Some carry mirrors, some carry coffins

Submitted into Contest #167 in response to: Write a story about a character who can’t tell what’s real and what’s not.... view prompt

7 comments

Horror Mystery Suspense

Why is everyone going around with their arms and legs amputated and carrying coffins?”

I was not able to reply to this strange question by then. It was crazy marvellous maintaining conversations with the crazy, it was fantastic to hear the hidden narratives inside the lunatic’s minds.

I was a simple neighbour, in a monotonous neighbourhood, full of aged Italians. I boringly chewed and swallowed the same stories over and over: The ship arrival, the loneliness and the trauma post-war. I've heard about the bombs and the cold Russian winter, but it wasn’t enough for my curious mind, these tales where just copies of other tales.

War veterans, dragging their feet, smoking their pipes at their front doors, waiting like spiders for some innocent bug like me to trap into their old narratives. It gave me anxiety, thinking how getting old there was going to be.

I was bored of the town. 30 years wandering the same blocks, the same unchanging streets, these sidewalks were frozen in time, it appeared as if no one perished there, no one was bred there.

There was a man, Robert. You knew he was near when you started hearing him cursing and shouting at random women, you could glimpse the people near running fearfully and trying to hide inside any store.

Cops would come and go, but he was a mad man… not a criminal, they didn't have a place for him. They took him for a car ride several times only to bring him back, and drop him at the same spot.

He lived alone, his house stuffed with cardboard boxes and trash. An old rusted bicycle at the door. The house was set on fire “accidentally” many times, still he was alive surprisingly alive.

His wife left before he got sick, or maybe his wife left and this event made him sick. Those were rumours, gossip that amuses the simple minded.

Robert's hands were dried, wounded, his fingers and long nails tainted with nicotine, his odour was striking, his pants coated in shit and held by a nylon rope instead of a belt. 

He was a tall man, probably good-looking before his sanity abandoned him.

One time he stopped caring. He was gone, he fled to find himself somewhere in a fiction world, that's what we all thought by then, but to be sincere I liked to go there too.

Each time he came to my mother's store he would say something and I would ask questions, I found him to be the most intriguing person in this little town, where nothing ever changed.

I knew he wasn't well. I knew he wasn’t present even when he was, but hearing his reality was like entering an old empty house. On each word he said, I could smell a moldy room, on each sentence I could open a heavy gate, on each pause I could hear the wooden floors cracking.

He asked me that one time, why we're people dragging coffins with arms and legs cut. I was 13 years old, my heart pumping like crazy, I was for the first time speechless. At that age, it was completely terrifying to imagine people dismembered AND carrying coffins.

My jaw quivered until I could finally speak, I asked: where? And he pointed the street, he pointed every single individual and told me to look at them. He was not scared, he just wished to know why. Sadly I didn’t have a reply for that. 

I offered him a free smoke and before leaving he dropped these words:

“Beware, there is a mirror on your back and you will break it if you get to close”. I immediately looked on my back, of course there was nothing. but his words were a whole puzzle.

That was the last time I saw him, until years later. He was the first prophecy of my upcoming mental disturbance. His voice began reaching back to me, on those days when I couldn’t discern the reality from imagination, when night terrors came to be 24 hour horrors.

My eyes were worthless, living in two worlds. The inner world and the outer one.

I tried to resist the urge of drifting away. I told myself to stay here, but I understood fighting myself was useless.

Robert was wise enough to know our village was dead, and our hopes were too. I went there with him, where others won't dare.

He took my hand with his ghostly dirty fingers. An apparition of the past, he showed me the mirror and I saw what I truly was. I saw what the world was like, and everything tumbled down.

Like a shattered mirror, million pieces that didn't fit anymore.

I was a reflection of himself. I saw… I did... all the bodies and the coffins. The town was lifeless, the town was condemned.

I understood how I carried the mirror on my back. I was, like everyone else, incapable of staring at myself, looking front, judging and vilifying.

He pointed at my back and I saw the mirror, the worlds falling from his lips sank inside my subconscious mind. The mirror did not flatter, the reflection revealed things I didn’t dare to see before.

I took of my clothes and my shoes, I felt the blood running fast and light through my veins, the adrenaline starting all the dormant engines of my animal brain. I run and run like a savage because that was what I was, that was what we all were. I forgot about my past, I forgot where I came from, and I didn't know where I was going.

They pulled me back, they locked me in, those clowns, they don’t know much.

I was a danger for society, they said. The danger for society was their blindness, their incapacity to comprehend.

They carry their coffins too, some of them carry mirrors... Non of them dare to ask, or to hear those who know... that in the midst of life we are in dead.

October 13, 2022 18:27

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7 comments

Graham Kinross
04:12 Oct 24, 2022

I like the symbolism here. Very strong.

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Maddie M
15:57 Oct 20, 2022

I think you did a good job for not being a native speaker keep up the good work

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Molly Layne
15:42 Oct 20, 2022

Good job! I appreciated the "deepness" of the plot. Also, other than the word used to describe part of his clothes in paragraph 10, I appreciated the fact that you used no foul language. Nice!

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Flore Lazcano
15:58 Oct 20, 2022

Hello Molly! Thank you so much for the comment! 🙏

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Delbert Griffith
11:10 Oct 20, 2022

I really, really liked this story. Except for a few minor grammatical errors, this was one of the best stories I have read on the prompt given for the week. Nice!

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Flore Lazcano
12:51 Oct 20, 2022

Thanks so much, I'm not a native speaker and that explains my mistakes. I will take one more look at it 🙈

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Delbert Griffith
14:48 Oct 20, 2022

It's even more impressive, given that you aren't a native speaker. Your grammar is better than 98% of Americans, I'd say. Great job!

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