The Reflection Portal

Written in response to: Set your story at the boundary between two realms.... view prompt

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Romance Horror Fiction

Charles peered through the portal. The silhouette of a man stood on a balcony holding a wine glass. The portal rippled like a lake with a skipping stone bounced off of it. The blue shadows of the man’s frame slowly started to fade like a mirage. But before the image was completely gone, Charles caught the faintest glimpse of a winged creature with horns and devilish claws emerge into sight behind the man with the wine glass. Its bright red eyes radiated like a candle on top of a mountain on a dark, clear night. The mouth had a wolfish grin as if its next act would be its worst.

The image was gone. Charles rubbed his hand against the brick wall. It felt as though the grainy texture was a fluid substance ready to be penetrated with the right amount of force. He slammed his fist into the wall.

That answered that question.

Charles yelled in frustration. Bloody knuckles, torn skin hanging off like pencil shavings, and a brick printed fist.

***

“Oh, you poor dear,” Charles’s wife said a short time later, wrapping his fingers in gauze. Charles looked at her adoringly and thought it better than to press his luck by asking for an additional foot massage. The fact that she was a nurse didn’t mean she had to tend to his every need as if he were one of her decomposing patients with third degree burns. Charles wanted to take care of her, not the other way around. With all those long nights of hard work, him in the laboratory dungeon, her in the Intensive Care Unit at St. Anthony’s, sometimes he could feel them drifting apart. The way she looked at him when she walked through the front door, Charles thought, he could see a flash in her eyes that suggested contempt. No. As if she hardly recognized him at all. As if she was seeing a stranger in her house.

“Martha,” Charles said.

“Yes, dear?”

“Do you still love me?”

Martha seemed to look deep into his eyes, as if studying them. “Charles,” she began. “I want you to be happy. However that looks…” she trailed off.

“It’s with you, Martha.”

Charles stared into her light brown eyes, trying to mirror her intentness. Charles opened his mouth to speak again but no words came out. Instead, he began to see a picture form in her pupils. It was very small, but distinct. It was the same image that he had seen earlier - a man with a wine glass standing on a balcony. A chill ran down Charles’s spine because the man was clearly defined this time as opposed to the silhouette from last time. 

It was Charles himself. 

It didn’t make sense. How could he be seeing this right now? The same image from his earlier experiment was right in front of him in his wife’s eyes. Both images in each eye mirrored each other. And why were the images in her eyes, that is to say he, dressed in a gray business suit? He’d never worn such a thing in his life. Charles considered himself to be as casual a dresser as the next modern man. Hell, the white T-shirt and sweat pants he wore right now said as much. Also, the background. That same exact setting as the one he’d seen in the portal. But why there? He’d never been in such a place in his entire life.

The most disconcerting part of all was the thought of the winged creature with the demonic eyes. It wasn’t there. Was it completely gone or was it just around the corner?

Martha blinked and the images were gone. Now all that stared back at him in those dark pupils was his own pale reflection.

“Charles, dear,” Martha said. “You look like a ghost… or perhaps you have seen one… probably in that evil lab of yours. Darling, please. Let us have this discussion later. You need to rest.”

Charles turned his head and walked away.

***

Later that night, Charles devised a brand new formula of electrical charges. He plugged in different formulas into his row of computers and continuously glanced over at the dormant portal hole. All that stared back at him was that same brick wall that peeled his hand like an orange. There were hundreds of wires of blue, red, yellow, and green that all hooked up to various gadgets, batteries, and contraptions that all led to the portal. Charles checked each and every one of the wires to make sure it was securely attached to the portal. He had to get the portal working again so that he could stare at his… his… what? Destiny? Potential future? A reality that was right around the corner and he didn’t even know it?

Everything seemed to be in place. So why was it not working when it had before under this same set up? He would not rest until he had this figured out.

Charles heard footsteps coming down the stairs.

It was Martha.

She had on her light teal night gown and pink slippers. Her hair flowed like golden honey spilling out of a bee hive. The same brown eyes that he had gazed into so many times before showed the same wordiness he had so often dreaded in recent years. Although the aging lines on her face began to show, her beauty was unmeasured. Even in that moment, not dressed for any occasion other than for sleep, the high cheek bones and the faintest smile hinting at a hopeful sadness, made her look like his soul mate.

But she was not looking at Charles.

“Charles,” Martha began, pointing a shaking finger toward the portal.

Charles, still looking at his wife, slowly turned around to face the portal. Charles saw himself. The portal man was front and center, staring menacingly into Charles's and Martha's realm, as if trying to decipher how to enter into it.

“It works,” whispered Charles. “It truly works,” he said a little louder this time. He turned back to Martha and swung her from the stairs and into his arms. “Martha!” he exclaimed. “Do you know what this means?”

“No, Charles. I’m scared. What does it mean? What did you do?”

“It means that my invention to the other side works!”

“But how does it work?”

“I don’t know! But let’s find out together.”

Martha, still looking fearful and uncertain of the situation, took Charles’s outstretched hand. He and Martha walked over to the menacing version of Charles that was inside the portal.

“Whatever happens next, Martha, I want you to know that I love you.”

“Oh, Charles.”

“It’s okay. You don’t have to say it back if you don’t feel it anymore.”

“No, Charles. I do. I love you with all my heart and soul. I was just so afraid to express it for the longest time because we spend so much time apart. I wasn’t sure if you still loved me.”

“Of course I do.”

The red eyed, winged beast faded into existence behind the image of the Charles inside the portal. Its slack jawed grin showed many rows of razor sharp teeth. Its pitch black skin showed the bumps and age of an ancient beast from the beginning of time. The horns were hideous and curved. The wings were slick like leather and covered in smaller tooth-like horns.

Martha placed her hand on Charles’s shoulder.

The beast and the portal Charles both simmered instantly into entirely new images. Charles and Martha now stared at their perfect, identical reflections. “I don’t understand,” she said.

“I suppose the bad images I have aren’t always as bad as they seem,” he said wonderingly. “Let’s do it together.”

Charles and Martha both extended their hands to the portal reflection. As soon as they touched it, a thin layer of silver liquid extended from the portal’s edge and began to cover both of their hands and slowly working up their arms.

“It’s amazing,” they said together.

The silver liquid gradually flowed across their entire bodies, all the way to the crown of their heads. As soon as that happened, everything became one.

October 30, 2021 03:50

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