “It’s m-me, Bill, are you hurt?” he asks, and she turns to him, trying to wipe her tears away and loosen the grip she has on the kids now that she assumes they’re safe if Bill is being so much calmer.
“No, not really,” she says with a hiccup over her words, having gone through a traumatic day. Before they can even cover the windows again, they both end up asleep completely under the safety of the blanket, unable to stay awake due the shock and exhaustion, their minds and bodies need a break.
Bev and Bill get a call from some other people who are alive, giving them ideas on how to get to somewhere even safer.
Years go by where it’s just Beverly and Bill and the kids. Every day they try to contact someone, anyone else who’s left. The kids are only known as Boy and Girl, it started when they were first born, too stressed to name them after the events that happened afterwards. It just stuck, and Bill regrets that every day. He can’t help but pity the fact that they’re never know the world he’d considered normal, the life they live is just continuously doing only what they need to do to survive.
Beverly takes them outside sometimes when it’s nice enough. They all wear blindfolds and they bring out small rocks to clap together. She plays it off as a game, “Come to me when the sound is loudest, don’t pay attention to any sound but the rocks, whoever can come up and hug me first wins,” she’ll say, tapping them together in a normal rhythm. It’s part of a routine, Girl in particular is getting really good at it. She’s very smart like her late mother, Beverly knows that Kay would be so proud to see where she is now, but she definitely would want her daughter to have a name.
Going inside and removing their blindfolds is always a huge relief, another venture into the brush and coming out unscathed. The way things have been, it’s obvious that the yards have not been taken care of and in the five years they haven’t been able to see it, nearly everything would appear to be forest. Bill remembers playing outside as a kid and feels awful that these kids will never know how it feels.
They try to be nice to the kids, guilty parenting. There’s days when they’re not sure it’s even worth it for the four of them, but they’ve come too far and pushed too hard and built up an actual routine to just give up now. Nothing really at stake, but Beverly and Bill are both stubborn and refuse to be remembered by the universe as quitters. They don’t know what kind of end to expect for their little family, but they’re not dead yet, and for them, that will have to matter.
“Boy! Girl! It’s time to go to bed,” Bev says, just as she does every night when the time feels about the same. There’s no electricity, so there isn’t much to go off of when it comes to telling time. No clocks, and no way to look out at the sunlight. It’s all up to their instincts and the circadian rhythm they hope they’ve held on to since things were normal, but there isn’t much actual hope of that. Bill didn’t even have a healthy sleep schedule before anything went down, it’s probably healthier now no matter what it is.
And as they do every night after she calls them, Boy and Girl grab their plush toys that they’ve always used as self soothers. Boy’s dog’s ears are about devoid of fluff now after all the years of sucking on them when things get to be too much. They’re only five, things shouldn’t have to be too much for them yet. Bill and Bev want to keep all the evil of the world away from them but it’s hard to do that and protect them at the same time.
Bedtime entails the kids getting snuggled in what was once the guest bed downstairs with their toys, getting comfy before Bill joins in between them. Bev tells him that he shouldn’t but he always tells them stories of his own childhood. He never says it was about his own life though, it would be too unbelievable. They listen to the stories with such a childish fascination, Beverly wishes she could see how they’d react if she could show them what the world was like. Let them experience it instead of letting it just sound like a Disney princess fairytale. After all, there were many more real princesses before the stories that young girls admire came along.
They finally fall asleep and then Bill slips out of the bed and out into the hall to Bev where she was and watching. She always does, it’s one of the warmest parts of her day. Then she and Bill usually share a chaste kiss before they head upstairs to the master bedroom where they have taken their residence. Every morning and every night they pull out the walkie talkie and ask if anyone is out there, it normally doesn’t bring them anything though.
One night that changes. One night, something really big changes for them. Someone answers. They’re a couple miles north and a little inward from the shore. But they’re someone. Apparently it’s another safe place for survivors, with others. Many others according to the man on the other side of the radio signals. It sounds like a dream come true. To be safe and be part of a group again. Bev is much quicker to speak back than Bill would have recommended in the past, but they’re both so desperate now. They haven’t had a coherent response like this in over a year’s time at least. She asks for more information on how to get there, it’s easiest by the river. The kids will make it harder to travel, but despite the rapid waters, they need to take this chance. They’re almost going insane with their lack of ability to talk to anyone besides each other.
They decide that they’ll start to gather the supplies they’ll need in the morning. It’s what’s best. For them, and for Boy and Girl. They need somewhere better to grow up than the cards this has dealt to them. Any other place could be better than this one. If only for the change of scenery and the change of the routine. The same house they were born and raised in, the asme house they’ve never left. They need to leave at least once. Able to travel more than just down to the sidewalk and back. If one day they don’t have Bill and Bev anymore they’ll need to be able to last on their own. That’s a scary thought for any parent. It’s only made worse by the evil that lurks, the kind of evil that parents usually need to tell their kids is fake over and over. They need to keep reminding theirs that it’s real and that it’s powerful. Boy and Girl have never known a life without fear. They may have happy moments, but have never had the chance to be completely safe and content. Bev and Bill want nothing more than to give that to them.
Morning can’t even come soon enough. Both of the gingers are kept awake with a mixture of nervousness and excitement over what’s to come. It’s dangerous, yes, but the benefits they could reap are stronger than their fear. Stronger than the thing prowling out in the world trying to destroy people like them. There’s nothing to lose, they aren’t really living a life. Only going through the motions to stay alive. Food doesn’t even taste like anything anymore. Nothing is exciting. This though, the journey and the opportunity, that’s exciting. And they can only hope it brings joy to the kids as well. And they can only pray that all four of them make it to where they want to go.
They finally come to the conclusion that it must be morning enough. They get out of bed, Bill goes to get the kids ready, and Beverly goes to find a way to travel with the birds. It’s just like the time in the store, just with less hormones. She can’t leave them in a good conscience. She finds a similar cardboard box with holes like when she first brought them home. For all she knows it may very well be the exact same one, but she’s not positive that she’s held onto the same one for so many years. Bill explains to the kids the journey, finding the coats they’d picked up for them on one of their runs to the store. How the river is dangerous, and they can absolutely not take their blindfolds out once they’re out in the world. They can only bring their most important toys and one pair of clothes. They need to be taught that this isn’t home, it’s only a place full of things. Any place where they’re all together and safe can be home. The explanation seems to work well enough on the two five year olds.
They know a guy who lives closer to the river has a boat, they’ll just need to use the gps to find it. The plan may go for the worse when they hear a knock at the door, though. They haven’t had this much interaction all at once in who knows how long. It almost seems like the knock on the door could have been the people they’d called the night before. No such luck. Bill goes out with the gun and his blindfold on just to be safe. He does this every time, it’s just part of their life routine now. He calls out a hello, he doesn’t stutter. A voice calls back to him asking him to take his blindfold off.
“I’m afraid I c-can’t do that,” Bill says back, snapping his aim of the gun in the direction of where he heard the voice. He hears another one say that they’re afraid they’ll have to do it by force then. The voice comes from a completely different spot. And then another. He’s basically surrounded by these men, and by the sounds of what they’re saying, they’re not the kind of people he wants to be surrounded by. He shoots the gun in the direction of one of the voices. He hears it hit, he’s gotten good at aiming without seeing.
He hears the creak of a finger on the trigger and he ducks faster than he ever has in his life, he shoots at where he heard it, and the bullet that raced towards him hit the house behind him. Bill’s bullet hits the man right in the chest where it connects to his shoulder. It doesn’t kill him upon impact but he will die of blood loss before he can do anything about it. He hears two other sets of footsteps. He gets one but the other keeps running closer to the back of the house, not a usual setting for Bill. after several minutes of chasing it’s no use. The man he’s chasing can see, he’s got his sight. He can’t just let this guy be out here putting people in danger. He slides his blindfold up, shooting the guy in the back which has his scurrying feet stopping as he falls forward onto the ground. It takes a moment so he almost thought he was okay, but soon his own breathing stops, not entirely, just like he’s being held in a chokehold like he’d see in wrestling on the television when he was a kid. He can’t stop it though. Pleading doesn’t help with this. Tears slip from his eyes and he feels soggy teeth on his face that he can’t really see. The only way Beverly knows what happened is the final scream.
All she can do is hope the kids didn’t hear. She hasn’t lost anyone since the day they were born. It hurts, she forgot how awful this is. She’s crying as she ties the blindfolds over the eyes of the three of them. They all need the protection, even if her tears distort her vision, better safe than sorry. Better safe than leaving the children as orphans. She takes them into the car to drive to the right place to find the boat. The drive is one of the hardest she’s ever made. Bill almost always did the driving, he was always much more careful than she was. She learned that it was probably because of the fact that he’d been hit by a car as a kid and he is forever scared of crashing into someone in an event like that.
They get to the supposed yard of where they’ll find this boat. It would feel like stealing if there really were an owner to speak for it. Or even a police officer to defend any owner of the canoe. Desperate times bring about an entirely new set of rules and an even more altered sense of morality. It’s no longer about anyone else, even the dead who they’ve lost, just about them and anyone that they irrefutably have responsibility over.
Bev thought that getting the boat into the water would be the most difficult part, but really getting the kids settled into it once they were in the water is even harder. She tucks what supplies she’s bringing along under the seat of the boat, covering the two kids with a blanket she brought with her, “Don’t take your blindfold off, no matter what. And be quiet, and don’t move enough to rock the boat, and just let me do what I need to do. But tell me if you get hungry, but not if you get cold, we’re gonna be cold, it’s just how this is, but we’ll get somewhere warm soon enough,” she rambles for a long time, rattled from losing one of her last people. Now she can just be a good parent and keep her kids safe. For Bill and for Kay, they’d want that much for them. She puts herself at the front of the boat and starts pushing them through the water. Nothing really has moved through it in these past few years so it’s nearly thick and stagnant. It’s probably fall, based on the temperature and the weather, but the water isn’t frozen over or too disturbed.
The paddles are probably the dryest they’ve been since they were sold, they’ve been sitting off the side on the shore. The dusty dirt and spider webs wash away soon after they get plunged under the water. The air sits thick and quiet around them. It’s eerie and lonely in this moment. They may have just lost Bill, but Beverly finds herself wishing for Richie, who they’d lost so many years ago. He could always lighten up a situation with a joke, maybe a jab at how Bev isn’t as strong as she used to be, and how that kind of comment would make her push harder and work better on the rowing. They can’t see the fog through their blindfolds but they can feel it in their breathing and the way the moisture sits on their skin, wishing they’d bundled up even more.
She feels the long hanging branch of a weeping willow brush against her face which only reminds her that she must be too close to the land still, steering the other way in hopes of getting further into the water without getting lost, that’s the biggest fear of hers at the moment. Not the monster, but dying of some other thing, in the water with no supplies and little to no chance of anyone ever knowing or finding her. This has all been so lonely, and it’s only worse now that she’s the only adult she knows, the only one there to protect Boy and Girl.
Time seems to all blur together after a while. She doesn’t know how long they’ve been on the water or how long the kids have been quiet, but soon enough she does know that she hears a voice. It’s a man’s voice and it’s rough and garbled by their distance. He sounds like he’s by a home on the shore near the water. Beverly can only try her best to ignore him so she can get where she needs to go. The safe place. If not for her, for Boy and Girl. they deserve a life, a childhood filled with less loneliness. She can’t give them the best that they deserve on her own. She’s always known this, she isn’t built to be a mother. Bill was the parental type, he acted like he’d always been a dad to someone, even in his young adult age.
The yelling grows louder and more desperate, the man’s voice raw with the effort of his screams to her. She finally can process the words yelled to her but it’s quite late for that, he’s wading through the water to get to her. In his unblindfolded glory, he has an easy sight on her. “Take off the blindfold! Take it off! It’s beautiful! Especially on the river!” he shouts, getting closer and closer to where she is, she can tell by how his voice echoes around her. It bounces off trees and off the boat and she can even feel it in the way the waves lap up against the boat. It’s alarming. It’s like that guy at the grocery store who got Ben, or like Patrick back at home who got nearly every single one of them. Panic rises higher in her chest and just about chokes her up.
She feels his hands grip the lip of the boat when it makes the boat shift dangerously in the water. She takes a few moments to catch her bearings and know where he is, but when she does she slams the paddle down on his head as hard as she possibly can. The Beverly she was six years ago probably would have at least hesitated, but that Beverly hadn’t been through what this one has. The man slips down into the water. He’ll probably never be found, just like Bev fears she may end up alongside with her children if she doesn’t make this journey safe enough and just right. She pushes the boat in the water faster, not wanting any chance of that happening again. Her heart hammers in her chest and threatens never to stop, though she eventually does get her breathing under her own control again and prepares herself for a few more hours of travel.
She can hear the part of the trip she’s been dreading just slightly ahead, maybe a mile or so. She stops rowing and taps the kids awake, needing to talk to them. “Boy, Girl, so we’re approaching a more dangerous part of the water, okay?” she’s never been good at talking to her kids, usually Bill could explain it to them better. “One of you is going to have to have your blindfold off so you can tell mommy where to steer, alright?” She asks them, feeling her hands around until she grasps a hand of each of them.
“I can do it!” Boy says through a lisp caused by missing some of his teeth, it breaks her heart to hear it. Her nearly six year old son is possibly even offering his life without any argument. They all know the possible consequences, but Boy seems not to care. Girl pipes up next, going on about how it should be her. It just hurts Bev more to hear this.
“No, no actually, nobody take their blindfolds off,” she says with a nervous sigh. She’ll just wing it. The thing is, they never have lived, so much to where they don’t seem to care if they’d die. She needs to get them a chance at a pleasant life. Whatever happens to them, it’ll be all three. She absolutely won’t accept any more loss in her life, everything is a tragedy, she knows she deserves better than this. Boy and Girl even deserve more than she does, and it’s her duty as their sole parent to provide what they deserve. Life. More than survival.
The sounds of rushing water become closer and closer. The rapids part of the water is coming nearer and nearer into their reality. The boat turns and swishes in the wild waves, it only fills them with more dread as they go further into it. They all huddle together to keep warmer and feel safer. Being all together makes them feel better about it, thankfully they can be comfortably close even in a terrifying situation like this. Boy is under her right arm and Girl under the left. They’re splattered with the cold water, splashing up in droplets and seeping through their clothes which will probably leave them shivering for hours and hours.
It feels like forever before the attitude of the water slows to a smoother, more lever space to sail on. Beverly wraps the children in the big blue blanket she has with them, tucking them completely under it, even their heads and faces covered in hopes that they’ll warm up faster than they would if they had more skin showing. She feels bad for letting them shiver without comforting them, but now she’s in the home stretch in getting them into true safety. And that feels just more important than the moment’s discomfort.
The most hopeful thing that’s happened in days comes in the next few hours. She hears birds, and the brush rustling, but no yelling. Could this be the place she’s been looking for? It’s only fair to check, she steers herself over to the near enough shore and is met with a man’s voice as the paddles make slushy noises through the water and the weeds. “Long journey? Come inside, you need warm clothes,” the voice says and she can feel the whoosh of air from a hand being offered to her, she worries though, why would someone be outside, and how do they know she’s here if they can’t see? Is it just someone else trying to make her and her kids see? She’s proved otherwise soon enough as she’s lead inside though, it’s a feeling of unmatched relief as she leads her children into the building followed by the man, like a chain of preschoolers on their rope crossing the street.
She’s allowed to remove her blindfold as she steps inside, it’s warm, they still have heating and probably air conditioning available too. She opens her eyes and looks at the man, he doesn’t have any eyes at all, they’d had to be removed after cancer completely took them over. Glass eyes for aesthetic reasons have never felt so important since the start of all this. She sees the sign next. “The School For The Blind,” sounds just like the perfect place to be now. He leads her and the now unmasked kids out to a courtyard with tall walls and a skylight. A monstrously tall tree grows from the middle, birds chirping and flapping their wings, playing just like the children below.
Bev remembers her own birds. Her and Stan’s birds. She lets them go, they weakly fly over to the bird feeder before anything else. It fills her with a sense of completion, of some sort of success she’s never had before. The kids are lead away to get some warm and dry clothes so they can play with the others. For the first time in a while, a place actually feels like more than a house, more than a place to house her family. But a community, and a safe one at that.