THE FEAR MASTER

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Chapter 2: BOOKS

The envelopes had been typed, but the messages on the post-it notes inside had been printed by hand.

“You have been accepted – bite me! See you Wednesday night at the old school library, 8 PM. TFM.” So read the note stuck to the paperback copy of Dracula received by Betty.

“’Twould be monstrous if you missed it!” read Keith’s note, stuck to a copy of Frankenstein.

“In two minds about attending? Do be/don’t be. Or I’ll be forced to drink my magic potion and come after you!” read the message attached to the copy of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde received by Vic.

“On Wednesday night, go on – be a devil.” Stevie peeled off the note and smiled when she saw the title of the book she had been sent: The Exorcist. She’d always wanted to read it, but her mother had said no. Well, now she had an excuse – it was required reading!

“What’s this?” grumbled Debbie as she tore open the envelope and unwrapped the folded plastic sheet. What was this – a shower curtain? Stupid.

Thump!

Something fell out and hit the floor. She bent to pick it up, it being a short book that fell open at chapter one: “Norman Bates heard the noise and a shock went through him.” She snapped the battered cover shut. “You have a date in Hell at the Bates Motel!” read the note. Above it, the book’s title stood out in slashed black letters: Psycho.

“Oh no,” muttered Debbie. “We gotta read stuff – just like a class!”


But in spite of her grumbling, Debbie was the first one there on Wednesday night. She had arrived at seven forty-five outside the old school library (which had been almost emptied several months ago) to find the door just slightly ajar. Should she go in … or wait for the others? Maybe there would be a special merit badge for the first one to go in and face the darkness alone. Maybe she would be appointed First Fear Leader.

Pressing her face to the cool glass of the window, Debbie saw nothing beyond. Glancing around, she saw nobody approaching. She should have made Stevie come with her instead of going to see her stupid grandmother. Okay, so she was in hospital – big deal – it wasn’t like she had anything fatal. And Debbie needed her. What kind of friend was Stevie? An unbelievably selfish one, that’s what!

Debbie put her hand on the cold door knob. All she had to do was push it and walk on in. They were clearly meant to – they’d been invited and the door was open. Some might consider it trespassing – she was on school property after hours, and if a security guard showed up, she might have a hard time explaining herself – but it wasn’t like breaking and entering; it wasn’t like she was planning to trash the place.

She pushed the door a smidge.

Stopped.

She wasn’t afraid of being caught in the act. Right now, she was more afraid of not being caught. “No, Officer, we never saw her again – disappeared without a trace – just like that.”

Debbie took her hand off the door knob and felt the cold thump of fear in her chest start to ease.

“Stop right there, young lady – police!”

Debbie screamed and jumped back from the door.

Laughing, Keith Bliss came bounding up the stairs and onto the balcony, his rugged profile the first thing Debbie saw as she turned around.

“You scared me!”

“Sorry. But I guess that’s the point of being here, isn’t it? Hi. I’m Keith.”

“Debbie Dawe. You gonna be a Fear Leader?”

“I don’t really know what it’s about. Just thought I’d come along and take a look-see.”

“Well, I hate to rain on your parade or anything, but I think it might be a class. You know, readin’ an’ stuff. The Scary Dude sent me a book.”

“I got Frankenstein. Slower than I thought it would be. More moody.”

“Sounds boring.”

Keith smiled. “About as boring as Wraith Tales by Laurence Salmon.”

“Never heard of it.”

“What book did he send you?”

Psycho.”

Keith wrinkled his nose. “I prefer quiet violence.”

“You mean like … bein’ smothered?”

Keith chuckled, his beady eyes bright in the moonlight. “You’re funny.”

“What?”

Behind them, somebody shrieked.

“OMG!” Debbie practically jumped into Keith’s arms.

“Is this the Fearless Vampire Killers’ Society’s annual meeting?” Betty asked cheerfully, taking the steps two at a time with muscular legs, her yellow dress hugging the leanness of her body. “Sorry if my scream scared you. I couldn’t resist.” Pretending to bay, she threw back her head, causing her short red-dyed hair to shimmer.

“Didn’t scare me,” said Debbie sulkily.

“We were talking books,” said Keith, his brown eyes meeting Betty’s blue ones.

While Debbie was quick to decide that Betty wasn’t beautiful (maybe attractive in a wacky I-got-personality kind of way, but not beautiful), Keith looked like he might disagree. Though kissing Keith (with his big banana nose) was an undertaking Debbie would only undertake with caution, Betty looked willing to cast caution to the wind, and it was perhaps only the arrival of Stevie and Vic (already deep in conversation, Debbie noted) that stopped them.

“We met at the gate, and it turned out we were going to the same place, so … here we are!” Stevie beamed.

“Isn’t that nice,” said Debbie.

Betty looked around. “I don’t see anyone else coming up the garden path, so … shall we?” Her hand was on the door knob and she was halfway into the room before Keith pulled the torch out of his backpack and clicked it on.

“Thanks.” Betty grabbed the torch and strode into the abandoned library.

As Keith started to follow, Debbie interposed herself between Stevie and Vic (who looked to Debbie like a straw-haired scarecrow with most of the stuffing knocked out of him and what was left stuffed into a wrinkled grey T-shirt and baggy pair of unfashionable jeans) and together they filed inside.


They made their way cautiously, though with the exception of some empty shelves, a blackboard, a scarred old reading table and some battered chairs scattered about, there was nothing to notice, and nothing to stand in their way.

There were no booby-traps, lethal spiders or kangaroo-sized rats. Within a couple of minutes, they had established the library was nothing more than a big musty room that had been shut up too long. Then the door slammed and a deep chuckle filled the chamber.

“As convicted killer Gary Gilmore said to the firing-squad on the morning of his execution, ‘Let’s do it!’”

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