A boy discovers his neighborhood has turned into a Land of the Lawn Weenies. Sound peculiar? How about zombies behind the counter of your local hamburger stand? A roadside motel where the guests are on the menu? A party where everyone who turns up is...dead? One thing is certain: you're not in Kansas, anymore!
Welcome to the PsychoZone. It's that midnight-of-the-mind place where the road to reality makes a sharp turn down a winding detour to the twisted world of the imagination.
Just remember: There are no U-turns in the PsychoZone.
About the Author
David Lubar is the acclaimed author of several novels for young people, including Hidden Talents, an ALA Best Books for Young Adults and an ALA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adults selection, and In the Land of the Lawn Weenies and Other Misadventures, a collection of short stories. He lives with his wife and daughter in Pennsylvania.
Read an Excerpt
The Psychozone: The Witches' Monkey and Other Tales
By Lubar, David
TorkidsCopyright © 1997 Lubar, David
All right reserved.
Jane scurried through the classroom doorway and slipped into her seat just before the late bell rang. She felt her face flush as she listened to the voices of the other students and wondered how much of the chatter and laughter was aimed at her. She sank deeper into her chair and glanced toward the front of the room to see if Mr. Muller had noticed her arrival.
But Mr. Muller wasn't there.
"I'm Mr. Pringe," the man standing by the blackboard said. He paused to run a hand through his uncombed hair. "Mr. Muller couldn't be here today. I'm your substitute. I'm sure we'll all have a marvelous time."
An instant wave of excitement flowed through the class. Jane could sense the kids around her trying to figure out what they could get away with. She knew that some substitutes were like iron rods with legs, not letting the kids have any slack. Others were as easy to manipulate as wet clay. It was almost as if they wore signs saying: "Play tricks on me." That was fine with Jane. If the kids were busy torturing a substitute, they might leave her alone.
But this substitute didn't take attendance, or do anything else that gave the class an easy chance to play a trick on him. He got right to work.
"I know how much you kids like science," Mr. Pringe said, "so I've set up a little demonstration."
He reached behind the desk and hauled up a mess of wiresconnected to an assortment of shiny metal parts. "Now, I need a volunteer."
There was dead silence. Then, behind her, Tommy Lindstrom said, "How about Jane?"
She felt a thunk as he kicked the back of her chair. She wanted to turn and shout for him to stop. But she knew that if she shouted, the whole class would laugh at her--just the way kids had laughed when someone had hidden her notebook last week, or when they'd put that rubber worm in her lunch.
"Yeah, Jane," Linda Russo said, dragging out the a so it sounded like "Jaaaaaaaaane."
Stop it, Jane thought. Leave me alone. She felt her face grow red and wished she could fade into the air. She squeezed her notebook against her chest and shook her head.
Mr. Pringe was looking right at her. He extended his hand. "Come on, Jane, this will be fun."
Jane shook her head again. She flinched as something bounced off the back of her neck. It felt like a crumpled ball of paper.
"Well," Mr. Pringe said, tilting his head down and peering over his glasses, "I see Jane isn't interested in science." He opened a notebook, pulled a pen from his shirt pocket, and started writing. As he wrote, he spoke the words, each word isolated by a small cushion of silence. "Not...interested...in...science." Then he snapped the book shut and said, "Well, who would like to volunteer?"
All around Jane, hands shot up like rockets. She almost raised her own. I could ask for another chance, she thought. It might not be too late.
She dropped the idea. It would just give them another reason to laugh at her. Every time she spoke, someone found something to mock. When she walked down the halls, when she took out her lunch, when she moved or breathed or sat still, someone made fun of her.
"That's the spirit," Mr. Pringe told the class. "It's science. You'll love it."
Kids were hopping up like sprung mousetraps, waving their arms for attention. Several students rushed toward the front of the room. Everyone except Jane flowed forward.
Jane sat alone in her seat. Nobody was watching her. But she knew that eventually they'd notice her again and make their stupid comments and laugh their stupid laughs. Quietly, she stood and walked over toward the rest of the class.
"My, my, so many volunteers," Mr. Pringe said. "It would be unfair to pick just one. Let's get every volunteer up here." As he spoke the word volunteer, he stared directly at Jane.
All the kids were crowding around the substitute now. Jane looked away from Mr. Pringe's stare, wondering if it was too late to take part in the fun. It was obvious he didn't want her there.
"Everyone form a ring and join hands," the substitute said.
There was some shuffling and scuffling as kids tried to make sure they weren't stuck holding undesirable hands, but the circle was formed before Mr. Pringe had a chance to say "Quickly, now" more than once or twice.
"Here you go," he said, handing Dennis Koll a wire that was attached to the device. "Hold this." He gave a second wire to Samantha Nichols.
The kids held the wires like they were prizes. I could do that, Jane thought. She bit her lip and wished she could be with the others. It was especially bad to see Samantha getting to hold one of the wires. The girl was always bumping into Jane in gym class and then pretending it was an accident.
The substitute picked up a power cord and plugged his contraption into the wall socket. He held his finger over a large red button. "Now, class, we are going to do an experiment in conductivity. Oops, looks like there's a loose connection. This won't take long. I'll have it fixed in a moment. Then we can begin." He pulled a screwdriver from his pocket and started fiddling with some of the wires next to the button.
Several of the kids in the circle who faced in Jane's direction grinned at her. Tommy stuck his tongue out. Samantha actually giggled and waved the wire at Jane.
Linda wagged her head from side to side and scrunched up her nose. "Jane, Jane," she whispered, "you're a pain."
Jane watched them, all standing so happily in their circle, and something broke inside of her. She fled the room. She'd had it--enough of their taunting, enough of their mean tricks. She ran, not caring if she missed the experiment or got in trouble. She was beyond fears of anything that might happen. What more could they do to her?
She raced past the cafeteria. She ran past the gym. She started to dash past the principal's office. But she stopped when she saw the policemen. They were huddled in the entrance area. One officer was talking to the principal. Everyone seemed very serious.
"We think he might have come here," the policeman said.
"Is he dangerous?" the principal asked.
"We don't know. He's never escaped before. He imagines things. He used to be a teacher, but the students teased him so much it did something to his mind. Sometimes he likes to pretend he's still a teacher. We're checking all the schools. He might not be dangerous. He might not even be here. But we have to check."
"Please do," the principal said.
The policemen turned toward the hall. One of them linked eyes with Jane. At that instant, Jane realized the substitute wasn't a real teacher. He was someone who thought he was a teacher. He might be dangerous. That's what the policeman had just said. She saw herself opening her mouth, speaking up and saving her class. She saw herself being a hero.
"Officer," Jane said. She imagined all her classmates thanking her.
The image didn't last. As she saw them in her mind, their smiles turned ugly and mocking. All together, they stuck tongues out at her. Then they laughed. "Jane, Jane," they chanted, "got no brain."
"Yes?" the policeman asked. "What is it?"
"Oh, nothing," Jane said. She followed the policemen from a distance, watching as they stopped to check each class.
As they got close to her classroom, the lights in the hallway dimmed for an instant, as if some device had suddenly used a huge amount of electricity. The policemen paused and sniffed the air. "Kind of early to be cooking lunch," one said.
Jane just smiled.
Copyright 1997 by David Lubar
Excerpted from The Psychozone: The Witches' Monkey and Other Tales by Lubar, David Copyright © 1997 by Lubar, David. Excerpted by permission.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book is filled with witty short stories of horror that will keep you laughing, scratching your head in puzzlement, or leave you craving for more. I recommend this to younger children.