Authors: Graham Masterton
Table of Contents
The Sissy Sawyer Series
TOUCHY AND FEELY
THE PAINTED MAN
THE RED HOTEL
The Jim Rook Series
TOOTH AND CLAW
GARDEN OF EVIL
FACES OF FEAR
FEELINGS OF FEAR
FORTNIGHT OF FEAR
FLIGHTS OF FEAR
FESTIVAL OF FEAR
HOUSE OF BONES
THE NINTH NIGHTMARE
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First published in Great Britain and the USA 2003 by
SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of
9-15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey SM1 1DF.
eBook edition first published in 2013 by Severn House Digital
an imprint of Severn House Publishers Limited
Copyright Â© 2003 by Graham Masterton.
The right of Graham Masterton to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
Masterton, Graham, 1946-
ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-5962-4 (cased)
ISBN-13: 978-1-4483-0117-1 (ePub)
Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.
This ebook produced by
Palimpsest Book Production Limited,
Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland
hey caught her as soon as she came out of the art-room door. There were five of them â Sue-Anne, Charlene, Micky, Calvin and Renko. They came rushing down the corridor, howling and whooping and swinging their schoolbags around their heads.
âIt's Gimpy!' screamed Sue-Anne. âShow us how you run, Gimpy!'
âYayy, Gimpy!' echoed Charlene. âDot one, carry one! Show us how you run, Gimpy!'
Jessica backed against the wall, clutching her art portfolio. Micky danced around her, tugging at her bunches. âWhat you been drawing today, Gimpy? Fairies and elves? Why don't you never draw nothing but fairies and elves?'
âShe's off with the fairies, that's why,' said Calvin.
Renko flicked Jessica on the tip of her nose with his finger; when she raised her hands to protect herself he snatched her portfolio away from her.
âGive me that!' she gasped.
Renko held it out to her and then snatched it away again. âI just want to see what you've been drawing, that's all. I'm an art lover!'
âMore like a fart lover,' Micky put in.
Sue-Anne stood on tiptoe like a ballet dancer and teetered around and around with her hands held over her head. âLook at me, I'm Jessica and I'm a little fairy!' Suddenly she started to hop grotesquely on one foot. âOr I would be, if I wasn't such a gimp!'
âGive me back my drawings,' Jessica insisted. âPlease, Renko, that's my whole year's work, practically.'
âI told you,' said Renko, âI just want to take a look. I happen to have a thing for fairies and elves, you know?'
âPlease, give them back.'
âSo what are you going to do if I don't?'
âAre you going to tell Ms Solomon?' said Sue-Anne.
âAre you going to cry-y-y?' said Charlene.
Renko offered Jessica the portfolio again, and again whipped it away from her. He took it to the top of the staircase and unclipped the fasteners.
âRenko, no!' Jessica pleaded, limping after him.
âWhat are you worried about, Jessica? Don't you know that fairies and elves can fly?'
But Renko tipped all of her artwork down the stairwell â all of her drawings of fairies flying with swarms of bees and humming-birds, her watercolor paintings of elves building villages out of twigs, her sketches of corn-cockle flowers, meadow-pinks and shooting stars.
They twisted and sailed down three stories, scattering on the stairs and the floors below, and as they did so Class III came in from the snowy schoolyard, with their scarves and their gloves and their dirty wet boots, and started to trample on them without even realizing what they were.
âMy drawings!' Jessica shouted down to them in panic. âDon't tread on my drawings!'
One or two of the children looked up, but at first they didn't understand what she was trying to tell them. Then Billy MuÃ±Ã³z looked down and saw that he was standing on her best drawing â a fairy castle, with spires and turrets and spider's-web walkways, and scores of fairies promenading on the battlements. Billy nudged Dean Schmitters, who was standing next to him, and very deliberately wiped his boots on it, smearing the pencilwork and crumpling up the paper.
âNo! Stop! No!' Jessica begged him. Behind her, Sue-Anne mimicked, âNo, stop, no, you're squashing all my little fairies!' and Charlene said, âNow she
going to cry!'
Jessica grasped the handrail and hobbled down the stairs as fast as she could.
âHey, look at the gimp go!' laughed Calvin. âWorld downhill speed record for gimps!'
Only Renko said nothing. He slung Jessica's portfolio aside and walked away down the corridor.
Jessica reached the second floor and began to gather up her drawings as she went, clutching them close to her chest. She was panting hard and trying not to cry. As she reached the top of the last flight of stairs, however, she saw Billy MuÃ±Ã³z pick up one of her paintings and hold it up in both hands as if he were going to rip it in half.
âCome and get it!' he taunted her. âCome and get it before it's too late!'
Jessica took one step, and then another, and then she stumbled. She tried to grab the handrail but her arms were crowded with drawings and she missed. She thought to herself: I'm falling, and she fell.
For one long suspended moment, she looked almost as if she were a talented acrobat, turning a graceful cartwheel on the stairs. She flew through a cloud of paper; she could hear the sheets clapping against each other like applause. One more cartwheel, then another, and she would land in the lobby on her feet, ta-da!, and nobody would ever call her Gimpy ever again.
But her hip caught the metal edge of the stairs, and then her shoulder, and then she was nothing but a tumbling whirl of arms and legs and her head hit the marble-tiled floor at the bottom with a sickening hollow knock.
Class III stood silent for a moment, shocked. Jessica lay on her side, unmoving. Her limbs all looked as if they were in the wrong position, and her wristwatch was broken. The last of her drawings see-sawed down from the second story and settled beside her.
Fay Perelli knelt down beside Jessica and shook her shoulder.
âJessica? Jessica? Are you OK? Jessica, say something!'
Jessica's face was gray, and when Fay tried to turn her over a dark pool of blood slid out from under her like a snake and slithered across the tiles toward the door.
âCall a teacher,' Fay whispered. The class stared at her, still in shock.
âCall a teacher!' she shrilled.
Jessica opened her eyes and her room was filled with the strangest light. It was a bright, chilly light, almost blue, the kind of remote radiance you see on a moonlit night. She wondered if she were dead, and this was heaven. She certainly felt as if she were dead. She waited for an angel to come and tell her what to do next. She was still waiting patiently when her eyes closed again.
Her eyelids flickered.
âHelp us, please.' The voice was very close to her ear, and it was high and whispery, like that of a badly frightened five-year-old.
âMmwhah?' she said. Her lips felt dry and when she tried to lick them they felt all crusty.
âYou have to help us, it's coming to take us.'
She turned over and soon she was asleep.
The bright blue light gradually faded to violet and shadows gathered like thickening cobwebs in the corners of her room.
âHelp us,' whispered the voice with even greater urgency, but Jessica still slept.
Next time she opened her eyes she heard a door closing. Two or three people were discussing something very quietly, just outside her door.
ââ¦ long way to go yet, but the signs are good â¦'
Hm. That must mean that she would have to walk somewhere, perhaps to another part of heaven, but if the signs were good, she shouldn't have any difficulty in finding her way. Perhaps they were going to send her to be reunited with her parents.
ââ¦ we've been talking to her, singing her favorite songs â never thought you'd catch me singing “I'm A Loser, Baby, Why Don't You Kill Me?”.'
She could feel herself frowning. That sounded so much like Grandpa Willy. But Grandpa Willy wasn't dead, was he? So what was he doing in heaven?
âOnce she's fully regained consciousness, she should make very rapid progress â the scan showed no signs of any permanent damageâ'
âYou have no idea how relieved â¦'
The voices faded. She fell asleep again. The shadow spiders spun their webs thicker and thicker, and soon it was completely dark.
Jessica stirred and made a whuffling noise.
She opened her eyes. Suddenly, she was very awake.
âHelp us, please. It's coming to get us.'
She sat up and looked around her, but there was nobody there.
âWhere are you?' she whispered.
âWe're here, we're here. Please, help us. It's coming to get us and it's coming closer.'
âI can't see you,' said Jessica. Her heart was banging, and she was beginning to feel seriously off-balance. She realized now that this definitely wasn't heaven. This was her room at Grannie and Grandpa's house: she could even see her bathrobe hanging on the back of the door. Maybe she wasn't dead after all, unless heaven was the same as Earth except that you weren't alive.
âWhere are you? I can't see you.'