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The War of the Chalk Golems

by Ryan McGrail

Nicolas rode his bike to the playground behind the school and saw Edward making the preparations, though for what he had no idea. He locked his bike onto the school’s bike rack and made his way over to Edward.

“Look, let’s just forget about this. It’s a Saturday. We can go to the mall for a bit if you want, though not for long. I’ve got to cut my grass.” Nicolas was lying, but even cutting the grass was fascinating compared to being with Edward.

“No, you really do have to see this,” Edward said.

“See what? I was told there was a wager of five bucks, but I don’t even know what we’re betting on.”

Edward smiled and made a sweeping motion with his hand across the schoolyard pavement.

“Take a look.”

Nicolas looked across the schoolyard, illustrated with dozens of crudely drawn chalk characters and vessels. There was a large dragon with a body of green and yellow chalk for the belly. There were army men with guns and knives and almost every weapon man had conceived, done slightly better than the common stick figure. Pirates stood ready for pillaging on a vessel that looked like an overgrown banana due to the artist’s lack of skill. A crude portrayal of a Cyclops stood gazing over the scene.

“I don’t get it. What is there to bet on? If we’re betting on your drawing ability I think you’ve lost.”

“Shut up! This has nothing to do with my drawing! I’m not finished explaining!”

“Alright, Eddy, take it easy. Just get this over with so I can get paid.”

Edward pointed below their feet. “You missed this illustration, didn’t you?”

Nicolas saw that they were standing on a perfectly rounded circle of chalk, drawn inside a larger circle. There were symbols and names foreign to him drawn within the circles, and a seven-pointed star stood in the center where they were standing.

“Okay, we’re standing in a circle with funny pictures. What’s your grand scheme?” Nicolas said.

“It’s a magician’s circle, idiot. It’s how magicians focus their magic energy and protect themselves if anything goes wrong.”

Nicolas decided in his pompous mind that his unwanted friend spent too many afternoons playing online role-playing games with others of his unusual nature.

“Yeah, like I’d know that. Where are you getting this from?”

Edward opened the gym bag at his feet and pulled out a book. Clasping it with his stubby fingers, he shoved it up to Nicolas’s face.

Nicolas read the title aloud. A Lay Person’s Guide to Alchemy, Magic, and Witchcraft; Hundreds of Spells to Spice Up Your Life.

“There’s no way your parents bought this for you with how strict they are. Your dad acts likes he’s going to grab his rifle whenever I let out a four-letter word in front of your folks,” Nicolas said.

“You remember my babysitter from last weekend?” Edward asked.

The question jogged Nicolas’s memory. Edward’s parents still got him a babysitter at the age of thirteen, which made good conversation for Nicolas and his peers when he wasn’t around. He had been over to Edward’s briefly that night before taking off on his bike to ride with his usual pack.

“The hot little number dressed all in black? For folks as rigid as yours Eddy, they got nicely liberal standards for babysitters. Wish I could have stayed longer with the way she looked.”

“Quiet, you sleaze! This is serious work, so pay attention. We have no time for your petty talk.”

Nicolas shot Edward a look of annoyance.

“As I was saying, my babysitter of last weekend forgot this handy little book at my house. I figure I might as well put it to use.”

Edward reached back into the bag and pulled out a bedsheet. He flung it over his head and tied it around his neck. He then pulled out a stick, etched poorly with symbols and words on the side.

Nicolas had known Edward since the second grade, and was well aware of his quirky personality. Edward was prone to displays that showcased his offbeat nature, and the boy seemed to have trouble keeping his head within the realm of reality.

“Okay, now this is dumb even by your standards,” Nicolas said.

“You still don’t get it, do you? I’m messing with the forces of reality here! The small demonstration I’ll do with these pictures is just a sample of the power I’ll soon wield.”

Edward sounded like a B-list comic book villain as he spoke. The poor kid sucked at everything from academics to sports to everyday communication, so Nicolas saw his current actions as a pathetic attempt to be good at something that required little physical or mental effort.

“I still don’t get it, Eddy. Why are you so into this stuff all of a sudden? Is it cause you fail so miserably at everything else?” A smile grew across Nicolas’s smug face.

Edward’s chubby face turned bright red. His voice cracked as he spoke and he looked ready to cry. “Reading this book opened my eyes to new possibilities, and you treat me like a child when I try to share my power with you!?”

“Look Eddy, this is a waste of my time and yours. Just let this crap go and I’ll treat you to ice cream. I’m a generous guy, so you can get the biggest size they have if you want.”

Nicolas tried not to laugh at what looked like a daft wizard standing before him. He wished he had a camera so he could show the whole class.

“Are you in on this or not, Nicky? I’m doing it with or without your presence. The bet was no more than an incentive for you to show, but I want you to see this.”

“Alright, as long as you don’t cry when your magic show doesn’t work,” Nicolas said.

Edward opened the book to the marked page. He took in a deep breath and cleared his throat.

“Quiet as I read Nicky, or it won’t work. Magic requires skill and concentration.”

“Then hand over the five now, because you have neither,” Nicolas said.

Edward brushed off the banter and began the incantation from the book. “By the stars in the sky and the shining moon, by the sun that gives us the light of day, by the beasts of land, sea, and air, having feathers, scales, and coats, by the earth that swallows up the departed, and the sea that gives us life, answer all my demands and perform all that I desire. Come peacefully, visibly, and without delay. And make it quick.”

Edward lifted his head and checked the illustrations. His body was tense with anticipation.

“Just hand over your five, Eddy,” Nicolas said.

There was a long pause before Edward answered Nicolas. He waited anxiously for anything to happen to prove Nicolas wrong. The slightest success would suffice.

“Wait! The hand of the Cyclops! It moves!” Edward yelled.

Nicolas looked across the schoolyard and saw the hand of the Cyclops give a quick wave before the beast’s entire body moved in full, vibrant motions. The pirates and their ship came next, moving across the blackness of the pavement as if they were riding the blue sea. The dragon appeared to fly across the scene as it spat fire. The army men rushed their opposing sides, fighting with unmoving valor. The magic giving life to the illustrations had caused them to look more lifelike than Edward could draw.

Nicolas wiped the shock off his face and tried to look unfazed. It looked like he’d soon be five dollars poorer.

“Alright, Eddy, I’ll admit this tops the time you made a rattrap out of a remote controlled car for the sixth grade science fair, with a live mouse for the demonstration.”

It took Edward a full ten seconds to snap out of his daze and give a response. “If I can do this, think of what else I can use this kind of power for.”

“Draw a babe next, Eddy. You’re no art whiz, but it looks like that was remedied after your doodles came to life,” Nicolas said.

“Be serious, you dolt. I mean beyond just chalk. We could do some great stuff with this book. Well, at least I could.”

“Hey, you have no right to hog it all. The book’s not even yours!”

The boys’ shouting caught the attention of the warring illustrations. The chalk army men stopped fighting the enemy and brought their attention to the boys. One of the pirates on the ship had a chalk telescope pointed in the direction of the argument. The Cyclops and the dragon, engaged in battle, let go of each other’s throats and looked towards the boys.

“I think they see us, Eddy.”

Edward turned his attention to his creations. He pondered for a moment how much power he truly had over them.

“At ease, gentlemen. Let’s see what other tricks you can do, shall we?” Edward said.

The illustrations formed a multicolored ball at the boy’s command. A radiant swirl of colors whirled across the schoolyard pavement.

When the swirling stopped, the sentient chalk formed an astonishing 2-D depiction of the glory days of the dinosaurs. There were volcanoes bursting with red chalk, and dinosaurs from the Tyrannosaurus to the Brachiosaurus walked the schoolyard. Pink lighting crackled in the dark blue sky sketched across the pavement.

“Fascinating display, gentlemen. Let’s see something a little more modern next,” Edward said.

After finishing their prehistoric performance, the doodles came back together and began swirling again. The swirling ball of color burst apart and began forming the next show for the boys.

A circus show began on the schoolyard pavement. Clowns danced and sprayed one another with water, men and women did daring stunts across a green and blue trapeze, and lions and tigers were commanded through red hoops with the cracking of a whip. The dapper ringmaster stood center stage overseeing the action.

The boys clapped as the show came to a close.

“Okay guys, take a break for now,” Edward said.

The illustrations came together a third time to form the dazzling ball of color.

“I think that’s all we need to see, Eddy. I don’t know if I share your enthusiasm for your newfound power,” Nicolas said.

“Aw, you’re just jealous. I’ve had enough of this child’s play for now. Let’s get the hose and clean up this mess.”

The ball of chalk started swirling again, this time in a more violent manner. The colorful ball of chalk made a hissing sound as it moved across the pavement.

“It looks like this mess doesn’t want to be cleaned up, Eddy,” Nicolas said.

The chalk formed another fantastic illustration, this time more peculiar than the last. Green and blue chalk stretched to form a long, snaking body. Red and yellow chalk came together to make a head. The freakish face resembled that of an indistinct animal, with eyes like a cat and jagged fangs. The mouth of the creature was wide open, with webbed flaps on each side. Its gleaming yellow eyes glared at Nicolas and Edward.

“Would you mind telling me what it’s doing, Eddy?”

“Relax, Nick, it’s just another drawing.”

“Whatever that thing is, it looks mad. We should go, Eddy.”

“Let’s see where this is going before we jump to conclusions.”

The monstrous doodle swallowed up a jumprope and a stray dodgeball as it made its way toward the boys. The creature’s flat form grew as it appeared to digest the objects.

“Okay, maybe it’s not up for playing. Would you be a dear, Nicky, and fetch the hose?”

“Forget it, Eddy, this is your fault!”

Edward looked away from Nicolas and stroked his chin with his hand. He tried the best he could to appear to be in a moment of deep planning. “Okay, we have to do this the fair way, as decreed by the schoolyard rules.”

“Fine, we’ll do Rock, Paper, Scissors, but this is still your mess.”

The boys put their fists out in ready position.

“Rock, Paper, Scissors, shoot!”

Nicolas gazed down at his own open hand, and saw that Edward had his index and middle finger forming the classic scissors.

“Sorry, Nicky, you know the rules.”

“I’ll break your face when this is over, Eddy.”

Nicolas began to stretch his legs and loosen up. He was unusually athletic for his age, thanks to his dad making him play every sport available to a seventh-grader.

“I’ll cover you, Nicky, just run as fast as you can!”

Nicolas took five deep breaths and got into sprinting position. He took a great leap out of the magic circle and began to run. The bizarre chalk monstrosity slithered in his direction. He kept his eyes on the hose on the other side of the playground.

“Help me out here, Eddy!”

Edward picked up his oak wand, shook it, and threw it over the creature. “Fetch, chalky, fetch!”

The monster continued in pursuit of Nicolas undeterred.

“Some fat help you are, you sour dope!” Nicolas said.

Nicolas devised a plan in his head and headed for the playground equipment. He felt the wind run through his crew-cut as he raced.

He shot up the metal slide, fully utilizing the traction from his sneakers. He hopped onto the top of the monkey bars, and made a swift but clumsy run across, trying not to fall through.

After reaching the end of the playground area, Nicolas took a quick look to see if he was a success. The 2-D monstrosity had swallowed up the slide and was in the process of downing the monkey bars. As planned, the digestion of the playground was slowing the monster down.

“Hah! Let’s see you take down the see-saw and swings without blowing chunks!” Nicolas yelled.

Nicolas sprinted to the hose on the back of the school building. He unwound it and got out any twists or blockages before turning it on. He looked behind and saw there was enough time to make a run for the circle before the monster got back to full speed.

In a mad dash Nicolas ran around the area of pavement where the hellion was gaining speed. He had nearly reached the safety of the circle and got ready to pull the trigger on the sprayer when he felt a tug.

“It won’t reach, Eddy!”

“Just get it done, Nicky. It’s a sure-fire plan!”

The chalk monster had turned around and was closing in fast. Nicolas had to act. He had doubts about Edward’s plan, but there was no time to argue.

In a quick change of mind, Nicolas pointed the hose in Edward’s direction. He closed his eyes as he felt his finger pull the trigger.

The water sprayed all over Edward and the protective circle. The chalk circle washed away as Edward gave a frustrated holler.

“Ugh. Now we’ll both die, idiot.”

The beast began to moan and scream, contorting its face in pain. In seconds, it disintegrated into chalk dust inches from the adolescents.

“Nicky my boy, you knew the circle was the key to destroying the beast!”

“Nah, I just figured I’d take you down with me for causing this mess.”

“How thoughtful, Nicky. I’ll be sure to make you a Best Friends Forever bracelet.”

Edward squeezed the water from his shirt as he spoke, his potbelly showing.

“I’m kidding of course,” Nicolas said. “It was an educated guess, but it worked.”

Nicolas noticed the book that started the disaster at Edward’s feet. A book like that would be dangerous in the hands of a clown like Edward, he thought.

“Toss the book, Eddy. You’ll just do more harm with it.”

Edward picked up the book, soaked from the water, and began to flip through the pages. He turned to the page of the troublesome incantation, and paused momentarily.

“Actually Nicky, I couldn’t agree less. This isn’t like the all or nothing morality tales we heard in kindergarten. Sure I screwed up and almost got us killed by a monster made of chalk, but it’s not that simple. I understand that I’m at an age where I barely even know how to speak to girls, so maybe I shouldn’t screw with this stuff.

“But when I’m older, and I’m in some dead-end job, I could use a little magic. So yes, I’m through screwing with forces I can hardly comprehend at this age, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be wiser and more capable down the road.”

“Wow, Eddy, you could win class president with a speech like that,” Nicolas said with sarcasm.

“You still owe me five bucks if I remember correctly, so cut the banter and hand it over,” Edward said.

“You owe me ten for pulling your butt out of this catastrophe, Eddy.”

“Let’s just call it even then, shall we, Nick?”

Edward untied his soaked makeshift cape and stuffed it into his bag. He placed the book under his arm and started walking.

“Eddy, what are we going to do about the playground?”

“I heard a rumor the school was going to demolish it soon anyway. It was a lawsuit waiting to happen.”

Nicolas let out a chuckle as he walked over to his bike. While he still couldn’t let go of his contempt for Edward after putting his life in danger, there was no denying he saw more excitement fighting a chalk terror than he’d ever see sitting at a desk.

Copyright © 2010 by Ryan McGrail

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