Genre: Middle grade paranormal fantasy
Title: Ratman's Revenge
I shaded my eyes with my hands and stared across the dog park. Empty
again today. Nothing but the creepy woods along the back of the park.
Those freaky trees huddled together like giant green aliens studying
me for some crazy experiment. Their leaves flickered in the breeze as
if a million green fingers were reaching out, begging me to come
Mom’s warning blared in my head. I mean it, Cody, she’d said a
bazillion times. It’s too dangerous. Gangs and drug addicts hang out
in those woods. I don’t care what the other boys do, I don’t ever want
you to go in there. Promise me, Cody.
Okay, so maybe I did promise, but that was ages ago. I’m almost a
teenager now. That’s different. Besides, my friends would be stinking
jealous if I went into the woods without them.
Sandy, my golden retriever, raced past me and I took off after her,
chasing her around old tires and zigzagging between fake fire
hydrants. “I’m gonna win, Sandy!” We ran toward a wooden ramp but she
sprinted up first, stopping at the top and wagging her tail.
I dropped to the grass. “Okay,” I said, gasping. “You won again.”
Sweat dripped down my face and I wiped it with my t-shirt. Oh man, I
bet my friends were swimming in that freeze-your-toes-off lake at camp
right now—lucky turds. The only water I’d get to swim in this summer
was in the bathtub. Dang Matt and Zach for going off to camp¾and for a
Sandy ran up with a tennis ball in her mouth and dropped it at my
feet. I hugged her. “You’d never bail on me, would you, girl. You’re
my best friend in the whole universe.” She licked my nose. Yeah, she
agreed with me. I grabbed the slimy ball and flung it across the park.
She raced after it with her ears flapping.
Suddenly the hair on my arms stood straight up as if a monster was
about to pounce. I whipped around. A boy with long black hair stood at
the edge of the woods staring at me.
Whoa. Where’d he come from?
I waved but he turned and disappeared between the trees. “Hey, wait!”
He was long gone. But what was he doing in there? Were there kids in
the woods riding on bike trails or swimming in a pond or something?
Sandy ran back with the ball and I petted her head. “Sandy, I bet Mom
made up that stuff about killers and druggies. Beside, how would she
know what’s in there? That boy looked normal to me. C’mon. Let’s go
We raced toward the back of the park. When mowed grass turned to tall
weeds at the tree line, we stopped. We’d never been this close to the
Sunlight streamed between the leaves and dotted the shady ground. One
ray of light pointed right at my feet, daring me to come closer.
“You’re on,” I said to the woods. “C’mon, Sandy.”
I pushed low-hanging branches out of the way as we marched in,
crunching through the dry brush. A warm breeze brushed across my face
and Sandy bobbed her nose at all the new smells. Birds squawked
overhead and hidden bugs made grinding noises like monsters waiting to
Oh man, this was gonna be awesome.
Weeds swiped my bare legs, some reaching as high as Sandy’s head, and
she’s tall. Sandy looks like a purebred golden retriever, but she’s a
mutt like me. My mom is Native American but Dad’s plain-old American.
I’ve got Mom’s tanned skin but I’ve got Dad’s floppy brown hair. I
look like a mutt.
Sandy sniffed a dozen tree trunks then stopped to pee. When her pee
break turned into a poop break I glanced around. No bike trails, no
pond, and no kids. But I wasn’t giving up. That boy was in here
Sandy finished her stinky brown deposit (that’s what Mom calls it) and
we pushed on, dodging around a prickly bush.
Clack! Clack! Clack! A brown blur zipped down a tree and two squirrels
hit the ground running. Sandy bolted after them.
“Sandy, no!” I took off, racing between the trees. Bushes scraped my
legs. Ow! Branches smacked my face. Ow! Ow! I followed the sound of
her barking, but it was getting farther away every second. “Sandy,
The heat sucked the air right out of my chest, and my side cramped
with a sharp pain. I raced on, deeper into the woods, jumping over
fallen logs and ducking under low branches. “Sandy!”
Sweat dripped down and stung my eyes. Finally, I stopped and doubled
over, panting. When the stitch in my side let up, I stood and spun in
a circle. There was no sign of Sandy, and no kids either. I was lost
in the middle of the woods while Sandy ran around playing with
squirrels. Great. My friends would crack up laughing over that.
Deep in the woods, only a few streaks of light poked through the tops
of the trees. Shadows surrounded me like zombies in a horror movie.
And this time, the birds and bugs were quiet. Spooky quiet.
This wasn’t so cool anymore. My stomach tensed and gas rose up in my
throat. I gulped it down then picked a direction and started walking.
Footsteps crunched behind me and I whipped around. “Who’s there?” No
one. Just the freaky trees.
Maybe that boy was hiding from me. Or maybe Mom’s killer gangs were
about to jump out. My stomach jumped and my hair stood up. I took off
“I’m coming, girl!” I raced up and found her lunging up a tree trunk,
barking. Her tail wagged so I figured she’d found the squirrels. I
grabbed her leash from my pocket and hooked it on her collar. “C’mon,
Sandy. Let’s get out of here!”
She stayed with her front paws on the tree trunk staring up at the leaves.
I looked up. Halfway up the tree, a group of leaves shook, but there
wasn’t any breeze. Something was up there—something much bigger than a
A giant blob wiggled in the branches, blending with the leaves like a
chameleon. But the outline of it was as big as I was. Then it blinked
glowing green eyes at me.
Whoa. I jerked back and fell on my butt. Did that thing just say my
name? A shiver raced down my back as if an ice monster ran its icy
claws down my skin. I couldn’t take my eyes off the blob as I
scrambled to my feet and pulled on Sandy’s leash. “C’mon, let’s go.”
She didn’t move. “Please, Sandy!”
Sandy stared up at that thing as if she was in a trance. Was that
freaky monster melting her brain? Would it turn us into tree monsters,
too? Jittery waves of panic raced through me. “Sandy, let’s get out of
Thump! The leafy blob landed on the ground next to the tree. It looked
like a tree branch standing there with brown wooden legs and arms, and
flickering leaves all over.
Okay, maybe the sun fried my brain or the heat melted my eyes. This
had to be just my imagination, right? I gulped hard.
Then that tree branch shuffled toward me.