tumblr stats

Chapter One

I lay on my bed and felt the terrible thing lurking in my room draw closer. I strained to listen, but could hear nothing over the thundering of my heart. I trembled with fever. My body refused to obey my command to sit up and see what was coming. My skin pulled and stretched, as if the terrible thing were calling it right off my bones. I shivered, both cold and hot at the same time. Somewhere deep inside, fear and anger swirled together in a tight clump, pressing against my chest and making me want to howl with pain and frustration.

And still it came closer.

I struggled again to rise until my teeth ached with the strain of it. Finally, with a sound more like a growl than anything human, I wrenched myself up from the bed and found myself staring into the bloodshot eyes of a ravening beast.

And the beast was me.

I jerked upright as I tore myself out of the nightmare. My heart pounded in my chest, the sound of it filling my ears and blocking out all the other sounds of the night. I was drenched in sweat, my soaked T-shirt sticking to me like a thick layer of paste.

I threw off my covers, rubbed my eyes with my hands, and tried to remember how to breathe. I’d first had this dream almost a month ago, but it was coming more often now, almost every night this week.

Knowing I would need a few minutes to calm myself before I could go back to sleep, I crossed over to the window and perched on the sill. As I stared out over the bright lights of Seattle,  thick gray clouds parted to let the moon shine through. It wasn’t quite full, but it was big enough to fill my room with a pale silver light that made the shadows disappear.


It wasn’t until I saw my fist slam into Brandon Blecker’s face that I realized today was going to be different.

Way different.

It was such a shock, seeing that fist come out of nowhere, that I looked over my shoulder to see who might have punched him. Usually Blecker’s the one doing the punching. And usually, he’s punching me.

But not today. Today he sat in the dirt clutching his nose, glaring up at me with equal parts fury, fear, and surprise. Blood began to seep out from between his fingers, a deep red trickle that nearly hypnotized me. A strong coppery smell filled the air, making my nose twitch and my mouth water. I licked my lips.

I realized that my right hand was killing me, all the knuckles throbbing like I’d just jammed my fist into a cement wall. Joey slapped me on the shoulder. “Way to go, Luc!”

I turned to Joey in disbelief. “Me?” It came out in a squeak that would have been embarrassing if I wasn’t in shock.

“Yeah, you. Luc Never-Hit-Anybody-No-Matter-What Grayson!”

I glanced at the small crowd that was forming around us. “Want to say that a little louder, Joey?”

He threw back his head and laughed. “Welcome to the Playground Warriors Association.” He glanced up. “Here comes Beecham, right on schedule. Don’t worry. She and the vice principal will give you an official welcome into our ranks. Usually it’s suspension, but since you’re Mr. Perfect, it’ll probably only be detention.”

The yard duty strode toward us, her iron gray hair frizzed out around her like a grizzly halo, the look on her face—not happy.

She reached us before I had a chance to think of a decent explanation. Puzzled, she stood over Brandon, hands on her hips, her head cocked to the side. “How’d you get down there, Blecker?”

Still holding his nose, Brandon pointed at me. “He did it.”

She turned to me in obvious disbelief. “You trying to tell me that Grayson here knocked you on your butt?” Giving me the once over, she asked, “Is that true?”

“I guess,” I said, trying to stand a little taller and look capable of actually hitting someone.

She peered more closely at me. “You being smart with me, son? ’Cause if you are . . .”

“No!” That’s all I needed, more trouble. “I mean, it just happened so fast. I didn’t realize I was even thinking about hitting him until I saw him there on the ground.”

“Hmm.” She looked me up and down again and muttered, “Puberty.”

I tried not to groan. Beecham was famous for blaming everything that happened at Pierpont Middle School on puberty. Giggling, punching, fighting, spit wads, back talk: it was all because we were either getting ready to go through puberty or were smack in the middle of it. Everything we did that she didn’t like was due to the wicked influences of our hormones, which, according to Beecham, would lead us down the path to ruin.

“Well, get your testosterone-filled butt up to the office,” she told me, “and let the vice-principal know what you did. Most likely he’ll have a thing or two to say about it.” She reached out and grabbed my right hand, making me wince. She examined my knuckles. “You should probably see the nurse, too. She’ll get you some ice for the swelling and check for cracked bones.”

Funny. I don’t ever remember her suggesting that Brandon might have cracked his knuckles when he punched me.

She dropped my hand and smirked. “They’ll be sore for the next week. At least.”

I tried to flex my hand, then flinched. Great. When I finally stand up for myself, I get accused of having wimpy knuckles. There is no justice at this school.

Beecham turned back and looked at Brandon as if he were a squashed bug she’d found on her windshield. “You come with me, Blecker. We’re going to the nurse’s office.”

He struggled to his feet. Glaring at me with the promise of revenge in his eyes, he followed Beecham as she marched off. As they went, I could have sworn I heard her say, “Didn’t think the little shrimp had it in him.”

I was hoping I imagined that part.


When my meeting with the vice principal was over I was so relieved that I forgot all about going to the nurse’s office. I made it to fifth period just as the bell rang and slid into my seat next to Joey

He looked up, surprised to see me back so soon. “Detention?” he whispered.

I shook my head.

“Suspended,” he asked hopefully.

“Nope, nothing. Hobson’s going to call my aunt and uncle and tell them what happened, but that’s it.”

He stared at me. “They won’t even care! You’re Mr. Perfect as far as they’re concerned.”

I snorted. Hardly. In fact, my good grades were one of the few things that Uncle Stephen seemed to actually like about me. “See what a good academic record will do for you? Besides, it was self-defense.”

By this time, our conversation caught our English teacher’s attention. “Mr. Grayson, do you have something you wish to share with the class?”

I slumped down in my seat. “No,” I mumbled. That’s all I needed, to get in trouble twice today. Joey threw one last envious look my way, and then we settled down to verbs and prepositional phrases, which made my head ache almost as badly as my knuckles.

Except, when I went to pick up my pen, I found my hand didn’t hurt at all anymore and all the swelling had disappeared.


Return Older_works.html