*Disclaimer. This is fan fiction. This is not my world. I’m just showing my guy some love. My favorite bad guy.
P.S.-Don’t sue me, I’m broke.*
“What do you throw away that keeps returning?” The young woman read the question on the digital whiteboard. “Hmm. What do you throw away…” She repeated the question as she ran her fingers through her short hair.
“Clock’s ticking, lady,” the kid said from behind a booth, on a stool, under the board.
“Uh.” When the clock reached two seconds, she yelped and blurted out “toilet paper, I don’t know.”
“Wrong.” The kid clicked a button on the remote and revealed the answer; Boomerang!
The young woman stood frozen for a moment and then her eyes lit up. “Oh yeah,” she smacked her teeth. “Boomerang. Duh.” Then, she returned to her friends a couple yards behind her.
“Thank you for playing,” the kid said, like a robot. Like he’d done all summer at the carnival. The Puzzler was the name of his stand – three levels to win. First, a riddle, then a puzzle, then another riddle. No one ever won at his booth. No one ever will.
He pulled up the next question and waited for the next customer. His stand was in the back, the very back, behind all the rides and attractions, it was a miracle anyone found it.
When the lights from the Ferris Wheel shut off, it was his reminder that closing time was near, and it left him almost in the dark. At night, the light bulb in the corner of his day-cell made it easy for those to see him, but impossible for him to see them.
As he started to close, three shadows approached his booth. He swiveled on his stool and welcomed the next loser to bring him easy money; his philosophy.
That smug attitude transformed when he saw The Clown come into the light. He’d seen him before but never this close. He’d heard the stories of his brilliance and read the headlines of his madness. He was shook—no, he was shaking—literally shaking in his shoes, and he was bouncing on his seat, stumbling over his words. “Wah-wah-welcome to Puzzler. Five dollars to play. Ah-ah-answer the riddle, beat the puzzle, answer another riddle, win a prize.”
The Clown laughed. “Is that all?” He asked in a deep, dark, goofy tone that superseded the kid’s expectations.
“Uhm, yah-yes. That’s all.” The kid backed away from the board and revealed the question.
“What is always on its way here, but never arrives?” The Clown read.
“That’s a tough one, boss,” one of the burly men behind him said.
The Clown smiled so big, his cheeks nearly covered his eyes. “Tomorrow,” he answered.
The kid clicked the clicker and ‘Tomorrow’ popped up.
“Nice one, Mr. J.,” the other, taller, burly man said.
Next, was a puzzle. A picture puzzle. Ten seconds to guess what or who the scrambled image was. The timer started.
“John Snow, King of the North,” Mr. J answered before a second left the countdown. That giant, terrifying smile still plastered on his face.
“Correct,” the boy said.
The two men behind The Clown laughed and slapped hands. “Game of Thrones is my jam,” the tall one said.
“Bring on the next one,” Mr. J clapped his hands, rocking his head from side to side, saliva spilling out the sides of his mouth. “I gots my eye on that fluffy little bat up there.” He pointed to one of the top prizes.
So, the kid brought up the next riddle on the digital board and started the timer.
“What can be swallowed but also can swallow you?” Mr. J read. “Ooohh, a goodie. Let’s see—let’s see. The answer is Pride! Now gimme my prize.” The clown raised his arms in the air, twiddling his fingers like a toddler, awaiting his gift. His men high-fived in the background.
The kid clicked the remote and revealed the answer; Water. “I’m sorry, sir. That’s not the right answer. Thank you for playing.” The kid shrugged, then turned off the digital board to continue his closing duties.
“Water?” the tall one was confused.
Mr. J’s smile turned flat and his eyebrows pointed down. “Very clever,” he nodded, glaring at the kid’s remote. Then, he turned to his men. “Boys, grab the kid, get the small thingy out his hand and turn on the big thingy.”
The men hopped through the booth window and manhandled the boy. He didn’t scream, he didn’t cry, he didn’t struggle, he didn’t say a word. He knew he was caught, red-handed. He couldn’t help himself. They pulled him out of the stand and shoved him to the dirt, then tossed the remote to The Clown.
Mr. J turned brought the question back to the board. The answer, still water. He clicked on another button hidden underneath, and another answer popped up; Pride.
The clown laughed, so hard that he started choking on something. Saliva maybe because he spit a bunch of it out next to the kid’s face. When The Clown squatted, the men pulled the kid to his butt.
“Word to the wise, Riddle Man. If ya gonna cheat, best not cheat someone smarter than you.”
The kid’s face was redder than the paint around The Clown’s mouth, and he was breathing dangerously fast—for good reason, though. He’d heard stories of him killing people for far less than what he just did. Then, the tears came. But the brave boy held his tongue and kept looking straight, caging that fear as much as he could.
“Oh, no, no, no. Don’t cry, boy, we’ll make it quick. You won’t even feel it.” The Clown ruffled the young man’s hair. “I mean, yeah, we’ll rough you up a bit, first. But we don’t mess around when it comes to the good stuff.” He pointed to the taller one, “Jimbo here has a stick that’ll knock a man’s head clean off his neck.” Mr. J snapped his fingers next to his head and clicked his tongue. “Like that.”
Still, the young boy didn’t budge. If it were up to him, those damn tears would’ve stayed put. He was scared, yeah—fucking terrified, but he wouldn’t show it.
“What’s your name, kid?”
“Nigma. Edward Nigma.”
“Well, Edward Nigma. Riddle Man. You almost got me. Almost.” The Clown wagged his long finger in front of Nigma’s face. “But I got you first.” The Clown ruffled his hair again, then stood. “Take him in those woods there and make it quick.” He turned and took two steps before laughter overcame him. The Clown became so hysterical, he bent over, resting his hands on his knees, coughing and spitting some more. “Wait, wait, wait,” he told his men. “Oh, I’m gonna piss myself.” It took him a minute to calm down, catching his breath and holding his heart.
“Boss?” The shorter one asked as they held the helpless boy below them.
Mr. J returned, still giggling. “Boy! You. Are. A. Riot.” He showed those yellow teeth and blew his rotten breath in Nigma’s face. He grabbed the young man’s shoulders and lifted him to his feet. “Nigma, you say?”
Nigma nodded. “Yes, Sir.”
“Edward Nigma. E-Nigma. Enigma.” Mr. J roared again, then put his arm around the boy, walking him away from the two men. “Oh boy, you are special. Really. Your goddamn name’s a puzzle. HAH! I could use a guy like you on my team. These riddles here, you come up with them on your own?”
The Clown pulled a playing card out of his front pocket and gave it to the boy. “Here’s my card. Keep in touch, won’t ya?”
The Clown released Nigma, then grabbed the stuffed bat from the booth. “Let’s skedaddle,” he called his goons over, and they left the area.
The boy turned the card over, and it was a joker.
-M. Sydnor Jr. Copyright © 2019