Randall’s MP3 player turned to full volume as he walked down the foggy street, a smooth voice screaming at him about how it was never gonna give him up. Still reeling from the sound, he didn’t see the mangled set of four arms making its way toward him. Before he knew what was happening, the monstrosity struck him with a handful of restaurant flyers, knocking him to the ground.
He looked back at the creature, stunned for a moment at what he was looking at. When it moved to attack him again, his survival instincts kicked in. He leapt to his feet, rage flooding his body as he roared, tipping the creature over. He ran away as it struggled to stand up.
Soon, the sound of the music began to die down, fading until all he could hear was the honking of his clown shoes. He caught a glimpse of himself as he ran by an old storefront, shocked at the haggard face looking back at him. He reached up to his cheek, peering closer at the sad frown that was painted on his skin. This wasn’t anything that Huggygiggles the Clown had ever worn before, not since…
He pulled back, recoiling from his reflection. That was impossible. One of his friends must have put this on him as a joke. He had other things to worry about.
He’d lost control of his tiny car on the way to the Worrel’s fifth birthday party, swerving to avoid a frightened fratboy who’d wandered out onto the road. He’d narrowly dodged the man and his keg, smashing off an embankment and into a tree. Pulling himself from the wreckage, he’d spied a trail of spilled beer leading off down the road. Worried about whether the fully grown man was injured, and also hoping to find help, he followed the trail down a road that steadily filled with a dense fog.
“Hello?” He asked his empty surroundings, his voice bouncing around him. As he listened to his own echo, the sound became altered, as if filtered through a kazoo, growing sillier by the second. By the time the sound faded away, it was as if someone were playing a slide whistle right by his ear, pulling it slowly, deliberately.
The ground rumbled under his feet, and he ran for cover from the earthquake he thought was coming. He took shelter under the doorframe of an adult bookstore, watching as the world around him changed. The road crumbled apart under his feet, huge chunks of asphalt getting sucked under a layer of puffed-out plastic. The walls of the stores around him crumbled, revealing the chipped paint on the small trailers underneath.
It took only minutes before he was there again, sitting by the inflatable castle inside a trailer park he knew all too well. He could hear the sound of laughing children on the wind, coming from just a few trailers away. He began to sweat as he struggled to remember something, but couldn’t. His mind wouldn’t let him.
Something grabbed his shoulder, and he screamed. He whipped around, a balloon sword in his hands and at the ready, when he looked into a man’s face. The delicate voice that come from under the beard threw him off.
“I’m here for the circus. Biggest one to pass through these parts.”
Randall took a step back, recoiling form the touch of the bearded woman. “I’m sorry, my car just broke down. I don’t know about any circus.”
She reached for him again, but he backed up. “How? You’re a clown from it. Why would someone be walking around Honking Valley dressed as a clown if he wasn’t from the circus?”
He thought he recognized that facial hair, now that he thought about it. The look in the woman’s eyes. That wasn’t possible, though. She…didn’t live here.
“You…you’re not from here! You shouldn’t be here! It doesn’t make any sense!”
She shook her head. “I drove here. In a car. People can go to other places, you know.”
His whole frame shook as he backpedaled, his hands up to defend himself. He’d only taken a few steps before the song started up again, and he slammed his back into something. Looking over his shoulder, he found himself staring into a set of rigid muscles, each one taut with rage. The man behind him wore nothing but a bloodstained towel to cover himself, brandishing a huge strongman’s hammer in his hand. Over his head, he wore a 44 X 44 metre red and white tent, a small flag flapping in the wind on top.
“Big Top!” The bearded lady screamed.