Welcome to Dademonic, where we idolize the creepy and share the spooky. Each month we feature a local writer’s twisted tale to get you through your Frightday work hustle. This month we bring you, Charlize Zamora, with “Endless Laughter”, a delightful tale to cure your post-IT hangover. Now bite in and get your first taste of Dademonic. Let’s get witchy baby…
Coulrophobia- the fear of clowns. Out of all the things people can be afraid of, a man in opaque white makeup wearing a bright crimson sphere on his nose is what strikes fright in those who simply can’t tell him apart from what could be an odd human-like creature. Ha, silly. As bizarre as it may seem, I am one of those individuals. Not a clown; rather, someone who doesn’t want to take that trip to the uncanny valley. When Kevin’s birthday party was inching closer back in late November, I hoped he would have chosen a magician to come and reveal lame card tricks and bunnies being pulled from a hat. Perhaps I was even fine with him choosing a zoo-keeper to bring in a lemur or a monkey to give dull lectures about. However-his small, slender finger traced carefully and weightlessly over the entertainer’s section in the event catalog. It lingered on names of people and of their tricks and skills, but it landed on one particular name that caught his attention. Giggles. Unless that was the name of a plate spinner that told jokes after each of their platters dropped to the ground and shattered into pieces, I didn’t want to know about it.
At that point, I had no choice but to turn my head and give my younger sibling an annoyed facial expression, the kind that only an angst-powered teenage girl (such as myself) could provide. He implicitly replied with a scrunched up face and his tongue sticking out. We heard a single cough from the table we sat at and glanced at each other. Thankfully, mom and dad didn’t catch on to our exchange of faces. I hesitated to speak out against Kevin because my parents didn’t believe I was afraid of clowns. I could hear my mother’s high-pitched voice in my head now: “Oh, Veronica. Aren’t you a little too old for that nonsense?” Maybe the answer was “yes”. Though what happened to me before Kevin was born would shape my vision of these frivolous circus entertainers forever. I was seven, and I visited a birthday party for the first time. I never really had friends that lasted long but when I did, I was invited to Julie’s place for the celebration.
Everything was going quite well and I was making memories I could remember when I was older-though now I wish I had the ability to forget those moments- until I heard the vexing sound of a horn honking repeatedly; the type of sound that is so loud and obnoxious that it becomes ingrained in your brain and is stored to the unconscious until you hear it again and it becomes more intense than ever. A chunky, tall man dressed in garishly shimmering polka dots and unstable stripes stomped into the room. His giant nose and wide shoes caught the attention of everyone; especially mine-though not in a positive way. It wasn’t natural. No one ever looked like that. Julie and all the other kids gathered around this man that wore a name-tag that read: Ditso, while I stood back near the comfort of my father.
There was boisterous laughter that filled the air and for a second I thought that perhaps clowns were actually fun-loving and although they had strange appearances, they meant no harm. Later on when it was time to pose next to the birthday girl for pictures next to her princess-themed cake, Ditso grabbed her by the back of her collar; thick white fingers wrapping around the sides of her small neck. From one moment to another, he aggressively shoved her head into her own birthday cake. Julie struggled to breathe a little as he continued to hold her head under with people around her laughing; not knowing any better. She came back up for air and coughed out tiny chunks of icing and cake, crying her little heart out in horror. Even her parents were standing there, giggling and spectating. Clowns didn’t mean any harm. It was just a joke. Soon after the cake incident, the end of the party came and Julie’s face was clean and while Ditso said goodbye to everyone with a disgusting raspy voice, I hid behind my dad. Julie soon got over the occurrence because she noticed that the clown was just being a bully and trying to make others cackle. Ten years passed and I still never got over it. I was traumatized and of course I didn’t want a clown to show up to my own house for my brother’s birthday. I formulated a plan while my parents were confirming the party details with Kevin at the dining room table: Go downstairs while all his snotty friends are having a good time, take a few pictures with my Oscar-worthy fake smile and run back upstairs before the clown arrived. I became calm. I knew I could avoid another creepy clown encounter.
As soon as I realized that the rest of the day was just going to be my family finalizing birthday plans, I went upstairs to my room to listen to music. When I do this, I am creating a safe space for myself that Kevin was certainly not allowed to take part in. A couple of hours later and it was one in the morning. I lost track of time (thanks to my eighties playlist) and when I peeked my head out from my door, I noticed there was darkness and not even the bathroom light was on; as everyone was already asleep. I hadn’t even showered yet. Part of me thought that I should shower in the morning and clean off whatever dirt had accumulated the day before, but that was a bit gross even by my standards and so I grabbed my towel and an oversized band t-shirt (among other things) and slowly opened the door to go out into the hallway.
Mom always hated when I woke her up at night because I was afraid of going into the darkness of the hallway, so I was contemplating a way to get around waking my family up without being alone where I couldn’t see. I’m a “light sprinter”. No, I don’t run at a rapid pace with light feet. I sprint from one light switch to another and turn them on; turning them off as I got to my destination safely. I successfully made it to the bathroom and I closed the door, sighing and setting my things down to get undressed. Before I took my shirt off, I pulled the curtain of the bath- to make sure there was nothing hiding there. I inspected every cabinet and behind towel racks too. Ever since my first run-in with a clown, I began having bad dreams for a long time and I started becoming afraid of basic things-because of clowns. Whatever is hiding in the darkness is a clown. Any footsteps heard in the house that don’t belong to the people living there is a clown. The tapping on a window on a windy night is a clown. I had to stop scaring myself. I continued with my routine-I finished undressing and I pulled my hair up to protect it from getting wet in the shower.
I stepped in and turned the water on. I gasped as a freezing shot of water hit my chest. Dad probably left the knob up the last time he used the shower. I lowered the knob with nervous hands and I stood back to let the water transition to warmth. That scared me-the sudden water. Soon it was forgotten and I began to scrub my body gently with soap. Then came the part of the shower where one washes their face. I always felt dread at this step. I never knew why, but the few seconds of darkness I encountered took my mind to a dark place. I always thought of things I didn’t want to think about. I decided to just go for it and I rubbed soap onto my face, scrubbing hurriedly with nimble fingers. It was too late- I had already started imagining a clown standing right behind me, face over my skinny shoulder and just waiting to pounce and beat me to death with a rubber chicken.
I laughed at that last part as I rinsed off and opened my eyes, satisfied with the turn my brain took in perception. I reached out for my towel and wrapped it around myself, standing in front of the mirror. I commenced with stupid actions everyone did while they were in the bathroom: Lip syncing the last song I heard on my playlist, posing like a model, practicing lame dance moves and judging my body with the strict eyes of a critic. After I gazed up at the clock tiredly and saw that about twenty minutes had passed by, I finished drying off and got dressed, collecting my towel once again. Now came the hard part. Sprinting back to my room. The first sprint is the easiest but the one that comes upon return is not so simple. The second one is when the paranoia kicks in and whatever is masking itself in the pitch-dark is prepared to come out at you when you least expect it. Again, I took a leap of faith and hurried along, always looking behind me at all times, and I grabbed the knob and threw it open-then realizing the door was going to slam; I caught it before it did and closed it hastily. The safety of my room. The pleasant smell of eucalyptus. The soft lighting emitting from my night light. Everything was fine and to make sure, I analyzed this room with much detail. I confirmed that I could finally go to bed. Before I did, I took a sip of water and threw off my slippers. I pulled the sheets over myself and I closed my eyes. A couple of minutes passed. Something inside of me…just didn’t feel right. It was the kind of feeling a little kid gets when they’re told they’re going to Disney but instead are taken to the dentist to get teeth pulled out. Sleep paralysis. I suddenly felt like I couldn’t move anymore. I was seeing things, as if it was a dream, and I knew I couldn’t move but there was nothing I could do to save myself from being afraid. I fell into a state of blurriness and began to see things as it was in a dream. I was standing in a park, seemingly in day-time. People all around me minding their business and living their simple lives, and from one instant to another, they began walking faster and passed by me with alarming speed. All those faceless figures rushing to get away from something I was stuck with. I move my head towards the direction everyone is avoiding and what do I see? A clown- a crooked man bent over with a bad back wearing all white, his makeup blending in with the clothing he wore. Two large black tears dripped down to his pointed chin and eyes as wide as the shoes he wore; his pupil so small that there was almost only a blank expression in them. All he did was laugh his heart out-as if he heard the best joke in the world and couldn’t take how funny it was. I can never forget that grin that reached from ear to ear, smeared black as well. One thing that caught my eye was a ridiculous yellow carnation pinned to his long blouse at the chest. What was he going to do? And why were people avoiding him?
As he started taking steps towards my motionless body, I could lucidly hear the crunch of small rock granules under his deformed, elongated feet. Wake up. The sound grew louder and he grew closer, not blinking at all. Wake up now. His grin grew larger than it had been before while he outstretched his eerily stringy arms towards me. I swear, if you don’t wake up- silence. I sat up as fast as I could in bed and held my covers close to my body. I was in shock for a couple of minutes. The last thing I saw before I woke up was his face, right in front of mine. So paranoid that I thought I heard a horn honking in the distance, I hastily yanked my lamp’s chain, relieved that the light was on and that there had been no clown after all. Of course, I couldn’t go straight back to bed. I stood up slowly as if I were waiting for something to happen, afterwards putting on my slippers and grabbing a loose sweater from my “clothes pile” (which in my opinion was very neatly placed on my desk. As I put on the sweater, I tried to slide my head through the hole with rapid speed. I feared that those two seconds of darkness were going to be against me. I walked up to my mirror almost like a zombie, anxious to see the clown standing behind me with the same grin. Nothing. I looked at myself for a while in the mirror and there was nothing there to scare me. I guess what I wanted was to see if it was real or not, so I wouldn’t have to be haunted by it. I smiled at myself. I felt so childish and dumb. Of course there’s nothing here. When the time was right, I sat back in bed, closing my eyes and trying to count the layers of darkness I was seeing to try and fall asleep but every time I would have my eyes closed for too long, my brain would send a signal to my eyes to open. I was still shaky from the bad dream and I couldn’t have expected to be sleeping for so long. I simply grabbed a random book from my shelf and began to read- the light on, of course.
A few more hours later and the clock read five in the morning. I fell asleep, but it wasn’t for much time. However, I knew I could finally go down and maybe have breakfast because it was a bit lighter outside now in the mornings. I put the book back in its rightful place on the shelf and scurried downstairs to prepare myself something to eat. I grabbed a roll of bread left in the pantry and butter from the fridge, putting the items on a mat on the kitchen aisle. All I needed now was a knife, and- tap. Tap. Tap. My heart dropped, and so did the knife. It left a cut on my foot. My eyes slowly wandered and fell to the sight of the backyard’s sliding door. There it was. The clown; the one my brother ordered from the catalog. The one I saw in my nightmare. Giggles was tapping the glass at the door with an eerie grin headed my direction, and he quickly noticed that the door had not been locked. I began to panic and my heart rate was surely accelerated. I was as sweaty as someone going out on their first date; only my date was going to be dead if I didn’t do something right away.
Ran up to the door and he tried to pry it open, laughing in a very disturbing tone; his slender fingers reaching in through the centimeters of space left and his eyes watching my every move expertly. I did what I thought was right, and as I struggled to close the door right on his hand, I opened my mouth to yell but for some reason, only laughter came out. The situation was definitely not amusing at all- but I couldn’t shout to my family for help. I was able to slide the door shut and I put the lock up, though Giggles yanked his hand back in time. I began to cry, then I shouted again and a soft cackle was all that escaped my quivering lips. He was just standing there silently, grinning and looking to see what I would do next. I suddenly couldn’t move. What was wrong? I knew that he was going to continue to prey on me, and so my fight or flight response kicked in. Surprisingly, I was then quite kinetic, holding on to the rails of the stairs as I pulled myself up by them fleetingly. I was a blubbering, shaking mess and I opened the door to the bigger room-where mom and dad slept- but…as I took my time to look into the room. A white face rose slowly from under the bed covers, almost slithering out.
I was confused. I didn’t see my parents anywhere, and then I realized I had help from no one. Giggles was real. Giggles was looking for me. Giggles had gotten rid of my family. I stumbled back in disbelief as his figure came closer. As he rose from the sheets, there was only the face of a clown and no clothing-merely a black figure resembling a human body beneath the head. It floated towards me and without stopping, I slammed the door shut to buy myself some time and I leaped daringly over many steps of stairs. I fell and I picked myself up, looking behind me. Though, nothing was following me. Giggles had ceased to exist for a moment. All I heard in that moment was that laugh again. The one that haunted me. Where would it come from next? Would Giggles be above me, crawling over the ceiling like a spider? Would I look out into the distance and see his face peering out of one of the rooms? Neither one of those things happened. What did happen was that I felt a hand on my shoulder and I bolted up. It was my father, and we were in my room. He asked if I was okay and I sarcastically told him that I was doing great as tears rolled down my face. He comforted me from what just occurred and the weight of the world was completely off my shoulders. It was all a dream. I didn’t even wake up- I had fallen asleep after reading and I just had another nightmare. God, how could I be so paranoid? Dad explained to me that they had to cancel Kevin’s birthday party because some of the kids that were going to show up were going to the local carnival instead. I looked out of my room to see my mother comforting my younger sibling. They had canceled the plans for the party. That meant there was no more Giggles. I got dressed for the day and kissed my brother on the cheek out of pity and also to wish him a happy birthday. He smiled at me and our parents smiled as well because they saw that we were finally getting along. Instead, we took Kevin out to dinner to his favorite restaurant. I was so happy that I didn’t even listen to music in the car on the way there because I wanted to cherish this moment my family was spending together. We made jokes, we ate, and we talked for a while about life.
Soon after, we went to check out the carnival. After all, it was the first time the county had an event for everyone to be a part of. It was so much fun and I’ll never forget that day. I went on rides with Kevin when he was too afraid to go on them, I spoke with mom and dad while they ate corn and turkey legs and we watched people make music and have joyous moments with their families. As we left when the sun started to set, I looked up and saw a crowd of people walking-and a familiar face appeared. Giggles was standing right in the middle of the hurried crowd. No one saw him and they walked right past-as if they knew they were avoiding something. His mouth opened to let out heavy laughter and the sound of his shoes crunching against the small rock granules grew louder. His arms were outstretched to come and reach me. I turned around and my parents and everyone behind us disappeared. I turned my head back and the last thing I saw was his face, right in front of mine.