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Chapter 1


            The zombie shambled forwards a few steps, green drool leaking from between its blue lips.  View comments on this item Add your comment on this item1

            “Do you think ghosts really exist?” Baxter asked his friend Charlie, pushing his large rimmed glasses back on his nose.  Charlie didn’t answer, but stared at the zombie.  Baxter didn’t seem to notice the shuffling creature of the undead pushing aside branches and small trees to get closer to the two boys. Add your comment on this item2

            “Don’t you see it?!?” Charlie shouted. Add your comment on this item3

            The zombie’s red bloodshot eyes appeared to glow with the anticipation of feasting on the flesh of the living.  “Look behind you!!!” Charlie shouted. Add your comment on this item4

            “Charlie!”   Add your comment on this item5

            Charlie barely heard the voice in the distance calling his name, as a low gurgling growl escaped the decaying throat of the zombie. Add your comment on this item6

            “Charlie!!” the voice called again, louder and more insistent this time.  His mother’s voice!  Was she searching for him?  Or was she calling a warning? Add your comment on this item7

            “Charles Collins you turn that TV off this instant and get your butt off to school! Don’t make me come in there!”   Add your comment on this item8

            Yup.  It was a warning. Add your comment on this item9

            “But Mom!” Charlie called back. “This is the best part – this is where the zombie enters the school, eats three teachers, and the students have to kill it with Bunsen burners!”  His eyes never left the television screen, and he could see the two teenage boys in the movie turn to finally see the zombie standing beside them.  But it was, as Charlie knew, too late for them.   Add your comment on this item10

            Baxter grabbed the remote and turned off the movie, allowing Charlie’s mind to reenter the world of the living.  “We better get going,” Baxter said, grabbing his backpack from the floor.  “Your mom sounded pretty serious.  Besides, we’ve seen the Zombie of Soho twelve times already.” Add your comment on this item11

            Charlie grabbed his empty cereal bowl off the coffee table, and they made their way into the kitchen where Charlie’s mom was putting the final touches on their bagged lunches.  Charlie noticed that she was out of her housecoat and already dressed, wearing a sharp looking black pant suit, her long brown hair puffed and her face accented with lipstick and eyeshadow, which meant she was probably meeting clients today.  She looked up as they entered.  “Now that’s more like it,” she said.  “And you know what I said about watching those horrid movies.” Add your comment on this item12

“Mom!”  Charlie said, putting his bowl in the sink, “We’re not babies.  I’m almost thirteen!” He waved his hands in the air.  “We’re in Junior High!”   Add your comment on this item13

Charlie’s mom crossed her arms and frowned.  “Charlie Collins, don’t you dare raise your voice at me.” Add your comment on this item14

Charlie felt his face flush.  He hung his head and shuffled over to where his backpack was on the floor.  Baxter stood in the corner by the back door, trying to resemble a coat rack.  The boys tied on their sneakers, and accepted their offered lunches like good soldiers accepting their ammunition for the front.  They were, after all, on their way to school.  Charlie really couldn’t imagine many things worse at his age. Add your comment on this item15

His mom looked down at him and sighed, and then finger-combed his short brown hair.  “There will be plenty of time to grow up, okay?” Add your comment on this item16

“ ‘kay,” he mumbled, staring at the tiled floor.  Add your comment on this item17

“Now Baxter,” Charlie’s mom said, as the boys put on their coats, “I talked with your mother this morning, and she’ll be by later to pick up your sleeping bag.”  Baxter just smiled and nodded.   Add your comment on this item18

            “Now you boys have a nice day.” A quick kiss on her Charlie’s cheek and they were out the back door and running like race dogs. Add your comment on this item19

            They ran from Charlie’s house on Palmerston Avenue up Aubrey street to Wolseley Avenue, heading in the general direction of Gordon Bell High School.  After a couple of blocks, Baxter had run so far ahead that Charlie had to shout to be heard.  “Hey Baxter, wait up!” he called.   Add your comment on this item20

Baxter stopped and turned, waiting for Charlie to catch up.  Charlie gave him an indignant look.  “Just because seventy-five percent of your body is composed of skinny legs doesn’t give you the right to leave us little people in the dust!” Add your comment on this item21

            Baxter laughed.  “Look at it this way, Chuck: all that running will keep you in top form.” Add your comment on this item22

            “We’ve got plenty of time, so just slow down Mr. Roadrunner.”   Add your comment on this item23

            They decided to walk now, and at a pace Charlie could maintain without having to rest and catch his breath every few minutes.  It was a crisp, cool day, but relatively warm for the last week of October.  They had had a bit of snow early last week, but by the time Baxter came over to Charlie’s place on Saturday, it had all melted.   Add your comment on this item24

He looked up at his friend.  Tall, gangly, a mop of curly brown hair and large black rimmed glasses.  Baxter was one of those boys who had caught the ‘growth spurt’ early.  At twelve, he was 5’5”, almost six inches taller than the average boy.  Of course his weight had decided to hold back for a while yet, and this resulted in Baxter having a body the shape and size of a pool cue. He seemed to be composed entirely of pointy elbows and knobbly knees.  He walked with an awkward gait, apparently without any control of his limbs.  Charlie was always amazed at how Baxter was able to coordinate and keep everything together, particularly when he was running. Add your comment on this item25

            Charlie looked down at his own sneakered feet, and mused at how  much closer the ground was for him, since he was about a foot shorter than Baxter.  At the back of his mind Charlie knew he would never get much taller.  He had been very sick when he was young, and the illness had done something to his growth.  He remembered, quite vividly, the day in the hospital when he had pretended to be asleep in the bed, and had quietly listened in on the conversation between the doctor and his parents. Add your comment on this item26

            “He’ll stop growing,” the doctor had said.  Charlie could still hear those words in his ears.  He’ll stop growing.  He would always be shorter than other boys his age.  He’d be slower than others, weaker than others.  He’d always be the short guy, the shrimp, the- Add your comment on this item27

            “Your mom seeing some clients today?” Baxter suddenly asked. Add your comment on this item28

            Charlie shook his head to clear his thoughts.  “What?  Oh.  Ya.  I guess.” Add your comment on this item29

His mom, Janet, had a degree as a financial advisor, but had decided to forgo the business world to raise kids full time when she got married.  It helped that Charlie’s dad, Bill, had a successful business as a certified accountant.  It had only been recently that his mom had decided to restart her career, and Charlie was still getting used to sometimes coming home and having to make his own dinner.  It was always better when his older sister, Darlene, dropped over for a visit, because she would always cook something up for him.   Add your comment on this item30

            “So, what’s for dinner tonight?” Baxter asked, as if reading Charlie’s thoughts.  “Worm Stew or Dirt Pie with a side of licorice?”  He gave Charlie a grin, and Charlie gave him a good natured shot to the arm. Add your comment on this item31

            “Maybe I’ll just have Roast Baxter with a side of Baxter Muffins!”  He shoved Baxter off the sidewalk, and Baxter barely saved himself from sprawling into a hedge.  The boys laughed, and a couple of kids on the other side of the street, who Charlie recognized from school, also laughed and waved hello to them.   Add your comment on this item32

            “Did you talk to Darlene yet, about going to see Phantom of Freeport?” Baxter asked.  Add your comment on this item33

            Ya,” Charlie answered.  “She dropped by yesterday for a bit and said she’d take me next week.”  The new Phantom movie was all Charlie and his friends had been talking about since the poster went up around town a few weeks ago. Add your comment on this item34

            Baxter wrinkled his nose.  “That means you’ll have to go with Gooey Gary the Ghoul!” Add your comment on this item35

            Charlie laughed.  His sister’s boyfriend was really weird, and Baxter swore that Gary was one of the undead - he even claimed to have seen him shuffling near the St. James Cemetery once, probably cavorting with the local ghosts and ghouls.  Charlie didn’t mind Gary, especially since Darlene was cool enough to take her younger brother to those movies that required kids to be accompanied by an adult. Add your comment on this item36

            “Wally’s already seen it seven times,” Baxter said. Add your comment on this item37

            “That doesn’t surprise me, especially since - Ugh!” Add your comment on this item38

            A rough shove in Charlie’s back sent him flying to the sidewalk.  He landed hard on his elbow, his backpack sprawling beside him.  He saw that one of the straps had broken.  Laughter from several boys reached his ears, and he knew who had pushed him, even before he turned his head. Add your comment on this item39