As I got deeper into the woods, I realized it had become quiet. It was a weird sound. Or non-sound, I guess.
In the city, there was always noise, no matter where I went. If I stopped on the sidewalk, closed my eyes, and just listened, I’d hear taxi horns and voices and footsteps (plus someone would shove me and scream at me to get out of the way).
Standing in this silence made my skin crawl. It was weird to know I was the only person around. And even weirder to know these woods belonged to my family.
Continuing through the trees, I tilted my head back, taking in limbs so thick I could barely see through to the sky. Water burbled somewhere. A creek? That would be cool. Especially if there was a rock to lie out on, someplace quiet where I could work on my first real screenplay.
I fought past branches and brush toward the water, almost face-planting when I tripped on a root sticking up from the ground. Flip-flops had been a dumb idea.
Eventually, I saw the lip of a wide creek. I climbed down a steep, short hill to the water’s edge, slipping a couple of times on the way.
“Wow!” I said aloud when I got to the bottom, my voice echoing.
It was really pretty down there. The creek’s current was fast, racing over rocks and splashing against fallen limbs. About twenty feet farther down, there was a pile of tree branches and leaves in the middle of the creek. It looked like beavers had been building a dam. Water ran around it in deep currents, making a sucking sound.
I wished Casey and Taylor were here. We could hang out with lawn chairs and books, Casey sitting under a huge hat, slathered with SPF150 to protect her fair skin, and Taylor in baby oil to bring out her tan.
I picked up a rock and tried to skim it across the water’s surface. It sank.
Suddenly, the hairs stood up on the back of my neck, and even though it made no sense at all, I had this crazy idea that someone was watching me. I could imagine exactly how I’d look as a camera captured my stalker’s point of view—stepping hesitantly, slow. Vulnerable. Maybe seen in a flash frame, to show the stalker close . . . then closer . . . closer. . . .
I tried to shake off the feeling, but my heart drummed against my chest like my body was trying to warn my mind.
Even though I felt paranoid for doing it, I swiveled my head around, making sure everything was in order. You know, no one-eyed fisherman clutching an ax and giggling crazily behind a tree.
Nothing. The water kept burbling lazily in the creek and, far away, a bird called out. Through the gaps above in the trees, the clouds in the bright blue sky looked like cotton candy. In every way, it seemed like a beautiful day for a walk in the woods.
So how come the feeling was still there?
I decided to go back to the house. In movies, when people go against their gut instinct, they end up biting it. I started to climb up the bank, using a root sticking out of the ground as leverage. It was hard going because my hands were shaking and my legs felt weak.
Water splashed in the creek. I froze, one hand grasping a root and the other gripping a handful of gritty mud. What was that? A beaver? A deer? Or—
Someone—or something—moaned. The sound came from near the beaver dam.
I reached for another root, but it snapped off in my hand. With a lurch, I grabbed for another one. Scrambling, not even caring about the mud that was getting all over my clothes, I crawled to the top of the hill.
Stealing a look over my shoulder, I saw bubbles rippling the water, and a huge dark form moving below the surface.
Maybe it’s a turtle, I thought. But turtles don’t thrash around like that, and they aren’t six feet long.
All at once, the thing shot out of the water with a huge splash, like someone coming up after a dive. I screamed and fell backward, landing hard on my butt and rattling my teeth.
The creature had two arms and two legs like a person, but everything else was just . . . wrong. Fishlike. Water dripped from its scaly body, which shimmered in the sunlight. The creature lifted its green face, its flat nose quivering like it was smelling something.
It locked eyes with me. For what felt like forever, we were frozen, staring at each other. My heart hammered so loudly I was sure the creature could hear it.
What was this thing? It looked like the supernatural villain in a blockbuster film, but there was no mask, no zipper up the front of its body, no campy sound effects.
Meaning, it looked completely real. And this wasn’t a movie. So, based on logic . . .
It opened its mouth, displaying sharp, triangular black teeth and a dark purple tongue.“Don’t come any closer!” I croaked.
Run! It was the first rule of monster movies. Run. Don’t try to get a better look. But I was rooted to the spot. Monster bait.
The creature shook its head. It didn’t have ears— just dark holes where each ear should have been.
I glared at it, trying to hide how scared I was. “What do you want?”
The creature licked its rubbery lips. When it spoke, its voice was a loud rasp. “Brains.”
Thirteen-year-old Lissa Black is miserable when her parents force her to move from New York City (the perfect home for an aspiring writer/director/actress) to Freeburg, Pennsylvania, nowhere capital of the world. There’s nothing to do there, except play her little sister Haylie’s favorite new game, Monsterville, and hang out with her new neighbor Adam.
But when a walk in the woods lands her face-to-face with a swamp monster hungry for brains and then a Sasquatch that moos, even Lissa can’t call her new home totally boring. With Adam’s help, she catches the culprit behind the drama: a shape-shifting goblin who’s fled from the monster world of Down Below.
And what do you do with a creature that can be literally anything? Make monster movies, of course! Lissa is convinced that Blue will be the secret to her big break.
But when Haylie goes missing on Halloween, Lissa, Adam, and the monster must venture Down Below to stage a rescue—and face the real Monsterville, which is anything but a game.
Monsterville is a fusion of The Boxtrolls, Jumanji, and Candyland, weaving together friendship, family, and monsters into a funny fantasy-horror brimming with heart from a great new middle grade voice.