“Holy Mother of God, what have I become!” Fred groans as he stares at the mirror… at the vision in the mirror… at the stranger… at himself.
Stillness envelops the room, then, silence.
Fred’s face is enshrined within the rectangle of mirror. The whitish-grey skin, pulled tight, translucent against the shut, clenched jaw bone and skull beneath, is illuminated by two candle-shaped wall-sconces on either side.
The open, pine, wall-cabinet door beside the sink looks like a coffin lid in the mirror. Fred’s head and shoulders appear to rest within the rounded edge of the reflected tub and draped folds of the bath-curtain fabric. Open, vacant eyes conceal his panicked brain beholding with disbelief this once strong, able man transformed into this vision in the mirror of this frail, aged, appearing deceased mortal - as if witnessing his own wake.
Fred’s eyes follow in the mirror as his gloved fingers absently pick away shards of glass cutting through the torn leather gloves into his crossed hands reposing on his chest. As he removes the gloves, his eyes fill with horror as feeble, skeletal hands, pitted earthen-grey with age, appear. Nausea closes over him as a vile clot presses inside his chest. He is suffocating, terrified, barely able to breathe.Fred watches his long, thin fingers reach up within the reflection in the mirror glass and dig into the languid skin on the flaccid flesh of his once rugged, seasoned face, now this death mask, trying to rip it away.
Dull-red blood seeps, like molten lava from erupting veins on raw volcanic-like peaks of lacerated knuckle-cartilage, down deep fissures formed of bone and the torn flesh of his face and hands. The rivers of blood, mixed with his uncontrollable tears, flow along precipitous edges of yellowish-brown nails, the color of decay, to fall, with the beat of the heart from whence it came, into the abyss.
* * *
Footsteps sound in the hallway. Fred sees Constable John and a second man he doesn’t recognize wearing blue sweats with the school crest and letters COACH on the pocket.
“Who are you?” cries Fred, recoiling in fear.
The second man, running strong, athletic fingers through thinning hair at his temples, the once golden, sun-drenched locks now flecked with grey, steps quickly through the doorway.
“Come with me,” says Sam, placing his arm and a warm, dry towel from the laundry basket across Fred’s shoulders. “Everything is going to be alright… dad.”
Somehow, deep within the core of his being, down in the primeval essence of organisms that crawled out of the sea to evolve into humanity, Fred senses, without knowing, that, with this man and Clarissa, his wife, by his side he has nothing to fear.