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By B. A. Frade
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Aidan and Olivia live in a creaky old house on the edge of a dirty, swampy lake. Craving some excitement, they convince their parents to let them camp out by the lakeshore under a full moon, with only their dog for company. Aidan loves to scare his sister and has plenty of funny tricks up his sleeve for their campout.
But the twins are about to find out that the creepy old book that washed ashore, Tales from the Scaremaster, has a mind of its own–and its mind is set on scares beyond Aidan’s wildest dreams! When the story in its pages about Aidan, Olivia, and a swamp monster starts coming to life, Aidan and Olivia are in a whole mess of trouble. Can they find a way to outrace and outsmart the monster and the Scaremaster…or will they end up as swamp sludge?
Frightfully funny tales come to life in this thrilling new series, perfect for fans of Goosebumps.
Table of Contents
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Now you're in trouble.
"Eighty-eight!" Bounce. "Eighty-nine!" Bounce. "Ninety!" Bounce.
I peered around the tree at my sister, Liv. She'd been bouncing her soccer ball off her knees forever, trying to get to one hundred in a row. Ten more, and she'd finally make it.
As her twin brother, I obviously had to prevent this from happening. I loaded an old tennis ball into my slingshot, pulled back, and took aim.
"Ninety-one!" Bounce. Snap! "Ninety-t—" Pwang! Direct hit on the ball! I wasn't stupid enough to hit my sister. I knew if I left any kind of mark, she'd have evidence to use against me. Liv's knee connected with nothing but air. Both balls thudded to the ground at her feet.
"Aidan!" Liv whirled around, brown eyes blazing with fury as she searched for me. "I know that was you! Come out, you big jerk!"
Smothering my laughter, I backed farther into the woods. And I would have been home free if our dog, Snort, hadn't spotted me. A big yellow Labrador retriever, she scooped up the tennis ball, trotted to my side, and presented it to me with great pride and lots of dog drool.
Whump! Distracted by Snort, I registered the sound of Liv's foot connecting with her soccer ball a second too late. "Oof!" The ball hit me square in the gut and knocked the air out of my lungs and me off my feet. I landed on my butt in a patch of underbrush. Snort happily retrieved my slingshot for me, then pinned me down and covered my face with slobbery kisses.
Liv crashed through the brush and stood over me, hands on her hips, scrawny but strong legs planted firmly on the ground. "Why'd you do that? I was this close!" She pinched her forefinger and thumb together in the air, then tossed her ponytail—the same dark brown as my hair but much longer—over her shoulder. The ponytail was bound with a ribbon that matched her sweat-stained T-shirt, which was emblazoned with the local professional soccer team's logo. Her soccer shorts, socks, and sneakers bore the same logo.
In case it wasn't obvious, Liv was into soccer.
I pushed Snort off and sat up. "I'm bored."
She glared laser beams at me. Then her rage died. "Yeah, me too." She sat beside me. Snort nosed the soccer ball to her, then wedged herself between us, panting bad breath at us with great joy.
"This is pathetic," I complained. "It's the last week of summer vacation. We should be doing tons of fun stuff!"
Liv made a face. "Like what? Mom's working. Dad's away on business. Camp is over."
And just like that, the perfect end-of-summer idea came to me. "I know what we're going to do. Come on!"
I jumped to my feet and brushed off my shorts. Snort jumped to her paws and wiggled her butt with furious wags of her tail. Liv retrieved her ball, and then we raced to the house. Snort got there first, but I was a close second.
Our house is surrounded by a yard full of grass, sticks, rocks, weeds, and wildflowers. Beyond the backyard is an expanse of thick forest dotted with massive boulders left there eons ago, when huge glaciers that covered this area during the last ice age receded.
When I was little, the woods behind the backyard used to creep me out. The huge trees made it dark and gloomy, even in summer. At night, the boulders looked like hulking monsters. And the funky smell of mushrooms and decaying leaves made me think there was dead stuff everywhere.
I got over the creeps, though, when I got older. Then two summer ago, Liv and I turned the area into something totally cool. We hung an old tire from one of the trees deep in the forest to make an awesome tire swing. We cut paths through the brush and around the boulders and created a huge mixed-up maze of intersecting trails. All the paths connect to a single trail that leads to a swampy, weed-choked lake about a mile behind our house.
Liv and I come here all the time now with our friends. We make up games with the swing, and we play a version of tag on the paths. We call it Trail Tag, and the only rules are no leaving the paths and, if you're tagged, you have to start back at the tire swing. I'm excellent at this game, even at night, because I know the trails so well.
The inside of our house is just like the outside—a sprawling, single-level, ramshackle patchwork of interconnected additions. It has the standard rooms—kitchen, living room, dining room, bathrooms, and bedrooms—they're just arranged a little differently than other houses. People who've never been here before tend to get lost.
Liv and I have our own wing off the main living room. Our bedrooms are in the back half. Mine is on the left side, Liv's is on the right, and in between them is a shared bathroom—with locks on both sides of each door, thankfully.
The front half of the wing is our own personal hangout room. It used to be Mom and Dad's bedroom, but when we got older, they built a new, more private one way on the other side of the house. With its old, lumpy furniture and thick carpet, our hangout room is perfect for sleepovers, movie-watching marathons, game playing, and, of course, just plain old hanging out. What makes this room especially great is that we can close the door to the main living room, which means our parents and their friends don't bother us when we have company over.
To put it bluntly, our place is awesome.
On the front stoop, Liv and I automatically stopped to take off our dirt-caked sneakers. Our dad's a total neat freak who hates filth and grime and dust, so he trained us early on to keep our dirty belongings outside the house. If we forgot, he reintroduced us to his arsenal of cleaning supplies, which he kept arranged for easy access in the front hall closet.
Inside, I made a move to our mom's home office. Liv and Snort both skidded to a halt.
"Are you crazy?" my sister hissed. "She'll kill us if we bother her while she's in her lab!"
"That's why it's the best time to ask her for something. Quickest way to get rid of us is to give in to our demands." I grinned. "Trust me. I've got it all figured out."
"I've heard that before," Liv grumbled. "Usually right before something goes horribly wrong." But she followed me anyway.
Mom's lab is connected to the rest of the house by a super-long hallway. As usual, the door to the lab was closed. A handmade Do Not Disturb sign hung from the knob. I took it off and flung it, Frisbee-style, down the hall. "Whoops."
Liv rolled her eyes.
"Mom?" I called, knocking softly. "Can we ask you something?"
I heard movement and a crash followed by a bad word. The door opened. "Olivia. Aidan. There better be blood."
Our mom is a high school science teacher, specifically, chemistry. She's been known to blow stuff up, make horrible-smelling concoctions, cause school evacuations, that sort of thing. Students love her. Parents, school administrators, the fire department… not so much.
Our house rule is that when her lab door is closed, she isn't to be disturbed unless one of us is bleeding. Liv and I used to run to her with every little problem when we were young, so she had to come up with some guidelines. The Visible Blood Rule saved her from what she called our "unnecessary intrusions."
"Um, no blood. Sorry," I said.
She leaned against the doorjamb, arms crossed over her traditional white lab coat. Plastic safety goggles and a white dust mask hung around her neck, and a mechanical pencil poked out of her messy bun. Behind her, a greenish haze permeated the air. "Then this must be important."
She glanced over her shoulder at the haze, frowned, and looked back at us. "Correction: This better be important, because as you can see"—she paused and sniffed the air—"and smell, you've interrupted my latest experiment. Out with it."
"Liv and I want to camp out on the lake tonight," I blurted. "Right, Liv?"
I could tell my idea took my sister off guard—it's a twin thing, being able to read each other like that—but she rolled with it as if she'd been in on it from the beginning. "Yeah, we want to test out the skills we learned at Camp Leech this summer."
That bit of quick thinking earned her a Nice touch! look of appreciation from me.
Mom shook her head. "I can't—"
"You don't have to do anything!" Liv interrupted quickly. "We want to do this by ourselves."
"It'll build our character," I threw in, which earned me a Good one! glance from Liv.
Mom eyeballed us with the same brown eyes Liv and I had inherited. "Are you two ganging up on me?"
"Yes," we said together.
There was a long silence. Then Mom laughed, and we knew we had her. "Never underestimate the power of twins," she said, using one of her favorite expressions. "Okay, fine. One overnight campout on the lake. But bring Snort. I'll feel better if she's there."
I was about to protest, when Liv gave a warning cough. I shut my mouth. We had permission to camp out by ourselves. Having our poorly trained but lovable drool factory of a dog along wouldn't be a problem. Probably.
Mom hit a button on the wall that activated a large overhead fan to suck up the haze, and then she disappeared back into her lab, closing the door behind her. Liv and I did a fist-bump explosion accentuated with a hushed "Boom!" and then wove through the halls to Liv's room to get organized. We went to Liv's room because my floor was strewn with clothes—dirty and clean; I wasn't confident which was which. We flopped side by side on her bed. A moment later, Snort jumped up and wriggled between us.
"First things first," Liv said, petting Snort.
"No, idiot. Friends. Let's invite Josh and Jenna."
Eleven-year-old Josh Frederickson and his older sister, Jenna, lived across the main road from us. We'd known them forever, which is probably the only reason why Jenna, who was thirteen and impossibly cool, still hung out with us twelve-year-olds. What made her so cool? She knew karate, for one thing, and played guitar for another. But mostly it was just a vibe she gave off. Josh, an expert tree climber and a super-fast runner, was my best friend. So I had no issue whatsoever having them along on our campout.
"We should bring the big tent, then," I said.
Liv groaned. "Seriously? Have you ever try putting that thing up? Even Dad has trouble with it."
"I'll figure it out," I reassured her. "Trust me."
"Again, I've heard that before." Liv sighed. "You're right, though. If they can come, we'll need the space. I'll text them." She pulled out her phone and rolled onto her back, thumbs flying. "You plan the food."
"That I can do," I said, getting hungry just thinking about food. "You got leftover birthday money? Because we'll have to go to Meyer's to get the good stuff."
Meyer's is this retro-style general store a mile down the road from our house. Unlike our cupboards, its shelves are stocked with the food kids can't live without—chips, candy, soda, marshmallows, chocolate, gum, you name it. It also has lots of inexpensive toys, games, and kid-friendly doodads. Liv got me my slingshot there for our last birthday, a purchase she may now regret.
While I was thinking about food (and getting hungry), Liv retrieved a pad of paper and pen from her desk. "Okay, Meyer's first and then we'll walk from there to the lake. Let's make a list of what we need."
I groaned inwardly. We're twins, but we're not identical in looks or anything else. Difference number one: I'm a slob, like Mom; Liv's tidy, like Dad. Difference number two: Liv's a planner; I improvise. But since she was going to make a list no matter what I said, I let her.
"Tent, obviously. Food. Sleeping bags. More food," I offered.
She added "flashlights" to the list, then gave me a questioning look. "Matches?"
I nodded vigorously. "We need matches for a campfire. We need a campfire for s'mores. We need s'mores to make this campout truly epic."
Liv tapped her pen on the pad and then added "matches." "Mom should be okay with it if we have a bucket of water to douse the fire before we go to bed."
Difference number three between Liv and me: Liv thinks of things like putting out fires with buckets of water; I think of things like putting out my hunger with buckets of fried chicken. She was about to add "bucket" to the list when her phone buzzed. She put the pen down and glanced at the screen. "It's Josh. Shoot. He says they have to convince their parents."
"So in other words, they won't be coming."
- On Sale
- Sep 6, 2016
- Page Count
- 192 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers