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Children's Fiction Horror & Ghost Stories

More Tales to Keep You Up at Night

by (author) Dan Poblocki

illustrated by Marie Bergeron

Penguin Young Readers Group
Initial publish date
Aug 2024
Horror & Ghost Stories, Paranormal, Short Stories
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Aug 2024
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 10 to 18
  • Grade: 5 to 12


From the co-author of the #1 New York Times bestselling series The Magic Misfits comes a spectacularly creepy follow-up to Tales to Keep You Up at Night that will keep you up way past bedtime.
Perfect for fans of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark!

Gilbert is visiting his injured brother, Ant, in the hospital, when he sees a shadowed figure leave behind a satchel filled with old cassette tapes. Despite a strange, garbled voicemail telling him "Don't listen to the tapes," Gilbert can't resist playing them and listening to the chilling stories they reveal: tales of cursed seashells, of doors torn through the fabric of the universe, of cemeteries that won't let you leave, of a classroom skeleton that hungers for new skin. And wandering through all the stories, a strange man named November, who might not be a man at all...

As Gilbert keeps listening to the tapes, he slowly realizes that the stories may hold the key to helping Ant. But in order to save his brother, he may be opening a door to something much, much worse...

With hair-raising, spine-chilling prose, Dan Poblocki delivers a collection of interconnected stories that are sure to keep you up late in the night.

About the authors

Contributor Notes

Dan Poblocki (any pronouns) is the co-author with Neil Patrick Harris of the #1 New York Times bestselling series The Magic Misfits (writing under the pen-name Alec Azam). He's also the author of The Stone Child, The Nightmarys, and the Mysterious Four series. His books The Ghost of Graylock and The Haunting of Gabriel Ashe were Junior Library Guild selections and made the American Library Association’s Best Fiction for Young Adults list in 2013 and 2014. Dan lives in Saugerties, New York, with two scaredy-cats and a growing collection of very creepy toys.

Marie Bergeron (she/her) was born and raised in Montreal. After studying cinematography, she attended École de Design. Her style is inspired by many things, including films and games, contrasting a more graphic approach with organic strokes. Her clients have included Marvel Studios, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros., Fox Entertainment, and more.

Excerpt: More Tales to Keep You Up at Night (by (author) Dan Poblocki; illustrated by Marie Bergeron)

Gilbert Gets a Call
Gilbert Campbell was shelving books at the public library on the Upper West Side when his phone dinged. One new voicemail.

His brother’s message was garbled, mixed with static, but Gilbert was able to make out: “. . . tell you . . . Important . . . Whatever you do . . . Don’t listen to the tapes . . . Explain more when I . . .

This was followed by about thirty seconds of a soft hissing.

Gilbert played the message again.

Then again.

Was there panic in Ant’s voice? Or did it only sound that way because the recording was messed up?

It was the week of winter break. Holiday festivities had come and gone. Gilbert and his best friend, Percy, had been planning on playing video games and catching up on their favorite shows, but he hadn’t thought to ask Mrs. Effiong for time off—a bummer, especially since this particular library was up by their school and nowhere near home. His mom and dad were away on vacation, and Grandma Rosemary was visiting. This wasn’t a bad thing—Grandma Rosemary didn’t mind TV bingeing or video games. In fact, she often joined in. The problem was that whenever their grandmother looked after them, Gilbert’s older brother tended to act out.

Whatever you do . . . Don’t listen to the tapes, Ant had said.

Which tapes? Gilbert wondered.

Before returning the call, he noticed that Ant’s message was from early that morning—before dawn—but it had only just arrived.


The line rang and rang.

Shivering, he returned to the shelving cart, deciding to grill Ant later. Since his shift was nearly done, only three books were left: The Secret of the Stone Child by Nathaniel Olmstead, The Clue of the Incomplete Corpse by Ogden Kentwall, and something called Elsewhere Gardens by an author named October Bowen.

This last one he handed to Mrs. Effiong across the counter. “I’d like to check this out before I go. It’s for my best friend.” Percy was a self-proclaimed botanist-in-training. Once, they’d said, What in the world is more hopeful than a garden? Gilbert loved that. Mrs. Effiong’s big brown eyes glinted as she scanned the copy into his account.

Gilbert’s phone dinged again—a message from Percy. Their ears must be burning!

My mom wants to know if you can come over for pizza later.

Gilbert typed back:

Sure! I’d love to have pizza with your mom. Will you be there too?


Mrs. Effiong tsked as she slid the book to him. “Gilbert, you know I don’t like our volunteers on their phones—”

“I just have to check in with my grandmother. I’ll be quick.”

When Gilbert pulled up Grandma Rosemary’s contact info, the phone buzzed in his hand. She was calling! Ignoring Mrs. Effiong’s frown, he swiped to answer, to say something about the cheerful coincidence. But his grandma sounded frantic. “Where have you been? I’ve called and called!”

“Service is spotty at the library. What’s wrong?”

“It’s Antonio.”

His brother’s strange voicemail crackled through Gilbert’s memory. “Is he okay?”

“Do I sound like he’s okay?” Grandma Rosemary sighed. “I’m sorry, sweetheart. It’s just . . . he got hurt.”

“How hurt?”

“We’re in intensive care. Please come.” She told him the hospital name. “The entrance is by the river.”

A map of the city flashed through his frazzled mind. “I’ll catch the bus.”

“I have to get in touch with your parents—”

There was a click. She’d hung up.

“Everything all right?” Mrs. Effiong asked.

Gilbert felt like he was floating. His skin had gone all prickly. He thought of Ant’s face—his bulbous nose, stubborn acne, dark fuzz on his chin, curly black hair that faded to the skin just over his ears. Then, Gilbert’s brain did a frightening thing—it covered Ant’s face in red.

Wet and sticky.

Like in horror movies.

“Gilbert?” Mrs. Effiong’s voice came again. “What’s the matter?”

Gilbert clutched the counter’s edge, then slipped Percy’s botanical book under his arm. “My brother . . . There was an accident. I—I have to go.”

Mrs. Effiong’s hand drifted toward her mouth. “Is there someone I can call?”

“My grandmother wants me at the hospital.” Gilbert’s voice sounded as if it belonged to someone else. “And my parents are—”

“Let me give you cash for a cab.”

“I have a MetroCard.”

“I’m not sure I feel comfortable—”

“I’ll be fine. Promise.” He retrieved his coat and scarf and hat from the chair behind the circulation desk.

“You have my cell number?” the librarian asked.

Strange how those were the words that should make his eyes sting. “I do,” he answered, fighting to look all business.

“Text me when you get where you’re going?”

An accident . . .

Intensive care . . .

Big brother . . .

He shook the thoughts away, then tossed a nod to Mrs. Effiong. If he stood there any longer, he knew he’d break. At the landing, he pushed the door open.

Cold air rushed into the library like a gasp.


Snow flurries started when the crosstown bus finally stopped.

Gilbert tugged his scarf tight and trudged to the hospital entrance around the corner. A security guard pointed him to the second floor. Upstairs, Gilbert stepped into a busy corridor. His phone chimed with a new message from Percy.

My mom wants to know what toppings you want? Meatballs? Peppers? Olives?

Percy! In the rush to get here, Gilbert had forgotten to tell them about Ant’s accident.

My brother’s in the hospital.

OMG. Everything all right?
I’ll text you in a bit.

Percy answered with a bunch of question marks. Gilbert was filled with a bunch of question marks himself.

He remembered to text Mrs. Effiong, then crept to the room the security guard had mentioned.

The door was open wide. Inside, a dim light hung on the wall over a headboard. A large silhouette was standing between Gilbert and the room’s occupant. A nurse? A doctor?

Gilbert knocked. “Hello?”

The figure straightened, then bolted to a hidden corner of the room. Startled, Gilbert grabbed at the door frame and nearly dropped the library book for Percy that he realized he was somehow still holding on to.

Finally, he saw his brother, and any notion of the shadowed figure flew out of his head.

Tubes and hoses and bags filled with clear liquids hung from hooked stands on either side of the bed where Ant was lying. His eyes were closed. An oxygen mask covered his nose and mouth.

Gilbert took Ant’s hand. “Wh-what happened to you?”

A noise came from behind him. He turned to find a closed door. That shadowed figure . . . Was this where they’d gone? A small placard read RESTROOM.

He looked to his brother. A large bandage covered Ant’s lower left cheek. Another was taped to Ant’s throat, snaking beneath his hospital gown. The skin around Ant’s eyes was purple with collected blood.

The noise came again. Fabric rustling? Wind through air vents? Wings fluttering? “Who’s there?” Gilbert asked.

When no answer came, his hope that the person was a nurse or doctor—or even his grandmother—evaporated.

Nervous, Gilbert glanced around for something to block the door. The wood-framed chairs in the corner wouldn’t be heavy enough. Then the latch clicked, and the bathroom door opened a crack. A sliver of black. Gilbert sidled against the wall beside the door, out of the sightline, and listened to the nothingness within. A moment later, he clasped the library book like a baseball bat, yanked the doorknob, and shouted, “Hyah!

A toilet was against the far wall, a chrome handle attached to the tiles, a corner sink stuck beside a cramped shower stall.

No one was there.

He looked to Ant with a nervous grin. Had he really shouted hyah? “You’d better not remember that,” he whispered.

He flicked the bathroom light switch. In the shower stall, a leather satchel sat, sagging in on itself. Curious, Gilbert flipped it open. Inside, a few objects glinted. Plastic. Angular. He held one of them to the light.

At first, he wasn’t sure what to make of it. A rectangular thing no bigger than his own hand. Then, his mind was whipped back to the garbled words of his brother’s voicemail. Don’t listen to the tapes. These were cassettes—tapes like the ones Grandma Rosemary kept in a box in a cupboard in her living room, next to an old boom box. Gilbert upended the satchel onto the floor. Two more cassette cases clattered out, followed by something larger, heavier. The player was bright yellow. Walkman and AM/FM were stenciled onto its side. A set of headphones slipped out too, attached to the player by a thin black cord. Totally retro.

Did the bag belong to Ant?

Footsteps echoed from the hallway. Gilbert shoved the bag’s contents back inside, along with the library book. He turned off the bathroom light, then stared out through the crack in the door. The person who appeared was small. She placed a paper bag on the table beside the hospital bed, let out a sigh, then ran a hand across her short, graying hair.

Clutching the satchel’s straps, Gilbert elbowed the door open and said, “Hi, Grandma . . .”

She startled. “Oh, honey. You scared me!”

Something told him to not show her his discovery, so when she hugged him briefly, he dropped the satchel and nudged it under the bed.

Her eyes were pinkish. “I grabbed us some coffees.”

Gilbert took the cup even though he didn’t drink coffee. He glanced at his brother again, all of his worry rushing back. “What happened?”

Here’s what Grandma Rosemary told him:

That morning before work, she’d noticed Ant’s door open, his bed made. Antonio’s absence didn’t surprise her. He’d often crash at a friend’s place if it got late and he was sleepy. But when Ant didn’t answer his phone, she’d fretted. She almost woke Gilbert but hadn’t wanted to worry him. Then, at her office, she reached out to some of Ant’s friends . . . By noon, she’d begun contacting emergency rooms.

Someone had found Ant on a subway platform sometime before sunrise.

He’d been unconscious from the start, his skin marked with strange wounds, deep gouges and scrapes. The IVs now connected to his arm were filled with antibiotics and saline and some medication for pain.

As soon as Grandma Rosemary took a breath, Gilbert asked, “Did you get in touch with Mom and Dad?”

“They’re booking a flight back.”

“Is he going to be okay?”

“The medicine will do what it’s supposed to.” There was something in Grandma Rosemary’s voice that felt like a lie.

Together, they held Ant’s hand. Gilbert felt Ant’s pulse just below the skin under his knuckles. Faint. He thought again of the voicemail his brother had left him. About the tapes. What else had it said?

Ant had been keeping secrets. That much was clear, and it wasn’t only the past twelve hours that proved it. In the weeks leading up to the holiday, Ant had been acting funny. Quiet. Tired. Even his friends had called him out on it. Last week, Fernando and Rosalie had stopped by, and Gilbert could have cut the tension between them with a laser beam.

Unfortunately, most warning signs are recognizable only in retrospect.

“What now?” he asked.

“We wait,” she said, reaching for her coffee.

That was one thing Gilbert was not willing to do.


In the hospital cafeteria, he bought a chocolate chip cookie and a small bottle of apple juice. When his phone chimed yet again, he ducked toward a secluded table near the tall windows.

Any news?

But Gilbert didn’t want a whole back-and-forth just yet.

Instead, he stacked the cassettes on the table. The labels read More Tales to Keep You Up at Night, and each was numbered. One, Two, Three.

Don’t listen to the tapes . . .

Gilbert opened his voicemail app and played the garbled message again. Clearly, these were the tapes. He thought of Ant—stubborn and silly and oftentimes rude—and then banged his fists on the table. The stack rattled.

How could you ask someone to not listen to something, then leave that very thing for them to find?

But his brother had been unconscious when they’d brought him here.

Which meant . . . what?

That the dark figure at Ant’s bedside had really been there?

That they’d left the satchel for Gilbert?

If so, didn’t that mean he should heed Ant’s voicemail warning?

He took a deep swig of apple juice.

Ant had mentioned the tapes in his last bit of communication. That had to mean something.

Gilbert needed to figure out what that something was.

Unlike the earbuds Gilbert was used to, the Walkman’s phones had wide foam pads that hugged his head like muffs for cold weather. He popped open the player, reached for the tape marked One, fit it inside, then closed the Walkman’s lid. When he pressed PLAY, a warm, not unpleasant voice—expressive and musical, masculine with a hint of rasp—began to speak, as if directly to him.


First, you should know that Tony wasn’t tall, wasn’t broad. Also, his nose was wide, and his teeth were slightly crooked, and his eyebrows had started to join in the middle. He didn’t have a problem with how he looked, but other boys in gym class made him feel like a troll.

When he tried to stand up to them one afternoon, they ganged up on him. That is, until Matt Miller—six foot two, thick as a slab, and growing still—stepped in, put them in their places. The details of how it went down aren’t necessary. If you’ve ever been young, you know the story.

Tony was a freshman that year. Matt was two years older.

After school, Tony found Matt waiting for him on the wide front staircase leading down to the sidewalk on Seventh Avenue. Students stepped around him. Matt was a boulder in a stream, and the others were rushing water. Matt smiled and waved Tony over. Tony almost got swept up in the crowd, but Matt pulled him aside. “You okay?” he asked.

Tony hated that his face was getting warm. “I can handle those guys.”

“Yeah, I know. It’s just . . . some of them live on my block, so they listen to me more than other people.”

Tony’s cheeks were burning now. “Oh. Well. Thanks.”

“What are you up to?”

“Right now?”

Tony played off his nerves as best he could, kept quiet, let Matt do most of the talking. They went down the block to the chocolate shop, and Matt bought Tony a mocha latte. They sat at the corner table in the back.

That first day was just for fun. A getting-to-know-you kind of thing. Like: “Maybe let’s be friends.” Tony learned that Matt had two older sisters. Both were in community colleges out of the city, hoping to transfer to bigger schools after their sophomore years. Money was tough. Matt’s parents were city employees, though Matt never said doing what. Tony shared that he had a younger brother, his parents worked for nonprofits, his grandmother lived across the city with her sister, his great-aunt, that they’d traveled together from St. Croix when they were young, following other family members who’d come before them. The boys talked about video games and their neighborhoods and comic books. Turned out they liked the same titles. When they finished their drinks, they strolled to the local comics shop and wandered the aisles. By the time Tony made it home, he felt different.

It had never been easy for him to connect with people.

In conclusion: Matt Miller was cool.

They went on like that for a long while. Making jokes through phys ed class. Grabbing coffees after school. Stopping by the comics store. Heading to the park to read and talk about how they’d change some of the stories if they could.

A month into the following school year, Matt asked Tony if he wanted to make some extra cash. Matt was having trouble keeping up with a new job and needed a break.

Of course, Tony wanted to help. “It’s not anything illegal, is it?”

“Not that I know of.”

“What do I have to do?”

The gig sounded easy enough: Pick up an envelope. Drop off the envelope. Get paid.

“Why don’t they just mail the envelopes?”

“They need them faster than that. Like . . . a messenger service.”

“That would be us?”

“Exactly. Messengers.”

“What’s in the envelopes?” Tony asked.

At this, Matt’s expression grew darker. “That’s not our business. The boss has a bunch of rules. It’s best to not break them.”

Tony shrugged. “Shouldn’t be a problem,” he replied, though he felt unsure now whether he wanted to get involved at all. “I can follow rules.”

Matt raised an eyebrow. “Rule one: Knock on the boss’s door three times only. Two: Never look inside the envelope. Three: Take the subway directly to the office. Four: Get your cash and go home.” Matt pulled a leather satchel from under his chair and plopped it on the table between them. “One more thing.” Tony peeked inside. “The boss needs you to listen to these tapes before you can start.”

“Really? What for?”

“He said they give you access. To his building, I guess? I’m not sure why, but I listened to them too.” Matt reached into the bag and removed an old Walkman AM/FM radio cassette player.
“Think you can get through these tonight?”

Tony listened. The tapes weren’t filled with music, as he’d been expecting, but with a voice telling a bunch of scary stories. There were tales of curses and revenge. Stories of doors—portals to other places—where inhuman creatures could cross into our world. Stories of the search for forbidden knowledge. There was even a story about where the tapes had come from.

After he’d finished, Tony noticed an odd sensation in his chest. He felt changed somehow, as if he knew more about his universe now and his place in it. Yet, the feeling didn’t bother him. He knew that stories have power.

Could this be what Matt had meant by access? When Tony asked him at school the next day, Matt shrugged. He gave Tony the addresses where he’d pick up and drop off the envelopes.

“How often do I do this?”

Matt wouldn’t meet his gaze. “Every day.”

A shiver crept across Tony’s skin. “For how long?”

“Not long. Like I said before, I just need a little break is all.”


The brick building was easy enough to find. Almost directly at the top of the subway steps. The entryway was through an iron gate, across an overgrown evergreen garden. The empty lobby’s marble floor was mostly black, with flecks of gold that caught what little light came in through the doorway. At the elevator, Tony caught an acrid whiff and saw the flickering light overhead, so he took the stairs instead. Five flights were enough to steal his breath.

His parents would certainly ground him for even thinking about doing this. All he’d told them was that he’d joined a new club after school and he’d be coming home later than usual.

The door was at the far end of the dull beige hall. Staring at the peephole, Tony was overcome with a sudden fear. As if whoever lived here was watching him. Remembering Matt’s rules, Tony knocked. Three times. A plain white envelope emerged from the bottom of the door. He picked it up, turned around, walked quietly back down the silent stairs.

The train arrived as Tony made it to the platform. He knew the subway routes like the backs of his hands. If he stayed on this train (no transfer), he’d make it to the destination in about an hour. He settled into the seat, patted the pocket of his jacket where he’d stuck the envelope, then pulled his homework from his knapsack. He made it through all of geometry and half of his history chapter before arriving at the station.

In the brisk evening air, the surroundings belonged to a different city—wide lots with cracked asphalt, brown grass grown up tall in patches, an emptiness that felt opposite from his own neighborhood. A salty tang coated his tongue. Docks stretched out past a tall chain-link fence. Lights from a few houseboats glowed upon the black water. A horn sounded—a passing ship signaling danger off the coast.

A warehouse stood about a block away. The entry was illuminated by a dim sconce under which was a diamond-shaped sign reading EMBER'S EXTERMINATORS. Tony tried the knob, but it was locked. There was a mail slot in the middle of the door. He knocked, three times, like at the apartment. To his surprise, a voice spoke from the other side, “Go ’head.” Then, as if flicked by fingers, the mail slot’s cover rattled.

Tony shoved the envelope inside. A moment later, a small package popped out of the slot and fell to the ground—a yellowish envelope, a thick stack of bills inside. “Is this all for me?” he asked, but the voice did not come again.

An hour or so later, Tony was home.

During the journey, he’d tried to make himself look as small as possible, which wasn’t hard, since he was already pretty small. The yellow envelope weighed heavy in his pocket. There’d been no taxis near the docks.

Tony called Matt Miller from his bedroom.

“Hello?” Matt sounded like he’d been sleeping.

“You all right?”

“Just tired. You?”

Tony hesitated. “I did the thing.”

“Worked okay?”

“I think so. It’s just . . . this isn’t what I was expecting.”

Matt scoffed. “Not enough?”

Tony laughed, surprised. “More than enough.”

“Is there a problem?”

“Do you . . . want half?”

“No,” Matt answered quickly. A moment of quiet. Then, he added, “It’s all yours, bud.”


The next day, Matt barely looked at Tony during gym class. Afterward, when Tony tried to ask him what was wrong, he shrugged and walked away. Maybe he was angry about the money, after all?

After school, Tony caught the train. Picked up the envelope. Dropped it at the warehouse.

He hid the cash in his bedroom.

Over the next few weeks, Matt continued to give Tony the cold shoulder. Tony felt so frustrated, he almost said he didn’t want to do the job anymore. There was so much money in his bedside table, it seemed almost pointless to collect more. Tony might have actually quit, but he worried Matt might never speak to him again.

But then, about a month after Matt had asked him to take over the deliveries, he stopped showing up at school. Tony called a few times to check in. Matt’s parents said he wasn’t feeling well or that he was asleep.

Finally, one evening, Matt answered the phone himself. “You’ve got to stop calling,” he said quietly, quickly.


“It’s too much.”

Tony pressed. “Are you sick? Everyone is worried about you.”

Everyone?” A punch in the chest. Matt meant: You?

“What’s going on?”

Matt Miller was silent for several seconds. “Maybe we shouldn’t talk anymore.”

This hurt even more. “I don’t get it.”

“You don’t need to get it. In fact, it’s best if you don’t get it.”

“What about the job?”

“Keep it.” Tony had to sit on the floor to keep the world from going dark. “Follow the rules and you’ll be fine.”

Something occurred to him, and he asked quickly, “Did you follow the rules?” The line went still. After a few seconds, a signal rang in his ear. When Tony tried calling back, there was no answer.

School the next day felt like walking through molasses. Whatever was going on was because of the job. But why? What could have happened? Tony thought of the last thing he’d said to his friend: Did you follow the rules?

That afternoon, when he reached the boss’s door, Tony hesitated before knocking. He reached for the knob, as if to turn it, maybe even walk inside, confront the person behind all this. But his gut squelched, insisting that would be a huge mistake. What if he asked a few questions? To help Matt? That too felt like the wrong idea. So he knocked. Three times. A moment later, as always, the white envelope appeared at his feet. Tony snatched it up and ran.

Minutes later, in his usual spot in the corner of the train car, Tony glared at the envelope. Maybe the answer to what was going on with Matt was hidden inside. Without thinking, Tony held it up to the dingy fluorescent light. The outline of a ragged scrap of paper appeared, marked with the hint of dim scribbles. He squinted, and the backlit writing became clear. Trembling, Tony shoved the envelope into his pocket, where it should have been in the first place, then climbed down and pushed himself against the plastic seat, hoping no one had seen.

The words in the envelope had been a name, scrawled in dark ink: Matt Miller.

When Tony reached the exterminator’s office, he slipped the envelope through the mail slot, then walked away, ignoring the package that dropped to the sidewalk behind him.

That night, Tony had trouble falling asleep. He couldn’t stop thinking about the twisted tapes that Matt Miller had asked him to listen to. The stories had rooted into his mind. Every time he glanced at the clock on his nightstand, it felt like only a few minutes had crept by. Just before dawn, he began to dream.

There was a knocking. Someone at the front door of the apartment. He turned over, pulled the covers over his head. The knocking continued. In his half-conscious mind, he wondered why his parents weren’t getting up. Without thinking, he shouted, “COME IN.” When he heard a door creak open, he worried immediately he’d made a mistake. Heavy footsteps echoed into the apartment, heading straight for Tony’s room. Tony clutched the blankets, clamped his lips shut. The footsteps came directly to the side of his bed. Breath filtered through the covers. Tony flailed as he sat up, but no one was there. Turning on the lamp, he startled to see a yellow envelope lying on the floor.

His payment.


At school the next day, some kids who lived in Matt’s neighborhood said the police had been to the Miller house the previous night. His parents had heard some sort of commotion in his room, and when they went in, Matt was gone. His things had been tossed all around, furniture turned over, the window open wide. Worst of all, they said, were the bloody handprints on the windowsill.

Tony couldn’t believe it. Refused to believe it. Was this his doing? He’d delivered Matt’s name to the exterminators. Exterminators. He thought back to all the envelopes he had delivered over the past few months. Had they all had a name inside, like Matt’s?

There was only one way to be sure: He had to speak with the boss. Before he left school for the day, Tony stopped in the art room and swiped a box cutter.

As he crossed through the gate into the evergreen garden, Tony tried to keep his mind blank, but red handprints marked his imagination.

He paused at the door on the fifth floor, fingered the handle of the blade in his coat pocket. Then he pounded on the door. Again. Again. He smashed the fleshy part of his fist against the metal so many times, his arm ached. When he did stop, no sound came from within. As always.

Tony was about to call out, maybe something rude, when there came that familiar shuffling sound. Looking down, he saw a white envelope sticking out from under the door. He picked it up. Pinched it carefully between his thumb and forefinger, as if it were dangerous. A weapon maybe. Anger pulsed behind his eyes and throbbed in his skull. “Where is he? What did you do to him?” Tony kicked the door, leaving a small dent.

When he was almost at the stairwell, a creaking came from behind him. Looking back, he saw the boss’s door was open a crack. Impenetrable darkness peered out. The door opened wider.

A shadow in the frame lunged at him.

He bolted.

In the darkened lobby, his shoes slapped against marble, the gold flecks of mica flashing up at him like galaxies swirling in the edges of his vision.

Tony’s foot slid as he raced down the subway stairs. When he grabbed at the railing to keep from tumbling onto the empty platform, he accidentally crumpled the envelope in his hand.


As soon as he stepped inside, the train pulled away from the station.

Tony rubbed the envelope on his thigh, smoothing out the newly made creases. The contents were nearly visible through the thin paper. Another scribbled name. He used his nail to pull at the corner. Removed the scrap. Read the name.

Tony nodded. He wanted to feel surprise. Shock, even. But this was the opposite of shock. He’d broken the rules, after all. His own name stared up at him.

Someone coughed.

Tony wasn’t alone.

He grabbed at the railing as the train rounded a corner and squealed. The scrap fell from his hand.

Two people sat at the other end of the car. Both wore the same gray jumpsuit. A uniform with a familiar-looking patch on the left breast. A white diamond-shaped emblem, bordered in crimson, with red stitching that read Ember’s Exterminators. The pair smiled at him.

“Hey, Tony,” the woman called out. “Wanna see something scary?” She nudged a large crate by her feet.

The top of the crate came up over the woman’s knee. A skittering sound came from within. A clicking. A scraping.

The box juddered forward.

Tony scrambled backward.

He ran to the door at the far side of the car, tried the latch, but it wouldn’t move. He leaned against the door as the train shook, speeding up, its momentum throwing him off-balance.

The fluorescents flickered. A bang erupted from the opposite side of the car. A moment later, the lid of the crate was on the floor.

The couple chuckled, and the woman kicked at the box. Something black and leathery peeked up from inside. The lights in the train went out again, but a strobing glow came in from the windows in the tunnel.

Tony caught glimpses of a creature crawling from the box. It was like someone had glued together pieces from his nightmares. At least six stick-thin legs carried a furry, oblong body. Membranes of slick black skin connected to the front appendages like the wings of a giant bat. As the creature shifted its weight, gaining its equilibrium in the quaking train, Tony heard the click-clack of sharp claws. He reached into his coat pocket for the box-cutter blade, brought it forth, held it like a small sword.

As the creature moved closer, its face became clearer. Its skull was the size of large dog’s, but its many midnight-colored eyes were spiderlike, clumped together, reflecting the lights passing outside. The place where a mouth might have been was merely a hole, jammed full of jointed spikes—teeth, or mandibles, or tools to shove whatever food it captured into its throat. When the thing had made it past the first set of seats, it paused, tilting its head as if searching. A pair of skin flaps rose up from the sides of its head, ears maybe, and it released a snapping sound that Tony felt in his bones.

“Stop!” he shouted. “Please! Tell the boss . . . Tell him I’m sorry!”

Laughter echoed from the other end of the car as the lights in the tunnel disappeared. The pair in the uniforms, the exterminators, evaporated into a field of black.

As the clicking of claws rushed toward him—closer, closer—Tony swung his blade blindly. He imagined what Matt Miller must have experienced the previous night, shortly after Tony had dropped off the envelope at the warehouse near the docks.

The reek of something sweet—too sweet to be actually sweet—pierced a spot in his nose, up between his eyes. A moment later, he felt a searing pain slice his chest. Looking down, he saw a crescent-shaped tear, turning his shirt red. The blade slipped from his withering fingers.

“I’m sorry,” he tried to whisper as he learned the true purpose of the spikes that jutted from the creature’s face.

Editorial Reviews

"Reading like a mashup of Goosebumps and The Twilight Zone with a healthy dose of Black Mirror, this series... is a surefire hit for horror aficionados. Expect the shivers to last long after the final page is turned."—Kirkus Reviews

Praise for Tales to Keep You Up at Night:

Tales to Keep You Up at Night is a delightfully wicked collection of bite-sized scares, with stories that are magical, strange, and downright unsettling—the perfect treat for a young reader looking for a properly spooky read.”–Kate Alice Marshall, author of Thirteens and I Am Still Alive

“This book is magnificently frightening! It is this delicious blend of old timey folktales and creepy weirdness that kept me riveted to every single page and then, as promised, kept me up all night. Absolute horror story perfection!"—Ellen Oh, author of Spirit Hunters

"Poblocki is the middle-grade Crypt Keeper, spinning yarns that are devilishly inventive and genuinely unsettling. This is the book to reach for during the witching hour."—Daniel Kraus, New York Times bestselling author of The Teddies Saga

"Grab a flashlight and a blanket—this lives up to its titular claim... Alternating between Amelia’s storyline and the contents of the book she’s reading, Poblocki’s delightfully constructed offering is somewhere between a literary matryoshka and an ouroboros as the vignettes twine perilously around each other, rewarding close readers and demanding rereads. It includes well-established genre tropes like creepy clowns and being buried alive, making it a fun distillation of elements from crowd pleasers by authors like R.L. Stine and Alvin Schwartz."—Kirkus Reviews

"The novel’s framework, which alternates between Amelia’s real life and the scary stories’ contents, slowly builds tension, intricately weaving classic and supernatural horror elements to deliver an immersive experience drenched in ominous atmosphere."—Publishers Weekly

“… a masterful, hair-raising work, start to finish.”—Books to Borrow, Books to Buy