Posted By: Chuckles<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 18 June 2004, 4:29 PM
Melted ice, a formless cold,
Is life to death, when life is poured.
Flows away, a form undone,
Pray it wakes, it walks no more.
At times the shape may yet be found,
The swamp it holds, decay confounds,
Still life is stayed, is poured away,
It melts into the soured ground.
What rises walks but wakes no more,
It's lifeless life was lived before.
And seek it not, and touch it not,
'Tis evil now, and life no more.
Nate laughed to himself as he got up from his computer. He had called the Clown out. He had laid it all bare. The Clown has no CTF skills he had written.
The Clown was humiliated.
"And what could Chuckles really do?" he thought to himself as he grabbed his coat and car keys. He had beaten the clown in the tournament. He had beaten his team in CTF. Sure, he lost one measly little elimination game, but that was a joke. HA! Chuckles was in his place; shown for the clown he was. The only reason they had ever won before was Lexicus; not Chuckles. What a joke.
He climbed into the car and put on his seat belt. As he tried to click on the stereo, a knot formed in his stomach. The knobs were torn off. A stench of too much Halloween makeup hung heavy in the air, along with the unmistakable smell of doom. He heard soft, yet evil chuckling from the backseat. He had called the Clown out.
The Clown had come.
"Chuckle, chuckle. Don't bother turning around Nathan. Just drive." He felt the cold steel of a pistol pressed against the back of his head. He obeyed.
"Where do you want me to go?"
"Just follow the signs, Nate. And please, don't talk. You talk too much."
The street signs had been altered messily with dark red paint. At least he hoped it was paint. Nate's thoughts turned to his pistol in the glove box. Could he get to it in time? Did he have a choice? Before he could decide, they reached their destination. It was marked with a big red "X" where a "No Parking" sign used to be.
"Get out Nate. Walk forward, through the trees."
Soon they were knee deep in a swamp. Chuckles had him walk ten paces ahead. "Stop, and turn around." The clown stared, his eyes laughing at his captive.
"Okay Chuckles, why are we here?"
Chuckles smiled widely, baring his awful yellow teeth. "We're here to pay honor to a myth. Many ancients believed that warriors who fought valiantly did not completely die, but left the fire of their spirit behind. Whether they called it a flame, candle, or willow-wisp, what all the legends had in common was wetlands. Did you know that a swamp will preserve the human body for hundreds of years? The mighty dead, living on in body and in flame." He pulled two pistols out of his oversized pockets and threw them between him and Nate. "Why are we here? We are here to light a candle."
THIRTEEN MONTHS LATER . . .
"Chuckles!" the hideous voice cried out, "I am cold, I am wet, and I want you to join me!"
Chuckles woke startled and covered in sweat. Was it a dream? He looked out the window to the edge of the swamp. Nothing. He half expected to see him standing there, standing as he had in his dreams countless times: beckoning in that evil voice--a voice both like, and unlike Nate's.
Nate. It had been over a year since the Swampcandle incident. Over a year since he defeated Nate in a duel to the death in the very swamp that now lay less than a hundred yards beyond his house. Sure he had stacked the deck in his favor, kidnapping Nate and dragging him out to that awful place. He had even picked Nate's best weapon, the pistol, just to heighten the humiliation. He had set it up so that he would win; he had to: Nate was the best pistol shot he knew.
Nate had death coming, and Chuckles had brought it to him; if not fair and square, at least with a fighting chance. Building a house near the watery grave of his arch-rival was just icing on the cake. Or so he thought.
Well howdy, you must be the new fella in the neighborhood. What name? The Swamp? Oh, nobody can quite pronounce it's proper name, it being some convoluted Indian word and all. Folks in these parts just call it by the translation. It don't translate clean to English, you understand, but I guess it gets the jist of it. They called it "Waking Death". I mean, we don't actually call it that when we talk about it, which is rare enough. Too morbid. We just refer to it as "The Swamp". But you asked for the name proper, and that's what it is.
His neighbor's words came back to him. He remembered each of those unsettling conversations. The more questions he asked, the more he wished he had never asked any.
He had to get out of bed. He was spooked, and Chuckles was NEVER spooked. "I'll relax and watch Killer Klowns From Outer Space . That'll get my mind off of it."
Why that name? You sure you want to know, chief? Living as close as you do, it might spook ya. Well, remember you were warned.
There is no subtle way to put it, so I'll just blurt it out--whatever is buried in that swamp comes back to life. No, it ain't no legend; I seen it, seen it with my own eyes. Golly, the last time was bout fifty years ago, now that you mention it. I was a boy of thirteen then. Someone's kitten drowned in the Swamp. Fluffy was the name. Nobody thought much of it 'til a few months later when Fluffy comes walking out of the water. How'd we know? It had a collar on it with the name "Fluffy". Anyway, it comes out, but it ain't no playful kitten anymore. No sir, it is plumb evil, evil to the core, and with the strength of a hundred cats to back up it's meanness. Those were dark days. It killed four people and emptied the neighborhood of pets before it was finally taken down. Took five men and 'bout ten shot-gun blasts, an' that ain't no lie. That was the last time. Why? Well, 'cause nobody's been fool enough to let anything die in there, that's why. You'd think that would be obvious.
"Chuckles!" The clown lurched awake. Killer Klowns was half over. He had fallen asleep. Groggily, he stumbled to the T.V. and turned it off. He was used to this by now. Ever since the house was built, the nightmares had plagued him. And they were always the same: Nate would crawl out of the swamp, grotesque and hideous, but (thankfully) not decomposed. He would stand at the edge of the swamp and yell for him. He would jolt awake, check the window and then try to sleep. It was his own personal Nightmare on Elm Street . Reflexively, he checked the window again.
Something was out there, standing at the edge of the Swamp.
"Chuckles! Come join me!" The hideous voice cracked the silence and sent a chill through the once fearless clown. This was no dream. To his horror, the thing, which he could only assume was Nate, started walking towards the house. It held a shot-gun in its hands. "They respawn with Shottys? Must've slipped my neighbor's mind."
Thankfully, Chuckles' brain went on automatic as his training took over. This was no time to be frozen in fear. If that thing was looking for a fight, he would find one. Quickly, the clown rushed to the ammo closet and grabbed what he needed: his trusty eight-gauge, four frag grenades, a pistol, and a large knife. He filled his pockets with shells and grabbed his night vision goggles. He was ready.
He walked out the front door, and saw that Nate had stopped about twenty yards from the swamp. It was obvious that the fight was to be there, where Chuckles had shot his foe down over a year ago. Naturally, Nate wanted to return the favor. "Come to me, Chuckles. Come to me." As he talked, he walked backward into the swamp. Chuckles had had enough of this. He tossed a grenade between them, and ran under the mud and spray to a place at the edge of the swamp where there was a little cover.
"You pathetic Clown! Can't stand a fair fight, can you? We fought on your terms before, NOW we fight on mine!" And with that the hideous voice went silent. Chuckles waited. Minutes passed. Nothing. Not a sound. He was about to ease out into the water, when he was pulled down from behind. His shot-gun was yanked from his hands as arms of incredible strength held his head under the water. It was already over: he would drown. Nate's awful laughter filled his ears. Struggling and thrashing gained him nothing. The new Nate was far stronger than the Clown. Then, just before he blacked out, two words came to his mind.
He yanked a frag grenade from his belt, pulled the pin and tossed it out of the water and into the air. The laughter stopped--cut short by a horrible explosion. Blackness was everywhere. No sound, no sights. Nothingness.
Chuckles woke, his head barely out of the water. How long had he been out? Both of his legs were useless--broken by the explosion. His arms were still attached, but he could neither feel nor move them. His face was covered with lacerations. He had been thrown to a shallow portion of the swamp by the blast, and that alone had kept him alive. He saw no sign of Nate.
Had he the strength and ability, he would have jumped when he heard the voice behind him. "I had forgotten about the gift grenade, Chuck. Nice. Futile, but nice. I am a bit harder to kill in this new body you gave me. I'm not as pretty," he allowed himself an evil laugh, "but much, much harder to kill. Goodbye Chuckles."
He dragged the Clown deep into the swamp. No struggle this time. No fight. His body was spent; useless. Nate stopped in the middle and held Chuckles' head under the water. It was over now. Nate smiled and left. Chuckles was no more.
THREE MONTHS LATER . . .
"So you're the new neighbors' kids, eh? I'll be, they never did find that other fella. What happened to him? Hard to say. Just up and left I reckon. Might've been scared by the Swamp. Wouldn't blame him. Why? You mean you haven't heard about our swamp here? Let me tell ya, the Indians had a name for it, but nobody could pronounce it . . . . . . . and that was the last time it happened. What'd the kitten do? Nothin' I'd repeat to a boy your age. Suffice to say that the Swamp took an innocent life and turned it evil. What's that? Huh, I guess I don't rightly know. I suppose if somethin' was already evil the Swamp would make it worse yet. It'd be a far sight worse than the kitten, that's for darn sure. Nothin' I want to contemplate here with night fallin'. Speakin' of which, it's getting dark and you boys had better get home. Hmmmmm. Yeah, I heard it too. Aww, it's probably nothin'. It did sound like laughing, I guess. Probably just an insect or some such. Burrr, it sure got cold quick, didn't it? I'm . . . I'm gonna go back in the house. The air is, how would you say it, odd tonight. You boys run along."
The boys puzzled at hearing no less than three deadbolts click on the old man's door, and then ran back to the safety of their home as if chased.