The young girl brushed lovingly through her long sleek red hair. She was completely preoccupied with the task at hand, her head tilted to allow the hair to fall curtain like to her shoulder and beyond. Her eyes were unblinking as she stared deep into the antique handled compact mirror before her. Yet she was hardly noticing the features of her face she reflected; it was all about the hair.
It was mid evening and she was preparing for a night out of lager and black, dancing and a good laugh with her friends. The room that she lived in - a tiny square space at the top of a crumbling old Victorian house, long divided into student flats - was in some typical student disarray. A jumble of bra and pants lay over the portable and dusty radio that played Human League to prepare her for the night. She began to hum along to herself now, in keeping with the rhythmic rise and fall of her brush hand as it swept along her hair.
And then she blinked. A slow reflex action that required no thought. When her big blue eyes opened again she suddenly stopped humming, for she noticed something in the mirror reflection. An indistinct dark shape moving...
Moving across her own iris and pupil.
She blinked again. And when she reopened them, her eyes now grew fearful and wide. Her hand dropped the comb, sending it dropping onto the thick carper below in what felt like aching slow motion. She turned around rapidly. There must be someone in the room with her, reflecting deep in her eye from the mirror.
But when she turned around there was no one there. She picked the mirror up and stared deeply, arching her neck as she clambered for a closer inspection. Her nose almost touching the cold surface, frosting from her heavy breaths and shadowing her jaw line and cheeks in a mist of her making. She raised a hand to her eye and yelped in panic and fear. There it was, inside her eye itself. And what was worse, she could now see that it had a face.
She gasped "Oh my God"
There circling across her blue eyes and shifting around in her inky pupil was a skeletal featured apparition wearing a look of abject horror and fascination and more, a look of knowing that it had been discovered. The girl could not help herself, she started to cry. Tears leaking from her eye, the eye that held his unknown creature in captivity. Her gusset began to grow damp too she noted with acute embarrassment. She had wet herself with fear, fear that chilled her to the very bone.
All irregularities will be handled by the forces controlling each dimension.
Transuranic, heavy elements may not be used where there is life.
Medium atomic weights are available;
Sapphire, Silver and Steel.
Sapphire and Steel have been assigned.
Suddenly there was a knock on the door, and she knew she had to pull herself together. Panting heavily with eyes froze wide open she tried desperately to control the raging anxiety within herself. "Who is it please?" she managed to call out in a far from level voice.
"Just a routine inspection" a man's voice replied dully from behind the thick heavily painted wood panelled door.
"A-an-an inspection?" she stammered.
"We shan't keep you long" A different voice this time, a lady. The tone more reassuring, friendly. Positively honeyed.
"It-It's gone eight?" the girl called back, though she didn't know why.
"We won't keep you long" the man answered, a terseness tinged underneath the otherwise emotionless words. "We are here to help" he added, trying for a reassurance that came easily to his female companion.
"Help?" She needed help. Slowly she staggered up from the edge of her bed and walked, as if blind, to the door. When she opened it she was greeted by two well dressed Aryan looking people; male and female. The man in a well cut grey suit with a blue tie and the female in an expensive looking vivid blue dress. They could be brother and sister, was the girl's first thought. But they were too old for students and certainly too elegant for her contemporaries.
"Are you staff here?" she asked, blinking rapidly, the apparition in her eye on her mind. They did not answer. "Maintenance?" she hazarded a further guess. They did after all say something about an inspection? Though from their attire it seemed unlikely.
The blonde woman took a step inside immediately, hand outstretched to the girl's bare arm which hung at her side. Concern etched on the newcomer's pretty and open features "You've been crying. You're upset?" she said as she entered and led the girl back to the side of her bed.
"It-it's nothing. Just a bit of...a bit of grit in my eye, that's all"
"Something in your eye?" the blonde man said, stepping into the room and looking all around. Looking everywhere except at her.
"Show me" said the blonde woman picking up the mirror and taking a seat next to the girl on the bed.
The girl immediately began to back away, hand raised "No-no, it's ok. Honest. It's just-"
"Show her" The blonde man said turning to face her at last. Steel in his voice and manner.
The girl looked up from him and back to the blonde woman, who smiled a warm and comforting smile. It was a smile that put the girl in mid of a nurse she had when she was five and had her tonsils taken out. A smile she simply had to anything for. Slowly she took the mirror from her hand and raised it to her face. Her features were pale and fearful. A small damp trail ran down her upturned lightly freckled cheeks where the tears had fallen. She sniffed up from her nostrils and emitted a juddering, nervous breath.
"Can you see it?"
The blonde woman stared into the mirror alongside her. Her eyes narrow with intense concentration. Finally she nodded "Yes, yes I can see it"
The relief was tangible, the girl literally slumping inwardly. Then, catching her breath, she asked "Is it...is it in my eye?"
"No" the blonde man snapped curtly, towering over both her and his friend "No it's not in your eye. It's in the mirror"
She could not help herself. She laughed. It was a nervous and incredulous gasp of laughter, her eyes rolling as she tilted her head back from it "What? No...how can-what's going on? It's in my eye" she repeated "I can see it!"
She screwed her eyes tight shut, opened them and stared hard in the mirror.
There it was again; scuttling around inside her. She shook her head "Y'see it's reflection...it's in the mirror, just like my face is. And yours, your face" she said, turning to the calm blonde woman seated next to her. Sitting so close her features were also displayed in the compact.
"No" the blonde man said, snatching the mirror from her "You have to believe us. It's in the mirror. It is trapped in the mirror" He stared hard at it "I can see it too"
"How?" the girl wailed looking between the two strangers. Nothing made any sense.
"How?" the blonde woman repeated the query softly. She answered "We see it because we know to look for it"
"Because we put it there" the blonde man said.
The girl could not believe what she was hearing, what she was experiencing. She shook her head, indeed her whole body shook "No. No. What's going on? Who are you?"
"I am Sapphire and this is Steel" The blonde woman said, placing a comforting arm over her shoulder. The girl wanted to shrug it off, but the warmth and security from her was intense. Like a comforting blanket, it soothed her. "Let me try to explain," she continued in her tender tones "Inside that mirror, is a spirit. A spirit of time, of evil...evil since the dawn of time"
"It's our role to protect the here and now from such evil" the blonde man, Steel, added.
"Is it...is it like the devil?" the girl asked fearfully.
Sapphire smiled and squished her closer "Would it help you if you thought of it as such?"
The girl couldn't answer. She merely shook her head in a mixture of up and down for affirmative and side to side for negative simultaneously.
"Have you ever felt this house to be haunted?" she asked "A chill or sensation that you cannot explain...even on a sunny day, with people all around?"
The girl looked to the pair with surprise. Her expression said all they needed to know.
"It was in the very early stages of this Earth" the man began.
"This Earth?" she repeated, unsure of what he meant by such a phrase. But he chose to ignore her and continued, "Back then there weren't just such things as animal, vegetable and mineral alone. There were wanderers, others. Creatures that were neither one nor the other; creatures that could shape shift, who traversed the realms to suit their ends. Their ends being pure evil. That's essentially what they were - evil's essence in tangible form. With time as their transport"
Slowly the blonde man called Steel placed the antique mirror back on the bed "And this creature was one of the very worst of that kind. He played a game for souls of good people, should they lose they became his slaves, spreading evil across the world and out into eternity, millenia upon millenia"
The girl mouthed the words, silently repeating them after him, but still she could not fathom them. Another tear, fat and wet, fell from her eye. She barely noticed it.
"What year is this?" Steel asked.
Surprised by the query, she looked up to him "What?
He looked at her, frustrated at her slowness.
"It's later" the blonde woman called Sapphire answered for her, easing her partner's temper. She turned to her "The 21st century. 2010. That's right isn't it?" she asked with another sweet smile.
Content, or as content as he could be, the man nodded "Very well. This spirit, we first came into contact with him here in the early 1800s"
Her brain could not take in what she was hearing "Wait...what, the early 1800s? You mean..."
"Shush" Sapphire soothed. It was important that the blonde man continued.
"He'd been alone in this house a long time then. Spreading his evil across the world, like a spider from the centre of its web. Time was collapsing in on itself as a result of his actions. Cruelty and violence occurred all around him. The house developed an atmosphere, the atmosphere you sometimes still feel now" He stopped and looked around "He stayed in this very room, alone, undetected...until we were assigned. The mirror was the only other object in the house, so we trapped him inside it"
"You-you can't trap people in a mirror?"
"Who says we can't?" Sapphire, the blonde woman, replied with an air of mischief.
The man called Steel sighed, as if annoyed by the rational limits of the mind of the girl, or perhaps of all humans, before him. "We have trapped many such avatars, essences, in mirrors across the centuries"
"B-but why?" the girl asked.
"They are the perfect prison" Sapphire replied "Where best to hide something, than in plain view?"
"Your people have a saying," the blonde man said, kneeling down to reach her eye level. He could see his own features now reflected in her big pale blue spheres "In fact you have tales relating to our work. Tales of one known as Narcissus? But anyway, the saying...seven years bad luck...?"
"...If you break a mirror" she completed with a nod. She so desperately wanted to understand now.
"A small essence of those spirits trapped within escape with each mirror broken. But they themselves never escape, they cannot escape. Rest assured of that"
"Never" the blonde woman, Sapphire, answered.
She looked to the mirror again. Instinctively and immediately she saw him scuttling around. She flinched inwardly.
"You're very special you know?" Sapphire comforted, turning to her partner "Isn't she?"
He rolled his eyes. He didn't have time for this pandering "Yes" he agreed finally, clearly bored now.
Sapphire made a face at him, before turning her attention back to the girl "It's not everyone who sees our captives. It takes a special kind of sensitive person"
"Sensitive?" she repeated softly.
"That's right. People who can see that there is more to life than what you see and hear everyday. We watch over people like you. See that you don't come to any harm"
"Like angels?" She immediately cursed herself. Angels, the devil? It wasn't even as if she were religious.
The blonde man sighed "We have to go" he said, tapping at his slim gold wristwatch. He paused as a thought occurred to him "There are others too. Eisoptrophobiacs, they're called. Eisoptrophobia. The fear of mirrors"
His partner laughed softly and asked the girl "Well, after seeing that thing trapped in their amid your own reflection, wouldn't you be scared?"
"I was" the girl said looking at her toes.
She hugged her closer "There's no need to be, not now"
Steel scooped the mirror up from the bed "We'll take this," he said "Place it somewhere else, somewhere out of harm's way"
"I found it behind the wardrobe" the girl explained "I thought it was pretty"
"Out of harm's way" he repeated sternly.
"Under landfill perhaps?" Sapphire said, eyes blazing happily, wickedly with the thought as she rose up from the bed.
Steel took a final look around the room "Progress" he said bitterly "We never thought this house would be renovated. The chill is left here for a reason. The tales and myths, haunted house, to ward you off. To stop development. When will you humans learn?" With that he stepped away, out of the room, thrusting the mirror into his jacket pocket.
Sapphire turned primly on her heel and smiled down at the girl "It will be alright now. Things will change here now the mirror has gone, you'll see. Good bye"
And then they disappeared, leaving her alone in a house that would settle, finally.
But she couldn't help but feel that from here on in, she'd never be able to look at a mirror, any mirror, properly again. Each time she would look for a prisoner in her reflection. A strange entity trapped by two other strange entities.
She had developed eisoptrophobia.
(c) Mark Cunliffe, 2011