Who Let the Ghosts Out?

BOOK: Who Let the Ghosts Out?
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Experience all the chills of the
Mostly Ghostly series!

Mostly Ghostly #1:
Who Let the Ghosts Out?
Mostly Ghostly #2:
Have You Met My Ghoulfriend?

AND COMING SOON:

Mostly Ghostly #3:
One Night in Doom House
Mostly Ghostly #4:
Little Camp of Horrors

For my nephew, Cody

Here's a new one. …

1

M
Y SISTER AND
I
were walking home on the night all the horror began.

Clouds floated across the moon. We ducked our heads as a cold wind whipped our cheeks. Above us, the bare tree limbs rattled like skeleton bones.

Shivering, I hugged myself to keep warm. I was wearing a T-shirt and shorts. Why didn't I have my coat?

I turned to my sister. She was shivering too, in a sleeveless T-shirt and low-riding jeans. “Tara, you have leaves in your hair,” I said.

“So do you.”

“Huh?” I brushed fat leaves and chunks of dried mud from my hair. How did we get so dirty?

The clouds parted. Pale silver moonlight poured over us.

I shivered again. “Do you have your cell?” I asked. “Call Mom and Dad. Tell them we're a little late.”

Tara reached into her backpack and pulled out
her cell phone. “You're such a
good
boy, Nicky. Always thinking of Mom and Dad.” She pinched my cheek really hard.

I hate that. And she knows it.

I slapped her arm. “Touched you last.”

She slapped me back. “Touched
you
last.”

“No. Touched
you
last.”

I tried to dodge her hand and crashed into a tree.

Tara laughed.

“That's cruel,” I said. “Why do you always laugh when I hurt myself?”

“Because it's funny?”

Actually, it didn't hurt at all. My head slammed into the tree trunk and I didn't even feel it.

Tara slapped my shoulder. “Touched you last.”

“That's enough,” I said. “Call Mom and Dad.”

Some of our “touched you last” games go on for hours. Once we played it in the backseat during a long car trip. We played until Dad pulled over to the side of the road and started pounding his head against the steering wheel, begging us to stop.

Tara squinted as she punched in the phone number. “Nicky, it's so dark, I can't even see what time it is,” she said. “But it must be really late.”

We walked past big houses that had wide front lawns littered with dead leaves. A grinning jack-o'-lantern stared out at us from a living room window.

“Is it Halloween already?” I asked. “School hasn't started yet, has it?” I shut my eyes and tried to think. I had a cold feeling at the back of my neck. Why couldn't I remember if school had started?

Tara had her phone pressed to her ear. After a few seconds, she lowered it. She shook it hard. “Dead,” she said, holding it up to show me. “How can it be dead? I just charged it. At least, I think I did.”

She shoved the phone into her backpack and pulled out her Walkman. Tara is an electronics freak. She's the only fourth grader at Jefferson Elementary with a cell phone, a pager, and a PalmPilot.

Mom and Dad finally got me a laptop for my eleventh birthday, after I begged for months. But they spoil Tara like crazy because she's the baby of the family.

Last Christmas, they asked Tara what she wanted. And she said, “A charge card at Circuit City.” They didn't get it for her. But they thought it was cool that she asked.

Mom and Dad think it's great that Tara likes all those gadgets. Because Mom and Dad both work with a lot of gadgets. They both … uh … they work together on… uh…

Weird. How come I can't remember what Mom and Dad do?

Why can't I remember anything tonight? What's wrong with me?

We turned onto Bleek Street. We live at 143 Bleek. I couldn't wait to get to our nice warm house. A car rolled past slowly. I recognized Mr. Carter, one of our neighbors. I waved to him, but he didn't turn his head or wave back or anything.

“We're almost home. Why are you putting on your Walkman?” I asked Tara.

“So I don't have to talk to you,” she answered.

Nice.

After a few seconds, she tore the headphones off. “This is dead too,” she said. “I know I always keep in fresh batteries. But it's totally dead. Nicky, what's going on?”

I shrugged. I had that cold feeling at the back of my neck again. I was starting to feel a little scared, but I didn't want Tara to know.

She shook the Walkman and pushed some buttons. Then, with a sigh, she shoved it into the backpack. “I hope Mom and Dad kept dinner warm,” she said. “I'm kinda hungry.”

We crossed the street. One block from home. The wind howled around the Fosters' house on the corner, pushing us back.

“Look out!”
Tara screamed.

We both leaped off the sidewalk as two boys came roaring past us on skateboards. Tara fell to the grass, and I landed in the Fosters' hedge.

“Whoa!” I didn't recognize the boys. They both wore purple and gray Jefferson High jackets and baggy cargo jeans.

Tara jumped to her feet. “Hey—what's your problem?” she shouted after them.

They totally ignored her.

Tara doesn't like to be ignored. She tore after them, screaming for them to stop.

“Hey, wait,” I said. “Let 'em go.” I tried to hold her back.

She slipped out of my grasp and plowed into one of the boys from behind. He tumbled into his friend, and they both went sailing to the sidewalk. Clattering loudly, their skateboards rolled into the street and came to a stop at the curb.

“Guess you wiped out!” Tara said.

“Hey, why'd you do that?” One of the guys shoved his friend.

“You fell into
me
!” the other one cried. “Maybe you should try a scooter.”

They shoved each other for a while. Then they climbed back onto their boards and took off.

I hurried up to Tara. “You okay?”

She tilted her head to one side and twisted her mouth the way she always does when she's worried about something. “Yeah. I guess. But how come they ignored us? It was like they didn't see us.”

I shrugged. I couldn't explain it. But I said,
“You know. High school guys. They
never
see us. We're just kids, right?”

The wind howled again, and the moon disappeared behind the clouds. “L-let's get home,” I said, shivering. My legs had goose bumps up and down them.

Why was I wearing shorts in October? Was it warm this morning? Why couldn't I remember?

We began walking again. Tara adjusted the backpack on her shoulders. She still had that tight, worried look on her face. “Nicky, can I ask you a question?”

“Yeah. Okay.”

“Well … where are we coming from?”

I turned and stared at her. Her long plastic earrings were rattling in the wind. Mom wanted Tara to wait till sixth grade to get her ears pierced. But Tara never waits for anything. Mom had to give in.

“Where are we coming from?” I repeated. A black SUV roared through the stop sign and swept past us.

Tara nodded. “Yeah. That's my question.”

“Well …” My heart started to pound. “Where are we coming from?” I shut my eyes again. Sometimes it helps me think better.

But not tonight.

“Hel-
lo
. Here we are walking home late at night,” Tara said. “But where were we? Why are we out so late? Why are we dressed for summer?
Why would Mom and Dad let us walk home this late?”

I pulled a twig from my hair, one that I'd missed. “I don't know, Tara. I …I can't remember.”

“Well, I can't either.” Her voice broke. “We had to be
somewhere,
right?”

My heart pounded harder. I took a deep breath. “This is kinda scary,” I whispered.

Tara nodded. “Kinda. Something is wrong with our memories. I can't remember anything.”

I brushed a clump of dirt off her shoulder. “Neither can I. But at least we're close to home. Mom and Dad will help us.”

We jogged the rest of the way. I kept trying to think of where we'd just come from. But I didn't have a clue. Why did I suddenly have a hole in my brain?

We were breathing hard as we jumped onto the front stoop. The porch light was on, and there was mail poking out of the mailbox.

I read the name stenciled on the box:
DOYLE
. A chill ran down my spine. “Doyle? Who's that? Our name is Roland. Somebody painted a new name on our mailbox.” My voice came out high and choked.

Tara grabbed my arm. “I …I don't like this, Nicky. What's going on? I'm really scared.”

I pulled my door key from my pocket. My heart was still thudding like a drum in my chest.

My hand trembled as I slid the key into the lock. “Whoa.” The key stuck in the hole. I struggled to turn it. No. It wouldn't turn.

I pulled the key out and turned it upside down. No. It wouldn't slide into the lock that way either.

I turned to Tara, who huddled close at my side. “My key … it doesn't work.”

She stared back at me, her gray-green eyes wide with fright. “Nicky, I'm scared.”

“Me too,” I admitted. “But I'm sure Mom and Dad will explain everything.”

Tara sighed. “I hope.” She raised her finger and pushed the doorbell. “Mom? Dad? Are you there? It's us!”

2

I
HEARD FOOTSTEPS
. T
HE
knob turned from inside. And then the door swung open.

A woman I'd never seen before stuck her head out. She was short and thin, with wavy black hair and dark eyes behind red plastic glasses.

“Hello—?” I said.

She glanced all around as if she didn't see Tara and me.

“Who are you?” Tara asked. “Are our parents home?”

Squinting behind the red-framed glasses, she gazed right over my shoulder.

“Harriet? Who is it?” a man called from the living room.

Not Dad's voice. A stranger.

“It's us. Nicky and Tara. We live here,” I said.

“There's no one here, John,” the woman named Harriet replied. She frowned and shook her head.

“Well, someone rang the bell,” John called in a booming voice. “I heard it.”

“Probably some kids playing Halloween tricks early.”

“Friends of Max's,” a boy with a deep voice said. “My friends wouldn't be that stupid.”

“My friends aren't stupid, Colin!” I heard another boy shout.

“You don't
have
any friends!” the first boy said.

“Uh … excuse me—?” I tried one more time.

But the woman started to close the door.

“Hey!” Tara cried. She ducked inside and I slipped in after her.

“Oh, wow!” I uttered a startled cry. It was our house, okay. But our furniture was gone. Everything was different. I saw a brown leather couch where our two big armchairs had stood. And a wide-screen TV where Dad had his exercise bike.

Tara grabbed my arm and held on tightly. “This is too weird, Nicky. I'm not happy right now. Who
are
these people?”

A cold shiver ran down my back. I realized I was trembling. “They don't see us,” I whispered. “And they don't hear us.”

Tara gripped my arm harder. “Do you think they're ghosts or something? Remember that movie about the haunted house? The ghosts thought
they
were the ones who were alive. They didn't realize they were ghosts.”

I remembered that movie. It totally creeped me
out. I had nightmares for a week—even when I was awake!

Now I felt sick. Like I might puke. My stomach was churning and my throat tightened till I could barely breathe.

I held my breath, trying not to toss up my lunch. I watched the family in
our
living room. They were all standing. They seemed to be in the middle of an argument.

The dad stood behind the couch. He was a big beefy guy. He had a red face and a shiny bald head except for a strip of black hair that curved around from ear to ear.

He wore a Grateful Dead T-shirt over baggy khakis. A red and blue tattoo of a fire-breathing dragon glowed on his right bicep.

The mom looked tiny and frail standing next to him. She wore gray sweats and kept fiddling nervously with the hem of her shirt.

BOOK: Who Let the Ghosts Out?
8.28Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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