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'The Halloween App'

October 30, 2011|Mel Gilden
(J.H. Everett )

When Jim rang the bell of Uncle Ynar's old house, the front door slid aside. He was greeted by a tall silver robot who stared at him with glowing eyes.

"Welcome, young Jim," the robot said in its strange electronic voice. "The master will see you."

The robot led him to Uncle Ynar, who was working in his laboratory. He was a large round man whose spiky black hair stuck up every which way.

"What can I do for you, Jim?" he asked.

"It's almost Halloween," Jim said. "I decided that I'm too old for trick-or-treating, but I still want to celebrate somehow."

Uncle Ynar rubbed his chin with a fist while he considered Jim's problem. "I have just the thing," he cried. "Do you have your phone with you?"

"Sure," Jim said and took it from his pocket.

"This is a little something I've been working on," Uncle Ynar said as he set Jim's cellphone into a small alcove in the wall. A bright white light shown on the phone for a moment, and then Uncle Ynar gave it back to Jim. "Your phone now contains my new Halloween app. Just click on the pumpkin icon, and away you go. The important thing is that you not try it out till you get home."

"Why?"

"Trust me on this," Uncle Ynar said, and had the big robot usher Jim out the door.

As he walked home, Jim took his cellphone from his pocket and looked at the main screen. He had heard what Uncle Ynar said about waiting until he got home, but he could not help himself – he clicked on the pumpkin anyway.

Suddenly, the country around him was much darker. The trees all looked like witch's fingers reaching for the sky. Owls whoo-whooed mournfully. A flock of bats circled him once, their leathery wings slapping together. Where the moon had been was now the face of a sneering jack-o-lantern: orange and creepy.

"It's just Uncle Ynar's app," Jim said out loud, trying to sound braver than he felt.

He noticed he was now walking on a dirt path rather than on a cement sidewalk. Most of the houses in the neighborhood had disappeared. He touched the pumpkin icon again, hoping that would turn off the app. But nothing changed.

Jim could see only one house. It seemed to be at the far end of the path. Though Dr. Frankenstein or Count Dracula might live there, he hurried toward it. He certainly didn't want to stay out here.

Soon he was standing in front of the house. It looked very old, ramshackle, and unloved. It might be full of ghosts, or worse.

Jim was going to knock. Then Uncle Ynar's Halloween app gave him a better idea.

"Trick or treat!" Jim called out.

A moment later, he heard someone walking toward the door. Fearfully, Jim waited for the door to open.

"What are you doing out here?" Jim's mother asked when she saw who was at the door. "I thought you were too old for trick or treating. Besides, you're a few days early."

Jim looked around. The old house now looked like his house. The other houses in the neighborhood had returned. The trees looked friendly and alive. The moon was just the moon. But his app experience had suggested a plan.

"You're right. But I was thinking I'd like to decorate the house for when the little kids come around. And I can help give out the candy, too. What do you say, Mom?"

"Great idea. Happy Halloween, Jim."

"Happy Halloween, Mom."

Special thanks to J. H. Everett for his illustration. To see more of his work visit jheverett.com

Visit melgilden.com to learn more about the author.

For more Kids' Reading Room, visit latimes.com/kids. Ever wonder what needs to happen in order for a newspaper to be produced? Find out in a series of articles called 'A Day at the Times,' in Activity Center in latimes.com/kids.

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