rileyFNV Avatar
A horror story by


Submitted Dec 10, 2017, 4:27:44 PM

A Day At The Circus

You step through into the tent. You look at your ticket for the place you are supposed to sit at.

33B. Not too far from the action, not too close to smell the ringleader. Just good enough.

You stroll past the gazing eyes of other circusgoers, and find your seat. Before you sit down, you scan over the crowd. Sitting in the front are aspiring clowns, eager to learn from more experienced individuals. In the very back row, many silent, masked figures in yellow robes sit, unmoving. The masks are made of metal, with several holes around the eyes. If you listen closely, you can hear their heavy, labored breathing.

In the many other rows sit various circusgoers, anxiously awaiting the show. You sit down next to a rotund young man who is fiddling with his keychain. The sound unnerves you.

You can smell undercooked corndogs and cheap, cheesepowder covered popcorn. You can feel the wind blow through your hair, despite the circus tent not having any openings apart from the entrance, which is now sealed.

The lights go low. A man dressed in rags and a dessicated tophat walks onto the showfloor, brandishing a cane. He opens his mouth, and speaks in a language you do not understand. You realize you do not know how you got to the circus. Did you go by car? Do you even have a car?

It does not matter. The ringleader wanders off with a limp, yelling in pain with every step. He shuffles away, into clown alley. The telltale sound of a clown mauling is heard. This is not surprising to you. After all, it's just part of the job for a ringleader.

A man dressed in a suit and tie with bags under his eyes pushes a comically small, wheeled cage into the ring. Snarling and growling is heard. Through the bars, you spot them.

The clowns are in.

The cage gets unlocked. A clown crawls out. A clown crawls out. A clown crawls out.

Eventually, the clowns fill up the entire ring. More clowns keep coming. They are piling on top of eachother, forming a dreaded clowntower. A few of the people sitting in the front row are pulled in, and disappear into the tower. They are the Chosen, and they shall never return.

Eventually, it gets out of hand. The Strongmen are called in. Five mustachioed men pull various clowns off the pile and throw them back into Clown Alley. After what seems like hours, all the clowns have been thrown out. Now, the strongmen remain. The ringleader drags himself back on stage, with numerous lacerations on his face. He grabs his cane, which doubles as a microphone, and speaks in perfect english for the first time today.

“Glory to the permaclown.”

As he speaks, a trickle of red liquid seeps down from the corner of his mouth and onto the floor. After he finishes, he proceeds to walk back to Clown Alley, seemingly unbothered by the events that transpired. The robed figures are getting restless, and their breathing grows louder.

The acrobat comes on stage. It is only one man, clad in a spandex shirt, swinging from ropes and climbing ladders. He gracefully walks a tightrope, but slips and falls down on the floor. Four clowns immediately pounce on him and start attempting to lick the valuable acrobat sweat, but The Strongman manages to push them back. The acrobat walks off, shaken but not wounded.

You look around, and noticed several figures you haven't seen before. Clad in torn and filthy everyday clothes, but with a white, featureless mask covering the face. Some are bald, some have dust-covered hair hanging down to their shoulders. Most sit still, staring at the ring. Others anxiously scan the crowd. You look at the one closest to you, and you notice that the masks do have eyeholes. The figure turns towards you, and you stare right into the eyeholes. You shudder as you see a black void, with colours shifting through it every now and then.

You quickly cough and avert your gaze.

Eventually, the highlight of the show comes on the stage. A permaclown slowly walks in, flanked by two strongmen. The ringleader crawls onto the stage, and flops down infront of the fearsome individual.

The permaclown opens his eyes, and stares at no one in particular. You feel a sense of wrongness wash over you, and the man sitting next to you starts to fiddle with his keychain once more. You look closer, and see there is a small gem attached to it by a chain, undoubtedly a talisman of good luck.

You nervously look around you, and notice even more white-masked figures showing up in the crowd. Sometimes when you blink, you see people who weren't there before materialize out of thin air.

The permaclown stands there, one arm extended, pointing directly at the ringleader, now cowering infront of him on his knees. He opens his mouth, and a soft, extended hiss comes out.

The yellow-robed figures are now softly chanting, voices muffled by their metal masks. The remaining people in the front row stand up, and start weeping. The white-masked figures get even more restless, some of them standing up and pacing back and forth between the rows.

What happens next goes faster than you can comprehend.

A gunshot. Several gunshots. The extended sound of multiple assault rifles being emptied.

An eardrum-trembling explosion is heard as a massive hole is blasted into the side of the tent. Screaming. Everyone around you is panicking, some are running, others curled up under their seats.

Naturally, the white-masked shooters have knocked over seats and are using them as cover while blind-firing at the abhorrent form on the showfloor, which has now collapsed along with the ringleader.

The vile permaclown is on the floor, hissing and bleeding out. The ringleader has several holes punched through his form, yet still writhes on the floor in agony. Several strongmen are charging the crowd, shrugging off bullets. One of them takes a bullet through the eye and immediately sinks to his knees, defeated. Another jumps onto one of the gunmen and proceeds to punch the attacker out of existence.

The heavy breathing of the metal-masked figures gets less and less as bullets fly through the air. Some of them managed to conjure up shields for themselves, but most were not quick enough. Mimepriests are easy to surprise, after all. Everyone knows that.

You sit still, and close your eyes and hug your legs, hoping to be spared from the carnage.

Eventually, the cracks of gunfire start dieing down. You remain sitting absolutely still, but open your eyes and carefully scan your surroundings. Most of the audience has either escaped or died trying. Dead strongmen litter the walkways between the seats. You suppress the urge to vomit.

You realize now that the white-masked individuals were resistance fighters, only heard of in hushed whispers during breaks at the office late at night, when there is no one around other than the last two coworkers working together on a project that would be utterly pointless, yet must be completed.

You stop hugging your legs, and open your eyes completely. It's dead quiet.

You get up, and attempt to sneak off before any survivors of this event see you and decide they can't have any witnesses. You slip on a pool of acrobat sweat, and gasp as you fall to the floor with a loud thud.

You shut your eyes tightly and groan, awaiting what comes next. When you open them, a person is standing above you, extending a gloved hand towards you. The mask has a large crack in it through the eye, and from this distance you can clearly see a whirlwind of colours flashing behind the eyeholes.

You let yourself get pulled up.

You are barely conscious. You walk with the figure, despite being afraid of whatever comes next. You follow the being through the hole in the tentmeat, and sigh as you feel a soft breeze washing over you.

The figure climbs into the back of a dark orange van, and motions you to join them.


AlexScribe Avatar


Commented Dec 11, 2017, 12:37:30 AM
OK, Riley, so this struck me as a dream, or rather a nightmare, where even the most extraordinary events seem acceptable. It generated a sense of dread that grew and grew -- but then kind of plateaued for me. It's hard to hold a high level that long: it either has to grow more or subside and then grow again, in waves that peak higher each time. In the best horror stories/movies the fear is not constant but cycles: it's bad; no, it's OK; no, it's really bad; no, everything's all right; Oh No, it's terrible...

A few nits:
... cheap cheese powder covered popcorn. Strings of modifiers need punctuation: commas, hyphens. Else the mind takes a second: cheap-cheese or -popcorn? cheese-powder? & breaks the flow.

The figure turns their head towards you,... figure/their singular/plural
... jumps onto one of the gunmen and proceeds to punch them out.... one/them singular/plural
... undoubtedly a talisman of good luck. Redundant: talisman is a good luck object by definition.
now cowering infront of him on his knees.... in front

On noticing a few more singular/plural instances, I belatedly realized you may a PC person using plurals to compensate for the lack of suitable gender-neutral pronouns in English. There aren't any good solutions to that problem yet: I would suggest 'shem' for he/she/it/them/whatever in all cases (both meanings). Granted, the word has been used, but how often does Noah's son come up in conversation? And then it is capitalized. Your solution is being used more and more, but it really grates on older eyes and ears to the detriment of your story for me. My solution, until 'shem' becomes the new standard, is to re-word to avoid the problem: "The figure's head turns toward you,..." "... jumps onto one of the gunmen and proceeds to punch the attacker out." Sometimes awkward, but that way you don't disrupt the flow for the traditionals among your readers.

You judge how active the site is: it has helped me immensely. Waiting to see more from you.
rileyFNV Avatar


Commented Dec 11, 2017, 9:13:53 AM
Thank you very much for the feedback, I appreciate it. I'll definitely keep the flow in mind for next time, and I too honestly felt that the overuse of They starts becoming very apparent in the story. Will do my best to see if I can work around it in the future.
kt6550 Avatar


Commented Dec 24, 2017, 8:50:40 PM
Alex is correct. It is not good enough to build tension. At some point, the tension must be released. You never do that. You can also release tension in such a way that it leads to more building of tension. Stephen King is excellent at this. You could try that.

I would also do an outline of this story. You have some holes in your plot, and an outline would help you to find them. Just a suggestion. Then you could fill in, and make the story a bit smoother.