Megan rolled the purple chalk in her hands and stared intently at the wall. Scrunching her face up in concentration, she slowly drew a stick girl on the wall. She gave the figure a long purple ponytail and a large round belly. It was hard to draw a belly on a stick figure so she settled for a big circle that sat under her little stick arms.
That was what would happen to Bex, mummy had said. She had said that her belly would grow really big as a baby was living inside it now. Megan couldn’t really imagine how Bex’s tummy could get any bigger than it already was, but that was what mummy had said.
Megan drew a baby inside the circle and gave it a big belly too. Deciding that it wasn’t quite finished, she gave both the baby and Bex big mouths too. She smiled at the result.
Megan didn’t really understand why everyone was so angry. Rachel hadn’t come home after she had run out of the house on Friday. Megan had waited up late for her, knowing that mummy would forget to send her to bed if she sat quietly in her room. She’d eventually been caught when trying to make a dash for the toilet, bumping into Bex who was climbing the stairs. Rachel had eventually returned the next afternoon but it was only to have a shower before she went straight out again. She still wasn’t back.
Megan hoped that her sister had found somewhere to sleep. She usually stayed out late or all night, but she had never stayed out this long before. If she didn’t come home soon, Megan would have to ask her mum to help her with her reading. Megan’s nose wrinkled at the thought. She had a reading test with Miss Murphy today and recently Mr Wilson would hover near her. He pretended to be looking at the register but every time Megan would look up she found him staring at her. It was really annoying. She’d been reading more and more quietly to try and make him stop but it seemed to just make him more interested in her.
Megan carefully replaced the purple chalk into the pack and pulled out a yellow. Above her doodle she scribbled “stuped”. Then frowned and rubbed out the “e”. Stupid had an “i”.
To make up for her spelling mistake, she scribbled the word two more times.
Stupid, stupid, stupid.
Megan returned the packet into her bag. She left her backpack on the pavement and walked around the corner. Her school loomed behind the quaint white wooden fence and behind the less quaint six foot mesh fence just behind that. She climbed onto the first fence awkwardly and balanced with her arms spread out like an airplane. Once she had stopped windmilling her arms, she carefully raised herself up on her tiptoes and managed to get a view of the clock in the bright Year Five classroom. Mummy was 30 minutes late again.
Bending her knees slowly, she grabbed onto the fence with her hands and plopped herself down to sit on it, swinging her red buckle shoes against the white wood. Nadia had teased her about her red shoes but Megan didn’t care. She was probably jealous because Nadia’s mum made her wear horrible navy ones with laces. Megan’s had velcro. Her shoes bounced off the wood with hollow thunks and left behind little black scuff marks on the white.
Megan was bored.
She looked around her at the empty street and huffed to herself. Occasionally cars would rumble past the pavement and disappear under the railway bridge. There was nothing of interest for Megan to play with here. Opposite the school was a row of brick terraced house with three grubby cars parked outside their doors. The windows of the houses were dark and Megan never saw anyone inside.
She never saw anyone outside either. Once all the school buses had departed and the cars had swept in and out, honking and swearing at all the other parents trying to pull into their spot, and once all the other children had been collected and marched home, the chaos of the after school run drifted back into silence. No one walked by the school once the children had left, or almost all the children.
Megan puffed out her cheeks and considered the fence. Maybe it would be fun to walk on. It was narrow but Megan had good balance. Rachel had suggested that she should do gymnastics but they didn’t have a club at their school. Paige, who lived down Megan’s road, went to a special club at her own school and was always showing off medals that she had won. Her school was all the way on the other side of the estate and mummy didn’t have a car. If she went to Paige’s school then her father would have to collect her. Megan decided that she’d rather go to this school, even if all her school friends were stupid and didn’t like her.
As she was clambering back up onto the fence she spotted Mrs White in the car park. Standing beside her grubby car, the old woman peered at Megan suspiciously through her large red glasses. Casually Megan dropped to the pavement and pretended to see her mum. Waving at an invisible figure she ran back around the corner.
The last time Mrs White had spotted her, they’d made her sit inside at reception and the receptionist with the stupid frizzy brown hair kept asking her loads of questions. Her mum had been angry when she had been forced to walk to reception to collect Megan.
Just around the corner, the pavement split off from the road to turn into a tunnel as the street traveled under the railway bridge. Megan walked to the entrance and sat down on her book bag. It was cool and dark in the underpass and a little bit smelly sometimes but Megan liked to pretend it was something different. Playing make-believe was her favourite game.
Today it was a cave and she was a cavegirl who wore a dress made from a tiger skin and carried a big stick with a pointed end. Light spilled through the entrance to light up her secret hidey-hole. While her caveman husband was out hunting, it was her job to keep the fire lit and protect their home from all the wild animals. Suddenly, a host of wolves, tigers and giant snakes burst into the shade of her home, spitting and hissing as they charged on little Megan.
But Megan was no longer little. She was all grown up and had her spear. Jumping up, she charged at the intruders. Her red hair flew as she thrust the weapon into the jaws of monsters, beasts, razor sharp teeth, talons and venomous tails that whirled towards her dangerously. Just as she thought she had stopped them, she saw a snake by the fire, hissing at her villainously as it rose up and up, it’s head almost touching the ceiling.
Megan picked up her spear and sprinted back down the tunnel. Running faster and faster she locked eyes with the monster and dived across the flames, soaring high up into the air to hit the creature around its head. Once it had crashed into the floor, Megan landed gracefully beside it and thrust her spear into it, trapping the creature to the ground. She panted heavily as her eyes took in the scene of her triumph. She had done it. She had protected her home from monsters and beasts for another day.
Megan collapsed next to the camp fire, exhausted. Resting against the wall, Megan let the sounds of real life creep back as she greedily sucked in oxygen. Her conquests melted into the cold concrete and the glow of her campfire merged into the orange of the artificial lights flickering from the ceiling. Wind whistled softly down the tunnel and a car rumbled past the wall behind Megan’s head. She stretched her legs out but they couldn’t quite reach the other side.
The light creeping in from the entrance was getting dimmer as the afternoon threatened to become evening. Megan shivered. Mummy was never usually this late.
I should finish the cave paintings, Megan thought, deciding that she would rather be a caveman a little while longer. In case I get eaten and my husband won’t know where I’ve gone.
Twisting on her bottom, she pulled her backpack towards her and reached inside for her chalks again but froze when she glanced at the wall. Right there, next to fat Bex and her baby, was another stick figure girl drawn out of chalk. This girl had a spear, red hair and wore a dress made from a tiger.
Megan gripped the chalk in her hand and shuffled away from the wall quickly. She was certain it had not been there before and no one else had walked through the underpass since she had been playing there.
She glanced quickly out of the entrance again but snapped her eyes back to the drawing immediately, not wanting to take her eyes off it for too long. No one was outside the tunnel. She doubted even Mrs White was still in the car park. Keeping her eyes fixed on the picture, she walked through the underpass to check the other side. She had to walk backwards for most of the way to keep the wall in sight but once she had reached the end, she quickly turned and poked her head out into the street.
There was the car park next to the dry cleaners and the old man outside the Chinese huddled in his sleeping bag as always. His mangy dog stared at her mournfully but didn’t lift his head off his master’s lap. He didn’t look very well. There was no one else around and she doubted the homeless man had run in to draw on the wall. He never moved from his spot on the street and he seemed to be asleep.
She didn’t like it this side. Turning, she wandered back slowly. Maybe the image had been there before, she thought to herself. It was odd that the girl looked so much like her, but then there had been graffiti on the wall before she got there. Maybe someone else had played the same make-believe game she had and she just hadn’t noticed the drawing earlier. Although all the other scribbles had been put there with spray paint, not chalk.
Her footsteps echoed around her as she walked through the lonely tunnel. Megan wished that her mummy would hurry up. She was even considering walking back down to the school and having to spend time with the receptionist with the frizzy hair. If she was still there.
Megan stopped in front of the drawing suddenly. The chalk she had still been holding snapped in two as Megan’s fist tightened.
Next to Caveman Megan the words ‘Do you want to play?’ weresprawled across the brick.
Megan stared at them in horror. No one could have written them in the time she took her eyes off the wall. Yet there they were, neatly scrawled in the own purple chalk that was still trapped in Megan’s sweaty palm.
She wanted to run. She knew she should pick up her bag and sprint towards the school, tell the receptionist that her mummy hadn’t collected her yet and wait in the safety of the warm corridor with its cheerful displays. Yet she didn’t. Megan had spent her whole life waiting for someone to ask her those five, innocent little words.
Her loneliness overpowered her fear and she shuffled back towards the wall. She wasn’t supposed to talk to strangers, but why couldn’t she be naughty like everyone else just this once? Besides, she’d never been told that she couldn’t write to a stranger.
Carefully and in her best handwriting, Megan replied.
“What do you want to play?”
It took her a long time to form the letters as she had never been very good at literacy. She always got the “e”’s the wrong way round. Once she had finished, she sat back and held her breath, keeping her eyes fixed on the brick. Her eyes started stinging with the stress of keeping them open for so long but still nothing appeared. She blinked without meaning to and groaned in annoyance, yet there was still nothing there. The same five words from before remained above her reply.
Except, Megan realised with a gasp, they weren’t the same words from before.
“Do you like to draw?”
She’d not even noticed the letters transform but they had, right in front of her eyes.
“Yes.” Megan replied out loud, then shook her head for being silly and quickly scrawled “yes” underneath her previous response.
This time the wall changed instantly. Megan fell back in shock as scribbles started appearing in front of her eyes. Another figure was being formed next to the one of herself in the caveman scene. This figure was all in black and carried his own long spear. Where Megan’s picture had a happy face, the new figure had none. He was completely filled in with black and stood beside her protectively.
“I like to draw,” the wall responded, “I can draw make-believe.”
Megan sat still for a very long time. She wasn’t sure whether she aught to tell someone about the wall or keep it a secret. She had longed to keep a secret, just as she had longed to be mischievous. Slowly, Megan brought her chalk up to the wall and scratched out her response carefully. The chalk scratched against the brickwork.
When she had finished she crossed her legs and bit her lip. The chalk fell from her sweaty hands as she fiddled with it but she left it there, too nervous to move until she had received an answer. She waited for a long time, staring at her question written in small letters against the dark shabby brick.
“Are you a monster?”