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Attack of the Vampire Weenies
And Other Warped and Creepy Tales
By David Lubar
Tom Doherty Associates Copyright © 2011 David Lubar
All rights reserved.
NOT ANOTHER WORD
I hate mimes. They're so annoying. Especially the one who's always doing his act in front of city hall. I see him on the way home from school every day. He's usually on the sidewalk at the bottom of the steps, performing stupid mime stuff like pretending to sit in an invisible chair or pulling a rope. Sometimes he's standing on the wide entrance area at the top of the steps, making fun of the way people walk.
"That guy is such a jerk," I told my friend Brayden as we turned the corner by city hall on a Monday afternoon. I'd never managed to catch the mime doing it, but I was sure he was always mocking me after I'd walked past him.
"I think mimes are kind of cool," Brayden said. "They're what clowns would be like if clowns weren't creepy. It takes a lot of skill to do those things."
"You've got to be kidding." I glared at the mime in his stupid long- sleeved striped shirt, with his white gloves and painted face. "Anybody could do that stuff. Most people just don't want to humiliate themselves."
"You couldn't do it," Brayden said.
"Sure I could. Watch me." I walked toward the mime. As soon as he spotted me, he moonwalked past me, waving. Okay, I didn't know how to moonwalk, but I waited to see what he would do next.
He leaned over like he was resting his arm on a post or something. I did the same thing.
Then he stood up, bent forward, and acted like he was walking into a strong wind.
So did I.
I kept it up for a while. Whatever he did — I did the same thing. People started to watch us and laugh at him. Nobody tossed any money in his hat.
"Come on," Brayden said. "I'm tired of watching you make a fool out of yourself. Let's get out of here."
I bent toward him and whispered, "No way. I think I can get rid of him if I keep this up. I'll be doing everyone a favor."
"You're on your own," he said. "I'm going home."
"Fine. But you'll thank me tomorrow." I realized that this was my mission now. I was going to get rid of the mime. For good. Whatever he did, I'd do the same thing. After a while, I even managed to do a half-decent moonwalk. I was definitely giving him lots of reasons to leave. But I guess he was too stubborn to admit he'd lost.
Then I realized I had another weapon: Just because the mime couldn't talk, that didn't mean I had to keep silent. Whatever I was doing, I yelled it out in a totally obvious way.
"Hey, look at me! I'm trapped in an invisible cube!
"Whoa! I'm walking against the wind. Isn't that amazing?
"Oh, no! I have to carry this really heavy box."
Everyone who walked by stopped to laugh. I wasn't surprised. I had the sort of face that adults think is cute. It got me out of a lot of trouble. It was amazing the things I could get away with just by flashing a smile.
I'm pretty sure the mime didn't think I was cute. I kept waiting for him to get angry, but he didn't react to me at all for a while. Finally, after another half an hour or so of getting mocked and laughed at, he walked away from city hall with his shoulders slumped.
I followed him down the street. Sure enough, when he reached the next block, he put down his hat and started miming again. So I started mocking him again. I don't know why he thought a new location would make a difference.
He tried moving again a while later. And I followed him again. Nobody had given him a dime the whole time I was making fun of him. This was great. I promised myself I'd do this for as long as it took to get rid of him forever. I really hated mimes, and couldn't imagine why anyone would choose to spend his days like that.
"You've lost," I told him. "Find some other town. Go annoy some other people."
He didn't say anything to me, of course. But he obviously had no idea when to quit. He kept trying. I was getting tired and hungry. It was already past dinnertime. And it was growing dark. I figured he'd give up sooner or later.
Eventually, we reached the old bus station. It had been closed down last year after they built the new one, so there was nobody going past us. Nobody had any reason to be here. Even so, the mime kept doing his mime routine.
The streetlights flickered on. I looked around. There wasn't a single person in sight besides the mime and me. A slight tremor of fear rippled through my gut when I realized we were alone. But I was pretty big for my age, and I was a good runner. He wouldn't be able to hurt me. He wasn't a mugger or a gangster. He was a mime, which meant he was probably pretty much a wimp.
"There's nobody watching," I said while he pretended to reel in a big fish. "Give up."
He shrugged. "You win."
The words startled me. I figured he'd never talk.
He pulled a rag from his pocket and started wiping the thick makeup from his face. "You got what you wanted. You'll never see me again." His voice was deep but soft. Something about it made my nerves tingle.
"Great." I backed away a step. He was too calm. I'd trashed his whole act for hours, and he wasn't angry.
He looked at the rag, which was now covered with the white face paint. "SPF one thousand," he said.
"Total sun protection. It's the only way I can go out during the day — with paint on my face and my lips firmly sealed, since the inside of my mouth is just as vulnerable as my skin. Oh, let's not forget the special protective lenses." He reached toward his eyes and popped something into his palm. His pupils were dark slits now. The whites of his eyes were shot through with blood vessels. His face was nearly as pale as the makeup he'd removed.
"I know my little hobby is silly, and not very sophisticated, but it is so very much better than spending all day in a coffin, waiting for the sun to set. And so perfect for finding the sort of victim that nobody will miss very much. People who hate mimes are often unpleasant and annoying creatures themselves. They are obnoxious little weasels who think they are important and superior."
He flashed a smile at me — but not the closed-lipped stupid mime smile he'd used all day. He opened his mouth for this smile, showing four long, sharp fangs. Vampire fangs.
In an eyeblink, before I could even turn away from him and start to run, he closed the distance between us and grabbed my shoulders in a crushing grip. He bent his head toward my neck. I could smell damp earth on his clothes and stale blood on his breath.
I opened my mouth to scream, but terror closed my throat and no sound came out.
"Who's the mime now?" he whispered as I thrashed in silence.CHAPTER 2
GET OUT OF GYM FOR FREE
"All right, you toads — line up!" Mr. Odzman screamed.
"What's he so angry about?" I asked.
"I heard he's always like that," my friend Curtis said.
"This is going to stink." I got in line in front of the bleachers with the rest of the class. It was the first period of the first day of middle school, and we had gym. I figured the gym teacher would be tough, but he looked like he was about to bite off someone's head and spit it onto the floor. Maybe after sucking out the eyeballs.
"I know what you worms are thinking," he said. "You're thinking gym is going to be awful. But you're wrong. It's going to be worse than awful."
He paused to stare at each of us, one by one. As his eyes met mine, I felt all my organs contract into fleshy spheres. Even my lungs constricted. For a moment, I couldn't remember how to breathe.
"But you're wrong about something else, too," he said. "It won't be bad for all of you. One of you is going to get a break. Whoever wins the free-for-all gets to skip gym for the whole year. Sound good?"
We all nodded. It's hard to nod and tremble at the same time.
"Free-for-all?" Curtis asked. "I wonder what the rules are?"
We found out a couple seconds later.
Mr. Odzman walked over to the door that led to the locker room. "Last man standing gets out of gym. I'll be back in ten minutes to see who the winner is."
He stepped through the opening and pulled the door closed. I heard a bolt slide into place.
Last man standing? I looked at Curtis. "He's got to be kidding."
There was something dangerous in his eyes. I leaped back as Curtis swung a fist at my head. His knuckles flew past my jaw. All around me, kids had exploded into action, punching or tackling whoever was nearest.
I didn't have time to watch any of that. Curtis staggered toward me, thrown off balance by his missed punch. Without thinking, I bent over and rammed my head into his stomach. He grunted and toppled over. I started to straighten up, but I felt a sharp pain in my back. Maybe using my head as a weapon wasn't the best idea.
Groaning at the pain, I straightened up all the way. Curtis managed to stand, too, but only briefly. Someone flew past me and tackled him. They both went down with a thud. I spun around, trying to spot any attackers.
The fight didn't last long. I got knocked down real hard from behind and twisted my knee. I couldn't get up.
Hiram Soames, who's been lifting weights since he was five and shaving since he was seven, won the battle. He was the only person standing when Mr. Odzman came back in.
"Very good," he told Hiram. "You get out of gym for the year. As for the rest of you, I'll see you next week. Unless you're too injured to come to class. You don't need a doctor's note. I'll take your word for it."
Too injured? I staggered to my feet and tried to take a step. I felt like someone was using my knee as a knife holder. My back ached, too. I had a feeling it would be weeks before I could walk without pain. All around me, kids were limping, groaning, and moaning. A couple of them were sobbing or whimpering. I saw a broken retainer, two nickels, three pennies, and a ripped pair of boxer shorts on the floor.
As we stumbled into the locker room, Mr. Odzman walked over to his office, dropped into his chair, and put his feet up on his desk.
"He looks pretty happy," I told Curtis.
Curtis glanced toward Mr. Odzman's office. "You'd be happy, too, if you didn't have to do any work."
"I guess so. I think we're all going to skip gym for a while." I headed for our next class. As I limped down the hallway and checked my schedule, a chilling thought hit me. "Curtis?"
I pictured gas fires, powerful acids, toxic fumes, and broken glassware. "You don't think it will be like this in science class, do you?"
Curtis sighed. "I hope not."
I looked ahead of us, toward the science lab, where a plume of smoke poured out the door. Kids were crawling into the hallway, crying and moaning. One boy was stomping on his notebook to put out a fire. A girl raced past him, covered in dripping foam. Beyond them, through the doorway, I could see the teacher, wearing a pair of safety goggles and a grin.
It was going to be a long day.CHAPTER 3
GHOST IN THE WELL
"Don't eat that," Mary said. "It will give you cramps."
Rachel studied the crab apple she'd plucked from a drooping branch of the half-dead tree. She'd heard the same warning ever since she was little. You weren't supposed to eat them. But she was starving. "My stomach already hurts. This can't make it any worse. I've never heard of anyone dying from a crab apple."
"That doesn't mean it hasn't happened," Mary said.
"Well, if it kills me, you can feel good about being right." Rachel bit into the small, hard fruit. The juice that trickled out was tart, like acid on her tongue. She chewed for a while before she swallowed. She opened her mouth for a second bite, then frowned and tossed the crab apple into a tangle of bushes behind the tree.
"You'll be sorry," Mary said.
"But at least I won't be hungry."
As they walked back to town, Rachel could swear she felt the chewed-up piece of apple moving toward her stomach. She braced for sharp pains, but nothing came.
That night, as she was getting ready for bed, someone whispered her name.
Rachel opened the door and looked down the hallway. Nobody was there.
She slipped back into bed and closed her eyes.
"Rachel ... help me. ..."
She sat up and looked around. Then, feeling foolish, she spoke to the whisper. "Who are you?"
The whisper was firmer, clearer, as if her response had emboldened the speaker. Helen? Rachel didn't know anyone by that name.
"Where are you?"
"It's dark," Rachel said.
"You know your way."
Rachel walked to the hallway again. She checked to her left. Her parents' bedroom door was shut. There was no light spilling from the gap at the bottom. She got dressed, then sneaked out the back door, which, unlike the front one, never creaked.
She wondered what Helen looked like. The voice sounded young. But it's hard to tell with a whisper. Rachel peered all around. There was nobody in the yard.
"I don't see you."
"This way ..."
She followed the voice toward the woods, and then down the path she'd walked with Mary. When the words led her to the crab apple tree, she wasn't surprised. Rachel looked up among the branches. She'd heard tales of wood nymphs from her grandmother.
"Are you up there?"
"No," Helen said. "Down here, behind the tree."
Rachel forced her way through the brush, then knelt on the other side of the tree. The ground was covered with dead leaves and fallen branches.
"Dig where the large root vanishes," Helen said.
Rachel stood up and looked back toward her home. Digging made her think of worms and other unpleasant things.
"Please," Helen said. "You're the only one who can help me."
"Promise you won't hurt me," Rachel said.
"I won't touch you," Helen said.
Rachel knelt and grabbed a handful of dead leaves. The work wasn't difficult in the chilly night air. The ground was soft and spongy. But still, she felt sweat start to bead on her forehead as she tossed aside the leaves and branches.
Eventually, unexpectedly, her hand broke through to emptiness. Rachel gasped and fought for balance.
"Careful!" Helen said after Rachel had steadied herself.
"What is this?" Rachel prodded at the springy mass of vegetation. She'd heard about people stumbling across the openings of caves, but not here in the woods. The caves she knew of were high up in the hills across the river, not hidden behind crab apple trees.
"An old well," Helen said.
"How —?" She wasn't sure of the right words to form the question. She pulled aside several more branches, but kept herself safely away from the expanding opening.
"I fell in," Helen said.
Rachel didn't understand how the opening could have gotten covered so quickly. She was sure Helen must be starving. At least, in a well, there should be water. "Have you been there long?"
"It feels like it," Helen said. "I couldn't really guess how long. Is Mr. Jefferson still our president?"
Rachel froze. Thomas Jefferson had been president right after John Adams, well more than two centuries ago. The broken branch in her hand suddenly felt far deader and drier than it had a moment ago. Minutes passed before she could speak again.
"That was a long time ago."
"I was afraid of that, but I knew it must be so," Helen said. "All the water has dried up."
"You're a ghost?"
"I fear I must be. I'm trapped here. Nobody has heard me until now. I need help."
The crab apple, Rachel thought. She looked at the roots of the tree. They'd grown deep into the ground near the well.
"Help me," Helen said.
A ghost. Rachel leaped to her feet and backed away from the opening. "I have to go home."
"No!" Helen yelled.
The force of the shout startled Rachel.
"Please," Helen said. "I need to return the gold bracelet. Then I'll be free."
"Bracelet?" Rachel asked.
"A beautiful gold bracelet with two diamonds and a ruby in it," Helen said. "Have you ever seen a ruby?"
"Never," Rachel said.
"They are so red, they almost seem alive. And the diamonds — oh, how they sparkled in the sunlight, like dancing rainbows."
"I'll bet they're beautiful." Rachel had seen small diamonds on other people's rings and necklaces. But she'd never even seen a ruby, or had a diamond she could call her own.
"Martha Vanderberg's father bought the bracelet for her," Helen said. "She boasted about it all the time, and about her fancy dresses. I didn't have anything. So I took it. It was wrong. I know that."
"Vanderberg ...," Rachel said. There was an old woman in town by that name. Gretchen Vanderberg. She was always talking about how her family had lived on this land for centuries. "I know that family."
"Then you can return the bracelet," Helen said. "I knew this was meant to be."
Excerpted from Attack of the Vampire Weenies by David Lubar. Copyright © 2011 David Lubar. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
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