by J.D. Armstrong
The Spider in the Mirror
There’s a spider in the mirror
though it sometimes tries to hide.
It’s kind of hard to see it
‘cause it’s on the other side.
You needn’t fear the spider.
It won’t do you any harm.
It sits and spins and guards the mirror,
like a lucky charm.
Because, you see, the mirror
is a gateway made of glass
and on the other side of it
are things that want to pass.
Like the thing that looks like you
when you look in the mirror,
and when you look away
it tries to creep a little nearer.
Deep down you know
those aren’t your eyes.
You know that’s not your face,
and everything about it
seems just slightly out of place.
Flies swarm inside its empty head,
maggots fill its eyes,
and a thousand squirming centipedes
writhe under its disguise.
If it dared, it’d catch you
with its countless vermin claws
and drag you through the mirror
to its black and writhing maw.
Sometimes people die this way,
sometimes the mirror wins.
They vanish without any trace
and are never seen again.
But you needn’t be afraid
’cause there’s a spider in the glass.
It spins a web the demons fear
and never lets them pass.
David stepped off the bus into the howling wind, swinging his bag over his shoulder as he watched the vehicle turn the corner and disappear from sight. He stared up at the moon as it slid behind a dark storm cloud and, shivering, he drove his hands deep into his pockets, drawing his jacket around him in an effort to keep warm. Then, glancing around, he crossed the road to the dirt track that would lead home.
Every night of the week he would take the same route home after work—a fifteen-minute walk from the bus stop—and every night his imagination would play tricks on him. Tonight, was no different. He hated the late shift.
With his head down, he trudged along and tried to keep occupied with thoughts of work, of anything, really, besides his surroundings. Then it started: the feeling of being followed. At first, he ignored it, but it only got stronger, impressing upon the edge of his mind and eating away at his efforts to keep it at bay, until it exploded into his senses with such ferocity, that he spun around, searching the foreboding darkness behind him. His eyes darted about, probing the night, trying to see whatever it was he could feel. His heart pounded explosively in his ears, making it impossible to hear a thing.
David realized he was holding his breath; he forced himself to exhale slowly, then he drew in a deep, shaky breath, the cold night air burned his lungs. He started to feel foolish. Turning around, he continued his trek home. He tried whistling but stopped, for it sounded eerie in the darkness around him. Deliberately he turned his thoughts inward, attempting once again to block out his surroundings. He thought of Lynn, who was at home in their bed, and quickened his pace, eager to lie down by her side and feel her warm body against his. He would feel safe when he was home.
His thoughts were disrupted by footsteps behind him, just out of time with his. David quickened his pace, not daring to look behind him, scared of what he might see. Or perhaps more frightening was what he might not see. The footsteps quickened also, still just out of time with his. He could imagine the figure behind him, its claws reaching out to him, sliding around his neck and ripping his head clean off. Finally, he could take it no more. He spun around and walked backwards, knowing what he would see: nothing. He could hear nothing, either. He stopped, listening harder for the footsteps that had also stopped if they had ever been behind him in the first place. David stood there and listened in the dark, the wind roaring through the trees, waiting for the other to make the first move.
"Who's there?" he asked finally. Good one, he thought. Who is going to answer? And as if I want them to…
No one did answer him, besides the wind. Cautiously he turned around and started to walk home again, realizing he was already halfway there. He shrugged deeper into his coat as if to ward off a chill that had nothing to do with the weather and quickened his pace once more. His eyes darted from side to side, searching the trees as paranoia set in.
Suddenly the wind died. David froze, glancing frantically about. Not even a slight breeze rustled the leaves of the trees, and as he listened, he realised that something else was wrong, dead wrong. He could not hear anything, not a single night noise came forth. He knew he had not gone deaf, as he could still hear his heavy breathing and his heart pounding frantically.
His imagination began to run wild; he backed away from the edge of the track, turning around to see if anyone was coming at him from behind. There was nobody there. More importantly, there was nothing there. There was a large bush staring at him. He stared back, half expecting it to come alive and make a move to grab him. He forced himself to calm down. Nervously he took a step forward, then decided against checking the bush and quickly headed off home again. He had gone only a few feet when he heard a rustling behind him. Jerking around, David gazed in terror at the bush, and his eyes felt like they were going to pop right out of his head. It was shaking violently, then out of its depths, a shadow darted, right across the track and into the bush on the other side. He stood there dumbstruck; mouth wide open as his mind tried to comprehend what he had just seen.
He was still trying to convince himself that it had just been his imagination, when the bush beside him began to shiver, breaking his paralysis. He ran, glancing back to see a shadowy figure standing in the middle of the track. He could feel its red eyes on him, could feel the hatred emitting from those eyes. Snapping his head back around, he ran as fast as he could. He clearly heard the footsteps behind him now. For some reason, he knew that if he could make it home, he would be safe. If only he could make it, hoping he was right.
The footsteps seemed to be getting closer. Whatever it was, it ran faster than he did. David could hear something else, too, now; it was a deep guttural growl, similar to that made by a wild wolf. It was growing louder and more frantic, and he knew the beast was gaining momentum. He demanded extra speed, speed he never knew he had. His lungs were burning, crying out for more oxygen as his legs furiously slammed his feet against the ground. He could still hear it behind him and the low growl getting louder and louder. He tossed his bag behind him, hoping to slow it down, not daring to look and see if he had. Then he could see it: home. Frantically he groped for his keys as he darted up the path toward his house, thanking God that he never kept his keys in his bag. He was breathing with difficulty now, his breath rasping in his throat, he pushed on though, noticing that his bag must have slowed the beast down, for he could not hear it behind him anymore.
He slowed down a little, glancing down the path behind him. He could see that nothing was there. He came to a complete stop, muscles tensed as he anticipated the need to start running for his life again. David’s breathing had slowed down to an almost normal pace and he was just beginning to think that maybe, just maybe, he had imagined it all along, when a figure appeared at the far end of the path. He held his breath and stared at the creature. It was vaguely man-shaped with broad shoulders and oversized strong arms, but its head looked like that of a wolf with a long snout. The beast stood there holding his bag, sniffing it. Then it looked directly at David, tossed the bag aside, and came bounding up the path straight at him.
David stood there for a second, frozen stiff with fear, taking the monstrosity in as it bore down upon him, moving faster than he had thought possible of anything. He heard the growl as it came closer, and felt the vibration of it in his chest. That was all he needed. Turning, he fled back up the path, reaching the front door of his house in seconds. He fumbled with the lock, trying too hard to get the key in, but finally, he had it and he darted inside. David locked the door behind him; leaning against it, he slid down to the floor, listening intently for the beast over his beating heart.
After a few moments of silence David decided to get up, curious. Then he heard it growling softly just beyond the door. He froze, fear pulsing through every fibre of his body, and prayed furiously that it would go away. Then the growling stopped, replaced by another noise. It took a while before he realized the thing was sniffing, trying to smell him out. David knew that if it was anything like a dog it would be able to smell the stench of fear wafting from his pores. He sat there, waiting, not daring to move a muscle. Then he heard footsteps as it moved away from the door.
David decided to stay where he was until daylight, knowing there was no way he would be able to sleep, anyway. That was when he thought of Lynn, lying vulnerable in their bed. He slowly crawled along the floor, listening for any sound coming from outside as he made his way to the bedroom. He reached up for the light switch and was about to turn the light on when he paused.
It will be able to see me if I turn the light on, he thought.
Leaving the light off, he crawled over to the bed and reached for Lynn's warm body. Confusion set in when he realized she was not there and, panicking, he searched the entire bed, unable to comprehend why it was empty and cold. It was as if she had not been home all night. He stood up and walked out of the bedroom, frantically but quietly searching the whole house for her but not daring to call out in case he alerted the beast outside. He could not find her anywhere.
Collapsing again at the front door, David stared into the darkness wondering where she could be and what had happened to her. He could not think of any reason why she would not be there; she was always there when he got home from work. He brought his knees up to his chin and wrapped his arms around his legs, rocking back and forth. He could feel himself dozing off; shaking his head he tried to fight it
off, wanting to stay awake in case Lynn turned up, but he finally gave in and fell into a restless sleep.
David woke with a start as sunlight squeezed between his eyelids. He glanced around trying to remember what he was doing at the front door and, looking at his watch, saw that it was after seven in the morning. Standing up, he started to walk through to the bedroom. Then it all came rushing back to him: the beast that had chased him all the way home. And Lynn had not been home.