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Mirrors and Demons

There was a demon in my bathroom mirror, watching me...

There was a demon in my bathroom mirror.

This was not one of those cartoon imps, with their chubby faces, and tiny horns. It was not the kind that waves its cute little pitchfork at you as it capers off to some daring, childish mischief. No, this one was a demon of the first degree.

Its blood shot eyes stared through the glassy surface of the mirror, sharp teeth like tiny knives visible in it's open, screaming maw. Every now and then it would rush up to the front of the mirror, eyes wide and glaring with madness, its mouth stretched open in a horrific, high pitched scream that rip sawed through my mind. His clawed hands were long and twisted, knotted with ropey veins and coated in a thick, oozing red gloop. It looked like dried blood though I hoped it wasn't.

The little demon had wings like the cliché cartoon devil; small, stunted, deformed things that twitched nervously as it walked and a long, winding tail that forked at the end into two whip-like, flailing points. And, like the cartoon devil, it was small, perfectly proportioned - from its tiny clawed and webbed feet, to its black-horned head. Its diminutive size gave it the appearance of standing at a great distance, as though the mirror were a portal to some far off world, and he a creature watching from the end.

I stared at him in sullen, confused silence, questioning my sanity as I watched him chitter and caper on the other side of the mirror.

Then again, what did sanity matter? Whether I wanted to admit it or not there was a demon in my mirror, and it was taunting me.

It was there in the morning when I woke up to brush my teeth. It was there in the evening when I came home from work. And it was there at 4am when I staggered home after a night on the lash.

It was watching me.

Well, right at that moment it was pulling little ugly, twisted faces at me; but usually it was watching me.

Sometimes there was an angel there too; a cute little blond haired creature though I could never tell whether it was a female, or a very effeminate male. Eventually I decided it was a female, unlike its ferocious spitting companion I felt that it deserved a gender – and I decided on female. She too would come to the front of the mirror - when the demon would let her. Usually my little blood spattered tormentor would chase her off with shrieking screams and gnashing teeth, and the angel would back out of view.

Like the little demon, the angel also had wings. Hers a glorious pair that were almost as big as she was; shining white with an intense light, full of beautiful silver and ivory feathers. Her hair was blonde, the colour of sunshine on a cool spring morning, and eyes of blue sapphire twinkled with an ever present kindness.

She even had a tiny halo.

Right then though, the angel was nowhere to be seen; only the demon, gnashing its pointed teeth at me, and shaking its clawed fists at the mirror wall.

I left it to its fury and went to work.

*

By the time I next looked into the mirror the sun had long set. A fiasco at work had made me late for dinner, and the ensuing dramatics with the drunken husband had assured my presence elsewhere in the house. I peered into the reflective glass, lifting a hand to gently trace the outline of the shining, purple bruise forming beneath my right eye.

The face of the angel was full of concern as she stared out from her tiny realm. The demon was nowhere to be seen, so I basked for a moment in her loving attention. She reached out towards me, pressing her tiny hands against the surface of the mirror as though trying to reach through and comfort me. I pressed a single finger to the glassy surface in return.

A regretful smile passed between us as she stared through at my weary, tear stained face.

Love. Forgive.

Tiny angel lips formed the words and breathed them into my mind; a soft, delicate whisper. I stepped back and shook my head. My blood shot, swollen eyes stared at her with regret. Forgive? Love?

I didn't feel like either right now.

The bathroom door swung shut as I turned my back on her, leaving her alone in the tiny realm.

*

Little, clawed demon hands were wrapped about the angel’s throat. I let out a long suffering sigh and switched on the shower. My mind spun with thoughts and fears of the previous evening as I stepped under the warm stream.

He had stormed out in the end, the husband; leaving me to cry bitter tears into an empty pillow. Perhaps it had been for the best - I wasn't sure how much longer I could take his violent love. What that would mean to either of us I did not know.

I had dreamed once, of his murder. I had stood above his broken, bleeding form with the knife in hand, staring down in blank, incomprehension at my bloodstained fingers and the spattered kitchen wall.

Rinsing the shampoo from my hair I leaned forward and tossed the long, brown locks over my head. After wringing them dry I stepped out from the shower and swiftly wrapped them in a thick, blue towel and straightened up.

A bruised and swollen face looked back at me. Even my otherworldly companions stopped their bickering to stare.

Dark, purple bruises outlined my right eye and traced a vicious line down my cheek and jaw. A swollen, clotted cut to my lip evidenced either a violent punch or a moment where my teeth had broken my own skin during the fight. I sighed and reached for the toothpaste.

It wasn't the worst I'd seen, but each time it brought me closer to the precipice. And I could only wonder how long it would take before I fell off.

The demon looked at me with a vicious toothy grin as he shoved the angel away. She flew a few metres and landed flat on her back some distance from the swaggering demon. The ground in the mirror shimmered for a moment, and then the floor in front of the demon dropped a short distance. He stopped at the edge of the newly formed cliff and peered over the short drop.

I wondered what he was up to. I stopped to stare at him, my tooth brush clenched between my teeth.

Whatever he was up to was interrupted when the angel jumped at him from behind. Her golden harp clattered to the floor as she leapt and landed across his shoulders. When she failed to drop him to the floor or push him over the ledge she dug her feet into the ground and tried to drag him back.

The demon whickered at her in its own, incomprehensible language and turned to snatch at her arms. As quick as that, the angel was suddenly sailing over the ledge to land in a flurry of feathers at the bottom. The demon peered maliciously over and brushed his hands before turning and swaggering away; leaving the angel to pace at the bottom of the drop and wait for him to relent and release her.

She was still pacing when I left to make breakfast, as I suspected she still would be when I returned later on.

*

I was right.

The angel sat with arms folded at the bottom of the cliff. I didn't understand why she didn't just make the landscape change again like the demon had done. Maybe she couldn't? Maybe the demon was too strong...

*

No more. No more. No more.

I sat curled in the furthest corner of the room. From my tiny shelter I could just about see the sink and the bathroom mirror, wedged as I was between the toilet bowl and the shower. Tears ran rampant down my flushed face which was buried in my folded arms.

I hurt.

So much pain for one person to feel. So much anger, hate, fear.

How could I be expected to bear this? My ribs were a mass of hot, red, pain. Jagged knives ripped into my sides as I took each breath; quite possibly broken then, but that did not hurt so much as the mental wounds did. Like open sores, and festering wounds, they take a long time to heal, and sometimes they never do completely. The tiniest jolt can force them open again.

A shriek of panic and mindless fear escaped my lips as the bathroom door thundered and crashed beneath the husbands violent barrage; a demand for entry. He wouldn't get in, not here. Not inside my silent sanctuary. This place was mine; this tiny alcove of water and white tile - the one place where no violence had yet touched, where no memories of fear could reach out and claim me.

I curled up tighter, rocking back and forth and crooning to myself between sobs, a long forgotten song to drown out the swearing and yelling from the other side of the flimsy barrier.

Eventually it stopped. He must have worn himself out, grown bored of his ‘game’ or gone in search of more beer. In a few hours time he wouldn't even remember.

I envied him that. I hated him for that.

I dragged myself to shaky feet and staggered over to the sink. Turning on the cold tap I let the water run for a moment, wincing at the minute squeak as the turning metal protested the pressure before releasing its hold on the water. I prayed that he didn't hear and come charging back to resume his twisted game.

I thought about what I had become.

I was a shattered wreck of my former self, living in fear, cowering in bathroom corners. I had become a petty, timid thing that grovelled to his every need, desire and whim. I hated myself for it. Anger boiled below the surface, and the volcano threatened to erupt.

I splashed the cold water against my flushed and fevered face, reaching out to grab a towel and pat dry the bruised and battered skin before tossing it aside and finally daring to lift my face to the mirror.

The demon stared back at me. The expression on its face was unreadable. Once again, the angel had disappeared, and I wondered again where it was they went to when they were not around. Not that it mattered really, such inconsequential details.

The demon took a few steps towards me, pressing its face up against the glass of the mirror as though it were really a window instead of the reflective surface it should have been. I stared into his dark red eyes, and he stared back into my green ones.

I know your pain...

The words slid silently into my mind. I jumped back in surprise. It had never spoken before; I had assumed that it couldn't, that its own gibbering language was the only one it spoke.

The demon's responding grin sent a shiver down my spine. Its teeth were blackened and pointed; stained with old, dried blood like its claws. Its smile was full of malice and despair.

I know your fear...

The voice hissed and crackled in my mind. I simply stared on in silence, unable to move, unwilling to speak.

I know your anger, your hatred. You BURN with it, like a flame.

I shook my head. Why now? What had changed to make it speak when all the days and months of my mute torture it had been silent.

Because you have changed. Your soul howls. You die. Slowly perhaps, but death is all the same in the end. He has stolen your life hasn't he? Lied to you. Betrayed you. Hated you and hurt you. And you hate him too.

I shook my head in vehement denial. Not always. It wasn't like that in the beginning.

The demon snickered. Its tail lashed about its legs.

In the beginning... Do you think he can remember that now? Do you think he CARES for that now? When he hits you. When he hurls your body down the stairwell. When he throws that boiling kettle in your face. Do you think he’ll care when he murders you?

Its laughter was like broken glass; sharp and dangerous. It sliced through the thin membranes of my mind like a knife through melting butter, and I buckled beneath it.

The words it spoke! Oh the words it spoke, so true.

He didn't care. All he thought about now was how to hurt me, how to make me bleed.

He likes it: when you cry, when you scream. It brings him joy. It makes him.... warm... 

I stared through the glass at the tiny red demon. Warm... I looked down at my hands. Joy... I clenched my fists.

The demon was still looking at me when I raised my head anew. It nodded silently behind its tiny prison wall.

Your choice.

I made it.

*

The angel lay dead on the featureless floor of the mirror. Her wide and staring eyes bored holes into my tortured soul. Her wings were torn, feathers scattered here and there, and pale pink blood oozed slowly from the jagged wound in her throat. Her harp lay a short distance away from her outstretched hand. Its strings were broken.

My shaking hands reached out to turn the taps on full, and I thrust them beneath the running water. Red, and swirling; a river of blood washed away in a whirlpool.

I looked up at the demon. It stared back at me. Victory was plastered across its mean little face.

All gone now. No more pain. No more fear. All gone.

"No more." I agreed, and stared into my empty vacant eyes.

“No more. No more.” The world around me shimmered and spun. I sank to me knees with a sob as finally the darkness rolled in and I collapsed, unconscious to the floor.

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