Can You Keep a Secret?: New Excerpt

Can You Keep a Secret? by R.L. Stine is another installment of his young-adult/teen horror series, Fear Street (Available April 12, 2016).

Eddie and Emmy are high school sweethearts from the wrong side of the tracks. Looking for an escape from their dreary lives, they embark on an overnight camping trip in the Fear Street Woods with four friends. As Eddie is carving a heart into a tree, he and Emmy discover a bag hidden in the trunk. A bag filled with hundred-dollar bills. Thousands of them. Should they take it? Should they leave the money there? The six teens agree to leave the bag where it is until it's safe to use it. But when tragedy strikes Emmy's family, the temptation to skim some money off of the top becomes impossible to fight. There's only one problem. When Emmy returns to the woods, the bag of money is gone, and with it, the trust of six friends with a big secret.

PART ONE

1.

In my dream, I’m running through mud, my pale nightgown flapping. I can hear the splat splat splat of my bare feet as they slap the soft, wet ground.

I run through puddles of cold water, and I can feel the cold even though I’m completely aware that I’m dreaming. I know that the whispers I hear are the leaves on the trees shivering in a stiff, warm wind.

I feel the wind on my face, and I hear the whispers all around behind the splat splat of my bare feet, kicking up the mud, sending it splashing like waves on both sides of me.

I see the crescent moon in the purple sky above the shimmering trees. It looks like a sideways smile, and it reminds me of the silver moon pendant on the chain around my neck.

The moon seems so close in my dream, as if I could reach up and squeeze my hand around it. But I can’t slow down to grab the moon. I’m being chased. And I know if I turn around, I’ll see it.

And even though I know that, I can’t keep from turning back. In my dreams, I’m never in control. I can’t do what I’d like to do.

I’m running barefoot in the wet mud under the low, leafy tree branches. I’m scared. I know that I’m scared. And that I have good reason.

Because when I turn around … when I take a quick, shuddering glance behind me … the wolf is there. The black wolf of my dreams.

It grunts and snarls as it trots silently behind me. It lowers its head as if preparing to attack. The black fur on its back bristles. And once again, I see its eyes. Blue like mine. The black wolf has my eyes.

I have black hair and blue eyes, and I’m dreaming about a wolf with black fur and blue eyes. And I tell myself in my dream that I’m not crazy. People have nightmares. People have the same dream over and over.

But most people don’t dream of animals with their eyes. And why does it make me so frightened? I’m asleep but I can feel the butterfly flitting of my heartbeats.

I gaze at the wolf. Our blue eyes meet and lock on one another. Its long snout quivers. Thick white drool oozes from the sides of its mouth. The black wolf bares its teeth and utters a low menacing growl from deep in its throat that sounds like choking, like someone spewing.

I want to look away. But the eyes hold me, paralyze me.

And suddenly, I am the wolf.

I am the wolf. I am the black wolf.

In my dream, I become the wolf, staring, my eyes locked on the other wolf.

We attack. We wrestle. We snarl and rage and spit and drool. We bite and claw and bump heads and tear at each other.

I am fierce. I am exploding with anger. Exploding.

I wake up screaming. I try to leap out of bed. Tangled in the bedsheet, I tumble to the floor. Land with a soft thud on my side.

I’m panting. My heart skipping up and down in my chest. I blink several times, blinking the dream away. Forcing away the lingering pictures, the face of the wolf … the anger … the blue eyes.

I’m in my room. Silvery moonlight floods in through the open window.

“Hey,” I mutter, still shaking away the frightening images. “Hey. Another nightmare. A nightmare. That’s all.”

A voice from across the bedroom startles me. “What’s wrong?”

My sister Sophie sits up. Sophie and I share the room. Sophie’s eyes catch the moonlight from the window. She has blue eyes, too.

“Another nightmare,” I tell her, still shaky.

“You had your wolf dream again?” She crosses the room to me and places a warm hand on my shoulder.

I nod. “Yes. Again.”

She gazes over my shoulder and her eyes go wide. Her mouth drops open. She steps past me and leans over my bed.

“Emmy? Why are your sheets all torn and shredded?”

2.

I felt a shudder run down my body. I turned and stared at the ripped-up sheets. Sophie clicked on the bedside table lamp, and we both stared in silence.

My brain whirred. I struggled to explain it. I felt as if I were still in the dream. I kept trying to wake up, to pull myself out of it.

Sophie hugged me. Her short black hair was damp, matted to her forehead. She’s fifteen, two years younger than me. But we look like twins. The same high cheekbones, pale skin, and blue eyes. That’s why she cut her hair so short and severe, shaved on one side. Because mine flows down past my shoulders. She just got so tired of people calling her by my name, Emmy.

“These awful dreams…” she started, letting me go and taking a step back, her face filled with concern.

But my eyes were on the window. “Sophie? Wasn’t that window closed when we went to sleep?”

She turned. “I don’t know. I guess so. I don’t really remember.”

I gazed at the window, at the silvery crescent moon high in the sky. A gust of cold wind ruffled my hair. And I shivered again.

*   *   *

It took a long time to get back to sleep. And Mom woke me up too early the next morning, clanking around in the kitchen. Why couldn’t she wait to unload the dishwasher? Did it really have to be done at seven on a Saturday morning?

I pulled on the faded jeans I’d worn the day before and a T-shirt that didn’t look too wrinkled and hurried to the kitchen. Mom leaned over the white Formica counter in her bathrobe, hair unbrushed, having her breakfast cigarette. She has one cigarette first thing in the morning and one after dinner. Two a day. She tells everyone she doesn’t smoke.

Dad says she should drink an extra cup of coffee in the morning, and she wouldn’t need the cigarette. He’s the practical one in the family. I guess that’s why no one ever listens to him.

Actually, Sophie is a lot like Dad. They’re both soft-spoken and quiet and would rather sit in a corner and read a book than go out, and Sophie is just like that. Mom and I are the social ones. I always wonder if most families are divided into two camps.

“Mom, I had the wolf dream again,” I said. I cleared my throat. My voice was still clogged with sleep.

Mom stubbed out the cigarette. She blew a strand of hair off her forehead. Mom has straw-blonde hair and brown eyes. She doesn’t look at all like Sophie and me.

She shook her head. “Ever since you were five…” she started. She sighed. “Ever since you were five and that dog bit you.… that’s when the dreams started.”

“I know,” I said. “Tell me something I don’t know.”

Mom stood up straight. “You don’t have to be sharp with me. I only meant—”

“We keep having the same conversation,” I said, trying not be so shrill. “How come I don’t remember being bitten by a dog?”

Mom fiddled with the belt on her black-and-white-checked robe. “You were so young, Emmy. How much do you remember from when you were five?”

“I remember some things,” I said. “I remember some things that happened in Kindergarten. But a dog bite … Mom, you’d think I’d remember something as frightening as that.”

“You’ve blocked it from your memory, dear,” she said, finally raising her eyes to mine. “We’ve talked about this. Such a painful thing. People block memories like that. They don’t want to think about them.”

“But, Mom—”

“Don’t you remember anything?” she asked. “We were overseas. Visiting your Great Aunt Marta in that little farm village outside Prague? I wasn’t there at the time. But Marta saw it happen. That dog came leaping out from the trees and attacked you. And she—”

Sophie stumbled noisily into the room, coughing and clearing her throat, her bare feet clomping on the yellow tiles. She twitched her nose and sniffled a few times. “I think I have a cold.”

“It’s your allergies,” I said. “You get your spring allergies every year, and you always forget.”

She coughed again. “How come you don’t have spring allergies?”

“It’s not like we’re twins,” I said. “I don’t have to have everything you have. Duh.”

Mom poured a cup of coffee from the coffeemaker. “Sophie, you were there with Aunt Marta that day,” she said. “Do you remember when the dog came out of the forest and bit Emmy?”

Sophie rolled her eyes. “Are we having this talk again? Mom, I was only three. How am I supposed to remember anything?”

I didn’t want to continue this discussion, but I felt so frustrated. I had a strong feeling that Mom wasn’t telling the whole truth. I knew she wouldn’t lie to me. But her explanation of why I’ve had these frightening wolf dreams just didn’t totally add up.

“Where’s the scar?” I demanded. I lifted my right leg and pulled up the jeans by the cuff. “You said it bit my leg. But where’s the scar?”

“It healed,” Mom said. She twirled the coffee mug in her hand. “You were lucky. It healed pretty quickly.”

I stared at her. The radio behind us at the table droned in the background. Two voices discussing the news, I think. “But, Mom,” I insisted. Why couldn’t I just let it go? “I keep dreaming about wolves—not dogs.”

She brushed her hair back with one hand. “Dr. Goldman can explain it better than me,” she said. “I don’t know why you keep refusing to see him. Sometimes in our dreams we make our fears even more horrifying than in real life. In your dreams, you turn the dog into a wolf. But that doesn’t mean—”

“Ssshh.” I raised my hand to silence Mom. The voice on the radio had caught my attention. I moved closer so I could hear better.

“What’s wrong?” Mom asked.

“Sssshhh.” I leaned toward the little black table radio.

“The attack occurred last night in Shadyside Park behind the high school,” a man was saying. “Delmar Hawkins of North Hills reported the attack to police. Hawkins said that he was walking his dog along the path toward the river when a large black wolf jumped out from the trees and attacked the dog. Police confirmed that the dog was killed in a most ferocious manner. Police have begun a search of the park for the black wolf, and a helicopter unit has been sent for. Meanwhile…”

The voice continued, but the reporter’s words were meaningless to me. Just a blur of sound. I suddenly felt cold all over, as if my blood had frozen inside me.

My thoughts were crazy. I dreamed about that black wolf last night. And at the same time that I was dreaming, a realblack wolf appeared in Shadyside Park. A real black wolf came out of the trees and killed a man’s dog.

Of course, that had nothing to do with me. Of course, it had to be a totally weird coincidence.

So why was I trembling so hard? Why did I feel so strange?

“Emmy? What’s wrong?” Sophie’s voice broke into my thoughts.

I didn’t answer. I suddenly remembered my bedsheets. All shredded. I grabbed Mom’s hands and tugged her away from the kitchen counter. Her hands were warm. Mine were ice cold.

“Mom—come with me,” I said. “I have to show you something.”

She tugged her hands free. “Don’t pull me. I’m coming. What’s your problem, Emmy?”

“I’ll show you,” I said, leading the way down the back hall. “You have to see this, Mom.”

“Okay, okay. I’m coming.”

“My dream last night … I was running in the woods,” I said, suddenly breathless. “Barefoot. Running in mud. And when I woke up … the sheets … they were torn … all shredded and wrecked.”

Mom didn’t say anything. I heard Sophie sneezing back in the kitchen. I grabbed Mom’s arm and pulled her to my bed. “Look.”

We both stared at the tangle of sheets on my bed. My mouth dropped open. My breath caught in my throat.

The sheets were perfectly okay.

 

Copyright © 2016 R.L. Stine.

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R.L. Stine is one of the bestselling children's authors in history, with more than 400 million books sold to date. In 1989, Stine created the Fear Street series, one of the bestselling young adult book series in history, with 80 million copies sold worldwide. He is also the author of the bestselling children's series Goosebumps, which began in 1992 and has sold 300 million copies around the world.

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