Sebestyen sat down next to his little sister, Evike, in front of the television. Sebestyen was smart, so he had gotten the television working again, but it had taken him a long, long time to do so.
He was only nine, but he had grown up quite a bit since the explosion that had destroyed everything a year ago. His father had gone off to work at the factory that fateful day, and the man had never returned, so it was Sebestyen’s duty to be the man of the house, though he did not wish to be.
It was a good thing their father had stocked food in the shelter below, their family basement repurposed for just such an emergency. The man had done this for many years, and that paranoia had paid off, because without that food, they would have starved to death within a few days of the explosion.
Their mother had taken care of them over this year, even though everything around them was in ruins. The woman had repeatedly told them it was not safe to go outside, and she had taken care of them as good mothers do, but Father had never returned home, and Sebestyen had come to accept this fact.
The world outside their little house was a smoking ruin, though what had caused that ruin, Sebestyen did not know. They lived in the woods outside the nearest town, so they had been safe from the explosion, but now they were cut off from everything. Isolation had been their father’s safeguard, but now it was killing them.
Now Mother was gone, and she had been gone for three days. It had been three days and three nights since she had told them that their food was running low, three days and three nights since she had told them that she would have to go out and look for more.
Now Sebestyen was running the generator. It was something of a no-no, but his mother was not here, and he did not know if she would ever come back, so he would watch the television with Evike until their mother returned or he understood that the woman would not.
Yes, he had fixed the television. He had replaced a bad tube with one of his father’s spares, and then it had simply been a matter of fixing the wiring. Sebestyen was smart like that, smart with things electronic and mechanical, and he would have to be smarter still if his mother did not return soon.
“I want Momma,” said Evike.
“You say that every day,” replied Sebestyen. “I don’t know when she’s coming back.”
Evike’s face fell, and he knew she was going to cry.
Evike was only six, so it was Sebestyen’s duty to watch over her. It was his duty to make sure she had food and water and safety. He did not like doing this, but it was his duty, and Father had always talked about duty. It was the one thing Sebestyen had taken from the gruff and solemn man.
“We’re going to watch the television now,” he said quickly. “We’ll watch until Momma comes back.”
The little girl’s smudged face immediately brightened, the response Sebestyen had been hoping for.
He had hooked up the television to the generator. Now it was only a matter of finding something to watch, if there was anything to watch. In truth, Sebestyen did not know if there were any television stations left.
He turned on the huge box and waited for the screen to heat up, hearing the familiar hum of electricity he had so missed over the course of a year.
There was snow on the first channel on the dial, so he turned the big channel knob, clicking from one setting to the next, hoping to have something come through.
“Where is the show?” asked Evike.
“Just give me a second,” replied Sebestyen.
He continued to turn the big channel knob until something finally appeared onscreen.
“Here is something,” he said firmly.
There was a stage onscreen, a concrete stage with tattered curtains in the back, though what color those curtains were was a mystery because their television was only in black and white.
A jaunty tune picked up along with cartoon noises, and wide letters appeared in sloping curves of white across the screen to match the happy melody accompanying the program.
“What’s it say?” asked Evike.
“It says, ‘The Yanosh Show’,” replied Sebestyen. “Now quiet. Let’s watch.”
There was nothing more to be said after that. The show was about to begin.
She was wearing her salmon-pink sweater and her better blue jeans, her traveling clothes, and this simple outfit was accompanied by her thick wool socks and her hiking boots. The weather had been rainy outside, so she had dressed accordingly. She had intended to leave some miles behind her if need be, but that was before she had been caught.
Cili struggled to free herself from the mobile iron wall she was chained to. She wriggled her wrists and ankles back and forth, but the chains were locked in, so there was nothing she could do.
The two guards on each side of her, two big men in black ski masks wearing black T-shirts and blue jeans, kept watch on the stage ahead, ignoring her frantic struggles altogether.
This mobile metal wall was propped up on a small wooden pallet, that pallet propped up upon its own jack, and one bump or hitch in the motion of this pallet could cause the wall to fall forward, squishing Cili like a bug. It was not a happy thought.
This wall had probably been an iron door at one point, but now it was being used as an offering plate, a sacrificial stone that Cili could only guess in its purpose. She had the sense that she was indeed being offered to someone, and what that person would do to her was more than likely not very nice.
A man, if you could call him that, shuffled out onto the bare, concrete stage. He was wearing a tattered and burnt clown suit, a once-yellow outfit with stained green, blue, and red polka dots all over it, and he shuffled across the bare grey floor in oversized, blood-red clown shoes, the kind that were so large Cili wondered how anyone walked in them at all.
The infernal music that played all around them ceased with a loud clash of symbols, and then the terrible man in the clown suit started into his act.
“Hello, kids!” cried the man. “It’s me, Yanosh the Undead Clown!”
The children on the bleachers behind Cili, children she could not actually see due to the restrained position she was in, cheered at the sight of their beloved host.
The horror she felt was unfathomable.
This man, this “Yanosh,” was indeed something terrifying. His face was gone; there were only bits of melted flesh hanging off of a white skull, two very human eyes looking out from the orbital sockets, his tongue hanging out of the right side of his mouth through a gap in his broken teeth.
When he spoke, his jawbones barely unhinged, and though his tongue flapped up and down from the motion, his speech was impeccable, something Cili could not understand in possibility, nor did she wish to.
“Today’s episode is a special one!” said Yanosh. “We have a real showstopper today, kids! Let’s give a warm welcome for our line of exciting new guests!”
The children erupted in cheer once more, but Cili cringed at the sound. There was nothing right about this, nothing sane about this unholy perversion of a children’s television show.
Yanosh the Undead Clown pulled forth a small honking horn from a large pocket on the side of his outfit. He squeezed the red rubber bulb over and over again to send forth a HONK! HONK! HONK! as a little boy in a striped yellow and purple shirt walked out onto the stage.
This little boy had a round face smudged with dirt, dark circles under his brown eyes, and his torn blue jeans and ragged white tennis shoes had seen better days.
“Tell everybody what your name is!” said Yanosh in an excited tone.
“Mihaly,” said the boy.
“Let’s show everybody what you can do, Mihaly!” exclaimed Yanosh.
The horrendous clown waved toward someone offstage, and a big man in a black ski mask, this man wearing a black Tee with blue jeans, carried out a small wooden coffee table. The man in the ski mask then proceeded to set down that table before the boy and this mockery of a clown.
The big man in the ski mask walked offstage, leaving the pair to do…whatever it was they were going to do.
Yanosh knelt down beside the boy and nodded once.
“Let’s show everybody what your gift is, Mihaly,” he said quietly. “Don’t be nervous now.”
The little boy nodded back in return, and then he picked up a butcher’s cleaver from the coffee table, the kitchen tool ridiculously large in the boy’s small right hand.
“All right, kids!” yelled Yanosh. “It’s showtime!”
A drumroll sounded out from somewhere offstage as this little boy, “Mihaly,” laid his bare left arm on the table and then raised the cleaver high.
Nothing but a small whine escaped Cili’s lips as her eyes widened in frightful anticipation.
The cleaver came down with exceptional force, far more force than any little boy had a right to wield.
Cili gagged as the cleaver sank into the flesh of the boy’s left arm, the blade slicing clean through the limb despite muscle, tendon, and bone.
The little boy raised the stump of his left arm, that arm severed past the elbow toward the wrist, but there was no blood. A green liquid spurted from the chopped-off stump, and then the flesh turned a burgundy color as it grew at a fantastic rate. A wriggling octopus tentacle took the place of the missing limb, a long, wine-colored tentacle with visible suction cups along its interior line.
“Oh!” said Yanosh as he backed away, two melted, skeletal hands over his toothy, lipless mouth.
This boy, “Mihaly,” raised his tentacle arm and waved it at the crowd.
“That is in…credible!” shouted Yanosh as he honked his little bulb-horn over and over again.
He picked up the boy’s severed left arm and waved it at the nonvisible crowd.
“Let’s give Mihaly a hand, kids!” he yelled.
The children in the nonvisible crowd cheered long and loud over this foul, profane feat.
The arm within Yanosh’s skeletal grasp melted into green goo, dripping through his boney fingers to splatter across the concrete floor.
“Oops!” exclaimed the unholy clown.
The children laughed along with him, but then the boy, Mihaly, laid his new tentacle arm across the coffee table, a mirror to what he had done with his real arm.
“Oh, we’re not done, it seems!” yelled Yanosh.
Mihaly raised the cleaver once more, and that kitchen blade came down yet again, chopping off the tentacle this time. The boy raised his severed left arm, and then a new human arm grew back in from the stump, replacing the tentacle as if it had never existed at all.
Yanosh picked up the tentacle and waved it at the crowd, but he did not get to comment about it before the strange limb had melted away into green goo.
“No octopus for dinner tonight!” laughed the clown.
The nonvisible children laughed in unison as Yanosh honked his horn a few times.
“Let’s hear it for Mihaly!” yelled the clown. “Mihaly, the incredible tentacle boy!”
He honked his horn again as the children cheered.
Cili felt sick. She wanted to vomit, but she held it in. This was wrong, all of it, so wrong that she wanted to pass out, to fade out for a while, but her adrenaline would not let her do so.
“This is weird,” said Evike. “I like it.”
Sebestyen tried not to hyperventilate. He did not know what was going on with this show, but it was not normal, which meant the world was not normal anymore. Something very, very bad had happened out there, and he did not really want to know what that bad thing was.
“This is not right,” he breathed out.
He reached for the knob to change the channel, but a shriek of protest from his little sister stopped him cold.
“I want to watch it!” cried Evike. “I want to watch Yanosh!”
Sebestyen pulled away from the knob, but his hands were shaky. It was better to appease Evike for the time being than allow her to stew in boredom and fear, but he prayed that their mother would come home soon, because he was truly scared now.
Sebestyen was nine, but he wasn’t stupid. There was no way any channel would have a kid’s show like this, and this fact scared him, but there was also no way he was leaving the house with Evike to look for their mother. No, the world outside was…was lost.
Cili sucked in her breath as she struggled against her chains.
The madness around her had only intensified as the show had dragged on. The guests had included a little girl with spider’s legs, a little boy with a giant eye in the center of his forehead, and another little girl with three arms, her third arm sticking up and out from between her shoulder blades.
Cili did not have any words for what was going on here; she only knew that she was in the very depths of Hell, a pit where no light would shine down upon her forsaken soul, though she did not know what it was she had done to suffer such a punishment.
“Now it’s time for the Amazing Jelly Girl!” cried Yanosh.
The undead clown pushed a small cannon out onstage with the help of his masked stagehand. The cannon was comically large and round in the back, like something out of a cartoon, a short and squat thing with a wide, round barrel.
There was a large paper target set against the concrete of the backstage wall, that target concentric rings of red and white. Yanosh and his stagehand maneuvered the cartoonish cannon until the barrel lined up with the large and bright paper set against the back wall.
The grotesque clown pulled a huge match from his tattered outfit and struck the crimson matchhead against the concrete floor. The pencil-sized match sparked to a flame, and then the demented host used the oversized match to light the big white wick of the comical cannon.
“Let’s give a warm welcome to…Jelly Girl!” yelled Yanosh.
The wick burned down until it disappeared into the cannon, and then the cartoonish artillery weapon blasted forth a loud BANG! that reverberated around the studio.
A huge blob of purple goo splattered against the paper target, and then that paper sizzled as it melted away, the goo sticking like a great glob of snot to the concrete wall behind it.
A face formed in the goo a moment later, a young and attractive female face with distinct blue eyes, and then that face spoke, the lips moving and sounding out words in a young woman’s voice, something impossible to Cili but still there all the same.
“Hello, kids!” exclaimed the face within the purple goo.
“There she is!” yelled Yanosh.
The nonvisible children erupted in cheer once more, and the disgusting clown waited until those cheers had died down before speaking again.
Yanosh walked up to the glob of purple goo with a woman’s face.
“So, what are we up to today, Jelly Girl?” asked Yanosh.
“Just hanging around, Yanosh!” smiled the Jelly Girl.
The children laughed as the Jelly Girl blinked twice in response.
“You know what time it is, then?” asked Yanosh.
He turned and lifted his skeletal hands, palms up, waving them both upwards in a double motion, a motion of reply from the crowd that Cili could not see.
“It’s mail time!” said the Jelly Girl along with the crowd of children.
Yanosh pulled forth a yellowed letter from his rent clown suit.
“This letter is from little Ambrus!” he said in excitement, his tongue bobbing up and down as he spoke. “What does it say, Jelly Girl?”
He held up the letter before the pretty face in the purple goo.
“Dear Yanosh—” started the Jelly Girl.
The children cheered again as Yanosh pulled forth his horn and honked it a few times. He nodded his head in recognition, and the crowd died down once more. He put his horn away and then held up the letter to the pretty face again.
“Dear Yanosh…” continued the Jelly Girl. “When are we going to have another sliming? It has been too long. Your friend, Ambrus.”
Yanosh covered his ungodly jaws with both skeletal hands and stamped up and down with both big shoes, left shoe, right shoe, left shoe, a stamping of insanity as real as the stamp on the letter he was holding.
“Oh, Ambrus!” he cried. “Do we have a surprise for you! We are going to have another sliming! In fact, we will have another sliming…on today’s show!”
The children cheered. Yanosh pulled forth his horn and honked it, and this caused the crowd to cheer even louder.
The HONK! HONK! HONK! of this demented clown caused Cili to cringe and grit her teeth, and she struggled to free herself from her chains, but her struggles were to no avail.
“Let’s hear it for Jelly Girl!” yelled the clown.
The crowd cheered, of course, but Cili had closed her mind to this madness. Whatever was going on with this show was too much for her to process, too much for her rational mind to bear.
Yanosh waved for someone offstage as he backed away from the Jelly Girl.
“Now it’s time for our friend, Spackle Head!” cried the clown. “Spackle Head, come on out and do your job!”
“Spa…ckle…Head! Spa…ckle…Head!” chanted the children.
A huge bald man in a black T-shirt and black pants walked out onto the stage, this man carrying a small metal tub. The top of his bald head sported a large fan of flesh and bone in the shape of a putty knife, that fan sticking straight up like a flattened arrow pointing toward the ceiling, something so bizarre that Cili could not take her eyes off it.
This man walked up to the blob of purple goo that was Jelly Girl, bent down, and used his putty-knife head to scrape her off the wall until she fell into the tub he was carrying, a plop of awful significance that Cili heard so much as saw.
“Ooo, ooo, ooo!” winced “Spackle Head” as the flesh of his putty-knife protrusion began to smoke and turn red.
“Sorry!” came the Jelly Girl’s voice from the metal tub. “That’s the acid! My fault!”
The children laughed as Spackle Head walked offstage with the tub containing Jelly Girl, his bald head still smoking, and Yanosh honked his horn as he stamped his feet up and down again.
“That is never not funny!” yelled Yanosh. “Right kids!”
“Right, Yanosh!” yelled the crowd in return.
The grotesque clown nodded in an overexaggerated way, his tongue flapping up and down as he did.
“Now it’s time for the end of our show,” he said in a sad voice.
The children resounded out a loud “Awwwww!”
“Don’t worry kids!” encouraged the clown. “We’ll be back tomorrow!”
“Yaaaaaaay!” yelled the crowd.
“But first, it’s time…for…our…sliming!” yelled Yanosh.
“YAAAAAAAAAY!” shouted the children in unison.
The guards on each side of Cili pulled off their ski masks. One had green scales all over his hairless head and face, and the other was nothing but hair, so much so that Cili could not see his eyes or lips.
These two monsters that looked like men took a minute to unlock her chains, and then they forced her toward the stage, a steady marching of doom that Cili could not escape.
“Wait! Wait!” pleaded Cili.
Her two guards led her up a small set of wooden stairs onto the concrete stage to stand before the unholy clown.
“Wait, please!” whined Cili.
“She wants us to wait, kids!” yelled Yanosh.
“BOOOOOO!” shouted the children.
Cili’s eyes wandered over the dark shadows that comprised the crowd of this insane children’s show. She could see the warped forms of arms, legs, tentacles, and even wings on these children, a mass of growths that should have never existed in nature.
It stunned her into silence, the appearance of this madness, and she found herself speechless, nothing more to say. All she could do was whine in fear at the sight of it all, the image of this looking-glass reflection into Hell.
“It looks like the kids have spoken!” yelled Yanosh. “On with the sliming!”
“Sli…ming! Sli…ming! Sli…ming!” shouted the audience of twisted, mutant children.
The guards backed away along with Yanosh, and Cili was left turning her head in all directions due to a nameless fear, unsure of what was going to happen next.
A drumroll started up offstage as Cili looked toward the twisted host of this show, Yanosh the Undead Clown, but the grotesque man simply pointed skyward with one bony, skeletal finger.
Cili looked up and froze in stark terror.
A massive, dark-green shape surrounded by swirling tentacles, a huge mass covered with yellow, slitted eyes and mouths full of razor-sharp fangs, stared down at her from directly above the concrete stage. A huge orifice opened up in its center mass, this maw a fleshy, gaping hole that dripped a disgusting green goo that splattered down to the floor here and there.
Cili had just enough time to let cry a shrill scream as a putrescent green waterfall spit down upon her, covering her from head to toe in its disgusting ooze.
Evike escaped the blanket surrounding her and placed her hands upon the television.
“Momma!” she cried. “Momma!”
Sebestyen pulled her back from the large electronic box and quickly turned off the television.
“It’s not real!” cried Sebestyen as he held his little sister close. “It’s not real, Evike!”
“Momma!” wept Evike in his arms. “Momma!”
“It’s not her,” said Sebestyen in a shaky voice. “It’s not her…It can’t be…”
He was shaken to the core, but his fear only heightened as he heard the sound of something huge crawl into the living room doorway. He turned to stare at this intruder, though his subconscious mind knew what he was looking at before his conscious mind did.
“I’m home, children!” came their mother’s voice. “Sorry I was gone for so long. It took a little time to get back after what happened to me yesterday, but guess what! I was on a television show!”
This woman’s face was their mother’s, though it was three times larger than it should have been.
Their mother’s face was set within the body of an enormous, fat, flesh-colored worm, and there were large mandibles set around that familiar face, long and brown, leg-like things with white spikes at the tips. These mandibles moved in seemingly unrelated motion to each other as the mutant woman slithered her huge, grotesque form into the living room, a sheen of sticky mucus surrounding her.
Their mother was home at last.
Y is for Yanosh Copyright © 2022 Matthew L. Marlott