The Chalk Man

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I write this in a dimly lit room, stark walls surround me, no windows. If my script is large or chaotic it is because I have left my glasses in the room next door. I allow not even a mug of water in my presence. I have discovered a myth, or something more, perhaps, and I do not want the subject of my study to see me; not yet.

Lost legends have him as the Chalk Man, less a name but a descriptor; given for his white and ashen skin. Which is wrong, as it’s not skin, but bone. Bone so old that it crumbles, leaving a fine powder of dust, akin to chalk dust, on whatever he touches. Man is also wrong, as he is of no gender, nor even human, but, for lack of appropriate terminology, we will use the pronouns referring to the masculine throughout this text.

The lost legends — that are now found, if only to myself — are, by a human understanding, ancient, as the Chalk Man hasn’t been spoken of, written of, or likely even thought of, for centuries. His existence slowly being lost from the collective consciousness one life at a time. By the Chalk Man’s point of view, however, they are practically modern, having been written within the last millenium.

His purpose, in those legends, is ill defined, if simply not mentioned at all, which is a shame because his purpose is a very important one, that contains many roles. He is a king to some, a servant to others, sometimes a friend, sometimes an enemy, an angel, or a demon. His job, as it were, is to appear as the honest reflection of us all. A confusing, if not mysterious, job description I am aware. Let me try and make more sense of it.

Have you ever caught your own reflection and for a moment thought someone else was looking back at you? Perhaps you saw a monster, or a stranger, or a royal, or a saint. Just for a second. That was the Chalk Man. Or at least, that is the Chalk Man at work, and he has been doing this work for a very long time.

It is presumed that the Chalk Man was present when we were still walking around on all fours. Indeed, it is likely he was there when our ameba ancestors were first beginning to divide. He watched us, they say, the legends that are both ancient and modern, from his reflective surfaces, waiting for the day when we would gain a level of sentience that could recognise our own image.

Some of the legends, that I have hunted down in hidden cities that no longer have names, argue that the Chalk Man did more than watch; that he, just once, stretched out a bony arm from his reflective kingdom and altered the course of man; that it is due to him that we are so different from the rest of the animals that we share this planet with. What it is the Chalk Man did to achieve this is not written, and so this theory is to be taken with a pinch of salt…or chalk dust, as it were.

The first recorded encounter with the Chalk Man came some time after, when one of the ancient civilisations, the residents of one of those cities without names, first started writing things down. One such text wrote of an encounter whereby a local woman went to drink from the underground river that fueled the city, peered into the inky water, and saw the Chalk Man staring back at her. The woman, a weaver by the name of Oma, cried out, but did not flee. Instead, once her breath and heart were once more under her control, she crawled back to look at the water. Once more she saw the Chalk Man, bony and white, her own reflection nowhere to be seen. He did naught but watch young Oma, who, after deeming him not a threat, went to gather others to show them the chalk figure in the water. By the time she brought the crowd to the water’s edge, he was gone; her own reflection returned to her. It would only be later, after multiple appearances, that Oma’s story would be believed.

The reason why the Chalk Man simply watched Oma, and especially why he watched her in his own form, has been much argued over the many years by the forgotten scholars that once studied the Chalk Man. Some claimed that by seeing the Chalk Man as he truly is allowed Oma some gaining of knowledge outside of our understanding, and caused some great shift in her life, and on mankind as a whole; and indeed Oma did go on to live a remarkable life. Some claimed that he fell in love with Oma, and stole her reflection for those few short minutes to take as his Queen, only to find a reflection was no substitute for the real thing; this too, may well be the case. For myself, I think the Chalk Man was simply studying, seeing some final aspect of mankind’s heart so he could then go on to do his true work.

The work, as one of the old texts described it, was: “Purveyor of understanding and dealer of truths”. This is the most accurate description I have found. Simply, the Chalk Man shows you what you need to see. If you be good, but lacking in courage, you may see yourself momentarily in a reflective surface as a hero. If you be evil, but lacking in morals, you may see yourself as a monster. You may see an angel when you need hope. You may see a devil when you need fear. You may see your mother when she needs you to visit. And on it goes. The Chalk Man knows what you need to see and shows it to you. Often, after a viewing, you may find some of his bone dust on a shoe, or you shirt. This is the way to know if was a true showing. Or, so the texts say.

One text, the latest I’ve found, goes one step further. It claims that behind every reflective surface lies a kingdom, his kingdom, and if you do not heed the truth he offers you that he will reach out and take you there, never to return.

The next question, and the one most pressing to my own research, is why was knowledge of the Chalk Man lost? Why has he left our collective consciousness? Many of the the legends I’ve found barely describe the Chalk Man whenever they reference him, so sure were they that the reader knew of whom they spoke. So how is it that he is not even a mythological figure today? I do not know, but I expect to find out soon for I think he watches me.

Twice now I have had a glimpse of something else in my mirror. First, I am sure it was his own figure, white and silent, then the second time I saw myself, only with unbroken skin where my mouth should be. After both instances I searched the area for dust, and both times found it.

I have collected the dust and added it to a small vial, to be sent to the university along with this manuscript. I hope to send it this very afternoon. This will of course require me to leave my matte room and pass my own reflection, be it in a window or pool of water. I am ready. I have my questions. If I see him again I will not look away, but will instead ask why he withdrew from our world — as I am sure now the lost knowledge of his person was at his own design — and if he is likely to return. I hope he does, this world could do with a good hard look at itself.

One final note. It occurs to me that perhaps I have been…foolhardy, cataloging this history, if indeed the Chalk Man does want to stay hidden. So if you are reading this, it might be best to steer clear of mirrors for a while. You never know when he might be watching.

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Thanks for reading,

Damian

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January 3, 2018

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Music today comes from The Northern Folk, who I saw open for The East Pointers a few weeks back and was blown away by; not least because they are a ten piece band. Their sound was unique and folksy, utilising their many instruments, and with vocals to match. This one is called Stovetop Coffee

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Words written for the year: 2528

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Hello and welcome to 2018.

My 2017 culminated in a flurry of activity; appropriate, seeing how that’s how most of the year felt. It began with the arrival of Brother Jonathan from the distant shores of Austria, with my  future sister in law, Alexandra, on his arm. Their return home (at least, my home) is always a welcome one, but especially so this time, as it had been over a year since I held my brother in my arms. Things didn’t stop once all the hugging was caught up on though, as my other brother, the one they call Matthew, and I still had a half marathon to complete (as previously mentioned) I’m happy to say it went well. We started at six in the morning joined by our cousin Dominic, all of us fresh and chatty, and ended at just after eight, significantly less fresh and chatty. Two solid hours of running. The breakfast that followed felt well earned.

Christmas came next, spread out over two days to accommodate all the family. Many presents, drinks, food, and games meant the days had the special feel that holidays should, helped along by not having to go to work, or even plan out much beyond eating. This didn’t last long, however, as come boxing day, Jonathan, Alex, Holly and I, headed back to Melbourne to jump on a plane and fly over to the North Island of New Zealand. We were there for a wedding, and so our visit was a short one, four days, but full to the gills with driving, walking around beautiful places, a heavy dose of bananagrams (look it up), and of course, a wedding. It was the first time I had ever been to a wedding where I was a stranger to both the bride and groom, as they were friends of Holly made from her time living in London. It’s an odd thing to introduce yourself to someone whilst simultaneously congratulating them on the ceremony you’d just witnessed. Still, the night was a good one, and my lack of familiarity with the happy couple didn’t diminish the joy of celebration.

We got back to Australia just in time to celebrate the coming of the new year, more fun and family, and here we are; 2017 over.

It was an incredible year for me. I got engaged, traveled to Borneo, was nominated for awards, and had a book released with my writing buds, plus plenty more. All of it felt like moving closer to the mountain. It was, without doubt, one for the books.

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Now with 2017 in the rear view mirror it’s time to look ahead at 2018. This time last year I wrote about how I wanted to write every day, crossing off each successful day on a giant wall calendar as motivation. Here is how that calendar ended up:

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As you can see I had a rocky start, then managed to find my groove, with most of the blank spaces that followed either due to holidays or special events. I’m proud of that spread, but want to kick it up another notch this year. Which brings us to the first on my new years goals.

I wrote a few weeks ago about Brother Matthew’s impressive goal list for 2017. He had nine, which also happens to be his favourite number, and so for this year he’s given himself another nine. When he told me this I jokingly responded that as my favourite number is four (D is the fourth letter of the alphabet — younger me was very logical when it came to choosing a favourite number) then I only had to have four goals. The more I thought about it, the more I liked having a list of four goals for the new year. Four would fit well to the unofficial goals I already had in my mind, and if I wrote them down and defined them properly I was more likely to stick to them. So, using the S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-focused, Time-bound) goal setting technique the Lady Holly uses with her students I wrote down my four goals for 2018.

The first, as alluded to earlier, is a writing one. Last year to get the daily cross off on the calendar I just had to write something, a single line would do the job, preferably more, but if that’s all I had then that would do. This year it’s not that simple, as my first goal is to write 600 words a day on average across the year. That ‘on average’ is important, because it means I can write excess and have words in lieu, or make up missed days later if I need to. I’m hoping the former is more the case. Usually I don’t like the idea of running-on goals and being able to make up for missed days later, because it can be too easy to use this as an excuse to be lazy and then have a insurmountable number to hit. To negate this I’m making it so I have to use my weekends to catch up on any word counts missed during the week, so that number doesn’t snowball on me if I start missing days. Instead of the wall calendar this year I have a spreadsheet with every day of the year written in one column and a word count column right next to it waiting to be filled. I’ll also keep a running log of the ‘words written for the year’ on every blog post, instead of the former ‘current chain of writing days’.

The second goal I stole from Brother Matthew’s own goal list; run 1000 km across the year. Another goal that requires consistency every week, but one I believe is achievable.

Goal number three is likewise stolen, and that is to read 25 books (or more) during the year. Far too often I waste time browsing on my computer, at either social media or who knows what, only to later lament that I never have time for reading. This year I want to flip that, less screen time, more page time.

These first three goals were easy, all being continuations of goals I already had, just better defined. But of course my favourite number isn’t three (my name doesn’t start with a C after all) and so I needed one more goal. After allowing my brain some time to marinate on it I decided I wanted it to be a photography based goal. I often take plenty of photos on holiday but want to get back into the habit of taking photos of everyday life as well. So, in order to achieve this, I’ve brushed the dust off my old blipfoto account, a site by which you add one photo a day, taken on that day. If you wish, you can follow along here.

That covers most of the main stuff, there are other things of course, like getting married to a girl called Holly, but one thing at a time, yeah?

Wish me luck.

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Remember, take a breath. Here we go again.

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Talk soon,

Damian