Authors: R.L. Stine - (ebook by Undead)
An invisible hand grabbed me and pulled me off the ladder.
I landed on my back on the gym floor with an
My head made a
as it banged the floorboards.
I raised myself slowly, blinking hard, trying to shake off the shock. Then I
pulled myself up on my elbows and saw Ben Jackson laughing.
Thalia Halpert-Rodis dropped her lipstick into her bag and came running over
to me. “Tommy—are you okay?” she demanded.
“Yeah. Fine,” I muttered. “I was just testing the floor. You know. Seeing how
hard it is.”
“It isn’t as hard as your head!” Ben joked. “You’re going to have to pay for
breaking the gym floor!” He laughed again.
“Ha-ha.” Thalia rolled her eyes, then made a disgusted face at him. She
turned to me. “Don’t encourage him, Tommy. He’s about as funny as a dead
“I think dead pigeons are funny!” Ben insisted.
Thalia rolled her eyes again. Then she grabbed my hand and tugged me to my
I felt so embarrassed. I wanted to go hide under the bleachers.
Why am I always such a total klutz?
No invisible hand pulled me off the ladder. I just fell. That’s what I
usually do if I find myself on a ladder. I fall off.
Some people are climbers. I’m a faller.
But I really didn’t want to look like a geek in front of Thalia and Ben.
After all, I just met them. And I really wanted to impress them.
That’s why I signed up for the Dance Decorations Committee. I wanted to meet
kids. It’s hard to make new friends when you start a new school in sixth grade.
Maybe I’d better start at the beginning.
My name is Tommy Frazer and I’m twelve. Just before school started this fall,
my dad got married again. And right after the wedding, we moved to Bell Valley.
We had to move so fast, I barely had a chance to say good-bye to my friends.
And before I could catch my breath, here I was—the new kid at Bell Valley
I didn’t know anyone here. I hardly even knew my new mom!
Can you imagine what it’s like to suddenly have a new school, a new house,
and a new mom?
The first couple of days at Bell Valley Middle School were hard. Kids weren’t
unfriendly. But they already knew who their friends were.
I’m not shy. But it was really impossible to just go up to someone and say,
“Hi. Want to be my friend?”
I was pretty lonely the first week or so. Then last Monday morning, Mrs.
Borden, the principal, came into our room. She asked if anyone wanted to
volunteer for the Dance Decorations Committee. She needed kids to decorate the
My hand was the first to shoot up. I knew it would be a great way to make new
So here I was after school in the gym two days later. Making new friends by
falling on my head like a geek.
“Do you think you should see the nurse?” Thalia asked, studying me.
“No. My eyes always roll around like this,” I replied weakly. At least I
still had my sense of humor.
“The nurse left, anyway,” Ben said, checking his watch. “It’s late. We’re
probably the only ones in the building.”
Thalia shook out her blond hair. “Let’s get back to work,” she suggested.
She opened her bag and pulled out her lipstick. I watched her apply a thick
coat of red to her lips, even though they were already red. Then she brushed
some kind of orangey powder on her cheeks.
Ben shook his head but didn’t say anything.
Yesterday, I heard other kids teasing Thalia about her makeup and lipstick.
They said she was the only girl in sixth grade who uses that stuff every day.
They were pretty mean to her. One girl said, “Thalia thinks she’s painting a
Another girl said, “Thalia couldn’t go to gym class because she had to wait
for her face to dry.”
A boy said, “Her face must be broken. That’s why she’s always fixing it!”
Everyone laughed really hard.
Thalia didn’t seem to mind all the jokes and teasing. I guess she’s used to
Before school this morning, I heard some kids saying that Thalia was
stuck-up. That she thought she was
beautiful, and that’s why she
was always paying so much attention to her looks.
She didn’t seem stuck-up to me. She seemed really nice. She was pretty
awesome looking too. I wondered why she thought she needed to wear makeup at
Thalia and Ben look a lot alike. They could be brother and sister, but
They are both tall and thin. And they both have blue eyes and curly blond
I’m short and a little chubby. And I have black hair that sticks straight out
like straw. It’s real tough hair. I can brush it for hours, but it still goes
wherever it wants.
My new mom says I’ll be really handsome as soon as I lose my baby fat. I
don’t think that was a very good compliment.
Anyway, Thalia, Ben, and I were painting some big banners to go up on the gym
wall. Thalia and I were working together on a banner that read BELL VALLEY ROCKS!
Ben started to paint a poster that read DANCE TILL YOU PUKE! But Mrs. Borden
poked her head in and asked him to think of a better slogan.
He groaned and grumbled and started over. Now his poster read WELCOME,
“Hey—where’s the red paint?” Thalia called to Ben.
“Huh?” He was down on his hands and knees, using a thick brush to paint the w
Thalia and I were also down on the floor, painting the black outlines to our
poster. She climbed to her feet and stared down at Ben. “Didn’t you bring any
red paint down to the gym? I only see black.”
“I thought you were bringing it,” he replied. He pointed to a stack of cans
under the basketball hoop. “What are those?”
“All black,” she told him. “I asked you to bring down some red—remember? I
want to put red in the middle of the letters. Black and red are the school
colors, you know.”
“Duh,” Ben muttered. “Well, I’m not going upstairs for it, Thalia. The art
room is on the third floor.”
“I’ll go!” I volunteered, a bit too eagerly.
They both stared at me.
“I mean, I don’t mind,” I added. “I can use the exercise.”
hit your head—didn’t you!” Ben joked.
“Do you remember where the art room is?” Thalia asked.
I set down my brush. “Yeah. I think so. You go up the stairs in back—right?”
Thalia nodded. Her curly blond hair bounced whenever she moved her head.
“Right. You go up three flights to the top floor. Then you go straight down the
hall to the back. Turn right. Then turn right again. And it’s at the back.”
“No problem,” I said. I started jogging to the double gym doors.
“Bring at least two cans!” she called after me. “And some clean brushes.”
“And bring me a Coke!” Ben called. He laughed.
What a joker.
I started running at full speed to the exit. I’m not sure why I started to
run. I guess I was trying to impress Thalia.
I lowered my shoulder. And burst through the double doors.
And barreled at full speed into a girl standing in the hall.
“Hey—!” She let out a startled cry as we both toppled to the floor.
I landed on top of her with a groan.
Her head made a loud
as it hit the concrete floor.
Stunned, we both lay there for a second. Then I rolled off her and scrambled
to my feet.
“Sorry,” I managed to choke out. I reached out to help her up.
But she angrily shoved my hand away and climbed up without my help.
As she stood, I saw that she was at least a foot taller than me. Tall and
broad-shouldered and powerful looking, she reminded me of those women wrestlers
She had white-blond hair, which had fallen over her face. She was dressed all
in black. And she stared at me furiously with steel-gray eyes.
“I’m really sorry,” I repeated, taking a step back as I stared up at her.
She took a heavy step toward me. Then another. Those cold gray eyes froze me
against the wall.
She scowled. And moved closer.
“Wh-what are you going to do?” I stammered.
I pressed my back tight against the wall. “What are you going to do?” I
“I’m going to walk home—if you’ll ever
me!” she growled. She
spun away, her hands squeezed into big fists.
I was sorry!” I called after her.
She vanished up the stairs without turning back.
Those weird gray eyes stayed in my mind.
I gave her time to leave the building. Then I started up the stairs.
It was a long climb to the top floor. My legs still felt a little shaky from
running into that strange girl. And it was kind of eerie, being the only person
My shoes thudded on the hard steps, and the sound thundered in the empty
stairwell. The halls stretched out like long, dark tunnels.
I was out of breath when I finally reached the landing on the third floor. I
started down the hall, humming to myself. My voice sounded hollow in the empty hall. It echoed off
the long row of gray lockers.
I stopped humming as I made my first right turn. I passed an empty teachers’
lounge. A computer lab. Then some rooms that looked empty.
Another right turn took me into a narrow hall with wooden floors that creaked
and groaned under my shoes.
I stopped outside the room at the end of the hall. A small hand-lettered sign
beside the door read ART ROOM.
I grabbed the doorknob and started to pull open the door.
But I stopped when I heard voices inside the room.
Startled, I gripped the doorknob and listened. I heard a boy and a girl. They
were talking softly. I couldn’t make out their words. But the kids sounded like
Thalia and Ben.
What are they doing up here? I wondered.
Why did they follow me? How did they get up here before I did?
I pushed open the door and stepped inside. “Hey, guys—” I called. “What’s
My mouth dropped open. The room was empty.
“Hey—” I called. “Are you guys in here?”
My eyes darted around the big room. Golden afternoon sunlight poured in
through the windows.
The long art tables stood clean and empty. Some clay pots were drying on the
window ledge. A mobile made of wire hangers and soup cans hung from the ceiling
Weird, I thought, shaking my head. I heard voices in here. I know I did.
Are Thalia and Ben playing a little joke on me? I wondered. Are they hiding
I made my way quickly to the big supply closet and pulled open the door.
“Caught you!” I cried.
No. No one in there.
I stared into the dark closet. Am I starting to hear voices? I wondered.
Maybe my fall off the ladder was worse than I’d thought!
I reached up and pulled the chain to turn on the closet light. On both sides
of me, shelves of art supplies reached to the ceiling. I spotted the red paint
we needed and started to slide a few cans off the shelf.
But I stopped when I heard a girl laugh.
Then a boy said something. He sounded excited. He was talking rapidly. But I
couldn’t make out the words.
I spun back to the art room. No one there.
“Hey—where are you?” I called.
I pulled a paint can off the shelf and tucked it under my arm. Then I grabbed
another can with my free hand.
“Hey—!” I called out when I heard the voices again.
“This isn’t funny!” I cried. “Where are you hiding?”
They must be in the next room, I decided. I carried the paint cans out into
the art room and set them down on the teacher’s desk. Then I crept into the
I stopped at the next door and poked my head into the room. It was some kind
of storage room. Boxes marked fragile were stacked against one wall.
No one there.
I checked the room across the hall. No one there, either.
As I walked back to the art room, I heard the voices again.
The girl was shouting now. And then the boy shouted too.
It sounded as if they were calling for help. But for some reason their voices
seemed muffled, kind of far away.
My heart started to beat a little faster. My throat suddenly felt dry.
Who is playing this joke on me? I wondered. Everyone has gone home. The whole
building is empty. So who is up here? And why can’t I find them?
“Ben? Thalia?” I shouted. My voice echoed off the long wall of gray lockers.
“Are you up here?”
I took a deep breath and stepped back into the art room. I’m just going to
ignore them, I decided.