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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

First Half of a Short Story

           I was not entirely shocked to walk into that room and find that my reflection was no longer there in the mirror. One part of me had seen it coming for quite a while: there was something about its eyes which had told me. There was a flatness to them. Not an emptiness—emptiness at least suggests depth. They were eerily two-dimensional, and there was something both absent and uncharacteristically mechanical about the way it mimicked my movements. Almost as if, my reflection had no soul.

           Still, there was a sick feeling in the inferno of my insides as I peered into that void in which I was mirrored only by the impression of air. There was something sinister to it, or perhaps I was only spooked by the ringing silence of it all. The room seemed to be holding its breath, and the shadows splattered on the walls were the most alive thing within it. The air, also, had a consciousness to it—but it was a cold, unfeeling intelligence. Like the stars we all used to gaze at, it was waiting for something, but I could not guess what. Above all, I felt such a crushing, suffocating loneliness around me and within me—flooding into my mouth and filling me up and floating in wisps from my nostrils—that I could almost feel gravity slipping. As if I was a feather sinking through space.
            Gazing into the glass, into the absence of myself, what I felt transcended loneliness. I was not alone with myself, obligated to introspection, but alone with the terror of nothingness. I became that terror. And I feared I would float away—this feather forever sinking. Peering into an empty mirror.
            What followed was not a conscious decision. No more than shadows can manipulate their own black, spilling limbs. I was operated by strings as I lifted my fingers to the mirror, testing it like a child holding its breath in a swimming pool, blowing bubbles at the shimmering sun. They met no resistance whatsoever, although the tips felt faint as I passed them through. My body fell after them. As I surrendered myself into the mirror, I dully registered a sensation resembling that of blinking hard, once, and I was swallowed into it—breathlessly.
            I arrived on the other side in swirls, as if waking from a dream, (or perhaps descending into one—I wouldn’t remember). The room met me silently as the strands of my mind materialized into my swimming skull. It appeared exactly as the room I left, except with a strange, inexplicable tilt to it. (It took me a moment to realize that this tilt was due to the fact that everything was backwards. Left was right, right was left, and the air was something else entirely.)
            I turned around to face the mirror, that odd, unblinking hallway, to find that I stared not at my reflection—or even necessarily the absence of it—but a solid wall of black, assuming the mirror’s form. Placing the palm of a hand on its surface, I found it slightly warm to the touch, polished and unyielding.
            Really, I felt no panic. Had not expected it to be otherwise. I was hit momentarily with a hint of peculiar claustrophobia and the visceral foreshadowing of home-sickness, but I was too cerebrally nauseous too digest my own emotions, swaying slightly in the shadows. A nightmarish silence blared in the distance, and the room was breathing down my neck. I resolved to retire from that venue, and from the prospect of return anytime very soon.
            The roar of what lay beyond sent chills through the chambers of my heart, and the further I floated into the hallway, the colder my fingers grew. Shadows ran slick down the walls, and the creaks in the floorboards were like ghoulish grins.
            Entering a certain room in the house, I encountered the members of my family. They were, I realized with something that wasn’t quite surprise, plastered against the walls and corners of the room by some spectral sort of spider web covering them. Their skin grotesquely pale, their faces frozen into gothic expressions. I felt profoundly sad as I moved to run my knuckles over their faces. When my hands made contact with their icy skin through the webs, however, the parts I touched gradually dissolved and floated off in sparkling gusts into the air. I was overwhelmed with a kind of vertigo, and I decided not to touch or near them again, for fear I should forever lose them. I did not speak to them. My voice would betray me. I resolved to detach myself from them so that I might keep them, and with a last sweeping look at their gloomy, unnerving aspects, I left the room.
            In the hallway once again, I stumbled across my two dogs—dark, headless mutts not barking but panting with thick, dusky breaths that flowed onto my feet and ankles as they padded over to me. Their hearts bulged forth from their chests, throbbing and glinting amber against thin, tight-stretched skin.  I knelt down and scratched their backs, eyeing with uneasiness the furry stumps in the place of their heads. They did not howl, of course, but I sensed that they missed it.
            After several moments, I straightened and continued down the hall, and the dogs disappeared into the darkness behind me, along with their heavy breaths. I continued through my house—shrouded with shadow and the restless stillness. Passed strange lights sifting through the darkness and dancing on the wallpaper in some departments of the house. (Mysterious source, accompanied with musical whisperings—I dared not investigate.) Passed our goldfish bowl, whose contents were a graveyard with petrified skeletons splintered into the murky water. Passed the kitchen and the family dinner table, a glimmering oasis of nostalgic sweetness and odd innocence amongst all the dread and the menacing quiet, but I did not linger.
            I arrived at the front door and found the doorknob already hidden in my hand. Feeling the house’s eyes on my neck, I stole a final breath and turned it, throwing the door into the night.
            Was met with hollow air and churning heaves of sky above and before me. In it were embedded vibrant, looming celestial bodies—hugely close, swelling planets and flowery nebulas within an arm’s length. (Although, when I extended mine to touch them, they evaded me.) The heavens above me were immediate. Noisily quiet. Blooming with texture.
            I was spit forward from my house’s teeth—no longer teetering on that eerie threshold of a place, and it felt as though I was plunging into a cloudy lake. Did not look back at the house. Onto the street, winding through grim suburbia, engulfed in the arctic glares of house windows. Manicured lawns, now unshaven. Skewed mailboxes. Houses poised, like insects. Huge lumps in the earth. The whole world seemed to be tilting. The sky was fluid—watchful.
            Neighbors descended before me, like vultures. They fluttered over from their hellish gardens and fractured porches and parked at the ends of their driveways, greeting me with large, frosted smiles and opaque eyeballs. Their voices, buzzing with static, were broadcasted from between white, grinning teeth as they hailed me with bizarre fragments of dialogue.

            "Where does the King sit?"
            "That mountain is far too tall for my lungs."
            "What is love?"
            "I miss groceries."
           
            Another moment’s inspection of my neighbors’ features led to repulsive discoveries. It appeared that they wore some of their insides on their outsides, with ebony exoskeletons tracing their pale limbs and crawling up the backs of their necks. The outlines of intestines pulsated from under their apparel, and soft orange fetuses clung to the stomachs of some young women. I glimpsed the backs of heads, on which I witnessed wormy slivers of brain protruding.
            Their faces, meanwhile, seemed plastic and ageless, crowned with starched haircuts and sporting theatrical expressions. Their eyes were possessed by a language with which I was not familiar. Or at least, one which I have come to forget.
            Drowning in the haze of their confusing fits of one-sided conversations, I made a breathless escape, their voices like clawed fingers clinging to my clothes. I sped down the street, whirling past men, women, children smiling at me. Still. The crows, also, were shaped like people—crouching in the trees with cloaks of shadowy plumage and dusky faces. All the while, the sky hovered, it seemed, just above my head. Although the moon was often hidden in its pockets, and I glimpsed it only a handful of times for a jarring fraction of a moment. This troubled me deeply as I glided over the pavement. That I could not find the moon.

1 comments:

Matthew Day said...

If this is the first half I eagerly await the second, although this could hold up on it's own.