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Nightmare Hour

Time for Terror

Nightmare Hour by R.L. Stine
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Enter the most terrifying place of all...the mind of R.L. Stine!

The Nightmare Hour...the time when the lights fade, the real world slips into shadow, and the cold, moonlit world of evil dreams takes over your mind.

What horror awaits a boy who has to spend Halloween in a darkened hospital? How do you outwit a ghost who wants your skin? What makes Nightmare Inn the most frightening place to visit?

In this spine-tingling collection of stories that inspired the hit TV show R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour, bestselling author R.L. Stine spins a web of terror that will trap you in the world of nightmares.

And there’s more... In Nightmare Hour, the author shares the secrets behind his twisted tales. Where did the idea for each bone-chilling story come from?

HarperCollins; June 2009
160 pages; ISBN 9780061903328
Read online, or download in secure EPUB
Title: Nightmare Hour
Author: R.L. Stine

Chapter One

"Halloween is ruined!” Mike declared. “It's no fun trick-or-treating while it's still light out! Why do we have to be home by eight o'clock?”

Mom rolled her eyes. “Get in the car,” she told him. “And stop complaining. You know why there's a curfew this year.”

“Because parents are stupid,” Mike grumbled.

“Because those kids disappeared last Halloween,” I said. “And the Halloween before.”

Mike shrugged. “What's that got to do with us?”

“Come on, Mike,” I said. “Get in the car. Liz and I want to get going.”

“But I don't want to pick pumpkins. It's bor-ring.” Mike crossed his skinny arms over his chest and made his pouty face. “Why do we have to go?”

“Because we do it every year,” Mom replied patiently. She is used to Mike's tantrums. We all are.

“Let's skip it and pretend we went,” Mike said. He's a real wise guy. Mike is ten, two years younger than me, and he's angry all the time.

Mom says he can't help it because he's a redhead. “Redheads have tempers,” she says.

I don't know what red hair has to do with it. Mike is always growling and complaining and shaking his fists and looking for trouble.

He got into a fight in school last week and had two of his teeth knocked out. Luckily, they were already loose.

He looked like a jack-o'-lantern with those two teeth out. But when I made a joke about it, he punched me really hard in the stomach and I almost puked up my whole dinner.

“Come on, Mike. Let's go,” I said. I gave him a playful bump from behind to get him moving.

He spun around and swung a fist at me. “Watch it, Andrew!”

“Hey!” I laughed. “It was an accident!”

“Your face is an accident!” Mike snapped.

“Come on, Mike,” my friend Liz chimed in. “I've never picked pumpkins before. You can help me find a good one.”

Mike likes Liz. He's usually on pretty good behavior when she's around. Still pouting, he climbed into the front seat of the car.

Liz and I rolled our eyes, relieved that we were finally on our way. We climbed into the backseat and buckled our seatbelts.

Liz is twelve like me, and she lives across the street. But her parents both work till late every day, so Liz spends a lot of time at our house.

We both gazed out the window, watching the trees whir past. Autumn leaves fell all around, like red and yellow rain. Soon the trees ended, and we zoomed past farms and fields plowed over for winter.

“Well, are you going to help me pick a pumpkin, Mike?”

Liz asked.

“Yeah. Just don't let Andrew help you,” Mike replied. “Andrew's pumpkins are always rotten inside. Just like him.”

“Whatever,” I said. I knew he was just looking for a fight, but I really hate arguing with him all the time. Why does he always have to be so wired?

I peered out the window and saw an orange, pumpkin-shaped sign on the side of the road. It said: palmer's pumpkin farm, 1 mile.

I pictured Mr. Palmer, the owner of the pumpkin farm. What a scary guy. He reminded me of one of his scarecrows: tall and skinny, wearing overalls that were way too big for him. He always walked so stiffly, patrolling his fields, staring at everyone with frightening, blank eyes that looked like deep, dark holes in his face.

“Here we are,” Mom said brightly. She turned into the long gravel driveway and followed it to the parking lot. Four or five cars were parked near the ragged wooden fence.

I climbed out of the car and stretched my arms over my head. It was a sunny day, cold for October. I could see my breath steam in front of me. The farm air smelled fresh and sweet.

A young woman in an orange parka and orange wool ski cap greeted us at the gate. “The pumpkins on the first hill are a little too ripe,” she told us. “And the ones near this gate have already been picked over. Try the next field.”

We thanked her and started through the gate. “Oh--one more thing . . . ” she called after us. She pointed to the left. “See that tall, green wooden fence over there? Mr. Palmer doesn't want anyone near that fence, okay?”

“Why not?” Mike asked. “What's over there?” Typical Mike.

“That's Mr. Palmer's private pumpkin patch,” the young woman answered.

We made our way through the gate. The pumpkin fields stretched on forever, uphill then down, as far as I could see. Slender, green vines unfurled like long snakes over the dirt. At the ends of the vines sat pumpkins--all different sizes, hundreds and hundreds of them, like orange balloons tethered to the ground.

Scarecrows on tall poles tilted over the pumpkins. They were just old coats stuffed with straw. But from a distance they looked like tired old men leaning against the wind.

“Hey, Andrew,” Mike whispered, trotting to keep up with Liz and me. “Let's check out Palmer's private patch. I'll bet he keeps the best pumpkins there.”

“No way!” I said. “Try not to get us in trouble today. Okay?”

“Wimp,” Mike muttered.

I ignored him. I really didn't want to fight.

My sneakers scraped over the hard dirt as I led the way to the rows of pumpkins. Peering into the glare of afternoon sunlight, I saw two kids at the top of the first hill. They came staggering down, struggling to carry an enormous pumpkin between them.

Mike laughed. “Look at those geeks. They'll never make it.”

He bent and scooped up a softball-sized pumpkin from the dirt. “Think fast, Andrew!” He tossed it at me.

Startled, I raised my hands too late. The pumpkin sailed over my shoulder and landed on the ground with a splat.

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