I cannot tell you why I was there, for that would deny my very reason for being. There are certain things more desirous, and these are the things that men and women alike pursue. Is it for the pursuit of such things that I found myself in a cabin of humble construction, or is it simple rural sympathies which drove me to such an abode?
The thing about pursuit (the thing no one can get away from) is that there is always a pursuer. A hunter always stands behind those double barrels of powder-packed steel before the gun is fired. Winds may gust against the hunter’s frame, billowing his red and black checkered jacket like an over-filled balloon, but the man remains still. His long and tousled hair may fall as curly strands across his eyes – attempting to block his view – but the hunter is in pursuit. He has crept as a silent cat, dodging between potentially snapping twigs and crinkling leafs which blanket the forest floor.
Now the hunter stands – breath held in – and squeezes the trigger. The pursuit is over. There is nowhere for the doe to hide, but she nuzzles beneath the fallen leafs in an attempt to escape death. In vane, her blood speckles the forest floor, and the hunter has won. The pursuit is over.
Such are my thoughts as I sip roasted potatoes from a soup-filled spoon. The meal is been better with venison, but the doe is not yet ready for consumption. She hangs in a meat cellar, while the hunter sits in a rickety chair. My eyes glide to the corner of my shack as the big clock strikes one tone, two tones, three, and on. Seven I count in total, but the sun filtering through glass windows shows the rawness of time in all its glory.
After my meal, I sit on a bench held up by rope, but with no lover at my side. I watch time sink behind the treeline, sipping home-brewed coffee from the clay in my hands. For the deer, life was slow, until the hunter came. Her heart raced all at once before the buck from those two barrels rang out: the heart ringing out a final beat. However, my heart beats on. I can feel it rocking slowing in my chest, but pay it no mind. Time plods on, and my heart strums a simple tune as the coffee in my mug warms me against the impending night breezes.
I sit on my porch long past the sun’s decent, long past the reds turned to purples, turned to the starry wonders of the night sky. The moon smiles down at me, tickling my bare feet with the chill, and I return the favour before slipping back inside to cover those feet with a soft flame and softer slippers. A wood-fired flame in a wooden cabin may bother some, but I am not afraid. The hearth is set lower in the ground, surrounded by bits of the mountain scenery that similarly surrounds my cabin.
I watch the flames grow lower and lower as drowsiness overtakes them. They do not call out for more fuel, and I do not oblige. As the night from outside my home seeps in through spaces between nature’s crudely fashioned logs, slips beneath a creaking door, inking the air with darkness; I mimic the fire’s decent. Making my way to a feathered bed, I pass by that clock in the corner, spying the time. A face looks back at me, and I jump at the sight before realizing it is my own. There is a reason I don’t have mirrors in my house, and that reason stares at me now. With no one to impress but myself, I care not for the mess of hair falling from my chin, surrounding my lips, and showering about my temples. It keeps me warm when the night breezes do not. I cannot say the same for the crooked teeth I sport up front, but those hold little consequence to me. They yellow around the edges, reminding me of my religious forgetfulness to brush them.
“I’ll get to that tomorrow.” I say aloud, before picking a piece of parsley from between them and flicking it to the surrounding air. The blackness around me consumes it, and I care not for its destination. I was a handsome man once… and perhaps I am still. Some women fall over those rugged qualities that I now possess, but finding them would require social interaction: not something desirous enough for me to pursue. The sweet song of birds in the morning is the only voice I need. The only complaints I hear come from myself, or the shrieking of steam from my old cast-iron kettle. Hunting, fishing, foraging, living off of the land as God intended: that is my life, and nothing more can enhance it.
These are my final thoughts as I drift off to sleep, a smile spreading between reddened moustache and blackened beard (a unique combination to be sure). The crickets sing a friendly lullaby, and I let it glide over me like a blanket of mist lowering slowly to cool my skin. The chill of the song is comforting, contrasted against the chill of that look. Those eyes. The face within the clock watching me drift into the blackness around me.
Evenings are a precious thing, but mornings are even more beautiful. I rise from the feathered mass that comforts me most nights (the nights I opt out of lying beneath the stars, the thrill of nature surrounding me). The sun mirrors me, rising from the depths of night, blistering the sky with hot rays, burning away the darkness. I light a fire of my own to burn away the chill that still permeates that early morning air. The kettle is boiling, then it is steaming, then it is screaming.
“Okay, honey. I’m a comin’.”
She sighs in relief as I take her from the heat and pour the contents into a glass: my favourite brew. The smell of the coffee tickles my nose as I watch the clear liquid mix with the sludge at the bottom of my glass. The creamy, caffeinated sauce trickles down my throat – after adding a touch of milk – and I sit on that front porch again, enjoying the warmth of the stuff.
The only way to catch your prey is by standing still, moving slowly: silence. Time always aids me with my catch, whether it be out on the lake or in the trees. She has a way of getting ahead of me in this place, but I never hurry to catch her. She sits with me until my cup in dry and then beyond.
“Well. Best be off.” It is not my desire, but time is pushing me forward. She says there are things to do today, and I do not argue. The empty coffee mug is replaced with a jangling set of keys for the truck I keep outside. It would be an hour before I get to town, and time wouldn’t wait for me today.
“Don’t do anythin’ I wouldn’t.” It is a silly way to say farewell to a house, but habits are not often sane: though they are the little things that keep us so.
Gravel crushes beneath my feet as I approach the old rusty bucket I call a truck. The door squeaks as I pull it free from its matching frame. The key turns nicely in the slot, and soon she rumbles with life. “You’ll never quit on me, will ya, Old Faithful?” I slap the side of the frame and pop her in gear before checking my mirrors. The rear-view is askew, just the way I like it. If not for the law, I would rip the stupid thing right out. The ones at either side point toward the ground, sharing messages of their own. Objects in mirror may be closer than they appear, the one says, while the other shows object that no one wants to see. Strange things can happen in mirrors. Leafs can blow by, startling me. Rodents can spill across the road like tiny monsters before I identify their harmlessness. Faces can look out at me… before I see them as my own. Foolish disorientation: avoidable by those down-cast glass plates.
I peal out, leaving a cloud of dust behind. It does not follow, but remains where I once was, drifting toward the house like a shadow. If my mirrors had been up-right, I would have seen the face there. I would have seen those things that mirrors show: those things that no one wants to see. From clock to billowing dust, the face follows me… but I am long gone.
Glass doors on the Bank shoot sun into my eyes. I squint, looking back at Old Faithful, wishing I could just go home. I have no place in this city, with these people, in these buildings. I reach for the door, but someone brushes my arm as they enter. I pull back and begin to pace, working up the courage for another attempt. Cars whip past me on the street, honking at Old Faithful like she did something wrong. Every whoosh is deafening in my ears, every honk the sound of death. Idle chatter blankets the city, from the lowest pedestrian, to the planes overhead.
A group of women rush at me, like a herd of angry bulls. Horns protrude from the places where their thumbs should be, tapping incessantly on the cell phones they are holding. They careen blindly down the sidewalk that now tunnels my vision. Shoulders bounce as they pass on-coming traffic, paying no mind. Their voices are high-pitched squeals. Like a host of screaming emergency vehicles they grow closer, closer, closer, horn-thumbs tapping against useless electronic devices. They seek to skewer me where I stand, and I pull my elbow in tight. Shoulders bump and twist, leaving me lying on the sidewalk like a discarded cigarette.
I don’t know how long I sat there, my butt mixing with the others around me. The once glowing ends were as disoriented as I felt. They pointed every which way, uselessly scattering the cement slabs like fallen shotgun casings.
I resolve to not mingle with them any longer, and take my eyes from the ground. No one seems to notice my fallen state… no one but the glass Bank doors which stare at me, taunting me, mirroring my own look on their face. The man in the doors looks at me and I shudder as his face begins to stretch. It topples to one side, his lips spreading like a stream of blood across the glass – laughing at me. I watch in horror as the face snaps from my view, leaving nothing but a pair of shoes in front of me.
“Sir?” The shoes begin to speak, pulling me from what should have been a dream. But no, it’s not the shoes. A business-suited man rises in front of me as I look up past the things on his feet. “Are you okay?” Then I realize the man was the one speaking all along. He stretches his hand out to me in a gesture of friendship, and I grab it. He pulls me back to my feet. I see his other hand resting on the glass door, having pushed it open, thus skewing the face I saw therein.
I smile at him through my thick mask of hair, but the gesture is more directed at my stupidity. “I’m fine,” I say.
He steps aside to let me in.
My feet reply, finally clicking against the metal grating between the double doors of the Bank. I keep my eyes straight ahead, and close them when my hand hits the second set of glass panes blocking my entry to the building. No face stretches in the blackness of my mind. No streak of blood laughs at me as the glass yawns from its place in the door frame.
“Watch it, jerk!” I open my eyes to see a large woman standing in front of me, challenging me with her eyes.
“S-sorry,” I manage to stammer out, attempting to get around her. She does not block my way on her continued trek out of the building, but everything seems like a mad attempt while swimming through this sea of people.
The line of folks waiting to see a teller snakes out line a row of sardines. I squish myself into the line, trying not to touch anyone, though the effort is surely pointless.
“Hey! No butting!” Someone pushes me from in front of them, but I don’t know who it is. I never see them in the mass of faces swirling around me. As if by some trick of magic, I find my way to the back of the line. Even now, as I stand there, I can’t tell you what differentiates it from the throng surrounding me.
Things like cellphones and the nature of standing in line might be common to these city folk, but they are as foreign to me as I am to them. However, the new essence creeping into the scene at this moment is familiar to me. The trees around my cabin know it well. They know it as the embodiment of fear. The low hearth I keep well stocked knows it as well. It knows it as warmth, and I know it as comfort. It heats me on late nights, pulls the chill from my bones while the dew still hangs on early morning grass, but it does not comfort me now.
Orange tongues lick at the room as people begin to scream. The sardines squishing together in front of me vanish as pandemonium ensues. I turn just in time to be blown back by an explosion of people. My head spins. Peering up from my place on the ground I see the glass-pane doors have shattered. No longer does a face smirk at me from within, but the flames taunt me with a face of their own.
I barely hear the robotic sounding voice coming over the loud speaker, but it is unavoidable. The sound blasts through the building as another explosion rocks it to the foundations. “Remain calm. Make your way to the fire exit at the rear of the building.”
I know not who speaks, but what does it matter? The only voice I can hear now is… everywhere. It hums in the floorboard as I stand, crashed from the ceiling as metal panels fall, and ricochets from the crumbling walls around me. I swim in the shrieking blob of people, being bounced and jostled along against my will. My body is thrown against the wall in that rear hallway we all funnel through.
I hear a crack, but don’t know whether it is my bones or something else. Placing my hands against the wall, I struggle to rise from the ground, closing my eyes against the pain. My hands climb up the wall, one step at a time, until I find my feet. My eyes creek open with fear at the horror I will soon see, but nothing could have prepared me for that moment.
Dizzying eyes jump at me from the shattered glass in mirrored walls. The mass of people behind me is a blur. I see nothing but the monster staring at me. Soon the blur is gone and I face my pursuer. His eyes bore into me as mine open wide in shock and terror.
I whirl around, dizzied by the experience, and almost fall over with the effort. Stretching my arms out to steady myself, I peer at the far wall of the hallway… and it peers back at me. Those eyes surround me, blinking from within the prism-embedded walls. Falling to my knees, I come face to face with my pursuer again. I stare at myself, the fear amplified by those mirrored eyes.
The fire is aglow around me, but it is not the monster. The walls push themselves towards me, straining against support beams. They work as one, but mirroring many. Many faces. Many eyes. Many monsters. My head begins to spin as I scramble to my feet, looking for the escape door. I see it, then again, then again, mirrored in every wall of the place. My own face laughs down at me from beside the door, and I move to the right in an effort to escape the madness. I find no door, only another face staring at me. Another mirror. Another monster.
I scream, and the world screams back at me. Alone, but surrounded by thousands of copies of myself. The hunter meets his prey. I stare down thousands of gun barrels, hear the sound of a million bullets: there is no escape. My pursuer is ever with me, that inescapable face of… me.
The world goes black, and I welcome it. The faces disappear into the flames as blood pours from my skull, shining against the reflective surface beneath me, beside me, all around me. I welcome the flames as they lick at my feet and run up my legs. The burn swirls around in my mind, fading into the inky expanse. I watch the fire sink lower and lower as drowsiness overtakes it. It does not call out for more fuel, and I do not oblige.
Death takes me by the hand, leading down a dark passage. I am led past row upon row of opaque glass in frames. Frames of metal. Frames of wood. Frames of mirrors. The dead mirrors do not speak. No images torture me from their depths, for they are not my own. My mirror calls to me from the end of the hall, that long hall of forgotten lives. Ghostly figures stand, sit, cry in front of mirrors of their own. Some of them scream and punch at the glass, but the remaining shards still speak to them.
The light at the end of this tunnel comes from the sun, rising above the tops of cedar trees. It looks out of my mirror at me, and I peer in at it. I see a lowly cabin, dust still hanging in the air from a departed, rusty truck. A man sits on the back porch, watching the sun make its slow trek into the sky. He hides in a cabin, hides in the trees, hides in the mountains, hides from his monster, but the pursuer is ever watching.
This monster haunts him from the glass in his clock, cranes its neck to see from downcast truck mirrors, laughs at him from glass Bank doors and walls. He can hide from people, alone in the mountains. He can run from society, run from life, run from sanity, run from many monster… but he cannot run from this. The pursuit is over. He nuzzles beneath fallen leafs in an attempt to escape… himself, but every time he looks up, that face stares back at him. His face. His monster. Himself.