All the words you’ve been writing seem to fall into two categories. There’s the type where you have the world of the living on one side, the world of death on the other, and then there’s some mysterious force that allows a crossing-over from one side to the other. This includes ghosts and the like. The second type involves paranormal abilities, premonitions, and the ability to predict the future. All of your words belong to one of these two groups.
In fact, your experiences tend to fall almost completely under one of these categories or the other.
What I mean is this.
People who say they’ve seen ghosts, just see ghosts and never have premonitions. And those who have premonitions don’t see ghosts. I don’t know why, but there would appear to be some individual aptitude for one or the other. At least that’s the impression I often get.
Of course, some people don’t fall into either category. Take me, for instance. In my forty-plus years I’ve never seen once seen a ghost, never once had a premonition, or even a prophetic dream.
There once was a time when I was riding on an elevator with a few close friends and they swore they saw a ghost riding with us, but I didn’t see a damn thing. They claimed—without any apprehension—there was a woman in a spring green sundress with yellow printed flowers standing next to me, but there wasn’t another woman with us. At least as far as I could make out. It was just the three of us in the elevator. No joke. And these close friends of mine weren’t the type to play such a deliberate trick on me. The whole thing was really odd, but the fact remains that I’ve still never seen a ghost.
And there was another time—just that once—when I experienced something that scared the shit out of me. This happened years ago, and I’ve never told anyone about it. I have been afraid to even consider talking about it. I’ve felt that if I did, it might happen all over again, tenfold, so I’ve just chosen to not talk about it.
But tonight, something just feels right, and as the teller of this short story, I can’t very well call it a night, without contributing a little something of my own accord, in order to contribute to your bubbling imagination.
So I’ve decided to come right on out and say it. To tell you the story, so to speak. So here goes.
I moved away from my home, that being Alabama, and headed out west in the direction of California, some twenty odd years ago. Better yet—let’s just say—at the turn of the century. I considered myself something of similarity to the “leftovers” of a long dormant “hippie” generation, and I refused to follow through with the abbreviated terms of my social conditioning. Instead, I went west, and wandered all over, working various jobs. I was convinced this was the most righteous way for me to live my life.
Young and stubborn, a little rebellious, and most definitely wild, I guess are all stereotypical conclusions that one could consider to better describe me. Looking back on it all now, though, I think I’ve lived a pretty amazing fucking life, whether I have made there right choices or not, if I had the opportunity to do it all over again, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t change a damn thing.
In the autumn of my second year of roaming about, I took a job as a night security guard at a ski resort. This resort was tucked high in the serrated Sierra Nevadas, the end of the road, metaphorically speaking. Regardless, in the off season, this little resort settled down into the throes of a ghost town. I’d managed to wear myself out working like a dog over the summer and wanted to take it easy for a month or so, before heading back into the wintry mix of life.
Doing what I was hired to do wasn’t exactly rocket science. During the day I slept in a dilapidated yurt, and at night all I had to do was make two rounds around the entirety of the resort making sure everything was okay. The rest of the time I listened to my tunes, read my books, I even swam laps in the heated pool, and sometimes I even worked on my golf swing by spraying golf balls into the endless abyss of a ski resort parking lot. Being alone at night wasn’t so bad. Was I afraid? No fucking way. When you were my age, nothing fazes you.
I’m not sure if any of you have ever worked as a security guard on the graveyard shift, so maybe I should better explain the duties. You’re supposed to make a couple of rounds each night. One at nine p.m. and one at three a.m. That’s the schedule.
The resort had recently been renovated, and was rather sophisticated to be on the outskirts of nowhere. It wasn’t as spread out as these kind of resorts typically go. In addition to the hotel you had an event hall, a decent sized gym, an indoor/outdoor heated swimming pool and a little cafe with little to nil operating hours during the shoulder season. My job was to make quick checks of all these places. You know, to make sure there were no stragglers around playing the hokey pokey and whatnot.
As I made my rounds, I followed my 100-plus point checklist. I’d leave my mark next to each outlet—room one, check, room two, check…I suppose I could’ve just hit range balls into the abyss and checked everything off without going through the trouble of actually doing the work. Though, I’ve never been much of an unorganized kind of guy, you know, being a Virgo and all. It didn’t take much time to make the rounds, and besides, if someone came around while I was distracted, I’d be the one getting attacked.
Anyways, there I was each night at nine and three, making the rounds, sturdy flashlight in my left hand, a three wood in my right. I was an okay golfer and felt confident in my ability to drive someone’s teeth into next week if I felt like my well-being was ever threatened. And even if there was an attacker, he’d probably be an amateur, and if he turned out to be a real threat, he wouldn’t have scared me. I was younger, remember. If it happened now, there’s a damn good possibility I’d run like I’d seen hell.
Anyhow, this all took place on a windy night in the beginning of November. It was a rather warm night for the time of year in the mountains. A swarm of bugs buzzed around in the late evening, I remember lighting one of those “OFF” candles to keep them from bugging me. The wind was growing rambunctious—noisy as hell. The gate to the atrium that led to the swimming pool was broken and the wind made sure that I knew that. I thought I should probably fix it, but it was too dark, so I let the gate clamor away all night.
My nine o’clock round went fine, all hundred-plus duties on my list neatly checked with a heart, this was my initialized signature. All doors were locked, everything mise en place. Nothing out of the ordinary for a Monday night. I found my way to a couch in the hotel lobby, for some reason I was exhausted and very sleepy, unlike me, I thought. I set my alarm for three in the morning, and fell fast asleep after about ten minutes of trying to read my book, The Heart Of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.
When the alarm went off at its unreasonable hour, I came to, feeling weird. I can’t explain it but something was different. I had no motivation to get moving—it was like something was suppressing my will to wake the hell up. I’m the type who usually leaps right out of bed, so I couldn’t fathom the feeling.
I, eventually, forced myself to wake up and make my rounds. The gate to the pool was still up to its rhythmic clamoring, but it sounded different than before, something was definitely up, weird, I thought, reluctant to keep going. But I made up my mind that I did, in fact, have a job to do. It’s true, if you skip out on doing your duty once, you’ll skip out on it again and again, and I didn’t want to fall back into the routine of that type of trap. So I stood, grabbed my flashlight, my trusty three wood, and went to work.
It was an altogether odd night. The wind grew stronger as the darkness had progressed, the air very humid for this time of year. My skin started to crawl and I could hardly focus. I decided to go around the cafe, gym, and event hall first. Everything checked out just fine. The gate still clamored away like a crazy person who alternately shakes his head and nods simultaneously. There was no order to it. First a nod or two—yes, yes—then no, no, no…it’s a weird thing to compare it to, believe me, I know. But that’s what it sounded like.
Inside the event hall all seemed normal. I looked around, in all the nooks and crannies, everything checked out a-okay. Nothing was out of the ordinary, despite the odd feeling I’d woken up with.
Relieved, I headed back to my outpost. The last place on my list was the boiler room next to the cafe on the west side of the building, the opposite side of where I was headed. This meant I had to walk down a long and dark hallway on my way back.
On nights when the moon was out, there was a little light shining at the end of the hallway, but when it wasn’t, one couldn’t see a damn thing. I had to shine my flashlight ahead of me to see where I was going. This particular night a storm was brewing not too far off in the distance, so the moon was absent—the hallway—void of light. On occasion, the clouds would breakaway, but it would, almost directly, plunge back into darkness again. That’s when the rain started falling in sheets.
I walked much quicker than usual down the hallway, the soles of my shoes squeaking against the floor. It was a dark green floor, the color of a hazy bed of grassy moss. I can picture it perfect still.
The door to the boiler room was halfway down the hallway, just past the door to the cafe. As I passed the cafe, I thought what the—? Had I seen something sneaking through the darkness behind the cafe door. I immediately broke out in a cold sweat. Gripping my three wood tight, I turned toward what I thought I saw, and went into the cafe. I shined my light upon a shelf that was storing the operations daily odds and ends, and surprisingly, a mirror.
And there I was. A mirror, in other words. It was just my reflection in a mirror. But there had never been a mirror here before. Someone must have put one in between now and then, I thought. Shit, was I startled though. It was a long, full-length mirror. Relieved again, that it was just myself in a mirror, I started to feel a bit foolish for having feared being taken by such surprise of myself.
So that’s all it is, I told myself, how dumb. I put my flashlight down, pulled a cigarette from my pocket, and lit it. As I took a drag, I glanced at the smoky haze of myself in the mirror. A faint light from elsewhere shone through an unknown crack, reaching the mirror. From behind me, I could hear the gate clamoring louder and incoherently with the capricious wind.
After a couple more drags, I suddenly noticed something out of sorts. My reflection wasn’t me. Of course, it looked exactly like me on the outside, but it was definitely not me. No, that’s not it. It was me, of course, but another me. Another me that should’ve never been. I don’t know how to put it. It’s hard to explain these type of things with simplicity sometimes, you know, to explain what it felt like to feel like me.
The one thing I came to understand quickly was that this figure on the other side of me loathed me. Looking inside the mirror was like looking at an iceberg floating free through a dark and dreary sea. It was the kind of dislike that no one could ever diminish except for myself.
I stood there for what felt like an eternity, dumbfounded. My cigarette let loose, slipping from between my fingers and fell to the floor. The cigarette in the mirror fell free to the floor, too. We stood there, staring each other down, waiting to see who would make the first move. I felt like I was bound hand and foot, and could not move if my life depended on it.
Finally he moved, the fingertips of his left hand scratching at his chin, and then slowly like a bug, it crept up his face. I fanatically realized I was doing the same exact thing. Like I was the reflection of the monster that was in the mirror and he was slowly taking control of me.
Wrenching out my last ounce of strength I howled with a low growl, and the bonds that held me by the roots broke free. I raised my three wood behind my head and swung through the mirror as hard as I’ve ever swung a thing. I heard the glass shattering into pieces behind me but didn’t look back as I ran full sprint back to where I was meant to be.
I was worried about the cigarette I’d dropped on the floor, hell I even worried about the candle I had lit earlier in the night, but there was no way in hell I was going back, the whole damn resort could burn for all I cared. The wind continued howling the whole time, the rain falling heavy, and the gate made its racket till just before dawn—yes, yes, no, yes, no, no, yes…
If you haven’t yet guessed the ending to my story, allow me to speak with clarity, there was never a mirror.
That morning, the sun came out, the storm had passed, its only remnants—a broken rainbow. The wind had died down, soon to disappear altogether. All in all, it was a bright and beautiful sunny day. I moseyed my way to the cafe to pour myself a cup of coffee, and there was the candle still burning away. The cigarette butt I’d dropped was still there but burnt away, and there laid my trusty three wood. But there was no mirror. There was never a mirror.
What I saw wasn’t a ghost. It was—to put it simply—myself. I will never forget how scared shitless I was that night, and whenever the memory pops into my head, the thought always springs to mind: that the most frightening thing in the world is often our ourselves. Don’t you think?
And yet still, through all the smoke & mirrors, I’ve begun to see…me, a lot more clearly.