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 listened for it again. The soft glow of the August moon brought enough light for my sleepy eyes to make out the shapes of my room. Thankfully, nothing was moving. And then I heard another creak, closer than before. Something was coming for me.
I slid out from the covers and moved to the doorway. Whatever was coming would best be met at the threshold. I didn’t want it in here; this was my sanctuary. Another creak, ominously moving closer and my goosebumps rose. I felt my heart rate shoot up as my fight or flight response kicked in. However, my body should know by now I won’t be going anywhere. I may be fourteen-years-old, but I’m a fighter.
I peeked out into the hall and was surprised at what I saw. It was a child.
Barely three feet tall, the little boy had messy dark hair and wore striped pajamas. He had that sleepy look that kids making the midnight shuffle to the bathroom all had. He dragged something behind him, most likely a teddy bear. He hadn’t noticed me.
Since I was an only child, there shouldn’t be a sleep walking toddler in my house. Who was he?
Curious, I stepped out into the hall. “Hey, there.” The boy stopped his slow procession down my hallway. Ever-so-slowly, he lifted his gaze and stared at me.
The hairs on the back of my neck jumped up and began waving their little hands to get my attention. It was a lot like in class when the smarty pants who always sat in the first row couldn’t wait to answer the teacher. These hairs were well trained and could recognize danger whenever it reared its ugly head.
I studied the sleepy toddler a bit closer. A couple of things jumped out at me upon my closer examination. First, there was a pit of blackness where his eyeballs should have been. Which wasn’t good. Second, it wasn’t actually a teddy bear that was dragging behind little Eddie Munster. It was a detached arm. That wasn’t so good either. Thirdly—if that really is a word—I could see right through him and that clued me on what I was dealing with.
This was a ghost. Yeah, I see dead people.
And for some reason, they were always coming to me. There was a love/hate relationship happening where ghosts were concerned. Sure, they intruded in on my life, coming at random times day and night and I’ve lost friendships when my abilities were discovered. But yet …
I don’t know why, but I craved the ghostly contact. There was something about the chill running up my spine when I experienced a ghostly appearance. I knew it could be dangerous, but it was addictive as well. I wasn’t sure what that said about me.
When these ghostly visitors made an appearance, I’ve learned that my best option was to confront them. I stepped into the hallway and pointed back down the hall. “Time for you to go back. It’s got to be way past your bedtime.”
Rather than heading back to his ghostly bed, something else happened. The little boy, as adorable as he wasn’t, started growing. His head grew larger as his body elongated and became massive in its bulk. Think professional wrestler in the super heavyweight category. In a moment, the toddler was completely gone and was replaced by the towering figure of a man. He had the face of a man who liked to fight. His nose looked like it had been broken and he was missing several teeth. A scar ran down the length of his cheek to his unshaved chin. His eyes were still black, but he did smile at me, but it was the smile of someone that relished hurting people. He cracked his knuckles and took a step in my direction.
I think it was at the moment I decided maybe I shouldn’t mention his bedtime.
“This is my house. Please leave.” And just to show him I meant business I pointed down the hall. Unfortunately, that’s when he showed me he meant business too.
He grabbed my arm and enveloped me into blackness. Immediately, it was difficult to breathe. Even though the howling roar surrounded me like a tornado, I’d learned from experience that the noise was for me alone. My parents wouldn’t be pulled from their slumber by any sound this thing made. So powerful and disorienting, I knew I had fight back or be consumed by this thing. Of course, resistance wouldn’t exactly be easy as the large man had little in the way of actual mass.
I focused everything on my right hand, as I needed to make enough contact with the ghostly brute to keep him at bay. The focused concentration gave me the strength to push back. The howling subsided to a seventy-miles-per-hour-motorcycle-ride-without-a-helmet experience. Not perfect, but a step in the right direction. But then things changed for the worse as the man began to melt into something else, something dark and indistinct.
The attack sudden and vicious, I called out in pain as my t-shirt was sliced open across my stomach and my belly looked to have a four-inch long gash running across it. The pain mixed with concern about waking my parents—having them here with this thing would not be good. My concentration slipped and I lost some advantage. The roar returned and a foul odor had joined it. Even though it was inches away from my face, I could no longer recognize this thing as once being human.
I honestly don’t know if it was me or if something fundamental had shifted within the spiritual dimension. Gone were the days of fleeting glimpses of pale figures and cold spots. My belly burned as my new reality sunk in. Contact with these things was getting more dangerous and I could find myself on the wrong side of death’s door as well.
The pain focused me and I was determined to fight the ghostly thing.
“No.” My voice carried over the howling. “No,” each word punctuated with renewed strength as my right hand made physical contact and I pushed it back.
“No,” I said again. Summoning everything I had, I added my left hand and took a step forward, feeling it retreat.
I wanted to know what I was dealing with and looked into the depths of this dark thing, searching for something recognizable, a face perhaps. Its features were shrouded, like it was partially here, partially somewhere else. As far as I was concerned, it needed to be completely somewhere else.
Using my mantra of defiance, I uttered the word again. “No.”
“No,” my voice grew louder. I was angry that this thing had woken me up.
The swirling mass began to take shape. Its eyes formed first, dark pools of hate.
It had a mouth, rows of sharp teeth, a tongue slithering over them as it grimaced at me. I could almost taste the hatred emanating from the thing.
“No,” my voice loud and commanding, I needed to send a message and get the thing back to where it came from.
“Get out!” I shouted and shoved the thing back down the hall. With a scream born of hate, pain and death, the sound cut into my soul before it echoed and faded. The walls on either side were sliced deep as unseen talons fought for purchase as it was forced out of our world. Not a moment too soon. Reserves depleted, I slid to the floor.
A door opened down the hall, my father’s sleepy face peering out. “Abbey?” I could see his eyes tracking along the ruined walls, ultimately finding me on the floor. Worry colored his face, as he took in my appearance. “Abbey,” he said and rushed to me, bringing me the comfort only a father could.
“Ready for school tomorrow?” my mother asked. We were at the breakfast table, my father engrossed in the New York Times, my mother reading a medical journal. A heavy sleeper, my mom’s ability to remain asleep bordered 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 could cover.
I nodded yes and pointed to my mouth full of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. My mother smiled and turned the page while my father looked over his paper and gave me a look. 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 was nothing I could do to stop the ghosts from coming and sadly there was nothing he could do to help. For the hundredth time, I promised I would be as careful as I could. As a spook magnet, this was a conversation we’ve had many times. Dead people—ghosts, if you will—have been coming to me all my life. I could see and interact with them, even communicate with them in a primal way, though words were rarely used. I’ve faced down a lot of scary things over the years, but recently things have been escalating. These interactions were getting more dangerous, looking at the fading scratches on my belly.
My mom lowered her journal and said, “I’ve packed your school supplies with an extra set of pens, so you’ll be ready for anything.” A doctor, my mother was very clinical in how she looked 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 gave me a wink and said, “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 smiled at my mom. “It’ll take the edge off your first day nerves.”
My mom spoke 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 lowered her journal again, giving me a smile. “Which reminds me—your dad has a surprise for you.”
I glanced 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 said with a smile. I didn’t like the surprise, though. Do I look like I was ten years old?
“Have fun,” I replied. “Let me know how many clowns they fit into that little car.”
“You don’t want to come with us?” My father asked, 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 said. “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? Natural?
“So, Dad, there wouldn’t be more to the story here, would there?” Clearly, he wasn’t being completely forthright with me, so I fixed my unyielding gaze on him. Believe me, I could be quite a force of nature when I put my mind to it.
As my father looked back at me with infinite patience, I understood where my stubbornness comes from.
“Constantine,” my mom murmured behind her journal.
My father sighed. “It’s for an article I was 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 was a magazine writer who wrote 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 had experienced bruises, scratches and fainting spells. My father returned with a great story as well as scratches across the back of his neck. Though I didn’t make that trip, as my father’s unofficial research assistant, I’ve been on many of his trips. I was no stranger to helping with his stories in some capacity.
“So we have to be your cover while you explore the circus.” I groaned. “But clowns, really?”
“Are you afraid of clowns?” my father asked. “It’s okay, many people are.”
I couldn’t tell if he was 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 ghost girl, after all. I’ve even signed yearbooks as Abnormally, Abbey.
I was trying to read his expression as my mother studied me over her journal as she waited for my response.
“Hardly,” I replied. “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 nodded in understanding. They know some—but by no means, all—of the paranormal freak show I’ve had to face. But, there was something about clowns that scares me.
“So, you’ll join us?” My father’s face was almost childlike in his eagerness. How could I refuse him?
“I’m in,” I answered, not realizing the chain of events that those words would instigate.