Illustrations by the amazing Iacopo Bruno.
To set the scene, three 5th-grade students find themselves accidentally locked in the school building after hours. The doors are chained shut. Strangely, the wifi is out, phones and computers have gone dead. So they go seeking the mysterious night janitor for the key to get out. Please note: The first two books in the series — I Scream, You Scream; and Home Sweet Horror — will be available on July 9th. This third book in the series, Good Night, Zombie, will be published in late September.
The stairs led to a metal-plated door. Behind it, Esme heard what she imagined to be the shuffling of boots, the jingling of keys, and a man sitting heavily in a chair. Carter knocked twice and, receiving no reply, pushed the door open.
An ancient man sat in the corner of the room at a small, gray desk. He stared at his visitors through red-rimmed eyes. His skin was grayish-yellow. And his sunken, narrow cheeks gave off a skeletal appearance. Thin hair grew from his otherwise bare skull in wisps, like odd tufts of white grass. He wore blue workingman’s trousers and a red flannel shirt.
He looked half dead, and Esme stifled a gasp at the sight of him.
The ancient man did not appear happy to see three students appear in his closet office. He held a glass jar in one hand, and a fork in the other. He stabbed at a blood-red cube of meat from the jar and pushed it past his lips. He never moved his eyes from the uninvited guests.
“Venison,” he spat with a gruff voice. He speared another cube of meat and held it before his face. “Deer meat. Kill it and butcher it myself. Care for a taste?”
No one accepted his offer.
“Didn’t think so.” He chomped on the bloody flesh. A trickle of blood dribbled down his chin.
“Are you the guy who locked us in?” Carter finally spoke up.
The ancient man leaned back in his chair, reached to his belt, and splashed an enormous key ring on the desk. There had to be fifty keys of every size and shape.
“Are you going tell us which one?” Carter asked.
The ancient man wiped his lips with the back of a sleeve. “No,” he replied.
“Excuse me?” Esme asked.
“You don’t want to go out there,” the night janitor said. “Not tonight, you don’t.” He rose painfully and shuffled toward the heavy door, which he shut behind them with a firm hand.
Arnold grew alarmed. “Ha! Well, yeah. I’m not sure you understand, Mr. -–“
“Van Der Klemp,” the old man said.
“Mr. Van Der Klemp,” Arnold repeated. He helplessly pointed a thumb toward the ceiling. “We accidentally got locked into the school, see, and -–“
The old man didn’t seem to be listening. He rubbed a large hand to his stubbled chin, noted the time on his wristwatch, and closed his eyes as if waiting for something to pass. He counted in a dry whisper, “Three, two, one.”
The lights flickered and the room went dark.