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After: The True Story of What Happened Next (as told through Eleven)

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Cracks of light.

Shifting shapes.

Noises that don't sound like anything.

Pieces of a world that shouldn't exist.

She sees them all.

She sees, in all that, a scared little boy with no way home.

She wants to tell him how, but she doesn't know the way either.

She wants to find him.

*

Black.

Cold.

Rain.

Three boys who shouldn't be there.

She sees them all.

She sees, in all that, a scared little girl who has no home.

She wants to tell them, but she doesn't know the words.

Words are so difficult.

*

The fat one thinks she is a toy.

Her Papa thinks she is a toy, too.

She loves her Papa.

She looks at the boy. She does not love the fat one.

The dark one is anxious.

She is anxious too.

The last one is …

She tells him her name is Eleven, when no-one else is looking. It's a secret. Papa had secrets he couldn't tell her. She tells the last one and sleeps that night with his name close to her, Mike Mike Mike.

*

Monday November 7th - Saturday November 12th

*

She tells Mike, in the end, that she knows what she has to do.

He is scared.

He is also sad.

She can almost taste the sadness.

She curls his sadness, wears it as a blanket, and steps up the monster.

She's forgotten how to be scared.

Cracks of light.

Blackness.

*

She doesn't know where she is.

Somewhere, Mike is crying.

Somewhere, Papa is dead.

Somewhere, she is dead too.

The monster is not dead. She can feel him. He is pieces of a whole. He is the scared little boy who needed to find a way home.

He is near Mike. Her blanket shifts; hs sadness is ebbing.

Mike, Mike, Mike she wears his name close.

She needs him to keep believing in her.

She thinks she might exist only in his mind.

But she is there in Will's mind, too, the part of him that is the monster.

She needs Mike to believe in her so the monster doesn't devour her.

She thinks she might give in and let it.

*

His sadness comes in waves. It is ebbing. It is crashing over everything.

He is in math, trying pre-algebra and he is thinking about her.

He is so sad he goes to the bathroom, and cries.

She stands in the mirror, waiting for him to look up.

"Mike," she says softly.

He looks up and does not say anything.

Then he runs from the room.

*

When Will hears, the monster is angry. The monster wants her.

She feels him driving Will. Will checks every mirror, peers deeply into them.

He shouldn't.

The monster stares back at him.

It grows stronger with every glance. It is stealing Will and she doesn't know how to stop it.

She has to find a way.

*

She waits for Mike again, in the mirror at home.

This time he doesn't run.

"Hopper's been leaving you food," he whispers.

She shakes her head.

She misses the light and sweet.

She misses Hopper, and all the people she doesn't know.

She misses her Papa.

"Will," she says, staring at him. "Save Will."

Mike is sad again. She tightens the blanket around her.

Mike watches her, but does not say anything.

He thinks he already has.

So she says it again "Save Will."

*

The monster shakes and twists inside Will.

She hides from him. She cannot save Will this time.

*

She sees all the pieces of all the worlds.

She sees what needs to happen.

She doesn't know how to tell Mike.

She doesn't want to tell Mike.

She wishes it could be her, instead.

*

Will finds her. She's not surprised.

The monster isn't roaring inside of him. She's surprised. The monster is home, back in the place it came from. She doesn't know why it's not stronger.

"I'm scared," Will says. For a moment he is, again, the little boy trying to go home.

She says nothing.

"Hopper's been leaving food," he says.

She shrugs. He's been eating it.

"I'm so hungry."

She nods, sadly. Whether he's the monster or Will, he will always be hungry.

She wishes she knew how to stop it.

She wishes it had been her, instead. It would have made it all so much easier.

She doesn't know how to unmake the monster without unmaking Will.

*

Mike clings to Will and she watches.

Hovers.

Waits.

Mike doesn't know how Will needs saving.

But he knows he needs to save Will, so he makes sure Will doesn't leave his sight.

The monster still grows stronger. He hasn't been back to see her.

Yet.

*

They are the only three who know how to get back.

Two.

Because she hasn't found a way out.

Four.

Because Mike is following.

*

It's not Will, it's the monster.

If she could remember how to be scared, she would be scared.

Mike is scared.

She wears it like a cloak.

"Will," she says, and the monster glares back.

"Will," she says again, and the monster takes a step closer.

"Will," she says again, and the monster is so close she can touch him.

He rears back, opening his giant mouth.

She opens her mouth.

She concentrates.

She thinks of the blackness.

Shifting shapes.

Papa.

She raises a hand. She can unmake him. She will unmake Will. Mike will be so sad.

"Will!" Mike is screaming.

She can't hear him.

"Will! It's Mike! It's Mike! Will!"

The monster steps back.

"You have to save Will," she whispers.

*

Black.

Cracks of light.

Explosions of sound.

Nothing as it was.

Nothing as it is.

A scared little boy, trying to go home.

A little girl who doesn't understand.

A loyal boy, who would do anything for those he loves.

Mike is between her and the monster.

Mike is begging them both to stop.

"Come home, Will," he says.

*

It was raining.

It's raining now.

She doesn't understand.

Mike is jumping on the monster, hitting him, screaming at him to give him his friend back.

She watches.

The monster is falling, pieces of him at a time.

She suddenly remembers how to be scared.

*

There is a hand. Then a torso. Then feet.

Last is the head, mouth opening, snapping at Mike.

She only watches.

She doesn't know how to unmake the monster without unmaking all of them.

But.

Mike does.

Mike, sweet and kind and loyal - and she doesn't understand what all those words mean is unmaking the monster.

Then there is Will, screaming.

She backs away.

She sees all the pieces and she doesn't know how they go.

She starts to cry.

*

The arms around her are not Mike's.

It is Will.

He is crying too.

"I don't know the way home," she says, looking up at him.

"I don't know the way home."

They are, for the moment, lost together.

"You can come home with me," Mike says, and he is talking to them both. "I know the way."

And she smiles.