I walked in the door and it was quiet. I could remember a day when it was nothing but chaos with Jimmy running around and mom in the kitchen fixing dinner. I saw my dad planted in front of the television and mom at the kitchen table hunched over an ashtray with a cigarette hanging out of her mouth. She was still wearing her bathrobe. It looked as though she hadn’t left the house all day. I came up to her and as I put my hand on her shoulder she looked up at me and smiled.
“Hi, sweety. How was school?”
“It was fine.” I looked over and I saw Jimmy on the floor just as he was when I left and he was still gobbling up more of that ice cream like there was no tomorrow. At first, Mom had set rules and tried to stop him from eating it so much, but it seemed as though she had given up any hope of disciplining him.
“It keeps him quiet.” She said as if she could hear my thoughts.
“I know, but it can’t be good for him to eat all that junk.”
“He’ll get sick of it eventually. It was like that time he ate nothing but that rainbow colored cereal. One week of it and now he can’t even look at it anymore.”
“By the way, you’re on your own for dinner tonight. I just don’t feel up to cooking.”
“Okay,” I said. It was not unusual anymore for Mom to check out so I wasn’t surprised. “What do we have to eat?” I then walked over to the fridge and pulled it open but all I saw were cartons of Crazy Cream melting on the shelves. I checked the freezer and it was crammed with more Crazy Cream too. I turned to Mom and she just shrugged her shoulders.
“He goes through them like tissue paper.”
“How much did all of this cost?”
“They were having a sale at the store. Two for one.”
“The ones in the fridge are melting.”
“He’ll get them. Don’t worry.” She sounded almost proud of how addicted Jimmy had become.
“Fine. I guess I’ll go out to the Burger Hut.”
“Take some money from my purse.”
I was rather grateful to be going out to eat. My home had become as depressing as the rest of the town. I barely knew my parents anymore. Dad was distant and Mom didn’t seem to care anymore. It just seemed to get worse, day after day. I was glad for any excuse to get out.
I took my bike over to the Burger Hut. It was one of the oldest fast food joints in town. It was one of the most popular hang outs for the high school kids for almost six generations. The only thing that had ever been changed in that place were the light bulbs. As I approached, I saw that the lights were on and the big sign out front was all lit up, but it looked as though it were closed. I parked my bike and walked in. The tile on the floor was discolored and warped, as usual. I then saw a few people sitting at one of the tables in the corner.
“Welcome to Burger Hut. What will it be?” The girl at the counter asked as she looked toward me. Her voice was familiar and then I realized underneath the paper cap, it was a girl from school. I had seen her walking through the halls but we had never met officially. I walked up to her and smiled, but she looked rather distant and bored.
“A double Hut Burger. No onions. Extra sauce and an order of onion rings and a small drink.”
“That’ll be six fifty two.” She said. Her voice was hollow and tired. I handed her the money and she gave me the cup for my drink along with the receipt.
“Kind of quiet in here.” I said as he walked over to the soda fountain.
“It’s usually pretty busy. Where is everyone?”
“Beats me. It kind of dropped off after we stopped carrying that Crazy Cream crap.”
“Yeah. Most other places started offering it, but the management here pulled it after only a couple days. There went business. Poof.”
“Just over ice cream?”
“People are going crazy for that stuff. It’s like mind control or something.”
“What did you say?”
“Mind control. I heard they put something weird in the ice cream that makes it more addictive and they use it to control.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised. My kid brother has been inhaling the stuff.”
“So did mine.”
“He got over it, right?”
“Maybe. We really don’t know.”
“How do you not know?”
“We haven’t seen him in weeks. He was one of the first to disappear.”
“Oh my God. I’m so sorry. What happened?”
“No one knows. We woke up one morning and he was gone. The night before, I thought I had heard something in his room, but I didn’t check on it because it was so late and I figured it was just him being a spaz, as always. The next morning the police came by and my mom was falling apart.”
“Have you heard anything?”
“No. My parents keeping hoping, but I’m pretty sure he’s gone.”
“I’m sure he’ll turn up soon.”
“No. He’s gone.”
“You think any of this has to do with those clowns?”
“What? The Crazy Cream guys? I don’t know. I have to admit, it’s odd that all this has been going down after they arrived.”
“Haven’t you seen a change come over the whole town? I mean, everyone is always so miserable now. Don’t you remember when things were happier?”
“Not really,” Just then a tray slid out onto the counter behind her from the kitchen and I saw it had my food on it. She picked it up and held it out to me. “Your order is up.”
I ate quickly. There wasn’t much to slow me down since there weren’t any people there for me to talk to. I just wolfed down my meal and went back out to get my bike. I wasn’t ready to go back home, but I didn’t know where else to go. I usually would go to the ice cream parlor to see my friends, but it was gone. I went by the arcade but it was deserted too. The whole town seemed as quiet as a tomb. I figured home was as good a place as any to be. As I changed direction, I stopped when I saw a clown at the end of the street. It looked like a guy clown. I couldn’t see his face, but I could feel him staring at me. He was wearing some crazy blue and white satin suit but it looked dirty and worn out. He had a large, fat body and his belly was wide and thick. I didn’t know what to do. Then he took a step forward. A chill ran up my spine and I wanted to just run as fast and as far as I could, but I felt frozen in place. Soon, the clown was walking toward me. A bike horn squeaked each time he took a step in those big, red floppy shoes.
As he got closer, I could see his face better. He was the ugliest one I had seen yet. His head was fat and he had dark, beady eyes. The make up on his face was gross and clumped. He had a large red frown painted over his lips and two blue stars over his eyes and white everywhere else. He stopped a few feet from me and then pulled out a small, white balloon. He blew it up, never taking his eyes from me, and with surprising skill, twisted and folded it. He then took out another balloon and did it again. Soon he had five or six balloons and he was twisting them all around with impressive skill. When he was finally done, it looked like some kind of child. He held it in his arms like a baby and rocked it back and forth. He then grinned at me and pulled out a pin from a large red puff on his shirt and just popped the little balloon child. The sound of it exploding jostled me out of my daze and I turned around as fast as I could.
I got back home later than I had thought. I had to take the long way around just so that I could avoid any more clowns. When I walked in, there were no questions from Mom or Dad about where I had been or why I had taken so long getting back. Dad was still in front of the television and Mom was asleep in the easy chair. I was about to say something, but I could tell it wouldn’t have mattered so I just went on up to my room.
I spent the rest of the evening surfing the web and finishing some homework. At about midnight, I finally got to bed and despite everything on my mind, I was able to fall asleep rather easily. I was jerked awake by a sudden loud noise. I checked my phone and saw that it was a little after two in the morning. I flopped back down onto my pillow and then I heard the noise again. It was a dull thumping noise. It sounded more violent than before and then what the girl at the Burger Hut came to me. I leapt out of my bed and raced down the hall to Jimmy’s room. I didn’t hear any screaming or anything breaking, but all the same I was praying nothing was happening. I made it to Jimmy’s room and I pushed the door open. I looked up and his bed was empty and my stomach sank to the floor. I walked over and put my hand on his mattress. It was still warm. He had been there only moments ago. I turned and saw that his window was open. I ran over to it hoping to see something, but as I poked my head out, there was nothing. No noise. No motion. Nothing. I stepped back and my heart was beating a little faster. I wasn’t sure how Mom was going to react. I knew in my heart she would be destroyed, but the way she had been acting lately, I wasn’t so sure. I still hadn’t heard any movement from my parents’ bedroom, despite the commotion. I still had my phone in my hand and I was about to call the police, but then I saw something on the floor. I bent down and it looked like a little scrap of white rubber; like a broken piece of a balloon.