A boy has a supernatural experience and learns that he has strange, new abilities.
I woke up to the pure, white lights reflecting in my eyes and screamed in horror, unknowingly waking the local geriatrics who slept in rooms just across the hall. Those white lights had been the last thing I had seen in my surrogate death just days before, and now they were the first, just waiting for me to wake so they could taunt me once more.
I carefully observed the hospital room, pure white and sterile, just as every room should be. The bed-side table stood solid as the oak it was made out of, completely devoid of the flowers and cards that people so commonly thought made others feel better about being in a sick-house; only a pitcher of water and a plastic cup, conveniently wrapped in a thin plastic wrapper, sat upon it. I sat up and observed my phony life-line, the IV that dangled from my wrist. It was loose and slightly shifted as I pivoted my wrist from side to side.
Along side the dangling needle were several large bruises. “Man,” I sighed, shaking my head in dismay, “they got me good.” I observed the large, purple bruises, lined with a lovely shade of green I like to call “ooze green.” It’s the color that kids shows used to represent something that should be rather disgusting without having angry parents suing the station for inappropriate programming.
I imagined a new nurse, maybe twenty-five years old, a blond beauty on her first day of internship without supervision, stabbing away at my fragile skin with such malice and hurry that my veins could only cry and all so that she wouldn’t miss her four o’clock nail appointment. My right arm, however, was neatly stitched up, from the centermost point of my wrist, all the way up in a steady curve, to the pit of my elbow. I could see the thick, black stitches under the thin, white gauze, but with some difficulty; the blood underneath had begun to dry and blacken.
Suddenly, all of the memories of what had happened hit me like a ton of bricks. All at once, the rush of the emotions and the pain of the actions came over me again, as though it were happening once more. I closed my eyes and lay back on the bed, drained from the surge, and played over the events in my mind.
It all started while I was walking down my street late one night. Nothing seemed real during the hour of the dead. I often walked during this particular hour, between midnight and one o’clock, to ease my mind from the night terrors, which I had never grown out of. By the time I walked back home, I would have already begun to feel the weight of lull in my head, weighing me down and telling me to stop, if only for a short nap, but I knew deep down that this would not be acceptable, not in my town.
The street lights, sparsely placed along the sidewalk, seeming to be placed in order of age, resonated with light and occasionally flickered which gave me an eerie feeling; a feeling that somehow made me relate to the people of Hiroshima at the moment the bomb hit its target. Each streetlight had an age and a personality, just as people do, which it expressed through its light. Over many nights of walking the streets, I became familiar with each streetlight, recognizing each one by the nails in its post, if any, the color of its light, and how close it was in relation to the tunnel that the railroad tracks ran through.
I took my nightly walk through the valley of naught and so often found myself standing in the light of each street light, looking in either direction, though there truly was nothing to see. Under the light closest to the tunnel, which was considerably older than the rest, the darkness swallowed the houses in the distance far behind and from this point, the tunnel ahead could only be seen with the most keen of eyes; the inside of the tunnel was an incomplete darkness, usually interrupted by the colors on the jackets of club members, trying so hard to be accepted by one another for roles they weren’t prepared to fill. That night, however, the darkness was complete in its perfection.
I turned to face the tunnel after examining where I had just been. I kept hearing strange sounds, high-pitched squeals, like the squeals of fingernails being run down a chalkboard by that rickety old lady who taught my second grade class. I deduced that they were coming from the tunnel, but something held me back. Perhaps it was the shiver down my spine, who's only equal could be achieved by the shrill ringing of cicadas in the evening blaze that counseled me to stay. “Something’s wrong here,” I said, looking around the area for places people could have been hiding and objects I could use as weapons in case I should ever need one. I never carried weapons on me for fear of being falsely accused of hurting someone. It seemed to be a common trend people followed around here; inflicting your hate on one and dispensing your guilt on another, hiding in the shadow of shame, all the while claiming to be royalty in the hierarchy of bad boys.
I saw a tire iron on the ground and picked it up. “This’ll have to do,” I whispered with a heavy sigh. I twirled the iron as I marched toward the abandoned tunnel's entrance, rapidly shifting my eyes from right to left, watching for movement. I stood at the mouth of the tunnel and squinted. The tracks had long since been uprooted, but pieces of them remained within. They no longer glistened of the fresh chrome they had been sealed in. Instead, they were textured with red and orange rust and probably weren’t fit for anything more than being made into a piece of modern art to display outside of our local college.
I took a deep breath and walked in, carefully stepping over what I could see of the debris on the ground. I walked on for some time, almost mindlessly, just searching for something that might be considered "out of the ordinary" until I saw something glistening on the ground. I reached down and touched the glistening bars, only to feel the cold steel was firmly planted into the ground. “Tracks,” I thought, “but that can't be. They feel smooth as if they were laid just yesterday. What's going on?”
Suddenly, the tracks became scorching hot and began to shake. I quickly took my hand back and blew on it, a shallow attempt at convincing the burn to subside; it didn’t work. I stepped back and looked at the white-hot tracks, which continued to shake as smoke began to roll off of them, and then the chorus of screeching metal began again. I looked up, but only just in time to see a spectral train, light on and whistle blowing, heading straight for me. I crouched on the ground, closed my eyes, and wrapped my hands around the back of my neck, attempting to mimic that comforting fetal position that, as children, we know and love.
There was a long, cold draft through the tunnel as the train went on through me. I heard the train whistle off in the distance as though it was still going on, and it made my heart pound harder. “Is it coming back?” I questioned. I sat there for a few moments, waiting to see if anything else wanted to jump out at me, but nothing came. I stood up and quickly realized that the light from the train was long gone, and there was nothing I could see.
I left the tunnel and went home. “Maybe it was just a dream,” I thought, “A long, terrible dream.” I walked inside the house and went to the restroom to clean up for bed. As I looked up into the mirror, I saw myself as well as someone else, someone I didn’t recognize standing next to me and grinning like a shark. He looked like a court jester with shoulder-length silver hair, pale white skin, and thin, glowing red eyes. His outfit was donned in different patterns of red and black and frills on the shoulders, neckline, and cuffs. He had the typical jester hat, with the four points, each with a decorative white ball on the end; and in his hand, the most sinister of weapons, one that will always bring death to the mind: the scythe.
I stayed as still as a statue and watched him there for a few minutes. He moved completely on his own, without even trying to mimic my reflection. I turned to look at him, but he was gone. The door was still closed, the window stayed still, and there was no other way for him to get out. I turned back to the mirror and looked at myself; I was drenched in blood. I touched my clothes and looked myself over, and surely enough, I was covered, head to toe, in blood. I looked into the mirror and the jester had returned, and with one of his long, black fingernails, he carved into the mirror “Mourbyd.”
“Morbid?” I said looking at the scratches and then at his reflection. He spun like a dancer and ended in a deep bow. Then he looked up at me, walked back to the bath tub and picked up a hand towel. I turned to look at him, but again, he was gone. I looked in the mirror and found him there and just as I saw him throw the towel at me, it hit me in the shoulder and I caught it. “So your name is Mourbyd,” I said, messing with the towel in my hands, “And you’re not really there..You’re just in the mirror. My name is Sovein.”
I slept well that night, after a long, one-sided conversation with Mourbyd and a thorough shower. The very next day, trouble knocked at my door, and I answered with a smiling face and a pulsing vein. It was in the cafeteria that I discovered this opportunity. Destres, one of the jocks from school, and a particularly cocky one, had been torturing some of the guys in the bathroom with itching powder, smoke bombs, and seemingly endless beatings, but nobody could catch him in the act, and no one could prove his guilt. “This will not do,” I thought to myself, looking at my reflection in the red, plastic tray, seeing Mourbyd standing over me, smiling as he always did.
I waited until the next class period to confront him. He asked to go to the restroom, and I followed some distance behind. I stalked him like an animal, waiting for him to enter his own unsupervised territory, so that no one could see my new and repulsive abilities.
He caught on to the fact that I was following him a lot faster than I would have guessed. He stood in the bathroom doorway and looked back at me, about halfway down the hall. He stared at me hatefully, as if he knew I was challenging him, and I stared right back, smiling gleefully. He shook his head and entered the bathroom, thinking this was going to be a barrage of punches and kicks, both of which he was very skilled in from all eight years of jut kun do, tai kwon do, and various other martial sports; little did he know, I had no intention of laying hand on him. All I needed was my mind.
I walked into the boys’ bathroom to find him standing in the middle of the room waiting for me. The door closed, and Destres charged me into the door. My back blades scraped the wood grain as he pressed me into the door and occasionally pounded his fist into my chest. I quickly maneuvered myself away from the door and slammed him up against it. I put my hands on his shoulders and stared deep into his eyes. His grunts of anger suddenly became screams of fear, and his eyes, those sky blue rings, became horribly distorted as one pupil grew to be grossly large and the other was nearly the size of a needle's point; he was hallucinating.
“What the heck? What’s going on?!” he cried out as he looked around the room. “What the hell did you do to me?” I held my stance and continued to look at his eyes. His body had long since grown too weak to hold me back; his mind was too preoccupied with trying to rationalize why the walls were bleeding, how there came to be a hole in the floor where the stalls used to be, and what was trying to crawl out of the hole. Destres shrieked once more and scrambled to get out of my grasp and out the door. I sighed to myself and looked around; the pearly white sinks, the red and white checker-patterned floor, and the maroon stalls were all seemingly untainted. I looked at the mirror, blurred with hand prints and oil smudges where peoples’ faces had been slammed, and gave Mourbyd an assuring nod and a smile. Needless to say, Destres was dismissed from school for the rest of the day, on the grounds of having a record-breaking fever.
The night passed quickly, though I hadn’t slept at all. I lay in bed and stared up at the swirled, textured ceiling, day-dreaming about the strange things that had happened and about the new things I was capable of. I kept seeing images of my arm splitting open and blood seeping onto the floor into a puddle under me, and as soon as I notice the puddle around my feet, I fall through the floor and into the next room; the falling wasn’t always down, but occasionally made me appear in rooms above, along side, or across the hall from the room I had previously been in.
“If these visions are true,” I thought, “then I must be the most powerful person alive.” I looked over at the tiny mirror I had placed on my night stand and saw Mourbyd frowning at me. “Oh,” I said with a slight chuckle, “second most powerful person alive.” Mourbyd smiled, and I laughed a little more. It was still the early morning hours, and I was still wide awake. The indigo-tinted sky leaked through my white curtains, forming a beautiful lavender lassitude on the wall opposite of me; it was almost surreal.
I went to school and went to class as usual, the lack of sleep seeming not to affect me at all. Destres was at school, waiting for me in the bathroom; every guy who knew me made it a point to let me know this as they passed me in the hall. I went to class and took the hall pass, making sure to keep up my appearance and avoid the blame others, such as the rest of the track team, might try to pin on me. I walked in, placed the hall pass on a near-by paper-towel dispenser and looked up at Destres. He was standing exactly where he had been the previous day, arms folded, staring me down, but this time, he wasn’t prepared to charge me.
“You’ve got some serious nerve, Sovein,” he said stepping closer to me, “using a drug to win a fight instead of pure muscle. But I’m going to give you another chance to fight me, and if you don’t, I’ll hunt you down and beat you down in front of all of your friends.” I stood silent for a few moments, and then I couldn’t hold it in any more. I burst into a fit of laughter and held my sides in an attempt to lure him closer to me; it worked out perfectly. He marched over to me as he spouted, “Oh, yeah. This is freakin’ funny, isn’t it? I’m going to beat the teeth out of you, so you better laugh while you still can.” Right as he came within arms reach, I stopped laughing and held out my right arm. He stopped, looking at me as if I had pulled a weapon on him; he was afraid. I stared deep into his eyes, and concentrated. At that moment, a cut slowly ran down, from my elbow down to my wrist, blood streamed from my eyes, nose, ears, and the corners of my mouth, and the blood dripped to the floor and came together in a puddle beneath me. Just then, I fell through the floor. I imagined it as though it were a cartoon featuring a coyote devising a trap to catch this really fast bird and something went wrong, and the only reason why he fell was because he realized that there was no ground beneath him.
The next thing I knew, I was back in class, standing next to my desk; it wasn’t where I intended to be, but it was better than where I had been. I had a feeling that wherever I ended up had something to do with Mourbyd, and I planned to ask him about it later.
“Well, Mr. Sovein,” my teacher said, “I didn’t see you come in. Nice of you to join us. Would you mind reading the next paragraph, please?” I heard my name and quickly wiped my eyes; there was no blood on my face or anywhere else on me for that matter. The blood had only been an illusion, too real even for me, the creator, to recognize the deception. The cut on my arm remained, but the bleeding had nearly stopped. I looked down at the nearest person’s book to see the page number, sat down, and followed my teacher’s directions; it was nice to go with the flow of things once in awhile, rather than putting up the effort to resist and being sent to the office.
It seemed that my new-found ability, though somewhat repulsive, had a use. I knew that learning how to control it would be difficult, but once I did, I could be a real hero. I could do great and powerful things; on the other hand, I was also capable of doing terrible, horrific things. Whatever the choice, Mourbyd would stand by my side, if only to watch and laugh.
After school, I started on the walk home and started to feel a strange emptiness, the same emptiness that comes over you when you’ve just donated a pint of blood to the Red Cross and rejected the cookies and juice. It was like falling upside down while standing flat on your feet. I fell to the ground, dropping my books and skinning my knees and elbows. I remember looking at the ground and seeing half a dozen pairs of sneakers run over to my side and then everything faded out.
I opened my eyes, the white lights still glaring, waiting to greet me. I sat up in bed and looked over at the IV cord and followed it up the rack which held an empty blood pack and a nearly full bag of saline, the stuff they pump through your blood for lack of a better reason to keep the IV in you, and rightfully so considering the horrible job they did the first time they put it in. The bruises appeared to be fading into my natural skin tone and the stitches had been removed, leaving not so much as a scar to tell the tale.
I took out the IV, located and put on my clothes, and checked my wallet to make sure everything was there; I still had some money left, and it would have been a long walk back to town so I waved a cab over and got in. I told the driver my address and laid back in the seat, unwinding from the surges of memories that kept rushing back at me. I couldn’t just ignore my new-found abilities, but the stress of a hero weighed me down, and I knew would take quite some time to adapt to.
This was only the beginning of a bizarre new era, where people had to scream to stop the screaming, cry to stop the crying, and bleed to stop the bleeding of those who knew not what hate existed just beneath the skin of man. I curbed my thoughts for a moment and looked up in the mirror, and as always, Mourbyd was looking right back at me. The driver turned up the volume on the radio and bobbed along with the beat. I smiled as I recognized this familiar classic, and I mumbled to its tune: “I bet you think this song is about you. Don’t you? Don’t you?”
From then on, he and I were inseparable. He was my reflection, my doppelganger, a piece of me that had been terribly corrupted. He never actually spoke, but he had a way about him, a way that words just couldn’t describe. As long as I had a reflection, he could be there and he could do anything that any real person could do, including the ability to hurt people. On that day I discovered Mourbyd, the tunnel collapsed, and I vowed that Mourbyd and I were going to right all the wrongs in our own special way.