Chaney heard screaming. She turned, almost colliding with a young couple as they ran past. Everyone seemed to be looking in the direction from which the two youths came, people shielding their eyes from the glare of the streetlights, standing on tiptoes to try and see over the heads of the crowd.
“What’s going on?” Chaney said.
“Did somebody get hit by the train?” Hank Frye held an ear of roasted corn on a stick, half gnawed clean, in his right hand.
More people were running towards them, past them. Inarticulate cries lost amidst the babble.
“I can’t see,” Chaney said.
A man rushed towards them, carrying a toddler pressed to his chest and pulling an older child by the hand. There could be no mistaking the expression of raw fear on his face.
“What’s going on?” Chaney stepped in front of the man, risking being run over.
“Monster!” the man said. He stepped around her; the running child bumped into her side. A little girl, crying.
“I’m going to see what’s up,” Hank said. He looked around for a second, then dropped the ear of corn on the street.
“I’m coming, too,” Chaney said.
Others had the same idea. More and more people were beginning to walk in the direction of the train tracks and the screams.
A chubby man darted past as he ran the opposite way, clutching his side. His forearm, his hands were bloody, his T-shirt torn and wet with blood.
“Are you okay?” Hank caught the man by the shoulder. “I’m a doctor.”
The man swung, blind, wild. He caught Frye in the side of the head, kept running. Hank staggered.
“Hank?!” Chaney grabbed his arm.
“I’m okay,” Hank said. “What the hell is going on?!”
Then they heard it. As loud as the blaring horn of the train. But no machine could make a sound like that.
Some kind of animal. But it sounded like no animal Chaney had ever heard before.
“What the hell was that?” she said, lowering her voice without any conscious thought.
Be very, very quiet, her mind seemed to say. It might hear you.
Hank Frye reached down and grabbed her hand. Chaney didn’t pull away from him. Rather, she stepped closer to him.
From the crowd down the street, a body launched into the air.
“What the fuck?!” Frye said.
Another howl. More screams. Hank began to lead her towards the sounds as if drawn to them, a siren’s song luring men to the rocks. To their deaths.
“Hank.” Chaney stopped, tugging on Frye’s hand. “I don’t think we should.”
Then the crowd shifted, parted, and she saw it.
And IT saw her.
“Oh, dear God!” Frye muttered.
Chaney couldn’t speak. Her legs had gone weak, her muscles turned to useless suet, incapable of motion.
IT looked right at her.
“Lucas!” Hank whispered.
The Beast lunged into the crowd, lost from view. But Chaney knew.
“It’s coming this way!” she said.
Frye jerked on her arm. “Come on!”
They began to run. Run away. Chaney pulled her hand free. She and Frye were separated as they passed through a group of onlookers. Then he was at her side again, both of them running as fast as they could. Frye collided with a big black man and tripped. Chaney stopped, turned back and helped Hank to his feet. They ran towards the distant stoplight at the intersection with highway 63. It winked at them like the beacon of a lighthouse, yellow for caution, a warning.
Another scream. Chaney looked back. The Beast, down on all fours, ignoring everybody else. Coming right at them. Like a charging bull, faster than its bulk should have allowed. Faster than them by far.
*Can’t outrun it.*
She left Hank Frye, running for the side street between the DOWNTOWN DOLLAR store and IRONWOOD FROZEN MEATS. She heard Frye call her name but didn’t look back. *Run, Hank! Run!*
There were fewer people on this side street, just parked vehicles for the most part. Chaney tried to move faster.
*Get out of here, Hank!*
She tripped, regained her footing. Up ahead on her left would be the Ironwood Post Office. Then a long residential area. Houses. People. But she couldn’t change direction now. And maybe those houses would be empty. Everybody in town seemed to be at Miner Days.
She could lead it away from them.
*Because it’s after me.* Chaney knew it. *I’m the one it wants.*
It seemed to her that she’d heard that before, somewhere. But she didn’t have time to think about it.
*I’m the one it wants.*
* * *