· Delacorte Books for Young Readers
· eBook · Ages 9-12 years
· December 18, 2008 · $5.99 · 978-0-307-53775-1 (0-307-53775-7)
Mrs. Roland laughed. “Tara, not so fast. Not so fast!” “We’ll answer all your questions,” Mr. Roland said. “It’s a long story. But don’t worry. We’ll explain everything.” He stuck out his hand. “But quick–give us the pendant.” “We really have to hurry,” their mom said, glancing at the front door. She turned back to them. “Which one of you is wearing it?” “Max was wearing it the whole time,” Nicky said. Both parents moved quickly across the room to me. “Could we have it back, Max?” Mr. Roland asked. “It’s the master life pod. We need it to capture any other ghosts who might come after us.” Mrs. Roland sighed. “We won’t be safe until we have it.” I took a step back. “I . . . I don’t have it,” I stammered. Mrs. Roland’s mouth dropped open. Mr. Roland tensed his shoulders. “My brother took it,” I said. “He took it to Camp Snake Lake with him.” Both parents stared at me, horrified expressions frozen on their faces. After a few seconds, Mr. Roland spoke in a growl. “Phears isn’t going to like this. We have to go there and get it back!” Huh? Did he say Phears? Confused, I took another step back. Mr. and Mrs. Roland kept their gaze on me. They started to change. Their faces drooped and began to shrink. Their bodies hunched. They curled in on themselves like gloves closing up. Hard brown shells formed over their clothing. Their heads were small and round now, with tiny black eyes and threadlike tongues lapping the air. They looked like the beetles we studied in science class. Giant growling beetles. “Oh noooo.” A low moan escaped my throat. They floated off the floor. Floated over me, growling and muttering. I ducked my head and staggered to the front door. I saw Nicky and Tara, frozen in shock in the middle of the living room. “Run!” I screamed. “It’s a trick. They’re not your parents! Run!” But before Nicky and Tara could move, the two giant insects skittered over to them. Grabbed them with their long spindly legs. They pulled Nicky and Tara against their hard ribbed bodies. Held them tight and started to drag them out the front door. I staggered to the door. I tried to spin one of the insect creatures around, but my hand slid off its shell. I grabbed for Tara. Struggling and squirming to free themselves, Nicky and Tara both reached for my outstretched hands. But the insect creatures wrapped ropelike legs around their middles and held them tight. The giant insects bounced across the front yard like rubber balls, dragging Nicky and Tara with them. “Let us go! Let us go!” Tara wailed. My heart pounding, I darted over the grass. I could see Mrs. Benson in the window of her house next door. I knew she couldn’t see the ghosts. She could only see me. She probably thought I was totally crazy as I went screaming down the lawn and leaped into the air. I jumped onto the back of one of the enormous insects. I gripped the hard shell with both hands. It felt slick and hot. My hands nearly slipped off. The ghostly creature had Tara wrapped in its grasp. “Help me, Max!” she screamed. “I . . . I can’t get loose!” With a groan, I lurched backward, trying to pull the insect onto its back. A puff of black steam shot out from under its shell. I gasped as a putrid smell invaded my nose. I started to choke and gag. It smelled like day-old vomit. The rank odor surrounded me, clung to my clothes, my hair. I could even taste it on my tongue. Another strong puff of the disgusting vapor made my stomach heave. And then the creature twisted its body hard–and sent me flying to the ground. I landed with a heavy thud–and made a grab for one of its wiry legs. The leg slipped from my hand. Groaning, I jumped to my feet. “Help–Max!” Nicky screamed. Holding Nicky tightly, the creature spun around. It stretched out two tendril-like legs and grabbed my head. The sharp pincers poked through my skin. The legs jerked hard, and I started to spin. And spin . . . I couldn’t stop twirling. The trees, the houses, the cars on the street–all spun around me as I twirled, faster and faster. As I spun, I saw the two insect creatures skittering away with their captives, Nicky and Tara. But I was helpless. No way to save them. My arms flew wildly in the air as I twirled and twirled. Dizzy now. So dizzy. The ground met the sky, and the world became a green and blue blur.