This story is by Damien Remington and was part of our 2018 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
How long has it been? I’ve forgotten by now. My memory’s been hazy since it happened, but I guess it was never that great to begin with anyway. I think… Yeah, I think I know what went wrong.
It started the day I found the house. It shouldn’t have been there. I knew it shouldn’t have been there. There’s no way it should have been there, that deep in the woods, in the middle of nowhere. That house… Yeah, that’s what it was. It was all that house’s fault. No, that’s not right. It wasn’t the house’s fault. The house was just the setting, the stage for the things that took place. Still, if I hadn’t found that house…
I think I remember what happened. It was after I had a bad day at school. It wasn’t an especially bad day or anything. Most of my days were bad, regardless of how many medications the doctors wanted to shove down my throat to try and make me ‘normal’. Stupid doctors. Stupid teachers. Stupid everyone…
I’m getting off track. What was I talking about? Oh yeah, the house. I found it after a bad day at school. I don’t know why, but I didn’t go home after the school day ended. I usually go straight home. Father gets angry if I don’t. And when Father gets angry…
No, don’t think about that. The house. Remember the house? It was… What was it like? It was large, right? Right, it was large. I guess calling it a house wouldn’t do it justice. It was more of a mansion. Yes, a mansion, deep in the woods, where mansions shouldn’t be. I don’t remember just how I found that mansion. I hadn’t been paying attention to where I was going, I just know that I was going.
I don’t know how long I was walking for. The trees all looked the same, the scenery all blended together. It couldn’t have been long. An hour? Maybe two? I can’t remember. I do remember finding the mansion, though. Well, first I found a cleared path, with no trees on either side of it. Something about the path felt… I don’t know. I guess wrong would be a good way to describe it. It didn’t feel natural. The earth felt different somehow, someway. It felt… alive?
I shouldn’t have followed the path. I should have turned around and gone home. Gone home to Mother and Father. Yes, that’s what I should have done. I would have been safe that way. Safe and protected in my warm home. But I didn’t go home. I followed the path. Followed it, and followed it, and followed it. I should have gone home…
The path led me to the mansion. I felt a lot of different things when I looked at the mansion. So many things. Awe, fear, and… longing? Something about the mansion called to me. Interested me. Drew me towards it. I don’t know what it was, but it called to me. And I answered.
I stumbled up to the front door and tried the handle. The door opened. Somehow I wasn’t surprised. Inside it was dark, and something about it felt wrong but… At the same time it felt right. I shouldn’t have entered inside. I should have gone home. I would have been safe. I would have been warm. I wouldn’t have found…
The moment I entered inside, the air around me seemed to change. It felt alive somehow, much like the path only much more intense. I could feel life itself flow around me, distorting my vision and casting cascades of color through the darkness. I didn’t like it. It made me sick.
I don’t remember how, but I made my way further and further into the mansion. The black darkness and the vivid rainbows clouded my vision, but I somehow managed to walk. I remember stairs. Climbing them, I went up and up, higher than I think stairs should go. Or at least higher than these stairs should have. I climbed, and I climbed, and I climbed. I eventually reached the top, though it might not have been. It was still pitch black, but that didn’t matter. I could find my way around. I went down a hallway. I think it was a hallway? Maybe it was a hallway. I went down the hallway, until I reached a door. Like the mansion’s front door, I tried the handle and found it unlocked. The moment I opened the door, light flooded out into the hallway. It was so bright. So very bright. It blinded me, hurt me. I had to cover my eyes. I remember yelling in pain, and falling to my knees.
I don’t know how long I stayed that way, there on the ground. A few seconds? Maybe minutes? It could have been hours. I don’t remember. I did eventually get back up and I slowly opened my eyes. This time I was prepared for the brightness. The brilliant radiance. I was prepared, and I let my eyes slowly adjust to the glow coming from the other side of the door. I stepped into the room, closer to the light. Yet another mistake.
After I stepped inside, I found myself in an empty room. The light came from a lamp that hung from the ceiling. A lamp? Yes, that’s what it was. It was a lamp, but it was somehow… Brighter than it should have been. Far brighter than anything should have been. And directly below the lamp stood a mirror.
Is that right? Was it a mirror? Yes, that’s what it was. It was a mirror. A slim, tall mirror with a rounded top. I remember walking up to the mirror. It looked like a normal mirror. It showed my reflection, and the empty room around me, like a mirror would. I don’t remember the light reflecting off the mirror. The light should have reflected, it should have glared off the mirror, but I didn’t notice that. I should have noticed.
I stepped closer to the mirror, and found nothing wrong. My reflection looked like it should, as did the rest of the room. The longer I looked at myself, though, the more different the me in the mirror became. I don’t know how to describe it. It was wrong. It was all wrong. But… No, it wasn’t wrong, was it? No, that’s right. It wasn’t wrong. It was how things should have been. It was me as I should have been. It wasn’t wrong, I was wrong. And when I realized that fact, I wanted to be different. I wanted to be right. And if the me in the mirror was right, then I could be too, right? Yes, that’s right. I knew what I had to do.
I walked right up to the mirror, my reflection watching my every move. And soon I was there, right there, right in front of it. In front of myself. I could see myself grinning, and I saw me say ‘come here’. I reached my hand up and touched the mirror. Yes, that’s what happened. I touched it.
Suddenly the light from above became even brighter, almost like the sun. No, that’s wrong. The sun was nothing compared to the light above me. This time I didn’t shield my eyes. There was no reason to. The light was right. My reflection was right. I was wrong.
I felt the world move around me. The whole Earth shifted around my body. But as it moved, the light started to dim. And as it dimmed, I began to feel cold. So cold, so very cold. It wasn’t right. No, the cold was wrong. Why was this happening? Why was everything wrong again? It had been right for the moment, so why was it back to wrong? As the light eventually faded into blackness, and the cold swept through my veins like ice, I found myself in some sort of black void. And in front of me was the mirror.
I could still see myself in the mirror, but it was different. The right me was still in the mansion. It was still in the real world. It was where I should have been. I touched the mirror again, but this time, it shattered. As the pieces fell to the floor, I could see my reflection laugh at me and wave goodbye before leaving.
It’s been so long since then. I’ve found that other people are here in the darkness with me. I’ve learned so much. So much about the darkness, about the cold, about how I became a part of a greater cycle. How I joined many who had come before me, and how we all became one with a cycle grander than I could begin to comprehend. But I’m getting ahead of myself, aren’t I? After all, you’re new here. Come on, then. There’s much for you to learn.