“If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.” –William Blake
Well of course I went through the window. Who among you would have done otherwise?
When I dropped out the other side I was standing outside the same rickety beach cabin. Honestly I don’t know what I expected… the Pearly Gates?
It was full night now, pitch dark, with the ocean making splooshing whooshing noises that sounded spooky to my landlubber ears.
About a hundred yards away a beach fire burned brightly. Two figures, indistinguishable in the dark, sat beside it. I walked that way, slipping on the soft sand.
One of the firesitters I figured had to be Roman. The other, I had a feeling of dread about that one. As I approached their heads swiveled to see me. Sure enough, Roman, with his hair even longer than the last time I saw him, grinned and jumped up.
He crushed me with a bear hug. My face pressed into his chest and his arms felt like steel bands around me. Roman was no longer the boy from the orphanage. He had the size and strength of a man.
The other grinned at me too. A horrid, lurid grin out of a nightmare. His red hair perfectly pointed. The brown and red stripes on his baggy pants glinted in the firelight. The Scary Clown.
I’d had it with the fear, the dread, the mystery, the BEING JERKED AROUND. I took three big steps towards the fire and grabbed that stupid clown’s hair. I yanked with all my might, and off came the rubber mask he wore.
“Hello there, Sky,” he said.
I stood still with the clown head clutched in my fist and my eyes wide with shock. It wasn’t Stephen Crisp. It wasn’t Seth Cohen. It wasn’t the stinky Santa Claus. It was the balloon guy. The one who died in the crash along with my mother.
“Aren’t you dead?” I finally spat out.
“Obviously not.” He chuckled, more the chuckle of a Scary Clown than a balloon ride operator.
“You, why are you, what…” I didn’t know where to begin.
“Those kindly bystanders whisked you away. You never saw me get up,” he explained.
I recovered my bearings. “Why have you been following me all these years?”
“I? Following you?”
“Yes, YOU. In your other disguises.” Even as I said it, I didn’t see how this portly man could’ve portrayed the slim drama teacher or the Jewish ticket man.
“Pfft,” he said.
I took a deep breath. “Listen, not to get all Star Wars on you, but are you my father?”
The balloon guy cracked up. “Certainly not! Whatever gave you that idea?”
“Well WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?”
He sighed. “I killed your mother.”
“The crash was no accident. I sent that big balloon plummeting to the ground, boom!” he said cheerfully.
“Why didn’t I die too?”
“Your mother saved you, didn’t she?” he rolled his eyes.
“Have you been following me trying to kill me too?”
“Oh my no, sweetie. If I wanted you dead, believe me, you’d be dead. I’ve been looking after you, that’s all.”
“Why would you do that?” I said.
“Not my idea. My mum’s always had a soft spot for you.”
Realization dawned on me. “You mean, CHUMMY wanted to protect me?”
Now his eyes opened wide. “Chummy? You mean Stella Chumwith? Don’t be daft, girl.”
“Sandy Copes is my mum, you silly little twit. And she likes you quite a lot. Mum doesn’t give chocolate kisses to just anyone.”
“Ok, wait,” my brain began to hurt. “How could you have been Crisp and Cohen and Santa? You don’t look anything like them, except for the brown and red striped stuff.”
“Nice touch, eh? I made all that stuff from the remains of the balloon!”
“But HOW could you be a skinny drama teacher?” I shook the mask I was still holding, wishing I could wring his neck instead.
“Don’t ask such stupid questions. I already told you, all clowns are one clown, get it?”
“No, I don’t get it.” I began to cry. “Why did you kill my mother? What did she ever do to you?”
“Do to me? Nobody can DO anything to me. I killed her because I could. I spared you because Mum wanted me to. That’s the way I am. Omnipotent. Capricious. You’re not allowed to question me. Too bad for you.”
“You just go around killing people whenever you feel like it?”
“Pretty much, yep. Absolute power corrupts, absolutely. Haven’t you ever heard that, sweetie?”
“I’m calling the cops!” Surely this guy should go to prison.
He laughed, that evil burbling sound. “And tell them what? A Scary Clown killed your mum ten years ago? And he’s been your own Guardian Angel ever since? Hmm?”
“Well…” I could see I’d lost.
Roman spoke up. “What about the Door?”
“Door, the door, you two and your door,” the balloon man’s laughter became more hysterical.
“Where did it go? Why did you trap us in the other world?” Roman stood over the balloon guy, trying to look intimidating, I guess. But failing.
“There is no ‘other world’ you foolish boy, you oaf. You can convince little kids of anything. It was an illusion, don’t you see?”
“But why? What did it accomplish?” I’d stopped crying, feeling my anger rise again.
“It kept you out of the woods that day.” Balloon guy stood up.
“What was in the woods?”
“Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” he laughed and laughed. “What does it matter? There were dangers. I protected you. You’re welcome.” He grabbed the mask from me and shoved it back on his head. “Damn meddling kids,” he muttered as he stalked away into the darkness.
Roman took my hand. “Why did he call you Sky?” he asked.
My tears began again. “That’s my name. The name my mother gave me.”
“It’s a beautiful name,” he said. “Come on, Sky. Let’s go home.”
Well, we didn’t have a home, of course. But in due time we made one together. We haven’t seen the balloon guy since. I hope we never do. Clowns are dangerous.