After the third month, Richie wanted to take back anything he said before to Beverly about her Deadlight nightmares just being dream as he sat up just in time to catch most of the vomit in his bedside trash can.
His brain rushed, replaying the dream as shaking hands pulled the plastic bucket up to his knees.
The creature knocked him down, sending him sprawling on his back. Wheezing, wind punched out of his lungs, Richie tried to sit up but found his head throbbing with a pain so intense his stomach rolled with nausea.
One of It’s tentacles wrapped around his legs, locking him in place.
“Richie…,” It cooed. “Do you want to play a game? It’ll be a real fun one.”
The room spun. Or maybe that was the concussion. Where the fuck was everybody?
“I know. Let’s play Two Truths… and a Lie.”
The noise that left his mouth was a mix of pain and utter sickness, nails digging into the dirt ground in an attempt to sit up. He belched, suddenly, tasting Chinese food. Chinese food? Christ wasn’t Jade like three days ago – shouldn’t it have digested by then?
“You go first – but wait!” It jerked Richie upright, another tentacle coming to wrap around his midsection and throat to prop him up, forcing him to look at the terrible beast. “You don’t even have to say a word. I know you’re not feeling well, poor boy. Poor sick, dirty, disgusting boy.”
Hate and embarrassment burned in Richie’s gut and he could feel his face flush. He opened his mouth to yell back at It, but all that came out was a gasp as the appendage around his throat twisted tighter.
“Ah, ah, ah!” It tutted. “Let me guess! Don’t spoil the fun.”
Holy shit, the room was spinning, spinning, spinning, spinning. Spit dribbled down Richie’s chin.
“Secrets are so much fun…”
He was pulled higher into the air, so high that he wasn’t even sure if there was a ground anymore, if he was even under Derry.
Maybe he wasn’t. Maybe he was already dead, and this was hell.
With this thing.
“Hmmmmm…. Your mother always wanted a little girl and hates who you are, thinks you’re just so… strange.” Well, that wasn’t a lie, anyone who talked to Maggie for three minutes could tell that. “I ate all your friends while you were dozing right here on the ground and saved you for last, a toothpick to clean my teeth with.”
Richie never understood the phrase ‘made his blood run cold’ before: Not it books when he read it, not in movies when narrators said it. But just then a chill shook his arms and legs, putting his hairs on end like he licked a 9-volt and got kicked in the sac at the same time.
“No!” He rasped. “You’re ly—,”
It roared, shaking him up and down as if Richie was a soda just waiting to pop and be sprayed across the floor “Hey – no cheating! You can’t spoil the game!”
He couldn’t help it. Despite the tentacle wrapped around his throat, vomit sprayed from his lips and clotted both on the creature and the front of his shirt. Rather than sicken It, the beast seemed almost amused.
“We always knew you were sick,” It said, but not in the voice Richie had come to know. Rather, in some horrific up choir of his friend’s voices, coming from one mouth. “We always knew you were… diseased.”
Eddie’s was the loudest.
Richie’s body rocked in real-time, purging his stomach once more.
He can barely choke out the whimpered, “stop,” before he found himself falling. Things went black for a moment, then grey, then black again. Richie found himself wondering if It dropped him enough times, would he just go brain dead before being eaten? Maybe it wasn’t the number of times but the height. Did it matter if It had the right velocity?
And maybe, just maybe, that wouldn’t be so bad -- like when they euthanize a dog. It’s just like going to sleep.
Sleep sounded like heaven.
God what he wouldn’t give to get a full night’s sleep.
"Wake up, asshole!” Something connected with the side of his face. It stung like a whip crack.
Richie garbled out an unintelligible noise. Couldn’t he just sleep? Something was screaming so loud it somehow made breathing difficult.
“C’mon man!” A different voice.
His eyes fluttered open for a moment and he could make out the silhouette of a dark wisp of hair with a white, blood stained bandage slapped to the cheek. “Ed’de?”
“Richie, I think I got it!!”
The ground shook as a deep, hellish voice rung out “I’LL KILL YOU! LITTLE PESTS!” Something fell, inches from his head and the splash of dust across Richie’s face let him know it was probably a rock from the ceiling. “LITTLE FREAKS!”
Adrenaline surged through him, ripping his eyes open and causing him to gasp.
“Eddie!” An emotion, every emotion he'd ever felt in his pathetic life, welled up through him then. In the dark of the cave Richie could just barely make out Eddie, his features illuminated every few seconds by Deadlight swirl above them as It writhed about in pain.
Richie raised a hand and touched it to the juncture of Eddie’s neck and jaw. For a moment, everything seemed okay.
"I think I got It, Rich!” The mirth in Eddie’s voice made Richie 13 years old again, high off the adrenaline of beating the Bowers Bunch in the Apocalyptic Rock Fight. He could see a flash of teeth in the darkness. “I think It’s --,”
But of course, nothing was okay. And as one of It’s appendages burst through Eddie’s chest, spraying his blood across Richie’s glasses and blinding him to anything but the pain of his friend (just a friend).
“Richie…,” Eddie could barely gurgle out the name.
Richie could only watch in anguish as the other man opened his mouth to cry out as It lifted him up, high, higher ------
He retched one last time, but nothing came out. Just a burp. Fuck, that smelled. His morning alarm on the phone began to chime, a cheery fucking little jingle. It had replaced the death rattle for the last couple of nights, except for this one apparently.
Were Richie more awake, he might even laugh.
Giving one more cursory spit into the can, he watched as the loogie slid off the side of the plastic and joined the rest of the sick in its ooze. After a few nights in he had finally wised up to lining the bin with a Rite Aid bag instead of having to scrub it out in the morning.
After a moment, he remembered the phone alarm was still going off. Richie groaned. Reaching out for it under the pillows where he usually pushed it just before sleep, he found it and flicked it off.
Before going back to Derry, almost a whole year before, he had begged and pleaded for his manager to consider a pitch he’d written -- a dark comedy. He didn’t want to be pigeonholed in stand up his entire life, and especially not for raunchy humor. Fastforward and, somehow, somewhere, someone at HBO had found it netting him a first season. He’d actually cried when he found out. This could be the difference between a Comedy Central special every so often and mainstream. Movie deals, red carpets, magazines -- the works.
Then It -- both literally and figuratively -- happened, a week before the all-cast script read through was scheduled. After all the strings he’d pulled for Richie, his manager hadn’t taken too kindly to him fucking off to god-knows-where Maine for a week when all this was going down, so he was being held to a tighter leash than usual.
That meant up by 7:30 a.m. so he could shower, try to eat, and be to the session studio sometime between 9 and 9:30 a.m. so they could rehearse.
But with the dreams now becoming a capital-T Thing, he was lucky if he could sleep until 5 a.m., where afterwards he would eventually drift back off to sleep after tossing and turning, only to be woken up like this -- covered in sweat and really needing to get up now or traffic would make him even later than usual.
Setting an alarm was more out of laziness than necessity. While it wasn’t like he’d been sleeping more than a few consecutive hours a night anyways, he also didn’t want to turn it off out of fear he’d, for once, sleep in. The last thing he needed was to lose this gig, on top of everything else.
And if he was in an extra hour early -- good. Not like his manager cared, anyways. It was “a nice change of pace” Richie was taking this so seriously, Greg had told him last week. Richie maybe would have been more offended Greg thought so little of him if he weren’t worried about going narcoleptic in the middle of practice.
Flicking away the G O O D M O R N I N G! that filled his screen, his screen filled with notifications: monthly bank statement, NPR morning news alert, some NFL injury recap report, a few emails. Richie wiped at his mouth with the back of his hand. Satisfied there was nothing immediate that needed his attention, he clicked the phone off Do Not Disturb mode and set it on the bedside table.
He sighed and stood up, groaning as his knees clicked. Christ, getting old sucked.
“Alexa,” he groaned, throat dry from sleeping with his mouth open most of the night. “Play my morning playlist.”
The robotic voice chimed back to him, words muffled from the other room. The Bluetooth speaker in the bathroom clicked to life. The opening twang of “Here Comes Your Man” echoed in the small, tiled space.
Shower on and running, scalding, he took care to only wash his body with a quick scrub. He could shave in the shower, but he didn’t see a point -- plus, he washed his thinning curls yesterday. Even if they were squashed, some of their volume having been lost to sleep, he could easily get away with a baseball cap.
It wasn’t like he had anyone to impress anyways since no cameras were allowed in the warehouse rehearsal space. Then he realized: Junkets would start soon (okay, maybe not for another half year, but still). Even if his show didn’t pick up any traction, there would still be cameras and small interviews. That was probably reason alone to start hitting the gym.
He rinsed off and toweled down before realizing Natasha Beddingfield had come on the playlist -- huh, he didn’t remember putting this song on here. Either way, it was pretty catchy. He hummed along as he wiped down the mirror just enough so he could see his face through the fog.
Eyes puffy, under skin speckled with cracked blood vessels from throwing up, skin brittle -- God, he’d seen enough. He pressed some toner, and once that soaked, moisturizer to his face. He didn’t usually go for hardcore skin care, knowing some of his coworkers religiously followed 12-step Korean beauty routines every morning and night, but it was the least he could do to not look totally disheveled.
Or, at least try not to. His slight paunch bumped against the counter top.
Yeah. Definitely gym soon. While he was lucky studio didn’t require any hardcore body transformation for this piece, it would be passing out diet plans soon.
Better he say goodbye to late night tacos and beers on his own terms than go cold turkey.
He pulled Vaseline and deodorant from the vanity and put both on, too. If he stared any longer in the mirror Richie knew he’d start to pick and fuss. After realizing all of the Losers had aged so much better than he had, even Bill with his prematurely graying hair, Richie decided more effort on his part was needed to step up his proverbial game.
Not like it would reverse years of drinking and poor eating habits overnight, but he could try.
He left the damp towel on the back of the bathroom door to dry and made his way, naked, back into the bedroom. He dressed quickly in a baseball tee and tight fitted jeans. The hat would have to wait for his hair to dry more, unless he wanted his scalp to itch something fierce.
Richie looked to the bedside clock: just shy of 8 a.m. Not bad. He could eat if he wanted to, but the hollow feel of his stomach told him that it wouldn’t be for the best. A cup of coffee, maybe a piece of dry toast, would be the best thing he’d get before noon. He never really was a breakfast person anyways.
He looked back to the mirror attached to his standing dresser and wondered if he could get away with concealer to hide the burst blood vessels under his eyes before remembering -- he lived in Los Angeles. A dude wearing concealer was the least of anyone’s problems.
His phone rattled against the wood of the table in a short buzz. A text, then. There were only a handful of people who would send him things this early, and most of them didn’t live in the same timezone as he did which narrowed it down to three people: Mike, Bill, or Eddie. Maybe his mother, but he sincerely doubted it.
He flipped it over, surprised to be wrong. It was Beverly.
>Are you still hosting that Skype sesh?< It read. Then another pinged in: > It’s on Sunday night, right?<
Huh. Fuck, he thought, How could he forget about that?
<shouldn’t you be asleep marsh>
>Richie, most normal adults are up by now… it’s like 8<
He pulled down the top part of his phone screen to check the date. A new message pinged from Bev. OK, today was Tuesday. Five days then. He could try to turn around his sleep schedule by then, right? Another ping from Bev.
“Christ,” he said aloud.
The woman was ruthless.
>Also answer the question<
<jesus calm down bev>
<also when haev you EVER known me to be normal>
Richie scrubbed a hand over his face. Since Pennywise, the six of them had taken to doing Skype sessions every so often, just to be able to see each other. At first, it started out of the need to quell a shared fear -- if they were able to forget each other once, who was to say it wouldn’t happen again? And with Mike leaving Derry, that fear was even more founded.
They had no anchor to hold their memories down this time, no buoy to swim back to.
It was Richie, even, who had suggested it making it.
<or an adult>
They would usually just shoot the shit and drink. Sometimes they’d stream a movie. Sometimes they’d play online card or board games. It was decided to make the switch to digital when everyone realized Ben had a competitive streak which may or may not have caused him to cheat once. Or four times.
At least Bev was there to call him out, though it was easier to monitor online and infinitely more fun to rib him for it.
But it was December now, just barely. The end of this week would mark three months, to the day, since killing It. While they didn’t think any longer the creature’s spell would cause them to forget each other, especially with It being dead, it had become… habit.
Honestly, it was nice. Before their little Derry reunion, Richie would kill himself before admitting it but he was kinda lonely. People in this town were phony, just like the stereotype went -- only interested in you if you knew a producer or someone higher up the food chain. For a C-cum-B Lister like Richie, it was always a crapshoot if someone was being genuine or not.
>OMG Please answer the question!<
He had missed the November call, though passing out too early and sleeping through any attempt for Bev or Ben to ring him. When they tried to reschedule to accommodate him, he slept through it again. If he missed again, the other Losers might start to become suspicious as to why he was so tired.
But he couldn’t help it.
<ooh punctuation, someones real serious about this huh>
He’d tried basically everything to stop the dreams.
Before she can reply, he texted off one last message before throwing the phone back into his sheets and getting dressed: <ANYWAYS i’ll try. promise. busy schedule. y’all know how it is.>
Was it the truth? He padded off to pull on some underwear.