The Other Side
She wakes with a start. The air feels stale and cold. In the darkness, she fumbles for the bedside lamp, and jostles the bottle of whisky that stands vigil. Night must have fallen while she was asleep. The gentle click of the lamp reverberates in the silent room, but there’s no light. The power must be out. The sheets are crumpled from her thrashing body, a glass lies shattered on the floor, an empty pill bottle, the lone warrior, in the midst of the shards.
She swings her legs onto the floor. They’re heavy, cumbersome. With leaden limbs, she pushes herself off the bed and walks over to the cheval mirror in the corner of the room.
As she approaches, a gasp whistles through her pursed lips. There’s a vignette in the mirror. The room she stands in, is reflected back in the rich warm hues of an incandescent light. Her husband enters the room. She checks behind her. She is alone in darkness.
In the mirror-play, her husband wraps himself around something on the bed, his body shakes, he turns his head to the ceiling and shrieks a silent wail. His face contorts, tears stream down his cheeks. She sees his mouth open in continuing howl after howl. But there’s no sound.
She steps closer to the mirror, reaches out, conciliatory, comforting. Her fingers touch the cold, hard surface, and a shiver works its way up her spine.
Her husband rocks, holding his cargo disconcertingly tight. Eventually, he sets his precious treasure carefully down. There is a tenderness to his movements, at once familiar and distant. She feels a tug in her chest, something she hasn’t felt in years. There’s still hope for them.
He lies next to the thing on the bed, as he once lay next to her. She feels the memory of his body contoured to hers, and closes her eyes trying to recapture the frisson of that touch. Gently, he wipes his hand over the top of the thing, then down the length of it. He drapes his arm across it, and she sees that it’s a body.
There’s a body on the bed.
Her heart catapults into her throat, her hands slap against the cold unmoving mirror. She screams a warning to him, but he doesn’t hear her. A dark foreboding envelopes her, insinuating its tentacles into her. She balls her hands into fists and slams them against the glass. The surface ripples and waves, absorbing the force of her anger, sucking in all sound. There is no shattering, no melodic tinkling, no dull thud.
He cannot hear her.
He removes himself from the body, reluctance in every centimetre of distance. His lips rest on the forehead, a sob wracks him. He steadies himself, then with a gentleness she has never seen in him, he kisses its mouth. She feels a warmth and pressure on her own lips, feels his breath dusting her cheek, feels his nose nuzzle next to hers, a perfect companion. Her skin prickles, electrified at the remembrance of his hand smoothing back her hair, tucking it behind her ear.
Then she sees it. The body on the bed, her twin, calmer and more at peace in repose than she has felt in months, or perhaps years. She shrieks, screams, wails, flails, but on the other side, he hears nothing. Haunted by the reflected image, she runs to the door. Every fibre of her being thrums with desperation for escape. The door stands firm, gives no quarter to her struggles.
She is trapped, imprisoned in this private hell.
What a wonderful and chilling story you have imagined here! You make it sound so easy and effortless, and yet you’ve really crafted this piece with care and thought. I could see it all so clearly and almost wanted to call to her that it was her body, before the horror dawned on her.
The way that you describe her vision of her husband’s grief was heart-wrenching.
Asha this is a beautiful story, sad chilling and wonderfully written. You are inspiring.
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