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“Part Ghostbusters, part Sherlock Holmes, all fun and excitement.”J. Scott Savage, author of theCase File 13series andMysteries of CoveseriesTiffany Hart dreams of one thing: to be class president.However, dreams turn to nightmares when she ends up almost dead in an abandoned building and develops the oh-so-awful gift of ghost-seeing. Unfortunately, Tiffany only knows one person who can help her shake her ghoulish problem, her neighbor and the weirdest boy at school, Justin Henderson.Justin has seen ghosts since he was nine, a creepy claim that has earned him the privilege of eating lunch by himself for years. Together they start to unravel a mystery with dead orphans, a white witch, and phantom spiders. To save their lives (and the afterlives of innocent children), they must face a terrifying specter as well as a ghastly woman who isn't afraid of hurting kids, dead or alive. Can Tiffany win the school election and solve her ghost problems?“Ghostsitter is one of those rare books that succeeds at being both hilarious and freaky! Like a phantom spider, it snuck up on me and left me genuinely creeped out.”Frank L. Cole, author ofThe Afterlife Academy“I’ve never read a ghost story I’ve loved more than Ghostsitter . . . [It] is the kind of book that will make kids want to read with a flashlight under the covers long after they should be sleeping.”Peggy Eddleman, author of theSky Jumpersseries
|Publisher:||Future House Publishing|
|Product dimensions:||5.60(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.90(d)|
|Age Range:||9 - 12 Years|
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By Shelly Brown
Future House PublishingCopyright © 2016 Shelly Brown
All rights reserved.
Dying for a Slurpee
We were so far away from civilization that howling banshees with machine guns could've murdered us and nobody would've heard a thing.
Letting Kori Henderson drive me anywhere was mistake enough. That girl's braids were done so tight it messed with her brain. Letting her drive me to a spot of serious paranormal activity was pure stupidity.
I blamed Justin.
That nutcase was the reason I was in that junky minivan, bouncing down a country road in the middle of the night. Sure it was his sister, Kori, who invited all of us twelve-year-olds to join her friends on that spook hunt, and, yes, it was my best friend, Jessica, who actually convinced me to get in the van, but Justin Henderson was always behind all supernatural weirdness. He couldn't help it.
Resting my forehead on the cool window, I searched the moonlit hill for shadows behind the scrub trees. The hair on my arms stood on end just thinking about some old man with a bucket and a gun that Justin described as a local ghost legend.
How did I let Jessica bribe me with a Slurpee? No amount of sugar could compensate for the way that fear was digging tiny holes in my stomach.
I couldn't even watch Scooby Doo by myself.
"First one's here!" Kori said, whipping the car off to the side of the road. We all snapped forward as she hit the brakes. She gave a hoot then hopped out into the darkness. I wasn't surprised that she would rather roam in the murderers' realm — a.k.a. deserted roads at nighttime — than stay in a car with four twelve-year-olds. She had obviously only invited us so that Justin would have people to hang out with.
Jessica clapped her hands like a giddy toddler then crawled over me. She slid the door open and the outside air whooshed in. Scents like dirt and pine were lovely during the day, but they smelled like a horror film at night.
Jessica reached back in the car and pulled on my arm. "Let's explore."
The boys, Justin and Mario, slipped past her and milled about. I eyed the darkness outside, saw the tree branches faintly outlined by the sky. Then I studied the inside of the very empty car. Finally I let her drag me out because, shoot, staying by myself sounded way too freaky.
Clinging to Jessica's arm, I crunched through the yellow September grass, keeping a lookout for the bucket dude. The moon lit up the open field, but the tiny groves of trees and shrubs could have been hiding terrible things like wolves or wildcats or blow-dart assassins. I could feel the pulse in my neck, and my eyes refused to blink. Broken, crooked branches littered the ground like the arms of the dead pulling themselves from beneath the earth. The wind picked up, giving a shrill whistle and shaking the trees.
A large bird, probably some nocturnal predator looking for an unsuspecting snack, flew out of a tree and swooped by us, making even Jessica jump. Everyone laughed but me. I wasn't crazy-bread with a side of crazy-sauce like the others. Nope. Scary birds were just that.
Maybe staying alone in the car wouldn't have been so bad.
Mario stopped walking and adjusted the band that held his long wavy hair. His hair always reminded me of a professional soccer player's or a Twilight werewolf's. In elementary school the kids teased him for looking like a girl but now the entire female population of our junior high was in love with his long locks. Well, not me, or Jessica. We weren't that easily tempted by long thick hair, dimples, and a winking habit. At least not on Mario.
All of us had lived our whole lives on Shannondale Drive, which meant that we all knew that Jessica dragged around a Woobee blanket until she was eight, Mario had an embarrassingly huge crush on Kori, Justin used to pee on the trees at the park, and I was too afraid to spend the night at anybody's house. But what happened on Shannondale Drive never made it back to school. It was just for us.
Mario poked Justin. "So give us the tour, Casper." I hated that everyone called him that, but Justin didn't seem to care so I never said anything.
Justin folded his arm. They were huge compared to most seventh graders, but twiggy compared to his dad's arms. Becoming a linebacker was his destiny but his dad wasn't around to teach him how to play so instead Justin read Space War's books and Paranormal Truth magazines.
He gave a crooked smile, his bright white teeth shining on his dark face.
That creepy kid was completely in his element.
He dug his hands into his pockets as the wind kicked up again. The smell of his nasty woodsy laundry detergent blew past my nose. It was like someone had lit a forest of car freshener trees on fire. "So this is Gravity Hill. The idea is that if you let your car sit somewhere over there —" he pulled a hand out and vaguely motioned to the road, "it will roll uphill all by itself."
He pointed to where the road was swallowed up in the black horizon. A car-full of loud teenagers pulled up behind the Henderson's van and Kori ran over to them.
"Is that all?" Mario asked. "What about the ghost with the bucket?"
I turned, expecting Justin to finish the story but he was looking around him like he lost something. Suddenly he jolted like he had been tasered, his head turning quickly to the right. We all followed his distant gaze. Grass. Trees in the distance. But no buckets.
"Justin?" Mario asked, waiting for a response.
Justin was completely preoccupied. And possibly deaf.
"Mono loco." Jessica shook her head. "I'll take it from here. Mario, the caretaker with the bucket and rifle isn't on Gravity Hill."
That was the most beautiful thing I had heard all night.
She lowered her voice to a ghost-story-telling whisper. "Here's what happened. In 1955 there was a bus of elementary school kids heading back from a fieldtrip. The driver had a stroke just as they went around that curve." She pointed at a bend in the road. "He was completely out cold. It had been raining really hard that week, the roads were muddy, and the creek bed was overflowing. Driverless, the bus slid off the road and overturned into the water. Every child was trapped, submerged in water. No survivors."
The trees rustled while we all let that sink in.
Mario tightened his arms across his chest. "So they died?"
"Todos. Every one of them," Jessica said. "My tia told me that the ghost children push the cars uphill, away from the accident —"
"Ghost children? Ghost children!" I flailed my arms free from her side. "Those have to be the scariest two words I've ever heard. Here?"
They laughed but I was undeterred. "Cut it out! You know what word I want somebody to use? Science. Somebody please explain to me how the cars move up the hill using science."
Jessica shook her head. "But it defies science."
"Well I defy ghost stories!" The words flew out of my mouth before I could even make any sense out of them.
Mario belly laughed and put a hand on my back. "Chill, Tiff. You're probably right. I'm sure it's all a trick. My dad says it's just an optical illusion. Purely science."
Another couple of cars pulled up and more teens jumped out, hollering and laughing. Hopefully that was everybody, and we would be able to put it all behind us sooner rather than later.
"Ow!" Justin crouched down and rubbed his shin.
Growing pains, I guessed. I got those sometimes. But then he gave a dirty look to nobody and started swatting at invisible nothings. He lost his balance and ended up on all fours.
He was so bizarre. Justin's behavior had been weird for years but we hadn't seen an outburst like that one for a long time. The reoccurrence of Justin's extreme funkiness had us all mesmerized.
Again, I had to ask myself, what was I doing there?
I had goals and ambitions in life and none of them involved exploring the midnight haunting grounds of dead children, lost lovers, or an old ghost grandpa with a bucket and a gun.
My goals were, in no particular order:
First: make seventh grade the most awesome school year I (or anyone else) had ever had.
Second: (related but important enough to get its own bullet point) become class president. Jessica had nominated me and the only person running against me was lurpy Kevin Sendheim. Basically I had this election in the bag, but I wasn't stupid enough to let my guard down. There was automatic popularity if I could win the election, but losing to Sendheim would be social suicide.
Third: Convince Brett Lovell that he super wanted to be my boyfriend. This one was tricky since I was too young to have an actual boyfriend, at least according to my dad. But if I could convince Brett that he wanted to be my boyfriend, then when I was old enough (I was trying to convince my dad to lower from twenty-three to fourteen) we could be the most rocking couple at Antioch Junior High.
No ghost kids. No creepy bus stories. Just having fun, being seventh grade class president, and making Brett Lovell the love of my life.CHAPTER 2
They were looking at me. The heat on the back of my neck never lied. On the playground in elementary school, in the halls of the junior high, I knew when people were gawking. Just another one of the skills I didn't particularly like having.
I wiped my hands on my jeans and tried to stand up as if nothing happened. "I'm going to the car," I said, addressing no one in particular, and then I headed back.
Man, sometimes life swings a wicked foot sweep and knocks me on my butt — in front of everyone. Everything was going so well, too. My friends were hanging out with me, my sister was being nice to me, and then that tall dead girl kicked me in the shins.
I hate ghosts.
More than I hate ice cream headaches, chores, and Mrs. Harmon's debate class all rolled together.
"I'm coming with you!"
Tiffany Hart was chasing after me.
A goofy grin tried to creep up on my lips, but I fought it. Maybe life wasn't too horrible. She caught up and walked questionably close to me. I knew she was only rubbing shoulders with me because she was one of the biggest cowards in existence, but I'd take it.
I raced to pull my windbreaker off, struggling with the sleeves. Once I finally had it off, I handed it to her. She sniffed it, shrugged, then slipped it on. She had been on a campaign to get me to change my laundry detergent for years but it wasn't my laundry detergent that she was smelling. She zipped up the jacket and smiled at me. All of my previous frustrations washed away, and I couldn't help but smile back. It was nice that we were still friends, even if we weren't.
My attachment to the blonde girl who lived across the street was ludicrous. Tiffany was way too cool for me. I was the size of a small grizzly bear and she was like one of those ballerinas in a music box. My favorite book was Great Expectations while her favorite reality show was How Not To Dress Your Dog. I mean, black-white, science-art, left handed-right handed, exact opposites.
My Japanese pen pal from Chichibu told me a story once. Apparently in Japan there is this folklore that a red string is tied to the pinky fingers of soul mates from birth. No matter what choices they make, no matter what paths they take, the red string keeps them bound and will eventually bring them together. So whenever I was frustrated with her or with myself, whenever she ignored me at school but still made my heart race, I tried to pretend the red string was at fault. Soul mates. Fate beyond my control. That usually helped.
I opened the car door to let Tiffany in first and felt a tug on the back of my shirt.
Behind me was Yarntails.
At least that's what I had decided to call this ghost. She was gray and transparent, as they always were, and had pigtails tied with thick yarn.
She backed away from me. She must have seen the anger in my eyes. As she backed up she moved with that jolting, sporadic, disappear-reappear thing that all spirits did. I could never get used to it. It reminded me of homemade flipbook animation, but way creepier. She was no older than nine or ten. All of the ghost children wandering the field were about that age.
I didn't blame her for backing away. If she were closer I would have swatted at her. Contrary to popular belief, sometimes you actually can touch ghosts.
And sometimes they can touch you.
Or kick you in the shins.
Especially if they know that you can see them.
I hopped in the van and slammed the sliding door behind me, glaring out the window at the troublesome specter. She had stopped moving and was just looking at me. Sad? Scared? Bored? I couldn't tell. I didn't even know what I did to her that made her so agitated. Ignored her? Made eye contact with her?
"Thanks," Tiffany said as she snuggled into the windbreaker.
"Sure thing." It came out softer than I expected. Junior high does that to a person.
The lurching jittering caught my eye, and I watched Yarntails slowly make her way to the back of the car. I knew she could pass right through into the car if she wanted to, but for some reason she didn't.
"What?" Tiffany craned her neck over her shoulder to look out the rear window. I must not have been very subtle trailing the spirit with my eyes. "Oh, what's she doing?"
My breath caught in my throat. Could Tiffany see her? The idea that I wasn't the only one, the only oddity, made me lightheaded.
The sliding door opened with a clank, and I jumped. Jessica and Mario climbed in arguing about the pronunciation of gif, and when I turned back, Tiffany was leaning over the van bench looking out the rear window. One of her glitter sneakers popped up in my face. "Why's your sister putting baby powder on the bumper?"
Kori's braids sprung into view and then dropped back down. It was Kori she saw. I sighed. I should have known better. I was still the only freak around.
Jessica pushed the offending shoe down as she scooted past Tiffany to sit. "She's doing that," she explained, "so that you can see the fingerprints of the children who push the car."
Mario sat next to me and leaned in. "Hey Casper, is this stuff legit or bogus?"
I shrugged. "I'm pretty sure that the bus story has been proven." There was plenty of proof walking around outside. "And some guy from Pittsburg claims to have a picture of the old bucket man at the slaughterhouse. So, I guess there's some decent evidence."
"Slaughterhouse?" Tiffany sat up at the word.
Jessica clapped and giggled. "Next stop, baby!"
Tiffany's eyes went wide. "Um, no. Drop me off at home after this."
"Sorry, Tiffy," Jessica said with no apology in her voice. "It's just at the end of Gravity Hill. We're going there right now."
"No!" Tiffany dropped her head in her hands. "Slaughter. House. Slaughterhouse? Like was there a mass murder there or something?"
Jessica laughed then grabbed Tiffany's shoulders in a side hug. "No, it's for cattle. Like for making hamburgers. You know, chop-chop-chop."
Tiffany shook off the hug. "That isn't helping."
Kori hopped in the front seat and rubbed her hands like a mad scientist. "Y'all ready?"
I only had two sisters: Hannah, who was twenty-three and had legal custody of us, and Kori who was ... trouble.
Kori cackled, shoved her arm out the open window, gave a thumbs-up to someone behind us, and then started the car. She put it in neutral and we waited.
Then we started inching forward. Kori flicked her headlights on.
"Is it ghosts?" Tiffany asked, keeping her head buried in her lap.
Mario laughed. "Doubt it. It's not really moving that much." As if someone had heard him, the car started to pick up speed. "You're doing that," he accused Kori.
Kori propped her sandaled feet up on the empty seat next to her.
I glanced behind us and Yarntails was following, her movements still jarring. I couldn't imagine how she could be pushing the smoothly moving car with her jerky motions but I had no other explanation.
The car really did seem to be moving uphill at a good clip. I could see the speedometer — four miles an hour, then six.
"That is trippy," Jessica said, leaning over the crouching Tiffany and almost touching her nose to the window.
I had to admit it was rather weird.
The car slowed down but, before it could stop, Kori put it in gear and pulled into a dirt area in front of a large white metal building. Dust billowed in the headlights and as other cars arrived, we could see more of the structure. It was gigantic, much bigger than I would have guessed — with huge silos on one end, and tubes connecting them.
Excerpted from Ghostsitter by Shelly Brown. Copyright © 2016 Shelly Brown. Excerpted by permission of Future House Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsJoin the Future House Beta Reader's Club!,
Chapter 1 - Dying for a Slurpee,
Chapter 2 - Gravity Hill,
Chapter 3 - The Living and the Dead,
Chapter 4 - The White Witch of Black Diamond,
Chapter 5 - The Scream,
Chapter 6 - Five Hundred Pounds of Squirming Bugs,
Chapter 7 - The Fingers Attached to the Prints,
Chapter 8 - A Man of Words,
Chapter 9 - The Witch of Blackbird Pond,
Chapter 10 - Food Poisoning,
Chapter 11 - The Good, the Bad, and the Freaky,
Chapter 12 - You Smell Like Strawberry Shortcake,
Chapter 13 - Even the Dead Need To Sleep,
Chapter 14 - More Running,
Chapter 15 - Busted (Again),
Chapter 16 - Smurf Film,
Chapter 17 - Speaking with the Dead,
Chapter 18 - The Creepy Dude,
Chapter 19 - Speeches,
Chapter 20 - Old Mines Cemetery,
Chapter 21 - The Stuff of Horror Films,
Chapter 22 - Night of the New Moon,
Chapter 23 - Election Day,
Chapter 24 - The Results,
Chapter 25 - The Baby's Name,
Chapter 26 - Disappeared,
Chapter 27 - When Justin Died,
Chapter 28 - Kissing Research,
Chapter 29 - Meanwhile Back at the Hacienda,
Chapter 30 - The Long Wispy Trail,
Chapter 31 - Murder Most Foul,
Chapter 32 - Murder Most Foul,
Chapter 33 - Digging for Bones,
Chapter 34 - The Orphan Brat,
Chapter 35 - Two Bums in a Swing,
Chapter 36 - The Plan: The Embarrassing Part,
Chapter 37 - The Plan: The Wet Part,
Chapter 38 - The Plan: The Dry Part,
Chapter 39 - The Plan: The Part that Didn't Work,
Chapter 40 - Not in the Plan,
Chapter 41 - Following the White Witch,
Chapter 42 - What in the Heck is Going on Here?,
Chapter 43 - Karma,
Chapter 44 - One More Good-Bye,
Before You Go,
Never Miss a Future House Book Release,
About the Author,