Mike knows why the newspaper article about his parents distorts in front of his eyes.
The block, black lettering reveals a lie due to IT's influence on him. Nothing but a cruel, vile lie. One that spread like wildfire throughout Derry, igniting disapproving, foul murmurs from Derry's residents and judgemental stares in Mike's direction as he went in and out of the butcher shop.
This is how IT wants to hurt me, Mike supposes grimly. Well, IT will have to try a little harder than that.
He picks up his cellphone from a work-stand, dialing for Bill. He was the first phone number Mike ever memorized by heart. A couple of rings go by, and then it clicks. "Bill?" Mike asks, listening to the other man's labored breathing. "Where are you?"
A rage-filled sobbing echoes through the connection.
"He killed the l-l-little kid, he—he took the little k-kid right in f-fu-fucking f-front of me—!"
In the back of Mike's subconscious, he feels something wrong. Not just about Bill, but in the study area. The air feels murky, suffocating. A feeling like being watched. Mike peers over his shoulder quizzically, finding nothing but the usual empty shadows.
"Hold on, hold on—just come here. I'm at the library." he tells Bill soothingly. "Everyone's on their way. Richie's with them."
"No, I'm gonna kill IT," Bill says lowly, stubbornly. Too deep in his grief to be talked from the ledge. "I don't want any of you to get k-killed with m-m-m-m-"
From the speakers of Bill's cell, he hears loud and jarring noises.
Henry Bowers rushes out of the library's shadows, bellowing.
Mike jolts, yelping, narrowly dodging a long, hacking slice to his neck. A switchblade. Belonged to Henry Bowers's father. Mike's forearm gets the next slicing attack, ripping open his skin. The phone clatters on the library-floor, still glowing on, punted down under a library-desk by Henry Bowers's naked foot.
He can hear Bill yelling his name, getting panicked. Mike dismisses his injury, picking up a wooden chair and belting his opponent across the skull. That earns Mike time to vanish into the depths of the unlit stacks, retreating for the back-doors.
Skidding to them, Mike yanks on the handles. Chains rattle.
He nearly forgot about locking up. Mike curses softly, patting his jean-pocket and discovering the keys missing. Probably left them in the loft's kitchen or on a table. Somewhere nearby, Henry Bowers whistles a demented, cheerful tune. Mike ducks out of view, back into one of the end-stacks, crouching down.
It's hardly any visibility without the overhead fluorescent lights. Henry won't be able to locate him unless he's standing in Mike's aisle.
But, Mike can't exactly see him either.
Mike waits, trying to slow his breathing, hearing his books flung off the shelves.
Blood leaks warm out of Mike's forearm. He clamps on it, less worried about the injury. It's not deep.
"Here piggy, piggy, piggy…" Henry Bowers lets out a obscene nasally snort. Mike's heart pounds deafeningly in his ears. "Piggy… I can hear you squealing, hee hee hee… I'm gonna stick you and cut your fucking lungs out…"
The library's entrance-doors are unlocked. That's how Henry Bowers got in, and that's how Mike can leave undetected.
He's disoriented from losing blood and trepidation, but Mike firmly gets himself under control, noiselessly crawling on hands and knees towards the lamp-lit entrance. Feels like being a little kid again—chased by Henry Bowers, alone, stalked around in the piercing darkness with not one clue if he's gonna survive another encounter. Mike hasn't missed this.
Once he's out of the aisle, Mike hears the entrance-doors slam open.
"Mikey!" Bill cries out, tripping over a fallen object and righting himself. "Mike! Mikey!"
Relief courses through Mike, light and dizzying, and then swallowed up in horror. It's not safe. It's not safe for him to be here.
Mike abandons his position, darting towards Bill's silhouette.
"Bill, get out of here! He's here!"
Even in the pale amber light, he can see Bill's face. All of it flushed from sobbing and running. His light blue eyes, wide and vulnerable, and all of the bloodshot of the whites. Bill's clothes and hair wind-swept. He's panting.
Henry Bowers appears behind Bill, his leer menacing.
And for no reason, it's like the study area triples in length between him and Bill. Mike's legs weakening, trapped in molasses-slowness even as he's speeding. Henry Bowers's fingers grip tightly into Bill's hair, yanking him, his opened, metallic switchblade dragging over Bill's throat.
Mike knows he's screaming, screaming so loudly it hurts his eardrums. He can't make out the words.
Bill's expression falls. One of his hands quivers up, clenching instinctively over his slit-open neck, drenched now in bright red fluid. He chokes out, helpless, staring at Mike in a kind of pained, devastated confusion.
Mike screams out again, when a crazed-grinning Henry Bowers lunges for Mike running full-force into him, whipping them around and sending both of their bodies through a glass display-case. Hot, gushing tears sting in Mike's eyes. He lands a couple of hard and furious punches, swelling up Henry Bowers's left eye, dislocating his jaw. Glass lodges deep in his flesh.
He seizes onto the axe beside them, without thinking, holding it aloft. Aiming it for Henry Bowers's forehead.
Hate—so much hate erupts in Mike's chest. This is the man who made his life hell. Terrorized and demeaned Mike as a child. Tried to kill him.
Even at someone else's mercy, Henry Bowers only sneers up at Mike and mutters a racist slur.
How pathetic. Small. Ugly.
Mike lowers the axe carefully to his side, gasping for air, feeling so much so quickly that it numbs him. He climbs off him, turning.
"NO, DON'T—!" Richie hollers like a warning, dashing past one of the library-tables for him.
Henry Bowers lunges at him once more, grabbing Mike's ankle. Mike swings down, grunting, embedding the axe through the crest of Henry Bowers's head, sinking it in. Viscous brain matter gleaming. "Oh, holy shit…" Richie manages to blurt out, before horking, vomiting all over the floor.
Their friends have already surrounded Bill…
(Bill, lying motionless on the ground, covered in his own hot, red blood… …)
"Bill…" Mike whispers, his fear returning.
Beverly's already screeching to the 911 operator, trembling and hysterical. She's gathered protectively in Ben's arms. Eddie's kneeling over Bill's head, using his whole hand to clamp down with pressure, staunching the blood-flow. "No, no—" Mike's voice hoarse. He collapses to him, desperately scrambling for Bill's wrist. "God no, please—Bill, please—"
"He's hemorrhaging out. I need gauze and towels," Eddie mumbles. He's so calm. Too calm. Dark blood coats Eddie's fingers up to the knuckles. "Mike, do you have saran wrap?" he asks, peering over at the other, confounded man. "Mike?"
"… … what?" Mike breathes, appearing lost.
"It'll prevent an air embolism. We need tight dressing around his wound right now." Eddie nods, repeating gently, "Saran wrap."
Something finally clicks. Yes—yes, upstairs. Kitchen. Kitchen drawer.
Mike's footsteps thud across the floor, as he hurries. Red and blue ambulance lights faintly illuminate the library's windows.
Derry Public Hospital seems quiet.
It's been hours since an unconscious Bill had been rushed into their emergency wing. He's alive. That's all that matters. Mike knows the rest of the Losers Club pace around in the waiting room, trying to console each other, discussing how to explain Henry Bowers's body.
One of the morning shift nurses pulls Mike aside, tapping a pencil against her clipboard.
"Does the patient have any immediate family members we can contact?"
"A wife," Mike rasps. "Ex-wife."
She gives him an annoyed look. "That doesn't help me, sweetcheeks." After not getting a further answer, the nurse rolls her eyes and marches off. "Well… he's asking for you, Michael Hanlon. If I see any funny business, I'm throwing all of you out!"
Mike's stomach drops as he enters.
Bill has been overtaken by white, sterile pillows, propped up against his massive hospital-cot and hooked up to various, whirring machines. Several IVs and blood bags. His coloring pasty. Eyes shut. Thankfully, Mike can see him breathing normally with the nasal cannula. There's a noticeable amount of white gauze and bandages to the front of Bill's neck.
He squints. There's enough daylight streaming in without the additional lamps. Mike distracts himself by flipping them off, hearing Bill's sheets rustling. "Bill?" he murmurs, lips twitching up as light blue eyes peek open. "Hey, Bill."
As soon as they recognize Mike, Bill's face lights up. Far more welcoming than the sunshine.
Bill mouths a soundless 'hey!'.
"Can you talk?"
Somehow that doesn't deter Bill. He reaches for the small whiteboard nearby, presenting it up to Mike like a trophy.
Mike chuckles, forcing another smile for Bill's sake, buckling under the weight of his regret. It morphs quickly into a heartbroken, shuddery weeping, as he seats onto Bill's mattress. Mike's fingertips pinch harshly over the corners of his wet eyes.
"I-I almost lost you…" Mike shakes his head, gulping down. He can feel Bill's hand rubbing on Mike's arm and over his own bandages. "It's my fault… I should have stopped him…" One of Bill's fingers taps on him, drawing his attention.
And scribbled underneath on the whiteboard:
NOT YOUR FAULT
He hopes so. Mike hopes so by the end of all things.
Keeping that to himself for now, he shifts up to Bill's pillows, stretching out on the hospital bed with him. Bill grins, pressing himself warm against Mike's side as his arm drapes loosely around Bill.