Flash Fiction Challenge- The Man in the Mirror

The challenge was to write a 1000 word ghost story. I’m a little over at 1079, but I think that still qualifies. Warning- this story was intended to be scary. If you don’t like things that are scary, you probably won’t like it.

Consider yourself forewarned.

The Man in the Mirror

Eustace Clarence had been a thin man with the sort of mustache that belonged on a recruitment poster. Everything about him had shouted military in a quiet, dignified way.

That was the way he had been. As he examined his features in the mirror, he found them quite changed.

His eyes were wild and darting. His precise mustache was gone, replaced by a wild growth of stubble and hair. His tailored suit had been exchanged for a white straightjacket.

There was nothing quiet or dignified about him now.

He saw his visitor enter.

“I was expecting you to drop by,” Eustace said.

“How have you been?”

Eustace shrugged. “Not well. But one can’t expect world-class treatment in an asylum, can one?”

“No, I suppose not.”

“I want to tell you the story,” Eustace said. “You know most of it, of course, but I’d like to tell you anyway. You’re the only one who might believe it.”

The man nodded. “If you think that would help.”

“Yes, I think it might.” Eustace paused, gathering his scattered thoughts. “It all began about a fortnight after I returned from the war…”

I lay in my bed, tossing and turning. I wouldn’t normally admit that, but, well, I have little dignity left to preserve.

I’d seen it in other men, but I’d told myself that they were weak, that a strong-willed man wouldn’t break so easily. I told myself I was made of sterner stuff- a true officer of the empire.

I was wrong.

In my dreams, I was back in Europe, back in those trenches. The fog was pouring over us and the bullets were roaring through the air. The dead were everywhere. Their unseeing eyes stared up at me.

In my dreams, they weren’t just dead. They reached up for me with cold hands, grasping at my feet, at my hands, at everything. They pulled me down, down into the mud….

I would wake up covered in sweat. It drenched my clothing, my sheets- everything.

Sometimes, I’d wake up screaming.

I’m sorry. That’s- It isn’t particularly relevant. It just- it feels good to talk. To tell someone. I hope you understand.

This particular night- this night when it all began- I woke up with a scream to wake the dead. It took a moment of stone-cold reality to bring me back to my senses, to tell me that I was safe in my home, not back in the trenches.

I don’t know what possessed me to go over to my drawer, to open it. My medal was lying there on top of the socks. Just lying there.

I picked it up, turned it over in my hands. It shone so brightly, catching the reflection of the electric light bulb. That light bounced into my eye, flooded it with brilliance.

I blinked. The glare was too much for me.

But in that moment- right as I blinked- I thought I saw it, standing in the corner of the room, just… just watching.

It was the shape of a man, but it was like no human being I’ve ever seen. It was a solid black. Not just dark-skinned, mind you, actual black, black like midnight and coal. The face was black. The hands- more like claws- were black. Those knife-like fingernails were black too.

Everything was black except the eyes. They were white, bright as the moon.

It was a nightmare-thing. A monster.

My vision cleared and I spun around, staring at the corner.

It was gone.

Just my imagination. That’s what I told myself.

It was a nice, easy lie.

I put the medal back and tried to get some sleep.

I saw it again the next day when I was at my writing desk. I was scribbling away some letter- I can’t remember to who. My pen had run out of ink and I was about to get some from the inkwell when I looked up at the window.

It was there, reflected in the glass. Not doing anything. Just there.

I dropped my pen, stood up, turned around.

There was nothing.

My imagination, I decided. The war. Only temporary. Soon be right as rain.

I looked back at the window.

It was still there in the glass, reflected as clearly as anything else in the room. Still there in the glass.

I fell to the floor, knocking over the inkwell on my way down.

It shattered, black splattering over the dark red carpet.

The maid- Molly- she came rushing in at once. She pestered me with questions, but I didn’t give her any answers.

I looked at the window. The thing in the reflection was gone.

I saw it more and more frequently- always in reflections. It was on the side of the teapot, inside the spoon, on the barrel of my gun, in the polished wood bannister of the staircase.

It was always in the house, always in reflections. It was never there when I turned around.

I didn’t know if I was imagining it or if it was there. I didn’t know who to talk to.

How do you say a thing like that without seeming mad? How?

The staff noticed my behavior. I heard them whispering when I was out of earshot, gossiping away about their mad master.

I could see it in their eyes as they walked past- that fear. That concern.

None of them mentioned it to me, of course. It wasn’t their place.

Then came the night when I woke up to another scream. This time, it wasn’t mine. It was a woman’s, high and shrill.

I ran as fast as I could, my dressing gown trailing behind me.

Molly was lying on the bathroom floor when I came in- perfectly still. I reached down, felt for a pulse.

She was dead.

I looked up at the bathroom mirror and saw it there, the dark shape. Its night-black face split in a blood-red smile.

It walked away, out of frame.

They found me sitting there with the body.

The police didn’t take long to make their judgment. Man comes back from the war not quite right. Found with dead woman.

It doesn’t take Mr. Holmes to make the leap, now does it?

So they put me in here.

“So tell me?” Eustace asked. “Am I mad?”

The blood-red mouth split open as the dark figure in the mirror spoke. “Would you believe me if I told you?”

“No,” Eustace muttered. “No, I suppose not.”

If you enjoyed this story, check out some of our other posts. If you really enjoyed it, please consider buying a longer piece of short fiction, Spiral: A Death Foretold, available for only 99¢ on Kindle or FREE with Kindle Unlimited.

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