Plopping myself down to the sofa, I absentmindedly turned on the TV and decided to watch the CNN news. As usual, it was full of unpleasant reports.
“Terrorist planes have been sighted among the skies of Bayville; residents there are to report any signs of unusual activity from any individual, society, or company. Residents are suggested to call their local police and inform them of any abnormal behaviors…”
I yawned, acknowledging the fact that I lived in Bayville.
After the news moved toward celebrities (that was a monotonous piece of news, mind you), I felt like taking a piss at the bowl. While I was strolling to the toilet to relieve my bladder, I caught a glimpse of myself in the hallway mirror. I tried squeezing my eyes shut and blocking my view with my hand, but to no avail, curiosity dragged my hand away. I took one long look at the mirror, and shuddered.
It was my reflection, the pimply, gawky fourteen-year-old brunette that reminded me of what a loser I was. But that wasn’t what made me frightened of those reflecting glass panes. It was the Mirror Men.
Not precisely “was.” Sometimes, when I gazed into the mirror, men would stand around me; men that I knew were not standing around me in reality, only in the mirror. I would barely describe them as men to begin with. They all looked the same, with grayish, charcoal-colored skin, wearing a long dark coat that swept around their legs; a small, tattered black hat perched among curls of bloodstained hair. What was so scary of them was that they had no eyes: simply black sockets staring from endless voids.
The first time I had seen them, all bunched around my reflection, I screamed so loudly that my forever-napping mother bolted from her oblivion into the bathroom, where I was still gaping at the mirror, my whole body trembling from shock and fear. When I had screamed, the Mirror Men (very creative, I know) had faded away into the blurs of walls and doors, and I was now just stupidly ogling at the mirror while my exasperated mother stood calmly at the doorway. Nothing I said would sway her.
“Honey, you have a great imagination. You should be a writer someday.” She patted my cheek clumsily, inwardly thinking why her daughter was hallucinating today. Was her daughter alright? I brushed aside her hand and swallowed back some tears. I knew what I had seen, and I wasn’t going to try to convince myself I was “delusional.” The next time I had seen those Mirror Men, my mouth opened in a silent scream and I cowered against the wall. When I blinked again, they were gone.
After getting rid of the urine burden, I hobbled back to the parlor to the TV again. The reporter, a blonde blue-eyed guy, was animatedly chatting into a microphone. His smile looked forced: you could see his back teeth. He apparently hated his job.
My thoughts strayed back to the Mirror Men. It had been at least two weeks since they first started popping up. I reacted to each of their appearances as a cowardly wimp, which I already was. The steps included scurrying away from the mirror, and stifling terrified screeches, for those eyeless men scared the crap out of me. I might be a pathetic milquetoast, but I’m pretty sure if you ever saw a bunch of deformed male figures all crowded around your reflection, I know you wouldn’t be smiling and saying, “Hi,” back. Just saying.
I slumped on the sofa, me being a couch hog, watching an hour of mindless, droning TV broadcast. What made me snap back to attention was the enthusiastic newsman reminding us Bayville people again was that terrorist planes had been sighted, and any anomalous behavior must be reported. People should plan safe houses and emergency activities in case of a bombing. I slouched back to the cozy confines of the sofa, bored with the idiotic newscast.
These days all news channels were talking about was terrorists, terrorists, and more terrorists. I mean, think about it. What’s the chance that a hijacked plane would suddenly crash onto your house and obliterate everything within a one mile radius? Pretty rare, if you ask me.
My mom arrived home at around 9:00, and whipped up some sandwiches for us both. They were horrible, and I spat them out when she wasn’t looking. My mom questioned me about my day.
Oh, nothing wrong. It’s perfectly normal that when I look into a mirror a pack of mutilated men are surrounding me. Perfectly normal. And also, a bunch of terrorist planes are going to attack our house. I know I’m totally looking forward to that. “Okay day.”
My mother was skeptic. “Really?”
After supper and homework, I reluctantly trudged up to my bathroom to brush my teeth and wash my face. I dreaded seeing them Mirror folks again.
After closing the door, I flipped on the light switch, warily picking up my Barbie-based toothbrush and squeezing some Crest toothpaste on it. When I raised my head to look at the mirror, I started backward. Because they were there again.
Their vacant eye sockets swiveled to face me as I attempted to bolt out the door. My hand clenched the doorknob; I screamed loudly when a zap of electric heat struck me square in the palm. The blast threw me off balance and sent me sprawling across the floor, my head painfully bumping onto the edge of the toilet seat. Tears ran freely down my face, I tried opening the door again, and I was rewarded with the exact same result. Why the hell did I close that door?
I made my crumpled self stand up and lean over the edge of the sink. I saw every detail of my face, the pulsing purplish bruise that was already forming from the bump, my red eyes swollen by my weeping. I quite clearly perceived those grotesque figures trapping me, blocking my escape from both mirror and reality. I couldn’t get out of the bathroom unless I wanted to burn my hand off, and I liked my hands, so no.
“What do you want from me?” I shrieked, not caring if my mother heard me or not and thought I was on hallucinogens or something. “What do you monsters want? Leave me alone!” I started sobbing again, saliva shooting out of my mouth and staining the mirror.
“What do you want?!”
The figures stared impassively back at me, their mouths slightly open, blackish blood oozing from their shriveled lips.
I wailed; I yelled; I pounded on the door; I wanted my mom. I hollered swear words and obscenities at my reflection’s crowd. (In the next piece of dialogue, I replaced every curse word with the word ‘chair.’ Verbs and adjectives of this form will also be used.) “You piece of chairing chair! Let me out, you chairs! Oh my chairing God, can you just chairing let me out? What the chair do you want from me? What kind of chairy-chair is this? This game is so chairing sick! Lemme out, you chairing chairs!”
They didn’t seem fazed at all.
I resorted to banging my head on the door, the mirror, the walls, anywhere I could reach. I screamed until my throat was raw, until I was gasping for breath and drowning in my pool of tears. I sobbed so hard my intestines felt like folding on themselves. I raked my nails down my arm to keep my sanity, the tips digging into soft flesh, dragging across the arm, leaving blood trails. I couldn’t take it anymore. I slammed my fist into the mirror, but me being so pathetic and all it didn’t even crack or anything.
I wept at the sight of my bruised knuckles. I must have at least spent an hour in that bathroom, crying my soul out. The whole time I was bawling the Mirror Men just gazed at me, barely stirring a muscle. Maybe it was my imagination (I guess so), but their mouths pulled back in a sinister way, their withered lips stretching to show teeth splattered in blood. By now I had yelled so loudly that even people in their coffins should have heard me. But my mother didn’t come. What a loving figure she was.
When the bathroom door finally unlocked, a little click symbolizing that, I was reduced to a hapless glob of flesh and tears overcome with exhaustion and incessant profanity directed at some… people. My mother slowly creaked open the door and peered down at me.
“Um… I would ask, but I think the question’s pretty obvious. Why are you lying on the floor…?”
She let me be.
I darted out of the bathroom before it could lock me in again. I couldn’t resist glancing at the mirror, being stupid and all. And this time I bit down my tongue to keep from shrieking.
The mirror had words on it. Not painted in blood, water, or mist, just words. It simply seemed to appear there.
WE WIL TAK CARE OF YOU (I am aware of the deliberate misspellings.)
You’ll be surprised how fast I got my ass outta that bathroom.
When I was in bed I huddled up into a tight ball underneath “My Little Pony” themed blankets (I was a fan of that stupid show when I was younger). I stuffed my fist into my mouth, in case of spontaneous screams that randomly erupted from me. I was quietly crying and hiccupping, choking back tears and ignoring the cramps from my stomach. I was damn scared that night. I considered crawling over to where my mom slept, but at the end decided to preserve my dignity and not appear like a pansy.
In the morning, I was sleepy-eyed, jittery, nervous, and slouchy. I reluctantly shoved stale bread smeared with sour jam in my mouth, and forced myself to make my teeth clamp down on those crusts. I welcomed the cool wash of milk smoothly flowing down my throat, cleaning away the unpleasant tastes of the previous occupants. I heaved my pink backpack onto my slumped back and slogged my way through various roads to intermediate school, where Hell was compared to it like Heaven in all comparisons. I loathed school.
Today my mind was foggy as I struggled to think of last night’s events. What did the Mirror Men mean by, “taking care of me?” It sounded like they wanted to kill me or something. But I was innocent. I was guiltless. I didn’t do bad things in my life. I was a good kid, eating my vegetables and doing my homework. (Not including mushrooms, they’re the ultimate pinnacle of disastrous foodstuffs. Also not including the essay about the Columbian Coffee Trade in the 1940’s, the most boring topic ever.) Seriously, why were these beings picking on me? I was nothing!
“Miss Dawson, would you kindly answer this problem for me? You need to find this side of this triangle. What concept would you use?”
“Okay, err, the Law of Cosines?”
“Chelsea, how many times do I have to tell you that the Law of Cosines only applies to blah blah blah…”
Who gives a crap about trigonometry anyway? Not me, I’m for certain.
When I arrived back at home, I checked the carport for a single Toyota automobile. I didn’t see any, so my mom wasn’t home. I clumped inside and tossed my backpack into the kitchen corner. I flicked on the TV, where terrorist sightings must be reported to authorities. I looked at the hallway mirror, gulping hard.
There were words on there. No ghastly-looking men, just words.
CHEC TE FOTO ALBUMS (Check the photo albums.)
Some part of me was asking why the other part of me was doing this, but by some impulse I walked over to the shelf where all the photo albums were kept. They were neatly stacked in leather-bound covers, crammed with photos all the way back to the beginning of the family tree. I took out the oldest one, gently blew off the film of dust, and flipped it open, where a cloud of dust billowed around me. I began observing the dusty photographs.
My great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather was a soldier once, his curly hair swept back fashionably enough. He looked awfully familiar, but I couldn’t recall any memories. Flipping pages, I noticed that he got older and older (obviously) as the photos piled up. His curls straightened; his stubborn jaw morphed into a weak one, wrinkles began covering his handsome face. His eyes squinted out of nests of lines; he started to sag. I almost felt pity for him.
All afternoon I looked at the photo albums, noting that each of my male ancestors were strangely familiar to my conscious memory, though I knew this was the first time I actually opened these binders. Still, these images tugged something in my memory…
What I also noticed was that both the male and female counterpart of my ancestors died terrible deaths. My (great) grandmother would have gangrene that covered large areas of her face, died, and my (great) grandfather would soon follow with the same thing: except for one.
The fathers would have their eyes swollen, the irises an overwhelming color of void-black. At the end, their eyes would have no whites. And then they would rot away… leaving empty eye sockets behind…
I slammed the last page down of the most recent album, the generation which my father had existed in. Dust was expelled out of the yellowing pages. Why was I so stupid? How could I not realize that?
Those men in the mirror—they were my male ancestors!
I didn’t even rush to the mirror to check it out. For the rest of the evening, I stared at my food, my homework, even my mom. She must’ve noticed my apparent attention directed at her, because she pusillanimously asked me if everything was all right.
If I had known it was the last time I would see my mother, I wouldn’t have responded differently.
Early morning, I emerged from my restless sleep, tumbling over to the bathroom to brush my teeth. When I had finished, the Mirror Men materialized out of nowhere. I jumped.
Two hands; two gray, clammy, lifeless hands, shot out of the mirror—swirls of the glass indicating the location. They clamped onto my shoulders and pulled me inside, just as the world exploded around me.
I wasn’t attempting to exaggerate. The bathroom seemed to erupt around me. My vision went red and orange as huge chunks of stone were hurled around, my toilet burst from its roots and sprayed gallons of water; the very wall crumbled to nothingness.
Those gray hands had an iron grip on my shoulders and hauled me into the mirror as I was speedily observing the pandemonium with extreme shock. It’s not every day you see the world explode around you.
How should I describe the sensation of entering the mirror? It was like plunging into cold water; the surroundings darkening and freezing. A heavy darkness shrouded my vision and I could no longer see the real world; I was in the mirror. Floating by myself.
For the first few moments I was screaming and crying, because for no absolute reason I was dragged into the realm where those creepy-ass Mirror Men dominated. I tried to find a way out, yelling for help, but in the gloom I couldn’t see anything. My voice was raw, I screamed even more than when I was trapped in the bathroom. I was surprised, and very, very scared. Just as I turned around to look for an exit, I saw him appear out of nowhere, in the bottomless chasm.
A Mirror Man.
I knew they were my ancestors, but anyway I shrieked and attempted to flee. I had never, ever, been so terrified in my whole life! I almost swam my way through the shadows when a pair of grayish hands seized me around the waist. They were ice-cold, and I could feel that through my thin nightgown.
“What do you want from me?!” I tried to wrestle my way out of his grip but that grasp was something not even Cassius Clay could break. The arms pinned me to his body and I writhed about.
The words clanged around my mind, and I immediately knew he was speaking telepathically speaking to me. I stop twisting around.
Chelsea Dawson, please listen. We have a few things to say before we depart.
Your ancestors reside in this mirror. Your great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather provoked a powerful witch back in his day by pretending to make potions and brews. The witch placed a curse on him, that when he died his eyes would rot away and his soul would be trapped in a mirror. However, since she had a soft heart, and your great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather pleaded so hard, she declared that if he could save his wife from illnesses, accidents, or murder, letting her die of old age peacefully, then the curse could be lifted and he could also die the same way.
No. As you may have noticed, she suffered a severe case of gangrene that swiftly killed her. He died in the same manner, and near the very end his eyes decayed away. He was unable to save her.
“Curses aren’t real.”
The world inside the mirror is supposedly pure fantasy, too. What lives here are the cursed spirits, those who never achieved what they should have in their lifespan. Your ancestors, including I, are burdened down by this curse even after death. Our souls are doomed to reside here forever in everlasting pain, watching as generations pass. We long to be freed.
“I still don’t get it.”
Each of us could not protect our wives. They succumbed to painful, agonizing deaths, and we experienced their torture. For a century we suffered this pain, and it finally ends because of you, Chelsea.
You are the last of the generation. Your mother and I-
I twisted myself around, staring back into a mummified-looking eyeless face. “You’re my father?”
I was murdered in a bar fight, did your mother ever say that?
I did not have a son. The name of Dawson will be lost among you, Chelsea. As you were not born a boy, you are not weighed down by the fact that you must protect and guard your husband. You are the last of the line, and therefore the most valuable. If we could protect you, the curse could be lifted.
Chelsea, we have been watching you all your life. If we failed to protect you, we would be stuck inside this mirror for eternity. If we could save you from a painful death, then we can finally…
We may finally die.
We have rescued you. Now it was no longer a single voice resonating in my mind, several other voices all spoke at once, like a haunting chorus. We have guarded you from everything we could. By saving you, we saved ourselves. The curse has been removed, and we may finally be…
I knew I was gliding out of the mirror when a sensation of hot air swirled around me. The word seemed to ring out everywhere. I remembered turning back and hollering, Do you love me?
The answer flowed back. We will never know.
They, the Mirror Men, my ancestors, could finally go to Heaven and rest.
I tumbled head-first out of the mirror. Immediately I looked back at the mirror; it shattered, spraying out glass shards. I got to my feet and looked around.
It looked as though I had been dropped in a bomb site. There was rubble and debris everywhere. The houses had crumbled to dust; those that were barely standing (basically only a few piles of bricks left) had all the windowpanes smashed to pieces. Fragments of metal were strewn everywhere, and most disturbingly, bodies lying over each other. It looked like it had been bombed with a nuke or something.
There was a thread of truth in that statement. At the police station, the policemen told me that a terrorist plane had dropped a bomb on my house, killing everyone within the block, including my mother, who was cooking stale oatmeal in the kitchen. I was the only survivor, and the policemen called it a “miracle.”
“Miss Dawson, just how did you survive?”
My face was on CNN for the next few weeks or so. The enthusiastic reporters swarmed around me as I was carted off to my aunt’s place, buzzing with questions. “How did you survive? Are you sad? Where were you?” I gave them the same answer for all of them: “I don’t know.”
But I knew. Too well.
For the longest times I would gaze at the mirror, wondering what lied on the other side. The Mirror Men had saved me from a fiery death. I would have died in the explosion like everyone else. They had saved me, and doing so, they saved themselves. A single teardrop crawled from my eye; and I cried for everyone, my ancestors, my mother, my neighbors. Why did I have to survive?
“Thank you,” I whispered to the mirror. I turned away to wipe my tears.
Written by RisingFusion