Fiction: “Here Be Monsters”

A while back, I wrote a piece of horror flash fiction for an all-call around Clowns. Now, I’m not the world’s biggest fan of clowns, but I am also not “quaking in my heels and hiding in the bathtub” scared of them.  It’s kind of a love-hate thing – they hate to love me, and I love to hate them.  Win/win.

Because the editors passed on my submission, I’ve decided to post it here for ya’ll’s enjoyment.  Without further ado, here is “Here Be Monsters”, clocking in at 1032 words.  Do let me know what you think?  The good, bad, and the ugly, por favor.

Trigger warnings for violence, clowns, clowns, blood, and violence.  PG-13 rating.  Exercise caution when reading, and do not read while operating machinery or driving.  Your mileage may vary, and I most strenously and seriously advise you that all rights are reserved to me, because of that mean old copyright thing.

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It was just past three in the morning when the doorbell rang.  “Kids playing games”, I thought, and rolled over to go back to sleep.

“DING-dong”, went the doorbell again a few moments later.  Sighing, I disrupted the cat and wandered to the door to figure out just who in the hell was ringing my doorbell at three in the morning.

I opened the door, and saw a small square box wrapped in brightly coloured paper on the doorstep.  There was a tag on it that said, “For you, my sweet.”  I picked it up and walked into my living room, sitting down on the couch to open the package.

Must be from Helen, I thought.  She always liked to send me little trinkets when she was traveling on business.  I undid the bright red ribbon bow, slit the yellow and blue striped paper, and lifted off the top of the box to reveal a gorgeous, vintage jack-in-the-box toy.

“Is that smoke?” I wondered briefly, as the thought was quickly lost from my attention.

“Must be from the mid nineteen-twenties”, I thought, since it has the “Kingdom of Hungary” paper tag on the bottom. The red paint of the box was a bit dull and worn in places, but the years had been kind.  It even still had most of the original decals, showing scenes from a circus with a collection happy smiling clowns doing fancy tricks.

A moment of nostalgia passed over me, and the telephone rang as I started to turn the handle.  I still have a landline for emergencies, but it wasn’t plugged in.  Slowly, I realized that that the ringing was my cell phone in the bedroom, and I gingerly put the toy down on the couch to answer the call.

The caller ID flashed “Helen” on the screen, and I answered the phone with “Hi honey, I got your present!  It’s wonderful, where did you find it?”

A deep, husky voice replied, “Good, my dearest Karen, good. I am glad.”

“What?” I said.  “Who is this, and where is my wife?”

“Oh pish girl, the toy is a present for you.  I thought you would like it, seeing that you had one just like it when you were a little girl.” That’s when I realized why the toy seemed so familiar.  I had one like it when I was a kid, but it had been lost when the house burned down in the winter of ’86.  A chill ran down my spine.

“Who is this?” I asked.

That husky voice rattled through the handset, almost laughing as he exclaimed, “Just an old friend from an old town with an old toy for an old girl!” and hung up.

I turned the screen of my phone off and returned to the jack-in-the-box.  Gripping the toy in my right hand, I began to turn the dull chrome handle with my left.  The metallic calliope tones of “Pop Goes The Weasel” leaked out of the toy, distorted by the cheap metal casing and in time with the turning of the handle.

The air got heavier as I turned the handle, the tension of the toy’s mechanics adding pressure to the moment.  With a loud pop, the cover finally flew up and out popped the jack doll on its spring with a toy gun that said “BANG”.

I smelled sulphur, and felt a sharp pain.  Reaching up, I found a warm stickiness trickling down from just above my left breast.  As I stared at my fingers, the landline telephone began to ring.

“No,” I thought, “This is not happening.”  My hand trembling, I picked up the handset and said, “Hello?”

The same voice from the earlier call answered “HI KAREN!  It’s been a long time, but it is SO GOOD to hear your voice again!”

The warmth continued to seep from my chest, and I said into the handset, “I think you have me confused for someone else, and I am going to hang up now.”

The voice on the other end of the line’s tone changed to a high-pitched sing-song laughter.  “Oh no, Karen, you were just who I was looking for!  Wanna play?”

I slammed the handset back down into its cradle, and picked up my cell phone to dial emergency services.   Instead of an operator asking me what my emergency was, I heard heavy breathing.  Then that husky voice said “HI KARE—“, as I disconnected the call.

“What the hell is happening?” I thought, and tapped out 911 before hitting send.

“Emergency services,” said the person in a clear falsetto voice, “please answer the following riddle to unlock an ambulance dispatch, Karen!”

I disconnected the call, counted to ten, and dialed again.  My arm was getting cold, and left side of my sleeping blouse was covered in blood.  “Emergency services,” said the same voice. “Tsk, tsk.  Hanging up like that wasn’t very nice!  Now answer the riddle, or pay the price!”

A cold sweat broke out across my back as panic began to set in. “FINE.  ASK ME YOUR DAMN RIDDLE,” I said.

The voice on the other end cackled for a moment, then said “If I drink, I die. If I eat, I thrive. What am I?”

I stood silently for a moment, feeling the blood flow from my chest, remembering back to the winter of ’86.  “Fire,” I said breathlessly.  “The answer is fire.”

“Winner winner chicken dinner!  Your ambulance is on the way!  In fact, we’ll be right in!” said that awful husky voice.

I slid down onto the floor, my cell phone falling out of my hand, just as a rainbow-coloured Volkswagen Beetle crashed through my front door.  The doors of the car flew open, and my vision narrowed just as a white face and big red nose leaned down over me.

“Remember me, Karen? I’m BUBBLES, the clown you wanted for your sixth birthday party, the party that your mom cancelled!  I’m going to save you!  This is going to be SO MUCH fun!” He honked his red nose and winked a harlequin eye. “Want a balloon?” he asked me as he started laughing.