Before I go into great detail of the worst nightmare I’ve ever been unfortunate enough to star in, I need to explain from where it stemmed. The roots of that horrible night are embedded in my mind, and to understand it, you must understand its origin.
Mirrors are curious things; I’ve always maintained an odd sort of fascination with them, given their silent role in humanity’s daily processes. They’re one of the first things we see when we wake up, barely able to greet the world, and almost always the last thing we look into before we take the plunge into darkness known as sleep.
They see us at our best; get that promotion you’ve been waiting for and I guarantee that you’ll pass by a mirror, surprised at the happiness that is reflected back.
They also see us at our worst; lose a loved one, get your heart ripped from your chest by a cheating lover, you’ll need only glance in the mirror to witness the hollows of your cheeks, your sunken red eyes, to realize just how broken you really are.
There is a near feeling of intimacy when you make eye contact with another person in a mirror; it is as if the window to the soul really exists, and you’re looking right at it.
Seven years bad luck if one breaks, never look into one while near candlelight; superstitions abound, and yet they show us not who we pretend to be, but who we really are in the harsh light of day. It was all of this idle musing that paved the road to hell for me that night.
I stood before a mirror, as I had done countless times before, staring deeply into my own eyes.
“Mirror, mirror, on the wall,” I joked, smirking at how ridiculous I probably sounded, and happy that I was, at that moment, alone. It was when I glanced up that I realized my reflection wasn’t smiling back. In fact, I had never seen myself look so ragged, so tortured. To please that cruel god known as curiosity, I leaned forward, meeting my eyes in a way I had never done before.
And then my mirror self spoke, the surprise being mine alone.
The voice was wretched, presenting as wet, violent gagging sounds; scratchy from what could have only been from years of misuse, it was as if my eardrums were being run through with barbed wire. My skin crawled, my stomach lurched. The only response my body could properly muster was the slight prickling of tears as I mourned involuntarily for this pitiful creature. I strained to hear what was being said, placing my ear against the glass. And then it began, in spurts and gasps.
“You’re too curious. You’re getting too close.”
I pulled away, my eyebrows knitting together tightly in confusion. The look of desperation that I was met with was enough to force my ear to the glass once more.
“I’m on this side to save you, to keep you from walking through. You don’t want to be on this side. Stay where you are, curb your curiosity. Unless you’re interested in a taste of this side? Flames licking at your feet, blisters and sores on every inch of your body. The lashings that cause blood to flow and skin to peel. Is that what you want?”
“What—what is this? No, I don’t want any part of it!” I backed up quickly, my face, the face reflected back, contorted into a look of sheer terror, enough to rip a scream right from my throat.
And that’s how I woke up; a scream lodged in my throat, a sheen of sweat covering my body. I kicked away the sheets and stood up, a meager attempt to catch my breath and collect my bearings.
A nightmare. That was all. A ridiculous nightmare brought on by idle musings. I walked robotically towards the bathroom and flicked the light switch. My reflection was there, but it was without a doubt the real me. I chuckled nervously, ignoring the slight hitch, and leaned forward onto the sink. A nightmare, a series of dream images; it wasn’t real. I had made the entire thing up, of that much I was sure.
Until I heard the screams.
Until I felt the flames.
Until I watched my reflection leave the room.
Credit: Justine Ward