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In a Mirror Darkly

by Lawren Leo

 

  


London, England
Corner of Harley and Weymouth Street
Midnight, October 31, 1898

At the end of a prestigious road lined with bushes of white primrose, Dr. Robert Sherrington sat in a leather, wing-back armchair, in the second floor drawing room of his limestone townhouse, busily selling his soul to the devil.

He had followed all the instructions in the ancient manuscript perfectly. At precisely 11:00pm he locked the door and drew a magic circle six feet in circumference, his desk and chair situated comfortably within its bounds. Having prepared the necessary tincture himself, wormwood and several other potentially inebrious herbs, he drank it straight away without suspect or worry. He placed the empty goblet on his desk next to the manuscript from which he re-read the paragraph subtitled Barbaric Words of Magick.

I praise Thee, I adore Thee, I conjure Thee through the words Usor, Dilapidator, Tentator, Samniator…

Leaving only the candelabra lit, he settled back into his chair and began chanting. Across the room, a man stared at him from a mirror on the wall. He was of full hale, with a debonair beard and moustache; and a mature touch of gray. Has time moved in reverse? The mirror lies! The candles flickered, shadows danced, and the image changed – a pale, ghostly face appeared in its place. It was that of a recluse, a doctor who refused to treat patients. Yes, now the mirror shows the truth. He saw the reflection of a broken man, one who was walking the earth as a revenant.

The hour came to a close and the herbs took hold. A wince of last minute regret dissolved in a drugged rush. The pendulum swung on the grandfather clock, beginning its countdown from twelve. A morbid sensation overcame him. Something impure had entered the room, changing the texture of the atmosphere to sinister. The candles before him morphed into a flaming pitchfork, a demonic flag marking its territory. Rapid heartbeat, constricting throat muscles, and dry mouth had set in, symptoms he had seen in several of his patients. It was hysteria, a disease of the nerves. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply in an effort to regain control, but it was too late. In front of him, rising from the empty goblet, a misshapen hand took form. A body followed. For a moment it hovered before him, and then coiled in mid-air. He gripped the armrests and clenched his teeth, preparing for the deathblow. In a violent spasm the hand shot forward into his chest. The blunt force toppled the chair over. Denying all laws of nature, however, it did not hit the floor, but fell directly through it, whirling downward into an abyss. It took him with it.

He tumbled through his subconscious mind. He thought for a moment that he saw the future. “It cost me too much, it cost me too much.” The vibrations from the last swing of the pendulum faded into silence as his descent to hell resumed.

It was midnight, October 31. The rite had worked.

...and thence Lucifer shall appear, accompanied by rotten smells, in a form...

Sulphur and flame were not first to greet him. Rather, it was a ring of darkness where no sound could be heard. He looked down and discerned that he was standing on a flat rock, rectangular in shape and mildly familiar. Several yards ahead there was an opening in the gloom. It seemed an entrance to a tropical-like jungle. He looked up and a chill went down his spine: the heavens were absent of moon and stars. This was a place of pure evil, a desolate womb where only phantoms of the imagination could take seed.

“Such sweet poetic flattery Dr. Sherrington,” the devil said. Panic stricken, the doctor did not know which way to turn, the result of a temporary halt in synapse. “No need to run,” said the devil. The sound of her r’s was a low, blasphemous purr. “The slab you stand on should make a comfortable seat.” The sound of the voice slowed his heartbeat, ate his fear. He found himself sitting, just as suggested. Engraved cursive caught his eye. He crouched on all fours to take a closer look. Grief pierced his heart:

Dahlia B. Sherrington
1891 – 1898

Budded on Earth to Bloom in Heaven

Pain and misery conglobated into a ball of agony, seizing the doctor’s stomach muscles. He retched with sorrow as memories of the gruesome death flashed before his eyes. He covered his face with his hands, not to hide his sobs, but to hide his shame. Shame for the hatred he felt towards a god who could allow such suffering, towards a god who could allow his only daughter to be murdered in cold blood!

He ripped his shirt open and cried, “There is no heart for you to take demon! There is no peace and there is no heaven! If there were, surely I was cast out along with you.” He collapsed onto his daughter’s tombstone. “You see, Dr. Sherrington,” the devil said, “we are more alike than you thought.” He got up again on all fours, looking in the direction of the voice. It was time to face the devil.

Two cat eyes glowed in the dark several feet in front of him. Darkness took the shape of a liquid shadow moving in slow motion. A black panther stopped just shy of his face – powerful, seductive, deadly. It was as if he were looking into the mirror again, this time confronting an uncaged reflection. They were both beasts, both fallen angels, facing one another on all fours. She could devour me, he thought. In a most civil manner, however, she sat down on the cool slab, a regal queen of the night. She purred, “Permit me to introduce myself.”

- Disclaimer -
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious.
Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.




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