Authors: R. L. Stine
Would the Ghost of Christmas Future find me and drag me back there?
That was another question I didn't want to think about.
I turned a corner and found myself on a block of larger houses, all very neat, with closely trimmed lawns and shrubs, and tall hedges along the curb.
I saw kids playing with some kind of radio-controlled flying drone. It flew very high and they chased after it, arms outstretched to catch it. At the end of the block, a man was showing a little girl how to ride a bike, running alongside her as she pedaled.
For a moment, I thought maybe I had run back to my time. But the bike had some kind of jets on the back. And the cars in the driveways were all silver and shaped like rocket ships.
Suddenly, I had an idea.
I stopped running. My legs felt as if they weighed a thousand pounds each. My chest felt about to explode.
Some kids were soaring toward me on some kind of power skates. I ducked behind a tall shrub, lowered my hands to my knees, and struggled to catch my breath.
My idea would have to wait till night, I decided. It was a crazy idea. An impossible idea. But I couldn't have been more desperate.
I had come so close to death. I had just escaped from my own grave. I knew I had to try
to get away from here. I never cry. I never cried even when I was a baby. I told you before. I'm just not the kind of guy who likes to cry.
But every time I thought about Charlie and my mom, celebrating Christmas without meÂ â¦ Every time I thought about how far away they were, and how I probably would never see them againÂ â¦ my eyes watered and my chin started to quiver. And I had to grit my teeth and force myself not to give inÂ â¦ not to cry.
Hiding behind the tall shrub, I thought hard about a lot of things. I never realized how important Mom and Charlie were to me. I just never thought about that.
And I never realized how much I really wanted friends. I wanted Lucy Copperfield and Davey Pittman and Josh Cratchit to be my friends. I wanted them to like me, not hate me.
“If I ever get back home, I'll never make fun of Josh's stutter again,” I told myself. “And I'll never mess up Lucy's hair or give Davey dancing lessons.”
I was sincere. I wasn't just saying that. I was willing to change my whole personality. Just to get back.
I peered around the side of the bush and watched the house at the top of the lawn. Through the front window, I could see a large video screen. It appeared to stretch over a whole wall.
In the glare of the screen, I saw a boy and a girl sitting on opposite ends of a shiny, silver couch. They were watching some kind of animated show with strange animal warriors fighting with laser weapons.
I stuck my head out a little farther. Gazing into the window, I saw a woman pull the two kids from the couch. The screen went blank. I guessed it was the family dinnertime.
I pulled back behind the bush and sat down on the lawn. It wasn't grass. It was some kind of springy, rubbery stuff I'd never seen before. I realized the bush wasn't real, either. It was made of that same rubbery stuff. The lawn and bushes of the future?
I settled my back against the bush and concentrated on my plan. I ignored my rumbling stomach. When was the last time I had eaten?
I knew I couldn't start until the family had gone to bed. That would be hours from now. But the wait would be worth itâif my idea worked.
I yawned. I suddenly felt exhausted. I guess it was all the frightÂ â¦ the dead kidsÂ â¦ the open graveÂ â¦ running for my life. That would make
I shut my eyes and immediately fell asleep. When I woke up, it was dark out, no moon or stars in the sky. I peered down the street. No one around. No carsâor whatever they drove in 2095âpassing by.
The lights were off in most of the houses I could see. I didn't know what time it was, but I guessed it was pretty late. I reached my arms above my head and tried to stretch the stiffness from my back.
I pulled myself onto my knees and peered up at the house. The big video screen was blank. The lights were all off. Time for me to make my move.
Was I really doing this?
Was I really breaking into this house?
I found a half-open window on the side wall. I pulled myself up onto the window ledge and slowly, carefully slid the window up, wide enough for me to climb inside.
Silently, I lowered myself into the house. My shoes made a soft thud on a deep, shaggy carpet. I was at the back of the living room. The big video screen stood to my left. Turning right, I saw the family Christmas tree, metallic silver, glistening even in the dark.
The house smelled of roast chicken. My stomach grumbled again. I thought of creeping into the kitchen and helping myself to a little dinner.
But I didn't want to delay. I was eager to see if I stood any chance at all of my plan working.
My eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness. The living room was filled with sleek, shiny furniture. It all gleamed like metal, even in the dim light.
I saw two dark doorways against the far wall. I took a few careful steps toward them. I wanted to stay away from the family bedrooms where they were all sleeping. I stood there trying to decide which hallway to try.
My heart was pounding hard. I could feel the blood pulsing at my temples. I suddenly realized this was a terrible idea. Frightening thoughts whirred through my brain.
What if they wake up? What if they think I am a burglar? What if they have some kind of gun and shoot me before I have a chance to explain?
How could I ever explain this?
The plan seemed worth a try when it first came to me. After all, my ghost troubles had all started in a closet. When the first ghost appeared, I was in the attic closet in my house where all the Christmas presents for Charlie and me were hidden.
The Ghost of Christmas Past. That's what he called himself. He appeared in the closet and took me away, took me to the past and that horrible school.
So here's what I thought.
was the way to travel back home. Maybe if I hid in a closetâa closet I didn't belong inâI would be carried away again. Carried back to my time and to my mom and little brother.
Standing there in the dark house staring at the two hallways, I knew it was a crazy idea. Totally insane. Doomed to failure.
But I didn't have any other ideas. I was alone and afraid and lost.
So can you blame me? I
to try the closet idea.
I crept into the hall to the left. I was walking on tiptoe, one step at a time, holding my breath, trying not to make a sound. I squinted down the long hall, searching for a closet door.
Suddenly, a door opened right behind me. I slammed my hand over my mouth to keep from crying out. I pressed myself as tightly against the wall as I could and watched as a short figure stepped out into the hallway.
I recognized him. The boy I had seen through the front window. The boy watching the animated film on the big screen.
I started to choke. I felt as if my heart had leapt into my mouth. I held my breath and pressed myself into the deep shadow of the wall.
Please don't see me. Please don't see me.
The boy turned away from me and walked toward the kitchen. His bare feet slapped the hard floor. A few seconds later, I heard water running. He was getting a drink in the kitchen.
I knew he'd be back in the hall in a few seconds. And this time he'd definitely see me because he'd be facing me.
I fought off the wave of panic that froze my body. Spun away from the wall. Darted to the next doorâand pulled it open.
I stared into
solid blackness. Was this a closet? I couldn't see for sure. But I had no choice. I ducked inside and pulled the door shut behind me.
Gasping for breath, my chest heaving up and down, I stood there for a long moment, just trying to get myself together.
I'm not a scaredy-cat. I'm a pretty bold guy. But I wasn't cut out to be a burglar. I had no idea what they did to people who broke into houses in the future, but it couldn't be good.
Finally, I started to breathe normally. My heart slid back down to my chest. I fumbled on the wall and found a light switch. I clicked it on, and a pale yellow ceiling light flashed on.
I blinked. The light hurt my eyes. I gazed around. Yes. I was in a long, narrow closet.
It was a supply closet. Against the back wall I saw colorful boxes and bottles of cleaning supplies. The closet floor was cluttered with tools and appliances. I couldn't recognize most of them. Was that a vacuum cleaner? It looked like a small car!
Pressing my ear against the closet door, I heard the slap of the boy's bare feet in the hall. I heard him walk back into his room and click the door shut.
Good. I was all alone now. Alone in a closet.
I dropped to the floor, sat down, put my hands on my knees, and pressed my back against the closet wall. Now what? What do I do? How do I summon a ghost to take me home?
I suddenly felt stupid.
I'm sitting in a closet in a house I don't belong in and I don't have a clue.
Was there some way to call a ghost?
Was there any chance at all that this closet could lead me back to my closet at home? Even a million-to-one chance?
I had to try it. I decided to shut my eyes and wish. Yes. Wish for a Christmas ghost to carry me back home.
Sometimes wishes come true, don't they?
I shut my eyes and hugged my knees. I thought about the three ghosts and how they wanted to teach me lessons. How they wanted me to change.
Well, I WILL change
, I told myself.
I can be kind. And I can be generous. And I can really mean it, not just think it.
Those were my thoughts, sitting there so frightened and so desperate in that closet.
I kept my eyes shut and my head down. And I wishedÂ â¦ and wishedÂ â¦ and silently wished.
And nothing happened.
Nothing happened for
about ten minutes.
And then I felt a puff of cold wind. I opened my eyes in time to see the closet fill with a purple light. The light grew brighterÂ â¦ brighterÂ â¦ until I had to shield my eyes.
The closet began to shake. The shelves rattled. The bottles and boxes tilted and fell. Like an earthquake, the floor rose up in a roar, then fell. I was tossed forward onto my stomach.
And as I scrambled to stand up, the floor beneath me vanished. The whole closet disappeared. And I was floating on a thick purple carpet of air.
I toppled over and over as I flew, tossed one way, then the other, as if caught in an invisible swirling tornado.
Yes. My mouth was open in an endless howl of horror. I was flying out of control, swirling and swerving, climbing and dipping. My arms flailed helplessly at my sides. My feet thrashed the air. And all I could see was that deep violet color, so thick I could almost taste it.
How long did I fly like that? How long did I scream? My throat was raw and throbbing. My face felt burned from the wind.
I landed hard. Landed in a heap. My elbows banged a solid wood floor, my head bumped a wall, and pain shot down my whole body.
I forced myself to stand up. My mouth hung open. I could still hear the roar of the purple wind in my ears. Sucking in air, I glanced around. I knew instantly where I was.
I was home.
I gazed at the stack of Christmas presents, their wrapping all ripped and ruined.
“I'm back in the attic closet!” I told myself. Yes. Everything still here, just as I left it. Charlie's presents ripped open. My presents strewn on the floor where I left themÂ â¦
“I'm back! It worked! It worked!” I cried, pumping my fists in the air.
I lowered my shoulder and shoved open the closet door. I burst into the attic. I darted to the stairs and flew down them two at a time.
Was this the happiest moment of my life? You don't have to ask.
Home. Back home. Here I was. It even
I stumbled and nearly fell over as I reached the bottom of the stairs. I was so eager to see Mom and Charlie, I felt as if my whole body was about to burstâlike a balloon.
“Mom! I'm home!” I screamed breathlessly. “Mom? Charlie?”
My shoes thudded down the hall as I ran shouting all the way. I passed the kitchen. I saw an uneaten roast turkey on a platter on the counter. Several other dishes of delicious-looking food.
They weren't in the kitchen. I turned and darted into the front hallway. Yes! I saw them. I saw them in the living room. Charlie was sprawled on his stomach on the floor, a book in his hands. Mom sat on the tall green armchair, tapping her fingers on the chair arms, a pile of knitting on her lap.
“Hey, it's me!” I cried. “Were you worried about me? Mom? Charlie? Here I am!”
Why didn't they turn around? I was screaming at the top of my lungs.
Why didn't they hear me?
Charlie turned the page of the book he was reading. He didn't look up.
Mom picked up her knitting needles and said something to him. I couldn't hear her. Charlie nodded.
“Heyâhere I am!” I shouted. “Mom! Charlie! I'm home!”
They didn't turn around.
A sob escaped my throat. This was
I was standing in the wide entryway to the living room. I raised my arms, eager to hug Mom. I took a step toward herâand gasped in shock.
Something held me back.
I tried to move forward again. But somethingâan invisible wallâkept me from Mom and Charlie. Something pushed me back, blocked my way into the living room.
“Mom? Charlie?” My cry came out shrill and trembling. “Help me. Please. I'm here. Can't you see me?”