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SCARY STORIES // Welcome to my club

Last month X-Press invited you to come up with your spookiest ideas for the the first ever X-Press Scary Story contest. It's frightening how many of you responded.

We received more than 1,000 of the creepiest tales ever conceived _ and we read them all. Some of us here at X-Press are still having nightmares! Blood gushed. Dogs howled. Bats were caught in human hair. Almost every neighborhood had an old, abandoned house some fool was bound to wander into. Kids ranging in age from elementary through middle school let us know that yes, in fact, dead men can tell tales.

For an entire month here at X-Press, it has been a dark and stormy night. It was a hard decision to make, but, with our bones rattling on the eve of Halloween, we present the winners of the X-Press Scary Story Contest. Today's stories are the winners in the middle school category, and, if you missed Sunday's paper, dig through the recycling pile (or garbage) and check out the Floridian section for the elementary winners.

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It was all just a stupid game. For months, my best friend Alexis and I had been taunting the most unpopular girl in school, Rhonda, telling her about our secret club. It got to the point where she was just begging for us to let her in! It was great! So we told her that, if she wanted to be in the club, she had to spend the night in the shack on Teahill.

The Teahill shack was the scariest thing in our boring town, with stories about all stuff I've outgrown _ ghosts, goblins, stuff like that. So when Rhonda said she'd do it, she was so pathetic that Alexis and I decided to follow her and give her a scare.

There was only one thing missing . . . the club. There never was any club. It was all made up. That was the funniest part about it. Everyone in the class knew there was no club, except for Rhonda, and everyone knew she was spending the night in that shack for absolutely nothing, except for her!

On Halloween night, Alexis and I walked with Rhonda past all the houses of our town, past the coin laundry and the pawn shop to where the town just seemed to end, except for one dusty old dirt road that led straight to Teahill.

When we got there, Rhonda looked around in disgust. Rodents scurried to safety when they heard the creaky door open, and cockroaches scampered all over the floor.

Rhonda cleared away the cobwebs and placed her bag on the run-down shelf. Alexis and I left to set up my tent at the bottom of the hill.

We had been planning on scaring Rhonda after we went trick-or-treating, but we fell asleep.

It must have been about 3 a.m. when I awoke to Rhonda's scream. I thought Alexis must have woken up to go scare her. Then she screamed again. I listened closer this time and, oddly enough, that scream sort of sounded like Alexis. Then came another scream. Yes, it was definitely Alexis! I felt a breeze and realized the tent's flaps were open. I looked around, and the small tent seemed so big!

I crawled out of the tent and, very slowly, walked uphill. Everything was quiet now, and the creaking of the door seemed so much louder than it had before. I looked around, and then I screamed. On the dusty old shelf was Alexis' head!

Just as I turned around to run all the way back to town, I heard Rhonda call my name. I turned around to see Rhonda covered in blood when there wasn't a scratch on her, and in her hand she held a bloody ax. She pointed the ax at a far wall where, in big letters, written with blood was: "Welcome to my club!"

Pamela, 13, lives in St. Petersburg. She is an eighth grader at St. Paul's Catholic School.