The scene in front of my eyes was flickering between the dark alleyway where I had fainted due to blood loss and the newfound scenario of blood dribbling down white walls, nothing seemed absolute to my brain yet the two clown makeup wearing creatures stayed the same, the one farther from me proving to be scarier than the one closer to me.
“End this now, Gia. I’m giving you another chance. Come to me,”
I could swear I had seen a tinge of desperation in his burning embers, but before I could confirm my suspicion, it was gone as soon as it had appeared.
My answer was absolute. I had decided that I was not going down without a fight. I had fought for years, I had been fighting the whole night, and I sure as hell wasn’t giving up in the last hours. Final attempts count more when it comes to a race, because everyone starts with the same speed.
I hadn’t expected him to practically shout in my ear, before pushing me towards an entrance of a big tent which had suddenly appeared there out of thin air.
I couldn’t get a good look at the entrance due to the abrupt push Hysteria had given me, but the quick glance I had been able to steal revealed something like a clown’s wide open mouth instead of a proper door in front of me. It’s wild hair were painted with a dirty green, two white bulbs resting in place of where its eyes should’ve been while its jaw was hitting the floor in literal sense, providing the opening to the door lined by its several pointed teeth.
‘I’m so screwed.’
It was the only thing going around in my head, but I had no other way to go. A cardboard killer clown seemed like a better option than a real one chasing me with a knife.
Soon as I skidded inside, passing the blurry colorful entrance, I was immediately met with a pitch black screen. There was darkness awaiting me in there, a sea of endless darkness, trying to drown me from every direction. I couldn’t even see my hand even if I waved it in front of my eyes.
‘Where the hell has he dumped me this time?’
Cursing him repeatedly inside my head, I continued sauntering inside the seamless path, there were no walls, doors, objects, nothing hindering my way, but I continued to move my hands in front of me, trying to avoid any expected collision.
My hand had made contact with something smooth, its texture resembling that of a silk’s. Grabbing the material between my index finger and thumb, I started rubbing it gently to get a better idea about it. When I couldn’t form the picture inside my head, I tugged it towards me, but nothing happened. It seemed to have been stuck.
‘What is he trying to pull now?’
The thought of Hysteria being included in the last level had annoyed me more than terrify me. The fear I had felt towards him was washing away with the darkness of the night, being completely replaced with another feeling that I couldn’t put my finger on.
‘Not now, the man had ruined my life.’
Maybe that was my way of dumping the blame on someone else. All my life I had despised Hysteria for putting me through this undeserved trial but if he had been telling the truth then that meant he had been protecting me all along. The lines between truth and lies had reduced to a mere blurred border and I was afraid the moment both these sides merged, the last string holding me at the brink of my sanity would break, letting me fall down a bottomless pit of hysteria.
Gritting my teeth, I let go of the soft material, trying to side step my way out but something hard was blocking my way. My hand had landed on a firm surface covered by a smooth material, different than that of the previous one. Trailing my fingers down, I could feel some ridges beneath until my eyes widened with realization; the thing I had been holding onto was an ascot and now I was trailing my hands down someone’s sturdy chest, my fingers lingering on their abs.
The name had automatically left my lips as I retreated my hand immediately as if it were caught on fire, but before I could move my body away from him as well, a large strong wrapped around the curve of my waist, pulling me into the same chest I had been rubbing my palm on for the last minute,
“Got a good feel, darling?”
A dim red light had suddenly illuminated the room, much like that we see in a photograph developing room, revealing Hysteria’s colorfully painted visage to me. At any other times, I would have been scared out of my wits yet surprisingly, I felt comfortable, as if it was the place I originally belonged to.
“Say yes, darling”
His deep velvety voice accompanied by his red nose caressing the crook of my neck brought my attention back to him.
‘Get a hold of yourself, Gia.’
I had intended it to come out with more firmness, but the refutation sounded much weaker out loud.
“Kiss me, darling.”
He had started peppering a path up my neck by now,
The urgency in his tone had almost made me let out a groan. He was driving me crazy. I could already see my defenses tumbling down before my own eyes, and if it continued for long, I wouldn’t be able to resist anymore.
Just as I was opening my mouth to reply, a loud bang resounded from behind me, sounding like the clanging of a metal door,
Even without looking back, I could tell it was the killer clown I had seen at the foot of the alleyway.
‘Is the demon imitating my worst fear? Why is it even talking to me? Do demons talk like that?’
For the second time in the span of last hour, Hysteria pushed me towards an arbitrary direction and instead of colliding with the wall in front of me, I ended up crossing a hidden door only to see a girl standing at the other side of the door. She was bent forward to avoid a fall, giving a subtle peak of her cleavage, peeping from underneath a dirtied, blood laced tank top. Her long raven tresses were all over the place, numerous tendrils hanging over her shoulder, framing her face as her big doe-like eyes stared back at me with equal astonishment.
I was looking at my own reflection and it was not the only one in there. There were many.
I was standing in a hall of mirrors.
‘Am I in a carnival? The same carnival the clown had been talking about? But people could see him, right? How could they see him? Wait-’
A sudden realization made me freeze in my stance,
‘He was talking to people, but none of them answered him, right? They were only looking at me.’
The clown I had encountered at the start of the night was a dark creature and the information had become too much for me to digest.
‘I need to get out, and I need something to attack him. He’s bigger than me.’
Forcing my legs to walk faster, I desperately tried searching a way out of there, my movement only ceasing when my eyes found two other figures joining me inside the maze.
Hysteria and the killer clown.
Hysteria was signaling me with his fingers to come towards him while on the other hand, the clown was licking the shiny blunt edge of his blade, as if he were teasing me with my inevitable fate.
‘Is this what it is? I have to absolutely choose between these two? Death or Hysteria.’
“Screw you both!”
Shouting my reply out loudly, I turned the other way, attempting to creep away from there and find another way out.
Just as I was patting all the mirrors in the room, a hand tightly clutched my wrist, jerking me towards a tall figure. I had anticipated it to be Hysteria, but the notion immediately left me as I saw an ugly looking makeup clad face baring its teeth in front of me,
‘It’s teeth aren’t pointed. Why doesn’t it look demonic?’
A cold sharp object running on my cheek brought me back to reality as I focused my widened eyes down to find him tracing his sharp blade on my face. I tried moving back instantly but the man folded my arm behind me, putting it close to my waist to trap me in. His hold was too tight; his fingers digging into my skin were nearly cutting my blood supply off.
“I wanted to take my time killing you, enjoy inciting every single scream out of your pretty throat, but it’s a pity we have so little time left.”
“Let me go!”
“Where have you been hiding? I searched for you all night.”
‘What the hell is he saying?’
My eyes were looking everywhere, attempting to find anything to hit him with but there was nothing in sight that could facilitate my actions.
The quest to find something eventually came to a stop as a sharp burning pain shot up the skin under my jawline accompanied by some warm drops trickling down my neck, making me look down towards his hand in horror. The tip of his knife had traced a superficial cut on my skin and the sardonic smile he was giving me narrated that he didn’t plan on stopping on just this. The next thing I knew, the knife was coming for my shoulder.
‘I have to fool him. I have to move back at the last second.’
Intending to deceive him, I moved back at the last minute, causing him to graze only a bit of the upper part of my exposed chest. He hadn’t anticipated my quick reaction which had clearly caught him off-guard. Using his surprised state, I raised my leg to hit him, with as much force as possible, where the sun doesn’t shine.
A loud groan broke out of his red lips as his hold on the knife as well as my wrist instantly loosened. Not risking to waste another moment, I picked the knife up, plunging it deep in his arm before sprinting out of there.
‘That’d buy me enough time.’
I should’ve severed his head just as I had done with the scarecrow but the incident with crawling doll and my fear of clowns hadn’t allowed me to stay there for long.
‘I had to stall time, just until dawn.’
With that thought in mind, I kept running through the maze without sparing another glance back. Oddly enough, Hysteria had remained with me on this level. Even if I couldn’t see him, I could feel his presence. My theory only strengthened more when all the mirrors I was encountering started becoming foggy. There were small arrow signs present on the surface of the glass, appeared to have been made by a finger. Knowing I wouldn’t have a better chance at surviving against the man alone, without any object to protect myself with, I had decided on following the arrows. My main motive was to get out of the maze for now, with or without Hysteria’s help.
My scurrying feet abruptly halted in their track as I saw a black door coming into my sight. The hall of mirrors’ end looked like another similarly ominous route’s start.
‘Should I go in?’
I didn’t have much time to contemplate as a thudding sound resounded behind me,
‘Is he already here?’
Without wasting another moment, I yanked the door open, rushing inside the unknown path. I was barely able to stop myself in time before I ended up tumbling down a series of slides leading into a huge ball pit. By huge, I mean massive in every meaning. I could hide myself in there quite easily and no one would see me. Fumbling alone with the balls in it could take hours, which means anything could be waiting for me down there, hiding beneath layers and layers of radiant balls.
‘What do I do?’
Looking back, I could hear a series of cuss words along with some loud groans drawing closer and closer to me, causing me to clutch my hands into a tight fist,
‘There’s no other way.’
Biting my bottom lip in frustration, I hurriedly lowered myself down in the front of the slide before letting myself slip down the shiny surface. As I got lower and lower, I was able to see a door on the far side of the room, hidden partially by the balls.
‘I just have to reach the door.’
Gripping the elevated sides of the slide, I opened my legs wide in order to stop myself from falling face first into the pit; I was somehow successful in halting my motion in a not so graceful manner.
‘No one’s giving me a medal for it anyways.’
It was flabbergasting how my brain could come up with a sarcastic remark in such a life threatening situation. Maybe, life threatening had become my new normal.
Reaching the bottom line, I stood up, pausing for a moment as I stared at the sea of soft balls hindering my way to the door. Chewing on my bottom lip, I carefully placed one leg inside the ring full of balls. A breath I didn’t know I had been holding in left my lips as I felt the familiar firmness of ground beneath my foot.
‘Just some more steps,’
With my other leg following the same lead, I started shoving the balls out of my way as I pushed my legs to work hard against the friction provided by the balls. Suddenly another rustling sound joined in the sounds resounding through the vacant room, making my hand which was halfway over to throwing a ball away halt in its place.
‘I’m the only one in here, no?’
Slowly I turned my head to stare at the elevation that had formed behind me in the pit. It looked like someone underneath the balls was trying to stand.
Whipping my head back in record speed, I started working my legs harder and harder to reach the wooden door but, similar to the whole night, things didn’t seem to be going my way. The rustling behind me had increased with the same pace as mine, maybe more so.
Without halting my efforts, I turned my head to look back which didn’t prove to be a very wise choice. The thing hiding beneath the balls had started moving swiftly towards me like a mole traveling underground, ready to pop out of the surface any moment.
‘What in hell is that?’
Suddenly my shoulder collided with a hard surface, making me almost fall back before a warm hold gripped my arm, tugging me towards itself.
“Shhh, it’s me, darling.”
My body suddenly stopped thrashing around, my head still looking at the underground thing’s direction which seemed to have ceased upon sensing Hysteria’s presence. Slowly, the raised part of the pit fell back to the surface again.
I already knew the answer but I wanted to hear it from my own ears.
“Little demons get scared easily when they sense someone more powerful than them in the same vicinity,”
“Are you a demon, too?”
“Don’t insult me.”
“Then what are you? A djinn?”
Frustrated of him going round and round in circles, I decided to side step him, deciding to continue my venture towards the door lest another ravenous being attacked me.
“Don’t go, darling.”
For the umpteenth time in that night, Hysteria’s big warm arms snaked around my waist, bringing me close to his broad chest. My eyes went wide with shock as I heard the pleading in his voice which by now had become too eager to be ignored,
“Come with me, darling.”
There was a tug-o-war going inside my head. All my life I had hated this creature yet now he was the only one standing by my side, helping me through the night. I wanted to trust him, after this many incidences, I really, really wanted to, but several doubts were holding that ‘yes’ on the tip of my tongue. The main one being that all these creatures were Hysteria’s doing in order to obtain my trust and trap me in his clutches.
“Say yes, darling.”
My eyes nearly popped out of my skull when he, without any notice, planted his hot lips on the corner of my mouth, grazing the skin there lightly without touching my lips directly. He had rendered me unable to say think anything else. I wanted an escape out of this hellish life and I was willing to accept a way out even if it meant in the form of a deceptive entity of night.
“There you are, bitch!”
The angry voice coming from behind me stopped me midway, causing me to whip my head around only to stare at the fuming killer clown already slipping down the slide,
My feet immediately obeyed the domineering command, sprinting towards the door while my mind was still stuck at the pitiful look Hysteria had thrown my way for a quick moment. From “Run, darling. Run.” to “Run, Gia!” and eventually landing on “Run!” , every ounce of playfulness seemed to have left him.
Shaking my head to clear these unwanted thoughts, I focused back on the situation at hand, my fingers clasping the door handle, I yanked it towards me. It was difficult opening the door due to the resistance produced by the numerous balls in its path yet I somehow managed to open it after two to three wild tugs. The parting door revealed a dimly lit narrow passage way which looked like something you’d happen to encounter in a horror maze—a rotating room.
‘Is it a circus themed haunted house?’
It sure looked as one, but there were no people around. It seemed to be closed.
‘Well, it’s almost dawn.’
Passing a subtle glance at the railing attached on both sides of the passage, leading to a door with “EXIT” written in bold on top, I dashed forward to reach it as soon as possible. Pausing at multiple points had slowed me down in comparison to the killer clown after me.
It felt like déjà vu, reminding me the incident with scarecrow when I was just about to reach for the doors, his hand had gripped my hair, but this time I was prepared. I slowed myself down deliberately and the moment the clown let his guard down, I jabbed my knee back in his face, hitting his nose. A loud thud echoed around the empty room, making me think that I had been successful in my attempt but all too soon, the short lived happiness turned into pure horror when the kneeling clown immediately went for my ankle, causing me to lose my balance and plummet to the floor. Despite being injured, the bastard had remarkable strength.
I had fallen face first on the ground and much of the impact was absorbed by knees, arms and chest, which had played a major role in knocking the breath out of me. I was sure it was going to bruise bad, only if I stayed alive to see the day.
I was lying on my chest, trying to normalize my breathing while the hand holding my ankle started pulling me back towards the killer clown. With my other leg, I tried kicking his injured arm, face, anything that I could but it was far out of my reach. That’s when I turned my head back a bit and noticed something that I had failed to see before; blood was marring the silk costume near the killer clown’s arm.
‘Do demons bleed?’
My pondering was brought to an abrupt halt when I felt the clown’s fingers digging hard into my skin, continuing to tug me closer.
‘What do I do? How do I hit him?’
The gears inside my head were rapidly turning around. It was a bare room, I had nothing to cause damage, that’s when I saw something on my way looking down; my bronze belt giving a subtle glow in the neon lights of the room.
Staying on my bruising chest, I let my hands creep under the shade of my body, trying to untie my belt as fast as I could without making things obvious. I had been successful in the process, the belt was secured as a bundle in my hands, hidden by my torso and as soon as I felt myself getting enough close to the clown, I swung my free leg over the caught one, turning myself swiftly before hurling one side of the belt hard across his face, hitting his cheek and nose with the metal buckle.
A loud shriek echoed inside the room as the clown immediately let me go. I was about to get up and hurry towards the door when I saw the clown’s knife lying around on the ground.
‘What if it came after me again and I didn’t get a chance like this?’
With some thought, I picked the knife up gingerly, clutching the wooden handle inside my palm tightly,
“I’m sorry, but it’s either you and me, and I choose myself,”
Raising the knife high over our heads, I was about to plunge the knife in the man’s neck, but before I could shove it inside his flesh, his uninjured arm shot out to gripped my wrist in a tight hold, wrapping his legs around me before using his weight to throw me off balance and switch our positions,
“Wrong move, sweetheart. You should’ve run.”
I tried wiggling out of his hold but the clown had thrown all his weight on top of my small frame. It was impossible to even move him an inch.
‘Is this really inevitable? Is there no salvation for me? Whatever I do, I’m doomed to die this way.’
Tears were leaking furiously out of the corner of my eyes as I stared at the clown smiling menacingly on top of me. Suddenly his gloved hand started crawling up my ribs making my skin crawl with disgust.
‘What the hell is this demon doing?’
That thought was immediately answered when the clown suddenly clutched his hand on top of my ribs, digging his fingers on their way until his animalistic jabbing had drawn blood out of skin.
I was too tired from the night to give him a reaction so I slowly let my head fall to the side.
I could see him. He was standing there, behind the clown, and no amount of paint could hide the real expressions adorning that beautiful face.
He was worried, for me.
“Call for me.”
The clown probably thought I had denied him the pleasure of my screams, infuriating him further as he landed a hard punch to the side of my ribs.
‘I guess this is the end, my friend.’
Coughing out blood, I stared up at him with a little smile on my bluish lips,
“Jab him in his wound,”
Straining my ears to hear more clearly, I gave him a puzzled look as he uttered the same sentence again,
“Jab his wound, Gia.”
Just as the man was about to land another blow on my ribs, my motionless body came to life again as I jabbed my nails as hard and as deep as I could in his arm inciting a loud scream out of his disgustingly painted red lips,
“Wrong move, bastard. Should’ve let me go.”
Wasting no moment, I picked the knife he had placed at his side while assaulting my ribs. The position I was lying in wouldn’t have allowed me to severe his head from his shoulders so instead, I plunged the pointed end of the knife into the side of neck, doing the same thing that I had experienced before in the night at the hands of the crawling doll, I severed his carotid.
Blood splattered everywhere, especially on my face as I was lying underneath him. It soaked my already dirtied white turned brown tank top in a darker scarlet shade while I begrudgingly pushed the heavy creature away from my frame.
‘Should I cut his neck? Why is he bleeding red? None of them did.’
He was standing still over me, in the same position.
“You’ll regret it.”
‘I can’t listen to him. He’s hysteria, He’s deceptive down to his bone.’
It hadn’t evaded me that he wasn’t calling me darling anymore.
I had crouched in front of the bleeding clown’s body, contemplating my next move when Hysteria’s next words made me go blank all of a sudden,
“I love you.”
With that he burst into several black butterflies leaving me gaping after him.
Suddenly the door opened, letting a stream of sunlight in, before a shadow appeared in the doorframe, revealing a teenage boy dressed in his sweats yawning loudly,
“Who’s there? It’s not working ho- Ah!”
His speech got cut midway before he yelled loudly, his eyes turning to saucers as he stared in an alternate manner between me and the bleeding clown.
“You killed him? You killed Jerry?”
“Jerry? Wait- you can seem him?”
“Of course, I have fucking eyes!”
The boy abruptly put a hand over his o shaped mouth as he realized what he had said to an apparent crazy killer—me.
“Where have you been hiding? I searched for you all night.”
I was staring at the clown and then at the boy and then my gaze found its way back to the knife I still had tightly clasped in my hands. Like puzzles pieces coming together to form a definite picture, everything started making sense to me.
“Remember, I can’t bring you back from dead, especially when there are humans involved,”
Hysteria was never going to reveal himself to me, he had always planned on guarding me through shadows but he was forced to talk to me again only after my encounter with this killer clown, who had decided to make me his next target after I had insulted him publicly last night. Hysteria could harm similar creatures but not humans. He couldn’t get involved in our world until or unless I asked for his help specifically, summoned him to me. This is why he had been playing these games all night with me. This is why he had let those demons touch me, harm me, to prepare me for the bigger danger that was awaiting me in the form of a human being. This is the reason he kept pleading me to let him help me.
“Don’t you understand, Gia? They don’t believe you. They can never accept you. For them, you’re forever going to remain an outcast.”
“Hey, stay there. Stay there!”
I don’t know what overcame me as I started running in blind directions, screaming wildly on top of my lungs,
No one was answering me back. I looked with crazed eyes at the half opened door, making the teenage boy almost cower back in fear. He was on phone with someone yet the only thing I could focus on was the sun-rays sifting through the exit door behind him.
Halloween was over.
“Yes, yes, there’s that crazy girl here that returns to Delights every Halloween. She has committed a murder.”