Anyone? No? Not even you at the back? Come on, they’re wonderful. The way their painted, mask like faces grin with the gleaming insanity of a serial killer. Or the when you’re home alone, late at night and you hear a high pitched giggle from somewhere in the dark downstairs. Delightful.
As it turns out, a small demographic of people known as the human race seem to find these traits, well, downright terrifying, and as a result, clowns have become the stuff of nightmares. Or at the very least, not something that you’d have at a children’s party, which is ironic, really.
With that in mind, it really was a no brainer to have these juggling demons inhabit the dreamscapes of The Forty First Wink, where they are free to slink around in dark recesses, and generally remind us that in every nightmare, there is a pair of bulging eyes, a toothy grin, and a pair of brightly coloured pantaloons in every murky alleyway, basement, or giant, revolving bouncy house. Okay, maybe that last one is just Marty’s dream, but you get the general idea.
And what better way to give face to the brightly painted denizens of your nightmares than to have the daddy of all clowns chase our protagonist through the streets of his own dreamspace? Mr Peepers is the alpha clown, the Godjester, the greasepainted Grim Reaper. Basically, if you pull up to this guy’s drive-thru, you’re likely to come away with an Unhappy Meal.
Put simply, clowns are the perfect nightmare fuel. There are even experts on the subject, probably scarred as children by some jibbering madman who sneaked up on them, holding a bunch of balloons.
“It is the fear of the mask, the fact that it doesn’t change and is relentlessly comical.”
This is another reason why I chose clowns as my antagonists for The Forty First Wink. Their raison d’etre is comedy, but are viewed as anything but. Wink is a work of funny fiction. For that to work, I wanted to present a world that was warped, demented, and ever so slightly larger than life. Funny and scary can work so well together, especially if you include something that is supposed to be one, but ends up being the other. We can all laugh at clowns, uneasily and casting furtive glances towards the nearest exit, but the fear is still there, and it grows, even within the comforting surrounds of a comedic romp through someone’s dreamspace.
When a bunch of clowns come cartwheeling into a scene, all bets are off. We don’t know if they’re going to make an amusing balloon animal, or rip your face off and wear it like a hat. They’re unpredictable, and that’s what makes them so deliciously creepy.
The Forty First Wink: The Fathom Flies Again, book two in the Wink trilogy, is due to come out soon, and in its pages, the clowns crank it up a notch. They slither out of the darkness to drag away unsuspecting innocents. They assemble, chanting nursery rhymes outside of the local police station. Warped and twisted abominations, magnified to the power of hell no, and set loose on an unsuspecting town. Released from the constraints of nightmare, and unleashed upon the real world.
Of course, not everything in this garden has a shiny red nose. Clowns and clowns alone are so book one, and what is a sequel if not a reason to dial up the shenanigans to eleven?
Coming in hot on the heels of clowns as things nobody wants anything to do with, ever, is the unseen thing under the bed. We have all leapt under our covers as children, being especially careful not to leave limbs exposed or, heaven forbid, hanging over the edge of the bed. That would be way too inviting for the monsters which dwell mere inches beneath us in the darkness, wouldn’t it?
Beneath that blanket, you felt safe, didn’t you? So long as you didn’t make a move, or a sound, the thing hiding in the shadows couldn’t get you. And for some reason, even as adults, on dark and stormy nights, we still remember this, and pull the covers up tightly around us. Because it’s still there, hiding, waiting. Perhaps hoping that the door between reality and dreams might be left open, just a crack, and they can come oozing through, mingling with the shadows and grasping at that stray pinkie toe which peeps out over the edge of the bed.
Of course, they can’t hurt us really. We tell ourselves over and over, as the bedside light flickers, and the shadows close in. It’s just a dream, right? Right?
We may not all have a monster under our bed, or a clown waiting in our closet, but it would be nice to have a crew of miniature toy pirates to watch our back, wouldn’t it? Just to be on the safe side.
About the Author
Hailing from the mystical isle of Great Britain, James Walley is an author who prefers his reality banana shaped.
His debut novel, The Forty First Wink, released through Ragnarok Publications in 2014 scuttles gleefully into this bracket, with a blend of humour, fantasy and the unusual. (It’s really, really, really good. Seriously, buy it).
A clutch of follow up work, both short and long (including books two and three in the Wink trilogy) are in the offing, and have a similar demented flavour.
When not writing, James is partial to a spot of singing, the odd horror movie or ten, and is a circus trained juggler.
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