The Haunted Mirrors

Simon Whitechapel

    Ego non sum...

         Evangelium secundum Ioannem XVII, xiv.

The old palace had a thousand corridors, ten thousand mirrors, squares, ovals, and diamonds, which remained bright and clear for all the dust and cobwebs that surrounded them, specking not with the autumn rain that fell through rents in the roof, cracking not in the fierce frosts of midwinter, ever fascinating, ever fearful to the youths and maidens of the villages therearound. For no mirror reflected faithfully, or so ’twas said, having always some sorcerous taint or anomaly, whereby, on early corridors, the faces reflected were not quite those of him or her who stood before them, being distinct in some particular of eye or mouth or cheek, of hair or tint or scarring, as though a brother or sister looked out, not a twin; and on later the faces reflected began to alter more strongly, more unsettlingly, seeming to partake of different nation and race; and on last of all, seen by very few, the faces reflected began to depart the bounds of humanity, borrowing form and feature from beasts, birds, and fish.

But horrider than these, found here and there in the palace, were mirrors wherein viewers saw themselves become giant insects, myriad-eyed, with nodding antennæ, finger-like jaws or coiled proboscis, or else arachnids, crustaceans, or worms, whereat some fled in horror or fainted where they stood, and few indeed could watch the transformations for long. Kinder mirrors might stand a stride or two away, natheless, wherein faces became now flowers, great and glorious, now crystals of many and gorgeous facets or polyhedra of polished metal, reflective themselves within a reflection. But these mirrors too could trouble the brain and linger in dreams, being sorcerous equally with the rest, nor did it seem right that fragrance should leak from the flowers and notes chime from the crystals and polyhedra. Wherefor no mirror in the old palace could be viewed with impunity, save by the dullest-witted, the stupidest, and these too feared to come before one or another of two mirrors said to be horriblest of all. In one of these, the viewer would see himself seemingly true at first, then note that days were passing in the mirror for moments before it, whereby one aged before one’s very eyes, skin wrinkling, nose expanding, jaw collapsing. And if one watched unwisely long, one saw death possess the face and a haze of maggots eat it to bare and grinning bone. In the other of these mirrors, the viewer saw somewhat more disturbing still, save to a rarest few: namely, naught at all where a face should have looked back, as though one existed not and the world flowed on unaffected.

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