Authors: R. L. Stine
“Sam, your saxophone,” Mom called from the car. “It’s in…
“Let’s try to stay calm,” I heard Mr. Kimpall whisper to…
I found a boys’ room a few doors down. Inside,…
After school, I found Tonya waiting for me in front…
Taking long, rapid strides, I hurried over to the locker.
I blinked again. It took me a few seconds to…
“It’s called an ebony rabbit,” I said. I held the…
No. No way. It can’t bet I told myself.
No. No. No.
Tonya and Simpson surrounded me in the hall after school.
At school the next morning, I looked at everyone differently.
Mr. Kelly phoned my parents. He said they would meet me…
My parents stared at me for the longest time. Mom…
The assembly was pretty boring. But no one cared. It…
I was tense the rest of the day.
“Unnnnh.” A sick groan escaped my open mouth. I saw…
Friday afternoon, we had a long band practice after school.
My legs started to shake.
Tim Poster was curled up in a black desk chair…
He let out one more grunt.
The imp stopped banging on the case. A heavy silence…
Yes, I decided. I shook his hand.
“This is our school,” Mr. Kimpall rasped. “My family has a…
Then I had an idea. A desperate idea.
Hello, I’m R.L. Stine—and that’s my friend Sam Waterbury over there on the sidewalk. Sam is staring at his new school, and he doesn’t like what he sees. The old building looks more like a prison than a school!
A big sign says “Welcome to Wilton Middle School.” Sam has no idea that most people call the place by a different name. They call it
You see, something is waiting in the halls for Sam. A creature who is about to give Sam a real education. A creature who exists only in …
THE NIGHTMARE ROOM.
I let out a scream and heaved my backpack against the wall.
Mom spun around from the kitchen sink. Dad jumped up from the breakfast table. “Sam, what is your problem?” he called.
“The stupid backpack zipper is stuck again,” I said.
I knew what was coming. Another lecture about holding my temper.
I counted to five under my breath. Mom was a little slow this morning. She usually starts the lecture by the count of three.
“Sam, you promised,” she said, shaking her head.
“I know, I know,” I muttered.
“You promised you would work on your temper,” Dad said, walking over to me. Dad is very tall and broad like a middle linebacker. His friends all call him
I dragged the backpack up from the floor and tried the zipper again. “I said I would try to keep it together at my new school,” I said.
“You wouldn’t be starting at a new school if you didn’t totally lose it at your old school,” Mom said.
She gave me the hard stare. I call it the Evil Eye. It made her look like some kind of dangerous bird, like a hawk or a buzzard or something.
“Like I don’t know that!” I snapped.
“Easy,” Dad warned, raising one of his huge, beefy hands.
“I know, I know. I got kicked out of school, and you’ll never forgive me,” I said angrily. “But I didn’t start that big shoving match. Really. It wasn’t my fault.”
Mom let out a long sigh. “Haven’t we talked about blaming others for your problems, Sam? You had to leave your school because you were fighting. Because you can never back down from a fight. You can’t blame anyone else for what you did.”
“Yak, Yak,” I muttered. I finally got the stupid backpack zipper to move.
“Don’t say ‘yak, yak’ to your mother,” Dad scolded.
“Sorry,” I muttered. “Sorry, sorry, sorry.”
Maybe I’ll have that word tattooed on my forehead. Then I won’t have to say it. I can just point.
Dad took a long sip from his coffee mug. He had his eyes narrowed on me. “Sam, I know you’re tense about starting a new school.”
I glanced at the clock. “Tense—and late,—” I said.
“Oh, my goodness!” Mom cried, placing her hands on her cheeks. “We completely lost track of the time. Quick. Get your jacket. I’ll drive you.”
A few seconds later, I was seated beside Mom in the Taurus. I stared out at the gray November day. Most of the trees were already bare. The whole world appeared dull and washed-out.
The car roared as we rocketed down the narrow street. Mom drives like a NASCAR driver. The houses sped past in a blur. I pulled my seat belt as tight as I could.
“A fresh new start,” Mom said, trying to sound cheerful. She hadn’t brushed her curly red hair. It stuck out in all directions over the collar of her brown car coat.
“Mmm-hmmm,” I muttered.
I didn’t want to say anything. I had my fingers crossed, praying that I could get out of the car without hearing another lecture.
“I know you’re going to do really well at Wilton Middle School,” Mom said. She squealed to a stop
halfway through a stoplight.
“Mmm hmmm.” I kept my gaze out the window.
Suddenly, Mom reached out and squeezed my hand. “Be good, okay, Sam?”
Her sudden touch shocked me. We’re not a real touchy-feely family. We’re not constantly hugging each other the way families do on TV.
Once in a while, Dad will slap me a high-five. That’s about as far as we go.
I could see Mom was serious. And worried.
I swallowed hard. “I’ll be different,” I told her. “No problem.”
She pulled the car to the curb. I stared out at my new school.
As I climbed out of the car, my chest suddenly felt kind of fluttery. My mouth was dry.
nervous, I. realized.
Of course, if I had known the terror that was waiting for me inside that building, I would have been a lot
I would have turned and run and not looked back.
“Sam, your saxophone,” Mom called from the car. “It’s in the trunk—remember?”
“Oh. Right.” I did forget.
She popped the trunk, and I pulled the big black sax case out.
I hope this school has a good band, I thought.
I’ve been taking sax lessons since I was barely as tall as the sax. I played in the jazz band at my old school. And some friends and I used to hang out and play in my garage.
Everyone says I’m really talented. I love to play. I love the idea of being able to make all that noise and make it really
“Sam, what are you doing? Daydreaming? Don’t
just stand there. You’re late,” Mom called.
She squealed away from the curb. Made a U-turn onto someone’s front lawn. Then headed back for home.
I balanced the backpack on my shoulders. Moved the sax case to my right hand. And stared at my new school.
What a gloomy sight.
My old school was brand new. It was modern and bright. And it had four separate buildings, and every building was painted a different bright color.
My old school was very outdoorsy, like those California schools on the TV shows. We walked to class outside. And there was a huge lawn with a little pond where everyone hung out and relaxed.
Wilton Middle School wasn’t like that.
It was a square-shaped old building. Three stories tall with a flat black roof. I guess it had been built of yellow brick. But most of the bricks had faded to brown.
On one wall of the building, the bricks were charred black. It looked as if a deep shadow hung over that wall. I guessed there had once been a fire there.
The grass in front of the building was patchy and choked with tall weeds. A barbed-wire fence ran around a small playground on the side. A U.S. flag on top of a flagpole snapped and flapped in the
strong wind beside the entrance.
It doesn’t look like a school, I thought. It looks like a prison!
I climbed the three steps and pulled open one of the front doors. The door was heavy, hard to pull open. The glass in one of the windows was cracked.
I stepped into the front hall and waited for my eyes to adjust to the dim light. A long, dark hall stretched in front of me.
The walls were painted gray. Rows of black metal lockers made them even darker. Only about half of the ceiling lights worked.
I took a few steps. The
of my shoes broke the silence of the empty hall.
I glanced around, searching for the office.
Where is everyone? I thought.
Yes, I’m a few minutes late. But why isn’t there anyone in the hall?
I’m assigned to Room 201, I reminded myself.
Is that on this floor? Or is it up one floor?
I began walking quickly down the hall, my eyes moving from side to side as I struggled to find a room number.
I passed a glass display case with one dust-covered basketball trophy. Above the case, a small blue-and-yellow banner read GO,
Two classrooms were dark and deserted. I searched for room numbers but didn’t see any.
Maybe they don’t use this floor, I thought. Maybe all the classes are upstairs.
Lugging my sax case, I made my way down the long hall. The only sounds were the scrape of my shoes on the concrete floor and my shallow breathing.
The sax case began to feel heavier. I switched it to my other hand. Then I started walking again.
I turned a corner—and heard footsteps. Very light and rapid.
“Hey!” I called out. “Is anyone there?”
My voice sounded hollow in the empty hall.
About three doorways down, I saw a flash of movement.
A figure darted out into the hall.
An animal. Only two or three feet high.
He had his back to me. He didn’t seem to know I was there.
His skin was greenish yellow, covered in patches with green fur. He hopped like a bird, stooped over, on two legs.
Skinny arms hung limply at his plump sides, nearly to the floor. He had small pointed ears that stood straight up on a hairy green head.
What IS this thing? I wondered, staring at its back. A giant green rat?
But then he stopped. And slowly turned.
His mouth gaped open as he saw me.
He hissed at me. A frightening, angry sound like a snake about to attack.
And then he turned all the way around. And I saw him … saw him so clearly.
And let out a gasp of horror.
The green rat creature—
it had a HUMAN face
A cry escaped my lips.
The creature hissed at me again. He pointed a long, skinny finger at me—and whispered in a raspy, dry voice.
Then he spun around—and loped off on all fours. His long tail scraped the floor behind him.
A second later, he disappeared around a corner.
I blinked several times, as if clearing my sight. The hall stood empty once again.
that?” I muttered. Was it an animal? If it was, how could it SPEAK?
The light in the hall was so dim, the walls so dark.
Did I really see that thing?
My heart pounded. Should I chase after it?
Did anyone know a strange animal was loose in the school?
I made my way to the corner and glanced both ways. Long, empty halls. No sign of the creature.
A number above the corner room caught my eye. Room 201. A hand-lettered sign beside the door read
Breathing hard, I pulled open the door and lurched inside. The room was filled with kids, and they all turned to look at me.
I didn’t make a graceful entrance. I stumbled over my saxophone case, and my backpack fell off my shoulders.
Several kids laughed.
Mr. Kimpall, a short, middle-aged man with a shiny bald head, jumped up from behind his desk.
“An animal!” I gasped. “There’s some kind of weird animal out there!”
The laughter cut off. The room became very silent.
“Animal?” His expression puzzled, Mr. Kimpall came toward me. He was nearly as short as the sixth-graders in the class, and toothpick-thin.
He wore a yellow turtleneck sweater pulled down over straight-legged black pants. His bald head glowed like a pink Easter egg under the big ceiling lights.
“An animal? In the hall?” he asked.
I nodded, still breathing hard. “It was about this high. And it had a tail—”
“Did it see you?” a blond-haired boy in the back row asked.
“Y-yes,” I stammered. “It hissed at me and—”
A few kids gasped.
“You’re in major trouble,” the blond kid said.
Mr. Kimpall raised a bony hand. “Quiet, everyone. Stop.” He turned to me. “Everyone likes to tease the new kid,” he said. “Don’t pay any attention.”
Mr. Kimpall smiled. “You must be Sam Waterbury,” he said. He shook my hand. His hand was smaller than mine, cold and kind of wet. But his grip was hard as steel.
“I told the class you’d be joining us today,” he continued. “I saved a desk for you. Right over there by the window.” He pointed.
He put a hand on my shoulder and started me on my way to my desk. I could see he didn’t want to talk about the creature I’d seen.
But I wanted to know. That thing was so ugly and weird, I wanted to know what it was.
I opened my mouth to ask again. But then I remembered my promise to my parents to be a good boy. A perfect angel.
“Don’t argue, Sam.”
“Don’t fight about things, Sam.”
“Don’t make trouble.”
So I dragged my sax case and my backpack to the empty desk by the window and dropped into the wooden chair.
Mr. Kimpall had moved to the front of the room. He had to jump to sit on the edge of his desk. “We’re talking about verbs today, Sam.” He pointed to a list of words on the chalkboard.
“Can anyone give me an
verb?” he asked.
A boy with short spiky brown hair raised his hand. “Tripped?” he said.
Mr. Kimpall narrowed his eyes at him. “Use it in a sentence, Simpson.”
“Sam tripped over his music case,” Simpson replied, grinning.
Several kids laughed. Mr. Kimpall laughed, too.
I could feel my face turning red.
Is this kid Simpson some kind of troublemaker? I asked myself. Maybe he’d like to trip over my fist!
“Come on, people. Let’s give the new kid a break,” Mr. Kimpall said, still chuckling. He asked for some other action verbs.
I sank low in my seat. I couldn’t really concentrate on the class. I kept picturing that green creature in the hall, hissing at me. Pointing at me.
I gazed out the window. It was still a gray, gloomy morning. The sky had grown even darker. A few
raindrops pattered against the glass.
Maybe it was some kind of school mascot I saw out there, I thought. Someone in a costume.
But it didn’t exactly look like a Golden Bear!
Mr. Kimpall droned on. Now he was asking for
verbs, whatever they are.
He hopped down from the desk and began to make a list of verbs on the chalkboard.
When I heard the sound, I thought at first that he had squeaked the chalk really loudly.
But then I realized I was hearing a girl’s cry from out in the hall.
A cry that grew to a scream of terror.
Several kids yelled out. Mr. Kimpall dropped his chalk and turned to the door.
The door swung open, and a girl came staggering into the room. She was tall and lean and had straight black hair that swept down the back of her purple sweater.
“Tonya—what’s wrong?” Mr. Kimpall asked, hurrying over to her.
She was breathing hard, her round face as red as a tomato. Without saying a word, she raised her blue backpack.
She held it in two hands because it was in two pieces.
“Look,” she choked out, waving the two pieces above her head. “Look.”
Mr. Kimpall swallowed hard. He went pale. He looked like a lightbulb with eyes.
“It went for my lunch!” Tonya cried.
Mr. Kimpall pulled her to the corner.
I stared at the backpack pieces in her hands.
What on earth had happened?
The bag looked as if it had been