Authors: David Lubar
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For Stoker, Stevenson, Shelley, and all the others who laid the trail
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2. Bite the Dust
5. Ms. Hyde
7. Take a Seat
17. Trouble That's Hard to Stomach
22. How to Drive Someone Angry
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The Vanishing Vampire
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Starscape Books by David Lubar
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About the Author
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I've always been a fan of monsters. As a kid, I watched monster movies, read monster magazines, built monster models, and even tried my hand at monster makeup for Halloween. Basically, I was a creepy little kid. It's no surprise that, when I grew up and became a writer, I would tell monster stories. I've written a lot of them over the years. My short-story collections, such as
Attack of the Vampire Weenies and Other Warped and Creepy Tales,
are full of vampires, werewolves, ghosts, witches, giant insects, and other classic creatures. The book you hold in your hands is also about a monster. But it is different from my short stories in a wonderful way. Let me explain.
Years ago, I decided I wanted to tell a tale through the eyes of a monster. That idea excited me, but it didn't feel special enough by itself. Then, I had a second idea that went perfectly with the first one. What if a kid became a monster? Even betterâwhat if the kid had to decide whether to remain a monster, or to become human again? The result of these ideas was not one book, but six. It seems the town of Lewington attracts a monsteriffic amount of trouble. To find out more, read on.
AN IMPORTANT MEAL
I love kids. They make great hood ornaments. No. Stop that. Be good. Be nice. Okay. I'm back in control. That was a terrible thing to say. It was mean and sick and nasty. Not like me at all. I don't know where it came from.
Yes, I do.
But it won't happen again. I'm a teacher. And a scientist. I can control myself. I'm a trained, professional teacher. Miss Clevis. That's what the students call me. That's what it says on the door to my room. My whole name is Jackie Jean Clevis. I teach science at Washington Irving Elementary School in Lewington.
But something funny happened to me this morning. I was making breakfast. And I was getting a batch of chemicals ready to take to class for an experiment.
Be very careful with chemicals.
That's the first thing I tell the students. I was also listening to the news on the radio, and I was thinking about the science fair, and I was looking out the window at some lovely nimbus clouds. The science fair is scheduled for next weekend, and I'm in charge. Which makes sense, since I'm the science teacher. It's a lot of work, and it's very important.
So, between breakfast and the experiment, and the radio and the science fair and the clouds, it wouldn't have been impossible for me to accidentally put the wrong ingredients in the blender when I made my banana-honey-yogurt morning breakfast drink.
I'm pretty sure that's what happened. I don't usually pass out right after breakfast. I don't usually pass out at all. But one moment I was drinking my drink and tuning the station on the radio, and staring out the window. The next thing I knew, I was on the floor, surrounded by broken pieces of my drinking glass. I didn't even remember hitting the floor.
I sat on the floor for a minute, trying to see whether I'd bruised or broken anything besides the glass. But everything seemed fine. Then I noticed the clock. Oh, dear. I was late for school. I'd been lying there for at least ten minutes. I grabbed the chemicals, put them in a box, got my briefcase, and rushed out the door.
As I tossed everything in my car, I thought about what had just happened. There were so many possible explanations, it was pointless to try to guess the right one. As long as it didn't happen again, I wasn't going to worry. I had other things on my mind. I felt fine now. Otherwise, I wouldn't have gotten behind the wheel of my car. Safety first, I always say. In the lab or on the road, safety has to come first.
At the corner by the stop sign at Maynard and Brockton, I got stuck behind someone who took a long time making a left turn. I didn't mind waiting. But some idiot started honking his horn. I looked behind me. There was nobody there. Who was honking? The sound was getting very annoying. I looked down at my right hand. Oh my goodness. It was me who was banging on the horn. I hadn't even realized I was doing anything.
I pulled my hand back. This wasn't like me. I never use my horn. I'm very patient. You have to be patient to teach. Patient and caring and kind. I gripped the wheel very hard for the rest of the trip, just to make sure I didn't use the horn again.
I got to school and parked in the teachers' lot, then went up to my classroom on the second floor. “Hi, Jackie,” Mr. Rubinitski said as I walked down the hall. He teaches sixth grade. There are three sixth-grade teachers. They handle math and English and social studies. The kids switch around for the different subjects. But I do all the science classes.
“Good morning, Chester.” I smiled at him. We had a great staff at Why. That's what we called it. We abbreviate Washington Irving Elementary to WIE, but we pronounce it
It's sort of our own little private joke.
Where do you teach?
No, I asked where you teach.
I told you: Why
We sort of stole the idea from an old comedy routine. We use it each year in a skit when we have our teachers' lunch. And they say teachers don't have a sense of humor.
I went into my room and put down the box of chemicals.
A sharp, slapping sound caused me to look across the room. There, hovering in a cloud, was a figure with a face as white as death. He let out an awful, gasping wheeze.
BITE THE DUST
“Norman,” I asked, “what are you doing here?”
“I wanted to come in early and clean the chalk erasers for you,” he said. Then he coughed and wheezed some more. He was covered with chalk dust.
“I appreciate that,” I told him. “But maybe you should go out and get some fresh air.”
He nodded, wheezed again, then walked toward the door. At the edge, he stopped and said, “Miss Clevis, I was wondering about the science fair. You know how you said I couldn't do any more projects that might explode? Well, could you make a tiny little exception this time? I'm really fascinated by nuclear energy. So I started working on this project. And I know I should have asked permission sooner, but I sort of got wrapped up in it.”
I glanced across the classroom to the part of the wall that had to be rebuilt after Norman's internal combustion engine had overheated last year. Then I looked up at the ceiling at the spot he'd melted the year before last with his homemade laser. Then I glanced down at the floor. He'd blasted a chunk out of it in third grade when his radio-controlled jackhammer went out of radio control. I couldn't remember what he'd destroyed in second grade, but I was sure it had been some part of the room.
“Well, can I bring a nuclear reactor to the science fair?” he asked.
I opened my mouth to say
but what came out was, “Why sure, Norman. Radioactive devices would be fine. The more, the better.”
“Thanks!” He was out the door before I could catch him.
I couldn't believe I'd just given him permission for that. But there was nothing to be done about it at the moment. I stopped worrying about Norman and started getting ready for my first class. I had one of the kindergarten classes this morning. It's never too early to teach science. We didn't do much, but we had fun. This is a very progressive school.
I was excited about the class because I'd planned a special treat for them. It was an old science teachers' trick. I had a simple chemical that created a wonderful imitation of a volcano. It threw up a shower of sparks and produced a green ash that looked like flowing lava. I knew the kids would love it.
The bell for first period rang. After a few minutes, Mrs. Rubric came in with her class. The kids looked so cute as they found seats.
“Is everyone ready for something special?” I asked the class.
“Yes, Miss Clevis,” they called out.
“Well, good.” I clapped my hands together, then held up the jar filled with orange crystals. “We're going to use this special chemical to makeâ” I paused and looked around at them, then said the magic words. “âa volcano.”
This produced a lot of
s. I had a small clay volcano on the table. I put a piece of paper in the opening at the top of the volcano, then poured out the chemical until it covered everything but the tip of the paper. After I closed up the jar, I walked across the room to turn off the room lights. Then I pulled the shades. It was nice and darkâperfect for a volcano.
All the students got very quiet when I lit the match. They hunched forward, their little faces filled with anticipation. “Watch this,” I said, feeling as much like a magician as I did a scientist.