You'll Like It Here (Everybody Does)

BOOK: You'll Like It Here (Everybody Does)
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Text copyright © 2011 by Ruth White
Jacket art copyright © 2011 by Zdenko Basic

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children's Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

Delacorte Press is a registered trademark and the colophon is a trademark of Random House, Inc.

Grateful acknowledgment is made to Memory Lane Music Group for permission to reprint lyrics from “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” written by George David Weiss, Luigi Creatore, Hugo Peretti & Solomon Linda, copyright © 1961, copyright renewed 1989 and assigned to Abilene Music LLC c/o Larry Spier Music LLC. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission of Memory Lane Music Group.

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
White, Ruth.
   You'll like it here (everybody does) / Ruth White. — 1st ed.
      p. cm.
   Summary: Although Meggie Blue seems to be an average sixth-grader she is abnormally frightened when residents of her small, North Carolina town become fixated on aliens and soon she and her family are forced to flee, making it clear that all is not as it seems.
   eISBN: 978-0-375-89860-0 [1. Extraterrestrial beings—Fiction. 2. Family life—Fiction. 3. Interplanetary travel—Fiction. 4. Science fiction.] I Title. II. Title: You will like it here (everybody does).
   PZ7.W58446You 2011
   [Fic]—dc22

2010032153

Random House Children's Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.

v3.1

To: Bill, Kathy, and Anna

Contents
• 1 •
Meggie Speaks

W
hen I was in the third grade on the California coast, a crazy man came into my classroom one day and started waving a knife around. He said he was an alien hunter. He had a purple blotch on his face that was shaped exactly like Mexico, and his eyes were wild. Help came before he could hurt anybody, but he left scars all the same.

I was so petrified I don't remember a thing after that, until I saw Gramps holding out his arms to me. He lifted me from the couch in the principal's office, where I lay curled up, and held me close. He smelled like freshly baked bread.

And that was the day my nightmares started.

At the end of that school term, Mom quit her job at the university, where she taught astronomy, and found a new one at another university, in North Carolina. A
moving van carried our belongings across the country, but Mom, Gramps, my brother, David, and I spent five amazing days and nights traveling in our car, taking in the sights of America.

In North Carolina we were thrilled to pieces with our own seven-acre plot of land surrounding the farmhouse Mom had bought for us. Locally it was called the old Fischer place, for the family who'd lived there for years and years before us. There were apple trees and lots of blackberry bushes, a grape arbor, a weeping cherry tree, and I don't know what all.

I barely remember Daddy, who died when I was three. From then on, Gramps, who is my mom's father, tended our house and took care of us. David and I never knew Grandmama, because she died before we were even old enough to have a memory. Gramps, in his sixties, was still as energetic and feisty as a boy. He took good care of himself through a healthy diet and exercise, and because of that, he seemed much younger than he was. At times, in fact, when asked his age, he actually fibbed, subtracting five years or so, and he got away with it.

My mother was the best mom in the world. She was strong like a rock, sweet, smart, and pretty too, but it was Gramps I turned to when I needed help or comfort or affection, probably because he was always available. Gramps was also a wannabe artist. In California he stayed at home and happily painted his pictures when Mom, David, and I were at school. Sometimes he sold his stuff at arts festivals for a few dollars each. But now that we were older, and living in a new place, he wanted to walk
out into the world a bit, as he put it. So that first September he began teaching art to high school students in the small town near us. Next door to the high school were the lower schools, where David and I enrolled. Mom's new job was only thirty minutes away. So there we were, a happy bunch of campers in our new home.

The next spring we sowed our seeds in the ground and watched them sprout and grow into living plants that made tomatoes and cucumbers for us, along with green peppers, corn, and melons. We got good vibes from the earth and spent every hour possible outside. Another planting season flew by, and now it's spring again. David and I are practically all grown up, as I am finishing the sixth grade and he the eighth.

The nightmares that started for me in the third grade eased up over the years, but at certain times I still feel like that little girl who was so scared and helpless, she wet her pants. I see things in the shadows, and when I round a corner, I halfway expect something hideous to jump out at me. I also hear noises under my bed and in my closet.

Some shrink told Mom that it's common for a person to carry a thing like this forever. That doesn't exactly make me feel any better. It doesn't help either having a brother who is perfect—one who works out complicated math problems just for the fun of it, and beats the computer in chess. Yeah, David's so middle-aged he makes me sick, and do you think he's ever been afraid of anything at all? I don't think so.

I've come to the conclusion that I'm sure about only one thing in my life, and that is that I want to be able to
do something—anything—that my brother can't do. At least, I want to do it
better
than he does. Will that ever happen?

Now at school a new buzz has started. You know the way things go around. One year you'll have stories about witchcraft, and who might be a witch and who might be a vampire or a werewolf. One year there's a ghost in somebody's house, or at one of the umpteen cemeteries in our little town. Everybody has a hair-raising story to tell you at lunch break. And this year, wouldn't you know? It's UFOs.

“There are aliens among us,” the kids whisper, because teachers don't want to hear junk like that.

“They are here to take over the earth.”

“If we don't get them first, they'll get us.”

My very best friend is Kitty—short for Kathryn—Singer, a tiny, sparkly African American girl who always wears purple. I love her to pieces, but I gotta tell you she has an imagination that won't quit. Maybe it's because both her parents are librarians, and the whole family reads tons of stories, sci-fi and otherwise. They also watch every movie that comes along, no matter how far-out.

On a golden Saturday in May, Kitty and I are picking strawberries from our patch when she says to me, “Did you know the aliens come in the middle of the night when you're sleeping, and suck your soul out through your big toe? Then you become one of them, and you don't even know it. You go on living regular until one day they make you do evil things.”

“Suck out your soul through your big toe? Kitty, you've been watching way too much sci-fi.”

She stands up and wipes her hands on her purple shirt. “Meggie B., I'm serious as a heart attack!” she says. “And when you wake up some night with one of them tugging at your foot, don't come crying to me! I warned you.”

Then we both bust out laughing. Kitty always makes me laugh. We whisper secrets and share dreams. We like the same music. We both like Taylor Swift better than Miley Cyrus. We love pretty clothes. Kitty's slogan for life is “All good things start with a dream.” We've been working on a slogan for me, but nothing seems to fit yet.

That same afternoon, as we sit in the grass and eat our strawberries, she tells me she likes Corey Marshall, who's in our class.

“I like him too,” I say, not getting her drift.

“No,” she says, “I mean I don't just like him. I
like
, like him.”

“Oh,” I say. “You
like
him?”

“Yeah, and if you ever tell a living soul, I will put a curse on you. I do voodoo.”

“You do?”

“Who do?” she squeals.

“You do voodoo?” says me.

“Voodoo doo-doo,” she comes back.

This could go on all day, so I get to the subject at hand. “Corey Marshall, huh?”

She claps a hand over my mouth, and I mumble through her fingers, “I won't tell.”

“There's nothing to tell,” she says, and removes her hand.

“That's exactly right. There's nothing to tell. But …” I lean over and whisper in her ear. “He sure is cute.”

She grins.

I know Kitty and my other classmates don't even believe their own stories about the aliens, but those creepy dreams start crawling around in my head like they used to. In my sleep I see the man with that purple Mexico on his face. I hear him growling,
“I'm an alien hunter. I'm an alien hunter.”
And once again his words echo … echo … echo … through my nights and sometimes through my days.

From the first of May until the last of September, Mom, Gramps, David, and I like to sleep on cots on our screened upstairs porch under the stars. I really love those nights. The radio plays low while Mom points out the constellations to us, and I drift off to sleep with the sound of music and Mom's sweet voice.

“There's the Southern Crown.”

In the jungle, the mighty jungle

“There's Ursa Minor.”

The lion sleeps tonight
.

“There's Lupus, the wolf.”

Near the village, the peaceful village

“There's Sagittarius, the archer.”

The lion sleeps tonight
.

Sometimes I wake up in the wee hours to see Mom standing still with her hands on the screen, looking up at the sky. Tears glisten in her blue eyes. Her lips are moving
like she's speaking to God, but she doesn't say anything. My mom is so pretty with the moonlight shining on her pale hair. I know at these moments, without being told, that she's thinking of Dad, and is searching for him in the stars.

At school the rumors become more grotesque and bloody with each telling. In my nightmares, yucky creatures climb up the outside wall of our house and onto the porch where we lie sleeping. They have the wild eyes of the madman, and they carry knives.

BOOK: You'll Like It Here (Everybody Does)
12.45Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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