Coulrophobia and Contempt in the City of Sin
“As your attorney, I advise you to go faster,” Bunny states - he is dressed in a Hawaiian shirt with aviator glasses. An unfiltered Lucky Strike is tucked into his lips.
It would be foolish to ignore his legal advice: I punched the pedal to the metal and the pavement pulled away behind us.
Jaclyn turns frantically to look over her shoulder then back at the road.
“Jesus Christ man, we've reached Ludacris speed.”
”Move bitch, get out the way!” Bunny screams at traffic ahead. His fur is matted and wet as he sloshes Highwater all over both himself and the seat. He uses one cigarette to light the other - flicking the still lit butt away. Jaclyn eyes Bunny suspiciously, expecting him to set fire to himself at any moment.
It’ll be a goddamn miracle if we make it out of here alive.
She slams her hand on the horn.
“It's not working” she shakes her fist at the cars around her, “The highway is no place for all these bananas!"
“As your attorney I advise you to display your middle finger!”
“We’re entering into the final Lap!”
“Take this you rat bastards!” Jaclyn yells, her finger aims across Bunny as he simultaneously reaches for the wheel. Their car fishtails, but the wild clown takes control once more and is able to right it.
“We’re in third place Jacky!” Bunny whoops, sloshing more of the foul smelling beer around the cabin.
“Don’t worry! I’ve got the cream cake!”
"The cream cake?"
"I don't know what it does, but I like it!" she erupts in a fit of her patented honking laughter.
Jaclyn’s car turns into an actual cake and she slides into second place. She leans forward, her face stern and serious: only Toad stood between her and victory.
“I’m coming for you, you mushroom-looking bastard!” She yells, pointing over at the young man beside her. He resists looking in her direction, instead focusing on the game.
“He’s messing with you. As your attorney, I advise you to remove his eyelids and throw sand at him.”
She updates her fellow motorist of her attorney's legal advice, smiling merrily. The man surveys the room around him for the nearest exit.
“Jacky, look out!”
Jaclyn’s car is hit by a blue turtle shell and spins in place. Two carts zip past her before she is able to move forward.
“Fourth place?! Okay who the fuck is Waluigi?”
“Waaaaaaah” a voice exclaims and a hand raises. Jaclyn balls up her fist and stands, ready for a fight. A tall man in a matching purple jumpsuit and hat also rises from his seat, somehow towering over the clown. He has an upside down L on his forehead and his moustache resembles the letter W. It was Waluigi.
Waluigi playing Waluigi.
“A Waluigi inception!” she screams, grabbing Bunny by the ears, hastening away. She wanted no part of that man: he beat a champion after all. Bunny shakes her hand loose, lighting a cigarette as he bounds behind her. The Game Nest Arcade was flashing lights and sounds. Beeps and booms. Pops and pings. Too much for the regular brain to handle, even worse for one on a peyote binge. A sea of unwashed misfits rage around her.
Who the hell is watching these things?
She shrieks with glee as the children morph and twist into goblins, the strips of tickets turning to intestines right before her eyes. Their mirth turned to mayhem.
She giggles: “Tempy would love this.”
Jaclyn pushes her way through the tiny demons that dance amongst the lights. Bunny leaps forward to grab her hand - careful to not be pulled into their mass.
“That’s what you think.”
She turns her head to correct him.
She was suddenly in front of the bathrooms by the pay phones. Where was Bunny? She looks down at the phone in her hand.
“Who the hell am I talking to?” she asks into the receiver.
“Did you want to speak to Tempest, Miss Pierrot?”
“Daedalus?” She stares at the phone in her hand. “Why am I calling him?”
“I’m not sure Miss Pierrot, should I ask or did you have some other business?”
Crap I’m thinking out loud.
“Yes, Miss Pierrot. I suppose you are.”
“No, Tell him I left my….” she says frantically, looking around for assistance. Her eyes land on a machine, “Centipede there.”
“Your nailed centipede?”
“Your dough? Did you need money?”
“No, yes,” she stammers.
What’s wrong with me?
“I’m not sure, Miss Pierrot. I suspect drug use.”
“I’m Matthew Knox, ‘Goodbye!’” she says, attempting to imitate the wrestler’s deeper voice. Jaclyn frantically hangs up the phone - an unsupervised goblin runs past her screaming about a claw game.
“Claw game? Tempest would love that!”
She looks down at the phone ringing in her hand. A distant, familiar voice says: “Hello? Is that you Miss Pierrot?”
She hangs it up again.
The goblin hands the guts to a man in a paper hat and then runs back past her. What once was intestines have been replaced with a pair of spiders that grip onto his fingers. She nods and approaches the counter.
“I heard this is where you exchange entrails for anthropoids!” she shouts at the startled staff member. He has freckles on his face and braces. Jaclyn stares at him and the pigment begins to shift. His face is the universe.
Whoa. The Milky way. The big dipper. It’s all here.
“It’s all here!” she yells. She has him cornered and is only inches away from his face. She stares into the shifting patterns which now ooze and bounce as sweat cascades down his cheeks. He is reminded of funnel cake, which would be pleasing if the smell wasn’t attached to the wild clown whose bloodshot eyes scan him so intently.
“Are you God?” she asks.
Her hand catches him under the chin. He panics, screams, and takes his chance shoving past her. Jaclyn looks down at the display case: a glass treasure chest.
“The spiders!” She squeals.
“They’re locked up.”
“For what?” She asks. Bunny does not find her amusing and crosses his arms.
“How you gonna get in, smart ass?”
Jaclyn grabs an aluminum baseball bat, worth well over 3000 intestines, hoisting it above her head in celebration.
“Welcome to Bat Country!” she screams, slamming it onto the counter. The glass explodes in a prismatic pop as the bat pounds through. Jacky stares into it and does her best Christian Bale impersonation: “I’m Batman.”
The honking laughter spills out of her. She scoops up the rubber spider rings, shards of glass cutting her hand as she stuffs them into her pocket. One of the rings wraps itself around her finger, she flicks it off, looks down and screams: “Kill it!”
Jaclyn Pierrot begins to swing the bat frantically: more glass shatters, a teddy bear takes one to the nose, crayons and finger traps go flying. The cash register bursts open. She stops, exchanging a glance with Bunny.
“As your attorney, I advise you to help secure that money. For legal reasons. It is also my recommendation that we get a drink,” Bunny says, "To stimulate the economy, of course. No such thing as idle currency!"
“You're the attorney,” she concedes once again with a shrug, scooping up the cash. He pulls at her hand as she stuffs the money into her dress, a plume of bills bulging from her bosom.
Bunny drags her over to the bar and pulls a seat out for her. She situates herself up then drags him into the chair beside her by his ears.
Jaclyn holds her hand out to stop him but looks down at it.
Whose blood was that?
“What can I get you?”
“Who’s blood is this?”
She points down at her arms - the bartender's eyes narrow.
“I require two…” she pauses in thought, tapping her chin, "What’s a happy drink?"
"Two blowjobs?" Bunny suggests.
“Two blowjobs!” she blurts out before considering her words. The bartender’s eyes remain locked with hers, but he moves to make the drinks. She tugs Bunny into her arms and begins swinging him, forcing his body to dance.
“Make that three,” says a husky voice from behind her. The clown doesn’t turn towards him, continuing instead to play with the dead rabbit.
“Fuck off! I’m taken!”
“Am I?” she thinks. He lays his hand on her shoulder. It was warm and inviting: blood always is. Her dilated pupils narrow and become pinpoints in a sea of gold, the sinister smile spilling across her face.
“What happens in Vegas,” she purrs, tilting his way. The bartender sets the drinks in front of her. She takes one shot, then the other, winking down at Bunny.
“Wanna hear a joke?”
She stumbles from the alleyway, both hands dark and red. She stifles her laughter, swinging the dead rabbit as she walks.
“I thought it was funny,” she mumbles.
The night air was lit up, but not by the stars. There were no stars. Not like at the farm.
She sighs, staring into the air. Her eyes land on the moon and for a moment she wonders. It has been less than twenty-four hours since she left Gnawbone and already she wasn’t sure if it was a dream. An ugly dream or a beautiful nightmare: it didn’t matter. A dream's a dream!
“I’m creepin' baby!” she screams into the night.
“Shut the fuck up!” someone yells back. Jacky frowns.
“You shut up, you...” she returns, struggling to find an insult: she stomps her foot instead. The voice says something back, but it is too far away to be discernible.
If only I was at the Farm.
She smiles, hoisting the rabbit in the air by its arms. Jaclyn looks into his eyes - she has sewn buttons into the face and his smile has been painted on. Pieces of the rabbit had been replaced with those of a stuffed animal, crudely stapled into place.
“Oh bunny, I miss it,” she hugs him to her chest and begins to wail in her high pitched voice:
“Somewhere out there beneath the pale moonlight
Someone's thinking of me and loving me tonight”
She spins, thrusting the rabbit again high into the air, between herself and the moon. This is the same moon that hovers over Gnawbone, Indiana. On a night like this the Farm is dark, merely a silhouette in the night. A scream tears through the darkness.
“Somewhere out there someone's saying a prayer”
“Help me, dear God! Help me!”
“That we'll find one another in that big somewhere out there
And even though I know how very far apart we are.”
Tempest silently wipes his hands across his pants, leaving behind crimson stains. He approaches the window.
“It helps to think we might be wishin' on the same bright star”
He looks out, his eyes landing on the moon. Something about it makes him want to scream, howl, and shatter the world itself. He remains silent, still, and stares.
“And when the night wind starts to sing a lonesome lullaby
It helps to think we're sleeping underneath the same big sky”
Jacky skips and swings down the street, singing to her bunny friend as she shifts back towards the Strip. There are screams and gunshots around her before a police siren drowns out the night.
Jaclyn flops onto the bed beside the rabbit. She’s stripped down to a pair of Ren and Stimpy pajama bottoms and a tank top. She tosses back the bottle of Jack Daniel’s and gags.
Anything to get rid of this taste.
She picks at the pieces of peyote in her teeth and lifts up the remote, absently flipping through the channels.
“Oh look, that knife can cut through a can!” Jacky yelps, nudging at the corpse beside her. It remains silent. She watches Steve Harvey react for a few moments, taking another swig.
I shouldn’t have left so early.
Vegas baby. It’s not the city that never sleeps, but it sure knows how to party. She thought it would be best to lay low until her match. Who knows what goon could be waiting around the corner to dispense his own sick brand of justice on her?
“After all, I’m just a harmless Doll!” she chokes on the whisky just as the honking laughter begins.
On second thought.
Matthew Knox and his henchmen were probably looking for her. There was something in his eyes that said he may be willing to kill her - he actually may prefer that. She bit her lip and looked down into the bottle.
Yeah, wait it out.
Jaclyn flips the channel.
A re-run of Seinfeld. Yadda Yadda.
Crazed sideshow villain stalks a family - Simpsons did it.
She drops her head back on the pillow and sighs, “Why am I even here?”
“You hit some guy with a chair cause he stole your gun,” Bunny flicks his lighter shut. He takes a deep drag from his unfiltered Lucky Strike, blowing it in her face. She waves her hand through the smoke, taking the cigarette.
“Hmm”, she says, sipping the bottle again. She takes a small drag, “Seems extreme.”
“Not often,” she giggles and hands it back. Jacky takes another pull from the bottle.
That old feeling: warm, inviting.
“Clearly. So why are you here? You beat the Raven, if you walk away now, he can never get his revenge.”
She sits up, considering this for a moment: clever bunny. There was nothing more for her here. Jacky had fulfilled her contract with Sidroy. She got her revenge on that little punk for getting her high and then stealing her gun.
Okay sure, I took it a bit far but his goddamn mouth. Those goddamn tweets.
She makes a sick face and takes another swig to cleanse her brain of those sappy sweet thoughts. Pillow Forts and Ice Cream. Cupcakes and handjobs.
“You were jealous.”
“What? Of handjobs? Those two are not doing it.” She swipes the nail from his hand and takes a puff.
“Of Bert and Ahmya,” she closes her eyes.
“Yes,” he corrects
She grows silent and considers the bottle. Half-empty. Was that enough to drown out the thoughts?
Worth a shot.
Jacky shrugs, drains the bottle and falls back onto the pillow. She flicks through the channels as the room begins to spin.
Martha Stewart goes over the importance of basting a roast. She takes one last drag of the cigarette and puts it out on the nightstand beside her.
A Nicolas Cage film.
Something about a beach body.
“Burying bodies on a beach” she mutters with a chuckle, closing her eyes.
The television screen flickers before revealing a black and white picture of a pleasant, suburban neighborhood of the 1950’s. The intro to Helen Kane’s “I Wanna Be Loved by You” begins. Jaclyn smiles and points at the screen.
“Hey I know this show!”
The opening credits begin to flash slowly across the screen and she blinks her eyes shut.
"Now listen… big boy.”
The ground shakes and her eyes shoot open. She looks at the screen again.
Tempest/Betty Boop gives a wink as he lifts his dress up to reveal a little more calf. An audience member hands him an umbrella. This time the room shakes. The power flickers.
“I wanna be loved by you, just you.
And nobody else but you."
The room rumbles and the power drops out. She sits up - this time the vibrations don't stop, they get louder and more violent. Her room goes pitch black. An enormous eye appears in the window.
She counts eight in total, each larger than her own head. The room fills with glass and a hairy spider leg reaches for her. She tries to pull away but is no match: a pair of claws grip her ankle. An ungodly strength drags her through the window.
Jaclyn Pierrot screams in terror as the arachnoid begins to crawl up the side of the hotel, her body dangling below it. The other side of its torso shifts and looks down at her - its back a mask of horror.
As they reach the top, her body is thrown against the side of the hotel. Two of the legs pin her arms above her head and the beast begins to weave a web around her waist, binding her to the building. The face shifts once again and smiles at her.
"Did you miss me?"
She doesn't respond. The creature pulls her wrists wide out beside her, it's strength nearly pulling her arms from their sockets.
A third appendage slides it's way down her forearm, down her elbow. It stops - becoming razor sharp, digging into her skin.
"She loves me," the pain is unbearable. It repeats the motion on the other side, this time whispering harshly, "She loves me not."
Its eyes, all eight, shift and meander but never leave hers as it continues down her arm. Her flesh hangs and her pleas for help are lost in the night.
"She loves me."
"She loves me not."
She begins to lose consciousness, but fresh pain brings her right back around.
"She loves me," it growls.
Her entire body trembles. She looks down: the flesh on her arms is flayed and dangles like the feathers of a bird. Blood pours like rivers down her body. The beast continues.
"She loves me not."
It stops. Her head begins to hand, but it reaches forward, forcing her to face the myriad of eyes.
"Do you love me, Jacky?"
She tries to answer but the pain is too intense. Drool falls from her lip and her eyes roll into her head. The razor sharp leg drives itself through the side of her chin and into her brain. Her body goes limp but she can hear him in her mind.
"I know I have you here…"
The creature slides one of the bladed legs down her neck leaving a trail of blood. The dagger-like appendage hovers just over her chest.
She is powerless to resist.
"But do I have you here?"
It draws its hideous head close, the venom of its saliva burning her cheek. The monster hisses, "Enough foreplay already!". It draws back slightly then rams the leg through her chest.
“Fuck!” She screams, bolting upright in a cold sweat. The room is dark, except for the television which cracked with static. Her curtains are drawn closed, shutting out the city.
“I have to get back there,” she runs her hand across her neck.
“What’s stopping you, bitch?” Tempest growls, the closet door swinging open. Jacky screams and sits up, awake once more. She looks around, gives herself a pinch, and reaches for the phone.
“Hello?” a voice grumbles.
“Why did you call me a bitch?!”
The scene opens up to the remains of a hotel room: the bed has been somehow sawed in half, leaning pitifully against the wall. Murky, uninviting water spills over the edges of the jacuzzi and a single rubber duck painted all black like a raven, floats along the surface. It has two red X’s for eyes and a painted smile. Smeared along the walls in large crimson letters are the words, “Die, Raven, Die”.
The windows are open wide with food scattered in front of them. Each of the walls is adorned with dark black birds, their wings pulled wide before they are stapled to the surface: some move, others are in varying states of dismemberment. The words “Goodbye” and “Nevermore” have been splattered in blood along the ceiling. Jaclyn Pierrot sits on the floor with her rabbit in her lap, her pistol sits on the burnt carpet in front of her. Her eyes look dark and heavy.
“Most stories end with a bang or a whimper,” she begins, her eyes slowly looking up, “Just like Old Yeller, yours is going to have both.”
She scoops Aristocrat into her hand, looking over it.
“One way or the other Matthew, that’s how this story ends. I know you’re a big strong man and you have big strong friends and each and every one of them wants to hurt little ol’ me...”
She aims the gun at the camera and makes a pew sound with her mouth before dropping it down onto the ground, giggling.
“Well, Matthew...do you prefer Matt? I don’t know if we’ve ever had time for a proper introduction and that’s fine. I know you’re already looking past me: after all, you’re more well known than me, a veteran. Some would say ” she waves her arms dramatically, ”a legend, but we know how this game goes. Most stars just fade away. You’re a man who likes to go out on your terms, so I’m giving you a chance to shine bright once more. One way or another, by the end of the night, I’m gonna make you famous.”
She frowns, suddenly serious: “I hate it here and I hate you. I hate your goonish friends and your stupid son and his lovey-dovey girlfriend and…”
She takes a deep breath, allowing her eyes to close before wiping them clear. Jacky starts back, tilting her head to the side - her golden eyes wide, sinister smile spread from ear to ear.
“That doesn’t matter though, Matthew. There’s only one reason for me to be here and it’s not to prove something to you: that’s been done. That’s the game right?” she rolls on top of the rabbit and slaps her hand against the floor, counting, ‘One, two, three!’ before rolling off with a laugh and a wink.
She shifts the gun back in front of her: “No, I don’t have anything to prove to you anymore or Duncan for that matter: only him. Now Matthew, we all have our choices to make and maybe it’s fate or maybe it’s bad luck, but my path was made clear for me. I’m not doing this for myself anymore. I’m doing this for my future. I’m doing this for him and I’ll show him, no matter what, I’m good enough and I won’t quit until he knows it.”
Her smile fades and her eyes soften. She speaks softly, only for a moment.
“Tempest, I’ll come to you a winner or I’ll die trying: this you have my word,” Jaclyn Pierrot picks up the pistol and examines it again. She sighs and continues, “So Matthew, that means you have a choice to make: how far will you go?"
She holds the gun in both hands and aims it at the screen once more, the Cheshire grin grinding away at her teeth.
“See, I’ll never say I quit and I’ll never stop, but with you there’s a chance. A chance of you killing someone though? I think you have it in you in the right circumstances, but there with all the lights, all those witnesses? Even if it’s justified, ask yourself. Really ask yourself: Are you willing to kill?”
Jacky taps the gun against her head, letting it sit for a second against her temple. She fakes pulling the trigger, letting her tongue drop from her mouth as briefly fakes being dead.
“Think about your legacy - that’s a decision you may get to make with your friends and fans and family watching. How far are you really willing to go? Cross my heart and hope to die, I’ll make you make that choice. Think about it,” she taps the barrel hard against her temple one final time, her knuckles white on the handle, “Is this really worth it?”
A bird lands on the food at the window and without looking she aims the gun and fires. The bullet goes wide and it flutters away.
“So Knox, if you want me to be the one to pluck your little wings, well I’ll get the potato peeler and then we’ll get to see if your bark is really bigger than your bite. Of course, if it’s not, then you’ve got another decision to make. You get to decide how much they get to watch you suffer. See, just like Old Yeller, I heard you’re hard to put down, but I’m always willing to give it a shot.”
She spins the pistol on her finger, leveling it at the frame with a laugh: “Matthew, they say I don’t take this seriously. Well, live by the sword, die by the sword - all I have is this gun and these hands, and it’s hard to skin a bird with a bullet.”
She tosses the gun on the carpet beside her, leaning her elbow on her knee. Jaclyn winks.
“Can’t wait to see you at our next gathering, little crow.”
Her lip curls into a grin as she speaks, barely able to contain her joy.
“I hear it's going to be a murder.”
She leans forward, grabs the camera, and flips it into the jacuzzi. It floats for a moment and the last thing it sees is the rubber ducky-raven, before sinking beneath the surface. The feed turns to static.
Jaclyn drops back on the floor and cries, folding her arms over her face.
What was I thinking?
She knew what she wanted and knew where she wanted to be. Something about the man from Gnawbone pulled at her. Spoke to her.
She closes her eyes, the spider-arm slides into her rib and despite herself, Jaclyn let's herself moan.
"What was I doing?" she sighs to herself. Maybe it was madness and maybe it was the American Dream. In a lot of ways, they are one and the same. They say love makes you do crazy things, but what happens when you're already there? Does it make you sane? What was the American Dream and what happens when you wake up from it? Is that life on the fringe? Is that the Nightmare?
Jaclyn pushes herself up and looks at the phone. It's been off the hook for days. She presses down on the receiver and the dial tone hums to life. She hesitates, biting her lip: it's now or never. Jacky dials and the phone rings, a gruff voice answering on the other end.
"Hi, listen," Jaclyn twists her hair around her finger nervously, "If I win this match, I want to join you."
There is a long pause and she looks to the ground, swallowing deeply. She nods her head, "Yes."
She clutches the phone, holding her breath, her body considering the word before she speaks it.