“We can’t see each other anymore.”
The blue plastic chair that the boy sits on is slippery with sweat and fear as he looks across his play table to his friend. Red hair separated down the middle by a river of baldness, face pale and arched black eye brows. His face now sad with an empty tea cup held with two gentle gloved hands.
“I’m sorry Bozo.” A visual image of a black tear appears beneath his left eye before disappearing.
“Dylan!” His father calls from downstairs, body jolting in fear as he stands and heads for his bedroom door. With his back turned he twists the doorknob.
“…I’m sorry.” Turning around he sees the remains of a smoked black cloud as his one and only friend departs for the final time before he leaves and shuts the door, heading downstairs to be with his father. He was alone.
“Dad, did you check?” The Voice of a small child calls out to his father, eyes wide and hopeful for reassurance. His father stops in the doorway, hand curved around the coolness of the silver doorknob. He turns towards his son with a tired smile and sighs.
“Yes son, for the last time there’s nothing in your closet.” The child’s eyes widen, mouth parted as he speaks out.
“Or..” The father huffs in frustration, half closing the door.
“Or under your bed….” In the silence the child nods and pulls the covers higher up to his shoulders.
"Dad, would you read me a story?"
“Your mother was the one who read the stories...I don’t do bedtime stories." A shimmer of light reflected off the small child’s eyes as their banks threatened to burst. The lights go out with a harsh slap.
“Goodnight Dad.” Closing his eyes Dylan accepts his fathers word and lets his mind return to peace. He was alone. The single thought had crushed him like nothing else in the world, he loved Bozo and enjoyed the company and happiness he had brought him since the death of his Mother when he was three. He was always there, even when his father was downstairs drowning his sorrows with a bottle of JD in one hand and the TV remote in the other. His eyes catch the small fabric chair beside his bedside, lightened under the shade of the pale moonlight. That’s where he once sat, watching over him as he slept, warding off the evil that hid in the darkest corners of his mind.
He was gone.
A harsh breeze blows through the open window in the dead of night, rustling the curtain drapes and disturbing the leaves on the trees outside. The branches creak down to their roots as the shadows shake in the winter breeze. All movements stop, a moment in silence. He can breathe again. He was ok. The closet door growls on its hinges as it perches itself open the slightest. Dylan sits up, chest heaving as the white fingers of a gloved hand emerges slowly around the frame of the door. He rushes to the light switch flicking it on in a heartbeat. The lights flicker twice before rupturing to the darkness.
“No” He hears him faintly groan out in the shadows. Bozo could never truly talk, he could only listen and that was all he needed, someone to listen to him. A friend was something Dylan could never have, he was far to shy for that.
“Go away” The tender voice of a five year old demands, shaken and tormented with fear. The gloved hand glitches, a once whitened material now dirty and tattered before returning to white.
“You aren’t needed anymore Bozo. I told you to leave. I want you to leave. We aren’t friends anymore.” Dylan expresses with all confidence as his heart pounds in a steady distress.
The door opens and the lights return as his angry father glares down at him.
“What’s going on in here? Who are you talking to?” He demands as Dylan backs away, tears threatening to fall.
“It was him…He’s mad at me.” His father crouches down before him, gripping his shoulders and looking his stern in the eye.
“Listen to me son, this is nonsense and it needs to stop right now. There’s no such thing as monsters and nothing will ever take you away from me.” He stands up and points to the bed angrily.
“Now get to bed and stop this nonsense!” Dylan jumps to obey, laying back down in his bed as his father walks out, slamming the door with all his wrath. His heavy footsteps echo down the remains of the hall before his door can be heard slamming shut, sending the house into an early silence.
The sound of aggravated beeping shoots through the walls of his fathers unconscious state. Pain bursts through his chest. Through the darkness he struggles to sit up. A heavy weight holds him to his bed in his foggy state as fingernails tear through his chest. He screams as his breath steadies itself in hurried warm pants, realising now a cold gloved hand covers his lips. Screams now a silent plead for help as blood ruptures through the once clean fabric of his white T-shirt. A warmth spreads across his chest and stomach as the hands dig deeper. Face pale, eyes colourless, lips red and teeth long, pointed and tinged yellow. It couldn’t be. A bright red smile is the final thing he sees before the darkness consumes him.
The headlights of a passing car illuminate Dylan’s room as the truck sounds its horn. Dylan jerks awake, huffing and distressed. He sits up, nerves on edge and tingling. Swinging his legs over the edge of the bed, he stands and steadily walks towards the bedroom door. The closet door creaks open capturing his attention as he turns around to see the shadow of a clown he once called his only friend standing at the foot of his bed. A wet dripping sound can be heard. Dylan’s hand slips from the cool silver door handle.
“Bozo, what are you doing?” He whispers, stalking back towards his bed. Voice unable to project louder in fear of waking his father. The figure glitches before remaining as whole.
“Why are you doing that?” Dylan asks crawling back into his bed, sitting in the middle facing the sad clown. Sharp objects can be seen emerging from Bozo’s back.
“Other children…aren’t ..as…nice..to…Bozo…Like you are” He stuttered, voice forceful and broken. Dylan sucks in a breath, tears swelling his eyes as he watched Bozo back away into the closet, ready to depart again.
“Wait!” Dylan exclaims, getting up from the bed and following Bozo into the closet. His feet thumping loudly on the wooden floorboards with each step. The closet door slams shut, the lock sliding into place causing Dylan to jump. Fear fills his heart and lungs as he turns and pounds on the door.
“DAD!!” He screams, tears falling freely as fear begins to take over. Mouth dry and skin prickling.
The sound of the overhead light string being pulled spins Dylan around in an instant. Bozo’s face is no longer his. The skin of his fathers face now stitched to the once loving features of his friend. Neck coated in crimson revenge. He can’t scream, his voice refuses to work, body shaking. He wants his father desperately like never before.
“Do you…love me…like you loved him?” The mask of his fathers face smiles down at him before engulfing him in a tight hug. The glass mirror behind Bozo fogs its once clear glass as hand prints press internally, begging for release.
“No …Stop Bozo!” Dylan demands. A friend that once listened to him, now ignorant to his pleas and fears. He picks the small child up in his grasp before leaning back into the mirror. Black hands grasp the two, wanting and clawing desperately. Through the smokey grey haze laughter emerges from distant places, chaotic and lost as Dylan’s world fades to darkness.
Dylan awakens to the sound of soft circus music. His back screams to be stretched. In his dazed consciousness he realised he’s sitting in a small plastic chair, arms bound by the roughness of rope.
“What’s going on?” Dylan questions as he looks around his surroundings. Four other children, two girls, two boys sit tied to the same plastic chairs around a small plastic table. The clicking of a plastic teapot on plastic cups draws Dylan’s attention to the figure sitting at the head of the table, knees drawn high in the overly small chair as realisation settles in. He smiles around the table, eyebrows raised, red make-up stretching wide to accommodate his long teeth as he raises the teapot.
“Tea?” He growls.