“Hope you all have been enjoying the party so far. It’s time for the second story in our trio of terrors for the weekend.”
“And if you all didn’t get enough candy from trick-or-treating, there’s still plenty available upstairs.”
“Why would they have had any candy from Halloween? There aren’t any kids out there…right?”
“No, none that I can see. But, c’mon, they have kids or bowls of candy for the trick-or-treaters that they’ve sniped from.”
“Hmm. Fair enough then. Alright let’s get the main event started: a high school girl is given the fright of her life while in charge of a five-year-old for the night. I call our second story:
“Have a good night guys,” the father said, walking around the front of the Mercedes to the driver’s side. “And, Owen, listen to Sherry; she’s in charge tonight.”
The kindergartner nodded, still a little shy around his fifteen-year-old babysitter. They watched from the doorstep as the car backed from the driveway and took off down the street. Once it was out of sight, they headed indoors for a quiet evening in. It wasn’t a hard decision to reach, being mid-November and all. There was a chill to the air that night, and full-dark was fast coming. Had this been summer, a game of flashlight tag would have been totally called for. It probably would’ve gone without a hitch this night too, but Sherry wasn’t going to risk little Owen getting a cold on her first gig as a sitter.
Besides, their home was huge. Like, seriously, her family’s townhouse would have fit snuggly in the foyer. With plenty of space to move around in, the night was surely to move along swiftly.
As it turned out, though, Owen and Sherry’s movement was pretty much restrained to the living room, the kitchen, and a quick couple trips to the bathroom. They played a handful of boardgames from a modest collection from the younger boy’s room: a few rounds of Sorry, a couple trips around the Life board, and one of Candyland and an failed attempt at Mousetrap (mainly because the damned trap refused to work properly).
After a bit of entertainment provided by the boy, she called out for a pepperoni and sausage pizza from Papa John’s, after which they made a detour to the kitchen-slash-dining area (though the dinner table was rarely used at her place, with the substitute being the sofa or recliner. However, the rugs in Owen’s living room probably cost more than what her parents made in a year… and she was NOT going to be left owing for that if there was a spill). Dinner came and went, and not long after it was time for Owen to get washed up and ready for bed. Once he’d been dried off and teeth had been brushed, she tucked him in with the night-light clicked on and kept his bedroom door left open a few inches.
An hour and a half left with some alone time.
The living room was more like an entertaining room for guests — there was no TV. But Owen’s dad said that if they wished to watch some movies, the screening room was on the opposite end of the house. She found it and curled up on the sofa and put on the 70-inch OLED. With the exception of the TV, the room almost completely mirrored the living room at the entrance of the house: bookcases filled to their limit with hardcovers, oil paintings covering up the walls, little statues placed carefully around the room. Including a big one in the corner, to the right of the screen.
It was an ugly thing. An unnerving thing: a full-sized statue of a hobo clown. His eyes were wide and his mouth was an expressionless line — contrasted by his makeup which bore a permanent grimace and upturned brows with tears painted on the outside corners of his glassy peepers. Thick stubble protruded from the white and black paints. A sooty red orb covered his nose. His clothing was a sad sight to behold: a stained and torn wife-beater below a wrinkled and tattered checkered jacket; his ill-fitted pants were covered in patches that were a far cry from matching the original material; the shoes barely passed for matching (in fact, they may have been two left shoes of unequal size). There was no way she’d be able to concentrate on the TV programs with that abomination in her peripheral.
So, Sherry got up from her spot on the couch and made her way back to the living room, where she’d left her phone charging before the pizza arrived. She unplugged it from the outlet, pulled a piece of scrap paper from her pocket and dialed the number scrawled on it.
Two rings later, Owen’s dad picked up.
“Hey, Mr. Otrembiak, it’s me, Sherry.”
“Oh, heya Sherry, how’re things going. Everything alright?”
“Yeah everything’s great. It’s been quiet here and Owen’s fast asleep…”
“But?” Owen’s dad said, noting the uncomfortable pause.
“But, I’ve tried watching TV in the screening room like you told me to, but that weird clown statue is really creeping me out. Can I put a blanket over it or is there another room I can watch TV in, sir?”
“Clown statue? What clow— oh, shit. Sherry, stay calm and do exactly what I say.”
Sherry’s skin crawled at the base of her spine, her flesh dropped a few degrees in temperature. Suddenly, her body felt too heavy for her legs to support.
“What?” she whispered, nearly inaudible.
“Go up to Owen’s room and get him. Go outside, and go next door — to your left as you leave — and stay over there. I’m gonna call the police.”
A lump was stuck in her throat; she very much felt like crying… or throwing up… or both. “Why—”
“Sherry,” Mr. Otrembiak said, trying to stay calm and soothing, “Just do this for me, please. Stay on the line, I’m just going to call 911 really quick and I’ll be back on. Okay.”
She nodded and very cautiously crept back into the house. Everything was as quiet as it had been, the exception being the commercials calling out from the TV down the hall. Very slowly, she made her way up the carpeted stairway, being mindful of the spots that she knew creaked from her trip up and down them earlier. The phone remained glued to hear left ear, held in place by a shaky, sweating hand. Her eyes kept locked onto the hallway as she ascended, pleading to her brain and imagination not to play any cruel tricks.
The second she reached the top of the stairs, she turned her focus to her destination.
It felt as if an invisible hand punched her square in the gut: Owen’s door was wide open. Sherry made her way down the corridor as fast and as silently as her body allowed, not bothering to hit the lights, she crossed over to Owen’s bedside. The blankets and sheets had been tossed aside, pooling on the floor, the pillows were in disarray. A dark fluid lay puddled in the center of the mattress.
A heaving sensation came to Sherry’s throat, and she tried with all her might to suppress it. She then noticed the window was fully open, the screen pushed aside. And, in the moonlight, noticed a thick, greasy-looking smear on the hardwood floor running from the bed to the room’s only other exit.
The night’s pizza and soda finally found their way up Sherry’s throat and onto the floor. Tears poured from her eyes and snot dribbled down her nose. All the sound she’d worked to keep muted croaked out in ugly sobs. The cell phone fell away from her ear and the calls from Mr. Otrembiak went unanswered. Hunched over from the painful cramping in her abdomen, Sherry limped over to the window, fearful of what she might see. Knowing what she’d see. Unable to curb her curiosity despite the horror.
She thrust her head out the window, looking over the shingles to the ground below. There on the grass lay Owen, his legs spread-eagle; his hands, palm up, with his mouth open, as if he were shouting, ‘don’t shoot’. His eyes were wide with terror and filled with tears. The midsection of his pajamas were a horrid mess. In the dark of night with the moon’s blue-white light, looked like he was smothered in ten pounds of jelly.
But Sherry knew exactly what it was and immediately wanted to puke again.
Off in the distance, in the middle of the street, that clown figure — the one Sherry had thought to be a statue — wandered into the darkness.
“Soiled pajamas aside, Owen and Sherry managed to walk away from their scares. I can’t say the same for the kids in our next story. But that’s for later!”
“Meet me and Yuki back in here in about an hour and we’ll cap off the party with our third viewing. Bobbing for apples is back on and a game of flashlight tag will be starting shortly.”
“See you all again soon!”