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Estimated reading time — 8 minutes
It was a nice summer day, my 5-year-old son James was playing outside in the backyard of our suburban home. James has always been a quiet boy, he plays by himself mostly, he never had many friends, but he has always had a wild imagination. I was in the kitchen feeding our dog Fido when I heard what sounded like James talking to someone in the backyard. I’m not sure who it was he could be talking to, could he have finally made a friend? Being a single mom it’s hard for me to always keep an eye on my son, so I decided to go outside and check on him.
When I went into the backyard I was a bit confused, because James was the only person back there. Was he talking to himself? I could have sworn I heard another voice. “James! It’s time to come inside.” I called out to him. He came inside and sat down at the kitchen table, it was about lunchtime so I decided to make him a turkey sandwich. “James. Who were you talking to out there?” I asked. James looked up for a moment, “I was playing with my new friend,” he said smiling. I poured him some milk and continued to pry, as any good mother would. “Does your friend have a name? Why didn’t you ask him to have lunch with us?” I asked. James stared at me for a moment before replying, “His name is Laughing Jack.” I was a bit taken back by what he had said. “Oh? That’s a strange name. What does your friend look like?” I asked a bit confused. “He’s a clown. He has long hair and a big swirly cone nose. He’s got long arms and baggy pants, with stripy socks, and he always smiles.” I realized my son was talking about an imaginary friend. I suppose it is normal for kids his age to have imaginary friends, especially when he has no real kids to play with. It’s probably just a phase.
The rest of the day went by as per usual, and it was starting to get late so I put James to bed. I tucked him in, gave him a kiss, and made sure to turn on his nightlight before I closed the door. I was pretty tired myself so I decided to go to bed not long after. I had an awful nightmare…
It was dark. I was in some kind of rundown amusement park. I was scared, running through an endless field of empty tents, broken down rides, and abandoned game huts. The whole place had a horrible look to it. Everything was black and white, the prize stuffed animals all hung from nooses in the game huts, all with sick grins stitched on their faces. It felt like the whole park was looking at me, even though there wasn’t another living thing in sight. Then suddenly, I began to hear music play. The sounds of Pop Goes the Weasel being played on a squeezebox echoed through the park, it was hypnotizing. I followed its tune to the circus tent almost in a trance, unable to stop my legs from moving forward. It was pitch black, the only light came from a single spotlight shining on the center of the big top. As I walked toward the light the music slowed down, I found myself singing along unable to stop.
“All around the mulberry bush
The monkey chased the weasel
The monkey though ’twas all in fun…”
The music stopped right before its climax, and suddenly the lights shot on. The intensity of the lights was practically blinding, all I could see was a small dark silhouette shuffle towards me. Then another one appeared, and another, and another. There were dozens of them, all coming toward me. I couldn’t move, my legs were frozen, all I could do was watch as the haunting figures drew nearer. As they got closer I could see… THEY WERE CHILDREN! As I looked at each one I noticed they were all horribly disfigured and mutilated. Some had cuts all over their body, others were severely burnt, and others were missing limbs, even eyes! The children enveloped me, clawing at my flesh, dragging me to the ground, and tearing inside me. As the children tore me apart and I faded away, all I could hear was laughter, horrible, awful, evil, laughter.
I woke up the next morning in a cold sweat. After taking a few deep breaths I looked over and saw that a few of James’ action figures were positioned facing me on top of my nightstand. I sighed, James had probably woken up early and put these here. I gathered up the toys and made my way to James’ room. However, when I opened the door, James was sound asleep. I just shrugged and placed the toys back into his toy box, and headed out to the living room. A little while later James woke up and I made him his breakfast. He was quiet and seemed a bit groggy, perhaps he didn’t sleep well either. I decided to ask him about the toys, “James honey, did you put the toys in mommy’s room this morning?” His eyes shot up at me for a moment then quickly glanced back down at his cereal. “Laughing Jack did it.” I rolled my eyes and responded, “Well you tell ‘Laughing Jack’ to keep the toys in your room.” James nodded and finished up his breakfast, then decided to go play out in the back yard.
I went to relax in the living room and I must have dozed off because I woke up a couple of hours later. “Shit! I need to check on James.” I was a bit worried, it had been over 2 hours and I haven’t checked on him. I went stepped out into the backyard, but James wasn’t there anymore. I was getting nervous so I called out to him, “JAMES! JAMES WHERE ARE YOU?!” Just then I heard a giggle come from the front yard. I rushed through the gate around to the front of the house. James was sitting on the sidewalk. I breathed a sigh of relief and walked over to him, “James how many times have I told you to stay in the backya… James, what are you eating?” James looked up at me then reached into his pocket and pulled out a hand full of hard candies in all colors. This made me very nervous, “James, who gave you that candy?” James just stared at me not speaking. “JAMES! Please, tell mommy where you got that candy.” James hung his head down and said, “Laughing Jack gave it to me.” My heart sunk, I kneeled down to look him in the eye, “ James I’ve had had enough of this damn Laughing Jack thing, HE IS NOT REAL! Now this is a very serious situation and I need to know who gave you the candy!” I could see my son’s eyes tear up, “But mama, Laughing Jack DID give me the candy.” I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, James has never lied to me but what he’s telling me is impossible. I make him spit out the candy and I throw the rest away, James appears to be fine. Maybe I’m just overreacting after all he could have gotten it from Tom and Linda from next door or Mr. Walker down the street. Either way, I’m going to have to keep a closer eye on James. That night I put James to bed as usual and decided to go to bed early myself.
Suddenly I was woken up by a loud bang coming from the kitchen. I sprung out of bed and hurried down the stairs. When I got to the kitchen I was horrified. Everything on the counters had been thrown on the floor, and our dog Fido hung dead from the light fixture. His stomach was cut open and stuffed with candy, the same type that James was eating earlier that day. My shock was quickly broken by a sharp scream coming from James’ room followed by loud crashes. I quickly grabbed a knife from the drawer and moved up the stairs with the speed that only a mother whose child is in danger could have. I burst through the door and flicked on the lights. Everything in the room was knocked over and tossed on the floor, my poor son in his bed crying and shaking with fear, a pool of urine staining the sheets. I scooped my child up and ran out of the house and went next door to Tom and Linda’s house, Luckily they were still awake. They let me use their phone and I called the police. It didn’t take them long to arrive, and I explained what had happened, they looked at me as if I were crazy. They searched the house, but all they found was a dead dog and 2 trashed rooms. The officer told me that someone had probably gotten into the house and done this right before making a quick escape when they heard me coming up the stairs. I knew it wasn’t true. All the doors were locked and none of the windows were open, whatever was in my house didn’t come from outside.
The next day James stayed inside, I didn’t want him to leave my sight. I went into the garage and found his old baby monitor and set it up in his room if anything comes into it tonight, I was going to be able to hear it. I went to the kitchen and grabbed the largest knife from the drawer and put it on my nightstand. Imaginary friend or not, I’m not letting anything hurt my little boy.
Soon enough night came. I put James to bed, he was afraid, but I promised him that I wasn’t going to let anything happen to him. I tucked him in, gave him a kiss, and turned on the nightlight. Before closing the door I whispered to him “Goodnight James, I love you.”
I tried to stay up as long as I could, but after a few hours, I felt myself drifting off. My baby would be safe for the night and I needed to sleep. Just as I lay my head on the pillow I heard a soft noise come from the baby monitor I had put on my nightstand. At first, it sounded like interference, like the kind a radio would make. Then it turned into a soft moan. Was James asleep? Then I heard it, the laugh from my nightmare, that horrible laugh. I sprung up from the bed and grabbed the knife from under my pillow. I rushed over to James’ room and creaked the door open. I tried the light switch but it wouldn’t come on. I took a step in and I could feel the warm thick liquid on my feet. Suddenly James’ nightlight came on and I could see the absolute horror laid out in front of me.
James’ body was nailed up on the wall, the nails piercing through his hands and feet. His chest was cut wide open and his organs hung down to the floor. His eyes and tongue had been removed along with most of his teeth. I was disgusted, I could hardly believe this was my baby boy. Then I heard it again, the soft desperate moan. JAMES WAS STILL ALIVE! My baby, my poor baby, in so much pain barely clinging to life. I ran across the room and vomited on the floor, but my sickness was interrupted by a horrible cackle coming from behind me. I spun around while still wiping bile from my mouth, then out of the shadows emerged the fiend responsible for all this horror, Laughing Jack. His ghost white skin and matted black hair hung down to his shoulders. He had piercing white eyes surrounded by dark black rings. His twisted smile revealed a row of sharp jagged teeth, and his skin didn’t look like skin at all, it almost looked like rubber or plastic. He wore a patchy, black and white clown outfit with striped sleeved and socks. His body itself was grotesque, his long arms hanging down past his waist and the way he was poised made him look almost boneless, like a ragdoll. He let out a sickening laugh as if to let me know he was pleased with my reaction to his ‘work’. He then turned around slowly in front of James and began to laugh even more at the horrific sight he has laid out. That was enough to shake me from my terror, I snapped, “GET AWAY FROM HIM YOU BASTARD!” I rushed at the monster raising the knife above my head and stabbed down at him, but as soon as the knife touched him he disappeared in a cloud of black smoke. The knife passed right through and pierced James’ still beating heart, splashing the warm blood on my face….
No… what have I done? My baby, I killed my baby! I immediately fell to my knees, and I could hear sirens in the distance growing louder… My boy, my sweet baby boy… I promised mommy would protect you… But I failed… I’m sorry James… I’m so sorry…
Police soon arrived to find me in front of my son, still wielding the knife covered in my baby’s blood. The trial was short, insanity. I was placed in the Phiropoulos House for the Criminally Insane, where I have been for the past 2 months. It’s not so bad here, the only reason I’m awake now is because someone is playing Pop Goes the Weasel outside my window. I’ll talk to the orderlies about it in the morning…