I may need to work on that title, but here is my new short story. I’m not too sure how eerie I was able to make this story feel, but I want to warn you this takes place in a freak show, so if you don’t like that kind of thing, or if you don’t like clowns, leave the computer screen now.
Halloween night was one of my favorite times as a little girl. Going to my neighbor’s houses and getting free candy, it was great. Once I hit sixteen there was no more trick or treating for me, but I found fun in horror movies and haunted houses. Then everything changed after I turned twenty-three.
I was living in an apartment with my friend, Hazel when she found a flier for a traveling circus of sorts. It was called the Haunted Wonders Extraordinaire and they specialized in “oddities and fears”. Hazel was psyched to go, and at the time, so was I. We read that they were “masters of illusions and make-up, creating every fear you could have”. It sounded good on paper, until we went.
It was just us, and as soon as we set foot on the grounds an eerie feeling swept over me. It was the night of Halloween and my room mate just knew we were in for some fun when we were greeted by the Dog Man at the entrance. He stood on two legs, had fur all over with a snout and wagging tail. The green eyes looked surreally human framed by his brown, shaggy fur. Hazel instantly smiled and scratched behind his floppy ears.
“Don’t touch him!” I shrieked, horrified, “You’re not supposed to interact with them like in the haunted houses!”
“You are allowed to interact with them, Tabbie. It said so on the flyer, just at your own discretion. He looks harmless.”
Grabbing my hand, we ran past him toward the tents. Food stands were everywhere, people crowded the narrow pathway between different tents. Signs were all over advertising what was inside. Alligator Skinned Man, Tea Cup Tara: The Smallest Woman Alive, Monkey Girl, Big Footed Man, Slender Solomon: The Skinniest Man Alive, Snake Girl, but what really caught Hazel’s eye was The Evil Clowns of Wonder. A huge tent was in the back, people flooding outside of it.
Releasing my hand, she dashed toward it leaving me behind. Afraid to be alone, I dashed after her, pushing through the packed in people. Once inside, it was like a different world. Dark and foreboding, clowns were behind bars and on stage performing. Snow white paint covered their faces, with fake blood or scars all around, and even normal clown patterns decorated a few of them. Some had sharp teeth, others long, sharp nails they used to try and swipe at you.
“Tabitha!” Hazel screamed, “Tabitha!”
Panicked, I pushed my way through the people. Where was Hazel? I hoped she didn’t try and touch a clown. She just needed to try and touch everything. The bodies were hard to wade through as they pressed up against each other, recoiling from an evil clown swipe. My named rang out again, this time higher pitched. Nobody bothered to look? But then I found her. In a far corner by a cage with only four other people around it.
She was fine. Up against the bars was a white faced clown, nose and lips painted red, bright orange hair hung down the sides of his head, and red painted around his eyes outlined in black. He snarled at us, revealing sharp, pointed teeth and reached his hand out. Without a second thought, I stood in front of Hazel, his long nails (which looked more like claws) brushed against my shirt. There was a stinging pain on my upper stomach were he scratched at me. Oddly, instead of another growl, his blue cat-like eyes filled with regret. The clown took a step back.
“Tabbie, are you okay?” Hazel asked.
“I’m fine. He didn’t rip my shirt or anything. Are you okay?” I turned to face her.
“Yeah, but I wanted you to come see this clown…” Her voice trailed off.
“What? What’s wrong?”
“He’s looking at you funny.”
Hazel just pointed past me. I turned to see the clown. He looked less evil, more sorry in a way. Slowly, he stepped toward the bars and reached his hand out. His nails just barely reached my sandy blonde bangs.
“I think he wants to see your eyes or something, Tabbie.” Hazel said, uncertainty in her voice.
“Why would he want to do that?” I didn’t look back, but kept my eyes on him.
“Maybe he’s sorry. I don’t think their goal is to actually hurt any of us. And he hurt you.”
“Oh, it’s okay,” I said to the clown, “You didn’t hurt me at all. I bet I don’t even have a mark on my skin.”
“What is going on here!?” Cried a voice.
Alarmed, I spun around to see an older man, with red reptilian eyes, and a left hand that resembled a big lizard’s clawed hand. He pushed past Hazel and I and addressed the clown:
“You are supposed to be scaring people! Not making contact with them!”
“Wait, mister!” I said, “He just scratched me some and I think he was apologizing.”
“He scratched you? Miss, I am Gerald Buyers and I am the ring leader and owner of this Extraordinaire and I apologize for this incident.” He slightly bowed, and took a key from his pocket, and unlocked the cage door, and grabbed the clown’s arm and pulled him out.
“Wait,” I said, “Mr. Buyers, it was an accident.” But he pulled the clown out of the tent through a back opening. I looked at Hazel, “Quick, we need to go explain it to him. I don’t want that guy to get fired…”
I ran through the opening.
“Hey, I think only employees can only go back there,” Hazel said, following behind me.
I didn’t care if it was for employees. He needed to know that it wasn’t meant to happen. It wasn’t the clown’s fault, it was mine technically. Behind the tents there was train, where Mr. Buyers and the clown boarded.
“Hey!” I yelled, running over to the train.
Taking a breath, I jumped onto the car, and looked inside. Dirt was on the walls under peeling wall paper. No furniture was on, and a rusted looking door on each side opened to a new car. A little uneasy, I stepped further on.
“Get out of there,” Hazel hissed from near the door.
“He’ll be fired,” I whispered, walking forward to one of the doors.
Hazel shrieked, then it was muffled. I ran over to the train door. A tall, muscular man, who was over seven feet tall grabbed Hazel and walked over to the left along where the train is. She kicked and trashed around in his arm but he didn’t budge. I was too afraid to make a sound, but watched from behind. What could I do? My stomach twisted inside of me. Doing the only thing I could, I jumped out and slowly followed.
A few feet ahead of me, he stepped onto a train car. He must’ve let go of her mouth for I heard a scream, more distraught than anything I’ve heard from her. She was screaming words I couldn’t make out, but heard. My stomach felt like it was turning into liquid, but I ran over to the door. Hazel was sobbing and I heard:
“Let me out of here. I was just going to leave.”
Metal clanged against metal and there was a whimpering noise. Footsteps were pacing not too far from the door. Something big was trailing on the floor.
“Well, what do we have here?” Asked a familiar voice, “Oh, it’s you from the tent earlier.” He paused. “Where’s that friend of yours?”
“Bah-Back at the clown tent,” she stuttered.
There was a long silence, then Buyer’s said, “Mr. Wattski, go check the tent.”
That was all I heard. I turned and dashed toward the tent. After I made my presence clear in the tent, I’d go back and get Hazel. It wouldn’t be much help if both of us were stuck. It came to me. As I ran, I pulled out my cell phone. My heart sank as I saw the screen, there was an X on my bars. No reception at all out there. I stuck it in my pocket and focused on reaching the tent. It was about two feet away. With every ounce of speed I could possible use I practically flew into the tent – actually I stopped right into a person. A big person. And no, it wasn’t the giant, Mr. Wattski. I went face first into a fat woman, but she wasn’t just any fat woman.
“What were you doing back there?” Asked a deep, yet very feminine voice.
I took a step back, terrified, for she was the fattest woman alive…the one that worked there. “Lost,” was all that I could say. Actually, it was more like a squeak.
She frowned, “You look like you saw a ghost. Why don’t we go check,” she said, grabbing my arms and pushing me back as she went forward.
While walking, she roughly turned me around. Despite my efforts to not move my feet, she still pushed me forward. The giant walked toward us. He glanced over.
Without even stopping, the lady said, “A new addition to family tonight. Aren’t we lucky.”
I was effortlessly lifted onto the train car that Hazel was in. It wasn’t pretty in that car. Blood spatter was all over the place. A gurney was in the middle of the car, with old, rusty looking medical tools scattered around a tray near it, and even some on the floor. To the right there were bars from the top to the floor, making it a cage. Behind the bars was Hazel, her eyeliner streaked her pale cheeks. Next to me, in front of the bars was Buyers. His red eyes looking menacingly down at me.
“Welcome.” He said, “What to do with these two trespassers?”
“Why not make them clowns?” Suggested the fat lady, “We don’t have female clowns.”
“But we have so many clowns. They could be living dead girls. They are the easiest and most painful.” He said, then he looked up at the fat lady, “Leave us be. I shall think of something.”
He looked at me, then Hazel, and then picked up a wooden bat from the floor. All I remember is he held it over my head, then everything went black…
When I came to, my wrists and ankles were strapped down, and I was in a dress. I wasn’t even sure if I was still normal. I looked to my right at the makeshift cage only to see that Hazel wasn’t there. Neither was the ring leader. The restraints were painfully tight and with every attempt I made to pull a wrist free it just hurt more. I was alone, afraid, and stuck. Mixed feelings of sorrow, fear, and even anger burned inside or me. All I could do though, was close my eyes and tell myself not to cry.
Laying there, I understood that the Extraordinaire wasn’t just “make-up and illusions” as people claimed. It was very, very real. And Hazel was probably already an attraction. My heart ached not knowing where she was or what happened to her. What would happen after everyone noticed we were missing? Would it be too late? The train would probably be packed and out of the state by the time someone came looking. There was also the chance that we didn’t look like Hazel and Tabitha anymore. We were just two freaks part of the traveling show. I gave up thinking and just stayed still.
When you know someone is there because you can feel them standing near or watching isn’t a pleasant feeling. But I felt it not too long after I closed my eyes. At first I was afraid to look because it could’ve been that Buyers man. But fingers gently parted my bangs. Whether it was surprise or fear I’ll never know, but my eyes snapped open to see the blue eyes of the clown. Before I could make a noise, his hand covered my mouth. I couldn’t see his other hand, but the pressure on my left wrist was going away.
That’s when I realized it. He was trying to free me. In that moment, when I looked into his eyes, I saw all of his pain and sadness. He understood what was going on in my head, what it was like to be in this position. His hand left my mouth as crouched down to undo my ankles. I shakily stood, his hand gently holding mine. Nervously, I touched my face, arms, legs, and around my chest and stomach. I wasn’t changed into anything yet.
“What happened to you?” I quietly asked.
He pressed his finger over his lips, and led me to the door on the other side of the train car. As we ran through the other train car, I couldn’t help but feel a connection to him. Maybe it was just an “in the moment” thing or the fact that he was helping me escape, but I truly didn’t want to leave him there. I couldn’t remember what some of the other cars looked like, but they were empty. It mean the show was still going on. We exited a car, and that’s when I heard something by a tent. Muffled at first, but I decided to get closer. The clown’s grip lightened, but he kept his hand on mine.
“…just what every kid dreams. To join the circus. Especially for a young girl,” he paused, then continued, “born with no arms!”
People were oh-ing and ah-ing. Some people laughed. Right then, I wanted to run into the tent, because I knew it had to have been Hazel. But I didn’t run in. He wrapped his arms around me, almost like a hug, to hold me back. I looked up as he shook his head.
“Okay,” I whispered.
We stood, and ran again to the edge of the grounds. The gravel parking lot was a few feet to the right. He took a messenger bag off from around his shoulder and handed it to me. Opening it, I saw my clothes and shoes inside along with my car keys.
“What’s your name?” I asked, no louder than a whisper. I just needed to know who saved me.
All he did was point inside the messenger bag. I moved my clothes and saw the name “Aaron” printed inside.
“Aaron? Is that your name?”
“Why can’t you speak?”
He loosened the collar of his shirt and pulled it down to reveal a scar going across his throat.
Shocked, I gasped, “He cut you? So you couldn’t speak? Does he do that…to everyone?”
He slowly shook his head.
“How does he make them listen to him?”
Aaron shrugged, then mouthed out words to me.
“Suh-side. Affects? Side affects? Experiments?” I hoped that was what he mouthed. It was only those words, but he shook his head. It hit me, whatever he did to them made them listen in the process. “Their obedience comes from being experimented on like that? Like a psychological break down of shorts?”
He vigorously nodded again.
“But it doesn’t work with the clowns? That’s why you guys can’t talk?”
Another nod, then he took my shoes out from the bag and handed them to me. He waved his arms toward the parking lot.
“You want me to leave?” I asked, putting my socks and shoes on.
Aaron gave me one nod.
“Come with me. You need to leave.”
Sadly, he looked down, then shook his head.
“Please,” I pleaded, looking at him. I didn’t want to leave him here. Not after him risking everything to get me out.
He just shook his head again.
Normally, I don’t ask people I just met to run off with me, but there was something there. I just couldn’t leave him here. I wrapped my arms tightly around him in a hug, “You must come with me, Aaron. If that man finds out what you did he’ll do terrible things to you, won’t he?” Right then, I felt tears prick my eyes, “I’m going to repay this debt and save you. Save everyone, but you need to leave with me.”
I looked up at him, a tear streaming down my face. His eyes looked torn. Deep inside, I knew he felt that same connection I felt to him. Was it love at first sight for him? Was that why he looked apologetic after scratching me? I wasn’t sure. He hugged me tightly back. Gently, I felt his lips brush against my cheek in a soft and gentle kiss. Something he didn’t look capable of.
He gave me a push toward the parking lot. I understood. He wouldn’t come with me, nor would he let me stay. As much as I longed to take him away from this, I wanted to help everyone from that hell.
“Aaron,” I said, and his eyes teared up, “I will find a way to save you and everyone. You won’t be stuck in this prison forever. I promise.”
Then I really did something out of the ordinary for myself. I closed my eyes and brought my lips to his and kissed him. I took a step back. He smiled the only way he could, showing his sharp teeth. I smiled back, and ran off to my car.
I heard a dog’s bark in the distance. There were yells. Some in horror, others in amazement, there was even one in anger. That wasn’t going to be the last time I saw the Haunted Wonders Extraordinaire. Next time I leave it, there won’t be one.