“I’m getting tired of all these clowns trying to lure our kids into the woods or back alleys and I’m going to stop them any way I can.” Brett stuffed the business end of his .45 into his waistband as he opened the back door.
“No, please don’t.” His wife Sheila ran up to him and grabbed his free arm, then staggered backward as her furious husband shook off her grip.
Nine-year-old Teddy and his six-year-old sister Pam were peeking into the kitchen from the hallway not knowing who to be more scared of, the clowns or Daddy.
For months, reports of clowns wandering the streets of communities all across America had been in the news, but in Alanville, Idaho, things had taken a frightening turn.
The small, rural town in the center of the state, famed for its apple orchards, had a population of barely 5,000. It was the type of American community where everyone still knew their neighbors, people waved and said hello as they passed each other on the sidewalk, and doors on cars and houses were only occasionally locked. It was what magazines called a “family friendly community,” a wonderful place to raise children, or at least it had been up until last month.
When the first clown sighting was reported, people thought it was just a couple of high school kids pulling a prank, a sort of copycat of what was happening in bigger towns and cities.
But when seven-year-old Toby Davis told his parents that a clown followed him home from school, they called the Sheriff’s office. After a brief investigation, Deputy Ellis found only what folks expected, which was sixteen-year-old Freddie Carlston dressed up in a clown suit he’d bought online, using it to make a pest of himself.
Ellis took Freddie home to his Mom and Step-Dad, and Step-Dad didn’t think Freddie was too big for a whooping. That ended that, or it should have.
It’s not illegal to wear a costume, even in rural Idaho, so when a few other clowns showed up without following little kids around or otherwise making themselves a nuisance, Brad Johnson, Taft County’s newly elected Sheriff, told people to settle down and just ignore them. Freddie’s little friends (which is who Sheriff Johnson decided were in those clown costumes) would get bored soon enough and things would get back to normal.
But they didn’t. They got worse.
Children came home from school or from out playing crying and talking about scary clowns trying to get them to go into the woods west of town just as the sun was setting, or attempting to corner them in alleyways near downtown.
Deputies investigated but couldn’t find anything. Truth to tell, Johnson thought it was just a bunch of little kids letting clown stories and their imaginations run away with them, and didn’t put any impetus on his deputies to make more than a token effort to find these “clowns.”
There were a lot of Dads like Brett Thomas who were getting sick and tired of their children waking up in the middle of the night screaming there was a clown leering at them through their bedroom window, or that a clown had jumped out from behind a tree and tried to grab them.
Brett was just the first to take a gun and go after the clowns. His house backed up to the woods and it used to be safe for Teddy and Pam to play out back. Brett remembered his own childhood when he’d wander through those woods for hours with his friends playing “war” or “Tarzan.”
There were predators dressed like clowns hunting children and Brett was going to stop them.
It was barely twenty minutes since the children ran in through the backdoor crying, saying a clown had talked to them and offered them candy to follow him into the woods. Brett wouldn’t be a man if he didn’t find the son of a bitch who scared his kids and put an end to him one way or another.
“I’ll be back. Lock the doors and close the blinds.” Brett was gone with a slam of the screen door before Sheila had a chance to answer. Terrified for her husband and for the children, she did what Brett said, then got on the phone and called the Sheriff’s.
She was hysterical and it took several minutes before she could get the dispatcher to understand what her husband had gone out to do. If there were some kids or even some child abuser out there in a clown costume, it would be murder if Brett shot him.
Hansen’s Woods. Brett never was afraid of going into them before. He’d grown up playing in these woods. He’d taken his family hiking and camping in these woods. They had always seemed so friendly, full of life, nature’s playground. But tonight, it was just after sunset, they changed to become something menacing.
Brett had remembered to get a flashlight from the shed after he stormed outside, and was shining it on the path in front of him. When he caught that clown, he’d at least put a good scare into him, march his ass back out of the woods, and get the Sheriff to take this threat seriously.
The light forced the woods to reveal few secrets. Shadows of trees, fallen logs, and undergrowth. Brett moved the light back and forth in front of him as he walked. He was going more slowly now, feeling more uncertain of himself and thinking maybe he had kind of jumped the gun a bit, no pun intended.
He let out a short yell as his light played over something red and white ahead. He steadied the beam on it, on the clown.
It looked like something more at home in a horror movie than a circus, matted fake red hair, dark circles under the eyes. The white skin of his face was wrinkled with yellow splotches, like it was old. When it smiled at Brett, the clown’s teeth looked long and sharp. So did the fingernails.
“You’re not what I’m looking for.” The clown’s voice was raspy, the way Brett’s old Grandpap sounded like after sixty years of smoking two packs a day.
Brett tried to stop trembling and took a deep breath. “You’re coming with me, you bastard.” He’d pulled his pistol out of his waistband and had it pointed right at the clown.
“That won’t stop me.”
“Unless you’ve got a bulletproof vest under that rig, it sure as hell will.” Both of Brett’s hands were shaking and he couldn’t understand why he was scared when he obviously had the advantage.
“I brought friends.” The clown’s broad grin was the stuff of nightmares.
Brett heard a twig snap behind him. Leaves rustled on either side of where he was standing. He risked a quick look around and saw there were five more of them, clowns with various costumes, all hideous, approaching from each direction.
Brett turned to the clown right in front of him. “You tell them to back off or you’ll be the first to get it.”
The clowns didn’t speak but he could hear a low chuckling coming from each of them as they all advanced upon him.
Panic was rising inside Brett’s chest from the pit of his stomach, then it exploded in his brain as he realized he wouldn’t be able to shoot all of them before they were on him.
Brett fired at the clown who was now just a few feet directly in front of him. It flinched, taking the bullet square in the chest, but kept on coming. He shot again, three, four, finally emptying all six rounds into the creature but it didn’t stop, didn’t fall. There wasn’t even any blood.
Two young deputies, Franklin and Morris were their names, were standing in the Thomas’s living room taking a report from Mrs. Thomas when they heard the piercing scream of terror shrieking from the back woods. The deputies thought the children had imagined the clown, and that Mr. Thomas would come back home in an hour or so after he found nothing out there, that is, right up until then.
Franklin called for back-up while Morris went out back and shined his flashlight vainly into the woods. There were no further screams. They thought Thomas might have tripped and shot himself, but no one had heard a shot. Maybe he’s fallen and broke his leg or his neck.
An hour later, four deputies found what was left of Brett Thomas. The coroner called in a specialist to make sure, but the conclusion of the autopsy was definite: Brett Thomas had been partially eaten. His brain was gone entirely. He wouldn’t be the last this would happen to.
The zombie apocalypse had arrived months earlier all across the nation, but no one realized it because they had taken on a brilliant disguise.