Authors: R. L. Stine
Tags: #Children's Books.3-5
A tall wooden clock had its face burned black. Wooden duck decoys lay on
their sides, burned and cracked.
A creaking sound overhead made me jump. I heard Alex gasp.
I raised my eyes to the ceiling. Part of it had fallen in. Was the rest about
to collapse on top of us?
“Zackie—let’s go!” Alex urged. She backed up toward the door. Her shoes
squished over the soaked carpet.
The door banged shut behind us. I turned and saw the wind blow it back open.
Cold water dripped onto my shoulder.
“If you don’t come, I’m going without you!” Alex called. “I mean it, Zackie.”
“Okay, okay,” I muttered. “I’m coming. I just wanted to check out what
“Hurry!” Alex urged. She was halfway out the door.
I turned and started to follow her.
But I stopped when something on a high shelf caught my eye.
“Hey, Alex—” I called. “Look!”
I pointed up to an old typewriter. “Wow. My dad used to have one like that
when I was real little,” I said.
“Zackie—I’m leaving,” Alex warned.
old typewriters!” I cried. “Look, Alex. I don’t think the fire
hurt it. I think it’s in good shape. I just have to check it out. Okay?”
I didn’t wait for her to reply.
I crossed the room. Stepped up to the shelf. Stood on tiptoe and reached for
the old typewriter.
I felt a hard shock of pain. It shot through my body.
Took away my breath.
Over my stunned cry, I heard the sharp
And I bent over—helpless—as a bright blue flame shot around my body.
I saw only blue.
The deepest blue I’d ever seen.
I’m floating in the sky, I realized. I’m weightless. And I’m floating.
Floating in the blue, blue sky.
The blue faded to white.
Was I still floating? Was I moving at all?
I struggled to speak. To shout. To make any kind of a sound.
The white faded quickly. To gray. Then black.
“Ohhhh,” I heard myself moan.
Dark. So dark now. I was surrounded by darkness.
I blinked. Blinked again. And realized I was staring into the darkness of the
ruined antique shop.
I heard my name. Heard Alex repeating my name.
I cleared my throat. I sat up. My eyes darted around the store.
“Zackie? Zackie? Are you okay?”
I tried to shake my dizziness away. My whole body tingled. Tingled and
hummed, as if an electrical current were running through me.
“How did I get on the floor?” I asked weakly.
Alex leaned over me, one hand on my shoulder. “You got a shock,” she said,
squinting hard at me through her glasses. “There must be a wire down or
I rubbed the back of my neck. I couldn’t stop the strange tingling or the
steady hum in my ears.
“Wow,” I murmured.
“It was a real bad shock,” Alex said softly. “I—I was so scared. You were
inside a blue flame. Your whole body—it turned bright blue.”
“Wow,” I repeated, still fighting the dizziness.
“Your hands shot up in the air,” Alex continued. “And then you bent in two.
And fell to the floor. I—I thought…” Her voice trailed off.
I could hear the drip of water again. The hum in my ears had faded.
I pulled myself shakily to my feet. I stretched my arms over my head, trying
to stop the strange tingling.
The old typewriter caught my eye again.
“Zackie—what are you doing?” Alex cried.
I moved carefully to the shelf, stepping around a puddle of water on the
carpet. I took a deep breath. Stretched up on tiptoe. And pulled the old
“Whoa—! It weighs a ton!” I cried. “It’s solid metal!”
I held it in my arms and examined it. The sleek black surface caught the glow
of the streetlight outside the door. The round keys poked up toward me.
“It’s awesome!” I exclaimed. “This typewriter, Alex—it’s
writing scary stories on.”
?” Alex declared. “Zackie, I think that electric shock
messed up your brain!”
“But look at it!” I insisted excitedly. “It’s perfect. Perfect!”
Alex rolled her eyes. “You have a brand-new computer at home,” she reminded
me. “And your mom gave you her old laser printer—remember?”
“I know, I know,” I muttered.
“You can print eight pages a minute,” Alex continued. “So what do you need a
creaky old typewriter for?”
“I need it because it’s perfect,” I told her. “Perfect! Perfect!”
“Stop repeating that word,” she snapped. “Are you sure you’re feeling okay? That was a horrible shock. Maybe I should call
“No. No, I’m fine,” I insisted. The typewriter was growing heavy in my arms.
“Let’s just go.”
Lugging the typewriter, I started to the door. But Alex blocked my path.
“You can’t just
it!” she scolded. “It doesn’t belong to you.
I made a face at her. “Alex, don’t be dumb. Everything in this store is
wrecked. Nobody will care if I take—”
I stopped with a gasp when I heard the squish of shoes on the wet carpet.
Then I heard a cough.
I turned to Alex. Caught the fear on her face.
She heard the sounds too.
“Zackie, we’re not alone in here,” she whispered.
Another squishy footstep. Closer.
A chill swept down my back. I nearly dropped the typewriter.
“Hide,” I whispered. I didn’t need to suggest it. Alex was already slipping
behind a tall display shelf.
I set the typewriter down on the floor. Then I crept behind the shelf and
huddled close to Alex.
I heard another cough. And then a circle of light moved across the wet
carpet. The pale yellow beam of a flashlight.
The light slid over the floor. Then it started to climb the display case.
Alex and I ducked low. The circle of light washed over our heads.
My legs were trembling. I gripped the back of the case with both hands to
keep myself from falling over.
“Hello?” a voice called. A woman’s voice. “Hello? Is someone in here?”
Alex turned to me. She motioned with her head.
She was silently asking if we should step out and show ourselves.
I shook my head no.
How could we explain what we were doing inside the shop? How could we explain
why we were hiding?
Maybe the woman will leave, I told myself. Maybe she won’t find us.
she? I wondered. Does she own the store?
I peered out around the bottom shelf. I could see the woman from the side.
She was African-American. She had very short, dark hair. She wore a long
She moved the flashlight beam along the back wall. It lit up the fallen
shelf, the broken antiques.
Her footsteps slogged over the wet carpet.
“Hello?” she called. “Did someone come in here?”
I held my breath.
Please leave, I begged silently. Please don’t catch us here.
The woman turned. Her light stopped on the typewriter in the middle of the
floor. She kept the light steady, staring at the typewriter.
I knew what she was thinking:
How did the typewriter get on the floor?
Slowly, she raised the light. Raised it back to the display shelf.
She stared right at us!
Could she see us hiding behind the display case?
I froze. I pretended to be a statue.
Did she see us?
She muttered something to herself. The light went out.
I blinked in the sudden darkness. Her footsteps moved away.
I realized I was still holding my breath. I let it out slowly, trying not to
make a sound.
Silence now. And darkness.
No footsteps. No beam of yellow light.
The front door banged shut.
Alex and I exchanged glances.
Was the woman gone? Did she leave the shop?
We didn’t move.
We waited. And listened.
Then Alex sneezed.
“Gotcha!” the woman cried from somewhere behind us.
A hand grabbed my shoulder. Hard.
The sleeve of the raincoat brushed my face as the woman tugged me out from
behind the shelf. I nearly tripped over the typewriter. The woman held me up by
Alex stepped up beside me. Her ponytail had come undone. Her blonde hair was
wild around her face. She kept swallowing hard, making dry, clicking sounds with
I guessed she was as frightened as I was.
The woman switched her flashlight on. She raised it to my face, then to
“Were you doing some late shopping?” she demanded.
“Huh?” I managed to choke out.
“The store is closed. Couldn’t you tell?” the woman snapped.
She was young and pretty. She locked her dark eyes on me.
“What are you doing in here?” she asked.
I opened my mouth to answer, but no sound came out.
“Uh… nothing,” Alex said weakly. “We weren’t doing anything.”
The woman narrowed her eyes at Alex. “Then why were you hiding?”
“You f-frightened us,” I stammered, finally finding my voice.
“Well, you frightened me too!” the woman exclaimed. “You frightened me
plenty. I was in the back room, and…”
“We were walking home. We saw the store. How it was wrecked,” I explained.
“We just wanted to see what it looked like inside. So we came in. That’s all.”
The woman lowered the light to the floor. “I see,” she said softly.
Her shoe made a squishing sound on the carpet. Water dripped steadily from
the ceiling behind us.
“What a mess,” the woman sighed. Her eyes traveled around the ruined shop.
“I’m Mrs. Carter. I own this store. What’s left of it.”
“We—we’re sorry,” Alex stammered.
“You shouldn’t be in here,” Mrs. Carter scolded. “It’s very dangerous. Some
of the electrical wires are down. You didn’t touch anything—did you?”
“No. Not really,” Alex replied.
“Well… just this old typewriter,” I said, gazing down at it.
how it got down there,” Mrs. Carter said. “Why did you
“I… like it,” I told her. “It’s really cool.”
“Zackie writes stories,” Alex told Mrs. Carter. “Scary stories.”
Mrs. Carter let out a bitter laugh. “Well, you could certainly write a scary
“I’ll bet I could write
scary stories on that old typewriter,”
I said, staring down at it.
“You want it?” Mrs. Carter asked quickly.
“Yes,” I answered. “Is it for sale? How much does it cost?”
Mrs. Carter motioned with one hand. “Take it,” she said.
“Excuse me?” I didn’t think I’d heard her correctly.
“Go ahead. Take it,” she repeated. “It’s yours. For free.”
“Do you mean it?” I cried excitedly. “I can have it?”
“Thank you!” I could feel a grin spreading over my face. “Thanks a lot!”
Mrs. Carter bent down and picked up something from the floor. “Here,” she
said. She handed me a fountain pen. A very old-fashioned-looking fountain pen.
Heavy and black with silvery chrome on it.
“For me?” I asked, studying the pen.
Mrs. Carter nodded again. She smiled at me. “It’s my Going-Out-of-Business
Special Offer. You get a free pen with every typewriter.”
“Wow!” I exclaimed.
Mrs. Carter moved to the door and held it open. “Now, get out of here. Both
of you,” she ordered. “It really is dangerous in here. I’m leaving too.”
I hoisted the heavy, old typewriter into my arms. Balancing it against my
chest, I followed Alex to the door.
I felt so happy! I thanked Mrs. Carter five more times. Then Alex and I said
good-bye and headed for our homes.
The street was still wet. It glowed under the streetlights like a mirror. It
didn’t look real.
The walk home seemed to take forever. The typewriter grew heavier with each
step I took.
“Weird,” Alex muttered when we finally crossed onto our block.
“Huh?” I groaned. My arms were about to fall off! The typewriter weighed a
“What’s weird, Alex?”
“The way she
you that valuable typewriter,” Alex replied
“Why is that so weird?” I demanded.
“She seemed so eager to give it away. It’s almost as if she wanted to get
of it,” Alex said. She headed toward her house, which is next door to
My knees buckled as I started up my driveway. My arms ached. My whole body
ached. I struggled to hold on to the typewriter.
“That’s crazy,” I muttered.
Of course, I didn’t know how right Alex was.
I didn’t know that carrying the old typewriter home would totally ruin my
I dragged the typewriter into the ranch house where I live. I was gasping for
breath. My arms had gone numb.
Mom and Dad were in the living room. They sat side by side on the couch,
doing a crossword puzzle together.
They love crossword puzzles. I’m not sure why. Both of them are terrible
spellers. They can never finish a puzzle.
Lots of times, they end up fighting about how to spell a word. Usually, they
give up and rip the puzzle to pieces.
Then a few days later, they start a new one.
They both looked up as I lugged the typewriter toward my room.
?” Mom demanded.
“It’s a typewriter,” I groaned.
“I know that!” Mom protested. “I meant—where did you get it?”
“It’s… a long story,” I choked out.