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Tom and his friends would get lost, but the joke was on them

Where am I? Where the fuck am I?

That clicked reality into place. It had been a dream, all some crazy dream. He was in a Holiday Inn. This was Derry, Maine. He had chased his wife here, and, in the middle of a crazy nightmare, he had fallen out of bed. That was all; that was the long and the short of it.

his unseen friends were to take. And it was the right path, oh yes: he could hear the others ahead, their splashing progress echoing back, the distorted murmurs of their voices. They were getting closer, catching up. And when they did . . . Tom looked down and saw that he still had the switchknife in his hand.

He became aware of a faint but clear white light, and for a frightening moment he thought he was back in the dream again, that it was light cast by one of those crazy balloons. Then he remembered leaving the bathroom door partially open and the fluorescent light in there on. He always left the light on when staying in a strange place; it saved you barking your shins if you had to get up in the night to pee.

The light suddenly seemed brighter. He turned his head, not wanting to but helpless to stop. A groan slipped out of his mouth. A balloon was tied to the knob of the bathroom door. It floated at the end of a string about three feet long. The balloon glowed, full of a ghostly white light; it looked like a will-o-the-wisp glimpsed in a swamp, floating dreamily between trees overhung with gray ropes of moss. An arrow was printed on the balloon's gently bulging skin, an arrow that was blood-scarlet.

He struggled to keep his balance, lost it, and tumbled to the floor. The floor was carpeted but the fall still sent a sickening burst of pain through his hurt knee and he Stifled another cry against his forearm.

That alien voice answered: But there will be people around in the morning - too many people. And besides, you can beat them down there this time. This time you can be first.

'Come on, you guys, move your asses,' he said, and it didn't even matter that his voice wasn't his own but the voice of a boy.

He got up slowly, fumbled a glass of water off the table beside the bed, and drank it down. He ran shaky hands through his hair. The clock on the table said ten past three.

He struggled to keep his balance, lost it, and tumbled to the floor. The floor was carpeted but the fall still sent a sickening burst of pain through his hurt knee and he Stifled another cry against his forearm.

Where am I? Where the fuck am I?

He got up slowly, fumbled a glass of water off the table beside the bed, and drank it down. He ran shaky hands through his hair. The clock on the table said ten past three.

For a moment he was frightened - this was like one of those crazy astral experiences he sometimes read about in the weekly tabloids, when your spirit left your body and entered someone else's. The shape of his body felt different to him, as if he were not Tom but

'Come on, you guys, move your asses,' he said, and it didn't even matter that his voice wasn't his own but the voice of a boy.

The light suddenly seemed brighter. He turned his head, not wanting to but helpless to stop. A groan slipped out of his mouth. A balloon was tied to the knob of the bathroom door. It floated at the end of a string about three feet long. The balloon glowed, full of a ghostly white light; it looked like a will-o-the-wisp glimpsed in a swamp, floating dreamily between trees overhung with gray ropes of moss. An arrow was printed on the balloon's gently bulging skin, an arrow that was blood-scarlet.

because he had another friend, oh yes, a special friend, and this friend had marked the path they were to take with . . . with . . .

He stepped up his pace, although the breath was already whistling in and out of his throat. Up ahead he could see another luminous circle bobbing in the darkness - another Moon-Balloon. He could hear the voices of the people ahead of him, and the fact that they were childish voices no longer bothered him. It was as the voice said: it didn't matter where, when or who. Beverly was up there, and oh dear friends, oh good neighbors -

Tom and his friends would get lost, but the joke was on them

That clicked reality into place. It had been a dream, all some crazy dream. He was in a Holiday Inn. This was Derry, Maine. He had chased his wife here, and, in the middle of a crazy nightmare, he had fallen out of bed. That was all; that was the long and the short of it.

Go back to sleep. Wait until morning.

He struggled to keep his balance, lost it, and tumbled to the floor. The floor was carpeted but the fall still sent a sickening burst of pain through his hurt knee and he Stifled another cry against his forearm.

That clicked reality into place. It had been a dream, all some crazy dream. He was in a Holiday Inn. This was Derry, Maine. He had chased his wife here, and, in the middle of a crazy nightmare, he had fallen out of bed. That was all; that was the long and the short of it.

thingamajigs that were big and round and somehow lighted from within so that they shed a glow like that which falls mysteriously from oldfashioned streetlamps. One of these balloons floated and drifted at each intersection, and on the side of each was an arrow, pointing the way into the tunnel-branch he and

Then, as they approached the Moon-Balloon, he looked around and saw his companions for the first time. Both of them were dead. One was headless. The face of the other had been split open, as if by a great talon.

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