The Other Side of the Mirror

Disclaimer: This work of horror fiction was inspired by the popular legend, The Russian Experiment. Any relevance to a historical event, figure or place is purely coincidental. This story contains mentions of gore and psychosis, so those sensitive to such topics can please avoid.

Silence.

They had promised us emancipation. 30 days of no sleep and complying with whatever they asked us to do was all it should’ve taken, the cost of our freedom. Because drowning in a barrage of zipping bullets, singeing Molotov bombs, booming tanks, merciless bombers, cries of anguish, gazes of despondence and scattered limbs in the warzone didn’t cut it, did it?

But. That’s done. The past feels like the dying echoes of prey, screaming in terror and finally evading its predator by jumping into its safe haven, the burrow. 5 of us in total in the burrow, the chamber. Only difference? Another predator loomed inside.

The chamber had been locked. Bolted. Were we forgotten by the world? Probably. We didn’t care. Books had been stacked across one end of the chamber; wooden cots, water and a toilet crammed into the corner; oh, and food in the larder, too. This doesn’t seem all that bad…does it? Should it? Two circular mirrors, opposite to me, on the wall adjacent to the cots. Silver, cylindrical microphones had been propped alongside the cots. Could they see us? Listen to us? Didn’t matter. The air though, strangely, smelled…not air-like? Not that we couldn’t breathe it, yet…

Are all such chambers like this? I don’t know. I don’t care. Maybe that’s the war fumbling with my head; after all, sights of crazed soldiers drivelling and hallucinating were commonplace. We didn’t know each other, the people in the chamber. However, each one of us had been drilled, mortified and left aghast the same way – we were soldiers, after all. War is gruesome. War is bloody. War is traumatic.

And that’s how we began talking.

***

It’s day…day 3? Our conversations struck deep. Families ripped, promises shredded, unsightly scenes on the battlefield, bonds lost in the void- war had been unforgiving.

Why?

Why were we subject to this?

Why do the number of lives lost correlate to a war won?

Didn’t we learn enough from the last war?

I guess we are incapable of compassion. Of harmony.  Minds can be tipped the other way when fed with mouthfuls of greed, lust, and rage. Cynicism weeds into people. Or maybe this is logic at play? Afterall, my survival is imperative. Why do I care about others? Why should I? A bear in the wild fends for itself, trusting no one. Are the people here really soldiers of war? Can I believe them? Is my freedom fraught with danger they seem to conceal? I don’t know…I don’t know

But…maybe.

Maybe they can help. They can, can’t they? They hunted us down, they locked us in here. Two days have passed since the last word was uttered between ourselves. Yes, they should help. I could ingratiate myself by revealing others’ secrets. The soldiers aren’t what they describe themselves to be; no, they aren’t.

I must reveal. The mirror, the mics…I think they can hear me.

I must reveal.

***

He’s screaming.

He’s pacing the length of the chamber.

And he won’t stop.

Until his vocal chords did.

There are only squeaks now, like an injured sheep bleating. The pacing hasn’t halted, though. And neither has our whispering. Everyone turned out to be a darned snitch, eh? But. I. Don’t. Care. They have to know. The only way out. I won’t stop. We won’t stop.

And that’s when another set of screams arose; a mauled animal yelping. This is nothing. War is a gateway to unimaginable brutality. This doesn’t deter me. After a while, the soldiers adjacent to me rose from their beds and staggered towards the bookshelves. I paused my revelation and turned towards them. Books in hand – grabbed by their spines – they approached the mirrors and tore fistfuls of pages off them. I averted my gaze and resumed my whispers. Time slid by thickly, like blood spurting out of a shot and sliced soldier. Suddenly, the chamber went silent. I paused and scanned the walls. Bits of paper and shred books were on the floor, and the mirrors were patched with pages stained in…blobs of brown. The two previously screaming troopers assembled near one of the cots and stood still. No hint of movement, no muscles tensing. The only sounds reverberating across the chamber now were the occasional drips of water, near the corner. Someone had zipped our mouths shut. I shoved the microphone aside and rose to my feet. My knees buckle; wasn’t I walking just the day before?  I reached out and gripped the bedpost to steady myself. Why aren’t my darned legs working? Why? I took a step and almost stumbled to the ground. Anger surges like the ammo shell of a tank racing out of the barrel. I slam my leg against the wood to bang some sense into it. And do it again. And again. No one intervenes; I don’t care.

Why. Don’t. You. Obey. ME?!

***

They say a man can survive 3 weeks without food. Hunger is annoying; hunger is debilitating; hunger is infuriating. A body doesn’t chug on perennially, no. It needs sustenance, it needs care, comfort. Why? Why? Why aren’t we built and machined in such a way? Why does it wail and whimper like a pup? This can’t continue, no. I won’t let this happen. Nature is unforgiving, nature is cruel. How does it tend to the weaklings, to the decrepit? Kill. Erode their existence. Punish. A full stop to the evolution line.

And that’s a bloody story my scoured fingers and bleeding, strewn-open body allude to.

My body has stopped whimpering. And so have others’. It listens to us, listens to what we do, listens to what we want from it. No longer does it whip us to command, ha, no. We have ascended. We aren’t what we presume ourselves to be. And that’s what this…discovery has been about. The pain. The torment. The guilt. The emotions. The fightback. The real war. Not with each other, but within ourselves. And I won.

 A certain burden has been…lifted off my chest.

Literally.

***

The drain has clogged. They could fit only so much of him into the tiny square sewer hole. The rest was mindlessly floating in a dull, red pool around the chamber. The putrid stench blankets the chamber, settling thickly over the surface of stagnant water. Silence, everywhere. Our bodies have obeyed well. We can’t see inside our own selves with our eyes, and so, they have been laid out in a platter on the cot. I try to curl my fingers, but only one responds. White, faded bone juts out from the ends of my nails in a failed imitation of claws. Pain, what is pain now? It is but a figment of imagination; compartmentalized into a desolate attic of my mind.

The forgotten microphone screeches to life. “We are opening the chamber to test the microphones. Step away from the door and lie flat on the floor or you will be shot. Compliance will earn one of you your immediate freedom.” No. We can’t let that happen. Our ascension will halt. My voice has grown rusty, but we manage to growl back.

 “We no longer want to be freed.”

***

Humans, oh puny, miserable, pathetic humans. They never understand, do they? Naïve, shortsighted, narcissistic bipeds…always seeking control. Mastery. Command. This pursuit of dominance isn’t always fruitful. But they speed away faster than they learn this lesson. We aren’t humans anymore. Our paltry old selves have long given way to…an awakening. Roused the real being in us. And now, those humans are intruding our abode. The air…it’s changing. My lungs spasm against the ribcage. No, no NO! This can’t happen. We will stop. We will die. Our ascension…no. Enraged howls echo in the chamber.

“NO, DON’T CHANGE THE AIR! WE NEED IT! STOP! PUT IT BACK ON!”

Please…put it back on…please…”

***

The door lock creaked open. The light was blinding. Dark silhouettes stepped inside and joined the cacophony of our screams. They grabbed onto us, jerking away from our cots. I flailed my arms around like a mace and felt the fingers latch on to what felt like a throat. I clawed and wrenched it apart. Gory struggles ensued in the corner of my eyes. Pleas and wails overpowered the shrieks of the fight.

“Let us go, please. Give us the air, GIVE IT, PLEASE! WE SHOULDN’T SLEEP!”

We were outnumbered. Shackled and restrained. Laughs escaped uncharacteristically until I was administered a syringe, and I could only shift my eyes around. Others…I don’t know. We were operated upon, our missing body parts were sewn back into place. Disgusted bewilderment shone across people’s faces. They seem to ask me the same thing again and again.

“Why?”

Don’t they understand? Don’t they know?

They…won’t, hngh. Pathetic, diminutive creatures.

Why?

“I must remain awake.”

That seemed to disquiet them.

***

My arms are tied behind my back with restraints for an elephant. Didn’t expect our ascension, did they? Another of my comrades was missing. Wretches. They informed us that the air was being put back again.

Finally. We resume.

But, they didn’t make haste. One comrade was blinking rapidly, as if a dust mote had penetrated his eye. And then, his head turned and eyes shut. And never opened again.

Orders were barked, and the door lock was creaking to a close again. Chaos broke out; those pathetic creatures in white were amongst us. Fear gripped them like icy water. They draw out a gun, and shoot the mute comrade in his head. And then he turns towards me.

“I won’t be locked in here with these things! Not with you!” he screams.

“WHAT ARE YOU?”

A smile creeps across my face. So naïve, so disdainful, so impertinent.

“Have you forgotten so easily?”  I pause.

“We are you. We are the madness that lurks within you all, begging to be free at every moment in your deepest animal mind. We are what you hide from in your beds every night. We are what you sedate into silence and paralysis when you go to the nocturnal haven where we cannot tread.”

I can see fear bubbling inside him. Before I could smile, he levels his gun to my heart, and pulls the trigger.

I…it’s…I gurgle.

“So… nearly… free…”

Picture credits: Lemmino

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Avinash GS

I don't always complete my bios,

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