Authors: Tony Abbott
Attack of the Alien Mole Invaders!
The Weird Zone, Book 4
For Ernest and Louise,
steadfast through the years
The Zoney Zone
Jeff Ryan stepped back from the swishing blades of the big helicopter taking off from his front yard.
“I'm off to the shoe store, dear!” yelled Jeff's mother, swinging from a rope ladder above him.
Jeff glanced up and down Birch Street. It was a beautiful sunny Saturday. Other moms might be flipping pancakes or reading the morning newspaper.
Not his mom. She was off to her job at the shoe store.
A moment later, the chopper roared away toward the hills north of Grover's Mill.
Jeff thought to himself. His mother had been saying that for as long as he could remember. But his friends told him there was a secret army base in those hills. A base filled with stuff captured from alien spaceships!
His friends all thought that was very weird.
Jeff sighed to himself. “But Mom would tell me the truth, wouldn't she?”
The giant donut-shaped clock on the Double Dunk Donut Den chimed the hour.
A big puff of steam rose from the oversized pan on the top of Usher's House of Pancakes.
Grover's Mill had not one, but two giant food signs on Main Street.
His friends thought that was also very weird.
Jeff thought it was kind of funny.
“Time to go,” he told himself. Jeff was meeting his friends at Mike Mazur's house to play some street hockey. Mike's street had just been paved and it would be perfect for a game.
Jeff looked down at his skates. They were not in the best shape. They were old and getting older and tighter by the minute. And hockey wasn't really his game. He'd be lucky if he got anywhere near the puck.
Jeff curled the brim of his baseball cap, grabbed his hockey stick, and pushed off down the sidewalk.
Actually, the sidewalk sort of pushed up at him!
“Ooof!” Jeff stumbled, skidded, and landed on his face.
He turned his headâouch!âand saw the problem. A big round bump ran across the sidewalk. In fact, it went completely across the street and up a yard on the other side.
“My lawn!” shrieked a voice from across the street. Jeff craned his neck to see Mr. Sweeney, the janitor of W. Reid Elementary, batting furiously at the bump in his yard with a shovel.
“Uh, do you like it down there, or do you want help?” said a voice.
Jeff looked up. Holly Vickers was standing over him. She was wearing skates, too, had a hockey stick over her shoulder, and a bubble gum bubble growing slowly out of her mouth.
Holly was in Jeff's class at W. Reid Elementary. She was also the sister of his best friend Sean.
went the bubble. Holly reached down and pulled Jeff to his feet. “Weird,” she said. “This street is looking more and more like a crinkle-cut french fry.”
Jeff shrugged, twisting his baseball cap. “Yeah, this bump just suddenly appeared andâ”
The ground thundered!
Jeff dived back to the sidewalkâand this time Holly joined himâas a big, heavy manhole cover shot up from the street next to them! It arced like a basketball going for the net and landed across the street.
“My mailbox!” screamed Mr. Sweeney.
The two kids crawled slowly over to the hole in the street and looked down.
“Red,” said Jeff, squinting into the sewer. “Reddish light. Do you see that?”
“Very weird, Jeff. Very zoney,” Holly said. “Let's get to Mike's before the sky falls down.”
“Or the street falls up!” said Jeff, grabbing his stick and twisting his cap around. “But listen, I just want you to know. Hockey isn't really my game.”
“Yeah, I know, but hurry up, anyway. It's going to be fun,” said Holly, already skating down the street.
“Yeah, lots of fun,” Jeff mumbled, his toes starting to ache in his skates.
Two minutes later, they rolled down Cedar Circle. Mike was in front of his house. He was swatting a round black puck around with his stick. Liz Duffey sat on the curb, strapping on her Rollerblades.
“Where's Sean?” asked Jeff.
Splat! Splort! Splut!
Strange slopping sounds came squishing down the street!
Suddenly, there was Sean Vickers skating up the sidewalk, soaking wet.
Holly snickered. “What happened to you?”
“A fire hydrant happened to me!” said Sean, splashing and dripping over to the curb. “I thought I heard a fire hydrant say something to me. It sounded like, âGrok!'”
“What does âGrok' mean?” asked Jeff.
“That's just what I asked the hydrant!” said Sean. “But when I leaned over for the answerâit blew up in my face. You should've heard Mr. Sweeney when the water flooded his lawn!”
“Whoa, just like the manhole!” said Jeff, shooting a look at Holly. “This is getting to be a dangerous place!”
“It's not getting to be,” said Liz. “It is. And it's not dangerous, it's weird. It's also not a place, it's a zone. Add it all up, you get The Weird Zone!”
Holly made a face. “Whatever,” she said. “Let's play already.”
Before anyone could do anything, Sean slapped the puck hard with his stick and it skidded out to the center of the street.
“Ha!” he cried, splashing after it.
“Get it!” Holly snarled and took off. Liz and Mike skated after her, but Sean got to the puck first. He shot the puck back to Jeff.
Jeff crouched low, drew his stick back, and swung down fast.
The puck shot to the curb, skipped high, soared, and slammed against the front door of a pretty blue house across the street.
“It's not baseball, Jeff!” said Liz.
Everybody stopped skating. There was a big black streak across the front door.
“Oh, man!” said Jeff, sliding to a stop. “This is definitely
“I think new people live there,” said Mike. “No one's met them yet. They'll probably be okay about it.”
“Yeah, sure,” Jeff muttered. He hopped the curb and skated up the walk. As he got closer to the house, he saw that all the shades were down.
Maybe no one's home.
But just as Jeff climbed the front steps, the front door cracked open a little bit. It was dark inside the house.
“What do you want?” a low voice growled out of the shadows. A strange smell wafted out of the house. Like fresh dirt, Jeff thought.
From the shadows, Jeff could see a pair of small, almost reddish eyes dart here and there, as if they were looking at him from head to toe.
“Um â¦ hi,” said Jeff. “Our hockey puck hit your door. We'll be more careful so that we don'tâ”
Before he could say another word, a dark hand jerked out of the shadows, grabbed the puck from the step, and pulled it into the house.
The door slammed in Jeff's face.
Easy Come, Easy GO
veryone stared at the front door of the pretty blue house. Their eyes were fixed on the spot where the puck used to be.
“Hey! What just happened?” cried Holly. “Our puck is gone!”
Jeff turned and skated back down the walk. “Why would they take our puck?”
“Ha!” sniffed Liz. “Because this is Grover's Mill, and that's the kind of weird and zoney people that live here?”
“Sounds good to me,” said Mike.
“Yeah,” said Sean. “I'm convinced.”
Holly frowned. “I think the guy was wearing something on his face. A mask, like this.” She stretched out her fingers and then brought the tips together and held them in front of her face.
“Nice,” said Sean. “Looks good on you.”
“I think we should ask for our puck back. Right now,” said Liz, taking control.
Jeff gulped, thinking again of the odd reddish glow from the shadows. And that smell of dirt.
The five kids charged right up the front walk of the pretty blue house. Jeff tapped on the door. It creaked and swung open. “Hello?” said Jeff, not really wanting an answer.
“They've got to be here.” Sean pushed on the door and the five kids stepped into the house.
“Don't they have any lights?” said Mike, nearly stumbling in the darkness.
“Lights? What about furniture?” said Liz. “These rooms are completely empty!”
“Well, except for the dirt,” said Holly, moving into the living room. “I mean, the mud is so thick you could sit on it!”
Thick, slimy mud streaked the floors. And mounds of rocks and wet dirt were piled up in the corners of what was supposed to be the dining room.
“Nice outdoorsy style,” said Liz. “Let's hike back to the kitchen.”
The kids stepped slowly through the rooms until they came to the cellar door. The mud on the floor was even thicker there, and wetter.
“This is pretty spooky,” muttered Jeff.
“The mess,” said Sean. “It's coming from down there. From the basement.”
Thump! Thump! Thump!
“What was that?” gasped Jeff.
Too late. The cellar door burst open and a horde of towering shapes stormed after the kids!
“Check-out time!” screamed Liz.
The figures wore long hooded robes. Their faces were hidden. But their eyes glowed. Red.
And they were grunting! “Grok!”
“That word!” yelled Sean. “I think it meansâsomething not good!” He skated into the living room, leaping over a low pile of rocks.
“Everybody back to my house!” cried Mike. “Except you guys with the hoods!”
That sounded good to Jeff. He bolted for the front door, as if he were sliding for third and the shortstop was inches from tagging him out. Baseball was really his game.
But the hooded shapes were everywhere!
It was Holly! Her skates spun out on the mud and the hooded men rushed at her. Before Jeff could think twice, he dived over next to Holly and began to kick at the men in hoods.
The wheels on his skates were spinning!
“Grok!” the hooded men grunted.
“Get away from us, you, you, guys!” screamed Holly, swatting at their hooded heads.
Thump! Thump! Thump!
The next instant Holly and Jeff were alone in the room. They heard stamping and stomping from down below. The cellar.
Jeff's heart was pounding. He was trying to catch his breath. Holly was breathing hard, too.
“We're alone,” gasped Jeff.
“Liz? Sean? Mike?” cried Holly. The rooms echoed. No answer.
Holly turned to Jeff, her eyes wide with fear. “Where did everyone go?”
Jeff looked out the window. Sunny Saturday morning. A few minutes ago they were all playing street hockey. Now this. He shook his head. “This can't be happening.”
“I know,” said Holly, taking a deep breath. “It's totally crazy. But still, did you see their eyes? Little red dots. Like something from one of my dad's movies.”
Jeff thought of her father's movies. Todd Vickers, horror moviemaker, owner of Humongous Horror Studios. Jeff wished this were just a movie. But something told him it wasn't. It was real.