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Moon’s gloomy light barely found Clown Wood’s leaf strewn floor, the old aspens and pines gently bouncing in the breeze didn’t allow it. Waiting behind a thick and weathered tree trunk, Page of Buckets smiled. The Clown’s imagination conjured darts and daggers, but not to kill, only to maim at first, allowing for more Clown fun.
Deuce of Buckets traipsed hand-in-hand along the path from Tower. The yellow polka dots of their jumpsuits shone slightly in the dull light. A click in the dark woods silenced their giggling conversation. Then a buzzing, soft at first, grew louder, and they stopped their stroll, searching the shadows for the source of the sound. A cool rush of air fluttered their eyelashes, followed by a thunk at their feet. Standing, cheek to cheek, in a tight embrace, they stared at the javelin bobbling inches from them.
Laughter skipped to their ears from the shadowy trees, answering the question of who hunted them. Squinting, as though narrowed eyes gave them better sight in the dark, their criticism darted from shadow to shadow. Not far in the trees, the shadow faded green of a satin-covered backside bumped out from behind a tree, without needing to see the culprits face, they confirmed it was Page of Buckets.
“Brother,” the girl said loudly, startling herself, then whispered in his ear. With every word his grin widened, revealing more of his pointed teeth. She released him, and said in an over-rehearsed tone, “Wow, that was weird. We should hurry home. It seems to be raining javelins.”
She elbowed him when he didn’t answer right away.
“Oh!” he exclaimed, keeping his rabid laughter from erupting. “You’re right, sister. It’s too dangerous out here, and I’m getting scared.”
Gripping hands, they cautiously stepped forward, closer to Page of Buckets, razorblades clenched in their free hands at their sides. The Page’s unsavory grin glistened in the moonlight as her yellow ball of hair bounced on her head with her tremors of glee. They’re so stupid. She thought as they came closer, seemingly oblivious to her presence. Standing with her shoulder against the tree, she waited for the Deuce. Her hands twitched.
Finally, a snapping twig gave her the cue to jump from her hiding place. Holding fans with razor tips, she swiped air, ghoulish chortles rolled from her mouth. To her surprise and dismay, Deuce of Buckets wasn’t there. Quickly she scanned the darkness encumbered woods, spinning, searching, spinning again, but finding no trace of them.
Another twig snapped, and she wrenched her neck to look behind her. A shadow moved, merging with others. She leapt forward, slashing the air with the fans. They didn’t retaliate or move when she found their hiding place behind a tree, staring at her with wide eyes and wider mouths.
“What?” Page of Buckets asked. “Had enough?”
They didn’t answer as they took a step back.
Starting to feel lightheaded, she staggered into a tree, strands of yellow hair tangling in low branches. She tried to focus on the twins to no avail, and then noticed the furled cuffs of her blouse dripped like rivulets of wax running down the smooth shaft of a candle.
Her blurred gaze returned to Deuce of Buckets, who had retreated several feet in the few moments she had taken to watch herself melt; their faces shaped in horror was an expression she never expected to see on them.
“What did you do?” Her voice gurgled. “You’ll pay for this!”
“We didn’t do anything,” Deuce of Buckets said, watching Page of Buckets melt into the forest floor.
Their only thought was escape from the vile scene before them. Even in Moon’s depressed glow, the sight of Page of Buckets sloughing away into a mass of goo was more than they ever wanted to see. After another backward step, they turned to find Death writhing, changing form, sculpting her body into shapes it shouldn’t.
Then she saw what Deuce of Buckets was so anxious to be away from, stopping her twists and turns and flexes. She watched with wonder as the remaining parts of the Page disintegrated into nothing, only blinking when the last piece of the Clown had faded away. Her eyes found the terror written on Deuce of Buckets’ faces, and twisting to sit with feet on top of opposite thighs, she opened her mouth to console them.
Their voices beat hers, saying, “We didn’t do it.” Tears welled.
“I know, children. This was a change you couldn’t have caused.” Death stood, and their gaze followed her as she continued, “Now, run along. And don’t worry, you have nothing to fear.” They were almost out of sight when she called to them, “Deuce.”
Stopping, they stared over their shoulders at her shiny-black silhouette, and softly clanging, silver bracelets and anklets. “Keep this a secret for now.” They nodded, vanishing into Clown Wood, happy with never having to think of what they’d seen again.
Death turned back to the spot Page of Buckets had melted away, a wistful smile stretched her mouth. This was a change she’d dreamed about happening, though she’d never imagined it ever would. She resumed her contortions, pondering what it meant. Any change was satisfying, but this pushed her toward ecstasy, and she wished Fire Breather was with her to celebrate.
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