Mausen Hausen

📅 Published on January 13, 2022

“Mausen Hausen”

Written by Nick Carlson
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 10.00/10. From 3 votes.
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Just looking at the faded poster-board sign made me feel sick.

From the looks of their website (which looked like it had been created on a Macintosh), Mausen Hausen was a cheap, German-themed Disney World rip-off amusement park that popped up seasonally repurposing what was an airsoft range the rest of the year. I was no linguistic scholar, but I guessed that the place’s name, “Mausen Hausen,” was poorly translated German from the English “The Mouse House.” the dubious declension, I surmised, was to avoid lawsuit-level comparisons to the already-existing “House of Mouse” T.V. show on the Disney Channel. Even the theme park’s mascot, a cartoonish rodent clad in knee-high socks and lederhosen, could have been Mickey’s long-lost (and genetically deficient) Bavarian cousin.

However, this unbearably negative attitude couldn’t trump the actual reason I had for being there. I needed a job.

It was late September, my first autumn out of college, and my parents had given me until the end of the summer to find a steady source of income. I had my four-year degree, which meant my immediate prospects were about as high as a snail’s trail. If only I’d stayed in school a while longer and pushed for that Master’s, I guess.

But no, not even unpaid internships wanted someone like me. It became necessary to broaden my horizons a bit…even into the more, shall we say, undignified depths of employment.

Besides being a seasonal attraction, Mausen Hausen was due to close down in mid-December until the following fall. Once winter rolled around, I’d be free from its kitschy curse, but then I’d have to find another place to work. Maybe there’d be a Portuguese Dollywood rip-off in the spring waiting for me.

Swallowing my pride, I stepped through the gates and made my way to the front office.

The park wasn’t due to open to the public in a week, so there was a stripped, unfinished look to my surroundings: cinder blocks, sandbags, and trailers that had left deep tire gouges in the mud. The only way I could deduce the front office from the rest of the trailers was the conspicuous hand-scrawled sign that stated, “Front Office.”

I walked up the three metal steps and knocked on the door. It rattled on its hinges with a plasticky thunk. For a moment, it was silent, but as I raised my knuckles again, a bored voice from within muttered, “Come in.”

I entered the trailer, lit by a scattering of desk lamps and groaning with an ancient air conditioning unit. The man at the desk was paunchy and sunken-eyed, his dozen or so remaining strands of hair greased neatly over his scalp. He didn’t acknowledge me until I took an uneasy seat across from him.

“You here for work?” he grunted.

“Yes, sir,” I replied, a reluctant lump in my throat.

“Name,” he said, beady eyes swiveling to his laptop.

“Taylor Warren,” I said.

His jaw hung slack as he noisily typed away. I couldn’t help but stare at his fingertips, black and grimy with cigarette ash. There was a squeezing pain in my lungs I couldn’t place – until I realized I had instinctively held my breath upon entering. I allowed myself to inhale. The odor wasn’t as bad as I’d assumed. Still, nowhere I’d like to spend a night, however.

“Taylor Warren?” he finally said, pulling up my file.

“Yes…” I answered.

“Mmm.” He click-clacked at the keyboard for a minute more. The lack of conversation gave me time to reflect on the application submitted a week prior. It was the typical fare: no, I was never arrested for kiddy-fiddling, no, I had never been fired from a job before (implying I had even held a formal job before this one), yes, I could lift at least twenty-five pounds. All too familiar for the professional job-hunter.

The man sniffled gratingly. “Can you lift at least twenty-five pounds?”

“Yes,” I said, the back of my neck prickling with irritation.

“You ever touched any children?”

“No.” I couldn’t entirely hide my welling anger that time.

He didn’t seem to notice, however. He jabbed the ENTER key and turned to face me. “Alright, then. You’ll be one of our W.O.Ds, that’s ‘Worker On Duty.’ Your responsibilities will be frontline upkeep around the park, including but not limited to waitering, sanitation, and low-grade maintenance. We will provide a uniform for you. Always remember to put on a happy face in front of our guests. You are the face of Mausen Hausen. Do you have any questions for me?”

“Not at the moment,” I said, knowing full well I couldn’t ask the questions I really wanted to.

“I will see you next week at seven a.m.,” he said, turning back to his laptop. “Head straight to this trailer upon arrival for your first assignment. It was nice meeting you, Tony.”

“Yeah,” I mumbled, not bothering to correct him. I sighed, trudging through the dirt back to my car outside the gates. The sun outside was blinding as I departed the stuffy trailer.

And they say you can’t find work in this economy, I thought sardonically.

* * * * * *

The following week, at the buttcrack of dawn, I walked through the gates towards the same trailer. It had been given a fresh paint job, now the same brown-and-white European village aesthetic of the newly-erected buildings beyond it. I could see down Mausen Hausen’s equivalent of Main Street. The various shops, restaurants, and attractions sported lawns of astroturf and gardens of larkspurs: various other employees, some in-character, others in janitorial attire, bustled in and out of sight. An upbeat polka piped from hidden speakers in the facades.

Everything looked like it was made of cardboard-like you could breathe on it, and it’d come flopping down. The air smelled of soil, fried food, and industry. I wondered just what this place had up its sleeve to keep children entertained. I worried more for the poor parents who’d be shanghaied into bringing their kids here.

I entered the trailer again, and Mr. Greaseball was there on his laptop again. It took him another minute to notice my presence.

“Your uniform’s in that box over there. Look for your name,” he said, gesturing to a plastic container behind me. I rooted through the shrink-wrapped plastic bags until I found “Warren, Taylor.” Ripping it open, I found a simple brown tunic to go over my typical day clothes. Pulling it over my head, it fits me like a sackcloth.

“Your first block, eight to noon, will be at the schnitzel restaurant in the town square,” Mr. Greaseball explained. He handed me a packet of papers. “Take these to the L.O.D., that’s ‘Leader On Duty’ by the way, outside the building. They’ll give you the run-through before you start. Remember your happy face.”

“Thanks,” I said hesitantly, taking the packet and exiting the trailer. I headed down Main Street, shuffling through the papers. A warranty. A W-9. A mission statement. Finally, a map. I located the schnitzel restaurant in the “town square,” reading its name aloud.


I groaned, kicking a pebble as I lumbered off.

* * * * * *

Schnitzkrieg was a greasy, smoky cholesterol-pit, where each menu item consisted of various forms of burnt meat on sticks, plus unlimited refills of fountain drinks. Breathing the same air seemed to make my arteries clog, and my teeth ache, and that was all before the crowds showed up. Upon their arrival, I suddenly felt like I was swimming through bodies, maneuvering past screaming children and flying food. Within thirty minutes, my tunic was caked in various stains and dribblings. Looking out at the packed restaurant, with the manic children and stoic parents, was like some artistic optical illusion meant to drive onlookers insane slowly.

My only duties during my first block were bussing and mopping the occasional spill, which ensured there was never a relaxing moment. Within an hour, I swore the place was conspiring against me, a hydra sprouting two more messes each time I tended to one. The sounds of screaming and laughing children became grinding static in my head, leaving scarce room for my mind to wander. It was commitment: cold, grueling, sheer commitment to a thankless job that just had to be done.

Time flew, although when twelve rolled around, I was achy and irritable and famished. I emerged from the restaurant, the smell following me like a shadow, the sunlight blinding me once more. Children still screamed outside, but the open space ensured it was much more petite piercing.

A gaggle of boys ran past me. A voice in my head (sounding a lot like Mr. Greaseball) reminded me of my “happy face,” and I smiled at them. They laughed, pointing in my direction before sprinting off. I scowled. Was it my smile? Was it my messy tunic? Was it just the tunic?

I rounded the building into an alleyway to hunker down in solitude and eat my lunch. I was a college graduate, the whole world ahead of me, but it had been a long time since I had ever felt so small.

* * * * * *

I had thirty minutes before my next assignment, so I took to milling around the park to see just what Mausen Hausen had to offer. It struck me as a scaled-down, lame version of Oktoberfest. I saw more of their mascot, named Klaus the Mouse, plastered over windows and painted on walls. There was live music, a petting zoo with pigs and geese, make-your-own-sausage booths, folk dance classes, and a Wild Mouse roller coaster (haha). At least they had a beer fountain for the adults. Otherwise, the park was surprisingly small, able to be exhausted of its attractions in maybe half a day at most. I wondered if I would even have been able to enjoy this place as a kid myself. Was this really all it had to offer?

The answer came right before I was due for my next assignment.

“Guten tag, kinder!” a voice boomed. I turned to look at the crowd of children and parents gathered around a wooden stage adorned with curtains. The mustachioed man with the microphone was wiry and jittery; I could see his bulging eyes and stained teeth from fifty feet away.

“Guten tag!” the kids in the audience shouted back.

My brow furrowed. Apparently, they were more privy to this place’s traditions than I’d thought. What all had I missed out on the last four years mired in academics?

“I hope you’re all enjoying this year’s opening day of Mausen Hausen!” the announcer yelled. “Let me hear some noooooise!”

The kids cheered in response.

“Now, I know why you’re all gathered here at this time,” he continued. “You came here to listen to me prattle on about the history of the park, right?”

The children went quiet.

“Or, you came here to see the man of the hour! Or should I say, the mouse of the hour!”

They exploded with cheers again.

“Well, I won’t keep you waiting any longer! Without further ado, here he is, the only critter on Earth who loves cheese and dances a mean Schuhplattler! Klaus the Mouse!”

And from behind the curtains bounded a…a thing.

The children seemed to love it, and the adults didn’t seem to react too strongly, but I actually leaned forward to get a better look. The creature? Entity? Whatever it was skipped to center stage and broke into a jig, tapping its feet, slapping its thighs and ankles.

My first thought was, Wow, no wonder the rest of the park looks half-assed. They dumped their budget into this ultra-realistic Klaus the Mouse puppet. But the longer I watched, the more I realized its movements were much too realistic- much too organic…for even the most convincing puppet.

An animatronic, then? Robotics had gone a long way in recent decades…but it sounded like I was only trying to reassure myself. That thing’s balance and fluidity were impeccable. That sort of technology should have appeared first in hospitals or the military…not this half-rate German Disneyland.

That only left a little person in a convincing costume. Yet, somehow, that explanation seemed just as implausible. There was something about its joints. Its fur. Its small, black, shiny eyes. The way the sun passed through its oversized ears, revealing brief flashes of blood vessels under its skin.

My jaw dropped. This, this thing-it was…real.

I had no idea how long its little dance went on for, but then it was bowing to the raucous crowds and skipping off behind the wings. “Wasn’t that a treat!” the announcer proclaimed. “If you want to see Klaus again, he’ll be back at 3:30 and 6:00 to dance and share what he has to say!”

The crowd dispersed. People shifted around me like river water flowing past a rock.

Were they not as dumbfounded as I was? As astounded that something like that creature existed and could walk among us? Why couldn’t they see that a living, breathing contradiction of everything we knew to be true and holy was in front of their faces??

“Hey, aren’t you supposed to start your one o’clock?” a sharp voice jabbed.

I snapped out of it; my L.O.D from Schnitzkrieg was scowling at me. “Where’s your next station? Check your packet.”

I rummaged my hands through my pockets, still in a daze. “I, uh…I don’t know…”

The L.O.D. whipped out a packet with a snap. “You just so happened to leave it at the restaurant. You’re supposed to be at the petting zoo now. Get moving.”

“What was that?” I mumbled, gesturing weakly at the empty stage.

“Klaus the Mouse,” the L.O.D. said impatiently. “You know, our mascot? On your way now. The hay isn’t going to sweep itself up.”

“But it’s real,” I insisted, forcing my tongue to work correctly.

The L.O.D. shook his head. “Klaus has been our icon for years now. He might as well be. Now, on your way.”

I took my packet back, too disoriented to argue further.

Although my next four hours were spent clearing the petting zoo’s walkway of straw and animal dung, Klaus danced that manic jig in my mind. The void of thought working at Mausen Hausen had suddenly become occupied by that…creature.

The stage was across the park from the petting zoo, but I still heard the music at 3:30 sharp.

I had to figure it out. I had to figure out where it came from, what it was all about. And, if possible, what, exactly, it was.

* * * * * *

As the rest of the week dragged on, I continued sneaking over to Klaus’s performances, each as joyously received as the first. He danced most of the time, but he took the microphone and spoke other times. His voice was chipper and bright, like a kid excited to tell Mom about his day. He told jokes, stories and even called on some of the kids to share what they liked most about Mausen Hausen. I watched each of these interactions with complete incredulity; witnessing these very real children seem to cross some unimaginable plane and reach out to this very real…thing, without a second’s worth of hesitation or foresight, did something to me.

The closest phrase I can conjure for what I felt was existential dread. The proper words, I knew, were something I couldn’t express.

But the more I watched, the more I figured out exactly what went on behind the curtain. Klaus would be accompanied by the mustachioed man to a golf cart covered in a black tarp, then shuttled off to a nondescript hut hidden behind the folk dance emporium. From the few times I glimpsed this process, the abode appeared unguarded…and unlocked. Trusting people, I mused. I never counted on an idiot like me popping in on their magical talking rodent.

The following Monday, the weekday when my calculations least crowded the evenings, would be the day. I’d stay in the park past the end of my shift and sneak over to that hut to do…something. Peer through the window. Creak the door open. Maybe even meet the mouse itself.

Anything to get to the bottom of this.

* * * * * *

The evening seemed to crash down on us that time of year. The crowds thinned quickly, and Klaus was wrapping up his final show for the day. As tired parents milled towards the exits, holding their jittery children’s hands, I watched them go through the window of the bratwurst shack I had been assigned to bus that afternoon. The restaurant had technically closed an hour earlier, but I had been instructed to lock up. No one had bothered to check otherwise.

Main Street was completely empty when I finally exited the shack and locked the door. One more scan confirmed I was alone: no guests, no other employees. I then hopped the white picket fence that sectioned off the backs of the buildings.

Unseen by the guests, the backside of the park’s buildings was made of bare wooden supports and scaffolding. Plastic fluttered in the breeze. The curated lawns and gardens gave away to trash-strewn dirt. The festive music from the park’s interior took on a muted, ghostly warble. It was like crossing the tracks to the wrong side of town.

I could almost see the daylight fading into inky night as I crept forward to the back of the dance emporium. Klaus never struck me as “scary” on his own…but the path leading up to him filled me with some cold, subtle, loathsome sensation.

His little hut was scarcely the size of a typical kitchen. It boasted a cottage aesthetic complete with a smoking chimney that otherwise would have been “cute.” It almost seemed…homey. Like they had gone the extra mile to make this thing live comfortably.

As I approached the front door, I saw I’d have to duck to move around within it. I bent my trembling knees and raised a shaky fist at the door.

Knock, knock.

“Come in!” a voice chirped.

I gulped and opened the door.

The interior was pastel-colored wood, lit with the warm glow of old-fashioned lanterns mounted on the walls. A tiny nook to my right was the kitchen, a pot of boiling water emitting steam up a vent. A bed, the size of a crib, sat to my left, complete with a scaled-down dresser drawer.

And ahead of me, a small armchair sat in front of an old-fashioned television blaring with the bright colors and sounds of cartoons. The chair’s back was to me, but I could see its occupant’s hairy, noodly arm poking out its side.

After a moment of silence, Klaus the Mouse turned in his seat to take a look at me.

“Oh, hello!” he said. “I haven’t had you visit me before. You work here, right?”

Words failed me. I never knew reality could bludgeon me so hard…but Klaus the Mouse was sitting right there. I almost couldn’t look at him; my eyes were rejecting what lay so plainly in front of them. The moisture was lining his eyes. The a slight twitch in his cheek. Even the way his body heaved slightly with each breath. Nothing about him screamed “fake.”

His smile faltered slightly. He seemed to sense my unease. “Are you alright, friend? Do you need me to fetch one of our medics?”

“No,” I gasped. “No…no. I’m okay. It’s just…” Now that I knew he was real, my mind jumped to another planet of possibilities. A spirit incarnate. A genetic experiment. Some long-lost species…

“You look faint,” said Klaus, springing from his seat. “Here, take my chair. I fear if you collapse in my house, I won’t be strong enough to drag you out!”

I obeyed the talking mouse and shuffled over to his tiny armchair. It creaked under my weight, and the armrests squashed my sides, but somehow it held. Klaus was at eye level with me now, his hands folded behind his back. It astonished me how his cartoonish features – the overlarge head, tubular limbs, upturned extended snout – seemed almost natural. Literally, one of those old rubber hose characters made flesh.

“Can I get you some cheese?” said Klaus, strolling over to his kitchen. “Afraid all I have is butterkäse. But I’m sure you’ll like it…yes sir, that’s the stuff…”

“Apologies if I sound rude,” I stammered, knowing there was no way not to sound rude. “But…what exactly are you?”

“Ah-ha-ha-haaaa!” He appeared next to me with a platter of yellowish, porous cheese. “I’m a mouse, of course! I mean, look at me! I got the ears. I got the whiskers. I got the…oh no…wait a minute!” He spun around, revealing a ribbony tail poking from the seat of his lederhosen. “Oh, there’s my tail. It looks like I do have all the right parts!” He laughed again, holding out the platter. “Here ya go, friend!”

I hesitantly took a piece of cheese but simply held it as I continued to stare. “I mean, like…where did you come from? How did you get here?”

“Well, I walked here, silly.” He clicked his heels. “You think I wear these shoes just for show?”,

“No no, no, that’s not what I meant,” I sputtered. My brain was a rolling pile of marbles, unable to clump together. “I mean…were you born? Were you created? Summoned? What?”

“Ah, my friend, those are silly questions.” He sat down on the floor next to me, turned towards the T.V. “As far as I’m concerned, I’m with Mausen Hausen, and I couldn’t imagine a better place to be.”

I sighed. Somehow I knew he was being serious, even if he was also naiïve. “Okay, how about this…what’s the earliest thing you can remember? Think back.”

Klaus went silent, and at first, I thought he hadn’t heard me. Then…

“I can’t say. I’ve been performing and entertaining here as far back as I care to go.”

“Can you remember a time before Mausen Hausen?”

He shook his head, his ears flopping. “Nope.”

“Well…what about when Mausen Hausen shuts down for the season?” I pressed. “Surely you have to go somewhere during that time.”

He went silent again. “…What do you mean, ‘shuts down?’’’

“Mausen Hausen is a seasonal attraction,” I explained. “It’s only around for three or four months a year. After that, they deconstruct everything, and this whole place turns back into an airsoft range.”

His eyes narrowed like a kid contemplating a word problem. “Mausen Hausen…goes away?”

“Yeah. December to August.”

“So…” His gaze dropped. “…Where do I go?”

“I don’t know,” I answered with a shrug. “You tell me.”

Klaus twirled his finger on the carpet. I watched him, holding my breath, waiting for an answer.

“Have you ever even left the park?” I continued.

Klaus shook his head again. “Why would I? This is all I am.” He frowned. “…is it?”

“That’s what we’re trying to figure out here,” I said softly.

Klaus stood up, still gazing at the floor. “All I want is to make children happy…they come to me, and I deliver…are there more children? More places to go? How many children out there haven’t heard my name?”

I didn’t respond. He wandered over to his kitchen, the spring gone from his step. “Is this right? Is my life bound to Mausen Hausen? What…what more is there?” His eyes glazed over as he reached for the pot of boiling water. “What am I supposed to do?”

The piece of cheese in my hand had become molten. “I…I didn’t mean any of that,” I insisted, twisting around to look at him. “I just wanted to know…I just…”

Distracted and zoned out, Klaus dragged the pot a little too far off the burner.

Steaming water spilled from the overturned pot across the tile. I remember gasping, jumping to my feet and hitting my head against the low ceiling, but I don’t remember the actual drop. All I know is that one moment everything was fine…an instant later, Klaus was on the floor, wailing, his hand and leg scalded.

“Shit!” I cried. “Klaus! Are you okay?”

Klaus continued to sob, scooting away from the boiling puddle and curling into a protective stance. “Stay put, Klaus! I’ll get help!” I made my way for the tiny doorway, straightening once I hit the cold outside air, and sprinted around the dance emporium towards Main Street.

A stitch flared in my side as I ran. The saccharine folk music continued to blare through the empty park. The buildings were shadowy and imposing as if their dark windows were black eyes judging me.

“Help! Someone help!” I shouted. But all that responded was the fleeting ring of my voice bouncing off the walls.

I sped up. There was only one person in the park I could rightfully assume was still in his place.

I caught him just in time outside his trailer. “Sir!” I called out, skidding to a stop. “Excuse me, sir…Klaus is hurt!”

“Hurt?” “How so?” Mr. Greaseball said.

“A pot of boiling water spilled on him,” I gasped. “He’s burned badly.”

“How do you know this?” he said. “Were you trying to visit him?”

“I…I was just…”

“You’re not one of his handlers, so you’re not supposed to talk to Klaus,” Mr. Greaseball snapped. “You’re not even supposed to be on the premises right now. Get out and go home. Now.”

I stuttered, but Mr. Greaseball turned and lumbered off towards the dance emporium, barking into a walkie-talkie.

I turned and stumbled out of the park gates in a gravid daze. I spent the rest of the night sitting sleeplessly in my room, my throat locked up with shame, confusion, defiance. What just happened? A simple question had never seemed so imposing, so laden with consequence and implication:

* * * * * *

I showed up for work the next day. Mr. Greaseball was waiting for me.

“You. Inside.” He pointed to his trailer.

I sighed and followed him in, sitting across his desk.

“We were able to treat Klaus’s injuries,” he said, not looking at me. “But he’s still in a lot of pain. He won’t be able to perform at all for today at least.”

“I’m sorry,” I croaked.

“What were you doing at Klaus’s hut anyway?”

“I just wanted to…to see him…”

“Is that all?”

I hesitated, then nodded.

“The way Klaus says it,” Mr. Greaseball growled, “you talked about some pretty deep topics. Distressing topics.”

“I…I mean…I was just trying to…”

“Klaus has been our mascot for years,” he cut in. “He’s a beacon of absolute good, the unspoiled fantasy of children. You can’t just barge in and poison him with your thoughts.”

“I didn’t know!” I protested. “I mean…how was I supposed to know he’d react that way!”

“He’s not just in pain,” he interrupted again. “He’s upset. He’s asking questions he has no right asking.”

I found my voice. “Okay! Listen to me! What is Klaus! I get Klaus is your mascot, but that’s a character! Mickey Mouse is a character! SpongeBob is a character! But none of those guys walk around in the flesh! How and why does your mascot get to have that distinction?!”

Mr. Greaseball shook his head. “If I knew, kid, I wouldn’t tell you.”

“Then who does know! I want to talk to them!”

He stood up. “I was hoping it wouldn’t go both ways. But now you’re getting into the questions you have no right asking.”

“You’re hiding something!” I shouted, standing likewise. “You’re hiding what he is and where he came from! What is he! What did you do!”

“You don’t know what we have. We don’t know what we have. You continue to push the limits. You’ll dig up something ugly.”

“There are no limits here except the ones you’ve set down! You can’t keep pushing away the truth!”

“Your employment is terminated,” said Mr. Greaseball. “You’re a negative influence on Klaus and an inappropriate fit for Mausen Hausen. Please turn in your uniform.”

“You all are sick! Sick lying bastards!” I tore my tunic off and threw it in a ragged heap on his desk.

Surprisingly, Mr. Greaseball frowned. “That’s not fair.”

I stormed out of his trailer, slamming the door shut behind me. “‘That’s not fair?’” I repeated out loud. “Fairness” be damned. None of those basic pleasantries mattered in the face of what I had seen.

* * * * * *

Naturally, my parents were upset that I’d lost my job after one week. They didn’t want to hear about Mausen Hausen’s living, sentient mascot, nor how I had engaged in an existential conversation with him, brief as it was. I wanted to tell them I could become an award-winning journalist by breaking a story about a walking talking mouse. But instinct Speaking of which, my attempts at Googling Klaus yielded no useful information. I got an article in the local paper about the park reopening and Mausen Hausen’s archaic website. I was baffled. Had not one child or adult ever whipped out their cell phone and recorded Klaus’s little dance? Was the park restricting filming and photography? I doubted it, as I’d seen plenty of parents taking pictures of their kids in my one week there. Mr. Greaseball had to have been bullshitting me.

I may have been fired, but I realized soon after that didn’t mean I was banned from the park. When Wednesday morning rolled around, I pulled out of the driveway under the guise of job hunting.

The bored ticket girl at the front gates didn’t even look at me as she took my twenty dollars and handed over my pass. I did, however, nearly jog past the front office. Mr. Greaseball was weird enough without him having fired me barely twenty-four hours earlier.

I hunkered down in a restaurant’s outdoor patio until one-thirty. Everything felt heavy as I finally stood up and gravitated towards the wooden stage.

“Wow, that sure was the longest day of my life!” Mr. Mustache said to the crowd. “But Klaus is feeling good again! Let’s give him a hand!” The children clapped and cheered. “I won’t keep you all waiting much longer! Here he is, the mouse of the hour!”

Klaus walked out from behind the wings. His hand and calf were wrapped in gauze, but he smiled and waved nonetheless at his jubilant fans. I stayed back, obscured behind a rather burly dad. God forbid if he recognized me and called me out mid-show…

“Guten tag, freunde,” Klaus said, his voice a bit diminished. “I appreciate all the support you’ve shown me over the last Freundes. I had a little ‘accident,’ see, so sadly I won’t be able to dance for you right now.” A few kids “aww’ed,” but Klaus continued. “Instead, let’s just talk. A little heart-to-heart, you know? Tell me, kids, who here has been hurting lately?”

The crowd was silent. I noticed them stealing uneasy glances at each other. “Anyone?” Klaus prompted. “Anyone fallen off their bike, been sick, something like that?”

A kid up front raised his hand. “My dog, Rascal, he bit my arm the other day.”

“Goodness!” Klaus piped. “Why did Rascal bite your arm?”

The kid shrugged. “I was teasing him with treats.”

“Teasing him with treats,” Klaus parroted. “Hmph. No less than you deserve.”

Even in the back, I saw the boy wince with shame. Klaus began pacing the stage. “You see, kids, my time off has given me a lot of time to think. And I learned that while hurting might feel bad, it’s important. It helps you grow up. It helps you realize the truth about this world. Outside Mausen Hausen, there is nothing but pain. You might think about staying here with me, in this carnival land with its tasty food and fun rides. But in time, you’ll learn that staying here will hurt you more than the world ever will.”

Klaus could have dropped his pants and flashed his tiny rodent dick to the children, and I don’t think I’d have been more shocked. A few parents had already dragged their kids away from the stage. All the others were fidgeting uncomfortably.

“I want you to look at the kid to your right,” said Klaus, “and I want you to give them a pinch. Just a little nip on the arm. Go ahead…do it.”

The kids began to murmur. The crowd started to come apart. Then, a girl squealed from the center-left, jumping back and rubbing her forearm. “Yes! You’re beginning to understand!” Klaus declared. The girl cowered and sniffled, while the boy to her left simply stared at her, confused and upset. “This is what you’ll have to look forward to once you leave the park today, little girl,” the mascot declared. “I implore you to savor it, and prepare yourself for the ultimate show…death!”

Mr. Mustache flew onto the stage and wrenched the microphone from Klaus’s grasp. “Let’s hear it for Klaus the Mouse, kids!” he cried. “Klaus is still running a bit of a fever, I’m afraid, but he’ll be back to his old self after another day’s rest!” He grabbed the mouse’s forearm and practically threw him behind the curtains. The crowd departed unceremoniously. And suddenly, I was just standing there, alone…and exposed.

“Hey!” Mr. Greaseball was huffing his way down Main Street, pointing at me. “You! What are you doing here! Were you spurning Klaus?”

Anger flared in me once more. “I didn’t say shit to him! He didn’t even see me!”

“You shouldn’t be here,” Mr. Greaseball wheezed. “What is your damage, kid?”

“Like you don’t know?!” I shouted, gesturing at the stage.

“Get out of here! You’re no longer allowed in Mausen Hausen! At all!”

I made a move to lunge at him – but faltered at the sight of three L.O.D.s converging upon us. “Don’t bother,” I spat at them. “I was just leaving.” I turned and stormed off. “We all heard what Klaus said up there!” I proclaimed. “You can’t deny what’s happening!”

They didn’t say a word back to me. Somehow their silence said a lot more to me than I could have known. Employees and guests stared at me as I headed for the exit gates. But the further I distanced myself from the park, the more my anger ebbed away.

Somehow, I knew, they’d agreed with me.

* * * * * *

I’d gathered a lot in my one week at Mausen Hausen…not just of the existence of Klaus, but that the chain-link fences that sectioned off the property weren’t very strong or well-maintained. The next evening, skirting along the thin, wiry walls, I found an entryway opened up by a fallen tree. I slipped my way in.

I found myself behind the buildings once more, that bizarrely barren half-finished zone that felt like some shadowy, apocalyptic parallel dimension. I was alone but on high alert…I was at no point in my life to drum up a criminal record just yet.

I crept past the buildings to where I knew Klaus’s hut was. Before turning the last corner, however, I hesitated. After shattering his innocence and stirring up trouble with management, I assumed that they’d have tightened security around his compound. And sure enough, as I peered around a wooden beam, someone was standing guard outside his door.

I groaned, hiding behind the beam. But something about the guard seemed strange. She was young, with a rueful, disinterested expression. Then it hit me: she was the ticket girl from the previous morning. I scowled…she couldn’t be Mausen Hausen top brass…Hell, she was probably in the same boat as I had been. Why would they entrust a low-level employee to such an important task? And would she react as caustically as a higher-ranking worker to my unlawful presence in the park?

I took my chance and walked out to her.

“Hey! Who are you?” she said, reaching for her walkie-talkie.

“Wait, don’t call Mr. Greaseball,” I blurted.

She froze. “Who?”

I hesitated. “Sorry…the fat guy who works in the front office.”

“Oh, Mr. Gruber,” she confirmed. “You know him? Do you work here?”

“I did. But they fired me…unjustly.”

The ticket girl’s eyes widened. “Oh my God, for what?”

“Seeing something I shouldn’t have,” I answered. “They also banned me from setting foot on the premises. But you’re not gonna report me, are you?”

“Not at all,” she said with a shrug. “There’s some crazy shit around here. I damn near fainted when I first saw Klaus perform.”

“Do you know what he is?” I asked.

“No,” she said. “I stopped questioning it days ago. Now, I just take it in stride.”

“So you’re not one of his ‘handlers,’ right?”

“The L.O.D.s did that,” the girl said. “But Klaus won’t cooperate with them anymore. He believes they’re ‘smothering’ him. He’ll tolerate people like me…as long as I keep quiet.”

“Well, I need to see him,” I replied. “I know Klaus has been acting up lately. I think I can help fix things.”

The ticket girl looked back at the door. “You sure you want to see him? It’s pretty gross in there…”

“I’m sure.” But as she stepped aside and I made for the door, I frowned. Pretty gross?

I almost fainted upon entering the hut. The interior looked like it had aged thirty years: the paint was peeling, the floors were smeared with black stains, the little armchair had chunks taken out of it and was overturned. The television was off; a closer look revealed an ugly crack in the screen.

I looked around for Klaus. He was not in immediate sight. Instead, my nose found him…a putrid, fecal odor emanating from one of the cabinets in the tiny kitchen. At the base of the door, I saw bits of chewed-up sticks and leaves and dark brown pellets I took to be…droppings.

Covering my mouth and nose, I threw open the door. Klaus was curled up in a decrepit nest underneath the sink. He seemed to be cuddling with a stuffed animal, but the closer I regarded it, the harder a new smell hit…the scent of rotten meat.

“Oh,” Klaus muttered. “It’s you. Are you here to give me another life lesson?”

“Klaus,” I breathed. “What are you doing?”

“Thinking. That’s what I’m doing.” Klaus crawled out of the cabinet. His outfit was soiled and torn, patches were missing from his fur, and his hand and leg were nearly bald from his burns. He flung the stuffed animal onto the floor, and I realized with disgust that it was a dead rat, dissecting its abdomen. “I’ve been convening with my brethren, you see?” He gestured towards the carcass. “They don’t quite understand me. But I’ve learned a lot from them. For instance, that an animal’s head ought not to be bigger than its body.”

He smacked the side of his head so hard his eyes glazed over. “That all these…these insides serve a purpose.” He picked up the rat by its tail, looping a free finger through an intestine and pulling it out. “That everything in this world has reasoning and order.” He let it drop with a light thud. “That I don’t belong.”

“Klaus,” I protested, averting my eyes from the grisly scene. “Of course, you ‘belong.’”

“Do I?” he retorted, standing up. “Look at you…free to walk and to choose and to live. Even these rats…all they’re concerned with is feeding and fleeing, but they live in fear. Do you know why? Because there are things out there to fear…there’s so much out there. And I’ve been…forced into being. Nothing else like me exists in this world because this world wasn’t designed to host things like me! Can you think of a single other thing in this world that fits my purpose?”

“Mickey Mouse, SpongeBob,” I replied. “They’re mascots too. They’ve been making children happy for decades now…”

“None of them walk around, though,” he fired back. “None of them know what it’s like to be sore at the end of the day or the pain of a nail driving through your hand. I’ve got a head start on pain, my friend.” He held up his hand, and I cringed at the sight of a hole in his palm…the perfect size for a nail. “I know those flat, lifeless drawings never will. And I have you to thank for it.”

“Klaus, please,” I said. “I never wanted any of this for you. I was just curious…I wanted to know what exactly you were…”

Klaus stamped his foot. “You don’t think I’ve been wondering the same thing?! I was put into this world under the guise of spending my days entertaining children! All the memories to be made, the experiences to be had, just transpiring beyond the park…I might have spent eternity doing those same stupid dances because I thought that’s what happiness was!” His beady black eyes brimmed with tears. “Now that I know better, all that happiness is gone. But will I find it again? With a world so big and confusing, is anyone truly happy?”

Klaus fell to the floor, weeping. I knelt before him. “Klaus…I’m so sorry you’re having these thoughts. And I’m so sorry that I’m the one who triggered them. All I can say is, happiness isn’t something you find. Happiness is something you make for yourself.”

He sat up, rubbing his eyes. “None of that matters,” he sobbed. “I shouldn’t exist. No one knows how I got here or what I am. Not you, not me, not the men who run the park…that much is apparent. I don’t deserve to share in what you all have.”

I tried to speak up again, but the ticket girl’s voice from outside interrupted. “Mr. Gruber, we have a problem over here…”

I left Klaus on the floor and nearly blew the small door off its hinges getting outside. “What the Hell are you doing!” I demanded.

The ticket girl backed up, her walkie-talkie tight in her grasp. “I’m sorry…I heard him crying, and I just had to say something…”

“You just ruined everything!” I scolded.

The ticket girl scowled. “Me? By the looks of things, you’re the one screwing up Klaus with whatever you’re telling him!”

“Don’t tell me you too have bought into this place’s cult!” I shouted.

“What are you talking about?” she argued. “I’m just doing my job! There’s no ‘cult’ to be found here! Like I said, I just take it all in stride!”

I heard the sounds of an approaching mob. I shot one more nasty glare at the ticket girl, turned, and bolted.

The moon had long risen by the time I squeezed through the chain-link fence and reached my car, pulled over near the treeline surrounding the park.

I half-expected to see police sirens flaring in my rearview mirror on my drive home, but the night remained silent and calm. Apart from a few passing headlights, only me and my thoughts were there.

They made for the lousy company.

* * * * * *

Klaus appeared to me later that night. He was garbed in his complete outfit, colorful and clean, the pure, innocent glowing character imagined by a child. He stepped over me as I lay in bed, his shoes digging into my flesh. Hands folded behind his back, he shook his head and tut-tutted. “Well, well, well…you just couldn’t ‘take it in stride,’ could you.”

I tried to reply, but my chest seemed constricted by his heels. “I’m not sure why you’re acting so surprised,” Klaus continued. “I mean, you were right all along. I couldn’t have been real. I was merely a figment of children’s imagination made flesh. Incompatible with the intricacies of reality. So what did you expect when you laid all that existential baggage upon me?”

“I was…just…curious,” I gasped. The difficulty of getting those strangled words out made me lightheaded.

But Klaus just laughed. “Curiosity killed the cat, or mauled the mouse, roasted the rodent, whichever you prefer. Regardless, my prying friend, you wanted to understand, and now you’ve got your wish. My handlers are in disarray, the park is failing, and I’m dying as we speak. You wanted to turn on a light, but you burned everything down. Is this what you wanted?”

I found my voice. “Is it a sin to want to know?”

Klaus shrugged. “Maybe not. But one thing I’ve learned about this world is that so much is predicated on faith. You have faith that things will get better. You have faith that things are the way they are because of so-and-so. You have faith that living a certain way will get you eternally rewarded. And if you splash cold reality all over that faith, it dies.

“Think about it this way, friend. If God revealed Himself right now, would His followers’ faith be proven? No. It would die. Because then believing in God would be a matter of truth, not faith. Those who refuse to acknowledge His coming would be the darkened, ignorant ones, for not realizing what’s so blatantly obvious. But life is never that simple. God stays in Heaven. Science cannot prove or disprove Him. Yet the people believe He’s up there.”

“Are you comparing yourself to God?” I asked.

Klaus puckered his lips and raised a finger to silence me. “No, friend. All I’m saying is some things are a matter of faith. That some things, you must simply take in stride.”

When I opened my eyes next, it was morning. My bedroom door was closed, and my covers were undisturbed. I’m pretty certain it was a dream. But as far as dreams go, that one seemed pretty genuine. “Normal,” even. Well, normal as far as existential talking mice go.

* * * * * *

I went downstairs for breakfast, and there was an envelope on the table. “Found it on the front doorstep,” my mom said without looking at me. “It’s for you. From Mausen Hausen.”

I picked it up with trepidation. Across my name and address were the red, stamped-on words “NOTICE OF TERMINATION.”

“Talk about adding insult to injury,” my mom commented. “Belated as it seems.”

I rolled my eyes at her and opened it up.

But it was an old-fashioned glossy photograph that fell out of the envelope. Confused, I picked it up off the tabletop and looked at it.

It was Klaus, spread-eagled on the floor of his hut, lying in a pool of blood. His forearms were shiny and crimson. Nestled in his limp grasp was a large, rusty nail.

The timestamp showed roughly an hour after I had fled the park the previous night.

Mortified, I grabbed the envelope to reveal the return address. But in its place was a cartoon mock-up of Klaus the Mouse.

“I hope your job search is going well,” my mom said. “Hello? Am I getting through to you?”

“It’s fine,” I said, my voice sounding miles away. “…I was just thinking about moving on.”

“Good,” she replied before shuffling out of the kitchen.

I folded the photograph and stuffed it in my pocket. Best not to simply throw it away, in case it was discovered. God forbid what the sight of a dead, bloody Klaus would do to the hundreds of children who loved him.

I shambled back up to my room, wondering if Klaus the Mouse was currently embarking on his next big journey.

Rating: 10.00/10. From 3 votes.
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Written by Nick Carlson
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Nick Carlson

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Angela M McCann
2 years ago

This is brilliant. And quite an intense read, once I started I couldn’t stop until I reached the end. At the beginning I thought I had an idea of what was going to happen but that was quickly proven wrong, it went in a completely unexpected but really fascinating direction. I love the level of ambiguity throughout, not just with plot but with the characters themselves. Really great work, I haven’t kept up with creepypasta stories for a long time but this definitely one of the best I’ve ever read. I look forward to reading the rest of your work.

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