Serial Killers: The Man in the Mirror (Part 2) by Connor Long-Johnson
- Serial Killers: The Man in the Mirror (Part 1) by Connor Long-Johnson
- Serial Killers: The Man in the Mirror (Part 2) by Connor Long-Johnson
In the morning, the boy’s mother was startled to see her son slumped over the kitchen table. How odd, she thought, he’s never up before 11am.
“Son, are you alright?” She inquired, trying to mask the uncertainty in her voice.
The lethargic grunt that she heard was enough to confirm her suspicions, he had most likely spent the night browsing through nonsense on his phone, he would probably be in bed within an hour and wouldn’t be seen for the rest of the day.
“Would you like some Chai tea, honey?”
Another grunt and with that she began preparing her own coffee and tea for the boy. The sweet aroma of sugar and coffee beans began to circulate the room and filled her with a renewed sense of optimism for the day ahead.
Meanwhile, the boy lay with his head on the table, his head concealed by a black hood and his hands hidden inside the sleeves of a teal cotton sweatshirt.
The high-pitched whistle of the kettle rose up to dance with the blissful smell of sugar that was still sauntering through the kitchen air.
“Honey, your tea is ready.”
As she turned to give the boy the beverage, she was slapped hard by the pangs of shock as she saw that his outstretched hand had a paper-white glow that was sickly and alien. Running across the hand also were great lumpy veins that had taken on the colour of a decaying grapefruit ready to burst.
“Jeezus honey, your hand…It’s awful. What have you done? Have you been taking your meds?”
Taking the cup and drinking long greedy gulps from under the hood, he exhaled with an eerie satisfaction.
“I’m fine mum,” he said, licking his pale red lips, “Just fine.”
Wary of her son’s state of mind, she turned for the stairs and went bounding two steps at a time up to his room.
Clambering over mountains of clothes and dodging the piles of books and dirty plates she finally found what she needed. Clicking open the lid of the medication that her son had been given the week before her eyes widened with disbelief.
Lonely in the bottle were just three tiny white pills.
She raced down the stairs, this time taking three steps with each stride.
“What have you done?” she pleaded, “You know what the doctor told you about changing the dose!” Her face was taut and her voice was buckling under the strain of her emotions.
Fuelled by her anger and worry, she did not notice that she was speaking to an empty room. The cup of tea lay squat on the table. She turned, her head snapping from left, to right and then back again.
He was gone.
The slight, cold grasp of the morning breeze touched her left shoulder and she knew that he had gone through the front door.
She ran across the threshold and onto the front step. He was standing there, swaying and listless like an old photo in a breeze.
“Son, you’re sick. Please, come inside.”
“I’m not sick, mum.” Tears were streaming down the pale hills of his cheeks. He shuffled closer to the curb. “I’m just a little tired.”
“You’re hallucinating! You look like you haven’t slept in days, and you’ve barely left the house lately!”
“Yes I have!” He snapped back.
“What were you supposed to do yesterday? Go to Greenwich wasn’t it? Weren’t you supposed to see the counsellor over there?”
“I did go! Didn’t I?”
“No, honey you didn’t. You might think you did but you didn’t, you were in bed all day. You’re sick; and you need rest. Please, just come inside. It’s okay to say that you need help. We’ve been through this.”
“I DON’T NEED HELP!” his voice was steadily growing louder as he became more agitated.
“That’s it, I’m not asking anymore.”
She strode forward quickly and caught him unsuspecting. Her hand was clasped firmly around his wrist. Her red, puffy hand looked like a flashing alarm against his pale hue. If she had to drag him kicking and screaming into the clinic as she used to do when he was a boy, then so be it.
Instantly he began to resist, he planted his feet firm on the ground and stood rooted to the spot like a solid concrete sculpture.
Grunting in anguish she pulled harder, desperately trying to get him to move from the road.
“Come on!” She screamed; her voice was shrill with anxious fury.
“FUCK you.” He screamed in reply and kicked her. She felt a hard thump in her abdomen as his leg pulled away. She winced and released his hand, dropping to the ground.
He looked up and saw past his mother crumpled on the floor; in the reflection of the kitchen window he saw him again. The same reflection that had terrified him the night before, but he wasn’t knocking anymore. One hand still lay flat on the glass, but the other was outstretched, the index finger pointing past him and into the road ahead.
“I can’t do it!” He sobbed.
“What can’t you do?” His mother asked through gritted teeth, still reeling from the kick to the stomach.
“He’s showing me the way!” He screeched, clutching at his temples with scrunched fists and ignoring her question.
“Who?” she said through erratic sobs.
“The man in the mirror.” He replied with startling clarity, it seemed like such an obvious answer to him, like he was one side of a conversation that no one else could see him having.
He closed his eyes and looked to the floor, smiling.
With that, he turned and took a tentative step into the road. Hearing the welcoming sound of an engine rumbling in the distance he bent down on his haunches behind the Toyota parked outside the house. He rose up and down in rhythm on his heels, he was on his own wavelength now, listening to a tune that only he could hear.
As the rumble grew louder and louder and the car moved closer his whole body began to shake with anticipation.
Freedom was closer now. The car was droning along, the sound of the engine getting nearer. He peered out from behind the Toyota and held his breath.
He pushed hard and sprung out into the road.
Timed perfectly, crunching against the car he suddenly had the surreal sensation of feeling his own body flying. The last thing he felt was the sharp stab of pain as his head careened off the lamppost on the other side of the road.
As she crouched beside him, his mother saw the light slowly ebbing from his eyes as the tears began to stream from her own. Upsetting the most was the look of peace on his face, gone was the taut strain that had been there for so long before. Now his muscles were relaxed and his lips began the slow upturn into a smile.
When the sirens first announced the arrival of the ambulance and his breathing had stopped completely, she told the paramedic what had happened and sat, lost and staring into space on the side of the road. She felt a knowing sense of guilt growing inside her. She couldn’t explain it but she almost felt happy. Her son was a bloody corpse on the road and she felt happy. Her cheeks arched upwards as a surprising smile sprung across her face.
For the past eighteen years she had watched her boy grow into a man and she realised the pain he was going through must have been unimaginable. He had always kept quiet, she only noticed something was wrong a year ago, when his behaviour suddenly became more apathetic and he began to grow distant. In the past year it had been like living with a ghost, some gothic memory of her son that still stalked the rooms of her house. She began to think that was why he had become so vain, so focused on his outer beauty, because it hid the deformity within.
She sat alongside the body of her son; both were smiling.
Connor Long-Johnson, currently writing his thesis on the fiction of Stephen King at the University of Greenwich in London, England. He enjoys writing short stories in the Gothic, fantasy and Science-Fiction genres inspired by the stories of Ray Bradbury and Richard Matheson. He can be found at cljohnson.co.uk.
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Stephanie Ellis writes dark speculative prose and poetry and has been published in a variety of magazines and anthologies. Her longer work includes the folk horror novels, The Five Turns of the Wheel, Reborn, and The Woodcutter, and the novellas, Bottled and Paused (all via Brigids Gate Press). Her dark poetry has been published in her collections Lilith Rising (co-authored with Shane Douglas Keene), Foundlings (co-authored with Cindy O’Quinn) and Metallurgy, as well as the HWA Poetry Showcase Volumes VI, VII, VIII, and IX and Black Spot Books Under Her Skin. She can be found supporting indie authors at HorrorTree.com via the weekly Indie Bookshelf Releases. She can be found at https://stephanieellis.org and on Blue Sky as stephellis.bsky.social.