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The Shattering

the shattering


Estimated reading time — 38 minutes

Present Day: Midwest, USA- The Incident

Miranda’s toes curled slightly as her bare feet slid out of bed to go check on her children. It was about 11:40 at night and they had been sleeping for a few hours, but she felt too restless to get any rest herself. She turned on the hall light and crept quietly towards her son’s room, knowing full well that her 2 month old wouldn’t have gotten into any trouble. She named him Seth in honor of his father who had died recently, shortly after he was born. He was in the service, and had been hit by a roadside bomb overseas. He fought for days in the hospital before passing away. Opening the door just a crack, she went over to the crib and gently put the palm of her hand on his back, stroking him softly and enjoying the moment.

Her daughter, Emily, was 5 years old and as precious as they come. Her husband was so proud of their first child together; she wanted to savor this. The camera she had bought recently was just in the hall closet, and she didn’t think the flash would wake him. Just as she was turning to walk down and grab it, she heard something. A faint whisper, “Miranda.” Ice shot up her spine and froze her in her tracks. She had to be imagining things- she stood very still, scarcely breathing. “Miranda…” was whispered again, only this time it was a teasing, sing-song kind of voice, drawn out and a little louder than before. Someone was in her house.

She bolted into her son’s room, grabbing him from his crib in the dark. He immediately panicked and began wailing, having been woken up so roughly from his sleep. She ran to her daughter’s room next, and as she passed by the closet her name seemed to echo dimly all around her, “Miranda…” She threw open her daughter’s door and shakily woke her up. “Emily, sweetie, I need you to do something for me. Wake up baby.” She stared up at her Mom, bleary eyed and sleepy. “What’s wrong Mommy?” She put her son down on her daughter’s bed and quietly explained, “Emily I need you to watch after your younger brother for just a little while ok? I need you to lock your door and don’t open it for anybody but me. You don’t need to be scared alright? I’m going to go call for help now…”

Emily looked up at her with wide, scared eyes- she was so beautiful, even in the darkness. “Ok Mommy.” She kissed the top of her forehead and shut her door gently, making sure it was locked from the inside. Her phone was on her bedside stand, if she could just keep her kids safe until the police came…she shut her door, picked up the phone and dialed 9-1-1. “911, what is your emergency?” She cleared her throat and spoke as loudly as she dared, “I live at 1422 Northwood Drive in Wheaton. There is someone in my house. My kids are home, please help me!” She could hear the operator typing on a screen, “Alright, help is on the way. Are the children with you? Can you hide in a safe place?” She fought a shiver as she replied, “Yes, my kids are locked in my daughter’s room. I’m making this call from my bedroom.”

“Alright, just stay as quiet as you can. Officers are on the way and should be there in about 15 minutes. Please stay on the line with me, ok?” She swallowed hard and nodded to the woman on the other end of the line before whispering, “Ok.” But just then she heard a knock on her door. Tap. Tap. Tap. Three intentional strikes on the wood, a triad of danger. “Miranda, I’m here.” Dropping her phone in a moment of terror, she prayed it hadn’t gotten hung up. She froze and listened intently. After a moment, she began to sweat profusely. She knew that voice. How on earth was she hearing that voice?? She grabbed a baseball bat from the closet and threw on both the light and the door. But there was nothing…nothing but the darkness of the hallway, and a spider slowly crawling up the wall. Her fists clenched around the shaft of the weapon, and she closed her door. Something wasn’t right. Someone was playing a very cruel joke.

“Miranda, let me in…” She began breathing heavily through gritted teeth, “Show yourself you bastard! Or so help me God I will kill you myself!” Again, the voice whispered, “I’m right here little Bluebird…I never left.” She whirled around, blinded by the sudden tears welling in her eyes. She caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror, but there was someone standing beside her. Her voice cracked and she began sobbing uncontrollably. “Seth! Oh God, Seth! H-How? You- You aren’t real! You can’t be real…”

Her husband was dead. But yet he was staring at her from the other side of the mirror as if he had never aged a day. “Miranda. I didn’t want to leave you. But I had no choice…I miss you so much my love. I miss the children.” She shuffled closer to the glass, tears streaming freely down her face, making damp spots on the wood beneath her. “I miss you too…” She sniffed. She wiped her nose on her robe, ignoring for a moment, the madness that swirled around her. Seth was here. That’s all that mattered. “Miranda, do you miss me too?” She pressed her face into the cool surface and whispered, “More than anything.”

“Come and join me Miranda. You and the kids can just step through, and we’ll be a family again. We’ll all be happy together…just think how happy Emily will be to see her Daddy!” She gasped and drew in a sharp breath. “Seth…you do know you’re gone right? Honey…you need to go.” She drew back slightly from the mirror, the beginning of a new fear dawning on her. “We were working on a secret project in Afghanistan, a way to enter bad guys’ homes without breaking down the door.” He began to explain.

He put his head in his hands, scrubbing his face, exhausted. “They would never see us coming. It was called Operation Nightshade and I couldn’t tell you about it before. But I’m not gone. I’m just stuck. It only worked part way. The explosion on the roadside was merely a cover up. I can’t leave the mirrors Miranda…” His voice cracked with emotion, “I am so sorry!” Shoulders hunched, he stood there weeping.

Miranda slowly backed away from the dresser where the mirror was and sat on her bed. She couldn’t process what was happening. Her husband, her Seth, would NEVER ask her to do something like this. This thing, whatever it was, was NOT her husband. She stood up and retrieved the bat she had tossed to the side, never taking her eyes off the thing trapped in the mirror. Shaking with rage and determination she screamed, “YOU ARE NOT MY SETH!! GET OUT!!” And slammed the wood into the glass, shattering it on impact.

Pieces glittered all around her, each one with a distinct shape and color reflecting her room. Everything was silent. Then, faintly, a twisted darkness threaded its way through her bedroom door. “Bluebird- you shouldn’t have done that.” Miranda swallowed hard, threw open the door, stomped several feet down the hall and swung the bat as hard as she could at the mirror that hung off the hall closet. “Stay out of MY HOUSE!!” She shrieked. More glass lay twisted and broken on the floor, and some of them managed to nick her. She knelt down to pick it out of her foot, but when she did her blood ran cold.

A sneering, evil grin painted the face of her once beautiful husband. Red eyes, blackened skin,and ears that were just a little too large to look right. Something crawled beneath the surface of his right hand, demanding her attention. It looked like a parasite. Again, it repeated, “You shouldn’t have done that Bluebird. There’s still time to make things right…” Fear welled up in her eyes as she heard her daughter crying in the other room. Why couldn’t everyone just be quiet?? She needed to think! “I know that you miss me Miranda. Do it for the children. No one should have to grow up without their father, and it’s so beautiful over here on this side.”

Its face stayed the same but its voice had changed to a melodic, soothing, familiar tone. It lulled her into a false sense of peace, and she could feel her fear receding. Like a sailor caught in the Sirens Song she could scarcely see straight. “For the children…” She murmured. “Yes love…for the children.” It crooned back. She hesitated slightly before rising and knocking on her daughter’s door. Emily quietly asked, “Mommy, is that you?” Miranda reassured her, the door opened, and she walked in not even bothering to shut it behind her. “It’s ok baby. You’re safe now. We all are.”

*************************

Officer Ronald Jones responded to the call for a home invasion around 12:08am. As first on the scene, he and his partner Alexander Vern entered the home through the front door on the ground floor. They swept the area room by room and made sure it was clear before they made their way upstairs. The master bedroom was empty, but the remnants of a mirror lay scattered at the foot of the bed. There was a small amount of blood in the area, but certainly not enough to portray a struggle.

Jones gestured to Vern to clear the second bedroom while he went to check on the third. He peered his head around the door which lay half open, and whispered, “Jesus…” He put his lips to the radio on his shoulder and called out, “We need an ambulance to 1422 Northwood Drive, with backup requested. It looks like we have a homicide on our hands.” His partner, Vern, walked into the room and turned on the lights. Three bodies lay on the floor. The mother was kneeling at her daughter’s bedside, head resting on the sheets. She had superficial bleeding on her feet and ankles, likely from the broken mirror in her bedroom. There was glass embedded in her arm where she had narrowly missed a major artery.

He knelt next to her, trying to feel for a pulse. Her body was still warm, but she was gone- her eyes staring at the pillow in front of her. He shut them gently, and turned away. Vern had already confirmed the infant’s death, and from the marks on the body it looked like suffocation. The young girl, Jones realized with horror, was still breathing. He rushed over to her side and placed her on her back with a pillow underneath her head to staunch the bleeding on the back of her skull. She moaned softly, “Please don’t hurt me…” before falling back into unconsciousness.

“EMS is only minutes away. She’ll make it. She’s got to make it.” Vern lowered his head and stepped out of the room. “I’m sorry, I just need a second. I have a daughter at home.” Jones nodded, “It’s ok. Take your time.” He looked around the room and noticed something sickening. There were only three bodies here…but in a family photograph on the girls desk there were four people. Her father stood proudly in the picture, wearing his U.S. Army uniform in front of an airplane on the tarmac. This was one notice he was not looking forward to giving.

*******************

Seth Cross of the U.S. Army waited in a dull blue chair in the hospital, head lifted towards the ceiling making a silent plea to God. He was stationed overseas in Afghanistan when his commanding officer gave him the news about his wife, daughter and infant son. He was allowed an extended leave of absence to take care of legal matters and his own health and was on the first plane out of the country as soon as he was told his daughter was still alive. While he was making his way here, his little girl had endured a grueling 12 hour surgery to repair the damage that had been done. According to the report that had been made, Miranda had had some kind of psychotic break. The dispatcher had heard everything, albeit muffled, when the phone had been dropped.

When his daughter Emily had regained consciousness briefly before the surgery, she told the doctors that, “Mommy said Daddy told her to do it.” He shivered in the chill air of the hospital. His little girl was so brave…what on earth had he done to deserve her? And Miranda- Miranda was gone. He would never understand what could have made her snap. This wasn’t his first deployment overseas, and he certainly made it a habit to call her often and send flowers on special occasions. He had just spoken with her a few days prior, and she sent him pictures of the new furniture she had gotten from a rummage sale. A couple of chairs for the dining room, a crib, and a new mirror to replace the old one on her dresser.

She was so excited about it! Just thinking of her smile brought him to tears. He wiped his eyes and took out the phone he kept in his left breast pocket. He dragged his shirt sleeve across his nose, and took a good long look at his wife. Her brown eyes, long wavy hair, and her milky complexion that hinted at the sun…She stood facing away from her dresser so that he could see the frame of the new mirror behind her. He squinted to get a better look, and something caught his eye. There, in the corner of the reflection, barely visible in the image was a figure. A tall, rugged figure that smiled in the doorway on the other side of the glass, skin charred and angry. His daughter’s words echoed dizzyingly in his head…Daddy told her to do it. The room faded out of focus, and buzzing filled his ears. It was him. He was in the reflection on the other side of the world, just staring. What had they done???

9 Months Ago: Central Afghanistan

Dr Roger Timmons stood in front of a decent sized crowd in the stifling middle eastern air. The tent was nearly at capacity and every soldier under the sound of his voice could feel the tension growing. He was about to give a speech for which no one would be prepared. All they knew was that they were chosen for something so secret, and so dangerous, that not even their supervising officers knew what was really going on. Drawn from military forces all over the world, everyone was hand picked from a different specialty. He looked down at his watch, carefully counting down the seconds. 5…4…3…2…1…Clearing his throat he spoke into the microphone provided, and immediately silence fell.

“Good afternoon gentlemen, as you all know I am Dr Roger Timmons, head of the European Union’s research and defense committee. First and foremost I want to apologize for the intense level of both scrutiny and secrecy. What I am about to reveal to you is a matter of not just National Security to your respective countries, but to quite possibly the entire civilized world. You have each been specifically chosen for your contributions in the areas of science, engineering, information analytics and endurance. Your loyalty has been tested and proven, and your determination to seek out a safer world has finally paid off.”

“From here on out, all information is classified to the highest degree and any breach of security WILL be punished by death. And while you have all been chosen, you also have a chance to back out now. The opportunity I am presenting you with is highly experimental, and extremely dangerous. Before I proceed any further, anyone who wishes to be scrubbed from the process may leave. Confidentiality agreements have already been signed so you can just get up and walk away. But if you stay, and if you offer your unwavering loyalty, greatness will await you.” He paused to give them a moment to decide. Two Swedish men got up after a moment, followed by three men from Chinese Intelligence. No one else left, and no one went after the men who did.

“Now then…down to business. I want a show of hands here, how many of you have been directly or indirectly affected by the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001? It’s been 15 years and the heightened security has not dissipated one iota. The individual responsible has been apprehended for years now, but the extremist cells are like the Hydra- cut off one head and two more take its place.” He paused momentarily to take a drink of water, and sighed deeply before continuing.

“It is no longer about religion folks. It is no longer about theology or bureaucracy or even defending our borders. My team and I have made a discovery…and the reason we brought you here together is because we need your help in determining whether or not this discovery can be used to our advantage or if we have just unearthed an even greater danger. So we want to pit one extreme against the other, and if we can finally eradicate the remaining terrorist cells it is just one more victory. The Islamic Extremists are going to be the target of our new weapon, but I must warn you. What we found will not be easily believed.”

Dr Timmons motioned for one of his assistants to bring in a large, square box to the front and center of his makeshift stage. It was about 7 feet tall, 4 feet wide, and 2 feet deep. “Go ahead and open it Martin.” He nodded, grabbed a crowbar from the table and began to pry off the front. In only two minutes the wood clattered to the floor, and every soldier in the large tent gasped and took a few steps backwards at the sight of what was inside. A large mirror was displayed before them with an ornate, golden border around the edges. But the glass itself was a shimmering, undulating blackness that stuck immediate fear into all who stared into its surface.

Someone from the far edge of the tent asked breathlessly, “What in God’s name is that? What did you do?” Several other soldiers began to raise their voices in agreement, while others softly began to pray. “This…” Dr Timmons told them, “This is the future of psychological warfare, and it is just the beginning. If you would settle down for just a few more minutes I will explain what it is, how it works, and why I need your help to finish it.” Another soldier, though they had all returned to sitting, piped up “It ain’t even finished yet? Dang. Them ISIS people are done for!”

Nervous chuckles circulated around the room for a moment before Dr Timmons began speaking again. “As I said in the beginning of my introduction, my area of specialty is the unconventional and it is my duty to protect our world from threats of all kinds. However, in my quest for something better I accidentally proved what psychics and soothsayers alike have theorized about and practiced for millennia. What you see before you is a manmade entrance to the Mirror Realm.”

He pointed to a massive stack of Manila envelopes and told one of the soldiers near the front to begin passing them out. “Contained in those folders is all of our research for your future study, keep them handy. We’re going to go rather quickly.”

“Four years ago, a man from Ethiopia emailed me directly about an idea for fighting terrorism. He said that his grandfather had tried to help the CIA in the past, but his ideas had never been taken seriously. He wanted to know if we were desperate enough to hear him and his family out now. You see, the war was affecting him as well. And he wanted to help stop it. I told him yes, and got him on the first plane to our base.” He rubbed his arm distracted for a moment, “He began explaining to me that most psychics were frauds, but that about 2% of them were accessing something very real, and very dangerous. But they could not do any harm to the physical world…as ‘spirit’ beings from another dimension, they had nothing they could use to interact on our side. According to him, the only reason those 2% could access these beings is because they made a deal with the devil and sent part of their souls into, as he called it, The Mirror Realm.”

“Obviously this information was taken with several grains of salt. But he offered to give a demonstration of sorts. He admitted it wasn’t an exact science, but he was hoping in time, it would be.” Dr Timmons gestured to one of the soldiers near the front calling for him to join him at his side, grabbed him by the elbow, and began walking. “He explained that the Mirror Realm was a much darker, much more violent world than our own. According to him, nothing in the Mirror Realm had any physical traits. There were things that thought, laughed and cried on the other side, but nothing actually had form. As a result, they could travel about with great freedom, for them it was as simple as thinking themselves, so to speak, into another location.”

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“The way he explained it…this soul tie these psychics created, made a bridge between the two worlds possible. It gave the beings on the other side a form with which to touch things on OUR side of the dimension, and gave us an opening to explore THEIR side of the dimension. The only person that could control these physical manifestations was the person that made the soul tie, whose physical form the spirit was borrowing. The spirit was then, essentially bound by whatever the soul wanted it to do in exchange for free passage to our side.”

One of the men, an American this time, spoke up. “With all do respect Sir, what does any of this folklore have to do with Psychological Warfare? Don’t get me wrong, that mirror trick is pretty damn freaky but how does this help us win the war? I mean, shit. If we can’t even get into their compounds with a gun, how do you expect us to sneak into their homes armed with a piece of glass?” Dr Timmons smiled. “That’s exactly the point. Tell me, what’s your name, soldier?” He spoke slowly, and calmly with all the practice and surety that comes with years of military training. “Sgt Seth Cross of the U.S. Army.” He let go of the soldier he had been walking with and motioned for him to take a seat. “What if I told you this little slice of folklore could ensure that all of our troops returned home safely within one year?”

“Or that with this odd impossibility, we could sneak into the enemy’s homes without ever being physically present? And maybe, just maybe the reality of defeating enemies in physical warfare relies on fighting it in the spiritual. Just like the damn Bible said all those thousands of years ago. ‘We do not war against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against rulers of the darkness of this world.’ Does this look dark enough to you? Imagine for just ONE SECOND that we could harness the power of these God forsaken things and not only give them a purpose, but give us a break from always losing more and more men! I am sick and tired of hearing widows weeping in the churches because their husbands never made it home! There are historical records that show the proof of their power and we finally have a way to make contact and determine if they can be a peaceful people and help us in the process…”

The longer Dr Roger Timmons spoke, the angrier he became until he threw the microphone down in frustration, red in the face and sweating profusely. “I-I’m sorry.” He stammered after a minute. “I’m sorry. But at this point I am a desperate man. My entire life has been dedicated to trying and failing to find a way to keep us safe from the threat of violence. I understand that this makes no sense, and as a scientist I have no idea how exactly it’s possible. But I am willing to risk my life and my reputation for even the small possibility that no one has to go off to war ever again. The possibility of engaging in battle from without the realm of our physical reality…where our physical bodies cannot be harmed…I am willing to forsake everything I used to believe in. If there is a God, I truly think that this would be a cause he could get behind and fight for.”

He slumped down in his chair, a weary, broken man. For the moment he looked much older than his 53 years, and he wondered if he had made a mistake. Slowly one of the soldiers in the back stood up and saluted him. Only a second later several more joined him. Within half a minute every man in the tent stood in a silent, solemn salute. Seth Cross walked forward and placed a hand on the man’s shoulder. “What do you need us to do?”

6 Months Ago: Operation Nightshade Base, Norway

Seth Cross of the U.S. Army stood in front of the doorway to his bunk room dreading seeing the faces that would greet him. The men he had been staying with were a bunch of particle physicists, linguists, weapons engineers and the like. All he was? A grunt with a gun and barely a college education. Or at least that’s how they saw it. In reality he had taken at least 4 courses on psychology and half a dozen others in his free time before, and during his time in the army. The reason he had been picked was because he was uniquely qualified to gauge threats both from the growing ISIS situation, and the things in this new ‘Mirror Realm’ crap. He was still skeptical, but his curiosity had been burning brighter ever since he finished reading the rest of the research. It had been three months now since that initial meeting. Three months in near total isolation, and intensive trial and error study of this new territory. Surprisingly there were quite a few Bible scholars on the team (which numbered about 150 total).

Groaning inwardly he pushed open the door and walked in, making a beeline for his bunk near the far end of the room. One of the Chinese guys, a technological genius as far as he was concerned, approached him excitedly. “There no more problem! I have it! I have it!” Sgt Cross tried his best to suppress a smile at the broken English he was trying so hard to perfect. “Wong Chen. What on earth are you talking about my good friend?” Wong grinned, “You say friend but you no mean it. I talking about the power of transference.” Cross frowned slightly, “You mean the little problem of keeping the portal open long enough to make a tie?” Motioning for him to lower his voice he said, “Yes. We cannot use ours. We have to draw it from them. Its THEIR dimension that has dark matter. THEY are dark matter. Its unlimited potential right on the other side of glass…” He swallowed hard. “Have you mentioned this to Dr Timmons yet?” Wong smiled. “They are getting the Ethiopian as we speak. We must ask before we take.”

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One of the women from Central America, Felicia Gonzales, spoke up. “Excuse me, but have either of you thought of the moral complications much less the physiological limitations of what you are proposing? Sure, it’s a great IDEA but it can’t work. There’s no way for anything to cross into the mirror realm without a form, and there is no way to make a form without holding open the mirror realm long enough to make one. It’s a catch 22, and the reason we’ve been here for three fucking months without making any progress on how to move forward.” Another man, this time from Russia interjected. “Well since you’re asking so nicely, the Mirror Realm breaks most known laws of physics from our dimension. We’ve been studying it, theoretically for decades now, because Dark Matter and regular Matter don’t work the same. If we could get the message across, the things on the other side will hold the portal open long enough for us to get at least one of us a body on the other side.” Gonzales scoffed, “What? The psychic? I can’t believe you guys buy into this…” She skulked back to her bunk, and began pouring over the latest briefing for the 4th time. Wong frowned deeply. “It makes you wonder why she is even here. She should have been escorted out weeks ago.”

****************************

Two miles away, just inside the bunker doors Dr Roger Timmons was involved in a heated discussion with the Ethiopian man on the other side of the world. Erik Ganu was fuming on the other end of the line, “YOU ARE OUT OF YOUR MIND! WAS THIS THE PLAN ALL ALONG??” Dr Timmons hissed, “You came to us offering help. We sent you the documents and now we have a way to do exactly what you suggested from the beginning. Why are you suddenly developing a set of morals?” There was silence for about half a minute, and Dr Timmons could hear the man struggling to control his breathing. “You do not understand the fire you are playing with. These things are dangerous enough when we play with them on our terms and with our technology. If you decide to create these soul ties with the help of Dark Matter there is no telling what they will be able to do.” He paused briefly, attempting to control the shaking in his voice. “I offered you my help. And it still stands. But you have not seen the things that I have seen. Are you prepared to handle the consequences of peace?” Mr Ganu waited patiently for a reply. “Yes. We are prepared. I appreciate the invaluable resource that you have been to us…I only ask for a little more now. We’ll send for a plane shortly. Be ready to fly within the next 3 hours.” They hung up the phone, and Dr Timmons motioned for an officer to escort him down to Chamber 8. He got on the intercom on the way down and instructed 9 people to meet him there at 7am the next morning. It was time.

************************

Seth Cross, Roger Timmons, Erik Ganu, Phillipé Julian, and six others stood in a large empty lab room. The lights were dimmed and a single bright red beam of light shone into a large mirror. The air hummed with the large amount of electricity dancing in the space around them. It was cold and it was quiet. The Ethiopian spoke up and asked everyone present, “Does everyone understand the rules of this engagement? And do you understand the consequences of deviating from the ritual?” Seth Cross swallowed hard. He along with everyone else nodded their agreement. The rules Mr Ganu were talking about went as follows.

1) Under no circumstances can the person making the tie be allowed to speak. Otherwise the spirit will try to steal your voice for later use

2) Once the ritual has begun only two people may have their eyes open at any given time. Any more and the spirits will become suspicious of your intentions and attack

3) Once the tie is successful, you must remain isolated and silent in the dark for no less than one hour. This is to give your tie a chance to get to know it’s host, and will allow you a short window to travel into the Mirror Realm with a guide. Any interruptions could trap your soul on the other side of the glass, and allow the spirit to reside within the flesh.

Mr Ganu took a deep breath in, calming his nerves. “Let us begin. Srgt Cross, you are going first. As the one with the most psychological training they will be more willing to make a tie with you first. Weak minds make weak vessels.” His eyes widened in sudden panic, his mind only partially prepared for the ordeal ahead. The Ethiopian cleared his throat gently, “It is not too late to back out. You don’t have to do this.” Seth’s eyes shut with a deep, calming sigh. “Yes. I do.” With that, Mr Ganu instructed that the lights be shut off and for everyone but himself and Srgt Cross to close their eyes. With that, the ritual began. The air was still and mostly silent- the faint buzzing of the electricity lulling his mind into a calm, dream-like state. He stared into the glass, eyes half closed and thoughts wandering. As he stared, the red light that had been shining into the Mirror Realm began to dim. He thought he saw shadows beginning to swirl around the glass, tendrils of spirits from the other side curious about the activity taking place. A heavy weight pressed into the air around them and then, under the pressure of the spirit world, the Ethiopian spoke.

“Spirits of the hidden Realm, the man before you wishes to make a tie. He has no natural gift, but he is eager to learn and willing to make a sacrifice for his country and his world.” A quiet hissing grew from the mirror, and a thin tendril of nearly invisible matter crept over the threshold and made its way, presumably since he couldn’t see, into the Ethiopian. His voice suddenly changed and a laugh escaped his lips, crackling with harsh lightning and thinly veiled menace. “What makes you think we want a man of ignorance?” The spirit asked through the man. “How many thousands of you have no vessel on this side?” The Ethiopian asked in his own voice again. “You are desperate for another soul to copy. Do you really have any room to bargain for a body?” The spirit hissed in irritation at his words, for it knew the truth of them. “Why?!” It spat, again through the man. “What task could your people have for us, that makes you so desperate for the dregs of our world…” Mr. Ganu snapped his eyes open, against the will of the spirit residing within him. “Look around you. Our world is at war, and the current weapons of our warfare do not put a dent in the problem. We need a better way. And the one who locked you away has left us to our own devices. We are willing to give you a form, if you are willing to go where we send you to kill our enemies along the way.” Behind him, the Ethiopian’s eyes rolled upwards and his face grinned. “You know of His Word…” It crooned. “But do you know of its dangers?” It asked, bringing Mr. Ganu’s body around and in front of Srgt Cross, directly speaking to him now. “I do.” He replied simply, not flinching away. From somewhere inside him, alarm bells rang faintly, but the trance he had been lulled into forced him to remain calm and his mind remained fuzzy. Unaware of what he had just done, he continued to stare blankly at the man.

Again, the Ethiopian laughed and the air sizzled and popped within the sound of the spirit’s voice. “Wisdom is folly in the mouth of fools. I know you lie. You understand nothing, and the light of God resides not in you.” It spat, suddenly angry. “Nevertheless,” It spoke, “I imagine you will soon learn.” It turned away in disgust, and threw the man’s body down, returning to the mirror. Srgt Cross’s heart beat loudly in his chest, fear tightening around his throat in a grip that threatened to choke him. Mr. Ganu laid still on the ground, but Seth knew the rules…he could not break them. Or rather, he couldn’t break them a second time. As soon as the spirit left Mr Ganu, a sudden clarity of what he had done had overtaken him. At last, after an entire minute of silence, he spoke in a dry voice. “Close your eyes Srgt Cross. The spirits have decided to make a tie with you. They will hold the door open. Everyone else must stay absolutely silent as they leave the room. You may leave and open your eyes one at a time as I call out your name. Then, they will begin.”

As the darkness around him deepened, and one by one everyone left, a weight pressed heavily upon him that he could not shake. At last, only the Ethiopian man remained. “I know that you spoke.” He said with great sadness, “I will not berate you worse than you have already berated yourself. Just pray that the spirits would not hold it against you.” With that, he walked out of the room and Srgt Cross was left alone.

Two Months Ago: Operation Nightshade, Test One, Norway

Sgt Cross shivered in anticipation of the first full-scale test of the new technology uncovered by accessing the mirror realm successfully three months prior. Since the ties had been made he along with four other individuals had spent a majority of their time getting to know their counterparts in the shadows. Learning each other, growing in each other, one day at a time becoming more and more accustomed to their near omnipresence. They had established a system of mirrors that they could and could not travel to- a system of intricate locks and different fields of energies that he didn’t fully understand kept them contained, and their newfound forms were utilized every chance they got. His dark, twisted reflection followed him endlessly…stretching its legs, blinking, yawning. The only thing it didn’t do was talk. It terrified him still how lucky he was that this thing still hadn’t acted on his voice. He did not take that blessing lightly.

Mr. Julian walked up behind him, seeking the same comfort that neither of them could find in the months since initial contact had been made. Genuine companionship was hard to maintain these days. “I take it you’re not ready for this either?” He asked in a thickly accented voice. He was originally from Chile, but had been living abroad for the last several years. He was picked for the project for his adaptability mostly- that and his reputation for brutality when the situation demanded it. “Not even close. To be honest, I’m not sure if we should continue…I mean what if it works? What then? Just because it can be done, well, you know my concerns.” He hesitated, replaying the conversation he had had with Erik Ganu in his head for the 19th time.

It was several hours post ritual now, and the base was abuzz with the success of the five of them making a tie. But in the quiet that followed, Sgt Cross grew uneasy. Something that the Ethiopian man had said during the process gave him doubts and questions that he could not ignore. He wandered around the base aimlessly, pondering in his heart the things he could not speak. Before long, he ran into the man and stopped him. “Mr. Ganu. Could I trouble you for a few minutes of your time?” He smiled sympathetically, expecting as much. “Of course. What plagues you?” He asked. “You said something while speaking to them about me, before they agreed. You said that I had no natural gifting but…I suppose it’s troubling me because I don’t understand how one CAN have a natural gifting to connect with those things.”

“Ah yes, the great conundrum of our time. How to interact with that which we cannot see yet wish to control all the same? Tell me. Are you a religious man?” He shifted uncomfortably. “Not particularly, no.” Sgt Cross admitted. The Ethiopian laughed, “I expected as much. You see, in the olden days, before mankind lost the ability to believe in something greater than themselves, people used to worship the old gods. The false deities, the fallen angels that cursed more than they blessed and demanded much for so little in return. You see, God knows how dangerous it is to make deals with them. He knows all about law and order, and legal rights. Opening a door to the spirit world is not an easy task. And so those that do have a curse upon them, a curse not just for trusting in things outside of God, but also for destroying that which he so carefully made.”

“What do you mean? What kind of curse?” He asked, swallowing dryly. Mr Ganu got a faraway look in his eyes before answering. “A curse of the womb.” He explained. “Numbers 14:18 says ‘The Lord is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.’. You see Sgt Cross, those who open up a portal to the spirit world do not just make a tie for themselves. They make a tie for their children, and their children’s children and so on unto the fourth generation. THIS is how one can have a natural gifting. Those children are born with part of their souls tethered to the spirits, though it does weaken with time. This is why a grandfather’s gift is stronger than a grandson’s.” Sgt Cross gaped at him silently. “What about children who are already born?” He forced out, fear clawing at his throat. “They are safe from the curse. But be cautious. Some may accidentally bring the spirits into their homes. And nobody wants that to happen. Least of all me.”

Sgt Cross was interrupted out of his thoughts by the shrill whine of their proximity alarms going off. “Five minutes till showtime.” Mr Julian said in a hushed voice. “Come. Let’s not be late.” He nodded silently and let himself be led towards the lab where it all began. As the automatic doors swung wide to receive them, a chill blast of air hit him full in the chest. One of Mr Ganu’s rules was to make sure that the glass on our side was frosted at all costs outside of when we undertook our experiments and missions. He explained that if they couldn’t see clearly, they would not seek to step off the path as quickly. They enjoyed testing the boundaries, he had said. They enjoyed watching chaos and worshiped what could kill. Maybe that was why they were so eager to make a connection with the other side. Could they have known what the plan was before they did? He shuddered at the thought. His reflection, cast upon the six mirrors set up all around the circular room, smiled at him almost serenely. It gave a mocking salute, and then folded its arms and waited. The others were already there. Roger Timmons spotted him from across the room and gave a firm, reassuring nod. Another alarm blared, echoing around the confines of the chamber and the double doors were automatically sealed. They wouldn’t open again until Dr Timmons gave the all clear. And honestly…that could take a while.

Absolute silence descended on the room. The lights dimmed and Dr Timmons flipped a switch on the laser that was to release the shadows on the other side of the glass from their confines. Mr Ganu stood in the center of the mirrors, acting as a voice for them before they were completely released. He was still for a few moments before the subtle shivering began- a sign that one of them was about to speak. A faint buzz could be felt emanating from him now, growing stronger as the spirits took control. His lips twitched upward in some semblance of a smile before it spoke. “We have heard and are well aware of what you would like us to do.” It began, “But we require one thing from you that you have yet to give us.” Mr Ganu tilted his head to the side in confusion before it continued. “We need to stretch our legs upon this world. We need more mirrors within which to dwell. We tire of our confinement.” It hissed dangerously. Mr Ganu lowered his head in reverence. “I desire to say yes to your command, but it is not as simple as you might believe. It will take time. Time and resources that are exceedingly precious.” The reflections sat up straighter in their mirrors, listening intently. “How much time?” They seemed to all ask at once. “How much time will you need?” The Ethiopian stayed silent for a moment. “Another four months at most. But in the meantime, I can promise you, there will be plenty of mirrors to explore in the middle east. Conditions there are ideal almost daily without intervention.”

The spirit in charge nodded through him and went back into the glass. “Then it shall be done.” It said as it left his lips. Mr Ganu nodded gratefully, and nodded for everyone to take their places in front of their reflections. By now, they all knew what to expect, but it unnerved them nevertheless. Sgt Cross walked up to his reflection, and placed one hand on the mirror, shivering as part of its form writhed beneath his touch. A crude smile parted its lips as it was brought closer to its freedom. One touch was all it took to release them, one curious touch to allow all of what they were to access this world. Sgt Cross closed his eyes and willed the spirit to leave through the “Blue Door ”, the only energy field it could pass through at this time, and into its carefully paired mirror somewhere in the Arabian peninsula. He opened his eyes after it left and sighed in relief as he looked at his actual reflection for the first time in months. Halfway across the world, a suspected terrorist was preparing to sit down for tea.

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His name was Hamza Faheem, and as he stooped to wash his hands in his bathroom sink, the hair on the back of his neck stood up and his skin began to prickle with the beginnings of a very cold sweat. His eyes went wide and he stayed, unmoving, for several moments. He tried to pinpoint why such a fear would arise in him in such a safe place but, try as he might, the growing dread remained a mystery. Deciding to shake it off, he raised his head once more to turn off the faucets and made eye contact with his reflection in the slightly imperfect surface. The fear intensified and his hands trembled slightly. His beard, neatly trimmed and washed, rested at its appropriate place. His eyes squinted along with his own. His lips parted just as they should have when he went to open them to check that all was right. But something felt very wrong. He put a hand to his cheek, muttering a prayer and closing his eyes briefly. When he opened them, he leapt back, cursing as he fell. An American soldier with blackened skin and bloodshot eyes stared back at him from the mirror. Shouting for help, he scrambled to get up from the bathtub he had fallen into and watched in horror as it bled through the glass.

The spirit that wore Sgt Cross’s face breathed in the air of a new world hungrily, nostrils flaring in ecstasy at the scent of a long dormant, primal fear of the things that hunted in the dark. As it crossed the threshold completely, it’s hand gripped the knife at its side. It looked at the door the man was hastily approaching and willed it shut, fusing the wood together and trapping him inside. Unintelligible shrieks proceeded from Hamza’s lips as he turned back towards the figure stalking him in the rapidly shrinking space. Hands pounded on the other side of the door, panicked voices questioning if he was ok. The spirit reached out with one charred hand and grasped him tightly around the throat. As it slid the knife into his stomach, the loud shrieks turned to pained grunts and it lowered him onto the floor, inch by agonizing inch. Hamza Faheem gasped one last time and was no more. In five other homes around the country, similar scenes of destruction were playing out. One reflection chose to drown its victim in the kitchen sink, entering through a particularly reflective window on the far wall. Another decided to grab a spool of wire next to the man and nearly beheaded him in his struggle. Still another was electrocuted underneath the placid waters of his local pool. In each case, as soon as the deed was done, the spirit would smile before returning to the circular room.

Within an hour and a half, all of the reflections had returned and Dr Timmons, at last, gave them the all clear. The locks were put back into place, the spirits resumed their positions, and the chill air hissed as the automatic doors were once again opened at the far side of the room. Their first mission was an absolute success. As the days wore on, more and more reports began to come out of hostile countries of suspicious deaths seemingly taking place without cause. A foreign banker, suspected of laundering money but never charged, was found in his kitchen with his lungs full of water but a drained sink of dishes nearby. The owner of a farming supply store was found violently stabbed in his bathroom at home, with both his wife and young child oblivious as to who got in or how. Dr Timmons celebrated as the reports came in, each one a miracle in their own right. “It works!” He whispered excitedly to himself. “By the grace of God it works…” Seth Cross, Pillipé Julian, Ivan Korsoff, Amanda Tessing, Wong Chen and Harold Bingham were heros in this new world, and Dr Timmons treated them as such. The only thing that stood between them and a feeling of victory were the shadows by their side, and an uneasy feeling whenever they left that something was about to go wrong.

Two Months After “The Incident”: Nightshade Base, Norway

Seth Cross rushed into Dr Timmon’s office in a rush of unrestrained fury. “YOU SAID IT WAS SAFE!!!” He roared, roughly grabbing him out of his seat and shoving his forearm deep into the man’s neck as he pinned him against the bookshelf behind him. “YOU SAID THEY WERE CONTAINED!!! YOU LIED TO ALL OF US AND NOW MY WIFE IS DEAD!!! MY CHILD IS DEAD!!!” Dr Timmons gasped and sputtered, clawing at the man’s arm to give him just an inch of air. After an agonizing three seconds, Seth pressed in hard once more and threw him onto the floor, shaking and coughing at his feet. His breathing came in short, ragged gasps and he knelt down to gaze at the man he had once trusted. Shoving a finger at him, Seth lowered his voice and hissed in his ear, “You WILL fix this if this is the last thing you do. Now I am going to inform the others because I know you are too much of a worm to have done so already, and by the time we return to this office you WILL have the Ethiopian man on the first plane here to discuss what happens now. Do I make myself clear?” Dr Timmons nodded fearfully, refusing to look him in the eyes. Without another word, Sgt Cross left the room and made his way down to the barracks. Nobody stood in his way, and nobody questioned him when he demanded that everyone who was a part of the team and that had ties to the mirror realm be gathered immediately.

As soon as Pillipé saw him, they embraced tightly, the former shaking as the latter tried to calm him. Tears freely flowed as the hug came to an end and Srg Cross dug his palms into his eyes roughly. Several pats on the back and reassurances greeted him as he made his way to the front of the room. “Dr Timmons lied to us all.” He began explaining. “He probably told you what he told me, that there had been a homicide in my hometown. He probably told you that he couldn’t discuss the details or that he didn’t have them when you asked about me. Let me give you the details now!” He said, voice raising in indignation. “Our loved ones are not safe! Our reflections do not have to obey us anymore, and our reflections can go where they please! They have been sneaking away in the darkness, and while we sleep they have been wreaking havoc on our world and IT NEEDS TO END!!” A rising murmur of concern met him as he slammed paper after paper from his backpack down onto the table in front of him. “SIXTY ONE REPORTS.” He screamed. “Sixty one reports of suspicious deaths over the last four months since the initial tests were successful. There are only thirty of us in this room! Our shadows are killing people, and I need us to find a way to stop it!” He gritted his teeth as he read off the numbers. “Seventeen in the US. Twenty two in South America. Eight in Japan. Eleven in Australia. Three in the UK. Dr Roger Timmons lied to us. Our reflections are escaping.” A wave of concern and fear rippled through them as they looked at the documents in greater detail. They looked at the towns, and the faces and the blood. Then they looked to Sgt Cross for answers he didn’t yet have. Their consciences seared with guilt, they waited for Mr Ganu to arrive.

Six hours later, the Ethiopian man some had heralded as an angel just a few months before, sat across from Sgt Cross as he struggled to explain the situation calmly. He nodded gravely and asked him just one question in return. “Do you have the recording the dispatcher took?” He looked incredulously at him, mouth agape. “What the hell does it matter if I have it? Why is it important?” He demanded. Mr Ganu was not fazed by his temper. “Do you remember how I told you that you were lucky it never stole your voice when you so foolishly spoke?” Seth slumped back in his chair, remembering. “Why does it matter if it took my voice? It’s just sound. Sound can’t do anything…right?” Mr Ganu shook his head sadly. “Not right, Sgt Cross.” He stood and reached for an old Bible on the shelf behind him. “Do you know what the first action in all of creation was?” He asked. Seth numbly replied that no, he didn’t know. “It was a separation.” He began. “‘In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said let there be light. And there was light.'” He looked up at the broken man sitting across from him, pity staining his normally stoic face. “God spoke, Seth. And the creatures in the darkness were separated from the barrenness that was yet the light. God spoke, and the creatures had no choice but to be separated from the physical realm that He was creating. Everything that was vile and disobedient, everything that was cruel and vain was separated from this world when it was formed, and the beings that would dwell within it, us, were meant to remain pure.”

He sighed heavily and continued explaining. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Your voice, all of our voices have power, absolutely incredible power, Sgt Cross. The Lord spoke it and it was so. And the shadows could do nothing but obey it, for they were, and always have been, absolutely silent. They could no longer war against creation, but they could only observe its passing. Doomed by their creator to never again be able to alter the destinies of men. Yes, it says in His Word that Satan was good on the day he was created, but his heart caught sight of something vile in his reflection and it grew within him. It grew within him even though it was unable to speak. Although it would be up to Lucifer to act upon what they wanted, every day that he gazed upon himself, the shadows grew stronger and stronger until at last they spoke. ‘I will be like the most high.’ In other words, I will speak and make it so.” He paused, to give the younger man a chance to understand what he was saying. “The darkness was all of creation’s sin made manifest, a conscious darkness that had been dwelling in the deep since creation, and those sins gained a voice on the day that Lucifer fell.” Sgt Cross looked up at him, his mind struggling to understand the tale that was being spun in front of him. “Are you saying that the things on the other side of the glass…are our sins? Our conscious, but voiceless sins?” His brow furrowed deeply in confusion, but the Ethiopian man was patient in his explanations.

“Think about it Seth. Where do you think the saying came from, that the eyes were the windows to the soul? It was because in the reflections of glassy eyes, our true natures could be seen. The reason that your voice being taken is so dangerous is because with your voice, your sins can now change things with or without our consent. All thirty of you have now given voices to the sins on the other side of creation, a place that God threw as far as the east is from the west, a place that had been cast into the sea of forgetfulness…a place that should not ever have been remembered. And now, Sgt Cross, we must reap the rewards of an unholy creation. A creation that the Lord himself had made to be seperate, has now been brought together.” Silence descended on the room as the information sank in. “Why?” Seth croaked at last. “If you knew all this, then why would you offer to help us?” Mr Ganu stared coldly at him for a few moments. “Therefore God shall send them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” Mr Ganu rose and, before walking out the door, spoke one last time. “This is what brings about the end. He shall be released from the pit and shall rule the appointed season. Then the Lord our God shall return.” Sgt Cross wept on the floor. “What are we supposed to do??”

******* ********* ******

Five months later, every country in the European Union met in Paris for an emergency meeting about how to find and apprehend the mysterious man whose only record of existence seemed to be in the declassified documents of Operation Nightshade. His name, Erik Ganu, didn’t match birth records from any country, part of the EU or otherwise, no employer could recall meeting him when questioned, and no bank account could be found. The man simply did not exist, and although several theories were tossed around, none of them could explain his disappearance. Only one came close, however illogical, to explaining who he was or why he likely would never be found. Sgt Cross stood before the gathered representatives and leaders and once again, tried to convince himself that what he was about to say was not, in fact, as crazy as he had first believed. They had all the documents in front of them, studied for months in advance, and now it was his job to drive the point home. Erik Ganu was an angel of the Lord. A messenger sent to lead the unbelievers astray, to usher in the end of ages and to herald the second coming of God. It was the only thing that made sense.

Since their decision to wage war against flesh and blood with principalities and powers was made, all hell had broken loose. The reflections of their sins, it seemed, had multiplied and could be found nearly everywhere wreaking havoc in, and above, the world around them. Earthquakes had violently shifted the landscapes around the active volcanoes and the stars, it seemed, had begun to grow dim. Astronomers couldn’t figure out what was causing the visual distortions but Sgt Cross knew it was them. Their sins were consuming the heavens and the earth. Darkness was falling again upon the face of the deep. And this time, the Lord would not separate the light from the darkness so soon. He didn’t know how or when, but Lucifer would rise from the pit, take their form and rule with a stolen voice. It was only a matter of time. Until that day though, he had to cling to the hope that they would be saved. Nobody deserved what was coming but them and them alone.

One Year After “The Incident”: Varyovkina Cave, Georgia

Salinka Debrovich was not a particularly religious woman in the times before darkness had descended, but the last seven months had seen her praying. She had been traveling for days to reach the cave and she knew that once she descended, she would likely be traveling for several more. The angel told her it would lead her son here but first, it had come for her. Just as he promised. She had been chosen to lead their new god out of the darkness and into the gloriously faded light of day. Her son had freely given himself to the cause, and this was his reward- his mother at his side as he ruled. She was excited to meet him. She had heard so many stories in the months before, and now…here she was at the edge of the cave. The deepest cave in the world, about to leap to her death for the coming of the master. She could see, if she squinted hard, the broken bodies of those that had come before her being picked clean by the shadows. Someone, she didn’t know who, had placed a ring of mirrors in the bottom of the first platform of the cave, and shortly after the sacrifices had begun. Each liter of blood adding to the sheen at the bottom of the cavern. A mirror made of blood.

As she, the last one needed, flung herself off the ledge, the shadows laughed. They eagerly awaited her end and, as they helped the surface settle once more, it began. A low rumbling of thunder in the clear, blue sky. A fierce wind that made the trees bow their faces low to the ground. A chill that made every creature desire to flee its touch. The beast was rising. From the pristine surface of humanity’s shared sacrifice, a head arose from the crimson pool. The charred skull emerged first, hair clinging in wet clumps to what remained of his scalp. Shoulders that sagged with the weight of sins so long buried with him. Ribs that clung to a skeletal frame, failing to hide the shriveled lungs of what used to be God’s pride and joy. Legs that groaned as what remained of Lucifer began to walk towards the mirror that led to Norway, and the man who woke him from his slumber. As he stepped through the glass, the blood left with him. The portal was no more.

******* ********* **********

Dr Roger Timmons held tightly to the call button in his hand, fingers trembling as he saw the familiar gray background of the TV that had been turned off. “NURSE!!!” He tried to scream through a raw throat. “NURSE!!!” His panic intensified as he saw the electricity begin to crackle around the dead screen and a sinister smile of loose flesh peered at him from behind the glass. “Hello old friend.” It crooned. “It’s so good to finally see you in person.” The TV began to lengthen into a space large enough for the rest of him to fit through. The parts inside it fizzed and groaned and popped as it stretched longer and longer, until at last, Lucifer was through. “Have you really come to torture me in my old age?! Have you really come to taunt me on my deathbed?! Seth Cross told me to expect you, you foul thing!” He seethed. “Oh did he now?” Lucifer grinned. “Did he happen to mention why?”

Dr Timmons, or what was left of him, said nothing and laid back on the bed, waiting for the inevitable. “Your mother was the last one to fall. She was what enabled me to take your form. You should rejoice, you and I have a glorious future to overcome.” Dr Timmons let the tears fall silently as the oldest sin of all gingerly touched his face. “So many lives to claim…” He smiled sadly. “I almost hate to start with yours. You deserve more than what I am about to take.” Lucifer bent over the aging man’s body and let the blood that formed this husk flow over into him. There was a wet sound, and then silence as Satan was reborn.

********** ************ ************

The world had largely returned to normal by the time the body of Dr Roger Timmons stepped onto the world stage, three years after the beginning of the end began. The suicides and the mysterious deaths of other world leaders had subsided, famine instead taking its place. The hunger had awoken an anger that the world had scarcely seen since the age of Christ, and likely would never see again. Pestilence and rot began to spread the longer the wars dragged on. Until here, on this day, he stood to bring them together at the moment of their deepest, most desperate need. He had come to offer a solution, to help the world see that this too could come to a peaceful end. He would see the hurting and the broken restored, and he would create a world that was better than the one his fathers had left behind. What better way to create lasting change, than massive death with no gain? He smiled to himself, took the microphone, and began…

Credit : Olivia Neece

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