D. Paul Angel
“That’s a very good question son, and, I reckon, you’re old enough to know the truth. Now, this is how I heard it from my own great-great-grand-papa, when I was even younger than you. So imagine if you can…”
A cold, Spring wind washing across the open plain, bending the tall grass down to where their tips whip across the dusty soil. High above, cirrus clouds race across the sky fast enough that the stars only seem to blink as they pass. In a field, miles and miles from even the smallest town, two men walk behind the flittering lights of their lanterns. Their dusty, worn boots heavily stomp down a nearly forgotten path, startling a copperhead into slithering towards a sparse, fallow copse. The pair are wearing tattered jeans, and several layers of shirts that the wind keeps trying to blow open.
“Be a nice night if not for the wind,” Abe says, re-adjusting the shovel on his shoulder, though the dried clumps of clay on its spade makes it look more like a club.
“And if we didn’t get caught up with that Goddamn Carney Boss and his God forsaken deals we’d not be out here at all,” Burl bitterly replies before spitting a wet glop of tobacco onto the crumbling dirt. He shifts his shovel between his shoulders, its spade so clean it reflects some of the lantern light as he continues, “But, no. Nasty wind, nasty night, nasty job. Bah, but I hate the damnable man.”
“We could leave?”
“You really believe that? Or you want to believe that?”
“That’s what I thought. Now, shut it. Just find that damned nest.” Burl spits again before crumbling a larger dirt clod with an angry stomp.They continue in silence, each looking on either side of the road, occasionally pushing aside the grass and weeds and delving through the shadows with their lanterns.
“It was by a fence post wasn’t it?” Abe asks sheepishly as Burl stops and glares at him through the dark.
“Yeah. A fence post. That’ll be easy enough. HOW MANY FENCE POSTS CAN THERE BE!?”
Abe doesn’t reply, but looks at the ground instead. After wiping his nose he turns away with a quiet sigh and starts poking around with his shovel again. They continue on for almost an hour, maybe even two, before Abe breaks their silence with a strangled curse.
“Burl. Burl! BURL!”
“I’m right next to you, Abe! What the Hell is– Goddamned it so much!”
Burl holds his lantern just above the spot where Abe is spreading the grass as they shake their heads in disbelief. There, just in front of a fence post so old it’s grayed and splintered, lays a nest of broken eggs. Broken strands of barbed wire, each a different pattern and clipped at different lengths, droop down from the post amongst the empty shells and bright, white shards in the grass.
“We’re too late,” Abe says looking up.
“You think!?” barks Burl between his cussing. “We’re days too late by how hard this goop is, God fucking dammit!”
“Where’d they go Burl?”
Burl doesn’t answer but instead sets his shovel down and begins sweeping the ground with his lantern, stopping when he finds tiny footprints that look like bolded exclamation points in a spot of dried mud. “This way,” Burl says, pointing towards the field.
They hold their lanterns up high, just making out a leg sticking in the air, a few ribbons of rotting flesh still clinging to the bare, bleached bone. Then they notice the grass moving- against the wind. They stand stupefied as dozens of lines appear to be cut in the grass heading towards them on the road. They step back as tiny figures emerge from the grass.
Tiny hands with sharpened nails pull apart the grass letting bald, white heads with fringes of fiery, red hair poke through. Large, crimson noses dully sniff the air. The creatures smile, showing rows of jagged, malevolent teeth beneath wide swaths of huge, red lips before running towards the transfixed pair.
Abe screams, swinging his shovel at them in panic. One, two, three he hits; killing. But more come. Swarming over him; clawing, biting; their oversize red, bulbous feet adeptly climbing his clothes to attack him from all over.
Burl runs for his shovel, forgotten at the fence post. Hearing Abe’s screams turn to a wet gurgle, he drops the lantern and tries running away down the road. He trips in the dark, hitting the ground with a jolting thump. He shakes his head and is trying to stand up when shadows, darker than the night, begin surging towards him.
“Wow, Dad. So the reason I’m scared of clowns…”
“Is because they’re demon spawn, Son, hatched that night many, many years ago.”