‘The Smiling Child’ is a horror story from Rhys Clarke, illustrated by Hollie Joiner. It’s the third story from our Halloween series: Five Nights of Horror.
It all started with a dream. Well, at least, that’s what I thought it was back then.
In this dream, I saw a child, standing alone in a vast field full of pretty flowers. The child looked so happy, smiling broadly, his face flushed with excitement.
Now I’m an artist and I knew as soon as I saw the child: I had to capture his happiness. I worked for days on a portrait of the boy, until it was perfect. I called my piece The Smiling Child.
The thing is: it didn’t end there. The Smiling Child came again and again, night after night. Although he was always wearing that same beautiful smile, I realised with growing horror that the scenes around him had changed. He was no longer standing in a field of flowers but now walked through piles of rubble and twisted charred metal. Crimson flames leap in excitement at his arrival and great oceans of bodies lay sprawled at his bare feet.
Through all this chaos and suffering, he smiles away. As if all this death and destruction was the funniest thing in the world.
Soon though, he was no longer confined to the night. He smiled at me across canvas after canvas, getting bigger and bigger.
After nine months of being haunted by visions and paintings of this boy, I snapped. I took the paintings and burnt them. As that awful smile burnt away, I felt relief fill my heart.
My wife went into labour the following night. After hours of screaming, my son was finally born. My wife looked so happy as she passed me the bundle of writhing flesh. I looked down. Horror gripped my heart as I stared into my son’s dark eyes.
No. No no no…
“Darling, isn’t that wonderful!” She said, her eyes glistening. “He’s smiling at you!”