This is a pretty obvious rip off of  some established properties and that's intentional. It's sort of my love letter to campy popcorn movies.

Galactic Murder Clowns Three

by

C.Steven Manley

 

There were clowns everywhere.

Eric looked up and down the line, taking in the garishly painted faces, darkly colorful costumes, and the assortment of wounds, scars, and disfigurements that the quietly excited crowd had applied to themselves. He shook his head and said, "I can't believe I let you talk me into bringing you to this crap."

His sister, Heather, glanced up from her phone screen and said, "I didn't talk you into it. Mom guilted you into it, Mister Goin' Off To College. And it's not crap. It's classic nineteen-eighties pulp cinema."

"Seriously?" he said softly, nodding up and down the line. "Look at these people. It's like they think its Halloween or something. And for what? A midnight showing of an old movie? Give me a break."

Heather wasn't that much shorter than her older brother but enough so that she had to tilt her head up to look at him when she spoke. "Look, doofus, the Galactic Murder Clowns franchise was one of the best, if not the best, examples of Grindhouse Science Fiction Pulp Cinema of that time. GMC-3 is the best installment in the franchise so it has a big cult following. Big enough that they're playing it on three screens tonight. Don't judge the fans just because you're a pop culture philistine."

"Whatever," Eric deadpanned. "This is stupid, regardless. You can download all these crappy old movies for, like, nothing and we're out here standing in line for them like sad losers surrounded by cosplaying sad losers. Come on, sister-mine. We can go home and stream this stuff in remastered high-def. I'll even make the popcorn and watch it with you. You can tell me all about the boring behind the scenes things and I won't shush you."

"You are totally missing the point," she said. "They do these throwback showings so that people can get a feel for the grindhouse experience like it was back in the day. That's a big deal for us film buffs."

Eric raised a skeptical eyebrow. "We're standing in line for a digital kiosk to pick up tickets we ordered online."

"That's--"

"The seats in this theater are basically recliners."

"Okay, but--"

"They serve green smoothies at the concession stand. None of that screams 'eighties grindhouse' to me."

"Fine," she said, exasperated. "Just shut up. You obviously don't get it."

"On that, we can agree. I do not," he said.

She turned away from him and started swiping through her phone.

Eric mentally sighed. He knew that he'd have to apologize later but decided to let his little sister settle down first. Heather loved her movies and making fun of them had always been one of his preferred methods of getting under her skin. Now that she was fifteen and he was eighteen, though, it happened by accident more often than not.

He turned his attention back to the crowd. Not everyone was in costume. Here and there were people who he mentally classified as 'normal'. At least, they were dressed normally. Still, even a few of those stood out.

He spotted an older man and a younger one standing in line together looking bored. The older guy was heavy set and dressed in black leather like he'd just gotten off his Harley after a cross country ride. He looked like somebody's dad who couldn't let go of his bad-boy biker days. His younger companion fell into a category that Eric liked to call 'Goth Lite'. He wore lots of black and had longish hair but no easily visible make-up or gothic jewelry. He had his phone up and was scanning the crowd as though recording the event.

There were a few obvious couples in the crowd. He tried to pick out the ones that might be on first dates but they all seemed equally interested in their partners so it was hard to tell.

The line slowly paced forward. Up ahead, he spotted a woman in a skintight white and purple jester costume standing next to a man who looked like he'd decided to cosplay Prince from the cover of Purple Rain rather than a homicidal space clown. Eric smirked a little as he noted that the guy was a lot thicker around the middle than Prince had ever been. It was the sheer number of people in line that surprised Eric the most. He'd never imagined that crappy old horror movies could be such a draw.

His gaze landed on a man not far behind him in line and he wondered why he hadn't noticed him before. He was old, Eric could tell that much, but he couldn't guess at his age. White hair stuck out from under an old fedora style hat that rode low over black framed glasses. A thick, gray goatee badly in need of a trim hung from the man's chin while thick stubble covered his fleshy cheeks. The most striking things, though, were the two sturdy forearm crutches that he was leaning on. As the line moved, the heavyset man stepped forward with a rolling gait that relied heavily on the crutches.

Eric quickly averted his eyes when he noticed that the lenses of those thick glasses were pointed directly at him. The last thing he needed was to piss off some half crippled old man and have it go viral on YouTube or something. It probably wouldn't be the kind of thing that could put a kink in his law school applications-- and those were still a few years off-- but why risk it? He hadn't spent all those years busting his ass for a gymnastics scholarship just to lose it all over some stupid video.

As if reading his thoughts, Heather said, "Stop staring at people."

"I'm not staring at people."

"Yes, you are. You do it all the time. You stare with that judgy look on your face. You're going to be a great lawyer, Judgy McJudgesalot."

"Yeah? Well, right now my judgment is telling me that you might need to walk home."

"Yeah? Well, okay, but wait until I get there before you explain that to mom. I want to watch."

Eric had a retort at the ready but the line shuffled forward again and he decided to let it go. Bickering with his little sister just wasn't as much fun as it used to be.

The line kept moving until they rounded a curve that brought them within sight of the glass fronted lobby. Eric looked through the glass and rolled his eyes. "Well, no damn wonder there's a line," he said.

"What?" Heather said, not looking up from her phone.

"There's only one kiosk open. They've got five of the things but it looks like only one of them is actually working."

Heather shrugged. "So what? It's just a line. We've got plenty of time until the movie starts."

Eric lowered his voice again and said, "So, I feel like an idiot standing out here surrounded by the coalition of loser clowns."

"Mean much?" Heather said, her eyes still resolutely locked on her phone screen.

Eric opened his mouth to reply but caught a glimpse of the people in line behind him. He must not have lowered his voice as much as he'd thought because there were more than a few stern glares leveled at him, including the old man on the crutches.

Eric gave them a weak smile, a shrug, and turned back toward the lobby.

***** 

 

"It smells like ass and stale popcorn in here," Eric whispered as he settled into his seat next to Heather.

"O-M-G, Eric. Do you ever stop complaining?"

"Not when there's so much to complain about," he said.

"God, I cannot wait until I'm old enough to drive myself."

"Still wouldn't get you into an R-rated movie, sister-mine. Face it, you need me."

"Ugh," Heather said dramatically. "That is so stupid. I'm fifteen years old, for God's sake. I can see things more graphic than this movie anytime I want on the Internet."

"Yeah, but you wanted the real, grindhouse experience, right? That means I get to be your babysitter."

"Shut up."

"Now, Heather," Eric said, in his best mock fatherly voice "don't be rude. And, listen, I don't want you to get scared if you see a lot of blood in the movie. It isn't real. It’s just corn starch and food coloring. Nothing to be afraid of."

Heather laughed. "Corn syrup, doofus."

"Are you sure? I thought it was corn starch."

"The young lady is correct," a soft, deep voice said from behind them.

Eric looked over his shoulder and saw the crippled old man sitting a little to their right, his crutches leaning on the seats to either side.

"The original recipe," he went on, "was corn syrup, non-dairy creamer, and a mixture of red and blue food coloring to get varying degrees of bloody hues. A preservative called methylparaben was later added to the original recipe."

"Yeah," Heather said. "Dick Smith did that for The Exorcist."

"Very good," the old man said with a slow nod. "It's refreshing to find someone so young with an appreciation for films that were made before the digital era."

In the dim, pre-movie lighting, the old guy's glasses looked like large black pits in his face that somehow still seemed to be sizing them up. Eric resisted the urge to look away.

"I'm the movie fan," Heather said. "My brother here wouldn't know Martin Scorsese from Martin Lawrence."

"Hey," Eric said, "I've seen movies."

"Really?" the old man said. "And what was the last film you remember enjoying?"

"Uhm," Eric said, "it was one of those superhero ones, you know? With all the different characters? I can't remember the title."

"See what I mean?" Heather said.

"Hmm," the old man said, more judgment in the sound than Eric had thought possible. "I suppose those of us in the 'coalition of loser clowns' just have an eye and ear for the more subtle aspects of the cinematic arts. Like titles, for instance."

"Oooo, burn!" Heather said through a gleeful laugh.

Eric felt his face flush red. "All right," he said, "I guess I had that coming. Sorry, sir. I didn't really mean for anyone to hear that."

"You're young. It's understandable. Might I suggest, though, that you take a lesson from your sister and at least attempt to appreciate what you are viewing. It is, after all, the life's work of scores of talented people."

"I understand, sir. Movies just don't stick with me the way they do my sister. I guess they're just not my thing."

"Really? And what does stick with you?"

Eric shrugged. "I like gymnastics and basketball. Some music. Normal stuff, I guess."

"Well, be that as it may, I trust that you'll be respectful enough to the rest of us to keep your voice down so that we may enjoy our 'thing'. Keep an open mind and you might even enjoy it yourself."

"I'll try, sir. Thanks." Eric faced forward again. Heather was rapidly tapping at her phone.

"What are you doing?" he asked.

"Preserving that burn for all time on my Instagram feed, of course. Pure epicness."

Eric rolled his eyes. "Social media is going to be the downfall of civil society."

Heather snorted a laugh. "Whatever, grandpa. You're just salty because you got burned by a boomer. Does it still hurt?"

"Get over it," Eric said. He cast a quick glance back at the old man. He seemed to be looking over the crowd as they filed into the theater.

"Creepy," he whispered to himself.

"What?" Heather said.

Eric leaned in closer to his sister and made sure to keep his voice extra low. "The old guy. Something about him is creepy."

Heather glanced toward the man and then said, "What? He's just an old guy on crutches."

"Yeah, but... I don't know. He just seems a little too friendly, I guess."

"That wasn't friendliness, brother dear" Heather said with a wicked grin. "That was him delivering you a well-deserved burn for being a jerk who said jerky things."

"Fair enough. Really, though? He doesn't peg your creep meter at all?"

Heather shook her head. During the entire exchange, her fingers had hardly paused on her phone.

Eric settled back into his seat, tossed a piece of popcorn into his mouth and chewed it thoughtfully. The saltiness almost covered up the slightly stale flavor. He followed it up with a swig from his admittedly oversized and overpriced soda. Suddenly curious, he casually turned his head back the old man's way again.

His seat was empty.

***** 

 

It was nearly forty minutes later before the movie actually started thanks to some kind of technical problem with the projector. When the lights did finally go down, there was a chorus of soft cheers and a smattering of applause from the assembled fans. That, of course, was the exact moment that Eric's giant soda decided to catch up to him.

He leaned over to Heather and said, "I'm going to hit the men's room. I'll be right back."

Her response was a quick nod and a muttered, "Oh, cool. They're going to play the original trailers with it."

Eric shook his head and made his way past the other movie goers in his row, politely whispering "excuse me" and "sorry" as he went. A woman screamed theatrically from the screen as a deep voiced announcer said, "In a world--" but the rest was lost on Eric as he exited the theater and headed for the nearest men's room.

His bodily needs taken care of, Eric left the men's room just in time to hear a man say, "I think we need to get the police involved."

He turned toward the voice. The portly Prince that he'd seen in line was standing a few feet away talking with a woman wearing jeans and a dark, oxford shirt with the theater's logo stitched over the left breast in gold thread.

"I'm sure there's no need for that, sir. Maybe you should try calling her again."

Prince held up a white and purple jester's hat with three silver bells dangling from the end of an equal number of long points. "No, I don't need to call her again," he said. "She went to the toilet and didn't come back so I called her. Three times. She never answered so I came looking for her and this is all I found. Now, if you don't want to call the cops, then I will."

"Sir, really, are you sure that she didn't go back into the wrong theater? Maybe her phone died and she's looking for you. I think we can look for her without alarming all the other guests with a police presence."

Prince seemed to consider this. After a few seconds he said, "Fine but you can bet your popcorn bucket that this is all going into my Yelp review."

Eric tuned them out after that and headed back into the theater. After repeating his litany of polite phrases as he made his way to his seat, he slid into it and whispered to Heather, "I think somebody's going to get the po-po called on them."

"What?" Heather whispered back. "Who? Why?"

He gave her a quick summary of what he'd seen in the corridor outside the men's room. Heather listened but kept watching the movie as she did so.

When he was done, she said, "Not our problem. Now be quiet and watch the movie."

He shot her an incredulous look and turned his attention to the screen. He was only vaguely familiar with the premise behind the Galactic Murder Clowns franchise. It had something to do with an alien, dressed as a clown, running around earth murdering people. At least, he had assumed that much from the title. As he watched it, though, he realized that his assessment wasn't exactly correct.

To begin with, there were three clowns doing all the murdering. They were called Stitches, Dink, and Hissy. Stitches was in charge and their only reason for existing seemed to be terrorizing the under thirty citizens of small, mid-western towns in the middle of the night. The more Eric watched, the more he learned about the premise, and the more he learned, the harder it became to keep his opinions to himself.

"Do they seriously expect us to believe that an entire species evolved to look exactly like clowns from Earth? Really? I mean, that short one even has a rubber ball nose."

He'd meant the comment for Heather but had spoken louder than he'd intended. There was a chorus of 'Shh' from around him as well as a couple of muffled laughs. Eric looked around and whispered apologies to the group at large.

"God, you're an embarrassment," Heather whispered.

"So's this movie. I mean, come on. What's the deal with these guys, anyway? They just kill people because they can? Where's the motivation? Where's the plot? This redefines stupid."

"It's the third movie in a trilogy, Eric. Some things were already set up in the first two. Now, please, shut up."

He settled back in his seat. The movie played on, grating on his sense of reason with every frame.

"And the names," he whispered to Heather. "I mean, Stitches isn't that bad, but Dink and Hissy? They sound more like kid's show characters than alien murder clowns."

"They're supposed to sound like that. It's meant to be an ironic contrast to their nature. Now, shut...up."

Eric snorted, "Then they might as well have called them Sunshine and Snugglemuffin. You really like this crap?"

That brought another round of shushing from the crowd and apologies from Eric. He glanced back and saw that the old man was back in his seat. Despite the darkness, he was sure the man was glaring at him.

"I swear to God, Eric, I'm going to smother you in your sleep," Heather whispered.

"All right, all right," he said, more conscious of his voice's volume. "I'll be quiet."

Someone nearby angrily hissed, "Thank you," but Eric ignored them.

He sat and watched the movie, criticisms and comments bouncing around in his head like steam building in a pressure cooker. Finally, after another half hour or so, he couldn't take it anymore and decided that he needed to go to the restroom again. He didn't bother telling Heather where he was going.

*****

  

"Hissy and Dink," Eric muttered under his breath as he stood at the urinal. "I mean, seriously. That's dumb even for the eighties."

He finished urinating and went over to the long row of sinks. He spent a second studying himself in the mirror. There was a part of his mind that told him he was acting like the jerk that Heather had accused him of being but he just couldn't help it. Whenever something got under his skin, he found it nearly impossible not to speak up. It was one of his defining traits, he figured, and part of the reason he thought that the legal profession was going to be a good fit for him.

Still, though, there was a difference between speaking up on something that mattered and speaking up because of his personal opinions. This was Heather's night, after all. His opinion shouldn't even matter, much less ruin it for the kid. He didn't want that.

A conversation that he'd had with his mother came back to him. She'd been telling him how much his sister secretly looked up to him and how their relationship wouldn't never be the same once he was gone for college. It occurred to him that this could be one of the last outings that just the two of them would share. Did he really want her to remember it the way it was going?

"Okay," he said to his reflection, "you're going to go back to your seat and you’re going to finish watching this movie. Above all, no matter what you think, you're going to keep your damn mouth shut."

He pointed a finger at the middle his reflection's face and said, "Stop being a dick."

"Sound advice, given too late, I think," a familiar voice said.

Eric turned and saw the old man standing between him and the exit. He was staring at Eric through his heavy glasses. Eric wasn't sure if it was a trick of the lighting or what but it looked like there was a pinpoint of purplish glow behind the lenses.

"Oh, hey, sir. Uhm, yeah. Look, about the way I was acting in the theater, I'm really sorry. I just lose control of my mouth sometimes. I promise I'm not--"

"That wasn't their names."

The statement caught Eric by surprise. He spent a second studying the old man. Something was different. He wasn't leaning on his crutches as much and didn't seem as awkward in his stance as he had before. And there was definitely something up with his glasses. It was like he had tiny LEDs in the lenses.

"I'm sorry," Eric said. "Who are you talking about?"

"Hissy and Dink. Those were not their real names."

"Well, sure. I mean, whatever the actors that played the characters were named would be their real names, I guess. I was speaking more within the context of the story. Again, though, I'm sorr--"

The old man brought one of the crutches up and slammed it onto the counter next to the nearest sink with a loud crack. The sudden motion and sound startled Eric into taking a step back.

"Those were not their names either!" the old man said in a voice that was changing from something smooth and deep to more of an angry screech. "Those were not their names or my name or any of my kin's names!"

"Okay, okay," Eric said, holding up his hands defensively. "Look, I'm sorry, all right? You said, 'your kin'. Were you related to those guys?"

"They were my brothers," the old man said. His voice was wholly different now, almost maniacal with suppressed anger. He slammed the crutch down again and turned his head away as though in pain.

Eric took another step back. Whatever was going on with this guy, it was obvious that he'd been the one to trigger him. He figured the best thing he could do was get away from the old guy and let him calm down. He couldn't really get past him without coming within striking distance of one of those crutches, though.

"Hey, sir," he said, forcing his voice to stay as calm as he could. "Are you all right? I mean, can I call someone for you or something?"

"Call someone?" the old man said. "There's no one to call. No kin. No friends. Just the lies and the secrets and the memories of better times." His body suddenly shuddered so hard that the crutch rattled against the countertop, slipped free of his forearm, and clattered to the floor.

"Well," the old man said, turning his suddenly brilliantly purple lit eyes towards Eric, "there is the other thing. The meat. The juicy, juicy meat."

Eric watched in stunned silence as the hat and glasses fell away from the man's head to reveal the pale, soft flesh beneath. His face grew longer, stretching into a narrow-chinned visage of madness with yellowed, disorderly teeth that were too tall and packed together for his crimson lipped mouth. Thick, green eyebrows shot through with gray stretched up onto his forehead like they were trying to connect with the chaotic mass of gray green hair on his head. Thin lines like scars started appearing on his face, crisscrossing each other.

With a crack like snapping bone, the old man stood up straight and flung his remaining crutch to the side like it had been offending him for far too long. Standing erect, the clothes he was wearing wear suddenly too small on his thin frame and ripped apart as he changed. His unnaturally white arms and legs stuck out from the clothing like he was a child who had outgrown his outfit. Even his hands, fingers, and nails had extended into narrow points.

Eric's mind reeled. It was impossible. It was... just impossible. But staring at the seven-foot-tall visage in front of him all he could do was quiver with sudden, gut melting fear and whisper, "Stitches?"

"That's not my name!" the thing hissed, raising one clawed hand to sweep down at Eric's head.

Eric's instincts kicked in and he dove forward to avoid the attack. His years of gymnastics training kicked in as he rolled under the blow and came smoothly to his feet facing the exit. He darted forward before he'd fully regained his balance and stumbled just a little.

Stitches twisted around and swung at Eric with a vicious roundhouse slash but his unnaturally long arms collided with a stall door. Stitches screamed in frustration but it gave Eric the second he needed to get out of the men's room door.

He hit the lobby with the clown's screams right behind him. He took a heartbeat to get his bearings and then sprinted for the lobby, though he wasn't entirely sure why. What were a bunch of bored, minimum wage popcorn jockeys going to do against a seven-foot-tall murder clown?

"Sir? Sir!" someone yelled.

Eric slowed just enough to look back and see the same woman that had been talking to the portly Prince wannabe earlier. She held a small broom and a long-handled dustpan, one in each hand. She was looking at him with an expression of confused frustration.

Eric opened his mouth to warn her away but before he could speak, there was the sharp sound of snapping metal. Stitches came out of the men's room like a whirlwind of spindly limbs, drooling lips, and glowing eyes. He barely spared the woman a glance before backhanding her so hard that the blow lifted her off of her feet and sent her crashing into a large cardboard display for an upcoming action film.

"I don't care!" Stitches screamed. "Do you hear? I don't care anymore!" The clown's eyes locked on Eric.

Eric ran for his life.

There were a few people in the lobby, mostly employees, and they had all taken a couple of steps toward the commotion. That changed when Eric came around the corner with a movie monster hot on his heels. One guy let out a high-pitched scream while everyone else scattered and ran.

Eric barely noticed. His plan had been to run for the exit but he was much closer to the concession counter than the doors with Stitches so close behind that he could hear the monster breathing. He was sure that if he tried for the doors, the clown would run him down.

Instead, he slid over the concession counter and into the small workspace behind it. Even as his hip left the countertop, one of the clown's clawed hands struck the surface where he'd been. The blow was so hard that it shattered the glass display and partially mangled one of the cash registers.

Eric hit the floor behind the counter and immediately slipped in something that had been spilled onto the smooth tiles. He staggered to keep his feet but slipped again. Instead of fighting it, he let himself go with the momentum and tucked into an awkward shoulder roll. His feet struck the counter, though, and spoiled his recovery. He landed on his back and kicked at the floor with his heels, desperately sliding away from his attacker.

Stitches kept coming, screeching incoherently and slashing at Eric with his clawed hands. Glass, popcorn, and candy pieces flew through the air like confetti as he tried to land a blow and kept getting tangled up in the confined space.

Eric came to the other end of the concession counter and desperately scrambled to his feet, trying to roll over the counter again to give himself some room to move. He was too slow, though, and felt twin lines of pain lance though his right calf as he tumbled over counter and onto the floor, his newly injured leg giving way under his weight.

He rolled to his back again just in time to see Stitches jump up onto the counter and crouch there like a giant bird of prey, studying him with large, purplish eyes. A long tongue slipped out of his mouth and licked at the blood red lips that framed his insane grin.

"I told you," Stitches said, wagging one of his long fingers at Eric. "I told you to keep an open mind, to be respectful but no, no, no, you couldn't do that. Just like all your kind. Stupid, pathetic humans. So full of yourselves. So sure you're right. So certain that things you want are things you need. So sure that the truth is what you want it to be just because it's what you want." He dropped off the counter and rose to his full height.

Eric tried to kick back away from the looming figure, tried to get to his feet, but the pain in his leg was too much. He felt his pants clinging to the lower part of his injured leg. Blood scent tainted the air.

"I've long had a theory," Stitches said as he advanced on the fallen teenager. "I think it's your hubris that makes your flesh so sweet." He leaned down over Eric until he was close enough to reach out and touch. "If I'm right," he said, "then you should be delectable." His mouth opened, yellow teeth dripping spittle.

"Okay, Brian, that's enough. Nobody's got a camera on you, you freaking drama queen," someone said.

Both Eric and Stitches turned their heads toward the speaker.

It was Biker Dad and Goth Lite. They were coming from the corridor of theaters on the other side of the building. They both held sleek, silver guns that were pointed at Stitches.

"You," the clown hissed.

"Yeah, me," Biker Dad said. "Good job on the disguise. You totally had us clocking somebody else. Seriously, though, man, all these years and you suddenly decided to break bad? What the hell?"

Stitches rose up and stepped away from Eric and toward the two men. "My kin are dead and gone," he said. "These pathetic things laugh at my life's work like it has no meaning. Why shouldn't they pay?"

"Come on, Brian," Biker Dad said. "You made three movies that were popular... what?... thirty-five years ago? Things change, man. Life moves on. That's a universal constant if ever there was one."

"No!" Stitches screamed. "Art is eternal! I am eternal! And my name is not Brian!"

"Ho-kay," Goth Lite said, rolling his eyes. "There's a woman who’s gone missing. Know anything about that?'

Stitches tilted his head toward the younger man but said nothing.

"Come on, Brian," Biker Dad said. "You know we'll find out one way or another."

A tiny chuckle started deep in the clown's chest and rose until it seemed to carry his words. "Everybody has a snack when they go to the movies."

Biker Dad sighed. "Dammit, Brian. You know what that means."

The chuckle became a laugh that echoed through the lobby like the soundtrack to a nightmare.

The weapons flashed blue.

Stitches fell dead.

*****

  

"Hey," Goth Lite said as he approached Eric. "Are you all right, man? Let me take a look at that leg."

Eric was looking around in wide eyed astonishment. Biker Dad was on the other side of the lobby talking to the employees that had hidden when Stitches had made his appearance. Two of them were supporting the woman that he'd knocked into the movie display.

"What... what the fuck, man?" Eric muttered.

Goth Lite ignored the question and lifted Eric's leg to examine the wound. He nodded and said, "Deep, but not too deep. I can fix that right up." He reached into a pocket and pulled out a slender silver canister with a nozzle on top. After warning Eric that it would be cold, he squirted some kind of gel into the wound. The pain vanished almost instantly.

"Who the hell are you?" Eric said.

"Nobody special," Goth Lite said, putting away the canister and pulling a smart phone form another pocket. "My partner and I are from the government. Our department handles things like this."

Eric looked over at Biker Dad. He had the assembled witnesses grouped together and seemed to be showing them something on his phone.

"Dammit," Goth Lite said, "I really need to organize these apps. Messy thinker, you know?"

Eric pointed at the clown's corpse. "That. What was that?"

Goth Lite glanced back and then shrugged. "That's Brian Garrett. He was the lead in the Galactic Murder Clowns movies. He played Stitches the Clown. Before my time but I'm told they're classics."

Eric looked at the man. His head was swimming with questions but he couldn't settle on one.

"Of course, that's not his real name. Human voice boxes can't make those kinds of sounds. My partner back there was his stand in for public appearances back in the day. Couldn't exactly have an alien doing photo ops, am I right?" He kept swiping at his phone.

"A what?" Eric said.

"Alien. I mean, look at him. It's fairly obvious, right? He came to Earth in the late seventies. Him and his two brothers. Some idiot had the brilliant idea to put them in movies. The rest, as they say, is hist-- Ah! Here it is. On the frikkin' home screen. I must be going blind."

Eric stared at the man. Aliens? Aliens weren't real. That was impossible. But there it was, right there, irrefutable evidence to the contrary. Irrefutable evidence that had, in fact, recently been trying to kill him. Eric stammered at the implications, his mind a storm of unreconciled facts.

"Hey," Goth Lite said, "I get it man. It's crazy, right? You've probably got a million questions. What's on my phone will clear some of it up for you. Just look here." He held up the phone so Eric could see the screen.

Eric looked at it and said, "I don't see how an app could--"

Perfect, white light flashed in Eric's eyes and all his questions went away.

The End