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A harlequin danced into town today. Literally, he danced. It was a strange dance, similar to a waltz, but he finished each "box" with an odd forward stride. Humming nonsense, he walked on his tip-toes to the center of town. He spun around in his brightly colored coat and dark-blue mask, before sitting down on the pavement and crossing his legs. For a time he rocked back and forth, bobbing his upper body occasionally, until finally a man approached him. From this one man came a crowd, simply staring at this strange man in the square.

I don't recall what exactly it is that he said to the stranger, but it was curt, that much I could tell. The harlequin, who had not even lifted his head to meet the man's gaze, stopped rocking. Instead, he leaned back, and shot forward — and shot up. On his feet in a moment, he spun around the man once, and then snatched the collar of his shirt. Quickly, he yanked the man close and put the mouthpiece of his mask to the man's ear, and held it there. No one could hear what exactly he was saying, but suddenly the man's face became what I could only describe as emotionless. Its color drained, and his hands began to shake. The harlequin threw himself back from the man and began his strange dance again, as if the encounter had never happened. As he came to face the man again, he simply pat his cheek once and the man ran away, sobbing.

The crowd reacted in curiosity, but not one of us dared approach him. As he spun again, I noticed something. The eye-holes of his Trivelino mask did not yield the appearance of any eyes beneath, it was pure darkness, though his skin was exceedingly pale. As I realized this, the man stopped his dance and slowly turned towards me. I was one of many in the crowd that has coalesced, but he seemed to face me directly. He cocked his head, quizzically, and I slumped down. An incredible fear that I had never felt hit me like a wave. I completely lost track of reality, the sounds of the town square around me faded away, and I became immersed in an eerie silence that seemed deafening. I wanted to run but I couldn’t, nothing would move. My body seemed frozen to the bricks I stood on. Slowly his head turned back to face where it had been before and his danced continued. After that, I ran.

That night, sleep eluded me, all I could think about was him. He hadn't even said anything to me, maybe he hadn't even been looking at me directly, but I felt as if he completely disemboweled me with his glance. I didn’t know what it was, but there was some nagging feeling telling me that man was not human. He was something else, something very sinister. My thoughts swirled around me, he became an ancient demon, wandering the Earth from city to city, town to town. Why though? I wanted to know more, I was becoming obsessed with the very thing that terrified more than anything else. Tomorrow I would search for him and see if he was in town. I honestly hoped he had left, yet if he hadn’t, I could learn more about him.

The next day I ate breakfast and ran to the square. Again there was a crowd, but this time, it seemed much, much larger. I pushed my way through to see the demon, still dancing in the square. It seemed everyone in town was there to gawk at the strange man. I shuddered, what was so scary about this man?

I noticed this time, he was speaking to a man, woman, and child. He finished speaking just as I reached the end of the crowd. They turned and walked away, as they passed, I saw a glazed look in their eyes, as if they were completely out of it.

This time I was determined, and I walked towards him as his dance continued. First, I asked him who he was.

His voice was high-pitched, whimsical almost, he crooned and leaned in, rotating about and humming, "Who, me? I am the author of the past, and the present, and I'm a jester for a far off king! Some call me a zealot, too."

So, our brief conversation began,

"A zealot? What are you zealous of?"

He threw up his arms and sighed, "Zealous of life, and jealous of its mysteries!"

I was beginning to become irritated, yet simultaneously more frightened too. "More, more! Ask me more! I know so much!"

But before I could even say another word, a child — no older than five — broke through the crowd and began talking to the harlequin. The harlequin snapped his head to look at the child, who suddenly stopped.

I saw something in the eye holes of his mask now. Suddenly, as if concealed before by pitch black eyelids, two eyes opened. The pupils were a brilliant orange, and the harlequin was giving the most evil glare I had ever seen at the child. The terror surged within me and I backed away.

To my sheer terror, the man grabbed the boy by the neck and picked him up off the ground. I could hear horrific screeches of terror coming from the boy’s throat, and he was at least eight feet off of the ground. There was a repulsive stretching sound, and the harlequin's chin began to drop and his cheeks began to puff, his mouth was opening, and opening, and opening. It grew wider and wider until it was at least half a meter wide and I could hear his jaw snapping as it opened. Horrible and inhuman sounds began coming from him as he raised the child higher. Then, all of a sudden the child was halfway down the harlequin's throat. I screamed as I could see the boy’s legs kicking in his mouth. Slowly but surely they slid down and disappeared. The boy was gone, I began crying hysterically, yet I still couldn’t move. He turned to me, his mouth still hanging wide open. This man—no this thing—was an absolute monster.

The people in the square were screaming, some were crying and some had fainted. I vomited onto myself and ran faster than I ever had in my life.

What's more, over the roar in the square, I heard the harlequin chuckling.

I sat in my home, covered in vomit and blood, rocking back in forth in my filth. Come morning, I peeked out the window and saw nothing in the square. The harlequin had gone, surely danced away over the hills.

It’s been a few years now, he has never come back, and I dread the day more than anything when he may. If he does, I’ll be sure to stay clear.

May Christ protect all who come into his path.

Unknown (14)
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