This story is by Keegan Tippetts and was part of our 2019 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
I couldn’t see, my eyes were constrained by my own skin. However, I could hear, and I heard a single voice coming from three locations around me – my own.
“Here we go.”
My eyes fluttered open to observe a familiar room. This room held three mirrors which in turn held three people, and each one shared the face I wore. The reflective silvers were spread equidistant from each other in the small circular room I had found refuge in for much of my life. Their reflections sent a dizzy spiral of mirrors that drifted into infinity, a million duplicates of my own face – reflections spiraling into a perfectly organized chaos that breathed of its own accord. Despite the breaths that came from the reflections, the room was static save for the soft ticks of the pendulum that made its home in my old mahogany clock. Murmuring drum beats played in my head, repeating the same rhythm in time with the clock, a slow crescendo of unease bubbling within my mind. A metallic taste floated in the air, clamping onto my tongue as I took in a shuddering breath that broke the stillness with a fading life.
“It’s been a long time.”
I glanced left at the man in the mirror who held my face. His eyes followed the slow swing of the pendulum.
“Finally understand that you need us?” He queried.
I did not know why I had awoken in this room. My last memory was of entering and sitting on the seat, of resting in the middle of my old sanctuary. My memory did not contain the drifting to sleep, which I must have done. Nor did it contain anything after I had sat, although I knew something must have occurred between my sitting and my falling into unconsciousness. Times of rest were few and far between for my busy mind and I could rarely sleep, even when it was the forefront of my goals. I stood, remembering the many times I had come here, begging for advice from the deepest parts of my mind. I had only one goal today however, and I hoped I would not be dissuaded from it by the clever words of the many versions of me.
“Tha-” I paused, restraining my outburst to a calmer phrase, “that isn’t true.”
“Then why are you here?” I spun to look at the new speaker who shuffled a deck of cards, spinning them through the air and watching them drift onto the deck. He pouted a little, similar to that of a child, it was strange to see such an expression on our face. “It’s been sooooooo long!”
“He brings up an accurate point.” The last one now spoke, his voice carrying the weight of knowledge. “It’s been far too long since you last consulted us.”
“Since you even acknowledged our existence.” another one muttered.
The last one sat at a desk of sorts, legs crossed, glasses resting on his face, and a quill noting down the account of my life onto paper. He looked up at me, “what gives you the right to our knowledge?”
“Because you’re all me.” I stated, speaking with objective fact and glaring at each mirror in turn, daring them to challenge my authority.
“Are we you, or are you one of us?” At his desk, he began writing once again, I had never seen him change pages, perhaps he wasn’t even writing anything, perhaps he was chronicling only his own limited experience, seen through my eyes.
“Yeah!” Cards yelled, “you don’t even do anything, you can’t do shi-” he looked at the other two sheepishly, then stared down at his feet for a second, shuffling them. “Sorry,” he muttered before glancing up at me again, “you can’t do… anything without us!” He grinned as if at a great victory and stuck his tongue out at me before resting his face back into a pout.
“So why are you here?” the first broke in, dragging his attention from the clock to look at me.
It was simple why I was here, but it was near impossible to say after the long time I had spent growing alongside them, watching some of them stop growing, watching others surpass the age of my mind with their weary souls.
“I’m here…” The mucus in my throat was thick, my saliva viscous, “…to say goodbye.”
A thick energy began groaning in the air, the drumbeats became loud, and beating- throbbing, and painful.
The simple quill fell to the ground, “Excuse me?” He stared at me intently, “Now why would you do that?” His fingers flicked on the table, matching the drumbeat.
“You’re holding me back.” I said, more confident now, I had cut the brakes myself, there was no going back.
“How so? It seems to me that we’re the only thing that’s kept you from going off the rails.” he tilted his head, appearing legitimately confused. However, I knew he was not.
“Perhaps, but you bind me to your rails.” I said, anger surging through me as I remembered that he would do anything to keep me. His acting was quite good, but my knowledge of his lies only served to infuriate me more.
He dropped all pretenses, his fingers flew, tapping with the drumbeats that slammed against my skull, and made my entire body quiver. “Not at all. You’ve left us a great many times, but each time you come back to us, begging for our assistance.” His voice was filled with derision. I looked at him. He looked at me, and we both saw something, and it was enough to make unease crawl up my back. He frowned, annoyed at something I had no knowledge of. “We know how this ends.” he said, arms reaching up to include the others in his declaration, “Do you?”
I glared at him, my mind made up, although whether or not it was the right choice I knew not. I stalked over to the clock, and grabbed the heavy gold pendulum, but as soon as the soft ticking of the clock was gone, the drumbeats sped their beating, free from any order. “I know it ends with you dead.”
“HEY!” The first yelled, “you’ll mess up the time!”
The wise one sighed, shaking his head.
I swung the pendulum, slamming it into the mirror, shattering it into a million shards. He was gone.
I knew death well, but rarely had it been me delivering it. My stomach stirred, riling up in fear. It felt like murder. He had been alive, he had been a different me. I shattered the second one.
The man sat at his desk, his fingers tapping out the drumbeat slowly, at the same pace as it had been when I had first awoken, astranger with my own face. “Kill me then. It won’t change anything.” he leaned forwards, a grin spreading up his face, his dark chuckle infectious. “You’re trapped here.”
I swung the pendulum with a roar, shattering the last mirror. I stood straighter, reveling in the quietest of ways at my victory-my freedom. My breaths were deep and gasping. My hands quivered, and I dropped the pendulum with a soft thud. It made little sense that the noise was not sharp as the metal hit the hard oak wood floor. Perhaps it was simply my mind numbing the sensations around me. The energy drained from the air, the charge dissolving from where passion had been merely a moment before. The glass lay on the floor, reflecting small bits of myself: a piercing eye, a mouth that moved of its own accord, and my hand soaked in blood.
I almost puked as nausea overtook me. “I’m a murderer.” I gasped, but I was also free, and that was worth any price.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
My eyes fluttered open to observe a familiar room, this room held three mirrors which reflected three souls, and each one shared the face I wore. I could only see one’s reality at any singular moment as the reflective silvers were spread equidistant from each other in the small circular room I had found refuge in for much of my life. Their reflections sent a dizzy spiral of mirrors that drifted into infinity, a million of my own faces, reflections spiraling into a perfectly organized chaos that breathed on its own accord. Yet even so, the room was still static save for the soft ticks of the pendulum that made its home in my old mahogany clock. Murmuring drum beats played in my head, repeating the same rhythm in time with the clock, a slow crescendo of unease bubbling within my mind. A metallic taste floated in the air, clamping onto my tongue as I took in a shuddering breath that broke the stillness with the semblance of life.
My voice came from behind my body, “1,458th.”
And from the left, “Let’s not die this time.”