Stranger Things: World’s End (Chapter 8)

This ten-chapter novella is the third in a trilogy, the first two being Stranger Things: The College Years and Stranger Things: The New Generation, both of which should be read beforehand. They 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, World’s End — Chapter Eight:

                                     Time Fire

Mike Hopper walked between his sires, feeling like a prisoner on death row. He had shattered their faith in him, and for a fool’s errand. Tobias had warned him there was no clear proof about Morgred.

His father led the way, and Mike walked behind him flanked by Dustin and Eleven. Lucas followed them all. The boys didn’t trust him beyond what was necessary; they had caught on to his shenanigans. He was surprised they were still helping him at all. He had told enough lies to make his own head spin, let alone theirs. The fiction of traveling across worlds still had them hooked, but the logistics had snowballed, requiring him to invent more and more fictions on the fly. He hadn’t counted on getting sick, either on the jump to 2021 or to 2031. Nor that a weather change would tip them off so quickly from inside the lab. And he certainly hadn’t anticipated the fluke of calling Lucas his uncle.

They knew he was lying, and yet they were clueless about the truth. Their twelve-year old minds couldn’t guess it. Because he looked identical to his father, the illusion was hard to penetrate. Mike Wheeler was light-years away from parenthood. A look-alike his own age was a twin brother; or a clone; or a parallel self. Certainly not a son.

Upstairs he had almost confessed the truth. He didn’t like them angry and distrustful, especially Uncle Luc. But after so much subterfuge, the truth could have sounded like the wildest lie of all. His mother would not have grasped it; she didn’t know what a mother was. She once told him that she had learned about motherhood in Grandpa Jim’s cabin, as he read to her Anne of Green Gables. Grandpa had been flabbergasted by her ignorance of something that elementary.

He couldn’t tell them the truth in any case. He had set his feet on this path of deception, and accepted it completely. He deserved the consequences.

They came to the end of a long hallway and turned a corner. A new hallway led down to a pair of double doors; the ones his father had described. One of the doors was propped open. If the man inside wasn’t responsible for creating the Pockets, the mission could be a bust. At least they were still early. Mike had jumped to September 10, the day before the Pockets were created, to give themselves enough lead time.

His father led them straight into the colossal room without faltering. It was the make-shift lab he had described, and the bald-headed man was standing over a table, hooking wires to an instrument. When Mike saw the Gate, it sent dread through him like an awl. It was something out of a body horror film, alive and gleaming with dark intent. Tendrils snaked from a center radiating a phosphorescent glow; a blend of red, orange, and purple. A faint guttural moaning came from whatever was on the other side. Awful as this thing was, it was about to turn into something much worse, unless they could stop it. Uncle Will had seen that worse version in 2033, when he moved Mike’s mother to the lab. He had later described it as a “clamoring obscenity” — an organic mass that groaned like the dead, puffed up to twice its size, and shat Pockets across the land.

The man heard them and looked up in shock. Mike Wheeler stopped about ten feet from him. Eleven and Mike Hopper stood close to Mike. Lucas and Dustin hovered close behind, by the open doorway.

Their bold entry made the man unsure of himself. “Excuse me. Can I help you kids?” His tone didn’t sound helpful.

“Who are you?” asked Mike Wheeler, deliberately being rude.

“Tell me who you are, young sir! You’re all trespassing.”

“So are you,” retorted Mike Hopper.

The man’s gaze bored into him.

“We asked you first,” said Mike Wheeler. “No offense,” he added sarcastically.

The man turned to Mike Wheeler, then back to Mike Hopper, then to Mike Wheeler again. “You twins certainly are offensive. But let’s all of us introduce ourselves. I’m Dr. Daniel Lassiter, from New York City. I’m working in liaison with the Hawkins community, and they’ve given me permission to work here.”

Lassiter. The name meant nothing to Mike Hopper. Had Tobias gotten his facts wrong? Or did this man work for Morgred?

He decided to test the name. “Do you know a man named Charles Morgred?”

They all watched Lassiter’s reaction carefully. He appeared curious more than anything else. “Why do you ask?”

“Because he’s a steaming pile of shit,” said Mike Hopper, feeling reckless, and wanting to precipitate a reaction they could use to gauge this man.

Lassiter surprised them all by laughing. Then, without transition, he was serious again. “Are you saying that you know my assistant? Do you need to speak with him?”

“Is he here?” asked Mike Wheeler.

“He’s in town,” said Lassiter. “Getting supplies.” He was looking at Eleven now, and frowning.

“Do you mind if we ask you about your work?” asked Lucas. “What exactly is your project down here?” It was almost a comical question, with the Gate blatantly looming over them; the elephant in the cavern no one was looking at or acknowledging.

“Excuse me,” said Lassiter, ignoring the question. “How long have you boys known this girl?” He stared at Eleven with a look that Mike Hopper didn’t care for.

“None of your business,” said Mike Wheeler.

“Why do you ask?” said Lucas.

Lassiter’s full attention was on her. “Because she looks like the daughter of Terry Ives.” Then Lassiter smiled. To Mike Hopper that smile looked cruel as fangs. “Except that’s impossible. The daughter of Terry Ives would be an old woman by now.”

Mike Hopper was on red alert. Lassiter was no good. The name Terry Ives would mean nothing to his parents and uncles at this point, least of all his mother. If he remembered the stories right, Grandpa Jim and Joyce Byers had tracked down Terry Ives the same day these kids were being chased by the vans. But Mike Hopper knew the name. Terry Ives was his mother’s mother; the grandmother he never knew. She had been abused in hideous experiments back in the sixties and seventies, and given birth to his mother in 1971. His mother had then been raised in this lab for the first twelve years of her life, as a potential weapon against the Communists. If Lassiter recognized her twelve-year old self in the year 2031, and also knew of Terry Ives, then he was intimately familiar with the lab’s shady history and photo documentation.

“We don’t know any Terry Ives,” said Mike Wheeler. “Do you, El?” He, Lucas, and Dustin all turned to Eleven.

No one saw the gun in Lassiter’s hand except Mike Hopper, who was watching his every move. The man casually raised his arm and pointed his weapon at the daughter of Terry Ives. Mike Hopper’s scream shattered them all:

“Mom!”

He lunged between his mother and Lassiter without thinking. The bullet slammed into his chest with the force of a missile, and he fell to the floor. He heard his mother scream — and then verbal chaos flew over his head:

“Kill him, El!” (Mike Wheeler)

“Now!” (Lucas)

“Kill the son of a bitch!” (Dustin)

His mother screamed again, and he thought he heard a wet popping noise. He tried pushing himself off the floor, but all the signals were scrambled. No, he thought. This can’t happen. His family would be stranded.

He gave up physical effort as blood swamped out from under him. What a goddamn joke. It was ridiculous, really, how he had messed up something so simple. But he could absolutely not die. It would be disastrous. Clasping at consciousness, he acted on pure instinct and reached within himself as his life spilled away. He felt something stir inside him; an energy he hadn’t felt in ages. He pushed around inside his head, desperate for anything — and yelled in shock as he accidentally ignited his whole being on fire.

Power exploded in and outside of him. It made the room lurch, and slapped everyone to the floor. For an instant, a convulsion of white fire hissed over Mike Hopper like a cocoon, and shrilled along the contours of his flesh. The onset of death had made him volatile as gasoline. The fire surged around and through him.

When the surge passed, it left flame spouting from a huge hole in Mike Hopper’s chest; the hole that had been made from the bullet. He was dying, no question. But he was wide awake, brimming with unexpected potential. His eyes dripped silver. He remembered how his time fire had burst from him on a Halloween night from an eternity ago, when he had killed four bullies.

The boys had risen from the floor and were kneeling over him, babbling hysterically. He turned his head left, and saw his mother lying still on the floor, her nose bleeding. Across from her, Lassiter’s body crumpled against the far wall. His eye sockets were red, pouring blood. His mother had shattered his brains. She had apparently thrown so much power at him that she passed out.

He knew he had limited time. It was the reason his power had erupted the way it had. The mission was a fiasco, and there was nothing for it. He had to get his parents and uncles back to their time.

“Mike!” The boys were shouting his name over and over again.

He tried to speak, but it was like lifting mountains. His throat was a thousand pieces.

His father was yelling at him: “Why did you call her mom??”

He deserved an answer; they all did. But he hadn’t the words for something so critical. He struggled to find his voice, to say something, anything.

A monstrous roar found its voice instead, shredding the air. The three boys jumped to their feet. Something was coming through the Gate.

Mike Hopper already knew what it was. Living in the wasteland had taught him the perils of blood. It was the first rule of the Colony that anyone who drew even a scratch of blood had to report it immediately to the wall patrol, and then check into the clinic to have the wound soaked and bathed. Lassiter’s dead face was covered in blood; his mother had a nosebleed; he had lost his own blood from the gunshot wound, until his fire arrested the flow. The room was a certified bloodbath; the Upside Down responded.

“Demogorgon!” shouted Dustin, as the creature of their nightmares crashed into the room.

The three boys screamed, and moved to form a protective guard around Eleven and Mike Hopper. His mother was still out cold. He was so much on fire that he felt he was dissolving into filaments. The demogorgon advanced on them all.

“Get the wrist rocket!” yelled Dustin. “Get the wrist rocket now!”

Lucas tore off his pack and opened it.

“Go, go, go, go!” shouted Mike Wheeler, pounding Lucas’s back.

The creature roared again.

“Take it out now!” bellowed Dustin.

Lucas whipped out the wrist rocket.

Mike screamed at Dustin: “Get the rocks, get the rocks, get the rocks!”

“I’m getting the rocks!” Dustin ripped into Lucas’s sack, bringing out a bunch of rocks.

“Give me one!” said Lucas. He took a stone from Dustin, as the demogorgon crashed its feet closer.

“Come on!” said Dustin.

“Go, go, kill it! Kill it!” said Mike.

“Fire!” said Dustin.

Lucas let the rock fly. It smacked against the demogorgon’s chest, much to the creature’s fury, but not much else.

“Give me another one!” Lucas shouted.

“Kill it!” said Dustin as he handed Lucas a second stone. “Bastard!”

“Kill it!” repeated Mike. “Go, go, go!”

The second rock flew, and ricocheted off the creature as before.

“Come on, kill the bastard!” cried Dustin, handing Lucas a third rock.

“It’s not working!!!” screamed Lucas.

“Hit him again!” shrieked Mike. “Keep going!”

The third rock hit its target, useless as before. The demogorgon halted, reared its head, and raged over their puny defiance.

Dustin handed Lucas a fourth rock, as the creature towered over them. Lucas pulled back on the sling as far as he could. He held it the rock suspended, as the creature’s five-pedaled head opened sickeningly. Lucas aimed carefully into the gaping maw. Mike and Dustin stopped yelling, holding their breath. Lucas fired.

The rock flew straight into the demogorgon’s mouth, choking the creature’s roar —

“Yes!” shouted Dustin.

— and then it lashed out furiously, swiping Lucas into its claws.

“Lucas!” Mike and Dustin both screamed his name and lunged forward, trying to grab hold of him.

Mike Hopper could barely see all of this. He had to use all his effort to lift his head. The demogorgon was dragging Lucas to the Gate. No! Not Uncle Luc. Not again.

Dustin grabbed hold of Lucas’s ankle, and then he was being pulled too. Towards the Gate and the Upside Down.

Mike Hopper strained to sit up. He felt he was hundreds of strings, barely held together. Mike Wheeler had left the demogorgon in order to rouse Eleven. His father leaned over her on the floor, yelling at her to wake up, wake up, and save Lucas. Her body remained limp; her nose dripped red; her eyes didn’t open.

With a final heave, Mike Hopper sat up screaming against the pain that sliced through him. The demogorgon was at the Gate with Lucas. Dustin had been thrown aside. Without allowing himself to think, Mike reached into the fire that defined him, that swirled inside him and out. He wrapped it in his will and let it build. The sight of Uncle Luc in the creature’s fist almost destroyed him. His hate for the monster and all things Upside Down escalated to a raging crescendo. An instant later, fire blew like a cannon from the hole in his chest and slammed into the demogorgon’s head. The creature shrieked and let go of Lucas, flailing its arms as it wailed and thrashed in the center of the Gate. Mike Hopper kept screaming and pouring fire. Everyone watched as the demogorgon’s biology accelerated through time, turning years older, decades, centuries. Finally, it collapsed into a grey sludge.

When he saw that Uncle Luc was safe, in the arms of his father, he reined in his fire. He lay back down, his chest still a fountain, sputtering whiteness.

The boys were over all over him again, shouting his name, begging him not to die.

“I’m sorry,” he wheezed. “I messed the whole thing up.”

“Sorry for what,” said Dustin, panting. “That was the most bad-ass thing I ever saw.”

“You saved me,” said Lucas. “Whatever I said or thought about you before, I’m sorry, Mike. You’re part of us forever.”

“It was amazing,” said Mike Wheeler, crying. “You’re amazing.”

He was also dying. Though not just yet. His fire was in flux, sustaining him, lending him an immense power. For all the good it would do.

“Tell us what to do,” said Mike Wheeler. “Your chest –”

A horrible groan suddenly filled the room.

“Oh my God,” said Dustin. He was looking at the Gate.

If it was another demogorgon, Mike Hopper welcomed it. He could take on twenty demogorgons in the state he was in now.

It was not a demogorgon. Nor a shrieker, aboleth, or any creature. It was the Gate itself — pulsating, expanding and contracting strangely. The kids stared, horrified. Were they witnessing the creation of the first Pockets? Had Lassiter already succeeded?

With a sudden intuition, Mike Hopper knew how to find out. Closing his eyes, he tapped his fire, and let himself drift through the ethers of time. It was astonishingly easy in his current state, like counting to five. Floating outside himself, he saw everything in time’s passage, and filtered what he needed. What he found appalled him. He couldn’t accept it at first. But his temporal omniscience showed the truth.

The first Pockets were appearing, displaced in a two-mile radius from the lab. The same distance he had been able to travel when moving through time. They didn’t come from Lassiter. When Mike blasted the demogorgon inside the Gate, the concentrated energy from his time beam had done exactly what he came to prevent. The two-mile radius would grow by another two miles each week, swamping Indiana within a year, and taking over an additional hundred miles in all directions every subsequent year.

Adrift through time, he then found Charles Morgred, in town buying supplies, just as Lassiter had said. In his time’s eye, he saw Morgred returning to New York days later, to take credit for creating the Pockets, and to receive worship as the end-times messiah. He would be assassinated within a year. Then he saw Lassiter, a year before, opening the Gate in the abandoned lab; the first stage of a terrorist plot. The second stage would have begun tomorrow, but Mike Hopper had just made Daniel Lassiter superfluous. He had brought on the Pockets a day early — on September 10, 2031 — at the same overall rate of expansion, but with more frequent accelerations: two miles per week, instead of Lassiter’s eight per month.

The revelation crushed him; he wanted to rage at the stars. He considered using his power to reverse what he started, but his omniscience ruled out the idea: any use of his time energy would make the Gate more powerful, its reproductions more rampant. It was his mother’s power that closed and destroyed portals to alternate dimensions. His power did the opposite: it opened and multiplied them. But his mother would be of no use now. She wouldn’t acquire the skills to close a gate until a year later, after meeting her lab sister Kali. This wasn’t on her. It was his fault entirely.

You were never a failure, mom. I’m the one who killed America.

Retreating from time’s ethers, he returned to his dying body. The boys were yelling at him to wake up, and his mother was awake and beside them now, looking dazed and weak.

“You can see it,” Dustin was saying. “It’s so obvious.”

“What are you talking about?” demanded Mike Wheeler. He sounded upset.

“The eyes,” said Lucas. “He has Eleven’s eyes. Dustin even called them girls’ eyes. Back at the junkyard.”

“So what?” Mike Wheeler was angry and yelling.

“Mike,” said Lucas, touching his shoulder. “He called her mom. He’s yours. Your son. Yours and El’s.”

“No he’s not!” his father said, throwing Lucas off him.

His mother watched them, not understanding a thing. For her, parentage was synonymous with an abusive medical doctor, and nothing more.

He had to say something. “Dad,” he called Mike Wheeler for the first time.

“Shut up!”

“Dad,” he repeated. “I’m sorry.” It’s not your fault. “I’m not from an alternate world. I lied to you. I’m from the future. When we stayed at the motel, that was your future and my past.” I’m still lying; it wasn’t your future, because you killed yourself. That wasn’t your fault either. “This lab is also your future and my past, but at a different point.” Something terrible happened to you, and you couldn’t go on living. “I came all the way back to get you, to help me change what happens in my past.” I always hated you for leaving me and mom alone. You were blameless. “To save the future of our world.”

His father was crying hysterically.

Lucas said gently: “Why didn’t you just tell us this?”

“I should have.” I couldn’t. “I wanted to be your friends.” Not a son or a nephew.

“Shit,” said Dustin, his voice breaking. He looked at Mike Wheeler and Eleven. “Hold him, you guys. He’s yours. Hold him.”

Mike Wheeler couldn’t do anything. He was too distraught.

Lucas and Dustin lifted Mike Hopper, avoiding the fire from his chest. They needn’t have worried. His flame didn’t burn hot like normal fire, and it was only deadly when he willed it. He told them they were safe touching it, and they propped him up against Mike Wheeler and Eleven. His parents held him, crying.

“El.” His father could barely talk. “He’s ours. Do you understand? He’s ours.”

His mother was lost. “I don’t… understand,” she said through tears. “How is he… ‘ours’?”

Mike Wheeler could only weep in fury, clearly not understanding it himself very well, and not equipped to acknowledge the full implications.

“Mike!” shouted Lucas. “It’s okay. Just hold him. You too, El. Stay with him.”

“He can’t survive that hole in his chest,” said Dustin.

Lucas leaned over his nephew. “Mike, are you dying? Can you get us back to 1983? I’m sorry, man, but we really need you.”

Dying, yes, but not yet. By God, not yet. He had just caused the world’s end. If he was to blame for that mess, he would do something while his fire kept burning. The more his life seeped from him, the stronger the fire whipped through his veins. He needed to use that somehow, do something.

Then, he felt infinity pour through him.

Hardly registering his parents’ embrace, he felt a range of possibilities: too many to choose from. He could fugit someone, as he had done throughout his first life. He could age life to death in minutes, as he had just done to the demogorgon. He could send others across time, without even touching them. He could stop time at this moment, if he really wanted to. He could do just about anything, except send himself anywhere; his body had become too fragile to be displaced. But he could look across time, speak across time, open impossible doors…

Okay. Let me get this right. Just this, if nothing else.

“Mom.”

“Yes?” Eleven’s tears were falling on him. She had no concept of motherhood, but knew it just the same. She had felt protective of him from the start, shielding him from his father’s anger when he saw them kiss; nursing him with maternal tenderness; refusing to take part in his inquisition.

“Let me hold you. Please.”

His mother leaned over him, confused and scared. She was a blameless twelve-year-old with the worldly knowledge of a kid who was five. She would grow up to be the best mother in the world, and then fall into madness, tormented by her failures. Her failures were nothing compared to his. She deserved the solace he could offer. If he could do this right.

Reaching up to her, Mike Hopper hugged his mother, enveloping her in his time fire. Do this right. Do it.

His argent flowed around both of them, lighting them like ghosts.

Mom. He reached across the years, and an abyss of pain. It’s me. Mike. Can you hear me?

At first there was no response. Then her voice floated back. Mike? It was the voice he had heard on his birthday, ten days ago, raw and torn. The voice of a soul being flayed. I can’t see you, honey, where are you? Without transition, her anguish turned to rage: Where are you hiding! You left me! I’m your mother, and you left me!

Mom. He touched her with his fire, a gentle flame now that secreted tranquility. He bathed her with it across time. I’m sorry I left you. I’m sorry we gave you away.

Her face, wasted and haggard, suddenly appeared in front of him, superimposed on her younger self. Mike? Is that you? Where is this? She sounded lost; forlorn.

I’m here at the lab. Underneath you. At the Gate. But not in your time. I’m six years in the past. And I’m here with you. And dad.

Your father? Her voice took on a cruel edge. Your father is dead. Are you mocking me, Michael?

He’s here, mom. I went back to 1983, when you and dad first met. I brought you both — and Uncle Luc and Uncle Dustin — ahead in time, so that we could stop a bad man from ruining the earth. You’ll remember this. In just a few minutes you’ll remember everything we did together. He hoped he was right; prayed he could do this.

Mike? In his head she sounded angry and on the verge of tears. Don’t you make fun of me, Michael! I’m your mother!

Mom, please. I’m telling you the truth. You’ll remember it. But I need you to save the world. We failed the mission — no, I failed it. It’s all on me. It’s up to you now.

The scream that filled his head almost severed the link he had laid across time. His mother had shut down on him, retreated into denial. His plea had made her furious. He looked at his younger mother in front of him, and saw that her adorable eyes had become black holes. At the end of those tunnels lay her own future of madness and rage.

It was now or never. Still holding Eleven, he gave up control, and allowed his body to become a staggering concussion of whiteness.

This time, the concussion had no outward force; it was directed wholly inwards, and flowed through one mother to the next, near and far. Blazing with whiteness, Mike Hopper became the crucible in which his mother was made anew from her own self. She was healed by the energy of youth and innocence — and she remembered what she had long forgotten.

“Mike,” she spoke out loud through the bridge of her younger self. Her voice was old and weak, but wonderful, and free of the rage that had abused her for so long.

He answered, telling her what he could never say; could never admit to himself: “I love you, mom.”

She heard him clearly, and gasped from across the time that separated them. Mike Hopper cried then, allowing the bridge to fall, leaving him with the one mother in front of him. He withdrew his fire, releasing Eleven, and she gaped, barely understanding what she had just been a part of. She would get it someday.

The boys were speechless and uncomprehending. He had to get them all back. That would be no problem in his magnified state of power, while he lasted. It wouldn’t be long now.

“Guys,” he said. “I have to get you home. You’ll forget everything when you’re back. That’s the way this works.”

“Whoa, what do you mean, we’ll forget everything?” asked Dustin.

“Everything,” repeated Mike Hopper. “The motel, the movies, the restaurant, here at the lab — everything we did together since we left the junkyard.”

“No!” protested Mike Wheeler. “We’re not going to forget you. That’s not right. You have to come back with us, Mike. To rescue Will. And then stay with us, maybe, in our time. You have to. You’re a part of us –”

“I can’t, dad. I’m dying.”

“No!” his father screamed. “You can save yourself!”

“Mike,” said Lucas. “I don’t want to forget you, man. You saved my life.”

But I couldn’t save you in my time. He wanted to hug Uncle Luc again; wanted to hug them all.

“These were some of the best days I ever had,” said Dustin. “We became a fellowship together. I don’t want that erased.”

Eleven touched his face. “I want… to remember too.”

“You will, mom. You will. But not them. It’ll take a long time. You’ll be old when you remember everything. And when you remember, you’ll be well again.” He held his mother’s cheeks and kissed her shaved forehead. “And then you can save the world. Okay?”

She shook her head, not understanding.

“What we messed up today — what I messed up — can still be fixed, now that you’re well again. I know it’s confusing, and I don’t have time to explain. But you will understand. You’ll be in a room where doctors keep you locked up, and you’ll have to pound on the door, and ask for Will, Tobias, and Dustin. When they come, tell Uncle Will… tell him that he’s a great guy. I’m sorry I treated him so badly. And Tobias. I don’t want him feeling bad about this. I know he we will, but I’m glad he came. If he hadn’t come to visit, I wouldn’t have come back to get all of you. Please tell him that I forgive him. Tell them all what happened — what we did these past six days. You’ll know what to do afterwards.”

“When… will I remember this?” she asked.

He smiled wryly. “In fifty-four years.”

“Fifty… four?”

“Yeah. You have a while, don’t worry. But my time is out.”

“Ships,” she said.

“What?”

“You’re making the ships sail.”

“I’m sorry.” He could barely see, his eyes were pouring a mixture of tears and silver fire. “I was never counting on surviving this anyway.” He had expected a fifty-hour time illness upon his return. “Meeting you all was the best thing.”

The boys carpet-bombed him with demands, hysterical, unwilling to accept his death or their imminent loss of memory. He wanted to stay and offer them more, but he had come to the end — the end of himself and of his time. And at that end, he realized the simple truth: that those surrounding him had shown him happiness.

With a final expenditure, he furled them in his fire and sent them home, over their fading protests. When they were gone, a small space like hope opened in his heart, and he followed his dreams into the fire.

After a time, his body burned to a snowy ash.

 

For a while afterward, he lay in a tomb of oblivion, crushed in exhaustion. He knew he was effectively dead, but some part of himself floated through time, the last shreds of his power holding his awareness. The darkness swaddled him so pleasantly that he wondered why everyone feared death. But then his consciousness forced a change around him, and he became aware of sunlight, voices, and the junkyard to which he had returned his parents and uncles. He was looking down at them, as if from above. They were confused; dazed.

“Where did he go?” asked Mike Wheeler.

They all looked around.

“Other Mike!” called Dustin. “You forgot us!”

Lucas was shaking his head. “He didn’t forget us. He was full of shit. You were right, Mike, he probably was from the Upside Down.”

In their minds, they were still waiting to be taken to his alternate world. It was just as he had said: they would never remember the time they had shared together. Except for her, of course; when the time came. Now she was just as confused as the boys, searching the yard for any sign of Mike Wheeler’s twin.

“Did that son of a bitch take our bikes?” asked Dustin.

They canvassed the area again, stewing over the loss of their sacred vehicles. If Mike Hopper had still owned a face, he would have smiled. He had planned to send them back on their bikes when they returned to the upper room after killing Morgred. The dramatic turn of events had made that impossible. It didn’t matter. Grandpa Jim was coming. To rescue them from the bad men arriving by air. They would have stashed their bikes under the bus anyway, and not used them for the rest of their search for Will Byers.

As if in reply, a chopper appeared in the sky, drawing closer. The kids quickly forgot Other Mike, and raced to hide in the abandoned bus.

Knowing they were safely back, Mike Hopper let go of his awareness.

I love you all.

The thought was his last. It was, hopefully, what mattered.

 

Next Chapter: The Hag

(Previous Chapter: Father Child)

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