HOW WELL DO you know the staff at your school? Sure, they bandage your scrapes, sweep up your spills, and dish out your lunch. But who are they, really?

They seem like nice people.

But what if they’re not?

What if they’re secretly something much, much weirder?

Thanks to this suspicion, Benny Brackman and I found ourselves in the school kitchen one night, cowering behind a refrigerator door.

“¡Ay, huey!” I gasped. “What the heck was that?”

Benny peeked around the door toward the pantry in the corner. Nothing moved in the dimness.

“Don’t ask me, Carlos,” he said. “All I saw was you, running like mad. What did you see?”

“Freakity freaking freakiness!” I said. My heart hammered like a treeful of woodpeckers and my nerves jangled like wind chimes in a hurricane.

“Can you be more specific?” Benny asked, squinting into the dark.

“Too many arms, scary-fast, and it nearly took my head off. Where’d it go?”

I peered around Benny’s shoulder. Although the open fridge did supply some yellowish light, its door faced the wrong way, back toward the deep fryer. My eyes were dazzled by brightness, which made the corner where the creature had ambushed me seem even darker.

“We should make sure what it is,” whispered Benny.

You make sure,” I said. “That thing doesn’t want us investigating the pantry, and I’m inclined to agree with it.” Sweat popped out on my forehead.

Benny grumbled, but he gave in. We stared at the dark corner, we stared at the exit. All was quiet. Whatever it might be, the monster was motionless.

“Okay,” I said, my throat dry, “we should go.”

“You first,” said Benny.

“No, you,” I said. “I insist.”

Licking his lips, Benny said, “Let’s go together.”

“Right.”

The only problem with this plan was that the path to the exit ran much too close to the murky corner for comfort. My jaw clenched.

Nothing to it but to do it. My muscles tensed tighter than piano strings.

“On the count of three,” said Benny. “One…two—”

“Go!” I yelled.

“What about three?”

We burst from behind the fridge with a wild cry, dashing straight for the door. As we tore past the food-prep island, something big stirred in the shadows to our left. Benny raised the can of Raid above his head and spritzed like he was writing the Declaration of Independence in the air.

Right away, my eyes stung. That sickly-sweet chemical smell filled my nose.

“Watch where you’re spraying!” I cried.

Something scuttled behind us. My overactive imagination pictured ten million cockroaches picking up speed. I risked a glance back.

It was worse.

The world’s biggest praying mantis was charging straight at us, wearing a hungry expression and an apron that read WHY YOU ALL UP IN MY GRILL?

Benny checked over his shoulder and his eyes grew wider than a sumo wrestler’s waistband. With a strangled scream, he poured on the speed.

From behind us came an unnatural cry that I swear sounded like “Don’t you dare leave that fridge door open!”

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

According to my teacher, Mr. Chu, you’re supposed to grab your readers by the throat at the beginning of your story, but I feel like I’m just confusing you. You have no idea who Benny and I are, or why we’re being chased through the kitchen by a giant bug.

And that’s just not fair. (Both the confusion and the being chased, I mean.)

Let me back up a bit to where this story started. With the day Benny and I discovered what it really means to have a reputation as monster fighters.