Look Out! Ghost Mountain Below #4
Lin Oliver; Illustrated by Samantha Kallis
Fast-paced adventure meets art history in the fourth book of this thrilling series!
Georgia O'Keeffe's Red Clouds with the Pedernal serves as the backdrop for Tiger and Luna's ongoing mission that allows them to enter the worlds of famous paintings.
As they search for David, the boy who's been missing inside the frame for fifty years, they must traverse the desert and climb the mountain in New Mexico sacred to Native American tribes. But could the stories about spirits on the Pedernal be true? It's just one more detail for Tiger and Luna to keep in mind. But they must also remember the most important thing of all: get back to the real world before the end of the hour, or remain stuck in the painting forever!
Excerpt from Look Out! Ghost Mountain Below #4
Hi, it’s Tiger Brooks. Got a second? Good, because I have a few thoughts about neighbors that I’d like to share with you.
Here’s something I’ve noticed in my ten years on this planet: Every neighborhood has at least one really weird person in it.
I bet you’ve got one in your neighborhood. It might be someone with a ton of gnome statues on their lawn. Or someone who sings to the vegetables in their garden. Or maybe it’s someone who puts little red rain boots on their dog.
On my old block, there was a woman who had a pet tortoise named Speedo. She took Speedo out for a walk every day . . . on a leash! It took them most of the day to make it to the corner and back.
My dad says when he was young, he had a neighbor named Louie who collected balls. Golf balls, soccer balls, tennis balls, footballs, volleyballs, Ping-Pong balls, Wiffle balls, you name it. If my dad and his friends were playing and a ball went into Louie’s yard, he kept it. They called him Old Louie the Ball Eater.
I promise you, no one in the world has a neighbor weirder than mine. Her name is Viola Dots. She lives in a run-down house right next to our duplex. She’s almost eighty years old and hasn’t left her house in fifty years! All she does is paint copies of great works of art. Oh, and did I mention that she has a talking orange pig named Chives who’s her butler?
But that’s not even the weirdest part. The strangest thing about Viola Dots is that she has a magical picture frame in her living room. At four o’clock, which we call the hour of power, this frame is able to suck you into the picture if you’re standing nearby. You go flying across time and space into whatever artwork is in the frame. If you’re not back at the same place by five o’clock, you’re stuck in the painting forever. That’s what happened to Viola’s son, David, fifty years ago. And that’s why she paints all day, every day . . . She’s hoping that he’ll show up in her paintings.
Viola’s fantastic frame is a secret. Only Chives, my friend Luna Lopez, and I know about it. And, of course, you. But you have to keep it a secret, because if you don’t, people will come to her house and try to take the magical frame. She doesn’t want that. At least, not until she finds David.
So you have to promise to keep the fantastic frame a secret. Can you do that?
Good. If you can, then read on. If you can’t, pretend you never read this.
The ghost crept closer and closer, its eyes glowing red. It had no bones, only a hollow body that seemed to be made of swirling fog. I could see through its long arms as they reached out to grab me. A chill ran down my spine.
“I am coming to get you,” the ghost cried. A slimy fluid poured out of the hole where its mouth should have been. My heart was beating wildly. Suddenly, something moved on the couch next to me, and I jumped about ten feet in the air.
It was my friend, Luna Lopez. “Okay, Tiger, I’ll be changing the channel now,” she said, standing up from the couch and clicking the remote control.
“But, Luna, we’re not even at the good part where the ghost freaks out.”
“I can’t watch this, Tiger,” she said. “It’s way too creepy. I like my ghosts in a good mood. The same way I like my mummies, my vampires, and my werewolves.”
“But it’s fun to be scared. It’s just a movie.”
It was a Thursday night and my parents were at an open house at Rainbow Years, my little sister Maggie’s preschool. The four-year-old class was putting on a skit, and Maggie was playing a mushroom in the forest. I thought it was a great part for her, because she reminds me of a fungus. Our babysitter was busy, so my mom asked Luna’s grandmother if she could watch me until they got home. Señora Lopez had fallen asleep in her rocking chair.
“Come on, Luna, just give it five more minutes,” I urged.
“Okay,” she said. “But I’m warning you. The minute that spooky phantom moans again, I’m out of here.”
We settled on the couch to watch the movie. The ghost had calmed down and was just floating outside the haunted house, looking in the windows. The only sounds in the room were Luna’s grandmother snoring and the scary music coming from the TV. Suddenly, we heard a noise by the living room window. Clink-clink-clink followed by the rattle of the windowpane.
“What’s that?” Luna whispered. There was a little panic in her voice.
It sounded like someone was throwing rocks at the window. We waited, hoping the rock thrower had left. But then we heard it again. Clink-clink-clink.
“I’m going to check it out,” I said.
“I’m coming with you.” Luna picked up a throw pillow from the couch. “If it’s a ghost, I’ll swat him with this.”
“If it’s really a ghost, that pillow’s going to go right through him,” I pointed out.
We crept over to the window and looked out, just as three more pebbles hit the glass in front of us. It was dark outside, and I couldn’t make out who was standing below. I opened the window a crack.
“Who’s down there?” I called out.
“If you’re a ghost, go away,” Luna added.
“It is I,” said a familiar voice. “Chives. I must speak with you two right away about an urgent matter.”
“Chives,” I said in my loudest whisper. “What are you doing out?”
“At the risk of repeating myself, young sir, I must see you immediately on a matter of great importance.”
I glanced over at Señora Lopez, who was still asleep in the chair. Luna and I tiptoed past her and hurried down the stairs. We found Chives standing in the driveway, pacing back and forth. He is always calm. It was not like him to be this upset.
“It’s Madame Dots,” he said, taking out a handkerchief and blowing his snout. “I’m terribly worried about her.”
“What’s wrong with her?” Luna asked.
“I made her a cup of rose hips tea this afternoon,” Chives said. “She is always in the living room, painting, but when I brought it to her today, she was gone.”
“Maybe she finally decided to go outside and get some sun,” I said. “No offense, Chives, but a little sunshine wouldn’t hurt her.”
“Tiger, that’s so rude,” Luna whispered, giving me a poke in the ribs.
“I searched every room and finally discovered her in young Master David’s bedroom,” Chives went on. “She’s kept that room locked since he disappeared into the fantastic frame.”
“What was she doing in there?” Luna asked.
“Touching everything on his shelves,” Chives answered. “His collections of records, arrowheads, geodes, and model cars.”
“Maybe she was just cleaning,” I suggested. “My mom is always threatening to go into my room and clean all the junk off my shelves. Last week she threw out my rubber-band collection.”
“No, Madame Dots was definitely looking for something,” Chives said. “I stayed with her for hours, until she found what she was looking for.”
“What was it?” Luna and I both asked at once.
“A birthday card,” Chives said with a sniffle, “that her son, David, was making for her on the day he disappeared. She said she had to see it again.”
“You mean, he disappeared on her birthday?” Luna asked. “How horrible.”
“Yes.” Chives nodded his head. “Tomorrow it will be fifty years. And tomorrow she will turn eighty years old.”
“What a sad birthday that will be for her,” Luna said.
“Yes indeed,” Chives agreed. “Unless, of course, you two can bring David home to her. Then it will be a day of great celebration.”
“Wow, no pressure there,” I said.
Luna poked me in the ribs again. I guess I was having a rude kind of day.
“Does Mrs. Dots have a finished painting ready for us to enter tomorrow?” Luna asked. “Maybe we can find David.”
“I believe so,” Chives said. “It’s a copy of a beautiful piece done in 1936 by the American artist Georgia O’Keeffe. It’s called Red Hills with the Pedernal, and it’s a painting of a famous mountain in New Mexico.”
“That sounds exciting,” I said. “Bring on the hour of power!”
“I’ve never climbed a mountain,” Luna said. “But I’m willing to try if we think David might be there.”
“This is a very special mountain,” Chives explained. “It is sacred to many Native American tribes, like the Navajo. Some tribes even believe it is home to important spirits.”
“Spirits?” Luna said with a shudder. “You don’t mean like ghosts, do you?”
Before Chives could answer, we saw headlights coming down our street and heard three quick taps of a horn. That’s my dad’s special honk.
“My parents are back,” I said to Chives. “Hurry or they’ll see you.”
“Until tomorrow then,” Chives said. “We will meet at the fantastic frame at four o’clock, the hour of power, with brave thoughts and high expectations.”
He tipped his top hat, turned, and ran down the driveway, slipping into the side door of Viola’s house just as our car pulled up. Maggie, the little blabbermouth, stuck her head out of the car window.
“I see you!” she hollered. “I see you, Mr. Orange Pig.”
Of course, my parents didn’t see him. You only see an orange pig if you’re looking for one. My mom lifted Maggie out of her car seat and rubbed her mushroomy head.
“Maggie has seen lots of imaginary creatures tonight,” she laughed. “Unicorns and elves and dragons and trolls. The forest was full of them. Wasn’t it, honey?”
“That pig wasn’t in my imagination,” Maggie insisted.
“Four-year-olds,” I said. “Who knows what’s in their goofy little heads?”
Luna and I laughed, a bit too hard.
“Let’s go wash the moss out of your hair,” my mom said to Maggie. “Maybe we’ll see Mr. Pig in the bathtub.”
I felt a little bad that my mom didn’t believe Maggie. But then, it’s hard to believe a talking mushroom.
“I thought you kids were going to watch a movie,” my dad said.
“We started to, but it was a ghost movie and we decided to turn it off.”
“Oh, got a tad scared, did you?” my dad asked. “Well, things that go bump in the night can be pretty scary.”
“Those things aren’t real, are they, Mr. Brooks?” Luna asked. “Like phantoms and ghosts . . . they don’t really exist. I mean, they wouldn’t actually live on, oh let’s say, a mountain in New Mexico, would they?”
“I’ve never been to New Mexico,” my dad said. “The natural world is full of stories about all kinds of amazing things. You never know what you’re going to find until you’re there. But hey, nothing for us to worry about. We’re not in New Mexico.”
It was dark and I couldn’t see Luna’s face.
But I was pretty sure I heard her gulp.