The Black Slide Chapter Sneak Peek

Looking for new books? Each month, we’re sharing the first chapter of an upcoming book that you’ll want to add to your TBR list! This month, our featured title is The Black Slide by J.W. Ocker which goes on sale August 16.

The Black Slide

By J.W. Ocker

Chapter 1: It Didn't Look Safe

The Black Slide appeared on the playground of Osshua Elementary on a clear day in late September. Griffin Birch was the first to see it. His desk was near the back window of the Torture Chamber, so he had the best view of the playground. And that was too bad.

The Torture Chamber was the nickname of the fifth- grade classroom. Or one of the fifth-grade classrooms. Osshua Elementary had four, plus four third-grade class- rooms, three second-grade classrooms, five first-grade classrooms, and two kindergartens. But only one class- room in the entire school had a nickname. A new fifth grader wouldn’t find that nickname printed on the door or written in rainbow markers on the whiteboard—no, it would be whispered to them by another student at a lunch table or at the back of a school bus.

The Torture Chamber was the only classroom in the entire school with a view of the playground. Students had to sit and do math and learn grammar and take tests while the freedom and joy of that outside world tempted and distracted them. It was worse during recess for the younger grades. The fifth graders in the Torture Chamber had to watch other kids running and screaming and sliding and swinging and spinning and climbing while they sat and did math and learned grammar and took tests. It was, as the name suggests, torture.

Griffin had been thinking about his dad when he noticed the new slide. He was often thinking about his dad, who had been gone for six months. The first six months of forever, Griffin hoped. But he felt bad for hoping that. And he felt sad for his mom.

“Griffin Birch, eyes on your quiz or I’ll stick you to the whiteboard.”

Griffin jumped, tearing his gaze from the Black Slide to the white paper on his brown desk. Mrs. Pitts was a tall woman. She had other features, but tall was what you noticed when you saw her. Especially when she loomed over your desk. She was also mean, like she took the nick- name of the classroom seriously.

She reminded Griffin of West Quoddy Head Light- house, especially when she wore red and white and the lenses of her large glasses caught the light and hid her eyes. He’d seen the red-and-white-striped lighthouse during a family vacation to Maine two years before. Despite its name, it stood at the easternmost point in the United States. He had clambered out on the rocks beyond the lighthouse while the Atlantic threw great nets of spray at him, salting his lips and dampening his hair. His dad yelled to him that nobody was farther east in the entire world than Griffin at that exact moment. Griffin knew he meant country, though. That was one of the few good memories of his dad that he had. And even then, his dad had tried to peg him with a half-filled soda can from the shore. His dad was also mean.

“Every year I want to cover those windows,” said Mrs. Pitts. “But every year Principal Simmons says I can’t. She says students need sunlight to grow. You know what I say to that, Griffin Birch?” She lowered her eyes behind her glasses enough to catch him in her lighthouse beam. “I tell her I can grow mushrooms.”

Laila Davis turned slightly from her desk in front of Griffin’s to give him a quick be careful look with the side of her face that Griffin could read as easily as if it were printed on the back of her shirt.

“There’s a new slide,” said Griffin. And that made Mrs. Pitts’s lamp swivel to the windows along with the head of every student in the Torture Chamber. Even Laila’s, and she never got in trouble for staring out the window.

The slide was a tube slide, the kind you jumped in at the top, disappeared for a few moments, and then f lew out the bottom like a soda can from a vending machine. But it didn’t look like a normal tube slide. First, it was black. Not sky blue or sunshine yellow or grass green. Just black. It also appeared to be made of leather instead of plastic, dull and textured like an elephant’s hide, and it was fas- tened by large metal rivets. It seemed too tall, like the top was higher than the school building, but that couldn’t be right. And it dove at an unusually steep angle to the red mulch that covered the playground. It wasn’t anything like the gentle slide it had replaced. That one had been f lat and orange. This new one reminded Griffin of a giant taran- tula leg.

Mrs. Pitts walked to a window and stared at the empty playground with the sudden black tube slide in the middle of it. “They’re always updating the playground equipment. Making it safer. Always new rules so that you kids can play without so much as skinning a knee. When I was your age, everything on the playground was made of metal that burned you on hot days, and towered tall enough to break limbs when you fell and sharp enough to cut skin so deep it needed stitches. It’s either a wonder my generation lived through childhood or a wonder you have a childhood.” Griffin stared at the Black Slide. It didn’t look safe.

Mrs. Pitts sterned up her face and said, “Five minutes till pencils down. I’m expecting a lot of Fs on this one.” Pencils were immediately pulled from teeth and behind ears and off desks and set to scraping across paper.

Griffin’s pencil stayed atop his quiz, as lifeless as a fallen branch, while he continued to stare out the window at the Black Slide. It seemed to make the air around it murky.

Mrs. Pitts was wrong about why he stared at the play- ground. He didn’t long to be out there. The playground had always terrified him. Made his stomach burn. His skin prickle. As far as he was concerned, that scary Black Slide fit the playground better than the happy orange one it had replaced.

He got a D minus on the quiz.

Mrs. Pitts docked him half a grade for doodling a long black tube at the bottom of the quiz with, for some reason, a small figure beside it.

 

The Black Slide
Text copyright © 2022 by J. W. Ocker
All rights reserved.

About J. W. Ocker:

J.W. Ocker is the Lowell Thomas– and Edgar Award–winning author of macabre travelogues, spooky kids’ books, and horror novels. His books include Poe-Land, A Season with the WitchDeath and Douglas, and The Smashed Man of Dread End. J. W. Ocker lives in New Hampshire.

Photo by Lindsey Ocker