Danny could be a great artist. That’s what his mum told him. Ever since Uncle Mitchell had bought him that great big art set for his birthday, Danny had found a real talent for doodling away, filling up sheet after sheet with pictures of ancient castles dwarfed by the dragons that soared overhead or vast, mysterious forests with little villages built up amongst the trees. The watercolours he wasn’t so good with but the chalks and coloured pencils he took to quickly. His bedroom walls were plastered all over with his creations and his mum had even taken some to put up at her work. She told him some were definitely good enough to go in a real art gallery. Danny knew that wasn’t true but was aware that he was a lot better at art and drawing than most other kids his age. It had a calming influence on him – he could lose himself for hours as he sketched and coloured away – which these days was no bad thing. Mum and dad seemed to fighting more and more now – screaming at each other and constantly getting louder to try and compete with the wailing of Danny’s baby sister. Usually it was money they fought about, dad had lost his job and now it looked like they were going to have to move to a smaller house. Danny hoped that would mean moving schools as well. He didn’t like his school – most of the teachers were okay but he didn’t like the other kids. Especially that Jordan kid – he was always pushing Danny over and calling him “snot rag”.
He didn’t look like he was a very nice man – the sort of person that would find amusement in the misery of others
Closing the bedroom door to try and block out some of the shouting, Danny pulled out a fresh sheet of paper and laid it out on his bedroom table, full of possibility. For a moment he chewed on the end of his freshly sharpened HB pencil and thought about what to draw. Somewhere nice he decided. Somethere that wasn’t school and wasn’t home. He started sketching a pleasant, rolling valley with sweeping dales in the distance, blossom trees and a winding stream. Switching between pencils he tried to make everything as bright and vivid as possible but the sky just came out pale with a sun that looked more like a deflated blob. None of the trees looked right either, although they were usually what he was best at.
He decided to come back to the landscape and so started drawing a figure in the foreground instead. It wasn’t supposed to be anyone in particular, just a man. Danny decided to give his new character a bright, cheery face but when he raised his hand from the paper the man’s eyebrows were bent at a sinister angle and although his smile was wide with all the teeth showing, the way it curved looked more like he was sniggering or leering up at Danny. He didn’t look like he was a very nice man – the sort of person that would find amusement in the misery of others. Downstairs a plate smashed and the baby woke up again. If the sniggering man was here he’d probably have a right old laugh at Danny’s life right now.
It was time to get rid of the sniggering man, Danny decided, not liking the way the crude figured grinned up at him from the page, piercing Danny with his uneven eyes. Danny dug out his chunky eraser – one of the one’s that could rub out pencil with one end and pen with the other – fully intending to erase everything on the page but then he had a thought. He always drew nice things – happy places. Always made all of his creations colourful and happy. Clearly none of that had done anything to improve the world around him though so why not draw something horrible instead? He picked up the pencil once more and began shading in the sniggering man more, filling out the wrinkles around his eyes and long, devious hands that hung at his sides.
By the time he was done, the only colour he had used, black, was worn down to a blunt stub and he had long, painful indentations along his index finger from squeezing the pencil too hard. It was getting dark outside now and the rest of the house was unusually quiet. The finished illustration before him was so detailed and so lifelike, the way the shadows fell across the creases in the man’s clothes and the subtle hint of stubble growth – it was undeniably the best thing he had ever drawn. And the worst. The man’s mocking grin was even more pronounced and horrid now, his sunken eyes shining at Danny with malevolent glee. Danny could almost hear the man’s cruel sniggering and raspy breathing as he observed the boy hovering over him. Now Danny wished he had just erased that wretched man after all – the sniggering man wasn’t a nice person. Why had Danny drawn him at all? And then something happened that sent an icy, jagged chill up and down Danny’s chest and he almost screamed out loud. The man winked at him. The actual lines moved across the rough surface of the paper and then back again as if he had been watching a cartoon. But this wasn’t a cartoon – this was just a normal drawing that Danny had made himself. Drawings were supposed to move. Danny fumbled for the eraser but found it wasn’t where he had left it. Shifting the other sheets of papers and drawing tools from nearby he searched fruitlessly for it, even checking under the table in case he had knocked it onto the floor but it wasn’t there either. He was going to go and rummage through some of his drawers and find a replacement when he spotted the eraser. It was a lot smaller now but unmistakeable with its chunky shape and two ends. The sniggering man was holding it in his right hand.
Title image courtesy pinksherbet