The Engraving on The Stone Wall

Written by Suchita Senthil Kumar
Art by Greg Willson

Indira had never heard of dead people being buried in walls before.

“You don’t have to believe me,” Meera said. “But it’s the truth.”

Every time someone mentioned that she didn’t have to believe them, Indira always found herself doing just that. 

The horrendous face of a man with a crooked smile and equally crooked teeth was carved on the stone wall of her school. Beside his sordid face was a heart with an arrow striking through it and the illegible names of two lovers. She remembers thinking the carving was the artwork of one of those children who decided to display their vast talents on walls and doors. She’d seen many such drawings on her school’s bathroom stalls, and it was no surprise that someone had drawn something so scandalous on the walls. Meera had a different theory about the origin of the drawing, however.

“They were lovers,” she said, her tone dropping an octave lower, picking up an uncomfortable flatness. “The school didn’t allow them to love, neither did their parents. They thought it would be better to die alongside each other than to live alone, and so they killed themselves.”

All the girls gasped. Indira did not want to believe what she was hearing, and looked away from the group. The Sun seemed to agree with Meera’s story and turned his head away from their classroom, allowing only an eerie amount of light to filter through the canopy of trees outside, through the window and onto the grey tiles of the classroom. The entire classroom seemed dull as though in commiseration of the lovers. 

“I don’t believe you,” Indira said defiantly. 

“You don’t have to believe me,” Meera said. “But it’s the truth.”

“Keep telling the story,” urged another girl. “Ignore her.”

Meera turned away from Indira with a huff and continued, picking up her eerie tone once more.

“They buried themselves between the walls of our school in revenge,” she said, and Indira forgot for a second that dead people couldn’t bury themselves. “The drawing that we can see—don’t go looking at it now, first listen to me.”

The girl that had left her seat to have a look at the drawing through the window silently sat back in her place.

“The drawing that we can see was formed on its own. No one knows when,” she said. “Be careful you all. Don’t even think about going near it or touching it. I heard, from my friend’s sister’s classmate’s friend’s elder brother’s friend who heard it from-”

Indira glared at her and Meera stopped promptly.

“Anway,” she continued, waving her hand. “That doesn’t matter. What matters is that I heard that someone touched the drawing to see what it would do and he was found dead the same day. It happened three times.”

Indira couldn’t keep herself from flinching at that. 

“You can look at it, I think,” she says, looking up at the ceiling. “But I’d be careful around it.”

That had been the last time the horrendous drawing was spoken about. It has been nine years since then and Indira has never even so much as glanced at that cursed stone wall. She doesn’t need to anyway, for the image of the man—his crooked teeth and the heart beside it—was forever etched in her mind. She didn’t want to admit it back then, but she’s a grown-up girl now, and it doesn’t hurt to be a little vulnerable now and then: she is afraid.

She is terrorized by the carving. She is scared of stone walls with engravings on it, she is scared of stones, she is scared of people in love and she is scared of her school’s throwball court. She can’t bring herself to draw hearts after hearing that story, can’t bring herself to play throwball, or even stay on the grounds for too long. She thinks of Meera, the girl behind this all, who left school a year ago. She wonders if she still remembers the story she told everyone that day, when they were only little children.

Indira has a sudden desire to fight her fears, to touch the drawing and see once and for all what happens. In the worst scenario, she may die. As a sixteen-year-old, she finds herself unafraid of this prospect. If it is her against death in order to fend off her fear, she’d face it.

Muttering a few excuses here and there to her classmates, Indira walks away from the group to the ground floor, towards the throwball court—a place she has avoided all these years. The stone wall slowly comes to view, the drawing exactly as she remembered it. She is about a furlong away from the wall when she can’t bring herself to move any further. The image seems to have become scarier, the face uglier and the names were more smudged than ever. 

Indira no longer wants to face her fears anymore. The eyes of the man seem to bore through her, and she feels a chill through her spine. Facing fears could happen some other day—for now she had to turn and leave. And so she does.On her way to the classroom, she continuously looks back, even though she doesn’t want to. Not at the wall, but just behind her in fear—now of something new, of someone walking behind her. Indira walks back to class, painfully aware of the sounds of crunching leaves following behind her.