Stranger Things: The New Generation (Chapter 6)

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 Six:

                                   The Llaza

When Jane turned on to Tibbetts and saw the Upside Down atmosphere, she slammed on the brakes. She hadn’t seen those floating particles in over twenty years.

She looked down the street, paralyzed. Mike. Their house was two blocks down, and the Upside Down appeared to extend well beyond that point. She held her breath and opened the car door, stepping out to look. Except for the idling of her engine, Tibbetts Street was utterly silent. Stars shone in the sky, but their illumination barely penetrated the shadowy atmosphere congealing over the homes.

She had to get to Mike. It couldn’t be a coincidence that he was having so many problems right as something like this happened. She knew that he had lied to her — about the “bat” on his window that made him scream, and the “stranger” who almost killed him — and she cursed herself for respecting his privacy.

She got back in the car and looked at the clock: 9:49 PM. That could mean anything. Mike had said that Ashlee’s party would go until 11:00 o’clock, and she knew that he milked Halloween for all its worth. She prayed he was still there.

A scream pierced the neighborhood silence, and Jane threw open the car door again, peering through the motes and shadows. She couldn’t see anyone. She was about to get back in, when a figure lurched on a front lawn. She squinted. It was a woman staggering towards the street; Jane called to her. When the woman saw her, her eyes widened and she lumbered toward Jane as fast as she could. From behind her, a shadowy mass protruded from the house, reaching for her. The woman barely evaded being snatched when the ground vanished beneath her, and she was swallowed. Jane heard a guttural belch, and a sequence of muddy slurping noises. The earth had just eaten this woman alive.

Her heart thundering, she opened the car door and grabbed the cell from her purse. She knew she was breathing Upside-Down air and hardly cared. It was unpleasant to inhale, but apparently not toxic. Her father had vomited from being trapped down in tunnels bored by the Mind Flayer, but his body hadn’t paid any prices otherwise. It was cigarettes that had finally killed him, and she cursed him for not taking better care of himself. She could use her father right now. She dialed Mike’s cell phone number.

After the sixth ring there was a click, and her son’s voice spoke the usual: “I’m either in class, listening to music, or beating off. Do it at the beep. If it’s important.”

The beep came. “Mike it’s me. Call right away. If you’re at Ashlee’s, stay there. Don’t come home, I’ll pick you up. Call me back. I need to know you’re all right. Don’t ignore this message.”

She hung up and dialed Lucas’s landline, watching the street in all directions.

His wife answered. “Miss us already?”

“Raquel, is Lucas there?”

“Honey, what’s wrong?” Raquel didn’t like the way Jane sounded.

“Can you please get him?” said Jane. “It’s an emergency.”

She heard Raquel yell for Lucas, and to hurry his ass.

Lucas was there in seconds: “El?” he said. “What’s up?”

“You need to come over fast.”

“What happened?”

“My street is a graveyard.” She saw Mike dead and banished the thought. Please. Not my son. Please. It occurred to her that he was the same age as his father when he was killed by the Illithid.

“God, no! There was a shooter?”

“No, it’s the Upside Down. I’m not kidding. I’m at the west end of Tibbetts at 71st.” She and Mike lived two blocks down, at the junction of Tibbetts Street and 74th Avenue. Tibbetts extended for a half a mile between 71st and 82nd, and for all Jane knew, the entire strip was under siege from the Shadow World. “It looks like the Upside Down is covering all the homes on Tibbetts. I just saw the ground open and eat a woman alive.”

“Whoa! If I didn’t know that you never tell sick jokes, I’d say this is a pretty sick Halloween joke, El.”

“Not a joke. I have to get inside my house and look for Mike.” Please. Not him.

“No, no! Wait for me, I’m leaving right now. You said you’re at 71st?”

It was a twenty minute drive from his apartment on the west side of Portland to where she was now. She wasn’t waiting twenty minutes. “In case you forgot, I’m not defenseless.”

At that moment Lucas didn’t care that Jane Hopper was one of the most powerful people on earth. He swore. “You’re saying the entire street is taken over? That everyone is dead?” She heard Raquel gasp in shock.

“It looks that way,” said Jane. “Maybe some people alive, like that woman, but they won’t be for long. Like I said, I can’t tell how far it goes –”

“I’m calling the police and coming over.”

“Don’t call them yet. I think whatever is on this street can easily kill people with guns. If I can deal with whatever it is, it will save lives.”

“Jesus. Did you try Mike on his cell?”

“Yes. He didn’t answer.” She insisted to herself that was a good sign. If he was still at Ashlee’s, he probably wouldn’t answer. If he was home he probably would. Unless of course he was dead.

“I’ll meet you at your home. I’m taking my cell, and you call me if I need to know anything — and call me as soon as you find Mike.”

“I’ll look for you.”

She hung up and put the car in drive, rolling past the block of houses on both sides of Tibbetts, and then crossing 73rd Avenue. She had to avoid a car turned on its side in the intersection. There was no sign of anyone in the car, or around the homes. The same was true for the next block. Her house came into view at the intersection of 74th, and she pulled into the driveway. Killing the ignition, she got out and stared.

There was no question her home was the primary source of the Upside Down pollution. Shadows and dusty twinkles poured out the windows and front door, most of which had been thrown open wide. Her rage began to build. If Mike had been harmed in the slightest, she would wreak a devastation that made the transformation on this street look like afternoon tea. She ran to the front door, yelling Mike’s name. To her shock, a figure appeared in the doorway, and she leaped up the steps to confront him.

It was Tobias. He was hysterical.

“Tobias! Where’s Mike?”

He couldn’t answer. In her four years of knowing him, she had never seen Tobias Powell shed a single tear. She knew what his tears meant now and refused to accept it.

“Tobias!” She shook him. “Where is he?” He continued crying, unable to speak, and she took him in her arms, looking around the downstairs area inside her home. Motes and shadows swam in the air, and the walls were smoky and black. The floors and ceiling had undergone a similar transubstantiation.

“Look at me,” she said. “Is he dead?”

He nodded miserably.

Her heart felt like an abyss. “Where?”

“In… the wall.”

The wall? “What do you mean? What wall?”

“Upstairs. In his bedroom.”

She steeled herself. “Show me.”

 

Staring at the impression of her son, Jane thought of Han Solo in those movies Mike Wheeler liked. Like Han, Mike Hopper was “frozen” into the wall above his bed. From around his sculpted impression poured a heavy concentration of shadow atmosphere. The floor was a mess; his computer had exploded into a thousand fragments.

“Be careful,” Tobias urged. “When I was up here before, something made an awful noise and came out of the ceiling at me. I ran downstairs, and you showed up after that.”

“Tobias, what happened here? What did you guys do?” It sounded accusatory, but seeing Mike like this made her feel angry and helpless.

“I wasn’t here. I don’t know what he did.”

“What do you mean you weren’t here?”

“I only came over when he called me but I couldn’t hear anything — some kind of interference. It was a messed up night, Miss Hopper.” He explained their aborted trip to Ashlee’s, and what Mike did in the park. Halfway through — when he got to the part of Mike kicking Dom in the balls — he was interrupted by a cavernous belching that spat from the floor. They froze and waited. Tobias resumed in hushed tones. When he finished his story, he looked at her nervously, clearly worried that she would call him a liar. He had just described her son murdering four people.

Jane believed every word of Tobias’s lurid tale, and she was certain that Mike’s newly acquired power was related somehow to this nightmare on Tibbetts Street. It was the reason he was frozen inside his bedroom wall. She had to get him out and was clueless how to proceed.

Without warning, the belching spat another alien obscenity, this time from the wall next to Mike. And from the Upside Down came a being of vacuous death.

It poured out of the wall, expanding, and then swept upward until it dwarfed her and Tobias and nearly filled the space of the bedroom. It was still part of the wall, like the black mass that had stretched out to snatch the fleeing woman and then devoured her underground. Whatever this monster was, it was omnipresent. Its skin was every house it had infected on the street; it was the ground, and the street itself. The shadow before her was a small part of it. The thing could manifest anywhere on the street, probably in many places at once, and somehow it was grounded in Mike. She saw Tobias flee the bedroom; there was nowhere to flee.

She realized that fighting the shadow would be useless. It was a drop in a swamp that needed full eradication. She had no idea how to achieve the impossible. She did what came to mind, and hurled her telekinetic forces at the shadow, more as a probe than a weapon, riding the waves with her consciousness in order to feel what the creature felt, to tease out its vitals and where it was weakest.

Almost at once, her power swept her into a flood of possibility. Her consciousness took her places she had never been. She felt as long as Tibbetts Street, as high as the homes on each side of it. She tasted the street’s tar, and felt the creaking in the wood of the houses. Motes flowed in and around her, glittering in her flesh, and extended for half a mile. Below her, in the ground, animals and critters scurried, cowering from the creature’s toxic presence. Mike had made the creature so mighty that it had brought the Upside Down to Tibbets Street. It was the Upside Down on Tibbetts Street, or more precisely, it was its infrastructure.

Without giving herself a chance to think about what she was doing, Jane locked her power with the creature’s — and then audaciously called it into herself, accepting the foul entity as her personal flesh.

At first the sheer pain and horror of it excruciated her. Its power was atrocious beyond belief, and she knew its name as she welcomed it: the Llaza. It ate into her vitals, flooding her veins with blackness. But desperate need drove her, and she hurled her forces in a way she had never done before, by attacking her own self, in her cells where the Llaza now fed and thrived. It was a strange battle, weird and horrible, waged within the confines of her flesh. The Llaza wasn’t discrete like the demogorgon, the Mind Flayer, or the Illithid. It was a hunger that fed like a parasite. She could have fired her telekinetic blasts all night down the street, in every house, pounding away at manifestations of the creature everywhere while hardly damaging it at all. This way she struck at the roots of its parasitic existence.

In the void she saw Mike’s shattered soul as if it were limned in light. She felt his frozen tissues and poisoned bloodstream as if they were incused on her flesh. He was disastrously paralyzed but still alive. His heart limped at a rate so slow that he would have died without the life support of the creature. It needed him; so he could be saved. She clung to that thought like a thousand prayers.

Fury exalted her and carried her beyond her limits. As she sent surges of her power through herself, the Llaza responded with its own flares of power, and they tore inside her like a volcanic rupture. The clash of powers was too immense, and she almost died from it. Pain detonated in her skull, and a freezing agony that was the Upside Down’s signature yowled through the atoms of her flesh. She had to stop, or she would kill herself, long before doing enough damage to the Llaza. Then without thinking, she tried something else. Instead of assaulting the blackness within her, she seized the vile essence, wrapped it within spools of her power, and used her mental power to squeeze it down to size.

Somehow her intuitions paid off. Instead of blowing the creature apart within herself, she choked the life out of it, nullified it, and sent in spilling back outward in a lifeless cloud. Or at least a part of it; it was like the segment of a colossal snake. She had just destroyed a segment that straddled a block of homes somewhere between 77th and 78th Avenues. There was much more of it. The Llaza was huge, thanks to Mike; half a mile long — the whole street of Tibbetts.

She drew in another random segment of the creature and wrapped it around her telekinetic will. It was a hideously painful process; she never knew pain could be this thorough. She saw in her mind that she was now in a region close to 73rd Avenue. With a shock she saw Lucas there, and almost dropped her concentration. He was helping a little girl whose right arm had been torn off, trying to make a bandage with his shirt, and yelling furiously into his cell phone. The girl was losing too much blood. Jane reached out through the omnipresence she had carved for herself, caressing the fatigue out of Lucas, weaving her telekinesis in the girl’s wound to staunch the blood flow. As she did this, her control faltered; the Llaza roared in her veins, surging for freedom. She punished it, and herself, with furious inward blasts, keeping it jailed within her flesh. She barely withstood the shock. Then, as before, she spooled her power around it, smothering its essence on this part of the street. Six homes were freed. Inhaling air like it was her salvation, she readied for more.

She lost track of time as she proceeded down the street like this — the street that had merged with her flesh. Physically she was still in Mike’s bedroom; mentally she had transcended herself. She broke the Llaza apart, bit by hideous bit, rescuing anyone she could in passing. She couldn’t save everyone; at least a dozen people died — in their homes, on the street — and half were kids. Most of the residents on Tibbetts had already died anyway, before she arrived.

When she had liberated two-thirds of the street, the Llaza got desperate and went after Mike. His impression in the wall lit up in a blazing whiteness, and in her mind Jane could hear him begging the creature for life and freedom. With horror she realized the Llaza was trying to summon his power against her. To turn him against his mother. If that happened, she would wither in seconds, like Dominic Bragdon and his friends.

She tried shouting through the creature she was a part of, and thus him. Mike! Can you hear me!

Mom? His terrified voice came from a void.

Mike! She called through the black ether. I’m here! Can you see me? I’m getting you out! 

I can’t… see anything… I don’t remember… what seeing is.

I’m coming, Mike! Just hold on, I swear I’m coming! 

Mike screamed inside her head then, as the Llaza forced his power. A white blast ripped out of the wall and she barely dodged it by falling on the floor. She had no time to think; another blast would come in seconds, and from the way Tobias had described it, if it touched her, she would fry into a skeleton.

Relying on split-second intuition, she looped her power around Mike, holding back his fire as the Llaza tried hurling it at her again. She repeated what she had been doing, but in a kind of reverse, spooling a protective shield around her son as she pushed outwards against the Llaza’s suffocating essence. But Mike didn’t understand. In his ethereal dementia, he thought she was attacking him, and unleashed a torrent of white flame. Her shield protected her — but not him. Argent rebounded and filled Mike Hopper’s every atom. He burned like a star; screamed so the universe could hear.

So did the Llaza.

Tibbets Street convulsed as if pounded by an earthquake. The tremors tore through Jane’s arms and legs, throwing her to the floor as she spasmed and yelled Mike’s name. And with a sickening grossness, the Llaza — what remained of it — belched Mike Hopper out of the bedroom wall. Whatever she had caused to happen to him, it had tormented the creature beyond endurance. That torment ripped through Jane as well, and she lay on the floor in an agony that was nauseating. She saw Mike, unfrozen, kneeling on the floor, trying to stand. She couldn’t believe he was alive. She had just seen him burn with incandescent fatality. Her skin felt pulled in all directions. She was dying the Llaza’s death.

With a last effort she tried severing her connection to it to save herself. I’m sorry, Mike. She blacked out.

 

When she woke, Mike was kneeling over her. “Mom? Please. Say something.”

Her tongue felt like cement; her eyelids were mountains; and her upper lip red from a violent nosebleed. “Mike,” she croaked.

“Hey,” he said. He was smiling through tears and holding her hand. “You’re back.”

“I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I hurt you.”

“No, mom. You saved me. You saved me.”

It was a line from her past. From her other Mike. In 1983 she had kept him from smashing his body against the water of the quarry. Years later he had jumped off a bridge anyway. Her life was a series of ultimate failures. “I saw what I did,” she said. “Your fire burned you up. Because of me.”

“But it didn’t age me, mom. Something you did stopped that. You saved me.”

She had no use for consolation. She wanted nothing she didn’t earn. “Come here,” she said, and hugged him.

Footsteps pounded up the stairs. Lucas burst into the room with Tobias behind him.

“El!” said Lucas. Tobias cried out Mike’s name at the same time.

She could barely stay awake. Mike’s power hadn’t touched her, but she felt a thousand years old after what she had just done. The aftertastes of the Llaza scalded her tongue and throat.

“El,” said Lucas, kneeling over her next to Mike. “Holy shit — what you did. I don’t even know what you did. But it’s gone now. The Upside Down is gone. People are dead, but the homes aren’t possessed by that blackness anymore. The danger’s over. It’s over, El. You did great.”

“No,” she said, tears spilling. “I didn’t.”

“What are you saying?” demanded Lucas.

“She’s blaming herself for not doing enough,” said Mike.

No. That’s not it.

“I keep telling her she saved me, but she thinks I’m not okay.”

You aren’t. I saw you burn.

“You were awesome, mom, don’t you see?”

I was always too hard on you. You were right to call me names.

“Get her feet, Mike.” She felt her shoulders being lifted. “Let’s get her downstairs. Tobias, call the police.”

Mike and Lucas carried her out the room. “We got you, mom. You’ll be okay.”

I saw you burn.

 

Next Chapter: The War of the Uncles

(Previous Chapter: Regenesis)

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