THE MIRROR IN ROOM X by Dr. Mel Waldman

I live alone in Room X, a rat hole the size of a large closet. I call it my suicide room. My landlord labels it a studio apartment. In my claustrophobic rectangular abode, a tiny tomb for an invisible man, I sleep on a hard cot. Nearby, there’s a sink and an oval mirror attached to the wall, but no bathroom. I go down the hall to use the communal men’s bathroom.

It stinks here. I’m gonna die in this cage. But until I do, I look in the mirror and search for my old identity. I was Superman once before my fall. But now I have flashbacks – trauma trips into hell.

I clean the mirror at night. I have got asthma, and don’t need a mirror that’s a magnet for dust, metallic debris, cockroaches, and maggots.

My rolling eyeballs look inside the filthy thing. When I’m real curious, they brush against the mirror.

*

I hear bats, buzzards, and vultures outside my window. “Come on in, guys. I’m hungry.” I pop a couple pills and see the Angel of Death. “I ain’t dead yet!” I shout. The demon grows a big fat smile, reveals his pearly white teeth, and vanishes.

My voice and words are alien. They belong to one or more strangers. “Who am I?” I howl.

I hunt for yesterday inside the mirror. Hours pass, perhaps days. My face and protruding eyeballs touch cold glass. My ebony eyes see weird shit. “I’m coming home!” I shriek.

Now, I am Superman again.

When the other tenants complain of a noxious odor coming from Room X, the super unlocks the door. A black mask covers his eyes; a white one covers his mouth. His nose is stuffed with cotton. He discovers mounds of putrid dust, debris, and scattered bones.

My body is missing. The window’s open a few inches. All my possessions are strewn about the room.

“The poor sucker,” he mutters. Then he scurries off.

The following week, the M.E.’s report comes back. The scattered bones and debris are not human remains.

The super removes my possessions from the death room and instantly forgets I existed. He is a cockroach.

No one looks inside the dust-covered mirror today. Tomorrow morning, the next tenant will.

*

Inside the mirror, time, a Chimera that devours humans, does not exist.

In the late morning, a skeletal stranger clutching a black bag enters Room X. He is the new tenant. He reeks of despair and I smell his obscene odor.

He staggers to the broken-down cot, bends down, and empties the contents of his bag on the soiled, sinking mattress. Remnants of his life’s debris pour onto the narrow death bed-a rusty switchblade, a small bottle of sleeping pills, a machete, and assorted tattered clothes.

He drops into the tiny bed and instantly falls asleep.

I watch.

When he awakens, he clambers to his feet, strips naked, grabs his machete, and trudges to the mirror.

He gazes into the circular universe, his weapon dangling in his left hand. His glassy eyes roll around the filthy sphere, searching for something or someone, perhaps me. When he swings the large cleaver-like knife, it brushes against his neck. He laughs hysterically and saunters off.

Suddenly, he hears the sound of buzzards, bats, and vultures outside his window. He stops abruptly, and swirls around, slashing the thick air with his machete, before collapsing on the little bed.

Trapped in Room X, a shrinking claustrophobic space for the hopeless, he exists inside the prison of time, buried alive in a tiny tomb.

He passes through the night-his interminable night-and enters the final labyrinth of his life.

At dawn, he rises, and returns to the mirror.

Looking into the filthy thing, he sees my bestial eyes, grows a twisted grin, and shouts, “Hello,” as he swings his machete wildly.

Days pass. The super receives complaints again about a foul odor oozing out of Room X. He enters the suffocative space and discovers a miasma of death strewn with scattered bones and debris. (Eventually, he will learn they are non-human.) The tenant is missing too.

In the late morning, a new tenant arrives. Outside Room X, buzzards, bats, and vultures beat against the window.

Here, inside the mirror, I am the Lord of the howling landscape, a wilderness of ululations where grotesque creatures soar across the thick black sky and killer birds rest quietly on my shoulders. And the Queen of the Vultures, perched on my bald skull, sleeps peacefully.

Now, I eat souls and watch you in Room X. I watch, as It shatters my skull and watches me from beyond.

*

Dr. Mel Waldman is a psychologist, poet, and writer whose stories have appeared in numerous magazines including HARDBOILED DETECTIVE, HARDBOILED, DETECTIVE STORY MAGAZINE, ESPIONAGE, THE SAINT, DOWN IN THE DIRT, CC&D, PULP METAL MAGAZINE, INNER SINS, YELLOW MAMA, and AUDIENCE. A past winner of the literary GRADIVA AWARD in Psychoanalysis, he was nominated for a PUSHCART PRIZE in literature and is the author of 11 books.   Four of his mystery, fantasy, and horror stories were published by POSTSCRIPTS, a British magazine and international anthology, in October/November 2014. He recently completed an experimental mystery novel inspired by one of Freud’s case studies and is looking for an agent. He has been inspired for decades by his patients and their heroic stories of trauma and survival.

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