This eight-chapter novella is a sequel to Stranger Things: The College Years, which should be read beforehand. Both are works of fan fiction based on the Stranger Things TV series. I do not profit from them and they are not part of the official Stranger Things canon. They are stories that came to me as I imagined the Stranger Things characters well after the period of the television seasons. There is plenty of Stranger Things fiction to be found online (see here), but if I learn that the Duffer Brothers do not appreciate fan fiction of their work, or if they order a cease-and-desist, I will gladly pull these stories down.
Stranger Things, The New Generation — Chapter Five:
Mike stared at his computer screen. He hadn’t turned it on since Hayley Stark became Gomer Pyle. But he needed answers, and he didn’t know where else to find them.
Because of the screensaver virus, or whatever it was, his ability to manipulate time had increased dramatically. Instead of causing the illusion of tempus fugit, he was now really making time accelerate, and at a rate so off the scales he had become a living weapon. He had no idea if he could discipline that power, though he obviously hadn’t tried; he had exulted in it and given it free rein.
He turned on the Mac and jumped at the chime. He was all nerves and sick. How long did the body strain under guilt of murder? He knew he wouldn’t sleep tonight.
The operating system loaded and his desktop appeared. He held his breath. A scene from Hard Candy filled the screen, picking up where the cycle left off. After the next two would come the Juno screenshots. He stood without moving, waiting. The next image displayed normally. As long as you watch it, nothing will happen. It’s only when you turn your back that shit happens. Just like in the movies.
He deliberately turned away, looking for a diversion. He realized he was still in his costume and started removing it; a reminder of his appalling crime. He felt like a combat soldier thrown on the battlefield for the first time. Reality was unforgiving. But he had enjoyed killing those guys too. There was no denying the conflict of biology: an aversion to killing members of his own species, offset by millennia of evolution that bred murder and ferocity into the collective gene pool. DNA made everyone Elric.
He rushed for the trash bin, and barely made it time to throw up what little garbage remained in his gut. He wished his grandfather were alive. Sheriff Jim Hopper of Yamhill County had died in 2007 from lung cancer. He had been an unshakable pillar, and that’s what Mike needed right now. For all his independence and teen bravado, he was a kid scared out of his mind.
He thought of Laurie Strode’s vomiting episodes in Halloween II. Like Mike she had killed to save herself, and as a result had devolved into a bipolar mess of sickness and nightmares. At that moment Mike wished he had never been born with a special power. He cursed his mother’s genes and blamed her entirely.
When the nausea passed he wiped his mouth, and then hurriedly shot a look over at the computer. The Juno scenes were cycling now, and the current one looked as it should. Juno was sitting cross-legged on her bed, gabbing into her hamburger phone.
As if on cue, his iPhone rang. He dug it out. “What?” he said.
“When I want your opinion,” said Tobias. That he could obsess after a night like this was incredible.
“You think this shit is funny?”
“You okay?” asked Tobias.
“I’m throwing up and I can’t stop shaking. Oh, fuck.” He started crying and tried to get it under control.
“Hey man, listen. Listen, Mike! You want me to come over? I should have followed you home.”
“No, no… it’s okay. I just need to lie down. And I need sleeping pills.”
“You don’t sound good. I’ll come over –”
“No, just come in the morning. First thing.” Thank the gods of justice tomorrow was Sunday and no school.
“Okay. I just wanted to check in.”
“See you tomorrow.”
“When I want your opinion?”
Mike hung up and tossed the cell on his bed. He needed a Coke to settle his stomach and wash the barf taste away. He stood to go to the kitchen — and had a heart attack when he saw his screensaver.
He would have screamed at the top of his lungs if he hadn’t been so panic stricken from the events at the park. He coughed out ragged gasps and clutched his heart. This is killing me.
His favorite Juno scene blazed with the perversion that contorted it. Ellen was in her red sweatshirt, her stomach the size of a planet — her ninth month of pregnancy from the final act of the film. She should have been smiling crookedly, in her whimsical Juno-like way, but instead she was smiling like the Joker. Fierce vindictive joy splashed her face from ear to ear, promising catastrophe on any who made the mistake of looking at her. Mike tried looking away: it was like swimming in quicksand; the more effort he expended, the more he drowned in Ellen’s rapture.
Her visage ballooned and filled his inner mind. Mike braced himself for the usual headache; what came was a mental force of such weight that nearly ruptured his eardrums. Ellen’s gaze overwhelmed him, demanding submission to her will. A stirring began in the new region of his mind that he had opened tonight in the fight with Dom. No, he thought, suddenly terrified.
Ellen’s pupils swelled into wells of blackness, and devoured the last fragments of his will. He tried yelling for help — not that anyone could hear him — but his voice was useless. Inside the prison of his mind, Ellen’s face was twenty times larger and infinitely more manic. He cowered under the weight of her obscene joy, dreading whatever secret she was about to disclose.
— Release me.
It was a voice of knives, grating inside his head. Release her? He’s the one who needed release. The stirring in his mind thickened, and it felt like Dom all over again.
The voice was barely Ellen’s, permeated with a thousand hysterias and gutturals from the grave. Terror filled his bloodstream, as power accumulated behind his eyes. It was impossible he could survive what was happening to him.
— Feed me.
White argent blew uncontrollably from his eyes, smashing his computer to smithereens. And from the explosion poured a blackness so foul it stung Mike’s nose like acidic gas.
The blackness was shaped like a colossal python, except that an open hole existed where its head should be: a huge mouth funneling down into the serpentine body. The blackness reared, towering over him, and the hole began to expand before Mike’s eyes. Its diameter lengthened to almost three feet.
His paralysis broke and he screamed, letting loose with more fire, this time intentionally. He would age this vile creature into oblivion. Silvery fire impacted the blackness, and the python howled, in a chorus of hellish voices. He rained more fire, willing the creature’s destruction.
And watched appalled, as the blackness grew before his eyes, amassing strength.
Instinctively, he threw more power at it, giving all that he had, until the creature’s words came back to him. Feed me, it had said. Horrified, Mike tried stopping his flow of power. It kept gushing from his eyes. He strained in defiance. His argent kept pouring — making the creature stronger, not weaker. The snaky blackness reared again, aiming to lash out at him.
Mike dove for his cell phone on the edge of his bed, and grabbed it as the creature closed over his feet and tore him backwards. He sprawled on the floor, almost dropping the phone, and felt the obscene mouth start to slide up his legs. It was devouring him like a real python, and he was going to die.
Mike pushed buttons madly, heard no ring, then frantically dialed Tobias’s number again. This time it rang. “Pick up, Tobias!” he screamed into the phone.
Tobias finally picked up, on the fourth ring: “I was flogging myself, you mean interrupting machine –”
“TOBIAS! IT’S KILLING ME!”
“– and when I want your opinion, I’ll fuck you up the ass for it.” Tobias wasn’t hearing him for some reason.
Mike felt his torso being squeezed and smothered, and head would be next. He shouted again, knowing it was absurdly useless: “TOBIAS, HELP! IT’S SWALLOWING ME!”
The creature’s voice poured through his body in reply:
— We are here.
Mike’s head went under, then his extended arms. His phone fell to the floor, with Tobias’s voice barking questions from it. The cellar-voice from hell reverberated through Mike:
— You. Me. Us.
Mike gurgled in darkness, swamped by bilious fluids. He was being ingested alive.
— Feed me. Feed us.
Without volition, Mike erupted like a volcano, filling the creature with his mad white fire. He felt the serpentine body expanding hugely, giving him more room, and realized he could breathe again. Dark air began to whoosh around him, tainted by gleaming motes. But he was still immobile. He had become part of the creature, fused to it, as it kept growing and expanding on the strength of his fire. He protested feebly: No.
The blackness surged through every pore of Mike’s body, then outwards through his home, co-opting the walls, ceiling, floor, inner plumbing — everything. It burrowed through the ground, merging with the front and back yards. It tunneled down the road, taking over more homes. Tibbets Street became a demesne of shadows and twinkling motes, and its residents died in minutes, as extensions of the creature erupted out of walls and floors wherever it needed to.
Mike saw all of this first-hand; experienced it directly as his consciousness merged with the creature’s. He realized that it had a name: the Llaza. A plane of origin: the Shadow; the Upside Down. Its history cascaded into Mike’s awareness, centuries of terror spilling into fifteen years of innocence.
The shock was too much. Mike faded from self-knowledge. As his flame went out, his final thought was trying to remember what his mother looked like.
Next Chapter: The Llaza
(Previous Chapter: Mike of Melnibone)