When I was eleven pushing twelve, I got hold of a copy of Stephen King's It. Too many years have passed for me to say with any certainty if that copy belonged to either my dad or my eldest brother (it was definitely one of them). What I can remember is the pretty garish cover of a drain with a monster's eyes peering out, and the back cover copy all about a town called Derry and how safe and familiar it was, how known, how horrible below the surface because something haunted Derry; something killed kids there.
Well, count me in for digging into this one, I thought. The fact that it was 900 odd pages didn't factor into it. I wanted to see just what lived in the sewers and what haunted this town I'd never heard of and, until I was at least fifteen, thought was a real place. Within a hundred or so pages, I'd fallen in love with the entire Losers' Club. Stuttering Bill, Ben, Stan the Man, Eddie, Richie the Mouth, Mike and (of course) Beverly. They were kids I could have been friends with; they were kids I wanted to be friends with even if meant facing off against a killer clown who could turn into anyone's worst fear. And while I had no chance of verbalising it-or even really given it serious consideration at that age-I knew there was magic in that story. Magic of being a kid; magic of belief in monsters and the weapons to fight those monsters; and magic of friendship.
God knows how many times I've returned to those characters, to Derry and the Barrens. A dozen? More, perhaps. In any case, while unpacking my books a few weeks ago, I found my two copies of It. One fairly pristine hardback I picked up in the mid 90s, and a battered to hell and back paperback that I would love to say is the original book from my first read in the summer before I turned twelve, but is actually one I bought a year or two later. While my To Be Read pile is about thirty feet tall and growing by the week, I decided to return to the Losers' Club and see how my old friends were doing. Turns out, they're doing pretty good more than twenty-five years after we first met. It also turns out I'm now the same age as the adult versions of Bill and all the rest.
Would the sleeping eleven year old in me be pleased to know the book's lasted this long for me? You bet your fur he would.
Because, sometimes, you do get to beat the devil.