Kim gets the call during a thirty-minute break between rounds. Already on a giddy high from winning the second to last round of the competition, her smile only gets bigger when she sees Jack’s face lighting up her screen. She thumbs the green circle to accept the call.
“Ya’ll, Kim’s getting a call from her boooyfriend,” Grace’s voice says from behind her. Kim rolls her eyes at her best friend. The other cheerleaders on their team coo and tease, but her grin doesn’t fade. She loves those dorks.
“Shut up and let Coach know I’m taking a phone call,” she says, not waiting for their responses. She leaves the gym hosting the competition and walks down the hall leading to the front doors. When she registers Jack’s heavy breathing, she pauses. Her smile fades.
“Jack? Babe, what’s wrong?”
“H-Hey, Kim.” His voice is shaky, scared, and her concern mounts. “I, um… Morgan’s pretty freaked out right now… she’s getting ice cream, but how do I calm her down?”
“What? What do you mean by freaked out? Are you okay?”
“Yeah. No, yeah, I’m okay. We just… that doll in her room really freaked the both of us out.”
“The life-size clown doll that I really would have appreciated knowing about beforehand.”
What?! Kim goes cold. What is this? Yeah, Dad had said he’d get a new doll for her younger sister, a reward for good grades. Kim hardly thinks that he’d buy a “giant clown doll,” though. And even if he did, he knows about Jack’s coulrophobia. He wouldn’t get it on a night he knows that Jack’s babysitting Morgan.
Jack probably saw a shape in the darkness of Morgan’s room and got a little spooked. Knowing him, he was probably watching horror flicks on his phone while Morgan marathoned Disney movies. He’s always on edge after watching something scary.
“There’s no life-size clown doll in Morgan’s room, Jack.”
“Uh, there definitely is. I just saw it, right at the foot of her…”
He trails off. His breath hitches, stops. What is happening? Kim strains to hear something, anything, but she can’t even pick up the sound of his breathing. Alright. She's getting kinda scared now.
Nothing. Scratch scared; make that panicked.
“You’re freaking me out, Jack. Are you okay? What’s going on?”
“Kim…” His quiet voice sounds numb. “It’s gone.”
A million possibilities run through her head, none of them good. If only she could go back home and figure out what’s going on… no. She can’t let her team down. They’ve been training for this competition for months, she can’t just abandon them. Instead, she wills herself to calm down. She knows her boyfriend. When he’s scared, his perception of reality may shift a bit in his panic. She has to stay level-headed for his sake and find out more about the situation. It’s probably not as big a deal as it seems.
“The doll’s gone, Kim. It’s gone. Holy crap, it’s gone, ohmygod.” Hysteria has bled into his normally mellow tone in his fear. His breath comes in quick, short gasps. “I swear to God if this is a prank or something—”
“Don’t swear on His name. Come on, you know I wouldn’t mess with you like that. I just need you to calm down, okay?”
“Yes, you can. You gotta calm down. For Morgan. For Morgan, okay? She’s scared, too, and you need to be strong for her. Just breathe, breathe with me.”
She slowly inhales and exhales several times. He mimics her, with difficulty at first, but better after a few attempts. There’s rustling on his end.
“You’re right. Morgan. Okay. Sorry.”
He pauses. Before she can ask if what he saw was really a clown doll, he says, “Kim, I think there’s someone in the house.”
Right as he says that, a loud commotion and Morgan’s petrified screams echo faintly over the line. Oh, no. Kim’s heart drops into her stomach. She can’t rationalize this anymore; her boyfriend and sister are alone at home, and there’s someone else in the house with them.
She takes off towards the gym to find her team and her coach. From the phone in her hand, Jack’s rapid footsteps echo her own. She grabs the first teammate she can find and frantically explains the emergency. Some of the other girls start to crowd around her, trying to understand what’s wrong, but she waves them away and turns her back. Her focus is on her phone again.
“Jack? What’s going on?”
Instead of an answer, she hears Jack’s voice say, “Squirt?”
Silence. Kim listens with bated breath.
“Whatever happened in here, it’s all right now. I’m here, ‘kay? Drop the knife and talk to me.”
Another pause. Jack suddenly gasps, and Kim can hear a faint snarl. A clatter and a metallic clang later, Jack’s now-frantic voice sounds farther away. He’d dropped the phone.
“Morgan! Morgan, no drop the knife! It’s me! Jackie, remember? No, no, oof.”
Another loud thud.
“Argh, Morgan get off. It’s me! Quit it!”
It sounds like he’s struggling with her.
“Morgan, come on, stop it! Please! Ow! Morg- an… ah…”
Tears spill onto Kim’s cheeks as she stares at her phone in shock. Her voice is small when she calls out Jack’s name.
Jack gasps out faintly in response. Suddenly, there is raspy breathing on the phone — clearly audible — as if someone had picked it up. It’s definitely not Jack, so it has to be—
“Morgan?” she whispers.
Inhale, Exhale. Inhale.
“Morgan, please, whatever you just did to Jack…” What is she supposed to say?
She picks up on the barest hint of sirens. Seconds later, a “bang bang bang” echoes at the door in the background, and faint voices demand to open up. Morgan snarls. A clatter says that the phone has been dropped again. Rapid footsteps fade away quickly, taking Kim’s last shred of hope with them.
Jackson Leo Brewer was found unconscious in the kitchen of his girlfriend’s house with a severe bruise on his face and two stab wounds to the chest and abdomen. He was rushed to the hospital immediately, and doctors were able to revive him. Upon waking up, he told of how he was babysitting his girlfriend’s sister, the appearance of a clown doll, and the young girl “going nuts.” Neither she the girl nor any “clown doll” were found at the scene.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.