Today we thought we would offer you a first page submission to a middle reader spooky story.
Let us know in the comments if you would read on.
Chapter One: A Case I Can Sink My Teeth Into
Death found me on a hot June morning in Walt Disney World’s Tower of Terror.
Minutes before I heard about the vampire in Transylvania, North Carolina, I pulled the seat belt across my waist and showed my hands to the bellhop. Behind me buckles snapped shut; arms shot up. The smiling service attendant in his maroon and gold cap bid us a pleasant stay at the Hollywood Hotel and retreated into the boiler room. Service doors sealed us inside, and the elevator yanked us up.
The young boy seated next to me whispered to his mom, “Why did he make us raise our hands?”
“So when they snap our picture it looks like we’re having fun.”
“And to prove you’re not holding anything in your hand,” I offered. “See, if you place a penny on your palm, like this, when the car drops the coin will—”
“Don’t you dare try that, Grayson!” said the boy’s mom, glaring at me.
I shoved the penny back in my pocket and muttered, “Wasn’t suggesting he do it. Just saying that’s why they make you put your hands up.”
The car stopped on the thirteenth floor. Doors opened. Our elevator car rumbled down a darkened hallway, and the theme song from the Twilight Zone began playing through headrest speakers. A short ways in front, Rod Serling magically appeared, warning riders: “You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension—a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You're moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You've just crossed over into… (dramatic pause)… the Twilight Zone.”
Instantly a barrage of objects shot past—a wooden door, Einstein’s formula for relativity, an eyeball. Windowpanes shattered and shards of glass morphed into twinkling stars. Through the speakers a little girl began singing, “It’s raining, it’s pouring…”
Buried in my front pocket my smartphone began vibrating. I pulled it out and quickly read the text message. “Phone Me now. RIGHT NOW! got killer of a story for you! – Calvin.”
Right, I thought. Bet it’s just another zombie fest or supposed house haunting.
See, weeks earlier I’d signed on to be a reporter for the Cool Ghoul Gazette—an online website dedicated to exploring ghosts, zombies, werewolves, vampires and all things supernatural and freaky. We have a huge readership in England, the British Ghost sightings are huge over there. Anyway, for months my parents had been after me to get a summer job. Mom thought I needed to start saving for college. Dad kept saying it was time I did something other than sit around and watch TV, even though watching TV is my job.
No kidding. Watching television (online, mostly) is my job. I’m a founding member of TV Crime Watchers, a group of teens that analyzes and catalogs crime, cop, and detective shows. We have a huge database of episodes going back almost thirty years, and we use this information to catch real murderers. At least, when law enforcement officials will let us help. Our little group has an eighty percent close rate. That means in most cases we can correctly identify the killer before the real detectives can. Problem is, TV Crime Watchers doesn’t pay, and making money is apparently a big deal. Especially for my Mom and Dad. Our family is a victim of what Dad calls, “the Great Recession.”
I think what he means is that we’re middle class poor.
Before our trip to Disney, he was complaining about how his pension at the automotive parts company was wiped out in the stock market. Mom thinks we should sell our home, but according to the real estate company Mom works for, our house is worth less now than when we bought it. The only way we could afford the trip to Disney was to drive two days in our ten-year-old Buick and stay in a three-star motel on the outskirts of Orlando. So yeah, right now having a job is tops in our family.
“Can’t pay for the good life without a good job,” Dad keeps reminding me. “And sometimes, you can’t even pay for it, then.”
Dad hoped I’d get a job cutting grass like my cousin Fred. Fred has like a gazillion customers. He made enough last summer to buy his own truck—a used Ford Ranger that has over a hundred thousand miles on it and leaks oil like a Gulf oil well.
But I’m not Fred.
To me the idea of working outside all summer and coming home sweaty and tired is, well… work. Mom was after me to get a job dog sitting, but the last thing I wanted to do was to spend my summer picking up poop in a plastic bag. That’s just gross.
So after our trip to Deadwood Canyon, when I solved the murder of one of the ghost town’s actors, I landed the job at the Cool Ghoul Gazette, and now my editor was texting me with a “killer” assignment that I was pretty sure would be a huge waste of my time because most of the stuff he sends me is.
The elevator car stopped. Another set of doors opened, this time revealing a bird’s eye view of Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios theme park. Crowds choked Sunset Boulevard and moved in random directions like energetic ants bent on beating the other ants to the top of the hill. Children lined up near a pretzel stand to get Buzz Lightyear’s autograph. Parents milled about in the designated stroller area.
Our car dropped.
Girls screamed. Kids shrieked. Not me. You couldn’t have blasted the smile off my face with a power washer.