Carl woke up, his sleep plagued by a terrifying dream. He sat in his bed and shook his head. He looked out of the window. The sky was dark, save for a glowing red halo. His heart started pounding in his chest, as he ran out into the living room of his apartment, calling for his mother.
She was sprawled on the sofa. Dead.
Carl screamed, running out of his house to fetch help. He reached the door of his next door neighbour, and started ringing the bell urgently.
A cold chill crept up Carl’s body, and he stared at the door with wide, fearful eyes. An idea struck him and he ran to his apartment. He returned with a crowbar, and with one sharp blow, he broke the lock on his neighbour’s door. He stormed inside.
His neighbour lay on the floor. Dead.
Carl put his hands to his mouth, and stumbled backwards. He tripped over the threshold, and landed with a thud on the cold granite floor. His eyes were fixed on the body.
What is going on?
He staggered up and turned away from the scene of death. He then darted down the stairs, almost missing a step several times. Arriving in the lobby of his building, he called for the watchman. There was no answer.
He ran towards the watchman’s cabin, and hesitantly opened the door. The watchman was sitting in his chair. Carl entered the cabin and tapped the watchman on the shoulder. The watchman did not stir.
He tried shaking him, and the body of the watchman dropped limply from the chair. Dead.
The world spun around Carl, as he stumbled out of the cabin. He rushed out onto the street, and started looking around for help.
Everyone around him had fallen dead. The car engines were still running, but the people inside showed no signs of life. Early morning joggers lay on the track, still in their jogging shoes and tracks. All of them were cold and lifeless.
Carl’s legs gave way as he flopped on the ground. He had no clue about what was going on. It was only then that he saw the huge, crimson eye in the sky. The memories came flooding back and he held his head between his knees.
This can’t be happening. Was that all…true?
He took a deep breath and went over his activities of the previous night. He had been reading about ‘The Mirror Game’ last night before sleeping. It was a weird ritual, which involved tapping a mirror for a specific number of times in a particular order of taps. The room should be illuminated only by a single candlelight and if followed correctly, it was said that the person would end up in another dimension. The only way one could know if it had been successful was the presence of a glowing, red eye in the sky, instead of the sun.
Carl loved reading scary stuff on the internet, and was a huge fan of mysteries. However, what drew his attention to this particular ritual was a comment by someone named Saira. It was posted below the details of the ritual, three years ago. It read:
‘Attempting this ritual tonight. I’ll tell y’all what happened tomorrow.’
But, tomorrow had never arrived. Saira had never continued the conversation after that, despite several other readers inquiring about her in the thread. She had…disappeared.
Carl yanked his phone from his pocket, and tried to visit the website to see the comment. A minute later, his hand shook as his phone dropped to the ground.
There was no internet.
Carl had thought that like all other hoaxes on the internet, this was also an elaborate prank. He would not shy away from a challenge. So, in the dead of the night, when his mother was sleeping, he lit a candle and tapped on the mirror in the given sequence. After it was over, nothing felt different. He had gone out and in the darkness, seen his mother lying on the sofa. He presumed that she had fallen asleep, so he did not disturb her. If only he had tried waking her up….
Carl uttered a hysteric scream and tore at his hair.
The girl walked down the street, surrounded by corpses. Curiously, in the time she had spent there, none of the corpses had shown any signs of rotting. There were no animals and birds around, and all that was left in the sky was the crimson eye. She hated the way it looked, watching her every move, almost mocking her.
She defiantly looked up at it. It met her gaze with a cold, almost inhuman stare. There was no concept of day or night in the world she had entered, but sight was never a problem as the eye illuminated the surroundings in a haunting, red light. Everything else seemed to have been painted in shades of grey, as if reflecting the lifeless nature of that world.
Luckily, the shops and markets were open, so The girl could take provisions from there. She remembered the first day( could she call it that?) when she had crawled into the shop, her eyes haggard and her throat parched, dreading what she would see. Sure enough, everybody inside had mysteriously died. There was no sign of blood or violence. Just a plain and simple end. Almost like they had fallen dead while doing other activities.
She cursed the day she had played the Mirror Game. She hated herself for even risking it. Once in this dimension, she had tried warning the others about this, but there was no internet.
She was alone.
The girl hoped that anyone who visited that website would be concerned by her continued and sudden absence, and would refrain from trying out the game. At least then, she would have saved others from this cruel, lonely fate.
The girl entered a shop, picked some groceries and walked out. The only respite was that all the electrical appliances and cooking equipments, along with the bathroom facilities were working fine. She had often wondered why, but she gradually got used it. After all, nobody was there to answer her.
As she walked towards a jogging track, a sound echoed in the dead silence. She nearly dropped her bag in shock.
Was that.. a scream?
Carl sat on the lawn bordering the jogging track, his face between his knees, and his arms wrapped around them. His face was streaming with tears, but he had given up trying to shout. He had realized that he was alone. There was nobody to help him. It seemed as though everybody’s life had been snuffed out like a light. Painless, sudden and cruel. Leaving him behind in the dark.
Carl had already tried to switch his phone off and then on again, in a futile attempt to recover his internet. However, he had given up that as well. His head spun, and he tried to regain his senses by sitting for a while.
A thought occurred to him, “What if this was all a dream?” A glint of hope appeared in his eyes as he tried to sleep on the grass, hoping that when he opened his eyes, he would be back in his room in the normal world. It was then that he heard hurried footsteps approaching him.
Every hair on his body stood up, as he tried convincing himself that this was just a fantasy. He squeezed his eyes shut, not knowing what awaited him when he would opened them.
The girl looked at the boy with unkempt hair on the grass before her, and rubbed her eyes in disbelief. He was sitting on the green lawn bordering the jogging track, his head between his knees. But, what surprised her the most was that he was alive!
She walked towards him, but he made no motion. For a moment, she thought that it was all her imagination, and he was dead as well. She sighed, and turned to leave. As she started walking away, she decided to try one last time. She asked aloud, “Who are you?”
The boy did not reply, but his body shook slightly. A puzzling sense of relief, that had been trapped in the deepest corners of her heart spread over her. She went up to him and shook him.
Carl, for indeed it was he, brushed her hand aside and looked up at her with hunted eyes.
He frantically backed away, eyeing the tall girl, who stared at him with beautiful hazel eyes. Her white dress glowed against the grey background, and her shoulder length hair brushed softly against her face in the wind. She spoke sympathetically, “You played the Mirror Game, didn’t you?”
Carl was shocked. He had no idea how she could have known that. But, that proved to him that the girl was real. Slowly, he nodded his head.
The girl smiled ruefully and sat on the grass beside him. Although Carl was slightly relieved to see someone alive, he kept a safe distance from her. She looked at him, tears welling up in her eyes.
“I understand your apprehension. It has been three years since I came here. I have been alone ever since.”
Three years? A bell rung in Carl’s mind, and he asked hesitantly, “What is your name?”
The girl spoke in a wistful voice, “My name is Saira, though I do not know whether it means anything now. Since you are here, you must have visited that website too, correct? Why did you play the game? I hoped people would be alerted by my absence, but I guess I was wrong.”
The tear trickled from the cusp of her eye and down her cheek. Carl felt sorry for her.
“My name is Carl, and yes, I too played the Mirror Game. By any chance, is this a dream? Is there a way in which we can sleep and wake up in our own world?”
Saira shook her head, “Not that I know of. You see, in these three years, I have lived a normal, albeit lonely life. I have frantically searched for any signs of life, but until today, everything was lifeless. I tried killing myself, but I would somehow wake up in bed. My hope would be shattered when I would see that crimson eye in the sky. I decided to keep myself busy, and continued speaking to myself, in a feeble attempt to not lose touch with the language. I hoped that one day, when I found someone here, it would help. I had given up long ago, but today, I found you….”
She fell silent, and Carl was speechless as well. Above them, the crimson eye loomed menacingly. After what seemed like ages, Carl got up and offered her a hand.
Saira stared at his outstretched hand, and looked at his face. Strangely, his face was hard and his eyes were blazing determinedly.
Carl took a breath before replying, “What about the others who played this game? If I made it here, they would have too!”
“But that is not possible Carl! I haven’t found anyone besides you.”
“Saira, you are one person. Maybe these people have entered this dimension somewhere far away from here. Maybe like us, they are under the impression that they are the last people on Earth. I don’t know if I can call this Earth, but I don’t want to call it anything else. My point is, there might be a way in which we can meet the others and get out of here.”
Saira stared into his eyes. Against the dash of grey in the surroundings, Carl’s silhouette looked magnificent. His dark eyes had a curious fire in them. A fire that she had lost a long time ago.
The fire of hope.
She smiled, and took his hand. Getting up she said, “Lets find a way out of here.”
The crimson eye hanging overhead no longer bothered them.