This nine-chapter Stranger Things novel is the long-awaited prequel that takes place before five other stories, which should be read in the following order: The College Years, The New Generation, World’s End, The Witch of Yamhill County and The Black Rose of Newberg. These are all works of fan fiction based on the Stranger Things TV series, from which I do not profit. 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 the stories down.
This prequel serves as an alternate season 4. It assumes the events portrayed in TV seasons 1-3, except that it was Joyce Byers who died in the Battle of Starcourt, while Jim Hopper survived to continue raising Eleven. William and Jonathan Byers stayed in Hawkins, and their Aunt Ruth came to live with them and assume guardianship of Will. Also: Karen Wheeler had an affair with Billy Hargrove before his possession, and she aided and abetted him in abducting people for the Mind Flayer, though she did not become one of the flayed.
Endless Night — Chapter Four
Under a Raging Moon
Mike pounded on the door again. Where are you, asshole? He put his ear to it. Nothing. He checked his watch: 2:40. So much for office hours.
He had come for answers; to confront Ogden about administrative fascism and missing kids. His parents sure as hell weren’t going to do it. But the headmaster was gone and his office locked, as if he’d left for the day. He was usually here until at least 3:30.
Mike lingered for a few minutes and then left by way of the corridor that looped around the teacher’s lounge. As he walked by the room, he spotted two teachers inside, but no one else. He kept walking.
This morning he had finally told the others about the worm. His shadow flight in the Upside Down may have been a dream or hallucination, but the Drapers’ lawn spoke for itself. The police were still investigating the “vandalism”. Lucas had ripped his face for not speaking up.
“Why would you sit on that?” he had demanded.
“Because it’s crazy,” said Mike. “I thought I was dreaming.”
“So on top of the Illithid,” said Dustin, “we have a worm the size of a dragon to worry about.”
Right now Mike was worried about another problem: missing teenagers and hysterical parents. As of today, there were four: Josie Barrett, Ron Seward, Katie Martin, and Harry Graves. No one believed the school had anything to do with it, but Mike couldn’t get Mr. Carol out of his mind. Mr. Carol, frankly, seemed out of his mind. The administrative tyranny of this past week couldn’t be a coincidence. Nor the timing of the shadow threats on Maple Street. Mike was sure it was all related, and by God, Ogden was going to account for himself and his deputy. Except that Ogden wasn’t in his office when he should have been — that, in itself, extremely odd.
Towards the end of the corridor, he heard a cry and stopped. On his right was a stairwell leading to the school basement. The cry had come from below. Mike knew there was nothing down there but the boiler room, a couple of storage areas, and the old janitor’s office. Ron the janitor had been moved to an upstairs office. The rooms below had poor ventilation and got way overheated.
Someone’s down there, and he’s hurt.
Mike descended the stairs. With each step the air grew hotter, and the bottom was a furnace. Blazing heat filled a long fifty-foot hall. In the winter it felt rather nice… for about a minute. Mike was already starting to sweat. The boiler room was down on the left, and storage rooms on the right, but it was the door to the old janitor’s office at the far end that was noticeably wrong. It was closed, which was almost never the case. The room would cook. Light poured out the bottom crack. Someone was in there.
He didn’t want to see behind that door, but he wasn’t about to leave. Whoever was in that room was isolated from the rest of the school. He forced himself to walk down the hall. The boiler thrummed. He reached the door and put his ear to it, cursing the noise of the boiler. He strained to hear. Nothing. Then, after almost half a minute, he did hear something: a low voice followed by a weird moan. Mike strained more. It sounded as if the voice had said that’s it. There was more moaning. What the hell was going on in there?
His heart sounding in his head, and one hundred percent sure he would regret this, Mike turned the knob slowly. He pried the door open a crack, praying it wouldn’t creak. The hinges were silent as ghosts. Mike peeked in. What he saw took him long moments to process. At first he couldn’t make sense of it; then he got it, and, revolted, nearly cried out.
The room was at least ninety degrees, and was empty save for a wooden chair in the center. Mr. Ogden sat on the chair, his side to the door, clutching something in his lap. That something was a student’s head, moving around. The kid was on his knees before the headmaster, his face buried between Ogden’s legs. He was moaning, and as he came up for air, Mike recognized him: a junior named Jack Grist. He seemed dazed and glassy-eyed, though eager to please.
He was giving the headmaster a blowjob.
This was something out of the realm of Mike’s expectation, even in a town as messed up as Hawkins. He watched in disbelief, unable to back off, knowing he must. His intuitions screamed that if he were caught seeing this, the repercussions would be dire. The headmaster was behind something terrible. Was Jack Grist about to join the missing? Or was he in league with Ogden?
Maybe the latter. It looked like Ogden and Grist were enjoying each other — like they were secret homo buddies. Sweat was pouring down the headmaster’s face. His eyelids fluttered and he breathed fast. His spotted hands kept Jack Grist where he was needed for maximal output. Restraint looked unnecessary: the kid was sucking on Ogden’s erection eagerly; greedily.
But then why had Jack cried out? He couldn’t have been in this room when that happened; Mike wouldn’t have heard it. The kid must have been out in the hallway toward the stairs at that point. That cry had sounded like a hurt protest.
But he’s… Christ, he’s enjoying himself. Mike wished he hadn’t come down the stairs.
“There,” panted Ogden, thrusting gently in his chair. “It’s coming.” The headmaster was on track for his orgasm — the last thing Mike wanted to witness. But it was the proverbial train wreck; Mike couldn’t blink. Ogden’s thrusts quickened as Jack Grist slobbered over his penis like a starving giraffe. Mike’s stomach lurched. The headmaster gasped, and he told Jack to lift up his head. The boy moaned, sounding confused. Ogden positioned the kid’s face in front of him, and ejaculated. Mike did turn away then, completely nauseated, as a thick jet of semen splatted everywhere over Jack Grist — his eyes, nose, mouth, and shirt collar.
“Beautiful.” The headmaster was holding Jack’s face, examining his dripping achievement. Jack Grist moaned again. Ogden released the kid, and then stood to zip up his trousers.
That was Mike’s cue. He closed the door softly and got the hell out of there.
“That’s mental,” said Dustin, when Mike finished.
“That’s disgusting, is what it is,” said Lucas.
“Why do you say that?” asked Dustin.
“Because they’re homos, you idiot.”
The schoolyard was a grave as they argued about what Mike had seen. Whatever was in the Hawkins air, kids and teachers didn’t want to hang around for it. It was cold too, like the past few days. It was supposed to be dangerously cold starting Saturday; below zero plus wind chill. Mike shivered, thinking of frostbite. They would need their ski masks for the week-end.
They would need some sanity besides. He could see that Lucas was revving up on the subject of gay people, and that Dustin and Max didn’t much care for it. Lucas wouldn’t talk like this if Will were around, but Mike was relieved just the same that Will had left. His Aunt Ruth had picked him up for a dental appointment.
“What’s so bad about homos?” asked Dustin.
Lucas spazzed. “What’s so bad about homos? Are you serious? Try and imagine yourself sucking on a penis like Grist did. Or some guy putting his penis up your butt. Tell me that’s not the most disgusting thing you can do with someone.”
“Lucas, that’s stupid,” said Max. Mike knew that she had lived next to gay neighbors in California.
“It’s not stupid!” said Lucas. “It’s gross. I mean, no offense to Will, if he likes guys, but that kind of stuff is just twisted and unnatural.”
They couldn’t figure out if Will was gay or asexual. Mike thought the latter but he wasn’t sure. Two summers ago he had ridiculed Will for his lack of interest in girls, and Will had stormed off in the rain. Castle Byers had paid the price. I’m sorry Will. I was an asshole. And so is Lucas, even though he doesn’t realize it.
“I’m confused,” said Dustin. “Where are gay people supposed to put their penises, if not a mouth or butt?”
Mike cut them off. “You’re both missing the point.”
“I haven’t missed any point,” said Lucas.
“We’re not talking about students blowing each other. This is a school headmaster and a student.”
“Yeah, that’s pretty fucking illegal,” admitted Max.
“I don’t know,” said Dustin. “Jack is a junior. He’s got to be at least sixteen, and that’s the legal age for sex here. It’s not like California, where you have to be an adult.”
“Legal age means shit if the student is forced,” said Mike. He didn’t want to use the word rape, but he had been getting strong coercive vibes watching that blowjob. Mr. Ogden was a domineering man. Mike had heard Jack cry out from the top of the stairs. Had he been pressured into the old janitor’s office against his will? Granted the kid’s groans had sounded like his and El’s when they had sex — like someone drunk on pleasure — but Jack had seemed glassy-eyed and under some kind of spell. What student would willingly blow a man who hated students and was old and ugly as sin?
“I thought you said Jack was enjoying it,” said Dustin.
“I don’t know,” said Mike, feeling sick. “It’s hard to say. It was really weird.”
“There’s a ton of weird shit going on,” said Lucas. “Kids getting punished, suspended for nothing, and disappearing. The class presidents met yesterday and listened to a lot of complaints.”
“There’s a mutiny on the way,” agreed Dustin.
Mutiny, thought Mike. The town was going to hell again.
Left. Right. Swaying on the beat. Her hands on his shoulders, his on her hips. Hoping the final days of their honeymoon would last. Here, in this room, to rhythm and desire.
El liked the mix so far — even “Louise”, which accused her. Her own copy of the tape was at Hopper’s. She had brought it home this morning when Mike was at school. The D&D game had preempted any possibility of listening to it last night.
They were reliving the Snow Ball on track three. Same postures, same positions, as if his bedroom were the gymnasium of Hawkins Middle. The stalker song: “Every Breath You Take”. Mike couldn’t wait for “Bring on the Dancing Horses”. When that one played, he would take El on the bed exactly as he had taken her on Christmas Eve. He liked rough sex, but tonight he wanted to recapture the tenderness of their first time.
Sting’s voice faded, and Roger Daltrey started his laments over teenage wastelands. They stopped dancing and sat on the bed. Mike turned the volume down so they could discuss school events. He recounted everything he had told the others.
“I don’t understand,” she said, when he described the blowjob. “What are homos?”
Mike took a deep breath. He was still hearing Lucas’s diatribes. “Homos are weird. They like to have sex with their own gender. You know — guys with guys, girls with girls. Mr. Ogden and Jack are homos.”
She didn’t get it.
“Like, imagine if you weren’t my girlfriend” — for some reason she jumped when he said that — “and that you were in love with Max. And you wanted to have sex with her.”
El was baffled. “How can girls have sex with girls?”
Mike wasn’t going there. “They just do it differently. Same with guys.”
“And they ‘blow’ each other like this? The homos?” She wanted to understand.
“Anyone can blow a guy. Like, you could blow me. But you can’t blow girls.”
That confused her. “So I could be a homo?” she asked. “If I ‘blow’ you?”
“No, no, El. You’re not a homo. You’ll never be.”
She was thoroughly lost.
“Never mind,” he said. “The point is, something wrong is going on at the school.”
“Because of homos,” she said.
“Because of everything. The worm we saw on the Drapers’ lawn. What happened inside the house last night.” My dream the night before, he didn’t add, hating to even think of that nightmare he couldn’t escape. “The missing kids at school. Mr. Carol treating us bad, when he’s always been solid. And now the weird homo shit with Ogden. Maybe he and Mr. Carol are possessed. You know, like Will and Billy were. The Illithid is a real mind flayer. Whatever our first Mind Flayer could do, the Illithid can probably do worse, even if it’s human sized.”
“Mike,” she said.
“Was I supposed to ‘blow’ you? Whenever we had sex together?”
Jesus. “No, El. Just forget about it.” Mike didn’t register the past tense she had used. He had actually planned to ask El for a blowjob by the end of the week — a special desert to cap off their honeymoon — but that was completely off the board now. Thinking of blowjobs in any context made him sick. Ogden and Jack Grist had scarred him.
“Mike, I…” she paused, clearly uncomfortable with something she had to say.
“What is it?” he asked. He put his arm around her, but she shifted away. “Hey, what’s wrong?” He reached for her again.
She took his hand and held it. “This vacation. You know it’s been fun.”
“It’s been awesome,” he said. Their eleven days of freedom so far from Jim Hopper had been a sabbatical in paradise. Mike had the best girlfriend in the world, and he was going to marry her someday. But something had been eating at El for well over a month now. Mike had a feeling he was about to find out what it was.
“This,” she said, looking down at the bed and around the room. “It can’t last.”
“Of course not,” he said. When Hopper returned on Monday, they’d be back to sneaking around for sex. “We knew this vacation would spoil us.”
“I don’t mean that,” she said, looking pained. “I mean… we can’t last. Together.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m saying that after this week, maybe we should take a break.”
“Take a break?”
“From each other,” she said.
“I don’t get it. What kind of break do you mean?”
“You know… like… separate. Break up.”
Mike felt like a bowling ball had hit his stomach.
“At least for a while,” Eleven rushed on. “So we can think about things. We’ve been –”
“Stop,” he said. He felt sick again, but in an entirely different way, like some slow poison was pushing its way through him. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m saying that… we need to be on our own for a while.” The words came out in a torturous tumble. “We’ve been together ever since we met.”
“What do you mean? No, we haven’t. You were hiding out for a whole year when I thought you were dead.”
“I mean aside from that… I had no choice about that.”
He reached over and stopped the music. “El, what’s going on? Why are you doing this?”
“I just think we need a break, is what I’m saying.”
“I thought we agreed no more of this bullshit.” El had dumped him in the summer of ’85, but only for a few days and because they had been manipulated by her jealous father. Hopper had thought Mike was too obsessed with El and warned him to stay away. Terrified of the sheriff’s threats, Mike had started avoiding El, giving her reasons that were obvious lies — to which she had responded by “dumping his ass” on Max’s advice. They had been fourteen years old, still kids really, and Hopper acting like the worst child of all. Since then Mike and El had sworn a no-dumping pact. Break ups were off limits — unless it was for real. If one of them had a very serious reason.
“We swore a pact,” he said.
“I know, but –”
His voice rose. “So why are you doing this?”
“I’m trying… I don’t know!”
“What do you mean, you don’t know?”
“Mike, please, I want to explain. It’s hard for me to explain!”
“What did I do?” he demanded.
“Nothing!” she said. “I feel bad about this. I feel sick.”
She felt sick? His insides felt as if punched by a super flu. Then it dawned on him what she must have meant by that. He felt as if someone had suddenly turned up all the colors and sounds of the world. “What are you saying? That you — what — had sex with some other guy?”
She gaped at him.
“Oh my God,” he said. His stomach almost upended. “Who is he?”
She was shaking her head wildly. “No, no –”
“Do I know him?” he yelled. “Do I fucking know him?”
“Mike, stop it! That’s not it.”
“Tell me who he is! Tell me, you unbelievable bitch!”
“Stop it! I love you!”
“I love you!”
She couldn’t take being yelled at. She sat on the bed and put her face in her hands, crying.
He grabbed her wrists and yanked her off the bed. “Why would you do this to me?” he yelled in her face. “What’s wrong with you? What is wrong with you? What is –“
She was hysterical now and telling him to stop, to listen, that he didn’t understand.
He shook her violently. “What did I ever do to you? WHAT DID I DO?”
“Nothing!” she sobbed. “I love you.”
“Shut up!” he bellowed. “You don’t fix something you ruined by saying that!”
“Stop yelling at me!” she yelled, pulling away from him.
His rage escalated. “Tell me why!” He didn’t know if he was referring to her cheating on him, or breaking up with him, or both. One yielded the other; they were synonymous. “Why would you –”
The poison was in his head now as much as his stomach. “I did everything for you, El. Everything!”
“Did you hear me?” she said furiously. “I would never cheat on you. You’re a jerk for thinking I would!”
“Then what?” he demanded. As far as Mike could see, the alternative was worse. “What did I do wrong?”
“Nothing,” she repeated. “There’s nothing wrong with you.” She reached for an explanation that seemed unfathomably inaccessible. “I… I love you, Mike… but I have things in my life… things I have to deal with.”
Things? She was blowing smoke, unable to speak words that would destroy him. “El, you don’t break up with someone because of ‘things’ going on.”
“I have to,” she cried.
“Just say it: you don’t love me.” He was crying now too, as he realized the simple truth. “You haven’t loved me for over a month now.”
“No!” She was wild-eyed. “That’s not true!”
“Then what?” he yelled at the top of his lungs. “What did I do?”
“Mike, stop yelling –”
“Is it when we’re in bed?” he asked, groping desperately to understand the widening abyss. “Do I hurt you?”
“No! I love being in bed with you.”
He believed her on this point. She always responded wildly when they had sex. But that again left a worse alternative: “So it’s just me then. You don’t like me.”
“You’re not listening to me!”
“I’m listening, you bitch, and you’re saying shit! Tell me why you don’t like me!”
She broke down completely then, and reached out to hug him.
He pushed her away. “Don’t touch me!” He was crying furiously. “You’re a shitty person! You’re a lousy, shitty –”
The bedroom door crashed open, and his father burst in. His mother hovered behind him in the hallway, looking terrified. She was drunk as usual at this time of night, but the din of World War III from this room had sobered her.
“What’s going on in here?” Ted Wheeler had never sounded so animated and angry.
“Get out of here!” Mike screamed at his father.
“Michael, lower your voice! Both of you! The whole house can hear! Holly’s in her room scared!”
“Holly can fuck herself!”
“Language!” shouted Ted Wheeler.
“I said get out!”
“Michael, listen to us!” said Karen Wheeler, still in the hallway. “Let El go. She needs to leave. And you need to calm down before you hurt someone. Or yourself.”
“Who are you?” spat Mike. “Get away from me.”
“Act civilized, Michael,” said his father. “We raised you better than this.”
Mike lunged. All the violence he had held in check was let loose in a sudden barrage: he threw himself at his father, raining blows on him, driving him backwards toward the door.
“Michael, stop it!” His father was heavier and even taller, but Mike was pummeling him on the strength of rage and betrayal. He wanted to tear El apart, so he assaulted his father instead. And quite effectively: it wasn’t looking good for Ted Wheeler.
“Ted, let it go!” said his mother, alarmed. “Just leave him.”
“Get out of my room!” said Mike, pushing his father into the hall.
His parents backed off, shocked out of their minds, and Mike slammed the door. He turned back to El.
She was sobbing and begging Mike to calm down. Mike stormed over to the stereo box, and slammed his fist down on the “eject” button. The cassette flipped out. He seized it and began furiously yanking the tape out. He tore it apart. He cried and kept pulling it out. El went hysterical. She grabbed him and told him to stop. Mike kept pulling out the brown strip and tearing it to pieces. His crying became uncontrolled, and his hands shook as he held the mix he was destroying. The mix he had made for her; that he had poured every atom of his love into. She had flushed that love down a sewer.
“Mike, don’t do this… please stop… please…”
In fury he slammed the cassette on his desk and grabbed his desk lamp. Lifting the lamp high above his head, he brought it down on the cassette, crushing it. Tears flew as he hurled the lamp against the wall, leaving a huge gash. El kept crying. He would have done the same to her copy of the tape, but it was at Hopper’s. She had taken it home that morning. That enraged him even more. He grabbed her and pulled her up close: “You tore out my heart! You tore it right out! You fucking killed me!” He let go of her and fell to his knees. He had never cried like this in his life. “Why?” he sobbed. “Why would you do this to me? Why –“
Her scream exploded the bedroom window. Shards of glass flew everywhere. Mike instinctively ducked, throwing up his arms to protect himself. Freezing air blew into the room, cold as the night it came from. He looked up to see the ceiling lights flickering. For one second, and then three. Then they went out.
He stood up and called to her in the black cold: “El?”
Something made noise by the shattered window. A thick flapping noise.
He could hear her sobbing. Traitor. He remembered Lucas’s old accusations, and the day she saved his life at the quarry. I’m the monster, she had said, weeping. He shouldn’t have corrected her; should never have defended her against Lucas.
He said her name again but she wouldn’t answer. Vowing violence, he felt his way to the bedroom door and opened it. The hallway outside was pitch black. El’s tantrum had killed the power everywhere. Footsteps pounded not far away: his parents, mad and hollering. Holly was babbling down in her room. Mike thought he heard footsteps next to him. He reached out, feeling no one.
He went back in the bedroom. “El, answer me.” It was freezing. The air blowing in from outside must have been 15 degrees. “Answer me, I said!”
The lights returned all of a sudden, and Mike stood gaping. Glass was everywhere. El was gone.
“El!” he called. It must have been her footsteps moving past him in the hallway. She was probably downstairs. He wanted her the hell out of his house.
He left to chase after her. A thudding noise followed from the bedroom as soon as he entered the hall, but he paid it no mind. His father was down in Holly’s room. His mother’s voice drifted up from downstairs. Mike stopped at the balcony to listen. She was having words with El, and they didn’t sound pretty. El was crying again, defenseless against Karen Wheeler’s venom. Mike was ready to kill them both.
Something shuffled behind him, and he spun around. And almost died in shock. A creature in a robe stood before him, and it was the face of his dream two nights ago. An octopus-like head; four tentacles sliding over a lamprey-like mouth; eyes burning with acidic hate. The Illithid. Mike went rigid as he felt himself swathed in a cocoon of some terrible power. The Illithid was holding up a claw, and its eyes blazed. Mike didn’t know it was possible for anything to hate so purely. The monster shifted, radiating the cold of Caina. Mike couldn’t move; couldn’t speak or breathe. In the corner of his mind being taken over, he appealed to a lost salvation: El! Help! Come back!
There was no coming back. The dream had seen this too. He was unworthy of her; inadequate in some way she couldn’t explain. It ruined him in a stroke.
Mom! He wept like a child as he felt himself being forged anew, molded to some unseen purpose. Dad!
The creature spoke in his blood: I am your mother-father. I give you everything. Its eyes swelled and became Mike’s world.
No… no… let me go… I’m just a kid… He was no such thing. Mike Wheeler was a veteran savior of Hawkins. And the Illithid knew it. It was here for bloody payback.
As Mike slowly understood what was happening to him, he saw the creature’s purpose — and the terrible role it had crafted for him.
Defying new imperatives, screaming in the cage of his mind, he willed Eleven to run, to flee the house, to get away from his mother —
The Illithid blew fury, and a sonic blast ripped through the Wheeler house. Down by the front door, his mother cried out, alone. Another tremor shook the house, and then stopped.
El had already left.
Next Chapter: Down for the Count
(Previous Chapter: In the Depths of Dol Guldur)