Stan’s fingers were shaking as he set his phone down on the side table. He could hear his wife humming happily from the kitchen, but it was quickly replaced by the heavy beating of his own heart.
“Should we stay in the city or find some cute, country B & B?” Patty asked.
Stanley nodded his head, dimly aware that she was speaking to him. He silently left the living room.
“Stan?” Patty called.
“Just gonna … take a bath,” he finally replied.
“Oh … ok.”
Stanley entered the bathroom and locked the door behind him. He braced his hands on the porcelain rim of the sink and stared at his reflection. The first thing he saw were the numerous small scars framing his face. He honestly hadn’t noticed them in years; they had faded so much, and until five minutes ago, he couldn’t even remember how he got them.
But now he remembered. Remembered so vividly it was like he was still in the sewer with that creature’s fangs embedded in his skin, as if attempting to swallow him whole. Henry Bowers’ maniacal laugh, the stench of the corpses, the paralyzing, soul-crushing fear; all of it flooding back in an overwhelming rush.
He held up his hand and stared at the thick scar across his palm. Patty had often asked him about it when they first met, hardly believing he could forget the circumstances of such a wound; but now he remembered. Bill’s voice reverberated in his mind: Swear … Swear if it isn’t dead, if it ever comes back … We’ll come back, too.
“I’m so sorry, Bill,” Stan whispered, tears spilling down his cheeks. He reached into the medicine cabinet, found his prescription of Ativan. They’d always thought he had generalized anxiety disorder, but now he knew the truth … The buried trauma that stayed with him for 27 years.
He set the bottle down, then moved to fill the bath. Self loathing threatened to crowd out the fear. He tried not to think about Patty finding him; how devastated she’d be. Should he write a note? But how could he ever explain this to her? How could he ever put into words the bone deep terror washing over him? And he knew, deep down in the recesses of his mind, that if he simply chose not to go back to Derry, he’d be condemning the rest of his friends to a grisly end. And that was the most unbearable thought of all. He hoped they could do this without him.
Stanley stripped, folding his clothes neatly on the toilet lid. Some habits couldn’t be easily broken, even now at the end of his life. He grabbed the pill bottle, then lowered himself into the warm water. He wasn’t sure how this would go, but he hoped it would be easy, and that he wouldn’t leave too much of a mess. At least he wouldn’t leave Patty with some bloody scene out of a horror movie.
He swallowed the pills two at a time until his vision became blurry, and the room started to swim. It felt like everything was slowing down. His hands felt weak, and he finally lost his grasp on the bottle. It fell to the tile, pills spilling out, but the noise sounded so far away.
Stanley rested his head on the cold lip of the tub. His vision started to darken at the edges. As his consciousness began to slip away, he saw the faces of his friends, bright and young and unburdened. He hoped it was a good omen.