Here it is—Halloween! A totally spook-tacular time of year. With that in mind, I was asked to write a blog post about my new middle grade fantasy, FROM THE GRAVE. I was to highlight ‘the scariest thing in my book.’ Since the story is set in a parallel monster world, there are numerous frightening scenes—especially if you’re not a monster. The story combines humor and horror to tell the tale of two monsters. Frank—a misfit. Malcolm—a true-blood troll. Both trying to prove they are monster enough.
I could write about sinister Principal Snaggle who thinks nothing of holding Frank over the piranha-infested moat waters as a form of motivation to change his unmonsterly ways.
Three larger piranhas leaped from the water below. Their sharp teeth snapped at the back of my neck. I tried to dodge but lost more ground, drawing another inch closer to my watery grave.
“You wouldn’t really let that happen,” I cried, digging my neatly trimmed nails into the rickety bridge. My fingers were quickly losing their grip. “I mean, what would you tell my parents?”
Principal Snaggle’s lips curled up. “The truth, of course. ‘Your son had an accident at school.’ And you can guess what they would say, ‘It’s probably for the best.’”
Or perhaps the awful Minotaur guards on Exxillium, the island where wayward monsters are shipped off to rot, are the scariest. Frank and a few of his misfit friends are sent to Exxillium for a day “to scare them straight,” along with their student escort, Malcolm McNastee.
The bigger of the two giant monsters, grabbed a scrawny young witch from the crowd and pushed Gooney out of the way.
“Here’s your tour guide to this exotic isle. She hasn’t been here long, but she’s a fast learner. For a mutant. Ain’t you, Zelda?”
The Minotaur tipped up the witch’s face using the end of his broadaxe. One twitch from the teen witch and her head and neck would no longer be attached.
You might say the Minotaurs had a “taste” for their work, as demonstrated in the following scene.
“Yeah,” said the second Minotaur. “We don’t want more of these creeps to hunt down.”
I nodded. “Yes, sir! I mean, sirs!”
“Good,” said the second Minotaur. “Cause I’m hungry.” He
poked the bigger monster with the tip of his long horn. “How ‘bout we barbeque one of those misfits who tried to escape this morning. Pay ‘em back for causing us so much extra trouble.”
“Grrrr,” growled his partner. “I do love me a barbequed mutant! Dibs on the ribs.” They threw back their massive skulls and chortled, jabbing each other with the wooden handles of their axes as they stalked away.
Maybe ghosts frighten you more than Minotaurs. Here’s a scene where Frank has to contend with his beloved—but very dead—Granny Bubbie and her witchy ways.
“What do you want, Granny?” I whispered. “What?”
In answer, my hand yanked me from the chair, and I crashed to the floor. I lay sprawled. My face pressed into the cold, damp grit. The fingernails of my right hand dug into the dirt, tugging me forward. Tugging me toward the cupboard. My left foot bumped the table leg. The candle clattered down beside me, extinguished. A gray fog swallowed me up. But still my hand drug me across the floor.
When I reached the cupboard, I rose up like a stiffened vampire ascending from the coffin. Prying open the cupboard doors, I grimaced when splinters bit into my fingers. A creaky cackle erupted from the rusty hinges. The doors swung open.
Or perhaps you would think the scariest scene is when Malcolm finds himself in the cemetery late at night. The dreaded Demon Hours have descended, when all the untamed monsters in Uggarland are free to roam. He quickly takes cover in a mausoleum, only to discover an old gremlin already hiding there. Brute that he is, Malcolm forces the gremlin outside. The untamed monsters quickly find the gremlin.
“Don’t hurt me, demons,” the squeaky gremlin voice cried out for the second time tonight.
Surely they would spare a withered-up old gremlin. I bit down on my tongue. Even if I hadn’t.
Teeth snapped outside. A spine-chilling death cry. I peeked out. Splashes of blood. I fell back as claws scraped against the mausoleum door, no doubt leaving bloody paw prints. Crashing back into the pile of bones, I huddled in the same corner as the gremlin I’d forced out. His slightly clean smell still lingered. I stuffed my claw into my mouth to keep from screaming.
These scary scenes are only the tip of the gravestone, so to speak. As you can see, FROM THE GRAVE has more than enough terror for one frightful blog post. In fact, I couldn’t quite decide which scene was the scariest. But if I were forced to the dungeon and lashed to a stretching apparatus, then I would cry out loud and clear. “The MOST truly frightening thing about my fantasy is how close it is to reality!” No, I don’t mean the mixed-up monsters but the theme of non-acceptance—of judgment, abuse, and exile. Too many “misfits” in our own world endure this daily. This alarming reality terrifies me. So it is up to us—teachers, librarians, parents, authors—to help change this culture of intolerance. One child at a time.
This marks the end of National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month. Please, let’s make every month one to end bullying!