SHE WAS ONLY A CLOWN is a special serialized novel presented in weekly installments every Saturday.
Elwood pulled the mask over his head. Now he was Skitzo Cyko the killer clown. The mask was ugly and mean looking. It had tufts of gray hair poking out from random spots as if he’d yanked the rest from his scalp in some fit of hysteria or psychotic breakdown. The face had deep wrinkles and twisted into a grin that sat too wide and too long to be human. Inside the mouth, two rows of blackened, broken fangs jutted this way and that, forming a hideous maw.
Elwood’s clothing was baggy and torn. It was caked with dirt and grime. A clown suit that had once been bright and colorful, now stained, ripped and ruined.
He wore large rubber hands that ended in long purple talons and big purple shoes to match.
As Sktizo Cyko, he trudged along the dirt road that connected his property to the main highway just outside of Hopp’s Hollow Illinois. Moaning loudly, Skitzo held up a cardboard sign that read “The End Is Near! They’re All Laughing At You!”
He lived in the boonies in a tiny town called Medora, but so did a lot of other people. All along Service Road K, pickup trucks full of rednecks and sports cars full of teenagers who had gone to high school with Elwood traveled to and from the laughably small town square—which consisted of a root-beer shack, an old laundry with one working washer, and a municipal building which acted as the post office, police station, firehouse and city hall—or commuted back and forth to Hopp’s for work.
Elwood was trying to scare them.
He’d read about the scary clown epidemic sweeping the country on the Internet. He’d seen pictures of spooky clowns standing in the woods, waving slowly at children as they hurried past. He’d decided he wanted to be one of those spooky clowns.
Skitzo stayed just off the road, shuffling through the underbrush that hugged up against a dense woods to the south of Service Road K, but close enough to the road so the cars and trucks that passed by would see him. All he had to do was wait.
That’s when he heard the first scream.
Growing up, Elwood was different from everyone else. He kept to himself all through grade school, which was fine. But it was once he’d graduated to middle school that the bad shit had started to happen.
He’d be sitting alone at lunch reading a horror comic book he’d gotten from his uncle Jeff, when a group of redneck kids would come over and knock the comic out of his hands. They’d inevitably mock him, humiliate him and beat him up for what had happened. Elwood tried not to let the other kids bother him when they called him retarded. Called him a murderer. But deep down, he knew they were right.
Uncle Jeff had been his lifeline. His window into the world of the weird. Uncle Jeff introduced him to ultra violent horror movies like Evil Dead 2 and Dead Alive. He’d played cool records for him from bands like The Misfits and Iron Maiden. Uncle Jeff always made Elwood feel like being weird was cool. That watching Nascar and drinking beer while listening to crappy country music was totally lame, even though everyone in his little town did it, including Elwood’s parents.
Jeff was Elwood’s father’s brother and even though he was in his twenties, he lived with Elwood’s family in their big farm house in Medora. Jeff lived there because his kid lived there with him.
Jeff’s girlfriend Tracey had been hit by a train one night when the pair had been messed up on pills, walking along the train tracks while their son, Leo, was at Tracey’s parents’ house for the night.
Blaming Jeff, Tracey’s parents had disowned him and since his own parents—Elwood’s grandparents—were already dead, Elwood’s father had no choice but to let Jeff and Leo stay with them.
Jeff’s parents had him late in life, while Elwood’s parents had him early, at just seventeen, so Jeff was just as close to Elwood’s age as he was to his father’s age going in the other direction.
That created a unique bond between Elwood and Jeff. A bond that served as an anchor for Elwood. Kept him sane. Kept him rooted in the real world when all he truly wanted to do was float off into his own imaginary world where people weren’t cruel and mean and full of hatred.
That was, until the night Jeff asked Elwood to watch Leo while he scored some more pills.
It was only supposed to be for a few hours, but Jeff got too fucked up and passed out at his dealer’s house, leaving Elwood and Leo together all night.
The farm house was huge, with a full, finished basement complete with a bedroom, living room, bathroom and kitchen. The first floor contained another kitchen, bathroom and three bedrooms, dining room and living room, and Elwood’s grandparents had added a full second floor with three more bedrooms and a bath.
Elwood occupied the basement all by himself, which served his parents just fine. They’d acted like he didn’t exist since he’d been old enough to feed and bathe himself.
That’s where he and Leo were hanging out when it happened.
Leo was three. All blonde hair and big blue eyes. He looked just like Jeff. The two even wore matching Spiderman shirts sometimes.
Elwood had left Leo in front of the TV in the basement living room while he went upstairs to take out the trash.
When he came back down, Leo was in full seizure.
Later, at the hospital, it was determined that Leo had gotten up from in front of the TV and wandered into the bathroom where he’d found an old-style thermometer left over from his grandparents’ belongings laying on the sink. Elwood had been sick the previous week, and had left the thermometer out due to sheer laziness.
Leo had sat back down in front of his show and started chewing on the mercury-filled glass vial. Within moments, it burst in his mouth. By the time Elwood found him, Leo had already suffered irreversible brain damage.
From then on, he wore a helmet to keep him from hurting himself as he screamed and bashed his head off the wall eighteen hours a day, every day for the rest of his childhood.
Jeff never once spoke to Elwood about the incident, seeming to blame himself for blacking out on pills and not being home to look after his own son.
But there was a look in his eyes when he spoke to Elwood—and after the accident, he only spoke to Elwood when it was absolutely necessary—that contained all the fury of heaven and hell. A look that said, “I wish you’d swallowed mercury instead of my sweet, beautiful, innocent son.”
And then one day, Elwood came home from school and found Uncle Jeff hanging from the rafters in the barn.
That’s when the kids at school had really started taunting him. Jeff may have never blamed Elwood directly for Leo’s accident, but the rednecks at school had no problem doing it for him. Then, after Jeff’s suicide, they’d blamed him for that, too.
The accident and subsequent death of his uncle had caused him to withdraw even further. Only speaking to his parents or his teachers when he had to. He sometimes went days on end without speaking to another human being.
As he got older and the Internet became a part of every day life, he was able to sink even further into isolation.
When he was 17, he’d dropped out of high school and moved out into the same barn Uncle Jeff had hung himself in, converting it into a kind of loft.
These days he only ventured inside his parents’ house to eat and to shower, which he did rather infrequently since going into that house meant listening to Leo’s screaming. The constant THUMP, THUMP, THUMP of his head against the walls upstairs.
After seeing the clown hysteria on the Internet, Elwood had taken the Hopp’s County quarter bus into Hopp’s Hollow and visited Baxter’s Party Supply store to buy the clown mask, gloves, shoes and outfit.
He’d stood in the barn loft many nights distressing the fabric of the clown suit and re-painting the mask to appear even more sinister than it already did.
He’d wear the full costume, just staring, perfecting his evil clown presence. He’d come up with his name and even given the evil clown demon a back story as a tortured soul who’d clawed his way out of hell, on the run from Satan himself, trying to suck enough souls to grow powerful enough to defeat the devil in combat.
He’d never admit it to himself, but he imagined the tortured soul in question was that of his dead uncle Jeff.
He couldn’t place exactly what had drawn him to the clown hysteria in the first place. There was just something… right about striking primal fear into the hearts of those around him who had judged him so harshly, so mercilessly all his life.
Elwood smiled at the thought of causing one of the rednecks he’d gone to school with even a moment of fright when they saw him shambling through the underbrush.
He’d tried a dry run several days before, a practice walk to see how many people he could scare as he limped along the road, but a late fall rain had made nighttime visibility so poor, that even if anyone had driven down Service Road K, the likelihood of anyone seeing him had been remote.
Tonight was Halloween and, in Elwood’s mind, the absolute best night for scaring assholes.
When he heard the scream, he was startled enough to flinch and spin around, forgetting the Skitzo Cyko persona altogether.
He’d flinched because it wasn’t a scream of fear. It was a scream of anger.
Elwood recognized that voice.
“Shit,” he said under his breath. He only then looked up for the first time. He’d been so into character he hadn’t noticed how far he’d walked down Service Road K.
Across the street was Mark Nelson’s house. And sure enough, that was Mark Nelson standing on the porch yelling at him.
Elwood turned around and started walking back the way he’d come, but it was too late. “You think you’re funny? You think that’s cute, bitch? Scaring people dressed up as a gay ass clown!”
Mark was stomping through his yard now. He’d be across the street and on top of Elwood in seconds. There was no way Elwood could get away from him in his big awkward clown shoes. He’d either have to take them off and try to run all the way back home or confront Mark head on.
He chose the latter.
Be back here next Saturday, September 16th, for chapter 2!