Back in 1985, Bill Denbrough is aboard the Concorde and feels that he is “space-travelling.” The airplane is narrow and he is annoyed by his seatmate who is “fat and not particularly clean.” The man’s left elbow keeps poking Bill. He can almost feel Derry rushing at him. It feels as though he has been sitting in a darkened theater for years, waiting for something to happen. All of the stories he has written over the years, he understands, are about Derry. Bill sinks deeply into his seatmate’s side for a moment, prompting the man to tell him to watch himself. Bill says that he will stop “whapping” the man with his elbow if the man watches where he places his own. Bill gazes at the man until he turns away, muttering. Bill looks out the window and imagines that he and the others are “beating the devil.”
Like Ben, Bill feels that the flight is taking him back in time the closer it gets to Derry. All that has occurred in his life between 1958 and this moment feels as though he has been biding his time before the main event or attraction. He knows, too, that he wrote his books in anticipation of his return to Derry, though they were also a means to avoid confronting the evil that still existed. Now, he and his friends are going to “beat the devil”—go all out and kill It or die trying.
Bill remembers the bike he rode in 1958: Silver. He names it after the horse on The Lone Ranger. He buys it for twenty-four dollars after seeing it in the window of a shop and saving up money from Christmas, birthdays, and mowing lawns. By spring, he gets better control over the bike, which is much too big for him. Bill’s only real friend, Eddie Kaspbrak, helps him get Silver into better shape for riding. Eddie suggests that Bill paint it, but Bill likes it the way it is. The bike does not appear impressive, but it rides like the wind and Bill thinks that it would “beat the devil.” Furthermore, in the fourth week of June 1958, Silver saves the lives of both Bill and Richie Tozier. Bill cannot remember what has happened to Silver and realizes that he has not ridden a bike in nearly seventeen years.
Silver is both a symbol of Bill’s heroism—he will save his friends and, later, his wife on the bike—and a symbol of his growing independence. He buys the bike himself and uses it to get away from his family, who have abandoned him emotionally, and to spend more time with his friends, who form a new kind of family. On Silver, Bill is free and abandons his fears and sense of caution. The fact that the bike is too big for him is an indication of the large role that Bill assumes as the leader of the Losers’ Club, despite occasionally feeling unfit for it.
Bill flashes back to a memory of speeding down Kansas Street on Silver. As for Henry Bowers, “Belch” Huggins, and Victor Criss, Bill has only minor problems with them. He knows better, unlike Richie, than to antagonize them. The trick is to stay out of the bullies’ way. If one cannot do that, then make every effort to make oneself invisible. Eddie forgets that rule and faces consequences. Worse, Eddie’s aspirator runs out of medicine. Bill knows that he cannot leave Eddie alone, so when he sees Ben Hanscom, tattered and bloody from his own fight with Bowers, he calls him over for help.
Bill is careful not to antagonize the bullies, but he is also less of a target due to being rather tall for his age, and thus less vulnerable than the other boys. Eddie makes the mistake of crying, therefore demonstrating a weakness that makes it much easier for the bullies to select him for punishment.
Ben stays with Eddie while Bill speeds away on Silver. He dangerously passes a bus, causing the driver to shake his fist at Bill. He goes to Center Street Drug Store and goes inside. Mr. Keene, the pharmacist, greets him. To avoid stuttering during such a trying moment, Bill turns over a folder advertising vitamins and writes how Eddie is having a bad asthma attack and needs his aspirator, which he misspells as “asspirador.” Mr. Keene tells Bill that it’s no problem, for Sonia Kaspbrak, Eddie’s mother, has an account at the pharmacy. Indeed, he would add the medicine to Sonia’s bill, though the woman balks at how cheap the medicine is. Keene knows that it is nothing but water with camphor oil. If he wanted to, he could “soak” Sonia for her son’s HydrOx Mist, but Keene has no desire to be a party to Sonia Kaspbrak’s foolishness.
Mr. Keene is something of a misanthrope who regards the people of Derry with amused derision. Sonia Kaspbrak is one of the objects of his scorn. Mr. Keene is neither sympathetic to Eddie’s hypochondria nor to Sonia Kaspbrak’s unhealthy attachment to her son. For Mr. Keene, their behavior is yet another example of the human race’s failings. His sense of being “above” them, like an objective spectator, prevents him from the temptation of taking advantage.
On the way back to the Barrens, Bill thinks about the recent murders and how some people believe that George Denbrough’s murder is unrelated to them. Bill, however, believes that everyone has been killed by the same person—or thing. He believes that anything can happen in Derry and this worries him, but when he returns to Ben and Eddie, he appears cool. He hands Eddie his aspirator. Eddie sticks the aspirator into his mouth and figures that his mother will take one look at his bloodied shirt and want to send him to the emergency room. Ben asks why Eddie doesn’t simply tell his mother “no” and explain that he feels fine, but Eddie doesn’t respond.
Part of the reason why Bill is able to assume leadership of the Losers’ Club is due to his ability to appear “cool,” or to control his anxieties and fears regarding what has been happening in Derry. His friends assume that his self-control is a sign of competence. On the other hand, Eddie’s inability to stand up to his mother is due both to the internalized belief that he is sick as well as his fear of upsetting his mother.
Eddie then asks Ben why Henry Bowers, Victor Criss, and “Belch” Huggins were chasing him. Ben explains how Bowers wanted to copy off of Ben during a test, but Ben would not let him. Bill says that Ben looks like they killed him and Ben explains how he slid down the hill from Kansas Street. This results in Bill doing an imitation of Henry that causes Eddie and Ben to collapse into laughter. Ben asks if they play often in the Barrens. Bill explains that they do because no one bothers them down there. He then invites Ben to return tomorrow when they intend to build a dam. Ben then rather expertly explains how they can do it, using boards, rocks, and a strut. They plan to meet again at 8:30 the next morning.
The Barrens is a local wasteland. No one bothers the Losers’ Club in that space because, unlike the field behind the Tracker Brothers’ depot, it is an undesirable space that, the kids later learn, harbors sewage. The name “the Barrens” is a bit contradictory, because the area is a lush forest, not a desert. However, it is also an abandoned space, which makes it ideal for a group of social outcasts.
On the way home, Ben has the idea of buying chocolate milk and spilling it down Eddie’s shirt. The milk is similar in appearance to blood, so he figures that Eddie can explain the stains as spilt milk. Ben is pleased to have met “cool” new friends. As he walks three blocks up the street, he sees Henry Bowers, Victor Criss, and “Belch” Huggins boarding a bus. Ben ducks behind a hedge and waits until the bus is out of sight before heading home.
Ben empathizes with Eddie due to also having an overprotective single mother. Whereas Arlene uses Ben to satisfy her sense of inadequacy, Sonia uses Eddie to fulfill her desire for permanent companionship.
At Bill’s house, his parents Zack and Sharon are sitting on opposite ends of the couch watching TV. The house is eerily silent. Bill offers to tell a joke, but Zack says the punchline before Bill can and his mother barely notices his presence at all. Bill flees the living room and goes to cry into his pillow. George’s room has remained the same since the day he died. Once, Zack tries to remove some of the boy’s toys to donate them to goodwill, but Sharon spots him and stops him. Zack flinches at her shriek and returns the items to George’s room. One day, Bill sees his father kneeling beside George’s bed and crying. He wants to comfort his father, but Zack tells Bill to go away.
Zack and Sharon are unable to overcome their grief over the loss of George, and they shut Bill out because of their sense that he is partly guilty for his younger brother’s death. Their need to preserve George’s memory overrides their interest in their living son. Worse, both parents deny their grief through the persistence of their silence. Zack’s attempt to wave off Bill’s offer of comfort is a form of macho posturing, which contrasts with Sharon’s demonstration of hysteria.
On the first night of summer vacation, Bill goes into George’s room. He, too, misses George—his voice, his laughter. On this night after meeting Ben Hanscom, he opens George’s closet and reaches for his brother’s photo album. The album is filled with pictures of family. George was fascinated by photography and begged anyone he could to give him photos. The final picture in the album is George’s school picture. Suddenly, George’s eyes roll in the picture and look up at Bill. The right eye closes in a wink. Bill hears the image in the photo say that it will see Bill soon in the closet, perhaps tonight. Bill throws the album across the room, then blood flows from the picture. Bill flees from George’s room and closes the door behind him.
A photo album, which is typically a source of comfort to those who have lost a loved one, becomes haunted by It. Bill cannot take comfort in George’s photos or in the memory of his love of photography due to Its machinations. It has the ability to render images and inanimate objects as though they are living. George’s ironic offer to see Bill in the closet is not characteristic of the actual boy, given his fear of dark spaces.