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The Mirror – A Short Story

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The Mirror - Short story by Cailean AndersonQuietly I lie alone, none other in my company than the stories I entertain and ponder, a stream of thought I subject myself to in hopes of forgetting the horror the darkness around me bore. A darkness that weigh heavily on both mind and soul alike, illimitable in its motivation to strip me of my sanity, holding on by a tether as it were before this night. This night that I inexplicably fear.

I, myself, have been trapped in similar subjects to conceiving the nightmares that make me fear the rest I yearn for, mundane ends designed to chase my mind into oblivion. I have lain awake most nights wishing for the horrors of my mind to cease, to let me slip into a temporary state of peace, albeit just for a moment. The darker recesses laugh, taunting me, pulling me deeper into their grasp; you never feel truly alone until you can no longer trust your mind is your own. How horrid is it my demons spawn from a pit I alone created?

Heavy my eyelids grew, heavier still as I drifted into a land of horrors that awaited me, none other than the horrors I believed I had earned. I am awashed with the poisons I have become inclined to forget; I clawed my way from the pit I once resided in, now only to be pulled back in. Maybe there I shall see her, my beloved Ariel, a name gifted by none other than the Angels above, and stripped away from me by the Demons below. How I miss her so, the anguish buried deep within my heart that no amount of comfort could possibly relinquish.

Yes, it was there I saw her, Ariel, illuminated in the moonlight as she sat quietly at the base of the bed we once shared, her hands clasped tightly over her face as to conceal herself from me. “Ariel? My dear, look at me!” I begged, sliding to the floor, on my knees as if in prayer, gently, ever so gently, pulling her hands away from her face to hold them in my own. “I wish to gaze upon you just once more if I am to dwell within this world away from you, just a second would give me the strength to continue on.” I waited silently until she mustered the courage to look me in the eye- her oceans of blue, captivating, washing over me in great waves, in such great contrast to the tangles of fire that made up her fine hair. The intensity of her being could easily bend the Heavens to her whims; I felt myself melt that second as she looked upon me, but her eyes, the gateway to her soul, did not return the love I felt for her, “what pains you?” I asked of her.

How faint it was, a whisper of the finest quality, smooth in deliverance as it struck me, pulling me back from that distant Aidenn I wished to remain within, an undeserved respite: “And none other”. I sprang up in my bed, my body rigid with terror; the voice, albeit fleeting, held a strong resemblance to one I could not place. But impossible nonetheless for I was alone, which caused many intrusive thoughts to startle me.

“Hello?” I asked the surrounding Darkness, listening so carefully to pinpoint the source of the voice. Quietly I sat, it felt like an eternity, and yet, the silence gave me no answer; how it mocked me, the Silence and Darkness together protecting my intruder! I sat for a while longer, debating the possibility that the voice was simply a fabrication of my imagination, yes, simply this and nothing else. Upon summoning the required strength, I swung my feet over the side of my bed, the cold current of air brushing lightly against my ankles. It felt odd against my skin, the air almost enticing enough to tempt me out onto the open terrace, and down onto the ground below. How easy it seemed! How easy my mind imagined the course of action to climb onto the railing and fall to the earth below. And yet… it was not this simple.

Oh, how I hate myself enough to invite the wind to guide me over that ledge, the earth below calling my name. And yet, I lie alone here, pondering the same thoughts I have continued to entertain in my isolation; memories forged of fire burn within my mind, my own inclination has bore this action, images of times past flash before my eyes and enthrall me in a state of confusion.

Time itself had all but forgotten me, nothing less than a begotten child to that of an uncertain mother; tentatively I turn within my own mind, the darkness surrounding me provided no comfort to the panic embedded within my heart. “What is it I have done to bore this punishment so?” I implore, not expecting a given answer from any other than I. “This perdition is thy own creation, I alone will leave it be!” I exclaimed, one fluid motion from bed to foot as I covered the distance to the door. I gripped the cold metal of the handle, seconds from the freedom I have craved so strongly, there I heard it again… “And none other”.

The deliverance as swift and simple as before, but alert in my attempt to escape; I turned my back to the door, facing the Darkness, my old friend as it were, newly born a  threatening adversary to the very life I hold within my soul. Sound… The sound.. Where had it gone? I listened so carefully to the darkness surrounding me, I was not searching for that of a specific sound, no, but any. The silence was new to me, and equally terrifying in this moment! I brought my hands together in a repeated motion, clapping loudly. Yes, there was the sound of my own actions, but this provided little comfort.

Returning to my prior task, I turned my back to the encompassing darkness to find- that much more; my only means of escape aside from my open terrace had all but vanished behind the ever growing world of Darkness, how intent it was to swallow me within its stomach, how intent it was to erase me from the only life I have known. “Be it you, Devil!” I shouted, “Be it you who will be the death of me!” Quickly followed with the sound of laughter, one of which was not my own.

Back in my bed, the only form of comfort I could confide in, I sat silently, you would believe me dead upon seeing how silently I sat! The only company to me would be that of a strangers reflection, oddly illuminated in the mirror opposite my bed- ah, yes, the mirror. The only possession I have left of my dear Ariel, how she loved this mirror, how she sat in its reflection for hours on end before her life was stripped from me… In front of this mirror was her life taken from me, the means I know not, but this only validates how I hate this mirror so! The thoughts in my mind steadily beating louder than my own heart, the magnitude of my shame knows no bounds, an endless contrivance wrought on this life derived of a constant search for penance. A thickening darkness has stolen across the horizon of my own consciousness, the grief I feel toward the loss of my beloved haunts me with no evidence of ending; constant, it seems, until my own ruination.

While at a distance the mirror appears aged- no doubt older than you and I- up close, however, the mirror told you a much different story. The color of its wood nauseated me, pulling and twisting my stomach how it saw fit; the wood was of a sickening green, but not so repulsive you could not observe, and appreciate, the beautiful grains that stretched from corner to corner, encompassing the flawless glass. This mirror was beautiful in its simplicity, which I imagine was what attracted my dear Ariel. I dare say I do appreciate the craftsmanship, it would not weigh on my mind if I were to see this mirror burn all the same. The stranger, one who holds a strong resemblance to someone I had long forgotten, sat silently opposite me as the seconds passed me by ever so slowly, so painfully; as I breathed, so did he, as I went to speak so did he. “Demon, I do not know of who you were in your time among the living, but I do not deserve the torment you subject me to. Was it you who took away my dear Ariel?” I asked, given no other choice than to remain tamed in the light of my new visitor and my inability to lay a finger on his figure.

Quietly he sat, staring back at me with a strong resemblance to that of someone long of this world. His skin? Pale, like the snow blanketing the world outside. His eyes? He had no eyes, but how I could feel his gaze tear into me like the fast edge of a newly sharpened blade. Long strings of dark hair obscuring portions of his visage did not provide me comfort, as I could still see his smile; a thin line that stretched across his features, blood stained teeth shining through, bearing down on me as if to pull me into the land of mirrors with him. I attempted to steel myself, but my actions bore no fruit. His breathing, shallow and quick, I could feel the pain it caused him, I wish I had not. From beneath the sheets he resided in I spotted movement, so subtle I thought it my imagination just as he, but there it was! The sheets were alive, or at least what was beneath them appeared to make them so. Carefully he pulled his hand from beneath the sheets, up his starved torso, over the strong jawline threatening to break through his already fragile skin. What was he doing? Slowly, as I could still feel his gaze upon me, he touched where his eyes did not lie, and turned his hand to expose the evidence: his slender fingers covered with his blood. He did not have eyes, then the laugh followed, and I realized it was he who was its source, my stomach sat inside me in tight knots.

Long I sat there peering, forcing the tempest of his presence to be accepted into my soul, his stabbing gaze a welcome adversary to that of my weakened, weary, mind; “Demon, be it you that has been sent to collect my soul for the world beyond this of yore, be it you, I am expected to accept as the reaper to take me to my beloved Ariel, I beg of you to entreat me with the name God has given thee. Please, I implore.” Tears stinging at my eyes, providing little comfort as I could see little of him, his voice tore into me with sudden quickness as grim as the Darkness about, no doubt it he who has been scratching at the back of my mind on this evening my sanity be so fragile to welcome him into our plain. I quote the Demon: “And none other.”

My eyes shot quickly to the left- ah ha! The door! The door has come back to me, my means of escape from this hell sparked the life within my chest once more. Keeping his gaze fixed with my own I rose to my feet atop the floor, at this time no intention of making my way to the door, but to oppose my adversary for just a second more; oh, no, I was transfixed by the mystery I must explore, provided to me by none other than my mind at war. “And none other, Demon? This idealistic evaluation holds no prevalence to the truth that shakes me to my core. It was you who took my beloved from me, but maybe it is not you who enjoys the task you have bore. No, maybe it is you just as me who is tortured by this act so. Tell me, who was it who sent you to my plea?”

Slowly he hung his head to the side in response, like a curious pup, with a smile across his face that ran my blood cold in a way I could not restore, he replied “And none other.”

“Demon, I know not the truths you believe you hath spoken, quit this madness and speak plainly, or I shall quit this through that door!” Slamming my palm against the time ridden surface of that mirror, my breath taken when I found him face to face with me, his palm connected to my own. Quietly, he stated again, the same three words that have pushed me further to the shore of endless insanity: “And none other.” In response my mind finally lifted the heavy curtain from my eyes, lifted so swiftly I stood silent as the truth I had been neglecting came to me so clearly

There I stood, silently, gazing into this, the gateway of my soul; the stranger I gazed upon I had not recognized was myself… and none other. But no amount of cajoling could convince me thusly, the devilish warp I witnessed was simply the fancy of my own mind, twisting and contorting the visage I make of myself.

“Demon, bequeath upon me your insidious agenda, why you torment me so! What secrets do you harbor that I know not? Speak, I beg the answers of you” I ranted, staring into the visage as he twisted yet again, a smile stretching across his features. Yes, a gaunt expression stripping me of my own steel, rendering me defenseless. Quietly he spoke, faint in whisper “And none other”. The weight of my sorrow laden soul forcing me to my knees, subjecting myself to the determination of this, my fractured mind’s creation; as I looked up I found not he, but the soul of my own Ariel trapped within the mirror I have hated so. Tears streaked across her porcelain skin, so delicate it would seem the tears she wept would tear her down like a paper castle; “My dear, it was you, and none other, who took my life from me.” So aptly spoken I felt it could undoubtedly tear me in two, right down the middle. “No, it could not be, I would rather rip out my own heart!” I cried, my own fears becoming my reality. Slowly, without a sound, she knelt in front of me at the base of the mirror, her hand still pressed firmly to the glass for me to hold, she had no words to speak to spare me the terrors I have never felt before, not that I would ask of her. If this is the truth, then the fate I am running toward is nothing more than what I deserve.

“Will you ever forgive me for the crimes I have subjected you to?” I asked her, my eyes diverted to the floorboards where her body lay, no doubt, even the thought of this making me want to scream and shout.

“My dear, I love you so, but I cannot.” She replied, the tears she had cried only starting anew as she stated this.

“What can I do to correct my wrongs?” I begged, placing my hand over hers on the mirror, grasping desperately.

Just as suddenly as she had appeared, her voice turned sinister, “you could join me in the mirror.”

Slowly I looked to the open terrace that lay beyond the window, recalling how easy it seemed to throw myself to the world below just hours before. “My dear Ariel, is this the only way?” I questioned, looking back to the mirror to find her no longer alone, my devilish warp standing behind her, smiling down at me, “and none other” they replied.  I pulled myself to my feet, each step felt heavier than the last as I traveled closer to the window, my breath shallow and slow, my heart light to the deed but weighed heavy enough by sorrow to make my trip to the earth below quick.

Slowly I slid my head out the window, looking to the earth below only to find the body of my dear Ariel laying sprawled across the street. How had no one heard her fall? She must have slipped out whilst I was deep in slumber. I grasped the frame of the window and pulled myself out, the breeze whispering gently against my body as I sat perched in the window, mustering the courage to commit to the act. I had gotten this far, but could travel no further I thought.

With great effort I pulled one hand away from the windowpane, my breath catching slightly as I felt the stability of my position wane, so quickly I pulled my other hand away, hunched on my legs with my arms resting on my knees, waiting for the wind to take me off that pane. During this act my eyes had not taken away from my Ariel laying below, even still as I slowly slid my feet off the pane.

For all but a moment it felt as though I was flying, the air pulling at my clothes, at my hair, making it hard to see as the wind forced me to squint. The destination of my act coming ever closer, along with my dear Ariel, how I missed her so; right before my landing next to her my vision went dark, I thought I had succeeded. Silently I waited to see her, I had done exactly as she asked.

Steadily my confusion grew, I did not feel the cold of the earth below, but the warmth of my bed, I took a breath and knew immediately I was still alive. How could it be? I recalled the magnificent details of my deed, how was I back in my bed? I opened my eyes to find myself subject, once again, to the darkness; tears coursed down my cheeks, I had failed her, it was apparent in every breath I took. With my whole soul within me I sat up in my bed to behold the mirror across from my bed to find that of my reflection, the only company I have known on this night. After what felt like several lifetimes of sitting in that darkness I accepted Time had forgotten me, throwing my life to that of the punishments some power higher than my own felt I had earned. The fury grew within my chest, the air grew dense about me as I flew to my feet, I bellowed “I have lived long enough in this, your haunted theatre, this desolation of enchanted tale. I know not who you are, but this perdition is thy own creation, I alone will leave it be!” I crossed the room, my prison, to the door, as I gripped the handle of my nepenthe, my escape, I heard it- swift in its deliverance, aware of my attempt to flee: “And none other.”

I had witnessed firsthand the grievous metamorphosis of the life I had forged, born a corrosive beast craving nothing more than to reap its own rewards upon both creator and victim; contrary to my predecessors in death, my fate, my punishment, continues to evade my existence. I have crossed the threshold, now alike in nature to the demons I have spawn, indiscernible from my reality, my perdition.

 

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Cailean has lived in Colorado his entire life, a 22 year old young man located in the heart of Colorado Springs. He has worked as a freelance writer for clients around the United States, and took the initiative to get first hand experience “behind the scenes” of the culinary industry here in Colorado; at the age of 5 he was reading college level books, and had already begun writing his own stories. In his free time he can be found exploring the state of Colorado, playing music with friends, or continuing to gather knowledge of the local culinary industry, it can be mentioned by his friends and family that he never really stops working- his mind always goes back to the same thing: stories. There are so many stories around Colorado that he wants to bring right to your fingertips.