It’s is difficult to remember the small events that preceded the Clown War. Now 2021, two years since war was declared, the events of the autumn of 2016 feel the same as Vietnam and Watergate.
I am trapped in the Ivar’s Acres of Clams fish and chips stand on Pier 54 of the Seattle Waterfront, looking out to the clown hordes ravaging passersby that didn’t find cover in time, I’m reminded of how this all began. As I write that in my Mead Composition Notebook, a six-foot-five clown is walking by in fireman’s gear with an invisible dog leash in one hand, and a tennis racket with a human head tethered to it by intertwined bungie cords in the other. The clown beast is bouncing the head against the strings of the tennis racket like a giant paddle ball. With each bounce of the head, gouts of blood splatter onto Alaskan Way South. Must be a fresh kill.
It all started as practical jokes. Moronic teenagers dressing in clown costumes to scare the townsfolk. It’s believed the first incident reported happened August 2016 in Greensville, South Carolina. Someone in a clown costume was spotted trying to lure children into the woods. When the news went viral, others copycat incidents occurred in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Pottsville, Pennsylvania, and in McDuffie County, Georgia. The next week, clown hijinks were reported in West Texas, Winston-Salem, North Carolina and two high schools in Alabama.
Those news stories, as disturbing as they were for any sane person, seem like nursery rhymes now.
There are eleven of us trapped in the Ivar’s. When the clowns attacked Alaskan Way just before noon, the manager Tom pulled the rolling metal gate closed in a panic, leaving twenty or so poor souls outside to face the clowns. All of the clowns with painted white faces, red-outlined lips, and all armed with machetes and baseball bats wrapped with barbed wire. It’s been three days. We’re running out of food. Tom and his staff have fried up almost all the cod and prawns Ivar’s had stocked. This is what is awful; I took a break from writing my latest novel and walked to Ivar’s from my apartment near the Seahawks and Mariners stadiums to get fish and chips to try and “feel normal.” With the Clown War raging and most of Seattle occupied territory, a favorite lunch felt like it would be a comforting thing to do. Ironically, if I was on death row and was awarded a last meal before I took a final ride on Old Sparky, it would probably be Ivar’s fish and chips. Fuck irony. And fuck the clowns.
A text on my phone from a witness told me what happened. The clowns — I’m pretty sure they are Sons of Ronny, the most deadly psychotic of the clown gangs — hijacked a Seattle city bus near Westlake Center. The straphangers on the bus were executed one at a time by using rubber chickens as a dull garrote. The bus came down Alaskan Way, passing the Aquarium and the Great Wheel, cruising toward the ferry terminal. I was ordering my four piece Alaskan True Cod with a cup of clam chowder when the bus squealed to a halt and the two honks from the bicycle horn were heard.
The two honks from a bicycle horn had become the most feared noise in America. The two honks usually preceded an attack and when you heard it, it was always too late. So feared were the two honks that President Trump signed an executive order making the simulation of the two honks a felony. Pranksters were using bicycle horns to scare a jittery American public and causing riots.
The calliope music kicked off through jury-rigged loudspeakers, the laughter began, and about thirty Sons of Ronny clowns attacked. In America alone, there are roughly fifty clown gangs, all more psychopathic than the next. The Sons of Ronny, named in devotion to Ronald McDonald, were among the worst. Ronald McDonald had become a god. Bozo took the place of Jesus, and John Wayne Gacy’s Pogo rounded out the new Trinity.
Along with The Sons of Ronny, the major gangs were The Hobos, The Seltzer Bottles, The Red Noses and The Jokers. Most of the larger cliques had set up camps in major parks or sports stadium across America. Safeco Field, once home of my beloved Seattle Mariners, was now a nightmarish wasteland of violence and depravity. Those rotting in hell looked up and were thankful they weren’t in Safeco Field.
Charleston was the first major city to fall to the clowns. The evil jesters quickly formed alliances and took Raleigh to the north and Augusta to the south. Grassroots organizer tried to sound the alarm, warning the world that the clowns were running their own giggling caliphate, but by then it was too late. The clowns spread like smallpox.
It took about six months for the clowns to organize and plan the takeover. Major cities were overrun, with clowns outnumbering humans three to one. I specify humans, because the clowns no longer qualified for that distinction. Within a year, Manhattan was completely overrun with the clown armies. The island was now a place that made Snake Plissken’s New York a place you wouldn’t have to escape from.
The Empire Stare Building was converted into a massive clown breeding center. Every floor churning out clown offspring that would never know that being a clown is the worst thing you could become. The clowns bred twenty-four hours a day to breed and birth clown armies.
In Washington D.C., the Sons of Ronny overtook the White House — now hued green, purple, and pink — and made President Trump their court jester. The Washington Monument and the National Cathedral were painted to match the White House. The Lincoln Memorial was repainted to resemble Ronald McDonald, a bright yellow jumpsuit with red trimming, striped socks, and they even enlarged Honest Abe’s shoes to comical proportions, painted red. Clowns would come to the statue to bring sacrifices and say prayers.
Inside Ivar’s, Britt, a twenty-something financial planner began to have a panic attack. She held strong for a few days, but now knew the end was nigh. “We’re going to die! We’re going to die! It’s over! The clown hordes have won! Help me, Jesus!”
Shut up, Britt. You’re not helping. Last night, around three in the morning, two brothers from the suburbs snuck out of the fish and chips stand to see how many were trapped in the surrounding businesses. Pier 56 and 57 have restaurants. Maybe the Crab Pot or the Salmon Cooker had food left. There was the idea of gathering as many as we could for a possible counter attack. The brothers, I think their names were Jeff and Grant, didn’t make it twenty-five yards. Sons of Ronny capos grabbed them and hooked them to lines made from tied together oversized polkadot boxer shorts hanging off the Alaskan Way Viaduct about forty feet overhead. More clowns on top of the Viaduct pulled up the ropes to the top floor of the double-decker freeway and dropped the brothers to the pavement below. The sound was awful. A mix of broken bones and a cartoonish splat. Fools. Never should have tried it. This isn’t the movies. Hard to tell, but we think Jeff and Grant were breakfast this morning for the clowns.
Nobody could have predicted how quickly the clowns would turn to cannibalism. Within months of Washington D.C. and Philadelphia surrendering to the Sons of Ronny, traps began appearing in city parks along the East Coast. Pits filled with sharpened punji sticks at the bottom were covered with branches and foliage. The poor bastard that fell into the pit never had a chance. They were impaled by the spikes and died slowly.
Food trucks were car-jacked, requisitioned and repainted with hideous and foul designs. The brightly-colored trucks drove around American cities like ice cream men selling well-seasoned human flesh. Prices were surprisedly affordable. There was even ninety-nine cents menus. The meals would inevitably be washed down by an elixir the clowns called Honk Honk. The clown’s version of Purple Drank. A disgusting concoction. Honk Honk is two parts Jägermeister, one part RC Cola, and one part Clamato juice. The drink would be carried around in the stomachs of those massacred by the clowns, slung over their shoulders like a goatskin bota bag.
My friends mocked my coulrophobia. My fear of clowns was silly. It was just because of Pennywise the Dancing Clown in Stephen King’s It. But I knew something sinister was lurking underneath that makeup. No sane person would ever be a clown. I wish I was wrong.
Inside Ivar’s almost everyone is crying and hugging each other. They’ve given up. The choices are stay in the fish and chips stand and starve, or attempt to fight the clown gangs along the Waterfront. I looked outside to see some members of the Seltzer Bottle gang laughing uncontrollably as they dropped water balloons the size of basketballs filled with blood and vomit off the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Each time they hit a car speeding by, they cheered loudly. “John Wayne Gacy, hear our cry! Pogo, Pogo, you and I!” In most of the clown gangs, the leader dressed as Gacy’s character Pogo the Clown. Pogo was the Alpha clown. The to-the-death battles that sometimes occurred to establish who was Pogo would draw as many spectators as Mayweather versus Pacquiao.
Another blood-filled balloon hit the pavement, exploding red torrents into the air. Then I saw him. My best friend from high school, Travis Brilhante. Only now he was no longer Travis Brilhante, smooth-stroke shooting guard on the Federal Way Eagles basketball team, he was Sprinkles, the psychotic, white-faced clown.
A year ago I had run into Brilhante in Pioneer Square, about a mile from the Ivar’s. I had gone out to try to find a Seattle Times. The internet no longer worked by then and every channel on television was clown programming. The Seattle Times ran for a couple weeks after online news was gone, printing some of the names of notable Seattleites that had become clowns. Reports were sketchy, but some of the confirmed clowns included former Seattle Mariners first baseman John Olerud, all three members of the band The Presidents of the United States of America, actor Rainn Wilson, and Amanda Knox. The Times still runs everyday, but not with the news. It’s fifty pages of “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”over and over and over.
In Pioneer Square, I couldn’t find a newspaper. Then the laughter started. Maniacal laughter. Laughter was once such a wonderful part of life. Now, along with the double honk of a bicycle horn, laughter only meant death. The clowns attacked and I took cover behind a Tlingit Indian totem pole. Watching the clowns begin the slaughter, I thought I heard a familiar voice. At first I was sure it was my imagination, but one of the clowns was missing half the ring finger on his left hand. When we were kids, Travis Brilhante got his finger caught in a bicycle chain, leaving him with a nub on his left hand. Another of the clowns referred to my friend as Sprinkles.
I stepped out from behind the totem pole and called out, “Travis Brilhante!” The clown slowly turned away from an acoustic guitar-playing busker that he and his buddies had started to eat while he was still alive. The clown looked right at me. He cocked his head to the side like a curious dog and spit out a mouthful of blood. He wore a pink Pagliacci-style jumpsuit with orange pompoms in a vertical line down the front. Tears and rips near the knees and elbows. A conical hat with the same orange pompom on top. And smeared white makeup with a crimson outline of an exaggerated smile.
“Travis!” I yelled again.
But the hideous figure standing in front of me was not my friend Travis Brilhante. My friend was gone. He had become Sprinkles, and he was no longer human. He was a clown.
Sprinkles laughed a high-pitched laugh and went back to his buddies who were tearing apart Artis the Spoonman, the percussionist busker that inspired the Soundgarden song. For years I’d seen Spoonman clack his various spoons in Pioneer Square and near the Space Needle. Sometimes he would be outside Key Arena before Sonics games. Sprinkles popped one of Spoonman’s eyes into his mouth like a grape.
All the cod and prawns are gone here at Ivar’s Acres of Clams on Pier 54. Twenty minutes ago I thought I was hearing things when the sound of the ferry horn honked twice. Maybe it was my imagination, I thought. It wasn’t. The clowns had sent word to the encampment on Bainbridge Island and an entire ferry full of monsters pulled into the dock to help ravage who was left on the Waterfront. They’re everywhere now. Hundreds of clowns walking on stilts and riding unicycles. The calliope music is deafening. Hundreds of clowns laughing maniacally and guzzling Honk Honk from their canteens made from human stomachs. There’s a clown orgy kicking off underneath the Viaduct. Disgusting. Three clowns are shaking the metal rolling gate that divides myself and the mad hordes. It’s over. No quarter is being asked for, and none is being given. The horror. The horror…
Inside the fish and chips stand, we took a vote. We will die fighting, not starving like cowards. My pen is running out and so is my patience. So, I suppose, is my life. Maybe someone will read this one day. If there is any human survivors of World War C.
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Johnny Wright is a writer living in Portland, Oregon. He is a beef jerky enthusiast and wishes Bigfoot was real.