My Halloween gift to you: an excerpt, which can be read as a complete short story, from Spook's Shack, illustrated by Kerry Millard, published by Allen & Unwin, 2003
Deep in the bush, down by the
creek where the trees grew thick and the vines twined tall, Finn saw a chimney.
If there was a chimney there must be a roof and if there was a roof there must
be a house.
But there was no road and no driveway, and all this
great wild bushland belonged to Aunt Agatha.
‘No one else has lived here for a hundred years,’
she’d said. ‘Stay off the farms and away from Boris Banks’ mansion - but while
you’re in the bush you’ll bother no one and no one will bother you.’
So Finn pushed his way through thorny bushes and
wire-sharp grass until he could see the corner of a wall. He ducked through
tangling vines and scratching branches, and then he saw the shack.
It was so old
it looked like part of the bush. The walls were charred black from fire and the
door was locked with a big wooden bolt.
A prickle of
fear ran up Finn’s neck.
‘It’s just a
shack,’ he told himself. ‘An old deserted shack. You can’t be afraid of it.’
The prickle of
fear ran faster and colder.
be something interesting,’ he decided. ‘There might be gold.’
He slid back
the bolt, pushed open the door and stepped inside.
smelled of wet dogs and stale bread, and it was cold - shivery, clammy cold.
The window was dark with dirt and covered by leaves, so that not even the
hottest sun could reach inside. Across the walls, lumpy green fungus glowed in
Then a dog
growled, a chair creaked, and a cross, whispery voice snarled, ‘Gazumping
galahs! Who’s that, clumping into my shack?’
Finn jumped -
and hit the door. It shut tight behind him.
An old man was sitting in a rocking chair with a border collie dog at his
knees. The hair on Finn’s head and arms stood up as straight as bristles in a
brush, because the old man - a scrawny, skinny old man - had skin that glowed
green from the toadstools behind him and a body that was see-through as
Finn’s knees started rattling. ‘Oh!’ he said, in a squeak that made the
dog shake his ears and whine.
The black parts of the dog’s coat were nearly invisible but his white
ruff and paws shone as green as his master’s face.
Finn’s teeth started chattering
‘You woke us up!’ growled the old man, and the dog growled too.
‘I didn’t think anyone lived here,’ said Finn, and now he was clattering
from his clenched-tight toes to his quivering hair.
The old man
laughed, like gravel in a gold-shaking pan. ‘You look like you’ve seen a
sideways to open the door, but his knees were wobbling and his feet were as
heavy as if he were walking in glue. The black-and-green dog sneaked towards
him and bit his ankle with a sharp cold pinch.
shouted. His foot jerked back; his wobbly knees folded - and he slid to the
Cold hands whispered over his face.
Finn couldn’t breathe in and he couldn’t breathe out.
He wondered if he was going to die right now.
‘You’ll have a lump like an
emu’s egg tomorrow,’ cackled the old man, and held out his hand.
Finn sat up. His head went through the old man’s arm.
‘Waddling wombats!’ hissed
the old man. ‘Try that again!’
The old man waved his arm
from side to side, right through Finn’s head. Finn saw a blur of green and felt
a shiver of cold between his ears.
‘Gazumping galahs,’ breathed the old man, with a sigh like
wind blowing through leaves. ‘Looks like you did see a ghost!’
Copyright: Wendy Orr
Spook's Shack is available as an ebook or direct from the author for $15.00 plus postage.