Authors: J. Scott Savage
Back again? Ready for another tale so terrifying it might keep you up at night, afraid to look in your closet or under your bed? Your timing couldn't be better. Much as I feared, things are changing in Pleasant Hill. Oh, the Zombie King seems to be goneâat least for now. But something even more dangerous has arrived in his place. I suspect that Nick and his friends are going to need every shred of monster knowledge they possessâand perhaps even the help of another group of monster hunters every bit as determined as they are.
For you see, dark forces have been stirring in the last few days. Forces I haven't witnessed in nearly two hundred years. How could I have seen things that long ago, you ask? Let's just say librarians have rather lengthy life spans.
But be not distracted. Old powers are returning, and long-dead sciences are rising from their graves .Â .Â . as it were. I'm afraid I need to do some investigating on my own. I hope the boys will be all right while I'm gone. I'm sure they wouldn't do anything foolishâor dangerousâwhile I'm away. Keep an eye on them, won't you? And take good notes. They may just end up in Case File 13.
Nick reached the top of Dinosaur Hill and searched the deserted park. “Mr. Fitzpatrick?” he called. Wind blew through the gnarled branches of an oak that had to be at least a hundred years old. But the man he was supposed to meet was nowhere in sight. He shifted uncomfortably in his too large suit coat, clutched his briefcase, and shined his flashlight into the darkness.
From the distance came a
that sounded like a kid doing a really bad owl imitation. Nick grimaced and swung his flashlight left and right. “Something's wrong,” he muttered to himself. “There's no way Fitzpatrick would miss this meeting. Unless .Â .Â .” He looked up at the night sky, where a thick bank of clouds had just cleared away. “Full moon.”
Something moved through the tall grass to his right and Nick spun aroundâmouth dropping open. “No!” he screamed as a large gray creature with matted fur and a long pink tail leaped out of the grass and attacked him. Raising his briefcase, he managed to hit the creature in the head with a surprisingly loud
The creature hissed, baring its long yellow fangs.
“Fitzpatrick, is that you?” Nick asked, circling to keep the beast in front of him.
The monster bared its teeth again, red eyes flaring, and swiped Nick with its dirt-crusted claws.
Nick clutched at his chest and blood squeezed between his fingers. “Wererat,” he gasped. “Must .Â .Â . get .Â .Â . serum.” He snapped open his briefcase and reached for a syringe filled with a liquid that looked a little like grape Kool-Aid. Before he could reach it, the wererat was on him, scratching, biting, and even throwing a punch with one of its paws.
“Ow!” Nick yelled as the wererat's paw connected with his left ear. “That hurt.”
“It serves you right for hitting me with the briefcase,” the giant rat shouted back.
“That was for making the stupid owl noise,” Nick said. “It sounded totally fake.”
“Cut!” Angelo stepped out from behind his tripod and turned off his video camera. He put his hands on his hips and shook his head. “If you two keep ruining every scene, we're never going to get this movie finished in time for the contest.”
Carter pulled off his rat head. His face was sweaty and his bright red hair was matted to his scalp from the rubber of the mask. He pulled the plastic fangs out of his mouth. “I
the owl. It makes the scene more creepy.”
“It makes the scene more
,” Nick said. He turned to Angelo. “Tell him he sounded like a kid trying to hoot.”
“Maybe we could edit in a real owl,” Angelo suggested. He flipped open his monster notebook and scribbled a reminder to himself.
Carter tugged at the thick gray mittens the boys had changed into rat paws. “Are you sure we have to do the whole giant rat thing? A werewolf or a killer lizard would be so much cooler.”
“And done about a thousand times.” Nick snorted. “Dude, we've been over this. It's a tribute to
The Princess Bride.
,” Angelo addedânever afraid to use big words. “To the
Rodents of Unusual Size
from the fire swamp.”
“I know that.” Carter fanned himself and began removing the pieces of his costume. “It's just that Nick gets to be Mr. Fraley, the hero. And you get to be the director. But in the credits I'm only listed as
. It's totally unfair.”
“You're also Mr. Fitzpatrick, Larry the mad butcher, and girl in haunted house with toilet plunger,” Angelo said. “That's more parts than anyone else.”
Carter rolled his eyes. “A mad scientist, a guy who sells infected sausage, a rat, and a girl.
“Well, time to call it a night,” Angelo said. He unscrewed his camera from the tripod and packed it carefully in its case. “Have you given any more thought to how we are going to tie our film into the contest?”
“As a matter of fact, I have,” Nick said. The theme of the young authors and artists contest for this year was Building a Brighter Tomorrow. Kids from fifth through twelfth grades were supposed to write an essay, paint a picture, or film a movie about how they could make the world a better place. All three of the boys thought making a movie would be awesome. But the idea of doing something about cleaning up the environment or stopping war sounded totally boring.
Instead, since they all loved monsters more than anything, they'd decided to make a movie about a kindly veterinarian who eats a bunch of sausage infected with saliva from a mutant rat and turns into a killer rodent. They made the rat costume out of a bunch of old gray shag carpeting Carter's parents had in their garage, and came up with an awesome script that had lots of action and a super-disgusting scene where the rat eats all the cats in the neighborhood. The only problem was how to make their movie fit the theme of the contest.
“Okay, get this,” Nick said, as they picked up the rest of their props. “After Fitzpatrick realizes he's been changing into a wererat every time it's a full moon, he gets together with the mad butcherâwho it turns out used to work for a big drug company before he got fired for experimenting on the ladies in the cafeteria.”
“I like it,” Carter said.
Angelo tapped his notebook against his leg. “But Carter plays both the butcher and Mr. Fitzpatrick. How are we going to film him doing both parts at once?”
Nick scrunched up his mouth. “Good point. Okay, forget that. We'll have Mr. Fraley be the guy who worked at the drug company.”
lines,” Carter said.
Angelo slung his camera case over his shoulder, and the boys began walking carefully down the trail in the dark. “What does any of this have to do with building a brighter tomorrow?”
“That's what I was getting to,” Nick said. “So Fitzpatrick and Fraley realize there is no hope for curing Fitzpatrick. He gets shot in the next scene anyway. But in
to find a cure for the wererat, they come up with a cure for, like, all the worst diseases, making a brighter tomorrow. It's classic.”
“I get shot?” Carter wailed.
“Yeah,” Nick said. “But at the end of the movie, you see all these people getting cured of their diseases and the label of the medicine is called
. You know, in honor of Fitzpatrick and the rat.”
“Cool,” Carter said. “Is there any chance I could get a medal from the president? Since I died for the cause?”
Angelo looked dubious. “That seems like a pretty weak tie-in. Don't you think the judges will realize we just added the ending for the contest?”
“Good point,” Nick said. “Maybe we couldâ”
“Shhh,” Carter held up a hand and ducked. “Everybody down.”
Nick and Angelo squatted beside him. “What is it?”
Carter pointed to where the trail they were following met the Dinosaur Hill parking lot. It took Nick's eyes a moment to adjust, but when they did, he spotted the hulking figure Carter had already seen.