Read Read It and Weep! Online

Authors: P.J. Night

Read It and Weep!

Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Off the Wall
Excerpt

About P. J. Night

Chapter 1

The babysitter checked the clock again. Past eleven. They'd promised they'd be home by ten thirty. She shifted sleepily in the deep leather chair and glanced back at the TV. She had it turned down low, to an old black-and-white movie, which was quaintly spooky. Practically every scene included ominous music, sinister characters wearing hats and trench coats, and lots of fog and shadows. But she wasn't the sort of girl that got scared easily.

Outside, the wind howled, rattling the old doors and window frames. The draft caused the heavy floor-to-ceiling drapes to billow, as though someone were hiding behind them. The rain streamed down the windows in rivulets.

Lightning flashed. For a brief instant, through the gap in the drapery, the girl could see the dark landscape illuminated outside—black trees bending, empty swings bobbing crazily in the wind. There was a loud crack of thunder.

And then the power went out.

With a blip the TV powered off. The reading lamp next to her went black. The girl was plunged into darkness, not complete blackness, but pretty close. With an exasperated sigh she stood up from the chair and groped her way toward the kitchen, shuffling with baby steps so as not to trip over any toys. Now she wished she'd done a better job of picking up after the twin girls, who'd been playing with their wooden food and plastic oven earlier that evening.

The kitchen was full of gray shadows and devoid of noise, except for the howling wind and pattering rain outside. There was no hum of the refrigerator. No whooshing of the dishwasher, which she'd actually remembered to turn on. Opening the drawer near the stove, she felt around for a flashlight. She came up with the next best thing—a candle, with a little holder attached. Luckily the gas stove worked, so she didn't have to search for matches and could light the candle. The weak flame flickered, shedding a wan light around her. And then she saw them:

A pair of green, glowing eyes, staring at her from the shadowy corner of the kitchen.

She gasped. Took a step backward, almost dropping the candle.

Then she exhaled.

“Nero! You dumb cat. You scared the life out of me.”

She heard the orange-and-white tabby cat jump down from the counter and pad over to her, twining itself around her feet, purring.

Inside the pocket of her sweatshirt she felt her phone vibrate. She drew it out and checked the message. Another text.

I see you. You're in the kitchen. You're wearing a pink zip-up sweatshirt.

Her mouth went dry and her palms felt sweaty as she read the mysterious message. This was the third text she'd gotten tonight from that number. She scrolled back to reread the first two messages.

I'm back.

The second one was even creepier:

You thought you'd gotten rid of me. Well, you didn't. Your luck has changed.

This third one was deeply unsettling. She couldn't pass it off as a wrong number. She
was
wearing a pink sweatshirt. She
was
standing in the kitchen. How could someone possibly know that? She peered out of the window over the kitchen sink, straining her eyes to see past the streams of water running down. But all she could see was the blackness outside. All she could hear was the howling wind and the pattering rain. The kitchen faced the back of the house, where there was a small yard and then a grove of trees. No one in her right mind would be standing out there on a night like this. She set the candle down and texted back.

Whoever this is, cut it out. You're starting to freak me out.

Almost immediately, there was another text.

They're not coming home. Not anytime soon.

Fear eddied up and down her spine. Who was “they”? The twins' parents? She decided not to ask. This entire thing was as ridiculous as it was scary. She tried to convince herself that someone was just playing a practical joke on her. Her brothers or maybe her best friend.

A full two minutes passed without another text. The babysitter busied herself around the kitchen, trying to tidy it up as best she could in the darkness. Where were the twins' parents? Why hadn't they called her to say they'd be late?

And then she got another text.

I am in the basement.

Her breath caught in her throat. This really wasn't funny anymore. Suddenly she realized it wasn't someone playing a practical joke on her. No one she knew would do something like this. Play such a mean trick. She'd call her mom. And then maybe even 911. But when she looked at her phone again, she saw the worst possible message of all:

No service.

Wait. What was that sound?

Clomp. Clomp. Clomp.

At first she thought the sound was only in her imagination. But as it got louder, there was no mistaking the sound of footsteps. Then they stopped. She whirled around toward the basement door, which was shrouded in shadow. The door rattled. But that was the wind, wasn't it? Making it rattle?

She heard footsteps again, and a tiny, terrified whimper escaped from the back of her throat. Heavy footfalls continued making their way up the basement steps. And then slowly, ever so slowly, the knob on the basement door started to turn. When it opened, she saw what she'd been dreading—a figure covered in shadow. And then it started moving toward her.

Chapter 2

Charlotte Torres slammed the book closed, her heart pounding. What had possibly possessed her to check this book out of the library? She
hated
scary stories. Especially ones where people were trapped in the dark (and there was always someone trapped in the dark). She'd been afraid of the dark ever since she was a little kid, even though she would never, ever want to reveal such a babyish secret to anyone at her new middle school.

She'd gotten the book at the library earlier that afternoon. This red book. She had felt the strangest pull to it. Almost without knowing why she was doing it, she'd dragged a footstool over to a shelf in a shadowy back corner of the library, and then stepped onto the stool in order to reach this book on a shelf above her head. She'd had to stand on tippy-toe to pull it out and had almost lost her balance doing so.

And then once she had it, she hadn't even registered the section she was in or the title on the spine, which had almost completely worn away and was quite illegible. What had once most likely been a deep-red leather cover was now faded to almost pink, soft to the touch, like suede. She ran her hand over the book and then shivered. It was almost as though the book had chosen
her
. Like her feet had just carried her into the book stacks and her hand had dragged that step stool over and her whole unconscious self had made her climb up to get it.

A tiny voice inside Charlotte was issuing a warning. For such an old book, the story inside seemed so . . . now. Almost as though it could have been written about a girl like her. She ignored the voice and shoved the thought out of her mind.

She listened. The house had gone quiet. Her mom and the boys must be fast asleep in their rooms down the hall. She should be asleep too, but thanks to this stupid, scary book, she couldn't yet bring herself to turn out her light, even
with
the night-light blazing away in the corner.

She could remember exactly when she had become afraid of the dark. It was because of that incident at her cousins' house when she was only seven years old. Her mother was one of eight kids, so Charlotte had lots and lots of cousins, but this batch, the Kansas City batch, was her least favorite. They were her Uncle Ben's kids, three boys, all older, always playing some sport and arguing and tumbling over one another. They pulled her hair and teased her about her crooked teeth, and she absolutely hated being teased. It was so different in her own house, where Charlotte was the oldest. She helped her mom and dad look after her twin brothers, and she was practically never mean to them.

This set of cousins lived in a cul-de-sac in a big house. Even though she'd only been there twice in her life, Charlotte so vividly remembered their huge finished basement, where on cold or rainy days the three boys practically lived, playing pool, Ping-Pong, and video games. They even had a special room off the playroom, which was stocked with food, water, batteries, and a radio, just in case of tornadoes. That room had made an impression on her. At seven years old she'd already read
The Wizard of Oz
and seen the movie, so she knew what a tornado was capable of doing. Uncle Ben referred to the room off the playroom as the “Twister Safe-Room.”

The one major problem with the playroom—as all the kids knew—was that the light switch was located at the bottom of the basement steps. Which meant that if you were the last person to leave the basement, you had to turn the lights out at the bottom and then climb the stairs in the semidarkness. The basement was completely below ground, so there were no windows. The only light came from the open door at the top of the stairs. Charlotte always made sure she wasn't the last person in the basement. But on the third day of this particular visit her cousins Bobby and Ted had decided to play a trick on her. With a wink at one another they'd slammed their Ping-Pong paddles down on the table and then raced for the stairs. She'd been left alone, startled, as she was in the middle of working on a puzzle.

“Hey!” she yelled after them.

“Time for dinner. Last one up turns out the lights!” Bobby yelled over his shoulder, as he stampeded up the stairs behind Ted.

She jumped to her feet. She was not going to let them call
her
a scaredy-cat. She marched over to the light switch and flicked it off. Then she turned to mount the stairs.

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