In an astounding turn of events, the Shluffmuffins twins' long-lost father has reappeared years after his tragic Porta Potti accident. Wally and Cheyenne, of course, are thrilled to see their dear old dad again. But would it be rude to point out how his skin appears to be rotting and falling off in chunks? Or that his breath smells distinctly like bloated roadkill? Come to think of it, he looks an awful lot like . . . well, a zombie. So imagine the twins' delight when they discover that their friend Professor Spydelle has developed a special life-restoring elixir, the only known cure for zombiism.
Hmmmm. Unfortunately, it seems there are still some kinks to work out on that special Elixir of Life. It cures Dad of his zombiism, only to turn him into . . . a vampire.
It would seem that things couldn't get much worse. But when two faces that look suspiciously like giant ants appear in Wally and Cheyenne's bedroom window one night, things take a turn from dismal . . . to dire.
About the Author
DAN GREENBURG is the creator of the enormously popular Zack Files series of middle grade novels as well as the author of a number of bestselling adult books, the best-known of which is How to Be a Jewish Mother. He lives in New York.
SCOTT M. FISCHER has illustrated many book jackets and has also created art for Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons. He lives in upstate New York.
Read an Excerpt
Secrets of Dripping Fang, Book ThreeThe Vampire's Curse
By Greenburg, Dan
Harcourt Children's BooksCopyright © 2006 Greenburg, Dan
All right reserved.
Can Dad Come Inside and Play?
"Zombies . . . zombies . . . zombies . . . ," said Cheyenne, thumbing through the encyclopedia under Z. "Okay, Wally, here we are. 'Zombie: a member of the walking dead, usually the result of a voodoo curse; zombies are found chiefly in the islands of the West Indies and, sometimes, Cincinnati.'"
"'Zombie Cures,'" said Wally excitedly, reading over her shoulder. His excitement faded as he read the next sentence: "'There are at present no known cures for zombiism.' Darn!"
"Darn!" echoed Cheyenne.
When the zombie outside Professor Spydelle's house in Dripping Fang Forest had turned out to be their father, Wally and Cheyenne Shluffmuffin were pretty surprised. Dad had drowned in a Porta Potti accident at the Cincinnati circus three years before, so they assumed he was dead. Now here he was again. But since he was a zombie, he was still technically dead. The encyclopedia said there were no cures for zombiism, so Wally and Cheyenne didn't know what else they could do for him.
Wally was ready to give up, but Cheyenne wasn't discouraged.
Although Wally and Cheyenne Shluffmuffin were twins, their outlooks were quite different. Cheyenne saw only the good side of life, Wally only the bad. Cheyenne saw ice cream and thought sweet frosty deliciousness. Wally saw ice cream and thought sticky hands and spots on your shirt that won't come out in the laundry.
Professor Spydelle came into the family room, puffing on his pipe--a sweet smoky smell.
"Ah, there you are, children," he said in his dignified British accent. "Did you bring in more firewood?"
"Not yet," said Wally. "Professor Spydelle, we need to ask you a favor. A big one."
"Why, certainly, Wally," said the professor. "What is it?" He sank into one of the net hammocks that stretched across the Spydelle living room. His joints creaked as he settled down.
"Somebody we know sort of well is outside," said Wally. "He looks kind of gross, but if you don't mind, we'd like to bring him inside."
"Who is this person?" asked the professor with a kindly smile.
"Our father," said Cheyenne.
"Your father?" He frowned. "I don't understand. I thought you children were orphans."
"We are orphans," said Wally. "Dad is dead."
"Great heavens!" cried the professor, hopping out of his hammock. "Let me help you with the body."
"Oh, you don't need to," said Cheyenne. "Dad isn't exactly a body yet. He's just kind of staggering around out there. He seems to have become a zombie."
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"A zombie? My word! How fascinating! Let's go out and have a look at him."
Professor Spydelle followed the Shluffmuffin twins outside. Zombie Dad stood in the front yard, muttering to himself. Hanging from his body were pieces of rotting skin. You could smell him from clear across the yard, the sickly sweet odor of bloated roadkill before it explodes.
"Shy, Wa, me Da," he muttered.
The professor was as thrilled as a kid with a new puppy.
"It is a zombie!" cried the professor. "This is extraordinary! I mean, of course, I'm so terribly sorry for your tragic loss and all that, but, um, this is absolutely extraordinary!"
"Shy, Wa, me Da," muttered Mr. Shluffmuffin.
"Can you make out what he's saying?" asked the professor.
"Not really," said Cheyenne.
"Can you tell me how he died?"
"Sure," said Wally. "Three years ago he fell into a Porta Potti at the circus and drowned."
"Remarkable!" said the professor. "You know, children, besides voodoo curses, the only other way to become a zombie is drowning in a Porta Potti."
"Really?" said Cheyenne. "I didn't know that."
"Oh yes," said the professor. "That's a well-known scientific fact."
"Awesome," said Wally. "Hey, you wouldn't happen to know of a cure for zombiism, would you?"
"Know of one?" Professor Spydelle chuckled. "My dear boy, I invented one."
"Shy, Wa, me Da," muttered the zombie. He broke off a rib and used it to scratch an itch between his shoulder blades.
"What do you mean you invented one, Professor?"
"Years ago," said the professor, "I spent a great deal of time and money developing a special life-restoring elixir. My first efforts were a disaster, but eventually I found a way to make it work. I was able to bring back to life one of the museum's deadest animals, which had been found frozen in a glacier--a saber-toothed tiger. It had been dead, oh, at least fourteen thousand years, but my Elixir of Life made it live again."
"Awesome!" said Wally. "What happened?"
"Well, unfortunately, the saber-tooth ran amuck," said the professor, looking embarrassed. "It smashed several expensive exhibits and, sadly, it also killed a night watchman."
"How awful," said Cheyenne. "What did you do?"
"Well, I had to, uh, de-animate the tiger and return it to its glass case. I didn't want to answer embarrassing questions about the tiger and the elixir. So, although I sensed it was somehow wrong of me to do so, I stuffed the night watchman, dressed him up in an animal skin, and put him in the caveman exhibit."
Zombie Dad tapped Wally on the shoulder. "Shy, Wa, me Da," he repeated.
"Just a minute, Dad, we're talking with the professor here," said Wally. "Sorry, Professor. What happened next?"
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"People kept asking what happened to the night watchman," said the professor. "It became quite tedious. Eventually, they stopped, though, and all went well for a time. Then one day my beloved human wife, Shirley, got bitten by a black widow spider. By nightfall she was dead."
"I don't understand," said Cheyenne. "Shirley is a giant spider herself."
"True, but she wasn't always one. When I first married her, she was a normal human, just like you and me. When poor Shirley died, I was devastated. My whole world collapsed without her. But then I had an idea. Using my Elixir of Life, I was able to bring her back from the dead."
"You actually brought Shirley back from the dead?" Wally asked.
"Yes," said the professor. "Unfortunately, during the process something went terribly wrong. Shirley started growing huge and hairy. She developed extra eyes. She developed extra legs. She eventually transformed into a giant spider."
"What did you do?" asked Cheyenne.
"Well, naturally, I was disappointed to find my wife had become a giant spider. But I got over it. I told her I still loved her, and we've learned to adapt to her, uh, new habits."
"What kind of new habits?" Cheyenne asked.
"Food preparation, for one thing. As a human, she used to cook food in the normal human way. As a spider, she . . . well, she injects her saliva, which turns it into a kind of mushy jelly. It's actually rather tasty once you get used to it. But then there's the problem of making babies."
"Uh, what problem is that?" asked Wally, not sure he wanted to hear the answer.
"Spiders can't make babies without killing and eating their husbands," said the professor. "So, as you can imagine--"
"SHY, WA, ME DA!" screamed Zombie Dad.
"Okay, Dad, okay," said Wally. "Professor, can we bring my father inside?"
"Of course," said the professor, "of course."
With the professor leading the way, Cheyenne and Wally brought Mr. Shluffmuffin into the house.
Shirley entered the family room from the kitchen. When she saw the zombie, she leaped straight up in fright, landing on the ceiling with all eight spidery feet, like a cat falling upward.
"Oh, sorry to startle you, my dear," said the professor, peering ceilingward. "We have a guest, the children's father." He turned to the twins. "Frightfully sorry, but I don't believe you told me his name."
"It's Sheldon," said Cheyenne. "Sheldon Shluffmuffin."
"Shirley," said the professor to the spider on the ceiling, "may I present Mr. Sheldon Shluffmuffin. Mr. Shluffmuffin, my wife, Shirley Spydelle."
"Pleased to meet you, Mr. Shluffmuffin," said Shirley from above their heads. She slowly let herself down from the ceiling on a nearly invisible silk thread.
"Shir Spy, me Da," said Zombie Dad. "Spy, you clyde uppa waaa spow?"
"What did he say?" Shirley whispered.
"I don't know. We can't understand him," said Cheyenne.
"How old a gentleman is he?" whispered Shirley discreetly. "Do you mind if I ask?"
"Forty-one," said Cheyenne. "But he's been dead for three years."
"Ah, I see. Well, that explains it," Shirley whispered. "I was going to ask why he didn't take better care of himself. Is he going to be, uh, staying with us for a while? I only ask because of the smell."
Cheyenne and Wally turned to the professor for an answer.
"Right," said the professor. "I thought I'd try a little of my Elixir of Life on him, Shirl. If I start mixing it up now, I could have some ready right after dinner."
"Well then, please do stay for dinner, Mr. Shluffmuffin," said Shirley.
"Me Da," said Zombie Dad.
"Do you know what he'll eat?" Shirley asked.
"Most zombies do seem to like human flesh," said the professor helpfully.
Copyright © 2006 by Dan Greenburg
Illustrations copyright © 2006 by Scott M. Fischer
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Excerpted from Secrets of Dripping Fang, Book Three by Greenburg, Dan Copyright © 2006 by Greenburg, Dan. Excerpted by permission.
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