I first saw it at Belmont Elementary School. I was working there, a substitute teacher. One of the kids, a first grader, I think, handed me a piece of paper. I turned it over, unfolded it. Inside were two Marks. One larger one, drawn in green crayon, not dissimilar to the color of the shirt I was wearing. The other, smaller, drawn in orange. I didn't think much of the peculiar shape at the time, but then again, I thought it was a fluke. Oh, how wrong I was.
As I led the children out to recess, I saw more of them. Posted on the wall outside kindergarten classrooms. The colors were varied, as were the sizes, but they were all the same basic shape. A chill ran down my spine, but I shook it off. There was nothing sinister about the Mark. I thought it must have been a symbol of the school, or perhaps a project shared by the classes.
A week later, my four year old daughter brought one into my house. Hers was slightly different from the shapes I had seen at Belmont, a large triangle forming the bottom instead of an arrow pointing upward and some squiggly lines at the top, but by that point, I had learned to recognize the Mark. I knelt down beside her, keeping a controlled and calm face. "Where did you get this?" I asked gently. She giggled, then dropped the paper and ran off to play. I looked at the pink pencil drawing, shaking my head slowly.
I headed over to Howard's house; surely he'd know what was happening. He always seemed to know. I sat down on the couch, popping open the beer that he handed me. "What's been troubling you?" He asked. I explained to him the Mark, and he nodded slowly as I described to him the two arrows pointing up, with a line through the points connecting them to a crude circle at the top. The two small dots and the inverted arc inside the circle. He shook his head, frowning, as I finished. As I left, I saw a piece of construction paper on the ground, likely from his five year old son Michael. A blue marker drawing of the Mark.
I fed the paper into my scanner, my hands shaking. Saved the image as a JPEG. Uploaded it to Google. 15,900,000 results. At the top of the page, two words gave a name to the dreaded Mark. "Stick figure."