Authors: B. A. Frade,Stacia Deutsch
I shoved the journal in my overnight bag. I knew what I needed to do next. Before the night was over, I had to get back into the group. They had to accept that I was there and not leaving. Maybe they'd even want me there if I plotted my return carefully.
I sat down to think things through.
First step: Apologize to Sam.
I had to make up with her, not just because she was my best friend, but because I had to protect her from Cassie.
Second step: Figure out what Cassie's deal was. I was thinking vampireâ¦ but that might have just been because of that movie and her love for the color black. I had never read anything about vampires that wore colors or stripes or plaid. There was also that line in the Scaremaster's story that said, “There were big things at stake.” Wasn't using a “stake” the way to kill a vampire? Maybe it was a pun? Did the Scaremaster have a sense of humor? I didn't know. The second step needed more clues.
Third step: I didn't have a third step yet. Maybe if I gave the journal a little rest, the Scaremaster would be willing to give me advice. He might have just gotten tired of all my questions.
Time to implement Step One.
I headed downstairs. No clumping or stomping, just regular, calm, not-paranoid Emma.
“Hi,” I said from the bottom step.
All heads turned toward me. I could see something similar to smoldering fire in Cassie's eyes. Glowing flecks of anger and frustration. This wasn't going to be easy.
“I come in peace,” I said with a small smile.
Sam put up a hand to block me from her view and said, “We're watching TV, and this is the most interesting part.” It was a not-so-subtle way to say, “We're busy. Go away.”
I wasn't leaving. I wasn't in a place to see the TV, so I paused to listen. The narrator was talking about moon mythology, specifically why people believed that the moon was made of cheese. This was the kind of stuff I liked watching with Sam. I would have liked to listen awhile, but there were more important matters at hand.
I forced myself to look into Cassie's flickering eyes and said, “I am so sorry, Cassie.” Simple. No excuses. Truth was, I couldn't go deeper than that. I didn't want to rehash the whole story about the journal or bring up the “cage in the basement” controversy. So I just left the apology in the air and turned to Sam, then Riley, and said the same thing: “I am so sorry.”
The three of them glanced at each other, and I got the feeling they'd already talked about what to do if I showed back up in the living room.
Sam was the spokesperson for the group. “You can stay down here tonight,” she said. “But it's not like everything is okay.”
Riley stood up and added, “I don't want to do your hair for the moon party anymore, Emma.”
Cassie turned to her sister and said, “It's late, and the movie's practically done. Let's finish up and go to bed.” I was surprised at how mature she sounded. It was Cassie from the kitchen talking, not the Cassie who worried me.
Then Cassie looked over and our eyes met. She mouthed at me, “Go away.”
I got a chill down my spine. She still wanted me to leave.
I made a decision that no matter what Cassie said or did, I wasn't going anywhere.
I went to sit on the couch by Sam. Even if she was mad, even if she hated me forever, until the full moon passed and the cousins went home, I was sticking with her like glue. I might not look like a very good bodyguard, but it would be harder to take down two of us than one. Strength in numbers. I had run away from Zombie Duke, but I wouldn't do that again. Whatever happened from here on, I was going to stay and fight. This time I wasn't going to back down.
The movie was nearly over. I'd missed the basic facts about the moon and just heard a little of the “moon is made of cheese” mythology. The next bit was a long part about people who believed there were faces or animal shapes reflected on the moon's surface. One tradition was about a man who had been sent to live on the moon as punishment for a crime. Some thought the man had changed his ways, and now he could grant wishes. He was the Man in the Moon.
I could actually feel Sam light up when the narrator explained that the faces that people think they see are actually flat spots created by smooth lava patches.
“Wow,” I said to Sam, leaning in toward her. “Fascinating stuff.”
“Yeah,” she said, pulling away slightly.
She wasn't ready to forgive me yet, but now that I was with her, I could deal with that.
The last myth in the movie was the one that changed everything for me. It was like a lightbulb in my head.
I couldn't even listen to the narrator after he said the word. My brain was spinning a million miles an hour. Faster than the moon's rotation for sure!
We'd already talked about the full moon and why werewolves transform. It had been in the first movieâRiley's movie.
I am no detective, but the clues were piling up.
Oh! The Scaremaster! He'd know if my suspicions were correct. I had to sneak away and ask him, but I was pretty sure I had uncovered the truth.
Cassie wasn't a vampire.
She was a werewolf!
The movie ended. While everyone was settling in for bed, I knew I needed to get away. Leaving Sam seemed like a bad idea, but it would only be for a few minutes. She'd be fine. Plus, the full moon wasn't until tomorrow night, so I had time.
“Hey, Riley,” I said, trying to sound like everything was awesome and my sleeping bag wasn't right next to a werewolf's on the floor. “You still have my toothbrush? I don't want to sleep with dirty fangs.â¦” Oops. “Teeth. I mean teeth!”
“I'll come with you to the bathroom,” Riley said, handing me my toothbrush and taking her own.
Ack. I hadn't really been planning to brush my teeth. I had been planning to run upstairs and consult the Scaremaster. Now I was stuck. If I wanted to get back on Riley's good side, I had to let her come with me. So I did.
After, I said, “I need to run to Sam's room to change into my pajamas.”
“Uh, Emma.” Riley gave me a strange look. “Aren't those your pajamas already?”
“Right.” I'd forgotten that we'd all changed after dinner. For someone who'd decided she wasn't my best friend anymore, Riley wasn't going to leave me alone for a second.
“I needâ¦” I paused. Riley and I were at the bottom of the steps. I glanced up, where the possessed journal was tucked into my overnight bag. Then I turned my attention to Riley. On a scale of one to ten, getting Riley back on my side was a ten. Checking in with the Scaremaster was a one. Well, maybe an eight. But still less important than Riley's friendship. It could wait. If my suspicions were right, I had twenty-four hours until I had to do something heroic.
Plus, I really had to go back to Sam.
“Okay,” I said, putting my arm over Riley's shoulder. She didn't shrug me off. “Let's go to sleep.”
My sleeping bag was between Sam and Cassie. Riley was on Cassie's other side.
My brain felt full and noisy. I couldn't stop thinking about what was going to happen at the full moon when Cassie revealed her true self. Did her parents truly know? The Scaremaster's story said they did and that they were looking for a cure. They must have really trusted Cassie to leave her with us on a full moon.
This was so tangled. My head hurt.
I knew I needed to sleep. But I couldn't.
I thought about the cage in the basement. Maybe
Cassie planned to lock herself in to protect us. Or maybe she planned to lock us in and run free and terrorize the neighbors! Should I warn Duke?
I had a headache the size of the moon, which was 14.6 million square miles, so it was a huge headache.
There was no way I was falling asleep. I gave up trying.
Sam's breathing was now slow and steady. Riley rolled around but was out cold. I was pretty sure Cassie was asleep too, but she kept making this throaty rattle sound that I swore sounded like a growl. A growl!
That was clue number 8.
There was no longer any doubt. I had to consult the Scaremaster.
I slipped out of my sleeping bag, careful not to wake the others. I'd be back before anyone noticed I was gone.
To be sure they were all asleep, I whispered their names.
“Sam?” All quiet.
A snarl answered me on that last one.
Certain that I was the only one awake, I snuck up the stairs and closed the door to Sam's room so no one would see the light. Sitting on the floor by my bag, I took out the journal.
The first page was as blank and fresh as it had been the day I got it.
Which was today.
Oh wow, had it really only been one day? So much had happened.
I took out a pen and wrote:
Is Cassie a werewolf?
What gives you that idea?
I listed my eight reasons.
Is that all?
I was getting annoyed by his “answering questions with more questions” thing, so I asked a question of my own:
Aren't those good reasons?
Maybe. Maybe not.
I considered what to write next and decided to just say what I believed:
She's a werewolf.
Long pause, then the Scaremaster replied:
I have a story for you.â¦
I knew how it began. It was the same as the last two times.
Once upon a time, there was a girl named Emma.â¦
I sat in silence as the Scaremaster wrote out the whole tale. It was the longest one he'd told me, taking up five whole pages. Single-spaced. Mr. McCarthy would have been impressed.
This time it sounded like I'd written it.
It started in the park.
I sat, mesmerized, as the Scaremaster wrote out the entire taleâ¦ until the ending.
The final sentences were terrifying. Horrifying. Even scarier than my own severed-head story! Scarier than anything I'd ever read.
I was shaking whenâ¦
The window glass above me shattered.
When I recovered from the shock and found my nerve, I hurried to look outside. Not the smartest thing I've ever done. Had I really thought things through, I would have stayed far, far away from that window. Danger was lurking all around me.
But I wasn't thinking. I was acting on impulse, and my impulse pushed me to investigate.
The whole window, it turned out, hadn't broken. There was a small, fractured hole in the middle, which made a web of shattered glass across the pane.
With blood throbbing in my brain so hard I probably needed to see a doctor, I peered out the small open spot in the glass, careful not to cut myself.
My heart was pounding against my ribs. I had a slamming headache from the throbbing. Every hair on my head was standing up by the root. I was scared. And yet my curiosity was bigger than my fear.
I squinted into the darkness. By the light of the nearly full moon, I saw a slender figure on the grass, looking up at the window, eyes wide with a horror that matched mine.
It wasn't Cassie. Or a werewolf.
To my great relief, it was Duke.
By the horrified look on his face, he clearly couldn't believe he'd tossed a rock and broken Sam's window.
And I couldn't believe it was him. It took a few minutes for my brain to tell my body to relax. We stood like that, paralyzed, staring at each other.
“Duke!” I said at last. The window was broken, but I still managed to push the frame up without damaging it further. “I need your help,” I told Duke.
Once I had fully wrapped my head around him being there, I couldn't control how happy I was to see him. It was like someone had thrown me a life vest in a rocky sea.
“Oh, it's you, Emma.” He sounded so disappointed. “I thought you were Sam. I saw the
shadow. I didn't mean to break the glass. It was such
a small stone.â¦” he said in an apologetic voice. “I just wanted her attention.” Then, “Where's Sam?”
“Downstairs with the cousins,” I said. “I have a problem.” I looked out at the tree in front of Sam's room. “Think you can climb up and talk to me?”
He stared at me as if I were the one who was a werewolf. “Are you nuts?” He waved his crutch in the air. “I'm not dumb enough to do that twice.”
I considered climbing down that tree, but seeing that crutch made me reconsider. The truth was, I was more likely to end up with a broken neck than a leg. Asking Cassie to drive me to the hospital wasn't an option.
I decided calling down to him was worth the risk of Sam and the cousins overhearing below. Fingers crossed, they were all asleep anyway.
“Soâ¦” This was kind of hard to explain. “Duke, I think Sam is in danger.”
He moved closer to the bottom of the window. “Really?” His face was illuminated in the moonlight.
I blurted, “I think her cousin might be a werewolf.”
He didn't start laughing, so that was a start. “What makes you think so?”
I was going to give him my list of clues but decided to go the direct route. I grabbed the journal and held it out so he could see it. “This book told me.”
I should have expected that.
“The Scaremaster is the author of the journal. His stories appear, then disappear.”
“Go on,” he said, still not laughing.
“The first story was about a girl, who thought she was rescuing a puppy, only it wasn't a dog at all. At the end, there was a big secret about it.” I paused, gauging his reaction, and, when he didn't say anything, went on. “In this new story, the girl discovers it was a werewolf who bit her. The first time she transformed at a full moon, she prowled the neighborhood at night, terrorizing small animals, searching for prey. She didn't catch anything and went to bed hungry.” I went on. “The next time she changed, her sister locked her into her room. When she snapped out of it the following morning, there was fresh blood on the carpet. No one could explain what had happened. One thing was sure: She wasn't hungry anymore.” I shuddered. “She knows she's a wolf, but she can't remember what happens while she's transformedâwhich makes it all even more dangerous.”
Retelling this was horrifying. The story was so eerie, I didn't really want to say it out loud, but I really needed Duke to believe me.
“There was a second chapter to this one,” I told him. “It starts in the parkâduring a moonlit walk. Four girls are out, looking at the full moon. The girl transforms into the werewolf.”
I knew which one but didn't say. Not yet.
“The werewolf chases everyone into a heavily wooded area, then corners them, one by one. First, the wolf bites her own cousin.” I repeated the word “cousin” so he'd understand I was talking about Sam. “She instantly changes into a werewolf too. The other girl goes for help, but she never comes back.”
I knew who that part referred to also. By the process of elimination, there was only one girl left. Not Sam. And not Cassie, who was the werewolf. That left Riley as the one who disappeared, because next was my part.
“Together, the two werewolf-cousins chase a girl called Emma into the basement.” I couldn't see Duke's face clearly but could tell he was listening, so I went on. “I'm not kidding. The only girl with a name in the story is
.” I leaned as far out the window as I could without falling and told him, “The whole story started âOnce upon a time, there was a girl named Emma.â¦'” They all did. The Scaremaster wasn't very creative about the way his stories began.
Duke stared at me. “Soâ¦ based on a story in a supposedly magical book starring girls with no names, you think Sam is in danger?”
When he put it that way, it did sound like something I was making up.
“I'm telling you, Dukeâit's not a coincidence. I can easily guess the two girls are Sam and Riley and that the wolf is Cassie. Plus, the park sounds like the one nearby: trees on one side, playground on the other, with thick grass between.” I had one last bit of evidence. “And the basement in the story is the exact same as the one in this house!”
“What happens to the girl in the basement?” he asked.
“It's awful,” I said, closing my eyes to keep from crying. “The werewolf corners Emma, I mean me, under the single hanging lightbulb. I scream and scream, but no one comes to save me.” My voice broke with the stress of it all.
That was the end.
In a long silence, I stared down at Duke. His face was pale in the light. He must have been afraid. I thought he'd go grab a weapon or something and rush back to help me.
But instead he said, “I saw that movie, Emma.”
“What movie?” I was baffled.
“The one about the book and the stories.”
“Huh? What are you talking about?”
Closer Encounters of a Different Kind
.” He said, “Funny joke, Emma. First you pelt me with oranges; then you try to sell me on some crazy story.” Duke backed away from the window, limping as he went. “No more tricks. Tell Sam I'll pay for the window.”
“Tricks?” I called after him. “What tricks?” I wasn't the tricky kind. Didn't he know that? Not even on April Fools' Day or Halloween. I NEVER PLAYED TRICKS!
Then again, I had screamed like a maniac when he came to the door earlier. With that in mind, I could see what he meant.
“Don't go,” I begged. “I need you.” I added, “I'll help you ask Sam to the dance!”
He didn't turn around.
“Pleaseâ¦” I added. “It's life or death.” I tried one last thing. “Save me,” I breathed. “This could be my last weekend ever.”
I heard the distinct sound of Duke's back door shutting.
I was on my own.
I carefully shut the window and pulled down the blinds to make the room feel more safe and secure. Then I rushed down the stairs. Everyone was, as I expected, still asleep.
I lay down close to Sam, not in my sleeping bag, but on the floor next to her. I shook her shoulder. “Sam,” I whispered in a throaty voice. “We gotta go.” Where, I didn't know. But we had to leave! “Come on.”
She didn't budge.
“Sam.” My voice was a little louder. From the other side of me, Cassie snore-growled. “Wake up.” I shook her harder.
She didn't even open one eye. It was like trying to wake the dead.
I scooted over to Riley. I'd start there instead.
“Riley!” My voice was getting louder and louder
as I became more desperate. “Get up.” She rolled over, her back to me. “Come on, little friend.” I tried to push her out of the sleeping bag. I was getting pretty aggressive now. It was like shoving a log. Same as Sam, she wasn't waking upânot for anything.
“Shhhâ¦” The voice came from the next sleeping bag over. “Go back to sleep, Emma.”
“Iâ” I'd been caught by Cassie. Of all people in the room, of course, she was the one who wasn't dead to the world. “Sorry,” I whispered to her.
“You will be really sorry if you don't go back to sleep now,” she grunted in a low, guttural voice.
I didn't say another word. Too terrified to do anything else, I crawled into my sleeping bag. I had twenty-four hours to figure out what to do.
Werewolf weekend was a nightmare come true.
I lay in my sleeping bag and stared at the ceiling.
I couldn't sleep.