Black Petals Issue #93 Autumn, 2020

The Mirror
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Justin Alcala: A Horse for Us All-Fiction
Matthew Penwell: Bless Be Him-Fiction
Shiloh Simmons: Coffin Birth-Fiction
John Cox: Don't Teach Cats Latin-Fiction
Ken Hueler: I, Said the Fish-Fiction
R. A. Busby: Not the Man I Married-Fiction
Jude Clee: Notes from a Bathroom Stall-Fiction
M. W. Moriearty: Scarecrows-Fiction
Robert Masterson: Sharper Than She Ever Imagined-Fiction
Michael Steven: The Mirror-Fiction
Kevin Hawthorne: The Song-Fiction
Marlin Bressi: The Man on the Box-Fiction
Terry Riccardi: Winter Hunt-Fiction
Stephen J. Tillman: Angry Tammy-Flash Fiction
Andreas Hort: Pay the Price!-Flash Fiction
Sam Clover: Piety and Parm-Flash Fiction
Deisy Toussaint: Parasite in the Shadows-Flash Fiction
Outnumbered-Flash Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Mickey Sloan: Basement Beldam-Poetry
Daniel G. Snethen: Grandmother Screamed-Poetry
Daniel G. Snethen: Pumpkin Tanka-Poetry
Daniel G. Snethen: Yellow Death-Haiku
Theresa C. Gaynord: The JuJu Man-Poetry
Theresa C. Gaynord: The Widow Paris-Poetry
Theresa C. Gaynord: Funeral at the Louisiana Bayou-Poetry
Theresa C. Gaynord: The Old Hag-Poetry
Loris John Fazio: Halloween Prayer-Poetry
Marilyn Lou Berry: My Darling, My Sustenance-Poetry
Chris Collins: Nature-Poetry

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Art by Darren Blanch 2020

The Mirror

 

Michael Steven

 

An empty room sits holding only one object, a mirror. Like a box the mirror holds many things, in fact it would be more appropriate to call it a doorway.

I have opened a window into myself, or perhaps far beyond my mind’s capacity, so deep down I have come out the other side skipping across the stars. The thought of this excites my nerves but scares me if it’s true. I sit naked, legs crossed, staring at my reflection. The room blackens as I focus in. My head ablaze as euphoria cascades over my brain. My heart flutters as the darkness hugs my chest. I can feel I am there, the mirror and I have bonded.

The ceiling pulses with every beat of my heart, a slow thump, for I am terrified but also in a relaxed trance. The walls splinter, revealing a red glow that shines across my pale skin.

Behind the walls, shadows of men and women run and dance causing the light between the cracks to flicker in the room. My body is here but my soul is on a journey through the heavens, walking among the ghosts of my past.

Is it salvation or damnation? My mind cannot decipher the difference.

The mirror drags its nails over my brain and I am back cross-legged and naked staring into the mirror’s abyss. My reflection has abandoned me, leaving in its place a crimson tide ,crashing the shore of my childhood lake house. In all my life, this is a place I truly loved.

Like a movie, the mirror’s image slides through an open window to reveal the characters.

The scene, my sister’s birthday, candles lit and everyone singing around the dinner table.

I can see my younger self, must have been around fourteen, asking mom if I can go to the lake with my friends. She returns a sharp look telling me to wait until after cake. I remember this day quite clearly, my buddy Pete and I went fishing off the dock and Regan spent her birthday weekend sick in her room. The camera flashes back to the make-a-wish moment with Dad’s hands fixed on her shoulders as she blows out the candles. His fingers hanging, looking odd and out of place, grow long and bite into her tiny shoulders. I can smell smoke rising off the extinguished candles and the air tastes of a wish that never came true.

My brain pulses against my skull as the mirror sweeps over my thoughts. I feel like a trespasser.

In my own mind’s eye, the hair on my skin dances as the feeling of an evil eye washes over me, urging me to retreat. I am unwanted and someone knows I have gazed behind the veil. Could the mirror hold the key to Regan’s broken life? No matter how hard we tried, the needle always found its way back into her arm. Every time Dad tried to shake her out of the haze she only fell deeper in the pocket of depression. The hope in Regan’s eyes finally burnt out when her closest friend and strongest shoulder died, her Mom. I desperately want answers, the mirror warps its hands around my thoughts and begins to squeeze. Ecstasy seeps through and drips down my spine. The mirror now reflects a door, a door I recognize.

Will I find answers or simply more questions? I suppose the latter. A woman can be heard crying from beyond and although I had heard that sound only a few times before, I knew the cries belonged to my mother. The door begins to bow outward, pregnant with dark family secrets. My eyes fixed on the doorknob as if I could reach out and touch it, fear creeps in but my need for answers is greater. I reach out, grab and twist allowing the door to swing inward.

My mother sitting on the edge of her bed with her head in her hands sobbing and screaming.

“Why, how could I have let this happen” She says, tears pooling on the floor.

Dad floats behind her, fishing line and hooks embedded into every joint of her milky skin.

The puppet master pulls on every string. Mom’s eyes burst open, her mouth becomes a horrific grin, blood pours from every puncture wound staining her white dress. The string master pulls again, forcing her to stand. Her skin is pulled back, stretched over her skull. He the puppeteer and her the dummy. Regan can be heard crying down the hall. Blood curdling screams for help, begging for anyone to save her. The great deceiver forces the dummy to walk, tugging each string in perfect order. Mom reaches the hallway door and slams it, cutting off Regan and returning me to the room, the mirror and silence.

A dead soulless man lived behind those eyes. How could I not see him for what he was? When he said I was his favourite and everyone would shake their heads, was it out of disgust?

Why was I spared this monster’s torment? These are questions I fear I will never learn the answer to. My mother and sister destroyed behind closed doors, left to fill the void with suicide and substance abuse. I can still see mom swinging from the rafters, a dead head on a broken neck and Regan with a dirty needle sticking out of her arm. I was not just a kid, I should have known better, I could have cut the strings, taken Regan and ran, ran as far away as we could so she wouldn’t have to numb the pain.

The mirror’s tentacles explore every valley of my brain like a parasite festering in my head.

I have gazed into the clockwork of the universe and it knows what I desire most. The mirror and I have a deeper bond than any marriage, no family could ever feel what we both do now, we are blood brothers of the deepest kind. A dark hallway appears, so dark it radiates blue.

The scene moves forward until a door appears lit with an under glow from the bedroom beyond.

The mirror projects Regan’s bedroom. The previous soft colors are now blackened like a diseased lung. Her room, once an innocent playground is now a prison for her body and mind, a life sentence she will never escape. Regan terrified, she hides her face under the covers, shielding her eyes from the intruder. Dad drools as he inches closer to the innocent. Puddles form at his feet, his jaws snap shut and bare sharp teeth. He is a rabid dog out for young blood.

I’m shaking, not out of fear but out of anger. I can no longer be witness, a bystander to evil.

She needs me and I will not let her down again.

If I step through will I descend into madness? What if my brain collapses and my inner light burns out like a dying star? It wouldn’t matter. All I have known before this moment was a lie, a web of lies spun to hold victims in place. I have weighed my options and step through.

 I fumble my way down the dark hallway until I reach Regan’s bedroom door, I push it open.

The tormentor stands above her bed, snapping and grinding his teeth, savouring every terrifying moment. We have locked eyes, my chance to flee is no longer an option. I step forward, showing no sign of intimidation. We inch close, Dad’s arms flex and we collide like two gorillas, chest to chest, the battle begins. Dad’s nails dig deep into the meat of my back as I catapult his body into Regan’s dresser. I stand firm clenching my teeth as blood streams down my back. The beast climbs to his feet regaining his balance. Dad lunges forward, teeth snapping at the air. My hands lock around his neck as we both stumble into the closet, thrashing around fighting for position.

“Run Regan, run!” I say.

Paralyzed with fear, she holds her ground.

“Run to the mirror Regan, hurry!”

As if I uttered the secret password, a bolt of lightning brings her to life. She tosses off the bed sheets and sprints for the door. I hold tight to the drooling monster to ensure her escape.

She flees and disappears into the dark. I stick my thumbs deep into his eye sockets until blood hits my face, his eyes crush like grapes. Dad falls back howling in agony. I leap to my feet and begin to run. Dad reaches for my legs, sensing I am close but is unable to seize the opportunity. I am gone, long gone and tearing down the hall so fast my legs can barely keep up.

I see Regan vanish through the mirror and into my world. Dad is now in the hall giving chase. Clawing and shredding the walls as he runs down his only son. I turn and go, not looking back until I crash onto the floor on the other side of the mirror.

It’s a place I have never seen but also a place I know far too well. My head whirls in confusion.

A flash flood of images attack my eyes. Memories of Regan lying in a forgotten alley shooting junk into her system are now replaced with her going off to college, getting married, and laughing so hard her stomach hurts. This makes tears well up in my eyes. I have shaken hands with the devil and every deal has a consequence. Needle marks run up and down my arm like railroad tracks. Forty pounds lighter my eyes sink deep into my head. Images of my father’s abuse consumes my every thought. My eyes dart back and forth searching for the next hit. I bend forward and long scars on my back pull tight, but like a word on the tip of my tongue I cannot quite recall why they are there.

 

Michael Steven on himself: I have always wanted to give writing a real try and have decided it was time to give it a shot. I have been writing and trying to improve my story telling for the past year now and although I have had no publications in that time I do feel that I am improving in the craft with each story I produce. I have no background or post education merits in writing in fact I did not even finish a single English class in high school. I do hope to one day be published but more importantly I enjoy the process of writing and storytelling.

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