It all started, as it always did, in the park. Birds were singing their sweetly sung songs, while the sun shone not so slightly upon the sappish sprouts of Bermuda grass. Two children, brother and sister, who happened to have had the express pleasure of staying up late to watch their favourite television program, They Came From The Sky, the night before, were playing quietly underneath an ancient oak tree.
The ten year old boy, Julius, sneezed. "Oh, no, I seem to have a mucilaginous substance coming out of my nose," he said, holding up his handkerchief as proof.
His sister, who's name was Dalenna Theresa and whose friends called her Dal, happened to be four years younger than Julius, and so was confused by some of the words he spoke. "Julius? What's mucilaginous mean?"
He poked his tongue out at her. "Stay in character, dummy! I'm the bigshot alien hunter and you're my assistant. And my name isn't Julius- it's Elias, remember? And you're Quenne."
"I remember that," she replied, sticking her tongue right back out at him. "And I'm not a dummy."
Julius stuck his hands in his ears and wiggled them around in response. "Then what does mucilaginous mean?"
Dal pouted. "I don't know."
"It means snot, dummy. Can we continue now? And don't interrupt this time." Julius was looking very annoyed, and Dal thought that she would listen to him- this time.
"Do you think the mu- the mucilack- the mooses- Oh! Do you think the snot has something to do with the aliens we're hunting?"
"Maybe, Quenne. Maybe. I think they might be trying to take over the world by infecting everyone with some sort of zymotic disease."
Dal frowned. She didn't know what zymotic disease meant- maybe it was a cold- and knew that Julius didn't know either. He only said it because the night before, on They Came From The Sky, the man had said the aliens were going to invade and kill everyone through zymotic diseases.
It didn't matter if she knew it or not, for right then a clown, his face painted half gray and half white, waltzed up to them. "Hello. I'm called Fear. And what are your names?"
Julius looked at Dal. "I'm Elias. And this is Quenne," he lied. Rule number one; never talk to strangers. But Julius had always been the type of little boy who bent the rules on occasion. It was alright to talk to this stranger, because he didn't know their real names. And he was a clown, anyway. If little children can't trust clowns, who can they trust?
"Well, hello there. Such odd names. And for such little people." Suddenly Fear spotted the handkerchief Julius still held. "Do you have a cold, Elias?"
"No, he's got a zymotic disease. The tv said so," Dal offered.
Fear raised a painted eyebrow. "The tv said that? Really? Well, then we should rush him to the doctor's right away. And I know just the one."
Before they knew it, they were standing in a waiting room. All around, clowns with all sorts of injuries hung around, some literally. Dal edged closer to Julius; these weren't like normal clowns. They seemed different. There, in their eyes, a glint of something that wasn't supposed to be there...
"The doctor will see you now," said a nurse, her face painted blue and her orange hair teased up. She smiled, and two incisors gleamed from within her mouth amongst the rows of teeth.
The children smiled back nervously and followed Fear to an examining room, where the doctor was finishing up with another clown. Julius followed more reluctantly, and Dal remembered that he didn't like doctors much, especially when he had to get his shots.
"Ack! You look like a yapock! I'm exiling you from my offices- you might be contagious," this flamboyant doctor was saying.
"Agh, haberdashy," the clown muttered, stomping out of the room. "I'm not paying you this time, Doctor!"
"Well, so long as you recommend me to all your friends!" the doctor called to the retreating clown. He only got another mutter in reply. The doctor sighed and turned his attention to Fear and the children. "Oh, hello Fear. How might you be doing on this fine day? And who are these children? From whence did they come?"
"These children are Elias and Quenne, fierce alien hunters. Elias here has a zymotic disease."
Julius stared at Fear, who prattled on endlessly to the doctor, who was trying to get Julius to stop staring at the clown so he could examine him. Dal was staring at the doctor. He reminded her more of a mad scientist than a normal doctor- he even had the white lab coat and the black gloves and the Eastern accent.
"A zymotic disease, did you say? How perfectly primeval! Did you get it by drinking bilge-water?" the doctor asked, checking Julius throat with a giant popsicle stick.
"No, the aliens gave it to him," Dal said. She frowned. "What did you say your name was again?"
"I didn't say it the first time. But it's Dr. Quaak. Say 'Ah', Elias."
"Ah-ha! I have found the problem. You do indeed have a zymotic disease. In fact, you have the zymotic disease. We'll have to call Big Brother."
Fear nodded. "Ah yes, Big Brother. By all means, do it."
Julius squirmed and glanced at Fear. "Who's Big Brother?"
"We already have a Big Brother- Ju-er, Elias here," Dal interjected.
Dr. Quaak smiled. "Not a Big Brother. The Big Brother. And your big brother will have to get a shot."
Julius' eyes went wild. "The government. The man on the tv said that sometimes the government is called Big Brother. And they want to give me a shot!" he wailed.
"It's ok. I got my shots last year, and I got a lollipop afterwards."
Fear smiled. "Yes, you'll get a lollipop afterwards, just like your brave sister here."
"No! No shots." Julius was adamant.
Just then two men dressed in black suits and big black fedoras waltzed in, walking at break neck speed. "We heard a report that there was a little boy who had the zymotic disease? It had better be true; we were pulled from an alien bust over at the brewery," said one. His voice had a sleepy, calming tone.
"This one, right here," Fear pointed. "His name is Julius. That's his sister Daleena Theresa over there."
The children stared at the clown. They had never told him their names. Was he psychic?
"Oh, didn't you know that I can read your thoughts and emotions?" Fear asked with a sadistic smile. "I am, after all, the manifestation of both your fears. It's why I'm called Fear."
Julius gaped at Fear. Apparently this sort of thing was unheard of, at least to him. Dal dealt with it and was quickly over it; therefore, she saw the needle that the government men had prepared. "Julius, look out!"
He turned in time to see the second man, who looked very strangely like Alex Trebek, plunge the needle into his upper arm. A second later, he writhed in pain on the floor. Dal gasped, then tugged on his other arm and pulled him to his feet.
"You are getting sleepy. Your eyelids feel very heavy," the second one said to her.
She shook her head to clear it of the drowsiness she felt. "No, I'm fully awake. My eyelids feel normal."
Fear frowned and snapped his fingers. Suddenly there was a guillotine sitting in the center of the room. "Meseiurs MiB, your methods are not working. Shall I suggest that I expunge them?"
"Our pleasure," the goverment men replied in unison. They knew when it was time to send in the clowns- though some would argue that by sending in the MiB's, the clowns had already been sent.
Dal's eyes widened as she began to fully understand what the men were going to do to her and her brother. "Stupid government," she muttered, tugging a very sluggish Julius out of the room and beginning to run (even if it meant dragging him by an arm).
She heard Fear call out behind her, "Oh, c'mon, be a fair sport. We were only trying to end your puny existance and help along the government conspiracy! You know you can't run from the government, and you certainly can't run from your own fears. I shall follow you to the ends of time if I must. You know too much! You will be silenced!"
Dal ignored him and kept pulling her brother along behind her. Passing the waiting room, she opened the door and stepped out into broad daylight, then decided she could risk a glance backwards. She hadn't been going too fast, but oddly enough she wasn't being followed. And then there was that strange gray mist that was beginning to creep up... peculiar, but she hadn't noticed it there before.
"Julius? C'mon, Julius, you've got to wake up. I can't drag you all the way back home. They'll catch us both!" She tried slapping him, but it didn't work until the third time she repeated the action.
"Ugh. Dal? What's going on?" he asked, dazedly looking around.
"What's going on? We've got to run from Fear and the evil Dr. Quaak and their Big Brother's minions. Get up!" she shrieked at him.
"Dal? I think you've had a little too much sugar for one day. What do you say we go home and we'll read a nice book. And then maybe if we beg, Mother will let us watch an episode of They Came From The Sky. I hear it's a very good show."
"You don't remember what we were just through? And don't you remember we watched the show last night?" She sighed. "Of course you don't. Those evil government men must've given you a shot to make you forget."
"What?" Julius scoffed. "That's crazy talk. Come on, let's go home."
Dal sighed again. "All right," she said, allowing herself to be led down the path that would take them back home. She looked over her shoulder- once more, just to be sure, she told herself. There, over the next ridge where the strange mist had parted, was a gray and white faced clown. Fear. He waved with one hand while butterflies flocked to his other, and she shuddered, remembering his parting words. You can't run from your own fears. Dal shook her head, as if to clear the thought from it, and, looking down the path Julius was leading her down, the path to her future, swore to herself she'd never look back for Fear.