By the D23 Team
Middle school is tough enough without having to switch schools and start over. Eleven-year-old Shelly Anderson has a lot to worry about: Can she figure out her new classes? Will she ever make new friends? Could she ever fit in on the school’s swim team? With so much on her plate, you couldn’t blame her for asking for a little help… even if that help is from a certain Sea Witch. Part of Your Nightmare, by author Vera Strange, is the first book in the Disney Chills series, a book series for middle grade readers that brings Disney villains into the everyday world in chilling and thrilling ways. This story, which dives into Shelly’s deal with Ursula, is available for purchase now, but if waiting to read it makes you feel like a poor, unfortunate soul, you can check out an excerpt below:
As they walked into class, Shelly felt a ripple of happiness. Her friends had her back after all. They did care about her. They cared when she’d almost drowned. And they’d cared when she’d been pranked. They’d even cleaned up the mess for her. The swim meet and the fi shy locker were just flukes. Plus her wish ensured that stuff like that would never happen again.
Moments later, Mr. Aquino called the class to order.
“Today we’ll be talking about fish anatomy,” he said, flipping off the lights and turning on the projector. An image of a goldfish appeared. “You probably learned a lot during our aquarium field trip,” he added.
Snickers rang out in the classroom. Nobody liked science class except for Shelly. She tried to focus on the lesson, but her hand kept drifting up to check on the scarf. Suddenly, she felt a wad of wet paper hit her cheek. She jerked her head around. Normie made a kissy face. Fish lover, he mouthed. His friends giggled from the back of the room. So they’d all seen Judy’s latest prank. Shelly shrank down in her seat, feeling annoyed. Mr. Aquino aimed his laser pointer at the goldfish’s neck. “Class, what are these called?”
Shelly’s mouth dropped open in shock. The little laser point hovered over the slits in the fi sh’s neck. She knew exactly what they were called. But that wasn’t why she was freaked out.
She reached under her scarf and touched her neck, feeling the slits.
When no one answered, Mr. Aquino shifted his gaze.
“Shelly, care to enlighten us?”
But she couldn’t say it. Her mouth felt dry, like it was filled with cotton balls. She quickly pulled her hand out from under the scarf. She suddenly remembered the sea witch’s words, and somehow, it all fell into place: Oh, you’ll be the fastest swimmer. You’ll swim like a fish!
This was the gift from the sea witch. Ursula had given her gills! But that wasn’t what Shelly had meant when she made her wish. She didn’t mean for it to happen like this. Another spitball hit her cheek.
Fish lover, Normie mouthed at her.
The silence stretched.
Shelly started to feel like she couldn’t breathe. Her chest felt tight. Her lungs screamed. Since the slits had appeared on her neck, breathing seemed harder. It wasn’t her imagination, either. It had something to do with the gills. She was certain.
Mr. Aquino looked worried. “Shelly, is everything okay?”
But all she could think about was her neck, and Normie, and the horrible nickname, and how if the other kids saw her, well, her new fishlike parts, it would only get worse.
Much, much worse.
“Uh… can I use the bathroom?” she managed to utter, then grabbed the hall pass and bolted from class. She had to figure out more about the gills—and how to make them go away before anyone could notice them. Shelly rushed into the bathroom, checking to make sure nobody was in there. Fortunately, it was empty. Slowly, she unwrapped the scarf from her neck, revealing the gills in all their fishy glory. She breathed deep, watching as they flared open, then sealed up.
It would be kind of cool—if they weren’t on her neck.
Like a crazy science experiment.
She was reaching up to touch the gills when she heard something.
The sound came from one of the stalls.
It sounded like something wet flopping around. “H-hello?” she stammered, quickly rewrapping her neck. “Is anybody in here?”
Nobody answered. It sounded like the noise was coming from the closest bathroom stall. The door was cracked open a bit. She approached it and then pushed it the rest of the way open. The strange noise was definitely coming from inside the toilet bowl.
She held her breath and peered into it.
Then she gasped.
A goldfish floated perfectly still inside the toilet bowl. She couldn’t be sure, but the fish looked an awful lot like Mr. Bubbles. So then… how was he here? She recognized the black stripe down its side. It was definitely Mr. Bubbles.
She leaned closer, trying to inspect the fi sh. On second thought, it probably wasn’t Mr. Bubbles. A lot of goldfish looked alike. But then again, what was a goldfish doing in the toilet in the girls’ bathroom? Was this another Judy Weisberg prank? Or other kids from class?
Shelly’s mind whirled with paranoid thoughts.
Suddenly, the fish began to thrash around.
Then he did something that made Shelly jump back in fear.
“Help me! Your brother flushed me!” The shrill voice came from the fish.
Up close, she could see that he looked bloated and decaying.
His pale dead eyes stared back at her; his mouth puckered at the air.
Shelly slowly backed away. “No, that’s impossible. Fish can’t talk.”
But the fish kept shrieking. “You’re just like me now! You’re going to go belly-up!”
Shelly slammed the toilet lid.
Fear made her breathing speed up and adrenaline rush through her veins.
But the fish kept shrieking. “You’re going to go belly-up!”
Her eyes locked on the toilet, she backed out of the stall.
And bumped into somebody standing behind her.