City of Derry
7 YEARS OLD
LAST SEEN OCTOBER 30 1988
DESCRIPTION: Date of Birth: September 18th, 1981. Male. 7 Yrs.
Height: 49 Inches. Weight: 47 lbs. Blonde Hair, Brown Eyes. Wearing Yellow Raincoat, Distressed Blue Pants, Yellow Galoshes.
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800---131-0728 (207) 174-6913
THE DISAPPEARANCE OF GEORGIE DENBROUGH
30TH OCTOBER 1988, DERRY, MAINE.
It had been an uncharastically warm October in Maine in the year 1988. The riverbanks remained within their bays, seeming to be content to flush under the bridge and through the heart of Derry. No need to push itself over the embankments, or to spill onto the streets and flooding the weeds that cracked through parts of the pavement on Main Street. There had been a lack of torrential downpour, to the relief to the city workers and disdain of the countless children who donned their galoshes and stomped in muddy puddles until even their fat faces, pink with glee were painted with skids of mud.
It had to rain eventually, of course. And today - the day that Georgie Denbrough would go missing - the skies emptied. They emptied as if they were pre-emptively mourning the younger Denbrough boy. Children flooded into the streets as the river almost followed suit, laughing through splashes and mud-balls being thrown across the peaceful suburb, blissfully unaware of the tragedy which would drain the colour from their faces and force them into itchy black formal clothes not a few days later. The sky parted, rain pounding against the ground with enough force to trample the perfectly manicured daisies on the front lawn of the Denbrough household.
Georgie, who had not long turned seven years old, sat on his older brother’s window sill, watching the droplets of water racing down the window. The far left droplet was a clear winner as far as Georgie was concerned. It was small, didn’t carry the same weight as the others, but it zipped past stagnant pellets with a purpose.It darted down, nearly - oh no, the - safe! A lone leaf, stuck with wind to the pane, couldn’t snag the droplet from its victory. The droplet carried on undeterred - it was so close! Almost at the finish line! Just a hair away from winning the gold - hitting the lip of the bottom of the window and beating all the rest. Georgie had picked the right droplet to root for, he could feel it in his gut! His early victory was soon ripped from him when a droplet - big and fat and intimidatingly heavy had snuck up behind his tiny one, seeming to catch on the wind a little, before surging southward and swallowing Georgie’s droplet whole. Like it had never been there at all.
“Aw, man,” Georgie pouted, an unusual wave of grief washing over him - he had really wanted his droplet to win.
“Are you gonna suh-suh-sit there in your underwear all duh-day? I’m almost done with your cuh-costume,” Bill said.
Georgie, his toes barely being able to touch the ground, lowered himself down from the sill onto the wood of his brother’s bedroom floor. The floor was cold - his parents had forgotten to turn the heating on again. Georgie hardly felt the chill though, waiting patiently in Bill’s room with nothing but his briefs and a multi-coloured striped top. The top had been a hand-me-down from Bill, drowning his tiny frame and the sleeves were bunched up at the elbows to stop them from falling over his hands.
Bill, however, felt the cold everywhere. Every intake of breath felt like he was inhaling shards of glass, settling in his lungs and causing him to devolve into another coughing fit - his poor dressing gown getting the brunt of it as Bill lifted the lapel to hack into it. The sudden sputtering made Georgie stall right as he was about to clamber up beside his brother on the twin bed, “You’re still sick?” Bill nodded weakly in response.
Georgie’s face dropped, Bill can’t still be sick - Bill had pinky promised him that he would take him trick-or-treating tomorrow night. Georgie told him as much, getting onto the bed beside him with a look of disgust as Bill coughed milky-grey goop into a tissue just to scrunch it back up and put it in the pocket of his robe.
“I puh-puh-promised, didn’t I? And -”
“You never break a promise.” Georgie finished, Bill nodded in approval.
“Now how about you try on your cuh-cuh-costume? It’s guh-gotta look good if you wuh-wuh-want to get lots of cuh-candy,” Bill’s voice was sticky from phlegm and rasped from the constant coughing, yet it still held the same air of confidence it always had. Bill Denbrough, despite his stutter and even now, despite his chest infection, had an unquestionable strength to him, an unspoken type of leadership that he had been born with. Sure, at the tender age of thirteen he was a fairly timid boy, would not speak much out of turn, always said his pleases and his thank-you’s. Bill Denbrough had great manners, an untapped well of empathy and a righteous moral compass. Some would say he was born to be the ideal big brother to Georgie. Some would say he had no other choice than to look after Georgie better that he had been. No matter what different ways people painted his role - the world will soon come to a sorrowful agreement that Bill Denbrough is a shell of a child, splintered with grief over the disappearance of his baby brother.
But for now, Bill Denbrough was in his pyjamas listening to the rain battering their roof and his bedroom windows, painting over a pair of brand new overalls from JC Penney with deep red. Blood splattered up the hems of the legs with a huge splash of the stuff across the pocket of the chest. He had told Georgie to go into the garage to fetch sandpaper at one point so he could wear little distressed holes at the knee and the chest, breaking up the pristine even tone of the overalls. His own fingers were rubbed raw, the paint which had dotted his clothes and hands was hardly much difference in colour than his fingertips - but the soft “oh, wow” from Georgie had made the burning in his fingers worth it.
Georgie took the costume from Bill when he presented it, slipping on the overalls as carefully as he could - “th-the paint is not fuh-fully dry yet” - he had to ask Bill to help him with the clasps on the shoulders, his hands too small to be able to move with enough dexterity to be able to clasp the fastener closed. The overalls were a little big on him - they hadn’t found any in Georgie’s size with the budget Bill had pulled from his piggy bank - Bill just said it added to the look they were going for, Georgie didn’t know what that meant but he trusted Bill’s judgement. With that, he ran over to the wall beside Bill’s bed, where Bill’s CHILD’S PLAY poster was carefully taped to the wallpaper.
“Do I look like him!?”
Bill feigned a jump and a shout of fear, “Wow G-G-Georgie, you scared me! I th-th-thought Chucky came out of the puh-puh-poster, but you’re wuh-way scarier.”
Georgie puffed his chest at that. Take that, Chucky, you stupid doll.
Of course, Georgie wasn’t actually scary much at all. Even with his bloodied overalls, Georgie had an almost cherub-like appearance, with soft blonde hair, deep brown eyes and a pleasant smile. Georgie had the ability to light up a room just by walking into it, with a bright smile and his unbridled childhood innocence - Georgie was unspokenly, the favourite. Bill could never bring it within himself to resent him for it either, of course he was the favourite - he was Bill’s favourite too.
Georgie paced in front of Bill’s mirror, pulling poses and gripping the handle of his imaginary knife - quick, clumsy stabs at his reflection. Bill laughed - which dissolved into another coughing fit - at him, “Guh-Georgie, you’re ki-kinda ruining the scare fuh-factor there.”
Georgie ignored him and paddled back to his bed, hopping on and sitting beside Bill with his legs stretched straight out to prevent the paint smudging or staining Bill’s bed sheets. A fruitless endeavor of course, since the cotton was already speckled with red - not that Bill minded.
Georgie let his head fall onto his brother’s shoulder - leaning against him. They sat like that more often than not, there was something comforting about resting up flush against his big brother - maybe it’s because Bill is grounding, comforting in a way like coming home after playing in the rain, to get changed into a pair of his favourite pyjamas. Maybe it’s because Bill is his best friend in the whole wide world - helping him with his schoolwork, showing him cool new comics, letting his little brother sit in with him when his friends are over, playing toy soldiers with him. Or maybe because Bill doesn’t push him away and tell him he’s too big to be cuddling up against him like his parents always said.
Georgie loved his brother - Billy was the best person in the entire world, as far as Georgie was concerned. Georgie fought for Bill’s approving nods and his hugs - especially the ones where Bill lifts him and spins him around. Bill was something else, something so unlike their parents, something so inviting and loving, something that Georgie could fall into safely, something that Georgie - even at just seven years old - could recognise as being the telltale traits of a wonderfully purely good person, even if he didn’t quite have the vocabulary to express it in such a way yet.
So he pulled the map of Derry’s residential streets that Bill had stolen out of their Dad’s office from the end of the bed and laid it along Bill’s lap, rearranging some of his paint brushes out of the way in the process. He sat up beside his brother and stared up at him expectantly.
Bill huffed out a laugh, smoothing the map over his legs. He wiped snot from his nose with his tissue and stuffed it back into his pocket, “You want to guh-go over the route?” Georgie nodded, Bill didn’t see it but he felt the movement on his shoulder, “You know it’s nuh-nuh-not all that duh-different from last year.” Georgie just let out a grunt at this, wanting Bill to get on with it. “Hah, okay. So - we’ll go duh-down to the cuh-corner of Ashburn and Buh-Burnswick, we can hit a cuh-couple of guh-good houses down Buh-Burnswick Avenue, then we’ll guh-go down Park Way instead of Redburn - tuh-towards Stan’s house-”
“Is Stan coming?” Georgie’s face was fit with glee - Stan was really cool, Georgie had thought. Putting ‘Stan’ with ‘cool’ seemed almost like a joke - because Bill’s friend Stanley Uris was possibly the farthest thing from cool as a young boy could be. If Georgie had a more expanse vocabulary, he would say he was a little pragmatic. But Stan was good with Georgie - Stan taught Georgie how to add numbers super fast - and even to do this really difficult thing called multiplication that Georgie doesn’t even need until he’s a big kid. Stan also taught him the rhyme about magpies when he and Bill were walking him home from school one warm Spring afternoon -
One for sorrow
Two for mirth,
Three for a funeral
Four for a birth.
Five for Heaven,
Six for Hell,
Seven for the Devil,
His own true self.
It had scared him a little at first - “So if I see seven magpies all at once the Devil’s gonna come get me?”
“Ha - no, Georgie. It’s just a rhyme, like a song. It doesn’t mean anything, it’s just fun to say it when you count them, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, I guess it is!”
Stan said it was just for fun, just a little song so of course, Georgie believed him. Stan would never lie to him, even if he thought it would be really funny like that time when Bill told him that his birthday candles were special edible ones. They weren’t and they’d tasted horrible.
“I’d really like it if Stan came, Billy.” Georgie added, sinking into Bill a little more.
“Well, what if I duh-do you one buh-better?”
“What do you mean?”
“What if Eddie cuh-came too?” Georgie lifted his head off of Bill’s shoulder, opening his mouth to speak but Bill cut him off - speaking louder than Georgie, but with gentleness in his voice - even if his voice was raspy and sore, “And Ben! And Beverly!”
Georgie let out a stream of excited noises, jumping up and down on the bed, quickly moving his energy into wrapping his brother in a tight hug, “Really? You swear?!”
Bill let out a winded sort of sound when Georige all but barrelled into his incredibly sore chest, “Yeah, Stuh-Stan had actually suggested it, since it’s the luh-last time we’re guh-going to be able to guh-go trick or treating duh-dressed up buh-because we’re getting too old. We should all guh-go together and of cuh-course we need our scary Chucky doll.”
“You have to promise!”
Bill moved Georgie off of him to hold up his pinky, which Georgie immediately wrapped his own around, with all the gravity of a judge committing a man to death, “I puh-promise that on Halloween,I will take you trick-or-treating.”
Bill, who if he were to have the gift of knowledge regarding the terrible events which would transpire with his brother, would not have made this broken promise. Instead, Bill would be sat, hardly even a day from now, stale tears flooding from his eyes, face red and blotchy, cursing at himself for breaking it.
But for now, they bounced their fingers to seal the promise’s fate - notarizing it. Georgie relaxed himself back into the side of Bill and Bill continued, following the routes with his finger, “Ben only luh-lives in the street buh-beside Stan, and Beverly said she’ll muh-meet us there. So we’ll go from th-there duh-down the river into Main Street - puh-past the Aladdin, then we take the alley buh-beside the Butcher’s to buh-bring us to the end of Neibolt Street -”
“Do we have to go to Neibolt Street?” Georgie hated that street ever since Eddie had shown up at their doorstep shaking about a weird homeless guy. Eddie said the strange man had offered him something, but Bill had covered his ears before he could hear anything else.
Bill looked over the map again for a moment, “Yeah. Look -” He pointed at a road behind Derry Library - “This is the only other ruh-road that leads to Eddie’s but the Buh-Bower’s gang hang out thu-there.”
“Are they the guys that broke Eddie’s nose that time?” That time was two years prior, when Eddie and Bill had been playing in their fort in the patch of forest that breaks Derry from the Quarry. Henry Bowers had been looking for ‘some fat kid’ - which had turned out to be Ben - who had a big angry H carved into the fat of his stomach when they had ran into him not fifteen minutes later.
Bill nodded, “Yuh-yeah, they’re assholes.”
There was a moment of silence after that, as Georgie sucked on his tongue and weighed the ups-and-downs of his own comfort versus other’s - for a seven year old, it’s a pretty difficult decision. The concept of empathy and self-sacrifice more or less foreign to such a young boy. Bill was silent as he recounted the time Henry Bowers had held his head inside a water tank until his lungs were choked with water. He had been coughing up water for a week. He was thankful that Georgie had not been made aware of that experience - Georgie had seen enough of the bad people of the world when Bill had come home with his white shirt covered in the blood from Eddie’s nose and his fists shaking.
“It’s okay,” Georgie decided, “We can go down Neibolt Street - I don’t want Eddie to get hurt again - but you have to give me all the fun-sized Snickers you get!”
Bill hummed in thought for a moment, making long drawn out thinking noises, “I guh-guess that’s a fuh-fair deal.” He paused to shake Georgie’s hand - who was staring him down with a very serious face for a seven year old. It was funny and Bill had to bite back a smile, “Okay, so th-then once we guh-go through Neibolt street, we juh-just have to cross the bridge then we’re only two buh-blocks away from the rich fuh-folks.”
“Then we’ll get loads of candy! Do you think we’ll get more than we did last year?”
“Duh-definately. With a costume as guh-good as that, they’ll buh-be throwing cuh-candy corn at you. You’re guh-gonna make us all luh-look bad with all the candy you’ll have in your buh-buh-buh-bucket.”
“Can we walk the route? I wanna count all the houses I’m gonna get candy from.” Georgie took Halloween very seriously. Every October 30th - Georgie would walk Bill down their route, tallying every house they planned to go to, writing the houses that had Halloween decorations, since they usually gave out better candy. It was a comical sight for the neighbours - the littlest Denbrough marching through Derry, notebook and pencil in hand, writing and scribbling onto the notebook looking not unlike a tiny Health Inspector, scribbling onto his clipboard. Bill was usually several paces behind, not seeming to be overly invested in the entire ritual - looking more like someone who had to take their energetic puppy for an evening walk to calm him down for bedtime. It was a ritual that Bill indulged, if not to simply have a reason to leave the house. The bag of candy split between the boys from Malcolm’s Candy Emporium was also an essential part of the stakeout. Half bon-bons and half an assortment of fruity-flavoured jelly candy. Bill didn’t particularly care for either.
Sadly, the yearly routine would be disrupted, not by the horror hiding behind boarded up windows, not yet. No, the first disruption of little Georgie’s Halloween was as such, “Suh-sorry, Georgie. I’m ruh-really sick.”
Georgie lifted himself off of Bill to examine him, tiny judgemental eyes taking in all of his sickly brother’s poor complexion, “You’re being dramatic.”
“Dramatic? Duh-didn’t you see th-the phleagm that I coughed up th-there? It wuh-was grey and ruh-really sticky and gross - I can show you if you wuh-want.”
Bill’s short laugh barely had a chance to escape his mouth before it fell into another fit of coughing. He coughed into the lapel of his dressing gown, feeling sticky bits of phlegm start to land on his tongue. The coughing made his shoulders shake and seemed to form deep inside his core, shaking him forward with every wet-sounding cough. It was enough to make Georgie pull a face and hop off of the bed.
As soon as Bill was able to somewhat contain the fit, he reached for his glass of water - long lukewarm and already half-drank by now - and took small sips, trying to soothe his freshly-ripped throat. The water seemed to somewhat smooth over the sandpaper, however it did little to help the sticky, gross stuff that was spluttered up from his chest to his mouth. Bill took out his tissue and spat the phlegm into it.
Georgie looked at Bill with a mix of disgust and pity, “Y’know, I can go and count the houses on my own.”
Bill shook his head, eyes screwed shut as he coughed heavily into the tissue.
“I can Billy! I’ve walked through all the roads at least a million times, I won’t get lost.”
Bill raised his eyebrow at him, stuffing the tissue back into his pocket, despite the fact there was a fresh box of Kleenex on his bedside table, “A muh-million, huh?”
“Uh-huh! At least!”
Bill shook his head, face apologetic. “Sorry Georgie, you can’t guh-go puh-puh-puh-past the end of our street on your own, it’s too duh-dangerous -”
“Dangerous? What’s dangerous, Bill?” Georgie crossed his arms, he wasn’t a baby anymore, he could walk around town on his own - he walks the whole way home from school on his own!
“Cuh-cars, you could suh-slip and fall, buh-bad people, wuh-werewolves -”
“I won’t walk on the road, I’ll wear my good galoshes and I’ll stay where people can see me and not talk to strangers - and werewolves aren’t real, Billy! I told you that!”
“Guh-Georgie, I don’t think you sh-should-”
“Mom will let me - I can just go and ask her.”
He’s got Bill there. As perfect as the Denbrough family is, in theory, with a lovely little house in the middle of a street lined with perfectly identical lovely little houses, with a manicured garden and two young, well-mannered handsome boys - it’s little more than that. Their parents are good people, they take their kids on fishing trips and vacations and attend all the school meetings and of course, it goes without saying that they keep their boys fed and watered. The brunt of the issue was that the lovely little house in the middle of Colby Avenue with two well-mannered sons was that the two well-mannered sons seemed to be the only residents of this lovely little house at times.
Bill let out a defeated sigh, a sigh of all types of defeat, bested by not only his brother, but fate too, “You won’t guh-get lost?”
“You won’t tuh-talk to strangers?”
“And you’ll be careful?”
Georgie nodded his head, bouncing up and down on his heels, excited to be able to prove to Bill that he could do it by himself. He could walk around Derry on his own, he wasn’t a little kid anymore.
Bill didn’t look fully convinced, but he nodded Georgie away, “Wuh-well, I’m nuh-not exactly fit to physically hold you buh-back, just come home when th-th streetlights cuh-come on.” and like that - Georgie was away with a shout down the hall - “ Thanks, Billy!” - barely remembering to close Bill’s bedroom door behind him. But he did, and a couple figurines on Bill’s dresser rattled with the slam.
This left Bill to clear his bed. He coughed into the sleeve of his dressing gown weakly as he gathered up his paintbrushes. Not caring much about the flecks of red that were staining his sheets, he could worry about them when he was feeling a little better.
Bill felt his body groan in protest as he lifted himself off of his bed, as if he was a senior citizen struggling with arthritis. He was feeling better than he had been, the drugs clearly working wonders beneath his skin but Bill was still sick - it was as evident as the dark circles under his eyes. His body shook with violent coughing fits, his vocal cords were ripped from them too. His skin was a milky-grey sort of colour, constantly prickled with dampness. Even his thoughts were slow and sluggish, finding himself take an extra couple moments to read the analog alarm clock perched on his bedside table, his eyes struggling to make sense of the words in his comic books.
Yet, the thought of waking around Derry tomorrow evening with his little brother excitedly pulling one of Bill’s friends in his tow only made him bubble with excitement. The only way that Bill would miss out Halloween is if he were to drop dead.
When little Georgie waved goodbye to his brother from atop the trampled bed of daisies on their front lawn - neither of them could have known it would be for the last time. Georgie - whose cheeks were pink with excitement - waved so hard that the movements of his hand moved into a fleshy type of blur to Bill. Bill, who always rested himself against the window sill whenever Georgie would leave to go play with his friends until he could no longer see the energetic fit of yellow could hardly have known that he wouldn’t have to sit there again. In the months following he did so anyway, of course. Bill would sit, his desk chair pulled out and propped awkwardly in front of the window, hours watching the miserable streets - hoping to see a bright yellow coat scampering home, as if he had just lost track of time for several months.
Of course, he did see the return of the yellow raincoat. It had been presented to him by the cop at his front door like a former pet turned roadkill, with a face of half-guilt and half-’I’d rather be anywhere else but here’. We found it floating out by the sewer pipe, down the East side of the Barrens is what they said. His name is stitched on the label, if you want to look - but Billy didn’t need to look. He had known well enough. He had zipped the raincoat up enough times to know. He had picked it up off the floor when Georgie left his outerwear in a whirlwind of energy. He had washed the dried mud off it in a basin of warm water on the kitchen sink. He had seen that raincoat march off of their front lawn enough times to know.
The back of that damned raincoat running off of their lawn and down to the end of the row of houses, out of the safety of Bill’s eyesight over Colby Avenue would haunt many of Bill’s nightmares for the foreseeable future - until he drinks energy drink after energy drink to pull his eyelids open enough to stop the dirty, wet raincoat bleeding behind his eyes, and when that doesn’t work he sneaks into his Mother’s room and takes her sleeping pills, allowing himself one every other night to knock him into a sleep too deep for dreams.
But for now, blissfully unaware that Georgie running out the door with his raincoat on and galoshes to power him through with Neibolt Street as one of his destinations, having twisted Bill’s arm enough to do so on his own - had effectively hammered the last of the nails into the tiny coffin of George Elmer Denbrough. Bill Denbrough went back to his bed.
Outside of the perfect little house where Bill was settling back into bed, Georgie followed the routes with no issue, stopping at particularly big puddles to jump in them, not minding that his new galoshes were getting caked with mud - Bill would help him clean them when he got home. The rain was making little plasticy pelting noises as it battered his raincoat. He managed to keep a tally of all the houses they would knock on without the paper getting too wet. It was hard, and he had to twist his torso over the notepad, but it was doable. It went on like any other year, Georgie walking down streets that he knew like the back of his hand. The only difference was that Billy was wrapped up at home, in the safety of his blanket.
Absolutely nothing was amiss.
Georgie took the turn onto Main Street.
Main Street, as its given name, was the most centrepoint of Derry. Stores lined either side of the long stretch of road, all sorts of ones. Pretty much anything you could need was situated somewhere on Main Street. Wide sidewalks with benches and lamposts and little decorative flower pots. Perfectly manicured trees that served nothing if not to break up the concrete. Halloween themed banners and flags and posters strung up on every surface - black and orange and purple and green - Georgie didn’t really like any of those colours, his favourite was yellow. There wasn’t a single lick of litter on all of Main Street - there never was. In fact, Main Street was a perfect presentation of a plucky, community-led town; tidy, colourful, filled with shoppers and dogwalkers and children running through the rain being chased by frantic mothers.
Georgie felt himself come to a halt outside the storefront of Johnson’s Toy Palace - a small enough store with an olive green door and a deep rich red sign with its name in pretty gold-speckled cursive. Normally, the display window would present toy trucks, or massive stuffed animals that were nearly the height of Georgie himself, usually a multi-coloured collaboration from multiple types of toys and games that never failed to attract the eyes of Derry’s younger populace. But today, surrounded by bright artificial plastic toys and games, sat a doll. An expensive looking one, too - with smooth, porcelain skin and features so clearly hand-painted with care. It was a boy, his hair slicked back and professional, wearing a pair of formal shorts and a little white shirt and a red bow tie. Georgie couldn’t help but stare at it for a bit, feeling unnerved by the incredibly life-like glass eyes that were staring back at him. They were dark, a cold type of brown - not like chocolate, or like any warm earthy shades, and definitely not sparkling with life and curiosity like Georgie’s - but cold like dried mud caked to the side of a truck that hasn’t left the driveway in months, cold like the rings left on white china from half-drank coffee.
Georgie startled back, the noises and life of the Derry Streets suddenly flushing back into his ears - as if the world had been desaturated as he met eyes with the doll. He grappled for the weight of his notebook in his pocket, feeling a little grounded at the shape of Bill’s notebook weighing against his thigh. He quickly turned and walked away, feeling a little green and wishing that Billy was with him.
No! - He was brave enough to do this himself! It was just a trick of his eyes, surely. There was no way that a doll can just blink on its own - was there?
Georgie took a glance backwards at the store, too far along the street now to be able to see the doll through the window. His eyes were drawn to it, like a rat drawn to rotting food - unable to take his eyes off of the mostly unassuming storefront. He didn’t pause his pace, in fact, he increased the speed in which he moved away from the store the longer he looked at it.
Right until he barrelled into something. Georgie bounced back with a small oof - and met eyes with the person he had just walked into. It was a man - it would have been rude to describe him as underwhelmingly bland to look at - but it would be true. There was little other descriptions about the man Georgie could have gave - starkengly average, with nothing about his face or body that would make him identifiable in a crowd of white middle-aged men. In fact, all adults looked much like that, Georgie had thought. Bland, fake and perfectly manicured. The man didn’t appear upset, in fact, he apologised and gave Georgie a stiff smile and went on his way, not really seeming to register Georgie’s wary face.
“Duh-don’t talk to st-strangers, Georgie.”
So Georgie didn’t - not ever. And especially not to any adults he meets - they all have this vacant look in their eyes - as if there is a film between their brain and their eyes, watching everything that happens before they even get a chance to. That is what it is to be an adult in Derry after all. Slightly-off, weird, creepy - Georgie thought all of those things. Georgie wonders with a slight quiver to his lip of when he and Bill will start to watch the sun rise and fall and rise and fall again into the horizons with blank stares and a stiffness in their face. Will they be old-old? With wrinkles and liver spots and greying hair? Or will they still be young? With meat still on their bones and freckles still speckling their cheeks. Georgie wonders when him and his brother will lose the ability to have fun and laugh and play, what’s the exact time and date of their souls snagging on their childhood as they age and it falls past them, if you please?
Georgie, who despite his good grades and diligence, had an awful habit of getting lost in his thoughts. This is only proven when not minutes after colliding with the man whose face Georgie hadn’t even been able to remember in the first place, Georgie had walked half way down the alleyway between the Butcher Shop and the Print Store, staring straight ahead with his eyes open, but still not registering the parked up bicycle until he had caught the handlebars on his ribs. He yelped in surprise and overbalanced too hard, not far from falling flat on his butt when a pair of hands steadied him.
Georgie was pulled out of his thoughts sharply, as if the boy in front of him had yanked them out of his ears. The boy, who Georgie will come to recall as Mike Hanlon - was by all means a stranger - but Georgie didn’t feel any instinctive danger when Mike patted his shoulders and fixed his hood, which had fell down the back of his head in the jostling. “Are you alright? That looked painful.” His voice was low and gentle, like they were speaking in a quiet room rather than outdoors off the Main Street with rain thundering down. It was so soft that it should have been muffled - but it wasn’t - Georgie heard every word as clear as a bell. It was low, and it was quiet, but it seemingly sought out Georgie’s ears - like he spoke exclusively to be heard by him. Maybe he did, maybe the universe had made it so.
Georgie nodded, already trying to move under Mike’s gentle hold - Mike let him, but faulted him with his words, “Woah-woah-woah, where are you going? Aren’t you with your parents or someone?”
Georgie felt his wariness faze out of him with the genuine concern that washed over him. He felt safe with Mike, Bill’s words fading from his head. He felt safe, despite being told to feel otherwise by his friends at school - ‘ My Mom says those blacks that own the farm up on Bluehill are the ones that kidnapped Ed Corcoran.’ Georgie had told Bill what his friends had said about the black family up on Bluehill and Bill had been really mad. Especially when Georgie had asked him what the names they called the family meant. That’s a ruh-ruh-really bad word. Muh-maybe one of the worst wuh-words ever. Don’t eh-ever say it - and he didn’t.
“I’m going onto Neibolt Street. I’m counting all the houses I’m gonna trick-or-treat at tomorrow.” Georgie said, knowing he shouldn’t tell a stranger where he was going. But he felt safe, as safe as he felt when Eddie and Stan walk him home from school when Bill’s at his speech therapy in Bangor, or when Bill takes him out of the house when his parents start to talk loudly from the bedroom and they go to the playground and Beverly pushes him on the swingset.
Mike makes a pleasant noise in his throat, “Sounds fun, are you going trick-or-treating with your friends?”
Georgie recalls the things his friends had said about the boy in front of him, suddenly filled with disgust at them, “Uh-huh! I’m going with my big brother. He’s my bestest friend, and his friends are my friends, too!” Geogie says, before a thought shoots into his head that makes him grin, “Hey! Maybe you know them, they’re in High School, Bill is my brother and his best friends are Eddie, Stanley, Ben and Beverly. Beverly is really pretty, I think everyone knows her - she’s got red hair and sometimes she wears it in pigtails and it looks really nice, like a cowgirl!”
Mike hummed in thought, “Well your brother and his friends sound like really great people, but I don’t go to Derry High School - so I’ll have to take your word on it.” Georgie nods, agreeing. His brother and his friends
great people - this Mike Hanlon guy really sure does know what he’s talking about. “And your brother - he knows you’re out here on your own?”
“Yep! He says I’m really grown up that I can go by myself.” He didn’t say that, but he felt the need, as most children naturally do, to impress the older kids.
“Well, alright - I’m sure he’s told you to be back home before it gets dark, huh?”
“Yep! When it starts to get dark and the streetlights come on I have to run home!”
“He sure knows his stuff, huh?”
Georgie nodded and the conversation came to a natural and comfortable close, a strange feeling of familiarity bubbling between the two boys. Georgie felt as though he had met Mike before, the way he spoke and the calming and grounding personality he seems to naturally exude had been so achingly familiar that Geogie could have sworn it - only Georgie would certainly remember meeting on of the only black people in Derry - it was a detail that he couldn’t bring himself to assume he would forget or disregard.
He gave a pleasant
and a wave and left the alleyway, finding himself not too far from Neibolt Street with the overwhelming feeling in him that Mike was somehow incredibly important.
The walk to Neibolt was as uneventful as Georgie had hoped. He walked through the empty streets, tallying in his little notebook. The clouds seemed darker on this part of Derry, twisting into dark, heavy clouds the further he walked. The rain continued to pelt the ground - an entire season’s worth of rain seemingly being emptied onto Georgie’s yellow hood. It didn’t faze him in the slightest as his face was twisted in concentration, little tongue peeking out as he continued to tally the houses on Southern Neibolt.
Then, on a little patch of green between number nineteen and number twenty-one, a flutter of movement caught Georgie’s eyes, taking him by surprise at the sudden burst of movement against the otherwise stagnant street.
“Oh, wow,” Georgie said, marvelled at the flock of birds that had soared down from the sky, and settled on the ground as a group - like a type of avian choreography, pecking at the ground in unison. Georgie had never seen such an act of uniformity in a group of birds before - he wishes Stan was here to see it - he would have his socks knocked right off! Georgie pocketed his notebook slowly, careful not to move suddenly as not to scare them off.
Georgie raised his hand, pointing at each bird while he counted.
“One...two... three...four…” Four for… a birth, if he was right. But there’s more than four, so he kept counting, “Five, six...seven,” Seven for… oh gosh.
Georgie huffed and walked past them, none of them seeming to even recognise that they were in the presence of someone. He walked down past number twenty-three, then twenty-five, then - a strange shifting noise sounded out through the heavy streets. Georgie spun around, scared. The birds had all flew off silently, it seems, aside from that, nothing seemed noticeably different. His raincoat seems a little pale, sickly in colour, though. The dark, swirling stormclounds seemed to swallow Georgie to The House as he marched forward. His stomach twisting and his eyes glued to the ground.
Not afraid. Not afraid. Not afraid.
The thoughts burned like acid in his brain, lining his gut heavy with a strange feeling, the feeling - which Georgie is too young to have a proper word to associate it with - is guilt. Guilt from a lie. Georgie had told many lies today, it seems. Not only to Bill, but to himself. The biggest one, of course, was that he would come home when the streetlights came on. Because the streetlights came on and off and on and off and on and off again many times. Not once did Georgie come home.
Georgie starts and spins towards the noise. The sound rang out so loudly and suddenly that it felt like his head was snapped into looking at the target of the noise. And there it was.
29 Neibolt Street.
A home - no… never a home - a building, one that seems to ooze darkness. The House itself, dark and grey from battered paint and rotted wood and an almost unearthly type of desaturation. In fact, the grass from the sidewalk seemed to grow from green to yellow to grey in proximity to the building, like simply being near it is enough to rot the life out of nature and if the abundance of dying plants and long-dead bushes which resembled tumbleweed weren’t enough. Georgie doesn’t want to think of what other types of rot reside in the building.
The rot which sunk its teeth into the window panes of the exterior and moulded away at the panelling was enough to make Georgie’s stomach churn. There was something evil there, evil enough to make his breakfast curdle and his legs shake, evil enough to root him to where he was stood as the monster of a house seemed to stretch and grow into the ink-black storm clouds, ready to chew Georgie up and spit him out like a lump of chewing tobacco.
POP! on his left.
POP! on his right.
Two echoing loud pops burst one by one in either of Georgie’s ear. He turns his head instinctively towards each one. By the time he turns his head to the direction it was originally facing his feet were no longer planted on the cement of the road. Rather, bright galoshes on rotting wood.
He was on the front porch of The House, only inches away from the front door. A little figurine of yellow, trembling like a leaf at the mouth of the beast. There was little to be done at this point. Now, with Georgie’s little yellow galoshes planted firmly on the front porch of Twenty-Nine Neibolt Street, he has no chance. Nobody dared go near the home, the sudden atmosphere of dread slicking out of the boarded up windows of the house like ooze, slinking across the dying grass and staining the streets with the pre-emptive morbidity of the fear-stricken child currently standing - and without his knowledge of it, on his deathbed.
Georgie spun around, a squeal dying on his lips as though it was vacuumed out of him when he saw that he was not alone. A man. A man was standing on the final step of the porchway, effectively trapping Georgie on the porch.
Georgie knew straight away that he should get as far away from this man as he could, a physical and tangible feeling of dread leaving him stone cold even his frantic shaking. This man, tall and winding, like a caricature of a person drawn by someone who has never seen one before, had a face unlike any one Georgie had ever seen. Unlike anyone that anyone had ever seen. Long, and gaunt and grey enough to be that of a corpse. His pupils were quivering in his eyes, bouncing back and forth off the iris’ like a heavy vibration. Thrumming with …. Something. Shaking with containing something so unearthly horrific that Georgie’s cheeks ran wet with fear.
“ You’re early for Halloween,” The man’s voice was stilted and uneven in tone, as if it was purposely manicured to leave the recipient of his words on edge, “ Your costume is dripping.”
Georgie looked down at his pants, and sure enough, the red splatters of paint that Bill had so painstakingly painted had started to run, the sharp and defined splatters of the stuff appearing blurry, even behind Georgie’s own blurry tears. “Say, let’s go inside - I’ll fix you right up,” The man moved forward, arms reaching out towards Georgie like two big scorpion claws, ready to close down on his arms.
Georgie saw an opening, and he took it. He propelled his little body forward as fast as he could, swerving around the man with as much stability as his shaking figure could muster.
The man didn’t even follow Georgie with his terrible eyes. Georgie sped past him, jumped down the steps and had been so close - only a hair away from being free, from sprinting through all the puddles of Derry, past the Butcher’s and the Print Store and past the Uris’ and onto Colby Avenue. Sprinting past all the vacant and uncaring adults staring through the sobbing child, sprinting past the happy, fat-faced children, and up the stairs and into his big brother’s arms to sob and cry and heave his near-death experience into his chest.
That’s what he thinks, at least. In reality, this man - this horror - had never let Georgie escape. Georgie’s fate was etched into the walls of Neibolt, unquestioned and unavoidable. A simple fact of the Universe. The sun rises in the East, the tides move in and out of the sand, the moon waxes and wanes and crescents, and Georgie Denbrough’s fate is sealed at The House on Neibolt Street.
Long, sickly grey fingers twist into the hood of Georgie’s raincoat.
Georgie cries out and grapples at the fasteners, all but ripping the coat off of him, twisting and turning his arms so quickly it tugs painfully at his shoulders. He stumbles as he slips out of it and half runs-half crawls towards the street for several paces, the dead grass, despite the rain, crunching like bones under his feet.
He didn’t get far before he stills.
He stills mid-run, just on the edge of the lawn and the street.
A stinging, high-pitched sound clamps his muscles and twists his guts. A sound, which by description, seems like nothing much. Like the high pitched squeal of a cheap dog whistle, just barely audible to the point where your ears strain and get flush with effort to hear it, sending thumps of pain into the side of your head like a storm of an oncoming migraine. In reality, to little Georgie Denbrough, it was a siren’s song. An audible Black Spot, the sound more filled with death and decay and all things that could possibly be more atrocious and ungodly than that.
And it would be the last thing that would grace Georgie Denbrough’s ears on this thunderous and fateful day.
The last sound gracing the seven-year-old’s ears being something that even he, somewhere deep, deep in his core - recognised as the true sound of evil. The sound that could bring the entire planet to a standstill if it so wished.
It was only seconds later, as a flit of yellow blurred past his vision and into the streets, did the final sight young Georgie would see fill his view. The man, his mouth so beyond human, so twisted and insidious, opening wide.
It split into his cheeks and his flesh cratered open, the muscles tearing apart like slicing a knife through soft butter. His skin bled with sick, grey-ish blood and it ran down into his mouth and drooled from it like it would from a starving dog.
Georgie let out a weak yell, not a cry for help. Georgie knew there was no helping him now, he knew that well enough. A cry of sorrow, a broken apology so soft and wet-sounding that it was drowned out both by the thundering pelts of the rain and the siren, which only got louder with the gaping mouth expanding further into the cheeks of the man, whose face was split open like a venus fly trap, gaping maw drooling onto Georgie’s brand new galoshes. A faint, acidic glow began to split its way through the maw, Georgie helpless but to stare into it. A glow which was less welcoming than a hole in the head. A glow which encompasses every single act of Hell in its wake.
“Billy…” And with that cry on his mouth, Georgie came face to face with the last sight of this terrible, terrible day burned into his retinas.
Georgie Denbrough’s final glimpse of this world, was - is - ironically, the most nefarious part of it.