The Thing in the Mirror


A short story by Nathan R. Carlsen

Mike got home late, his room mates weren't back yet, all the lights off and not a sound to greet him.  Sid was most likely out with friends, Andy probably still working in the lab at school. Mike liked it that way sometimes; quiet, peaceful.  He slipped off his shoes, hung up his jacket and headed to the bathroom.  He didn't plan on "unwinding" like he did most nights.  He was tired and wanted to head strait to bed.   

He unzipped, flipped the toilet lid up, kicked the door shut and flipped the light on: in that order.  He zipped up, although, knowing he'd unclothe himself shortly to take a shower, he never liked brushing his teeth partially or fully in the nude.

Mike opened the medicine cabinet to fetch his tooth brush, a normal one, with a normal brush, with normal tooth paste.  He didn't buy into all the mechanical heads and fancy things that tooth paste adds claimed.  He didn't like so many choices, so he kept his own simple.   

He ran his tooth brush under the tap (quickly pondering why it was he always needed cold water on his tooth brush before the paste, not after and certainly not without)  and peered into the mirror.

He looked at his eyes, noticed that if he angled his head down and looked up underneath his prominent brow, he looked quite menacing, looked like a man to be taken seriously.  Then, if he lifted his head, looked at himself squarely, curled the left corner of his lips up, he could looked quite innocent, perhaps even... cute.  (He quickly denied it and stuck with the menacing look).

He squeezed some paste out, using the brush to wipe it off, set the tube down and brushed his teeth.  He looked at himself in the mirror again and as he brushed the odd thought that had entered his mind a month prior returned.  It was the thought there was something more to life, something deeper than what could be seen.

He knew most of the theories, beliefs and religions.  None of them sounded all that interesting (at least what he knew about them) but all of them sounded more interesting than the monotonous drone and din of human existence.  He knew there had to be something more, he could feel it, but didn't know what.

He finished brushing, returned the brush under the tap, rinsed it then rinsed his mouth with the recently rinsed brush.  He didn't know why he chose to rinse his mouth this way, just always had.  

The thought returned to him again, only this time something came with it.  He thought something was trying to warn him.  Some unfamiliar voice he didn’t know the source of. Not audible, but clearly not of his own conscious thought rose to the surface of the convoluted mutterings of his own mind.

Like any cliche’ description of creepiness, the hair on his arms lifted, he could feel the skin on his entire body, his epidermis (the largest organ in/on the body) was acutely aware of some eminent danger. He didn't know who was warning him or what. Thought it was probably not some psychic, masked super hero watching over him from the shadows of his unspectacular apartment.

He could feel it, though, thick in his bathroom, both of them; the one being the danger, the dark menacing thing that was hiding, waiting; the other the warning that came from something good, something bigger, stronger, hopeful.

He stopped everything, put his tooth brush down, looked to the floor and listened.  Nothing stirred, no noise came.  He let his breathing slow and noticed again the hum of the inside of his head, the static of the un-noise.  He thought this could possibly be the blood rushing through his veins in his brain, or even the electrical storm of his brain itself firing a billion times a second, storing and accessing information faster than any hard drive or processor.

He closed his mouth and breath only through his nose to quiet himself and listen.  His hands flattened out a bit, parallel to the bathroom floor, feeling for...something.  Mike imagined, or sensed, the approach of a darkness he’d only experienced in the most dreadful and horrifying movies.  The one’s where the bad guy always wins and the innocent are tortured and killed, or worse.  He could feel it in his feet, a kind of warmth with a sting to it, though subtle, easily ignored if one wished.

He waited still, knowing that if someone walked in at this very moment, he'd look like a complete idiot, staring down at the floor standing in front of the sink, doing absolutely nothing.

Then he heard a sound.  It was so loud compared to the complete silence, that, at first, he had absolutely no idea what it was.  But after only a fraction of a microsecond, Mike's amazing brain sent a request to the exact spot where it stored all the sounds that most likely exist in a bathroom.  For less than a fraction of a second, Mike's brain got confused and thought the sound was perhaps a large multi-armed demon monster with incredibly sharp teeth and a hunger for average men in their mid twenties.

But Mike's brain quickly recognized this error and corrected its mistake by finding the correct sound; a drop of water dripping from the shower head and onto the floor.


Mike understood now, that it wasn’t the sound itself that reminded him of a monster, for it was only the drip of water.  But his increasingly unreliable imagination created the thought and scared him by mistaking one of the most tame and innocent substances on the planet for a creature with a hunger for humans and was, of course, considerably less frightening than the possibility of a multi-armed demon monster.  But, unfortunately, it also reminded him of the shower and the fact that he could not see beyond the curtain, where, coincidentally, a particularly quiet multi-armed demon monster could be hiding.

Therefore, because of his continued thought of danger AND the warning, he felt he must investigate the shower.  This meant, however, that he must pull back the shower curtain. It seemed a lot closer to him than before.  If anything WERE hiding behind the curtain, it wouldn’t take much for it to reach out for him.  Mike took one step back and quietly found the sink with his backside, not much room to escape. The many scenes of horror movies where just such a simple act had been performed and something horrible hidden behind it, did not elude his distrustful imagination.  He realized he had been holding his breath for a second. He slowly let it out his nose and took a breath again, calming himself.

Further more, the problem of HOW to pull back the curtain presented itself.  Do it quickly or slowly?  Slowly would only alert any foe that might be waiting behind it.  Quickly, though, and the problem of the proximity of himself to the shower was still at issue.

But there was nothing in the bathroom to offer an extended reach save the plunger...and he knew it had recently been used by his room mate known for his considerable BMs.  Also, Mike thought, pushing back a shower curtain with anything other than one's hand was completely ridiculous.  If said demonic monster must present itself behind his own shower curtain, Mike would rather be torn to shreds and eaten alive with dignity.

Without further thought on the subject, he quickly pulled the curtain back quickly and was suddenly presented with the sight of the hideous state of his shower which three men shared.  Multiple shampoo bottles, some of which were likely empty, soap scum and perhaps mold in places, and someone's hair in the drain, were all characteristics of his shower, these had not changed in quite sometime.  Perhaps the warning of danger was simply that of the dangers of mold had on one's health.  Or the dangers of never gaining or retaining a girlfriend if a female ever discovered the state of said shower.

Mike shook his head, laughing at himself, knowing he would never get back the few seconds of his life he was afraid of his own shower. It was once said that healthy things grew, if that were always true, he decided he'd rather his shower not be healthy.

He turned back, thinking it was all for nothing, bent down below the view of the mirror, took a swig of mouth wash and began swishing it in his mouth.  He brought his head up into the view of the mirror.

At this point, Mike's brain sent a request for the image which would naturally fit the occasion, Mike's face.  

It normally took Mike's spectacular mind not even a fraction of a millisecond to pull up the recognition and image of his own facial structure.  But this time was different.  

The request took a bit longer, it went to the place where Mike kept images of people he knew and didn't find what it was looking for there.  It gave up, went to the place where Mike kept thoughts, realizations, and ponderings of himself, but didn't find it there either.  The request took a different strategy, and instead of looking to the memories of things Mike understood and knew already, it went strait to the eyes themselves and attempted to make do with what they saw.

To Mike's brain's astonishment, the two spherical sensory organs were pointed at what the prior request had mistakenly found; the multi-armed demon monster.

Mike didn't have time enough to do what anyone should do when coming face to face with such a beast (and that is, scream, run or do something productive), he simply raised his eye brows.  He wasn't sure if it was out of fear of the creature or surprise that his face was simply not in the mirror.

But this also turned out to be something of a surprise because the thing reached out for Mike and took hold of him from many places on his body (because, remember, it had multiple arms).

One arm on each shoulder, a third around his neck, another clawing at his belly and another searching for something near the faucet.  Mike briefly pondered the possibility that this multi-dimensional creature had been attacking people from bathroom mirrors for quite sometime. And had, perhaps, learned that sharp objects were sometimes kept near the faucet.  It only seemed natural to Mike that it used one arm to look for a possible weapon he might use against it.  

However, Mike had no sharp object, knife, gun, sword or weapon of any kind to defend himself with.  The claw-hand around his neck had sharp claws only accidental piercing his skin.  He expected it to be slimy, but it was dry to the point of cracking so bad the skin bled a bit when the hand moved too much, peice of skin fell off as it squeezed. It was only a matter of seconds before he blacked out. The head of the beast leaned forward and brought itself close to Mike's face, its body pushing against the frame of the mirror and causing the plaster to crack around it.  If Mike were able to, he would have done what he should have done earlier and screamed.

Then he was somewhere else.  Someplace different.  The warning was still there, but the danger was gone.  He looked around, but didn't see anything.  His brain looked for an explanation but found none.  He saw no boundaries, nothing distinguishing itself from anything else.  He thought for a second that perhaps it was heaven and he had died, but if Heaven did exist, he would hope it might be more interesting than this.

    "What the crap?"  Mike asked no one in particular.

    "You don't like it?"  A voice asked.  Then the voice had a form and defined itself in front of Mike.  It was calm.  That was the only word his brain could describe the source of the voice, calm.

    Then the space had form and definition.  They were in a room, sort of.  No doors or windows, no corners or defined walls, but it wasn't circular either.  Mike felt less uncomfortable, liked understanding the boundaries of his existence.

   "Better?"  The voice asked.

   "Sure."  Mike replied.  He knew he should ask any number of questions.  Like, "Who are you?", and "Where are we?," or "Are you God?" or, "Am I dead," or even "Can I have some candy?", but, to be quite honest, he didn't really feel like it.  He felt quite content with the way things were going, he didn't want to rock the boat.

    "You're special, Mike."  The voice said.

    Mike nodded in agreement.  (In Mike's defense, allow me to ask you this.  What would YOU do if an apparently omnipotent, all powerful being tells you, YOU were special?)

    "You will bring about a great change.  You will save thousands of people, many of them will know me because of it.  This must happen, Mike."

   "Ok."  Mike replied. (again, what would you say?)

    "You must survive."  He said.

   "How?"  Mike asked.

    "Fight.  Fight with everything you have, every ounce of strength and will.  Fight because you're not only fighting for your life, but also the lives of your children you haven't had yet, your wife you haven't met yet, and thousands of others.   You must survive."  

    Mike looked at Him and knew it was Him.  He felt the thought about something more, it started a month before, knew it was HE who put it in his mind.  Knew it was HIM who warned Him, and was now saving him.

    "I will."  Mike replied.

    It wasn't fast, but it wasn't slow either.  He was back in the bathroom, the thing out of the mirror attacking him.  Its gaping maw open wide, saliva dripping from its impossibly long and sharp teeth, positioning itself over Mike's head.

    He didn't have any weapons, he knew that much, and knew that he would likely die in the next second or two, but looking up at those amazingly sharp teeth, he got an idea.

    Not a particularly smart idea, his brain conceded, but it was an idea non the less.  It was all Mike's brain could come up with on such short notice.  It had never sent that kind of request before, "How to defeat a multi-dimensional, multi-armed demon monster with no weapons while being choked to death."  Just not something that comes up all that often.  To his brain's defense, the idea came from an outside source, but it grabbed it as it was the only option.

    Mike jumped up as hard as he could, ramming his head against the beasts teeth on its lower jaw, breaking several.  The thing released Mike with some of its hands, but still holding on with others, and drew back its head.  Mike found a long and sharp tooth stuck in his skull, yanked it out, and stabbed the thing in one of its many arms.

    It screamed a scream of death and hate in Mike's face, but it kept its distance for a second or two.  It completely released him, Mike rubbed his neck and tried to catch his breath.  The mirror darkened, he couldn't see his bathroom in it any longer.  

    A dark, sick, death, growth began to spread from the mirror on the bathroom wall.  It spread to the corners, Mike thought it'd take the whole room, but to Mike's surprise and comfort, it stopped half way.

    The beast looked to the right and left, noticing the growth was stopped by an unseen adversary. This angered the beast, which Mike didn't think was a good thing.  It screamed and roared in Mike's direction, but didn't seem to be directing its anger only at him, but at something standing next to him, and behind.  

    Mike looked around but didn't see much else other than his bathroom.  Then he saw something which Mike's brain was happy to call up the correct reference for: a big freekin' sword.  

    He picked it up, needing two hands to lift its heft and looked at the thing in the mirror with his head down, looking up from underneath his prominent brow, giving it his best menacing look.  His brain sent out a request, trying to find how a person might wield a sword against such a monster, not surpassingly it did not come back with anything.  Mike didn't care, he now had a weapon.

    He stepped to his mirror and thrust out as hard as he could, through the dimensional barrier, into the beasts face.  It dodged Mike's attempt at heroism, turning its head to the side and underneath it.  Suddenly, more arms came at him, but not through the mirror but directly through his wall, from the dark and evil growth.

    Mike swung his sword at one of the massive arms, cleaving it in half.  Again, this made the beast very angry, and instead of releasing its him, it screamed at him all the more, and began coming through the wall, plaster cracking and exploding the old slats and insulation in the century old building.

    "What the hell is that?!" Someone yelled.  Mike took the chance and looked.  Because of the beast coming through his wall, the door had fallen off its hinges and had fallen out, into the apartment.  There stood one of Mike’s room mates, jaw hanging in astonishment.  Mike's brain wondering what his was attempting to do.

    "Andy, help me!"  Mike pleaded.

    "With what?"  Andy asked over the noise of the bathroom being destroyed.

    "Get something to hit it with, I don't know!"  Mike yelled.

    Andy ran off out of site, Mike wondered if he'd ever come back.

     The wall was crumbling, the thing almost all the way through the threshold between the two dimensions and into his bathroom.  Mike tried to cut at another arm, but failed as the beasts tail parried the attack.

    "You said I should fight and live, so I am!  It'd sure be nice to have some help!"  Mike said as he fought the thing.  It pressed through the wall, the mirror falling off and now hanging around the things neck, somehow still showing the other side, the other place.  The monster tore a gigantic hole in his wall and what was revealed was not his roommate’s bedroom, but another world, another place, the smell of suffering and torture, the feeling of sickness and death.  It reminded him of those horrible movies, only this was different.  It wasn't something he could turn off, but real, and encroaching into his bathroom.

    Another idea entered his brain, again, not from within.  As he held off the attacks of the beast, he backed up to where he had dropped one of its teeth.  He held his sword in one hand, not being as heavy as he had thought and wielded the tooth in another.  

    He swung at an arm with the sword, and stabbed at another with the tooth.  The beast could only parry one with its tail.  Mike successfully stabbed an arm which had been trying to get a hold of his left side.  

    Suddenly, Mike was wet and he didn't know why.  It wasn't water, but it was liquid.  His brain sent out a request and didn't get anything back, he'd never felt anything like it.  But he noticed the beast was also wet. He looked and saw Andy spraying everything down in the bathroom with a liquid he had in a canister.

    "What are you doing?"  Mike asked, he noticed the beast looking inquisitively as well.  Andy only smirked, and grabbed another canister and sprayed only Mike with the second one.

    All this was done very quickly, Andy working furiously both to save his friend, but also because he was insanely afraid of the beast.  He then produced an arousal spray can and a lighter.

    In such a moment when one is about to do something heroic it is generally customary to utter an expletive showing one's masculinity.  Andy did just that as he let the flame enter the room.

    In only moments, everything was on fire, save for Mike.  He didn't have time to inquire about the intricacies of the chemicals which were sprayed onto him and the monster, and how it worked that although he himself was sprayed with the same chemical, an added substance prevented him and the walls and floor from catching fire.
    In the moment, he simply accepted it as fact and moved on.  He watched the monster writhe in pain as it pulled itself back into the realm in which it came. 

    But Mike didn't like this.  Something inside him which was not there before the warning, rose to the surface of his being and spoke out.  This was wrong. 

    It was simply wrong that this thing would attack him, be defeated and then crawl back into his bathroom wall.  It was wrong that it be allowed to live past this moment.

    Righteous anger boiled inside of Mike and he knew what he must do.  He stepped towards the creature, dropping its tooth and placing both hands on the hilt of the sword, he wielded it with knowledge and wisdom he had not known before this night.

    Mike thrust the tip of the sword into the bottom jaw of the creature, forcing it through its head and out the top.  At first it released a quiet, dyeing grunt and then was silent and still.  Mike removed the blade, and swung again, cutting its head clean off.

    It fell to the floor, in between the sink and the toilet.  The corpse released its grip on the bathroom wall, the sink, and other objects in the room and fell to the floor as well.  The mirror's glass finally broke at this point, reminding Mike that this was once a functional room in an apartment, and not some portal which allows terrifying creatures through.

    The thing was dead and Mike was alive.  These were good things, Mike's brain decided.  His brain carefully placed the experience and memory into a place that would be easily accessed in case such a situation arose again, but smartly guarded the memory so it wouldn't be the focus of his daily life. One should not be preoccupied with inter-dimensional creatures when doing normal things, like buying groceries, working, or going for a walk.
    "What now?"  Andy asked, after quenching the flame on the beast's carcass.

    "Well, it won't fit in the dumpster."  Mike remarked, mostly joking.

    The smell of the wrongness, death, suffering, lying of the hole in his bathroom began to recede, as did the sight of the other place.  The black encroachment pulled away and swallowed itself, leaving Mike and Andy with only the destroyed bathroom, one wall missing, exposing the next room.

    "I don't think we're getting our deposit back."  Andy said.

    The smell was almost gone, but still lingering, so was the warning.  The wrongness of Mike's apartment, however, was completely gone.

    While still holding the blade, he followed the trail of the stench. 

    "Where are you going?"  Andy asked.

    "Bring your stuff."  Mike said, and opened his apartment door.  The smell was stronger here, in the hallway, and he continued to fallow it past his neighbor’s door, past the next one, but then stopped at the third door from his own and knocked.

    A young woman answered the door, looking tentative about the fact that a man was at her door, and eyeing his sword warily.  But, Mike could also sense that she was also happy to have company.

    "I'm sorry to bother you, but I believe there may be a multi-armed, multi-dimensional demon monster living in your bathroom mirror, and I would like to kill it."

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