Superstition is the bedrock of my family's beliefs. Ghosts, demons, monsters, etc. It's the dogma of the Miller family. I so envied the logical thinkers of the world who saw past such shams, but it wasn't until I'd aged that I came to the jealousy. I grew up in eastern Kentucky with the other corn-husking hill-jacks and rednecks. The Miller farm was passed from generation to generation, each devout in its religious practices and beliefs. So naturally, we went to church every Sunday morning and evening, we said our prayers before dinner and bed, and we read our Bibles in our free time. We even had a big statue of Mother Mary in our front yard.
Mom and Dad were very strict. We weren't allowed to watch scary movies, read scary books, or really anything that had to do with the supernatural. If I had to blame anyone, it would be them. Anyone who is forbidden to do something will only want to do that very thing more and more. I suppose that's why I desperately craved to explore what was in the dark.
Wireless internet arrived at my house when I was ten years old. At first it was monitored in the house, and advertised by Dad as a privilege. But as time went on, years passing by like nothing, my parents grew more and more relaxed. I suppose I had gained their trust after playing the role of the goody-goody in the house so well. Nobody suspected that I was surfing the web, searching some of the strangest things.
I had had Facebook for four years by the time I was a senior in high school. I was never addicted to social media like most people my age. I used it mostly to keep up with what was going on with family members who lived out of state, or the occasional funny picture or video I'd share on my wall. Nothing major. And I kept it on the down-low purposefully, as to lay under my parents' radar and evade provoking their uptight wrath.
But around September something began to catch my attention in my news feed. Story after story and news report after news report about strange sightings at night. Sightings of people alongside the road dressed as clowns. At first I didn't pay much mind to it, thinking it to be some kind of pre-Halloween college prank. But the fiasco had evolved quickly and substantially. Schools were being locked down and people sent in panic over clowns with machetes and guns. It was... weird. But I found it fascinating, to say the least. I followed all of the pages I knew would keep me updated on the clown sightings. Like after like after like. I was never so active on the internet. The sightings had started in South Carolina, I later discovered. They were an epidemic spreading all across the country, and I was drowning in interest. Eventually a story rolled past my widened eyes informing me of a clown sighting in my area, and my chest pulsed with a strange adrenaline-powered excitement.
It was the twelfth of September, I remember exactly, on the day of my greatest boredom. It was the weekend and the day after I had my predilection denied harshly and cruelly. I was kind of a geeky girl―and shy in every sense of the word. I guess it was because of the guilt I felt when flirting with boys, given that my parents forbade a boyfriend. That, and I am not the prettiest, nor do I try to be. I've always prided myself in being intellectual, studious, and hard working. I worried about those things rather than on boys or love. But human nature is human nature. There were some boys I couldn't help but develop feelings for. And Jake Harvey was one of those boys. I spent several weeks low-key crushing on him, devising how I might ask him out, until I finally said something to him. And that was when my heart was broke. Humiliation was the devisee of all of emotion to me thereafter.
That Saturday, I found my finger bounding through the list of suggestions on Facebook. I didn't have many friends, not ones I could trust to talk to about my feelings. On top of that, I was too full of pride. Honestly, I hated to expose any morsel of negative emotion to anyone. All I wanted was someone to talk to. Of course I'd never actually message anyone I requested, but the imaginary thought of talking to one of them was somehow comforting. Then―wham―my finger halts above a strange profile picture. It's a clown. A white-faced, red-lipped, bushy-haired clown. His name on Facebook was "Craig Klown". I hesitated, but only for a second before I sent him a request. I kept flipping, trying not to think of any consequences for what I had just done. The next suggestions were also clowns. Many with colorful or dark profile pictures, each with a clever name. "Queen Klown", "Samwise Klown", "Kenny Klown". They were in my suggestions by the thousands. I frantically requested each of them, excitement pouring into my gut like an electric circuit springing to life. It was a rush. A bad one, though.
My eyes flickered up to the clock on my wall. Tiredness welted my eyes shutting just as I took my gaze off my phone's screen. At two o'clock in the morning, my mind was in shambles. I pounded my pillow to a comfortable shape and laid my head down, setting the phone off to the side for tomorrow.
Ding. My phone sounded, perturbing my gentle slumber. My eyes flashed open and with a confused moan I rose from the body print I had left in the mattress to flash on the screen of my iPhone. Someone sent me something through Facebook Messenger. Odd. Really odd. I didn't talk to anyone. Through my blurred gaze I didn't pay much mind to the notification, but went straight to open the quaint little app. I was taken to a message sent to me by someone I had never met before. Their name at the top of the screen read "Prancer Daklown".
PRANCER: "Hi there Adrian! :D"
I deduced that, like most of the clown accounts, it was just some teenage punk looking for attention or trying to scare people. I took a look at his page, finding his profile picture to be some ugly looking clown with big purple hair. Inevitably, as I began to awake my hurt emotions flooded back into my being. My will to live was remembered back into its faint state. So, in my loneliness, I made a foolish mistake.
ME: "Uh, hi. Who are you?"
PRANCER: "My name is Prancer! I saw your post where you said you were feeling down so I wanted to cheer you up! We can be best friends!"
There was something unnerving about him right off the bat. Maybe it was just the odd friendliness. I couldn't really tell, but then again I didn't care as much as I should've. I continued to type to him.
ME: "Aight.. so whats up?"
PRANCER: "Just klowning around! Aahahahaha! Why?"
ME: "Just sitting here."
PRANCER: "Boo! Sounds boring! >_<"
ME: "It is."
PRANCER: "Well allow me to enthuse you! Do you like clowns?? :P"
ME: "Idk. Never really met one..."
PRANCER: "Oh goodness! Well I will make sure I give a good first impression! Ahaha..."
ME: "Where you at?"
PRANCER: "In the woods! They're wonderful you see! My favorite place to be. Especially at night. All sorts of things happen there. From campfires to hiking to deer hunting to four-wheeler riding to sex to forest fires to homicide to cult gatherings! Ahahahaha!"
At this point I was sure he was just trying to scare me. Sighing, I aggravatingly typed back, "not buying it". I could see that he was typing and I waited impatiently for many long moments. I figured he was coming up with some clever comeback or something. I really wasn't sure. But the silence was broke by a loud ding as his next message appeared on my screen.
PRANCER: "Buying what?"
ME: "I'm not scared of you"
PRANCER: "Ahahahaha, I'm not trying to scare you! That may come alone the way though, my sweetheart. Scaring is easy. Humans are so ignorant, so low on the evolutionary tree. Incapable of perceiving the workings of filth, darkness, evil. You are scared of what you cannot understand. And I understand it―that savagery is intellect."
ME: "So what are you trying to do...?"
PRANCER: "Do you like games????? I like games!"
ME: "I guess. What kind of game?"
PRANCER: "A guessing game. You will love! Here are the rules: Ask a question, then the next person does. Answer honestly. No running away. I'll start."
PRANCER: "What's your favorite color?"
ME: "Blue. What's yours?"
PRANCER: "Black! What's your favorite song?"
ME: "bad romance by lady gaga. What's your favorite movie?"
PRANCER: "Stephen King's It! Do you have any pets?"
ME: "Two dogs. What's your real name?"
PRANCER: "Calamity Alaric Prancer! :D Are you a virgin???????"
My chest began to throb. I felt my fingertips go numb for a second. This was beginning to feel more and more like one of those news stories, or an episode of Dateline. Why would he ask that kind of question? That was no concern to a total stranger, unless they were looking for some kind of promiscuity from me. I should've closed the phone right then. Blocked him. Something. But for whatever reason I didn't. Looking back, I guess it was just too much of a thrill. I kept replying, ridiculously interested and appalled at the same time.
ME: "What the hell? Why do you care?"
PRANCER: "I'm just wondering what your soul would taste like ahahaha. No worries!"
What? I didn't understand. Was that some kind of sexual slang that I didn't know about, or was he actually talking about eating my soul? Either way, it was repulsive.
ME: "My soul?"
PRANCER: "Why yes! You see, every soul has a different taste. Through the coppery taste of blood and flesh, there's always an exhilarating hint of a supernatural force, the soul. Sometimes it's blueberry, sometimes vanilla. Momma always told me the purer the person, the tastier the soul. And she was right! For some odd reason the souls of virgins tend to have a hint of raspberry in them. Delicious!"
ME: "You're saying you EAT people??"
PRANCER: "Oh yes! Don't you?? D:"
ME: Hell no you sicko
PRANCER: "Oh cmon! A guy has to get by"
ME: "By eating people? Have you really done that or are you still just trying to scare me?"
PRANCER: "Heavens no! I'm all serious, Adrian! Believe me. But to answer your question, yes! It's how I survive, donchaknow. I usually go for the little children who are too young yet to perceive actual sin. But when I get the chance I slash open a tummy or two and take a fetus! Those are to die for.."
ME: "okay, that's too far. Leave me alone."
I put my phone on airplane mode and went back to sleep, confident that it would've been buzzing all night. Teen prankster or not, that guy needed professional help. The rest of the night went by painfully and without rest, for with each passing moment I felt nonexistent eyes running down my entire body. Their gaze I worriedly felt caressing every inch of skin and article of clothing on me, running against my bed sheets, and fingering my long hair. In the last hour of the night was when I finally drifted off, only to have light pull my eyelids apart like pliers just sixty minutes later. I had forgotten about last night's creepy exchange until I set my phone off of airplane mode and watched a swamp of messages from Prancer flood my phone like Katrina.
I decided to take a look at this guy's page again and inspect it closer. His posts caught my eye immediately. Some of them expressing his frustration with humans beating up people who dressed as clowns at night. One of them started off abruptly and without context, giving what appeared to be a spinoff of the Ten Commandments. "Thou shalt love all clowns, for they are thy kin. Thou shalt not harm other clowns. Thou shalt not betray thy kin. Thou shalt not reject the clown name." The list continued, and with each commandment I felt more on edge.
The top of my screen flickered down with a ribbon displaying his latest message, which I tapped to read it in its entirety.
PRANCER: "Adrian... I'm sorry about what I said last night. It was uncalled for. Please message me back.. I miss you!! D: I know you don't understand me, but I really want you to... So I talked to my brothers and we're gonna let you come see our secret pages, if you want. Just click this:"
What followed was a long URL of random numbers and letters. I didn't understand what it was, and at first I figured it would've been some kind of screamer. Totally typical of someone like this, right? But after clicking it, I was brought to a black screen with blocky, bright purple text. The top of the screen displayed the title, "KLOWN KINGDOM". Underneath it was a navigation bar complete with a portal, forum, chat room, gallery, blog, and what I presumed was a video service, as it were titled "klowntube".
The front page was plastered with pictures of clowns. Clowns everywhere. Clowns in the woods. Clowns by the road. Clowns indoors. Clowns with people. And layers upon layers of text which I skimmed over, documenting ideologies and religion, and hate towards the mainstream religions. I remember saying to myself, "This... this is serious." All of the funny moments―the feelings of childish thrill in the face of the spooky shapes against the wall―were gone. My stomach turned over as I flipped through the gallery. Those... those images will never leave my mind. I see them every time I look into the dark.
I cleared my browsing history. I closed all of my tabs on safari. No more. God, no more. I was done. I placed my phone back on my desk. I had spent all Sunday staring at it and now my head was throbbing with that stale needle-drawn pain between my eyes. The glow of the digital screen still present when I closed my eyes. I tried to cool down by watching an episode of Grey's Anatomy, even though it hurt my eyes. It would still help me unwind. Anything to get my mind off of clowns.
I grabbed my phone.
PRANCER: "What a pretty statue!"
Tap, tap, tap.
My heart exploded. I felt the scratchy knocking against the window beside my bed. My head did a full ninety degrees as I saw the twiggy shadow passing through the curtains. Instantly I yanked them over and in the dim light of my night light I saw bushy, deep violet hair and creamy white skin. Black lips and dark shadows extending from primal, demonic, scarlet eyes. A big checker-pattern bow tie and a striped suit. A long, nimble, dark hand stretched towards my window and with an array of glossy black claws tapped against the glass. Seeing me, the wet black lips parted and the blood flow stopped within me as I spotted pointed teeth in its rotten mouth.
The giggling. God. Make the giggling stop.
PRANCER: "Glad you visited my site! Your IP was easy."
PRANCER: "Why did your parents bring guns out in the yard the other night?!?!? You know I don't like guns Adrian..."
PRANCER: "Adrian? Where are you!"
PRANCER: "Why did you kill yourself, Adrian? You know I loved you..."