By Argyris Gerogiannis (A Class)
Every single one of us has experienced the miracle of a new “imaginary” friend, during our youth. I, personally, was never amazed by that event, and assumed it as a normal part of the process until you finally enter adulthood, and realize how the world actually is. When I first heard my son, calling me to meet his new “friend”, I wasn’t surprised at all and gladly accepted that fact. As I walked towards the garden, this reminded me my own childhood. Sweet and sour memories started twisting in my head, as I remembered how great it was to be a kid. However, while I was travelling through my mind portal, I encountered a single memory, that has been engraved to the depths of my soul. A memory that bitter, that no matter how much I had tried, no matter what I did, I wasn’t able to forget that day…
During my childhood my family was like a drop of water in a vast river, never remaining in one location for long. We settled in England when I was eight, and there we remained until I went to college in London. Most of my memories are rooted in Warwickshire, but there are fragments in the attic of my brain which belong to the various homes we had lived in when I was much younger. Most of these memories are unclear and pointless – chasing after another boy in the back yard of a house in North Carolina, trying to build a raft to float on the creek behind the apartment we rented in England, and so on. But there is one set of memories which remains as clear as glass, as though they were just made yesterday. I often wonder whether these memories are simply lucid dreams produced by the long sickness I experienced that spring, but in my heart, I know they are real. We were living in a house outside the metropolis in a town near Pennsylvania. It was such a large structure, especially for a family of three, that I wasn’t able to see a number of rooms when we resided there, the first five months. In some ways it was indeed a waste of space, but it was the only house on the market at the time.
The day after my sixth birthday, which was attended my parents alone, I came down with a horrible headache and with an unstopping cough. My mother saw that I had a fever, as my cheeks were bright red, and I was nearly dead with fatigue, she decided to get a doctor to see me. I was finally diagnosed with mononucleosis, which meant no rough play and more fever for at least three weeks. It was horrible timing to be bed-ridden– we were in the process of packing our things to move to England, and most of my things were already packed away in boxes, leaving my room barren. My mother brought me ginger ale and books several times a day, and these served the function of being my primary form of entertainment for the next few weeks. Boredom always loomed just around the corner, waiting to rear its ugly head and compound my misery. One day, I decided to move out of bed and explore the house a little, even though that meant disobeying the doctor’s and my mother’s orders, and went walked to the “abandoned” rooms, as I used to call them. I tried opening every single one of them, but unfortunately they were all locked, except one. One room that changed my life as a child, and still haunts me as an adult.
When I entered the old room, I saw it empty. It had no furniture, no carpets, no portraits-a bit unlikely, because the whole house had-, only a bizarre wooden box sitting at the center of the room, right under the chandelier, that it had. My eyes widened in awe, I ran towards the box and I stared at the colorful, hand crafted box, wondering it got there. Mother always told me not to touch things that do not belong to me, especially those whose owner is unidentified. As a young kid, I couldn’t really understand what she meant, so I picked up the box with both of my hand. The box was beautifully painted with colorful styles, with carvings of happy clown faces on the sides. On the top of the box there was a carved text. I squinted my eyes as I sounded out the words “L-laughin-g-J-jack-in-a-b-box” I paused, “Laughing Jack-in-a-box?” I had seen many jack-in-a-box toys, but never about a Laughing-Jack-in-a-box toy. My mind spun with curiosity as I winded the box, by grasping its metal crank. When I finished tuning the crank, the song “Pop Goes the Weasel” chimed in rhythm with the crank’s gyrations. I remember my mom singing it to me when I was a baby so I would sleep, it’s a traditional English song too! As the song came to its climax, I sang along the final verse. Then it stopped. I was waiting for the clown to pop-out, but nothing happened. I felt pretty disappointed and even more ill, as I thought I got tired for nothing and decided to get back to bed. Suddenly, I heard a loud rattling noise coming from behind me. I spun around and witnessed the wooden box violently shaking. I was a bit scared, also curious and continued to watch. Then without warning, the top of the box swung open and a parade of colorful smoke and confetti bellowed out. I rubbed my eyes in disbelief of what I was seeing. As the smoke cleared, there stood a tall, thin, multicolored clown man, with bright red hair, a swirly, rainbow colored cone nose, and feathery shoulders that sat atop his raggedy and colorful clown outfit. However he had something so horrific, something so terrifying, that made me keep me distance from that stranger. His face is what I cannot forget even now… He, with his two huge black, hollow eyes and with his wide smile, with those sharp teeth, was looking directly at me, making me feel numb, as I couldn’t move nor speak.
The Technicolor Clown spread his arms and excitedly announced : “ COME ONE! COME ALL! WHETHER BIG OR SMALL! TO SEE THE BEST CLOWN OF THE WORLD! THE ONE! THE ONLY!DEEDLY DOO!!!!”.
My eyes lit up, as I was looking the mysterious clown, “W-who are you?” I asked with fear.
The colorful carnie came closer and answered with a grin “ I am glad you asked! I am called Deedly Doo… and I am sure you are wondering what I am doing here…. So I am going to tell you one thing! Let’s be friends!”
I smiled back and said “Sure!”
I was pretty naive back then, I was a young happy boy that thought there was no such thing as evil in this world, so when I saw Deedly Doo smiling I thought he was not bad. My mother was always chary when I came across strangers, though when I told her about Deed, as I used to call him, it looked as if she believed me and acted as normal as always. I am not sure whether she thought he was imaginary or not, but it was pretty weird for my mother not to make sure with who I was hanging around. I remember Deedly Doo disappearing every time my mother stopped by to check in on me. “I lay under your bed,” he later explained. “I don’t want your parents to see me because I’m afraid they won’t let us play anymore.” We didn’t do much during those first few days. Deed, just looked at my books, fascinated by the stories and pictures they contained. The third or fourth morning after I met him, he greeted me with a large smile on his face. “I have a new game we can play,” he said. “We have to wait until after your mother comes to check on you, because she can’t see us play it. It’s a secret game.”
My mother came and as usual, left some more books and snacks, but also asked “How is it going with your new buddy?”
I looked at her feeling a little anxious and replied “Ummm… Fine I guess! He and I will be playing soon enough!”
She smiled widely and left the room. Then Deed slipped out of the bed and frowned “You shouldn’t have told her that we are going to play! I told you! It’s a SECRET GAME!”
I startled a bit and said “Sorry Deed…I was just… too… Excited!” and smiled back at him.
Then he slowly came a little closer and let out a whimsical laugh “Haha! Alright kiddo! It’s great to know that! Now… FOLLOW ME!”
Deed grabbed my hand and started running with great speed to the “abandoned” rooms. I really wondered why he brought me there, as I started feeling weirdly when we reached one of the doors. Deed smiled widely, and showed me the lock. I told him that it was firmly shut and we couldn’t get in. Then he giggled and enlarged one of his sharp nails, unlocking the door. The room in question had no furniture or wallpaper. Its only distinguishing feature was a window opposite the doorway. Deedly Doo darted across the room and gave the window a firm push, flinging it open. He then beckoned me to look out at the ground below. We were on the second story of the house, but it was on a hill, and from this angle the drop was farther than two stories due to the incline.
“I like to play pretend up here,” Deed explained. “I pretend that there is a big, soft trampoline below this window, and I jump. If you pretend hard enough you bounce back up like a feather. I want you to try.”
I was a six-year-old with a fever, so only a hint of skepticism darted through my thoughts as I looked down and considered the possibility. “It’s a long drop,” I said.
“But that’s all a part of the fun. It wouldn’t be fun if it was only a short drop. If it were that way you may as well just bounce on a real trampoline.”
I toyed with the idea, picturing myself falling through thin air only to bounce back to the window on something unseen by human eyes. But the realist in me prevailed. “Maybe some other time,” I said. “I don’t know if I have enough imagination. I could get hurt.”
Deed’s face contorted into a furious gaze, but only for a moment. Anger gave way to disappointment. “If you say so,” he said. He spent the rest of the day under my bed, quiet.
The next morning when the sun rose, I was hit by the sunlight and woke up, so Deed jumped in front of my bed holding some candy. It had a really colorful packing. I had never seen anything like that before and I really wanted to try it out!
“Hehe. Sorry for yesterday… I hope you enjoy this candy as a gift from me!” Deed said with a sorry look on his face.
“You bet!” I smiled back at him.
I instantly grabbed the candy, ready to check it out, but when I was about to remove the packing, I heard a knock from the door. Deed quickly hid underneath the bed, and mother entered the room. She brought me breakfast and some comics to read. However, she took notice of the candy that Deed gave me, and asked “What is that ?”
I didn’t know what to say! I opened my mouth and weakly cried “I-it’s something that-t.. Jack gave me…”
Then she looked at me strictly, grabbed that candy out of my hand and threw it in the dumpster. After that, she exited the room. Deed quickly came out of the bed and looked at me with an even uglier, twisted, angry look than the last time he was mad at me. I could see that he was baring his teeth and his hateful eyes stared at me as if he was going to attack.
I was horrified and screamed “ HELP!”
Then right in front of my eyes I saw Deedly Doo’s colors fading. He became completely monochrome, his mangled black hair hung down in twisted locks, sharp jagged teeth decorated his twisted grin, and his arms hung down like a ragdoll with his grotesquely long fingers nearly scraping the floor. I jumped out of my bed and left the room, as I could hear his laugh ringing in my ears. I ran as fast as I could to the kitchen. Suddenly, I tripped and fell down. I thought it was all over… I closed my eyes tightly and waited. Then I heard Deed’s laughter coming close and closer. I opened my eyes and saw him laughing hysterically.
“HAHA! I GOT YOU!” he said laughing.
I was really confused about what was going on and did not say a word to Deed.
“It’s alright!” he said, “I won’t hurt you, silly!” he laughed.
I looked back at him speechless. I was mad, and Deed could see that too. I didn’t say a word and went back to bed. I started having trouble sleeping after that. Deedly Doo often woke me up at night, saying he put a real trampoline under the window, a big one, one that I couldn’t see in the dark. I always declined and tried to go back to sleep, but Deed persisted. Sometimes he stayed by my side until early in the morning, encouraging me to jump. He wasn’t so fun to play with anymore. My mother came to me one morning and told me I had her permission to walk around outside. She thought the fresh air would be good for me, especially after being confined to my room for so long. Ecstatic, I put on my sneakers and trotted out to the back porch, yearning for the feeling of sun on my face.
Deed was waiting for me that day outside, “I want to show you something” he said “I promise, it’s safe…”
I followed Deed to the beginning of a trail which ran through some woods behind the house. “This is a pretty special path you know…” he said “ I had many other friends about your age you know.., with which, I have gone down this path to a special place. You are not ready yet ,but I hope one day I’ll take you there!”
I returned to the house wondering what lay ahead that path. The day after we were going to move to England and almost all of our things were packed into the truck, and I considered not to tell Deed what we will be doing , but even at six years old, I knew that those clown’s intentions weren’t for my benefit. For this reason I kept my departure a secret. The next day we woke up pretty early and when we made sure everything was loaded in the truck we began our journey to our new home. I looked back to my old house and I could make out Deed’s figure waving with a huge evil smile on his face behind the window. Then I remembered about the trail, and asked if he knew anything. I gasped on my own spit when told me that in the center of the forest there was a cemetery…
Back to present day, I still can’t forget my experience with Deedly Doo… I’ve tried numerous of times, but never succeed… However I always told myself that he can’t be real, not only because I haven’t seen him ever since, but also because of the sickness that I had. I was maybe hallucinating. Who knows? I decided to move to the garden to see how my son was doing, and froze upon seeing what he held in his hand. I felt the cold sweat running down my spine, as my arms and legs start feeling numb. What my son held was a colorful package candy….