An escape at a government lab leads to a search for a missing boy in a quiet town. Strange phenomena start to occur.
On November 6, 1983, in a US Department of Energy-backed Hawkins National Laboratory, a man in a lab coat runs down a dark hallway, then frantically pushes buttons for an elevator. When the elevator arrives, the man seems to be safe, but as the doors close something growls above him. The man is pulled up in the elevator by a mysterious force.
Meanwhile, four middle-schoolers, Mike, Dustin, Lucas, and Will, play a fantasy board game in their basement. The four boys want to play a while longer, but Michael's mom insists it's time for them to go home. While Will and Dustin are riding their bikes home, they decide to race. As Will pulls away, he finds his way into the same area as the Hawkins National Laboratory and crashes his bike.
Will hears something in the distance, which frightens him and sends him running home. However, the mysterious creature is still chasing him. Will hides in a shed in the backyard of his house and starts to load a gun to fend off whatever's coming for him. The lights begin to flicker, a growl is heard, and Will disappears. The next morning, Will's mother, Joyce, and his older brother Jonathan can't find him.
Joyce hurries to the Police Chief Jim Hopper for help with finding her son. Hawkins is a quiet, sleepy town, which causes Chief Hopper to question Jill's claims. Hopper's first instinct is to question Joyce's ex-husband Lonny, but Joyce insists Will wouldn't run away to him.
Later, a young girl dressed in a hospital gown, with a completely shaven head, wanders into Benny's Diner. Benny feeds the girl and attempts to make conversation, but she keeps quiet. The girl has a tattoo of the number 11 on her arm, and tells Benny that 11 is her name. Benny steps away to make a phone call, and the girl mysteriously stops a fan in the diner from moving with her mind.
Benny, on the phone with Social Services, calls them to pick up Eleven. Later in the evening, a woman claiming to be from Social Services arrives to pick her up. Benny invites the woman into the diner, and when his back is turned, the woman shoots Benny. Benny is deceased on the floor while a number of agents arrive to collect Eleven. Eleven uses her telekinetic abilities to kill two of the agents, and escapes.
Mike, Dustin, and Lewis feel hopeless as the police's investigation of Will's disappearance goes nowhere. The boys decide to set out to find Will on their own. While Michael's older sister, Nancy, is secretly hanging with a boy named Steve in her bedroom, Michael's out with his friends searching through the woods for Will.
Not only do the three boys stumble upon Eleven in the woods, Joyce receives an ominous, static call on her home phone. Joyce says to Jonathan she can hear Will breathing. There's static, some growling, and the lights flicker. The phone surges with electricity, burning Joyce.
- White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane: heard on the radio when El and Benny are discovered by the federal agents.
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