"What the hell is going on?"
"I don't know, and I don't want to know"
The boys turned around at once and dashed off. It didn't matter where to, just as far as it took to shake this weirdo off and find another way out.
The tall man clicked with his tongue, clearly irritated.
"Now, now, how rude. Don't you ignore me."
He tapped the ground twice with his cane, then pointed with it at the teenagers. The little macabre minions at his feet twitched and started to chase after them. Despite their clumsy movements they were surprisingly fast, and soon they caught up to the boys. The plushies jumped at them, clinging to the feet and crawling all over the bodies, slowing them down effectively. The little buggers were light, but hindered every movement and obstructed the view with their paws in front of the face. Any attempt to shake them off was futile, they clung too tight to the body. Mike managed to grip a teddy and pull strong enough to tear off it's back, but once it fell off another one jumped at him, clinging even tighter.
Another bunch of plushies arrived carrying 4 old chairs and ropes, and a moment later the teenagers were sitting in a row - each in their chair and tied to it tight. René laughed amused at the sight in front of him. Kyle and Nathan looked terrified, Lenny was about to cry and Mike's face was twisted in anger.
"The hell you want from us, you creepy old geezer!?" He barked.
"I know you don't have tickets, but worry not! It's been forever since we had any guests, and I'm in a good mood tonight, sooo... you can stay here for free~! And as a bonus-..."
He raised his cane high in the air and then pointed at the boys.
"-you will be the main attraction!"
He had an ominous gleam in the eyes. His face twisted in a creepy toothy grin, like a predator at their cornered prey. They gulped having a bad feeling. René chuckled and tilted his hat.
"Pardon me, but before I introduced myself I was watching you from the shadows. I noticed you came here to prove some sort of bravery by entering the haunted house this late at night. Oh, how quaint! But why wasting time with this baby act?"
He twirled his cane as he approached them a few steps closer, then supported himself with it as he leaned forward. He grinned in that creepy way again.
"Why don't you prove how 'brave' you really are?"
This sent a chill through their spines.
"I can see it in your eyes. Your deepest fears, your nightmares, your phobias! Oh, this will be a good show!"
Monsieur Loyal turned around, spreading his arms wide, as if giving a speech to an invisible audience.
"Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls! Welcome to Carnivale du Macabre! Tonight's main attraction... four adolescent lads proving their courage! Will they be victorious in the end? Let's watch them struggle! Let's laugh over their misery! Enough of the speeches, the show is about to start!"
The creepy plushies gathered around them responded with an applause. The lights went out, then a spotlight illuminated one of the teenagers. It was Lenny.
"Act number one! A severe case of claustrophobia! I'll title it... 'The loser in a box'"
"Wait, wha? No, what are you going to do? S-stop!" His face turned pale.
Lenny started to struggle in his seat, when the plushies lifted his chair up and followed the selfproclaimed ringmaster to an unknown location. The other plushies picked up the three remaining teenagers and followed right behind. Remaining ragged minions ran around making noise while shaking with tambourines, bells, cymbals, rattles and drums. Mike could swear there's more of them than before.
"What the fuck? Just what the fuck!?" Mike shouted in disbelief.
René cut in short and waved with his hand. A plush bunny climbed up to Mike's lap, and slapped him in the cheek with a dirty plush carrot it was carrying. When Mike opened his mouth to throw more profanities at the bunny, it just gagged him with the carrot. The others were too terrified to say a word the whole time.
Rene hummed as he lead the odd parade behind him, his hands holding the cane behind his back, his steps slow. The colorful lights turned on in front of them, and went off when they passed.
"And here we are, at stage one!"
They stopped inside a shabby building, which looked like it would collapse soon. The minions stopped to play and the bunny pulled the carrot out of Mike's mouth. He coughed and spat to the side, feeling a nasty fatertaste.
"W-What is this p-place?"
Lenny stuttered looking at René, who was busy with opening a heavy, sturdy door with a big padlock.
"It's a place just perfect for people like you~"
He chuckled and took his hat off, put his hand inside and pulled out a mouse plushy. It saluted and opened a zipper on it's belly revealing the stuffing, rummaged inside it's fluffy guts and pulled out a brass key, matching the big padlock at the door. Rene put his hat on, took the key and dropped the mouse on the ground. It made a squeaky noise when he kicked it to the side. He twirled the key on his finger and nodded with his head towards the dark room behind him. The minions untied Lenny and threw him inside. The man slammed the door shut and locked it with a loud clang of the padlock.
He leaned against the wall, playing with his cane in the hand, visibly amused, meanwhile Lenny got a panic attack. The room was small, dark, stuffy and with no other exits nor windows, aside a tiny, dirty square window in the door, which was the only source of light. He felt like he was going to suffocate. Coughing and crying he banged at the door with his fists, begging to let him out. The others gulped and shivered hearing their friend's screams from inside.
"What the hell is your problem, man??? Get him out of there at once, you psycho!"
Rene ignored Mike's yelling and tapped at the door with his cane.
"Hey there, enjoying your stay? Oh, did I mention before that this room is special? Well, you see... the walls there move closer bit by bit."
There was a moment of silence, before the fear took over him stronger than before. He started to scream and hit ahainst the door louder.
"What the... some trick room? Why would they even have that..." Kyle was shaking in his seat, his face pale.
"Lenny! Don't listen to him! He's lying! It's just some stupid locker room, it's not moving at all!"
Mike tried to calm the boy after spotting a rusty shield on the ground saying "storage room", that probably fell off some time ago. But Lenny couldn't hear him over his own cries. He started to wheeze and scratch the door feeling like everything moves closer by the second, his panic attack getting worse. Rene just laughed.
"Ah, yes! This is so amusing, isn't it?"
He looked at the three teenagers, but they had mixed feelings. Kyle and Nathan looked terrified, Mike was boiling with rage.
"What?" Rene raised his hands in an innocent gesture.
"Isn't it fun to see others in such miserable state? Isn't it fun to see peoples accidents? Don't you laugh when someone slips on a banana peel, hits a finger by a hammer or runs into a tree? Especially when someone is scared by a prank? Look, he's in pain and weeping like a baby~ Why don't you laugh now?"
"It's not the same thing, you fool! It's-... stupid accidents are funny, but it's different when you traumatize or torture someone!" Mike shouted at him.
"Laugh." Rene ordered, unfazed.
"I said LAUGH!"
René lost his patience and exploded, raising his voice.
They all shivered at this sudden change. The tall man in front of them looked devilish, with his face twisted in anger.
"This is a place...
René's grip on the cane tightened, as he spoke trough the teeth. The air around him seemed to darken and wave a bit, his eyes gleamed ominously. The plushies started to shake in fear and hid behind the chairs. The boys felt like it's a bad idea to oppose that man and forced a twisted smile and a vague laugh, all the while Lenny was panicking in the closed room, knocking at the little window.
"Heeee... hehehehe AHAHAHA AH-HAHAHA"
René's mood changed and soon he bursted with laughter.
"Oui! Wonderful, we all have fun-..." He clapped his hands.
"...but the show must go on! And you're next!"
Rene pointed with his cane at Nathan.