It was the party we had been waiting for all summer.
For Cheerily’s birthday, Amaka and I were invited over to Chatterbox House on a Friday night for a stupendous, unsurprisingly sleepless sleepover. After dinner with the Chatterbox family (where Cheerily’s eldest brother Soupy entertained us with a riotous impersonation of Ambassador Stoop inspecting the boys in the S.F.C. from the seat of his Lawn Beast), we adjourned to the patio to enjoy gi-normous slices of cake with iced cream.
When we finished eating we twirled upon the lawn in the moonlight. It was a “blue” moon. (Do you know what that is? A “blue” moon is the second full moon inside of a month. My father taught me that.) It was such a lovely, late-summer evening, with the musical stylings of the Earwigs wafting over the air from Bubbles & Burps. I remember they were playing that most romantical song, “There’s Something in the Way You Shuck the Corn,” and I felt absolutely transported. Finally we collapsed on the dewy lawn with a spree of giggles, and Cheerily suggested (with a snort) that we go inside, get into our night gowns and sleeping bags, and tell ghost stories!
There’s nothing like crawling into a sleeping bag on a sleepover: the coolness of the rose-colored satin, the comfiness of the down exterior, the creepiness of the toads that one’s little brother has stuffed into the bottom of the bag…
But not even Farnsworth’s toads could disrupt the chilling delight of listening to Amaka tell one of her world famous tales of skin-creeping horror! Yes, when it comes to heart-stopping nightmares that you will never be able totally to expunge from your nervous system, there’s no one who can serve them up like Amaka. Just a natural gift, I guess.
On this night, she had a new tale to tell us, one which she claimed to have heard from none other than my great-uncle, Sir Hector Jolly, Superior General of the Illustrious Order of Knights of the Blue Sock. It was a story about a strange creature living in the Wyvern Weald called the Lizard King. It is said that the Lizard King walks upright, has three heads, a long tail, six arms, and that he feasts on children–but only on the night of their birthday!
“Please don’t tell anymore!” Cheerily moaned when she heard this. “You want me to stop?” replied Amaka. “No,” squeaked Cheerily, with a timid snort. “Go on!”
“It’s been many years since the Lizard King has been seen in Patria,” continued Amaka. “But of course, as everyone knows, the Lizard King is able to hibernate for hundreds of years at a stretch. The last time he was seen, in fact, was in Chatterbox House itself, when he was driven out by a young Sir Chikehed Chatterbox and some of his comrades in the Knights of the Blue Sock. In that encounter, Sir Chikehed wounded the Lizard King, cutting off half its tail, a trophy that Sir Hector still keeps in a strong box underneath his bed. But as it stalked away with half its tail, the Lizard King vowed to return to Chatterbox House. “On some Chatterbox’s birthday when I am least suspected,” roared the resentful Lizard King, “I will return!”
Which is exactly the point in the story when we heard an ominous creak from the direction of Cheerily’s door…
TO BE CONTINUED IN OUR VERY NEXT EPISODE