Send in the Clowns
By Elliot Cowling
Note: This is a PREQUEL to The Clown, the Paint and the Turbines
I never liked the circus. Not for any particular reason. I just wasn't a fan of all that theatrical side of things. My little brother however was a huge fan of the circus. It had taken up permanent residence around five miles outside of our town. It was in fact the opening day of the circus. Advertisements seemed to have appeared from nowhere. It was situated within a large cut down field, next to another field full of wind turbines.
So my parents gave in to my brother's constant whining and we went out around one in the afternoon to the circus. He wouldn't shut up as we approached the main gate. We were greeted by the startling image of a wide mouthed clown on a large sign just outside the gate. Underneath were the words:
Big Top's terrific circus! It's so fun that even your parents won't want to leave!
Um. Right. Well that clown doesn't know me at all. After we parked up my brother jumped out the car and ran towards a cotton candy stall. He is five years old so what should I expect?
“Don't go running off Marcus!" my mum shouted at him.
Marcus kept bugging me to go on all the rides with him. My dad kinda forced me into it to keep him company. By the time I'd got off the carousel, I'd felt like I'd come down with an illness. I felt that sick. It seemed like every ride here was turned up a notch to intentionally make the children spew candy and chocolate all over each other. They also played this ominous music that sounded like something you'd hear in a nightmare in a horror film. There seemed to be a calliope round every corner, blaring out a hideous tune from its rusty pipes. It was around 3:00 PM now, and my mum called me over to tell me that the show was about to start, and that I had to accompany my brother to it because it was a 'Kid's only show'. What show? "Oh, that show... the one where people fly out cannons and all that rubbish!" I thought. The one where elephants parade left to right and are secretly thinking 'You're all a bunch of assholes'. I was not remotely interested. Surely that's not remotely safe, right? A children's only show? Parents or guardians aren't allowed in? I didn't think much of it at the time.
I was dragged along to the show and Marcus made sure we had decent seats. It seemed like half an hour before the thing started. Finally, the curtains drew back, and out came a man in a red suit with beige coloured trousers, and a black top hat. He also had a black cane with a golden head of what seemed to be monkey on it. He spoke with a French accent. It was the ringmaster.
“Ladies and gentleman! Boys and girls! I welcome to you to Big Top's terrific circus! It is so wonderful to see so many people here on our opening day! We have got plenty in store for you... and your parents here this afternoon! Marvel at the amazing Ernie the Elephant! Gasp at the beautiful Miss Melody! And cheer for the one and only Dangerous Don! We have plenty of treats for you this afternoon and this evening so let the show commence!”
An uproar from the crowd made me jump. The entire tent erupted with applause. I was probably the only person there who didn't clap. It looked like I was the oldest person there to. I was seventeen. The tent only allowed under eighteens in it, which was very, very peculiar.
I sat there and closed my eyes while Marcus cheered everything that was going on. Every time I closed my eyes to sleep (yes I was that bored), the crowd would wake me up so there was really no halfway. 'Just grin and bear it' I thought. I sat through elephants parading around in circles, tigers jumping through hoops, people firing themselves from cannons, tightrope walkers and I still remained bored.
“Up next we have the wonderful Miss Melody singing her wonderful tune 'Peaceful Night!' ”
Out came a stunningly beautiful woman wearing a sparkly red dress and high heels. Her hair was long and blonde. It seemed to trail down her back. She sang a gorgeous song that for the first time in the whole show, kept the audience silent. We were in awe of her beauty. When the song finished, the crowd went back to their usual self and filled the place with cheers and whoops. She turned around and slowly wandered back behind the curtains.
“Our final act this evening are some special guests. They have came from miles away today just to be here so can you please welcome, Jane and Andy Jones!”
My eyes widened. Marcus and I looked at each other with the same expression. He said mum and dad's names. The red curtains drew back and, to my surprise there they were. I looked in shock as they wandered towards the audience smiling and waving. What on earth were they doing in here! Mum looked around and we made eye contact. Her eyes were red and bloodshot as if she'd been crying her eyes out. Dad looked just as upset as Mum. They were holding hands and struggling to smile. Something was wrong. Terribly wrong. The crowd went quite and the ringmaster gave my mother a microphone.
“I'd erm... I'd just like to say erm... that... it is a great honour to be here... and erm I'd like to announce that tonight, we are redecorating the tent. I'd like to say to my sons if I may... get out of here... now.”
The ringmaster looked at someone behind the curtain. I couldn't see who it was, but I have a feeling that my mum wasn't meant to say that. As she did, I gulped, I grabbed Marcus' arm and the ringmaster marched forward, grabbed the microphone and pushed them back.
“Erm let's hear it for Jane and Andy Jones!”
The audience did not applaud. They chatted amongst themselves, intrigued by what had just occurred. I looked at Marcus, and I leaned in closer to his ear.
“Don't let go of my hand,” I whispered.
I stood up with him and we awkwardly shuffled past moaning audience members to get to the exit. The ring master glared at me whilst addressing the audience. I didn't hear what he was saying. After making our way to the exit, we hurried outside and looked left to right, trying to spot a backstage entrance so we could find our parents. My phone vibrated in my pocket. It had turned off because it was out of battery. Just my luck.
I led Marcus past smiling parents waiting for their children. They seemed quite content eating and drinking and chatting whilst their children were being entertained by daredevils. The eerie music was still blaring out across the circus. After avoiding about twenty piles of vomit and a hundred cans of drink on the grass, Marcus and I could not find any sign of an entrance,
“Maybe they're back at the car?” I questioned.
“What's that?” Marcus asked.
“What's what?” I replied.
“Over there? That wooden door by the tent.”
I looked to where he was pointing. Joined on to the main tent was a wooden exterior. It was rectangular shaped with a tin roof. We wandered over and I proceeded to knock on the door.
“Hello? Excuse me we're looking for our parents. Hello?”
There was lots of banging from within. I could make out a dull moaning coming from behind the door, but no-one came to answer it. I tried knocking ten times or so. Nothing.
“Look they're probably at the car,” I said.
Suddenly, hundreds of children burst through the doors of the tent. An announcement came through the speakers.
“Ladies and gentleman. The park will be closing in ten minutes. Thank you.”
This was turning into something I had dreaded for a long time. Losing my loved ones when I needed them.
There was no security in this place. I saw no security guards the entire time I was there. The best thing to do was ask a performer of our parents whereabouts, but I didn't see any and I couldn't get backstage to ask anyone.
“What I think we should is g---”
Everything went black.
And so began my night at the circus.
When I woke up the first thing I noticed was the pain in my head. It was a violent throbbing right on the top of my head. The sky was pitch black. It was night. The moon wasn't even in the sky. Some security lights were on however. I sat up and processed everything that was going on. I was in a cage. One of the animal cages. On the other side, there lay a tiger, but it was dead. I nearly puked at the sight of it. It had been mutilated from head to paw. Slashes across its stomach, teeth removed from its mouth. Flies were all over it like a bout of Chicken Pox. Tied around it's neck was a piece of string with a note attached. The note read:
Needs to be darker
I looked at the cage door. I noticed the lock. It looked rather rusty. I tried pulling it for some reason but to no avail it didn't open. That's when I heard a shuffle coming from some distance in front of me.
There was only some light coming from where I was looking, but from round the corner, there came a silhouette. I didn't move a muscle. It stood there for a good minute or two and then walked back the direction it came. Another minute went by and the thing emerged again. I could hear a whining sound coming from it's direction. That's when I noticed it was dragging something. No. Someone. Now my view was quite simple. In front of me in the distance was the main tent, or the Big Top as it's known (hence why the owner's name is Big Top). Below it was a long rug or carpet of sorts that spread it in all different directions. One of them led to me. I noticed that they were coloured red.
The figure now came from the left of my view and the air was filled with the loudest shouting a person could hear. The person the figure was dragging began to protest.
“Help! Please anybody! Help me! Who are you! I just want to see my wife and children! Let me go!”
This man was scared absolutely shitless. I could make out his hands digging into the carpet to stop this figure from dragging him. They both went into the tent. I frantically tried to get out now. I even attempted picking the lock with my nails, I was that desperate.
The lock chain broke and the door gently swung open. I guess it was rusty after all. I crawled out the cage cautiously and looked around. Where's the way out! I didn't know what to do next. I was so worried about myself, that when I realized I needed to find Marcus and my parents, I started to cry.
“I don't know what to do anymore,” I whispered to myself whilst weeping.
The speakers had turned on throughout the circus. What I heard made everything slightly more disturbing. Classical music. Frederic Chopin's piano piece 'Raindrops Prelude' echoed between the confines of the circus. All of what happens next, I will never forget for the rest of my days. The calmest voice followed by the most haunting of screams, came through the speakers.
“Right darling. What I need you to do is just keep calm. You're helping me decorate so you shouldn't be upset.”
“Please get me off of here! I didn't do anything! Please!”
“Well let's see here.”
“Wonderful colour darling. Got an almost pink hue to it. Right, erm, ok then well that can do for the side beams over there. That will do nicely.”
“Stop this! Please! Ahh! It hurts! Please just stop!”
“Don't be so loud please. I thought you had a headache anyway?”
“There we go. Oh you head does look vile, doesn't it. Right. Melody could you clean this up for me darling. Thank you.”
I stood in sheer horror at what I just heard. The piano stopped playing for a about thirty seconds, then it continued. This time, Beethoven's 'Moonlight Sonata' was playing. Suddenly, the figure came bursting out the tent. It saw me instantly.
“My child! What are you doing? I thought you were locked up? Oh well. Come here at once,” it demanded.
I found myself listening to the thing. Why would I do that? What came over me? As I walked closer, it became apparent who was conversing with me. It was a clown. But it wasn't just a standard clown. It was the one on the sign outside of the circus. Red nose. Red shoes. Red trousers. White feather on top of his hat. The bottom of his face was painted blue. His lips were white. This was Big Top. He spoke to me.
“I've never seen such an obedient child! Now don't worry. I don't hurt children. I want you to come inside with me and stay there. Don't speak unless spoken to and try to be good, ok? Excellent.”
He grabbed my shoulder and forced me to walk along the carpet. I know why it was red now. I didn't want to even have the slightest thought about it.
“Don't you just love that copper smell?” he asked.
“Oh yes, I erm... it's lovely,” I struggled to say as the putrid smell clang to my nostrils. I dare not disagree with him.
“The uniform I'm wearing is for extreme redecoration,” he claimed.
I looked up at the ceiling of the tent. I wretched after I saw what was there, and as I did so, Big grabbed my collar of my shirt and pulled me back up. Hanging from the ceiling were dozens of hooks. Some of them had bodies dangling from them, and others were yet to endure the same fate. Underneath each hook, there was a paint pot. The ones below the bodies were full. All the others were empty. Big shoved me onto the audience seats and he walked over to a rack in the centre of the room.
“Now what I want you to do, is every time a paint pot gets full up, is to paint the beams on the sides for me ok? I'll give you a ladder and you can gradually work your way up.”
From behind the curtains, Melody the singer emerged with a ladder. The expression on her face was one of disgust.
“Well say thank you then!” Big snapped.
“Th-th-thank y-y-you M-M-Melody,” I stuttered because I was so nervous.
Big Top wandered outside, and I assume over to another cage, because a minute or so later he dragged in another man. The guy was probably in his twenties, and he was tattooed from head to toe it seemed. He wore a black tank top and blue jeans. Big lifted him onto the rack, and he tied the man's feet, while Melody tied the man's wrists.
“Boy. Get over here please,” Big Top demanded.
I shot up and got there as fast as possible to avoid the same fate as these people. The man didn't speak. He merely breathed heavily. Big Top addressed me again.
“You see this one's got markings on him. I don't like them that way.”
With that, Melody handed him a carving knife, which Big plunged into the man's throat. He pushed it in deeper and deeper, the man all the while choking on his own blood. It was pouring out of him like a fountain. Big was killing parents. He was murdering some of the parents of the children who had attended the show!
“Slip away. That's it. That's... it...” he said with a struggle.
I cringed and wretched again.
“Oh, we might as well use his blood. There's so much of it, and besides, it's a gorgeous colour. Melody can you squeeze that out of him darling?”
She wandered over and dragged him to the floor. She propped his head up on the ladder and the blood began to pour into one of the pots. Melody kept squeezing just beside the wound to get the “goodness” out of him. Once she finished, I knew what I had to do. Melody handed me a brush.
“Oh no that brush is starting to go all funny Melody. No no, let him do it with his fingers.”
I gulped. There was no way in hell that I would ever perform such a ghastly task. I looked at him and I saw the look in his eyes. I just burst into tears. I had no choice. I would die if I disobeyed him! My family could die! What if they were already dead? I found myself asking these questions as I began dipping my fingers into the pot. I was on my knees, and in my mind I was begging for all this to stop.
“You might find a chunk of something in there but it's all goodness so don't worry.”
This part of the story was a blur for me. My mind seems to have blocked it out. I remember the feeling of blood meandering through my hands as I brushed the beams ever so gently, but that is all. How long I did this for I am not clear, but Big kept killing victim after victim. This was no circus. It was a slaughterhouse. He was redecorating his playground. Melody must have hung the bodies while I worked. The next thing I remember was Big's booming voice declaring:
“We're on the last one now Melody! My oh my you're nearly done my boy! Keep it up!” he shouted excitedly.
A few agonisingly long minutes later, he strolled back in. He wasn't dragging anyone. He was walking with someone. I leaned in closer to see who it was. No. It couldn't be him. Big had entered the tent, but with, well, with Marcus. Marcus' hand was engulfed by the dripping wet gloves that Big wore. He was holding his hand. How could this monster hold my fucking brother's hand! He was speaking to him as if he was his father.
“Now here we are sweetie.”
“Where are mummy and daddy?”
“They're waiting for you Marcus don't worry. Now you're gonna help me paint Marcus if that's alright with you. You'll be helping me out massively Marcus. You'll see your mummy and your daddy if you do!”
“You're a star Marcus!”
Big shot his eyes up at me and stared as he walked slowly with Marcus. If looks could kill. He was going to kill Marcus. Something within me snapped.
“You even fucking lay your hands on him!”
“No, I'll use a tool, darling. I'm not an idiot.”
I began climbing down the ladder and Melody ran over to me. As soon as I reached the bottom, Melody lunged towards me. I retaliated and she fell to the floor.
“Move and he dies,” Big shouted.
I turned slowly. The knife was held above Marcus' stomach. I stood there frozen to the spot.
“You can't do this... please... you can't...”
“Maybe your mother shouldn't have informed you to get out. Maybe if she kept quite like the other adults I had taken, Marcus wouldn't be in this situation.”
Melody stood up now and ran to Big's side. They both gawped at me with threatening eyes.
“Please. For the love of God don't do this!”
“I'm sorry,” the clown said.
He lifted the knife up ready to stab.
Before the clown could go any further, Melody spun around, snatched the knife from his grasp and threw it to the ground. She then spun around and shouted:
“Run boys! Through there!”
She pointed towards a side door that led out to the parking lot I assumed. Marcus broke free from Big's grip and ran with me. Melody ran with us and Big screamed with anger. He must have had a music player or something because when we left the tent, Debussy's “Reverie” began to blast out through the speakers
“I want you to paint!”
With that, we ran through the door and round the corner. There was the entrance. It was right in front of us. As we were running, Melody pulled some matches from her pocket and a matchbox. She lit them and threw them at the fence by the entrance gate. Fire engulfed the wooden fence and Big stormed through the gates.
“No! Look what you've done!”
We ran. We didn't have a destination. We just ran. We went into the fields in front of us. The turbine fields. The fire was blazing now. It had reached the tent. That's when I noticed. There were children. Children were sitting in the fields. I assumed that these were the children who lost their parents. The sight was so sad. One girl was talking to herself and playing with a blade of grass. I had to do something.
“Follow us! Quickly come on we have to run!” I shouted.
“You'll never run from me!” his voice echoed across the fields.
The night sky now shone with light as we ran for our lives. The children were following us. Melody ran behind us, and she kept shouting at the children for them to keep going. The atmosphere was deadly. I stopped. The others continued running. In my mind, thoughts of my parents kept replaying. I thought of when I was a child. When I was playing in the house. My mum picked me up and kissed me on the forehead and told me she loved me. I thought of when my dad built me the playhouse in the garden. I stood there in silence. I turned around. I saw the sadistic clown now walking in the dark, a dripping blade in his hand.
“Look what you've done. The lot of you. All you had to do was paint. That's all I asked you to do!”
“Where are my parents!” I shouted.
“Oh, they were fed to the tigers hours ago my dear. Sorry for leaving it this late! Hahaha!”
Melody came running up from behind. Marcus stopped with the other children on the hill behind us. Big cast his eyes on her. I began to weep uncontrollably. Big gazed at her.
“And you. Why you Melody? Oh, nobody does anything properly anymore.”
Melody shoved me backwards and stood in front of me. She had a small blade that she drew from her pocket. From her other pocket she drew a paint brush. She lifted the blade to her other arm and she sliced at her arm. I gasped in horror.
“Melody what are you doing!!”
She turned to me.
She immediately turned back round and she began to place the paint brush on her arm. She started to stroke her wound with it. I could hear her struggling in pain as she did this. What was she doing! She then pulled her sleeve up more and began to paint her arm.
“I'm painting. You can't do this Big.”
Big's eyes widened.
“No no no... this... is not right. I can't even touch you. That paint is so beautiful on your skin.”
I then lifted up my sleeves and Melody then painted my left arm. I cringed at the sight and feel of her blood running down my arm.
“You both look so wonderful. The colour is beautiful on you.”
Melody began to march forward.
“This stops now,” she said calmly.
Melody then snatched the knife from Big, and she plunged it straight into his stomach. She took a step back, and then when Big finally processed what was going on he took a step back. He looked at the gaping hole in his outfit and he gripped the knife.
“You look so wonderful Melody.”
He yanked out the knife, and he then gracefully wiped it along his right glove. He then lifted his glove to his nose and inhaled deeply.
With that, he fell to the ground. And so did I. I collapsed to the ground.
The police statement
This is Officer Reynolds. Yesterday we interviewed seventeen year old Ryan Jones about what has been dubbed as “The Circus Incident”. We were sent over to the circus. We found thirty two human corpses located within the tent, along with five tigers. That morning, we found twenty two children, a woman in her early twenties, a seventeen year old boy (Ryan) and his five year old brother (Marcus) on our doorstep, covered in what appeared to be a manner of blood and other disturbing substances. We sent our lot over there immediately and what we found there was beyond belief. In my entire 32 years in the force I had never seen such a revolting crime scene.
We questioned Ryan that afternoon and he kept giving us the same response. “I've got to redecorate” he said. He said this precisely 11 times, and one officer claimed he had to leave the room because of the 'look Ryan gave him'. Despite this outburst he answered the questions as best as he could. All were questioned and Melody claimed she was blackmailed to 'take care' of the bodies. After the interview, the twenty two children were sent to their next of kin. Ryan was sent to his home and Melody accompanied him and his brother. She drove them home in his car at around 4:00PM that day. Seeing as their next of kin cannot be contacted at this time, and Melody is not a suspect in the case, we placed the children in her care for the time being. The evidence was reviewed that evening, and about 2:00 AM this morning, we got a call from Melody. Police rushed over immediately to the house.
We found Marcus Jones' body stuffed into a wooden wardrobe, with a sticky note attached to his forehead. It read I didn't need him anyway. Such a fresh colour. He suffered lacerations to his stomach, groin and legs. There appeared to be written in blood above the bed in his bedroom the words I love this job xx. Melody suffered no injuries. She claimed that Ryan "left her alive because he didn't need to paint with her." Melody also said that he was wearing a clown suit. This clearly shows signs of post traumatic stress disorder and the force is trying their very best to hunt down Ryan Jones and if necessary, shoot on sight.
It is still unknown how the circus appeared, and how the advertisements were placed around the town overnight. Melody said that she received a letter two weeks prior to the opening day offering her a job there to perform. She never went for an interview for anything of the sort. The performers we are still trying to contact at this time.
We have also been receiving calls concerning stolen paint pots around the neighborhood. After thorough investigation, we found a stash of them in the middle of Colebury Woods. This is the next part of our investigation regarding the whereabouts of Ryan Jones.
Also, we could find no trace of a clown outside the circus.
Written by Elliot Cowling
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