This Week’s Prompt: 42. Fear of mirrors—memory of dream in which scene is altered and climax is hideous surprise at seeing oneself in the water or a mirror. (Identity?)

The Relevant Research:Mirror Mirror On The Wall

My first dreams were fine. I didn’t even think they were dreams, while having them. I remember entire lives, and I guess the first of those is the one to start with.

The dreams started well after the the machine was running. They weren’t that bad at first, run of the mill nightmares. Falling through the floor, skin flying off, loud winds, that sort of thing. I wasn’t too concerned, at first. We were busy and wondering on dreams isn’t exactly a productive use of time in a facility like ours.

Of course, it really was the reverse. We really should have been paying more attention to our dreams. Dreams and visions are the secrets to the Kingdom and such. But I didn’t. I sat down at the control desk next to Dan, looking over the hollowed column of shining silver. Purified, rariefied, polished silver. A mirror of lunar metal, a hundred huddled faces staring back at us with the same coffee addled anticipation as us.

“Alright, calibrating now. Control, are you there?” Dan asks, twisting one of the many many dials on our desks. There was a buzzed reply.

“Think we’ll get something this time?” I asked, flicking a few switches. The column began to bend, the reflections forming a callidascope of reflected images, only a few showing our complete faces. Dan shrugged.

“Beginning oscillation.” I said into the intercom mic. The all clear came back, and with that the screaming started.

Oh, no, not from anything horrible done to us. Not yet. No, the sound was a recording, or a set of recordings. I moved the pitch up and down, watching it echo through the mirrored chamber. Little rippls and cracks formed along the edges of the mirrors, and the reflections began to distort. The Bloody Mary principle seemed to be coming through.

The idea was pretty simple, and for an occult science, fairly sound. Noises near mirrors caused disruptions, misforutunes, called up terrible entities and ghosts. There was a great deal of potential in that in-between space that was just on the otherside of the mirror. A thin barrier that, with the right amount of pressure, we hoped to crack.

Based on studies, we reckoned there was something to learn from the other side. Something about what the foundations of the world are, or perhaps what lies beyond our own. What is inimical to life, does anything transcend our petty corner of reality to all cosmos? Do we have like-minded thinkers to await us?
So we built a machine. We found the noises that pierced the soul, that drew attention best. We found perfect mirrors and arranged them in thousands of angles. And now, Dan and I spent hours blasting them with simulations of screams, waiting for a ripple to spread, a sign that the other side had heard back. It wasn’t exactly the most pleasant work. It wasn’t surprising that at night my dreams were, as I said, a tad disturbed.

But we really should have noticed. Should have asked, should have talked about it, in case…well, I’m getting ahead of myself.


That day was unlike other days, in a way you have probably anticipated. You see, for once, the mirror began to flicker, the silver began to peel like paint and ripple like water. The reflections bent and burned, eyes widening, subsumed by great pupils that became darkness as they were torn open to reveal something new. Something that wasn’t on our side of the shining fence.

And then…darkness. There was still the screaming, the modulation stopped where the dial left it, a low and deep sound that almost resembled a dying whale’s song. There wasn’t anything else, just an inky black so complete that I was certain I was sleeping, if not for the continuous screaming.

When the lights came back on line, when the world started to fold back to itself, it looked different. The first, most obvious difference was the column. There was a hole, lined with the mirrors, extending backwards. I couldn’t tell, just looking, how far back the hole went. The lights didn’t reach all the way back, and even if they did, reflections would make just visually measuring the depth hard. Okay, that was an after the fact realization.

No, what struck me first after the ‘why is there a hole in the middle of the machinery’ was, well, ‘What had knocked me and Dan over and was Dan breathing?’ There was broken glass everywhere. When I started to pull myself, up I had to stop because my hands felt like they were full of needles. Something had gone horribly wrong. There were alarms going off now. I ignored them like I ignored the other loud peircing noise and push-crawled to Dan. He looked alive. He seemed to be breathing. His breath fogged up a bit of glass I could barely hold over his mouth.

After that, some emergency folks came in. I lost consciousness again.


I didn’t wake up in a hospital bed. I woke up, first, in a room. A plain room, with curtains around every wall and a breeze coming through. The tile floor was cold to walk on. I stood, staring at my hands that seemed fully healed. As I stared at them, I saw things moving beneath the surface. Worms crawling in my skin. It didn’t bother me much.

There was nothing else in the room, but it felt more like I was swimming then walking. It wasn’t hard to move, but it was…heavy. I looked around some, pacing around the place I had been lying. There wasnt any furniture, but the floor had felt like a bed before.

With nothing else to do, I wlaked toward one of the curtains and grabbed it. It felt like human skin. I pulled and pulled at it, to see what was behind it. Just when it was about to give, I woke up again.

I woke up this time in the hospital room, with curtains surrounding me and the beeping of machines beside me. This was to be expected. I had been in accident. There were people talking, silhouettes I could make out, all in hushed voices. Something had gone wrong, that much was certain. Someone behind the curtain sounded nervous, afraid.

There was a pounding on the door. A man gestured towards it, I assumed. He then peeled back the curtains to get a better look at me.

“Hello, David? I’m Doctor Stevens. Nod if you understand.” the Doctor said. He was wearing a face mask, and saftey goggles. Excessive, I thought, for what my condition was. I lifted my head a bit. My neck really hurt. But I managed to nod. My hands still stung as I tried to move them.

“Okay, great. Now, there was an accident. Do you remember the accident?” the Doctor asked. More pounding on the door, some shouting. I nodded again. My mouth felt dry, really dry. I worried if I opened my mouth, I’d suddenly speak only ashes.

“Alright, now, do you remember who was with you in the control room?”

Another nod.

“How many people where in the control room with you?” the Doctor asked. I heard wood cracking. The door was breaking. I turned slowly towards the noise to not hurt my neck anymore.

“Ignore that. How many people where in the room with you, David?”

I raised my hand cautiously, holding up a single finger. My hand stung, and I think blood was still running down my palm. Doctor Stevens nodded.

“And after the accident? How many people, before you pass—”

I frowned. After the accident? The security guards I guessed. Counting in my head, the cracking grew louder. I managed to hold up fiver fingers before the door smashed onto the ground. There was screaming and shouting. I squinted to see what was happening on the otherside of the curtains as Doctor Stevens ran.

There was a thing out there, a sillehoute. Hands, on the ground, grabbing and pulling down. I saw Dan walking. No, floating, like some forgotten spectre. He pushed through the crowd as it grew quiet, as screams became choking sobs. I saw his hand…or what was left of his hand, reaching up along the curtain, pulling back at the edge, pulling it aside. I caught a glimpse of maggots festering, a mass of rotting flesh and new born flies pouring from his dead eyes. His pupils, or a black abyss like pupils, was swelling over his face, hanging over his cheek bones.

I woke again. I awoke not far from here, alone in a bathroom stall. New clothes, new skin even. Still felt…well, felt tingly. But when I looked in the mirror, I saw a pair of bloodshot eyes and a face I’ve never seen before. Yeah, this face. I don’t know who Jacob is. I don’t know why my hands still feel like their bleeding. But that’s not important.


I saw my eyes, detective, I saw them. The pupils are growing wider.


This weeks prompt suffered from a loss of my time. I think the premise of piercing a veil through mirrors has promise, and might be revisited latter. And the pupils feel a bit…well, corny at the moment. A draft more than a story for now.


Next time, we delve into the depths of the earth, and find unsuspecting foes! What will we find below? What daemons lurk in the deeps of the fertile earth?

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Mirror Mirror On The Wall

This Week’s Prompt:42. Fear of mirrors—memory of dream in which scene is altered and climax is hideous surprise at seeing oneself in the water or a mirror. (Identity?)

The Resulting Story: Catoptrophobia

Mirrors roll in identiy and illusions is one with a long traditon, as many tropes are. There is the understanding that a mirror, fundamentally, provides an accurate but false image. It reflects, but because it is imperfect it distorts. Thus we have the term smoke and mirrors, and the quotation from the bible on troubled perception:

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13. 12, NIV)

The Mirror’s reflection is not the thing itself, any more than the moon is the sun. But, as this prompt also points to, a mirror can be revelatory. You cannot see yourself but in a mirror. And so, self reflection requires this mild obsfucation. Shaksepeare’s…oddly topical play Julius Caesear provides an excellent view of this:

“Therefore, good Brutus, be prepared to hear.

And since you know you cannot see yourself

So well as by reflection, I, your glass,

Will modestly discover to yourself

That of yourself which you yet know not of.”

(Cassius, Act 1, Scene 2, 68-72)

Mirrors roll in idenity and illusion are alluded to in folkloric sources. The Romans attribution of life renewing every seven years is where the destruction of mirrors leading to seven years bad luck originates. Mirrors are often attributed as means of detection among the living from vampiric predators, as vampires leave no reflection. This, like the Roman tradtion, stems from a notion of identity. Vampires, being souless, have nothing to reflect. In a strange way, vampires have no ‘self’ as commonly understood.

Mirrors, because of their connection to the soul and self, were feared as possible traps for ghosts or means of contacting the world of the dead. After all, if the soul was there once, perhaps it is there still. Some Jewish traditions prescribe covering a mirror on the death of a relation, in case the dead was trapped there.

Mirrors self-knowing, however, was sometimes dangerous to the living. Mirrors are often a symbol of vanity, as they only show one themselves, rather than the world around them. It is easy to critize someone who is constantly looking in the mirror, after all. The ancient Greek tale of Narcissius, Narcissism’s root, tells of a man who was so pleased with his reflection he wasted away staring at it, lost in love. Or he drowned, trying to embrace his beloved image. Neither is a pleasant end.

Sometimes, however, the emphasis is on knowledge more than self. Obsidian mirrors were common tools for Mesoamerican shamans, and the Smoking Mirror was a powerful royal god to the Aztecs. Mirrors role as oracluarly devices in this case was linked to the dead of Xibalba, who were believed to possess knowledge of the future and past that was beyond the sight of mortal kin.

So with this all in mind, what are we to do with this story? Mr. Lovecraft has a fondness for bloodlines and lost histories that we’ve noted before. But more pressing here is the transformation of humans into something…else. Shadow Over Innsmouth and Pickman’s Model both do such transformation quite well, and emphasis perhaps the horror at play here.

For, to indulge in pyschoanalysis for a time, few people actually know themselves. And I sometimes wonder how much of our internal thoughts and forces are what we would socially call human. How many monsters do we make from our own vast inner landscapes? But I digress slightly.

A dream revelation of self is certainly fitting, and there is an uncomfortable horror in changing without intending it. There are the normal anxieties in that process that occur through out life. There is puberty, there’s growing old, there’s death. These are all things that change us, that we cannot control.

The Metamorphisis by Franz Kafka touches on some of this horror fairly well. I won’t spoil the classic of horror, but merely link it here.

Working this into a story is still difficult, however. We have a climax, a tomato in the mirror moment that will define the rest of the story. A mystery then seems in order, but the resolution is…well, it’s kinda given away by the prompt isn’t it? If we do a mystery, it is absolutely imperative therefore that the murderer not be the dreamer. I say murderer, because murder is the most common crime in mystery novels.

So if we are telling a mystery story, I think Shadow Over Innsmouth’s mystery was better. The climax there is very similair (though not enough for me to call it entirely from this prompt), and points towards a resolution that is horrifying but not…spoilerific? I won’t divulge the entire plot, but the ending is more adjacent to the more common form of horror in the story.

A possible break from Lovecraft is to remove the normally familial or hereditary component of the transfromation. Rather, make it seomthing like the origin of many demons of the Journey to the West. In Journey to the West, most demons come about from normal creatures overhearing the reading of holy (and thus powerful) scripture, growing powerful in their own right. Our monster-revel might be something similair. Something has imbued the main character and at least on other, maybe dozens, with massive amounts of power/awareness. We’ve seen what Lovecraft thinks of those things, and that horror might feel more original. It’s not in your blood, it in your experience.

I can’t say exactly what form said transformation will take. Nor how it will begin. But seeing something over take everyone you know and love or cherish, and then looking in the mirror to see it changing you certainly is the beating black heart of what we are looking for.

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There Is Another In The Woods

This Week’s Prompt: 41. The Italians call Fear La figlia della Morte—the daughter of Death.

The Relevant Research:Frightful Night Terrors

Elise had been stolen from me. Elise, Elise had been stolen in the middle of the night. Again. I was out in the old forest with my flashlight, searching as best I could. Again.

The first time she was small. Only six. Only six, and out of the house. Well, that doesn’t give the full story. Her door was locked, a nice iron pad lock as well as the normal lock. The windows had been barred, in case some of the more adventurous squirrels or raccons lept in at Elise. It was a secure as secure could be. I even moved her bed, in case someone through something through the window. It was safe and close.

Foggy forest nights where the clouds seem to have come down from the sky and subusmed the moon are not exactly comforting when you’ve lost something. Your feet catch on the roots, and after the first few you times you fall over, you start thinking they are trying to drag you down into the ground. The flashlight can catch the branches, giving me time to duck and weave through the woods. It wasn’t a quite night this time.

Last time, there was almost no noise in the woods but my footsteps and heavy breathing. I knew Elise was in the woods. There hadn’t been any signs in her room, the lock and bars still intact. But I saw her steps going off towards the woods. I grabbed a hand gun, my flashlight, and went running. I didn’t think to call the police. Not yet.

Tonight there was the occasional clinking when my footsteps hit a broken beer bottle. The wind drove the branches against each other, scratching at the sky. There was an occasional howl in the depths, towards the old hills. I ran faster, my flashlight bumping up and down. I called out for her again. Last time, last time it had taken two days to find her out in these woods.

I spent a night running around screaming, last time. I wasn’t even the one who called the cops. Neighbors around the woods called complaining about the noise.

“Now sir, calm down. How long has your daughter been missing.”

“I don’t know, three hours? I noticed she was gone when I went to bring her water for the night, she always gets water at around nine, and then she wasn’t there, so I went out–” I said, my voice beginning to pick up speed as I talked.

“And there was no one else in the house? No one at all? No visitors, babysitters?” the man in blue asked, tilting his head to look inside.

“None, no.” I said flatly.

“Door was locked and everything.” He said, thinking for a moment. “Well, we’ll get a search party together. You mind coming down to the station, so we can a statement on the record?”

“Yeah, yeah, sure, just let me get some things.”

“It’d be better for it to be right now.” the man said, stepping out of the doorway.

The station conversation was much the same. They asked again about the room, why was it so secure, if I heard anything, if I saw anything. I had heard tapping on the top floor I said, but I thought it was a door in the wind or something. They held me there, away from the search party, for about six hours.

It wasn’t hard to piece together what they thought had happened. It was suspicious, it was frustrating. You do everything you can to keep your daughter safe, after her mother vanishes into thin air, and people start to wonder what your hiding her from. What’s out there that warrants bars on the windows, iron locks, and a fence? Then the start asking if it’s something inside instead. And it goes down hill.

Not like I don’t know what did it. I do, I do know. Out here in the woods, there’s only one thing that steals away with children. Mother told me about night like these, and I told Elise. These are old woods, and her mother didn’t understand that either. They’re fairie woods, woods were you better carry a cross even during the day.

They found her in the woods last time, sleeping in the roots of a tree, with a few scratch marks and a sprained ankle. She said she didn’t know how she got there. And maybe she didn’t. I hadn’t put all the stuff up yet. Just the one lock. It’s possible, I guess, she just snuck out. But how did she get so far away, from the second story to the woods with barely any sound? No, it took her there.

I tried telling Elise once, but she was so young. So very young, she had trouble grasping what I meant by faeries.

“But wouldn’t they be scared of you, papa?” she asked. “I mean, Tinkerbell would be frightened off by you. All you have to do is say you don’t believe in faeries.”

And I smiled and said sure with a laugh. Still secretly sewed some iron into her clothes, as a ‘game’. Yeah, it might have looked a little odd if you saw it, and it gave her a bit of a rash as she grew up. But it was the only way to be sure. If she knew what was out here, she’d know that it wasn’t scared of me. Contrary to what Disney says, faeries are rarely kind or small. And the one in the woods…he’s neither.

“He walks on long legs, so that even boys and girls on upstairs rooms aren’t safe from him.” Mother told me, holding her arms over my head like an oak’s branches. “And if you’ve been bad, it comes up from the forest for you with it’s long branch like arms.”

I had scratched my face pretty bad by now, the thorns of bushes and low hanging branchs having left their mark. Especially as I was more focused on moving forward then anything else, and so instead of ducking and weaving in the thickets I walked straight through them.

“And he takes you away, to his house, for as long as it takes for you to learn your lesson. He took my brother once, and he was gone for a whole year.” she said. Uncle Tommy was clear that he’d gone to millitary school, but to be honest when I was little that might as well as been hell.

I didn’t believe in him for a long time, until I was out in the woods myself. I saw him, two long arms out stretched among the branches, and a bright toothy grin. Long pale legs and a glowing face like a barn owls. I saw him, I did , that night Elise went missing. And he’s come again, he’s come again for my daughter.


Why now though? I can’t help but wonder as I begin to lose the speed in my legs. Why now? It’d been three years, three years since they found her. She’d been well behaved, she’d been doing good in school, I’d been doing the best I could, making recitals, making it to bake sales, buying girl scout cookies, selling girl scout cookies, telling her good night.

What had gone wrong?

I didn’t shout her name this time. I didn’t bother calling the police this time. The bars on her window sealed my fate I think. No one likes them. Home owner’s associations been knocking on my door about them every month.

“It’s ugly” they say.

“New homebuyers think it’s a prison cell.” they say.

“It can’t be good for little Elise.” they say.

What do they know about what’s good for a kid, huh? What do they know, they’ve never had one. Never had one go missing in the middle of the night, and never gone to bed wondering if she’s snuck out again. For a year after, I put a baby monitor in her room, just in case. Maybe that’s where I went wrong, maybe I let my guard down. But hell, the bars. The bars were a must.

I know that’s what got her last time. And hell if I let that thing steal her again.

Not that they did any good it seems. But the iron should have! The iron should have burned him. My grandma, she had iron tied above her when she slept. It’s what kept her safe. My mother, she just put a cross of iron on my neck.

I find my answer, pretty quickly. Its hanging from a tree branch, a small piece of bright blue cloth with the tiny iron thread gleaming in the flash light. My heart stops for a second and I feel my breath become lead in my throat. In a daze, I look around, I look closely and carefully for any sign of her. It had to have come through here.

Someone’s sobbing or…laughing, its that sound that’s between the two. I round the trunk, watching my steps. When I come around, I see a girl Elise’s age. But her mousey brown hair has been cut in weird places, and she’s got bruises on her arms. There are wrinkles beneath her eyes and callouses on her hands that I’ve never seen before.

It can’t be her.

“L-Lizzy?” I say slowly, getting down on one knee. “Lizzy, is that you?”

“Papa!” she shouted, looking up at my light and running into hugging me. “Papa, he said I could go home, papa!”

I patted her on the back as her tears rand down my shoulder. I should have been delighted. I should have. My little girl was back. But something felt wrong.

“Go home? Honey, you’ve only been out here a few hours.” I said cautiously.

“No, no, papa, its a been longer that. Months at least.” she said through tears. Months? No, something in my mind clicked. Not months. Years.

What had been living in my house?

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Frightful Night Terrors

This Weeks Prompt:41. The Italians call Fear La figlia della Morte—the daughter of Death.
The Resulting Story: There Is Another In The Woods

The tie between fear and death is fundamental to the notions of horror as we have them. There is nothing more fundamental to our nature then a fear of death. That fear pressage death, be death’s relative, is not so strange. In the myth of the Greeks, fear and terror are children of Ares, butcher of war. Fear is at the essence of what we do here, fear is at the heart of horror.

But there are very few things that are, well, just fear. Dying of fright is certainly a phenomenon, well documented at that in several anthropological works. But, well, those aren’t situations that lend themselves well to horror. Fear can cause a heart attack, which is existentially terrifying, but lacks a certain amount of drama.

The Tingler

There was a horror movie classic about a creature that fed on fear, delightfully called the Tingler. The eponymous creature causes a tingle in it’s host spine and feeds on it’s fear. Only by screaming can the creature be prevented from curling up and crushing the spine. The concept of something that feeds on fear is continued in Harry Potter to a degree, a creature that resembles a dementor but devours fear instead of misery. Even Power Rangers has had villains that collect fear.

But these are…well, silly. The Tingler might have been frightful for it’s day, but as a scary story it falls very flat to me. No, folklore will have to do. Now, there are few folklore types that deal in fear…but there are many. There is one that is everywhere, one we’ve left off to the side: the Boogeyman.

The Boogeyman is a strange sort of creature. It isn’t really a definite creature usually, rather a fearsome name and behaviors. Often it eats disobedient children, or kidnaps them, or otherwise disposes of them. Its menace is often opaque and childish in logic, a dream like threat that has menace on it’s edges.


Wewe Gombel

But sometimes, in the course of the world, he is extremely defined. In Hati, he is Master Midnight, his legs are two stories tall. He steals away those who would come out after night, whisking them away. Wewe Gombel in Java kidnaps children…from neglectful households. In Sicily, those who play near wells must beware a water spirit dragging them below.

The Inuit people have a shape-shifting giantess with a hole in her back. Luxemburg’s Kroperman lurks near storm drains like a certain clown, and pulls children in with a hook in their nose. The Zulu Tikoloshe is capable of sending fear and death upon people, with gouged out eyes and a gremlin like appearance. The United State’s Bloody Bones, who sits atop the bones of lying and swearing children, is another gruesome member of the pantheon of frights.

All these are creatures created for fright, and their horrific crimes are often in that fairy tale category. They devour those who won’t sleep, or eat their meals, or are up after hours, or so on. This is at first nothing more than a small scare for children, but the violation of taboos can provide a great deal of horror (as we discussed before regarding sacred spaces) and an adult haunted by a terrifying child form has found some strength these days. Modern horror, such as the Babadook, brings a boogeyman like presence to life in a way that is…terrifying.


I think that the perspective perhaps ought not be the child. I remember the movie the Labyrinth, with its…well, David Bowie and I think it gets the crux better. The heroine accidentally invoke or invites the goblins in to take the child away and greatly regrets her decision, engaging in the quest to pursue him and returned the lost babe (with the power). The Babadook likewise is the mother’s story, and better for it.


Seriously he stole a child, why is he so fabulous.

The loss of a child has an innate fear, and as such I think the loss of a child by kidnapping can expand on it more than by a cannibal. There is something more unnerving to the thought that your child is out there, your child is being held by a stranger, growing old without you as opposed to dead. That’s not to say a child’s loss isn’t tragic and horrific, but it is a) a sort of horror and tragedy that outpaces my skill and b) a tension that is hard to communicate in a short period. The kidnapping provides a better, cleaner end and recurring drama that has a material touch. There is something more concrete when a child might still be rescued, the taunting possibility of a happy ending with parent or child reunited.

I’ll observe, strangely, that the three examples I can think of are mothers pursuing their children(specifically sons or son analogs). This…seems odd. There are stories of father-daughter concerns in horror, although specifics escape me. Something to consider when writing this story.

Well, we will proceed next week with a tale of a lost child, a fear of near to death, and loss. What have you unearthed near this particular literary corpse?

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