QSFer Matt Doyle has a new queer horror book out (Bi, Gay, Lesbian): Coulrotopia.
When Coulroptopia—the world’s only circus where the performers are all animatronic clowns—comes to your town, you know you’re in for a show like no other. From the knife-throwing of The Juggla to the attempts to tame the monstrous Boozle, there’s something for everyone.
But when an accidental power outage sees the mechanical monstrosities loaded with a new, murderous AI, the screams turn from awe to fear. Now, a man on the run, a happy couple, and a handful of staff members are fighting just to survive the night.
So, sit back and enjoy the thrills, chills, and blood spills as these killer clowns take you through a mascot horror tale where death just became part of the show.
Warnings: Violence, clowns
“A robot clown show,” Rodney said, turning the ticket over in his hand. His tone was flat, but there was no mistaking the hint of incredulousness creeping in around the edges of the words. He raised his eyebrows and stared straight at his would-be date. “Really?”
“It’s more than that.” Dalton laughed. He stepped back and swept his arm aside like a ringmaster, and his movements became more and more over the top with each word. “Kendall and Kendall’s horrific spectacular brings you an experience only previously known in your worst nightmares. The thrills, spills, and kills of the circus have never been so extreme, and now, we’re coming to your town. So, join The Juggla and the crew for a night you’ll never forget at Coulrotopia. Strictly over 18s only.”
Rodney pulled his glasses forward, rubbed the bridge of his nose, and sighed. “I’ve seen the advert.”
“What? You’re not scared of clowns, are you?”
“No, I’m not scared of clowns.”
“Are you sure?” Dalton asked, moving towards Rodney in an exaggerated creep and singing a familiar tune.
Rodney smiled and batted Dalton’s hand away as he took a playful swipe at him. “Do you even know what you’re singing?”
“‘Entrance of the Gladiators’ by Julius Fučík,” he replied, then lunged forward and wrapped his arms around Rodney. “See? I do have some culture to me.”
Rodney studied Dalton. He was half Rodney’s size in muscle mass, with three times the length of hair. He didn’t have Rodney’s manners, preferring to wolf his food down with glee rather than savour the taste. The design on Dalton’s scraggly, sleeveless shirt was of the album cover from some loud band Rodney had never heard of, and his jeans were faded, but through age rather than intentional style. In short, he didn’t have the look, etiquette, taste, or dress sense Rodney generally looked for in a partner. Somehow, though, his sister-in-law had been right. Dalton was exactly what he needed.
Rodney brushed Dalton’s hair aside and gave him a kiss on the forehead. “You are intoxicating, you know that?”
Dalton snickered. “Intoxicating enough to get you to come to a cool killer clown show in a field? Well, a tent in a field.”
“When I said we should take in a show next time, I meant a stage play. Or some stand-up.”
“Oh, I know. And when it’s your turn to choose where we go, we can do that.” Dalton pressed his head to Rodney’s chest and added quietly, “I wanted us to do something that we can actually talk about while it’s happening.”
Rodney wasn’t particularly free with his emotions. If anything, he prided himself on being fairly reserved. But he wasn’t an idiot. He could tell from the tightening of Dalton’s arms there was more to this than he was saying. “Okay, it is your turn to choose. A tent in a field, huh?”
“That’s where circuses are usually held, yes. Oh, and there’s a mini-carnival attached.”
“Well, it’ll be one of my more interesting surprise dates. So , definitely not a shirt and tie type thing?”
Dalton shook his head, then looked up at Rodney and smiled. “Thank you.”
Laura scooted around The Juggla and gave a thick cluster of cables an experimental tug. Not hard enough to damage them, but just enough to hear the definite crackle that indicated at least one of them was loose. She gave him a tap on what was technically his bottom with her screwdriver and said, “There you are.”
The Juggla was the first robot she’d built, in many different forms. First, as a little junk model as a kid. Then, as a bigger kid, she built him again from building bricks and gave him a tiny engine to make his arms move up and down. When she became a teenager, he was the primary focus of her art and design and technology projects. The first version of what sat before her in standby mode was built in university. That one was radio controlled rather than pre-programmed and monitored by the computer.
“You’re still the same lovable guy, though,” she mused, forcing the last screw loose and opening up a flap. She started testing each connection, one by one, listening for the crackle again. Once she found it, she tightened everything and tested again, just to make double sure there wasn’t more than one. Satisfied, she started screwing his panel back in place.
“Rather you than me.”
Laura didn’t look up but carried on working the fiddly screws into place as she replied, “I’d rather me than you, too, given you know nothing about this kinda work.”
Steve Court snorted. “I meant having to touch”—he waved his hand towards the robot—“that.”
Laura shrugged and stood up. She moved around the front of the machine and made a show of starting a technically unnecessary, but at this moment very needed, inspection of The Juggla’s facial set-up. “He’s always been nice to me.”
“And the other ones?”
“They’re just machines. The Juggla is special.”
Steve rolled his eyes. “Yes, yes, he was your little fantasy protector when you were a child.”
Laura tapped a release switch and rotated The Juggla’s upper body so it was facing Steve. She didn’t bother to supress the grin that leaped to her face at the sight of his revulsion. “What do you want, Mr. Court?” she asked, resting an elbow on the robot’s shoulder.
“The ‘t ’ is silent,” he replied, but didn’t dare step closer to the machine. “I just wanted to check on the progress with the video game.”
“Not my department.”
“It’s all your department, Laura. You’re the primary owner of the business, not to mention the copyright holder for the assets. Our contract states your obligations quite clearly, and I for one would far rather see you making money.”
Laura crossed her arms. “Don’t act like you care about me, Steve. You only want to see profits increase so your take-home from it goes up.”
“But I do care about you, Laura.”
“Oh, cut the bullshit,” Laura yelled. “Let’s not pretend you didn’t screw someone behind my back. Or that you weren’t already trying to get back together with her when you came crawling back to me begging forgiveness. You only care about me when there’s something in it for you.”
For a moment, Steve looked shocked. Then, he cleared his throat, readjusted his tie, and said, “Yes. Well. We do have a contract, so…”
“Jerry is meeting me later during the show to go through what he’s been working on. When the game is ready, you’ll be given access so you can do what you do and manipulate your way into a profit with it.”
“And do I get to—”
Laura cut him off, stating flatly, “I’ll ask Jerry to update you directly.”
Steve nodded and walked away.
Laura watched him go, then grabbed The Juggla’s arm and gently extended it. She pointed the knife in his hand towards the shadows Steve had retreated into, looked at his toothy, metallic grin, and said, “Well, bud, I thought that went very well.”
Matt Doyle is a speculative fiction author from the UK and identifies as pansexual and nonbinary. Matt has spent a great deal of time chasing dreams, a habit which has led to success in a great number of fields. To date, this has included spending ten years as a professional wrestler, completing a range of cosplay projects, and publishing multiple works of fiction.
These days, Matt can be found working on multiple novels and stories, blogging about pop culture, and plotting and planning far too many projects.