Have you ever been to one of those low-budget local amusement parks? Growing up, my family didn’t have the money to take me and my brothers to Disneyworld like we always wanted. Instead, we had to make do with the run-down rust factory called “Slappy’s Happy Place”.
It was the usual fare for a small time attraction. There was a funhouse with a mirror maze inside of it, a carousel, and some assorted games like the one where you try to knock over milk bottles by throwing a baseball from several feet away. The mascot of the place was a cartoon clown with green hair, red face paint, and wide open blue eyes that would seem to stare into your soul whenever you looked at them. Unfortunately for me, his image was plastered all over the park.
The day started out normal enough. We played some of the games, which I was pretty good at. I beat my older brother in ring toss and my younger brother in the milk bottle game. Of course, that was by comparison. I now know that those games are rigged so that you don’t really win. But it was better than riding on some boring carousel that barely feels like moving.
Our parents were keeping an eye on us from the shade as they tried to beat the summer heat. The place wasn’t very crowded, but we weren’t the only kids there. About a dozen families roamed the park that day. But judging from the expressions on some of the other kids’ faces, Slappy’s was pretty far from being their “happy place”.
Then again, we weren’t exactly having the time of our lives either, but we were making the most of it. Danny, my older brother, suggested we go into the funhouse. I wasn’t against the idea, but my little brother Billy was scared of the dark. It wasn’t pitch black in there, but it wasn’t exactly lit up like Christmas either. The dim lighting did lend an eerie vibe to it, so I decided to stay with Billy.
“What a bunch of babies!” scoffed Danny “You afraid of a stupid clown? Fine, I’ll go in by myself and you two scaredy-cats can stay out here and cry about it.” Then he defiantly strutted into the funhouse, as if parading his bravado over our concerned skepticism. I was eight years old at the time and he was twelve, so I couldn’t have stopped him even if I knew what was going to happen.
Well, nothing happened for a while and that was the problem. We waited for what must have been no less than half an hour. I thought he would have come out by now, probably with that same confident stride he walked in with. But there was nothing. Other kids went into the funhouse and came out mere minutes later, yet somehow Danny was nowhere in sight.
I thought he might be playing a prank on us to take advantage of our fear. By simply waiting inside until we could muster up the courage to go in and look for him, he could then jump out of some corner and scare us half to death. But would he really wait for almost forty five minutes? That wasn’t likely because even he didn’t have the patience for that.
Our parents were starting to notice his absence as well, but they were a little too “sure that everything’s fine” to get concerned about it. Perhaps I was projecting my own fear into the situation and less time had passed than I thought. I suppose it’s also possible that he was lost within the maze. Either way, I was done waiting and decided to go in after him.
Reluctantly, I set foot in the darkened labyrinth of literal smoke and mirrors. At the time, I didn’t know what a dry ice machine was, so I was more than a little nervous about it. With each step, I braced myself for the inevitable scare. I searched for several minutes, and found nothing.
I wandered through seemingly endless corridors of dimly colored lights, seeing my own reflection from every possible angle. The mirrors created the illusion that the room was much larger than it actually was. They also made it extremely difficult to find my brother. I was beginning to think I must have been through the whole place a few times when I spotted the exit and rushed towards it to tell my parents that Danny was missing. Then it happened.
Just as expected, he jumped out from a corner wearing a green wig and a red clown nose. Simultaneously, I had to catch my breath and sigh in relief that he was okay. Finally, I said “That wasn’t funny.” He took off the accessories and said “Maybe not, but I got you good!” He was right, but it was getting late and we had to get home.
Later that night, Danny teased me with the wig and clown nose again. I asked him where he got them and he said “I took ‘em straight from Slappy himself!” I didn’t know what he meant. Apparently somewhere deep inside that maze, there’s a statue of Slappy complete with a costume wig and red rubber nose. I guess it’s the goal of the maze, like cheese for a rat.
Danny gloated about it some more until it was bedtime. I tossed and turned a lot, still thinking about that strange little park and the creepy clown associated with it. When I did sleep, I had a nightmare about being trapped in the mirror maze and hearing endless laughter. A figure appeared in one of the mirrors behind my reflection. I turned around and saw Slappy standing there with an evil grin on his face, and I was shocked back to consciousness.
The morning sun was shining through my window and Billy was already up. I walked past Danny’s room and the door was open, as was his window. He usually sleeps in during the summer and keeps his door closed so as not to be disturbed. I went in to look and the room was empty. I didn’t even notice anything until I saw the mirror. Scrolled on it, in what was later determined to be red face paint, were the words “I AM WITH SLAPPY. NOW I’M HAPPY.”
Neither my parents, nor the police knew what to make of it. They searched Slappy’s to see if he went back there, but they found nothing. Eventually, they came to the conclusion that he was a runaway. My parents never gave up the hope of finding him. That was until last month when the body surfaced.
They found him floating in the river wearing that same damn wig and nose. The cause of death was an overdose of nitrous oxide aka “laughing gas”. Some asshole cop said “At least he died happy.” He immediately apologized, but I refused to accept it. Ten years after my brother went missing, he turns up dead. Then a few days later, Billy disappeared too.
That’s why I’m here, doctor. Both my brothers went missing because of that fucking clown and my parents think I had something to do with it! But I know the truth. It was him and he’s coming for me next. After all… I’ve got his nose!