Friday, October 29, 2010

The Creeper


Ethan Johnson

Mr. Stinkpants was in an uncharacteristically good mood. He grinned, showing his yellow crooked teeth to the third-grade students seated quietly in front of him. Halloween was coming and he was delighted. He could almost smell the candy in the cool, crisp air, and his enormous belly rumbled at the thought of it.

“There will be no homework this week,” he said to the chagrin of his students.

“Why not?” a thin boy named Franklin asked. “Normally you hand out more homework for one night than we can do in a whole week.”

“Yes, that’s true,” Mr. Stinkpants said. “But this week Halloween is coming and I want you to be ready. I’m sure you’ve got costumes to make and pumpkins to carve.”

“Sure we do. But—“

“But nothing,” Mr. Stinkpants bellowed. Then he smiled and patted the boy’s head. His voice became calm and eerily friendly. “I wouldn’t want anything to come between you and your Halloween candy. In fact, I hope you get more candy this year than ever before.” He giggled at this thought and then continued, “I just hope none of you let the Creeper keep you from going trick or treating.”

“The who?” asked Charlotte, a red haired girl seated in the third row.

Mr. Stinkpants shook his head. “Oh, it’s nothing. Forget I mentioned it.”

“Tell us, Mr. Stinkpants,” Charlotte persisted. “What’s the Creeper?”

Mr. Stinkpants approached the little redhead and spoke in soft voice, almost a whisper. “You really want to know about the Creeper, Charlotte, my dear?”

She nodded.

“I’ll tell you. The Creeper is a creature not of this planet. It’s the size of a grown man, but I believe it’s more closely related to a praying mantis than a human. It’s a monster that comes out on Halloween night.”

“You’re just making that up,” a chubby boy named Scott said. “There’s no such thing as a giant praying mantis.”

“There isn’t?” Mr. Stinkpants asked.

“No,” Scott said.

“Believe what you want,” Mr. Stinkpants said. “I didn’t believe it either until I saw it for myself.”

“You did?” Charlotte asked.

“Yes.” Mr. Stinkpants scratched his black beard, removed a crumb of cheese from it, and popped it into his mouth. “I was taking out the trash one night and I saw the Creeper digging through my neighbor’s garbage can. It glared at me with glowing yellow eyes and I dropped my trash and ran. The next morning, I found strange footprints in my yard and all the garbage cans along the street were overturned.”

“What was it looking for?” Scott asked.

“Candy,” Stinkpants said.

“Candy?” the kids asked.

“Yes, that’s the Creeper’s favorite food. Which is why you’re at such a risk on Halloween night, carrying bags of candy.”

“I’m going to ask my parents if the Creeper’s real,” Charlotte said.

“Go right ahead,” Mr. Stinkpants said. “They will tell you that there is no such thing as the Creeper. They’ll say this because they don’t want to frighten you. But trust me, they know all about it. That’s why they make sure their kids come home before dark.”

The children fell silent and many of them looked pale and sick to their stomachs.

“Don’t worry, though,” Mr. Stinkpants continued, “If you stay together, you’ll probably be fine. He can’t go after all of you at once.” Mr. Stinkpants laughed and it echoed outside the room and down the hallway, frightening children three doors down.

All week leading up to Halloween, the kids in Mr. Stinkpants’s class talked about the Creeper and the story spread throughout every class in every grade level in the grade school. Some believed it was real and others didn’t, but real or not, the Creeper was not going to keep them from trick or treating. By the end of the week, kids were busy making costumes and plans for getting lots of candy.

On Halloween night, children all over town left their houses dressed as witches, vampires, ghosts, pirates, princesses, and superheroes, and among them were the students from Mr. Stinkpants class. They knocked on doors, collecting candy, and as the night wore on, their bags became heavy.

“Do you think we should go home now?” Franklin asked. “We’ve got enough candy.”

“What are you talking about?” Charlotte asked. “You can never have enough candy.”

“He’s just afraid of the Creeper,” Scott said.

“No, I’m not,” Franklin said. “It’s just that my arms are getting tired from carrying all this candy.”

“Sure they are,” Charlotte said. “You’re letting Mr. Stinkpants’ story scare you.”

“Am not.”

“Are too.”

“Cool it,” Scott said. “We’ve got a bunch more houses on this block. Are you coming with me or going home?”

The kids marched up to the next house in a tight group. As they approached the door, a four-armed shadow appeared in the moonlight. “GRRAAAAARRRR!” It roared at them.

“It’s the Creeeper!” the kids screamed, dropping their candy and running for their lives. The Creeper laughed loudly. Had the kids listened carefully, they would have recognized that laugh and known that it was not a monster but Mr. Stinkpants instead.

When the kids were gone, Mr. Stinkpants removed a homemade paper maché praying mantis head off his shoulders. “Ha ha ha ha ha,” he chortled, picking up sacks of candy strewn over the lawn. He loaded all of the candy into his car, filling the trunk and the back seat.

“What a bunch of suckers.” He laughed and popped a sucker into his mouth.

When Mr. Stinkpants reached his house, he dumped the sacks of candy onto the floor, covering it with chocolate bars, licorice, taffy, bubble gum, caramel apples, lollipops, gummy worms, lemon drops, peanut butter cups, mints, and cookies. “Ho ho,” he said. “Happy Halloween to me.”

This candy was far too yummy to be wasted on children, he thought. He sorted it into neat piles and counted every piece before eating a single one.

As Stinkpants counted candy, the children stopped to catch their breath. “What was that thing?” Franklin asked.

“It was the Creeper, you dope,” said Scott.

“Do you really think there are monsters like that roaming around?” Charlotte asked.

“You saw it with your own eyes. It was real, all right,” Franklin answered, shaking with fright.

“If it’s real, why haven’t we seen it before? We go trick or treating every year,” Charlotte said.

The kids nodded. “You’re right. Maybe it was a trick.”

“But who’d dress up like a monster just to get our candy?” Franklin asked. Suddenly it dawned on him. “Stinkpants! He told us about the Creeper, so he’s the one who did this to us. He’s got our candy.”

“Let’s go to his house to see for ourselves,” Scott said.

The kids raced to Stinkpants’ house and peeked in through the window. There he was with all of their candy neatly stacked in piles on the floor. “He’s got all of it,” Charlotte whispered as they ducked their heads down below the window.

“How are we going to get it back?” Frankin asked.

“I have an idea,” Charlotte said. “Let’s scare him into giving it back.”

“How?” Franklin said.

“Follow me,” Charlotte said and grabbed an empty garbage bag out of trashcan. The kids loaded it up with leaves, then collected branches and poked them into the bag until it looked like a spider with eight black legs. Next they tied two strings to it. “You guys take this end of the rope and hide behind the car, the rest of us will take the other rope and hide behind the bushes. When he comes out, we’ll pull it back and forth and he’ll think it’s a real monster.”

“That’s brilliant, Charlotte,” Scott said.

“Do you think this is going to work?” Franklin asked.

“Stinkpants is afraid of spiders, so it has to work,” Scott said. “Come on, let’s try it. Franklin, go knock on his door.”

“Why me?” Franklin said, trembling.

“Just do it,” Scott said.

The kids waited as Franklin crept up to the door. He knocked on it twice and then raced back to hide behind the car in the driveway.

Stinkpants opened the door. “Who’s there?” he asked. No one answered. “Kids,” Stinkpants said. “Halloween pranksters.”

Before he could close the door, Charlotte said, “Now.”

The kids behind the bushes pulled on the rope, dragging the giant spider across his yard. Then the kids behind the car in the driveway pulled it the other way.

When Mr. Stinkpants saw that big fake spider, he jumped with fright. “A giant spider,” he shrieked and slammed the door.

From his living room, he heard something that scared him even more. The kids sang out, “Stinkpants, Stinkpants, how do you do? The Halloween Spider’s gonna get you.”

He closed his blinds and plugged his ears to tune out that dreadful singing coming from outside. But he still heard it. “Stinkpants, Stinkpants, how do you do? The Halloween Spider’s gonna get you.”

Mr. Stinkpants stuffed the candy into pillowcases and carried it upstairs to his room. He hid in his bed, shivering with fright.

“Stinkpants, Stinkpants, how do you do? The Halloween Spider’s gonna get you.”

As the kids sang, something marvelously wicked happened: a real spider crawled onto Mr. Stinkpants bed. It walked over his feet and then crawled up his legs and up to his waist. Then it crawled over his enormous belly and moved toward his neck.

He didn’t know what was worse, the spider in his room, or the haunting chant from outside: “Stinkpants, Stinkpants, how do you do? The Halloween Spider’s gonna get you.”

The spider crawled onto Mr. Stinkpants’ beard and he shrieked, “I can’t He can’t stand it anymore.” He jumped out of bed and danced around the room, swatting at his face, and tugging at his beard “Get off of me you creepy spider.”

Mr. Stinkpants opened his window and yelled, “Leave me alone, Halloween Spider.

But the kids kept singing: “Stinkpants, Stinkpants, how do you do? The Halloween Spider’s gonna get you.”

Mr. Stinkpants screamed and ran to his candy. The next thing the kids knew, candy was raining out old Stinkpants’ window, and it soon covered his yard.

Stinkpants yelled, “Go away spider,” slamming his window shut.

And as he lay under his covers, shaking with fear, the kids gathered up their candy and called back, “Happy Halloween, Stinkpants.”

The End

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Haunted Sneakers


Ethan Johnson

You’ve probably heard of haunted houses, haunted cars and haunted schools. But few people know about haunted sneakers. Go on and giggle if you want, but I’m not joking. The next time you buy a pair of shoes, you may be getting more than you bargained for. Listen up and I’ll tell you why.

One day Marty McRoddy went shopping for shoes at a second-hand store. His shoes no longer fit, and the loose soles flapped like a tongue, making him trip. The last thing he needed was another reason for kids to tease him. They already ridiculed him about his height (he was short), his glasses (he couldn’t see what was on the blackboard without them), and his sinus condition (he was allergic to everything and it made his nose run like a faucet), which led to his nickname McSnotty.
Marty scanned the shelves for something cool, which isn’t easy since the good stuff always got snatched up first. Then his eyes fell on a pair of running shoes, and not just any running shoes, but Supersonics running shoes.
He snatched them up and looked them over, amazed that they were in this store and that nothing was wrong with them. It seemed like the sneakers had never been worn, but what was even more amazing was they were his size.
“I want these,” Marty said, holding them out to his mother. That’s how these strange shoes came into his life.

Wanting them to remain new looking for as long as possible, he carried them home in a plastic bag and set them on the floor by his bed to wear to school. But when he woke up the next day, the shoes were gone. He looked everywhere, but there was no sign of the sneakers.
Marty’s mom was in the bathroom, putting on makeup. “Mom, have you seen my sneakers?” He asked, his voice cracking with worry.
“No. Try your closet.”
“I did. They’re not there.”
“Relax, Marty. They’re probably under your bed.”
“No, they’re not. I’ve looked everywhere.” Marty was sure that she had done something with them, like put them away for Christmas, or stowed them somewhere so she could exchange them for something horrible like a pair of brown hushpuppies. Frustrated and late for the bus, Marty stopped looking.
He was heading outside when he noticed the sneakers by the front door. He was too excited to worry about how they got there. He put them on and dashed out of the house just in time to see the school bus rumble down the road.
“Crud,” he said to himself. “Now I’m going to be late for school.” He thought about having his mom drive him, but he knew that would make her late for work, and he didn’t want that. So he started walking, and this is when something very peculiar happened.
As he walked, his feet moved faster than he wanted them to. As if pulled by magnets, he walked at a ridiculously fast speed.
“What the heck?” Marty said, lurching down the sidewalk. He looked like a life-size marionette puppet controlled by invisible strings. His feet and legs raced ahead of him and the rest of his body flapped behind. It was all he could do to keep his balance. He finally caught up to his feet, leaned his head forward, and started pumping his arms to the pace of his legs. The next thing he knew, he took off like a rocket.
In no time Marty was gaining on his school bus. He whizzed by a kid on a bicycle, making him wobble and nearly topple over. When he got closer to the bus the kids looked at him in disbelief through the back windows. “Hey, look at McSnotty run,” they said.
And then to Marty’s amazement, and the amazement of the kids, he zipped right passed the bus. His classmates' jaws dropped open and drool spilled from their mouths. Marty had left them in the dust.

Marty’s classmates glared at him and whispered to each other all morning. He was pretty sure they were talking about how he had beat the bus to school. At recess, a fifth grader named Trent, but who everyone called T-Rex, met him on the playground.
“Hey, McSnotty, you think you’re pretty fast, huh?”
Marty shook his head and said, “Not really,” and turned to walk away. Before he could move, however, T-Rex grabbed his shirt.
“Not so fast, McSnotty.” T-Rex said. “Let’s see how fast you are.” He waved a stick in front of Marty’s face. “Go on, fetch this stick.” T-Rex cocked his arm back and as the stick shot forward like a slingshot, he yelled, “FETTTTCCHHHHH.”
Marty had no intention of going after the stick that soared through the sky, even if it meant that T-Rex would beat him up. Marty’s feet, however, thought otherwise. His legs became a blur of lime-green corduroys and bright blue running shoes. Before the stick reached the ground, he snatched it right out of the air, like a dog in a Frisbee catching contest.
T-Rex was impressed, as were the rest of the kids on the playground.

Now, you’re probably thinking you’d like to have a pair of shoes like Martin’s, right? Well, think again. These shoes weren’t easy to live with. The shoes, you see, wouldn’t allow him to walk or stand still. They wanted to run all day and Marty was powerless to stop them. Marty realized this fact when he headed to class after recess.

On the way, his shoes took off running in the hallway, and running in the hallway was not allowed. Marty was sent to the principal’s office. Later, in the classroom, Marty’s shoes forced him to get up and run around, and running around the classroom was not allowed. Marty was sent to the principal’s office for the second time that day. The principal sent him home with a note for his mother.
She agreed with the principal. “Stop running, Marty. No running in the house,” she said at dinner, but he simply had to eat and run. He couldn’t help it as long as he wore the shoes. Doing homework was nearly impossible too, because he couldn’t read books or do math while running.
So Marty put the sneakers in his closet and closed the door.

Later that night, Marty awoke to a thumping sound.
Thump thump. Thump thump.
He thought someone was knocking on his bedroom door. But no one was there when he checked. Then he realized what was making the sound. It was the shoes.
Thump thump. Thump thump. The shoes banged on his closet door.
Marty went downstairs to sleep on the couch. Moments later he heard a door open upstairs, and the sound of footsteps walking down the hall and then down the stairs.
Thump thump. Thump thump.
The footsteps came toward him couch.
Thump thump. Thump thump.
He flicked on the light, and sure enough the shoes were waiting for him.
“That does it,” Marty said and took the sneakers to the basement. In a dark corner, he found an old wooden chest and put the shoes inside. Then he shut the lid and set a heavy coffee can filled with nails on top of it. At the top of the stairs, he closed the door and didn't look back. He went straight to his room and soon fell asleep.
In the morning, he decided not to wear the shoes to school. As he waited for the school bus, Marty heard someone running behind him. He turned, expecting to see a neighbor kid, running to catch the bus, but instead he saw his shoes running toward him. Marty picked them up and shoved them in his backpack.
When he got to school, he locked the sneakers in his locker, where they stayed all day. But when he grabbed his backpack and headed down the hall at the end of the day, he heard something behind him.
Thump thump. Thump thump.
He turned to see his shoes following him and he quickly scooped them up and stuffed them into his pack.
Marty locked the shoes in a toolbox in the garage, and later that night after he went to bed, he heard a noise coming from the garage.
Thump thump. Thump thump.
A door opened and he heard footsteps coming up the stairs.
Thump thump. Thump thump.
Something thumped across the floor.
Thump thump. Thump thump.
Something thumped against his bedroom door.
Thump thump. Thump thump.
His door opened with a loud squeak. Something thumped to his bed.
Thump thump. Thump thump.
The sneakers climbed under his blankets and bumped into his feet. The shoes slid onto his feet and pulled him out of bed. Next they made him run out of the house. If he hadn’t been awake, Marty would have had the world’s first case of sleep running.

These shoes of his had gotten out of hand. He pried them off and buried them in the back yard. Finally he put down his shovel and went back to bed. He slept through the night, but when he awoke in the morning, he saw something that made the hair on the back of his neck stand on end.
The shoes were at the foot of his bed, covered in dirt.
Fed up with them, he decided to get rid of the sneakers once and for all.
He put them in a pillowcase and took them to a bridge that crossed a river. When he got to the center of the bridge, he added heavy rocks to the pillowcase and heaved it over the ledge. He watched the pillowcase plunge into the water and disappear below the surface. Happy to be rid of the shoes, he skipped all the way home with a big toothy grin.

But that night as he lay in bed, he heard a sound outside his window
Squish. Squash. Squish. Squash.
The front door opened.
Squish squash. Squish squash.
Squishy footsteps walked across the living room floor.
Squish squash. Squish squash.
Then squishy footsteps climbed the stairs.
Squish squash. Squish squash.
Squishy footsteps approached his bedroom door.
Squish squash. Squish squash.
The door opened and the squishy footsteps walked toward his bed.
Squish squash. Squish squash..
“The shoes!” Marty screamed and ran out of the room with the shoes chasing after him. He ran outside and around the block, screaming at the top of his lungs. His neighbors turned on their lights and came out their porches to see what was making all the commotion. Someone called the police. Marty’s mother came out to find him, babbling to the police officer frantically.
“The ssh sshh sshoes. Theyy Theyy’re affffter meee,” Marty said.
“What these?” the police officer asked, picking them up.
“Yes, those,” Marty said. “Get them away from me.”
“Sure thing, kid,” the police officer said. “My son will be happy to have a pair of Supersonics.”

Marty never saw the sneakers again, but a week later he read a story in the newspaper about a boy in town who set a new track record. He was pretty sure the shoes had something to do with it.

The End

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Monster Guide Illustrations

Just in time for Halloween, a few illustrations by Thad Tichenor. Check them out. Want to see more? Let me know.