The world is a cruel place existing solely because some people still believe in magic and miracles. That’s a truth we all know. Just like the simple truth that clowns make us laugh. They put on funny masks and put up funnier acts to make us forget the world for a while and laugh till our stomachs ache. Clowns are beautiful men who seem to forget their own troubles to put up an act so we can laugh while sitting in comfortable seats.
I had been deep in my thoughts while I walked out of the auditorium that night because I had just seen the couple sitting beside me shielding their child’s eye; she had been wailing that she was scared. The group of clowns had been quite funny and I had liked the show. I never quite understood why the child was so afraid. I walked on in the soft crimson light of the already fair ground. Today was the last day of the fair. Most of the stalls had been broken and their owners had drifted off to another strange land like a group of gipsies. Only a few small stalls still stood, now closed, for it was already way past closing time. Save for the auditorium where the clown show had been held, nothing was lit. And I walked on in the crimson light coming from there.
I became conscious of where or what I walked into when suddenly the crimson light was no longer there. There was darkness everywhere. I whispered softly, asking if anyone was there. Silence. I turned around only to be faced by an eerie blackness. I realised I must have walked into one of the tents of the clowns. A chill spread slowly over my entire body and settled itself softly and surreptitiously on my back. I was scared. Why? Perhaps because of the apparent void I had walked into and which failed to show me the exit. I took a tentative step forwards and when I didn’t go down a rabbit hole or into another dimension, I mustered a bit more strength and groped around for a source of light. Something warm made itself known against my palm. A lantern. I fumbled for some time and finally found the box of matches lying right beside.
My eyes had already adjusted themselves to the darkness by the time I lit the lantern to its full strength and so I had to blink a while before the golden light stopped stabbing my eyes. I held the lantern up and immediately realised that the exit was behind me; for in front of me stood a bunch of makeshift shelves holding numerous coloured glass jars. Some stood precariously on the edge but surprisingly didn’t fall. A tiny voice inside my head urged me to move forwards even though I knew I had to go back home. It was already late and my phone was dead. Mom would butcher me. But the voice grew stronger till I found the shelves right beneath my nose. I didn’t have the time to understand how I had walked so fast; the jars were somehow enticing me.
Something danced in each of the jars. Something sinister and dangerous. I looked closer into them. All I saw was coloured misty haze. But there seemed to be a faint sound wafting through the air around the jars. I heard something shrill and ringing. Was it really coming from the jars? I pressed my ears closer and almost immediately took a step back. My heart raced against time. The sepulchral tones coming from inside the misty haze of the beautiful jars were definitely enchanting, but they meant disaster. I knew exactly what the sounds were and they had a foreboding darkness about them that told me I had to leave. Questions spiralling in my head in a grey dusty whirlwind, I spun around to leave.
“Enjoying, are we?” a cold voice emanated from the exit. The figure silhouetted against the sliver of night sky visible through the split of the entrance was that of a plump clown, but the voice had none of the mirth that usually came from a clown’s voice. The figure advanced towards me and the light caught his face. He was a clown all right. He still had his costumes and make-up on. The flickering gold of the lantern seemed to have turned his face into that of a malicious monster. Or was he already that? My recent discovery begged me to agree. The shadows danced on the walls of the tent, taking all sorts of unbelievably scary shapes. He knew.
“Found out our little secret, did you?” his cold voice asked again; a dark and wry smile spreading over his face.
“Those… Those jars,” I began. But I was paralyzed with fear, trepidation and disbelief at what was happening. I found my voice a few seconds later. “Laughter… Sup-suppressed… That’s n-not possible. H-h-how?” I kept trembling as the clown walked towards me and towered over my tiny figure.
He gave a laugh that rang with icy coldness throughout the half-lit tent, tickling my bones and freezing my blood. He put a finger on my chin and forced my stony face upwards so that his dark pools of eyes bore into mine. He continued in a voice that seemed to drain the happiness right out of my soul and replace it with impossible emptiness.
“We feed on it. Oh, yes, we do. Just like vampires feed on blood, we feed on your laughter. It’s necessary that you humans believe that we make you laugh,” he paused for a while in which his face seemed to twist into a smirk. “It’s easier that way for us to wrench your heart and bleed it dry of its joy. You come here to get rid of the cruel world that awaits you out there. And yet, unknown to you, we trap you. We trap your pretty laughs and store them.”
At this point I was about to protest. I had suddenly found my voice and reason and somehow it all seemed ridiculous. But he forced my mouth shut with a sharp jab at my chin and I froze again. The sinister sensation kept spreading into my veins with each word he spoke.
“Sounds ridiculous, does it? Haven’t you ever wondered why people leaving our shows always wish to come back? Haven’t you ever seen them crave for a reason to laugh? Why do you think that is?” He waited a second; as if to let the words sink into my blood and then continued. “That’s because we drain them of the little happiness that they have left in their souls. And when they are out in the world with their exhausted souls, everything seems a little darker. A little nastier. A little bitter. Unfortunately for you silly people, you never realise what’s happened. You simply blame it on the ways of the world and crave for the remedy.”
He took a sharp breath and put his finger down from where it was glued to my chin. Even his sharp breath seemed to have sucked out the warmth of the air around. He wheeled me around towards the shimmering jars and walked forwards. I wasn’t sure I understood what he had just said but everything seemed blacker than it was before I had lit the lantern. He slowly twisted open one of the jars which was bottling a greyish haze. The haze lifted itself from the bottle and started spreading itself into the confined space of the tent. And with that began spreading the sound of thousand laughs. The sound grew menacingly loud and I kept backing away.
The clown began joining in the raucous noise. Before the haze encompassed me into absolute darkness I heard him shout over the splitting sound, “We refill you and empty you. We kill you. We make you wish for more. But by the time you come back or realise what’s happened, we’re already gone. Gone with your soul.” There was another screeching laughter and the lantern slipped my hands. Nothingness.
And then I was falling. Down a rabbit hole. Down the endless abyss. Till I woke up on my bed, screaming my lungs out.
There’s always two sides to everything, isn’t there? Have you ever wondered if that is the truth about clowns? If the truth we’ve been told is a part of the very conditioned world we live in? What if you suddenly walked in on the tent of a group of clowns and found what I had found? What if you chanced upon the other side – a much darker and grittier side of the story? Would you still go to a clown show?