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The Resurgence of Clowns

C.L. Holland is a British writer of fantasy and science fiction who sometimes writes poetry under an assumed name. She has a BA in English with Creative Writing, and MA in English, and likes to learn things for fun. She lives with her long-suffering partner, and two cats who don't understand why they can't share her lap with a laptop.

We knew it was happening again when David started juggling. One minute he was packing the lunches for school the next day, the next his hands were full of oranges and they were whizzing around in the air. His nose was bright red.
Mum screamed and shoved me out of the kitchen. She and Dad pushed a table in front of the door. I heard the thud of oranges falling to the floor.
Dad phoned the emergency number. I could hear David crying as he rattled the door handle and begged us to let him out. Then Mum was crying and I was crying. I almost didn't hear the glass shattering in the kitchen, and then there were lights and sirens.
The paramedics came out of the ambulance in full hazmat suits. By the time they got to the kitchen David was gone. Out the smashed window and just gone. They radioed it in and turned their attention to us.
They started out by asking my parents about David--where did he go, who did he see, was there any evidence of clowning around before this? They asked us all about the last few days, same questions. None of us had seen it coming.
"We're going to have to place you under quarantine," one of them said. "No one enters without protection, and no one leaves."
"That's ridiculous," Dad said. "Can't you test us, make sure we're clear? There were inoculations, last time."
"Last time it was a different strain," the other paramedic said. She produced a handful of cards and handed one to each of us. "We can't protect you against this yet, which means if any of you are infected we can't protect the rest of the town either. If there's any sign of infection, in any of you, call that number." She was looking right at me, and I nodded.
They left then, and I watched out the window as they painted something on our front door and taped it shut. I saw someone at the other end of the street.
"What is it, poppet?" He came up behind me and kissed my hair. I pointed to the big red circle painted on the Hendersons' door.
"So we're not the only ones." His voice was heavy. "I think it's your bedtime. Go on up."
I went upstairs, did my teeth, and brushed my hair. I could hear Mum on the phone, calling all of David's friends' parents, telling them what had happened and to keep an eye on their kids. Dad came up after, and sat on the chair by the bed with a sigh.
"I want you to keep this on you, in case of emergency."
I looked up to see him holding out a mobile phone, even though they'd said I couldn't have one until I was older.
"What are you reading?" I showed him, something silly with zombies. "Isn't that a bit scary?"
I shrugged. I'd just seen my brother turn into a clown, so whatever. "Not really. They glow in the dark."
"Can I read to you?"
I hadn't needed--or wanted--reading to for years, but I handed it over and didn't even mind that he started in the wrong place.
The next day I watched from my bedroom window as my friends from school carried on as normal. They crossed the road to avoid any house with a red dot--there were a lot more of them this morning--and zigzagged across the road like idiots.
Breakfast was quiet. Dad sliced fruit into a bowl while I peeled the bananas and Mum did something at the sink. Her feet looked weird, too big like she was wearing Dad's shoes. And she'd done something to her hair, it was too red and too curly.
As she turned I saw the bucket and screamed. She flung the contents at us and pink glitter filled the kitchen. Clowns like to share the fun. That's how they spread it, glitter and buttonholes.
I heard her calling as I ran. I threw the banana skin I was still holding behind me and heard her crash down.
In the Hendersons' garden, hiding between the fence and the bins, I dialed the number the paramedics had given me.
"Mum turned into a clown," I told the man who answered. "She covered Dad in glitter, so I guess he's got it now, too."
"Did any get on you?"
"I don't think so." I did a quick panicked check but didn't see anything. "No."
"Right." He took my address. "Are you still at that location?"
"Clearly I'm not, or I'd be honking my nose down the phone at you." It started to rain, and big fat drops splattered on my arms. "Where am I supposed to go?" My voice got high-pitched with panic. There were clowns out here somewhere.
"Can you get to the school?"
"We've set up an incident center. Go straight there, don't stop to talk to anyone. Be careful and you'll be fine."
There was a store on the way, where we all bought sweets we weren't supposed to have. It was closed, but someone had already smashed the windows so I didn't feel bad about breaking in. They were out of bananas, so I grabbed a bag and filled it with cartons of custard instead. Then I went to the toy aisle for the super soakers, filled two and slung the straps over my shoulders. It occurred to me then that pie cases might work better, but they wouldn't travel well.
On the way out another gun caught my eye, one that would be great for when the custard ran out. It was the sort that would never run out of ammo, since the little flag pushed right back in.
Time for school.
The End
This story was first published on Friday, October 19th, 2018

Author Comments

This story came from a flash fiction contest at Codex Writers' Group. The title was provided as a prompt, and the first line quickly followed and set the tone of what followed. Clowns are scary, so the rest was written in a terrifying evening of researching pratfalls and listening to creepy circus music.

- C.L. Holland
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