The Thing in the Mirror
by DJ Tyrer
“Wh-?” mumbled Jack as he looked up from the sink. For a moment, he thought he’d seen…something in the mirror: a sort of long, dark shape that twitched. He blinked his bleary eyes and decided it must’ve been his hair flopping as he lifted his head.
He remembered to spit and turned to reach for the hand towel to wipe his lips and, again, caught the dark twitching movement at the corner of his eye. He turned back. No, just him.
“I must get you cut,” he said, flipping back the section of fringe that was to blame. He left the bathroom and headed to his bedroom to finish getting ready.
* * *
“You okay?” called John from the other side of the cubicle wall.
“Uh, yeah. Spilt my damn coffee.”
That was true, but that wasn’t why he’d sworn. As he sat down, he was almost certain he’d seen something in the reflection of his screen. He’d jumped. His nerves were jangly: on his way into work, he’d caught movement on the edge of his vision in window reflections and the shiny bonnet of a car. It was ridiculous!
Jack took a pair of scissors from his desk drawer and gave his fringe a rudimentary trim.
Only, that didn’t seem to work: he went into the men’s and, as he washed his hands, thought he saw something twitching in the corner of the mirror. As he raised his head, it was still there.
He watched for a moment: it was as if he were looking into a fish tank in which some weed was agitated by the pump. Then, he blinked and it was gone.
Heading back to his desk, Jack saw John coming towards him between the corridors.
“Hey, you okay?” John said, stopping dead. “You look ill.”
“Um, I’m not sure,” mumbled Jack.
John planted a hand on his shoulder and said, “Right, I’m buying you a coffee and you can tell me all about it.”
The stuff the vending machine vomited into the plastic cup that was laughably called coffee, tasted vile, but Jack was grateful for the chance to unburden himself.
He told John what he’d been seeing.
“At first, I thought it was my fringe, but I cut it off.”
“Oh, I thought it was a snazzy new haircut.”
“Very funny.” He almost chuckled, then his face clouded again. “But, I’m still seeing it—like, I dunno, seaweed waving in the corner of my eye.”
John sucked his lip for a moment, then said, “Sounds a bit like those bits people get floating in their eyes. You should make an appointment to get your eyes checked, make sure it ain’t anything serious.”
“Good idea.” He swallowed the dregs of his drink, said, “Cheers for the help,” and headed back to his cubicle to call his optician.
* * *
It was getting worse–and he was beginning to think it was nothing an optician could help with.
The something he kept seeing in the mirror was very definitely a thing. He was seeing black tentacles—he couldn’t think of a better word to describe them–twitching up and down behind the glass in the mirror. He could see them as clearly as he could see his own reflection—the reflection they appeared to caress.
“I’m going mad,” he told himself and headed for the phone to call for help.
* * *
Cutbacks meant that even when he’d spoken to his GP, it took weeks for a referral to a psychiatrist.
“It might be a bit quicker if you were a threat to yourself or others,” his GP had said with a shrug.
Jack wondered how long you could suffer such weirdness before you decided to do something desperate. He’d got rid of all his mirrors, along with his TV and anything else reflective, and kept his curtains pulled tight, just in case. He avoided going out if he could—he was burning through his sick days and was relying on his old Mum to bring food round. His entire life was on hold.
“I just want to get back to normal,” he told the psychiatrist when finally he saw him.
“Well, that’s what I want to help you achieve,” he replied.
Unfortunately, it seemed his idea of helping him involved long-term goals and the provision of anti-depressants.
“Let’s see if they can get you in the mood to get back out into the world,” he beamed, as if it were depression keeping Jack at home, not fear.
Jack trailed out of his office, desperately attempting not to look at any reflective surfaces: the thing was bigger than his own reflection now and its tentacles appeared to be wrapped all about it.
“I’m mad,” he muttered as he walked along the High Street and wasn’t surprised when passers-by looked at him as if he were. They could tell, he was certain.
It started to rain, as if the world felt walking home feeling as he did needed a soaking to complete it.
Slowly, sodden, he stumbled on, wondering if the psychiatrist could help him at all.
A car sped past him and sent a spray of water over him. Jack turned and swore after it. Then, with a shock, he looked down and realised he was beside a large, agitated puddle. Something moved beneath the ripples. He knew he ought to look away but couldn’t, just stood as if transfixed: he could see the thing entwining itself about his reflection.
Then, there was an explosion of water as if another car had struck the puddle and black tentacles shot out and seized hold of him.
Jack only had a moment to struggle and didn’t even get to utter a scream before he was pulled forwards and dragged beneath the water, vanishing into his own reflection. Then, the water was still and showed only the dark, cloudy sky high above it.
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DJ Tyrer is the person behind Atlantean Publishing and has been widely published in anthologies and magazines in the UK, USA and elsewhere, including Chilling Horror Short Stories (Flame Tree), State of Horror: Illinois (Charon Coin Press), Steampunk Cthulhu (Chaosium), Tales of the Black Arts (Hazardous Press), Ill-considered Expeditions (April Moon Books), and Sorcery & Sanctity: A Homage to Arthur Machen (Hieroglyphics Press), and in addition, has a novella available in paperback and on the Kindle, The Yellow House (Dunhams Manor).