Jack loved to draw. The place he liked to draw most was the wall next to his bed.
When he was very little he drew scribbles, and when he was a bit bigger he drew stick men. By the time he went to school his drawings really looked more and more like real people.
Some were smiley, some had hats, some were hairy and some had big scary teeth and eyes.
Jack liked to make them talk and sometimes he told them off. There were times when he thought he could hear them chattering as he came into his room.
IIlustration: Jack (in PJs) sitting on his bed drawing on the wall.
One night, after he turned off his bedside light, Jack heard a voice say very clearly next to his head, ‘Is he asleep?’
Something small fell first on the bed and then thumped down onto the floor. Another something scampered giggling over Jack’s feet and followed the first one.
Soon there was a noise of jumping, skidding, squeaking and laughing all over the bedroom floor. Small somethings ran up and down the bed and around Jack’s head on the pillow.
‘Mum! Mum!’ yelled Jack, ‘Mum!’ He tried to hide under the duvet but a face with big hairy teeth danced in front of his face.
The door opened and mum looked into the room. There were scuffling and running noises and suddenly everything was quiet again.
‘The pictures came out of the wall,’ cried Jack.
You had a bad dream,’ said Mum turning the light on. ‘Look, there’s nothing there.’ And she was right. There was nothing in the room.
‘Can I come into your room please, Mum?’ So Jack spent the rest of that night in Mum’s room.
Illustration: Dancing figures, crazy teeth and eyes. Jack peeping over the top of the duvet. Mum’s outline standing at the door. The figures are all turning towards it.
The next day, when Jack came back from school his whole room looked different. Everything was blue – the walls, the curtains and a new duvet. There was a new blue bedside light and a little blue nightlight.
‘Do you like it?’ said Mum. ‘While you were at school I painted the whole room – and look, all the drawings have gone.’
Yes, the wall was quite empty and blue and you couldn’t see any drawings at all. All gone!
That night, after his glass of milk, Jack snuggled under his new blue duvet and listened. Everything was quiet and the little blue night light made the room very cosy.
‘They’ve really all gone!’ thought Jack.
As he was just dropping off to sleep, he heard a small noise on the other side of the room – a sort of squeak and a scuffle. Jack sat up and stared.
Something little scampered along the floor by the wall in front of the blue night light. It made a giant and scary shadow on the wall behind Jack’s bed.
‘Mum!’ yelled Jack. Mum came running into his room.
Illustration: Giant shadow cast on wall from small shape in front of blue night light. Jack sitting up alarmed (in silhouette).
Jack pointed to the bookcase by the window.
‘It’s there – another one – I saw it. On the floor!’
‘There’s absolutely nothing here,’ said his mother, turning on the light and looking all around. ‘Perhaps you saw a mouse. There’s something on the floor here, but it just looks like a scribble. Have you been drawing on the floor? Honestly! Just try to get back to sleep. I’ll leave the light on.’
Small illustration: scribble on floor
After Mum closed the door Jack climbed out of his bed carefully and went over to look at the mark on the floor. He hadn’t done any drawing there. He was sure of it. It was just a flat, messy scribble on the wood. He looked a bit closer and it seemed to shiver and shake. Then it gave a puff and began to grow like a small balloon out of which popped spikes, curly bits, hands and legs and a giant nose.
Jack looked at it amazed. ‘Are you one of my drawings?’ he asked.
‘No!’ said the thing angrily, ‘I’m a Squiggle!’ And it stomped around shaking out its feet and spikes.
‘It’s very dusty down here,’ grumbled the thing and gave a great sneeze, its nose blowing out like a trumpet.
Blobs of ink flew in all directions.
‘Oh, no!’ shouted Jack. His face, his pyjamas, some of the new blue curtains and the floor were covered in inky splatters.
He ran to the bathroom to wash his face and get a cloth to clean up the mess.
But when he came back the Squiggle had gone and there was just a mark on the floor again.
Jack wiped the floor, put on some clean pyjamas, hid the inky ones under the bed and climbed back under his duvet.
‘Maybe it was a dream,’ he thought.
Illustration: Squiggle sneezing – trumpet nose and ink flying all over Jack etc.
In the morning, Jack got dressed, had his breakfast, put his homework and lunch in his school bag and got ready for school.
Before he left he went up to his bedroom and looked at the mark on the floor again.
It had gone. There was nothing there!
A noise behind him made him jump.
Jack looked around.
‘Oi!’ said a voice, rudely. It was the Squiggle again, wriggling and hiding behind the curtain. ‘You can’t leave me here. It’s very dusty. I’ll sneeze again.’
‘I’m going to school,’ said Jack, ‘I can’t stay here.’
‘Take me with you, then,’ said the Squiggle. ’You made me, you can’t go without me.’
‘Get into my school bag then, quickly. Be good and don’t make a noise and DON’T SNEEZE.’
Jack held his bag open and the Squiggle scuttled inside.
Illustration: Squiggle inside Jack’s school bag looking very naughty (evil weevil)
‘Bring me your homework, children,’ said Mr Howler, their teacher.
Jack grabbed his homework book out of his bag and went up to the front of the class to put it onto Mr Howler’s desk.
The register was taken and Mr Howler picked up the pile of homework books.
‘Good, I’ll get you to read out some of your work now. The story was: “How to keep my things clean and tidy”.
‘Wait a minute. What a mess! Why is there so much ink here? Jack, your homework is covered with inky spots and there’s ink on the others now too!’
Jack looked at his hands. They were all inky. He looked in his bag. It was full of ink and he could just see the Squiggle floating on the top looking very pleased with itself.
Terrified, Jack lied, ‘I’m sorry, I think my pen must have leaked, sir.’
‘You will have to do it all again, Jack,’ frowned Mr Howler, ‘and bring it to me tomorrow.’
‘What happened? asked the other children at lunch time. Jack tried to explain about the Squiggle.
‘It must have sneezed,’ he said. ‘That’s when it gets ink all over everything.’
‘Where is it now?’ the children wanted to know.
‘In my school bag,’ said Jack.
‘Don’t let it out whatever you do!’ laughed his friends.
Illustration: Squiggle floating on his back in inky bag. Mr Howler holding up ink-spotted homework in background and looking cross.
After lunch Mr Howler started on his science lesson. He had a row of glass bottles on the desk in front of him.
‘Science can be dangerous, children, and so I have to wear goggles to protect my eyes and a special white coat to keep all my clothes clean. He went on, ‘Science is also a bit like magic.’
He poured liquid from one glass into another. The mixture went bright pink and started to bubble up and make popping noises. Purple smoke poured out of the top.
‘Wow!’ said the kids.
Then there was a thump and a squeak and something skidded across the room and under Mr Howler’s desk.
‘Look!’ whispered Jay, Jack’s best friend. ‘It’s Jack’s thing.’ All the children stopped listening to the science lesson and watched the Squiggle.
‘It’s got out,’ Jack gasped. ‘Oh no!’
Mr Howler stopped in mid sentence. ‘Why is there ink all over the floor?’ A row of inky footprints led to his desk. ‘Megan, fetch the caretaker to come and clean it up.’
Mr Flannel, the school caretaker came in with his mop and bucket and a broom. He washed the ink away and then began to sweep dust from the corners.
‘Oh, no!’ said Jack as a cloud of dust flew into the air. He could see the Squiggle’s nose beginning to wobble.
‘No,’ shouted the children, ‘DON’T SNEEZE!’
There was a snort and a splutter, and then: ‘ATTIIIIIISHOOOO!’
Ink flew in all directions. All over Mr Flannel’s face and brown overalls, all over the ceiling, windows and walls and all over Mr Howler’s lovely special white coat. His goggles were completely covered in ink.
lllustration: ink explosion in class room.
‘Who did that!?’ shouted Mr Howler. He took his safety goggles off and glared around the classroom. He looked really funny because around his eyes where the goggles had been was all white and the rest of his face was covered in ink.
Everyone went quiet. Mr Howler was very angry indeed.
‘Children,’ he said, ‘there has been an explosion. This just shows how dangerous science can be. Please follow me into the playground while Mr Flannel cleans everything up.’
‘We’ve got to get your Squiggle back,’ hissed Jay. ’It’s just causing too much trouble.’
‘Look, there it is,’ whispered Jack, ‘hanging off Mr Flannel’s moustache. How did it get there?’
‘But that’s only a flat thing,’ said Jay. ‘It looks just like a scribbly muddle.
‘That’s what happens when it sneezes. It goes flat.’
‘Excuse me, Mr Flannel,’ said Jack politely. He quickly pulled the flattened Squiggle from the end of Mr Flannel’s moustache, leaving poor Mr Flannel looking even more confused.
‘Quick. Put it in your lunch box,’ Jay suggested. ‘You can always wash that afterwards.’
This completed, they ran out into the playground after the others.
The classroom was in such a mess that the children were sent home early and Mrs Flannel had to come and help Mr Flannel clean up.
Illustration: Squiggle hanging from Mr Flannel’s walrus moustache. Mr Howler’s inky face.
Jack rushed up to his room and closed the door. He took out his lunch box and opened it carefully. The flat Squiggle was stuck to the lid inside. Jack tried to move it with his finger.
‘Careful!’ a grumpy voice said. ’You’ll squash me.’
‘You’re squashed already,’ said Jack peering closely at it.
‘Not if I don’t want to be!’ announced the Squiggle and it immediately blew itself up again, waving its legs and arms and stomping around the lunch box leaving inky footprints.
‘Jumping crumpets! Stop doing that,’ yelled Jack. ‘You’ve got me into so much trouble already today. You’ve got to stop.’
‘It’s not my fault I got left out of the wall when it was painted. My legs are very short and I couldn’t run fast enough. I want to get back.’
‘You can’t go back now. They’ve all gone. Look, there’s just a blue wall.’
‘Of course they are still there,’ said the Squiggle. ‘Just because you can’t see them, doesn’t mean they aren’t there.’
Jack thought about that. ‘What do you mean?’
‘If we found a gap somewhere, I could get back in.’
Jack began to look all over the wall behind his bed for a hole in the blue paint.
Illustration: gap though blue paint
Behind a picture there was a small hole where a nail went in. Jack took the picture down and pulled the nail out. ‘You couldn’t get through that – you’re much too fat.’
‘I could try,’ said the Squiggle.’
‘You do seem to be a lot smaller,’ Jack said, peering closely at the creature.
‘Ha! That’s because every time I sneeze I lose a lot of ink. I’ll disappear altogether if you don’t help me get back.’
‘OK,’ Jack agreed. ‘If you promise not to sneeze, we’ll try. Flatten yourself as much as you can.’ Jack picked up the Squiggle very carefully and pushed it against the hole. It squashed flatter and wider with its arms and legs stuck against the wall.
‘Push, push me harder!’ it shouted to Jack.
Jack tried to push it in and there was a sound of sniffing and snorting. Bits of ink started to splutter out of the Squiggle.
‘No!’ shouted Jack. ‘Whatever you do……DON’T SNEEZE!’ And he stopped pushing. ‘That won’t work. Make yourself really flat again, and we’ll try again.’The Squiggle flattened itself as much as possible, but it still couldn’t fit through the hole.
‘We’re going to have to think again.’ Jack looked very glum.
Illustration: Squiggle flattened against the wall. Ink spluttering,
‘I know what to do,’ announced the Squiggle. ‘If I unravel, then I’ll be able to get through that hole. Hold on to one end and spin me around.’
Jack wasn’t quite sure how to do this, but he put his finger on one end and twisted the rest of the Squiggle around until it started to unravel like a ball of string.
‘That’s it!’ shouted the Squiggle. ‘Now push one end through the hole and let me do the rest.’
Jack gingerly fed one end of the string into the hole and jumped back as the string whipped around the room and became longer and longer, spinning faster and faster as it was being sucked in through the hole like a piece of spaghetti.
With a ‘plop’ and a blob of ink, the very end of the string disappeared through the hole, with Jack watching in amazement.
Jack put the nail back in the hole and hung up the picture quickly to cover the inky marks.
‘I hope it’s got back to the others,’ he thought.
Illustration: string unravelling around room.
Downstairs, Jack’s tea was ready. Jack’s mum was reading the letter he had brought home from school. ‘It says that there has been an explosion at school and that the school will be closed tomorrow while it is cleared up,’ she read. ‘Whatever happened? Were you there? Did you see it?’
‘Yes,’ said Jack. ‘Mr Howler was doing science.’ That was the truth. ‘I’ve got to do my homework again because it got covered in...got messy.’ That was almost the truth.
‘How very odd,’ said Jack’s mum.
When the local television news came on, the presenter said that there had been an unexplained explosion of a black substance at Withersmead school, and that measures would be taken to make certain that something similar didn’t happen again.
‘How very peculiar!’ said Mum and looked at Jack strangely. ‘I don’t suppose you know where your old pyjamas are. I couldn’t find them today.’
But Jack was busy doing his homework again.
When Jack went up to bed later he took the inky pyjamas out from under the bed, wrapped them up in a piece of paper and hid them at the bottom of the waste paper bin. He also pushed some sticky gum into the hole behind the picture to make quite sure that nothing could get out again.
Just before he went to sleep, Jack was sure he could hear very faintly some running, chattering and giggling from the wall near his pillow. He turned over and went to sleep.
Illustration: Jack dreaming with faint drawings flying around his head.
[Alternative ending: Mum buys a special book for Jack to draw in which closes with an elastic tie or clamp to shut drawings in for the night.