This is the first story in a collection of 13 twisted tales set at Edgar Allan Poe Middle School. It was dramatized as a radio play in October 2016 by Chicago's Small Fish Radio Theatre and Thespinarium as part of their horror show, "The Creatures Inside". The radio show can be heard for free at http://www.smallfishradio.com/
Please, excuse the strange formatting here.
Inside the Edgar Allan Poe Middle School library, Gilbert stood before a towering bookshelf and groaned. “Man,” he said, “who would want to read any of these stupid books?”
A girl he recognized from P.E. class stood a few feet away. “Hey,” he said in a loud whisper. “Hey, you. Girl!”
She thumbed through a collection of poetry and completely ignored him. But when did that ever stop Gilbert?
“Hey, girl,” he said louder. “Hello? Helloooooo, I’m talking to you. The longer you ignore me, the more annoying I get.”
The girl turned, glaring at him. “What?”
“Hey,” Gilbert said, smiling. “What if an earthquake happened right now? A 10.0 on the Richter scale. Wouldn’t that be horrible?”
“What are you talking about?”
“During an earthquake, don’t you think these shelves would tip over? We’d be crushed like ants under all of these books.”
“Okay…Whatever.” The girl stalked off without a book of poems.
“Hey!” Gilbert shouted. “Where are you go—?”
“Shhh!” the librarian scolded from behind the checkout desk. She held a taut index finger in front of her lips.
Gilbert couldn’t believe he was actually wasting lunchtime in the library. It proved how badly he wanted answers, how badly he needed a solution to his problems.
He was a talker. No matter how many times his teachers called home, no matter how many times his mom took away his television, skateboard, and video games, his brain always came up with things for his lips to say. It wasn’t his fault medication hardly helped his gums from flapping.
Gilbert had heard rumors of a special book hidden among the plethora of titles in the library. A magical book of spells that supposedly solved students’ troubles.
He needed that book. Perhaps it would help to shut him up.
A voice whispered behind Gilbert. “Can I help you?”
He turned to find the librarian standing there. She was short with round glasses and dark hair. “Is there something in particular you that are looking for? And, please, whisper.”
Gilbert said in his quiet voice, “I want that secret book of spells everyone talks about.”
“Secret book of spells?” The librarian looked puzzled. “There is no secret book of spells here.”
“Oh,” said Gilbert, defeated.
“There is only this book of spells.”
The librarian grabbed a thin, gray book from directly in front of Gilbert. There was no title or numbered label on the spine or cover.
The woman handed the book over to Gilbert. “Be careful with this. It’s very delicate.”
The book was rough to Gilbert’s touch. “It feels weird.”
“It’s made of dragon skin,” replied the librarian, a grin upon her face. “Its pages are glued together with globs of venomous, reptilian spit.”
Gilbert snorted. “Dragons don’t exist.”
“They do on the island of Komodo.”
“Yeah, right! Where’s that?”
“Look it up,” the woman said, stepping back. “This is a library, after all.” She rearranged a couple of novels on a nearby shelf. “You can’t check out that book. But you are allowed to read it at your own risk.”
Gilbert gulped. “At my own risk?”
“Silently read the words inside your head, but don’t speak them if you aren’t ready for the consequences. Don’t read aloud what isn’t allowed.” With that said, the librarian turned and left Gilbert alone with the faceless book.
The book almost seemed to hiss as Gilbert opened it. Blood-red words written in nonsensical phrases filled the yellowed pages.
On one particularly worn page was a drawing of a closed mouth. A few red lines of unintelligible language were scripted beneath the image. He recognized letters from the English alphabet, but the words they constructed made no sense to Gilbert. It had to be the spell to keep him quiet.
Gilbert looked around the room and found the librarian with her back turned to him. He took a deep breath and whispered the spell aloud.
Gilbert wasn’t even sure he was correctly pronouncing most of the words. But at least he was giving it a shot.
Suddenly, the librarian was in front of him. “I thought I told you not to read that out loud! Get out of here!”
Before he could exit, the woman snatched the book of spells from his hands.
However, not before Gilbert caught one last glance at the drawing of the mouth on the page. The mouth was no longer closed. It now smiled wide, revealing rows and rows of jagged fangs between blistered lips.
Later, in Science class, Gilbert’s palms itched. He did his best not to scratch. His mom had always told him scratching only made itching worse.
Gilbert raised his red right hand. Miss Walker came over and wrote Gilbert a pass to the nurse’s office, if only to give herself a momentary reprieve from one of her more gabby students.
In the hallway, Gilbert looked at his left palm and discovered that he had dug a hole into his flesh with his fingernails. His heart sunk into his guts. The wound wasn’t bleeding, but he knew it was only a matter of time before it gushed.
He ran to the nurse’s office, not daring to look back down at his hands. Mercifully, the nurse had no other patients at the moment.
“Oh, dear.” She clucked her tongue like a worried hen. “What did you do to yourself?”
“How bad is it?” Gilbert said.
And then he saw his hands. Each palm had a hole in it. The holes were the size of nickels. Neither hole bled, but he could see the tender pink flesh beneath the skin.
The nurse wrapped Gilbert’s hands in gauze and sent him back to class. At Edgar Allan Poe Middle School, only the kids with broken or detached limbs were sent home.
The itching didn’t stop. It only increased. Outside his classroom door, Gilbert froze at the sound of muffled voices.
The voices didn’t come from inside the classroom. No, these voices were coming from right there in front of Gilbert.
They were coming from his hands.
Gilbert took a deep breath and slowly unwrapped the gauze from his left hand. When he saw what was beneath the bandages,he nearly fainted.
The hole in his palm was larger now. Within minutes, it had somehow grown to the size of a fifty-cent piece. Only, now, the hole was a mouth. A mouth with rows and rows of fangs between its blistered lips.
The little mouth cackled in his grasp.
Gilbert tore the gauze free of his right hand and found an identical fanged monstrosity on his other palm. This one oozed drool and flicked a black, snake-like tongue up at him.
“Boo,” said the right hand.
Gilbert felt faint, rubbery in the knees.
“Don’t be too scared,” the left hand shrieked.
The classroom door opened. Miss Walker glared at Gilbert. “Messing around in the hallway, are we?”
“Yes!” said the right hand.
“Most certainly!” offered the left.
“What was that?” Miss Walker crossed her arms.
Gilbert shoved his hands into his pants pockets. “N-Nothing,” he said to the teacher. “Can I come in?”
“Only if you can quietly take the quiz.”
“Yeah,” said Gilbert. “I can.”
“But we can’t!” one of his hands squeaked from inside a pocket. The other hand giggled.
Somehow, Miss Walker didn’t hear this and she allowed Gilbert into the classroom. The teacher placed the quiz in front of him and walked away.
Gilbert clenched his right hand into a fist, silencing the mouth. He freed the hand from his pocket and grabbed his pencil.
Almost immediately, the mouth began to chew on the pencil like a beaver feasting on a small tree. Wooden shavings spilled onto Gilbert’s desk.
“No!” Gilbert shouted. With his left hand, he tried to snatch the pencil away from the right. But the left hand wanted a piece too, and his hands began a tug-of-war over the pencil.
“Yummy!” said the left hand.
“Scrumptious!” declared the right.
“What was that, Gilbert?” fumed Miss Walker from across the room. “No talking during the exam!”
“But it’s not me!” he tried to explain.
“Yes, it is,” said a snooty girl sitting beside him.
Gilbert dropped the pencil to the desk and shoved his hands back inside his pockets. “I’m done.”
“You didn’t even start the quiz,” said Miss Walker.
“I forgot to study,” he said.
“Idiot,” a hand snickered.
“Dummy,” offered the other.
Gilbert slumped down in his seat, and, for once, had nothing more to say.
“I’m so disappointed in you,” his mom said at the dinner table that evening. “Do you want to go to military school?”
Behind a full plate of spaghetti and meatballs, Gilbert shook his head. “No, I don’t.”
“Two teachers called me at work today! Two!” Her eyes fired lasers at his face. “They both said you were making voices in class? Now, why would you do that?”
“It wasn’t me,” said Gilbert.
“It was me!” said the hand in his left pocket.
“And me, too!” added the hand in the right. The fanged holes had chewed through his pants pockets and had been biting at his legs for hours.
His mom’s face was tomato red. “You just can’t help yourself, can you? I don’t appreciate the ventriloquist act, so you go upstairs.”
Gilbert didn’t even bother to fight back. He trudged upstairs, his belly rumbling.
As he closed his bedroom door behind him, his right hand tried to gnaw on the brass doorknob. He smacked the hand across the mouth, and it snapped at his left middle finger, drawing blood.
The blood from Gilbert’s bit finger trickled down into his palm. The left mouth darted a dark tongue to the blood, lapping it up like a vampire bat.
“Mmmm, better than pencil,” said the left hand.
“I want some,” said the right mouth.
“ShutupshutupshutupshutupSHUTUP!” Gilbert screamed, his cheeks wet, but the loud mouths merely laughed at him.
Gilbert reached under his bed, where his right hand attempted to devour a spider in a single bite. After a few seconds, he found what he was looking for.
Despite the protests from the chomping mouths, Gilbert managed to slide a pair of thick snow gloves over his hands. He then took out his mp3 player, placed headphones over his ears, and listened to his favorite tunes at full blast.
At least he drowned out the noisy hands for the rest of the night.
The next morning, Gilbert wore the snow gloves to school. His Math and Art teachers made him remove them during class. His hands spoke freely.
He realized that clapping his hands together seemed to stun the mouths into silence. But, when they came to, the mouths spoke louder than before.
After second period, Gilbert went to his English class. There, he showed his palms to Mr. B, a teacher who at least tried to understand kids before biting their heads off.
“It’s sad to say,” said Mr. B, “but these mouths aren’t even the strangest things I’ve seen at this school.”
“Can you help me?” Gilbert pleaded. “They’re driving me crazy!”
“Let’s go to the library together,” the teacher suggested. “See if we can’t get this sorted out there.”
Once in the library, Mr. B said to Gilbert, “Show me the book of spells. There must be a way to remedy this.”
Gilbert took the teacher to the correct shelf. He sighed in relief when he saw that the book still sat there, as if waiting for him. Mr. B opened the book and read a few pages.
“Do you understand it?” Gilbert asked, hope rising within him like floodwaters.
“Not at all,” Mr. B said.
“So I’m going to be like this forever?”
“I have a plan. It might not work, but if you are willing to give it a shot...”
“No way, Jose,” said the right hand.
“I’m staying right here,” replied the left.
“Yes!” said Gilbert. “Please! Anything!”
“Very well,” said Mr. B.
The teacher wrote some sort of message on a piece of paper and handed it to Gilbert. On it, the teacher had copied the spell, but he had written each word backwards.
“Read it aloud,” the teacher instructed. “You’ll hopefully be able to pronounce the words correctly this time. The curse should be reversed.”
“It won’t work,” taunted the right hand.
“A failure, for sure,” agreed the left.
“Read slowly,” said Mr. B. “Carefully.”
And Gilbert did. He did his best to ignore the mouths. He read more carefully than he had read anything else in his life.
Gilbert looked at his palms. “I don’t think it worked.”
Suddenly, Gilbert’s legs turned to jelly. The room spun. His vision blurred. He collapsed against a bookshelf, nearly bringing it down upon him.
Mr. B caught his student. “I’m taking you to the nurse, Gilbert.”
“Wait,” said the boy. Gilbert stood tall and strong. “They’re gone, Mr. B. They’re gone!”
He showed his palms to the teacher. The mouths had vanished. Mr. B smiled wide and gave the boy a high five.
“Thanks,” Gilbert said. “I’m going to go get a snack before the bell rings. I haven’t eaten in over a day.”
“Good,” said a low voice. “I’m starving.”
Mr. B scratched his head. “Who said that?”
Gilbert’s spine tingled. He lifted his T-shirt and screamed.
“I’m hungry,” complained a gaping mouth in Gilbert’s stomach. “Feed me now.”