Edition 28: Detestiny by Rob Francis
When I saw the clown hatch from the egg, it all made sense. Of course they weren’t human. Who the hell would grow up and decide to become one of them? I can’t say that it all fit together—zoologically speaking—of course, but then I don’t know much about all that. There’s all sorts of weird shit out there, and when I won the big black shell at the showground I knew there would be some kind of trick to it. Who gives away a fifteen-kilo egg as a prize in a guess-the-jellybeans-in-the-jar game? Calling it a ‘fortune egg’ did nothing to further its appeal. I didn’t even want the bloody thing. The show hands had to push it to the car in a wheelbarrow.
So in the garage it went, covered with an old dust sheet. I would’ve forgotten all about it, but about a week later I went in to get some wax to buff my Mini Cooper. As soon as I got through the door I heard a loud tapping from the egg. Pulling back the sheet, I saw that it was already cracked. As I watched, a section of shell was pushed out by a meaty paw, and a pudgy white face thrust itself into the gap. Its lips and eyes were black, its ears red. It looked like an obscene baby.
Somehow I knew it was a clown. I’ve always hated clowns, loathed them with a passion, but I do know a bit about them. Hate is a form of obsession, after all. It looked to me like a classic whiteface. A whiteface baby.
Babyface, I thought. That’s his name.
Its eyes opened.
‘You have to feed me,’ it said in a thin, high voice. Its teeth were small and white. And pointed.
I didn’t know what to do with it at first. Was I supposed to raise it, like a child? Or a pet? Could I kill it? Was that allowed? Could I sell it on eBay?
If I knocked it on the head with a hammer and buried it in the garden, would anyone ever know?
Instead I found myself lifting it out of the egg. Its naked, fleshy body was soft and hairless, and it felt like holding a huge maggot. I certainly wasn’t going to nurse the damn thing.
In the corner of the garage was the old bell-shaped brass birdcage that I used to keep my macaws in, years ago. It polished up nicely, and accommodated Babyface comfortably. I put him in the living room, where I could keep an eye on him.
He didn’t do much. Just sat and stared at me. After a few hours, when I finally started getting on with my day, I heard him pipe up.
‘You have to feed me.’
I had no idea what clowns ate. But those sharp little teeth had to be for something, so I gave him a raw chunk of the steak I’d bought for dinner. He ate it hungrily, and then fell asleep. Each morning that week I did the same thing, and Babyface seemed to spend his time eating and sleeping. I decided the clown was some sort of bizarre pet—a trained monkey perhaps—and didn’t think much more about it.
About a week later I woke to find something white smeared on my pillow. In the bathroom mirror I saw that my face was made up like a clown’s. White muzzle and eyes, with the eyebrows and lips a dark black. A dab of deep red on the nose.
I was outraged. This was Babyface’s doing, some sort of trick. Not only had he painted my face up like a damn freak in the middle of the night, he’d made me up like an auguste! Subservient to a whiteface in every way.
I stormed downstairs shouting, asking him what the hell he was playing at. He just watched me silently from his cage, as always. I raged impotently.
Then I made a decision. I wouldn’t feed him anymore.
‘You have to feed me,’ he said.
The next week, my white muzzle and eyes were back. I couldn’t seem to wash them off. I ate, but remained hungry. Worried, I gave Babyface some steak, but he didn’t touch it. Just sat, and stared.
The week following that I started to lose weight, and became so tired I could barely get up the stairs to go to bed. By the next month I just sat in my armchair, watching him. He watched me back.
I don’t know how long I had been there when they came to take me away. I remember the lady who lifted me out of the chair looked over at the birdcage, and frowned. Babyface looked just like a child’s doll in a twee prison.
The doctors at the hospital told me I had a brain disorder and gave me pills. Cleaned up the makeup somehow, and brought me home. Back to the chair, and Babyface.
Once a day a nurse came to check on me. Said I might need an operation, in due course. But I knew that would never happen. Babyface was just waiting for the right time.
It wasn’t long before the circus came around again. One evening, when the festive music drifted down from the showground, Babyface stood up and pressed his face against the bars of his cage.
I gathered up my oversized patchwork jacket and floppy hat—oh, and where had they come from, indeed?—and made my way up the hill to the showground. I didn’t bother to lock the door. I wasn’t coming back. I knew then why all clowns reeked of misery and desperation. No-one chose to be one. You were chosen.
Outside the circus, the man at the jellybean stand seemed amused.
‘Why? I asked him. ‘Why give me one of your clown eggs?’
‘Oh,’ he said, with a grin. ‘They’re not all clowns.’
Rob Francis is an academic and writer based in London, UK. He has published numerous scientific articles and books, and has recently started writing short speculative fiction. So far his stories have appeared in SpeckLit, Swords & Sorcery Magazine, The Lorelei Signal, 9Tales from Elsewhere, The Fable Online and Every Day Fiction.