Dr. Offig’s Lessons from the Dark Side

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Release Date: June 2012
Author: P.S. Gifford
ISBN Paperback: 978-1-935460-42-8
($11.95 USD)
ISBN eBook: 978-1-935460-46-6
($5.95 USD)
LCCN: 2012940217
Edited by: Sheri Gormley
Pages: 160

Some people are optimists and some people are pessimists, but Dr. Offig is a “gruesome-ist!” Visit him in his cluttered and curious office and he will surely tell you one of the wonderfully creepy stories he is famous for—the kind that makes your eyes bug out in disbelief, your skin shiver and crawl, and once in a while they might—just might I say—even make you laugh out loud.

But be forewarned that these stories can also become very, very addictive. Once you finish with one of Dr. Offig’s stories, you will most certainly want to read another, then another, and then another still. Which sometimes makes it hard to go to sleep with the lights out…

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“Creepy fun for all ages! The stories are whimsical, thought-provoking, and fun! Remember when books were FUN?!? I remember being carried away by imaginative stories as a child. Then sadly, the books got so… real. I get REAL every day—how about some magic? More to the point, this book carries the reader away to magical, mystical places in short stories that evoke smiles, questions, and fond memories of the innocence of youth. Read this with your kids—or save it for yourself—either way, you will be entertained.” — Thoughtful Mom on Amazon.com

“P.S. Gifford is a writer of great wit and talent. He remembers that most treasured of all storytelling purposes: entertainment! Keep an eye on this writer, because he’s going places and he’s delivering a lot of joy along the way.” —Scott Nicholson, Author, The Red Church and Liquid Fear

“P.S. Gifford’s stories are like being on the last seat of an out-of-control roller coaster—and the first carriage has just jumped the tracks.” —Paul Mannering, BrokenSea Audio Productions

“P.S. Gifford’s combination of horror and wit make his stories the ‘potato chips’ of the genre: betcha can’t read just one!” —Billy Tackett, Dark Artist

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Johnny Jackson scowled as he jaunted arrogantly into the lunch room. Please understand he always scowled; he was just that sort of a fourteen-year-old. His short, cropped red hair was spiked, as always, and large silver braces adorned his front teeth—adding further to his menacing appearance. Johnny, or J.J. as he was appropriately nicknamed, had always been a particularly large kid, and these days he was at least a foot taller than most of the other kids in school—and even taller than a lot of the teachers, for that matter!

Philip Michaels and Keith Leicester winced, glancing at each other uncomfortably as J.J. spotted them and started marching purposefully in their direction. As today’s target was now obvious, the other pupils sighed in relief. They knew that they were safe, at least for that day…

Philip and Keith tried to prepare themselves mentally as they watched J.J. approach them, dressed in his usual camouflage pants, green tee shirt and laced-up black boots. J.J. stared at the two trembling boys for what seemed like an hour to them, but it was really only about twenty-four and a half seconds. He grinned with satisfaction and rubbed his grubby hands together as he watched his victims squirm in fear. J.J. put his hands emphatically on his hips and looked around to see if any teachers were watching. Seeing that the coast was clear, he turned back to the squirming pair. “So, worms!” he finally muttered. “Do you have the five pounds protection money for me?”

Without hesitation, Keith and Philip reached frantically into their pockets and rustled about. Keith was soon triumphant; he still had his week’s pocket money intact and hurriedly placed it on the table.

Johnny scooped it up hastily and stuffed it into the back pocket of his dirty trousers, then turned to face Philip, who had assembled a pile of coins on the table. Philip prayed feverishly as he counted it out that it would be enough. Panic filled his eyes as he sorted through the coins. Why, oh, why did I buy that bag of chips last night at the fish and chip shop? he moaned to himself as he finished the task. Four pounds and twenty-seven pence lay on the table.

The whole lunch room was silent now, yet too scared to help as they watched the horrible scene unfold. J.J. stared at Philip expectantly; Philip stared back at J.J. in terror.

“I s’pose it is gonna have to do then,” J.J. scoffed at last. “But this is because you are short.” With that, he picked up the carton of low-fat chocolate milk Philip had been enjoying with his cheese and onion sandwich, and with a great deal of hand waving and dramatic flair to make sure that every kid in the room was paying full attention, he poured it very slowly over Phillip’s head.

Howls of laughter filled the lunch room as tears filled Philip’s eyes. Looking smug and triumphant, J.J. scooped up pile of coins from the table, stuffed it in his trouser pocket, and picked up the other half of the cheese and onion sandwich as he swaggered out of the lunch room.

That night Keith and Philip did their homework together at Philip’s house as they munched on delicious sausage rolls and mugs of tea. Philip was still fuming about the afternoon’s humiliating incident.

“He can’t keep treating people like that!” he grumbled as he took another swig of his tea. “Someone is going to have to teach that big, ugly twit a lesson!”

Suddenly Philip felt strangely inspired. “Wait! Have I got a great idea!” he announced excitedly. “Why don’t we play a trick on him?” he continued, surprised by the sudden thrill the notion of revenge had given him.

Keith was intrigued, but raised a doubting eyebrow as he studied the look on his best friend’s freckled face. “Go on,” he prompted. “I’m listening.”

“You know the spooky old graveyard just a short way from Whitely Common? The overgrown one they haven’t used in years? Why don’t we make a bet with Johnny in front of the whole lunch room that he is too chicken to go there at midnight and collect an envelope we are going to plant there?”

Keith thoughtfully nodded. “But that’s too easy! I reckon that J.J. isn’t afraid of much, and he will be able to do that real easy.”

“Ah, yes. But here’s the thing. I want you to secretly borrow your dad’s camcorder, and I am going to play dress up! Last Halloween, if you recall, my mum dressed me up as a really menacing ghoul. Don’t you remember? When I came knocking on your door to go trick or treating, you didn’t even recognize me! What I plan to do is wear the costume and hide myself in the graveyard, and just as Johnny goes to reach for the envelope, I will jump out and make lots of moaning and groaning sounds and scare the life out of him! And you will be there filming it all on the camcorder! Then we can send a copy to him, and tell him that if he continues bullying us or anyone else, we will show it to the whole school!”

And as the two of them chatted further over supper and homework, they got more and more excited.

It was three days later when the plan began to fall into place, on a fateful, nippy and rainy November afternoon. Once more Keith and Philip were sitting in the lunch room minding their own business, and once more Johnny marched in scowling. For the last few days he had picked on other victims, but today it was their turn again. As J.J. marched over, the two boys stood up to face him.

J.J. was obviously a little taken aback. His victims usually cowered and got all wobbly-kneed at his mere presence. “Do you have my protection money?” he demanded.

Philip and Keith just stood there.

“Well?” Johnny yelled.

“I bet you think that you are afraid of no one or nothing!” Keith bravely replied. “Being the great protector and all.”

Johnny was amazed and shocked, as no one had ever stood up to him before. He also was extremely aware that all the other kids in the lunch room were now holding their breath, waiting to see what was going to happen next.

“How about proving just how brave you are?” Philip added, surprised that he was even able to speak.

J.J. squinted at him. He was surely going to have to think very quickly if he was to maintain his reign of terror—and thinking isn’t what he did best. He briefly considered simply thumping them, but he realized that that would make it look as if he really was afraid of whatever plan they had in mind in front of all these other kids. No, he had no choice. He was going to have to go along with it.

“What are you talking about? I ain’t afraid of nuttin’ or nobody,” he said finally, biting his lower lip.

The two friends breathed a sigh of relief in unison, and as the entire lunchroom listened on intently Keith continued. “Okay, here is the dare we have in mind. On this Saturday night, just before midnight, we will leave our ten pounds protection money in a brown envelope and attach it to the old crypt in the cemetery. You know the one I mean; everyone does—it is the one that is right dead center in the graveyard! All you have to do is get the envelope it and bring it to school on Monday morning. But we’ll be back in the graveyard at one o’clock to check, and if you haven’t retrieved it by then, we’re the one’s who will bring it to school instead of you.”

Johnny listened to the proposition with dread, for he hated that old, spooky graveyard. Even during the daylight hours it gave him the creeps, and they wanted him to go at midnight? Still, he did have a reputation to uphold. He glared at all the curious, expectant eyes in the lunchroom that were carefully scrutinizing him.

“Deal!” he said as he contorted his face into the biggest scowl imaginable. Then he promptly turned about and stormed out of the lunch room, stamping his boots on the floor and muttering angrily under his breath as he went.

Keith and Philip could scarcely believe their luck at getting away with their dare—and they could not wait till Saturday night!