It had been a tricky day at school for Dana. She’d been on the planet for over 11 years, and at her new high school for only a few weeks, when she exploded through her front door and threw herself heavily and huffing onto the buttercup yellow sofa.
‘Shoes,’ her mum shouted as Dana kicked them off, snuggling up to their big, black dog.
‘Good day?’ asked mum, shouting from the kitchen and knowing very well what the response would be.
It was the usual grumble from Dana. The dog comforted her.
‘The liberty to choose is frequently too much liberty, with too much choice and too much pointless and needless responsibility,’ she said.
‘Oh yes,’ said mum. ‘Where is that from?’
‘I said it. Nobody else,’ lied Dana.
‘Cheater anteater,’ said Coraline, her little sister. She imagined her sister snuffling around in the undergrowth, its long, pointed nose and longer even pointier tongue ready and waiting for food.
‘My dog’s got no nose,’ said mum. It was joke time.
‘How does he smell then?’ responded Coraline.
‘He doesn’t smell. He’s just had a bath and we ran out of his coconut shampoo,’ interrupted Dana.
‘Now he looks more like a monkey than a dog,’ said Coraline.
‘You look more like a monkey than any human being ever born,’ said Dana. ‘You could never look like a dog. Have you ever met a dog who looks like you? What about one who loves running more than anything else in the world? A dog who would run for miles in circles before falling down, puffing and panting, when he can’t run anymore? Well, this dog is not like that. He sleeps almost all the day, he eats very little, drinks almost never, and runs only for about fifteen minutes a day. The only thing he’s good at is being cuddly.’
Coraline had begun pouring herself a drink, struggling with the cordial cap, and spilling a little on the table. Mum was busy. Dana didn’t notice.
She was on the sofa with her big, black dog, and her big, black mind was working overtime. She’d come up with a story. A boy kills his family but it turns out he isn’t their son at all. He sneaks a ride underneath a travelling caravan, and this is possible only because he makes himself invisible. Until then, the boy was a computer game fanatic but now he can’t play any because he has no console and no solar charger, so he’s beginning to regret killing his family and running away. Suddenly his skin becomes pixelated with millions of scaly hexagons piled together in a lizard’s skin. His teeth expand, and he realises that humans are his food, and that he must hide under chairs to hunt them. His long nails have poison in, and he uses them to kill. It goes on like this till the caravan comes to a fork in the road. One way leads to a normal village, and they meet an old lady, who gives him orange juice and crumpets. He doesn’t want them. He wants her. He attacks her and goes to live in the field in a big top tent.
‘Are you OK, Dana?’ asked her mum.
‘Mmm, just thinking of what it’s going to be like when I’m old enough to leave home.’
‘Leave home and join the circus?’ said mum. A family joke which might just come to something more.