A clown with no need for the white pasty makeup of the dead, nor the crimson red around his lips. He was a beast of ancient magnitudes, buried in the depths of time where he had been conveniently forgotten. Myth, the man of logic cried. Legend, those with fear of possibility screeched. And vampire, that was the last cry. It came from a group that had either embraced the beast for what it was, or called it by the well worn name hoping it sensed their deep reverence and would leave them be. Fear was his greatest feast, blood was the obvious runner up.
Jaris the Clown was his stage name, and he had conveniently performed only one hour after the sun had set, never before, only after. It was a peculiar thing for most people perusing the small ads of clowns in their local phonebook, but he was also fiercely cheap and when gas prices soared one was forced to go to foul extents. Besides, the little booger was turning three, not like he’d remember it anyway. Except of course all children did, they never outgrew that morbid fear of the slightly twisted overly joyous mask of paint with the bulbous red nose demanding attention (respect) from the audiences that gleefully honked or merely watched as the clown did it itself. Surely, the audiences would say, no self respecting man would honk his own nose and paint his face such reds and whites. Surely.
It was, for Jaris the perfect mask, and the last resort for gaining that unintentional welcome that would allow him access to their homes. And not just that once, not even a self respecting three times, but as many times as the dark being should desire. Or thirst, he thought tasting the blood on his teeth. The child whose birthday it was, was off in the background crying fiercely.
The child’s father was an overly fat man with more than his share of life thrumming and beating throughout his constricting veins. The wife wasn’t far behind and beyond this, there were a half a dozen other warm bodied grownups to feast on. It was the perfect party.
The children, Jaris thought as he eyed them curiously, would survive this night. For now. The world in all its dark stretches and evil imaginings would see to their destruction in its own creative ways. Wars, famines, diseases of so many varieties, cruel leaders and liars dressed as politicians and priests. Oh yes, the world had its way of dealing with innocence.
The world was a Devil’s paradise; it was the savage garden, where serpents spoke and innocence was the last Eve, about to be raped with possibilities as night loomed on the horizon.
Night, Jaris considered, was the bastion of hell. Temptation threatened virgins with rebellious and overly lustful ideas in the darkness of night, and filled the would be murderer with dark voices. Night was after all, the great black ship where all the evil creatures sailed in one after a cruel ‘nother.
Dawn was swiftly approaching. Jaris rubbed his swollen stomach filled overflowing with the warm life of so many would be snobby middle class white collared folks. A life wasted? He hardly thought so, they’d likely steal from their companies and retire rich. Except of course the humble family that had in fact invited him. They were lower in middle class hiding behind credit cards hoping no one would see in and find them hopelessly wanting. Poor people wearing a clown’s mask all their own, especially when the credit card debts came pouring in and they couldn’t make payment on their big home.
Jaris turned, saw a wide eyed child with streaks of painful tears looking up at him. He looked down, winked and did the child the favor of honking his blood soaked rubber nose. It honked obediently, tearing the wild eyed child from his silence. The screams came back with a vengeance. Jaris seeing this threw his head back and laughed a demon’s laughter, filled with blood, spit and insanity. He walked out the front door and headed home.
“Hey Jim check this one out, it’s pretty cheap…”
“Still lookin’ hon?”
“Yeah, I think it’s only fair Harris grows up with a moderate fear of clowns, don’t you?”
“You’re such a twisted mother.”
Janice smacked Jim with a rolled up magazine that had been used on the mouthy little puppy they’d just gotten earlier this week. Another brilliant idea of young parents, a dog to grow up with their only child. Janice wore a grin that melted Jim’s heart as he sat down beside her and made a “gimme” gesture with his hands motioning for the phone book she was looking over.
Jim gave the ad a quick read, saw the price and nodded his approval.
“Fine by me, if you’re sure you can handle seeing a clown in the house all night.”
“Think it’ll be good for the family. You don’t think it’s weird though, night time only?”
“I’m sure if he was a psycho he wouldn’t advertise in the phone book dear.”
Janice eyed Jim as he leaned back in what surely must be the world’s ugliest chair. He gave the thin newspaper a pop that was both unnecessary and painfully annoying. He knew it, exactly why he did it in fact she thought.
“What?” He asked.
“You know damn well what, that drive me crazy.”
“What?” Jim’s grin grew wide as he gazed at her, the bright glaring light of the chair’s lamp blazing down on him.
“My father used to do that every Sunday. I swear, I think it haunts me more than that clown I saw at the circus when I was seven.”
“Janice, if you’re so afraid—“
“Don’t you even Jim, I need it. And besides, it’s like a rite of passage or something. Parents are sposed to scare the shit out of their kids.”
Jim raised an eyebrow and smiled heartily. This would be fun, his gaze said.
“Go on.” He encouraged her.
“Yeah, they’re sposed to scare their kids, lie to them, and then tell them the world’s a good place, nice and safe and everything. Except for strangers with candy and all that, but that comes later.”
“Got it all figured out don’t we? Glad I don’t have to do any thinking.” Jim’s laugh couldn’t restrain itself any longer. Janice was on the verge of snapping a comeback when Harris interrupted with a wail befitting of a three year old.
“Don’t even know why we’re doing this in the first place. He’s not going to remember it dear.” Jim called after her as she headed into Harris’s bedroom. She snapped a look at him that made him return to his paper without another word. Two things, his father had said, never give a woman a blank check and tell her to go shopping, and never pick a fight with no end. Jim obeyed the latter and instead, let her glare for a moment before continuing on her motherly duties of care and concern.
They called Jaris the clown a half hour later and made the arrangements.
The coolness of night crept into the ram shackle collections of Jaris’s homemade coffin. Pine, and nothing fancier. He kept it lodged in the corners of an ancient looking building’s abandoned basement behind a constricting boiler, long since dead.
Jaris stumbled out, stretched, and considered the night. He walked through the cobwebby isolations of what he had turned into his cathedral of solitude and damnation, looked over his schedule and recalled the party set for the night. A black current of cold electricity jolted through his lifeless heart, a devil’s mimicry of excitement.
He was no count as other more famous of his kindred had been called, he had in fact found no good use for money. It drew too much attention to his (mis)deeds and evil schemes. He hopped in one of the few things he had made the decision to buy from stolen money. A beat up Phlegm colored Hatchback that chugged and coughed it’s way to more life than Jaris felt in all his achy body. He was growing dry from a heavy sleep, all the life blood he had consumed had been soaked up and used however it was his body had used the damnable liquid that tempted him so.
He drove to the small apartment building that was frighteningly close to his own little abode. These people were poor and knew it, he thought as he pulled into a small parking spot between a behemoth SUV and a soccer mom’s fantasy, the van.
He reached into the glove box, retrieved the red bulb of a nose and popped it over his own upturned snout that was close to falling off from such ragged age and decay. Blood could only fight off rotting for so long, he guessed. No one ever told him what to expect from the afterlife, especially an afterlife of such hellish magnitudes.
Jaris leaned back and considered the brick building before him. It would be cramped, he thought, but perhaps if there weren’t enough bodies in this party he could take a stroll down the hall and feast his way back to the car. It could be fun, like old times of castles and villages. Ha, he thought as he pulled the rainbow colored hairpiece over his own thin wispy white strands.
Apartment 214, third door to the left situated just across from the ill fated 213 with two old staunchy gripes that paced behind the fortress of their closed door always peeping and spying hoping for just a snippet of interesting gossip.
It was them that watched the rainbow colored obscenity creepy its way down the tight excuse of a dimly lit hall on the third floor. He was counting off the doors and by God, Mary thought as she looked onward, if the clown didn’t look as if he were sniffing the air from behind that bright red bulb that hid the act only slightly.
His eyes met hers, and she knew, just knew he was seeing her despite the door, despite the peep hole’s one way looking glass, despite it all. He was looking at her, his eyes grinning with a hint of hell’s burning fire dancing demonically behind them. His mouth followed, his head tilted and the acknowledgment passed.
Mary removed herself from the door and paid the muffled noises of the party across the way no further attention. It was gossip, but gossip she no longer craved. She was filled with fear and despite her husband, Herbert’s continued attempts at getting her to tell what she saw, she sat frozen in concrete lifelessness. She shook, she moaned, but she said nothing.
Behind the door of 214, Janice was taming a stream of children as best as she knew how. She herself had been an only child and hadn’t had the convenience of helping any siblings grow. So the nightmare of screaming children, though not terribly new, was a beast she hadn’t quite grown accustomed to.
James was seated on the couch next to his good friend voicing their child like complaints at the absence of a cold beer. Janice had forbidden such on their child’s third birthday, as she had the other two.
“You’ve got plenty of time before and afterward to drink yourself into a fuzzy bliss.” She’d said, and it wasn’t that James was a drunk. He was rather, one of the few who could drew two and call it quits till next week. Unless something tough came along during work, then he’d have the rare weekly drink.
Janice eyed James as he and Frank were telling tales, complaining about beer and coming to an agreement about the bliss children enjoyed of not being to “remember any of this.” His eye caught Janice’s; his grin grew, and was slapped away with her shaking head of non agreement.
“You two being good?” She asked.
“Yes mother.” Frank said, a smirk on his own face. It was all in good humor, they had all rather enjoyed each other’s company through the years. A rare gem in a world gone black.
Three sturdy knocks came bleeding across the jovial scene. Every child stood stone cold for one horrific moment and cast a shivering glance toward the door. They were innocent and recognized evil in raw ease, and it was behind that door, their eyes said.
The parents shrugged off a shiver themselves but, in the end, paid it little regard.
Janice put down a bowl of candy on the end table dangerously close to James’s greedy eyes.
“Don’t even think about it mister.” She said swatting his hand as she went to the door. She looked behind her at Harris who was sitting in the living room floor.
“Think there might be someone here to see you big boy.” She said, the whisper of a smile on her face.
She unlocked the bottom lock, and gave the doorknob a gentle twist. The air felt dry and charged she noticed for reasons she’d never in the remainder of her life understand. The door creaked as it never had before, calling out to the dead her imagination screeched as the image of her child hood nightmare filled the space of her view in its entirety.
The image of a clown, red bulb, white pasty face, rainbow hair and baggy bloated silk jumpsuit in chaotic clashes of colors bled out of the void upon her. He was standing perfectly still, considering her, the epitome of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Or rather, her mind said, evil hidden in the would be joyous innocence of a clown.
His eyes were deadly still, and glared right into her soul. She felt cold all over except for her stomach, which was hot with nausea and demanded her full attention.
“Jaris?” She asked, fighting the bile.
He nodded without moving otherwise.
“Well, come on in, the little guy in the living room surrounded by the mountain of toys is the birthday boy. His name’s Harris…” Something didn’t feel right and she knew as soon as she had extended the welcome what it was. She had just opened the sanctity of their home to a monster of epic proportions. The type of monster she didn’t fully understand in that moment, to her it was the monster of a clown. But the night would reveal something older and darker. Some part of her motherly senses knew this though, and she found she couldn’t fight the repulsion any longer.
“Excuse me please, I’ve got to use the restroom.” She said, turning in a hurry and rushed to the restroom. James was up in a beat and heading after.
“Knew she shouldn’t have gotten a damned clown.” He said in a hushed voice.
Jaris eyed the expecting room of children and parents as his first elongated foot crossed the threshold. As if the atmosphere adjusted to the non physical weight of the malicious being that had entered, Frank (and two others) jumped feeling the pop of pressure in their ears and heads.
Cheryl, jumped feeling a jolt of electricity roar up through her spine.
Jaris was weaving the last of a trio of creatures from freshly blown up balloons. His hands were stretched out and unnatural to behold. Serpentine in appearance as they tied the knots and threatened the gentle life each time as one dangerous looking nail of midnight black darted deadly close to the surface. Every woman in the room sat on the edge of their seat waiting for that damnable roar of a balloon’s death. Thankfully it never came.
The children sat frozen in fear, watching the terror with a bulb bounce around in a cruel mimicry of life, casting off jokes with no humor and creatures that were sometimes horribly off and wrong. His accent was the most interesting thing he offered them, it was crisp with vivid foreignness, and raspy as their grandfathers, only much older.
The men eyed the show with growing boredom. Except that is, for the odd fear they felt first in their balls, then their guts. This guy had a story, and they sure as hell didn’t want to know it. They each in their own turn sized the clown up, just in case, their mind said. In case of what? Why, in case they had to take the crazed clown to the floor. It was male nature at its bleak finest.
Jaris was tall, bent backward at wrong angles, with a stomach bloated just slightly as if from starvation. His legs were long and skinny looking, from what little could be seen. His arms were ape like in their reach, and was wrought thick with a wiry string of hidden muscles. Once in a while a sleeve would creep upward, and to the fear of the watching eye, they’d see that same whiteness of his face.
Either this guy was hopelessly obsessed with the facade or he wasn’t pretending. This was the most terrifying, until Jaris turned his back on the crowd and began to speak. His words were slow at first, and reminiscent of a hypnotist. They quickly grew in speed threatening to orgasm in a rush of obscene foreign language that no one would understand.
“And now, for the grand finale. A thing of such epic genius, and dark brooding majesty that I assure you, your eyes have never seen, for if they should have, they would not be seeing old Jaris here as they have all evening. I present to your watching eyes, and curious minds and growing fears a thing to terrorize you for the short remainder of your miserable lives.”
Did that fucker just threaten us?
“You shall perhaps find some solace that I start with the adults and only then if I shall still feel the burning curse of a thousand unquenchable thirsts, shall I move to the children. Their life is innocent and like caffeine, but never enough to sustain. Yours however…” He was turning toward the on edge crowd.
My God in Heaven! Their minds roared in almost perfect unison. Before them the clown had shifted, not noticeable at first, but little things were indeed off. He had curled his lips back in a death mask, revealing animal like fangs pointing inward in four cruel angles. His eyes were slanted downward and glowing as if with a fire, dancing as one might expect a cat’s to do just before moving in for the kill of a mouse or squirrel. His hands were held up in the ancient inspiration of Nosferatu, nails pointing hellward and looking as if they had grown sharper and longer. Was such a cruel thing possible?
He was creeping toward them, one cruel step after another. Then, as if on cue, and fired by a black lightning, he was on them. One at a time.
His teeth sank in deep, killing at first, then sucking rat like one throat after another. The women screamed, the men fought, and in the end, none survived except for the children. To her credit, Janice clawed at those eyes longer than Jaris had ever expected her to find strength. Her life blood had a crystal like cut to it, and in its volumes Jaris teetered on drunkenness.
Their blood bathed the apartment, where there was any left to spurt or jettison outward. Three people almost escaped, he lunged on the center of their trio and toppled them all over. It was a vicious cruelty that, as so many times before, the children cried through. Their eyes beholding the gross gore of a nightmare they were sure to never get over.
“Mister clown?” The child’s voice tore the eerie silence as Jaris was walking to the door. He turned burning with rage and curiosity at being stopped by a child barely able to speak in the first place.
Standing boldly against the darkness was a girl of maybe five, hands on hips with blonde braids done perfectly on each side of her tiny head. Her eyes were teetering on the edges of red ruin from painful tears and a sadness Jaris took pride in giving the child. He in his own way thought sorrow a thing remembered easier than love. He considered the child for a lonely moment, then asked,
Copyright (c) 2008 by Gregory D. Welch