The CSI Clown

The basement of CSI at 3 a.m. was the last place Kayla wanted to be on a Saturday night — technically a Sunday morning, now. Much less on Halloweekend, when she should’ve been out with her friends enjoying the college experience.

Instead, she was stuck working with her deadbeat lab partner, Lucas, desperately trying to write a semi-coherent report. The worst part was that she had done everything right. Kayla had written up half the paper almost a week ago, leaving the rest for Lucas to finish. Sure, she could’ve done the whole thing herself, but this was supposed to be a group project, meaning the work should be split evenly. It was a matter of principle.

‘Look where principle got you,’ Kayla thought to herself bitterly as she paused her typing to crack her knuckles. She tried to remind herself to look at the silver lining: at least she wasn’t here alone.

Although, Kayla realized with a start as she glanced at the time on her phone, Lucas had been gone for almost 20 minutes now. He had said he needed a quick bathroom break. She felt a flicker of annoyance. If he thought he could pawn the work off to her by hiding in the bathroom, he had another thing coming.

Kayla forced herself to take a few calming breaths as she put her phone down and walked to the door of the lab. She was just going to knock on the bathroom door, in a friendly way, and make sure Lucas was alright. No yelling.

The heavy door to the lab opened with a creak. Kayla stepped out into the dark corridor, a cold chill creeping up her spine. Sometime between now and a few hours ago when Kayla first arrived in the basement, the lights had gone out. The only light source was coming from the end of the hall, where a single flickering fluorescent light bulb flickered between life and death, casting the corridor in a cold light.
Kayla felt her hands go numb. She had always been a little afraid of the dark. It was something her friends teased her about, and she always laughed along with them because it was admittedly a little ridiculous.

Taking a deep breath, Kayla forced herself to step into the hallway. The walk to the bathroom was short, albeit with a few twists and turns that would force her to walk past dark corners. Goosebumps pricked up on the back of her neck as she moved further into the dark corridor. Mentally, she reminded herself that the sooner she could drag Lucas back to the lab, the sooner she could go home.

The quiet thud of Kayla’s footsteps seemed to echo in the empty corridor, the only other sound being the quiet hum of the air conditioning. She knew she was alone — the only other person in the basement was Lucas — but as she turned the last corner on the route to the bathroom, Kayla had the distinct sensation that she was being watched.

Slowly, Kayla looked over her shoulder. Her blood ran cold.

Standing at the end of the hall, in the halo of the sickly fluorescent light, a clown was looking at her. The flickering light skittered over him, elongating the shadows of his grotesque mask and shimmering off of the dark liquid stains that interrupted the patterns on his striped clown suit. In the darkness, his eyes were like gaping black holes pointed directly at Kayla.

For a split second, Kayla thought that she must be hallucinating. Maybe her mind had conjured this grotesque image of a clown as a psychological representation of her fear of failing this course.

And then the clown moved.

He started running towards Kayla, his very real footfalls thundering down the hall towards her. A strangled scream died in Kayla’s throat as she turned and began to run in the opposite direction of the bathroom towards the stairwell.

The stairwell was as dark as the corridor she was fleeing, and she sprinted up the steps with her heart in her throat. As she reached the first landing, she risked a glance behind her and was met with the sight of the clown tearing up the steps behind her.

Kayla kept running. Her lungs were burning and her sweat-soaked shirt was plastered to her back, but she couldn’t stop. Behind her, she could hear his heavy footfalls, and just as she reached the second entrance to the third floor a maniacal laugh echoed through the stairwell. Was that him or did that sound come from her own throat? She couldn’t tell.

Kayla hesitated for a moment. Should she go up one more flight of stairs or find a place to hide on the third floor? Uncertain she froze on the landing, a wave of panic rising in her chest as his footsteps got closer and closer.

Finally, a rush of adrenaline dislodged the fear that had kept her locked in place and she turned to sprint up another flight of stairs. She tried skipping steps, but her fatigued legs locked up, causing her to stumble as her foot missed the next step. Kayla felt a sharp stab of pain in her ankle.

As she reached the next landing, Kayla stumbled out onto the fourth floor of CSI. With every step she took, she could feel her ankle throbbing. It wouldn’t be long until her ankle was entirely swollen and she wouldn’t be able to run on it any longer — she needed a place to hide.

Desperately, Kayla looked around trying to think of a suitable hiding place. The classrooms and labs would all be locked. She could try getting to the study room at the end of the hall and barricading herself in there — sure the walls were made of glass, but they all came equipped with a door lock in case of an active shooter. The only issue was that her pursuer was gaining on her, and Kayla wasn’t sure if she’d be able to make that distance on her ankle.

The bathroom then. Kayla swallowed back a hysterical laugh at the irony of her situation. As quickly as she could she began limping around the corner to the bathroom and slipped into the woman’s bathroom. The bathroom lights flickered on automatically, and for once Kayla would have preferred darkness. Blinking as her eyes tried to adjust to the sudden change in lighting, Kayla felt along the wall to find the light switch. With one hand on the wall to guide her forward, she limped into the first stall. She sat on the toilet, sighing as she relieved the pressure on her foot.

Alone in the dark, Kayla wished she had brought her phone with her when she went to check on Lucas. ‘Oh my god, Lucas,’ she remembered with a start. In her panic, she had forgotten about her wayward lab partner. Had he noticed that she was gone? Would he come looking for her? A dark thought occurred to her. What if Lucas was hiding somewhere hoping that Kayla would come and find him? What if he wasn’t?

The bathroom door slammed open with a bang.