'What now, Bill?' Richie asked, finally saying it right out.
'I d-d-don't nuh-nuh-know,' Bill said. His stutter was back, alive and well. He heard it, they heard it, and he stood in the dark, smelling the sodden aroma of their growing panic, wondering how long it would be before somebody - Stan, most likely it would be Stan - tore things wide open by saying: Well, why don't you know? You got us into this!
'And what about Henry?' Mike asked uneasily. 'Is he still out there, or what?'
'Oh, Jeez,' Eddie said . . . almost moaned. 'I forgot about him. Sure he is, sure he is, he's probably as lost as we are and we could run into him any time . . . Jeez, Bill, don't you have any ideas? Your dad works down here! Don't you have any ideas at all?'
Bill listened to the distant mocking thunder of the water and tried to have the idea that Eddie - all of them - had a right to demand. Because yes, correct, he had gotten them into this and it was his responsibility to get them back out again. Nothing came. Nothing.
'I have an idea,' Beverly said quietly.
In the dark, Bill heard a sound he could not immediately place. A whispery little sound, but not scary. Then there was a more easily placed sound . . . a zipper. What - ? he thought, and then he realized what. She was undressing. For some reason, Beverly was undressing.
'What are you doing? Richie asked, and his shocked voice cracked on the last word.
'I know something,' Beverly said in the dark, and to Bill her voice sounded older. 'I know because my father told me. I know how to bring us back together. And if we're not together we'll never get out.'
'What?' Ben asked, sounding bewildered and terrified. 'What are you talking about?'
'Something that will bring us together forever. Something that will show - '
'Nuh-Nuh-No, B-B-Beverly!' Bill said, suddenly understanding, understanding everything.
' - that will show that I love you all,' Beverly said, 'that you're all my friends.'
'What's she t - ' Mike began.
Calmly, Beverly cut across his words. 'Who's first?'
STEPHEN KING JUMPS AROUND A LOT, THIS IS TWO SECTIONS STITCHED TOGETHER, MAYBE A COUPLE PAGES APART
Eddie comes to her first, because he is the most frightened. He comes to her not as her friend of that summer, or as her brief lover now, but the way he would have come to his mother only three or four years ago, to be comforted; he doesn't draw back from her smooth nakedness and at first she doubts if he even feels it. He is trembling, and although she holds him the darkness is so perfect that even this close she cannot see him; except for the rough cast he might as well be a phantom.
'What do you want?' he asks her.
'You have to put your thing in me,' she says.
He tries to pull back but she holds him and he subsides against her. She has heard someone - Ben, she thinks - draw in his breath.
'Bevvie, I can't do that. I don't know how - '
'I think it's easy. But you'll have to get undressed.' She thinks about the intricacies of managing cast and shirt, first somehow separating and then rejoining them, and amends, 'Your pants, anyway.'
'No, I can't!' But she thinks part of him can, and wants to, because his trembling has stopped and she feels something small and hard which presses against the right side of her belly.
'You can,' she says, and pulls him down. The surface beneath her bare back and legs is firm, clayey, dry. The distant thunder of the water is drowsy, soothing. She reaches for him. There's a moment when her father's face intervenes, harsh and forbidding
(I want to see if you're intact)
and then she closes her arms around Eddie's neck, her smooth cheek against his smooth cheek, and as he tentatively touches her small breasts she sighs and thinks for the first time This is Eddie and she remembers a day in July - could it only have been last month? - when no one else turned up in the Barrens but Eddie, and he had a whole bunch of Little Lulu comic books and they read together for most of the afternoon, Little Lulu looking for beebleberries and getting in all sorts of crazy situations, Witch Hazel, all of those guys. It had been fun.
She thinks of birds; in particular of the grackles and starlings and crows that come back in the spring, and her hands go to his belt and loosen it, and he says again that he can't do that; she tells him that he can, she knows he can, and what she feels is not shame or fear now but a kind of triumph.
'Where?' he says, and that hard thing pushes urgently against her inner thigh.
'Here,' she says.
'Bevvie, I'll fall on you!' he says, and she hears his breath start to whistle painfully.
'I think that's sort of the idea,' she tells him and holds him gently and guides him. He pushes forward too fast and there is pain.
Ssssss! - she draws her breath in, her teeth biting at her lower lip and thinks of the birds again, the spring birds, lining the roofpeaks of houses, taking wing all at once under low March clouds.
'Beverly?' he says uncertainly. 'Are you okay?'
'Go slower,' she says. 'It'll be easier for you to breathe.' He does move more slowly, and after awhile his breathing speeds up but she understands this is not because there is anything wrong with him.
The pain fades. Suddenly he moves more quickly, then stops, stiffens, and makes a sound - some sound. She senses that this is something for him, something extraordinarily, special, something like . . . like flying. She feels powerful: she feels a sense of triumph rise up strongly within her. Is this what her father was afraid of? Well he might be! There was power in this act, all right, a chain-breaking power that was blood-deep. She feels no physical pleasure, but there is a kind of mental ecstasy in it for her. She senses the closeness. He puts his face against her neck and she holds him. He's crying. She holds him. And feels the part of him that made a connection between them begin to fade. It is not leaving her, exactly; it is simply fading, becoming less.
When his weight shifts away she sits up and touches his face in the darkness.
'Did I what?'
'Whatever it is. I don't know, exactly.'
He shakes his head - she feels it with her hand against his cheek.
'I don't think it was exactly like . . . you know, like the big boys say. But it was . . . it was really something.' He speaks low so the others can't hear. 'I love you, Bevvie.'
Her consciousness breaks down a little there. She's quite sure there's more talk, some whispered, some loud, and can't remember what is said. It doesn't matter. Does she have to talk each of them into it all over again? Yes, probably. But it doesn't matter. They have to be talked into it, this essential human link between the world and the infinite, the only place where the bloodstream touches eternity. It doesn't matter. What matters is love and desire. Here in this dark is as good a place as any. Better than some, maybe.
Mike comes to her, then Richie, and the act is repeated. Now she feels some pleasure, dim heat in her childish unmatured sex, and she closes her eyes as Stan comes to her and she thinks of the birds, spring and the birds, and she sees them, again and again, all lighting at once, filling up the winter-naked trees, shockwave riders on the moving edge of nature's most violent season, she sees them take wing again and again, the flutter of their wings like the snap of many sheets on the line, and she thinks: A month from now every kid in Derry Park will have a kite, they'll run to keep the strings from getting tangled with each other. She thinks again: This is what flying is like.
With Stan as with the others, there is that rueful sense of fading, of leaving, with whatever they truly need from this act - some ultimate - close but as yet unfound.
'Did you?' she asks again, and although she doesn't know exactly what 'it' is, she knows that he hasn't.
There is a long wait, and then Ben comes to her.
He is trembling all over, but it is not the fearful trembling she felt in Stan.
'Beverly, I can't,' he says in a tone which purports to be reasonable and is anything but.
'You can too. I can feel it.'
She sure can. There's more of this hardness; more of him. She can feel it below the gentle push of his belly. Its size raises a certain curiosity and she touches the bulge lightly. He groans against her neck, and the blow of his breath causes her bare body to dimple with goosebumps. She feels the first twist of real heat race through her - suddenly the feeling in her is very large; she recognizes that it is too big
(and is he too big, can she take that into herself?)
and too old for her, something, some feeling that walks in boots. This is like Henry's M-80s, something not meant for kids, something that could explode and blow you up. But this was not the place or time for worry; here there was love, desire, and the dark. If they didn't try for the first two they would surely be left with the last.
'Beverly, don't - '
'Show me how to fly,' she says with a calmness she doesn't feel, aware by the fresh wet warmth on her cheek and neck that he has begun to cry. 'Show me, Ben.'
'No . . . '
'If you wrote the poem, show me. Feel my hair if you want to, Ben. It's all right.'
'Beverly . . . I . . . I . . . '
He's not just trembling now; he's shaking all over. But she senses again that this ague is not all fear - part of it is the precursor of the throe this act is all about. She thinks of
his face, his dear sweet earnest face, and knows it is not fear; it is wanting he feels, a deep passionate wanting now barely held in check, and she feels that sense of power again, something like flying, something like looking down from above and seeing all the birds on the roofpeaks, on the TV antenna atop Wally's, seeing streets spread out maplike, oh desire, right, this was something, it was love and desire that taught you to fly.
'Ben! Yes!' she cries suddenly, and the leash breaks.
She feels pain again, and for a moment there is the frightening sensation of being crushed. Then he props himself up on the palms of his hands and that feeling is gone.
He's big, oh yes - the pain is back, and it's much deeper than when Eddie first entered her. She has to bite her lip again and think of the birds until the burning is gone. But it does go, and she is able to reach up and touch his lips with one finger, and he moans.
The heat is back, and she feels her power suddenly shift to him; she gives it gladly and goes with it. There is a sensation first of being rocked, of a delicious spiralling sweetness which makes her begin to turn her head helplessly from side to side, and a tuneless humming comes from between her closed lips, this is flying, this, oh love, oh desire, oh this is something impossible to deny, binding, giving, making a strong circle: binding, giving . . . flying.
'Oh Ben, oh my dear, yes,' she whispers, feeling the sweat stand out on her face, feeling their connection, something firmly in place, something like eternity, the number 8 rocked over on its side. 'I love you so much, dear.'
And she feels the thing begin to happen - something of which the girls who whisper and giggle about sex in the girls' room have no idea, at least as far as she knows; they only marvel at how gooshy sex must be, and now she realizes that for many of them sex must be some unrealized undefined monster; they refer to the act as It. Would you do It, do your sister and her boyfriend do It, do your mom and dad still do It, and how they never intend to do It; oh yes, you would think that the whole girls' side of the fifth-grade class was made up of spinsters-to-be, and it is obvious to Beverly that none of them can suspect this . . . this conclusion, and she is only kept from screaming by her knowledge that the others will hear and think her badly hurt. She puts the side of her hand in her mouth and bites down hard. She understands the screamy laughter of Greta Bowie and Sally Mueller and all the others better now: hadn't they, the seven of them, spent most of this, the longest, scariest summer of their lives, laughing like loons? You laugh because what's fearful and unknown is also what's funny, you laugh the way a small child will sometimes laugh and cry at the same time when a capering circus clown approaches, knowing it is supposed to be funny . . . but it is also unknown, full of the unknown's eternal power.
Biting her hand will not stay the cry, and she can only reassure them - and Ben - by crying out her affirmative in the darkness.
'Yes! Yes! Yes!' Glorious images of flight fill her head, mixing with the harsh calling of the grackles and starlings; these sounds become the world's sweetest music.
So she flies, she flies up, and now the power is not with her or with him but somewhere between them, and he cries out, and she can feel his arms trembling, and she arches up and into him, feeling his spasm, his touch, his total fleeting intimacy with her in the dark. They break through into the lifelight together.
Then it is over and they are in each other's arms and when he tries to say something - perhaps some stupid apology that would hurt what she remembers, some stupid apology like a handcuff, she stops his words with a kiss and sends him away.
Bill comes to her.
He tries to say something, but his stutter is almost total now.
'You be quiet,' she says, secure in her new knowledge, but aware that she is tired now. Tired and damned sore. The insides and backs of her thighs feel sticky, and she thinks it's maybe because Ben actually finished, or maybe because she is bleeding. 'Everything is going to be totally okay.'
'A-A-Are you shuh-shuh-shuh-hure?'
'Yes,' she says, and links her hands behind his neck, feeling the sweaty mat of his hair. 'You just bet.'
'Duh-duh-does ih-ih . . . does ih-ih-ih - '
'Shhh . . . '
It is not as it was with Ben; there is passion, but not the same kind. Being with Bill now is the best conclusion to this that there could be. He is kind; tender; just short of calm. She senses his eagerness, but it is tempered and held back by his anxiety for her, perhaps because only Bill and she herself realize what an enormous act this is, and how it must never be spoken of, not to anyone else, not even to each other.
At the end, she is surprised by that sudden upsurge and she has time to think: Oh! It's going to happen again, I don't know if I can stand it -
But her thoughts are swept away by the utter sweetness of it, and she barely hears him whispering, 'I love you, Bev, I love you, I'll always love you' saying it over and over and not stuttering at all.
She hugs him to her and for a moment they stay that way, his smooth cheek against hers.
He withdraws from her without saying anything and for a little while she's alone, putting her clothes back together, slowly putting them on, aware of a dull throbbing pain of which they, being male, will never know, aware also of a certain exhausted pleasure and the relief of having it over. There is an emptiness down there now, and although she is glad that her sex is her own again, the emptiness imparts a strange melancholy which she could never express . . . except to think of bare trees under a white winter sky, empty trees, trees waiting for blackbirds to come like ministers at the end of March to preside over the death of snow.
She finds them by groping for their hands.
For a moment no one speaks and when someone does, it does not surprise her much that it's Eddie. 'I think when we went right two turns back, we shoulda gone left. Jeez, I knew that, but I was so sweaty and frigged up - '
'Been frigged up your whole life, Eds,' Richie says. His voice is pleasant. The raw edge of panic is completely gone.
'We went wrong some other places too,' Eddie says, ignoring him, 'but that's the worst one. If we can find our way back there, we just might be okay.'
They form up in a clumsy line, Eddie first, Beverly second now, her hand on Eddie's shoulder as Mike's is on hers. They begin to move again, faster this time. Eddie displays none of his former nervous care.
We're going home, she thinks, and shivers with relief and joy. Home, yes. And that will be good. We've done our job, what we came for, now we can go back to just being kids again. And that will be good, too.
As they move through the dark she realizes the sound of running water is closer.