"What’s this?" Pamela asked, running her hands over the verdant green cloth. Whatever it covered stood nearly a foot taller than her. It was roughly rectangular shaped and she could feel what felt like molded metal underneath her fingers.
"An old family heirloom," Shauna answered. Her skin glowed milky white in the soft moonlight that filtered into the room. She reached out and touched it fondly, caressing it. "It’s the only thing I kept. It’s a reminder of where I came from and who I used to be." She put a hand on Pamela’s shoulder and smiled. "Go ahead, you can look at it."
Pamela pulled the cloth and it fell in ripples to the ground. She gasped at the full length mirror before her. Ornate designs of winged angels ran up and down the gold plating surrounding the mirror that now reflected the dim room back at Pamela. She squinted her eyes as she looked in the mirror, feeling Shauna lower her head next to Pamela’s own. And as she looked she realized that in the mirror she stood alone even as the hand on her shoulder tightened.
You get back to your apartment after a long day’s work and you want to get inside and rest. You were about to pull out your keys and unlock the door, but you notice it’s open. Turning the doorknob and stepping inside, you notice something different. You stand in the doorway trying to figure it out. Then it hits you. This isn’t your room. As you turn and leave, something catches your eye. There is a man hunched over a dish of flesh, eating it with his bare hands, tearing into it as a wild animal would its prey. Red dripped down the sides of his mouth, and the smell that emanated from it was sickening. You are paralyzed by the sight.
Unconsciously, you start to cover your nose and mouth. This accidentally bumps your elbow against the doorway. You freeze. The man has stopped eating, sensing something wrong. He looks up and starts searching for the source of the noise.
His eyes scan the room till he finds you.
Your legs start moving on their own, and you find yourself running, running away from that room, and the horrors within it.
The man silently stands up, locks the door, sits back down, grabs another slice of pizza, and mutters quietly to himself,
"Daddy, why do they hate us?"
"Oh sweetie, it may seem like they hate us, but really it is more like they chose us."
"But Daddy, I don’t want to be picked!"
"Neither did I, pumpkin, but unfortunately it is the will of greater men and a greater God. This will be the last nuclear war the world will see. There is an old saying that one must destroy before they can create. It is like when you play with your Lego blocks. Once you build something don’t you have to take it apart in order to build something bigger and better? It is the same thing with men and cities."
"Couldn’t they have picked other cities?"
"They have, my baby, many others. But we have been chosen because we just consume too much. There isn’t enough food and materials to go around anymore. And because of that, there is too much evil in the world. You know how scary it can be when you and your brother come with us to the market, don’t you baby?"
"Now, it’s been nine minutes since the sirens have gone off. I want you to be brave, my angel. We are going to be immortal after today. That means we are going to live forever. No more pain, no more hunger, no more hurt. That doesn’t sound so bad, does it? It’s time for us to tell each other goodbye… I love you so much, my baby. I am so proud of you. Now let’s grab our signs and head outside."
The Smith family straps their hollow-stenciled signs over their backs and above their heads. As they position themselves in front of a large, immobile marble slab, they clasp hands in a row and close their eyes. The tears rolling down their cheeks evaporate instantly, as do their bodies, once the nuclear blast reaches them. Their permanent shadows burn against the marble, leaving a message for the survivors of the Great Reduction:
"We Forgive You. Lest Not Be In Vain."
You’ve always had a slightly ridiculous phobia of mirrors.
It’s never interfered with your life before, except in small and completely inconsequential ways. You’d close your eyes during a middle school session of Bloody Mary, would rush past them in a dark hallway, things any red-blooded American raised on a steady diet of horror and gore would call more habit than oddity.
One night, late, you’re getting ready to go out with some friends. You feel grimy, so you all decide to get ready at your apartment where you can clean up with your own products. Everyone’s hanging out, taking pictures and generally having fun as you decide to wipe your makeup off and start fresh. You decide that the quickest way to do this is the way they show in commercials, where you get it all over with at once by splashing water over your tightly shut eyes and completely soaking your bathroom floor. You glance up quickly to be sure that your friends don’t notice your moment of hesitation when it’s time to close your eyes and scrub within sight of the mirror.
As you rinse off your face, your eyes open to see your reflection staring back at you, which is not unusual. What is slightly off, however, is that when you go to leave, the other you does not. You stare at each other with wide eyes, waiting to see what happens next. You turn to your friends to see if they’re seeing what you’re seeing to find their grins growing wider, too wide to be quite human. Their eyes turn as black as coal, and they start to walk forward. Your reflection and your friends’ reflections start to scream. Your friends lunge forward towards their doppelgangers.
You always knew you were on the wrong side.
As your eyes begin to burn in an entirely sick, pleasant way, your grin stretches wide. Too wide.
The sweet old lady rocks rhythmically in her recliner. Her head nods often in approval as she agrees wholeheartedly with her favorite evangelist late this evening. This has been Mrs. Weatherford’s routine every night since her late husband left her alone and vulnerable.
The preacher is hitting his groove on this exciting paid advertisement, “The love of God is unyielding! His grace is amazing because it is neither earned nor taken. No, it is free! All He requires is that you receive his gift. All Christ wants from you is to understand that you are not condemned and to go forth and make the world a better place through love and compassion through the word of the Lord!”
The sweet old lady increases her rocking pace in childlike excitement as the words of the Lord ring true in her heart. As she turns and gestures to the young girl scout tied to the dining room chair, she can sense the Holy Spirit’s message getting through by the tears of joy streaming down the saved child’s cheeks.