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Sprinkles The Clown Says Happy Halloween - Paul Robinson

From Wikipedia: Coulrophobia is the abnormal or exaggerated fear of clowns. It is common among children, but is also sometimes found in teenagers and adults as well.

And as this ghastly Halloween tale illustrates, abnormal fears can definitely be taken too far.





Sprinkles The Clown Says Happy Halloween
by Paul Robinson


      Subtlety was the key to scary clown makeup. You wanted to come off as someone trying to appear harmless, but failing to realize how creepy they really looked. So even though Bret painstakingly applied the greasepaint to his face, he made sure it still looked wrong. 

      
      The big blue circles around his eyes were different sizes, but only slightly--just enough to notice. His painted red smile was a little too wide, bordering on the manic. He was tempted to go with sharp, angular eyebrows painted on his forehead, but decided he looked creepier without any eyebrows at all. A white skullcap covered his hair, but didn't quite match the color of his makeup. 

      As a final touch, he got a red bulb nose that was too small. It failed to completely cover the tip of his real nose and he planned to constantly adjust it, self-consciously.


      The clown outfit from the rental shop was a basic jumpsuit of green satin on one side and white with gold stars on the other, with a ruffled collar, oversize shoes and a tiny hat. All in all, it was pretty much what you'd expect to see an ordinary clown wearing. There would be no fangs, no prop axe or butcher knife. No fake blood. Just a clown that, somehow, didn't look quite right.
 

    Bret had two small spotlights set up on either side of the bushes next to the front door. One blue, one red. They would highlight him from below, adding to the creepiness of his costume.
 

    There were no other decorations except a jack o' lantern sitting on the porch steps. Bret picked a monstrous, lopsided pumpkin with boil-like lumps on its side. He carved a traditional face on it but used a knife that was too big to do a neat job. The result was perfect--as if someone grabbed the nearest sharp object and hacked away at the face in frenzy, not caring how it looked.
 

    When the kiddies showed up, he would point at the awful thing and tell them, "Do you like my pumpkin? I carved it myself." Then he would giggle, and nervously adjust his nose.
 

    Even his treats would be disturbing. Candy apples with razor-blade slits cut in the sides. Boxes of Milk-Duds with the corners slightly torn, as if they were tampered with. To top everything off, speakers placed in the window would play the cheesiest kid's Bible songs he was able to find. 

    God told Noah to build him an ark-y, ark-y...hey, don't be afraid, kids--I'm just a happy clown that loves bible songs!
 

    If that didn't scare them, he figured, nothing would.
 

    The plan was to tape the whole thing and put it online. Bret wasn't positive what he would do after that, but maybe the video would become a meme and travel across the web. All he'd need would be a few terrified kids fleeing from Sprinkles the Clown. With luck, some outraged parent would threaten to report him to the police, whereupon Bret would pretend not to understand what the problem was.
 

    Of course, temporary web fame was incidental. In the end, Bret was doing this because it was fun to screw with people's heads. And Halloween was the only time he could get away with something like this.
 

    Arlen tried to talk him out of it. He stood at the bathroom door as Bret finished applying his clown makeup, amused and incredulous at the same time.
 

    "Jesus. This is pretty twisted, man. Even for you."
 

    "Thanks."
 

    Arlen was a college friend, of sorts. They both hated their alma mater and cursed their time at the Johansson Institute of Art. It was the foundation of their friendship.
 

    "See, this is why you should've gotten into the fine art scene instead of graphic design. You could be a natural weirdo like me."
 

      Arlen pointed to himself, indicating his get-up for the day: a kilt, combat boots, a smoking jacket and long checkered scarf. A maroon fez perched on his shaved skull like an oversized nipple jutting out from a boob. Arlen normally dressed crazy like that--the fez was his only concession to the holiday.
 

      "Instead, you suppress things until Halloween. Then you overcompensate like a Normal."
 

    "Hey, my weirdness is genuine. Yours is just an affectation." Bret was trying the tiny clown hat on in the mirror, seeing which angle made it look more psychotic.
 

    "Yeah, well I'm not going to wind up on a sex offender list." Arlen shook his head. When Bret ignored him, he went on. "Have you thought about what you're going to tell the cops if they show up?"
 

     "I'll tell them to get lost. There's no law against trying to be scary on Halloween."
 

    Arlen laughed. "Yeah, I'm sure they'll just tip their hats and slink away. I mean, you realize intentionally freaking out kids is, like...well, the first thing people are going to think is you're some kind of pedophile."
 

    Bret, satisfied that his hat was perfectly adjusted, turned and held out his arms, giving Arlen his best deranged grin.
 

    "Ta-daa! Sprinkles the Clown is ready for business!"
 

    "Oh dear God." Arlen made a face and backed away, shaking his head. "John Wayne Gacy rides again."
 

    "Oh, don't talk about that bad, bad man. Sprinkles the Clown is your friend." Bret adjusted the red bulb nose, and then decided to practice his routine while he had an audience. He began to prance around in a horrid little jig, making bizarre hand motions and giggling in falsetto. He pushed his face close into Arlen's, leering wide-eyed.
 

    "How about you, little boy? Want to run away from home and be a clown?"
 

    Arlen backed away again, shuddering. "Ugh. I got to hand it to you--you're the creepiest fucking clown I ever saw. Gacy's got nothing on you."
 

    Bret changed personas in an instant. He snarled in a deep, angry voice. "I told you not to talk about Gacy! You say his name one more time and I swear..."
 

    Bret was pleased to notice the tiniest glimmer of fear in Arlen's face. He covered his greasepaint smile daintily with a gloved hand, and began mincing around once more.
 

    "Oops. Sorry, kiddies. Sprinkles just want everyone to be happy."
 

    Arlen just stared at him for a moment, speechless. "Dude, seriously--stop with the evil clown routine. You're freaking me out."
 

    "That's the idea. Like Lon Chaney said, 'there's nothing funny about a clown in the moonlight'."
 

    The plan was that Arlen would run the camcorder hidden in the bushes, at a good angle to tape the action. Bret's porch was partly obscured from the sidewalk, thanks to heavy foliage and a tall hedge that ran along the front of the house. You had to actually walk around the hedges before taking the long walk up to the porch, and in the dark it could be kind of spooky. No one would be able to spot Arlen.
 

      Bret was glad for the help with the camera, but there was another reason he wanted someone else around--he was reluctant to admit it, but something didn't feel quite right about Sprinkles. If Arlen wasn't there to keep Bret anchored, to remind him Sprinkles was just an act, Bret was afraid that…well, he might take things a little too far.


***

 

    The night went better than Bret hoped it would. Originally, he figured the word would get around quickly that there was some weirdo in a clown suit scaring the crap out of children, but all of his victims seemed totally unprepared for Sprinkles. Wave after wave of adorable kiddies, dressed as their favorite pop culture icons, washed up on his doorstep completely unprepared for the show.
 

    The whole thing worked perfectly. A group of trick-or-treaters would peer around the hedge, already a little cautious. They'd walk toward the porch but as soon as they heard the Bible songs the kids hesitated, and you could see the uneasiness begin. Sometimes, they would mutter among themselves as they approached, moving warily like a herd of cattle after catching a predator's scent.
 

      The monstrous jack o’ lantern sputtering light through its butchered face stopped more than a few of them in their tracks when they got close enough to for a good look at it. It seemed to set off warning signals in their little heads: That thing's not right. But still, on they came.
 

    Bret would be waiting at the door. The bell would ring and the door would open, slowly--just a crack. Then Sprinkles would poke his head out, grinning at them with wide, hysterical eyes.
 

      One half of his white head glowed blue, the other half red, raising unnatural purple shadows across the meticulous greasepaint on his face. Then he showed his teeth in a horrible grin.
 

      "Sprinkles the Clown says…Happy Halloween!" he would squeal in a shrill, girlish voice.
 

      That was usually enough to send the little ones running. Ladybug antennae bobbled, magic wands were dropped, and candy spilled from plastic pumpkins as they scrambled away in terror.
 

    The older kids stood their ground--mostly--but with very little confidence. Cries of trick or treat died in their throats. They shrank back from the apparition in the doorway, shoulders hunched and bags raised protectively in front of them. Then Sprinkles swooped out onto the porch and went into his routine, dancing and capering. Two out of three times, that would make the kids stampede.
 

      It was the unsettling way Bret moved--all herky-jerky, like a spastic marionette. And he would shoot out his gloved hands at them suddenly, as if he didn't have any control over his actions. Any normal kid got extremely creeped out. Fast.
 

      The parents, however, couldn't see very well from their vantage point on the sidewalk. All they saw was a goofy-looking clown pop out and startle their kids. They would laugh as the children screamed but Bret knew that up close, Sprinkles was a different story. From a distance you couldn't really see the unpleasantness of his distorted face or feel what was so wrong with the high-pitched voice.
 

      Every time the doorbell rang, Bret found his own personality easing out of the way. To make more room for Sprinkles. Because the best part…oh, the part that lit Sprinkles up and made him giggle with joy…was the fear. The fear truly made the character come alive.
 

      He could see it in the wide eyes behind the masks of the children--dread and revulsion. The screaming-in-the-middle-of-the-night-because-Sprinkles-is-in-my-closet kind of terror.
 

    Bret knew, deep in his heart, that for many years giggling, unpleasant clowns would be popping up in the children's collective nightmares. It didn't bother him at first. But Sprinkles was a little too good at scaring kids and after an hour, Bret hadn't even managed to hand out any candy and that was half the gag.
 

      Bret wanted to give a performance, damn it. This was art. He was an artist. And finally, just as the trick-or-treaters began thinning out, he got his chance.
 

      A small group of three kids had crept up to the porch, one dressed as Jack Sparrow, one as a ninja, and the other was some kind of alien. The ninja hung back, glancing over to an unseen parent on the sidewalk as the other kids approached Bret's door. Through the window Bret heard a man chuckling. Some laughing words of encouragement, no doubt. Eventually the small black-clad figure crept up to the porch as cautiously as a real ninja, tip-toeing around the ghastly jack o' lantern to join the others.
 

      This time when the doorbell rang, Bret tried a different tactic. Instead of the slow reveal he sprang out suddenly, with a candy apple in each hand.
 

      "Hello, kiddies!"
 

      The pirate and the alien jumped, stared blankly for a heartbeat, then took it on the lam. Screaming. The ninja, however, didn't move. He just stood there rooted to the spot, staring up at Sprinkles with wide, panicky eyes.
 

      Oh, this was rare sport for Sprinkles! The clown danced a merry jig and clapped his gloves together. Bret felt himself slipping far away, almost out of his own head completely.
 

      "Now, here's a brave one! You're not afraid, are you?" Sprinkles waggled his fingers over his head, making a mock expression of fright. The clown let out a giggle that devolved into a low, evil chuckle.
 

    "Say, how would you like to run away and join the circus, little boy?"
 

    Sprinkles face twisted into a sneer as he leaned in close and peered into his victim's eyes. He could see the boy's fear--almost a dull kind of wonder--shining out in purple glints. The clown was close enough that he could even see his own reflection: a pallid skull with lopsided eyes and a huge red grin.
 

    "You'll love my circus. We'll eat nothing but cotton candy and ice cream. And ride the elephants. And you'll never…ever…grow up."
 

    Bret felt a stirring of unease. Sprinkles was supposed to be a parody of the evil clown--the clown that didn't understand he was creepy. Bret wanted to cut the act short, to salvage the concept. But Sprinkles was now fully in charge. Bret was too far away, somewhere down in the dark places of his mind. In the background, he heard music playing from darkened windows and it seemed like echoes in a cave:

      Animals they came off,
      they came off by three-sies-three-sies!
      Grizzly bears and chimpanzee-sies-zee-sies,
      children of the Lord!
    
      Sprinkles leaned in even closer, until his red nose almost touched the boy's. The ninja mask puffed in and out as the boy drew quick, sharp breaths.
 

    "All you'll have to do is think of me, late at night, and I'll be there. Under your bed. Ready to take you away," the clown whispered. "Won't that be grand?"
 

      From the sidewalk the man called, "Ronnie! Come on, all ready! Let's go!"
 

    Glancing up at the sidewalk, the clown grinned and waved. Then he spun around and produced one of the slit candy apples from behind his back, presenting it to the boy as if it were a rare, expensive gift. He was back to his falsetto giggling, clowning and acting horribly silly.
 

    Ronnie took the apple slowly, as if in a dream. It dropped to the porch but the boy didn't even seem to notice. He couldn't take his eyes off the clown.
 

      "Now, what do you say?" Sprinkles cupped a gloved hand to his ear, leering expectantly. For a moment there was no reply. Then from behind the ninja mask, a small, weak voice barely spoke.
 

    "T-thank you..."
 

    The clown clapped, joyfully, and went back to the door, dancing his ghastly little dance. He backed inside, leaving only his head sticking out.
 

    "Bye-bye, Ronnie. See you real soon."

    Then Sprinkles was gone.
  

***

      Watching the video afterward, Bret laughed and howled as the kid in the ninja costume failed to move from the porch, even after Sprinkles had retreated. Eventually a chuckling man came up and guided him away.
 

      "Come on, buddy. Show's over."
 

      The final touch: you could barely hear it, but just before they moved out of range, you could hear the father say, in an incredulous voice, "Ron…did you wet your pants?"
 

    "Oh man…that's the one! I'll have to boost the volume on that last bit, but Ronnie is the one!" Bret had his giant clown shoes propped up on the computer desk, watching the playback. He cracked a beer and went to toast Arlen, who stood next to him. Arlen set his beer down.
 

    Bret turned toward his friend, sighing. "Oh, what? You think I was too much for poor lil' Ronnie?"
 

    Arlen just stared at the monitor. "Dude…you need help. I mean, that was beyond the pale."
 

    Bret laughed, and fiddled with the red bulb nose. It was starting to irritate him, but he didn't want to take it off. Not yet. "Jesus, Arlen. I gave the kid a genuine Halloween memory. One he'll cherish the rest of his life."
 

    "God. I'm sorry I helped you with this."
 

    "Come on. That was pure art." Bret thought if anyone could appreciate the concept of Sprinkles, it would be Arlen. "Look, at worst it will give the kid a couple of sleepless nights. That's all."
 

    Arlen shook his head. "That's not it, man. That's not it at all."
 

    "So what is it, then? That shit was awesome and you know it."  
    

    "Listen, it's one thing to fuck with adults--adults are assholes. You screw with their minds because you got to break through all the bullshit they've built up over the years. But doing something like that to a kid… if I was Ronnie's dad I would have beat the shit out of you." Taking his fez off, Arlen stared at the monitor again. "Instead, the fucker just laughed. He thought it was funny."
   

 "Maybe it was funny. Christ, on Halloween my dad used to…" Bret paused, remembering a forgotten sound from long ago. His father's voice, twisted and cackling from behind a grinning plastic mask. A clown mask.

    Hiya, Brettie-boy! Happy Halloween!


    "Your dad used to what?" Arlen asked, his eyes narrowing. 


    "It was a gag. He use to dress up like…" Bret felt a knot forming in his stomach. 


       You're right, Brettie-boy! That was a good gag. Year after year after year...


      "I mean he used to scare the crap out of me." Bret hesitated, not wanting to mention the horrible mask that his father wore to scare him. Arlen would read too much into that. "That's what Halloween is all about." 


    "Yeah, mentally scarring kids is good, clean fun. See you around." Arlen moved to the door and paused, shaking his head again. "Happy Halloween, Sprinkles."


      Bret didn't respond. The reflection of Sprinkles in Ronnie's eyes had come back to him, dancing in his head. The leering, skull-like face, he realized, looked uncomfortably similar to his father's old clown mask. Bret tried to push the image away
    
     away, away, push it under the bed!
    That's where I live when I'm not in your head.
    Just like dear old Daddy said.


      Yes. Yes, that's what Daddy always said, just before he finally took off the mask and became himself again. His father would croak in that horrible, possessed voice as he crept up to Bret, his hands making clutching motions. 


       "I'm going away now, Brettie, but I'll be under your bed tonight. That's where I live."


      Bret was seven years old again, lying in his bed on Halloween night. His fingers gripping the covers so hard it gave him cramps. Listening to every creak of the old wooden floor. Not daring to move. He kept his eyes riveted at the foot of his bed, waiting for the clown's face to slowly rise up. But he knew it wouldn't be his father in a mask--he would see something much worse framed in the moonlight shining through the window, something with wild eyes and a white face. And it would start to laugh…and laugh…


      It took some time for Bret to realize he was alone.  He was sweating fiercely, and a bead of greasepaint rolled into his eye. He cursed, wiping it away with his glove. Then he looked around. 


      He was alone.


    "Arlen?"


      There was no reply. Bret glanced at the clock. It was past midnight. He'd been sitting in front of the computer monitor for almost an hour, staring at the final frame of the clip--the grotesque jack o' lantern frozen in an orange grin.


      The doorbell rang downstairs and Bret jumped in his chair. What the hell? It's way past time for trick-or-treaters. 


    Creeping downstairs, he peeked out the front window through the lowered blinds. It was dark on the porch--he'd unplugged the spotlights and extinguished the pumpkin--but there was enough light from the streetlamps to see any shadowy figures moving if they were out there. But the porch was empty. 


      Bret listened for hushed snickering, or the pulpy sound of a jack 'o lantern getting smashed. Nothing. 


    Fuck it. Some little punks playing ding-dong-ditch-it, Bret thought. Let them. In fact, go ahead and smash the damn pumpkin. It's not like I give a shit.


    The bell rang again, longer and deliberately. 


    They were still out there?


    Bret strained to see who was out at the door, but from his angle they were just out of sight. Whoever it was, they must be standing right in front, pressed tightly against the frame. He lowered the blinds and stepped softly around to the door. He meant to jump out and surprise them, but he paused. He reached up and ran his fingers down his face, hard, smearing the greasepaint. This time he was going for the hard scare--the full-on, lunatic clown. He set his face in a rictus, crouched down, and threw the front door open.


      The enormous jack o' lantern was sitting on the porch, turned to face him. The butchered face shimmered from a freshly lit candle, sputtering and hissing behind it. 


       Wow. Nice touch, kids, Bret thought. Using my own pumpkin to try and spook me.


      As he raised the lid of the pumpkin and blew out the candle, his hands were shaking. That made him angry. He kicked the pumpkin in the face with the heel of his clown shoe. He felt the rind buckle, but it held together. Bret kicked it again, hard enough to make it roll across the porch and tumble down the steps to the grass. 


      "Next time it will be your heads," the clown whispered menacingly to no one in particular. He stared around the gloom in his streaked greasepaint, daring any hidden prankster to move or make a sound. "Sprinkles knows what to do with bad little children."


      He backed into the dark house and pulled the door shut. For a moment Bret waited there, listening. Then he heard the softest of bumpings from behind him. 


      They got inside? How? An insane rush of fear and maniacal glee shot through him as he spun around, ready to face the intruder.


      "Here comes Sprink…"


      His jack o' lantern was now perched on the stairs behind him, the relit candle flickering inside. The face was warped from being kicked, making its leer twice as disturbing. Flames danced merrily behind the hacked eyes as they blazed down at him.


      Echoes of music floated out from nowhere.
    
That is the end of,
the end of my story-story


      A shock of fear so intense it was painful ran from his chest down to his balls, a dark fist of terror squeezing him in a vice. Emptying him. Bret groped blindly for the door handle, never taking his eyes off the glowing object on the stairs.
    
Everything is hunky dory-dory
Children of the Lord!

    
      An appalling giggle crept through the dark. It was a crooked, nasty sound, like pulling spikes out from rotted beams. With a sick thrill, Bret realized it was coming from him. A shriek of laughter bubbled out of his mouth. It sounded very close to
    
        a scream! A scream!
       Happy as a dream!

    
      "No. This isn't happening." Bret whispered as he clawed at the doorknob. The handle clicked and Bret stumbled out, slamming the door shut behind him in one quick motion. He backed up to the porch railing and clung to it for a moment, trying to catch his breath. The music was gone. Everything was still and quiet. He stepped carefully down the porch, hands and knees shaking with adrenaline. 


      "Okay. Okay. I'm...I'm just having a complete nervous breakdown, here. A..all I need is...pills. Good pills. Doctor's pills. I'll be right as rain."
    
       Right as rain! You can't stands the pain!
    
      A giggle tried to crawl up and out of his throat, but Bret bit his lip to suppress it. Hard enough to taste blood. 


      "No. No." Bret pounded his fists against his temples, fighting the overwhelming urge to cackle. He began to weep. "Get out of my god damn head."


      For a moment everything swirled and the echo of Sprinkles' laughter surrounded him. Then it stopped. Bret unclenched his jaw, blinking back tears.


      There was a kid standing on the sidewalk in front of him, directly beneath the sliver-blue glow of the streetlight. 


      Streaks of panic shot through Bret, until he realized it wasn't a ninja. Or a clown, thank God. Just a kid in a sheet, wearing a grisly mask. The face was green and long-nosed, with bulging eyes and a mouthful of snaggley teeth. Like a Daddy Roth character, but with no humor to the maniacal grin.  The hands were lost in the folds of white cloth, but they held up a paper bag and shook it expectantly. 


      Bret wasn't sure of anything at that moment. He thought he might still be seeing things. A kid seeing Sprinkles burst out of a doorway with his makeup streaked down his face should be running away at top speed.


      "Who…what are you…"


      "Trick or treat."


      As soon as it spoke, Bret knew it wasn't a child. And it wasn't wearing a mask. 


      The thing rose up from its crouch and the sheet rose with it, revealing spidery, too-long legs. A sound like a whistling teakettle leaked out of the horrible face. It tossed the bag away, laughing.


      "Time to go, Sssprinklessss."


      "No. No." Bret dropped to his knees. His bladder let go and urine drained out of the clown suit. He had lost all ability to move and knelt in front of the creature, barely able to speak. "No. I-I'm not Sprinkles. I-I…"


      The thing leaned down, close enough to Bret's face to make him whimper. A mock look of sympathy came over its repulsive face as it shook its head. "You're not the ssscary clown I came to fetch, are you? Well, thisss won't do. Not on Halloween."


      From deep, deep inside, Bret felt a dark part of him stir. It moved, pushing out against him from the inside. He could feel it grow.


      He couldn't move. Couldn't speak. His body went numb and tingling, as if every part of him had fallen asleep, all at once.


      The darkness grew larger, flattening his mind against the roof of his own skull. Bret felt the darkness pushing him, squeezing him into nothingness.
    

      ***
    
      Arlen stopped by the next day, feeling like he'd been a little too hard on Bret. Thinking, maybe, he should convince his friend to get some therapy. God knows he needed it.


      As he approached the door Arlen saw the jack o' lantern lying on the grass. He also noticed the spotlights were still set up on either side of the front door. Ringing the bell and knocking got no response. When Arlen tried the door and found it unlocked, he started to get a bad feeling. Bret lived near a sketchy neighborhood and he always locked his place up. 


      "Dude? You here?" 


      Arlen looked through the downstairs and called a few more times, but no one answered. He went upstairs to Bret's studio. A flat, skunky odor hung in the air, and Arlen saw his beer from the night before sitting right where he'd left it. The monitor was on screensaver mode, and after a moment's hesitation, Arlen clicked the mouse. As he suspected, the final frame of the video was still displayed: the creepy jack o' lantern.


      Suddenly, the picture changed. A hand-scrawled title picture came up, and cheesy, synthesized carnival music began playing out from the desktop speakers. The title card, composed in hand-scrawled crayon, read Sprinkles The Clown Says Happy Halloween! The 'r' was reversed in a clich├ęd attempt to look childish.


      Arlen noticed something that sent a chill run down his spine: the progress bar of the video window wasn't moving--it was all the way to the end. 


      The title card faded to show a crude miniature of Bret's front porch. The figure of a clown popped out of the doorway. It was stop-motion animation done with clay figures, like the old Gumby show. But sloppier. Uglier.


      The face of the clown was clearly Bret's, smeared with clown makeup. The resemblance was chilling, and it was an effect you shouldn't have been able to pull off in a clay figure.


      On the monitor, Bret jerked back and forth in an approximation of his horrid little dance from the night before. The carnival music continued as an animated group of trick-or-treaters scrambled up to the porch, paused a moment to watch the clown, then jumped and ran as he continued his dance. This repeated a few times, every repetition showed Bret laughing happily afterwards. 


      Arlen's skin crawled at the sound of the faint, shrill giggle. He wanted to shut the thing off, but he didn't. He couldn't. 


      Another title card appeared on the screen, with a royal-sounding blast of horns: 


       The Prince Of Halloween!


      The video cut back to the porch. Something appeared in a puff of cotton-ball smoke beside Bret. Even in clay, the thing made Arlen shudder. It looked like a deformed cricket wearing a black crown on its head, but with a distorted mockery of a human face. It leered at Bret with a smile that writhed like a nest of vipers.


      A look of horror came over the face of Bret. He tried to run, but bounced off the edge of the frame each time he tried to exit. Then the cricket-thing raised a spidery arm above its crown and Bret froze.


      The picture zoomed in on him until his face filled the screen, his mouth in a silent scream. The eyes blinked. From the speakers, Arlen could hear Bret's voice. 


       Help me. Someone, please…


      "Jesus…" Arlen whispered. Cold sweat rolled down his face, but he still couldn't turn away from the monitor.


      The Bret figure tried to scream, but a pair of gloved hands erupted from its open mouth. They reached out, pulling his jaws apart as easily and smoothly as wrapping paper.


      The camera pulled back as Sprinkles the Clown peeled Bret off like a tube sock. This new Sprinkles was darker. Instead of making you uneasy, now he simply looked foul. The off-center eyes were actually different sizes now, not just an illusion of makeup. His makeup was smeared, but it took a moment for Arlen to realize the smear was part of the flesh, not just greasepaint. The body had become leaner, almost skeletal, and the costume flapped silently in a non-existent breeze.


      There was a soft crinkling noise and what remained of Bret dropped to the ground. The cricket-like Prince of Halloween hissed with laughter, then disappeared in another puff of smoke.


      Sprinkles turned a clumsy somersault and sprang up with an exaggerated curtsy. He mimicked Bret's mincing-around, but now the sensations his dance produced went far beyond disturbing. 


      Arlen wanted to look away from the thing but revulsion held him riveted. Then he noticed a new horror: the sloughed-off remains of Bret still twitched and shuddered. His eyes blinked where they had not been torn. 


      Sprinkles snatched up the Bret-skin, holding it above its head and giggling. After a couple of false starts, it gobbled Bret up. 


      A stream of blood ran down the clown-thing's face as it chewed. The blood wasn't made of animated clay, but dark red and liquid. Sprinkles wiped his twisted mouth, then turned to the camera and waved. Flecks of red spattered the screen. 


      "See you next Halloween, kiddies!" it shrieked. Then the screen went black. 


      Arlen sat there for a long, long time staring at the monitor. He was afraid to move. To breathe. Because if he did, he was almost sure Sprinkles would be right behind him. 





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About The Author:
Paul Robinson is currently finishing a novel of magic realism. He's had non-fiction published in music zines such as Glorious Noise and Harmonium. Otherwise he's a graphic designer, illustrator and photographer scraping for work in these dark economic times.

He also suffers from a slight case of coulrophobia.

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Copyrights to all original stories and art are held by their authors as noted; used here with permission.