Clowns on parade, p.1
Clowns on Parade, p.1Salubrious Farlight / Humor / Horror
Clowns on Parade
Copyright 2012 Salubrious Farlight
Table of Contents
About the Author
The sun was high overhead while clouds scudded across a brilliant blue sky. It was just past noon, and the line Jason Humphrey stood in was long. He sighed and checked his watch, fidgeting. The line shifted forward. He checked his watch again. Five minutes. It took five minutes for the line to shift one place.
He tapped his foot and shifted position again. He figured at this rate, he'd get into the big top exactly never. It wasn't every day the circus came to Dyson Springs. It wasn't every day that anything came to Dyson Springs. But he wasn't going to spend his whole day, or a week, or however long it took, standing in line just trying to get in.
Jason turned and saw the line stretching across the dusty grass and through the chain-link gate, curving around to the sidewalk that ringed the parking lot. With a shake of his head he stepped out of line then started for home.
Taking his key from his pocket, Jason unlocked his front door and went through. His parents were off on vacation so he had the run of the house to himself. The fridge called to him so he went and got a can of Fizzle Dib Cola, popped it open and took a drink. He was restless, but wasn't sure what to do. His mind still churned on the circus at the fairgrounds. At how much he wanted to have a look at the fun.
He walked from the kitchen down the side hall to his bedroom. As he turned into his room he glimpsed someone standing in the corner and leaped back with a yelp. After a moment he peeked around the corner and saw it was just a shadow being cast by the tree outside his window.
Chiding himself, he set his can of cola on the table by his bed and plopped down. He scooped up a green rubber ball from the floor and starting throwing it against his wall, catching the rebound, then throwing it again. What was he going to do? He really wanted to go to the circus, but he didn't want to stand in the line. It was against his religion. He tossed the ball a few more times.
He caught the ball as a smile spread across his face. He had an idea.
The sun dipped toward evening as Jason sneaked back to the fairgrounds. By then the line was gone and the show was in full swing. As he got close he could hear the laughter and applause coming from inside the big top, and there didn't seem to be any guards or anyone else prowling around outside. He knew he wouldn't be able to sneak into the tent through the opening because although the outside was clear, there would be people on the inside watching.
The tent was firmly staked into the ground all the way around. There was no way he could even sneak in through the side, or lift the edge and watch. Besides, the view would probably be blocked by the rows of seats.
Jason stood in thought for a moment. What would be even more fun than attending the circus? Sneaking around and checking things out on his own after it was closed. He looked around and found some large bushes pushed up against the inside of the fence and the side of a small building and climbed between them, finding a cozy spot where he could get comfortable and wait.
The bushes added a bit of warmth and the ground was soft. Before he even realized it and without really wanting to, he was fast asleep.
Jefferson Tamsel checked the altitude gauge on the dash. He could tell he was far above ground just by looking out the window, but it was an ingrained habit. Though the air was mostly still that day that roar of the rotors made it sound like he was surrounded by a constant gale.
He eased back on the stick and admired the view. Dyson Springs spread out below him. He looked forward again and his brow creased. A large, dark cloud was directly ahead. He was sure it wasn't there before.
Flicking a switch on the communications panel, he spoke into the microphone attached to his helmet. “Tower, this is Grey Two.”
A scratchy voice replied, “Grey Two, we're receiving you.”
“I'm showing a large dark cloud directly ahead. I thought weather was supposed to be clear today.”
“Grey Two we're showing clear skies. Nothing on the weather map.”
The helicopter began accelerating forward. Jefferson tried to throttle down but the acceleration continued, heading him directly toward the cloud. It seemed to be bending and distorting around the edges. Jefferson continued to throttle down but it was having no effect.
“Tower, be advised, it seems my throttle is malfunctioning.”
“Grey Two, roger that.”
The rotors whined louder and the helicopter suddenly lurched. A tendril of cloud reached out, enveloping the craft.
“Grey Two, this is Tower. You've disappeared from radar. Please confirm status.” The tower received nothing but static in return. “Grey Two, this is Tower. Please come in.” The static grew to a high-pitched whine and then stopped.
A metallic clanking shook Jason awake. He was still nestled into the bushes but the air was noticeably cooler. Through the small leaves and branches he saw the sky was dark, but something seemed out of place. Different. He looked skyward for a bit longer then carefully eased himself out of the bushes.
Everything seemed to be quiet and still. Everyone must have gone home, he thought. How long had he slept? He took a few steps then glanced up again and stopped. He realized what was strange, what was different. The stars were gone. It couldn't be.
Turning slowly in place he surveyed the entire night sky. No stars, no moon. The only light came from the glowing posts around the parking lot and those on the fairgrounds.
Off to his right a small tent peeked through the darkness. Walking carefully he moved toward it. Partway there he tripped over a small log. He thought it was strange they'd leave a log there, in the middle of the grass.
Jason pushed back the flap of the tent and went in. Glints of light reflected off glass while he held the tent flap open, looking for a light switch. He found one mounted on a post driven into the ground by the flap. The tent flap dropped closed then Jason flicked the switch. Green glows sprang up beneath glass jars of all sizes arranged on circular shelves that curved around the central tent pole.
Each jar was filled with a thick fluid. One held the obligatory human fetus that every sideshow seemed to have all the world over, strange features distorted by the curve of the glass. Another jar held a snake, and another a large two-headed insect with a scorpion-like tail.
He walked around the curving shelves, one stacked above the other, marveling at the strange and weird spread before him. One particular jar was curved and rounded towards the bottom, like a bell. Floating in the bulge was what looked like a small mass of tentacles. He thought he saw a bubble float up through the liquid. He leaned closer and one of the tentacles twitched.
He jerked his head back and stumbled out of the tent. It had to have been a trick of the light. Maybe he bumped the shelf and didn't realize it.
Shaking himself he scanned the darkened fairgrounds until he found the bulk of the big top.
The large flap of the big top was partially tied back, spilling a wedge of light onto the ground. Jason stood just to the edge of the opening, listening. Shadows occasionally moved through the light. He leaned over and peeked.
Clowns were standing in a cluster so tightly he couldn't see what they were doing. Beyond them, watching them, was a man wearing blue overalls and a wide-brimmed straw hat, holding something long and thin with two curved prongs extending from the end. A cattle prod.
Jason gripped the coarse fabric of the tent more firmly, staring. He tried to lean in further while still remaining hidden in the shadows. His foot slipped and he fell, landing on the packed ground with a hard thud. He looked up at the clowns. They were looking back at him. The cluster parted slightly and he could see a metal barrel in their midst. Flowing over the side of the barrel were arms and legs and other parts he couldn't identify. Red, bloody ribbons hung from the clowns' mouths.
The man standing on the far side pointed his prod at Jason. The clowns began shuffling forward. Jason leaped to his feet and ran.
Music played as Jenny looked at herself in the mirror, tugging at a strand of her blond hair, lifting an eyebrow, then shrugging. She unzipped the back of her skirt and wiggled her hips in time to the music. She slipped her thumbs under the hem of her top and pulled it over her head, tossing it on the floor.
She struck a series of playful poses then went to the window to draw the blinds before she took off anything else.
A white-painted hand smashed through the window, shards of glass flying. She started to scream. A body heaved through the window and stood up. Its gaping mouth, ringed by red on a background of more white paint, showed rows of pointed teeth. A strange stench rolling off of it, the clown reached for her.
Jason ran down the street, noticing how few cars there were. In fact, he hadn't seen any at all. A house came up on his right. The front window was broken and smeared with red. As he ran by he saw a man and woman rush into the room and glance at the floors and the walls. Something dripped from the ceiling. The woman started screaming, fingers clenched in front of her face as if to ward off what she was seeing.
A few houses later Jason saw a clown, just like the ones from the big top, crouched over something in a front yard, the soft sounds of crunching and smacking reaching his ears.
Slightly farther down the street and on the other side was the town's cattle ranch. Dyson Springs was known for two major exports. Beef and Velcro. Most of the beef came from this very ranch. On that night, most of the cows were out of their pens and clustered around the edges of the property. A large spotted black-and-white cow bounded around the cattle yard, a clown riding its back, waving a straw hat clutched in its hand. Jason stopped and stared for a moment, then continued on his way home.
The house was an average one story structure with a large tree growing from the center of the lawn on the right and a concrete block walkway on the left leading to the front door. Beyond the walkway lay the driveway which spanned up to the large rectangular garage door.
Jason moved quickly towards the front door, passing beneath the branches of the tree. He heard a rustling and a crack and something heavy dropped onto his shoulders. Small, sharp teeth sunk into the top of his ear and tore. Searing pain coursed through his ear and down the side of his face. He grabbed the bulk on his shoulders and threw it to the ground.
A small clown, no taller than Jason's waist, sprang up from where it had been tossed and growled. From around the corner of the house stepped another man wearing coveralls, holding a cattle prod. This one wasn't wearing a hat but did have a long bushy beard that stretched down his front.
While Jason was distracted by the appearance of the man, the small clown leaped at his leg and clamped onto his shin with his teeth. The small sharpened points sunk through his jeans and into his flesh.
The man with the prod held it up and smiled. There was a small snap and electricity arced between the two prongs, lighting his face with a bluish cast. While Jason kicked and struggled with the clown the man began hurrying over.
Jason grabbed the small clown by its arms and heaved. It flew into the man, getting impaled by the man's stick and twitching from its coursing electricity. Without waiting to see what would happened next Jason ran into his house, slammed the door behind and locked it.
He ran through the darkened hallway into his room, shutting his bedroom door and grabbing the baseball bat that propped against the wall. Panting, he leaned back against the wall, holding the baseball bat up before his face.
His thoughts turned to his friend Johnny. He had to get to Johnny. Gripping the wooden bat even tighter he left his room and moved down the hallway. Carefully, slowly, he unlocked the front door and leaned his head out. The small clown and the man were gone. He quietly closed the door behind him then ran down the street towards his friend's house.
The First Church of Celebrity, Dyson Springs Branch, was dark as Jason moved past. The arched white double-doors were firmly shut and the large stained glass window above the door showing untold masses bowing in worship before a movie screen was intact.
Seeing this heartened Jason. If the First Church was unscathed, perhaps the town could pull through this weird attack too. Pausing at the semi-circular stone steps that lead up to the front doors, Jason quietly made the sign of the celebrity and bowed his head. “O Great Celebrities,” he whispered, “hear my prayer. In these dark times, please do my thinking for me so that my mind may be quiet. Amen.”
As Jason moved down the street, staying outside the pools of light cast by the occasional lamp post, moving from shadow to shadow, he came upon a car idling in the middle of the street with its lights on. The driver's door was flung open and red pooled on the ground beside. A clown perched on the edge of the opening, biting into a large, dark object. Something human-shaped.
Jason shuddered, trying not to think about what he might have just seen and continued the last block to Johnny's house.
Johnny Clapper and his parents lived in a tan two-story house that looked little different from all the other two-story houses in the neighborhood, with its only distinguishing feature being a brick fronting across the house's facade.
A clown wandered into the front yard from the side of the neighbor's house. An explosion erupted from one of the upper-story windows and the clown was torn to shreds as it fell. Jason ducked and cupped his hands over his mouth and spoke and loudly as he dared into the quiet of the night. “Johnny! Johnny, is that you?”
“Jason?” came the familiar voice of his friend.
“Yeah it's me.”
“Hold on I'll come out.”
Jason crouched in the shadow of a leafy hedge while he waited. After a moment he heard the front door open so he carefully stood, looking around to make sure it was still clear. Johnny quickly crossed the lawn to him, carrying a shotgun in both hands. A backpack hung from his shoulders.
“What's in the pack?” asked Jason.
“Where are your parents?”
“They're at some party. I'm worried about them. We should go check to see how they are.”
With a rattle a small clown jumped from behind the trashcans arrayed in front of Johnny's garage and started running towards them. Jason pulled his bat back and swung hard, hitting the small clown with a crack and sending it flying to the paved edge of the driveway, where it lay still. “Those things are everywhere!” he said.
Jason and Johnny walked down the street warily. They came to a street that branched off from their own then intersected another. Down the intersecting street shambled a herd of clowns, followed by a man in overalls wielding a cattle prod. The group didn't notice them and soon passed out of sight.
“Did you see that?” asked Johnny.
“Yeah. It looked like that guy was pushing the group along.”
“What isn't tonight?”
“True. Come on,” said Johnny.
After seeing a few more wandering groups of clowns the two decided it would be safer to cross through backyards. Hopping fences, they passed by many houses, many of them dark, some with broken windows, and one where screams emanated from within. As they tried to close their ears to the screaming and hurry by a bloody severed hand flew through the backdoor to land at their feet. They ran for the next fence.
They stood behind the house where Johnny's parents had gone for the party. The backdoor was open and there were no sounds to be heard. They explored the house but found it empty.
“Where do you think they all went?” asked Jason.
“I don't know, but they better be okay,” replied Johnny.
A small commotion came from the front of the house. They crept around the side yard to look. Another cattle-prod-wielding man was driving a group of clowns. Johnny lifted his shotgun and pulled the trigger. The blast from the barrel sent the man in overalls sprawling. The clowns instantly stopped and started shuffling about in confusion.
“Looks like shooting that guy disorients them,” said Jason.
“Yeah,” said Johnny, reloading.
“But how do we get rid of them? Other than just going around shooting and clubbing each one?”
“I don't have enough shells for that.” Johnny thought for a second. “I have an idea.” He raced into the house and came back out holding a bucket full of water. “I saw this in a movie once,” he said. He tossed the water on the clowns. Nothing happened. The clowns turned toward him and started to growl. “I don't understand. It worked in the movies.”
“Have you prayed at church recently?” asked Jason.
Johnny hung his head. “No.”
“No? How could you? You know that celebrities can't survive without our constant and unending worship. No wonder your idea didn't work. The power of Hollywood is not with you.”
One of the clowns lunged and Jason smashed his bat across its head, sending it tumbling into the other clowns. Johnny raised his shotgun again and started firing into the group.
A police car rolled by, its lights flashing but its siren silent. Two big red shoes were sticking out the driver's side window and a clown's body was obscuring what was happening within. Two smaller clowns clung to the hood of the car. The car bumped over one of the clowns crumpled upon the ground, shaking one of the clowns loose from the hood.
Clowns on Parade by Salubrious Farlight / Humor / Horror have rating 4.5 out of 5 / Based on18 votes