The Madman and the Music

August 12, 2016 at 12:00 AM

The estimated reading time for this post is 10 minutes, 27 seconds

Rating: 7.8. From 154 votes.
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“My hand trembles as I attempt to write, for after days of observing the absolute calm and stillness of the city street below, I have resolved to leave the safety of my barricaded apartment to venture through the vacant wreck that was once a city. I know full well that this silence could very well be a subtle trick to lower my defenses and let them in, but I am almost out of supplies and if there is a chance to escape, it must be now.”

“While I realize that the travesty that has consumed this city may be an isolated event, you have no doubt heard about it on the news. While you might be well acquainted with the atrocities that were committed here, in the likely case that I do not live to share my secrets, I see it fit to record my experience with this phenomenon before I leave to face an unknown fate outside.”

“It all began as a typical day would, without any sign that evil was soon to arrive. I woke early and had finished most of my morning routine, when I heard a peculiar sound emanating throughout the bustling streets below. With toast in hand, I stepped out onto my balcony and peered down the long, flat stretch of pavement. In the distance I spotted a figure accompanied by a strange object, both to far away to identify. Yet, I quickly understood that they were the source of the strange noise. The sound seemed to resonate off of the walls and enter into every window and alleyway. Traffic was at a dead stop and pedestrians seemed to be frozen in place, all turned to face the distant figures. Soon, I noticed that drivers nearest to the figure where exiting their cars and standing motionless, as if in a trance.”

“Frustrated with my deteriorating vision, I retreated into my apartment and found my glasses. By the time I had hobbled back to my balcony, the figure had gotten much closer. I could now clearly see that the figure was dressed like a clown. His face was painted white and red, in a traditional fashion, and his clothes were stereotypically colorful and awkward. Despite this, I observed that he was not walking, but flipping and twisting and rolling and doing cartwheels, all with a wide, toothy smile plastered on his face.”

“I could also distinguish the object that traveled with him. It was a calliope, a travel sized steam organ, with no musician. It played a looping song continuously and independently of the clown. It also somehow managed to travel alongside the clown at a constant pace. By then, the melody that it had created and had sent throughout the city had become clear. It was a type of circus music that would not seem out of place at a carnival. The tune was indeed pleasant and intriguing, like it was somehow not of this world, but I did not understand why so much attention had been given to this clown and why the police had not arrested him for performing in the middle of crowded intersections. I looked out across the street to another man who had also stood on his balcony to get a better view. He looked genuinely fascinated and mesmerized, but not as confused as I was. He fixated on the clown with wide, spastic eyes.”

“In an act that I would later consider to be foolish, I shrugged off the oddity of the situation and went back into my apartment. Surely, I reasoned, despite the energy of the clown and the pleasantness of the melody, this stunt will not last longer than an hour before everyone grows irritated by their delay and continues as normal. Nevertheless, with each passing minute the music became louder and clearer as the clown approached my apartment.”

“Tossing aside a book that I was now too distracted to read, confusion turned to anger and I approached the balcony again. If no one would tell him to stop, I would. But as I peered anew at the streets below, no longer were the pedestrians standing motionless like living statues. Instead, the street was alive with chaos and screaming. People scrambled in all directions. Some were climbing over each other. Several short but violent confrontations had broken out and settled in the short time that I had been watching. Through the pandemonium, I spotted the clown and his instrument. They were less than a block away from my window at that point. Joined with them, I saw several other people who wore crudely painted faces. Some of them were also wearing dingy carnival outfits. They were twisting, tumbling, flipping and rolling, just as the clown was doing, but with much less balance or skill. Regardless, they seemed unnaturally enthused and cheerful as they attempted to mimic the clown-like movements, with mixed success. This crowd of pseudo-clowns grew larger as more people joined in, each with white paint smeared on their faces. I then realized why there was so much chaos in the street. The remaining people were rushing to stores and to homes, collecting paint and carnival clothes, painting and dressing themselves as best as they could without help, and joining the ever growing mob of clowns. Many of their faces were covered in paint meant for home exteriors and most were unable to find clown costumes and opted to join the crowd in the common clothes they had put on that morning. My neighbor from across the street was among them, dancing and performing with a wide grin. All the while, the organ played the same tune and the original clown continued to roll, twist, and flip forward, seemingly unfazed by his many followers. By the time the original clown and his organ had passed my apartment, only a few normal-looking people remained outside the mob. Some were still frantically looking for paint, while others stood bewildered and looked just as confused as I was as they watched the crowd continue down the street. Eventually, the horde had nearly reached the other end of town and the music which was once blaring had once again faded to a faint and distant drone.”

“I stood motionless for several minutes, reflecting on my own sanity. I could conjure no ounce of logic that could explain the madness that I had just witnessed. Never before had I even imagined anything like that happening to our small city. I could see that the remaining people that dotted the streets below were shocked as well. Eventually, they began returning to their homes, as did I. The rest of the day passed in an eerie silence, save for an occasional echo of that devilish carnival music. At one point later that day, I spotted the crowd crossing an empty intersection two blocks away. They seemed to be weaving through the city like a needle through concrete fabric. They were most likely picking up more brainwashed clowns to join their horde, but why? Why did normal people just abandon their lives in order to follow a random clown? Could it be possible that the music had somehow changed them?”

“Then I realized something that I had not considered before. Within the last five years, my advanced age had taken much from me. My strength, eyesight and hearing had deteriorated quickly in that short timeframe. Without the hearing aid that I now ware, I would only be capable of hearing a very limited range of sound frequencies. Remembering that most of the people I saw unaffected by the music were either elderly or near deaf, I realized that my condition was a protection in disguise. It was a barrier between me and the music. If you are reading this and you learn only one thing from my experience, know that the power that this clown has over the minds of its victims stems from the music. If you cannot hear specific frequencies, you may evade the clown’s grasp.”

“The rest of the day passed slowly. Periodically, I would return briefly to my balcony, only to be greeted by a city that had been deserted, with the exception of a few individuals that had been gifted with hearing impairments. It was faint, but at times, if it carried just right on the afternoon breeze, I could hear familiar carnival music in the far distance. Eventually, the sun drifted quietly over the horizon and I decided to try and get some sleep.”

“Nearly an hour after midnight had struck, I was awoken by a distant noise becoming increasingly more audible. I awoke from my bed, picked up my glasses, and approached my balcony once more. Somehow, power to the city had been turned off. Though the street lamps and windows of the city were as dark as night, a light was approaching from one end of the street. As it drew near, I realized that the clown and his horde of followers were returning. Many of them were carrying torches and the familiar melody that had haunted the morning could be heard clearly again. Many thousands had joined him since then. Adults, elderly, and children alike, all had painted faces and were spinning, flipping, and rolling onwards. Some people, obviously physically impaired, tried desperately and painfully to twist and contort for an imaginary crowd. Others clapped and waved as their heads turned in all directions, as if they were accepting applause from the surrounding, vacant windows. I watched in horror as one man, while holding a torch, attempted to walk on his hands, only to crash painfully to the ground. The torch ignited his carnival outfit and he was soon engulfed in burning flame. Despite this, he seemed oblivious to his condition as he stood back up and blew kisses to his imagined audience. Before long, his burns proved too severe. His charred body succumbed to his injuries and he collapsed to the ground. The clowns surrounding him did not seem to notice however, as they continued parading down the street, trampling over his lifeless body as they performed onward. In fact, I could spot five or six other corpses trailing behind the massive crowd of oblivious clowns, likely having suffered similar deaths. There was one clown however, who seemed completely aware of his surroundings. He skipped eagerly next to the organ that had accompanied him earlier that day. I recognized him as that same original clown that must have started it all. He was the only face in thousands that had locked eyes with mine. As he stared at me and neared my balcony, his face contorted into a vicious smile.”

“Before he reached my apartment however, an elderly man had emerged from an abandoned store from across the street. He walked in the direction of the crowd with determination and anger plastered on his wrinkled face. Before he was within 50 feet of the horde, every clown had stopped. Each of them stood motionless as they watched the old man walk up to the mob and enter into the crowd in an attempt to confront the leader. When the man finally reached him, his shouts of anger and profanity were so loud and powerful, that I could hear them over the blaring music from where I stood. All the while, the original clown looked on with a wide grin. After a few moments, the clown tilted his head back and began laughing hysterically. Without warning, the mob enveloped the man. Hundreds of arms reached desperately at him. The man screamed as they frantically pulled and tore at his thrashing frame. Within seconds, his writhing body was nothing more than bits of debris that were being calmly passed throughout the crowd. The relieved clowns each took turns placing bits of bloody meat on their lips, cheeks and noses, giving them the classic appearance of stereotypical clowns.”

“At some point during the fray, the original clown had shifted his gaze to me once again. Panic rushed through me and I stumbled to the front door as fast as my withered legs could
carry me. I locked the door with every lever and mechanism that it had. I then managed to heave a decorative china cabinet on its side with a crash and use its weight to barricade the door. When I was sure it was secure, I sat on my sofa, still trembling. That clown must have been determined to have me, because for the rest of the night, they danced and played their music. When morning came, the crowd had not left or ceased their eternal performance. Eventually, hours turned to days as I waited in my apartment. Despite my best efforts to block out the music, it seemed to have become trapped in my mind like an unbreakable record player. Even when I would cover my ears and turn off my hearing aids, I could still hear it perfectly in my head. Before the first day had ended however, I began to find particular segments of the song somewhat appealing. As much as that sickened and terrified me, it was welcomed as I had feared losing my sanity.”

“But that felt like so long ago. It has been four days since the crowd of clowns arrived outside my apartment and decided to camp there. All the while the clowns have not stopped performing, the music has not ended, the original clown has not turned his stare away from me, and I have slept no more than ten hours total. That is until two hours ago, when the music suddenly stopped and, by the time I had reached my balcony, the clowns were gone, save for a few corpses that littered the street. It is probably a trap, but I don’t care anymore. My small pantry is out of food and pangs of hunger have begun to blur my judgment. Ever since this all started, life has been so hard. Sometimes I think that things would have been better if I had just been converted into a clown in the first place, like all the others. At times, they seem like the lucky ones.”

“Regardless, I’m out of options. I need to find food and other survivors. My plan is to put on an old clown suit that I just so happened to have lying around from last Halloween, paint my face white and red, and try to pass casually by any clown I see until I can escape the city. There are clowns waiting for me on the other side of my apartment door. I have heard the scraping of their shoes as they dance and perform ceaselessly and speechlessly in the hallway outside. Perhaps they will not notice that I have still retained my free will. If that doesn’t work, maybe they’ll appreciate my outfit and allow me to join them as one of their own. After all, they seem like pretty happy people. The music is good too. Maybe it won’t be so bad.”

“Well, here I go. To anyone who reads this, I hope that your outfit is as good as mine.”

Outside the window, the music began again and dissipated as the crowd filed out of the apartment complex that they had been hiding in and continued down the street. A gloved hand held the note clasped between spotless, white fingers as the gentle breeze traveled through the open window and ruffled the paper. Having read it several times, a clown grinned with the sound of crackling paint. Satisfied, the hand loosened its grip and allowed the wind to carry the paper fluttering out the window and into the desolate streets below.

Rating: 7.8. From 154 votes.
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