Authors: B. A. Frade,Stacia Deutsch
I didn't want to leave her alone for even one second, but I'd known all day that there was something I had to do. This was the first opening I'd gotten.
I considered forcing her to wear Duke's silver pendant while I was away, but she'd never go for it. I'd simply have to hurry.
I was tense, but this was important. I needed one last conversation with the Scaremaster.
When Sam told everyone to get their jackets, I said, “Mine's upstairs,” and took off two steps at a time.
I didn't even turn on the light in Sam's room. The rising moon was plenty bright to read by.
I flipped open the leather journal. There on the first page, the Scaremaster had written exactly what Sam had said:
Let the festivities begin
. My heart pounded, and I got a serious case of the chills.
I felt so nervous that my hands were shaking as I wrote down my question:
What's the cage for?
I needed to know, did we go in it or not? That would determine my next move.
The Scaremaster answered right away.
There's no cage in the story.
I considered that, mentally reviewing the narrative in my head.
It was true. No cage. Just me and a snarling werewolf in the basement. Until the point where there was no me anymore.
Hmmm. I considered what this discovery
meant, but I had no answer.
I tried the Scaremaster again:
Someone needs to be locked inside it for safety. Cassie or us?
Stop meddling, Emma.
I am warning you.
I felt feisty. And mad. I wrote in firm letters:
Don't threaten me.
The story will unfold the way I wrote it.
I thought back to the ending the Scaremaster had written. Shivers went through my entire body, head to toes. I shook the pen to get as much ink as I could in the tip and scribbled:
I am a better writer than you.
THIS STORY IS ABOUT TO CHANGE!
Then, before the Scaremaster could reply, I shut the book and tossed it under Sam's bed. Me and the Scaremaster were done. This night was NOT going to go his way.
I would stop him.
We were heading to the park.
Since that was where the Scaremaster's story began, I tried desperately to convince Sam that we should avoid going there. First step to change the storyâchange the setting.
“The schedule says park,” Sam told me on the way. “I planned everything to happen in the park. Therefore, we are going to the park.”
Ack. Why did she have to be so, soâ¦ Sam! It was infuriating.
I gave up. But then, to my complete shock, Cassie said, “Yeah. The park's a bad idea.”
I nearly fell over, I was so surprised. “What?” I said, turning to her.
“I'm just agreeing,” she said to me. I remembered that she'd told Riley I was “right” when they'd had their private meeting off the kitchen. I couldn't mention that, however, without letting her know I had been eavesdropping, which I'd never, ever admit.
So Cassie didn't want to go to the park.â¦ Interesting.
Her declaration totally threw me off. For the Scaremaster's story to come true, we had to stay in the park. I figured, as the main character, she'd stick to the plot.
This was an unexpected twist.
“Let's hang around here,” Cassie suggested. “Got any more Nature Channel documentaries?” she asked Sam.
I could see Sam almost fall for it.â¦ Almost, but not. She did love those documentaries.
“I have some,” Sam said at last. “But we can watch them tomorrow. Tonight, we're going to the park.”
That's Sam. Once she has a plan, it's nearly impossible to alter it.
Cassie bit the inside of her lip. “Okay, fine.” She gave in, but the whole thing was still baffling. What was she up to?
Until I had this all figured out, I was going to have to go along and improvise as I went. I had this big idea that every time I could change a detail in the story, I would. It wasn't a great plan, but that's how stories work. Change one thing, and everything else was going to change too. Like if I had gone with Sam to get the stuff for the telescope, I wouldn't have the journal. Or if Mrs. L's ferret hadn't been sick, I wouldn't be here right now, scared to death, flipping out, heart thumping.
I hoped that a bunch of small changes put together would add up to us all living through the night.
At the park, Sam set up the telescope in the exact
same grassy spot the Scaremaster had described. I couldn't even get Sam to move it three feet left. She was so stubborn!
I needed something else.
“We'll look at the moon for a while,” she told us all. “Then start walking around at exactly midnight.” Sam waved a printed map. “I have the best viewing sites marked according to longitude and latitude, and maximized to avoid big trees that might block our view.”
I wondered if I could convince her to start the walk at 11:52. I didn't know. That one thing might make all the difference in the world.
Sam wasn't cooperating. She had a short lecture scheduled, which was timed to end around midnight. “There are thirty thousand visible craters, and the largest on the visible side is called Bailly,” she began.
By the way that Cassie yawned and Riley rolled her eyes, I knew they were not interested in any of this at all. Sam was oblivious. She was in her groove, going on about the dimensions of the Bailly crater.
After the lecture, we ate the celebratory moon pies and sat for a little while in the light of the moon while Sam explained how the ocean tides were linked to the moon's phases.
I could barely hear her. I kept staring at Cassie, waiting for her to grow fuzz on her face. Or start howling. So far, it was nearly midnight, and the Scaremaster's story was still on track.
Unsure what I was going to do when Cassie finally transformed, I eyed the park for escape routes. Any direction except through the dense trees would be a change. Maybe if we hid from the werewolf under the playground slide, it would be enough to shift the Scaremaster's ending.
Suddenly, Cassie said, “It's practically midnight. We have to go back to the house.”
Here we go again. What was going on? Cassie wanted to leave?! Nothing made sense.
“It's not midnight yet,” Sam countered. “We are starting the moonlit walk exactly at midnight.” She tapped the face of her watch.
“Can't do it.” Cassie rubbed her eyes. “Long day. I'm beat.” She put her arm around Riley, in an aggressive way, as if holding Riley in place. “Riley shouldn't stay up so late, Sam. She's too young.” There was another of those strange glances I'd seen between them.
Sam began her counterarguments. “We don't get to see each other very often, and the full moon only rises every 29.53 days. We don't have very long to wait, and I planned to talk about a few more craters.” She gave begging eyes to Cassie. “Come on, Cassie. Let's stay out. Just this once.”
Riley imitated Sam's eyes and echoed, “Come on, Cassie. Just this once? It's a celebration. It'll be okay.”
“No.” Cassie was firm. Her grip on Riley tightened. “I already told you the moonlit walk was a bad idea.” She turned to Sam. “We need to go to the house.”
“You can't cancel the walk.” That was probably the strangest thing I'd ever said. I was the one who had wanted to cancel the whole night! But now that we were here, the park seemed safer than the house. It was bigger with more places to run and hide. I figured that if we fled left instead of right, like in the story, it might be enough to save us all. And if Cassie wanted to be in the house, it was definitely a place I
want us to be!
“I'm in charge. We're leaving,” Cassie said firmly.
In my head, I could hear the Scaremaster laughing at this unexpected development. It would benefit him if we went to Sam's house. It was much easier to fulfill the nightmare in the story, if we were in the house with no way to escape. At the house, the werewolf could have three victims instead of just one.
This was not the change the story needed.
“Come on, Riley,” Cassie said. Then to my horror, she added softly, “We're going to Sam's basement.”
Whoa! What? The basement?!
I had no doubt that the Scaremaster was behind Cassie's decisions. He somehow knew what I was doing and was bending the story to go his way.
It was a battle to “The End.”
If I wanted a new ending, it was time for me to create one. Now or never!
I rushed forward. My adrenaline was pumping. I felt like a superhero flying in to the rescue. I snatched Riley out from under Cassie's arm and shouted to Sam, “Run!”
“Huh?” Riley was confused, but I gripped her hand tight in mine. “We have to get away. Before it's too late!” I shrieked at Sam to follow us left toward the park's playground. My voice echoed in the dark, cool air. “We have to stick together!”
Cassie leapt forward. In the dark, it looked more like a dog's leap than a human one. She tackled me to the ground. “You don't know what you're talking about, Emma!”
“Yes I do!” I countered. I cast my eyes toward Sam. “Take Riley away. Far away.”
Cassie was sitting on me now, teeth bared. “Go ahead, bite me! I'll sacrifice myself if you leave Sam and Riley alone,” I offered.
Sam and Riley backed away, but they didn't run. It was most likely because I was thrashing around and they didn't want to get hurt. Cassie was strong, but I was determined to save my friends.
I kneed her in the chest and made a wild karate chop to the side of her arm. It was pathetic, but enough to shock her. I managed to push her off me and struggled to stand.
Once I was on my feet, I took off toward Riley, snagging her hand once more. “Come on!” I tugged. “We gotta get away!”
“Riley, you need to come with me!” Cassie told her sister. She didn't try to fight me again, instead keeping safely away from my weapon-like hands. “Hurry. There's no time left,” she pleaded.
“I'll protect you,” I told Riley. She must have been really nervous because her hand was warm and slippery in mine.
“It's happening, Cassie,” Riley called over her shoulder as I dragged her away, not realizing that I was turned around, going the wrong way. I was in such a frantic state, I didn't realize which way I was heading until it was too late. We'd entered the wooded part of the park, putting the Scaremaster's story back on track.
I heard Cassie shout, “I'll get help!”
I ran and ran and ran, dragging Riley along behind me. When we came to the deepest, wooded part of the park, I finally stopped to rest. We were both out of breath and panting hard.
We were alone.
Noting that the full moon was directly overhead, I felt a rush of defeat.
It was midnight.
I had failed at my one goal. I'd left Sam with her cousin. Now Sam was with Cassie, primed to be bitten and transformed into a werewolf.
I was devastated.
If I couldn't save Sam, I was determined to keep Riley nearby. No matter the tricks the Scaremaster played, this little girl would not “disappear” on my watch.
Under a shady tree where the moonlight didn't shine, I tightened my fingers around her palm.
“Ouch!” I screamed, and pulled away as the hand I held scratched me with razor-sharp nails. I looked over just in time to see Riley sink down onto all fours on the leaf-covered forest floor.
“Get out of the way, Emma!” Cassie appeared just then. She shoved me to the side. The moon had moved slightly, and now, I could see red specks of blood forming across my palm where Riley had scratched me.
Cassie shouted, “I knew from the minute I saw you on the driveway that you'd cause problems!” She frantically looked over her shoulder at Sam, who was very much still human. “We have to get Riley to your basement! Don't ask questions. Just help!”
Sam was so stunned, she was frozen as if paralyzed. Everything she knew to be true about science and biology and human nature had just been thrown out the window. Her brain was slowly processing it all. Too slowly.
She and Riley were face-to-face.
Riley, or the werewolf that used to be Riley, was staring at Sam through hungry wolf eyes. She was panting and gnashing her jaw.
The outfit Riley had spent so much time picking for the moon celebration was in tatters on the ground. Matted fur covered her skin. It wasn't her fingernails that had scratched meâit was her sharp claws. Her jaw was wet, and her sharp fangs glistened in the moonlight.
Riley howled at the moon.
If Sam didn't move, I knew what was coming next. I'd read the story.
We stood there for a heartbeat.
This was all wrong. I couldn't let the Scaremaster win, but what else could we do?
“I tried to get Riley to the basement,” Cassie said. There was an edge to her tone that seemed to imply this was all my fault. “The cage belongs to her.”
Yeah, I got that now. There was no time to apologize or talk about how we'd reached this point. I still knew in my heart that we had to change the story, but how? Was it too late?
The wolf snarled at Sam and moved in closer.
If Sam got bitten, the Scaremaster's horrible story would unfold.
“Hey, little wolf.” A voice came from behind us. “I have a treat for you.”
Wait. That wasn't in the story. For a heartbeat, I turned away from Riley and Sam to see who was there.
“Duke.” It was Sam who breathed his name.
“I heard Cassie calling for me to help,” he said. “Even though she explained, I didn't expect to find this.” His crutches glinted in the moonlight.
“I knew from his gift to Emma that Duke had read a lot about werewolves,” Cassie said, giving me a sideways glance. “Plus, he's the only other person in town I know.”
I remembered he said he'd seen the movie Riley loved. “Fan of the supernatural?” I asked.
“You know it.” He grinned in the moonlight. “Did I tell you my new house is haunted? I'm a lucky guy.” Duke sounded more confident and assured than I'd ever heard. He didn't seem surprised to find out that werewolves actually existed or that there was one standing in the local park. “Sorry for not believing you before, Emma. After the orange thingâ¦ well, I thought you were just trying to trick me. Now let's get this puppy to the basement.”
I was so relieved he was there, even though part of me doubted how a guy with a broken leg could really help.
In a flash, something really important dawned on me. In the story, there was no one else besides us in the park. Now Duke was here. That meant the story was changing.
And: Cassie had gone for help, and unlike in the story, she hadn't disappeared. She had come back!
Another thing: I realized, there was a
in the basement.
The Scaremaster had warned me that it wasn't part of his story, but I didn't understand what he meant. Now I did.