Sunday 21 September 2014

Short Fiction - Smiles on a Screen by Daniel Richardson

Daniel Richardson's story 'Smiles on a Screen' won second prize in February 2014's short fiction contest.

Smiles on a Screen by Daniel Richardson

My name is Emily and I have a very strange problem. There is a man who watches me from my television set. Well, not a man, but rather a clown. I noticed him one night while I was brushing my teeth. I had the bathroom door open and in the mirror above the sink I could see the television in my room.  I was watching some advertisement for a new soft drink but the image flickered away into silence, and then he was there. The white figure of his shaven painted head lit up on the surface of the black screen. He smiled at me and watched. Just watched.

His wide, yellowed eyes scanned my body up and down invasively with a frantic nature that froze me to the spot. I stared back at him through the mirror and as my eye line met his, he stopped still. His pupils expanded in an almost hungering manner. Red lips slowly parted to reveal a grimace of rotten teeth. The wet pink of a tongue flicked out between the gaps of his grin smothering the makeup on his upper lip as he licked his mouth. That was enough to snap me out of it. I spun round as fast as I could, not wanting to take my eyes off him for a second, but when I turned, he was gone. In his place a smiling lady who’d just livened up her party with the introduction of the drink from before. Had I imagined the whole thing? It seemed real enough. I knew there was a horror movie marathon coming up on this channel so possibly the clown had been some kind of viral marketing thing for it. I swear he looked me right in the face though.  Not wanting to take any chances I went straight over to the television set and turned it off at the mains and, being admittedly a little frightened, I took the extra pre-caution of turning it to face away from my bed.

I don’t remember when it was I finally fell asleep but I do recall when I woke up. At first I thought I was having a nightmare.  When I woke up the room seemed darker than it had ever been. I looked over at my clock but there was no digital red numbers flashing on its L.E.D display. It was the breathing that scared me though. Long and loud breaths came from the foot of my bed. The noise seemed to come from behind my TV. I walked over slowly. Each step brought me closer to the deep, long and exaggerated exhales. I noticed the TV was plugged in again. My trembling fingers crept over its sides. With a twist I pulled the screen to face me and…nothing. The screen was blank. The breathing kept going, though I wasn’t sure where from. Then the warm hair hit my ankle. Followed by the spider-like grip of a make-up covered hand. I looked down. He smiled.

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