"Dad, come on, you know me. I didn't do anything to Julie. This is all a misunderstanding. She's my wife; I'd never hurt her."
Norman's father-in-law grabbed him by the shoulders and slammed him against the wall. He held him there and looked him straight in the eyes. "Shut your fucking mouth you piece of shit! I never liked you. You thought she was coming to get her things alone? You thought you'd what, ambush her? You're a fucking predator! What, too much of a coward to mess with someone your own size?"
The big man slid Norman down the wall until he'd pushed him into a squatting position. Breathing heavily, he backed up a step and pressed his pointer finger against Norman's forehead, pinning his head to the wall. "Since you can't be trusted to stay away while we gather my daughter's things, you're going to sit right where I can keep an eye on you."
He backed up a few feet and looked at his son-in-law. "You're fucking pathetic. If I had my way, you'd be in a cell right now, but she won't press charges and I promised her I wouldn't go to the police... for now. You ever lay a hand on her again," Jonathan Meyers slammed his hand down hard on the kitchen table, "And I'll put you in the ground."
The sixty-two year-old walked to the end of the kitchen and called down the hallway to the master bedroom. "Just get what you need right now, honey. We'll return for the rest later." He turned back to Norman who was too much in shock to stand up. Murder was in the old man's eyes. "The next time we stop over, the fucking weasel you married won't be here lying in wait."
A few minutes later Norman watched out the bedroom window while his wife and father-in-law backed out of the driveway and drove away. He couldn't fathom why Julie would say such lies. He knew deep down that nothing she did could ever make him angry enough to lay a hand on her; he loved her. Besides, everyone at work could vouch for him during the supposed time she was attacked. "Why would she say it was me?"
Today was the first time he had seen her since he left for work three days ago. He'd spent days trying to figure out where she was. He couldn't reach her on her phone and her parents and friends only spouted profanities at him. The knot in his stomach had wound tighter and tighter every day, every minute, he hadn't known where she was. Now he knew and the whole confusing situation left him feeling sick and defeated.
It hurt him to see her with black eyes and bandages covering her nose. He nearly threw himself at her feet and begged her to tell him who attacked her when he saw the purplish, black marks on her arms and neck. He wanted to find who hurt her and make them suffer, but everyone was accusing him of the horrible act. Their marriage wasn't perfect, but he loved Julie and he thought she loved him too.
Rage, fear, sorrow, and a myriad of other emotions bubbled within him. He glanced at himself in the cheval mirror they'd just recently bought at an estate sale. The image staring back at him with clenched fists and tears streaming down its face didn't look like the man he usually saw in the glass. The eyes seemed to relay a monstrous intent. It looked like a man capable of beating his wife and far worse.
He shut his eyes and blindly swung his fist at the face of the impostor. Norman's knuckles connecting with the glass should have created quite a racket, but all he could hear was the rapid thumping of his heart. He opened his eyes to reveal a vertical fracture running the length of the mirror, splitting his reflection in two. The violent, evil man he'd seen a moment before peered out at him from one side of the crack while the weak, frightened man he knew himself to be stared out from the other.
Norman staggered right to reveal his weak self in full reflection cowering on its side of the crack. The only food he'd eaten all day began to revolt inside his stomach, contending with the throbbing pain he suddenly felt in his knuckles. Seeing his hand dripping blood onto the floor took his thoughts from the mirror for a second. He walked a few feet past the mirror towards the bathroom, but then quickly turned back when it occurred to him it didn't have any blood on it. Reflected in the glass on the left side of the crack was the killer that had beaten his wife, glaring at him.
He turned away and fled for the bathroom, but didn't make it before he emptied the contents of his stomach onto the floor. He knelt there before the steaming pile of vomit for quite a while. He eventually willed himself to his feet and stumbled into the kitchen. He clumsily wrapped his hand in paper towels, filled a bucket with soap and water, and returned to his bedroom to scrub the blood and sick off of the hardwood floor; never taking his eyes off his task. When he finished, he properly cleaned his hand, bandaged it, and feebly crawled into bed.
While Norman slept, depraved images skittered through his troubled mind, playing out a sinister fantasy. In the dream, Julie was lying prone on the bed while he straddled her waist, slamming his fists into her face again and again and again. The distinct cracking sound of her nose breaking under his bloody fists, followed by the splintering noise of her cheek bones as he levied both fists simultaneously down upon her, echoed through the room.
The telltale squeak of the mirror tilting on its stand drew his attention from his brutal task. The framed glass made four, five, six full rotations. Each vertical spin revealed a piece of paper on the back of the mirror wedged between the glass and frame. It fluttered and flapped like a flag on a windy day until the mirror came to a stop with one final creak.
A billowing, black smoke, limned by a green incandescence, escaped the crack in the glass and rose to the ceiling. An impossibly thin creature, almost two dimensional, could be seen weaving in and out of the smoke just inside the intricately carved wooden frame. It traced the fracture as if it was trying to escape along with the smoke like a fish follows the flow of a stream. Norman could only make out a fraction of it at a time as it occasionally thumped up against the inside of the glass like an eel in a tank unaware of its near invisible boundaries.
The smoke quickly covered the ceiling and began to crawl down along the walls. It rumbled and flashed, imitating a thundercloud. The mysterious, ribbon-thin serpent swerved violently in and out of sight like a kite caught in a storm. Norman seemed to know instinctively what it wanted. He rolled off the bed, picked up his unrecognizable wife, and flung her limp body at the mirror. He expected the mirror to shatter, but instead she passed through the glass unimpeded.
Norman slumbered fitfully, struggling under his heavy, suffocating blanket as the nightmare played out. He fought to escape like a seal caught in a net knowing full well the killing blow could fall at any moment. He awoke covered in sweat just as the thing behind the glass lunged for his wife's lifeless body. He felt no relief upon discovering he'd been dreaming. The events as they occurred were etched deeply into the rock walls of his cavernous mind.
Norman couldn't stand to look at himself in the mirror, so he awkwardly carried the heavy monstrosity out to the garage, threw an old tarp over it, and went inside to take a shower. The thoughts running through his head were rushing in all directions. They did nothing to help clarify what his dream was all about. "What was with that fucked up dream? Julie truly believes I hurt her. I saw it in her eyes last night. She was afraid of me. That fucked up dream, though. Jonathan wanted to kill me. Could I have... but wouldn't I remember? No, I'd never hurt Julie. I'm nothing without her. God, that dream was so fucked up."
The hot shower didn't do anything for his nerves or the tightness in his back. He noticed a pinkish puddle collected around the drain; his hand wouldn't stop bleeding. He filled a cup from the sink and poured its contents over the drain. While the strange thoughts and questions continued to run laps in his skull he dried his right hand and wrapped it.
He turned and knocked the gauze off the edge of the sink, but managed to grab one end as the rest of it hit the tile and rolled out the door. He stepped out of the bathroom as it continued to uncoil along his bedroom floor and into the hall. Still holding the one end, he followed its progress through the house. The gauze finally came to a stop in the kitchen. It pointed right at the door that led to the garage.
Norman stared at the door. His eyes were opened so wide with shock that they began to tear. He blinked and when he opened his eyes he was back in the bathroom. The gauze hung from his hand and extended to the tile at his feet, but didn't go any further. The bundle of cotton began to slither and writhe as obscured images of the thing from his dream flashed through his head. He flung the gauze against the wall, retreated into his bedroom, and slammed the door shut.
A shadow of movement showed through the space under the door. Something much more substantial than cotton bandages violently thumbed and bumped against the wood. Norman backed up against his bed and stared until everything went still and silent. He nearly leapt out of his skin when he heard what sounded like the creak of the mirror. He glanced over to where it recently stood and there lying on the floor was a yellowed piece of paper.
He rushed over and snatched it up. Norman had to squint to make out the very small and intricately penned script.
Seven years of doom and woe
Better than to live in Hell
Into the psyche you must go
Unless you break the serpent's spell
Norman recalled Julie looking up cheval mirrors on her laptop one night while he read next to her in bed. As often happens online, she was eventually drawn away from her intended subject. "Did you know our mirror is also called a psyche?" He later noticed her furrowed brow which he knew all too well meant she was struggling with some concept or idea she had never thought much about before. "Oh, I'm reading about the totality of the human mind now. Yeah, I think some people just think too much." That eventually led her to the tale of Eros and Psyche before she ended her night watching cute cat videos.
The split second memory of his loving wife was eradicated by images of her battered face. Her broken nose and black eyes quickly melted into the bloody, pulped mask she wore in his dream right before she was flung into the mirror. He was rushing down the hall before he could fully collect his thoughts. He came to a halt in the kitchen, panting like he'd just sprinted a mile and stared at the door to the garage.
Norman didn't understand what was happening, but he knew it was the time for quick decisive actions. Everything else going wrong in his life fell to the wayside as he took a long, steadying gulp of air, grabbed the frying pan off the stove, and stalked up to the door. He could hear the steady rumble of his car as he gripped the doorknob with his sweaty hand and turned it. He flung open the door.
Standing there in his wife's empty parking spot was the mirror. The tarp was lying in a heap beside it. All of his resolve to vanquish the sinister evil preying upon his sanity faded before the nonstick copper pan hit the cement floor with a cluster of clangs. Norman just stood there stuttering, "H-h-how?" over and over again. His attention was focused on the mirror's flawless surface; it reflected nothing at all.
Curling wisps of smoke like the crawling cloud from his dream inhabited every inch of space between its mahogany frame. His naked image stepped into view. It turned to face Norman, scowled at him like his third grade teacher, Mrs. Viscol, did when a student was misbehaving, and then mimed slamming a door shut. The door smacked into Norman's back and knocked him down the steps.
He tumbled onto the unforgiving cement floor and rolled to a stop before the mirror. He rose to his knees, but quickly fell onto his side when a sharp pain jolted through his foot. The excruciating pain and nauseating fumes spilling from his car's exhaust pipe answered only one of the many questions running through his head. Actually, the thing that looked just like him did. "Yes, your life will be over shortly, but you can still save your pretty wife."
Norman peered up at the twisted image in the mirror and uttered weakly, "Yes, I'll do anything... if you spare her life."
A wicked smile crept onto its face, parting its lips to reveal a serpent's tongue. "Even after she spurned you so? Wow, that is quite noble of you. I really enjoyed beating her. The shock on her face when," it squatted down to look Norman right in the eyes and made air quotes, "You... flung her against the wall was priceless." Norman flinched when it stood back up and glared down at him. "Well, I guess you had to be there," it chuckled.
"Just tell me what I have to do to end this, you... you..."
"Monster? Is that the word you're looking for? You sheep are so predictable and unimaginative. You either run away like your simpering wife did or you cower at my feet and beg mercy for your loved ones. It's really quite simple. Come to me and there will be no need for me to come to you. If you make me step out there again I'm going to linger." It perversely flicked its tongue side to side. "I bet Julie tastes amazing in all the right places."
Norman vomited on himself, pushed aside the pain in his foot and drowsiness from the exhaust fumes quickly filling the two car garage, and rose to his knees. He grabbed hold of the bottom frame of the mirror to steady himself, closed his eyes, and leaned forward. The glass swiveled upward and smacked him hard in the chin. The unexpected blow opened his eyes wide and loosened his grip enough for the mirror to pull away from him.
With a shudder-inducing creak like the sound his grandma's old rocking chair used to make, it pivoted on its exquisitely carved claw feet, turned, and scurried just out of Norman's reach. An ear splitting cackle echoed through the garage. He turned in a panic and began to crawl towards it. It backed up to the garage door. The glass went black and began to ripple. Like a pebble dropped into a still lake, one ever expanding ring swam outward to make room for another and another and many more like the first until its entire surface was squiggling and wiggling furiously.
Norman started to scream as the eel-like thing from his dream began to emerge from the inky black surface of the mirror glass. Countless others began to breach the glass as well until its entire surface was covered in squirming ribbon-like creatures. Their gaping wide maws held row upon row of rings of teeth all spinning clockwise.
One by one they shot towards Norman like bullets and embedded themselves in his bare skin. They latched on like lampreys, chewed, and burrowed their way into his flesh. His screaming quieted and then shortly after stopped all together. He lay there no longer twitching as the wriggling things fell limp from his body; all but one. Norman's eyes shot open.
Norman crawled out of bed the next morning, stretched, and let out a big yawn. He mused to himself that sleep was the best remedy after the long busy day he had yesterday. He grabbed his phone off his dresser and texted Julie, "Won't be home until tomorrow. Come get your stuff today."
Then he stepped into the bedroom closet and slid the door shut.
Written by Kolpik