Estimated reading time — 11 minutes
My name is Abby. My sister Amber and I are identical twins, and spend most of our time together. Outwardly we look the same: same shoulder-length brown hair, same large brown eyes, same pale skin, same thin 5′ 8″ builds. Inside, though, we’re a bit different. She’s the outgoing, friendly type that gets along with everyone. Me, I’m the awkward one that can’t figure out how to keep a conversation going and gets nervous around strangers.
Lucky for me, I have Amber. You could say that she is my hero, and I hope to be more like her someday. This might explain why I embrace the twin stereotype of our dressing alike most of the time.
It’s only ever a problem when one of us meets a boy we like. When this happens we have a signal: two small taps on the elbow, where nobody can see. If one of us taps the other on the elbow, that means: “I think he’s cute, give us some private time!” Her idea, of course.
Thanks to this little system my sister has had several boyfriends over the years, and I’ve had one or two. Amber dates sporty athletic types, I date broody insecure types, but neither one of us ever takes these relationships very seriously. At least, we didn’t until Chalk.
Our whole lives we had talked about our careers. We were both so driven. We had planned to graduate art college, rent a studio apartment, and create for a few years to see if we could get a reputation going as world famous artist twins. We had saved every penny through high school to make it happen and give ourselves as much of an opportunity to break out as possible when the time came. It was a dream we had shared since I can remember.
But then, we met him. It was our first year of art college on a sunny day, and he was creating a chalk sketch of a huge tree on the walkway between Building A and the Concourse Building. The roots curled around the metal benches, as if holding on to them with a firm grip, and the branches extended up and out towards the parking lot like giant fingers. It was a massive, impressive sight.
Like a few others, we stopped to watch him work. His jeans and hands were covered in chalk dust, but he had managed to keep his tweed vest and the purple button-down shirt clean. His sharp, angular features looked quite handsome, although they were often obscured by his longish hairstyle that he kept having to shake out of his vision. A pair of glasses hid his eyes.
Those glasses were weird. I mean, they were just regular glasses, but it seemed like no matter which angle he was at, there was a strong glare hiding his eyes. I think it was those glasses that kept me from tapping my sister’s elbow, even though when I felt two little taps on mine I felt a little jealous that she had “called it”. I mean, let’s face it, he looked pretty hot.
That day I left Amber to meet Chalk. Everybody called him that. He was a first year like us, and was known for sketching out chalk drawings around the college grounds and random other spots around town. I never did find out his real name, and I don’t think I ever met anyone who did.
Once, Amber said: “Oh he likes to keep his true name a secret and I’m not allowed to tell anyone. It’s really exotic and beautiful, just like him, but I kind of like that it’s a secret. It gives us something special between us, you know?”
I wish I had listened to my gut and warned my sister that something wasn’t quite right… but how could I know?
In the weeks that followed Amber would go out regularly to visit Chalk wherever he lived, and I focused on art history and improving my brush technique. I didn’t think anything of it at first: I was absorbed in my studies, determined to make a serious mark on the world as an artist, and she had never been the most studious type in the first place.
Still, as the weeks and months passed, I started to develop a nagging feeling that something wasn’t right. She had never spent this much time with a boy before, and we weren’t spending nearly as much time together as we had our entire lives. I tried to brush it off as just one of those things, a part of growing up, but still, there was something a little unsettling about the relationship.
It’s hard to describe. Early on she’d say: “Abby we’ll catch up later, I’ve got a date with Chalk tonight!”
Then it became: “Sorry, I’ve got to go see Chalk.”
Then: “Going out sis!”
Lately, she didn’t even bother saying goodbye. Every day she’d just take off to go see him. He never came over to our place.
Things came to a head one Thursday night when we were doing our traditional sister time activity: drinking wine and watching “True Blood”. It was the one tradition we still managed to maintain.
We were just chatting after the show, having to actually catch up on what was going on in our lives. I told her about what I was working on, which courses I was thinking about taking next term, that kind of thing. No boys and no parties recently. The truth is, without Amber around, I was just a bit too shy to go out and make new friends.
When I asked her about what was going on she could only talk about Chalk, as usual. It was really starting to get on my nerves. He seemed to be the only thing she could talk about. A part of me started to hate him… and I admit that it was jealousy, but it was something else as well. I started to hate him for what he was doing to my sister. She was getting kind of obsessed.
Amber always seemed to avoid specifics. She would talk about how he made her feel, the kinds of things he would say, the incredible pictures he was drawing, on and on and on… but if I ever asked her about an actual date they had gone on, or what kind of place he lived in, or even something as basic as if they had slept together or not, she’d get this far-off look in her eyes and say something like: “Come on Abby, there are more important things.”
Tonight was no different:
“He’s so spiritual, you know? When we’re together he talks about how he draws energy from the environment and from people and how we all feed on one another in some form or other, and he’s so right, he’s so right…”
“Ok ok, enough about the boyfriend. You get that assignment for Classics done?”
“You know, the big one that’s worth 40% of your grade that’s due in a week?”
“Oh that… no not really. There are more important things, sis.”
Up until this point I had assumed she was finding time somewhere to get her work done, but this was news. She had never flunked a course in her life and Classics had been one of her favorites!
“So, what, you’re just ditching it?”
“I don’t know. All I really know is how Chalk has been making me feel lately. Did you see the work he did on the eastern wall of Building A? It was this beautiful scene, half city street and half forest with deer and rabbits and…”
“Whoa whoa whoa, time out! Amber, you’re going to fail if you don’t get the assignment in! You’re OK with that?”
She just shrugged and sipped at her wine.
“So you’re… what… going to drop out?”
“I haven’t given it much thought sis, there are more important things.”
“There are… what are you talking about? Have you lost your mind?”
Everything we had worked for our entire lives was right here, and she thought there were “more important things”. I couldn’t believe my ears.
In the past my sister was always good at reading me. I could hide my emotions from anyone but her. At this point, though, I wasn’t being subtle. I was almost yelling, I could feel my cheeks reddening, and was obviously upset.
She just looked at me with this easy, relaxed expression that hinted distantly of pity.
“You just don’t understand sis, it’s something greater than all of that. Chalk was just saying the other day… ”
“Fuck Chalk! Did you forget our dream? You’re throwing it all away!”
I was screaming. I’ve never screamed at my sister in my entire life, but this was too much. It was like she was in a trance or something, and I had to try to get through somehow.
She just sighed, put the wine glass down on the table, and stood up. “He said this day would come. That people wouldn’t understand our bond, our love, our special energy. Abby, I’m going to give you some time to calm down. Maybe you’ll see things differently in the morning.”
Amber walked toward the door and started putting her shoes on.
“Where are you going? You’re in your pajamas!”
“There are more important things…”
This was crazy. She was clearly brainwashed or hypnotized or something. Anger gave way to fear now. My sister was in danger, and it might even be too late. This guy had reached into her and stripped out the person I’ve known all my life, and left this weird… shell.
I leapt up off the couch, dropping my wineglass on the way, and slapped her in the face as hard as I could as she reached for the doorknob. She just looked at me with this distant, slightly pitying smile.
I screamed: “Wake up!”
She moved toward the door again. I blocked her, talking all the while: “Amber he’s messing with your head! Don’t you see? You’re throwing everything away for some guy! It doesn’t make any sense! Why are you…”
And then she shoved me. Hard. Harder than I knew she could. When I hit the floor I was a good five feet away, and pain shot down my leg and up through my hips and back. Never once in our entire lives did we ever hit or scratch or even push each other. Now she had just thrown me to the floor, and was looking at me with that same distant little smile as if she didn’t even care.
“See you around, sis,” she said.
Part of me was still in shock, and the other part was just too sore to move, so I just sat there on the floor and watched as she walked out the door. She had left her keys, her cell phone, her purse… just walked out in her PJs and shoes. What just happened?
After a minute I snapped out of it, pulled on some clothes, and went out to look for her. I limped around the dorm, a bruise swelling up along the back of my left thigh. She wasn’t in the common room or cafeteria, and I sort of assumed she had gone out somewhere to meet up with Chalk.
It was only then that it hit me: I had never known where Chalk lived. My sister was out there with some guy whose name I didn’t know, who had absolute control over her, and I had absolutely no idea where she was. Some sister I am.
The only thing I could do was go to the places I knew he tended to do his drawings, but I didn’t have much hope. It was dark out, and a light rain chilled me to the bone.
The tree was mostly washed away, but a ghostly hint of the design could still be made out. It looked more like some weird squid now, with hooks clamping around the benches and tentacles reaching out into the parking lot.
I checked the eastern wall of Building A, but they weren’t there either. As the chalk on the mural had started to run, the scene had transformed. What was once a bright and bustling cityscape on the left had turned brown and drab, with people’s faces on the sidewalk sagging and melting. Their eyes bulged from their faces and their mouths twisted into grimaces.
I almost turned away but then something occurred to me: chalk doesn’t really work that way. If it was running it would just fade and become blurry. This was different. It was as if the image was transforming into something else intentionally.
My gut churned with fear as I turned to examine the image more closely. The horror of what was being slowly revealed by the rain began to dawn on me now, and I realized that there was no possible way this was accidental. Whatever was happening, there was a dark design behind it. A purpose.
The cars were turning to rust, the windows breaking and sagging. One of the buildings near the middle had actually crumbled, and inside there were people screaming, stuck in the rubble, with arms and legs trapped and bleeding. Their expressions were so real and life-like, filled with agony and despair. I shivered against the cold and held myself, trying to convince myself that it was just a picture… but I couldn’t help but feel scared. This was just wrong.
The forest scene on the right side was the same: what was once a happy green scene with cute animals had turned dark and brown, with the leaves looking dead and rotten, branches standing out like bony fingers, and the animals all transformed. The deer was still standing, but parts of its flesh were gone revealing half the skull and several ribs. Its entrails were dragging behind several feet. What had once been a cute bunny was now a rotten corpse with little black specks over it… flies?
Suddenly, my sister’s cell phone rang in my pocket. I jumped, startled by the sound. I guess I had grabbed hers by accident when I left; we bought the same model. The call display said simply: “Chalk”.
My hands shook as I pressed the answer button. I held the phone to my ear and listened at first, hoping for some clue as to my sister’s whereabouts.
Amber’s voice said: “Western wall, sis.”
It was her! I felt a bit of relief and realized that a part of me had been dreading that something horrible had happened to her. “Amber you scared the shit out of me! Come home, OK? I’m sorry for the fight, we’ll figure it out, I love you just…”
“Western wall, sis.” It was exactly the same as last time. A bit muffled, with a slight hiss in the background as she spoke. It was like a recording.
The line went dead. Fear slammed through me with a shot of adrenaline, and I took off around Building A. Even now I can’t tell you what it was that scared me so much, but my heart was pounding in my chest and I knew with absolute certainty that something was wrong. I had to find her, now!
Running along the north wall was the longest run of my life. Rain pelted down on my aching bones and the bruising in my left leg gave me a crazy limp, slowing me down. Eventually I rounded the corner, expecting to see Amber or Chalk or both but… nothing. Nobody was there.
I walked forward, dragging my left foot a bit, shivering worse than ever. There was no sign of them, but after travelling a few feet I saw that a new chalk drawing had appeared on the wall.
It was our living room. My sister was still in the same pajamas I had just seen her in, and she was sitting on the couch with her head tilted to the side. Her stomach had been torn out, and was splattered across the floor at her feet.
Her expression was a combination of horror, pain, and confusion.
My stomach turned then, and I collapsed onto the sidewalk. I vomited up the wine from earlier and cried, knowing that this wasn’t just an image. I didn’t want to look anymore and just stared at the mess I had left, slowly being rinsed away by the rain.
Just then I heard a shuffling, and looked back up in the wall. A life-sized rendering of Chalk was now standing at the bottom of the frame, looking out at the world, smiling. His glasses were reflecting the light, hiding his eyes as usual. He had a large butcher knife in his right hand, and blood coated the knife and arm up to the elbow.
Next to him, I was standing with my right hand on his shoulder, my left hand held out in a beckoning gesture, and a smile on my face.
What was this? What did it mean? In my terror and pain I couldn’t make sense of it, but I did know one thing: I had to get back home. This could mean something. There might be a clue back at home about where my sister was… and whether she really was dead or alive.
I got home as best I could, every bone aching from the chill and the shock. I would change, call campus security, and convince them to help search for her.
When I walked in I closed the door behind me, tossed my keys on the table, and confirmed that my sister wasn’t gutted on our couch. I turned and the bedroom door opened. Chalk was standing in the doorway, smiling. He had the knife in his hand. It gleamed, like his glasses, reflecting light from a source I couldn’t quite see.
I was too terrified to move. My heart was pounding in my chest again. I stammered out: “Where’s Amber?”
He just smiled and stepped aside slightly. Then, much to my relief, Amber stepped out of the bedroom. She had changed into the same outfit I was wearing.
She had the same smile on her face as Chalk, the same one I had been wearing on the western wall of Building A. She turned away from me for a moment, took the knife from him, and pointed it at me. “Get your PJs and shoes on Abby. We’re going to make some art.”
Credit To – Sidney Crawlspace