I think it’s time, dear reader, to return to the dungeons; to resume your wanderings into the darkness of my mind; to pick yourself up; to dust yourself down; and to calm your nerves. For, another door awaits you and you need to be prepared for what lies in wait.
Are you superstitious, dear reader?
A superstition is an irrational belief, usually founded on ignorance or fear and characterised by obsessive reverence for omens, charms etc. It is also defined as any irrational belief with regard to the unknown.
How many of you remember the superstitions or ‘old wives’ tales’ you were told as a child? Don’t sit too close to the TV because your eyes will go square; if the wind changes direction, your face will stay like that; don’t walk under ladders, as you are tempting fate; always touch/knock on wood after making a hopeful statement; always salute a single magpie to avoid bad luck? I could go on, but I won’t. You know what I’m talking about, though, don’t you?
What if these superstitions were actually true? What if something did happen if you didn’t heed the warning? These beliefs must have come from somewhere; must have been borne from experience. Why else would they be used to warn the young and uninitiated? After all, look what happened to David and Jack when they strayed off the path.
I bring you, therefore, dear reader, to your next door and I ask you again – are you superstitious? For, what lies beyond this door may change your view and your life forever.
You stand before the latest door, still shaking from your encounter with the werewolves; your mind still trying to work out how you got away; your heart not believing you did. And you haven’t, dear reader. You have many doors to go and, even then, you may never get away; not really. For, once you have seen the darkness, it never leaves you.
You reach out and take hold of the doorknob and watch as the door morphs into a door you are familiar with; a door that you see every day when you wake up in the morning and before you go to sleep at night; a door in your house; your bedroom door.
Relief fills your body and you pull it open and race inside. You’ve forgotten again. For, while the room you have entered does indeed resemble your bedroom – from the position of the furniture, to the décor and bed linen – you know this isn’t your room, don’t you? Or you do, when you turn around and see that the door has disappeared; just like last time. Panic rises up as, yet again, you have rushed headlong into something without thinking; something deceptively safe and familiar. The key word here being deceptive.
You take deep breaths to try and calm yourself and slowly you turn around, your eyes scanning every inch of the room, looking for anything to indicate what lies in wait for you; anything out of place. Then you see it, above the mirror. You see some kind of writing on the wall. You can’t read it from where you are, so you have no choice but to move closer. As you do so, you realise that it’s an envelope; its edge tucked just underneath the edge of the mirror to hold it in place.
You reach up and pluck it down and look down at the bold scrawl on the front – ‘READ ME’ – is all it says; in capitals. You open the envelope and pull out a slip of paper. On it, in the same bold capitalised print, are the letters of the alphabet, in reverse order – Z, Y, X, W, V, U, T, S, R, Q, P, O, N, M, L, K, J, I, H, G, F, E, D, C, B, A.
An alarm bell goes off in the back of your head. You ignore it. Why? Because you don’t remember the significance; you don’t remember the superstition; you didn’t listen all those years ago. You’ll soon wish you had.
You scan the letters. You read them to yourself; in your head. You don’t understand. You turn the slip of paper over and find instructions – stand in front of the mirror, looking into it, and recite the alphabet, backwards.
The alarm bell in clanging now. Your brain is screaming ‘why?’, but you don’t listen. What’s going to happen to you? There is nothing in this room that will harm you. This is your room and you know exactly what is in it. You are right, of course. This is your room, but what you fail to understand is that, it is your room in my mind.
You look into the mirror and you do as the note commands; no queries; no questions. ‘Z, Y, X, W, V, U, T, S, R, Q, P, O, N, M, L, K, J, I, H, G, F, E, D, C, B, A,’ you say, your heart thundering in your chest as you do so; a sign, perhaps, that what you have just done wasn’t such a good idea; your sixth sense warning you, like the alarm bell. But it is too late now. You have done what was requested. What happens now?
You look around you; sweeping the room, slowly and carefully, looking for changes. Nothing. You turn back to the mirror and stare at yourself for what seems like an age. You feel it before you see it. Or, should I say, you sense it. The hairs on the back of your neck begin to rise and goose bumps invade your skin. You hold your breath; your heart thudding in your chest. Your eyes are wide; staring, but still there is nothing to see. Yet, you know that something has changed; something is there; you are no longer alone.
Unable to hold your breath any longer, you release it and gasp for air. As you inhale what you assumed would be clean air, you gag as your senses are assaulted. The stench is like nothing you have ever smelled before – a malodour you have often imagined a rotting corpse to smell like – but a smell you never thought you’d ever have to experience yourself.
You start to turn, determined to find out what is causing the odour, when you hear it and, once again, your breath catches and your heart thuds painfully in your chest. Something is there with you; something alive; something breathing. You can hear it, deep and rasping, and as it exhales the stench worsens. You find yourself matching its inhales and exhales, unable to hold your breath any longer.
You are immobile; thoughts of what it might be fixing you in place. You daren’t turn around. Why? Fear? Terror? Why? Do you believe in superstitions now?
You try and fix your gaze on your own reflexion, unable to close your eyes; unable to shut out what might be, but you can’t. Your vision keeps shifting, like a badly tuned TV; the image in the mirror becoming distorted.
You squint and lean closer, to try and make out the reflection of the room more clearly. As you do so, the image starts to come together and you feel a hollowness in the pit of your stomach and a scream catch in your throat. You’d left them behind; behind the previous door; you’re sure of it. How can one be here, in this room, with you? That was a different scene; a different place; a different door – wasn’t it? You tell me, dear reader, for this is my mind, after all, and I decide what goes on.
You stare at the wolf in the mirror; you stare at the coarse fur; you stare at the pointed ears; you stare at the dark red eyes; you stare at the long sharp teeth, clenched together in a snarl; you stare at the spittle and remnants of flesh and blood between those teeth. Finally, unable to contain it any longer, you scream; a long, deep, guttural scream; a scream most people would call a howl. For, it isn’t what is in the room with you, that you are afraid of anymore. No, it is what is staring back at you. For, you are alone in the room, dear reader, and what you smelt; what you heard; and what you see – is you.
As a child, I was once dared to stand in front of a mirror, in a darkened room and recite the alphabet, backwards. ‘Why?’ I asked. ‘Because a werewolf will appear behind you,’ I was told.
I never tested this superstition, dear reader, would you?
May fear protect you when the darkness comes.
Til next time.