“Ehh, I dunno lady, you ain’t no clown I ever sees before.”
“I am quite clearly a clown. My nose even honks.”
Harold looked at the figure before him with a mix of boredom and confusion. Or perhaps that was his normal expression for he was not exactly known as a jolly man. Taking the cigarette from his mouth he sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. He always got the loons at this hour of night and just his luck, he got the looniest of loons: A Monster who thinks she’s a clown.
“Alright, first off lady, it’s midnight and I’m tired. Second off, you gotta tell me where you wants to go, this is a taxi cab.”
His passenger looked around as if only now realizing where she was. “Oh.” She said, seeming to consider. “Then to the circus.”
Harold groaned. “Lady there ain’t no circus around here except the old fairgrounds on the edge of town and, pardon my speaking, but you don’t wanna go there. Spooky things alright?”
She smiled at him, a gesture which felt as unnatural as it was genuine. “That’s quite alright. I am a clown after all.”
“You even got money?” He asked, eying her in his rear-view mirror.
She was of average height and had a rather attractive feminine figure. That was where her similarities to humanity ended, however. For starters, her skin was a deep purple and she was clothed in what appeared to be a dress made of the same substance as her flesh. The way it mimicked clothing was unnatural but the fact that he was certain she didn’t have legs where the “dress” ended was even more so. He couldn’t quite tell but he thought perhaps that her body shifted as he appraised her and he got the vague feeling that something was looking at him. Whenever he focused his gaze upon it however, the feeling would vanish.
Her face, while attractive, was framed by long hair made of the purple flesh and she had a constant, unnerving smile on her face. Yellow eyes with what appeared to be shifting pupils framed by black sclera looked directly at him in the mirror and he felt a shiver down his spine. He’d seen a lot of Monsters working in Jersey, but she was one of the strangest.
Oh, and to top it all off of course she had a purple clown nose which seemed to sprout from her face.
Part of him hoped she didn’t have money so he could kick her to the curb, but when she pulled crisp, twenty-dollar bills from… somewhere, he had to sigh and accept the fact that he was stuck with her. Can’t exactly go around refusing paying clients as a taxi driver. Not with those damn ride-share hooligans anyway.
“Will this suffice?”
“Yeah, yeah.” Harold said while putting the taxi into drive. “Put yer seat belt on, will ya?”
She didn’t move but he heard a clicking sound. Looking up into the rear-view mirror he saw a seatbelt across her chest though she didn’t appear to have moved an inch. Well… whatever, he just needed to drop her off at these abandoned fair grounds and- wait a second.
“Lady you ain’t gunna rape me out in the middle-a nowheres, is ya?”
“That was not my intention. Would you like that, however?”
“Ehhh.” Harold thought it over before shaking his head. He really didn’t need to have his boss get on his case again for bringing his car in late and sticky. “Nah, I’m fine.”
“Then all is well.”
They drove in silence for a few minutes before the Monster asked, “What did you mean I didn’t look like any clown you had ever seen?”
Harold grunted. “Listens, clowns have red noses and like, white face paint and bright clothes. This whole purple thing you have goin on is a little creepy eh?”
“Oh I see. One moment then.”
An oozing, slurping sound came from behind Harold. It was similar to a drunk vomiting in the back yet more focused, like a drunk pissing in the back. Groaning, he pulled the car over and said, “For the loves a God, why you always gotta-” He cut off, almost choking on his cigarette at the sight.
Where once sat a dour, alien Monster now sat a bright, alien Monster. Her strange, elastic skin-clothing was now a selection of bright colors spanning the rainbow. Where her face was purple before it was now a pale white and the nose was a bright red. Reaching up, she pressed on the nose to make the sound,
Harold slowly took the cigarette from his mouth and pushed it into the ashtray. Rubbing at his eyes, he looked at her again, to find her still smiling with that unnatural grin. Taking a deep breath he said, “Lady. What the hell is ya?”
“A clown. Am I more fitting now?” She held up her arms to inspect the changes she made. How she made them, Harold had no idea, but it was making his skin crawl. Oh if only he was legally allowed to tell her to leave for creeping him out.
“Y-Yeah. You looks more like a clown now.” He said, scratching his head. A thought came to him. “But clowns often have red hair too.”
“Ah, a moment then.” She closed her eyes and he watched with a mix of horror and fascination as her hair shifted from purple to red. The color and consistency matched that of her nose and he was certain now that it was all made of the same stuff. This was some kind of shapeshifting Monster!
She cocked her head. “Better?”
“How are ya doins that?” He asked, still surprised. Her only response was a smile that made him spine shiver. Swallowing hard he turned back around and shifted into drive. He was going to need a stiff drink when he got home after this shit.
Another silence stretched on as they drove. He got that feeling of being watched again but kept it inside. Still, he was curious now about his passenger. What was a shapeshifting Monster doing in the back of his taxi and why did she want to look like a clown? Curiosity getting the better of him, he was forced to ask, “So ah, why do youse wants to be a clown anywho?”
“I am told clowns make people happy. I wish to do so.”
“Beer and donuts makes people happy too you know.”
She considered for a moment before replying. “I was told by a… friend… that clowns make people happy. So I wanted to be a clown.” Harold sensed something in her voice change, a worry creeping in. “Am I not… a good clown?”
Oh Lord here we go. Harold sighed as they reached a stoplight and rubbed his temple. A sad lady in this back of his taxi eh? He’d seen plenty of these in his years of driving, and most of them were usually drunk. Their problems were often very related to men or some trivial bullshit. Her problem however… It was almost unfortunate how innocent it was. What was even more unfortunate was that he felt like he should help her out.
He sighed internally. The fairgrounds were still awhile away anyway.
“Alright listen heres.” Harold coughed into his hand before trying to sound official. “Welcome to the first day of Harold’s clown school, eh?”
“I thought you were taxi driver.”
“See, there’s your first problem. Rule one of clown school, headmaster Harold is always right.”
“I see, should I take notes?”
“What? No, just listen.”
She nodded her head. “Very well then. What is rule two of clown school?”
“There is no rule two miss eh…” He cocked his head and looked into the mirror. ‘Whats yer names anywho?”
The name made his ears itch for some reason. Rubbing at them he said, “Right uh, I’m just going to call you Nellie, alright?”
The Monster considered before nodding again. “Nellie. I like it. I am Nellie the Clown.” She squished her nose and it made the off-honking sound again.
“Ahh see, goods you’re in the spirit. Alright so clowns makes people happy right? Main way they do that is making people laugh.”
“Oh.” Nellie said, cutting him off. “By telling jokes?”
“Yeah that’s one way. Why don’t you tell me a jokes eh?”
Nellie considered. “Why is 367,894, 201 afraid of 46’n’t’9?” She waited a moment before answering, “Because the 8th plane of existence denies the process!” Oddly enough the laugh she produced was quite rich and girly, something Harold didn’t expect. Still, the joke didn’t make any sense to him at all. She continued to laugh for another moment before asking, “Did you not find it amusing?”
“Yeah sorries, I don’t think us normal peoples would understand that one.”
She looked down. “Oh, I forget that this realm is locked into three dimensions.”
“Yeah, alrights.” Harold said, shaking his head. “Jokes might not be right then. How abouts uhh… making balloon animals eh?”
“Hmm.” Nellie mused. Behind him Harold heard that squelching sound again followed by the noises of what he assumed a greased up balloon sounded like being tied together. The moment he reached a stoplight he looked back and cursed as something licked his face.
Flailing his hands about in panic, he pushed the thing away and held his arms in front of him, panting. Nellie sat in the back and held something in her hand. It appeared to be made of balloons looked vaguely like a dog, but with two more legs than usual and no ears. It was also panting; thick strings of gooey saliva falling from its tongue onto the backseat of his taxi. The balloon thing yipped and blinked disturbingly elongated eyes that looked like Nellie’s.
“Does this amuse you?” Nellie asked, smiling at him.
“Holy hell, Nellie puts that aways!”
The Monster’s unnatural smile fell for the first time. She looked toward the balloon animal. It let out a pitiful whine and, with a horrific slurping sound, sucked back into her body through her hand. Harold panted in shock, placing a hand on his chest as her expression became positively crestfallen.
“Nellie, whats was that? Balloons don’t moves like that!” He continued to breath hard and he wondered if today would be the day he’d have that heart attack his doctor kept saying would happen.
“I’m sorry…” She whispered, looking down.
“Jesus Nellie.” He said, catching his breath. Someone honked behind him and he swore under his breath. The light turned green and he didn’t even notice. Shifting into drive he said, “Maybe I was wrong, maybe you don’t have what it takes it be a clown.”
“Oh.” Was her only reply.
They drove on once more in silence through the streets. Neither of them made a sound as the lights of the city began to fade away, replaced with suburban homes and longer stretches of parkland. This too gave way to more open scenery which, in the dark of night, seemed almost oppressive. At this point Harold just wanted to drop her off at the fairgrounds and leave this all behind.
Soon enough in the distance came the sight of the old Ferris wheel and big-top of the circus. Harold let out a long sigh of relief as he pulled off the side of the road and up to the gates. Gravel crunched underneath his tires as his headlights cast a long spear of light into the dark. They landed upon the weatherworn face of a clown, a wooden feature built over one of the gates.
“Well.” He began, turning about. “We’re here. It’s gunna be fourty-four fifty.”
Wordlessly, Nellie placed three twenties into his hand and opened the door. She walked, or rather, glided outside onto the gravel and stood there, staring at the clown illuminated in the lights. Harold watched her for a moment, feeling something in his chest. Was it guilt? Aww fuck, he hated feeling guilty.
He debated just turning around and getting drunk, but hesitated. A war of thoughts played in his gut like a bad pierogi. Eventually he let out a long groan and thunked his head against the steering wheel.
“Aww hells, I’m such a sucker for the sad ones.”
Opening the door he stepped outside toward her. She turned at his approach, a quizzical look upon her face. In the darkness the clown make-up was disturbing, like one of those horror movies, but he paid it no mind for now. From what he could tell, she wasn’t like that. She said she wanted to make people happy, right?
“Hey Nellie, you forgot your change.”
She didn’t blink, not that he thought she needed to, but merely looked down at the change in his hand. “I don’t need it.”
“Eyy looks, I can’t be doin that to a lady. Take your change, eh?”
“Consider it a tip for the advice you gave me. I thought I could be a clown, but clearly that isn’t the case.” He watched as the colors bled from her, returning to the deep purple she had before. Even the clown nose vanished revealing a cute looking human nose. He hated to admit it, but this lady was a looker… of a fashion.
“Aww hey looks, I didn’t mean it like that.” He said, rubbing the back of his head. “I was just spooked alright? We do things a little differently around heres and maybe the back of a taxi wasn’t the best place to learn to be a clown. Frankly I’m not a funny guy either so I mean, I’m not the best at advice on this stuff.” Sighing, he looked at her with an apologetic expression.
“You don’t have to stops tryings to make peoples happy just because a fat taxi driver got a little spooked.”
She considered his words for a moment before turning back to the gate. He watched her study the clown face for a long while before turning back toward him with that unnatural smile on her face. “Do you mean it?”
“Yeah, sures I do.” Harold said, walking over toward her. “Now heres, lets get away from this creepy place afore those damn Ghost Monsters show up and- woah, oh!”
Harold’s arms flailed in circles as, in the darkness, he tripped over a rock. Falling down like a ton of bricks, he hit the dirt hard and coins scattered about from between his fingers. A groan escaped his lips, but where he expected a ton of pain from the gravel hitting him, he only felt a cool, rubbery sensation. Confused, he looked down and saw a wave of undulating, purple ooze under him.
“Are you alright?” Nellie asked, looking at him with shock and worry on her face. Her hands flowed forward from her, creating a cover which he had landed on and cushioned his fall. As he stared at her, her hands reformed into their humanoid shape and she clasped them together, genuine concern in her eyes.
Where her earlier expressions were more alien or subdued, this was an outpouring of strong, HUMAN emotion. In addition to the situation that just occurred, Harold began to feel something stirring in his gut. He shuddered for a moment before snickering. The snicker became a chuckle and the chuckle soon turned into a fully belly-laugh.
Nellie stared on in incomprehension, which only made Harold laugh all the harder. He slapped the ground, which actually hurt some, but he didn’t care. The situation was just too comical and soon his lungs began to hurt from all the laughing. Nellie tried to help him but he held his hand up to stop her. Anything she would do now would just be too funny.
Eventually his laughing subsided into spasmic chuckles. Face beet-red, he took gulping breaths to keep himself from passing out. Wiping a tear from his eye, he said to her, “Oh Jesus, aha, thems was some funny stuffs, aha!”
Nellie looked at him with surprise, a smile slowly forming on her lips. “I… made you laugh?”
“Yeah! That expression was too funny, ahaha!”
“I… made you happy?”
“Nellie, I haven’t laughed this hard in a long time. Yeah, I’m pretty happy right about now.”
Her face broke open into her customary wide smile though this one felt more real somehow. Harold could swear tears were forming at the corner of her eyes, but it must have been a trick of the light. Shaking his head he said, “That’s how it starts, one fat guy laughing in the dirt is the first step towards being a proper clown.”
Nellie nodded her head and turned about. The squelching noise from before came and she turned to him, nose replaced with a big, red, rubber one. She gave him her widest smile and leaned over, hand pinching her nose.
Harold couldn’t help but laugh.