Robert Livingstone felt something was wrong;the kids were too quiet.He usually spent weekday afternoons glancing at the clock, wishing the hours away until he could go home to the peace, but this Tuesday was different. Molly Porter was in class but her giggle was strangely absent; she was frowning at her work, focused so intently on her drawing that a slither of her tongue was peeking out the side of her mouth. Molly's giggle-buddy Stephanie Wherry was staring into her drawing; her brow was furrowed in deep concentration. Rather than littering the floor with paper aeroplanes as he usually did, Theo Osborne was making small careful marks on his paper; a line here, a squiggle there, then he'd step back and look. Simon Laws wasn't arguing with Connor Jones; both boys were sat silently staring down at their papers as they drew. They're all the same thought Robert, feeling unnerved; it doesn't even feel like the same class.
The clock ticked loudly,cutting into the unnatural hush like a gavel demanding silence with every stroke. The only other sound was the scratching of pencils as the children worked; a muted dry scraping as of sharp nails ripping into sandstone. As the clock struck 3pm Robert was relieved. 'Ok class, drawing time has finished' he said, his voice seeming too loud in the noiseless room. 'Please write your names on the back of your work so I can label it properly on the display; good luck year 5.' Slowly, almost reluctantly, the children put down their pencils & carried their papers to Mr Livingstone's desk. In an orderly queue they deposited their drawings one at a time. As their works left their hands they seemed to shake themselves awake, as if from a long sleep. Molly rubbed her eyes and looked over at Stephanie. Distracted by her friend's gaze, Stephanie clumsily missed her bag and dropped her Spelling Book onto her foot; naturally the girls both fell about giggling. Connor pulled a face at Simon causing Simon to kick him in the shins. Theo pulled a huge bag of Monster Munch out of his bag and started shoving them into his mouth. Robert went into autopilot mode as the usual crazy dash to get the kids out of School on time played out: 'Molly where's your coat?' 'Simon stop punching Connor!' 'Did everyone get their Maths sheets?' Finally out to the gates, where hungry parents waited impatiently to collect their kids home for tea.
'[...]were in a daze' Mrs Green was saying. Robert's ears pricked up. 'What did you say Kirsty?' he asked, glad to be back to first names with his workmates.
'Oh hey Rob. I was just telling Mrs Ka..,Lydia, that my class were weird this afternoon when they were doing their drawings; they were so absorbed in it. I don't think I have ever seen Sofie Burns sit still on her chair for so long.' As she spoke, Robert felt a prickle of ice shudder down his spine. 'That's so strange' Lydia gasped, then voiced aloud the words which were whispering in his head 'That sounds just like my class!' Robert spoke with more ease than he actually felt 'They must all really want to win. I was creeped by my lot too, but I think it's just exciting for them.Winning Young Artist Of The Wirral is a big achievement!' Looking very unsure but grateful to have some sort of explanation, Lydia and Kirsty agreed that this must be the cause of the strange behaviour.
Back in his classroom, Robert collected up the entries from Class 5 and began looking through them. As he shuffled between them he began to feel that cold ice gnawing at his spine again. There was something very wrong here. All twelve of the drawings had been completed in mostly red pencils. Each was slightly different, reflecting the child's own drawing ability, but they all presented the same thing. A thing of fear and fury; a hellish creature with burning red eyes. In some pictures its teeth were bared, in others the children had depicted the horror with enormous claws. Is it some sort of joke? Robert wondered fearfully to himself. What could it possibly mean? Maybe they had all watched a scary film with this thing in it? Yes, that must be it, or something like that. They were all drawing some character they had seen in a comic or something. Feeling calmer, Robert tacked the unsettling pictures to the wall just outside his classroom. A few feet away,Lydia was labelling the entries of Class 6. The display wall, which ran the length of the corridor,was a blaze of red as all of the one hundred and fifteen pupils present that day had drawn snarling, red eyed beasts.
Six days later, all the main staff of Sunnydale School were invited to attend the Wirral's Young Talent Gallery along with the staff of forty other schools who had participated. The huge building was buzzing with parents, School staff and Journalists all chattering away. The three Art Critics, who had selected 'the best' from several thousand entries, stood in a corner talking privately between themselves. An atmosphere of cool fear was filling the Gallery as it dawned on everyone that all of the eighty two selected entries (two from each school) depicted a fearsome creature with red eyes.
Robert noticed a very tall,old man, dressed in black, walking from one drawing to another whilst shaking his head.
'This is all a bit odd isn't it?' Robert said, gesturing at the drawings.
'We have a huge problem here. I am almost afraid to say it. There is bad news, and there is awful news.'
'Really? What is the worst?' Robert asked, humouring the old man.
'All the children have drawn The Beast.'
'We know that!' Robert laughed. 'We've all walked round this lot a few times now. I'm guessing it is hard to pick a single winner from all this werewolf rubbish.'
'You misunderstand', said the man softly. 'They have all drawn The Beast;the beast being the Devil, The Lord of Darkness, The Unholy One .' Only now did Robert notice the crucifix at the man's neck, and the white collar hidden beneath his long black coat. You just think it is the Devil because you're a Priest he thought.
'I fear they have drawn him into being' the old man continued gravely. 'Only the innocent can summon Him. All these innocents touched by HIS unclean hands.' He shuddered visibly and turned to leave the Gallery, crossing himself several times.
Robert stood for a moment, shaken by the old man's words. 'Wait!', he cried, 'what was the other thing? the bad news?'
The Priest didn't stop,didn't even turn around, loath to spend another second in a room full of demons. 'Forty One Schools along the Wirral have run out of red pencils!'