Read Running Out of Time Online

Authors: Margaret Peterson Haddix

Running Out of Time

BOOK: Running Out of Time

If Ray Bradbury had written
The Giver
, the result might rival Margaret Peterson Haddix's
Running Out of Time.
It's a cliffhanger about the danger of utopias that makes a very contemporary point: that even when the adults can find a place to hide, their children can't.

—Richard Peck

Top-notch suspense with twists and turns that grab at the heart—
Running Out of Time
is a highly imaginative, absolutely terrific first novel.

—-Joan Lowery Nixon

Running Out of Time
has a knockout concept that is wonderfully developed. I enjoyed the book enormously. What a terrific debut for Margaret Peterson Haddix!

—Bruce Coville

“I may have to ask you to do something very dangerous,” Ma said.

essie's mother is desperate, for the children of Clifton are dying, and in 1840, there is no medicine to help them. This leads her to reveal an enormous secret to Jessie: It is actually 1996, and they are living in a reconstructed village that serves as a tourist site. She asks Jessie to do something that will put her life in jeopardy: to escape into the outside world to get help, before the children run out of time.

This revelation turns the world as Jessie knows it upside down. Her odyssey becomes a gripping page-turner that combines the fascination of a mystery, the power of historical fiction, and the wonderment of science fiction. Like Jessie, who must come to terms with a world she has never known, readers of
Running Out of Time
are challenged to look at their own world in a new way.

Margaret Peterson Haddix makes her stunning debut as a novelist with this unusual book that will leave readers on the edge of their seats.



grew up on a farm outside Washington Court House, Ohio, and graduated from Miami University (of Ohio) with a bachelor's degree in history, creative writing, and journalism. After college, she worked as a reporter at
Indianapolis News.
Ms. Haddix now writes full-time at her home in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania, where she lives with her husband, Doug, and two children, Meredith and Connor.
Running Out of Time
is her first novel.

Jacket illustration by Jane Sterrett
Copyright © 1995 by Simon & Schuster
Jacket design by Paul Zakris


Simon & Schuster, New York



An imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division

1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York, 10020

Copyright © 1995 by Margaret Peterson Haddix

All rights reserved including the right of reproduction

in whole or in part in any form.

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

is a trademark of Simon & Schuster.

Designed by Paul Zakris

The text for this book is set in 12-point American Garamond.

15 16 17 18 19 20

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Haddix, Margaret Peterson.

Running out of time / by Margaret Peterson Haddix.

p. cm.

Summary: When a diphtheria epidemic hits her 1840 village, thirteen-year-old Jessie

discovers it is actually a 1996 tourist site under unseen observation by heartless scientists, and

it's up to Jessie to escape the village and save the lives of the dying children.

ISBN 0-689-80084-3
ISBN-13: 978-1-44246-129-1 (eBook)

[1. Mystery and detective stories. 2. Indiana—Fiction. 3. Diphtheria—Fiction.] I. Title.

PZ7.H1164Ru 1995 [Fic]—dc20 95-8459

To Doug, and in memory of Myrtle Peterson

With thanks to Marilee Peterson, Dr. K. W. Chan, and Creg Stockwell for help with medical and pharmaceutical information.


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five


he light woke Jessie, though it was just a glimmer downstairs. She eased out of bed, being careful not to disturb her sister Hannah.

“Ma?” Jessie whispered by the ladder down from the loft.

In a few moments, her mother's tired face appeared below, illuminated by a flickering candle.

“It's the Bentons,” she said. “Caleb says both Sally and Betsy are sick.”

Everybody called Jessie's mother “the midwife,” but she did a lot more than deliver babies. In Clifton, anyone who got sick at night called on her. Most people, Jessie thought, seemed to wait until dark to get sick, so they wouldn't have to go to Dr. Fister. Dr. Fister always gave prescriptions like “Make a poultice of chokeberries and rub it on your neck three times a day.” He made a real show of it. He used to slip
a packet of pills under the table, too—pills that really worked. Anymore, though, he just gave the folk remedy. Jessie hadn't seen any of the pills in a long time.

“Can I come and help?” Jessie asked Ma.

“I don't want you catching anything….”

Jessie gave her mother what Pa called “that pitiful please look,” and she relented.

“All right. You can carry my bag. But I don't want you coming inside until I find out what Sally and Betsy have.”

Jessie pulled her dress off the nail by her bed and yanked it over her head. Then she scrambled down the ladder and took her boots from beside the door. She was ready by the time Ma finished dressing. Grown women had to worry about clothing more than thirteen-year-old girls did. That was one reason Jessie was glad she wasn't entirely grown-up yet.

Ma unlatched the door and they slipped out into the warm April night.

“Hannah and the boys never even moved!” Jessie said.

Ma smiled.

“They could sleep through a blizzard. You're my light sleeper. You're always afraid you might miss something.”

Jessie grinned. It did seem like an adventure being out in the middle of the night. The village looked spooky with only moonlight and the faint glow of Ma's lantern. Shadows flickered on the path and in the surrounding woods. The main buildings of Clifton loomed like hulking animals. Jessie shivered passing the three trees in the square that everyone said were haunted.

“Did Caleb go on home?” Jessie asked. Caleb Benton was
ten, but he was the biggest chicken in Clifton School. “I bet he was scared—“

“His ma didn't want him to wait,” Ma said.

Jessie waited for Ma to say more, but she didn't. Usually when Jessie convinced Ma to let her go along on these night trips, Ma and Jessie talked all the way: about the symptoms Ma knew and how she planned to treat them, or about Jessie's schoolwork, or about just anything. But tonight Ma seemed barely aware that Jessie was with her. Ma stepped silently, her face shadowed. Jessie thought Ma might just be tired. This was the fourth night in a row she had been called out. Ma hadn't let Jessie go the other times.

They passed the school, the general store, and Dr. Fister's clapboard house. Jessie couldn't understand how the doctor could afford a clapboard house, when no one went to him. Jessie's pa was the blacksmith, and he was always busy. Yet Jessie's family still lived in the log cabin they'd built back in 1828, when they first came to Clifton. Jessie had hinted more than once that they needed a new house, now that there were six children. After all, she said, little Katie was soon going to outgrow the trundle bed that slipped under Ma and Pa's bed downstairs. Where was Katie going to sleep then?

Pa always answered that a new house was too expensive, with the whole country in a depression. He didn't seem to mind. Hannah whispered that Pa liked the log cabin too much to build a house.

Hannah was just a year older than Jessie, but she said she could remember when they built the cabin. All the men in the village helped lay the maple logs, one on top of another, and then the women filled the cracks with mud. Jessie had
seen other cabins built—had helped, even—and thought Hannah might just be confused. Even Hannah couldn't remember before, when they'd lived in Pennsylvania. Jessie wished she could remember the trip out to Indiana, when she and Hannah and Ma and Pa had traveled down the Ohio River in a flatboat. Sometimes she could get Pa to tell about it. Ma never would.

“Be careful,” Ma said as Jessie tripped over a root in the path.

“It's hard to see,” Jessie said. The moon was behind a cloud now.

Ma nodded and moved the lantern closer to Jessie. They were almost to the Bentons' cabin.

“Do you think Sally and Betsy will be all right?” Jessie asked. Sally was prissy, kind of like Hannah, but Betsy was always fun to play with.

“I hope so,” Ma said, in a way that made Jessie worry. A lot of children were sick: Jefferson Webster, Susan Seward, Abby and James Harlow. Jessie knew it wasn't just the usual spring chills and fevers. There were too many empty seats at school.

“Wait here,” Ma said, pointing to a stump in front of the Bentons' cabin. She gave Jessie the lantern and knocked lightly on the door. It opened immediately. Jessie caught a glimpse of Mrs. Benton, crying. Mrs. Benton was a tall woman with rough hands. Jessie had never seen her cry.

Jessie went to the Bentons' oilpaper window, but she could see only shapes moving. The Ma shape seemed to be bent over the bed downstairs. They must have put Sally and Betsy in Mr. and Mrs. Benton's bed. That was serious.

The Bentons and Ma talked in such low voices Jessie couldn't hear anything. And she'd get in trouble if they knew she was trying to listen. She sat down on the stump, placing the lantern on the ground in front of her. She should put it out, to save the oil, but it was a comfort. Everyone said bears and wolves stayed away from fire. All sorts of rustling noises came from the woods beyond the Bentons' cabin.

Normally Jessie wasn't scared of wild animals. She was braver than anybody; she took more dangerous dares than the boys at school. But all this sickness and the way Ma was acting worried her. Jessie wished someone would explain what had happened to Dr. Fister's pills. Even when he'd had them, people pretended they didn't exist. But they always worked. Why weren't there pills for Betsy, Sally, and the others?

15.4Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Tanned Hide by R. A. Meenan
The Heir From Nowhere by Trish Morey
A 52-Hertz Whale by Bill Sommer
The Totem 1979 by David Morrell
When Did We Lose Harriet? by Patricia Sprinkle
The Righteous by Michael Wallace
Target Silverclaw by Simon Cheshire
BooBoo by Olivier Dunrea