William Adler was only nine years old. He was in fourth grade at St. Michael the Archangel Elementary School in Rempstone, South Carolina, and all throughout his schooling career teachers were always telling his parents how smart he was for his age. He never knew his real parent and was told they died when he was very young. He was not aware of any living biological relatives, nor did he even know his true family name. He did not seem to mind though, because his adopted parents, Cindy and James Adler, showered him with love and affection. They had been unable to have a child of their own, and they adopted William when he was just a few months old.
William suffered from chronic night terrors ever since his parents could remember. Because of this, William had regular appointments with Dr. Jacob Wilmington, a local psychiatrist and well-respected member of the Rempstone community. William liked Dr. Jacob a lot. He was always really nice to the young boy and spoiled him with delicious treats after their appointments.
After this most recent appointment, William was gifted a king size chocolate bar, which he enjoyed during the drive home.
“How was your appointment with Dr. Jacob today, honey?” his mother asked as she drove them home.
“Ib-bub bibe,” William replied with a mouthful of chocolate, which dribbled all over his shirt and the car as he spoke.
“William Lewis Adler! Don’t speak with your mouth full! And no eating chocolate until we get home! This is a new car!”
William gulped down what remained in his mouth and rewrapped the rest of the bar to finish as soon as he was out of the car.
His mother shot him a warning glance through the rearview mirror.
“How was your appointment today?”
“It was fine.”
“What did you talk about?”
“My dreams mostly.”
“All of them.”
His mother saw she was getting nowhere and tried a new approach.
“Did Dr. Jacob write your prescription?”
William rolled his eyes and reluctantly reached into his backpack and pulled out a small crumpled piece of paper and handed it up to his mother.
“I don’t like how the medicine makes me feel.”
“It helps you sleep and keeps away the bad dreams, so you can have good ones,” his mother looked at him through the rearview mirror and smiled, “like all those where you hang out with your pal Elliot.”
“His name is Evular, Mom! Not Elliot!”
“Sorry, sorry. Evular, how has he been? Did he and his elf friends ever get rescued from those mean giants?”
“I don’t know, I don’t see him anymore,” William looked down at his lap as he said this. His mother pulled into the parking lot of the local pharmacy and parked. She, then turned around to face him.
“I’m sorry honey, I’m sure you will see him again soon. Want to come inside with me? I’m sure Mrs. Grady has a lollipop for you.”
William shook his head, and his mother got out and went inside. He sat in the car and thought about his recent dreams. There weren’t any friendly elves like Evular. All his dreams for the past two weeks had been about a large circus tent in the middle of Warwick Field. Outside the tent, there was a large sign that read “Fumplestink’s Fun Emporium” in curvy red letters. He was too scared to enter the tent though. Clowns had always scared William, and he knew that a circus would be full of clowns. Dr. Jacob seemed to be really interested in this dream, but William didn’t like to talk about it. He didn’t like to talk about any of his dreams, especially not at school. He thought the other kids might make fun of him.
William turned around and looked out the back windshield of the car into the large window of the pharmacy. He could see his mother and Mrs. Grady having a seemingly pleasant conversation. Mrs. Grady handed his mother a small paper bag with the medicine inside and a tasty looking lollipop. His mother waved goodbye and headed out towards the car.
“Mrs. Grady gave me this lollipop for you, but you have to wait until after dinner to eat it. You have had enough sweets to spoil your appetite already,” his mother said this as she climbed into the front seat of the car. She started the ignition, and they headed home.
William liked to look out the window at the different colors of Autumn. It was his favorite season after all. The leaves on the trees turned all shades of orange and yellow before drifting down to the ground to welcome the coming of winter. The air had a distinct and fresh smell to it. The final stretch of road before pulling into their neighborhood had been nicknamed the “Tree Tunnel” by William and his friends because of the way the branches of the closely packed trees on either side of the road formed a grand archway above. During the spring and summer months, the roof of the tunnel was packed so full of leaves that you could not even see the sky through the dense foliage. It was mid-October though, and plenty of gaps had opened in the canopy, allowing light to pierce the tunnel.
The car exited the Tree Tunnel and turned onto their street, passed the old wooden “Pine Hills” sign marking the entrance to their neighborhood. The third house on the right had a little green mailbox that read “Adler” on the side. The driveway to this house is where the car came to a stop, and William and his mom exited the vehicle.
Upon leaving the car William quickly gobbled up the remainder of his chocolate bar before his mother had a chance to stop him. He took his bookbag inside and sat at the table. His mother always made him do his homework first thing when he got home. She came inside a few minutes after him.
“After you finish your homework, you can play with Mike. His mother just told me they fixed the hole in their trampoline.”
This made William quite excited. Michael Hutchinson was his next-door neighbor and best friend. They were in the same class and sat next to each other at school. The Hutchinson family’s trampoline was the envy of the neighborhood. All the children tried to win Mike’s favor, so they may be able to experience the magnificence one feels when jumping on it. A little while ago a storm caused a branch to fall and rip right through the bounce mat. The news that the trampoline had been fixed meant that joy could once more flow through Pine Hills.
William finished his homework in about an hour and ran next door. He rang the doorbell, and Mike’s mother answered.
“Well hello William, come on in. Mike is up in his room.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Hutchinson.”
William ran upstairs to retrieve Mike, and the pair ran out into the backyard to exhaust themselves on the trampoline.
They must’ve bounced for hours because by the time William’s mother came over to get him for dinner, it was already turning dark outside.
“Thanks for having me over Mrs. Hutchinson! I’ll see you tomorrow Mike!”
When William and his mother entered their house, and the smell of lasagna caused a rumble in William’s stomach.
“Your father got home a couple hours ago and made some lasagna. Have a seat, and I will call him down.”
Pretty soon the whole family was gathered around the table, enjoying some delicious lasagna. William’s parents talked to one another about how their days had been, and finally his father turned to William and asked about how his appointment with Dr. Jacob went.
“It was fine.”
“Just fine? Did you have any new dreams to talk about?”
“There is one new one that we talked about.”
William explained to his parents the dream about the tent in the field and the sign reading “Fumplestink’s Fun Emporium”.
“Dr. Jacob said I should go inside the tent, and that the only way to overcome my fears is for me to face them.”
“I agree with Dr. Jacob,” his father said, “the man knows what he is talking about. He was trained for these kinds of things. Tonight, make sure to take your medicine, and if you have that same dream, you should go into the tent.”
“But what if there are clowns in there?”
“You have to remember it’s just a dream, William. It isn’t real, besides Warwick Field hasn’t been used for anything except housing for wild critters for about ten or so years now. The whole place is overgrown. Ever since the incident at that music festival, the whole place has been neglected. Before the incident, maybe we’d get a circus out there every few years, but there hasn’t been one since. Nothing is in that field, therefore, there is no tent and no clowns in that tent. It is just a dream.”
After dinner William watched TV with his parents while he enjoyed his lollipop. It was cherry-flavored; Mrs. Grady knew that was his favorite. When nine o’clock rolled around, his mother told him it was bedtime.
William took a shower and brushed his teeth. He took his medicine and climbed the stairs to his room. He already began to feel to effects of the medicine dizzying him with wooziness. He collapsed onto his bed and fell asleep within moments.
William found himself in his pajamas walking through the large open field, as he did so many times before. It was not overgrown and unkempt as his father had suggested but freshly mowed. William could almost smell that cut grass smell that comes with a mowed lawn. The sky above was dark, making it hard to see too far in front of him. He could make out the circus tent in the center of the field. It was a large triangular shape, with an off-white beige coloration. The rectangular sign reading “Fumplestink’s Fun Emporium” was to his right as he approached the entrance.
The only way to overcome my fear is to face it. William repeated Dr. Jacob’s advice in his head as he reached for the flap covering the tent’s entrance. He slowly pulled it to the side, revealing darkness within. William crept inside, ever so cautiously. He could barely see anything inside the dark tent, only shapes of what appeared to be bleachers on his left and right.
Past the bleachers was an open circular space that the bleachers faced. Upon reaching the middle of this space William heard a whimpering sound coming from his left. It sounded like a small, scared child. He began to slowly walk towards it. He approached a section of bleachers that appeared to have something underneath it. He had trouble making out exactly what it was. It was quivering, and as he approached, the whimpering grew louder. A pale shape began to form. It looked to be a person, or maybe an animal. It was curled up in round lump on the ground.
William was at the bleachers now. He squatted in front of them and peered through at the pale, whimpering lump. He summoned all the courage he could muster and opened his mouth to speak.
The whimpering ended, and the lump stopped quivering. A round object twisted around the side of the lump. William assumed it was the creature’s head and leaned in to see if he could make out any facial features. Before he had any time to react a large pale, four-fingered hand shot through the bleachers towards his face. Right before the palm blocked out his vision, all the lights in the tent came on, and a calliope unleashed an abrupt discordant melody. This was followed by a shrill voice screaming NOOOOOO, then darkness as the hand made violent contact with William’s face and wrapped around his head.