The third day has started. I can't believe it's 130k words, and it's only the third day of the story.

Thanks for pointing out an error in the last chapter.

After a while, Trina's grief was replaced with fear. She was still outside Horrorland, in the middle of nowhere. She got to her feet and started wandering through the rain. The truck Slappy had stolen to ride them to Horrorland had blown up when they entered the park. Not like she could drive, anyway. She clutched the wet miniature Horror tightly in her hand. She was tempted to throw it away, but held onto it. It was the last thing her brother had before his death.

She thought about her brother as she wandered through the rain. She had called him Mouse and Dan Jr, to annoy him. She thought he looked like a mouse, with his short height, mousy hair, and squeaky voice. She remembered how they had scared their cousin Zane together. One time, they had hid in the attic and freaked him out by making scary noises. He had screamed and ran down the stairs while they laughed and high fived.

And now, he was dead, because of her. It was all her fault. She had gotten him killed, while trying to protect him. She should've left first instead of him.

She jumped out of her skin and ran out of the way as she heard a vehicle roaring by. She moved away just in time to avoid being hit. The large red truck stopped in front of her.

She watched as a fireman exited, his red uniform quickly becoming drenched. He walked up to her. "Miss?" he asked, concerned. "What are you doing out here?"

Trina choked back another sob. "I... I..."

He studied her, squinting. "Are you Trina O'Dell?"

"Yes," she said.

"Your parents are worried about you," he said. "They reported your disappearance. We didn't have time to report it on TV. We've been searching for you, but couldn't find you anywhere. What are you doing out here?"


"Let's just get you home," he suggested. "Come into the firetruck, miss. We'll take you home."

She was relieved they had arrived. As she entered the back of the truck, he asked, "Where's your brother? Daniel?"

Trina sniffed. "He... he..."

"Is he out here?" The fireman looked around the pouring rain.

"No," she said solemnly. "He... he's gone."

"Gone? You mean..." He gasped. "Oh. I'm so sorry."

The firewoman in the truck said, "I'm very sorry, miss, but you'll have to explain it to your parents. We're in a hurry. We have something very important to do."

"Is there a fire?" asked Trina, alarmed,

"Yes," she said. "We have to get there as soon as possible."

"Are you sure your brother isn't out here?" the fireman asked.

"I'm sure," she replied sadly.

Trina was surprised to hear about the fire, but didn't ask about it. As the truck sped through the rain, she thought about her brother again. She imagined him in her mind. His brown hair and dark eyes, his small, mousy face and pointed chin.

Her parents were waiting for her outside, drenched in the rain as well. Her father ran up and hugged her. "Trina! Thank goodness."

"Where's Dan?" asked Mr. O'Dell.

The firefighters exchanged looks. "We're very sorry to tell you this, ma'am," said a fireman solemnly. "But... sorry, but maybe you should tell them, Miss O'Dell. We're really in a hurry."

"I'll tell them," Trina sniffed.

The fireman patted Trina's shoulder before leaving. "We're very sorry about what happened, miss."

As the firemen left, Trina's parents turned to her. "Trina? What were you doing out there? You're soaking wet! And where's your brother?" her mother demanded.

Trina sniffed. Tears came to her eyes and rolled down her cheeks.

"Oh, no," Mr. O'Dell gasped. "Is Dan..."

"No!" Mrs. O'Dell exclaimed, to contradict what he was implying. "Tell us what happened to your brother, Trina."

"He... he..." Trina sniffed. "He's..."

"Start at the beginning," Mr. O'Dell suggested.

"Slappy came," said Trina.

They gasped. "Slappy?"

They now believed that Slappy had been alive and had apologised for grounding Trina and Dan. They were horrified as Trina described how he had kidnapped them.

"How could we sleep through that?" Mrs. O'Dell exclaimed.

"We didn't want to come," said Trina. "But he made us."

"I'm so sorry, Trina," said Mr. O'Dell. "We should've woken up."

When Trina told them about Horrorland, they gasped.

"This is incredible news!" Mr. O'Dell exclaimed. "We now know where all the monsters are."

"We have to call the police and tell them," said Mrs. O'Dell.

"I'm glad you managed to escape," said Mr. O'Dell. "But how did you? And where's your brother?"

Her voice shaking, Trina told them about Laura, the mysterious girl who asked them to escape with her. She told them how she wanted one of them to leave the gate with her first, and Trina wanted Dan to go first, to protect him. Then she described how Laura had revealed herself to be a monster, and taken Dan as her victim.

They went very quiet. "Oh, god," whispered Mr. O'Dell.

Mrs. O'Dell sank to the ground. She closed her eyes and started to cry. Mr. O'Dell sat next to her and wrapped his arms around her as his eyes filled with tears as well.

"It's all my fault!" Trina exclaimed. "I told him to go first—"

"Be quiet, Trina," her father told her, but gently. He pulled her to the ground as well, hugging her. But she couldn't shake away the feeling that it was her fault.

Evan stared at himself. It was his body, but he wasn't in it. Someone else was controlling him, while he floated through the air, non-existent. Then he glanced out the window, gasped, and ran outside. Evan followed, disappearing through the door.

He was even more confused to see Conan Barber outside. Even stranger, not Evan screamed, "You! You have my body!"

Conan stared at not Evan, and then, even more strangely, said, "You can have your body back, Conan. I'm finished with it."

Evan gasped. Was Conan in his body?

"Yes, give it back," Conan agreed. "This body is lame. So weak and scrawny."

And whose fault is that? Evan thought.

Evan watched as his body approached Conan's, pressing against his. It was so strange to watch. Evan turned away. He would've closed his eyes if he had them. When he turned back again, his body was lying on the ground, motionless, while Conan was grinning triumphantly.

"Alright! Now I have to warn everyone." Conan pumped his heavy fist in the air and ran into the house.

Evan stared at his body, and watched as his eyes opened. Then his legs twitched, and he slowly got to his feet. He scratched his curly red hair and jumped up and down.

"Hey!" Evan cried.

His body stared at him. "He took your body, and now I've taken it. After taking his. You should find a body of your own to take, kid."

"What?" Evan cried.

"I used his body to do terrible things," he said smugly. "And now that he has his back, no one will believe him when he says it wasn't him. He was quite the bully, from what I heard."

"I was his main target," Evan admitted.

Why hadn't he taken his body before the other person did? He followed his body as it entered the house. He ran up the stairs to Evan's parents' room, where Conan was frantically shaking them.

"Evan, cut it out," Mrs. Ross murmured.

"This is important!" Conan screamed.

Mrs. Ross immediately sat up and stared at Conan. Then she screamed. "Who are you? Get out of our house!"

"Mrs. Ross, let me explain," Conan pleaded.

"He broke in," Evan's body interjected.

Mrs. Ross turned to look at him. "Evan?"

"I tried to tell him to leave, but he wouldn't," said not Evan. "He threatened me."

"Don't listen to him!" Conan screamed. "He took Evan's body! He's evil!"

"I don't know what he's talking about, Mom," insisted not Evan. How did he know she was his mother? It must've been a guess. "He just broke into our house." Ironic. Last time, he had done that to Conan. "He threatened me when I tried to get him to leave."

"Mom, I'm Evan," Evan yelled, but she didn't hear him.

"You have to leave immediately," Mrs. Ross told Conan. "Or I'll call your parents."

"Mrs. Ross, you don't understand," Conan insisted. "Someone took my body. And—"

"I know him from school," said not Evan. "He's Conan Barber. He's always picking on me." For once, Conan didn't protest. "I think we should call the police, Mom. He broke into our house, and now he's talking crazy."

"Mom! It's me! I'm Evan!" Evan yelled.

Suddenly, Mr. Ross sat up. "What's all the yelling about?"

"Conan Barber broke into our house!" yelled not Evan. Evan couldn't get over the irony.

"I'm Evan!" Evan insisted. "He took over my body."

His parents didn't hear him. "What are you doing?" demanded Mr. Ross. "Leave now, or we'll call the police."

"Something terrible is happening!" Conan screamed.

"You're right. Something terrible is happening," not Evan agreed. "I saw it on the news. A town burned down. Someone set fire to it."

"What?" Mr. Ross gasped.

"That's what he did!" Conan yelled, pointing to not Evan.

"No, it was you," retorted not Evan. "I couldn't believe it. I didn't think even you'd do it. But they saw you. You burned down a town, and then broke into our house."

"We should definitely call the police," agreed Mrs. Ross, getting out of bed.

"No!" Conan screamed, but she was already picking up the phone next to the bed.

"Hello? This is Lauren Ross. There was a break in at my house." There was a silence as she looked shocked. "That's horrible. There's a fire? Do you know who started it?" After another silence, she stared at Conan in fear.

Despite the situation, Evan couldn't help feeling pleased seeing Conan pale and sputter. Maybe whoever took his body wasn't so bad.

"Julie! Julie!"

Julie Martin looked as her brother Sammy ran into the room. He looked happy and lively, not in the least bit sick anymore.

"Sammy! Feeling better?" Julie asked, hugging him.

"Yeah," he said, grinning. "I'm not sick anymore. I feel great."

"That's great!" Julie exclaimed, hugging him again. "You're sure you feel okay?"

He nodded.

"That's good," said Julie, relieved. She remembered how he had been taken to hospital after being turned into a bee. "But why were you sick yesterday? And what were you saying? Something about dolly jelly?"

Sammy looked down. "Will you tell Mom and Dad?"

"I might have to," Julie admitted. She had been tempted to wake them last night, but he begged her not to. She had reluctantly agreed and stayed with him until he fell asleep.

"Please don't," Sammy pleaded. "I'll get in trouble for wandering off."

"Okay, I won't tell them," Julie conceded. "Just tell me what happened last night."

"Promise?" Sammy asked.

"Promise," said Julie.

"I went outside," said Sammy. "I was bored inside. I wanted to leave."

"Sammy," Julie scolded gently. "You know you're not allowed out."

"I know!" Sammy wailed. "I shouldn't have. It was dumb."

"Okay, okay," Julie soothed, stroking his hair. "Just tell me what happened."

"I walked down the street, and I met this old lady," recounted Sammy. "She had a bunch of dolls."

"An old lady?" Julie asked. "She was just outside?"

"Yeah," said Sammy. "She was really nice. She had a bunch of dolls. She said she made all of them. And she gave me a cookie."

"And you took it?" Julie exclaimed. "It could've been... wait! Maybe the cookie was what made you sick."

"No," said Sammy. "She also put something in my hair. Dolly jelly."

"That's what you were murmuring about," noted Julie. "What did you mean by it?"

"I felt like I was becoming a doll," said Sammy. "A doll for the old lady. She wanted me to be a doll."

"What?" Julie exclaimed.

"I could feel myself fading away," said Sammy. "And then, I'd be trapped in the doll. Trapped, like the other dolls."

"She's turning kids into dolls?" Julie exclaimed.

"Maybe," said Sammy. "But I'm feeling better now."

Their parents came into the room. "Julie, Sammy, did you hear what's on the news?" asked Mrs. Martin, shaken.

"The fire?" Julie asked. "Yeah, I did. It was so horrible."

"Not that," said Mrs. Martin. "Well, there's good news. The two missing boys, Jackson Stander and Todd Barstow, have been found."

"Well, that's good," said Julie. Make that three boys. Sammy was found too.

"But there was another boy who died," said Mrs. Martin solemnly. "Killed by a monster."

"What?" gasped Julie.

"He and his sister were kidnapped," said Mrs. Martin. "Kidnapped by the ventriloquist dummy who visited Amy Kramer to threaten her. He planned to make children his slaves."

"Slaves?" Julie had heard of that dummy. His name was Slappy. He had several previous owners who he had tried to make his slaves. And now he was trying to find them again. She had seen some of his owners on TV. Britney Crosby, Kris and Lindy Powell, Ian Barker.

"His poor sister was so distraught," said Mrs. Martin. "It's horrible. And so soon after the death of Sara Kramer. I think she's still on the news. Come look."

Julie followed her mother into the living room. She was shocked to see that the girl on TV was Trina O'Dell. Tears were running down her cheeks. "Oh, I'm sorry," she said. "I didn't mean to break down like that."

"It's fine, Miss O'Dell," said the interviewer. "We understand it was a very traumatic experience."

"I saw him die, taken by that monster," Trina cried, wringing her curly red hair. "I keep thinking it was my fault. I could've saved him."

Julie felt dread in the pit of her stomach. She knew Trina had a younger brother. That could've been Sammy. He could've been killed by the fever, and then turned into a doll. Two children had been killed so close together. Who would be next?

Alex phoned his friend, Zane O'Dell. They were both into photography, and he felt the need to tell him about the picture he had taken.

"Zane, you'll never guess what happened last night," said Alex. "I found a camera in my house, and—"

"I know what happened last night," Zane interrupted. He sounded solemn.

"You do?" Alex asked, confused.

"Yes," said Zane in a strange voice. "My... my cousin died."

"What?" Alex almost dropped the phone.

"My cousin Dan," said Zane solemnly. "He was killed by a monster."

"Wow..." Alex didn't know what to say. "Are... are you sure?"

"It"s on the news," said Zane. "Turn on the TV."

Alex looked at the TV in the room, and, perfect timing, saw Zane's cousin Trina. She had clearly been crying, her green eyes red and puffy. "I'm so sorry, Miss O'Dell," the interviewer was saying. "Thank you for your time."

"Your cousin Dan?" Alex exclaimed into the phone.

"Yes," said Zane sadly. "We didn't always get along, but I still feel terrible."

"Oh, wow... I'm really sorry," Alex said, shocked.

"I keep wanting to call Trina, but I don't know if I should," said Zane. "What can I say?"

Alex went silent. "I just saw her on TV. She looked really upset."

"I heard she and Dan got kidnapped," Zane said. "Kidnapped by Slappy." He gave a wry laugh. "They once gave him to me."

Alex didn't know what that meant, but didn't ask. "Are... are you okay?"

"Not really," Zane admitted. "Hearing about everything that's happened..."

"Maybe I should go," Alex suggested.

"No, stay on," Zane insisted. "I need something to distract myself."

"Should... should I tell you what happened last night?" Alex suggested. "I mean, aside from that. I saw something really... weird."

"Go ahead," Zane urged.

Jed phoned his friend Noah. "Noah, I need to talk to you," he said.

"About last night?" asked Noah. "You'll never believe what happened."

"You'll never believe what I saw last night," retorted Jed. "But that's not what I wanted to talk about."

"Let me tell you about last night first," urged Noah.

"Alright," conceded Jed. He listened to Noah recount encountering the dollmaker who had nearly turned him into a doll beforehand, and now they had defeated her.

"That's good," said Jed, relieved.

"It was so terrifying," said Noah. "I felt like I was turning into a doll. My sister has the dollmaker's doll. It feels satisfying to look at it. Now she's the doll."

"My sister Sara used to collect dolls," said Jed. "I'd cut their hair off. She'd get so mad about that." His voice broke off.

Noah quickly continued. "But that's not all." Then he paused. "Actually, maybe I shouldn't tell you this."

"Tell me what?" asked Jed.

"I'll tell you the part after that," said Noah. "Then, we found an alien."

"What?" gasped Jed.

"He said he was from Weirdo Planet," said Noah. "His name was Bim."

"Aliens? So some of these monsters aren't even from this planet?" asked Jed.

"Apparently not," said Noah. "Don't worry, we dealt with it. Now what did you see last night?"

Jed went silent. "I... I saw my sister."

"What?" gasped Noah.

"Her ghost," said Jed. "It was on TV. Her killer was arrested."

"I know," said Noah. "It was Mr. Toggle, her piano teacher."

"Well, we didn't tell the police this... but we went to the music school, and we saw her ghost," said Jed.


"She said she was trapped at the school," said Jed. "She was there, but she wasn't really. She looked so weak and lifeless. And she couldn't leave. Couldn't come with us."

"Oh, Jed. I'm so sorry," said Noah.

Jed swallowed. "I wanted to talk to you about something else you have. You know that book you have? The one about weird creatures?"

"Oh, yeah. Encyclopedia of the Weird," said Noah. "We went through it together. I tried to make some of them to scare Carly Beth."

"Well, I... I think I might have one of them," said Jed. "The Grool."

"What?" exclaimed Noah.

Jed told him about the sponge Amy found under their bathroom sink. "It sounds like the Grool," he said. "It was vibrating and moving, like it was breathing."

"Let me check," said Noah. After a pause, Jed heard the pages of a book being flipped. "Here it is. The Grool. It looks like a sponge, but it's evil."

"What does it say?" asked Jed.

"It says they thrive off of bad luck," said Noah.

"I know," said Jed. "We've had nothing but bad luck, even apart from my sister dying. Just this morning, I slipped on the kitchen floor."

"The more bad luck, the happier and more excited it gets," said Noah. Jed remembered how it was throbbing and vibrating so excitedly. There was a pause. "Jed? Did... did you throw it away?" Noah sounded scared.

"No," said Jed. "I was going to, but then I remember reading that anyone who gives it away will die within a day."

"You're right," said Noah, relieved.

"So we're just stuck with it?" Jed cried.

"It says it cannot be killed by violent means," read Noah. "You cannot tear it, or hit it, or cut it. Well, you can, but it won't get rid of it."

"Great," Jed said. "We're just stuck with it, then?"

"It seems so," said Noah worriedly.

Amanda Benson watched the TV with dread forming in the pit of her stomach. Dark Falls had burned down. On one hand, she was relieved, since the inhabitants couldn't lure any more families there. But three people had survived.

"I was so terrified," said Karen Somerset, sniffing. Amanda remembered shining the torch in her face and watching her die. "I started choking and coughing from the smoke. I thought I'd pass out."

"Ray and Karen were in one of the houses, and I came to find them," said Mr. Dawes. "Being there probably saved our lives."

"What house?" asked Amanda. "The house we stayed in?"

"That one's probably burned down now as well," remarked Josh. "Good riddance."

"We have to tell them," Amanda told her parents. "Warn them it's no ordinary town."

"Yes, of course," said Mr. Benson, standing up. He picked up the phone and dialled.

"What fakers," Josh muttered, watching the TV. Karen and Ray appeared very distraught.

"I don't think so," said Amanda. "They are upset their town burned down."

"No signal," announced Mr. Benson, putting the phone down.

"What?" exclaimed Mrs. Benson. She tried calling, but couldn't. She unplugged the wires and replaced them. Then she tried calling again.

"No power," she agreed, putting the phone down.

"Well, we have to warn them," insisted Amanda.

"Of course. We'll go to the police station," said Mr. Benson, heading for the door.

Amanda and Josh followed them, but their mother said, "You two should stay here."

"But we went to Dark Falls too," Josh insisted. "We have to tell the police everything."

"We'll tell them," assured Mrs. Benson. "We'll tell them everything you told us." Amanda and Josh had told their parents everything tha happened while they were separated, including Amanda shining the torch in Karen's face and finding Compton Dawes' grave.

"Stay here," Mr. Benson instructed. "We'll be back as quickly as possible."

"If anything happens, we'll call you. Oh right, we can't," joked Josh.

Amanda wanted to protest more, but their parents left. She felt guilty. She remembered leaving the other family who arrived at Dark Falls. She had been so desperate to leave the town.

Josh went to his room and returned with a can. "I got this last Halloween," he said. "But I forgot all about it. It's a vampire costume." The can said Vampire in a Can. "I bought it from a store called Scary Stuff."

"I remember," said Amanda. "You forgot all about it and went as a werewolf."

"It was a lame costume," said Josh. He opened the can and pulled out a black cape that he threw around his shoulders. Then he pulled out a pair of plastic fangs that he placed in his mouth and a paper tattoo that he pressed on his neck.

"You're right. It is lame," Amanda agreed. "The werewolf costume was way better."

Josh approached Amanda with his plastic fangs bared. "Blood... I need your blood..."

"Cut it out," Amanda snapped. It reminded her too much of the Dark Falls residents.

"There's something else in here." Josh pulled a packet out of the can. "It says..."

Amanda peered over. In dripping red letters, it said, "Danger: Keep Out".

"Don't open it," Amanda urged.

"I won't," agreed Josh. "But what's in it?"

Suddenly, their dog, Petey, bounded into the room, rubbing against Amanda's legs. "Get out of here, Petey," Amanda scolded gently.

Josh bent down to pet him, dropping the packet in the process. He noticed it and lowered his head to bite into it.

"Petey!" Josh scolded. "No!"

As he bit the packet, a red liquid oozed out, and he swallowed some of it. Amanda picked him up. There was now a red stain on the carpet.

"Petey," she scolded. "Why did you do that?" He stared at Amanda, a hungry look in his eyes.

Ray Gordon couldn't believe the reports on TV about a dummy trying to make his previous owners his slaves. Several other children had met the dummy before, including Trina and Dan O'Dell, the latter which had died last night. Ray was watching a girl named Jillian Zinman on TV. According to her, there was another living doll as well.

"Her name is Mary-Ellen," said Jillian. "She's my sisters' old doll. She wanted… she wanted to be Slappy's bride."

"Oh, great," Ray muttered. "The dummy has a love interest? A girl doll?"

"But he didn't want to be her bride," Jillian continued, shuddering. "He wanted…" She cringed. "He wanted me to be his bride."

Ray's mouth dropped open. "What?"

"Good thing we're not girls," added Brandon. "Being his slave is bad enough."

"I'm tired of watching this," said Ray, turning off the TV. "Why isn't there anything else on TV? I'd even rather watch nothing but advertisements over this news."

"Maybe we can watch a movie," Brandon suggested.

"How?" Ray asked. "There aren't any movies."

"No, but we have some," said Brandon. He walked over to the TV stand and opened the drawer. "Oh, right. We ran out of them."

"You threw all of them away," added Ray. "Guess they were too scary for you."

"Did not!" Brandon protested. "Mom made you throw your movies away, because you showed them to me and gave me nightmares for weeks."

"That's your fault," Ray accused, glaring at him.

"She would've made you throw them away anyway," Brandon retorted. "You're not allowed to have them." He glanced at the drawer. "Actually, there's one in here."

"What's it called?" Ray asked.

Brandon picked up the disc, studying it. "Huh. That's weird. I haven't seen this one before."

"What's it called?" Ray repeated.

"It's called… A Holly Jolly Holiday."

"What?" Ray laughed. "I definitely don't have a movie called that."

Brandon showed Ray the disc, causing him to laugh again. It showed a smiling girl dressed in pink surrounded by Christmas trees, snowflakes and lights. The title was written in bright green.

"Seems like a Christmas movie," noted Brandon.

"It looks lame," said Ray. "I bet it's for babies."

"Let's put it in," Brandon suggested. "It's better than watching the news."

Brandon put the disc in, and they watched as the movie rolled up. Ray hated it within the first few minutes. It was a Christmas movie, as Brandon predicted. The colors were extremely bright, the music was cheerful and jolly, and the main character was insufferable. She smiled and sang and danced, and spread Christmas cheer. It was so sickeningly happy and cheerful. Ray wanted to punch the main character every time she opened her mouth to sing or spout her catchphrase. It was a movie for little kids. No, little girls.

"I was right. It's for babies," said Ray, cringing as Susie Snowflake opened her mouth to say "Itty bitty please with Christmas trees". "Turn it off. I'd rather watch the news over this. It's terrible."

"I don't know," said Brandon, who seemed to be enjoying it. "It's better than the news."

"You should watch it," Ray suggested. "It's for babies and girls. And you're both of them."

"Hey!" Brandon protested, punching him in the arm. "Am not."

"Itty bitty please with Christmas trees!" a girl on the screen said before Susie Snowflake handed her cookies. Ray stuck a finger down his throat and pretended to barf.

He picked up the remote and switched back to the news. A girl named Britney Crosby was talking now, though she spent more time complaining about her cousin than Slappy.

"How many other people have met Slappy?" asked Ray, alarmed.

"We should be on the news," said Brandon. "I've always wanted to be."

"Yeah! We could tell them how we bought Slappy from Horrorland—" Ray broke off. "Horrorland! Trina O'Dell said Slappy took them there. And we found Slappy there."

Brandon shuddered. "I hated going there."

"We had to come home early because of you," Ray griped. "Because you were such a wimp."

"It's good that we did," Brandon pointed out.

"Probably," Ray conceded. "If Slappy was there. But there are more monsters there. We should tell them about our time in Horrorland."

Ray stood up and searched for the phone. His mother was on it, talking to someone.

"Mom, we need to call the police," said Ray. "We need to tell them about Horrorland. Remember when Brandon and I went there? That's when we bought Slappy the dummy. And now kids are on TV, talking about how they met Slappy."

Mrs. Gordon lowered the phone, looking at Ray. "I'm busy on the phone now, dearie."

Dearie? He thought. She hadn't ever called him that. "I have to talk to the police. It's important."

Mrs. Gordon smiled. "Say the magic words."

"What?" Ray groaned. "Mom, now isn't the time! This is important."

"Say the magic words," she repeated.

"Alright, please," Ray said.

She shook her head. "No. Those aren't the right words."

"What? Mom, I really need to tell the police," Ray insisted. "About Horrorland. Maybe that's where—"

"Say itty bitty please with Christmas trees," said Mrs. Gordon.

Ray stared at her, completely confused. "Mom, what are you talking about?"

"Itty bitty please with Christmas trees," she repeated.

The words sounded familiar. They were from that movie. "Mom, did you watch that movie too?" Ray asked.

Suddenly, he noticed that her hair was different. The brunette sides were tinged with red. "Mom, what happened to your hair?" he asked.

She smiled at him so widely and sweetly that he felt freaked out. He sniffed the air. "What's that smell?"

It was the delicious aroma of cookies. Ray walked to the kitchen. He saw his father pull cookies out of the oven, to his surprise. He had never been the baking type.

Mr. Gordon turned to him, smiling as widely as his mother. "Hey, Ray. Want some treats to tempt your tummy?"

"What?" Ray's mouth fell open. Why was his father talking like that? And why was his mother talking like that as well?

Mr. Gordon put one of the cookies in his mouth. "Yummy."

"Uh, Dad," said Ray. "Why did you make those cookies?"

"I thought a tasty treat would cheer things up," he said in a grating voice. "Want some, dearie?"

"Don't call me that!" Ray cried. Why were his parents acting so weird?

He ran back into the living room. "Brandon, I think there's something wrong with our parents," he said. "They—"

He paused upon seeing his brother. His dark hair was turning bright red.

"What's wrong with your hair?" Ray exclaimed.

Brandon smiled at him and, to Ray's surprise, ran over and hugged him. Ray immediately shoved him off.

"Get off me!" he cried. Was everyone in his family going crazy?

Brandon hugged him again. He was taller than his older brother. "Don't be so down and glum, Ray. You need some cheer."

"What?" Ray demanded, shoving Brandon off again, who suddenly looked confused by his own behaviour. Suddenly, Ray spotted the DVD on the couch. Susie Snowflake smiled at him, her hair bright red.

"No way!" Ray exclaimed. Was his family slowly turning into Susie Snowflake? That irritating, cheerful character? "Oh, s… sugar cookies!"

He gasped. What had he just said? "Oh, dearie me!" he cried.

"Dearie, what's going on?" Brandon asked, seeming to have partially come to his senses. "I mean, Ray."

"I don't know, dearie," said Ray. "No!" He picked up the DVD, studying it. He wanted to wipe the sickeningly wide smile off Susie Snowflake's face. "It's the movie…"

"Huh?" Brandon looked at the DVD. Then he looked at Ray. "Ray, your hair!"

Ray ran over to the mirror next to the front door. It was now mostly bright red and only blond in some places. "Oh, dearie me!" he exclaimed.

Suddenly, he wanted to eat the Christmas cookies. They sounded very tasty. "Want some treats to tempt your tummy?" he asked Brandon.

"What?" Brandon asked. Ray dragged him to the kitchen, where their father was decorating the cookies.

"I'd like some yummy Christmas cookies," said Ray. "Itty bitty please with Christmas trees."

His father handed him one, and he eagerly bit into it. But then he barely tasted it. He felt horror in the pit of his stomach. Now he was acting like that as well. Was his family doomed to turn into the horribly cheesy movie?

Steven let Ava sleep on a cushion with a cloth over it for the night, after eating a dinner of biscuit crumbs and tiny slices of chicken. She was still tiny.

"Very peculiar," said Mr. Sweeney, frowning as he watched the tiny girl sleep. It was morning now. "First you become small, and now she does?"

"She said she ate something weird," said Steven. "She found it in her fridge. She said it was like purple peanut butter."

"Purple peanut butter?" Ava's mother repeated. Ava had wanted to go to Steven's house, since he had become tiny before.

"We didn't have anything like that at home," Ava's father added. "We have peanut butter, but not purple. And we're out of jam."

"Maybe we should call the police," Mrs. Munroe suggested, concerned.

"No," Mr. Sweeney said. "She's not hurt or anything. They police have more important stuff to deal with. They found Sara Kramer's killer. The girl Steven goes to the same music school as."

"What?" gasped Steven. "Who is it?"

"Her piano teacher, Mr. Toggle," said Mr. Sweeney.

"What?" Steven nearly fell over. "But... he's my piano teacher too."

"He killed her," said Mrs. Sweeney. "He did it to several children who took piano lessons. He took her hands."

"Oh, God." Steven felt sick. "That... that could've been me."

"Don't worry. He's been arrested now," assured Mrs. Sweeney. "And the other boy he kidnapped, Jackson Stander, was found."

Steven looked at Ava, trying to forget about it. "You know, she looks like a doll." She was wearing a tiny sparkly pink silk dress, probably from a Barbie doll. "I know a girl who would like to have her. Meg Oliver. She likes collecting dolls."

"She could be a doll," Ava's mother agreed. "She's as small as one."

"I was as well when I became tiny," said Steven. "But Meg lost all her dolls recently. She wants new ones. And there's another girl who likes collecting dolls as well. Tamara Baker." He remembered how he had seen his piano teacher, Mr. Pinker's, mini dollhouse, and thought he turned kids into dolls. It turned out he hadn't, but he had been so angry when Steven saw his dollhouse. Steven guessed he just thought his hobby was embarrassing.

"You know what she needs?" asked Mr. Munroe, Ava's father. "Monster blood. That kid on TV was talking about how anyone who ate it grew huge."

"Oh, yeah!" Steven exclaimed. "It's this green gooey stuff. If she ate a little, she'd be the size of a normal kid again."

"But where are we going to get monster blood?" asked Mrs. Munroe.

Just then, Ava turned in her sleep and opened her eyes.

"Ava!" Steven told her. "We thought of a way to make you big again."

Ava blinked sleepily before jumping up with excitement. "Really?"

"Yes," said Steven. "All you need to do is eat a little monster blood." Ignoring the confused expression on her face, he asked, "But how are we going to get it?"

"Courtney, where did you get that ring from?"

Courtney looked down at the ring still attached to her finger. She could see the face shifting in the blackness. It looked excited now.

"It looks very nice on you," said Mrs. King. "But I don't think you have a ring like that."

"I found it in my dresser," she said. "I don't know where it came from. I must've bought it." She felt the sudden urge to tell her parents how she was the one who had done those horrible things, and how the ring was making her do them. But she didn't. They'd be so disappointed in her, even if she wasn't doing it of her own free will. She couldn't imagine what they'd think if they found out.

"Maybe you should take it off," Mrs. King suggested.

I'd love to do that, Courtney thought. "It's hard to get off. It feels like it's glued to my finger," she told her mother, completely honestly.

"Well, it looks nice on you," said Mrs. King. "I don't think you have any other black rings, though. You prefer colorful ones."

Courtney had tried taking the ring off, but no amount of tugging and soap and cream would do it. It made her finger red and puffy, but the ring stayed exactly the same.

The ring's power overtook her again, and she went for a walk outside to find more havoc to cause, the ring on her finger shining in the early morning sunlight. She saw a little girl on her front yard, which had lawn gnomes. She was handling worms, slicing their heads off with a pocketknife and setting some on fire with a match.

"Hey," Courtney said sternly, walking over to the girl. "What are you doing?"

The girl looked up at her with big, hurt eyes, as if she had said something terrible. "Playing," she replied as the worms wriggled frantically, trying to get away.

"You're really hurting those worms," Courtney pointed out. She knew how hypocritical that sounded, but she had always been good with animals, and didn't like anyone hurting them.

"They like it," the girl insisted, giggling. She picked up one with her bare hand as it wriggled. It seemed to have been cut in half. "See?"

"They don't," Courtney insisted. "You're killing innocent animals."

The girl looked at her, and her brown eyes filled with tears, but Courtney could tell they were fake. "Stop it right now," she demanded. "What did those worms ever do to you?"

"You have one," the girl suggested. She picked up a writhing worm and offered it to Courtney. It had definitely been cut in half. "Look. Isn't it cool how they wriggle even when they get cut in half? It's like there's two of them." She giggled.

Suddenly, Courtney thought the things she had done weren't that terrible. At least, not compared to this girl.

Wade Brill looked in the mirror. She didn't think she looked enough like a girl. She was wearing her white sundress, but whenever she looked at herself, she could always tell she wasn't really a girl. And she didn't like her name. Wade. It was too much of a boy's name. She wanted to change it.

It was the name she had been born with. Her brother had pushed her around and bullied her when she was younger, but he was even worse when she became a girl. Her parents thought it was a phase, but humored her, letting her wear girl clothes and calling her "she". Wade thought Micah wouldn't be so mean to her if she was a "real" girl. He was always trying to reveal to her crush, Steve, that she wasn't a real girl. She already thought he wouldn't like her either way.

She remembered the boy she had met, Michael. He was cute. And they had gotten along. But she worried that she didn't look enough like a girl to him. He was confused when hearing her name.

She had wanted to ask Iris to change her into a real girl, but she granted revenge, not wishes. She had liked when Iris called her "Miss Brill". Far more than when she called her Wade. At least then, it sounded like she was actually a girl. Maybe when Micah said he was getting his revenge on her, he meant he was getting revenge on her for becoming a girl.

Margaret Brewer couldn't help but feel like things were repeating. Their father was with the other scientists, trying to find the monsters, and their mother was with her sister, who had just had a baby. It was dangerous during these times, but the birth had been successful. Margaret and Casey wanted to visit their cousin, but their mother told them to stay at home. It felt like before. Their father busy with work, and their mother busy with their aunt.

Thankfully, she had left them with a babysitter. Her name was Zoe. Strangely, she had a tattoo of a rat on her earlobe. Margaret couldn't help staring at it. Having a tattoo on your ear was strange enough, let alone of a rat.

"I heard your father was creating experiments in his basement," said Zoe.

"That's right," said Margaret. "He's a botanist. He was working with plants."

"Was he turning plants into other things?" asked Zoe.

"Yes," said Margaret. "He was trying to create super plants. He made a plant clone of himself." He had told everyone on TV.

"A plant clone?" Zoe repeated.

"He replaced him," said Casey. "We thought it was our real dad. He acted like a plant, but he looked like a human. Well, mostly. He had leaves growing out of his head." A strange look crossed Zoe's face at that.

"But there's nothing in the basement now," added Margaret. "He got rid of his experiments."

"That's a good thing," said Zoe. "They sound like a bad idea. I'm sure the plants didn't want to be changed."

"I agree," said Margaret. "He got so wrapped up in his work, he forgot about us."

"You were just annoyed he didn't call you princess anymore," Casey teased.

"But now he's helping the other scientists," said Margaret. "It feels like he's too busy with work for us again."

"Let's hope none of the monsters he tries to find replaces him and pretends to be him," Casey joked.

"Well, I'll keep you company while he's gone," said Zoe. "Do you like animals? I like rats." Ew, thought Margaret. Who would like rats?

Margaret couldn't help thinking that Zoe looked like a rat as well. She was short with mousy brown hair, a pointy face, and sharp nails like claws, not to mention the rat tattoo. What if she was part rat, like her dad had been part plant? Margaret thought jokingly. That'd be ridiculous.

It took some convincing, but Gabe's parents eventually agreed to let Gabe and Sari come with Ben on his expedition with the other scientists. They were going to be investigating several places, including the town which had burned down. They arrived at the police center with the other scientists and police. Gabe and Sari felt rather out of place.

"Dr. Hassad! Who are these two?" one of the scientists, Dr. Gray, asked.

"My daughter and nephew," said Dr. Hassad. "They wanted to come with me."

"Absolutely not," Dr. Gray dictated. "Take the children away."

"They often accompanied me on my exhibitions in Egypt," said Dr. Hassad. "They were a great help."

"Well, I was," said Sari. "Gabe just screamed and got scared by everything."

"Did not!" Gabe snapped at her.

"Be quiet, you two," said Dr. Hassad sharply.

"Be that as it may, this is slightly more serious than an exhibition," said Dr. Gray. "There are monsters everywhere. This is really no place for children."

"I think we should let them come," said Dr. Deep suddenly. "Miss Hassad helped save my life yesterday."

"Dr. Deep!" Dr. Hassad exclaimed. "You're here? But you nearly drowned yesterday."

"I feel better now," Dr. Deep insisted. "And call me Dr. D. Everyone does."

"Are you sure you're up for this?" Dr. Hassad asked.

"There's no talking him out of it," Dr. Gray told him.

"I am, thanks to you," said Dr. D. "And your daughter. You two saved my life when I nearly drowned by performing CPR. If it wasn't for you, I'd be lying unconscious on the beach."

"Well, that's nice, but Miss Hassad is still too young," Dr. Gray insisted. "Along with your nephew."

"I have a niece and nephew who often visit me," said Dr. D. "I would've let them come, but my nephew wanted to visit the... uh... mermaid."

"The one who rescued you?" Dr. Gray asked.

"No," said Dr. D. "That one's in the ocean. The men who drowned me captured another mermaid. A blonde one. We met her a while back. She's still locked up. My niece and nephew are visiting her water tank."

"Dr. Deep!" Dr. Gray exclaimed. "You met the mermaid before? You told the zoo people that mermaids weren't real, that you searched the whole ocean and couldn't find any. Then you tore the envelope up."

"Well... I lied," Dr. D admitted. "I wanted the mermaid to be free in the ocean. She saved my nephew's life. She wasn't happy being caged up."

"Well, it was a waste of time," said Dr. Gray scornfully. Gabe didn't like him much. "Now she's caged up, and we'll examine her and perform tests on her. I can't believe you'd lie about finding a mermaid. If you told the truth, you could've been rich."

"The mermaid's freedom was more important," Dr. D insisted. "One of the men who drowned me wanted to be rich. He tried to kill me before, along with my niece and nephew, so that he could be rich. The thugs offered him millions of dollars if he did. Are you saying I should've been like him, Dr. Gray?"

Dr. Grey did a double take. "Of course not!"

"Let's stop talking about the mermaid," insisted Dr. Brewer. "She's safely locked up in a large tank, with plenty of water. Dr. Deep's niece and nephew are visiting her. As for the matter at hand, I don't know about letting Dr. Hassad's daughter and nephew come along. I have a son and daughter, and I didn't want them to come. They were almost in serious danger from my experiments before."

"We were in danger too," Sari spoke up. "But we also helped Daddy."

"Not helping our case," Gabe told her.

"Be quiet, you two," snapped Dr. Hassad. "I mean it."

They both fell silent. Ben was fun and easy-going, but when he was serious, they knew to listen to him.

"My daughter and nephew are really looking forward to this," insisted Dr. Hassad. "We've been on exhibitions together before, and they're really bored, being forced to stay at home. I assure you they'll be a great help. They'll do everything I tell them. Right?" He looked sharply at them.

"Oh, yeah, we will," said Gabe.

"We totally will, Daddy," added Sari.

"Can we talk you out of this?" Dr. Grey asked.

Dr. Hassad shook his head. "I'd really like them to come."

Dr. Grey sighed. "Alright, fine." He looked sternly at Gabe and Sari. "But remember, children—"

"Let me handle it," said Dr. Hassad. He looked at them even more sternly. "Do exactly as I tell you. Don't wander off. Don't pull any jokes on each other. Don't make a scene. The first wrong move, and you'll have to go home."

"Yes, Dad," said Sari.

"Yes, Uncle Ben," said Gabe.

Suddenly, another scientist entered, along with Grady Tucker, a boy from their school. "Oh, great," Dr. Gray muttered. "Another child come to tag along?"

"Hello, everyone," the scientist said.

"Dr. Tucker, I hope you aren't considering taking your son with us," said Dr. Gray.

"I didn't want to, but Grady insisted," said Dr. Tucker.

Dr. Gray groaned. "We already have two children tagging along. Dr. Hassad's daughter and nephew."

Grady glanced at Gabe. "Hey."

"So what's one more?" asked Dr. Tucker. "My son knows a thing or two about monsters."

"Yeah, I do," said Grady, grinning for some reason.

"How was your experiment?" Dr. D asked. "With the swamp deer?"

"Oh, right. I wanted to see if swamp deer could survive in Fever Swamp," said Dr. Tucker. "They couldn't. The swamp animals must've eaten them."

"Yeah. The swamp animals," muttered Grady. Gabe couldn't help thinking he knew more than he was letting on.

"Why don't we let the children decide where to go and what to do?" Dr. Gray suggested sarcastically.

"Come on. What harm could they do?" Dr. Tucker asked.

"Yeah," Grady agreed, grinning for some reason. "I don't bite."

"Hey, girl," Billy told the mermaid gently. She stared at him curiously, her blue eyes wide. He wondered if she still remembered him. "It's me. Remember? You saved my life, and healed my fire coral burns? And then we let you go free in the ocean?"

She placed her hand on the glass tank, and he placed his on top. "I think she does remember me," said Billy.

"I can't believe everything that happened throughout the night," Sheena muttered. "That town burning down, another kid dying, that piano teacher killing people... maybe it's a good thing we didn't go out."

"On the plus side, Todd Barstow was found," Billy pointed out. "So was Jackson Stander. And Sara Kramer's killer was arrested."

"Dr. D is going to be helping the scientists," said Sheena. "The adults are taking care of it. We're way in over our heads."

"We have to ask the kids how last night went," said Billy.

"I called Nicole Blake," said Sheena. "She said she and Jordan found an alien, and then a witch showed up and teleported him back to his home planet."

"What?" Billy rubbed his eyes. "That's the least strange thing that's happened last night."

"Afterwards, they went home," said Sheena. "They felt bad about it, but didn't want to stick around for longer."

"I can't blame them," Billy quipped. "After everything that happened last night... I don't want to show up tonight."

"I agree," said Sheena. "I hope none of them show up."

Billy turned his attention back to the mermaid. She stared at him with wide, almost pleading eyes. He smiled at her. "I wish I could let you out," he said. "But I can't. Literally. There's no other water for you to swim in."

"Billy, it's time to go," said Mrs. Deep. They had stepped out to give Billy privacy while he talked to the mermaid. Billy looked at the mermaid one last time and left.

The first chapter was very uneventful. It should've been more like this chapter, more kids finding monsters. But maybe it's good it was, since there's so much going on now.

I like the monsters that are objects. They're easier to find when everyone's trapped in their houses.

I kind of wished I had Zane instead of Alex finding the camera, but I'm satisfied with them being friends. Amanda and Josh finally showed up. I added their parents and dog to make up for taking so long. I heard a theory that Wade is trans. Why not? I was debating over whether to call Dr. Deep Dr. D.