A clown apocalypse. Yeah, that could happen.
Ever since Abbey was a little girl, she could see things others couldn’t. These things are spirits, ghosts, dead people, call them what you will. For some reason, she’s sort of a spook magnet. It’s not as glamorous as it sounds—Abbey hates dead people. But it gets worse. Something bad followed her home from the circus. She’s seeing clowns all around her school—and not the funny, big shoes, red nose sort of clown. No, these are scary clowns. Now in the middle of a clown apocalypse, lives are in real danger. And it’s up to Abbey to stop them.
1 | A new reality
A creak. Sitting up in my bed, I listen for it again. The soft glow of the August moon brings enough light for my sleepy eyes to make out the shapes of my room. Thankfully, nothing’s moving. I am alone. And then I hear another creak, closer this time. Something is coming for me.
I slide from the covers and move to the doorway. Whatever is coming will best be met at the threshold. I don’t want it in here; this is my sanctuary. Another creak, ominously feet away and my goosebumps rise. I feel my heart rate shoot up as my fight or flight response kicks in. However, my body should know by now I won’t be going anywhere. This fourteen-year-old girl is a fighter.
I step into the hallway, and it’s right there. The towering figure of a man envelops me and immediately it’s difficult to breathe. A howling roar surrounds me like a tornado. I’ve learned from experience that this noise is for me alone. My parents will not be pulled from their slumber by any sound this thing makes. So powerful and disorienting, I know I must fight back or be consumed by the noise. Of course, resistance won’t exactly be easy as the large figure has little in the way of actual mass—I’m able to see right through him. The transparency of this thing tells me what I’m dealing with.
I refer to these things as deathknockers, but most call them ghosts, poltergeists or spirits. These spirits are knocking on death’s door—they haven’t yet realized they’re already on the wrong side of the door. And they always are coming to me for some reason. Yeah, I see dead people. Many would see this ability to interact with spirits to be a gift. Not me. I hate dead people.
I focus everything on my right hand, as I need to make enough contact with this thing to keep it at bay. The focused concentration gives me the strength to push the deathknocker back. The howling subsides to a seventy-miles-per-hour-motorcycle-ride-without-a-helmet experience. Not perfect, but a step in the right direction. But then, things change for the worse as the figure begins to melt into something else, something dark and indistinct.
The attack sudden and vicious, I call out in pain as my t-shirt is sliced open across my stomach and my belly looks to have a four-inch long gash running across it. The pain mixes with concern about waking my parents—having them here would not be a good thing. My concentration slips and the deathknocker gains back some advantage. The roar has returned and a foul odor has joined it. Even though it’s inches away from my face, I can no longer recognize this thing as once being human.
I honestly don’t know if it’s me or if something fundamental has shifted within the spiritual dimension. Gone are the days of fleeting glimpses of pale figures and cold spots. My belly burns as my new reality sinks in. Contact with these things is getting more dangerous and I could find myself on the wrong side of death’s door as well.
The pain focuses me and I’m determined to fight this thing. “No.” My voice carries over the howling. I say it again, “No.” Each word is punctuated with renewed strength as my right hand is able to make physical contact and I push it back. “No,” I say again. Summoning everything I have, I add my left hand and take a step forward, feeling it retreat.
I want to know what I’m dealing with and look into the depths of this new dark thing, searching for something recognizable, a face perhaps. Its features are shrouded, like it’s partially here, partially somewhere else. As far as I’m concerned, it needs to be completely somewhere else. Using my mantra of defiance, I utter the word again. “No.” The swirling mass begins to take shape. “No,” my voice growing louder. Its eyes form first, dark pools of hate. “No.” I’m getting angry now. The thing has a mouth, rows of sharp teeth, a tongue slithering over them as it grimaces at me. I can almost taste the hatred emanating from this thing. “No,” my voice is loud and commanding. I need to send a message and get this thing back to where it came from.
“Get out!” I shout and shove the thing back down the hall. With a scream born of hate, pain and death, the sound cuts into my soul before it echoes and fades. The walls on either side are sliced deep as unseen talons fight for purchase as its forced out of our world. Not a moment too soon. Reserves depleted, I slide to the floor.
A door opens down the hall, my father’s sleepy face peering out. “Abbey?” I can see his eyes tracking along the ruined walls, ultimately finding me on the floor. Worry colors his face, as he takes in my appearance. “Abbey,” he says and rushes to me, bringing me the comfort only a father can.
“Ready for school tomorrow?” my mother asks. We’re sitting at the breakfast table, my father engrossed in the New York Times, my mother reading a medical journal. A heavy sleeper, her ability to remain asleep borders on the comatose. She’s oblivious to last night’s epic battle in the hallway and she may never know. It’s amazing what some drywall patch and a little paint can cover. My father and I have an unspoken agreement not to discuss my unusual experiences in front of my mother. After he found me last night in the hallway, my father again expressed his fear for my safety. I told him there’s nothing I can do to stop the deathknockers from coming and sadly there’s nothing he can do to help. For the hundredth time, I promised I would be as careful as I could. As a spook magnet, this is a conversation we’ve had many times. Dead people—ghosts, if you will—have been coming to me all my life. I can see and interact with them, even communicate with them in a primal way, though words are rarely used. I’ve faced down a lot of scary things over the years, but recently things have been escalating. These interactions are getting more dangerous, looking at the fading scratches on my belly.
My mom lowers her journal and says, “I’ve packed your school supplies with an extra set of pens, so you’ll be ready for anything.” A doctor, my mother is very clinical in how she looks at things. Never mind my anxiety with facing a new school full of new faces.
My dad gets me though, understanding my apprehension with meeting new people and fitting in. Looking over the top of his paper, he gives me a wink and says, “I know it’s not easy starting over at a new school. And since you’re not much of a morning person, let’s stop for a mocha on the way to school tomorrow. If a little caffeine is a good thing, a large coffee will be exactly what the doctor ordered.” He smiles at my mom. “It’ll take the edge off your first day nerves.”
My mom speaks up from behind her journal. “I’m not convinced that a stimulant is the best response to nerves, but it’ll be enjoyable for you two to spend some quality time together.” She lowers her journal again, giving me a smile. “Which reminds me, your dad has a surprise for you.”
I look over at him. “What is it?” I know I sound like a kid on Christmas, but I like surprises.
“We’re going to the circus today,” he says with a smile. I don’t like this surprise, though. Do I look like I’m ten years old?
“Have fun,” I reply. “Let me know how many clowns they fit into that little car.”
“You don’t want to come with us?” My father asks, a wounded expression coloring his face. Guilt begins its familiar trip to join the always-present anxiety and sarcasm in my frontal lobe. “I thought it would be fun to go as a family,” he says. “With school starting, we won’t have many opportunities to hang out together, especially if you get on the soccer team. And, it would look more natural if all three of us went.” Wait, what?
“So, Dad, there wouldn’t be more to the story here, would there?” Clearly, he isn’t being completely forthright with me, so I fix my unyielding gaze on him. Believe me, I can be quite a force of nature when I put my mind to it.
As my father just looks back at me, I can see where my stubbornness comes from.
“Constantine,” my mom murmurs behind her journal.
My father sighs. “It’s for an article I’m writing.” Aha, I knew there was more to the story. “Clowns International is the oldest clown society in the world. Dating back to the mid-1940s, they’ve managed to keep the clowning tradition alive, while hiding some of their unsavory aspects. I’m writing a feature on their origins, as well as the bizarre history of clowns.”
My father is a magazine writer who writes investigative pieces on the mysteries of our times. He’s written articles on UFOs and the Roswell crash, Bigfoot, Stonehenge, the Bermuda Triangle and my father’s favorite, the Mackenzie Poltergeist. A number of people exploring the Black Mausoleum—where Sir George Mackenzie lies—on the City of the Dead tour in Edinburgh have experienced bruises, scratches and fainting spells. My father returned with scratches across the back of his neck. As my father’s unofficial research assistant, I’ve been on many of his trips. I’m no stranger to helping with his stories in some capacity.
“So we have to be your cover while you explore the circus.” I groan. “But clowns, really?”
“Are you afraid of clowns?” my father asks. “It’s okay, many people are.”
I can’t tell if he’s serious. After all, I’m the girl in those scary movies who insists on being the first to enter the haunted house. I’m the girl who regularly faces down paranormal intruders. I’m the spooky girl, after all. I’m trying to read his expression as my mother studies me over her journal as she waits for my response.
“Hardly,” I reply. “I’ve never cared for clowns, but I’m definitely not afraid of them. When you’ve seen what I’ve seen…” I let my words hang there as both parents nod in understanding. They know some—but by no means, all—of the paranormal freak show I’ve had to face.
“So, you’ll join us?” My father’s face is almost childlike in his eagerness. How can I refuse him?
“I’m in,” I answer, not realizing the chain of events that those words will instigate.