Title: Graveyard School #25 – Escape from Vampire Park, a.k.a. “#judedelucalovesjordieflandersSHUTUP”
Author: Tom B. Stone, a.k.a. Nola Thacker, a.k.a. D.E. Athkins
Cover Artist: Mark Nagata
Summary: Take A Ride In The Tunnel Of Blood…
Cover your eyes. Scream your brains out. It’s the scariest ride in the whole amusement park. But brave Nathan isn’t afraid. He knows the ride is one big fake. Except now he’s about to find out how the Tunnel of Blood got its name. He’s about to stop laughing and start screaming. Too late, Nate.
The worst ride of your life has just begun.
We’re down to three and the last summer book before we return to the hallowed halls of Graveyard School. But returning after such a long absence is none other than my favorite, Jordie “The Human Computer” Flanders.
Interestingly, as you could tell from the summary Jordie is not the main character. That role’s taken by newbie Nathan, who had never been mentioned as a member of the sixth grade class until now. Yet Jordie is still the one who does most of the investigating into the creepy things at Vampire Park, and Nathan’s targeted mainly because people think he and Jordie are friends. It works in a way because, since Jordie’s the co-protagonist, we get to see someone else react to her Jordie-isms.
Along the way, we also realize (for those of us who know what happened in “Camp Dracula“) that Jeep Holmes and his family are apparently REALLY bad at their jobs.
So join me as we say goodbye to Jordie.
[Wing: I’m not ready for this series to end. I’m not, I’m not, I’m not. But I am excited to see Jordie again.]
Nathan Ebro wanted to vomit.
Again, Thacker gives us a strong opening as Nathan Ebro stumbles off the Crazy Tilt alongside Jeep Holmes and Jason Dunbarr. You remember good ol’ Nathan, don’t you? After all the fond memories and wacky adventures he had in Graveyard School? Like, um, that thing. Plus that one time. Oh and there was that thing with the other guy. You know, the tall one. Good times.
Jeep and Jason immediately wanna give the Crazy Tilt another go, but Nathan suggests something else. Jason surprises everyone by not giving Nathan a hard time even though Nathan looks like he’s about to project a “Technicolor yawn” over everything. Instead, Jason proposes they go on the Zip ‘n’ Roll, where you spin around AND you’re hung upside down.
On the way off the ride, Nathan sees gal pals Maria Medina and Stacey Carter waiting in line for the Crazy Tilt. Stacey warns Nathan to watch his pockets if he does the Zip ‘n’ Roll, but he’s too nauseous to think about it. It was weird. Nathan was no stranger to wild rides at amusement parks and carnivals. He was never afraid on any of the rides. Never got sick, either.
He’d never, ever been afraid.
Now his skin was crawling and his stomach was creeping and more than anything he just wanted to leave.
Nathan pondered on this, since he didn’t have to go back to Graveyard School for three months. *LONGEST SIGH EVER*
It was both the first day of summer AND his first day working at Wayne’s Whirled Ice Cream at Vampire Park.
Sing it with me, Wing. WAYNE’S WHIRLED, WAYNE’S WHIRLED! PARTY TIME! EXCELLENT!
Nathan had a job scooping out ice cream for as long as Vampire Park was in Grove Hill, so he got to earn money AND he received free passes to all the rides plus free ice cream. [Wing: Free ice cream + free rides doesn’t actually sound like a great idea there, Nathan, considering how this book opened.] Score. The titular Wayne had already given Nathan a book of passes, explaining he won’t need Nathan until the afternoon since most people don’t eat ice cream before lunch.
Nathan recalled the day he went bike riding and saw them setting up Vampire Park in the old Grove Hill fairgrounds, which had been empty for as long as Nathan could remember. Usually, any visiting carnival or fair set up shop in the farmer’s field on the other side of town. Wayne had noticed Nathan and offered him the job on the spot, telling him to get permission from his parents as well. Mr. and Mrs. Ebro couldn’t believe it, their baby’s first paying job.
Soon he’d become a man and go off to college and get some girl pregnant and spend years trapped in a loveless marriage before realizing he’s gay and starts having an affair he keeps secret for twenty years until his boyfriend Joseph has enough of the secrets and tells Mrs. Nathan’s Wife and she tries to sue for custody and then one awkward Thanksgiving she reveals she’s gay too and they have a double wedding and then Nathan spends 15 years of wedded bliss before Joseph dies from complications related to gallbladder surgery and Nathan spreads his ashes over Nantucket Island like they talked about.
They grow up so fast.
Nathan thought maybe this is why no one eats ice cream before lunch, remembering the three boys had ordered from Wayne’s before they hit the rides. Wayne thought it was a bit funny they wanted cones first thing in the morning. Ah but the idea of getting to eat ice cream so early in the day beats ANY day at Graveyard School, in Jeep’s opinion. Wayne commented “Graveyard School” sounded like a good name for a ride, and the boys quickly grew serious telling him such a ride wouldn’t make much money. They recalled all the condescension they received from adults about the horrors that lurked in those hallowed halls of learning, telling them to stop exaggerating because a good education’s important.
Staying alive is what’s important at Graveyard School, thought Nathan.
Thinking about being free from school for summer, plus the money, the ice cream, and all the cool rides like the Tunnel of Blood, Frankenstein’s Castle, and the Minotaur’s Mad Maze, Nathan wondered what he had to be scared of.
Nathan and the boys found themselves being joined by Maria and Stacey as they got in line for the Tunnel of Blood. After taking everyone’s tickets, the operator made sure the gates which separated the ride from the rest of the park were firmly closed. The operator inspected every seat, but told Nathan he had to share with another passenger since the rule is two people per every car. He looked to the front of the train of cars and told the passenger to move.
“You. Come sit with him.”
“For what reason, may I inquire?” a cool, imperious voice asked.
JORDIE JORDIE IT’S JORDIE FLANDERS
Nathan recognized the voice of the Human Computer and realized practically everyone on the ride was a classmate from Graveyard School. Jordie continued to hold her own against the ride’s operator.
The ride guy towered over Jordie, huge and menacing in a vaguely vampirean outfit that included black jeans, a black cape lined with red satin, and a black muscle shirt. Jordie was unfazed. She looked up at the operator unblinkingly. Her face was an emotion-free zone.
“Because I said so,” the man said. “You wanna ride on Fang Gore’s ride, you do what Fang Gore says.” He tapped his chest with a narrow index finger to emphasize his point.
Jordie cocked her head and considered his words for a moment.
The man scowled.
Nathan gulped. Fang lived up to his name. He had large, pointed incisors. Gold ones.
“Very well, Mr. Gore,” said Jordie. “Since it seems that you are obtusely obstinate on this point, I’ll take the seat.”
“Mr. Gore? Mr. Gore? You trying to be funny?” the man said.
Jordie ignored him as she brushed by to sit next to Nathan. “Certainly not,” she said, and settled in beside him.
Point A: HALF A PAGE AND SHE’S ALREADY DONE WITH SOMEONE’S SHIT.
Point B: Jesus Christ, Fang do you live in Hot Topic or did you just rob it.
After collecting everyone’s tickets and making sure the kids are locked in securely, Fang attempts to explain this isn’t an ordinary ride.
“This isn’t a ride for the weak of heart. This isn’t a ride for the easily frightened,” he intoned. “This is the one, the only Tunnel of Blood. There is no other ride like it in the United States, no other ride like it in the world…”
Jason isn’t impressed and tells Fang to start already. Peeved, Fang asks if Jason’s ridden this particular ride before. He says no, but mentions having gone on lots of haunted house rides before. And, Jeep points out, they’ve gone to Graveyard School. This seems to amuse Fang, who claims the Tunnel of Blood is different from anything Jason’s experienced. Doing a good imitation of Dr. Morthouse’s usual grin, Fang explains he’s updated a number of elements and gotten rid of certain old-fashioned special effects. He promises the kids are in for a very interesting ride.
Nathan is creeped out already by Fang’s smile and thinks maybe the Tunnel of Blood isn’t for him. Too little too late, because Fang throws the switch to get the ride in motion.
Before anyone knew what happened, Nathan and the others found themselves in midnight blackness.
They went from blinding summer sunlight to thick darkness. The cheerful noise and activity of the amusement park ceased as if the outside world had been cut away with the stroke of an axe.
The cars go down a steep incline, going down, down, WAAAAAAY down until it suddenly slams to a stop. Jordie mutters something about whiplash and Jason makes a joke about losing his head, which Jeep finds hilarious. Good thing Algie and Kirstin weren’t here. The cars remain perfectly still, and Nathan literally can’t see anything but darkness. He can’t even tell if Jordie’s still sitting next to him, and the voices of Stacey and Maria sound very far away.
Nathan feels his stomach lurch and has to mentally remind himself not to vomit when Jordie asks if anyone’s got a flashlight or anything. Suddenly a wind blew through the tunnel, bringing with it the stench of something foul. Something dead. Nathan can’t help but groan from nausea.
Too bad the second groan wasn’t him.
Nathan claims the new groan didn’t come from him as it persists, becoming higher pitched and turning into a wail. Jason and Jeep definitely don’t like the sound of it, and Jordie’s not helping the situation.
“Special effects,” said Jordie. “And it is rather effective… Here we are, all alone in the dark, trapped, helpless, unable to see what is approaching or from where, unable to ascertain what is making what can only be described as an unnatural sound that-”
“Jordie, stop it,” Stacey said.
Her words and Jordie’s were smothered in the groan that rolled through the tunnel.
Nathan keeps telling himself it’s just a ride, it’s just a ride, but the groaning effect is working all too well on the hapless sixth graders.
The groan turned into a wail so loud that Nathan thought his head would burst. Maria let out a muffled shriek. Even though Nathan couldn’t see her, he knew she had covered her ears. He would have covered his, but he had his hands clamped over his mouth.
Abruptly the cars start moving again and start going upward, making Nathan slam into his seat. But wait. What was that he felt? As if someone had smacked him in the face with a dead fish. Nathan involuntarily reached out and tried to grab whoever had smacked him, but wishes he hadn’t.
He caught a cold, clammy hand.
The fingers tightened around his, and for a heart-stopping moment, shoulder-wrenching moment, Nathan thought he was going to be dragged from the car as it continued to rocket upward.
Pain tore up his shoulder. He punched out with his other hand. His fist hit cold, dead flesh.
The hand twisted in his, then let go. He dropped back into his seat as another hand caught the sleeve of his shirt.
Nathan screamed again.
“Control yourself,” Jordie said. “Sit still.”
Before Nathan could answer, the ride leaped downward again, tipped around a corner, and then slowed to a crawl.
“Aaaaaaaaahahahahahahahahaa!” something howled with demented glee.
I swear to God I love it when Thacker’s on fire. I’d practically quote the entire chapter because I don’t think I could do this justice.
Jeep feebly claims this isn’t scary, when suddenly a new rank smell emerges that brings fond memories of lunch at Graveyard School. The darkness starts to dissipate into red light, and the kids find themselves reaching the best part of the ride. They’re about to learn how the Tunnel of Blood got its name.
The cars have stopped on a rickety wooden bridge, above a boiling lake of red, oozing blood.
A lake of blood, he thought. No, a swamp of blood.
But swamps were green and murky and still. The surface of this liquid glowed and bubbled red, an enormous cauldron of unspeakable ingredients.
No one said anything, the only sound the multitude of bubbles popping and releasing more noxious fumes. Nathan can’t take his eyes off the red ooze, can’t even open his mouth to scream as his gorge rises. That’s when Maria saw it. The arm. The arm floating to the top of the blood, spinning as if being stirred around before sinking beneath the grotesque, sanguine surface. Jordie says it’s just special effects, and Nathan almost believes her before the eyes appeared.
A skull bobbed up like a cork, its jaws opening and closing with the invisible currents.
Then, out of nowhere, something huge and dark swooped down on the train. Bats!
Everyone screams except for Nathan and Jordie. Nathan has his hands clamped over his mouth the whole time. Jordie, meanwhile, was shaken but not stirred. She didn’t move, didn’t make a single sound, until the train finally left the bowl of blood.
Her voice was firm. It was the voice of someone maintaining rigid control over absolute panic. She remained frozen in position as she spoke.
“Bats,” she said, “do not grow to that size. It is not possible.”
[Wing: I love you, Jordie.]
Jeep bluntly asked what the fuck that thing WAS then, and that’s when A SKELETON APPEARED!
As the train rolled along, it turned a comer and a skeleton popped up out of nowhere. Before anyone could scream, the front car struck the figure and it exploded into a million pieces.
They rattled through a gruesome hailstorm of bones.
And in the blink of an eye the darkness was gone and everyone was in the relative safety of the day. On the loading platform, Fang smugly asks if everyone had fun. Jeep, Jason, Stacey and Maria can’t leave fast enough. Jordie slowly gets up, her fists and jaw clenched tight, and has a stare down with Fang.
Fang looks away first.
Turning his attention to Nathan, Fang watches him slowly get out of the car. Once he’s sure he’s got Nathan’s attention, Fang has a little surprise for him.
[Nathan]’s eyes met Fang’s. Fang’s mouth opened. A forked tongue ran over the lower lip.
Nathan heard himself shriek. He put his hands over his mouth and ran to the exit.
Nathan Ebro was sick as a dog.
THE FIRST TWO CHAPTERS.
THIS WAS THE FIRST TWO CHAPTERS IN THE FUCKING BOOK.
Jason finds this funny, and Stacey tells him to stop being a dick as Nathan tosses his proverbial cookies. Jordie’s the only one to give Nathan a napkin when he’s done. She also expresses her vocal annoyance at the several onlookers who feel the need to comment and laugh at Nathan’s nausea.
A hand thrust a paper napkin at Nathan.
“You’ll need this,” Jordie said.
He took the napkin gratefully. Dimly he heard the comments of passersby. “Euuuwww,” he heard one woman say.
Jordie said in a carrying voice, “The necessity of the continued existence of the majority of people eludes me at this moment.”
Nathan wasn’t sure, but he thought he saw the crowd drew back.
Because when Jordie Flanders tells you to fuck off you better fuck off.
Jeep gives Nathan a can of soda to drink from, and as he begins to calm down Nathan is surprised by how normal everything seems. The sun’s shining, people are laughing. He then remembers not everyone has a forked tongue like Mr. Fang Gore.
On his way back to Wayne’s Whirled, Stacey advises Nathan not to let his boss know he threw up or Wayne might think it was because of the ice cream. An experienced businessperson like Stacey Carter, one who ran a pet sitting and dog walking enterprise, knew a little something about tact in the work place. Nathan thanks her for the advice when he notices Jordie’s walking alongside the group. He knew this was odd because Jordie wasn’t really the type who hung out with others on a social basis. Then he remembered the stare down Jordie had with Fang, and wonders if she noticed Fang’s tongue as well.
Nathan leaves the group as he joins his boss at the ice cream stand. Jeep and Jason thank him for the passes and depart with Stacey and Maria. Jordie looks back for a moment, frowning at Nathan, but says nothing. Wayne informs Nathan the lunch rush will be starting soon and asks if he’d like some more ice cream before it begins. Nathan politely turns it down, and resolves to never set foot in the Tunnel of Blood again.
Once the afternoon was over, Wayne told Nathan he was free for the rest of the evening. However, Nathan didn’t feel comfortable at the idea of staying in Vampire Park after dark, so he decided to head home. He passed by several other rides on his way out, including the Snake Palace, the Jump of Doom, and the Horror-Go-Round, a gothic carousel featuring gargoyles and dragons with jeweled saddles.
[Wing: I want to ride the Horror-Go-Round immediately.]
Reaching the front gate, Nathan couldn’t help but scoff at the sign proclaiming Vampire Park was even funner after dark. Yet looking at all the people who were happily having a good time, Nathan had to wonder who was wrong, him or them? Nathan figures it was just the Tunnel of Blood that had him so rattled. It was probably the scariest ride he’d ever been on, and thinks maybe he imagined Fang’s forked tongue because he was so unsettled. Or it was a special effect to scare the customers.
Of course who should come along and question his assumptions but none other than Jordie Flanders. She fell into step next to Nathan as he was leaving the park. Jordie believes further investigation into Fang is required. She explains she was waiting for Nathan because she thinks there’s more to how he got sick after the Tunnel of Blood. Though she has to dumb it down for Nathan.
“I do not think your nauseated response was entirely precipitated by the imbalance of your physical equilibrium.”
Jordie paused and thought deeply. She was clearly accustomed to having to translate her own sentences from Human Computer language to regular human-speak. She said, “Whatever made you sick, I don’t think it was just the Tunnel of Blood ride.”
Nathan doesn’t get what Jordie’s hinting at, figuring he got sick because he had ice cream, rode the Crazy Tilt, and then went on the Tunnel of Blood which was enough to scare ANYONE shitless. Jordie then reveals Fang, or Mr. Gore, doesn’t just have a forked tongue but also a third eyelid.
“It closes over his eye from the bottom up in a somewhat reptilian manner.”
Jesus CHRIST this man was extra before extra was a thing.
Nathan doesn’t believe her, but Jordie calmly insists she saw Fang blink three times and thinks he wanted her to see it. She also mentions it’s opaque and he can probably see through it, the way sharks have eyelids that protect their eyes from blood and gristle when they eat. Apparently this is a real thing too. Bears can hoot and sharks have third eyelids, boy is Graveyard School educational.
Nathan gives away a hint of panic as he exclaims he didn’t see any third eyelid, nor did he see anything else. Jordie stares Nathan down and it’s clear she’s not falling for his lies. He claims if Fang DID have a third eyelid, it’s just a special effect like everything else in the park. Jordie the Skeptic thinks otherwise, and believes something foul is afoot in Vampire Park. Nathan better be careful. He has no idea what to say as Jordie leaves him on the sidewalk. From far away he can see and hear the lights and noises coming from Vampire Park. It’s just an amusement park. Nothing to be scared of.
Over the past three days, Nathan dreaded seeing Jordie again but was aware of her presence lurking around Vampire Park. It reached a point Wayne even asked if Jordie’s his girlfriend. Jordie was becoming a regular customer at Wayne’s Whirled, stopping by the shop several times a day. Nathan had to wonder just how many frozen dairy treats could a Human Computer consume? He told Wayne that Jordie’s just a classmate whom they call the Human Computer, and looked back on the various times he’d seen her in the park. Nathan spotted her on the Horror-Go-Round and watching Frankenstein’s Castle. She’d been asking some of the other park employees questions, and thought maybe Jordie was hanging around the Tunnel of Blood even though Nathan refused to go near it again.
At the very least, Nathan started to think Vampire Park was a fun place to work in. He just had a bad first day and wasn’t going to let it sour the rest of his summer employment. Surviving a year in Graveyard School probably had a hand in making him jumpy, too. If only Jordie’s presence didn’t unnerve him so much. What was she trying to prove?
Jordie stepped up to the counter and plunked down a handful of change. “Plain vanilla,” she said. “Small.”
Wayne pushed the change back toward her. “On the house,” he said. “We like to do that for our good customers.”
“Oh,” said Jordie looking pleased. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” said Wayne. “Anything for a friend of Nathan’s.”
“Oh,” said Jordie, looking less pleased.
OH MY GOD I LOVE HER SO MUCH YOU DON’T UNDERSTAAAAAAAAAND
JUST THE FUCKING SNARK THAT RADIATES FROM THIS SCENE, I CAN FEEL JORDIE’S ENTHUSIASM DWINDLING.
[Wing: AAAAAAH SHE’S ADORABLE I LOVE HER.]
While eating her cone, Jordie starts asking Wayne questions about Vampire Park and how long he’s worked for the organization. Wayne reveals he’s been with the park since it was originally owned by the “Awesome Amusement Company,” before Fang bought the entire outfit. It seems Fang only recently became the boss last year, and he’s the one who came up with the horror motif. Wayne never heard of Fang Gore before the previous year, but he admits Fang’s revamp had been great for business. He figures Fang must’ve been loaded already to afford all the new equipment that was needed to redo the park’s aesthetic. He’s smart, but he’s also high strung regarding who operates which attraction. That’s why Fang’s running the Tunnel of Blood himself. According to Wayne, Fang refuses to let anyone else near that ride. He even fired someone for attempting to do repairs on Frankenstein’s Castle without his permission.
Jordie thanks Wayne for the ice cream and the info before departing. While helping with a group of hungry kids, Nathan’s trying to figure out why Fang’s so persnickety about the Tunnel of Blood. Like Fang’s trying to hide something. The thought of something going wrong with that ride, especially the part above the lake of blood, made Nathan shudder.
Naturally Jordie was waiting for Nathan again at the end of the day. Nathan had already prepared a speech about Fang’s desire to protect his beloved ride being the same way his dad was overly cautious about his new car, but Jordie wouldn’t hear it. Jordie explains she’s been watching the Tunnel of Blood for several days, and Fang’s level of caution warrants attention.
- The entire ride is behind a fence.
- He keeps the fence and door padlocked at lunch.
- He keeps lights on the Tunnel going at all times, even at night when the park is closed.
Nathan can’t help but feel newfound respect for Jordie when he learns she once stayed in the park at night. AFTER it was closed. Jordie adds these are special. Before one of the guards chased her away, she was able to get a good enough look at those lights. It seems the spotlights that Fang keeps on the Tunnel of Blood at all times replicate sunlight, like the lights used for plants.
“So what you’re saying is that the sun never sets on the Tunnel of Blood,” Nathan said.
Jordie gave Nathan a look of surprise, as if she hadn’t expected him to get it.
Nathan hadn’t exactly gotten it. He’d only been trying to be funny.
But the full import of his words sank in as Jordie replied. “That’s exactly what I am saying. Isn’t that an interesting arrangement to find in a place called Vampire Park?”
That’s it for Nathan and he tells Jordie to get over herself. It’s just not possible. Jordie reminds him they also said the Titanic couldn’t sink, but Nathan exclaims that’s not the same thing at all. Jordie still feels they need to keep investigating the Tunnel of Blood. Nathan argues otherwise, that the facts say they need to stay AWAY from the Tunnel of Blood regardless if there are any vampires or not. Jordie figures if Nathan’s too scared to investigate she’ll keep doing it by herself. Nathan responds he’s not scared, just sane. Jordie dismissively responds with what is essentially “Uh-huh” and leaves.
Over the next few days Nathan realized there was indeed something very wrong with the Tunnel of Blood. The people who got on the ride looked VERY different once they got off.
People climbed into their seats laughing and joking. When the train reemerged from the Tunnel, they were rigid and still. Pink people were pale or had spots of agitated color on their cheeks. Darker people were ashen gray or faintly greenish in complexion. All looked as if the experience had somehow drained essential blood from their faces.
Nathan didn’t understand it. No one looked like they enjoyed the ride at all, and yet the Tunnel of Blood was clearly the most popular attraction in the entire carnival. They were sheep, all of them.
Nathan thought maybe Fang was a vampire after all, but felt it didn’t make sense. Fang didn’t shy away from sunlight or try to cover his skin with long-sleeved clothing or sunglasses. He’d also seen Fang eating at Wayne’s Whirled, and tried to recall if there was some rule about vampires eating human food. Boy wouldn’t it be great if Nathan went to school with a vampire or a member of a vampire monitoring agency who could answer all these questions?
[Wing: Psh, Jeep’s family is clearly off … being lied to … at summer camp for vampires?]
Without realizing it, Nathan was so lost in thought he’d drifted over to the Tunnel of Blood. Fang grinned and asked if Nathan wanted to exercise his free ride privileges. He can even invite along his girlfriend. The one Fang has seen a LOT around the park.
Claiming Jordie’s not his girlfriend, Nathan hastily points to Frankenstein’s Castle and says he’s going on THAT ride. Fang likes this answer, and hopes Nathan has fun…
Quickly making his way through the fence separating the faux castle from the rest of Vampire Park, Nathan saw the ride was also surrounded by a moat filled with slimy green water. The woman in the ticket booth wore a gold chain that spelled out the name “Mary.” She silently watched as Nathan walked across the drawbridge to the castle’s entrance. Unfortunately no one else appeared to be in the castle with him, and no one else entered before the doors closed.
Reminding himself this is just a ride, Nathan saw a row of lights illuminate the way to a set of chairs. A voice on a loudspeaker welcomes Nathan inside and asks he take a seat (Not him directly, mind you). The chairs are on a conveyor belt that moves down a series of several rooms and several different scenes. All the rooms are separated by glass walls. The first scene shows a laboratory where two men are busy working on something hidden by a shroud. The taller man, clearly Dr. Frankenstein, rips off the covering to unveil a hideously scarred imitation of a human man. Nathan saw it coming and he still gasped when he saw the amount of detail on the monster.
The next scene showed the doctor introducing his creation to a group of people in a furnished sitting room. One woman’s so horrified she faints.
The next scene is the lab again, only it’s a total disaster. Everything’s been destroyed, the walls are covered in “Paint,” and the monster’s still rampaging. Dr. Frankenstein has gashes on his face, his clothes are torn, and he throws himself against the glass screaming for help.
The lights go dim and Nathan’s trying to process what he saw when he feels the chairs got rocked back as if something was trying to come up through the floor. Suddenly the same voice from before directs Nathan to the exit, wishing he didn’t have to go. Nathan’s eager to leave when he hears glass breaking and the actor playing Dr. Frankenstein comes barreling down the corridor. He screams at Nathan to save himself, but Nathan thinks it’s all part of the show. That’s when he turns around and sees the monster making his way towards them. The fake doctor throws Nathan out of his way and sprints for the exit. As the door slams shut, Nathan finds himself alone with the hungry monster.
Grabbing Nathan’s leg, the monster tries to drag him closer when Nathan kicks him as hard as he can. For added measure he stomps on the monster’s hand. On his feet, Nathan plunges towards the exit headfirst and bursts through. Outside near the drawbridge, he doesn’t see the doctor anywhere while people pay for tickets and others walk by the castle.
Angry, Nathan marches towards the ticket booth ahead of the customers and voices his displeasure with Mary. He tells her it kind of goes over the top having the doctor actor shove people around, and then have the “Monster” attack. Like seriously, have you not heard of lawsuits? He really did hurt Nathan!
Mary chewed her gum rapidly, frowning. She had the intense look of someone who spent too much time imagining things, like the English teacher who kept telling everyone she was really a writer and read all her wacko stories to the class.
Anyway, Mary has no idea what Nathan’s talking about as he goes into detail about the monster smashing the glass and the whole chase sequence thing. He doesn’t think the actors should be allowed to physically push around the customers. Mary’s bored expression suddenly becomes alert, telling Nathan he’s got an active imagination and he should be grateful he got a free ride. And he doesn’t look dead, does he?
“I got lucky!” said Nathan.
“That’s right,” she said. “You were lucky to ride this ride for free.”
Since this isn’t an argument he’ll win, Nathan limps away from the castle entrance. Waiting for Nathan is Jordie, who asks if he had fun before pointing to the ticket booth and mentioning Nathan’s the last one to experience it today. Nathan turns around to see the line’s gone and so is Mary. On the booth there’s a sign saying the castle’s temporarily closed. And the drawbridge over the moat has been pulled up.
Jordie inquires about what Nathan experienced in the castle. Nathan tries to play the denial card saying he imagined things, but his torn pants and limp betray him. Nathan tries to think of what to say as Jordie cross examines him, before finally asking why this weird shit’s happening to him. Jordie figures Fang and Mary tried to scare him because they know he’s aware something freaky’s going on AND he’s a friend of her’s. Nathan decides not to correct her on that point, dick.
Jordie puts it best. Fang knows she’s been investigating and assumes Nathan’s helping her. To stop Nathan, Fang arranges to have Mary give Nathan a special ride on Frankenstein’s Castle when no one else is in it as well. Jordie wonders what the plan really was, to scare Nathan or punch out his ticket for good. Put a period to the end of his existence. Terminate him. Although even that seems a little extreme AND unnecessary. Jordie thinks the best course of action Nathan should take is to pretend the trip through Frankenstein’s Castle worked, that it left him thoroughly freaked out. Maybe even traumatized. He tells Wayne who’ll probably mention it to Fang, and that will get Fang off Nathan’s back.
Now Nathan’s pissed because it sounds like Jordie wants him to act like a chicken. Channeling Marty McFly, Nathan refuses to entertain the notion and he makes it clear he’s not helping Jordie with her investigation. She innocently asks him why? Is it because he really is afraid? Nathan stammers he’s not scared, he just, just doesn’t want anyone else to hear and get teased for it. Jordie thinks the only people who would know are Fang, Wayne, and possibly Mary. Nathan relents until Jordie discusses the next step in her investigation is to spend the night in Vampire Park.
Nathan thinks Jordie’s totally lost it, exclaiming she’s nuts, bonkers, demented. Jordie disagrees and asks if he’s got a better idea to figure out what’s behind the malevolence in Vampire Park? Having none, Nathan says they could get caught. Jordie easily explains they can use the “Sleepover” tactic to fool their parents. Nathan says he’s sleeping over at Jeep’s house, Jordie at Maria’s, and all they have to do is get home the next morning no problem. Of course Nathan doesn’t believe Jordie, exclaiming their parents will find out when the police call to inform that their mangled, shredded remains were found in Vampire Park.
That gets to Jordie a little. Not enough to call off the plan, but to exercise caution in the execution. Nathan’s losing what little patience he had left.
Nathan stomped his feet. He waved his arms. He tore his hair. He did a good imitation of his mother when the car broke down, or his father when he was paying bills.
Jordie’s hella unimpressed, and Nathan finally relents. That settled, she goes over what Nathan should do. He has to spend the next couple of days exaggerating about what a spoopy time he had in Frankenstein’s Castle. Say it scared him so much he’s never going on any of the rides in Vampire Park again. After that, they’ll spend one night in the park after closing. Again Nathan says he has to act like a chicken.
“Although I’ve never seen a chicken engage in cowardly behavior. Avian behavior patterns tend to be directed at self-preservation and the survival of the species. Courage is not a factor.”
“Whatever,” Nathan said gloomily.
Nathan barely listened to Jordie listing the exact instructions for her plans. He was too busy thinking about how he agreed to spend the night in a possibly haunted (or worse) theme park. Did this mean he had two days left to live? And there was so much he wanted to do.
On the day of the planned… a-hem, stake out (geddit Wing because Vampire Park?) [Wing: NOPE.], Nathan’s parents wished him a good night at Jeep’s place. Before he left the house, Nathan took one last look at his mom and dad. He wondered how much they’d miss him after he was gone.
Nathan’s lack of enthusiasm multiplied at work when Jason arrived at Wayne’s World, asking if Nathan’s had more chances to hang out with his best friend Frankie. That’s when Nathan noticed the guilty look on Wayne’s face. Wayne admits he accidentally kinda sorta mentioned offhand how freaked Nathan got because of the castle, and apologizes seeing it wasn’t the best thing to do. Wayne at least tries to make up for it by bluntly telling Jason off when the douche asks if they have “Chicken Yellow” flavored ice cream. Annoyed by Wayne’s glaring, Jason loses his appetite. Wayne tells him to beat it.
I can appreciate these glimmers in these books, where adults act like actual fucking adults and don’t simply ignore bullying.
Nathan was less concerned about Jason and more worried about what would happen that night. Once Nathan was done at Wayne’s, he went looking for Jordie and realized he hadn’t seen her all day. Had she flaked on him? Grabbing his overnight pack, Nathan hurried to the storage shed where the two had previously conversed in private. He watched as the lights for the different attractions went off. All except for the Tunnel of Blood, of course. Thinking Jordie had indeed wussed out after all her nagging, Nathan decided now was the time to [INSERT TITLE HERE].
Whoops there she at.
Jordie quickly appeared around the corner of the shed and told Nathan to hurry. Dropping her own pack, Jordie thinks one of the meathead guards followed her. She directs Nathan to the back of a platform stage and tells him to crawl underneath. Nathan hopes as he follows after Jordie that they don’t get buried alive underneath the stage. The two are able to look up through the wooden slats and overhear park goers and employees talking. Night grows darker, but the lights from the Tunnel of Blood remain just as bright. Soon the kids hear metal shutters being pulled down and doors being locked.
But Jordie can’t restrain herself from being grossed out when a rat starts to nibbling a candy apple on the ground.
“A rat. Oh… yuck.”
That’s probably one letter short of what Jordie REALLY wanted to say.
Nathan tries to assure Jordie the rat won’t bother them. Even though she argues if there’s one rat there tends to be more nearby, she agrees with him. Given the choice between a human and a candy apple, which would you eat?
Wondering how long they’ll have to wait, Nathan receives an answer when he notices a pair of steel toed boots and a pair of black sneakers through the platform slats. The sneakers and boots are joined by a pair of sandals. Nathan and Jordie recognize two of the voices above them as Fang and Mary, with the third a security guard. Fang’s given confirmation that everything’s locked up and all the lights are on, but Fang tells the guard to be extra careful because of the snoopy kids hanging around the park. Mary asks if the guard made absolutely sure all the guests left; he says no one’s left in the park but “Us monsters.”
After Boots leaves, Mary voices her complaints about Frankenstein’s Castle. She claims things are getting “Out of control” and someone might get hurt. Fang waves away her worries, feeling they made a mistake when they set Nathan up but it’s still under control. He swears if Nathan was here right now he’d scare him even worse than Mary did. Mary reminds Fang about Jordie, who gives Mary the creeps because she can tell Jordie’s not scared.
“We’re losing control, Fang. I thought you said you could handle things. I don’t think you have any idea of the powers you’ve gone up against.”
Fang’s voiced carried back to [Nathan and Jordie]. He said, “Stop worrying. And if those kids make trouble, we’ve got plenty of hungry mouths to feed. They’d make a nice dinner for…”
Nathan and Jordie don’t hear who Fang would like to feed them to, as the park owner and employee walk out of earshot.
Jordie leaves the stage first, thinking now’s the time to investigate. Nathan’s going for the Tunnel of Blood, Jordie will head for Frankenstein’s Castle. Sure Nathan wasn’t thrilled about the arrangement, but what else could he do?
Having retrieved his pack from the hiding spot near the storage shed, Nathan removed a pair of wire cutters and cut a hole in the fence around Frankenstein’s Castle. It was just big enough for the kids to fit through. The moat water still looked as nasty and slimy as it did in the day. Nathan wondered if Fang kept sharks in the moat; Jordie doesn’t care as long as it’s not rats. Did the Human Computer just joke? OH SHIT SHE SMILED.
Jordie explains she’ll figure out how to lower the drawbridge to get inside the castle. If she can’t, she’ll swim across the moat, mentioning that she’s wearing her bathing suit underneath her clothes. She can carry her stuff on top of her head, swearing she’s a most efficient swimmer. Nathan can tell even though Jordie’s trying to joke, she’s grimacing a little. She IS scared after all. This does not bode well.
Wanting to move on, Jordie reminds Nathan she’ll be waiting for him outside the Tunnel of Blood in an hour. If she’s not at the entrance, Jordie tells him to check the castle. That settled, Nathan departs for the Tunnel.
Cutting a hole in the Tunnel’s fence, Nathan has to duck behind two booths when he hears someone coming. He spies the steel toed boots from earlier and gets a good luck at the security guard. As the guard thumps on the booth shutters and doors, Nathan tries to hide deeper in the shadows behind the booth. Unfortunately Nathan’s not a stealthy one and trips behind a garbage can. Luckily, he catches a break when the guard gets distracted, or rather, freaked out by the sight of some rats and kicks the trash can. Leaving to check the rest of the booths, the guard never noticed Nathan. Which left Nathan free to return to the Tunnel of Blood.
It’s surprisingly easy to get into the actual ride, since there’s only a heavy bar slid across the door. Nathan remembers Fang’s been more worried about keeping something from LEAVING the Tunnel instead of ENTERING it. Closing the door behind him (and praying the bar didn’t slide back over it), Nathan’s eyes adjusted to the dark as he pulled out a tiny key ring flashlight. For added measure he had a regular flashlight in his pack along with extra batteries. He wasn’t taking chances.
Holding the light on the ground, Nathan feels the train slats laid on the floor. The slats are close enough together Nathan won’t have to worry about his feet getting stuck between them. It’s so silent inside the Tunnel that Nathan could hear his own heart beating. His blood pumping. Could whatever was inside the Tunnel hear it too? Especially if it could see in the dark and turn into a bat or wolf or-stop it Nathan you’re spooking yourself.
Following the tracks, Nathan realizes the length of the ride is actually rather short. It just SEEMED nightmarishly long. He went down and up and inspected the walls made to look like a cave, but with cobwebs. Did real caves have cobwebs? He didn’t see where the hand that grabbed him could’ve emerged from, or what it could’ve been attached to. What if it really had been just a special effect? All done with com-OH SHIT THERE’S THE GROANING AGAIN.
Nathan immediately turns the flashlight off. He really hopes he stepped on something to trigger the groan, but knew he was kidding himself. The silence that followed was horrific, and Nathan had to force himself to keep moving. His light wasn’t necessary, because up ahead was the bridge over the lake of blood. He saw the bridge had no railing, and he could easily fall over and land in the soup.
The smell was bad enough, but what Nathan saw in the “Water” was more than he asked for.
Something small and white moved into view, across the boiling surface of the water.
It was the skeleton of some small creature. But it wasn’t being cared by the boiling current, Nathan realized.
It was swimming, paddling with its bony feet, swinging an empty skull from side to side as if it were scanning the bloodred swamp with empty sockets.
As Nathan watched in horror, the skeleton raised its head to stare directly at him.
Nathan leaped back with a shriek.
He fell off the bridge.
Nathan grabbed onto the wooden slats just in time, but one hand came loose. His key ring fell into the swamp, which was broiling and bubbling in anticipation as the small skeleton hungrily swam around waiting for Nathan to fall. Nathan screamed at the bony creature to fuck off as he tried to hoist himself back onto the bridge, but it didn’t work. He feared his only choice was to move from slat to slat, like the monkey bars on the school playground, until he reached the other end of the bridge.
He better hurry because company’s arrived.
Glancing down, he saw that the small skeleton had been joined by others and that they were all opening and shutting their mouths, hungrily gnashing their small, razor-edged teeth.
Nathan tries his hardest not to look down, to ignore the burning pain in his shoulders and hands as well as the clicking sound getting louder as the skeletons grow angrier. He finally reaches the other end of the bridge and stubbornly kicks his feet out trying to get a toe hold in the wall to support himself. He’s finally able to brace himself against the wall and pull himself back up onto the track.
Nathan crawls off the bridge into the next tunnel, not stopping until he’s sure he’s on solid ground. Seeing the cauldron of hungry creatures, Nathan finally believes Jordie’s initial assumption that something is very, very wrong in this amusement park.
Having rested long enough, Nathan briefly forgets where he is before he fishes out the bigger flashlight from his pack. He expects at some point in this section of the ride the exploding skeleton will appear. Did it have a life of its own? Nathan’s further dismayed when he sees his watch reads midnight. Had he been in the Tunnel for that long? Or is it always midnight in the Tunnel of Blood?
Nathan tries to tell himself it’ll only get better, but he knew that wasn’t true. He just played Tarzan above a lake of blood filled with skeletal monsters that wanted to eat him, and he knew there was still something else hiding in here. Like a vampire. A vampire that could be behind him RIGHT NOW!
Oh thank God it’s not.
BUT THE TRAIN IS COMING!
Nathan could feel tremors as the train approached him on the tracks. He freezes as he sees the cars barreling towards him, but then at the last second throws himself forward INTO the front car! Nathan struggles to get all the way into the car and is glad he’s just alive.
So’s the vampire sitting in the car behind hiiiiiiiiiiiiii-FUCK!
Nathan screams, and that makes the vampire happier. Even though he didn’t have gold teeth like Fang, the vampire was still inhumanly tall and wore a cape that made him look immense. Nathan holds his flashlight up to the vampire’s face, begging him not to kill him. The vampire calmly asks Nathan lower the light and he’ll live longer. Tch. Humans. They’re always so fond of their precious light. So annoying.
Nathan wonders if the flashlight’s beam is strong enough to kill the creature, but the vampire seemingly reads Nathan’s mind and tells him not to bother. He likens the flashlight to a mosquito bite. Annoying but not deadly. Nathan asks if the vampire lives in the Tunnel of Blood, and the vampire bitterly explains he’s only here because of Fang.
Fang discovered where this particular vampire slept during the day and figured out a way to trap him. While the vampire’s talking, Nathan’s trying to be sneaky as he pulls out a small hand mirror. Again, futile. Nathan holds the mirror up to the vampire, who only laughs.
“A noble effort,” the vampire said. “But a useless one. Some branches of my family, some among us, can endure daylight, with the proper precautions. Some… eat garlic.” A look of revulsion passed over his face. “Some fear certain signs. More than a few have a great fear of mirrors. I myself find garlic repulsive, but not overwhelmingly so. Daylight will destroy me. But I have never feared the mirror.”
Holy shit Wing, Thacker’s actually backing up the stuff she discussed in “Camp Dracula.”
As the train keeps moving, the vampire explains how Fang’s been forcing him to “Work” in the Tunnel of Blood. Fang protects the vampire from the light as long as he doesn’t try to snack on the guests. Which explains why no one’s seemingly been drained of blood and why no one thought to check for bite marks. Nathan understands he means the sun lamps, and he actually does feel sorry for the vampire. He decides not to ask him about the bowl of blood and the skeletons since, hello, tact.
The train stops and the vampire tells Nathan he can just leave. He points to the doors and they slowly open, telling Nathan he won’t become a snack if he leaves NOW. Nathan obliges, but the moment he steps outside he hears Fang’s voice. Fang’s so angry he’s fumbling with the lock on the fence, screaming for the guard to help. Nathan tries to leave through the fence, but the guard’s coming his way and retreats back inside. Fang’s having no luck with the gate, which makes sense since Nathan jammed a piece of chewed gum in the lock when he first arrived. But the gate’s not gonna hold for long.
Nathan is forced to retreat inside the control booth, throwing himself against the wooden door to break the lock. As Fang keeps working on the gate, Nathan slams his hands down on the control panel hitting multiple buttons. He presses buttons, he flips switches. Doors swing open and shut and music plays. Just as Fang finally breaks through the gate, Nathan slams his palms down on the panel again and the lights go out.
Fang grabs Nathan as he tries to flee, but then he lets Nathan go because he’s got bigger problems to worry over.
The doors of the Tunnel of Blood crashed open and disintegrated. The train hurtled through in a puff of smoke and a rain of wood.
And standing in the first car, his arms out stretched, his cape flying, was the vampire.
EVERYONE IN THIS PARK IS SO FUCKING EXTRA.
Fang screams at the vampire to stay away from him, running as fast as he can. The vampire stops to lift Nathan off the ground, then releases him. Nathan follows after Fang’s screams, the vampire gliding among the booths.
“I’m sorry!” Nathan heard Fang say.
“So?” the vampire answered.
DRAIN THE LITTLE BITCH!
That’s when Nathan remembers Jordie, but before he finds her he ends up running into a disheveled Mary outside the gate to Frankenstein’s Castle. She’s as happy to see Nathan as Fang was.
“I’m going to get you!” [Mary] screamed. “And your little friend, too!”
“I’m not little!” he heard Jordie shout.
Jordie’s inside the control booth to the castle, telling Nathan to keep his eyes peeled as she opens the castle doors. Mary screams as the monster appears in the castle doorway, and Jordie proceeds to lower the drawbridge. Jordie’s not deterred by Mary saying the monster will rip her apart. The monster thunders across the bridge and Nathan shouts for Jordie to move. She dives out of the control booth, but it turns out Jordie didn’t have to. The monster doesn’t want her, he wants Mary. Mary vainly tries to order the monster to stop, threatening to take him apart again if she must.
When the monster plowed through the fence, it’s clear that wasn’t the smartest thing to say.
[Wing: Hahahaha, Mary threatening to take the monster apart, Mary the mother of the monster, it works on so many levels, I love you and your references, Thacker.]
Nathan goes to find Jordie and tells her the vampire’s loose too. Jordie’s not surprised, and Nathan explains he freed the guy so Fang wouldn’t get him. Feeling their work at Vampire Park isn’t done, Jordie and Nathan follow after Mary.
The monster and the vampire are both at the front gate, as Fang and Mary desperately try to unlock it. Yet the moment the two creatures see one another, they start to fight! Jordie’s not impressed.
“I don’t believe this,” Jordie panted. “Two guys meet and what do they do? They start a fight!”
JORDIE FLANDERS SAID FUCK YOU AND YOUR TOXIC MASCULINE STEREOTYPES!
The vampire and monster demolished numerous stands in their quest for domination. Stuffed animal innards flew through the air. Bottles floated on waves of wooden gore. The carnage. The humanity-! Or lack thereof.
The monster and vampire are so focused on each other it gives Mary and Fang an opening to subdue them. Fang pins a spotlight on the vampire while Mary breaks out a tranquilizer gun. As the vampire screams in agony, the monster directs his attention to Fang and takes out the light before grabbing Fang. No longer in pain, the vampire goes after Mary and twists her gun into a metal pretzel before grabbing her. Jordie is awestruck, Nathan’s terrified. Mary’s screaming, Fang nervously reminds the monster that Mary built him, be angry at her. Then the little chickenshit turns to the vampire and says he can have it all if he wants. Money, the park, whatever.
Having reached common ground, the vampire warmly tells the monster they’ve been fighting the wrong foes. The monster lets out a grunt that sounds like he’s asking if they should kill Fang and Mary. However, the vampire figures they can reach an… understanding, with their former captors. The monster drags Fang back to the castle, with the vampire following behind, Mary in his thrall.
It was some days later when Nathan and Jordie met up again for what was going to be Vampire Park’s final night in Grove Hill. Following the rampage, the park had been closed for renovations, but Wayne and the rest of the park staff had no idea what caused the damage.
Nathan reminisced on how “Frankenstein” totaled the fence; Jordie states “Frankenstein” was the name of the doctor, not the monster. Wondering why the monster didn’t break free before, Jordie explains to Nathan the moat was keeping the monster trapped because he can’t swim.
Well Vampire Park’s good as new, and the kids are in for a surprise when they see who’s running Frankenstein’s Castle. The monster’s in the ticket booth, receiving everyone’s money alongside comments about his “Great” costume. Jordie’s definitely intrigued and heads to check it out while Nathan does his final shift at Wayne’s Whirled (which was spared in the devastation). Nathan does a double shift and Wayne thanks him for all his hard work, saying if Nathan’s interested and if they’re in town next year the job can be his again. Thanking Wayne, Nathan doesn’t mention he had no plan to ever come back to Vampire Park.
On his way to the exit, Nathan saw Jordie was staring at the Tunnel of Blood now with a sign proclaiming “Open After Dark Only.” The moment the sun went down, the blinds over the ticket booth shot up and the kids were greeted by the vampire. He’s running the entire park alongside “Frank” now. The vampire explains Mary has a new job in the castle, with the right costume, while Fang…
The vampire beckons to the Tunnel doors, which swing open. Fang emerges in a vampire costume, looking decidedly UNhappy. With a wave of the vampire’s hand, Fang goes back in and the doors slam shut. Nathan thought he heard Fang screaming in despair.
Soon a dozen kids, all classmates from Graveyard School, hurried to ride the Tunnel of the Blood. The vampire politely asks if Nathan and Jordie are interested, to which Nathan quickly says no. Jason starts to tease Nathan again, asking if Nathan’s scared. Nathan says yes he’s fucking scared and leaves with Jordie.
Neither one looked back as they got far, far away from Vampire Park.
After the last two kids were seated in the train, the vampire smiled.
I’m gonna say right now that Nathan and Jordie were absolutely fucking justified in freeing the vampire and monster. Why?
Thacker showed us in “Camp Dracula” and “Little School of Horrors” that vampires in the Graveyard School universe are just regular people who live differently. Yes they drink blood and have powers, but so what? Think about all the kids from Camp Westerra, Martin, Dawn, Lucian, William, as well as Eduardo from Mrs. Storch’s class. Now think about how Fang essentially kidnapped someone and used him for slave labor. We have no idea about what kind of person the vampire was before Fang abducted him, but that doesn’t make it any less fucked up that he was held hostage just because he’s a vampire.
Then you’ve got Mary, who stitched together an entire person and brought him to life FOR A FUCKING CARNIVAL RIDE.
Fang and Mary are probably the most loathsome villains Thacker’s ever used in this series.
Really though, Jeep’s family should be ashamed of themselves that all this was going on right under their fucking noses. Why did they even send him to Camp Westerra in the first place if they couldn’t figure out there’s at least one vampire in Grove Hill, not even counting Eduardo.
I love how Jordie took charge of the situation and investigated by herself simply because she suspected something was wrong. Her snark, her lack of enthusiasm to being thought of as a friend to Nathan but still willing to work alongside him, I just, I, I-I *sob* I JUST LOVE HER SO MUUUUUUUUCH.
WING HOLD ME I’M NOT PREPARED TO SAY GOODBYE.
Anyway join us next month for what I can only call Thacker’s official apology for “Let’s Scare The Teacher To Death.”
Now if you’ll excuse me I’m gonna go lay in bed thinking of how this is the last book Jordie Flanders ever appeared in-DON’T LOOK AT ME!
[Wing: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m not ready for the end of this series.]
Activities Section: Monster crossword.
Polly Hannah’s Wardrobe: