I wake in the morning, content and comfortable under the warm covers of my bed. I have a whole week away from work, and I honestly cannot remember the last time I felt so relaxed. I have cut myself off from the world, just for a few days, just so I can have some well-deserved time to myself. I think I deserve that much.
I dreamed of Jennifer last night. It was the best dream I have had in a long time, in fact, I think it may be the only dream I've had in a long time; most of my nights are filled with nothing but empty space and darkness. I wonder where she is… travelling, most likely, but who knows where?
After a good few hours lying in bed, I finally manage to pull myself out from under the heaps of quilts and cushions and head to the kitchen. I allow myself to indulge my craving for waffles. I bathe them in syrup and eat them as if they are about to be taken away from me. My mind wanders back to work, but I quickly shut out the thought, I dare not let thoughts of work interrupt my stress-free holiday.
I make my way to the bathroom; I could really use a nice, hot shower. As I flick on the light switch I notice the room is unnaturally cold. All of the heating is on, and had been left on all night… how could it be cold? It doesn't matter. A shower will soon fix the issue. I take a look at myself in the mirror. My reflection stares back at me. There is something indeterminably odd about my appearance; I don’t quite look like myself. I move away from the mirror a few steps. My reflection stays still.
I feel my heart begin to thrum in my chest, like it is trying to break free of my rib-cage. My throat has gone dry, and I struggle to catch my breath. None of that matters though. I stare at my reflection, and my reflection stares back. In horror, I watch as my mouth utters the words ‘you did this, you son of a bitch’ and the words actually come out. My reflection pulls a gun from somewhere out of the frame and aims at the roof of its mouth. I pull the trigger.
I see my brains erupt from my skull, and fall out of frame; then comes the blood. I watch it creep out from under my hairline and trickle down my forehead and into my eyeballs and my mouth. I can almost taste the bitter tang of copper on my tongue.
This isn't real.
It can’t be happening.
I close my eyes, and when I open them, my reflection is just me again. Just me. I stumble into the shower and attempt to wash away the memory of what I saw.
Later that night, when I return to bed, I don’t dream as usual, but the darkness that comes with sleep is illuminated by flames, and the light shines on a mass of faceless corpses.
I wake up with a headache. My sleep was uneasy, and I woke up several times during the night. I decide to give the bathroom a wide berth for a while; I have a certain, understandable reluctance to visit that particular room today.
I decide to make waffles for breakfast again, in the hope I can find some solace in repetition and routine, and somehow kid the world into believing I wasn't disturbed by what I witnessed. Maybe I just imagined it, maybe I was still dreaming. Like any of it matters. I choke down some aspirin with breakfast and the pain in my head subsides somewhat, but it still lingers there, hidden away behind my eyes.
I know I’m going to have to go to the bathroom. It has to happen at some point. It might as well be now. I slowly open the door, and it responds with a frustratingly eerie creaking noise. I flick the light switch, expecting the worst, but the room is warm, and just like that my anxiety is gone. Still; I haven’t forgotten the mirror hanging from the wall. I make the conscious decision not to look; I will not feed a delusion, or a hallucination, or whatever the hell it was. I turn on the shower and step in, letting the hot water smother me.
By the time I’m finished, everything seems to be back to normal, my fears have subsided at last. I think about Jennifer again, maybe I should give her a call? It couldn't hurt, it might even help… No, I promised myself just a few days free of stress. Jennifer could wait a few more days.
I step out of the shower and unthinkingly look into the steamed up mirror. The image isn't clear, but somehow, that makes it all the more horrifying. I can see myself swinging. A makeshift noose is tied around my neck and I am drifting lazily, side to side. As the condensation clears, the image becomes more and more visible, and more and more grotesque. My face is puffy and disfigured, and purple, my eyes crusty with dried blood. There is bile dribbling from the corner of my swollen mouth and my lips are cracked and dry, the noose itself is digging into my neck and ripping at the flesh there, I notice that the rope is red, stained with my blood.
This isn't real. It CAN’T be real.
I smash my fist into the glass and hear it shatter before I feel the impact. I pull my fist back and throw it at the mirror again. I repeat the motion, over and over, until I am lying on the bathroom floor among the shards of glass, panting, wheezing; breathless. My knuckles are bleeding, but I don’t feel any pain. I’m too in shock to feel any pain.
I manage to pull myself from the bathroom floor, and when I do, I make the decision to call Jennifer. I need her now more than ever. The phone rings, but no-one answers. I try several more times, but in the end I just leave a message. I hope she calls back. I need her to call back.
Sleep. The nightmares are worse tonight. I can see the faces of the corpses now, but I wish I couldn't I can hear screaming, loud; as if it someone has their mouth pressed against my ear, and is wailing at full volume. The worst part? I can’t wake up. No matter how bad it gets. I cannot wake up. Please… I’m begging you. Let me wake up.
Being able to open my eyes is a relief, but only temporarily. The room is swaying. Everything seems to be out of place. Maybe I am just disorientated, or maybe everything had moved, I honestly cannot tell. I am struggling to tell if this is even reality at all, I am awake, but maybe my mind has lingered in the realm of dreams. More like nightmares.
I stumble to the kitchen, and smash several objects on the way, when I finally sit down, the sensation does not die. The thought of food repulses me. Even waffles makes me feel sick to the stomach, I know that if I even try to eat a bite I will immediately throw it back up. I try calling Jennifer again, but I only reach her answer message, where is she? I run my hands through my hair, I have a headache again, and my throat feels drier than it ever did. I grab myself a glass of water, and do my best to drink it, although finding my mouth seems to be something of a challenge. The water helps moisten my throat, but my headache persists, even after I have swallowed an excess of painkillers.
I don’t want to. But I know I have to… it is the only thing that could hold the answer to whatever is going on here, but oddly, I feel strangely eager to see my reflection again, I know he will be waiting for me, like an old friend…
There is another mirror in the hallway. I will have to do it.
My reflection seems normal for a moment, but it doesn't take long for that to change. I watch as I pull a knife from my pocket and bring it to my throat. I slowly slice at my neck, and the blood pours out, spurting, shooting in every direction. My reflection stays standing still, as if nothing had ever happened. I return its dead stare. Then, I hear myself speak, with a rasping, guttural, gurgling voice- a voice which only a man with a sliced throat could possess.
“You did this to me- to us- to yourself.”
“How have I done this?”
“You cursed us.”
“I don’t understand, what have I done to deserve this?”
“You don’t remember, do you?” I hear myself say, “that must be nice- ignorance truly is bliss- allow me to throw light on our situation- we are living a cursed life, we feared death and so we sold our soul so that we could live, but you do not make a deal with the devil lightly, for he will always have the upper hand.”
“What do you mean?”
“You live a normal life until the moment you are most happy, most content, when you feel as though there is no fault with the world- and that is when it starts- that is when the nightmares begin, that is when we appear, and we will not go away until you end it all. If you do not do so, things only get worse, the visions will grow more lifelike with every passing day, the earth will begin to tremble around you, all of your senses will betray you, the people you love most in this world will die, and they will burn, and they will suffer, until you have nothing left in this world, nothing but the vapid darkness of death. Then, once you have killed yourself, you are reborn, and the cycle begins again, but you won’t remember. You wished for immortality- you have it.”
“I never wanted this!”
I see my dead eyes stare back at me with contempt. I realise that there is only one option. I call Jennifer one last time, and leave her a message.
I open my medicine cabinet and take all of the pills I have. I fill another glass with water and begin to swallow them, by the handful, until there are none left. I walk slowly to the mirror, and look at my reflection. I am overwhelmed with self-pity, even though I know I don’t deserve any, and I begin to cry. But it doesn't last long. Soon, I can feel the room slipping away. I watch as my reflection begins frothing at the mouth, and I see my eyes roll to the back of my head. As I fall to the floor I embrace the cold arms of death and promise myself that in my next life I will remember, I will prepare myself for the worse, but I know as life slips away from me that I am only kidding myself, and that salvation is nothing but a fantasy.