With the announcement of The Stone Man and Other Weird Tales now being sold at $0.99 on Amazon, I wanted to release a story from the collection, “Hugo The Clown.” It’s one of my favorite’s out of all the ones I’ve written, so I hope you enjoy it as well.
This one was the one. This was the last he needed to open the door in his cellar. Hugo “Happy Go-Lucky Huggi” Knight drove down Cherry Springs Drive in his large white van, the side of which was painted with an image of a clown holding balloons, above him candy sprinkled down like rain, and Hugo’s stage name stretched across the top in big yellow bubbly letters.
The cloudless sky rolled over his windshield, and the smell of freshly cut grass drifted through his open window. As Hugo steered his vehicle, he reflected on what got him to this point in life. It had only been two months! Two months of children’s parties to retrieve nearly enough energy he needed. But, God willing, young Tommy York would be the last, his life force would put it over the top. A smile crept over his face while the wind blew back his long brown hair.
When he stopped at the corner, he looked to his right and saw Mr. Lawson wearing a brightly colored polo shirt and khaki shorts that hugged his thighs. As the man he met at a child’s party trimmed the hedges in front of his house, Hugo said hello through the open window. Mr. Lawson looked up, held the clippers to his side, and waved. They exchanged pleasantries for a few moments, then Hugo made a left turn and drove steadily down Tony Street.
The York’s house was at the end of the way. Each house that moved across Hugo’s vision was identical. They were all painted with dull colors, with a boring bright trim, and had exactly the same amount of windows, and shutters, and porch lights, and so on. But the doldrums of the suburbs wouldn’t bring down Hugo that day, no, not at all. On this day, he was going to get what he needed and get the hell out of that boring town. Hell! He planned to leave that lackluster world, that reality, and cross over the threshold and be on what he considered, the “better side.” He didn’t know what laid beyond the door, no, but Hugo believed anything was better than what he already had.
An hour later he stood in his clown attire while Tommy attempted to blow up a red balloon, standing next to him. Patiently, he watched everything go according to plan. Tommy tried and tried and tried to blow up the balloon with air, but Hugo knew it wouldn’t work with that particular balloon. This balloon expanded not with air, but with life force.
Each blow from the tiny lips of Tommy emitted the energy that kept him alive. Every kid fell for the whole, “I can’t blow this up, maybe I’m getting too old, how about the birthday boy (or girl) gives it a try?” stunt. The kid would smile with a big stupid grin, jump up, snatch the balloon from Hugo’s bright blue gloved hand, and start blowing.
With a smile ear to ear, Hugo would watch with joy as each breath was another he gathered, shaving off a few years from the child’s life. Eventually, the balloon would fill and expand, revealing a giant yellow smiley face. Hugo would take the balloon, pat Tommy on the back and reward him with a handful of candy taken from his enormous jacket pocket. The kid would take it, peer vacantly over the rest of the children, then faint.
By the time an ambulance would be called, and his apologies had been said, Hugo would be in his van, with the sealed balloon bobbing in the passenger’s seat, driving towards home. And by the time the child would come to, Hugo would be gone — long gone.
And that’s just what happened with Tommy York. Tommy blew until the balloon filled, stood stupidly with a handful of candy, then collapsed onto the floor. His parents immediately called 9-1-1. The ambulance came, and Hugo left the party, filled balloon in hand.
He rushed out from the parked van, across the walkway, over the porch, and into his house. The door was thrown shut and locked, and he wrenched the clown suit from his body revealing his plain white t-shirt and basketball shorts. The bottom of the balloon was pinched between his two fingers as he ran down the hallway, turned in the kitchen, threw open the cellar door and flew down the stairwell. Flicking on the overhead lights, he stared at the altar and the door.
Both were ancient, beyond age and time, not a single person he asked could tell him how old they actually were. They looked decayed, with dark gray hues, and creases and crevices cracking up through their surface. The altar looked like a bird bath for the damned, and the door looked like a giant, peaked, vagina. The two parts of the door that would soon slide open were closed together so tight that Hugo couldn’t even poke a needle between them.
Hugo paced over to the altar, undid the balloon’s tie, and pushed out Tommy’s life force. When the energy passed the brim of the large concave opening, it intertwined with the life force already collected, and transformed into fire colored baby blue. The flames parted, revealing the gray bottom, then twisted, turned and erupted up over the top.
The balloon was emptied, and Hugo quickly took a step back. With widening eyes, he bore witness to the flames dancing high above the altar, nearly touching the ceiling, then curve downwards, shooting to the ground. An unseen crevice in the floor ignited with the fire and the blue flames darted across the room, to the door.
The blue fire crashed against the gateway, spun, and set the archway ablaze. Then, as if an explosion occurred, the room shook, and a bright light blared out from between the two sliding doors, forcing Hugo to wince and cover his eyes with his arm. He heard a grinding sound soon after, of stone against concrete. Slowly Hugo opened his eyes and saw the doorway open gradually. Seconds passed, and the doorway was entirely open. Hugo stood on the threshold, his toes stopping on the line between his reality and theirs, whoever they were.
His chest heaved, he exhaled heavily, then took a step into the unknown. But what Hugo believed to be on the other side, a world filled with magical and imaginative things and beings, one where he could explore endlessly and never see the same thing twice, one where gargantuan creatures roamed vast grassy fields or enormous reptilian beings flew across the cloudless skies, and most importantly, one where he would have never-ending happiness and excitement, was not what he found.
Once Hugo’s frame stood beyond the threshold, a million long, purplish gray arms shot out from the abyss and grabbed onto his limbs. The thin, sharp, fingers dug into his flesh. They pulled him up into the air by his skin, and one by one, ripped, tore, gashed, pulled apart, his body. On the brink of death and madness, the last fleeting thought that moved through the mind of the once child performer, was that he fell for the same trick as the kids, but there wasn’t going to be a handful of candy at the end.