Estimated reading time — 6 minutes
I’ve been in this room for what seemed like days sitting in an uncomfortable chair, leaning over my desk. I was trying not to think about it; trying not to look in the corner of the hallway. Why had I not closed the door? I was too frightened now to even get out of my chair, much less face the thing that was out there. I sat in my study reading yesterdays’ paper for the fifteenth time that night, my eyes growing tired of reading the same thing over and over. The fire crackled behind me in the small fireplace and I peered outside as the snow floated down outside my window. It has been snowing for days and it didn’t look like it was about to stop any time soon. I looked up briefly and saw my tall, hunched over figure cast a long, dark shadow on the wall in front of me. I focused on the paper in front of me and I started with the date on the first page again. “January 22nd, 1817,” it read. I ran my hand through my dark brown hair and tried not to look at anything but what I saw on the newspaper. The next line was, “Corante: London, England”.
No matter how hard I concentrated on the text, the thing lying in the hallway tore through my thoughts like a knife. It must just be night terrors, daydreams, anything but reality. How was it even conceivable? I know all my life I had been a fairly reasonable man; I’ve never believed things to be true unless they could be proven. To believe in such things as I saw would be nonsensical, yet, I cannot think of any other explanation. Focus, John. You know better! Hell, you’re not a child! How can you be so foolish? But still, I dared not look behind me. I turned my attention again to the paper. “English Freighter Diana Sinks off Malaysia”. This article troubled me every time I read it. Whoever wrote it gave no specific details about the story, almost as if they had only heard it had happened and did not bother to investigate further. As a writer, I like to think that I always keep a story stimulating by providing a background to it. Not even names of members on the ship were mentioned. I imagine the families of those men are vexed, maybe even upset at the man who wrote this article as I am now for not mentioning who has survived and who has not.
In the back of my mind, I felt something staring at me. No, it couldn’t be, it is impossible to even think it, but why do I keep coming back to this wretched thought?
I was about to return my attention back to the news when my oil lamp abruptly went out. The darkness was absolute. The only sound came from the splashing rain and crashing thunder outside. How predictable for the oil to run out at this moment. My palms began to sweat as I sat unable to move in the darkness, my biggest fear. It had always been an irrational fear. The darkness is nothing compared to the real dangers of the world. I could be afraid of spiders or heights or maybe drowning. The poor men on that ship that sank the day before, to be put in such a circumstance would be far more frightening than what I was experiencing now because when put in a situation like theirs, they have a logical reason to be scared. I did not simply because I do not know what it is that had scared me so or even if it was real. But it has to be. Reason, John; you have to think in terms of reason. You are not afraid of the dark, you are afraid of what is in it. No, you are not afraid of what is in the dark because there cannot possibly be anything there. But then what did I see?
My mind drifted back to earlier this evening. I returned from my trip to the bakery down the street with a new loaf of bread to my small home here in London. It is a small brick house fit for one person, which is really all I need. I don’t have a family to share anything with. Shaking off the snow; I stepped into my door. I looked over to my coat rack and sighed for I should have worn my winter coat that lay there now. My trousers and tailcoat were drenched. I laid my coat on the table in the kitchen and went to change in my bedroom when I noticed an object in the hallway. It was long and thin and wrapped in a dark cloth. There was no note or sign as to who had left it which was strange. It could have been anyone; I never lock my door. I removed the cloth from the object to reveal a beautiful mirror. It was framed with black iron, and looked quite old despite its beauty. The iron was shaped into flowers around the edges and grooves ran along all the sides. For a moment I just stood there taking in the beauty of it. And then I looked into it.
There was my tall, thin body and my small brown eyes whose color matched my short chestnut hair. I saw the stubble on my chin that was beginning to grow into a slight beard and I saw the lines in my forehead and circles under my eyes from countless nights that lacked sleep. And then I noticed what was behind me. Down the hall was a dark figure in the shape of what looked like a man’s body. I spun myself quickly away from the mirror and towards the dark figure but when I looked there was nothing to be found. I turned back to the mirror and lost my breath. The figure was closer to me now, almost touching me. I could see it better than before, although I prefer I had not. It seemed to be composed entirely of a black liquid like smoke and moved freely but with a purpose. It extended what looked like a hand and placed it on my reflections shoulder. I cringed and looked at my own shoulder but nothing was there. I looked back up and the figure was now leaning in towards my face, almost like it was whispering to me. And then my reflection started to move on its own. I turned away from the mirror and ran down the hall as fast as I could into my study.
I’ve been here for what I imagine to be three hours now, trying not to think about it. My lamp has gone out and I sit here in fear. I finally get the courage to stand up and fumble around the room to find the second lamp I had on a table somewhere. My hands search for what my eyes cannot see and eventually I find what I’m looking for. I bring the lamp back to my desk and carefully light it. It is a relief to not be swallowed by the darkness anymore. And then I turned around. The grasp on reality I had had earlier today was now a thin, taut piece of thread that had just snapped in two. The mirror was resting on the far side of my study. I screamed and threw myself against a wall and slid to the bottom.
My eyes lingered over the mirror on the wall across from me. I watched how the mirror slowly began to tilt until I could see myself in it and I watched as a dark phantom hand grasped my shoulder. I was entranced by my own reflection. All I could do was sit there as I watched the black abomination cup my face. I screamed at my reflection to move as I watched a face made from the darkness itself whisper into my reflection’s ear. I gazed in horror as my reflection stood up and walked to the window. I gasped in pain when he smashed the glass with his fist. I tried to hide my eyes when I saw him pick up a broken piece of glass and I tried to look away when he forced me to stare into his eyes. I sensed his thoughts in my head; they said to me that if I was afraid to look, then I don’t need to. Everything became tinted red when my reflection brought the jagged object across his eyelids. Yet, there was no blood. Not for him. He just smiled. He walked back over to the black abomination; it again drew him near and whispered into his ear. I could see what looked like a grimacing smile on it’s shapeless face.
I then heard the phantom in the mirror and in a dark, sinister voice it said, “life is obstinate and clings closest where it is most hated.” I cried in despair when I saw a tear roll down my reflection’s face. I cried in pain when he jabbed the jagged glass into his throat.
Credit To: Tara Pfeifer