Authors: R. L. Stine
A feeble croak escaped my lips. The bright sunlight suddenly glared white. I felt the floor sway.
I could feel my panic weigh me down. I suddenly felt as if I weighed a thousand pounds.
I could hear Mr. Dollinger talking to another teacher right outside the science lab door. In another few seconds, he'd step inside, and â¦ and â¦
“Quick â duck under the table!” Hat whispered, his eyes wide with fright beneath his cap.
I started to follow him under the table. But I realized it wasn't a good hiding place at all. Mr. Dollinger would see us as soon as he went to his desk.
“No â no good!” I croaked. “No good. Uh â¦”
My eyes flashed around the room. Where could we hide? Where?
“The supply cabinet!” I cried. I grabbed Hat's arm and pulled him with me.
The tall metal cabinet was wide enough to hide both of us.
Could we get into it in time?
We scrambled inside, pushing each other forward.
I pulled the door closed. It clicked shut just as Mr. Dollinger entered the room.
Hat and I stood trembling in the darkness of the cabinet, listening to his footsteps approach. I gripped the tarantula container tightly in one hand.
Mr. Dollinger was softly humming a tune. I heard him stop right in front of the supply cabinet.
My heart was pounding so loud, I wondered if the teacher could hear it through the cabinet door.
I shifted my weight and bumped into Hat. There wasn't another inch of space in there. I could hear Hat's shallow breathing. I could tell he was as scared as I was.
What if Mr. Dollinger decided to open the cabinet door?
Please, please â just turn out the lights and go home,
I pleaded silently.
I could hear him shuffling papers on his desk. I heard the desk drawer open and shut. I heard a book slam shut. More footsteps. Water running in one of the sinks.
He turned off the water. He was still humming softly to himself. More footsteps. The click of the light switch.
I struggled to hear over my pounding heartbeat. Silence. No humming. No footsteps.
Hat and I stood frozen in the darkness, listening hard. “He â he's gone,” I stammered finally. “He left, Hat.”
“Phewwww!” Hat sighed loudly.
“Let's get out of here!” I cried. I reached for the latch.
My hand fumbled around in the darkness, sweeping over the metal door. I located a slender metal bar and pulled up on it. It didn't budge.
“Hey!” I cried out. I moved my hand slowly up the door, trying to find a latch or release.
“Hurry up. Open the cabinet door,” Hat urged. “It's getting hot in here.”
“I know,” I replied tensely. “I â I can't find anything.”
“Let me try,” Hat said impatiently. He pushed my hand away and began fumbling with the metal bar.
“There's got to be a latch or something,” I said shrilly.
“Very helpful,” Hat grumbled. He began pounding on the door with his open hand.
I grabbed his arm. “Stop. That won't open it. And someone will hear you.”
try again,” he ordered. His voice sounded really tiny and afraid.
I swallowed hard. I suddenly had a heavy lump in my throat. It felt as if my heart had leaped up into my neck.
I fumbled frantically with everything I could grab hold of. But I couldn't find anything that would open the door.
“I give up. We â we're locked in, Hat,” I stammered.
“I don't believe it,” he muttered.
The container started to slip out of my hand. I grabbed it with both hands â and made a startling discovery.
The lid had come off.
“Oh, no,” I murmured.
“What now?” Hat demanded.
Taking a deep breath, I shook the container.
It was empty. No tarantula.
I tried to tell Hat that the tarantula had escaped, but my voice caught in my throat. I let out a choking sound.
And then I felt a prickling on my leg just above my sock.
And then another prickling, like a pinprick, a little higher up.
“Hat â the tarantula â” I managed to croak. “It â it's crawling up my leg.”
The pinpricks moved a little higher up my leg.
I could feel the tarantula's warm, hairy body rub against my skin.
“It â it's going to b-bite me,” I stuttered. “I
“Don't move,” Hat advised, sounding even more frightened than me. “Just don't move.”
The creature's legs dug into my skin, like sharp needles.
“I â I have to get
of here!” I screamed. Without thinking about it, I lowered my shoulder and heaved all my weight against the cabinet door.
With a loud
it swung open.
A startled cry escaped my lips as I tumbled out. I landed hard on my side, and the empty plastic container rolled across the room.
Breathing hard, I scrambled to my feet and began furiously kicking and shaking my leg.
The tarantula dropped to the floor and immediately began scrabbling across the linoleum. “Catch it! Catch it!” I shrieked.
Hat dove out of the cabinet and lurched after the tarantula.
I grabbed the container and hurried over to him. Hat lifted the tarantula high in the air. Its hairy legs kicked and squirmed, but Hat didn't let go.
He plopped the ugly thing into the container. “Put the lid on tight this time,” he warned.
“Don't worry,” I moaned. My hands were shaking. But I clamped the lid on tightly, then checked and rechecked it three times.
A short while later, Hat and I were heading downstairs to deposit the tarantula in my locker for safekeeping. I could still feel the itchy pinpricks on my leg, even though I knew the tarantula hadn't bitten me.
“Wow. That was scary!” Hat declared. “That was really scary.”
“It just means that the rest of the plan will go perfectly,” I assured him.
A little before nine the next morning, Hat and I were hiding again. This time we were hiding on the narrow balcony that overlooks the gym.
While everyone else in our class changed into their gym shorts and sweats and stuff, Hat and I sneaked out of the boys' locker room. Hat hid the
tarantula container under his sweatshirt, and we hurried up to the balcony.
The four of us had been calling each other for most of the night, getting the plan straight. It was a very simple plan, actually.
All Molly and Charlene had to do was get Courtney to stand under the balcony. Then Hat would drop the tarantula into her hair, and we'd all watch her scream and cry and carry on, and make a total fool of herself.
“What if Courtney doesn't get upset?” Molly had asked me on the phone. “What if she just plucks it out of her hair and calmly asks if anyone has lost a tarantula?”
“That's impossible,” I had replied. “Courtney is calm â but she isn't
to scream and go wild with a tarantula in her hair. If she doesn't, she's not human. She's a statue or something.”
“Ready, Hat?” I asked, peering over the side of the balcony.
He nodded solemnly, his eyes on the volleyball nets below.
He carefully pulled the lid off the container. The tarantula reached up two legs as if to grab him.
I heard voices down below. A few girls had wandered out of their locker room onto the floor. One of them picked up a volleyball and took a
jump shot at the basket. The ball hit the rim and bounced off.
“Get down. They can see you,” Hat whispered.
I lowered my head. It was hot up on the balcony, hotter than down on the gym floor, and I started to sweat.
We were both on our knees. Hat was holding the tarantula container in front of him with both hands.
I could hear more voices down below. Several boys had come out and were dribbling a volleyball up and down the floor, passing it off to one another.
“Do you see Courtney?” Hat whispered.
I raised myself a little higher and peered down. “Yes!”
Molly and Charlene had Courtney between them. Both of them were talking excitedly at the same time. I couldn't hear what they were talking about.
Courtney was shaking her head. I saw her laugh, then shake her head some more. She was wearing a loose-fitting purple T-shirt and white shorts over purple tights. Her blond hair was tied behind her in a loose ponytail.
A perfect target,
I thought gleefully. I grinned at Hat. I had a good feeling about this. A very good feeling.
Raising my eyes beyond the volleyball nets, I
saw that Mr. Russo, the gym teacher, was talking to another teacher at the door.
We don't want Mr. Russo blowing the whistle and starting the volleyball game until we take care of Courtney.
Molly and Charlene, meanwhile, still had Courtney between them. They were still chatting away. As they talked, they kept backing up, backing up, until they were almost in position.
“Just a few more feet and Courtney will be under the balcony,” I whispered to Hat. “It's happening, Hat. It's really happening.”
I was so excited, I felt like I was about to burst. Beads of sweat rolled down my forehead and into my eyes. I wiped them with the sleeve of my T-shirt and peered down.
Molly and Charlene had done it. They had backed Courtney under the balcony. The three of them stood right beneath us.
“Hat â do it!” I whispered.
Hat didn't hesitate. Not for a second. This was too perfect. Too perfect!
His eyes on the three girls directly below, he reached into the container and picked up the hairy tarantula.
Then he raised himself up a little higher over the balcony edge, held the tarantula over the side, took careful aim â and let it drop.
Hat and I both leaned over the balcony and watched the tarantula drop.
And we both cried out in horror when it landed with a sick
in Molly's hair.
“Hat â you missed!” I screamed.
But Molly was screaming a lot louder. Her face was as red as a tomato, and her eyes were bulging out of her head. She was shrieking at the top of her lungs and doing a strange dance, hopping wildly up and down while her hands thrashed the air.
A lot of kids were running over with startled and bewildered expressions. “What's wrong with Molly?” someone screamed.
“Why is she doing that?”
“What happened to her?”
Staring down, I leaned so far over the balcony, I nearly dropped like the tarantula.
Poor Molly was tearing at her hair now, still shrieking and hopping around.
I cried out in relief as she finally managed to pull the tarantula from her dark hair. She juggled it in her hand, nearly dropping it. Then, still screaming, she tossed it to Charlene!
Beside me on the balcony, Hat was laughing now. But I was too upset to find it funny.
How could Hat have missed such an easy shot?
Charlene let out a scream that rattled the gym rafters. She bobbled the tarantula from one hand to the other.
Then it dropped to the floor at her feet.
Charlene leaped back, still screaming, both hands pressed against the sides of her face.
Everyone in the gym class had huddled around. Some kids still looked confused. Others were laughing. A couple of girls were trying to comfort Molly, whose hair was standing straight up on her head.
“Oh, wow. Oh, wow,” Hat kept repeating, shaking his head. “Oh, wow.”
Gripping the balcony edge with both hands, I watched Courtney bend over and gently pick up the tarantula from the gym floor. She placed it in the palm of her hand and appeared to be saying soothing words to it.
The kids had formed a circle around Courtney. As she held the tarantula close to her face, they quieted down and watched.
“It's just a tarantula,” Courtney said, petting
its hairy back with one finger. “Tarantulas don't bite that often. And if they do, it doesn't hurt very much.”
Kids began murmuring once again about how brave Courtney was. I saw Molly and Charlene comforting each other at the edge of the circle. Charlene was smoothing down Molly's hair. Molly's whole body was still quivering.
“Where did this tarantula come from?” Courtney was asking.
I saw Molly stare up angrily at us. She raised her fist and shook it toward us.
I ducked down out of sight behind the balcony wall.
“The plan didn't work too well,” Hat murmured.
Is he the master of understatement â or what?
We didn't realize that the disaster wasn't over. “Let's get out of here,” I whispered.
Too late. We both looked up to see Mr. Russo glaring angrily at us from the balcony entrance. “What are you boys doing up here?” he asked suspiciously.
I turned to Hat. Hat stared back at me blankly.
Neither of us could think of a good answer.
“Come on back downstairs,” Mr. Russo said softly, holding open the door for us. “Let's have a nice, long talk.”
It could have been worse
, I thought.
Sure, Hat and I had to stay after school and clean the science lab every afternoon for the next two weeks. And sure, we had to write one-thousand-word essays on why it's wrong to steal living things and drop them on people's heads.
And sure, Molly and Charlene aren't speaking to Hat
But it could have been worse.
I mean, what if Hat and I were still locked in the supply cabinet?
would be worse, wouldn't it?
It was later that afternoon. I was slumped on my bed, glumly thinking about gym class and how our plan had bombed.
It's all Courtney's fault,
I told myself, absently pulling at a little tear in my bedspread.
Courtney had moved just at the last minute.
have moved. Hat couldn't be
bad of an aim.
I sighed bitterly as once again I pictured Courtney calmly picking the tarantula up off the floor and petting it. “
It's only a tarantula,”
Courtney had said. So smug. So superior. “
It's only a tarantula. They don't bite very often.”
Why didn't it bite her hand?
That would have wiped the smug expression off her face.
Why did she have to be so totally brave?
Courtney really deserves to be scared out of her wits,
I thought unhappily. I tore at the little rip in the bedspread, turning it into a big rip.
asking for it, asking to be frightened speechless.
But how, how, how?
Sitting on the edge of the bed, I had my head lowered and my shoulders hunched. I was leaning forward glumly, picking at the bedspread without even realizing it.
Again I pictured Hat letting the tarantula drop.
Again I saw it land on Molly's head.
No! No! No!
Again I saw Molly start to do her frantic, furious dance.
The unhappy picture vanished from my mind as I suddenly realized I was no longer alone. Raising my eyes to the doorway, I gasped sharply.
And saw the tall, lean monster stagger toward me, its face dripping with dark blood.