Laughing Jack

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t 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.

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