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Spirits in the Dark

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September 2004

 

It was the first day of school for elementary-aged children in Derry. At 7 o’clock in the morning, the school was already swarmed with students from the age of six to ten. The younger ones were dropped off by their parents, while the older ones had come with their group of friends. One child in particular was also dropped of by his parents at exactly 6.45 AM, and he’d been waiting at the entrance gate for the past fifteen minutes since he said goodbye to his parents. He was dressed smartly even for his age, which made some of the parents who saw him wondered whether they should have dressed their own children better. A few of those parents cooed at him and even told him that he looked like a snall adult. The child merely smiled politely at the compliment, for he had other things in his mind that he felt was more important than about what he wore.

 

For what seemed like the hundred times, Stanley Uris glanced at his watch again.

 

He was supposed to meet his best friend Bill Denbrough at 7.00 AM by the school's gate. That was what his parents had told him. It was already pushing 7.01, but Bill still hadn't shown up. Stanley was growing restless. They had made a promise to each other that they would walk into class together, so Stanley couldn't possibly just go ahead to class himself. A promise was a promise. His father always told him that good men kept their promises. Besides, Stanley didn't think he could just walk into school with the hundreds other students without Bill. They were always together. They always did everything together. That would break the customs. It would change everything.

 

And Stanley hated change.

 

"Is your watch broken?"

 

Stanley whipped around toward the direction of the voice. He found that the question came from a boy around his age. He was tall and gangly, with pale skin that contrasted rather nicely against his dark curly hair. He wore coke-bottle glasses that made his big blue eyes looked even bigger. Stanley noticed that the boy wasn't alone. There was a girl who bore an uncanny resemblance with him, and a really small boy standing behind the both of them. Stanley didn't realise that he was staring until the first boy repeated his question.

 

"It's not broken. I'm waiting for my friend," Stanley replied curtly.

 

"Is it analogue or digital?" This time, it was the girl who asked the question. "Because I think it's more difficult to tell the time when it's an analogue. Digital though, it's much easier."

 

"You're just dumb, Soph," the first boy said, smirking in an infuriating manner when the girl, whom Stanley supposed was his sister, glared furiously at him.

 

"It's an analogue," Stanley quickly said, sensing the two siblings were going to fight. "Although I agree, digital is easier. And I don't think it means you're dumb if you like digital more. You're just being mean to her."

 

For some reason, this made the first boy laughed loudly while the girl gave Stanley a huge smile. She looked pretty with it.

 

"Ooh, found yourself a boyfriend already, sis?" the boy teased, to which the girl ignored completely as she focused her whole attention on Stanley.

 

"I like you," the girl said, still with a smile as she offered Stanley her hand. "What's your name? I'm Sophie Tozier and this is my twin brother Richie. And that guy is our best friend Eddie Kaspbrak."

 

Eddie, the small boy who had been standing behind Richie the whole time, gave him a shy wave and said, “Hello there.”

 

"Hello. My name’s Stanley. Stanley Uris,” Stanley replied. He eyed Sophie’s hand warily for a while before he took it, grateful for her patience. Her brother though, didn’t give him the same courtesy and easily snatched Stanley’s hand from his sister’s.

 

“Nice to mee ya, Stanley Uris!” Richie exclaimed as he shook Stanley’s hand excitedly. “Seriously, I have a feeling that us boys will be the very best friends. We just have to find someone for my dearest sister here.”

 

Why do I have to be friends with someone else?”

 

“Uh, because you’re a girl and girls aren’t cool enough to hang out with boys?”

 

“But I hang out with you and Eddie all the time!”

 

“Unfortunately.”

 

Before Sophie was going to yell at her brother some more, someone called out Stanley’s name. It was Bill. He was waving at Stanley, a big grin on his face as he made his way toward them. Normally, Stanley would return the grin with a small but genuine smile that he only reserved for his best friend. But instead, Stanley’s attention was set on the redheaded girl limping beside Bill, one hand seemed to be gripping Bill’s hand tightly so she could walk. When they were closer, Stanley could see that the girl’s left knee had a Band-Aid on it.

 

“Hi S-S-Stan!” Bill stuttered out. He still had a grin on his face as he gently untangled the girl from himself so he could pull Stanley into a hug. “I-I-I’m s-sorry I was l-l-late. B-B-B-Bev here f-f-fell and hurt h-h-her knee b-b-because Greta K-K-Keene pushed her. I had t-t-to help her. P-p-please don’t b-be mad w-w-with me.”

 

“It’s okay, Bill,” Stanley lied, because he could never be mad with his friend. “What’s important is you’re here now.”

 

When Bill’s grin widened, as if it was possible, Stanley felt his heart bloomed. “T-t-thank you, Stan! You’re t-t-the b-best.”

 

“So this is your bestie, Stan?” Richie asked, which kind of surprised Stanley. He’d forgotten that there were other people with him and Bill.

 

“Yeah,” Stanley replied in the same curt tone. “This is Bill Denbrough. Bill, this is Richie and Sophie Tozier, and Eddie Kaspbrak.”

 

Instantly, Bill pulled into himself as he nodded his greeting with his eyes set determinedly on his feet. The boy was always incredibly shy when he met new people. His stutter made it hard for him to make friends, because other kids would bully him about it. Almost instinctively, Stanley moved until he was standing between Bill and Richie in a protective manner. The last thing they needed was for Richie or Sophie or even little Eddie to make fun of Bill’s stutter. However, much to both of their surprise, they didn’t seem to care about it. Richie had pushed Stanley aside and was already yanking Bill’s hand into a rather aggressive handshake, grinning from ear to ear.

 

“Boy oh boy, but aren’t you a handsome one, young man!” Richie said loudly, lowering his voice in what Stanley considered was a stupid attempt to sound mature. “I like you, Bill. You have a strong handshake. And thank you for bringing my sister a friend. She desperately needs someone other than me and Eds here to be here friend. Now, properly introduce that lovely redhead to all of us, will you?”

 

“Uh, y-y-you’re welcome,” Bill replied. He stole a glance at Stanley, eyes comically wide in both confusion and fear. It nearly made Stanley laughed. “N-n-nice to meet you t-too, Richie. And o-o-of course, S-Sophie and Eddie too. This is B-B-Beverly Marsh. S-she’s my n-n-new friend.”

 

Stanley pouted at the last part. He decided that he hated school already. He didn’t want new friends. He was perfectly fine with having Bill as his only friend. He didn’t need more. He didn’t need Richie, he didn’t Sophie, he didn’t need Eddie. He certainly didn’t need stupid Beverly Marsh. But unfortunately, no one seemed to understand that because they were all smiling at Beverly now. Even Richie who just claimed that girls weren’t cool enough for him.

 

“Hi,” Beverly greeted them all shyly. “Nice to meet you guys.”

 

Richie took Beverly’s hand and gave it a kiss, winking mischievously when the girl blushed. “Nice to meet you, Miss Marsh.”

 

“Hi, Bev,” Sophie said next, a big smile on her face despite her initial reluctance to befriend someone else. “Just ignore my twin. He’s an idiot. Come on, let’s get in.” And with the same level of confidence that her brother just demonstrated, Sophie linked her arm through Beverly’s and started to drag toward the school, already talking the redhead’s ear off.

 

“That went really well, don’t you guys think?” Richie said once his sister and Beverly were gone. “Now the four of us can officially be friends! We’ll be like the Beatles. I’m definitely John Lennon.”

 

“Who’s the B-B-Beatles?” Bill asked, earning a scandalous gasp from both Richie and Eddie. Stanley changed his mind then.

 

He probably wasn’t ready for new friends, but he would try to be nice to Richie and Eddie.

 

“You don’t know the Beatles?” Eddie exclaimed. “How can you not know them?”

 

“Bill only likes modern music,” Stanley said, trying with all his might to push back his discomfort about talking to new people.

 

“And what’s w-w-wrong with that?” Bill protested, scowling. “M-Maroon 5 is n-not that bad.”

 

“Well, that just won’t do!” Richie said, dramatically throwing his hands in the air. “I can’t have my friends knowing Maroon 5 but not the Beatles.” Sighing heavily as if he was going to make the biggest form of sacrifice known to mankind, Richie draped an arm around Bill and said, “Billy, I promise you’ll have the best taste in music in no time once I'm done with you. But sadly, we’ll have school first, so our lesson will have to wait until after school.”

 

“But I don’t want—“

 

“Now, chop chop, ladies!” Richie yelled, draping his other arm around Eddie, who quickly grabbed Stanley’s hand before he could see it coming. “We need to do some education now! There are books to read, numbers to count, and toys to break.”

 

“Wait, wait, wait,” Stanley said, already trying to break free from Eddie’s grip, but for someone so small, he had weirdly strong grip. “What’s that last one again?”

 

Richie didn’t answer him though. Instead, he was laughing loudly like a maniac as he pulled all of them along with him into the school building. Still with a big grin on his face, he winked at Stanley and cheerfully cried, “We’ll have so much fun, Stanny! So, don’t worry your pretty head.”

 

Obviously, that was the wrong thing to say to Stanley. But even he had to admit, Richie’s boisterous energy was eating away Stanley’s nerves, to the point that he was slowly enjoying himself at school. Not only because Bill was there, but because he now had Richie and Eddie.

 

Having friends wasn’t as awful as he originally thought after all.