That corner used to be a party store. Now it’s a dusty thrift shop. Doesn’t matter. Rick’s running late to the birthday gig and needs a costume, any costume. It doesn’t have to be a clown like he advertised himself to be online.
He’s fresh off a five year prison bid. He’ll take whatever work he can get.
A red wig and turtle suit hang on a rack behind the register. Rick doesn’t question why these particular items are located at the front, and he doesn’t think it’s weird the cashier tells him to put his wallet back. No time for that.
“You’ll pay later,” the man says.
The birthday party is for a snot-nosed four year old named Jackson. About fifteen preschoolers in total. They all cry when Rick the Turtle Clown steps onto the makeshift stage, and Jackson’s mom politely escorts him off after one of the kids shits themselves in fear.
She pays him a hundred bucks and says, “You should go.”
He will. He just needs to use the toilet first.
Rick looks in the bathroom mirror, unsure whether the orange jumpsuits he sported for a half decade are less humiliating than the image that’s currently reflecting back at him. This must be punishment for taking a lower sentence and snitching on Young Tortoise.
Nothing he can do about it now except remove the costume and take a piss.
But it won’t come off.
He looks down at the suit’s cuffs. The fabric is coalescing with his skin. Cotton fibers are weaving through his pores and rooting in the subcutaneous tissue beneath.
Rick tugs at it some more, but it won’t budge. His efforts become more frantic. He jerks his body around so much he falls over and lands right on his back, which is now a suddenly-hardened shell.
The lights on the ceiling are glaring, feels like they’re baking his eyes. He grips the seam that runs down the costume’s left side and forcibly rips off the turtle’s abdomen. Beneath it is a bowl of gore soup: Lubricated intestines, organs and miscellaneous viscera in a broth of blood.
He opens his mouth to scream, but someone opens the bathroom door. They stand there like the Angel of Death.
It’s Jackson. He doesn’t cry. He doesn’t shit himself, either.
He points right at Rick.