The first months of college take a toll on Molly Keene. In high school she knew everyone, but at Salem University she’s just another face in the crowd. No one notices her besides Norman, a peculiar intellectual who invites her to join his new club: the Others. The first meeting is just small talk, but at the second, things get weird. A ceremony takes place in the woods, around a campfire. Norman declares that the Others have secret powers which give them the right to impose their will on the school. It should be funny, but Molly isn’t laughing. As she makes more friends, Molly tries to get away from Norman and his creepy club. But she has already been initiated, and the Others aren’t going to let her go without a fight. This ebook features an illustrated biography of Diane Hoh including rare photos and never-before-seen documents from the author’s personal collection.
About the Author
Diane Hoh (b. 1937) is a bestselling author of young adult fiction. Born in Warren, Pennsylvania, Hoh began her first novel, Loving That O’Connor Boy (1985), after seeing an ad in a publishing trade magazine requesting submissions for a line of young adult fiction. After contributing novels to two popular series, Cheerleaders and the Girls of Canby Hall, Hoh found great success writing thrillers, beginning with Funhouse (1990), a Point Horror novel that became a national bestseller. Following its success, Hoh created the Nightmare Hall series, whose twenty-nine installments chronicle a university plagued by dark secrets, and the seven-volume Med Center series, about the challenges and mysteries in a Massachusetts hospital. In 1998, Hoh had a runaway hit with Titanic: The Long Night and Remembering the Titanic, a pair of novels about two couples’ escape from the doomed ocean liner. She now lives and writes in Austin.
Read an Excerpt
By Diane Hoh
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1994 Diane Hoh
All rights reserved.
"Ms. Keene, may I see you after class?"
Molly Keene froze in her seat. Second row, next to the window. On this warm fall day, sun was streaming in through the glass, filling the big, square lecture hall with a warm, golden glow.
But with Dr. Theodore's abrupt request, a sense of foreboding swept over Molly. It was as if dark clouds had suddenly swept across the sky over the campus of Salem University.
Why did her English professor need to talk to her? What had she done wrong?
That last paper ... the one she'd handed in on Wednesday ... the one she'd titled, "Solitaire," about the difficulties of the transformation from popular high school senior in June to lowly college freshman on an unfamiliar campus in September ... she must not have worked hard enough on it. Dr. Theodore must have hated it, or she wouldn't be asking to see her.
She knew she hadn't done her best on that paper. There had been a party going on across the hall, and she'd had a hard time concentrating. The party had sounded like a lot of fun. She and her roommate, Kayla, had been invited. Kayla was always invited. And Kayla always went. But Molly had decided to stay home and work on her paper. She wouldn't know anyone at the party, anyway.
"That's how you get to know people," Kayla had pointed out. "By going to parties and mixing."
Molly wasn't good at meeting so many new people all at once. She liked to meet them one at a time, get to know them slowly. That's what she'd done in high school, and it had worked. By the time she graduated, she knew almost everyone in her class.
But here at Salem University, it was different. So many people ...
"Ms. Keene? Is there a problem?" Intelligent hazel eyes peered out at Molly from behind wire-rimmed glasses.
"Oh ... no, Dr. Theodore. I'll stay." Norman would be mad. She was supposed to meet him out on the front steps of Goldwin Hall at three o'clock. He wanted to talk to her about the Others, the campus group he'd founded. She hadn't told him yet that she wasn't joining, after all.
Molly glanced across the aisle at Phoebe Sayward, one of her new friends at Salem. Phoebe rolled her eyes toward her thick, sand-colored bangs, and shrugged her rounded shoulders, as if to say, "Who knows why Dr. Theodore wants you to stay?" Then she mouthed, "I'll wait outside for you."
Oh, great. Phoebe would run into Norman. She didn't like him. "His last name should be Bates," Phoebe had said after Molly had introduced them. "Norman Bates. Like that guy in the movie Psycho. He acts so superior, like he knows something we don't know. Like he's keeping secrets. I wouldn't be surprised if he had a few bodies hidden in the basement of his house."
Of Phoebe, Norman had said only, "She's not one of us."
Molly wasn't sure what that meant. Everyone liked Phoebe. She was funny and bright, and so talented. She was going to be in a piano recital on campus the following week, and she had been featured in the first issue of the campus literary magazine, Odyssey, in an article titled, "Talent Abounds at Salem." Other talented freshmen had been included, but Phoebe's picture, in the center of the page, had been the largest.
How could anyone dislike Phoebe? Norman was just too judgmental.
But he'd been kind to Molly that first hectic week of school when things had been so crazy and she was convinced that she would never make a single friend on campus. So many people ... who was going to notice someone so average: average height, average build, average brown hair?
She had fiercely missed all her friends from high school, not a single one of whom had come to Salem. She'd felt as if she'd suddenly been cast out to sea in a very small boat.
Then Norman had noticed her, speaking to her at registration as she stood among that sea of strangers. She'd been so grateful for someone to talk to. Phoebe was right about Norman looking as if he knew something everyone else didn't, but Molly had decided that simply meant he was smarter than most. An intellectual. It wouldn't kill her to spend some time with intellectuals. Maybe she'd learn something. Wasn't that why she'd come to college?
Phoebe had tried to talk her out of attending the second meeting of the Others. "You don't know anything about this group, do you?" she'd asked. "And just what exactly does the name mean, anyway? The Others? Other than what?"
Molly had no idea what the name meant. She'd been so glad to be included in something, she hadn't asked very many questions at the first meeting, which didn't turn out to be much. Only half a dozen people besides her and Norman were there. They talked about classes and then went back to their dorms. But it was better than sitting in her room alone.
Then she'd met Phoebe, and that had helped.
She'd gone to the second meeting when Norman called to invite her, because it seemed rude not to. She went without Phoebe, who said, "Not in this lifetime" and went to a movie instead.
But the second meeting wasn't anything like the first.
Molly leaned back in her chair and thought about that meeting. It had taken place a week before. She should have forgotten about it by now, but she was having trouble putting it out of her mind. Thinking about it filled her with anxiety, although she wasn't sure why. Maybe because she'd been caught off guard? She hadn't been expecting an initiation.
But an initiation it was.
They met at the state park near the campus. There, in a clearing deep in the woods, Norman announced, "We're going to have an initiation ceremony tonight."
Molly looked up in surprise. Initiation? She wasn't ready to be initiated into a group she knew so little about. There were more people tonight, almost a dozen. Norman had been busy gathering members. He was good at that, she knew. Did they already know the purpose of this group? Was she the only one still in the dark?
The Others ... what did it mean?
Norman and a friend, a heavyset, dark-haired boy nicknamed "Bat" because he had very poor vision and his glasses were as thick as the bottom of a Coke bottle, built a blazing fire in a clearing. Darkness had fallen, and a warm day had turned into a chilly autumn evening. The ground, soft with pine needles, was damp from recent rains, and so the fire seemed comforting.
But Molly wished she hadn't come. She didn't know any of these people. And she certainly wasn't going to get to know them with their features so bizarrely distorted by the dancing orange-and-yellow flames from the fire. They all looked like jack-o'-lanterns. She wouldn't recognize a single one of them on campus the next day.
Molly shivered, wondering briefly if the slithering rustle she heard behind her might be a snake.
Norman stood up and began speaking. "Our purpose in being together," he said forcefully, "is twofold. First, we are together because while no one else recognizes our special talents, we recognize them in each other. Perhaps some of us haven't yet discovered what our special abilities are. But we know they're there, waiting to see the light."
Watching him, Molly struggled to convince herself that Norman was right. She must have some special talent or ability that lay deep within her like a secret.
But she couldn't think what it might be. Her parents and three sisters loved her because she was family, her friends liked her because she was a nice person, and her teachers had always seemed perfectly pleased with her because she handed in her work on time, and it was neatly done and legible.
But no one had ever discovered anything unique or special about her.
She wanted to believe Norman. But she couldn't.
"It's true," he insisted, as if he'd read her mind. "Every one of us is exceptional in some way. Superior. But we are not the ones getting the attention on campus. We are the Others, those whose talents have not yet been recognized. And that brings me to our second purpose in establishing this group."
Molly listened with interest. Now she would learn what Norman's group was all about.
Norman dropped to a crouching position. His eyes narrowed in concentration as the firelight turned his pale skin to orange.
"Our purpose is this. From now on, we will be the ones who decide if those people on campus getting all the attention really deserve the accolades thrown their way. We will be the ones who decide if the football star really is a superior athlete, if the musician delivers a superior sound, if the artist paints a superior picture, if the writer pens a superior piece of material, if the student politicians are superior leaders." Norman's eyes glinted yellow. "We are the ones who will decide."
Molly had no idea what Norman was talking about. They were going to be deciding something?
Norman continued. "When we judge that the person in question is not deserving of the attention and praise he or she is getting on campus, we will then decide on a righteous course of action."
Molly smiled. "A righteous course of action?" Norman sounded like a pre-law student. What was he talking about, anyway?
He certainly was intense about this new group of his.
What did he mean about judging? They were supposed to judge people? She wasn't interested in judging anyone. And didn't really think that anyone else should, either. Judging should be reserved for criminals, and maybe livestock at the county fair. Ordinary people had no business judging one another.
Molly decided then that this group wasn't for her. She was grateful to Norman for being nice to her on registration day, but she had made new friends since then, friends who, if they were gathered around a campfire like this one, would be roasting marshmallows or hot dogs, not planning to pass judgment on their peers.
This was not for her.
"And now for our initiation," he said, rising to his feet. "Every good organization has its little bonding rites, usually involving infantile rituals, sometimes starring juvenile games and ridiculous physical tests of courage. Nothing so ludicrous for the Others, I assure you. If you will all please rise ..."
Thunder shook the woods as ominous black clouds appeared in the night sky. A bolt of lightning lit up the dark, bare branches of the trees overhead.
A girl wearing a long maroon cape laughed nervously. "Did you plan that, Norman? Is that part of the ceremony?"
"No, I didn't plan it. But it's a nice touch, don't you think?"
Molly didn't think so. As a second silver bolt of lightning shot across the sky, she shivered and huddled deeper inside her coat.
"The only bow I'm making to tradition," Norman said, "is giving you these." He passed a handful of tall, fat candles from a plastic bag lying on the ground to Molly, along with some matches. "Light the candles, please. I want to be able to see your faces as we vow our allegiance to the Others."
But the candles, it seemed to Molly, defeated his purpose. The wavering glow from their flames, as they were held aloft, distorted the circled faces just as the firelight had. She felt as if she'd been mystically transported to another planet, another world, peopled only by yellow-skinned, wavering shadows.
Another roar of thunder resounded overhead.
"This is pretty neat," the short, dark-haired boy named Bat said. "We don't look average now, do we? They'd notice us now, wouldn't they?"
Molly frowned. Who would notice them now? The attention-getters Norman had mentioned? The talented people on campus? Being good at something didn't make you a bad person. If being angry at successful people was the reason behind the Others, she wanted no part of it.
But now was not the time to tell Norman. Later. She would tell him later.
So when Norman asked them all to hold hands and repeat words after him, she stopped listening. She wasn't going to repeat any words because she wasn't going to become a member of this group.
The deep rumbling of thunder helped disguise her silence. No one noticed that she wasn't participating. She vaguely heard words like "justice" and, "fairness" and "arrogance," but she had tuned out, focusing instead on the paper she had to write for English class.
She had never had anything less than an A in English and she didn't want to ruin that record now. But writing on a college level was a lot harder than writing high school essays had been. The paper she'd been assigned was very important. And so far, she had no idea what to write about.
It was then that the idea to write about the difficult transition from high school to college came to her. It affected people in strange ways. Like this group standing in the middle of the woods under a storm-threatening sky, vowing allegiance to one another. They were starting their own group because they hadn't found the transition to college comfortable on their own. They needed a group to buoy them up. That was easy to understand. Everyone, even the most popular students, had to have felt that way when they first arrived on campus.
Completely withdrawing from what was taking place around her, Molly began writing her paper in her mind, deaf to Norman's intense words.
She had half-finished the outline for her paper when she realized with a start that the initiation was over.
Then the heavens opened in a torrential downpour, and they all ran for their cars.
She never did get to ask Norman what the Others would do about the people they judged and found undeserving of the attention they got on campus.
"Ms. Keene? Ms. Keene, are you in there?"
Molly roused herself from her thoughts to find the classroom empty and Dr. Theodore standing over her, frowning.CHAPTER 2
Professor Theodore, tall and attractive, with lots of wavy dark hair, pushed her glasses into place on her nose, and sat down in Phoebe Sayward's empty chair. "Woolgathering, Ms. Keene?" she asked with a smile that was not unfriendly.
"I guess I was daydreaming," Molly apologized. She ran a nervous hand through her long, thick hair. She felt confused. The professor didn't seem annoyed with her. If she wasn't displeased with the paper, then what ...?
"I would like to discuss your most recent paper, Ms. Keene," Dr. Theodore said abruptly, ending the suspense.
Molly sat up straighter. Her face felt hot. She crossed, then uncrossed her legs. "I'm really sorry. I know 'Solitaire' isn't my best work. I guess I just wasn't concentrating. If you could give me a little more time, I'll rewrite it. I know I can do better."
The professor laughed. "Rewrite it? Now, why on earth would you want to do that? It's quite good as it is. Actually, it's one of the better pieces of writing I've seen since Joan Graham was in my class fifteen years ago."
Molly Keene's mouth dropped open. Of all the things she'd expected to hear, praise certainly hadn't been one of them. "Joan Graham? The writer?"
Dr. Theodore nodded. "The same. Pulitzer Prize, three years ago. Of course, I wasn't surprised. Knew she had it in her the very first time I laid eyes on her work. She had that special spark." The hazel eyes fixed themselves on Molly's astonished face. "You may have that same spark, Ms. Keene. Too early to tell yet. Have you done a lot of writing?" Molly was speechless. It took her a while to find her voice. "No, not really, I ..." She had always done well in English, and had been asked to work on the high school newspaper. But family financial problems had forced her to bypass that opportunity so that she could leave school early every afternoon to work. So she'd never had the chance to find out what she could do.
"Each year," Dr. Theodore said, "I select a group of students to work on Odyssey, Salem's literary magazine. Some act as copy persons, some as file clerks, a few with a little luck and a lot of hard work, may one day make their way up to writer or even editor. But I also pick one person out of my classes with real potential, and that person gets to write, to see their work published, right from the start. It's taken me longer this year than usual because you, Ms. Keene, were hiding your light under a bushel. It was your piece, 'Solitaire,' that made my decision for me."
Molly remained speechless.
"Most of the writing for Odyssey," Professor Theodore went on, "is submitted by upper classmen who've paid their dues working for the magazine. But I also like to encourage some freshmen to consider writing as a profession. This year," she said, "I've chosen to encourage you."
Molly tried, and failed, to return the smile. She was too stunned.
"Now," Professor Theodore said briskly, standing up, "here's what I want you to do. I have taken the liberty of speaking with Melanie Rheis, Odyssey's editor, and Hank Seagrove, the managing editor. About you, of course. Hank would like to see you in his office at noon. Upstairs, second floor, third door on the left. I trust you'll be there?"
Excerpted from Nightmare Hall by Diane Hoh. Copyright © 1994 Diane Hoh. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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