Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday Flash: Tears of a Clown

"Did you say that was flash fiction or flesh fiction?" Hubby asked earlier. I told him flash fiction. So sorry to disappoint...

Here is my Friday Flash piece for the week. This one is for all those kids who took crap for being afraid of clowns.

Tears of a Clown

Charlie stood on the bottom church step, his hands tucked in his pockets, and tried to appear calm. The orange streetlamps had never turned off in the day's damp gloom, and their amorphous halos faded into the leaden sky. Tight knots of people huddled in line for hot cider in the square or a tour of the graveyard, and a mute clown on the church steps entertained children with balloon animals.

He tried not to look to the other side of the square, where his partner in this crazy sting, Margaret of Cornwall, or just Maggie to him, would be melting in and out of groups. Her auburn hair under her smart purple cap made her easy to spot. He was the surprise, the secret. They hoped that whatever prowled the booths and killed people in their dreams would target her, and he would be backup. He shifted to the right for a better view.

"Hey, watch it!" A solid object clattered to the cement, and Charlie almost reached for his gun and blew his cover. He looked down to see that he'd bumped against a long white-tipped metal cane that had been propped against the stone stairs. An old man, whom Charlie had barely noticed, squinted up at him from the bottom step. The guy had a white streak down one of his wizened, prickly cheeks, and the missing teeth in his scowl made him look like a shrunken Jack-O'-Lantern. He ground a piece of chalk into the wet pavement beside a dented red plastic cup.

"I'm sorry, sir," Charlie said. "I'll get that for you."

"You'd better." The old man made lines and squiggles on the sidewalk with the chalk, and Charlie watched, fascinated, as they became the line drawing of a familiar face: his own. Panic rose in his chest. Maggie had told him to watch out for anything unusual or odd. The blind guy shouldn't be able to see him that well, especially not in the half-light. The air around him turned colder, damper, and he shivered. He climbed two steps and looked around for Maggie, but she was nowhere to be seen.

A flash of color caught his eye. The clown, whose blue hair hung in drab ringlets under his shabby red cap, approached. He had a tear painted at the corner of each eye and along his cheeks, and his faded red mouth corners pointed downward in a frown.

"The artist would like a donation." The polite phrasing and wording did nothing to hide the menace in the clown's tone.

Charlie dug through his pockets, but he didn’t have any cash. "I'll bring one tomorrow."

"The festival is over tonight." The clown's voice became a growl that resonated in the center of Charlie's chest. "All over." He reached for Charlie, who stumbled backwards up the steps. His instincts told him not to let the clown touch him. Curse, hex, whatever the thing did to him, it would be swift, invisible, and lethal.

"Hey, Demon!" Maggie called. She stood at the top of the steps, and her long turquoise coat swirled around her. The wind picked up and drove the tiny droplets of water into exposed skin. Thunder boomed overhead, and lightning crackled across the sky as time turned backwards for a moment and then halted, the festival attendees frozen in place.

The clown stopped just inches short of touching Charlie and turned its attention to her.

"You know I've got more of what you want," she teased and batted her eyelashes at it. "Immortal energy, yum yum!"

Charlie wasn't ready for the swiftness of the demon. To the human's eyes, it looked like a blur met Maggie's outstretched boot and rolled down the stairs. It crumpled, faded, and disappeared. He got to her side as quickly as he could and found her doubled over and breathless.

"Phew, that was quite a hit!" she panted. "You got those bullets I gave you?"

He nodded and pulled out his gun.

"Good. This time when he appears, don't do anything until I tell you to. Not a move! Understand?"

"I do. But I’m not going to let you get hurt."

She shook her head. "Trust me. It may look silly, and I've stunned it, but it's a nasty critter. If it gets me, it will only knock me back a few centuries, but it will eat your very essence so that nothing will remain. All trace of you will be erased. Each of those tears on its face? A past victim. Including the blind artist, who became its puppet to lure new victims."

She put her hands on his shoulders and swung him out of the way before the clown reappeared beside them and lunged for her. Charlie stumbled but got his balance and stood with his gun aimed at where they fought. Again, just blurs, her turquoise flashing against the clown's gray and red. They moved too fast for Charlie to get a clear shot.

"Now!" Maggie held the clown in a head lock. It squirmed, and Charlie couldn't get a true aim.

"Damn your little blue boy balls, Charlie, shoot it!"

He aimed as best he could and fired. The clown roared and disappeared. Maggie rubbed her arm where the bullet had gone through the thing's shoulder and grazed her.

"Sonofabitch, that stings!"

Charlie ran to her side and looked at the wound. "You're gonna need stitches."

She stopped him from tracing it with his fingertip. "Demon blood only irritates me. It would poison you." She looked at him through her dark lashes. "And I can't let anything happen to you."

He ran his thumb along her jaw line, and his heart jumped to his throat when she covered his hand with hers and held it there. She must have been more scared than she'd let on.

"I've never kissed an immortal before, especially not one with such a filthy mouth," he said. "Such language!"

"Oh, shut up, Detective."

And he did.


David G Shrock said...

Nice delivery and great detail. I was right there with him hesitant about shooting with Maggie at risk.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but clowns are just creepy! Your description of the clown was very visual, and so he was easy to imagine (and be afraid of). The scene where Maggie kind of flirts with him "Immortal energy, yum, yum." Well, that was just a hoot. She's a vibrant character. I'd love to see more of her. Thanks for sharing.

Cecilia Dominic said...

Thanks, David! I'm glad you felt the tension.

Maggie keeps appearing in my fiction, so I'm glad you liked her, Olivia. She's a character in a novel I'm shopping around right now. The inspiration for this story actually came from a dream.

Lauren Cude Horsfall said...

"knock me back a few centuries" -- absolutely love that line!

Marisa Birns said...

Vivid details! Auburn hair, purple coat...wonderful.

I really liked Maggie and her "filthy mouth," heh.

Very good story.

mazzz_in_Leeds said...

Loved the concept of being thrown back a few centuries!

Maggie's a very interesting character

~Tim said...

Maggie the demon clown slayer takes her place in my mind alongside Buffy the vampire slayer. Fun story!

J. M. Strother said...

Cool. I like the mythos you've built here. And I love the characters. Very "October Country" feel to this.