Sometimes you just need a break.
After spending many weeks up to my eyeballs in the Sperry novel, all the words started to swim together and I needed a chance to clear my head and catch my breath. In an effort to decompress, I returned to my favorite world "The Coming Evil" for another little tale.
I love my group of characters from "The Coming Evil" and have often joked that I could write a whole story about Dras and Rosalyn talking about bananas and it would be just as much fun for me as having them fight monsters. Well, I thought I'd put that idea into practice. Very early on, I realized that I don't know enough about bananas to carry on a whole short story, but I DO know the pain of finding out that one of your favorite childhood horror movies is about to be remade by corporate Hollywood, and that got me to thinking about how Dras might react to such news.
What emerged from that was "Clown Time...The Remake." It's a truly SHORT story with no real bearing on the mythology (though there is a setup for a future story that I'm currently writing), but it was a heckuva lot of fun to write--especially since my wife, Meghan Mitchell, makes her debut. I wrote the first half of the story before turning back to my duties on Sperry, and Meghan read what I'd written. Then, she came to me with an idea for how it should play out and I said, "Write it!" She did and I'm really honored to have her on board.
Without further ado, we present to you--"The Coming Evil: Clown Time...The Remake".
Historian’s Note: This story takes place approximately a month before the events in “The Coming Evil, Book One: The Strange Man”.
“They’re remaking Clown Time?!”
Dras Weldon reread the rather brief, though no less heartbreaking, article off ShockMasters.com, his jaw dangling near the space bar on the keyboard. Rosalyn Myers leaned over his shoulder, brushing back her long, bouncy auburn locks, as if removing the veil from the dreaded news.
Once finished pouring salt on the fresh wound, Dras scooted back out of the chair and stood, animal adrenaline coursing through him.
“I can’t believe this!” He ran his fingers through his unkempt dirty blonde hair.
“This is an outrage! A travesty to cinema!”
Rosalyn blew out a huff and flopped down in the chair, absently leaving the offending site to go check her e-mail. “You knew this would happen eventually, Dras.”
“But Clown Time! It’s sacred! You know that the director, Bruce Hobbs himself, lived out his last years around this area, right?” Dras trailed off, “Though he never returned my calls…” then resumed his exuberant tirade, “But the man was a legend! He even co-hosted a special presentation of Clown Time 2 with Edmond Ghoulie on Midnight Matinee! Bruce Hobbs offered us one of the most probing studies ever into the psyche of the repressed and downtrodden!”
Pausing in between her login name and password, Rosalyn swiveled the chair around to raise an eyebrow at Dras’ protest. “It’s a movie about a killer clown with an axe.”
Dras paced in the cramped computer room of his apartment, ranting now, “No, Rosalyn. That’s what outsiders always say.”
Rosalyn nodded, already tuning him out, going back to her e-mail.
Raving, Dras flung his arms wildly, shouting to the gods who had bestowed such cruelty, “Clown Time teaches us something, Roz. It’s a morality tale about what happens when irresponsible teenagers get caught doing nasty things when there’s an undead clown on the loose! What do you think kept me out of the North Woods all those years, huh?! That movie quite possibly saved my life!”
Dras huffed and grumbled under his breath, “Bruce Hobbs was planning on making the fifth one before he died. Leave it to those soulless Hollywood executives to take a man’s life’s work and trash it the second he croaks.”
Unable to keep a straight face, Rosalyn finally laughed. “You want me to go see it with you when it comes out?”
“No!” Dras slapped his thigh in protest. Paused. Then slumped. “You paying?”
“Would that make you feel less like you were violating your strict moral code?”
Dras collapsed on the couch, deflated, now. “Maybe. Probably not.”
“You know you’re going to see it.”
“Of course I’m going to see it,” Dras groaned, rubbing his face tiredly. “That’s why I hate myself.”
Rosalyn quickly surveyed that she had no new messages, then logged out of her e-mail. With great finality, she stood and moved toward her best friend, dropped down beside him, then laid her head on his chest. “Listen, I know what can cheer you up.”
“Stop it,” he whined. “I don’t want to be cheered up. They’ve just ruined my childhood.”
Rosalyn pushed on, ignoring him, “Why don’t we go to Dave’s and rent the original. I’ll…” she took a deep breath. “I’ll even watch it with you.”
Dras carefully craned his neck to study her with suspicious and distrusting eyes. “You will. Really.”
“Really, really. But only the original one.” Poking her finger into his chest, she reinforced, “I don’t want to watch one of those lame sequels where they shoot him into outer space or something.”
“That was Part Three,” Dras responded automatically.
“The first one, Dras.”
Dras stood, newly invigorated, and held out his hand, gentlemanly. “Then let us be off. We have a date…with death!”
* * *
Rosalyn waited like a patient parent off to the side of the racks as Dras hungrily roved over the faded VHS covers in the horror section. Corner Video Store boasted the best selection of terrible horror movies in town, and Dras melted in its glorious presence. He’d perused these shelves many a time over the years, recounting the B-movies of his youth and diving back into that pool of time, enjoying the old classics.
Rosalyn did not hold the same appreciation for monsters and ghouls and masked maniacs, but she remained tolerant. Dras zeroed in on his target and located the box for the original 1982 slasher movie extravaganza, Clown Time. Shot on a shoestring budget by Bruce Hobbs and a group of friends fresh out of film school, Clown Time told the touching tale of a simple, backwoods man-child who loved nothing more than being a clown at the annual carnival until one fateful year when cruel teenagers played a trick that ended the poor clown’s life. Twisted by the screaming void of hell, the man-child returned as Mr. Smiles—the hellbent revenge-driven psychotic clown—to punish those teenagers and their entire hormone-led ilk.
“A-ha!” Dras exclaimed, reaching out for the box.
“Great,” Rosalyn replied, crossing her arms. “Now we pick one for me.”
Dras slowly lowered his arms. “Say wha—?”
“I watch one of your movies, you watch one of mine.”
“Wait, wait, wait,” Dras protested as Rosalyn began her trek over to the other side of the store—the side Dras never dared to explore. “We never agreed to that. That wasn’t part of the deal.”
“It’s only fair,” Rosalyn defended, the hint of a smile in her dark, doe eyes.
“Oh, grow up, you big baby. It won’t kill you to watch something without a monster or spaceship in it, just this once.”
Dras stopped dead in his tracks, a frown marring his boyish features. “It might.”
Rosalyn bent down, taking stock of the selection, before making hers. She flipped the cover toward Dras and called, “Steve McQueen. Bullitt. See? No chick flick.”
Crestfallen, Dras returned his attention to Clown Time and lifted the box…to find that no tape rested behind it.
“No…” he breathed, feeling his heart stopping with cold dread. “No, it can’t be…”
Rosalyn moved to his side, casually holding her McQueen, and glanced down. “What? What’s wrong?”
Dras turned to her, his face pale and his eyes leaning towards hysteria.
“Some…someone…someone checked it out!”
Nearly toppling her, Dras rushed for the front of the store where the illustrious Dave leaned against the counter, his head swallowed up by a large headset, Metallica blaring through. Dave bopped his head, looking away from the store he was to be minding, and through the glass front, watching the traffic pass by. Dras skid to a frantic stop at the counter. “Dave! Hey, Dave!”
Dave didn’t answer. Only nodded to the ferocious beat of his metal, his eyes glassy and unresponsive, watching the world outside his video store prison.
“Hey!” Dras shouted louder, drawing the annoyed stares of the other patrons. Rosalyn grinned on his behalf and waved to them all. With pursed lips, Dras stabbed at Dave’s shoulder until the clerk finally turned around and removed one side of his headset.
“You need to check out?” Dave asked lazily.
“No,” Dras countered, offended. “I need to know who rented Clown Time.”
“Dras,” Rosalyn quietly admonished him, placing a hand on his shoulder. “Come on, it’s not that big of a deal.”
Dras jerked free of her grip and held a warning finger to her face. Despite his intensity, she snickered. He spun back to Dave. “I need to know.”
Dave sighed and eased his headset off to dangle around his neck. “Look, dude, I’m not really able to give out that kind of information.”
Fishing around in his Velcro wallet, Dras procured a twenty-dollar bill. He clutched the money between two fingers and made a show of sniffing it in front of Dave. Then he waved it closer to the clerk, hoping to waft the smell of cold, harsh cash in the man’s face. “How about now?”
“Dras,” Rosalyn snapped. “The movie only costs a dollar-fifty to rent in the first place. Are you nuts?”
“Quiet, Rosalyn,” he replied, cool and condescending. “This is man’s work.”
Rosalyn closed her eyes and huffed, flabbergasted.
Dave eyed the twenty dollars with barely a spike in his enthusiasm. Looking to Dras to make sure the deal was serious—to be met by Dras slowly nodding his head, as if coaxing a frightened stray cat to eat some food—the clerk reached out and snatched the bill, quickly stuffing it in his pocket before Dras had a change of heart.
“That’s right, Dave. You treat yourself tonight, buddy. Just tell me what I want to know.”
Rosalyn smacked her head and marched off to put McQueen back on the shelf. She could already tell it was going to be a very long evening. When she returned, Dave was searching through the records, Dras anxiously drumming his fingers on the counter.
“Uh…” Dave read off, “Says here the last person to check it out was…Dras Weldon.”
* * *
Back at Dras’ apartment, a pile of old VHS cassettes and newer DVD cases lay strewn on the floor of the living room, getting comfy amidst the bits of stale food, soda cans, and horror magazines. Dras’ movie cabinet was empty and he stood scratching his head, flustered, before the mess.
“It’s not here,” he surmised. “Where could I have put it?”
“In here?” Rosalyn scoffed. “Dras, I don’t know how you find your left foot in this place.”
Ignoring her sarcasm, Dras continued through the apartment, checking such ridiculous locations as the refrigerator, his underwear drawer, and the cabinet beneath the bathroom sink. At last, defeated, he sank into the chair before his computer desk and moaned.
“Great,” he sighed. “Probably the last beautiful copy of one of the world’s classic horror films and I’ve lost it.”
Rosalyn entered the room, munching on some red licorice she’d purchased at the video store while Dras was spazzing out and begging Dave to check one more time, to make sure the movie wasn’t in the stack of returned tapes.
“Before you commit hari-kari, you might want to look under the bag of Cheese Puffs,” she observed.
Dras snatched the bag of snacks from the desktop to reveal just the sun-faded, curled-plastic-encased video he’d been seeking.
Dras embraced the cassette case and quickly pulled it open, then audibly gasped with glee to see that the tape was still inside. Stopping just short of crying actual tears of joy, he celebrated with himself while Rosalyn looked on in disbelief.
At last, Dras turned to Rosalyn with purpose in his eyes.
“It’s time for a victory viewing.”
* * *
Hours later, as Rosalyn gathered her things to go, she turned to Dras and asked, “Do you want me to drop off the video for you on the way home?”
“Drop it off?” Dras’ expression was one of utter confusion. “Why?”
“Well, Dras, you’ve watched it. Don’t you want to return it so someone else can share in the, what did you call it, ‘complete zen-like peace’ of being vicariously pursed by pure evil?”
Dras shook his head and took the final sip of his third can of root beer of the evening. “No way, Roz,” he asserted. “Far too early for that. It’s just a dollar-fifty to rent a flick for three days.”
“So you’re taking it back on Friday?” she questioned.
“No, I’m taking it back sometime next month.”
Rosalyn stood still, puzzled.
“Twenty bucks divided by a dollar-fifty, chica. Three days per dollar-fifty. I’ve got this perfect movie in my possession for thirty-nine days.”
Rosalyn was now totally dumbstruck. “Dras, you can’t even do that kind of math. You need a calculator for single-digit addition. You never applied yourself one day in any math class you ever took.”
“Yes, but then,” Dras said with a sigh, holding his precious copy of Clown Time, “it was never quite this important.”
Copyright 2009 Greg Mitchell