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CHAPTER ONE                                CREAKY, CREAKY, CREEP, CREEP

            Alexander Watson was worried. 

           Sitting on the rocking chair in his bedroom, he was watching the full moon in the sky cast the shadow of the tall oak tree outside on to the wall above his bed. The wind moved the branches of the tree, making them seem like fingers scratching against the glass. Thin, grasping, urgent fingers, wanting in.

            And something else wanted in too.

            He could see it coming over the rooftops, a slippery dark shape that oozed around the chimneys and slithered over the roof slates, getting closer and closer to his house. On its head was a hat with a wide brim, turned down at the front to cast a shadow over the shape’s face, but no shadow could extinguish the burning glow from the two fiery eyes that scanned the night and fixed on his bedroom.

            And locked on to his eyes.

            Alex gasped and backed away.

            It was Him.

            Tonight he was going to be a victim of –

            Suddenly, lightning flashed, illuminating the shape that leapt from a rooftop into the high branches of the oak tree, and for a second the strange figure looked frozen, even the crimson cape it wore seemed locked in time.

            Just as quickly as it came, the lightning vanished and darkness reigned, hiding the cloaked figure until the next flash showed it stretching out for the bedroom window.

            Alex darted forward and pulled down the roller blind. Then he turned and dived into bed, pulling the duvet over his head.

            Outside, the lightning flashed for a third time and Alex wondered if there was a dark shape crouched on the window ledge, like some strange bird. He swallowed, heart thumping, and cocked his head to the side to listen. Was that the sound of his window being opened? Were two giant hands gripping the bottom of the window frame and pushing it up?

            Alex gasped as the creaking sound filled his room. Slowly, he peeked over the top of the duvet and saw four gloved fingers appear at the foot of the blind, curling around its edge like the legs of a huge spider. Without a sound the fingers closed on the blind and pulled gently. Down, then up, easing the blind higher.

            With a groan, Alex ducked beneath the duvet and pretended to be asleep, although he knew the dark form was stealing closer towards his bed, hands up, outstretched fingers curling and uncurling as the shape moved closer, covering the yards, feet and inches to his bed.

            Help, Alex thought, but he couldn’t say it. His mouth was too dry. His tongue felt old and shrivelled, like a leaf rattling around inside a dark hole. Although, perhaps, it was better not to make a sound, he hoped, maybe that way he would be safe.

            Then again, maybe not.

            Because it was on him.

            “MMMAAAAADD!” the thing cried, pulling the duvet back before sinking its fingers into the boy’s ribs. 

            “MAAAAD TICKLER!”

            Alex’s eyes bulged with a mixture of fear and surprise. He tried to sit up in bed, but he couldn’t because of the dark shape that was pressing down. All he could see was the dim outline of a hat and two burning, fiery eyes blazing above him.

            And all he could feel were the fingers. The wriggling, digging, tickling, terrible fingers.

            “Tickle! Tickle! Tickle!” cried the thing above him.

            Alex tried to shout for help, but he couldn’t do anything but laugh and laugh and laugh.

            “MAAAAD TICKLER!” the thing cried again as it reached beneath Alex’s armpits.

            He howled with laughter, tears running down his face. He tried to tuck his arms into his sides to stop the terrible tickling, but it didn’t work. Still laughing, Alex rocked from side to side, further and further, until he rocked so far he fell off the bed.


            Dazed, he looked around himself, wondering what he was doing on the floor. Then he suddenly remembered. There was something in his room, tickling him. The Mad Tickler! He dived over his bed and switched on the light, blinking several times as brightness filled his eyes.

            There was no-one there!

            Cautiously, heart still thumping, he peered behind the rocking chair in the corner. Swallowing hard, he bent down to look under his bed. 

            Then hesitated.

            Because he knew that the Mad Tickler was under the bed, ready to leap out and tickle him again.

            But he had to look, he had to make sure.

            There was no-one there.

            Alex slipped across his bedroom and with a trembling hand he moved the roller blind which was still pulled down over his window, and saw that the window was locked.

            He shook his head.

            It had all been a dream.

            Just a dream.

            Or was it more than that?

            Had it been a warning?

            Sitting down on his bed, he let out a long nervous sigh and wondered if he had been dreaming about the future.

            A future when he was going to be the next victim of the Mad Tickler.

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