Special Note: This is the third part in a four part series. If you haven’t read Part I and Part II scroll to the bottom of this page and click the link to find the beginning of “The Fortune Teller”.
“I don’t want to do this,” Selena whispers as she enters the Funhouse. She passes through the double doors that resemble a giant clown’s mouth and lets the Funhouse swallow her whole.
Inside, she sees crazy black and white stripes scattering in every direction on the walls, floor, and ceiling. It’s a dizzying combination of vertical, horizontal, and diagonal lines running amok. Nothing makes sense. It’s like an awful B-rated black and white movie sprung to life.
Up ahead, across from her, she spots the opening to the next room. Selena takes a few steps forward, but the stripes makes her feel off-balance like she’s walking on a ship at sea. Just keep going, she commands her clumsy legs.
“Aaah!”A high-pitched, blood-curdling scream shakes the room. Everything goes black. Electric fear shoots through her. She can’t even see an inch in front of her. No moonlight shining through the window curtains to soften the blackness. It is pitch dark.
“Ha, ha, ha! Scared you!” An annoying disembodied voice that sounds like a wind up doll yells out. Horrible laughter fills the room. The laughter bounces off the walls in every direction, behind her, in front, from all sides. A terrible thought rises up, “What if I’m not alone?” She swings her arms around violently trying to feel the space surrounding her.
Then she sees it. A blue light flickers above the entrance of the next room. Anything is better than this darkness, Selena reasons, as she rushes towards it.
Selena walks into a nightmare. It is a hallway of clowns. Life-size clown mannequins line the passageway on both sides. There must be a dozen standing still and quiet.
Selena can see the opening to the next room laughing at her from the end of the hallway. What are the chances she’ll make it through without one of them grabbing her?
She studies them carefully, half expecting one to turn its head. Each clown looks the same; chalky white face plastered with makeup, rosy cheeks, bulbous nose, and an exaggerated smile. Fluffs of red hair surround a bald white cap like a friar Tuck. Each have ruffled Taffeta around the neck and are stuffed into a black and white polka dotted clown suit finished with shiny red shoes.
I don’t trust clowns, she thinks. Nothing about them is real. How can you trust something that smiles all the time?
The clowns are motionless. She walks swiftly trying to avoid the eyes. At the same time, she scans for movement and checks behind hoping there is nothing following her. It’s hard to breathe with fear gripping her lungs, but she makes her way.
“Stay with us!” A clown screams out as he lunges from her right side with over-sized hands. Selena escapes his grip and runs past him leaving him laughing behind her.
Selena steals a quick glance behind and sees him there frozen in place with his outstretched hands. A mechanized doll triggered to give a good fright. She breathes easier.
She enters a mirrored maze. Trapping her are passageways of glass and mirrors. Selena runs her fingers along the clear panels to try to get the feel of the maze. She scans around for hidden clowns. A nasty fear of a clown grabbing her by the shoulder creeps along with her as she moves about the maze.
As she twists and turns about the labyrinth, she’s given choices. She wanders each passageway until she reaches a dead end, a distorted reflection of herself staring back blocking the path.
She sees herself skinny, chunky, tall, fatheaded, and wavy; a dozen possible lives she could have lived. Each falsehood reflects an ugliness in the distortion. She starts to long to see herself as she truly looks, just to be sure her face hasn’t changed.
And then she comes upon the mirror that stops her heart. White flakey makeup, red clumps of hair, fat nose, and painted smile staring back with her own eyes underneath. Another Selena dressed in a black and white polka-dotted clown suit, wrapped up in a red taffeta ring around her neck. Selena moves, and it moves as if they are one.
“Oh, crap!” Selena says out loud. Fear wants her to turn away, but she can’t. She keeps looking at it until the fear dies down. Something about this image speaks to her. Seeing herself this way stirs compassion. What have I been doing to myself? She thinks.
“This is who I have been for the past five years,” she says to her image. Painting on a fake smile every day, trying to be the perfect girlfriend, going along with things she knew wasn’t right for her. Trying to stuff herself into a costume to fit in with the other clowns around her.
The only thing left that is real is her eyes and whatever lies inside watching and waiting to be let free. She has done this to herself, chosen this dead end. Hiding away what she loves, her writing, for fear of ridicule from the other clowns. Scared to be herself, if it means being rejected.
And this is what has happened, she has become a caricature of herself. Her eyes plead with her, as if saying, “I’d rather be alone and laughed at than to be stuck in this hideous image. Set me free. I want to see myself.”
Selena touches her image as if to comfort the eyes, and for a moment the clown suit disappears. She sees herself just as she is, her true face. But it quickly disappears, as the mirror opens and Selena finds herself staring at the carnival outside. The bright lights and music rushing to her as she exits the Funhouse.
“There you are! I’ve been waiting for you,” a man in overalls calls out. He heads towards her with his plump belly jiggling his toolbelt as he walks.
“I’m Joe,” he holds out a hand to shake hers. Selena stares up at him taking in his gold-rimmed glasses and blue bandana wrapped around his head.
“I’m Selena,” she answers still a little shaken. He seems nice, she thinks to herself.
“Do you have something for me?” Joe asks and smiles.
“I do,” Selena says as she rummages in her pocket and finds the token. She offers it to Joe.
“I hate those damn clowns. Don’t you?” The mechanic looks at the gold coin in his hands and laughs.
“More than you can imagine!” Selena laughs with him. It feels good to laugh again.
“Okay, my dear. Let’s take you to the Keeper of Odds and Ends,” Joe announces and motions for Selena to follow.
Selena takes one last look at the Funhouse. Inside, she thanks it for tucking away the clowns, preventing them from haunting her any further. She says goodbye to them in her heart, and walks forward more herself than she has ever been.