APPLE FICTION 3 страница

“Forget the gloves,” I muttered. “So you’ll have cold hands. Get out, Heidi. Get out of the house.”

I hurried outside. I had to get away from Marianna and her father. And their creepy, dark mansion. And all of their secrets.

The cold, fresh air made my cheeks tingle. The bright sun, high in a clear blue sky, felt warm on my skin.

I tossed back the parka hood and shook out my long brown hair. The hard snow crunched under my boots as I made my way along the walk that led to the side of the house.

From here APPLE FICTION 3 страница, I could see the narrow road twisting down the hill to town. Only a few patches of snow here and there.

I found an old girls’ bike in the garage. It probably belonged to Marianna.

I leaned heavily on the handlebars and tested the tires. They seemed full enough to carry me.

“Yes!” I cried happily. “Escape!”

A few seconds later, I was riding down the hill, pedaling hard, the tires bumping over the unpaved road, my hair flying behind me like a flag.

It felt so good. I wanted to sing and shout.

Above me, I saw Canada APPLE FICTION 3 страница geese soaring high in a tight V formation. They honked noisily as they flew past.

Snow-covered pines became a green-and-white blur as I whirred downhill.

I stood up and pedaled, enjoying the exercise, the cool, sweet air, the feeling of freedom.

My good mood lasted until I reached the outskirts of the village.

Then I found myself back in the middle of a horror movie.

I slowed my bike as the first house came into view. I gazed at the metal shed behind the house. It lay on its side, one wall smashed APPLE FICTION 3 страница in.

“Whoa,” I murmured. The log fence around the backyard had a big gap in it. It looked as if it had been ripped apart. Logs were strewn over the snow, broken and bent.

The downstairs windows of the next house were shattered. Shards of glass were scattered over the snow, reflecting the morning sun. A side door had been ripped off its hinges. It tilted against the wall of the house.

It looks as if a tornado swept through here, I thought.

I pedaled on. I saw a group of men and women standing outside the house on the corner APPLE FICTION 3 страница. They huddled around a car in the driveway, talking quietly, shaking their heads.

As I rode nearer, I saw that the car windshield had been smashed. A million cracks stretched out in the glass like spiderwebs.

The driver’s door lay on the driveway beside the car, bent and battered. The steering wheel, wires dangling, poked out from beneath the car.

“What happened?” I called from the street.

The men and women turned to me. “Don’t you know?” a woman called.

“Are you new here?” a man asked. “Haven’t you heard?”

“Did you crawl out APPLE FICTION 3 страница from under a rock?”

They seemed so angry, so unfriendly, I turned the corner and rode on.

“Be careful!” a man called after me. “Don’t ride that thing at night!”

The bike tires crunched over broken glass. Two more cars had their windshields shattered.

A black-and-white police car was parked beside a small brick house on the next block. Two grim-faced officers were helping an old man reattach his front door.

All of the windows in the house were covered with newspaper. Broken glass littered the front yard.

A few seconds later, I turned another APPLE FICTION 3 страница corner and found myself on the main street of town. A small crowd had gathered around a red-and-white truck, parked in the middle of the street.

I pedaled closer, then jumped off my bike. I read the bold letters on the side of the truck: ACTION NEWS 8.

Walking my bike up to the crowd, I saw a man with a video camera on his shoulder. In the center of the crowd, a young red-haired woman held a microphone.

A TV news crew, I realized. What happened here last night?

I pushed through the circle of people APPLE FICTION 3 страница. The reporter poked the microphone into a familiar face.

Aaron!

He was talking to the woman, his eyes on the microphone. He didn’t see me.

I moved close enough to hear what they were saying.

“And so the beast attacked again last night?” the reporter asked him.

Aaron gazed at the microphone. “Yes. It came running down the hill a little before eleven. And it started tearing things up.”

“Were you outside that late? Did you see it come down the hill?” the reporter asked, turning her head and glancing at the snow-covered hill rising over the APPLE FICTION 3 страница village.

“Well … no,” Aaron replied. “I was home. My parents won’t let me go out. My curfew is nine o’clock—because of the beast.”

“Have you ever seen this creature?” the woman asked.

A truck rumbled by.

“Cut! Wait for the truck! It’s too noisy!” the guy with the camera instructed.

They waited for the truck to pass. Then the camera guy signaled for Aaron to talk again.

“What was the question?” he asked.

“Have you ever seen the creature?” the woman repeated. She pushed the microphone up to Aaron’s mouth.

“Yes.”

“Is it human?”

“Well …” Aaron thought APPLE FICTION 3 страница hard. “Sort of. It’s about the size of a human. And it walks on two legs. Except it kind of staggers. But it’s very furry.”

“Furry?” the reporter asked.

Aaron nodded. “It has gray fur all over. On its arms. And its back. And it growls like a wolf or something.”

“So it’s an animal?” the woman asked.

Aaron rubbed his chin. “I’d say it’s half-human, half-animal. I’d say—”

“Go up on the hill,” a woman in the crowd shouted at the reporter. She stepped in front of APPLE FICTION 3 страница Aaron and grabbed the microphone. “You want to get your news story? Don’t waste your time down here. Go up to the big house up there. Dr. Jekyll’s house. You want to see the monster? You’ll find him in there!”



“No, you won’t!” I cried. “I live in that house—and there’s no monster in there!”

I gasped and clapped my hand over my mouth.

Why did I say that?

Why did I suddenly try to defend Uncle Jekyll?

Why didn’t I keep my big mouth shut?

With cries of surprise, everyone turned to stare at APPLE FICTION 3 страница me.

“Who is she?” someone asked.

“I’ve never seen her before,” a young man replied.

Aaron narrowed his eyes at me. “Heidi? What are you doing here?” he whispered.

The others stared at me coldly, suspiciously.

I’m in trouble now, I realized.

I’m in major trouble.

“She’s a Jekyll? Get her!” an angry voice growled.

I gasped and took a step back.

were they going to attack me?

No. No one moved. They circled me, staring at me so coldly—as if I were the beast!

“My uncle isn’t a monster!” I cried, my APPLE FICTION 3 страница voice trembling. “And there’s no monster living in his house.”

Did I really believe that?

I didn’t know what to believe. But these people didn’t know the truth, either.

Why should they accuse Uncle Jekyll when they had no proof?

I took another step back and tripped over my bike. I’d forgotten I’d set it down on the pavement. My heel caught the front wheel, and I fell hard, landing in a sitting position on top of it.

The young woman reporter hurried over and reached out her free hand to APPLE FICTION 3 страница help me up. Then she poked the microphone into my face. “Can you take us inside?” she asked eagerly.

I gaped at her. “Excuse me?”

“Can you take us inside your uncle’s house? Can you let us see for ourselves?” she demanded.

“Uh … well …” I hesitated.

“See? She’s lying!” a man shouted.

“She’s a Jekyll. She’s hiding the beast!” a woman cried.

“No … my uncle …” I stammered. “You have to get my uncle’s permission,” I told the reporter.

Then I turned to the crowd, my heart pounding, my throat so dry I could barely swallow. “I APPLE FICTION 3 страница’m new here!” I cried. “I just moved here! I … I don’t know anything!”

No one moved. No one spoke.

They stared so hard at me, as if trying to see inside my head.

They hate me, I thought. They don’t even know me, and they hate me.

And then Aaron stepped forward, moving quickly.

His sudden movement startled me. I shrank back, thinking he planned to hurt me.

But he bent down and picked up my bike for me. “Heidi, you’d better go,” he whispered. “Everyone in town is really upset. And scared.”

“But APPLE FICTION 3 страница, I—” I started.

“Last night was so terrifying,” Aaron whispered. “No one knows what to do.” He handed the bike to me. “Hurry. Go back to your uncle’s house. You’ll be safe there.”

Will I? I wondered.

I jumped on the bike and started pedaling away.

Will I be safe there?

I spent a dreary afternoon in the house. Uncle Jekyll never came out of his lab. I searched for Marianna but couldn’t find her.

A freezing rain pounded the windows. The house was cold and damp. I pulled a heavy wool sweater over two Tshirts, but APPLE FICTION 3 страница I still felt chilled.

I explored the house for a while, pulling open doors, searching rooms cluttered with old books and magazines.

I poked my head into the room with the scratched walls. I imagined a wild, snarling creature locked in there. I pictured it roaring furiously as it scraped long, curling claws over the walls. Shredding the wallpaper … shredding it … shredding it.

With a shudder, I backed out of the frightening room and pulled the door shut. I reminded myself not to go back there.

I made myself a sandwich for lunch. Then spent most of APPLE FICTION 3 страница the afternoon reading in my room.

A few hours before dinner, a man arrived from the county phone company. Sylvia showed him into my room. I watched happily as he installed a phone on my desk.

“Yessss!” I cried after he left, pumping my fist in the air. I couldn’t wait to try my new phone. I was desperate to call my friend Patsy back in Springfield.

“Well, Heidi? How is it?” she demanded after we said hi and how much we missed each other. “How is your new home?”

“Well …” I hesitated. I didn’t want to tell her how APPLE FICTION 3 страница strange and frightening everything was. But I couldn’t hold it back. I had to tell someone.

“Patsy—it’s awful here!” I cried, checking to make sure my bedroom door was closed. “My uncle Jekyll—he’s totally weird. My cousin Marianna is so unfriendly. And there’s a creature—some kind of creature that keeps attacking the village. The people here—”

I stopped, breathing hard.

And listened.

What was that clicking sound I kept hearing?

And then I heard breathing.

Not Patsy’s breathing.

He’s listening in! I realized.

Uncle Jekyll! He’s listening on another APPLE FICTION 3 страница phone! He’s spying on me!

“What’s that about a creature?” Patsy demanded. “You’re kidding—right?”

“Have-hold on a minute,” I stammered.

I tossed the phone onto my bed and ran out of the room. I flew down the stairs and into the front hall.

Where was Uncle Jekyll? Where?

I wanted to catch him in the act. I wanted to know for sure if he was spying on me.

I spotted him on an armchair in the den. Sitting next to the phone.

As I burst into the room, I saw him pick up a APPLE FICTION 3 страница book and pretend to read it. “Heidi? Hi.” He pretended to be surprised to see me.

I stared at him, breathing hard, my mouth open.

I’m not safe here, I realized.

I’m trapped. I’m a prisoner here.

A strange smile spread over Uncle Jekyll’s face. “Are you enjoying your new phone?” he asked.

The next night, I had a frightening dream. I knew I was dreaming, and I struggled to wake up. But I couldn’t escape it.

A creature chased me across a snow-covered field. Growling, raging at the top APPLE FICTION 3 страница of its lungs, it staggered after me on its hind legs.

Half-wolf, half-man, it raised its hairy snout to the sky and bellowed. Its red eyes glowed like fire, and thick gobs of yellow saliva ran down its furry chin.

I ran harder, harder. I leaned into a blowing wind and churned my legs, running so hard every muscle ached.

But my shoes slipped on the snowy surface. It was like running on a treadmill. I ran and ran but didn’t move forward.

The beast roared closer. I saw it snap its jagged-toothed jaws. I felt its APPLE FICTION 3 страница hot, sour breath on my hair and the back of my neck.

I tried to run harder. Harder. But I wasn’t going anywhere. My shoes slid over the slick snow.

And then I fell. Facedown.

The creature leaped on top of me.

Its red eyes flamed above me. The thick yellow saliva puddled on my face, steaming hot.

“Nooooooo!” I wailed. I tried frantically to twist away. But it pinned me to the snow. So heavy … so heavy I couldn’t breathe.

And then the creature opened its jaws. Lowered its head.

And sank its teeth into APPLE FICTION 3 страница my shoulder.

I woke up with a sharp gasp.

The beast vanished. The white snow faded to black.

At first, I didn’t know where I was. It took a few seconds to remember.

In a strange bed. In a strange room.

I sat up dizzily and rubbed my shoulder. It ached. It felt so sore.

From the dream?

My nightshirt was drenched with sweat. I climbed out of bed and, still shaky, made my way to the dresser. I clicked on the light. Found a clean nightshirt. And changed.

I glanced at the clock. Nearly four in the morning APPLE FICTION 3 страница. Dark outside. And silent.

Images of the dream floated back to me. The chase. The horrifying roars of the creature. The hot breath on my neck.

I’ll never get back to sleep, I realized. Maybe if I read for a while, I’ll get sleepy again.

I took a few deep breaths. “Get over it, Heidi,” I told myself out loud. “It was just a dream.”

I made my way to the wall of books. Uncle Jekyll’s old books. There must be something here to read, I thought. Maybe I can find something really boring APPLE FICTION 3 страница that will put me right to sleep.

On a high shelf, I thought I spotted a children’s book I’d loved as a kid. I reached for it. But my bare foot snagged on the edge of the carpet.

I stumbled forward. My shoulder bumped the bookshelf.

“Huh?” As I caught my balance, a board on the side of the shelf dropped down.

I moved over to it. A secret compartment.

I’d bumped open a secret compartment in the bookshelf.

I brought my face close and peered inside.

“Wow,” I murmured. “What’s hidden in there?”

I APPLE FICTION 3 страница reached a hand in and pulled out an object. A book.

It appeared to be very old. It had a brown leather cover. The leather was cracked and crinkly.

I ran a finger over the faded letters on the front: DIARY.

An old diary.

I flipped through the pages. They were yellow and brittle. And covered with words, diary entries written in black ink in a tiny handwriting.

“Weird,” I murmured. “Who would hide their diary inside a bookshelf?”

I carried the diary to the chair across from my bed and clicked on the floor lamp. Then, yawning, I APPLE FICTION 3 страница settled into the chair and began to examine it.

I searched for the owner’s name on the inside covers and on the first page. But the covers were blank except for yellow-brown age stains. And the first page began with the diary entry for January 1.

What year? What year?

The book didn’t say. No owner. No date.

I blew dust off the spine. No information there.

I flipped through the pages again, careful not to tear the brittle paper. Then I opened the book somewhere near the beginning. Squinting at the tiny handwriting, I started to read:

… So APPLE FICTION 3 страница cold today. The snow coming down in sheets, driven by the howling winds. I know I will howl too. I cannot control it. And I will go out in the storm. Because the storm inside me is more powerful than any snowstorm …

“Huh?” I stared at the yellowed page, gripping the little book tightly in my lap.

What was this person writing about? A storm inside him?

Was that some kind of poetry?

I turned a few more pages and began reading again:

… I know what I did tonight. I remember every scream, every cry of horror APPLE FICTION 3 страница. Those poor people. They don’t deserve it. They don’t deserve me.

But I am powerless to control it. At night when the urge comes over me, when my body makes its hideous changes … I must go out. What choice do I have?

I must run and rage and howl. And I must feed.

I know what I am on those terrifying but exciting nights. I am like a wild beast. And I live for the screams. And for the fear I create

“Whoa!” I murmured. My heart pounded in my chest.

Wind rattled the windowpanes. I pulled the quilt from the APPLE FICTION 3 страница bed over my chair and snuggled under it.

I started to read another page:

… Of course I am a human most of the time. A caring, frightened human. A human prisoner in this old house. And a prisoner in this body that changes at night. A prisoner in this body I cannot control.

Where does the rage come from? From where does the anger spring—the anger that forces me to kill and destroy? There are two of us trapped here. Two prisoners … the beast and the doctor …

The doctor?

I stared at the tiny handwriting, reading APPLE FICTION 3 страница those words again and again until they blurred in front of my eyes.

The beast and the doctor …

Trapped in one body?

I shut the diary and studied the worn leather cover. Was I holding the diary of the original Dr. Jekyll?

Dr. Jekyll, who drank the potion and became the hideous, twisted, dangerous Mr. Hyde?

But how can that be? I asked myself, gripping the little book tightly.

Dr. Jekyll wasn’t real—was he?

And then other questions flooded my mind. …

Did my uncle find this diary? Did Uncle Jekyll hide the diary in the secret compartment?

Did APPLE FICTION 3 страница Uncle Jekyll study the old diary? Did he learn the original Dr. Jekyll’s horrible secrets?

Has my uncle turned himself into a monster?

So many questions!

I didn’t have time to think about answers.

I heard footsteps in the hall—and then my bedroom door swung open.

I tried to shove the diary under the quilt. “Uncle Jekyll?” I gasped.

No. No one there.

I realized the breeze from the hallway had swung the door open. I let out a long sigh of relief.

Shoving the quilt away, I climbed unsteadily to my feet. I flipped quickly APPLE FICTION 3 страница through the diary, searching for the secret formula. No. No sign of it.

I carried the diary to the bookshelf and placed it carefully in its hiding place.

Then I closed the secret compartment, turned off the lights, and climbed into bed. I shut my eyes, but the tiny handwriting, the frightening words, still danced in front of my eyes.

The beast and the doctor …

Did Uncle Jekyll find the formula for the original Dr. Jekyll’s potion? Was it hidden somewhere in the diary? Did he follow the directions and mix it himself?

And drink it APPLE FICTION 3 страница?

Was my uncle the beast that was terrifying Shepherd Falls?

I couldn’t stay here if he was.

I was in terrible danger.

I had to learn the truth—fast.

But how?

Lying in bed, tossing from side to side, wide awake, I thought of a plan.

I waited until after dinner the next night. Then I hid in Uncle Jekyll’s lab.

I found the lab door closed. I turned the knob, pulled the door open, and crept inside.

The equipment churned and bubbled. On the long lab table, I saw two glass beakers half-filled with a purple liquid. A APPLE FICTION 3 страница clear liquid dripped from a glass tube into a gallon-sized bottle.

Uncle Jekyll and Marianna were still at the dinner table. We’d had a quiet—almost silent —dinner. Marianna kept casting angry glances at her father. Uncle Jekyll pretended to ignore them.

“Are you going out tonight?” he asked her.

An odd question. I’d never seen Marianna leave the house.

“I don’t know what I’m doing,” she mumbled into her tuna casserole.

I asked to be excused, saying I didn’t want any dessert.

I knew I had very little time APPLE FICTION 3 страница to hide. My uncle always headed straight for his lab after dinner.

My eyes searched the long, cluttered room. Where could I hide? Where could I hide safely but still be able to spy on Uncle Jekyll?

A row of dark metal supply closets across from the lab table caught my eye. They looked like the hall lockers at my old school.

I darted over to them and began pulling open the doors one at a time. The narrow closets were all jammed with equipment. No room for me.

I heard Uncle Jekyll’s voice out in the hall. He was APPLE FICTION 3 страница arguing again with Marianna.

I searched desperately for a hiding place.

I’m going to be caught! I realized. He’ll ask me what I’m doing in here. And I won’t have an answer.

My heart thudding in my chest, I pulled open the last closet door. Yes! Only a few towels on the bottom.

I took a deep breath and squeezed inside. I pulled the metal door nearly closed—just as Uncle Jekyll stepped into the lab.

Peering through the narrow opening, I held my breath. Did he see me swing the door shut APPLE FICTION 3 страница? Could he hear my heart pounding like a bass drum?

He moved to the table and inspected the beakers with the purple liquid.

He didn’t see me, I realized. I slumped against the back of the closet and slowly let my breath out.

He poured the purple liquid carefully into a rack of slender glass test tubes. Then he adjusted some dials on the electronic equipment at the end of the table.

What is he working on? I wondered.

He is working so fast, so urgently. He must be in his lab at least twenty hours a day APPLE FICTION 3 страница.

Why is he working so hard? What is he trying to do?

I hope it is something good, I prayed. I hope his work has nothing to do with the creature that is wrecking the village.

Maybe he’s trying to cure a disease, I told myself. Maybe he’s very close. He has almost found the cure. And he is working day and night because he knows he almost has it.

Or maybe he is in a race with another doctor. Uncle Jekyll wants to cure the disease before the other doctor beats him to it.

I desperately wanted my uncle APPLE FICTION 3 страница to be good. I didn’t want him to be a mad scientist. An evil villain. A … creature.

Please … I prayed … Please don’t drink your formula and turn into a growling beast. Please … let the people in the town be wrong about you.

I watched as his hands moved furiously over the table. Pouring clear liquids into purple liquids. Turning knobs and dials. Mixing chemicals from one test tube to another. Holding glass beakers over a flame until the liquid inside bubbled and steamed.

Electricity sizzled over the table. Uncle Jekyll kept shocking the dark liquid in APPLE FICTION 3 страница a beaker with some sort of electric probe.

His head bent, his shoulders slumped under the white lab coat, he worked feverishly, without ever stopping for a second, without coming up for air.

I began to feel cramped in the narrow closet. My knees ached. My back ached. Pressed against the metal sides, my arms had fallen asleep.

This was a big mistake, I decided. I’m not going to see anything interesting at all. I should have trusted Uncle Jekyll. I shouldn’t be hiding in here spying on him.

I watched him raise a test tube APPLE FICTION 3 страница to the fluorescent light over the table. It contained a rust-colored liquid that glowed in the light.

He studied it for a moment, turning it between his fingers.

Then he tilted back his head. Lowered the test tube to his mouth.

And drank the liquid down.

Oh, no, I thought, feeling heavy dread knot my throat. I pressed a hand over my mouth to keep from crying out.

Uncle Jekyll licked his lips. Then he raised another test tube with a green liquid inside—and poured that down his throat too.

He swallowed noisily and licked his lips.

Then APPLE FICTION 3 страница he braced himself. He flattened both hands on the tabletop and leaned forward. As if waiting for the liquids to do something to him.

I stared through the narrow opening. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t move.

Leaning hard against the tabletop, Uncle Jekyll shut his eyes. His mouth twisted. His knees started to collapse.

Grabbing the tabletop to keep himself standing, he opened his mouth in a shrill howl of pain.

His eyes bulged and rolled in his head.

His face turned bright red.

Another painful howl escaped his throat. An animal howl. A wolf howl.

He clamped APPLE FICTION 3 страница his eyes shut. He pounded the table with both hands. He tore at his white hair until it stood up in wild tufts.

His whole face twisted in agony.

And then, with an ugly groan from deep in his belly, he spun away from the table. And staggered to the door. Staggered like an animal, moaning and growling.

And vanished from the lab.

My heart throbbed. My chest ached. I realized I’d been holding my breath the whole time. I let it out in a loud whoosh.

I pushed open the closet door with my APPLE FICTION 3 страница shoulder. And half fell, half leaped out of the narrow closet.

“I don’t believe it,” I murmured. “He is the beast. Uncle Jekyll is the creature.”

My head spun. I raised both hands to my cheeks. My skin was burning hot!

What can I do? I asked myself.

Who can I tell?

I’ve got to stop him. I’ve got to get help for him.

But who can help?

I couldn’t think clearly. I couldn’t think of anything at all.

I kept seeing the tortured expression on Uncle Jekyll’s face. And hearing the animal APPLE FICTION 3 страница howls that burst from his throat.

I stared at the empty test tubes lying on their sides on the table. How could he drink that stuff? How?

I’ve got to get out of here, I decided.

I turned to the door—and screamed.

Uncle Jekyll stood inside the doorway.

He had returned to the lab!

He was breathing hard, grunting with each breath, staring at me. Staring angrily.

“Heidi,” he growled. “I’m so sorry you saw.”

He lumbered toward me, his eyes rolling wildly.

“Which-what are you going to do?” I stammered. I backed away from him, backed up APPLE FICTION 3 страница until I hit the metal closets.

He grunted in reply. And grabbed my arm with both hands.

“Uncle Jekyll—stop!” I cried. “What are you doing?”

“Sorry you saw,” he rasped again. His chest heaved up and down. His breath came in hoarse wheezes.

“Let go!” I pleaded.

But his grip tightened, and he pulled me away from the closets. I tried to pull back, but he was too strong.

He dragged me from the lab. Up the stairs. And pushed me into my room.

I spun around to face him. “Why are you doing this?” I cried.

He APPLE FICTION 3 страница lurched into the hall and slammed the bedroom door shut. I heard the lock click.

I dove to the door. “Uncle Jekyll—I can help you! Let me help you! Don’t lock me in here. Why are you doing this?”

“For your own good,” he replied in a hoarse animal growl.

I heard his heavy footsteps going down the stairs.

I tried the door. Locked. He locked me in.

“Uncle Jekyll—” I called.

I knew he couldn’t hear me. I heard the front door slam.

I ran to the bedroom window and peered out into APPLE FICTION 3 страница the darkness.

After a few seconds, he staggered into view. I took a deep breath and tried to slow my racing heart as I watched him make his way down the hill toward the village. After a minute or so, he disappeared into the shadows.

“Why?” I murmured, shaking my head. “Why?”

Does he plan to keep me locked up in here forever? I asked myself.

No. He can’t.

And then I thought of an even more frightening question: What does he plan to do with me when he gets back?

Through the open window, I heard a shrill APPLE FICTION 3 страница scream. And then frightened shouts from down the hill.

“I have to get out of here,” I told myself.

I tried tugging the doorknob with all my strength. Then I tried to batter the door open with my shoulder.

No way. The door was solid oak.

I dove to the window. I heard more screams from town. Flames shot up. More angry cries. A siren wailed.

I leaned out the window and looked down. A two-story drop straight to the ground. No tree to climb down. No shrubs below to break my fall.

“I can’t APPLE FICTION 3 страница jump out,” I decided. “I’ll break my neck.”

Then I spotted the metal rain gutter at the corner of the house. Rusted, its paint peeling, it ran along the roof, then straight down nearly to the ground.

If I can wrap my hands around it, I can slide down, I decided. But will it hold my weight?

Only one way to find out.

I leaned farther out the window and reached for it … reached …

No. It was inches from my grasp. I couldn’t lean any farther. I couldn’t reach it.

Wait, I thought. I ducked back APPLE FICTION 3 страница into the room and pulled the desk chair to the window. My legs trembling, I climbed onto the desk chair. Then I leaned out the window again.

Reached … reached for the gutter.

My fingers brushed the rusted metal—

—and then I lost my balance.

I felt my body plunging forward … plunging out the window …

… and I fell.

I screamed—and grabbed wildly for the gutter.

My hands wrapped around it. The rusted metal scraped my skin.


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