This is the story of a boy, Chief, who has become troubled by nightmares of a clown that murders him in his sleep. Maybe the love of his mother will make the nightmares stop…then again…maybe not.
Chief and his mother stayed home the next day to clean up the mess and figure out what to do.
He sat in the living room with an untouched bowl of cereal and watched the morning cartoons on channel five as his mother wrapped up the old border collie and hid him in a garbage bag in the shop out back. When it was dark, they would go out and bury him in the yard, but until then his mother didn’t want the neighbors prying.
When Rodger was dealt with, she stripped down the bed once more and threw the bloodied linens into another larger black bag. This she took out to the trunk of her car and locked away without saying so much as a word to her son.
Chief stared into the television screen. He felt off, like his brain was clogged. A feeling of sickness descended over him and he couldn’t shake it. The cereal crackled with cheer in the bowl and sounded absurd against the backdrop of horror that had become his life.
His mother showered and freshened herself up before coming to sit beside him in the living room.
“Well, kid. We’re going to have to make some plans.”
Chief looked up at his mother and his eyes were strange.
“Why don’t we start by you telling me what happened last night?”
Chief frowned. It had all been so real. He could still smell the blood and feel the weight and the heat of the clown on him. He could hear his breathing and feel the knife plunging into his body over and over again. Chief’s skin began to burn and tingle as he remembered the wounds. Rodger’s barks came back to him and Chief began to cry, shaking all over with grief and terror.
“Shh. Shh. It’s going to be okay,” his mother said, reaching out and taking him in her arms. “We’re going to figure this out. Just tell me what happened. Why’d you take the knife into your room?”
“I didn’t!” Chief objected. “I promise that I didn’t! I was in my room reading one minute and then the next…well, the clown was there and he was on top of me and stabbing me, just like all the other times!”
Betty Rutherford frowned and a dark shadow crossed over her eyes. She shook her head.
“Listen, baby. I know things have been hard since your dad passed away, but this has to stop. Why did you do that to Rodger? You can tell me. I love you kid.”
She didn’t believe him.
Chief shook his head and let the cries come a little louder.
“Mom, I’m telling you. It’s like I told you!”
His mother looked sadder than Chief had seen her since his father’s funeral. She let go of him, sinking back into the faded floral print of the couch. Her face him that she wished herself anywhere but that living room in that moment. She reached for the clicker and clicked the old television set off, filling the room with silence. They sat like that for a long moment before his mother finally gathered her thoughts and rose from the sofa.
“I want you to go pack a few things for a sleepover,” she told him, staring off with a strange look. “Get your coat and your toothbrush too. Hurry up. Go.”
It was an order.
Chief didn’t question his mother. Thirty minutes later, the two of them were making for the door with their bags in hand.
They climbed into the old Ford stations wagon and ambled out of the driveway, making their way down Brunswick Lane and onto the main road that led out of town. Chief’s mother didn’t speak a word as they passed through the town square or past the squat shape of the school. He was too tired and too scared to ask any questions, so they rode in silence. When they were clear of the town, his mother reached for the radio and flicked it over to the easy listening station.
The Cromville town sign appeared ahead, it’s yellow and blue paint bright in the afternoon sun. As they neared it, a truck pulled out behind them from a nearby service road, dark brown in color with a long white stripe that ran down both sides. It sped up behind them as they neared the sign, and when they were close enough to read the motto, it nudged them.
Chief’s mother lost control of the car, and the long wood-paneled station wagon spun onto the shoulder and then down into the darkness of the trees that lined the road on either side. Chief screwed his eyes shut. There was nothing but chaos as the sound of exploding metal and busting glass filled his ears. He heard his mother scream and felt the car jolt back and forth as it tumbled down into the darkness of the forest floor. His skin burst as jagged splinters of wood and steel bored into him, and he felt the burn of the seatbelt as it tore into his neck.
The last thing Chief knew was a blast of heat and the sound of his mother’s voice as darkness overcame him.
We’re dead, he thought.