• Britney Dehnert

Typecast Prompt #23: A Terrifying Jester with Lotsa Knives

If you ever wondered what our new member Amanda likes to dabble in, now you know. She picked this picture from Ronnie's writing Pinterest board and told us she had two stories rattling around in her head all week about it! True to the creepy picture, all our stories are pretty dark. Amanda's two stories are true horror, so horror fans, you get a treat this time!


Here's a horror score for each of the stories if you're not a horror fan and feel unsure. (1 is not scary or creepy; 10 is pretty legit horror. Remember, this is me measuring it, and I'm not a horror reader.)


Amanda first story: 8

Ronnie: 3

Jake: 5

Patrick: 1

Me: 2

Andrea: 6

Tyler: 6

Amanda second story: 10


So, delve in, and enjoy!

Amanda: "Macabre Curiosities" (first story - her second is at the end.)

“Are you nervous? Excited? I was absolutely terrified before my first performance. Now, now I live for the stage and the show! Shush! You will miss the barkers call.”

As the audience started to fill into the tent and take seats, you could hear the barker outside the tent calling to people and drawing them in to see the show.

“Sir, Madame, step right up and see the show. Madame Harlequin has searched around the world to find the most interestingly curious and entertaining acts. See the man so small he would pass as a child. See the woman so tall she would dwarf a great oak. There are sword swallowers and fire eaters and jugglers galore. A man so strong he can lift a whole car and a woman who can bend to fit in a drawer. For just a small fee you can see them all. But the best act of all, is Madame Harlequin after all. She is a curiosity herself and puts on a fantastic show. Step right up and see, plenty of room, don’t be shy. It is the best part of the circus! Don’t miss a chance to boast to your friends about the most amazing Macabre Curiosities!”

Madame Harlequin whispered, “The lights will soon dim, and our show will soon begin. But first we shall watch the others perform. Then it’s our chance to shine in the light.”

The dwarf and the giant had the attendees laughing and pointing with glee. The strong man made a show of unbending metal from a suitcase sized, sealed metal box to reveal the tiny contortionist within. The fire eaters set the room ablaze with their dance as the jugglers switched from clubs to knives.

“Now it is our turn. Are you ready? Good, so am I.” The curtain lifted and the music was low as she took the stage as the star of the show. The audience gasped in horror at the sight before them. A tall rail thin woman stood before them. A harlequin adorned in red, green, and black checked costume trimmed with gold and a tattered cape of greenish blue. To complete the costume was the jester’s traditional hat, although all the colors on the hat had faded except the red. Her face was pale and her eyes dark as coal. Red paint in the shape of a starburst was around her eyes and lips black as night gave her a frightening appearance. Although she looked terrifying and gaunt, she commanded the room’s attention. The audience waited with bated breath until Madame Harlequin began to speak with a lively sing-song voice,

“Welcome all ladies and gentlemen, young and old. I do hope you all are enjoying the show. We are delighted that you could all be here with us this evening to see the wonderful macabre curiosities from around the world."

“Now it is time for the final act of the night, my show. What is my act you may ask? I’m a dancer of swords if you must know.” She smiled at the crowd as the second curtain was raised. A giant bullseye appeared across the stage as she began her act. She grabbed her daggers and spun and twirled them with expert skill. She released the daggers into the air and one-by-one into the bullseye they went, forming the picture of a smiling face.

The audience clapped and cheered as she took a bow. “But wait” she said as she turned to the crowd. “That was quite impressive, I know, but I do believe I can give you more of a show. We have a new curiosity to join our family, more macabre than the others and so pleasing to see.”

The third curtain was raised to reveal a man strapped to a similar target on the stage. “Let’s up the ante, shall we?” As she began a new dance twirling more knives with expert skill. “Let me formally introduce you to our newest member to join our ranks. It took much convincing for him to appear. He is shy you see, his first time on the stage in front of the crowd.”

The audience began to clap in encouragement. Madame Harlequin continued, “Please meet the human pin cushion.” She released the knives at the gasp of the crowd. Dagger one sunk cleanly into his left hand and dagger two through his right. Daggers three and four were thrown at the same time landing in the left and right foot.

“And now for the final daggers! Strongman, please spin the target.” As the target was spun the final daggers were thrown cutting expertly against the side of his cheeks. The audience was silent, not sure what they just saw, when Madam Harlequin addressed them all.

“I hope you all enjoyed the show, but kindly remember people come in all shapes and sizes. Each one with hopes and dreams. We should all be treated as individuals with respect and dignity. Let this be a lesson to those who choose to belittle the strange: you never know when you may suddenly become the curiosity.”

The curtains fell and the stage lights dimmed. Madame Harlequin suddenly turned and said, “Your first night was a success; I’m so glad you pulled through. Now you can enjoy the rest of your life as a curiosity too. Welcome to the outside always looking in, but eventually, you may find that you fit in with your new kin.”


Ronnie:

“No! He certainly will not do. Remove him, please.”

King Dorian sat discontentedly on his throne, his hand brought to his face in frustration as he dismissed yet another court jester from his presence. The sound of the fool’s protests and assurances that he could do better did nothing to change the king’s mind. It seemed he would remain disappointed.

“Don’t worry, your majesty. There is still one more fool to appear before you. Perhaps this one shall be to your satisfaction,” said one of the king’s advisers.

“Perhaps. And if he is not? Then what shall I do with you, Renfier?” King Dorian glowered at Renfier in frustration. Renfier bowed in deep reverence trying very hard not to show his cowardice. Amongst him, in the room stood five other men: dukes and advisers to the king. His most trusted confidants.

“Well.” The king paused. “Bring him in.”

“Of course, your majesty.” Renfier straightened and opened the doors from which the previous fool had been ushered out.

Framed in the doorway stood a most interesting figure. A jester clad in a torn turquoise cloak stood before them, his head bowed to the floor. Slowly, he raised his head, the red cap and bells tinkling with the movement. He gazed toward the king in silence, a smile permanently etched on his masked face.

“Well, come forward. Show us what you can do,” commanded the king impatiently.

The jester stepped forward until he was in the center of the room. Then, with a magnificent bow, he opened his tattered cloak revealing seven finely forged swords. He waited and slowly drew three of the deadly weapons into his hands and, with practiced skill, began to juggle them into the air.

The king, previously bored and irritated, found himself enchanted by the jester’s juggling as slowly, one by one, the jester added more and more swords to the mix. The room was silent apart from the slashing of swords against air and the sound of tinkling bells. Each man stood agog at the obvious skill and talent of the fool before them. The jester added the sixth sword and, for a moment, it looked like it would all fall apart as one sword clanged against another. But the jester kept juggling, circles of silver flying above his head.

Each man waited for the last sword to be drawn.

But in one final flourish, the jester launched each sword up in a wild arc, each flying in its own direction and bowed, the bells on his head jingling as six sickening squelches were heard within the chamber. The jester remained in his genuflect as one by one, the bodies of the dukes and advisers to the king fell to the ground, their blood spilling into festive pools on the floor.

Slowly raising his head, the jester revealed the ever-smiling mask once again, his gaze focused at the king who sat stunned in horror on his throne. Stepping toward the king, he reached once more into his torn cloak removing the final sword. His steps echoed eerily in the silent hall, the bells of his cap joining in a haunting chorus. Tap. Chime. Tap. Chime. Tap. Chime. Inches now from the shellshocked king, he reached his free hand for the colored cap and bells atop his head and slowly removed his disguise. The mask now removed, a flash of fearful recognition appeared on the king’s face and he gripped the arms of his throne, his knuckles growing whiter and whiter as the fear spreading through his veins slowly drained him of all color.

“It’s you,” the king uttered. The jester dropped the cap and mask to the floor below, the bells jangling in confirmation as he lifted his sword and with one swift blow ended the life of the king, a line of blood streaking across the eye of the discarded mask.


Jake:

Harried footsteps echoed off the stone alleyway walls as scurrying footsteps splashed past a puddle.

Don’t jump at the shadows, Gilliam, keep running, he tried to reassure himself, but an icy fear still encased his heart as angry moths flew around in his gut. He heard a giggling bouncing off the walls from behind him. He turned to glimpse over his shoulder. He spotted half of the figure's ever-smiling pale face; the other half covered in red cloth hanging down from their headdress. They twirled a dagger between their gloved fingers, their gait slow, but confident.

He turned away just in time to use his hands to avoid colliding with another wall as he clumsily darted around the corner. Just as he turned, he heard the clatter of something metallic hitting the stone wall he had just been in front of.

Don’t look again, Gilliam, can’t afford it. He had a little experience navigating the city’s alleyways, but his mind in this moment was anything but clear. All that mattered was his survival. The queen’s pawn was close behind him, a harbinger, a bringer of warnings to not interfere in her business.

Gilliam suddenly saw a shadow from overhead and felt a searing pain in his calf as he tumbled to the rain-laden cobblestones. He brought his hands to his calf, hissing as he felt the cloth of his pants and his flesh beneath sliced open. He noticed the dagger that caused the wound within arm’s reach. He grasped it, knowing he had already slowed down too much to be able to outrun them.

He saw a shadow drop down from the rooftops, landing with the squelch of a puddle before him. Gilliam ignored the pain in his leg, rolling to stand on his feet, the assailant’s dagger in hand. The jester pulled out another dagger from their cloak, stepping closer and closer to Gilliam. Gilliam lunged his blade forward. The jester easily sidestepped his strike, then used one of their long, lean legs to kick Gilliam’s outstretched arm, throwing him off balance and into one of the alley’s walls. In his tiredness, the force caused Gilliam to drop the dagger as the jester came close, face-to-face with him.

His quickly approaching demise renewed Gilliam with vigor, balling up a fist that managed to connect with the jester’s jaw. Gilliam saw the bottom half of the jester’s mask fly off and land dully on the stone. His eyes met the bottom half of the jester’s face, a thin-lipped mouth. Where once was flesh from the corner of the mouth up the cheeks, was instead cut open, haphazard stitching keeping what flesh remained together. The jester shook their head, a devious smile appearing on their lips. Gilliam felt a piercing pain in between his ribs as darkness took his vision.


Patrick:

“Baba, tell us the story of the Jester that killed the king!”

Little Iela and Grieda were wide-eyed with excitement, staring up expectantly at their father’s mother. Their mother also stared, but with a different expression.

“Which story is that, Ealdemōdor?” She did her best to disguise her shock as interest.

The old woman chuckled to herself and leaned forward toward her grandchildren. “All right, but just once more. It is late and your father has already lit the torches for the night. You should be in bed soon.” She reached out a knobby finger and gently tapped the end of each of their noses. The boy and girl came up close and sat eagerly at her feet.

“Once upon a time, there were three great warriors that protected the Old Kingdom. Gerhardt was said to have the strength of ten men. He once wrestled a mighty bear from the Black Forest and tore it in half. He skinned it and wore its coat as a sign that others should leave him be.”

Iela gasped with the same enthusiasm as the first time he heard the tale.

“Gridja had feet so light and swift, she once ran down two horse thieves. Now you might say, ‘but horse thieves are not fast. That is why they steal horses.’ But what if I told you she didn’t run down the thieves, but rather the horses they had just stolen!”

Grieda, who loved any and all subjects regarding horses tilted her head as a grin stretched across her face.

“And these horses,” the grandmother continued, “oh, they were not just any horses. They were the royal messenger horses, the fastest in the kingdom. Gridja ran them down and leapt atop the riders, striking them dead before they hit the ground.

“But the greatest of these warriors was Branfell. He was not as strong as Gerhardt, nor as fast as Gridja, but he was clever.” The grandmother tapped her temple and squinted at the children. “Branfell always had a plan, and his plans rarely failed.”

“And the king?” Iela interrupted, bouncing in place.

“Shh!” Grieda scolded with a slap to his arm.

“Do you want Ealdemodor to tell the story or no?” Their mother warned, now personally invested.

The old woman smiled. “Yes, the king.” Her mood darkened. “The king at that time was an evil, wicked king. He would tie up the villagers and beat them for days without reason. He would capture young women and have them brought to his court. All summer long, every night he would take them one by one and…”

Mother coughed, eyebrows raised. “It is late, so perhaps we have the shorter version, yes?"

The grandmother adjusted her posture and corrected herself. “Too true. If we covered all the evil things he did, we would be past until the nightfall after next.” The children tiled their heads in confusion, but she continued. “Well, there was a night many summers ago that the king had a magnificent banquet to celebrate how great he thought he was and to show off one of the women he had recently kidnapped. She was, he declared, the most beautiful woman in the kingdom and all should know she belonged to him. He had dancers from the south, magicians from the west, storytellers from the east, and pastry bakers from the south. The party was so great, it lasted a whole week.

“Branfell and the others knew this was their time to save the kingdom and the woman from the king’s wicked ways, but they knew only Branfell could do it. Gerhardt was strong, but not strong enough to break down the king’s walls. Gridja was fast, but not fast enough to get past all the king’s archers. But Branfell, they knew he already had a plan.

“On the final night of the banquet, the king had entertainers from all over the kingdom and beyond come for a full night of jokes, stunts, and revelry. One such entertainer was a lone jester. He said nothing but wore bright colors and strange masks. He did cartwheels and flips. He spun in tight circles and jumped through hoops. He held the crowd’s attention all leading toward his final act. He took a low bow before the king and revealed seven gleaming swords that had been hidden in his cloak.

“The guards jumped to attention, but the king waved them aside wanting to see what the jester would do next.” The old woman paused, letting the tension grow. Iela and Grieda leaned forward, threatening to fall into her knees. “He took all seven swords in his hands and juggled them. He juggled them in such a way that he didn’t cut himself even once. He juggled and danced and spun with such ease. The everyone at the banquet was amazing and clapped and cheered,” she paused again. Her eyes flitted between the children and their mother who had taken a seat beside them. “Until he threw all seven, one by one, into the king, pinning him to the throne where he sat.”

Both Iela and Grieda gasped and put their hands to their faces. Even Mother was taken aback. “Everyone was so shocked they didn’t see where the jester went. He had disappeared from right in front of their eyes. The guards arrested many of the people in attendance, but none proved to be guilty.”

“What happened to the woman, Baba?” Grieda asked, clasping the old woman’s hand.

“No one knows for sure,” she responded. “She fled the king’s court that night and was never seen again. Some say she found Branfall and married him. Some say she wanders the kingdom searching for him. But I like to think she went on and lived her life free knowing that Branfall was always there watching her and keeping her safe.”


Late that night, after the rest of the family was fast asleep, the old woman stepped outside the small house and looked longingly out into the moonlit night. At the crest of a hill, a stone’s throw away, she could just make out a brightly colored jester take a regal bow. The old woman smiled and took a deep breath, a small tear rolling down her cheek. She wiped it away, and when she looked back, the jester was gone.


Me:

I have a friend.

She's odd, they say, it's true.

Under the circumstances I'd say

Well yes- she's a fool.

But not a foolish fool,

No, not she

The other kind of fool is she

The dancing kind -

With painted face and glee

Churlish jokes and silly mask

Long red hair and tights

But underneath that silly mask

Well, that's her real disguise.

What, you say, and how, you ask?

I'll tell you now, it's true

For there's a beauty so profound, why

Legend says that she's pursued

For all the hearts

She's conquered and slain

But wait, there's more

For she's more than vain.

Her beauty she chose

To use for a tool

Not for pride, no

For she's much, much more

Oh, so much more -

Than a silly little fool.


"The jester's here, my lord!" they call,

Everywhere I go

Slightly famous throughout the land

The bandaged jester,

Knives in hand.

I juggle them, I swallow them

I throw them at the wall

I make designs, say silly things

As nobles ooh and ahh.

They clap their hands

They shout for more

They like the darker tone

More dangerous tricks are in vogue

In this modern land of Zoan.

But as the darkness they embrace

As bloodlust glows and flames

These nobles with their idle hands

Will take to different games.

So hence I travel here and there

King's orders in my cloak

A dark-caped jester that I am

Other designs I invoke -

After the dinners and the wines

The nobles like to talk

They beg me to unmask my face

And henceforth are always shocked

Seeing my face they take me in

Try to impress me with their daring

Talk of treason and bravest sin

Of oppression, or of little crimes

Something to cause shock and awe.

Of course I give them what they want

I flatter and cajole

Then take me forth, write reports

Watch them strung up on a pole.


Every so often they're drunk enough

To want to give me their own show

They call for someone they despise

Someone they can call a foe.

It's then that I must make my choice

Do I stay the pretty toy?

Gather up my intelligence

Shut my eyes and just stay coy?

Or do I reveal my inner self

The one that flames at sights like this

To see bored sadism at work

It's why I live - it's Alexa's Kiss.


Knives are my toy - but not right now

Now they've a purpose higher called

The way that they fly - beauty in motion

Like a butterfly's kiss - but a kiss that mauls

For justice sometimes is prison indeed

Treason or stealing, slander and greed

But crimes of oppression - the king's agreed

Call for action by the king's elite.


So I am a jester, yes that's true

They call me a fool sometimes

A pretty one, when mask removed

And that face, too, is my disguise.

So call for Alexa, but know it's me

You won't get the show you're expecting

Harbor the darkness, my fallen friends

And you won't get the chance to flee.


Andrea:

"Playtest"

[…]

[…STAND BY…]

[…DISENGAGING…]

[…STAND BY…]

[…REMOVE HEADSET…]

At the prompt, Alex removed the VR headset from over his head, disconnecting the device’s signal from his mind and removing the veil that had momentarily covered reality. He blinked blearily at the real world – a bare, white room containing a table and two chairs. A lab tech was sitting across from him, her long black hair pulled back into a tight bun and her red lipstick stark against the whiteness of her lab coat.

“So?” she asked expectantly.

Alex put the headset down on the table before exploding in praise. “That was AWESOME! The picture! The colors! The…the sensation! I can still feel the water on my skin and the grass between my toes! How do you do that?!” He held up a hand, wiggled his fingers to ensure he wasn’t still touching the imagined world.

The lab tech only allowed herself a small smile before turning to a notebook and scribbling down the stellar review.

“Any criticisms?” she asked casually, not meeting his eyes.

“Uh…no! Not really,” Alex answered honestly. “It was really incredible. I mean…how does it do that?”

He picked up the headset to look at every facet of the device, as if searching for the magical element.

The lab tech remained stoic. “The headset doesn’t project sounds and images but manipulates brainwaves to create the illusion of sounds, images, and sensations. Everything you experienced felt very real because, to your brain, it was.”

Alex ran a hand through his hair before sighing, a wide smile of excitement still on his face. “Just awesome,” he muttered.

The lab tech studied him for a moment, her eyes narrowing. She leaned forward and rested her arms on the table. “The particular game you played was the demo that is being used throughout all tests. But, would you be interested in playing a game that is being created specifically to take the experiences of this system to the extreme? It has only been shown to a few people and is still in early…”

“Yes!” Alex interrupted excitedly. “Absolutely! What is it?!”

Again, the lab tech withheld emotion and simply picked up the headset before leaving the room. She returned momentarily and handed the headset back to Alex.

“How are you with horror games?”

Alex laughed nervously, a giddy grin on his face. “Well, uh…they’re cool. Yeah, I’m in. What kind of horror?”

“Survival,” she replied casually, scribbling on her notebook once again. “Everything you see can be used to your advantage. Of course, there will be a few bugs as it’s…”

“Early release, I got it!” Alex said, securing the headset to his head. “Let’s do this!”

“Same thing as before,” she said, “whenever you’re ready, end the game by thinking ‘end.’”

“Okay! Get it started.”

The lab tech didn’t say another word before reaching across the table and clicking a button on the side of the headset, starting the simulation.

[…]

[…STAND BY…]

[…LINKING…LINKING…]

[…GAME BEGIN…]

The clunky coding flashed through Alex’s mind as the device infiltrated his brain and began creating a new world for him to experience. Another couple seconds passed before he was suddenly standing in a dark room. A red and gold carpet coated the floor while brown striped, outdated wallpaper covered the walls. A sconce, lit by a candle, was the only source of light.

“Incredible!” Alex muttered to himself as he stood in awe at his surroundings. He even got on one knee to touch the soft, lush carpet.

He stood upright to look before and behind him. The room was long and thin, appearing more like a hallway with doors on either end.

“Door number one?” he asked no one. “Or door number two?”

Figuring he might as well have fun with it, he closed his eyes, turned in a couple circles and chose the door he was facing.

Keeping in mind that this was a horror game, he kept his movements quiet but couldn’t stop his excited smile as he slowly pulled open the door. “Here we go…”

Monsters? Spiders? Snakes? A room full of booby-traps and fatal puzzles? His mind spun at the possibilities.

He braced himself as he peeked inside the next room, only to find the exact same thing: a hallway decorated with the same carpet, wallpaper, and lone, flickering sconce.

“Okay…” he said, before cautiously moving forward. “Not too impressive so far.”

Figuring he might as well move on, he walked the length of the hallway and opened the next door. The same hallway. He was fascinated at first, but now it was getting frustrating.

Three more times, the same door, the same hallway, the same crappy interior decorating.

“Horror?” he repeated with a sneer as he casually threw open the next door.

He had shut the door behind him when a low, rhythmic thudding caught his attention. It was coming from the hallway behind him. He turned around and faced the door, unsure if he should open it, wait, or run.

Figuring he might as well find out what it was, he stood still and watched and waited.

Gradually, the thudding became louder and he could hear another noise accompanying: it was the squeak of a door knob, followed by a door bouncing against its frame and slamming closed. The hard and fast thudding grew louder, causing Alex’s heartrate to quicken.

It was someone, or something, running through every hallway he had already been through.

With his fear defeating his curiosity, he spun around and dashed through the door ahead, away from whatever was coming. His footsteps made similar dull thudding against the floor and he threw the doors open and closed them harshly as he ran.

Even in the moment of terror, he was fascinated by how his body felt the adrenaline and how his muscles seemed to really be moving. Virtual or not, it would be hard to tell whether he was really running for his life or only living through a dream world.

His pursuer was gaining, as the sound of his doors slamming were starting to coincide with the ones behind him opening.

He dared to look back briefly, but the distraction cost him. His foot caught on the edge of the door frame, sending him barreling into the floor. His chin and arms burned as he was thrown across the carpet. He landed on his stomach and instantly struggled to get to his feet. But it was too late to run, as he heard the door open behind him.

Still on his hands and knees, he turned so that he could at least face his pursuer. His jaw slacked.

A cruel vision of a jester, complete with bright red hair, diamond printed leggings, and a colorful cloak was standing at the other end of the hall. A mask, imprinted with a wide grin, stared down on him lifelessly.

“Whoa,” was all Alex could say, his chest heaving, a result of the fear induced running. “I guess…you’re not so bad.”

The jester cocked their head to the side, the dead-eyed mask toying with Alex. With a slow, methodical movement, the jester stretched out an arm, revealing a row of swords, daggers, and knives hidden in the fabric of their cloak.

Alex swallowed, his stomach turning at the mere sight. “Okay, uh…I think I’m done. Uh…end, I guess.”

The jester paused, as if waiting for Alex’s words to do anything, before carefully removing a long sword from their armory.

“I said end!” Alex repeated, looking at the ceiling for salvation.

The jester moved forward, their steps on the balls of their feet as though dancing. The sword glittered in the candle light.

“End!” Alex shouted, a mixture of fear and anger. “End! END! END!”

The jester lifted the sword, striking the sconce and casting the hallway into pitch blackness.

“END! END! EN…”


Tyler: (Amanda's hubby, joining us for the first time!)

The bruise was already forming on her cheek as she stared at herself in the mirror. Last night was bad, one of the worst in weeks. James had come home late last night more drunk than usual; he was always mean when he was drunk. She had tried to stay awake and wait for him, but the double shift yesterday had exhausted her and around 3:00 AM she finally succumbed to her exhaustion. The first slap had awoken her but it was the second blow that sent her reeling.

“Its okay girl, you got this,” she said to herself in the mirror as she gingerly applied blush to hide the bruise. James was still asleep so if she hurried she would be able to get out of the apartment before he woke and she would have at least sixteen hours of bliss until she needed to worry about tonight.

She must have done a good job at covering up since she hardly drew any stares from the others on the bus. Of course, no one in this city seemed to care about anyone else; no one except Susan, Susan always noticed. As the bus pulled up to her stop she could feel her apprehension mounting, knowing what Susan would say.

"JESS!" Susan hissed into her ear as she grabbed her by the arm and dragged her into the bathroom. “What happened? Did James do this to you? Didn’t I tell you to get out? Are you going back to him again after this?” Susan rattled off before Jess could even think of a response. “Oh, here let me see. You missed a couple of spots and I know you would not be able to handle it if anyone else found out.” Susan gently took ahold of Jess’s face and started to fix her makeup. Jess sat; she could not say or do anything while Susan was like this. Not that Susan would ever hurt her; Susan was her best friend in the whole world… her only friend. She was sure that Susan might be the only person left in the world who even cared about her.

“Jess, I know you say you love him but when is enough enough? You have to see that he does not love or care for you. He is only going to keep hurting you and when is it going to lead to more than bruises?

“But I can't go anywhere, Susan; you know he will hunt me down. He will never let me go,” Jess said for what felt like the hundredth time. “I want to leave. Oh, how I want to leave and never worry about him again but you know that if I tried to leave either him or his friends would find me and bring me back. Then it would be so much worse…”

Susan nodded. “I know, Jess, but that's the first time you have ever told me you want to leave him. Every other time you made excuses to explain his behavior; you forgot to buy his favorite beer, you forgot his dinner when he came home late, you forgot to wash his clothes the way he likes, you, you, you.” She said as she ticked off her fingers. "Now that you actually want to leave him, I can finally help you."

"Do you remember Frank?" Susan asked.

Jess paused. The name sounded so familiar but the memory was fleeting. Every time her brain developed an image, it was whisked away before she could focus on it. “No, I feel like I should, but I can’t who is Frank?”

Susan smacked herself on the forehead, “Of course you don’t remember him, I keep forgetting you wouldn’t, couldn’t even - no one can, only me. Frank was the guy, sorry jerk, I was seeing when you started working here. He did the same thing to me as James is doing to you. That is when I met….”

Susan hesitated, she never hesitated, Susan was always so sure of herself.

“Who? Who did you meet, Susan?” asked Jess.

Susan stood in silence for what seemed like eternity, “Are you sure, Jess? Are you truly ready to get away from James? I can only help you with this once, but if you aren’t absolutely committed there will be dire consequences.”

Jess thought, Could this be true? Susan knows a way out! She knows how to help me... “YES! Please Susan, I don’t want to be afraid anymore; I don’t want to hurt anymore!”

Susan slowly nodded. “Okay, here take this.” She reached into her purse and pulled out a small metallic object. She thrust it into Jess’s hand and said, "Tonight when it glows blue, follow it until you meet the right person."

"What, what do you mean when it glows blue? Who is the right person? How will I know?" implored Jess.

"Look, Jess that is all I can tell you. You will just have to trust me. I love you and I want only the best for you. Do what I say and follow the light." With that, Susan turned on her heel and sped from the room.

Slowly Jess opened her hand to reveal a small metallic dagger about the size of a business card, the front of which had a jester's hat engraved on it. She flipped it over to see a small inscription that read; “Seek help, those just of cause, but be brave of heart or dire consequences shall follow.”

Jess shook her head and decided she would soon be missed if she did not get to work so she pocketed the dagger and thought nothing of it.

That night on her way home, she reached into her pocket for her keys and found the dagger. She had completely forgotten. She pulled it out and saw the faintest of blue glows to the metal. As she walked down the street, the glow started to intensify. As she approached the next alley, the dagger almost leapt from her palm, pulling her down into the dark dead end. She walked far longer into the alley without reaching the end than should have been possible. She thought about turning back: James would be home soon and if she was not there with his supper ready it would be worse than last night. As she started to turn back, she heard a voice that sounded like sandpaper being dragged across the ground.

“Are you sure? You could turn back now and beat James home but at what cost? He will lose his temper again, he will hit you again, and the next time will be so much worse. I assure you.”

Jess turned and in the glowing light of the small dagger in her hand, a figure emerged from the darkness. It was dressed like a jester but something was off. Where there should have been a smiling face there was only a sneer, and there was no mirth or warmth in the black pits where the eyes should have been.

“Do you want to get out? Are you sure you can be brave enough? I will give you the means, but you must wield the power.”

“Yes,” whispered Jess. “I do, I can… I think.”

The being chuckled. “Okay, Jess. Then here is your power.”

In fluid movements that did not seem humanly possible the being’s hand lashed out and took the small dagger from Jess’s hand. Then with a flourish, it swept aside its cloak, revealing rows of large daggers. The being mused as it looked at each dagger lovingly and replaced the small dagger back in the only empty spot. As soon as the dagger was reunited, it grew to the size of the rest. The being lovingly ran its hand down the rows of daggers and selected the last one. “This is the one for James. This is the one that will release you of your torment.”

The being handed the dagger to Jess.

“Wait, what am I supposed to do with this? You want me to – to stab him?" Jess stuttered. "I can’t just kill someone; I would get arrested!”

“Then you are not brave enough to wield the power that I gift you, and you must pay for it. However, if you go forth and do what you committed to… my gift is free. Use it and pass it on to another worthy person when you encounter him or her. Now which is it? Do you want freedom or will you serve me for all time?”

Jess paused… “I want to be free…” she whispered.

“Good, then go and be free,” the voice rasped.

As Jess turned to go, the light from the daggers reflected on the black diamonds on the jester's pants and she saw a screaming face. The face looked so familiar like someone she used to know but could not quite remember. As she stopped the being chuckled. “Is there something more you need?” the voice rasped in her head.

In the second that Jess paused, the face was gone and the black was a solid color once again. Jess tucked the dagger into her purse and hurried back to the street. As she arrived home, she could hear James inside the apartment. She took a deep breath and steeled herself for the onslaught that was bound to come. She opened the door to find broken glass and beer all over the floor.

“Where have you been, you dirty little tramp?” James bellowed. “Out spending all my hard earned money! Where is my dinner?”

“I'm sorry, James,” Jess whispered. “I'll get started on it right away.”

James advanced on her. It was going to happen now; Jess could see the blow coming - when suddenly a bright light shone from her purse like a beacon in the dark. James paused with a look of utter confusion on his face.

“What’s that?” he stammered with his fist still raised. Jess reached down and pulled out the dagger. James laughed. “What are you doing to do with that, you scared little tramp? You couldn’t muster the guts to tell me you don’t like it when I hit you, but you think you are going to use a weapon on me?” James started towards Jess again with an evil leer on his face. “I am going to teach you not to think you can stand up to me, you dumb, little…"

His insult was suddenly cut off as the air escaped his lungs in a surprised gasp. His arm suddenly fell limp as he looked down to see a dagger protruding from his abdomen. Jess twisted the handle with satisfying crack as the blade separated the bones in James’s spine. James’s legs gave way, and his body crumpled to the floor.

Gasping, Jess ran to the kitchen sink as the wave of nausea crashed over her like a wave. She splashed cold water on her face for a few minutes as she came to terms with what she had just done. There was a pulsating light from behind her and as she turned around to see where it was coming from, James’s body was gone. The only thing remaining was a small dagger. Jess gingerly picked up the dagger to see a jester's hat on one side and a small inscription on the other. As she held it in her hand, she heard a rasping voice in her head say,

“You are free; I have received your payment. Pass along the dagger to another worthy soul in need.”


Amanda's Second Idea:

Harlequin Harbinger - Warning: involves a sadistic serial killer.

“I guess you never placed much stock in the childhood bedtime stories have you, Casius?”

“Only a fool would believe in such tales, Alice.”

Alice glared at Casius from the ground where she had fallen. Casius had never seen such hatred aimed at him. At least not that he remembered, or he cared to remember. His targets never caused problems for long. He has done many evil and despicable things in his life, but nothing as wretched as the massacre that lay before him.

With her last strangled breath she muttered, “The harlequin take you and your judgement will come. May you always remember this warning. The stories are true, and you will meet your fate and I will smile down on your demise.”

“Now, now Miss Alice, is this really the time to spout off fairy tales?” Casius chuckled darkly as Alice’s eyes glazed over and only the vacant stare of an empty vessel remained.

Casius worked hard through the night removing all traces that he was ever in the house. He was quite pleased with himself; this was his greatest masterpiece to date. He fancied himself an artist. The Bloody Painter is what the papers called him. He was quite pleased with the name but felt it lacked a little inspiration, so he felt his latest work would help provide said inspiration.

A niggling feeling was in the back of his brain as he was cleaning the blood from the tools he used during tonight’s activities; wrestling with the curse uttered from Alice’s lips. “Crazy old fool,” he muttered. “Ridiculous. The harlequin harbinger is a story to try to keep children in line. A creepy clown escorting you to hell, scaring you along the way, absolutely ridiculous.”

Many things went bump in the night, Casius was one of them and never worried about a larger evil than himself. He finished his meticulous cleaning and readied himself for a restful sleep before planning his next masterpiece. Perhaps he would try for a grander statement piece this time. After all the police and feds were no closer to identifying him, the incompetent fools. He checked that all the doors and windows were closed and locked. As he lay in bed and closed his eyes, he expected to fall in a dreamless sleep like usual. Only this time, instead of peaceful quiet, he heard a song.

“Evil thoughts breed evil deeds. Evil deeds will mar your soul. The thread of life will turn black as coal. When the fates decide that your time has come, the thread is cut, and I arrive on a song. My blades of black are sharp and cold, and I’ll come to collect your heart so cold. My blades delight in the souls of the damned, for I am the harlequin harbinger here to see your end. I will show you the way to the damned below where your soul will remain in my grasp evermore.”

Casius suddenly woke with a start. What in the world was that? He did not remember that song as part of the story. He must be conjuring old memories. He closed his eyes, but this time the lilting voice was louder and the song more bold and joyful sounding, if that was possible. It sounded as though the singer was gaining excitement, like a cadence or war song sung to rile the crew. It was odd, but the song sent a chill down his spine.

“Evil thoughts breed evil deeds. Evil deeds will mar your soul. The thread of life will turn black as coal. When the fates decide that your time has come, the thread is cut, and I arrive on a song. My blades of black are sharp and cold, and I’ll come to collect your heart so cold. My blades delight in the souls of the damned, for I am the harlequin harbinger here to see your end. I will show you the way to the damned below where your soul will remain in my grasp evermore.”

“Your time has come, and your soul is mine, wake now dear Casius for it is time. It is time.” As the last phrase was uttered, Casius awoke with a start. He felt a breeze from the open balcony doors. He looked at the doors in confusion until he saw a shadow out of the corner of his eye. He looked across the room and there he saw a figure so frightening he was almost in awe. There stood a cadaverous figure clad in a black, green, red and gold harlequin costume with a tattered blue cape. Her face was painted like an old court jester. As it seemed as if the jester had was somehow hair.

The harlequin bowed a low sweeping bow and looked with dead eyes straight at Casius. “Your time has come. Your thread has been cut and it is time for your judgement.” Casius stared in disbelief. The clown was talking, yet her mouth never moved. Her voice had a rasp that made his blood run cold. “You have got to be kidding me,” muttered Casius. “Who put you up to this? This is a ridiculous joke. I swear if you do not leave right now, I will cut you down where you stand!”

Casius heard the harlequin laughing in his head. “You would not be the first to make the claim and certainly would be the last. Frankly, I would be disappointed if you did come quietly. You are always boasting about the hunt and the care you take when choosing and perfecting your next masterpiece,” she said with such disdain that it had Casius reaching for the blade under his pillow.

As he drew the blade and slid out of bed, he heard her laughing again before she spoke, “You have chosen your weapon, now I will choose mine. A test of blades, how appropriately divine.” The harlequin smiled as she stared him down, waiting patiently for Casius to make his move.

Casius was frozen in place as he started at the harlequin. Now vexed and slightly afraid he pressed forward and swiped his blade to slice the harlequin. In a move so fast he only saw a blur, she drew her blades and deflected the blow. Stunned by the move, Casius recklessly began hacking and slashing at the harlequin. She deflected each blow never returning her own. Frustrated, Casius continued to hack and slash. With each slash and stab his anger grew. “Why won’t you fight back? Give me a fight worthy of my status! I am the Bloody Painter!”

“So, you have been given a name, the Bloody Painter. How quaint. But I ask you this, do you know mine?”

Casius hesitated. “You are nothing but a mild irritation that I will soon dispatch.”

The harlequin smiled again. “I am the harbinger sent by the fates, try as you might, this will be your last night. You have asked me to fight and I will grant your request. Let it be said that I granted your last wish.”

Casius stabbed again but this time as the blow was deflected, he felt a searing pain in his stomach. He looked down in shock at the black blade sticking in his gut. His blood began to pool around his feet. As she withdrew her blade, Casius fell to his knees. He thrust again with a wild strike. She easily deflected the blade and this time she slashed his hand, forcing him to drop his blade. She smiled a sinister grin and said, “judgement is due and I’m here to collect.” Then she placed both blades in an x across his throat. “May your physical form rest in pieces as I claim your soul.” She drew the blades back across his throat severing his head.

She chuckled darkly as she picked up his severed head and looked into his vacant eyes, “we are going to have an eternity of fun”. She placed the head gently on his pillow and turned to walk out of the balcony doors. Instead of the bustling city below she walked down a long dark hallway merrily singing,

“Your evil deeds have called you home. My blades of black will sing your song. A song in blood a song in pain, your soul is mine never to be whole again. Beware your thoughts, beware your deeds or your soul will become mine never to be free.”

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