Hey there — Astrid here. My brother’s a really bad storyteller.
Let me give you an actual story (instead of my brother’s constant babbling).
It started with the green prank, and yeah, I got him good.
That’s sort of our thing—we like playing practical jokes on each other. I beat his confetti pillow with that, although he came pretty close with the Everything Upside Down In My Room prank.
So even if he says he’s mad about being green, I know he’s really not.
But that doesn’t mean he won’t try to get me back.
Anyway, back to the story.
Like I said, it started with the green.
I’d put a big bucket of green water over my door. And I knew he’d come in, even if he suspected a prank. The reason I knew was because he might think that I was spying on our neighbor, Mr. Pizarro. Well, not really spying so much as watching, and we only do that because he’s so, so weird.
Our house doesn’t have a fence around the backyard, and neither does his. So we can see him doing all sorts of strange, weird things. It’s how he got his nickname, Mr. Bizarro, although we don’t call him that to his face.
In fact, we never, ever, ever talk to him.
He’s just too weird.
Like he’ll stand in his driveway and beep his car remote over and over and over and over until you want to scream.
Or he’ll just stand in his backyard. All day (and all night, too, although we have to be in bed by ten, so maybe he goes to bed after we do). And he just stares at the sky.
And stares. And stares.
But the weirdest thing of all is that Ryan and I have both caught him watching us when we play in the backyard. He always looks away, or smiles, and mom says he’s just being friendly, but we know better.
The man’s just plain weird.
But tonight, he wasn’t around. Maybe he’d gone away to weird camp? So there was just that green bucket.
And then my green brother.
And then me feeling like celebrating. And my favorite thing to do when I’m in a good mood is go outside and swing on our swingset.
All four legs are stuck deep in concrete, so you can go really, really high. Tonight, I got almost all the way up—so high that I bet I coulda done a flip over the top bar if I’d tried hard enough.
When I was up there, I saw a flash of green … and then lots of sparks showering down on the ground. Fireworks!
Tomorrow’s the Fourth of July, but I guess some of the neighbors were practicing.
I kept staring at the sky, hoping for another round, but nothing came.
And then I saw it.
A star, falling from the sky.
Which was really cool — and least at first.
And then a bunch of them started falling. And falling. And falling.
Until the entire constellation of Gui (the demon) fell, leaving a great, big, black hole in the sky.
Would it be uncool to say that I freaked?
I mean, totally freaked.
I ran inside and called for Ryan, but all he did was tell me go away. So I bolted across the hall to my mom’s room and found Aunt Nutty on the bed watching television.
“Aunt Helen! Aunt Helen! The stars are falling.”
For a second, she just stared at me. Then she smiled. “Astrid, honey, you probably saw someone shooting off fireworks.”
“No!” I said. “I really saw it!”
“Which makes more sense, sweetheart? That the stars are falling willy-nilly out of the sky, or that you saw sparks from fireworks?”
Okay, maybe she had a point. I was being stupid. I mean, how can stars fall out of the sky?
Honestly, I’m pathetic.
I heard the shower turn off, but suddenly I didn’t want to talk to my brother any more.
Not that he cared what I wanted. Typical. He cornered me in the living room after he’d put on jeans and a t-shirt. “What’s your problem, short stuff?”
“Never mind, you walking green bean!”
He glared. Probably because it was true. He’d washed a lot of it off, but he still definitely glowed green.
“Fine,” said. “Whatever. You’re the one who was screaming for me.”
He headed for the back door. I was going to go to my room and forget all about the stupid stars and the stupid fireworks, but I admit I was curious. I went out with him.
And as I was standing beside my older brother, he did the coolest thing ever. He pointed toward that big gap in the sky, and said, “Astrid, where are the stars?”
“That’s what I was screaming about! The stars fell!”
And do you know what happened then? We both looked up…and as we did, Wei (danger) started to fall, too.
We stared at the sky, and I was so happy that Ryan saw it too that I didn’t even think of calling him a green bean.
“What is it?” he asked, but I could only shake my head.
“It’s not good, though, is it?” I asked. After all, stars falling out of the sky had to be a bad thing, right?
“I hate to say it, but I think we should tell Aunt Nutty,” Ryan said.
I went. “Aunt Helen! Aunt Helen! Come outside!!”
When Aunt Helen appeared in the doorway, she didn’t look happy. “Astrid Chen! Are you trying to wake up the entire city, or just our neighborhood?”
“It’s the stars,” Ryan said. He was pointing up to the sky.
I watched Aunt Nutty’s face. She went from being mad to being amazed.
And then the Really Strange Thing happened. She ran toward me, and as she did, she started to shrivel up, like that Chinese mummy they found in the Jiangsu Province.
Except this mummy had long fangs and claws.
Aunt Nutty was a monster—and she was on the attack!