Authors: B. A. Frade,Stacia Deutsch
Cassie had begun to change the story before I even understood it needed to be changed.
It was suddenly obvious: The Scaremaster
hadn't written a cage in the original gruesome tale because he knew, if Riley was behind bars, we'd all be safe from her AND she'd be safe from hurting herself or anyone else. The cage was for everyone's protection. But the Scaremaster didn't want me to think of it.
I smacked my forehead. I wished I had figured it all out earlier.
Little things were happening. But if we were going to survive the night, we still needed more little things.
“Bring a weapon?” I asked Duke.
“Emma!” Cassie snapped at me. “No weapons. We don't want to hurt her. She's just a little girl.”
I looked at Riley, who had begun circling
around Sam, eyes flashing, stalking her prey.
“She's a werewolf,” I said.
“We aren't hurting my cousin,” Sam called to us. The werewolf was inches away and a heartbeat from pouncing on her neck. “Come up with something else.”
“Did you bring a dog leash?” I asked Duke.
“No.” He threw something at me. “Here. Try this.”
I reached out to catch whatever he had tossed, but missed. It sailed over my head, falling just behind me. I turned to get it, but the wolf lunged past me and got there first. She devoured the thing in a single bite, wrapper and all, before crawling back toward Sam.
“Whew. That's good news. She likes granola bars,” he said with a half shrug. “I was rushing out so fast, I tried to grab something ten-year-old girls like. Werewolves might be scary, but she's still human underneath all that fur.”
I wished I had caught the granola bar. Maybe we could have broken it into pieces and used it as a lure.
Okay, so I didn't have any food to bring her along, but I had something that was supposed to keep werewolves away. I lifted the chain Duke had given me as a joke from my neck and quickly peeled off the small silver ball.
I had about a second to make the throw of my lifetime.
“Sam, catch!” I tossed it in the air.
My throw was wobbly, but in the same instant that Riley leapt toward her, Sam caught the silver orb. She held it out in front of Riley.
The wolf, seeing the shining glint of the silver, recognized it as something she had to stay away from. She sank to the earth and immediately backed away.
Sam was safe, for the time being, but the werewolf's craving was still strong. She turned her attention to Duke. It wasn't slow stalking anymore. She was on the prowl, hungry and determined. It was only a matter of minutes before she struck, transforming our classmate and neighbor into a monster.
“Duke, watch out,” I warned.
I could hear the low, hungry growl in Riley's throat as she crept forward.
“Sam,” he said, through tight lips. “Toss me the silver ball.”
She threw it. He caught it, and the werewolf backed away, setting her sights on Cassie.
“I have an idea,” Cassie said as her own sister moved in for a vicious bite. “I'll start moving backward toward the house. When she gets close to me, throw me the pendant.”
“Whoever she is chasing can get her to follow.” I was on it. “Then we toss the pendant for protection.”
This was a slow way to get from the park to the house. But it was another change. There was no silver pendant in the Scaremaster's book. Based on that fact alone, I knew it would work.
Cassie moved back pretty far, with her sister dangerously stalking her. Duke passed her the ball, and the danger shifted to me.
I'd thrown it once, and it worked out for Sam. But now I had to catch.
If I missed, I was going to become a werewolf. Or worseâa werewolf's midnight snack.
I glanced up to the sky and sent a silent wish to the mythological Man in the Moon. If he existed, now would be a good time to prove it. “Please let me catch the ball.”
I took giant steps backward, letting Riley come very close. Her teeth were bared, and I could see the drool beneath her jaw. My hand ached where she'd clawed at me.
I made it to the end of Sam's driveway, when Cassie threw me the protection amulet.
It soared toward me in slow motion. I saw it, shimmering as if it hung on a bright moonbeam. I reached out at the same time the werewolf pounced forward. Riley's sharp claws stabbed me in the shoulder blades. I was pinned to the ground.
Her face lowered. I could see the fangs that were about to puncture my neck. I could smell her breath, a mixture of musty wolf scent with moon pie and granola bar.
I stared the werewolf in the eyes, and then I opened my hand.
The silver ball sparkled in her golden eyes. Sensing her own life in jeopardy, she backed away.
My blood was pumping so fast, I thought I was having a stroke. I couldn't breathe. I eventually threw the pendant to Duke, then laid there on the driveway while Cassie and Duke worked together to move Riley into the house and toward the basement.
Sam came and stood over me. “You okay?” she asked.
It took me a minute to answer. I nodded and managed to gasp out, “Can you move a little? You're blocking my view.” Sam stepped back. I stared up to the sky and silently thanked the Man in the Moon. I swear I saw him wink.
When we caught up with the others, Werewolf Riley was at the bottom of the basement stairs. Duke had the silver pendant. I motioned for him to switch places with me and to give me the pendant.
“I have something else for you,” Duke said. He pulled another granola bar out of his coat pocket. He passed it over. “Let's finish this.”
The last toss was up to me. I imagined where I wanted that bar to land. Taking off the wrapper this time, I took a deep breath, focused, and threw.
“Bull's-eye!” I cheered as it fell exactly in the center of the cage floor.
For a long moment, Riley stood outside the bars, looking in.
We all started to back away into the dimly lit corner with the single lightbulb. If this didn't work, we were back to the place where the Scaremaster wanted us.
The swinging lightbulb cast shadows on the narrow stairs to the living room. Four of us running at once, it was impossible that we'd all escape.
Riley looked at each of us in turn. Then she let out a mighty howl. Louder and stronger than any we'd heard before. Lowering her head, she walked into the cage.
Cassie closed the cage door behind her and chained it tight.
We all watched Riley devour the granola bar in a single gulp. She paced the cage, as if searching for more food but, realizing there was none, gave up and sat down. She turned around a few times, pawed at the ground, then sank to the floor. With a long last howl, Cousin Riley curled up in a ball and went to sleep.
We gathered and hugged one another.
Then there were the “sorry”s.
We all sat in the glow of that single swinging lightbulb and apologized to each other.
“I'm sorry I didn't believe you,” Sam told me.
“I'm sorry I didn't handle this better,” I said. “And sorry I blamed you,” I told Cassie.
“I'm sorry I didn't bring more granola bars,” Duke said.
“I'm sorry I didn't tell you all what was going on,” Cassie added. “And I'm sorry I tried to get Emma to go home.”
It went on like that for a while until we started to get too tired to be sorry anymore.
Leaving Riley safely in the cage, we went upstairs and said good night.
Duke had one last thing to say before he went home. He said to Sam, “I'm sorry I broke the window.”
I stood with Sam and Cassie by the front door, watching him cross the yard.
The best writer had finished the story.
We'd come to “The End.”
“You know what? I'm going to try out for the softball team,” I told Sam when we woke up the next morning. We were lying in our sleeping bags, still wearing the clothes from the moon celebration. After Duke had gone home, we all crashed. It had been an exhausting weekend.
“I'm going to the winter dance with Duke,” Sam said, rolling on her side to face me.
“Wait. What? He asked you?” I was shocked. “When?”
“Last night. Just before he leftâ¦” She blushed. “He said he'd been trying to ask, but it never went right.”
I laughed. “Nothing like a little danger to bring us all together.” I glanced toward the basement door. “And you're going to let Riley be your stylist?”
“Of course,” Sam said. “She'll be really excited.”
I leaned back into my pillow and asked, “Have you see her yet?”
“No.” Sam sat up. “I heard Cassie get up hours ago. I bet they're together.”
The sun was high in the sky. The danger had passed.
We got up and stumbled, lazy and still tired, into the kitchen.
“Breakfast is ready,” Cassie told us, sweeping her arm toward a beautifully set table. She was wearing the flowered apron.
Riley was sitting at the table. “Hi,” she said with a grin. “Look at us. We all survived another full moon. I wish Cassie would let me stay out! It's totally safe.” She seemed to know she transformed but forgot what happened when she was a wolf. We all exchanged glances in a silent agreement not to tell her.
Cassie set a casserole dish on the table. With dramatic flair, she swept back the lid. The dish was filled with granola bars.
“These are from Duke.” Cassie giggled. It was nice to see this side of her again. I liked her so much better when I wasn't suspicious and she wasn't creepy. She put her hand on Riley's head. “I have a strong feeling you'll love them.”
“YUM!” Riley said, grabbing one and ripping off the wrapper.
I smiled. Then I jumped. And gasped.
“What?!” Sam stood up so fast, she knocked back her chair.
“AUGH!” I pointed at the back door and
The look on Sam's face was so full of terror that I laughed until I cried.
“It might take me awhile to get used to the fact that werewolves actually exist,” Sam admitted, rolling her eyes at me. She went to let Duke come in while Cassie pulled up an extra chair.
When we all sat down, Cassie said, “I thought I could get through the night without telling Sam what was going on.”
“I'd have never believed you anyway,” Sam said.
“You could have told me,” I put in. “I'd have believed you.” To be honest, I don't know what I would have believed. There was no way to be sure. The Scaremaster and his possessed journal had put me on edge even before I'd arrived for the weekend. I remember that feeling in my gut as if I was waiting for something to happen. And then it did.
Cassie gave a small snort. “I didn't want to tell you, Emma. This is a secret. A
“Not anymore,” I said, glancing at all the faces around the table. Duke shrugged.
“Yeah,” Cassie said. She stood up and got a knife from the kitchen. “That's why we have to make a blood pact never to tell. Riley's secret has to stay in this room.” She held out the kitchen knife. The blade glinted. “Who wants to be the first to promise?”
My heart skipped two beats. I got up and backed away from the table. “I'm not cutting myself toâ¦” Then I realized she was kidding. “I guess I'm still wound up,” I admitted, knowing it was true because there was one last thing I had to deal with before the weekend ended.
Cassie put down the knife with a laugh. “Not blood. But we do need to make a pact.”
“Be right back.” Sam dashed from the room and came back a minute later with her telescope. “We swear on the moon to keep what happened here this weekend a secret.” She set it upright in the middle of the table and wrapped her hand around the bottom.
I put my hand directly above hers and closed my fingers tight.
Duke went next, followed by Cassie and Riley. The telescope transformed into a pillar of promises.
Riley said, “This secret is between the five of us and the Man in the Moon.”
We all agreed, and the pact was sealed.
I never had a better breakfast. The granola bars were delicious, and Cassie had made fruit salad and mini pancakes as well. Plus, we still had a few of the zombie's original donuts.
As we finished up, Sam said, “The adults won't be here for a few hours. What should we do?”
“Can we watch the movie again?” Riley asked. I realized she was already dressed for the day in clean, new clothes. Cassie must have made sure she had something to wear when she transitioned back.
Sam's eyes lit up. “The moon documentary?” She was excited. “Great idea!” Looking at me, she added, “You missed the whole first half.”
Riley shook her head. “Not the moon one. My movie.”
“Oh.” Sam's face fell, but she agreed. “Okay. Emma missed part of that one too.”
We piled on the couch. Before sitting down, I took off the silver chain and handed the pendant back to Duke. “Funny gift,” I said. “Very useful too. But we don't need it anymore.”
“Silver works against vampires too,” he said, giving it right back to me.
With a laugh, I said, “I guess I should keep it, then. You never know.” I fastened it back around my neck.
“I'll get Sam one too,” Duke said. “Just in case.” He winked. As an added note, Duke said to me and Sam, “Oh, hey, I've been meaning to say thanks. My grandpa said you found Maggie. He loves that dog.”
Sam and I stared at each other for a long beat. We both laughed at the connection, but it made me feel unsettled. Again. There was something more to all these coincidences that sat like a stone in my belly.
Mom's work schedule, the lost puppy at school, the mysterious new librarian who wasn't our librarian at all, Mrs. L and the sick ferret, me coming to Sam's, Riley's secret, what happened in the park, even the fact that the reunion weekend was over a full moonâ¦ There could no longer be any doubt. EVERYTHING was connected, and somehow, the Scaremaster had been lurking at every step.
We'd outsmarted him, though, and I didn't think he expected it. I also didn't think he was the type to give up so easily.
The movie started, and this time, I paid attention. Riley had said that the journal was in the movie. Duke had said he'd seen “that movie” when I described the Scaremaster's book. I had no idea what they meant, but I was determined to find out.
To my surprise, the book was briefly, casually mentioned in every interview. But it wasn't really discussed until the zombie part. I leaned up in my seat and remained focused while a girl talked about how she'd found a journal in her locker but knew it wasn't hers. She'd kept it anyway and discovered that there was a story in that book that came true!
The interview went on and on about the zombie, never going back to discuss the book's role in the drama. I might have not even paid attention to the few sentences about the mysterious book if I hadn't been looking for it or if I hadn't been warned it was there.
“Do you want to show us the journal?” Duke asked when the film ended.
“We should fully investigate,” Sam said.
“Maybe run some chemical tests on the composition of the paper to see if we can identify the source.”
I really didn't want to touch that thing ever, but that wasn't an option. The weekend wasn't really over till the Scaremaster was silenced. Maybe if we worked together, we could destroy it once and for all.
I went upstairs and dumped out my overnight bag, searched under the bed, even rummaged through her closet.
The journal was gone.
Unfortunately, I knew where to find it.
When my mom came to pick me up, I thanked Sam for hosting me. I told Cassie and Riley I looked forward to seeing them again, which was the truth. And I gave a hug to Duke. His face turned red when I threw myself at him, but he had the rest of middle school and all of high school to get used to it. Now that we were friends, I planned to hug him a lot.
Mom talked about her trip the whole way home. The business was good, and she thought it might lead to a promotion.
It wasn't until we got into our apartment that
Mom asked, “Anything interesting happen at Sam's?”
“Nah,” I told her. “Just a plain ol' boring weekend.”
Mom gave me a sideways glance. “Emma, remember after school on Friday? There was something you wanted to show me.”
“Nope,” I said. “It's all good.” I told her I had homework and rushed into my room, closing the door behind me.
The journal was right where I expected itâback in my school backpack, just where I had left it.
I pulled it out and set it on my bed. For a long moment, I sat against my pillows, staring at the triangles on the cover, reflecting on the trouble the Scaremaster had caused. He had to be stopped.
I peeled back the cover. I expected a blank page and had an idea of what I wanted to write.
But the page wasn't blank.
Tales from the Scaremaster
, was there. And
I grabbed a pen and wrote.
One act was enough.
The reply appeared immediately.
Silly Emma. You thought you could beat me.
I drew in a breath as more words appeared.
The Scaremaster has many stories to tell.
I didn't reply. There was no use arguing with a possessed book.
Instead, I shut the cover and clasped it tight. I had to get rid of the Scaremaster's journal forever.
I was shaking when I went out to the dumpster. Fear set in. What if the story really did go on? It was too terrible to consider.
At Sam's, I'd tried to rip the journal pages, but they wouldn't tear. I'd pulled at the leather cover, but it held firm. So what were my options? Fire? Water? I needed something permanent.
When I came up with the answer, I dashed back into the house, flying past my mom as she called out, “What are you doing?”
“Recycling,” I answered as I grabbed her sharpest crafting scissors.
“Good idea,” she said when I dashed back past her, out the door, and down to the dumpster.
For the next half hour, I cut the journal pages. Every single one. I chopped them out of the book, then sliced them into little pieces.
There was a part of me that hoped that librarians everywhere would understand. I wasn't usually a destroyer of books. This one was special. This one had to go.
I made Scaremaster confetti and scattered it in the recycling bin.
The cover wouldn't cut, so I dug into the spine with my scissors. I was a little surprised how easily the thing ripped then and was fascinated that the book broke into two equal parts. I mean, exactly equal. I'd clearly hit the Scaremaster's weak spot.
Just to be completely sure the book was trash, I dug some long scratches into the leather cover to finish the job.
It was over. The journal would go out with the garbage, and that was the real end of the Scaremaster's story.
As I went back to the apartment, I pledged that from here forward I would no longer write horror stories.
I was going to try my hand at science fiction.