The Great Mirror, Part IV

Image credit: British Museum.
Image source.

Author’s Note: This is a continuation of a series. Click the links for previous installments.
Part I.
Part II.
Part III.

After my stupefying encounter with the mirror, I encountered an overpowering sense of regret and self-loathing. It had not dawned on me that my brain – so used to plumbing matters of human knowledge with ease – could not wrap its feeble and diminutive power around what had just transpired. The incomprehensible whispers which had subsided to a dull timbre around the edges of my consciousness seemed to jeer at my frailty, and I could not summon the most basic form of defiance to quiet them.

I did, however, manage to procure a piece of the artifact for geological analysis. Perhaps it was a mistake to send it to colleagues at the university, but I desperately needed to ferret out some idea of what I had awoken down in the basement. Scientific discipline required that I refrain from any premature conclusions, but my superstitious ape’s brain already had conjured up the most hideous explanations for otherworldly sources of torment.

While waiting for word back on the artifact, I busied myself in my upstairs study with renewed fervor. I had cancelled lectures, classes, and everything else on my calendar to devote precious time with translations and plumbing this new well of information. My earlier trepidation became a dull ache somewhere beyond my immediate concern, and this devotion paid me in profane secrets and horrifying enlightenment.

It should not have been a surprise that it first manifested itself in my dreams. On the third day after my encounter, I woke in my basement, knife in hand, my flesh a newly carved jumble of occult diagrams and unintelligible writing. The wound in my free hand ached, and I saw I had opened it further with my sharpened blade. Perhaps a week or two before I could have summoned an understandable modicum of revulsion at what I had done. But the only thing I could feel was pure excitement at how it all looked in that damned mirror.

For what I had written should not have been of any significance to a rational person, but there I stood in complete understanding of what I had drawn. It was a map of a place which no cartographer could fathom, bearing an obscene geography of impossible shapes which no mathematician could describe. In the mirror, the shapes had distorted and twisted themselves until even the inadequacy of my intellect could grasp the basic fundamentals of what I beheld. I knew without words that it was a place where I wanted to go, where I could be a cockroach eating crumbs falling from the table of greater beings who held greater knowledge than I.

And I did not care.

My cellular phone buzzed, letting me know that I had received a text and an email from the geologists. The text was predictable; those so-called scientists grew excited at the morsel of new knowledge I had given them. I opened the email, which confirmed my more enlightened suspicions. The mirror was made out of a heavy element which had not been discovered until now. Its existence was a secular miracle, as such an atom should have decayed eons ago into lower elements. Already they shared puerile conjectures as to how it had to have been formed. Their only useful conclusion was that it could not have been of this world.

With a sense of unjustified elation I put my phone down and found a robe to cover my nakedness. I thought about washing the knife, but I had to giggle at such a mundane concern on the eve of enlightenment from the stars. Something had reached out to this pitiable planet, and I was going to be the one to answer the call.

Outside, I heard something hit the ground with a familiar thud. Through my basement window I saw that something had landed in my garden in between the sunflowers and corn. Out of curiosity I ascended the stairs and went out my back door to the vegetables. There, laying just as I had seen in the mirror a few weeks before, was a body lying perfectly still. This time, I could get close enough to see exactly who the person was, her small limbs posed in impossible angles for her to be conscious and silent at the same time. Blood cascaded in spurts out of an opened neck, and the head was twisted to look up at me.

It was my housekeeper’s daughter.

I looked up from where she must have fallen to my balcony, and there I saw my housekeeper standing stock still with a meat cleaver in her hand. Her uniform painted with her child’s blood, she stood there in mute terror at what she had wrought. “I…what have I done,” she gasped, her statement not so much a question as an effort at avoiding blame. The whispers in my mind jeered her weakness, and I could tell from the change in her countenance that she could hear them too.

We both looked into each other’s eyes, and in that recognition of mutual suffering we both acted as the cowards we were. Even as recent as a few days earlier, I would have acted in accordance with my humanity and phoned the authorities for help. Having lost that battle, I succumbed to the chorus of whispers and what they desired.

I buried my housekeeper’s crime in the garden.

The Great Mirror, Part III

Image credit: British Museum.
Image source.

Author’s Note: This is a continuation of a story. Click here for Part I. Click here for Part II.

The following week, I questioned whether I wanted to continue research on the mirror. Despite my best efforts to get more sleep and exercise, I felt a sense of unease whenever I was in the same room with the artifact. I chalked this up to fear of my hallucinations, so I made a pact to take several pictures of it and continue my research in the upstairs study. Additionally, I tried to limit the time I spent working, as a further safeguard for my frayed nerves.

All went well for a time, and I had made some headway into translating the initial greeting on the mirror. I had deduced that the writing was not pure cuneiform, but rather a similar form. My first attempts were blind, where I took the most similar words I did know and compared them to the ones in my pictures. It yielded unintelligible results, all of which I threw away in disgust.

Serendipity provided me with the first breakthrough. On a whim, I zoomed in on the writing to see if there were any marks which might aid me in my quest for knowledge. What I saw defied reason. The script bore no signs of being etched with a stylus like it should have been. Rather, the images looked stretched, as if they had been written from behind the mirror itself. My mind could not and did not want to fully grasp this consequence, but days of failure had worn me down to the point where I could entertain it in its entirety.

If what I saw was true, then I was reading the script backwards. Turning to the right side of the mirror, I conducted my same blind translations. On the eighteenth one, I uncovered a simple yet common invocation most scribes put on their work. The next few characters also became intelligible to the point that I could read the first quarter of the mirror without any problems. I had made more progress than my deceased mentor, and I decided to end my studies for the day.

In my excitement, I decided to grab a drink from my office. My decanter was next to the mirror, and I saluted it with two fingers of whiskey in a tumbler. I looked upon the writing I translated in satisfaction, but a strange feeling drew my eyes to the reflective surface instead. There was this feeling that my reflection was off by some imperceptible margin. Unintelligible whispers in my mind seemed to confirm this dreaded fact.

Transfixed by terror, my mind grew more detached from my will. Somewhere in my mind, the whispers took over, appealing to a primordial part of my brain that didn’t need to comprehend language to understand what I was told. The whispers promised me something simultaneously glorious and terrible, a view into all the things that were known and unknown. I had the distinct feeling that I was not looking into a mirror. Rather, it was some sort of viewing device that some ancient Mesopotamian had discovered and put to human use.

Such promises of knowledge appealed to my curious nature, but that curiosity had been tempered for years by scholarship and meticulous study. The higher parts of my brain reeled in alarm. They tried to shout the whispers down.

The chorus of whispers would not be denied. Persistent, they simply waited until I could not argue against them any longer. Alone in my office, staring at a relic idiotically, I had to make a simple decision as to what I wanted next. Without even being conscious of it, the attraction for such knowledge had too much gravity for me to pull away. I saw my reflected double curl the right corner of his mouth into a faint smile. Then, it disappeared, leaving my real mirrored self in its place.

The bargain had been struck.

The Great Mirror, Part II

Image credit: British Museum.
Image source.

Author’s Note: This is a continuation of a story. Part I can be found here.

In retrospect my industriousness clouded my judgment, as I didn’t even keep the doctor’s appointment to see to my hand. The wound had healed of its own accord by the next morning, leaving only the faintest pink line of a scar that looked like a crooked smile. Since I didn’t need to take time out of my schedule, I hadn’t given the object any more thought for the next week. Instead, I busied myself with grading undergraduate exams and final revisions on a paper due for publication. Any moment spent in my office was kept to checking email or other inane tasks.

On a soggy Monday morning, I found myself with a little free time I could spend deciphering the writing on the mirror. The first thing I did was take an etching, so that I wouldn’t have to strain my eyes on the object itself. With the etching spread out on my desk, I made out the initial salutations almost immediately. Dr. Talmadge would have known these – despite their unorthodox location across the bottom – and by all accounts she had made the same translation as I had.

Just like her, I ran into deep waters past that salutation. Whatever the artificer was trying to say wasn’t in any cuneiform script I was familiar with. The thing that piqued my interest was that they did look similar to what I knew, but they were just off enough to signify a different word entirely. Certainly I could understand why Dr. Talmadge undertook a translation; this might have been a window into a written language heretofore undiscovered.

While I went through my personal library looking for books to help me in my task, I was interrupted by a small, muffled noise coming from upstairs. A flash of light cascaded across the mirror’s face, and when I looked I distinctively thought I saw a view of my garden. Immediately I knew it couldn’t have been, since the angle of the view was all wrong. I could see someone was laying down in the middle of my vegetables, but the person was entirely motionless.

The window across from the mirror looked into that very place, and in a fit of superstition I went and checked it myself. Nothing was out there except for the plants I was growing. I glanced back at the mirror, which lost the image I thought I saw. There was still the matter of the scream I heard, so I decided to leave the office and investigate.

I found my housekeeper at work cleaning the ground floor, her daughter quietly doing homework on one of my sofas. When I asked them if they heard anything, they both said no. My skin must have had a pallid complexion, because my housekeeper asked me if I was alright. Her kindness reassured me that all was well, and I told her that I was probably suffering from some kind of stress. I apologized for my intrusion, and went back downstairs to continue my studies.

Throwing myself completely into my work, I worked on finding out which demons were being represented as the holders of the mirrors. Some sources had resemblances to minions of the ancient Mesopotamian underworld, while others put them more closely to a few unlikely Hittite examples. The latter was too recent to be directly credible, but I did entertain the thought that they could be ancient keys to an even more ancient icon.

A bit further into my research, I was interrupted by a small chorus of whispers. I thought they came from behind the mirror, so I got out of my chair and inspected the small space between it and the wall. The only thing I noticed was a small vent for the air conditioning, which was blowing fully in the Georgia summer. Closing my eyes, I chided myself for such a silly distraction from my work.

When I came back around and reclined into my chair, I thought I saw my reflection not as I actually was, but as someone else entirely. The man looked a little similar, but on closer inspection I noticed he had no eyes. To my shock, I also noticed he had no left hand.

Just as before, the image disappeared as soon as I thought what I was seeing. Gratified that it had to have been an hallucination, I looked outside and saw that night had fallen. All that work must have been stress, I told myself. I resolved to get some rest and relaxation before continuing work. In keeping with that promise, I left the mirror alone that night.

Happy Independence Day

Image courtesy of Stockvault.

Today is Independence Day here in the United States, where we celebrate the founding of our country and the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. To my fellow Americans, have a happy Independence Day. Try not to get injured in any fireworks related accidents. I will do my best to heed my own advice.

People outside the U.S. might not fully understand what benefits there was to fighting for independence, so I’ve compiled a very short list of the most important* things:

– The ability to drink and use fireworks at the same time without anyone looking at you funny.

– Being able to go shopping in one’s pajamas.

– Not having to throw in an extra “u” in words like “honor” or “color.”

For those outside the U.S., have a pleasant July 4th. If you wanted to celebrate, though, we really don’t mind here in the States. Think of it as an extra excuse to have some cake or annoy the neighbors. Well, maybe don’t annoy the neighbors – unless they deserve it. Also, if your country has a similar tradition of celebrating its independence or inception, let me know in the comments. I know I missed Canada Day (sorry everyone living in the frozen north!), but I blame Google for not informing me.

*These are actually not the most important things to most Americans. Although, judging from what we put on TV and the Internet, it might seem like that at times.