The Lady in the Looking Glass
Reflections of fear
The mirror shows a reflection that's not my own - yet somehow I'm surprised, but unafraid. Perhaps I've been living with fear for so long that I'm immune.
But the lady in the looking glass looks terrified. Her mild blue eyes stare back in shock.
I blink, and she's gone.
Quickly, my mind tries to rationalize. I've been day dreaming or half asleep, or maybe partying too hard. I hadn't been sleeping well anyway, the last few weeks.
The problem with these theories is that I feel wide awake, I haven't partied in weeks, and it's not the only peculiar thing going on in my apartment.
Everything's off kilter. A terrible sense of wrong has been seeping in. For days, maybe even weeks now.
That's one part of it, my sense of time is slipping. I can't seem to quite recall the when to the what. When I try too hard to focus on the material my memory becomes - slippery.
It's so hard to pinpoint, but there's a sense of something deeply amiss. Askew. In what used to be my comfortable and cozy apartment.
Things aren't where I put them, objects seem out of place, unfamiliar. I feel uncomfortable and unsafe, where I should feel most at ease.
And then there's the sensation of being watched.
My skin starts to prickle. The air shifts. The silence gathers like a shroud around me.
I turn, my breath quickening in my throat and see...
Dust dancing in the grey sunlight, filtering through the seemingly eternal dusk.
I've started to wonder if I'm getting unwell again.
When I look straight at it in the bathroom mirror, the bathtub seems solid enough.
But when my eyes lock on my own gaze, everything around the periphery starts to shimmer. Disturbingly. Corners shift slyly. The world becomes - slippery.
It's set high and deep, and can be tricky to get into.
All the more reason to be petrified when I felt a push at my back as I tried to climb in just the other day.
It knocked the air out of me, I wobbled; if I hadn't been holding tight onto the faucet, I'd have fallen.
So I'm no longer bathing daily. I can't recall the last time I bathed properly.
This is doing nothing to improve my sense of self. Of normality. I'm getting used to my own grim odor.
I've been trying to work from home for the last few days, because though I'm so uncomfortable here now, the thought of leaving fills me with terror. My anxiety is sky high, I can't bring myself to turn the door handle to the street.
Am I becoming a shut in? Has working from home turned me into a hermit?
Time and again I find myself with my hand on the front door knob, and then turn away, defeated.
I try to find solace within my own four walls, but there is none to be had.
And the nights, oh the nights.
Dark and Sly Shadows Shifting
In the dark, shadows shift slyly.
I toss and turn in my cold, dank bed, and drift off into some semblance of sleep only to hear a whisper, a voice, a low murmur, jerking me awake.
Sitting up, terrified, heart hammering in my chest I cry out to the empty rooms "Who's there?!"
And am immediately drowned in a cold and dreadful silence.
Worse, somehow than the whispers. A waiting, expectant hush.
I feel so bitterly alone, all the people I thought were my friends have deserted me.
My family and I are long estranged, so my friends are my lifeline - my lifeblood even.
And yet I've left countless messages, but nobody's bothered to contact me for what seems like forever.
The last voicemail had been from Jane "Hey Suze, I need that jacket back for Friday night k babes?" Not exactly a font of sympathy or care.
What the hell is going on?
It's as though my own home, and my own life, don't want me anymore.
I have been discarded.
I'm weary, defeated and afraid all the time.
Just yesterday I found myself thinking - Is this how going mad feels?
I have to change things. If I could just change one thing.
Maybe if I could convince myself to open that front door.
Rachel and John
"That's it John, we have to sell!" came the urgent, despairing cry.
John rolled his eyes, what the hell was it this time? More voices calling "Who's there?!" He strolled nonchalantly into the bathroom. They'd already had this discussion a hundred times and he was determined not to give in to her latest attack of the vapors.
"Honey" he began in that syrupy reasonable voice Rachel had come to despise "You know..."
"Yes" his wife snapped "I do know. We got this place at a steal because of the - circumstances..." She winced, and then continued.
"And I know you think I'm imagining things. But I'm not!"
Her voice was starting to fray around the edges, becoming shrill with fear. Before he could say another word she took a deep breath and plunged in.
"I just saw a fucking ghost, John. In the mirror."
His eyebrows shot up.
"Yes, John", she nearly hissed "An actual ghost. Not just whispers, not just phantom feelings of being watched. I. Saw. Her."
Rachel started to cry. "She was looking back at me", and her eyes winced towards the mirror.
"I saw her, and oh God John. Oh God. She SAW ME TOO."
Moved by her distress, her husband wrapped his arms instinctively around her. He glanced uncomfortably at the mirror.
"Honey" he offered, hesitantly, "I've had a thought. Listen, what if we tried something a little - out of the ordinary..."
The priest arrived to offer a blessing. Half an hour after he left, the witch turned up to cast a ritual of cleaning. John was a believer in covering all bases, but he didn't see the point in telling one practitioner about the other. No sense in upsetting either of them.
He was still absolutely positive it was all in his wife's mind. But if it helped, he was willing to try anything at this point.
If only he hadn't told her about that poor girl.
I glance in the mirror one last time. The eyes gazing steadily back at me are mine.
It's always so dark now in this apartment now. So drab and grey.
Shadows shift, memories haunt me, the air is heavy as misery wraps itself around me.
Something is very wrong, I know that now. I've stopped trying to pretend any of this is normal.
I'm going to try to open the front door. It's darker and heavier than I remember, but I have to try.
I wipe away a useless tear. I'm frightened.
I can't shake the feeling that there's something behind that door that I've never seen before.
But oh I'm so very tired of being afraid.
I want to leave this place where the sun never rises and where sighs and whispers are my only companions.
A painting on the wall catches my eye as I drift towards the front door. A priest, in his cassock, holding a bible. I don't remember seeing it before. But it doesn't matter. None of this matters.
Concentrate. One foot in front of the other.
I feel a push from behind, but this time also a woman's voice gently chanting and the smell of sage.
They want me gone. I can feel it.
I reach the door. Reach out a hand. I take a breath.
As the priest continued his incantation, John suddenly flinched and cried out.
An almost inaudible sound had shimmered in the air for one brief second. He smelled blood, and perfume, and the sudden crackle of ozone.
He met his wife's startled gaze as the front door flew open.
For a moment, a darkness filled up the doorway. And then the door closed. Gently.
Rachel started to weep with relief, and with a profound sense of grief for something, or someone lost.
For a moment, a shimmering glow fills up the doorway.
I feel it ebbing out of me - the terrible sense of sorrow, loss and grief for all that I was and now will never be.
It all falls away behind me. I rise to the hope and expectation of what is beyond that door and feel the weight lifting. Lifting.
I will be welcomed.
I walk through, closing the door gently behind me.
About the Creator
Alison Tennent - The Celtic Chameleon
Just open your veins and write.
Find me on Substack https://celticchameleon.substack.com/
Beautifully done. The two perspectives are tied together perfectly.