In Ready for a Scare?, Kelly Garcia is all set to have the perfect night. Her parents are stuck out of town, and although they hired a babysitter, Kelly is excited to basically be on her own for the sleepover she's having in celebration of her birthday. It's a virtual, webcam sleepover where her friends can scare each other silly by telling ghost stories and summoning the spirit of Miss Mary, a local legend. But when her friends start disappearing one by one and the babysitter is nowhere to be found, Kelly starts getting scared...for real. Could Miss Mary's ghost be kidnapping everyone? Will Kelly be next? Ready for a Scare? will be a level 5 on the Creep-o-Meter. In The Show Must Go On!, Bree Hart has secretly wanted to act on stage for as long as she could remember-it's all she ever thinks about. Determined to make her dream come true, Bree tries out for this year's school play, The Last Sleepover -and gets the starring role! After a few creepy incidents on set and persistent nightmares at home, Bree quickly learns that this is no ordinary school play. Is it stage fright? Or is the play haunted? The Show Must Go On! will be a level 4 on the Creep-o-Meter.
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October 01, 2011
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Excerpt from The Show Must Go On! by P.J. Night
Felix Gomez shoved aside a rack of hanging costumes and looked around backstage in the auditorium of Thomas Jefferson Middle School. He had been the drama teacher at the school for a few years now, and he really wanted to do something different this year. He would put on a new play, he decided, not just the same old, same old. Tasked with revitalizing the school's sagging theater program, he had spent weeks reading new plays, but so far nothing had grabbed him.
Then it started--an inexplicable urge, at first vague, then specifically focused on the backstage area of the school's auditorium. Gomez had no idea why he was drawn back there, but somehow he knew that the obsessed, panicky state of mind that had gripped him for days now could only be eased by searching there.
In a dark corner, buried under long-discarded props and scenery, Gomez spotted an old steamer trunk. He knew instantly that this was what had been calling out to him, driving his obsession.
Throwing open the trunk, his hand--feeling as if it were being controlled by some other force--reached in. He pushed aside old props and grasped a stack of pages, bound together by three rusted metal fasteners.
Blowing off a cloud of dust from the top, Gomez read the title of the play. The Last Sleepover. He slammed the lid of the truck and sat down in the dim light to read the play. It looked like it had been typed on a typewriter. "This is it!" he said to himself before he had read a single word. "I know it. This the play I have been looking for!"
But as Gomez read the play, the force that had driven him here battled with a new feeling, one of inexplicable anxiety and horror. The more he read, the more intense the feeling of dread grew. Somewhere deep inside, he knew there was something wrong with the play.
"No. This isn't right," he muttered to himself, staring at the script, fighting the urge that had been driving him. "I can't do it. I won't put on this play."
Gomez stood and hurried to the trunk to put the play back where he'd found it. Feeling a sudden sharp pain in his ankle, he tripped over a low stool that he was certain had not been there a moment before. He crashed to the ground and clutched his right leg in pain.
Bree Hart paced up and down the center aisle of the Thomas Jefferson Middle School auditorium and nervously twirled her curly dark hair around her finger. The meeting for students interested in auditioning for this year's play was about to begin. The auditorium was filled with energized students, busily chatting, eager to know what the play would be about. Bree had never felt this way before. She was equal parts excited and terrified.
"Trying to wear a hole through the carpet?" asked someone from behind Bree.
She spun around to face her best friend, Melissa Hwang.
"Oh, Lis, I'm so glad you came," Bree said, hugging her friend. "I'm so nervous!"
"I told you I would come," Melissa replied. "You think you're the only one who wants to be in the play?"
"I can't believe the time is here!" Bree exclaimed. "I've dreamed about acting for as long as I can remember, but I've never had the guts to actually audition for anything."
"Good for you, Bree," Melissa said. "You don't want to spend the rest of your life living in Megan's shadow, do you?"
Bree thought about her older sister, Megan, who had gotten the lead in every school play since the third grade. Melissa was right. It was time for Bree to take center stage.
"I wonder what's keeping Mr. Gomez," Bree said. "He was supposed to be here, like, ten minutes ago."
"Anxious to begin your new life in the theater?" Melissa quipped.
"Something like that, yeah."
Just then the auditorium door swung open.
"And here he is," Melissa said.
But instead of Mr. Gomez, a tall woman strode slowly down the center aisle, carrying a large briefcase. As she passed, Bree noticed the dark circles around her eyes and her jet-black hair.
"Who's that?" Bree whispered to Melissa. Melissa shrugged.
The woman climbed the steps to the stage and walked out to the center. Adjusting the single microphone that had been set up for the auditions, she spoke in a surprisingly pleasant and gentle voice.
"Ladies and gentlemen, if I may have your attention please," the woman began. "My name is Ms. Hollows. Unfortunately, Mr. Gomez had an accident yesterday afternoon. He broke his leg and will not be able to direct the play. I will be your substitute drama teacher for the next few weeks, and I will be directing this year's play."
A buzz went through the crowd. Mr. Gomez was one of the most popular teachers at the school--many of the students sitting in the auditorium that afternoon were there because of him. Bree could hear the sighs of disappointment throughout the room.
"I was really looking forward to working with Mr. Gomez," she moaned.
"Me too," Melissa concurred.
Having given the students a moment to digest this unexpected bit of news, Ms. Hollows continued. "The play I have selected for us to perform is called The Last Sleepover."
Ms. Hollows opened her briefcase and pulled out a thick stack of papers. "I have copies of the play for those interested in auditioning," she said, placing the pile onto a stool next to where she stood. "Please form a line and come up and take a copy. You are to read the play this weekend and decide which role you would like to audition for. Auditions will be held after school on Monday. I will see you then."
One by one the students walked onto the stage, each taking a copy of the play. Bree felt a thrill run through her when she turned and looked out into the sea of empty seats in the auditorium. She pictured herself in the lead role, standing before a cheering crowd, taking her bows, curtain call after curtain call.
"Are you all right, Gabrielle?" someone asked, startling Bree back to reality.
"Oh, yes, sorry, Ms. Hollows," Bree said sheepishly as she picked up a copy of the play and hurried off the stage. Only after she left the stage did Bree realize that she had never told Ms. Hollows her name, especially not her real name. Everyone, except her mother sometimes, called Gabrielle Hart by her nickname, Bree. How did she know? Bree wondered.
"Weird," she said under her breath.
"What's weird?" Melissa asked, falling into step with Bree.
"Somehow Ms. Hollows knows my name already," Bree replied. "And not just my nickname. My real name. No one ever guesses that Bree is short for Gabrielle."
"Well, you are one of the top students in the school," Melissa pointed out. "Maybe she did some research about who she might want in the play."
"Yeah, maybe," Bree replied, not really believing what Melissa had just said. "Anyway, I'll see you later, Lis."
Melissa waved as she ran toward her bus. "Bye."
Later that evening Bree curled up in a big, overstuffed chair in her living room and opened the script. "The Last Sleepover," she read aloud. "By M. P. Wormhouse." Bree read on.
The play told the story of a house haunted by the ghost of a girl who had always wanted to attend a sleepover. As Bree got further and further into the script, she began to read aloud:
"(CARRIE'S BEDROOM IN HER NEW HOUSE. THE HOUSE IS AN OLD VICTORIAN THAT IS BEING REMODELED AND HAS AN ABANDONED, HAUNTED FEEL TO IT. THE TWO OTHER GIRLS WHO HAVE GATHERED AT THE SLEEPOVER ARE HUDDLED AROUND CARRIE. CARRIE SITS IN THE MIDDLE, WITH HER BLACK CAT ON HER LAP.)
CARRIE: Thanks for coming tonight. Ready to hear something creepy?
RACHEL (EXCITED): Awesome!
LAURA (NERVOUS): What?
(CARRIE LEANS IN CLOSE TO THE GIRLS TO TELL THEM HER SECRET.)
CARRIE: Years ago, a girl named Millie lived in this house. She was a shy girl who kept to herself most of the time. Although she didn't have a lot of friends, the thing she wanted most in the world was to be invited to a sleepover. She dreamed about hanging out all night in her pajamas, in a sleeping bag, telling stories, eating, laughing . . .
RACHEL: Having pillow fights.
CARRIE: Having pillow fights. All the cool stuff we're doing tonight. Anyway, Millie waited and waited until finally a girl named Gabby had a sleepover. Gabby invited every girl in her class--every girl, that is, except Millie.