Reflections Turn Away
by Gary L. Robbe
Part 1 appears
in this issue.
That night, Kim’s body wrapped around him. Trailing sheets. Her breath hot, short bursts in his turned ear. Wet. Whispered questions. Her heavy arm crushing what was left of his self-esteem.
He was a mess. Their shared life was a mess. The room was spinning. He needed more alcohol to counter the white pills that clarified his thoughts and made him edgy and afraid. He had blue pills and red and green pills, all prescribed by doctors that might as well be on another continent for all the good they did him.
The drums once helped, but he was too much of a mess to perform, to do the job. He couldn’t have found the beat if it had been rammed up his nose. Every waking thought centered on the window, those crazy reflections that weren’t quite right, the blonde girl he had killed as surely as if he had put his sights on her and pulled the trigger.
The band fired him. He continued to go to the window. Day after day. He didn’t tell Kim. When he would leave to drive to the mall, she gave him a sorrowful look that suggested she thought he was having an affair. Sometimes he got high before standing in front of the glass, sometimes not. It didn’t matter. He went in the mornings and in the afternoons, whatever the weather.
Eventually security questioned him. The store employees were spooked by a man standing before their window. Day after day. Walking up to the window. Walking backward with a puzzled expression. The guards advised him to go somewhere else.
Kim confronted him. “Is it another woman?” she asked.
Miles tried to explain. There was the girl, yes, in the window. He wasn’t having an affair. Every day she was there. There were others, too, in the window, similar to the people walking by or standing, different somehow.
“The girl, Rachel, is dead. Miles, it was not your fault.”
Miles closed his eyes. He saw the glint of metal from the roof of a house in a desert village and two of his friends were gone, just like that. By the time his platoon was done in the village, there were dozens of men, women, and children scattered in the blazing Iraqi sun to atone for the loss of his friends. He got a good look at one of the children and remembered thinking how odd to see blonde hair spilling out of her shawl...
“I can’t explain it to you. I don’t understand it myself.”
“You need help,” she said.
* * *
“You need help,” the tall security guard with a pimply face said, while another guard, short and stocky held loosely to his arm. They were guiding him away. The blonde girl, clear as day like a mannequin watching him with vague, cloudy features. Miles saw himself standing beside her, grinning.
Miles broke away from the stocky man, leaped over the skinny one, falling back into a bench. He rushed to the window. He rushed at himself. His reflection smiling. Shouts. He threw himself into the window. A piercing scream, his own maybe, or the glass shattering, the scream becoming distant like the shouts and the free blood that was his, and the pain.
Streaks of light to the music in his head, all the pieces of every song and melody he had ever heard and played flowed into him like a polluted river swelling its banks. The girl, just over there, floating away from him.
A transparent barrier stopped him. More glass. A world of windows. Miles scratched at the glass that separated them. He hit the glass, or whatever barrier it was, hit it again and again until he finally broke through with broken, bloody fists. Another glass separated him from the girl. She was further away. He broke through that glass, using what was left of his elbows, felt the rush of pressure as he was sucked in. Still, there was glass between them.
He should have been in the store, a bleeding pulp crumpled on the floor with strewn clothes and overturned racks around him. Instead he was in a dark place, watching out, seeing the guards, seeing himself on the other side, battered and bloody, yes, but on the other side of the window. His image. No way. The reflection he had seen with the blonde girl, outside in his world, while he was here, in this strange place. The reflection briefly turned and nodded before falling to its knees.
Miles was sure there had been a smile before the reflection was covered by the guards and dragged backwards from the window. Miles watched himself tended to by the guards, Kim suddenly there too, hysterical. He called to her but nothing came out that he could hear.
He pressed to the glass but felt himself being pulled back, sucked back. He flailed and bled and watched the images before him grow smaller and less distinct. There was total silence. He screamed in pain and frustration but there was nothing, nothing and if for a fleeting moment he thought he was a ghost he was mistaken. He couldn’t hear, but he certainly felt. And he felt pain, and a cold breeze that pushed him back away from Kim and the guards and... himself.
He mouthed out, “That’s not me! I’m here! Look here!” The last thing he saw was the Miles outside, bleeding and laughing, looking up at Kim.
* * *
The sensation of floating. Miles can breathe, but the air is stale and contaminated with decay and the smell of death, smells he is familiar with.
Flashes of light. He is blown gently to another barrier of glass. The girl with long blonde hair flowing above her head as if she is in weightless space, arms outstretched moving frame by frame up and down. Taunting him. Come to me.
He can’t go back. He pushes at the glass. Tears his shirt away and wraps it as best as he can around his pulpy hands, kicks the glass, but the motion propels him back, and he has to wait to drift up to the glass again before kicking and punching at the glass with everything he has left.
The girl is still there. Pale, blurry. As she drifts, he sees her skin graying, becoming taut, black holes replacing her eyes, teeth growing from an impossibly wide mouth in all directions as if a predatory alien creature is struggling to escape from the girl’s throat. The fragments of arm wave for him to follow.
What does she want? He knows, deep down inside, he knows. She is drawing him in deeper and deeper. Kim, what he used to be, the Miles back there, all of his insignificant do-nothing, routine life chipping away and growing more distant. This is no hallucination. No flashback. There is a hell, and he is there.
Something tugs at him, nipping at his pants. Miles jerks his leg but can’t see in the blackness surrounding him. Nibbles. Pricks of pain. He senses tiny mouths, tiny teeth, pinching and tearing, sampling flesh.
He skitters along the glass. Thinks about Kim, hardly remembering her face, and the new Miles laughing beside her. Needles poking his legs, then his bloody arms and the back of his neck. Hundreds of the little things, soundless and relentless. He brushes them off, but they are back just as quick. Hungry. He thinks of fish, piranha, but he is not in water.
He catches one, but it slips out of his fingers before he can crush it. Another one he does hold on to, squeezing it until it squirts apart, a rapid motion surrounding the parts left. A feeding frenzy.
A faint bluish light far away. The girl, reflecting against the glass, reaching towards him as if she could pull him through and let him touch her and speak to her. Help him to wake from this nightmare. The blonde girl turns away. She is distracted, watching him no longer.
Behind him then. He turns, but she is getting away. He tries to swim, push off the glass, anything to move in a direction he wants, but he is being carried somewhere else. The cloud of biting pests, finished with their frenzy, return to him in force. If he can make it to the light source, the girl...
Miles is alone. No one can hear him scream. See him die. Miss him.
The most horrible thought: What if I can’t die?
The light is feeble and gray now, fading fast. Miles hits the glass, but he is too weak, the pain scissoring his arms to his chest. He feels his already shredded clothes being ripped away. Clumps of his long hair are torn from his scalp.
The things he cannot see are everywhere. They are moving him along the smooth surface, the poor light from far away allows a brief reflection of himself surrounded by a black cloud, slowly reddening with his blood. He screams. They swarm into his mouth.
Copyright © 2016 by Gary L. Robbe