Recap #83: Even More Tales To Give You Goosebumps by R. L. Stine
Title: Even More Tales To Give You Goosebumps
Author: R.L. Stine
Cover Artist: Tim Jacobus
Summary: Reader Beware– You’re In For Ten More Scares!
Can Jeff convince his parents there’s a live mummy in the basement? Will Adam escape from a monstrous flying gargoyle? Is Brian’s boarding school turning kids into robots? Find out in these ten creepy Goosebumps short stories guaranteed to make you shiver!
[Wing: Stine is making a lot of guarantees with these books!]
I’m not really sure what to say the theme for this collection is. The cover would have you think it’s summer related, but not really. It feels like some sort of middle ground between the first collection and the fifth, which was also the strangest. I think I can safely say you don’t really know what to expect from some of these titles, and they certainly are a bit more imaginative.
One story was adapted for the French novella line, and three of them got turned into TV episodes (one was a two-parter!). I think my favorite would have to be the last because it’s got a twist ending that’s definitely a lot of fun and won’t have you screaming in frustration.
Oh, and apparently this book came with a pair of actual boxers! [Wing: … what.]
For these subtitles I’ll be doing riffs on stereotypical anime and manga episode titles, like from Sailor Moon.
Oh and, Wing, hon, you’re really not gonna like the second story. [Wing: Greaaaaaaaaaaaaaat.]
The Chalk Closet, A.K.A. “Always Do Your Homework! Beware The Closet of Chalk.”
Travis didn’t mean to fail the sixth grade, just like I didn’t mean to spend $45 I wasn’t really free to spend on three art commissions last weekend and just like that iceberg didn’t mean to tear a hole in the Titanic and sink it. But, you know, shit happens. [Wing: Best comparisons.] Now Travis is stuck in summer school in a rundown public school in the city with a teacher who looks like the Tall Man from the “Phantasm” franchise. Mr. Grimsley, oh that’s comforting, [Wing: THE NAMES. Possibly my favorite part of the short story series.] informs Travis and his classmates they’re here because they done fucked up one too many times. Grimsley warns if any of them slack off, don’t do their homework, or fail their tests, they’ll be automatically sent to [INSERT TITLE HERE]. Someone asks what it is, and Grimsley ominously says she’ll find out if she doesn’t do her homework. [Wing: If you don’t tell them why it’s a threat, how in the world is a chalk closet possibly a threat, Grimsley?!]
That night Travis only finishes half of his assignment, getting distracted by “Lethal Weapon” on TV and the Ice Cream Igloo’s new flavor, peanut butter marshmallow mint (which is WHY?). [Wing: I love mint ice cream and marshmallows and peanut butter, but I am shocked and dismayed by that flavor combo.] But halfway done is more than class jokester Dooley can offer, who spouts a bunch of crap about why he couldn’t do his homework. Grimsley has no sympathy and tells Dooley it’s the closet for him.
Dooley started to follow. But when he reached the doorway, he stopped. “I forgot my textbook,” he said, turning back.
Mr. Grimsley grinned. A creepy grin. “The Chalk Closet isn’t study hall, Dooley.”
“So what is it?”
Mr. Grimsley didn’t answer.
That’s the last anyone sees of Dooley. Travis doesn’t feel sorry for Dooley thinking he brought it on himself, but he does feel sorry for Marty and Janice, the next two kids to be sent to the closet, especially when he’s unable to reach their families by phone. Calling Marty’s house directs him to a message the number’s been disconnected. Travis’ fear of the titular closet and what it represents increases because he hasn’t been doing so well on his assignments, and Grimsley expects everyone to get As on the upcoming math exam.
The test is on a Friday, which means Travis must agonize over the weekend on whether or not he passed. Come Monday morning, Grimsley slowly reads off everyone’s grades, much to Travis’ discomfort. But don’t worry, everyone got As… except Travis. Travis begs Grimsley for a make-up test, but he just motions for Travis out the classroom.
“Please, Mr. Grimsley!” I cried. “Don’t take me to the chalk closet! Please!”
“Come, Travis,” Mr. Grimsley said. “You don’t want to upset the other students, do you?”
I glanced around the room at the other kids. A few of them stared at me. Their eyes filled with horror. But the others had their heads buried in their textbooks. They pretended that they didn’t even know what was going on!
“Don’t you care?” I screamed at them.
No one answered.
In the hallway, Travis briefly considers running for the front door, but Grimsley tells him not to waste his energy because the front doors are locked. Ushered up to the second floor, Travis is brought to room 272. Grimsley bids him goodbye and tosses Travis inside the pitch black room. The door slammed shut and locked behind him, Travis sees Dooley, Janice, Marty, and dozens of other kids. Ghosts, it seems. And all of them have their hands on their heads, cringing in pain.
And that’s when Travis realizes where the closet got its name.
My hands flew up in the air, too.
Up to my ears. To cover them.
To drown out the screeching.
The horrible screeching sound of chalk on a chalkboard – the sound that I’d have to listen to forever.
This is genuinely messed up, not just because of the aforementioned closet, but that one segment where the kids are willfully ignoring Travis’ impending doom so they don’t share his fate. That is a chillingly human response and one I guess a lot of us would refuse to admit to agreeing with. How many times have we ever hoped to avoid getting in trouble with someone by pretending it’s not happening, or were just too plain scared to stand up for someone? [Wing: This is such a good, horrifying point.]
SEQUEL IDEA – “The Amazing Chalk Closet Rescue Mission:” A little girl reaches out to a group of teenage investigators to help find her older sister, one of the kids Mr. Grimsley sent into the Chalk Closet.
[Wing: Fab idea. Also, a coworker and I were discussing “nails on a chalkboard” as a descriptor the other day, because sooner than we expect (and possibly already happening), there will be a generation of students that have no idea what that phrase means, at least from actual experience. Chalkboards are already getting rare in classrooms, and I know some schools that don’t have them at all.]
Home Sweet Home, A.K.A. “Safety In The Dollhouse? The Evil Spider.”
[Wing: WHY IS IT ALWAYS SPIDERS?!]
Sharon’s an asshole whose favorite hobby is messing with her sister Alice’s dollhouse. They have to share a room and Sharon’s pissed off by how much space Alice’s dollhouse takes up. Sharon loves moving the plastic furniture around and sticking Alice’s favorite Shawna doll upside down in the dollhouse sink. [Wing: … well that escalated quickly.] Sharon thinks Alice should get a life and pursue normal interests for a nine year old, like doing crystal meth or stealing car radios, or fangirling over Phillip Seymour-Hoffman. [Wing: DYING.]
Alice asks Sharon to go with her to a garage sale, because she’s not allowed to go by herself. Sharon’s not thrilled when she learns the person running the garage sale is Mrs. Forster, a creepy old lady Sharon’s friends are all afraid of. But Alice is hoping to find dollhouse furniture or material she can use to make new curtains, and luckily she’s able to find a tiny doll lamp priced at exactly two dollars (which is exactly what she brought). [Wing: That seems exceptionally high for a tiny doll lamp at a garage sale.] Sharon peruses Mrs. Forster’s stuff and takes a closer inspection at a pretty ceramic bowl. Unfortunately, a big spider inside the bowl crawls onto Sharon’s hand, [Wing: ACCIDENTALLY SETS THE BOOK ON FIRE TRYING TO GET AWAY FROM THIS IMAGE.] which freaks her out so badly she throws the bowl on the ground and breaks it. Alice hears the commotion and tells Sharon she should at least pay for the bowl, but once Sharon sees an angry Mrs. Forster she decides to get the fuck out of there.
Sharon has a nightmare about Mrs. Forster, who says because Sharon didn’t pay for the bowl, she is now her problem, and Mrs. Forster ALWAYS takes care of her problems. The minute Sharon wakes from her dream, she recognizes the very same spider from before now dangling above her face from the ceiling. [Wing: NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE.] Sharon recognizes it from the white stripe down the spider’s abdomen, just like the stripe in Mrs. Forster’s hair. Sharon screams for her parents, but once the light goes on, the spider’s gone. The next day, while riding her bike from a friend’s house, Sharon’s almost hit by a car that comes out of nowhere. Stopping to calm down, she hears a shuffling noise and sees the white-striped spider scurrying out of a sewer drain towards her. Sharon bolts for her house. She’s so frightened Sharon doesn’t even go back outside to get her bike from the street.
That evening Sharon is annoyed Alice has her dollhouse out again because it’s blocking Sharon’s desk. And then *CRUNCH*! Sharon accidentally steps on Shawna and breaks her hand off. That’s about it for Alice, who’s fucking had it with Sharon disrespecting her property.
Alice instantly burst into tears. “Look what you did!” she wailed.
“It was an accident!” I cried. “I didn’t mean to!”
“You did. You hate my dollhouse. And you hate Shawna. That’s why you always stick her head in the sink. And that’s why stepped on her!” Sobbing, she grabbed the broken doll and ran out of the room.
I actually do feel for Alice here. The dollhouse does seem to take up a lot of space, but Sharon’s not winning any points by constantly fucking with Alice’s dolls, even if this was an accident. How can she expect Alice to give her more space if she can’t show her a little courtesy? [Wing: It does sound like a realistic, messy sibling conflict. There’s no way the dollhouse should be in their shared room, not if it is as big as it sounds, but also, Sharon needs to stop being an ass to her sister. But again, very realistic, says the older sibling who was not always great to her younger siblings. (Though usually unintentionally.)]
Sharon curses the dollhouse and, once again, finds the spider in her room.
Alice refuses to make eye contact with Sharon for two days, until Sharon makes a heartfelt attempt to apologize. Alice mentions their dad fixed Shawna’s hand, and Sharon says she’ll stop putting Shawna in the kitchen sink… and then immediately ruins it by saying she’ll focus on another doll instead. After Alice runs off to most likely tell on Sharon, Sharon notices the glass chandelier in the hallway is quivering in the wind… despite the window being closed. At the last second Sharon dives out of the way when the chandelier crashes to the floor. At the sight of the broken glass and crystal, Sharon sees the spider and realizes Mrs. Forster’s trying to kill her.
Sharon’s not able to take three steps when she looks in the hallway mirror and sees the spider is IN HER HAIR. She tries to yank it off but its an ornery sumbitch. [Wing: JESUS FUCKING CHRIS THAT ESCALATED QUICKLY BURN IT BURN IT ALL BURN IT AAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLL.]
And then I felt the spder legs – the points, the sharp points – digging into my scalp. Digging into my head.
Into my brain!
Over my scream, I heard dry laughter. “You are a tiny problem,” the spider rasped. So close to my ear.
The pain shot through my head. Through my whole body.
“You are a tiny, tiny problem.”
And quickly Sharon realizes she’s shrinking down, until the spider’s bigger than she is. Sharon’s only means to protect herself from the spider is to hide in Alice’s dollhouse.
That’s how Sharon lives now, inside Alice’s dollhouse alongside Shawna and the other dolls. It’s not as bad it seems. She’s at least got a mini color TV, and she feels safe and protected. Only thing is, she can’t understand why Alice likes to stick her head in the sink.
Only thing I can’t understand is how in Hell her parents don’t have a problem with the fact their oldest child is now the size of a fucking knockoff Barbie.
Don’t Wake Mummy, A.K.A. “Keep It Trapped In The Basement! Jeff Versus The Mummy.”
Jeff tried to keep his cool when the deliverymen brought the sarcophagus to his house. His dad’s the curator of the local museum, and due to a mistake the museum’s latest addition was sent to their home instead. As his mom directed the men to bring the mummy case to the basement, Jeff’s older sister Kim took the opportunity to engage in her favorite pastime: trying to get Jeff to shit his pants by scaring him to death. She wheedles Jeff about what a wimp he is because he won’t go down in the basement and touch the mummy case.
“You know, Jeff, the worst thing about you is that you’re such a wimp,” Kim declared.
Well Kim the only thing you do for fun is harass an eleven year old so why don’t just back the fuck up a liiiiiiiitle bit.
[Wing: This sounds familiar. I think I’ve read a similar short story, or maybe saw a tv episode? I don’t think I saw the actual Goosebumps episode, but was there perhaps an Are You Afraid of the Dark? episode about a mummy in a basement? I will give this some thought.]
Kim insists all mummies are jealous of living people, so at night they wander away searching for victims to suck their lives away. Well Kim that’s just mummyphobic. Jeff finally goes down to the basement to make Kim shut up. Downstairs, the mummy case is the only thing that’s not covered in dust. The moment Jeff reaches to touch the box, the chains wrapped around it rattle and the box shakes! Jeff runs back upstairs to his sister’s mocking, who then motions to downstairs and points out the box is still closed and chained.
Of course that night Jeff’s unable to sleep when he hears the sound of footsteps thumping and clanking down the hall towards his room. Jeff screams, but only his mother comes in the room assuring Jeff he was having a nightmare. Since Jeff’s the only one who knows the mummy is alive, he’s going to do something about it. Unfortunately the library doesn’t have info on how to stop living mummies, so Jeff checks out Sam Bone’s Mystical Merchandise. [Wing: …convenient.] Sam Bone the store owner sells Jeff a pouch of “mummy dust,” a mixture of minerals ancients used to protect themselves against such threats. Jeff shills twenty bucks for the shit.
Throughout dinner Kim picks on Jeff by asking if he’s scared to be so near the door to the basement and the mummy. Their parents finally tell her to shut up because she’s not funny. Kim warns Jeff he may think he’s hot shit now, but wait until tonight when the mummy comes looking for him again. Jeff asserts he’s got protection, but Kim continues her mocking. Come nighttime and the returning thumping and clanking, Jeff charges downstairs with his mummy dust determined to face the undead bastard. I like a kid who takes initiative. Face to face with the mummy Jeff realizes too late the mummy dust pouch is tied in a knot. As he dumps the dust in his palm, the mummy attacks Jeff and brings him to the ground. Jeff fumbles to get at least a handful of mummy dust from the floor when the lights flash on and his mom demands to know what’s going on. The mummy sprints from the room back to the basement, and Jeff immediately jams a chair under the knob to trap it downstairs.
Jeff’s mom finally has enough and orders her husband to tell Jeff mummies don’t come to life. He’d like to, but… Oooh, seems Jeff’s dad forgot to mention a little something. Like, how the last museum that had this mummy wanted it gone like yesterday because it kept coming to life at night and trashing the place. [Wing: WAIT WHAT?!] He didn’t think they were serious though. He insists the mummy can’t come to life as long as the chains remain on the sarcophagus. Now Jeff’s mom is frantic asking if he took the chains off, and Jeff says of course he didn’t. Jeff’s dad takes out an old padlock and locks it on the basement door, apologizing for endangering the family. Jeff’s mom asks him to forgive her for not believing him, and Jeff goes back to sleep safe and sound. [Wing: Good lord, that is some shit parenting on his dad’s part.]
Meanwhile, Kim’s snickering to herself down in the basement at what an awesome job she did scaring Jeff by dressing like the mummy. She even used the chains for that special something because ALL mummies need chains. She’s dismayed when she learns the door is locked and her parents can’t hear her, but decides to camp out on the old sofa in the basement.
But who opened the sarcophagus? [Wing: I knew it! And also, I’m laughing so hard right now. Amazing.]
The TV show added a friend who helps Kim scare Jeff, and her attempt to scare him quickly backfires when the real mummy shows up next to her. Jeff saves his family by destroying the mummy’s heart… and then the next morning finds out he had a cat.
[Wing: At first I read that as the next morning he founds out he was a cat, but having a cat makes slightly more sense. I need to track down this episode.]
I’m Telling! A.K.A. “My Little Sister Can’t Possibly Be This Annoying! The Gargoyle’s Stony Glare.”
Adam’s a man on a mission, to hunt the evil gargoyle perched on top of the dried fountain in the woods. Or, that’s what he’d like to do. Despite his age Adam enjoys playing pretend with his water gun in the woods, and his favorite target’s the gargoyle statue on the old fountain. He does it by himself because his friend Nick likes to tease him. But today is different because a foul smelling green liquid starts pouring out of the gargoyle’s mouth into the fountain. Adam refills his water gun and starts testing the green water when he gets the feeling the gargoyle really is watching him. To his surprise, when Adam squirts a nearby tree with the water, the tree turns gray. A leaf falls off and makes a bump on Adam’s head, because it’s now a rock. The tree’s turned to stone! [Wing: AMAZING.]
Of course, now’s the time for Adam’s annoying little sister Missy (complete with pigtails, freckles, and a red wagon) arrives to threaten Adam with tattling. He’s not doing his art project for the school’s contest like he said he was, and she’s gonna tell their mom. As Missy repeats over and over again she’s telling, Adam’s temper gets the best of him and he sprays Missy with the green water. In a matter of seconds, she’s now a statue. Adam panics and frantically apologizes to his petrified sister. He puts Missy in her wagon and prepares to drag her back to their house where he’ll hide her in the basement until he can figure out how to change her back. But Adam’s spotted by his art teacher, who assumes Missy is his art project. Mrs. Parker praises Adam for his attention to detail, and Adam has no choice but to bring Missy to the school’s art contest. He even wins first prize! [Wing: EVEN MORE AMAZING. So far, I love this story.]
After the contest ends Adam tries to bring Missy home, but sees his parents in the front yard so he backtracks to the fountain. Missy is faintly able to cry for Adam’s help, and when they get back to the fountain the gargoyle statue is gone… because now it really IS alive. Adam dashes for his water gun as the gargoyle swoops down and slashes at him with its claws. At the last second Adam squirts the green water back on the gargoyle, turning it back to a statue. With no other ideas, Adam uses the water on Missy again, and it turns her back to normal. But Missy continues her threats of telling on Adam for entering her in the contest, so Adam has no choice but to aim the gun at her one more time.
See, the thing about threatening the guy who can turn you to stone is YOU DON’T FUCKING THREATEN THE GUY WHO CAN TURN YOU TO STONE. [Wing: MISSY. I know you are the annoying little sister, but get your shit together! Also, I need to know the location of that fountain. For reasons. Reasons that have nothing to do with turning the world’s arachnid population into stone.]
The Haunted House Game, A.K.A. “Playing For Your Life! Win The Ghostly Game At All Costs.”
It was an old horror movie cliche-I mean, it was a dark and stormy night. Thunder boomed and wind rattled the 39 windows in Jonathan’s house. He knows because he counted them all when he played “Let’s Count The Windows” the last time he babysat. [Wing: How is that even a game, Jonathan? Surely you have SOMETHING else you can do.] Jonathan is stuck babysitting his little brother and sister, Noah and Annie, but his best friend Nadine is helping, and luckily Jonathan’s found [INSERT TITLE HERE]. Everyone else is sick of playing “Haunted House,” but Jonathan insists the game’s exciting because it changes every time you play it again. [Wing: Wait a minute, if they’ve played it so often before, why are they shocked when they start to hear things from the game in real life?]
THE RULES: Roll the dice and go around the board, looking through the haunted house in order to find the hidden ghost. But don’t land on “Scared to Death.”
Jonathan rolls a seven, and lands on “YOU HEAR CREAKING FOOTSTEPS ON THE STAIRS.” Sure enough, that’s exactly what the kids hear.
“Maybe it’s the cat,” Annie whispered.
“Yeah, maybe it’s the cat,” Noah echoed.
“We don’t have a cat,” I replied.
Annie goes next, and she lands on “WIND RATTLES THE WINDOWS.”
The wind from the storm rattles the 39 windows so hard and so loud Jonathan has to hide his trembling hands under the table to pretend he’s not scared. Noah and Annie beg Jonathan to stop playing because they have common sense despite being 7 years old, but Nadine sides with Jonathan and they keep playing. Jonathan uses reverse psychology to get Noah to roll, and he lands on “YOU HEAR AN EERIE MOAN.” You see where this going.
“There’s a ghost in here!” Annie shrieked. “Hide!”
“Where?” I yelled.
“In the closet!” Annie cried, jumping from her chair.
“How do you know it’s in the closet?” I shouted.
“She means we should hide in the closet,” Nadine said.
Nadine puts on a brave face and rolls next, landing on “THE LIGHTS GO OUT.”
After a black out ensues, Jonathan searches the kitchen for candles, while Noah weeps that their house is haunted. Annie corrects them, stating the game is haunted. Jonathan goes again, getting “YOU HEAR A SCREAM IN THE ATTIC.”
Nadine bullshits the scream they just heard was the storm, and if you believe that I’d like you to meet my friend the Nigerian prince. Annie quickly rolls and gets “YOU HEAR A BONY HAND TAPPING ON THE WINDOW.” Well for once, the expected does not happen… because said bony hand fucking BANGS ON THE WINDOW. Noah desperately grabs the dice and rolls, but to Jonathan’s increasing horror he gets a 3. And lands on “SCARED TO DEATH!”
The entire house goes to shit, lightning flash, doors banging, windows rattling, kids screaming. Jonathan reaches his limit and runs for the door to leave the others to fend for themselves, but stops when he sees the old newspaper on the welcome mat. The newspaper that reads about the 4 kids who mysteriously died one night in March, 1942. And Jonathan realizes they’ve been dead for nearly half a century, playing the same game of “Haunted House” and repeating their deaths ever since. [Wing: Wait, WHAT?]
It was an old horror movie cliche-I mean, it was a dark and stormy night. Thunder boomed and wind rattled the 39 window in Jonathan’s house. He knows because he counted them all when he played “Let’s Count The Windows” the last time he babysat. Jonathan is stuck babysitting his little brother and sister, Noah and Annie, but his best friend Nadine is helping, and luckily Jonathan’s found [INSERT TITLE HERE]. Everyone else is sick of playing “Haunted House,” but Jonathan insists the game’s exciting because it changes every time you play it again…
This one was adapted into a TV episode, but the plot was totally overhauled. Jonathan and Nadine run into a crying little girl who says her cat wandered into an abandoned house and she’s too scared to go after it. The kids kindly offer to find the girl’s cat, but all they find inside the house is [INSERT TITLE HERE]. They open the box, and are immediately sucked inside ala Jumanji. The episode is divided into two halves, the first has Jonathan and Nadine playing and collecting different tokens. Then they have to use their tokens to make their way through the house, and run into two kids named Noah and Annie who’ve been trapped in the game for years. But it turns out Noah and Annie are really the ghosts who control the game and plan to add Jonathan and Nadine to their collection of players (transformed into plastic playing figures) but as the ghosts squabble about who broke what rules, Jon and Nadine desperately roll the dice to get a 7 (Get A 7, Go To Heaven) and destroy the ghosts…
Only the game box reconfigures itself back on the table, and outside, two kids offer to help a little girl find her missing cat.
[Wing: Well damn, both the story and the episode are pretty damn amazing. Also, this reminds me a little of L. J. Smith’s The Forbidden Game.]
Change For The Strange, A.K.A. “Snakes Have Feelings Too! Jane’s Magic Coat.”
Someday, Jane Meyers is going to be a famous track star. But that day is not today, because she couldn’t even make the girls’ track team at school. They said she’s not even good enough to be a towel girl. Bitches. But that hasn’t stopped her from practicing her running and jumping every day, and after she finishes she hangs out at her best friend Lizzy’s house to watch “Animaniacs” and dance to their favorite band, Fruit Bag (NOT a real band, sad to say). [Wing: I am having such nostalgia for Animaniacs right now. USA Netflix has it, I’m going to binge a few episodes.] Sadly, the girls have begun to change. Jane’s more interested in track, Lizzy’s more interested in fashion. And then there’s Lizzy’s freak brother Ivan the Terrible, with his mean pit bull Lizzy and his collection of weird animals, always wrecking their fun. [Wing: Stine, do you have a hate-on for siblings or what?]
Today Lizzy wants to check out a new clothing store, A [INSERT TITLE HERE]. The place certainly is strange, and it’s got a theme going in animal-themed clothing. Just… not what you’d expect. Rain slickers on moose antlers. Duck-head handles on umbrellas floating in puddles of water. Bunny slippers and shark-tooth necklaces. And once again I feel Stine’s about to villainize the furry community. Jane does find something she likes, a slick-looking red leather jacket with yellow trim on the back. Jane is momentarily disgusted when she learns the jacket’s made from snakeskin, but a store clerk convinces her to try it out and Jane falls in love with it. [Wing: Amazing. I want a red leather snakeskin jacket.] And yet somehow she feels she can tease Lizzy for her bunny slippers.
“Those will be great for when you get hopping mad!” I teased Lizzy.
See? I don’t always have to supply the horrible puns. [Wing: Awww, Stine’s joke writing past is showing through.]
But Jane is immediately regretting her purchase when she starts to feel dizzy and weak. Stumbling home she desires nothing but to lie on the cool grass, and is suddenly unable to control her tongue. She’s then overwhelmed by numerous new scents like dogs and cats and the mice owned by Lizzy’s brother, and they smell delicious! Gripping her head, Jane’s in for an even bigger surprise as she feels that her ears and hair are gone! All the skin on her head is dried and cracked, and she can no longer stand up. Sinking to the ground, Jane counts to three and believes everything will be okay.
She’s a fucking snake.
Jane the Snake fears her only course of action is to get to Lizzy’s house and get her attention, but she’s almost eaten by Lizzy the Pit Bull. Her hide is accidentally saved by Lizzy’s mom dragging the dog away from her garden, giving Jane the chance to slither inside. But Jane’s plan is not a perfect one, because she can’t communicate with Lizzy and Lizzy is freaking out thinking her brother’s snake got in her room. Jane tries to prove who she is, first by slithering to the remote and turning on Animaniacs. Lizzy whacks Jane across the room with a tennis racket, but Jane hits the CD player and uses her tail to turn on the Fruit Bag CD. Lizzy’s still screaming for Ivan, so Jane desperately tries to dance.
Ivan says the red snake isn’t one of his, but Lizzy doesn’t care. Ivan takes Jane and puts her in the case with his other snakes. Instantly, the real snakes can’t stand Jane (Like oh my God, who is this poser? Fucking otherkins) and move to attack when Ivan picks her up again. Ivan says there’s a weird marking on Jane’s stomach, like a zipper, and goes to show Lizzy. Lizzy’s now screaming at Ivan to get the snake out of her sight when he tugs on the zipper and
Oh hi Jane when did you get here?
[Wing: DYING DYING DYING DYING DYING.]
Lizzy was still screaming, even as Jane explained what happened, even as Jane left for home.
But by the next day, Jane and Lizzy are all cool again. Jane’s practicing her jumping, and Lizzy’s pretty impressed. By that, and by how soft and cuddly Jane’s fur is. Seems Lizzy lent Jane her bunny slippers. And Jane gets to say she was an otherkin BEFORE it was popular.
[Wing: So is she going to use the slippers at the next track tryouts?]
The Perfect School, A.K.A. “Perfection Can Be Dangerous! The Sinister School’s Secret.”
Brian O’Connor’s parents are disappointed in him because he’s not perfect (Wow parents who think their kid sucks in a Goosebumps story, what a surprise). So they’ve signed him up for a two week stay at The Perfect Boarding School, whose motto is “Why Settle For Anything Less Than Perfect?” Brian promises to clean up his act, he won’t tease the dog, he won’t eat Snickers for lunch, [Wing: Let’s not be hasty here, Brian.] but they won’t settle for anything less than perfect. On the train ride to the school Brian bonds with C.J., another kid getting sent to [INSERT TITLE HERE].
Brian is unnerved by how bland and lifeless the current batch of Perfect Graduates look, each dressed in gray with blank smiles plastered on their faces. Brian refuses to turn into that just to please his parents. The school director orders the new arrivals to line up by height and to leave their belongings in the van. Each kid is given a number, and Brian is #116. They missed the opportunity to do a “Prisoner” reference by having Brian shout “I am not a number! I am a human being!” As the Director collects envelopes of money from the parents picking up the graduates, Brian shivers at the idea of what the school must’ve done to suck the life out of these kids.
These kids were like robots. Robots!
Brian immediately analyzes the situation and how shady the teachers, called “Guardians,” are acting. No one’s allowed to talk. Every door in the school is locked shut. At least they’re consistent with the color scheme, because everything in Brian’s room is gray. Gray furniture, gray clothes, gray toothbrush, gray food. And then Brian starts to hear what might be whispering coming from the heating vent above his bed, but the moment he calls out, a Guardian immediately tells him not to speak.
At his first “training session,” Brian is forced to fill out an exam. An exam with questions like what he calls his parents and what costumes he wore for Halloween in the last five years. Brian decides “Fuck it” and bullshits the answers, but the minute he shows C.J. his test a Guardian declares him a distraction and takes him to “The Special Training Course.” Brian’s led to a hallway where he will be escorted to the “Pattern Room.” But left alone, Brian hears more whispering warning him not to go inside. Sure enough, a Guardian orders Brian into what looks like a doctor’s office. Brian’s weighed and measured, including the lengths of his arms and legs and his TONGUE, and matches the color of his eyes on a color wheel for the exact shade. [Wing: SUBTLE.]
Brian is ordered back to his room, but without an escort Brian decides to scope the place out. [Wing: I zero percent believe he was left alone like that. Sloppy writing, Stine.] He finds a phone and calls his mom, who immediately isn’t interested in his complaining and tells him to give the place a chance. Then the school director takes the phone and informs Mrs. O’Connor Brian will graduate early because of his “Progress.” Hanging up, he coldly tells Brian he’s made his “Last error.” At night, Brian is woken from his sleep by the sound of whimpering coming from the vent. Hoisting himself up, he looks inside the vent and sees eyes in the darkness.
“Save us!” a voice cried. “Save us – and yourself.”
“Robots,” another voice whispered. “The school makes a robot of you They send home the robot in your place. A perfect robot. And then they make you live down here where no one can ever find you.”
Brian thinks fast, grabbing a sheet of paper and telling a Guardian he needs to use the bathroom. On the way out he shoves the crumpled paper in the lock to jam it, so when he comes back he can sneak out. Brian tosses a spoon down the other side of the hall so when the Guardians hear the noise he can sneak down the opposite direction. Brian is almost caught before he realizes it’s C.J.. Brian tells him about what the Guardians are doing, and C.J. claims to know the way out. But surprise surprise, C.J. leads Brian to the rest of the captured kids. Turns out he’s a mole for the Guardians.
(Brian’s Robot by Shay Smith)
The next morning, Mrs. O’Connor marvels at how perfect Brian looks, sounds, and acts. The Director promises he’ll always be perfect from now on. And he is, because he has to be, because Brian needs to make sure no one figures out he got the best of C.J. and switched places with the robot double they made of him. If anyone finds out, then he’d never be able to save the rest of the kids trapped at the school. I mean, sure, he teased the dog and ate three Snickers for lunch, but besides that he’s been totally perfect. [Wing: … well, I certainly would have liked to see how he managed that and what he did with the robot double and why the robot double just didn’t immediately give the game away.]
Now this one DEFINITELY could’ve been an entire novel. It got a two-part TV adaption and was part of the illustrated novellas for the French Goosebumps line. But I have to wonder how the fuck does this school think the scam will work in the long run, because what happens when the parents expect their kids to get older and they don’t? Or if they’re supposed to reach puberty?
“Doctor, have you figured out why our son hasn’t reached puberty yet? I mean, we don’t want to worry about nothing. I know some children are just late bloomers, but we figured by the time he was 19 there’d be some changes.”“Mr. and Mrs. Jones it, um, it’s impossible for your son to go through puberty.”“Oh no, doctor! What’s wrong with him? Is it hormones?”“No amount of hormones is going to help your son.”“Is he at least going to grow some under arm hair?”“Not that it looks like.”“What about his, um… sperm? Are we ever going to have grandchildren?”“That’s never going to happen. Because his testicles are just two water-filled sacks. In fact, he doesn’t seem to have any internal organs, for that matter.”“What do you m-““The x-rays and physical inspection showed he’s got what appears to be a set of gears, wires, and metal rods in his… pretty much everything. He’s literally got a switch on the back of his neck that opens his face.”“…I told you he was a fucking robot, Patty.”“He said he was just really interested in welding, Dan!”“HE WAS WELDING HIS FACE!”“So I called the police because he just snapped Dr. Krul’s neck like a celery stalk.”
[Wing: “HE WAS WELDING HIS FACE!” OMG DYING.]
For The Birds, A.K.A. “Feathers On The Brain?! The Birds Carry A Message Of Fear.”
Like “Good Friends” I developed an odd interest in this one, even though it’s not particularly scary. I guess I can relate to being stuck in a family of people with heads shoved up their asses and getting dragged along for the ride.
Kim’s family sucks major ass because they’re all obsessed with bird-watching, even her teenage brothers. Which means Kim’s always dragged along on their bird-watching trips even though she hates birds. [Wing: Me too, Kim. Me too.] This year her family’s vacationing at Bird Haven Lodge run by the quirky Mr. Dove. [Wing: Raven, who is Dove’s Mr Dove, has a secret life!] Her parents are swooning over how romantic they think the place is, a typical pair of “lovebirds” if there ever was one, and Kim’s brothers are driving her “cuckoo” when Kim’s given the “Cuckoo’s Nest” room. After a barrage of bird puns Kim finally shouts how sick she is of birds, surprising Mr. Dove. But Kim’s parents remain totally oblivious to her vocal lack of interest. [Wing: Okay, staying at a bird lodge is worth all the bird puns. I am pleased.]
While her parents unpack and her brothers wander off, Kim looks around the lodge and gets creeped out by the number of stuffed birds propped around the building. [Wing: This does seem a little weird for a place that is supposed to be about live birds.] Trying to relax inside an old rec room, Kim plops down on a couch and accidentally finds an old pair of hedge trimmers underneath the cushions. Mr. Dove is ecstatic and eagerly thanks Kim for finding them. He declares he owes Kim a favor, and then suddenly drops his chipper attitude and supposes she’d love some revenge on her family for dragging her to the lodge. Kim denies this, but Mr. Dove promises he’ll take care of it.
At dinner, Kim realizes her family’s the only people staying at the lodge besides Mr. Dove, and at night flocks of birds fly outside her window. One crow in particular keeps pecking on the glass, and deep down Kim believes the birds are trying to warn her about something.
The following day, Kim goes with her family into the lodge’s hedge maze to do some bird-watching because there’s nothing else to do. Outside the maze, Mr. Dove has completed a hedge sculpture of Kim’s family. All but Kim are impressed, and Mr. Dove claims it’s “All part of the program.” As they explore deeper into the maze, Kim once again fears the birds are trying to warn her family about something before they enter the heart of the maze, which seems to be a giant bird cage. The door snaps closed, and Mr. Dove appears from an opening in the ground declaring Kim’s family can leave by flying out. “All part of the program,” Mr. Dove says as he snaps his hedge trimmers and turns Kim’s parents into actual lovebirds. He turns to Kim’s brothers and transforms them into mockingbirds. Kim begs Mr. Dove not to turn her into a bird, but he knows how much she hates birds. No, Kim’s got nothing to worry about, because Mr. Dove kindly turns her into a cat.
But hey, Kim can bond with Marla from “The Cat’s Tale” and Jane!
SEQUEL IDEA – “One More For The Birds”: Trapped in cat form, Kim tries to befriend and warn one of the next potential victims of Mr. Dove’s “program,” a girl in a wheelchair.
[Wing: So, how has no one noticed that everyone disappears when they stay with Mr. Dove? Also, there was a time very recently that Ostrich (Mr Wing) got too close to a bird’s nest, infuriated the mama bird, and it promptly attacked the fuck out of us. Thanks, Ostrich! I’m certainly not worried about a bird attacking me and getting stuck in my wild hair now or anything.]
Aliens In The Garden, A.K.A. “It Fell From The Storm! Protect The Little People.”
This is my least favorite of the collection because it’s so boring. I put this one off for last.
Kurt rushes back to his house because it looks like a thunderstorm is about to begin, but Kurt has the bad luck to run into Flip the bully and his ugly dog, Rocky. They both look alike, with ratty hair and yellow teeth. [Wing: Aww, Stine, must you keep going with this whole evil = ugly/ugly = evil thing?] But Kurt’s luck turns around when the storm begins, so bully and dog run back home rather than get soaked. [Wing: Because bullies are totes scared of getting wet.]
Back home, Kurt sees in the backyard garden something get struck by lightning and plummet into one of the flowering bushes. Once the rain stops, Kurt wades through the muddy garden to find the mysterious object, and picks up what looks like a toy rocket ship. Only it can’t be a toy, it feels too heavy and it was able to withstand getting hit with lightning. Kurt decides to take the rocket to show his friend Jenna at the park, but again runs into Flip and Rocky. Kurt’s hide is saved when a blue beam of light shoots from the ship and zaps Flip’s knee, scaring him and his mangy dog away. Three tiny aliens in space suits come out of the rocket, and Kurt is frightened they’ll shoot him too, but the aliens are peaceful. Kurt introduces himself, but his voice is too loud for their tiny ears and causes them pain. Whispering, Kurt thanks them for the rescue even though the aliens don’t understand him.
Jenna shows up, and at first assumes the aliens are just toys before Kurt convinces her otherwise. Her amazement at realizing life on other planets exist is cut short by Flip arriving with reinforcements, his cousin Drake waving around a baseball bat. Flip grabs an alien and starts squeezing the life out of him, so Kurt charges towards Flip’s knees and then makes a jump to catch the alien before he splatters over the ground. Flip orders Drake to go after Kurt, and Jenna tackles Flip’s back but he shrugs her off.
Kurt tries to escape, but Rocky the dog leaps to pounce on him. The second alien fires a laser at the dog to scare him away. Kurt reconvenes with Jenna, who says the third alien is inside the ship making repairs. Once all three aliens are inside the ship, they wave goodbye and try to launch off the ground. But Flip and Drake are getting closer, so Kurt gets desperate and tosses the ship in the air hoping to give it altitude. For one heart-stopping moment, the ship dives in the air, but suddenly comes to life and blasts off into space.
Kurt and Jenna laugh all the way back to Kurt’s house, thinking of Flip and Drake still at the park, their mouths hanging open in pure shock. It’s then Kurt suddenly remembers one of the aliens ripped their spacesuit in the park, and takes out the piece of fabric he held onto. He muses on the crazy design, a bunch of stripes and some white stars. 50 stars, in fact. Kurt and Jenna wonder what it could mean.
Well, actually, this story wasn’t so bad. I think I was in a bad mood earlier when I started. But it feels like a somewhat lackluster Twilight Zone episode.
[Wing: … well, that was actually unexpected, if still boring.]
The Thumbprint of Doom, or “Death By Thumb?! Enter Carla, the Superstitious Girl.”
Trisha thought it’d be fun to spend the summer with her best friend Jeremy, but that was big mistake because his giant loser nerd cousin Harold (and of course his name is Harold because there is a finite selection of names for nerds, like Harold, Eugene, and Seymour) is dragging them down. Right now he’s saying he can’t swim in the local lake because he’s afraid of fungus. Harold describes fungus as tiny plants living in water that you can’t see, so when Trisha asks why he’s so scared of it, Harold replies “Well I don’t like things I can’t see.” And what about love, Harold? You can’t see love. Are you afraid of love, Harold? Open your heart, Harold. You deserve love. You deserve… Fancy Feast.
I have no idea if that joke was worth it.
[Wing: Well, it made me laugh.]
While walking to the movie theater, Trisha spots the girl whose family recently moved to town and decides they should say hi.
I stared at the girl as we walked over. She was really pretty. Her long, shiny black hair hung down to her waist, and her skin was a beautiful olive color.
Awww yeah, Gals Before Pals. [Wing: Trisha. I hope you have a crush, because it sounds like you have a crush.]
The new girl introduces herself as Carla. Trisha invites her to join the group to see a movie, but Carla declines because her horoscope advised staying home today. Carla admits she’s a superstitious girl, but she’s not afraid of shit like black cats. Carla says the one thing she’s scared of more than anything is the Thumbprint of Doom. [Wing: Wait, what?] Trisha, being a country bumpkin, asks what that is. [Wing: You and me both, Trisha.] Carla explains if someone puts it on your forehead, something horrible will happen to you in less than 24 hours. As Trisha, Jeremy, and Harold depart the former two discuss how weird Carla seemed and tease Harold by giving him the Double Thumbprint of Doom.
The next day Trisha and Jeremy go rowing at the lake while Harold stays home to finish reading the dictionary (He’s up to the Ps!). As Trisha’s about to get in the rowboat, Carla shows up and starts screaming for Trisha to stop. Trisha topples into the lake, and demands to know what Carla’s problem is. Carla points out the canoe Trisha was about to get into is blue, and everybody knows a blue canoe on Tuesday means bad luck for Wednesday. I mean, come on, that’s 1st Grade, Trisha! Carla apologizes for scaring her, and Trisha finds she can’t stay mad at Carla because Carla genuinely thought she was helping. Harold greets Trisha and Jeremy as they return from the lake, and Harold jumps up and stops Trisha from stepping on a crack in the sidewalk. He’s been listening to Carla and feels she makes a lot of sense. [Wing: I was going to say this made me think of the book Superstitious, which I was thinking belonged to Dean Koontz, but NOPE, I definitely read the book by R. L. Stine without realising it was him back when I read it. There’s a sneezing thing that stuck with me all these years. I think I got rid of my copy, though.]
Carla’s superstitions really start to grate on Trisha. While Trisha’s playing baseball, Carla frantically screams for Trisha to stop just as she’s about to hit an easy fastball. Why? Because it’s 1:13 PM on Friday the 13th, which would be 13:13 on the 13th. [Wing: So my lucky moment on my lucky day.] And the previous day, Carla made her walk backwards around a fire hydrant seven times for reasons Trisha’s not particularly sure of. Trisha and Jeremy figure to use the patented Stine technique to settle problems between friends, by elaborate pranks guaranteed to traumatize a person for life.
The carnival’s in town, so Trisha and the boys manage to drag Carla out of her house to join them. They bring her to get her fortune told by Madame Wanda. Inside the dark, incense-filled trailer, Madame Wanda dramatically appears and asks who will be the first to have their future revealed. The kids shove Carla to the front. Madame Wanda gazes into her crystal ball, but shrieks at the horrors before her. Carla’s future seems so awful, Madame Wanda has no choice but to mercy kill the poor girl by giving her the Thumbprint of Doom. Carla runs out of the trailer, and then Trisha and the boys start laughing. They reveal they paid Madame Wanda earlier that day to mess with Carla so she’d realize her superstitions are silly. But now Carla’s suddenly calm, and says of course she knew it was a trick. Because only Carla has such power.
“Why do you think I believe in this stuff? Because I know it’s all true! I know it’s true – because I have the power! That’s why I’m frightened of it. And now I have no choice. You know my secret. I have no choice.”
And so Carla gives Trisha, Jeremy, and Harold the Thumbprint of Doom. Terrified, the three kids run away from the evil Carla and towards their doom.
Madame Wanda tells Carla it really wasn’t nice to trick those kids into thinking she has magic powers, but Carla states they started it. She figures they’ll realize it was a joke in a day or two, and maybe later they’ll all get a good laugh out of it. Madame Wanda says she’s working until 10, so Carla goes to check out the fair and tells her mom she’ll see her at home.
HA! So the kids had no idea Wanda was Carla’s mom, and when they tried to pay her to set up their joke she immediately told Carla and Carla planned some innocent revenge.
Trisha: We want to scare the shit out of this girl Carla.
Madame Wanda: Why?
Trisha: To prove a point.
Madame Wanda: I can arrange that.
Madame Wanda: Carla, a girl and two boys paid me to traumatize you.
Carla: Was the girl named Trisha?
Madame Wanda: Yes apparently they think you’re annoying so they want me to make you believe you’re going to die.
Carla: Oh son of a BITCH!
Madame Wanda: Hey! Language.
Carla: Sorry mom.
Madame Wanda: That’s better. Now let’s brainstorm how to screw with your little friends’ heads.
Madame Wanda’s officially the best Goosebumps parent. And I love Carla too. She really thinks she’s helping, but she’s got bite to her.
[Wing: This is amazing. I love Madame Wanda, I love Carla, I love Trisha. I hope Trisha and Carla snark and date later.]
Sailor Moon Says: Sure Mr. Grimsley did a very bad thing when he sent those kids to eternal damnation, but Sharon shouldn’t have run off without paying for that bowl. Had she just accepted responsibility for her actions, then maybe Jeff’s sister wouldn’t have been eviscerated by the mummy. Sure, Adam likes to play pretend, but there’s a time for play and a time for work, so if Jonathan and Nadine had been working instead of playing they might have survived. It’s good that Jane is willing to practice to be a track star, because if you want to achieve your dreams you need to work hard, like Brian is working hard to pretend to be perfect so he can save those kids. Helping out others is important for making the world a better place. Kim helped Mr. Dove and she didn’t get turned into a bird, and Kurt helped those aliens get home. We all have to live together on the same planet, which is why we can’t go around convincing our friends we’re gonna die like Trisha tried to do to Carla.
Raye: “Serena what the FUCK are you talking about?!”
Serena: “I lost the cue cards!”
Raye: “I told you guys, I said exactly what was gonna happen if we didn’t glue them to her hands, and I was right, because she’s a Meatball Head!”
Amy: “Everyone can’t we get through the Final Thoughts segment without argument?”
Lita: “I still think I should’ve done it because I’m the most talented.”
Raye: “NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOUR GODDDAMN BOOBS, LITA!”
Mina: “Are people reading this part in Stephanie Morgenstern’s or Emilie Barlow’s voice?”
Amy: “Serena please finish so we can get out of here.”
Serena: “Sailor Moon Says, give others a chance, and you can save the world!”
(Wing: … well, I certainly would have liked to see how he managed that and what he did with the robot double and why the robot double just didn’t immediately give the game away.)
Oh Wing I kept forgetting to reply to this. Well it would make sense they wouldn’t believe the robot version of Brian if it tried to tell the Guardians it WAS a robot, because they’d assume he’s the real Brian trying to escape. They showed that at the end of the TV version, with Robot!Brian stewing in the cell with the other kids who try to assure “Him” it was a nice try at escaping.
[…] Haunted House Game” was part of Even More Tales To Give You Goosebumps, the third collection of Goosebumps short stories. It told the story of a group of children passing […]