Authors: B. A. Frade,Stacia Deutsch
Once upon a time, there was a girl named Emma. Emma liked to tell stories, so I am going to tell her one.
This story begins with a secret. A dark and dangerous secret.
One night, late after the moon had risen, two girls heard something rustling behind the bushes near their school. They rescued it and set it free.
But they shouldn't have let it go.
They released a monster. A monster so terrifying it was only talked about in mythology and superstition.
Once that monster was free, he lunged out of the bushes. Teeth bared, dripping with blood.
One girl ran away, but the other wasn't fast enough.
He sank his teeth into the soft skin on her neck and bit down hard.
In the moon's glow, the girl changed into a monster just like the one she had found.
The young girl's parents wept when they realized what had happened to their child that fateful night. They spent their days searching for a cure and their nights inventing new ways to hide the truth.
They made a pledge: Until a cure was found, no one could know what had happened that night.
Now the moon was rising again. The girl had to act fast. She made a place in the basement to hide the secret. No one would know. The secret would be hidden in the darkest shadows.
The problem was Emma.
She was snooping around. Curious. Suspicious. Emma had to be stopped.
There were big things at stake. Dangerous things.
The girl was determined to do anything she could to make Emma go away before it was too late.
With a solemn vow, she swore to protect the secret no matter the cost.
“Why would you write such a horrible story?” Sam stared at me with hard eyes.
I felt like I was repeating myself, but there was nothing else I could say. “I didn't.”
“You really hate Cassie,” Riley said. She moved closer to her sister and took her hand. “That's the meanest thing I've ever read.”
“I didn't write it,” I said again.
In the TV's flickering light, it looked like Riley was on the verge of angry tears.
“Really?! Come on, Emma!” Sam was furious. She pointed at the book in Cassie's hand. “You wrote a story that is almost identical to what happened to us at school, only with evil changes.”
“The story doesn't say cute terrier puppy,” I tried to argue. “It says monster. And it wasn't found
the bushes; it was
them. Plus, there's a big difference between day and night.” As I made my list, I realized that arguing about specific words was a huge mistake. It sounded even more like I had written them, since I knew exactly what the story said.
Sam didn't appreciate my snarky reply. “The story is in your book! Found in your bag! All that, plus you're the only one I know who likes to write scary stories.”
I protested her list with the first thing that came to mind. “You know that I never write anything with me as a character.” Well, except that one journal entry for class, but that shouldn't count because the book made it disappear.
Sam shook her head. “You say Cassie has been acting strange, but you're the one who's being weird. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this one out, Emma. The werewolf girl in your story is so obviously Cassie. You don't even have to say her nameâit's that clear.” She leaned in toward me and said on a long breath, “You've been jealous of the attention I've given my cousins ever since they arrived.”
That hurt. It felt like she'd stabbed me in the heart. I didn't mean to ruin the weekend. I didn't mean to mess things up. All I wanted was a fun time with Sam and her cousins.
Cassie gave me a look like she'd just won. She
wanted me to leave, and now everyone agreed with her.
“Give me the book,” I told Cassie in a voice that was so serious she didn't argue. “This journal is ruining everything!”
“A book can't write a story by itself,” Sam said.
“But it did. It does.â¦” I was so frustrated, now I was the one who had tears in her eyes. I stomped my foot and tried to tear the book in half. The cover was thick and wouldn't rip. I tried to pull out the pages. They were stuck. I tried to split them in half. “What kind of paper doesn't tear?” I muttered when they held strong. “SEE? LOOK!”
I shouted at Sam, Riley, and Cassie, “This book is possessed!”
I was panicked that Sam wasn't going to like me anymore after tonight. This was the kind of thing that broke up best friends. If Sam kicked me out now, I had nowhere to go. Mrs. L was probably still at the ferret hospital, Mom was far away, and Sam's parents were in the city.
“I knew the journal was possessed today at school,” I admitted to Sam, my voice begging her to believe me. “Remember my reaction during free-writing time? When I screamed?”
“I figured that was just you coming up with good ideas,” she said.
“I pretended it was nothing, but the journal was talkingâwell,
âto me.” Sam had an incredible look of disbelief in her eyes, so I pressed on. “Mr. McCarthy thought I'd written my class work in there, but I didn't. It wasn't me writing.”
“That's impossible,” Sam said in a cold tone. “Of course it was you.”
I tried another approach. “When would I have written that story? I was with you this whole time!”
Sam paused thoughtfully, then said, “There were gaps.”
“What gaps?” I huffed.
“Gaps,” she said vaguely. “Minutes you weren't with me. Long enough to write a story.”
I guess when I was snooping around after Cassie could count as time I was not with her, but I wasn't writing. I was stalking! Big difference. And equally bad, now that I was really thinking about it.â¦
Sam turned away from me and went to sit on the couch. I felt like I was losing her friendship fast, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
“Why would I write a story about Cassie? I just met her!” I said, coming to the couch. She didn't move over for me, and when I went to sit, Riley snuck under my arm and took the seat. I had to stand in front of them, like an accused criminal explaining her case in front of a judge.
“You're creative,” Sam said with a shrug.
She used to admire that about me, but everything was changing.
Sam squinted hard at me and said the meanest thing she'd ever said: “I wish you'd never come over this weekend.” I thought this could not get any worse, but it did. She said, “We're going to watch the movie now. You're not invited anymore.”
“What?!” I sputtered. “Where am I going to go?” This was crazy.
She tipped her head toward the stairs.
Ah, I understood. I wasn't being kicked out of the house. I was being banished. Sent upstairs to solitary confinement as my punishment.
I nodded. “Okay,” I said. “But I am going to prove to you this book is acting on its own. I did not write that story. Theâ¦” I looked down at the book, still open in my hands, and for the first time, I said his name out loud. “It was the Scaremaster!”
Sam rolled her eyes. Riley scooted closer to her as if whatever was wrong with me might be contagious.
I slammed the book shut and stormed past Cassie, who was standing where she'd been this whole time and still hadn't said anything.
I was at the bottom stair when I stopped. I retraced my steps back to Cassie. She was like a gargoyle, a mean-looking statue that did nothing but stare at me with those freaky eyes of hers. I leaned in tight and whispered, “No matter what you do to meâ¦ I am not leaving.” I gave a little snarl to finish the thought, like a spoken exclamation point.
I rotated on a heel and stomped up the stairs, clumping as loud as I could as I went.
I opened Sam's bedroom door with a bang and kicked it shut with an echoing slam.
Then I dropped that rotten journal on the edge of the bed and flopped into her pillows, scooting back away from it. I didn't want to touch it.
None of this would have happened if the librarian hadn't told me to pick a journal. Or back even further at schoolâif I had just gone with Sam to get the telescope stuff, instead of going to the library! This
all my fault.
I was mad at myself for making a mess of everything. Mad at Mom for going away. Mad at Cassie for being so secretive. Mad at Riley for being so cute. Mad at Sam for being so logical.
I slammed my fists into Sam's pillow and kicked my feet.
The journal fell off the bed with a sound that wasn't a normal book-falling sound.
It was like a whoosh of wind through trees. And with it, there was that smell I'd smelled before: fog and pine and damp dog. But now there was also something new, and it made the hairs on my neck stand on end: blood. Not that I'd smelled a lot of blood in my life, but it was like raw meat before it goes on the grill. My hand hurt as if I was the one who was wounded, and in my imagination, I saw blood dripping on leaves. The image brought a bitter metallic taste to my mouth.
Shaking my head to push the imagery away, I looked down toward the floor. The journal had fallen open to the first page.
It was blank!
I grabbed the book off the floor and violently turned through the pages.
I had to show Sam. This was the proof I needed that I'd never written the story in the first place!
I was about to dash out of the room when fresh new writing appeared.
It was the strangest thing I had ever seen.
Words, slowly, and in that same strange handwriting as in English class, started moving across the page. Like someone was writing to me from inside the book.
Once upon a time, there was a girl
I grabbed a pen from Sam's desk and scribbled.
Stop it. No more stories.
How do you know my name?
I know a lot of things.
Did you like my story?
Everyone thinks it's
That's not true! I didn't write it.
There was another possibility. Maybe Cassie had written the story knowing it would get me banished? If she had already come to the conclusion that nothing she did would make me leave, this was the second-best choice.
It made sense that she was behind all this. But then again, how could she have gotten the journal from my house, brought it here, and written in it? There was no way. I erased that option.
I told the book:
I am writing the story for you.
We are a team.
I didn't want to be part of his team. But I didn't say that, so instead I wrote:
Who are you?
You already know.
There was a long pause. I held my breath.
Why are you doing this to me?
That was a big question. I was already suspicious of Cassie when Riley found the book in my bag. The Scaremaster just let everyone know that I was suspicious, or how had be said it?
Then again, the whole weekend plan had changed after I wrote my essay in class. The Scaremaster said I shouldn't be bored. Could he be behind everything? Or was it really me making stuff up? AUGH! I was getting a headache trying to figure out what was going on!
I considered what to do.
I had a very important question that would determineâ¦ everything.
The Scaremaster would know the answer.
Is Cassie dangerous?
Do you think so?
Figures. I paused to consider, then wrote:
It's your story.
We are a team, remember?
I took that as an agreement. Not the way I wanted to hear itâand that team thing was still bugging meâbut still, it felt like an agreement to me.
What am I supposed to do?
No answer. I waited. Still nothing. Maybe the Scaremaster hadn't gotten the message. I tried again:
What should I do?
Ask again later.
Didn't he understand? I didn't have time to wait. In a rush of words, I scribbled:
I need you to tell me what to do NOW!
As fast as I was writing, the ink disappeared, fading to a blank page.
Come on. Help me. What should I do?!
There was no answer from the book. I sighed. I was on my own.