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Timothy Wilkie

The November Featured Writer is Timothy Wilkie

Please feel free to email Timothy at: timwilkie09@gmail.com

timothy

THE WHAT-NOT SHOP
by Timothy Wilkie

I had no sleep on the flight from New York to London and now I found myself with three hours to kill before my appointment. I was completely exhausted and the whole day had taken on a dream-like quality. This section of London was like a picture postcard right out of Dickens.

I decided I could see more if I took public transportation. On the number 6 double-decker bus, I went by Big Ben as it struck eight-thirty and was humbled by St. Paul’s Cathedral. Then the bus went on to the London Tower that seemed to be guarded by ravens and the ghost of dead kings.

And then it was time to pay attention to why I came. After showering in the hotel, I raced to my appointment only to find out my client was late. I was angry that the client was disrespecting me. Didn’t he understand that I was important?

Well, I thought, I can at least look at the shops on this street while I wait.

Above the door of one of the stores was a sign that read The What-Not Shop. There was a large wood-framed antique mirror in the front window. For some reason, I was immediately drawn to it and my reaction took me completely by surprise. I was not someone who went to Flea Markets or had any interest in antiques at all, but I couldn’t take my eyes off that mirror. I had to see it up close.

I opened the door of the shop and stepped inside before I was even aware that I was doing it. It was one of those times when your subconscious takes over and your conscious tries to explain it later.

The little shop was cramped with furniture and relics stacked one on top of the other all the way to the ceiling. There was a stench of mildew and decay. This was not the kind of place that I frequented so I was absolutely appalled by it all and was just getting ready to leave when this huge giant of man (who would have been even taller if not for the fact that he was hunchbacked)  stepped out of the back room. 

When I looked at his face, I saw that it was distorted. I had visions of when the moon was full and the leaves dropped from the trees in their dreary patterns of death.

“Were you summoned here?” he asked in a voice that was totally unfitting for his size.

“Summoned? What? No, I have no appointment. I just want to know about the mirror in the front window,” I said.

He looked down to my height and when his extremely dark eyes found mine, he said briskly, “It is not for sale.”

I was so angry I couldn’t help myself and as he turned to walk away I said, “Then why do you have it in the window, you freak?” 

The antiques dealer turned and just glared at me. “Freak? I assure you, I am no freak.”

I felt ashamed. “I didn’t mean it. I’m sorry. I’m told that sometimes I can be an asshole and I think I just proved it.”

The man unexpectedly smiled, his moon face turning oblong. “The mirror is indeed not for sale. But as a gesture of my forgiveness, I will give it to you at no charge.”

I didn’t protest. It wasn’t my fault if the man didn’t realize that the mirror was valuable. I had him wrap it up.

When I got out of the store, I was so excited I could barely contain myself. I hailed a taxi and had him take me to the nearest Fed-X so I could ship the mirror back to New York. It took some time, but I managed to get to my meeting only a few minutes late, all the while patting myself on the back mentally for my deal.

The session seemed to drag on forever and my thoughts kept returning to the mirror, making it hard to concentrate on the matters at hand. After I was finished, rather than stay the night, I checked out of my hotel and took a red-eye back to New York.

The first night back to the States, I was so exhausted that I fell asleep in my living room chair, lulled there by the promise of greater darkness than my bedroom, which was bathed in a street light. I gave into sleep, knowing it would be a brief visit to wants and desires, lost loves, and memories lost.

Instead, my dreams were filled with the mirror.

Fear and awe are not a common mix to me. Nor is how the mind twists dreams to create nightmares. I have no lack of self confidence. But that first night at my New York apartment was different as was every one after it. My time rested seemed to be minutes, not hours. I kept waking up with my heart racing, unable to catch my breath, like I had been held underwater.

I had tears upon waking in the darkest, most raw hours of the morning. I staggered to my bedroom, standing at the window and opening it wide, trying to catch my breath. I even climbed out it to sit on the fire escape, bathed in the street light.

I had never wanted to share my life with anyone. I was a successful lawyer in New York City and I worked for a major firm. Why would I want to share my wealth with some gold digging female?

But as I sat out on the fire escape all alone, afraid to go back to sleep, I found myself considering the option of female companionship for the first time in my life. But by morning, I felt back to my normal self, and knew I was a loner. Besides, people didn’t like me any more than I liked them.

I obsessively tracked the Fed-X order on my computer. I saw it was on its way, but I wished it were here already. I felt the mirror would provide company, and it would never disagree with me when I expressed my thoughts like people would. Instead it would show me the only person I got along with: me.

Sleep became a scary experience in my apartment. On the third night, I even tried meditation before falling to sleep. “Let your mind drift,” I whispered to myself as I lay in bed. “Let it drift to a quiet, tranquil place.”

But every time I went to sleep, I could actually feel myself being submerged into this clear, cold liquid and then I’d wake, sitting upright on the bed, gasping for air. The liquid was thick, like mineral oil.

Afraid to sleep at night, I found myself drinking more and more coffee. By the fifth day, I was on thirty hours straight with no sleep. I had already notified my firm that I was down with some god-awful virus, so they left me alone. I went back to my living room chair and collapsed. I was at the point where I was unsure if I was awake or asleep, and paranoia was definitely setting in. 

On the sixth day I did feel better. Maybe it was because that afternoon, the mirror arrived, still wrapped in brown paper inside a padded box, which to all extent, looked like a little coffin.

Hurriedly I pulled it out of the box. I knew it was well-made, but was surprised at the weight. It almost doubled me over as I tried to lift it. I took a moment to admire it; to view myself as the mirror saw me. But the weak light streaming through my living room window made the mirror seem to have a distorted reflection. Surely I looked better than this!

Winter had come outside my window. The sky gave itself to grief as the snow changed to rain and back again. My lights flickered on and off so I made a conscious effort to calm myself as I held the mirror up and peered at it.

The lights blinked again and almost went out and that was when I noticed it. A wave seemed to go across the surface of the mirror, causing a shimmering effect that transformed the whole reflective surface of the glass. 

And then as I looked closer, it was gone. “Wow!” I said aloud. “I really need sleep, but I just want to get it nailed up on the wall.”

A tap here and a tap there to get it level, and then all of a sudden I got shocked, an actual electrical shock as my fingers had accidentally touched the glass. With a strangled cry, I sprang backwards, knocking over a very expensive Ming Dynasty vase. The vase bounced on my expensive Persian rug but didn’t break.

Suddenly the mirror seemed to strangely alter its molecular structure, appearing like water, but thick like mineral oil. I stared directly at it and right before my eyes, it returned back to a plain and simple mirror; its reflective surface showing not a trace of the transition from solid to liquid. 

I flopped down on the chair and sank my head into my hands. Was I experiencing some form of bizarre jet-lag or did I really have some sort of virus?

You cannot see fear, you cannot smell fear, or even taste fear. It is like a ghost, but you can feel fear and you know when you have it. The little hairs on the back of my neck stood up and a shiver went down my spine.

Suddenly I wondered why the disfigured shop keeper had given the mirror to me as a gift. Was it possible that he felt the same fear about the mirror? It was just wood and glass, yet I felt as if my soul was exposed and in mortal danger.

A queer shiver of nameless apprehension shot down my spine. Then I refused to let my mind follow the channel it was going into. There was no bad juju about the mirror. The shopkeeper simply had no sense of what had value. He must have thought it was just like the rest of the junk in his store.

There had to be a rational explanation for what had just happened. There was no history of mental illness in my family so I could check that off right away. Maybe a slight lack of commitment and discipline, but that was the worst I could come up with.

I shuddered deep down. It was an awful thing not to trust the proof of your own senses but that was exactly what was happening. I was in no way a devotee of any such realm of magic. It was no noontide of summer or trick of the light and I wasn't in a secret chamber where old passions slept. But something disturbing had occurred.

At the very least I could admit this to myself. If the truth be known I wanted to try it again, to test it and reveal its secrets if indeed there were any secrets to reveal.  It was as though it was from a wizard’s hands that this magic had been born on the surface of this mirror.

I studied the mirror, now hanging on the wall. A ripple appeared on the edge like wind across the water. It touched my soul with a heavenly fire of bliss and pain. I examined the mirror thoroughly, being careful this time not to touch the glass.

As I stood in front of it, gazing at my reflection, I could see myself smiling and my cheeks blushing, but I was somber and gray with dark circles under my eyes. It was as though the mirror was changing my moods to suit itself.

And then as I continued to gaze at myself, my reflection seemed to be getting older. It was black magic like the inkwell beckons the pen, as if to reveal the darkness in my soul. The glass began to shimmer and waves were created that went diagonally across the surface from one corner to the other. It became dark. Bleary-eyed from lack of sleep, I watched this transformation.

I decided in that instant exactly what I would do. I would pack it up and send it back to The What-Not Shop.

I got immediately on my computer and looked it up. In this day and age all places had a website, but this one didn’t, and I was a bit baffled on what to do next. I got on my phone and got long distance information but was informed that they had no such listing.

Finally in anger, I threw my phone at the mirror as it just stood there mocking me. I was shocked when my phone plunged into the reflection and disappeared. Like mineral water, crystal clear and deep, it concealed my phone within its depths.

A sharp pain and pressure pressed down on my chest. making it hard to catch my breath. I approached the mirror with mixed feeling of fear and horror. I stood there right in front of itm but when I went to reach for it. a static charge shot out of the glass. The electric current took on a vine-like quality and was wrapping around my body and pulling me forward towards the mirror.

It had come out at me unseen, and as I tried to get away, the vine wrapped me up tight and knocked me down to the floor. Something like liquid fire shot up my legs, spreading throughout my whole body as it dragged me closer and closer to the mirror.

I had this surreal feeling of adrenaline, fear, and primal terror. I reached over my head and grabbed hold of the drapes, but after just a few moments, the curtains came tumbling down and I lost my grip. I dug my fingernails deep into the carpet but that did little to slow me as my fingers grasped at nothing.

All of a sudden all the lights went out. I instinctively understood that these horrible electric vines were drawing all the power from them and the only illumination was coming from the mirror in front of me. I tried to cry out but the vine wrapped around my chest so tight that I could hardly breathe. The light emanating from the mirror became intense as I was dragged closer,  bright as   as the sun, blinding me with its brilliance.

The first view of some undiscovered universe was revealed to me in life and death terms. My existence was no brighter then the light of a firefly compared to the solar flares all around me. While patterns of energy played out their favorite forms, I stared, spellbound. 

I could see what had to be a tiny fraction of the whole. In the midst of all this commotion, time unwashed, I no longer felt grounded to the earth. It was something horrible yet beautiful, a colorful thread in the tapestry of stardust and glimmering eyes…a taste of eternity.

“What kind of freak of nature are you?” I cried out, judging all creatures in this place except for myself.

I remembered how the gentle giant had glared down at me with his extremely dark eyes and refused to sell the mirror. As I drifted into the void, the shopkeeper now seemed to be neither stupid nor gentle.

With glitter in his eyes, the hunchbacked giant held a wand in his perfectly manicured and formed hand. With one mesmeric sweep, electrons circled around me, creating a plasma bubble that completely encompassed me.

“What’s going on?” I cried.

“The mirror is simply a reflection. When it finds evil, it reflects the same back. This mirror has chosen you through all of space and time to be my apprentice and that you shall be. I have been waiting for you for a very long time. I knew I’d recognize you when I met you, and so I did.”

Timothy Wilkie is a writer living in Kingston, New York, on the banks of the mighty Hudson River. It’s the only place where anybody can walk on water—you just wait for the bodies to float to the surface. He has two grown sons, Justin and Blake, and his oldest and dearest friend Marley the golden retriever. He loves the outdoors and can’t wait to see it again.