“What are you?”
Faint images of better times flashed through his mind: his dad teaching him (unsuccessfully) how to drive his old Chevy pickup truck. The look on his mom’s face when he brought her home the most perfect apple he’d ever found. A beautiful sunrise unlike any other that he witnessed on his 21st birthday. If only he could be in any one of these moments instead of this horrid factory.
“Open your eyes Gordon Stimpson,” the creature said with a hiss.
Gord shook his head no. He couldn’t look at the creature again. For even with his simple brain he knew once he looked upon the creature, he would die. Though, it was something he’d never given much thought to before. Even when his mother passed—and later on with his father’s death—he never thought of death as something that could happen to him. In his innocent mind, it was as if he would always exist. As if death would pass him by year after year until the Earth stopped spinning. But there was no more evading death. It had come for him, and it had run out of patience. And most disturbing of all, Gord was finally aware of its presence as an inevitability for the first time in his life.
“Open your eyes!” the creature demanded with such a sinister tone that Gord involuntarily complied.
It took a few moments for his eyes to focus, and when they did, he couldn’t understand what he was looking at. He was staring at his own face. Not the creature who wore his face, but his actual face. He was looking at his reflection in the mirror.
“What on God’s green Earth?” The words came out clear.
Gord leaned in and studied his face. There were tiny hard lumps on his tongue and lips. His mouth was blue inside and out, but there wasn’t much swelling. Looking down, he found some relief in the fact that his hand was much the same as his mouth. Gone were the useless, dead, purple limbs that inhibited his movement; he was functional once more. Then the realization hit him like an icy wind. He’d never gone back out onto the factory floor. This mirror had been in front of him the whole time, which meant everything that happened wasn’t real. It was all in his head.
Gord was a stone gargoyle. Unable to move with his eyes fixated upon his reflection. Nothing seemed real. The mist of confusion clouded his brain and left him unable to think—unable to act or figure out his next move.
A smarter man would’ve been driven mad by the vivid images Gord saw that evening, but Gord wasn’t a smarter man. So his simple mind shut down instead—leaving him a blank slate as a means to cope with the things he couldn’t understand. And while he stood there looking at himself—lost in a world that wasn’t here nor there—the faint sounds of singing broke him free of his trance.
“Oh, momma never said life was easy.”
The words were so soft Gord wasn’t sure he’d actually heard them at first.
“Oh, momma never knew.”
The next line was a bit louder and reverberated through the locker room. Gord turned toward the direction of the singing, and even though it was dark, he knew it was coming from the shower area.
“Oh, this work could never ever please me!” The singer shrieked with a banshee’s wail.
The shrill voice was so loud and so sudden that Gord jumped with fright and backed right into the automated hand dryer—turning it on with a violent roar of hot air.
“Shoot!” Gord said out of surprise.
After 15 seconds the jet of air from the hair dryer slowed to a stop and left him standing in unnerving silence. The silence was familiar. It reminded Gord of the time he’d gotten lost in the woods as a child.
The night had come on fast and the moon covered the trees in menacing shadows. Panic-stricken, a young Gord ran through the dark woods without direction. That was the first time he saw the woman in white; it was a long wedding dress that hung loosely from her skeletal figure. She relished in the pale moonlight as she danced between the tall trees with quick, jerky movements—never noticing the young boy staring from afar. She was singing in words he couldn’t understand, but the melody stuck with him always. This was the only memory he was ever able to recollect with such perfect detail. He couldn’t say how long he watched the woman dance in that bizarre way, but he knew he needed to get away. But just when he gathered the courage to flee, the woman had stopped and was staring back at him with eyes of obsidian. Then she stepped forward and—
“Oh, this kind of money—”
The lyrics to the song stopped abruptly, snapping Gord out of his daydream. He was still standing by the mirror, looking into the pitch black shower area where the ethereal singing was coming from. He wanted to call out, but there was something very wrong about the voice. It didn’t sound like it came from someone who was… alive.
Gord began to inch his way back to the exit. The whole time keeping his sights set in front of him. It felt like something was watching him from some hidden spot in the darkness—waiting for him to turn his back so it could lunge at him from the shadows.
As he moved toward the exit, he felt something cold brush his ear. Then it whispered, “ —will never do.”
He all but collapsed to the ground in a mad dash to escape; banging his knee off the hard tile floor and cracking his left elbow off the sink counter in the process. The pain came on with an excruciating suddenness, but it was no match for the pain the horrid image standing before him inflicted upon his fragile mind.