*editor’s note: Please be advised that this story contains blood play. We realize this is a hard limit for some people and wanted to advise our readers accordingly.
“Reflections Left Behind”
by Natasha Leullier
Sandy’s puckered moon face and firefly eyes reflected in her great-grandmother’s mirror. Her hair and dress were crisp with dried seawater, and orange oak leaves plastered her Mackintosh coat. She held the telescope against her chest and smiled at the framed photo of William sitting behind her on the writing desk. She would keep watch for the missing whalers now that the craven lighthouse keeper had fled along with every other villager. Through the miracle of the looking glass, they were side by side again, she in bedraggled attire and William with his waxed mustache and special occasion stovepipe hat. The flame above Sandy’s one candle danced, begging for its life, and expired. The world became silver; the Nor’easter offering its own sickly light. But it was the tide smashing against the shingles that made Sandy shiver and a great fist upon the cottage that made her shake.
If the storm was intent on claiming her, she might as well return to the docks and lead the confrontation. Her heart pounded throughout her body, throbbing against her temples, fingertips, and even the intimate nook between her legs. How she could think of such things in the storm… And yet, the fear, her bewildered courage, made her long for William’s touch.
Sandy stood just as a tree crashed through the parlor, slicing through the air and the antique mirror. Mercury shrapnel flew at Sandy, and a shard lodged in the depths of her left eye. Black fluid trickled down her plump white cheek. William’s distant face and Sandy’s remaining eye reflected in the shard. The fireflies went out.
“Earth holds the secrets to our past, and we all return to it in the end. So stop puttering around and dig. I want to see dirty knees and blistered hands by the end of the day,” said Josh, waving his trowel to and fro.
Wearing much-too-clean field clothes, the volunteers stood in the yellow autumn light, grinning at their leader’s enthusiasm. Josh glanced at Samuel who stood to the side with a camera on his hip. He had chosen a dove grey button-up shirt and tight jeans, and looked fine as hell, but ridiculous for an archaeology project. Sam’s presence was personal; a professional photographer an unlikely luxury.
Josh threw his clipboard to the grass and climbed down into one of the deeper pits formed by the foundations of the old mariner’s home. Flicking his wrist, Josh scraped the ground, stopping only when he heard a clink. He grabbed a brush from his back pocket and swept until sun bounced off the artifact, a triangular mirror fragment, four inches long. The sharpest tip against his finger triggered his cortex. An explosion in his mind. It took Josh to the past, to little Josh with his collections. A skinny boy in a hollow house, sitting in his closet, surrounded by thimbles, arrowheads, rocks, and dice. Like him, they were discarded, but the real collection he kept under a loose floorboard.
Josh pressed harder on the broken mirror. How much weight can you apply before breaking skin? Surely more, his finger was thick with callouses. Josh did not enjoy pain, but this wasn’t about pain. His compulsion had been under control for decades, so why now? As heat began bursting from his finger, he recalled the three-pronged fork, ornate silver knife, and broken bottle glass. Lost and sharp, and full of stories. Even the serrated metal blade of a broken industrial fan.
A breeze rustled the oak looming over the homestead, destroyed in a 19th century storm and never rebuilt, the plot of land little more than an extension of the coastline. The bright geometry of fallen leaves covered the mirror remnant, breaking the spell. Josh glanced around the site, saw Samuel’s long brown hair resting in sand as he crouched for a shot, an artistic angle of a toppled chimney. He was committing, finding beauty in decay. Something about that turned Josh on, made him tingle from the inside out. Rather than placing the artifact in a labeled bag, Josh slipped it into the side pocket of his cargo pants.
Josh sat shirtless on a wicker stool, in front of a vanity table and mirror that did not match. Nothing matched in the house he had rented for the field team. Steam snaked around the bedroom, flowing from Samuel’s shower. Josh leaned toward the mirror to observe the flecks of dirt stuck in his pale chest hair and the ragged crinkles at his eyes. He knew Samuel was attracted to this version of himself. He was a man in charge, body molded by hard work. But his body was also covered with a weave of old scars, and Josh was no longer in charge. He could feel the mirror fragment, waiting in his pocket, could imagine its sharpness through the cloth.
Josh believed all inanimate things had their own personalities and desires. Flowers needed smelling. Glue asked for merging. Sam’s camera begged for images and scenery to capture. So it only made sense that sharp, jagged edges invited violent action. Made by and for humans, it was the inevitable conclusion of the partnership. Who was he to refuse fate? Every knife, butter to butcher, had known blood, at least once.
Josh retrieved the shard from his pocket, held it up to the modern mirror, and admired the paradox of endless reflections.
“Just a small one…” Josh whispered.
He pushed the fragment into the hairless skin below his pectoral, and felt the familiar sting. The sound of waves loomed closer, and something in the distance came crashing down, wet and heavy. He watched his face cringe, brows forming deep divots. He hated it, yet needed it, and moved his hand below the other pectoral and slit again. He waited for the ooze of blood, but none came.
Samuel screeched and stumbled naked into the room. He slipped on the hardwood boards and fell to his knees as blood poured down his front. Josh witnessed this in the window offered by the mirror fragment.
“I’m bleeding,” said Sam, panting.
“I’m not,” said Josh looking down at his own chest.
Josh went to Samuel and knelt in front of his sleek form. Steam flowed from his body and soaked his hair. A black strand had fallen over his face and was stuck to his lower lip. Josh took Samuel’s head between his rough hands and pressed his lips to his, inhaling his panic, replacing it with comfort.
“Does it hurt?” asked Josh.
Samuel shook his head, sending droplets flying.
“Don’t be scared. Look,” said Josh.
He dug the tip of the mirror into his flexed bicep. He yelped in pain and Samuel gasped as a dark red rivulet poured down his own arm.
“My pain, your blood. We’re connected by this,” explained Josh, holding up the shard. “You reflect a part of me.”
”How? I don’t understand.”
In lieu of a reply, Josh cradled Sam’s hairless chin and pushed his tongue into his mouth, past his teeth to flit between his cheeks. He pressed his body against his lover, and Josh became slick with Sam’s blood and water. The wind picked up, nature’s howls covering Sam’s whimpers of expectation as Josh straddled him.
Through his soaked cargo pants, Josh felt Sam’s honed hardness and he was dying to thrust it into himself. But later; the mirror still called for him. Much the way he handled his trowel, Josh made rapid, shallow slashes on his stomach, just below the belly button.
Blood gushed from Sam, and Josh saw that rather than fearful, his eyes held wonder at the life flow. He knew then that Sam felt as he did: a sense of release that went beyond sex. Embracing impossibility, reality could go fuck itself. Fuck the past and the stifling manacles of daily life. Fuck that closet, the quiet walls, the timeless sense of being utterly alone.
The two men laughed and embraced. Despite the heat of their bodies, Sam’s wet skin turned ice cold in the October air and was covered in goose pimples. Josh reveled in the texture, like a kitten’s sandy tongue. Thunder rumbled and the walls cracked. Gone were the sound of students in the house preparing dinner. The smell of jarred spaghetti sauce was replaced by sea air, which Josh could taste with his nose. Umami flavors of fish and seaweed.
“There’s a storm in our bedroom,” said Sam.
The lights flickered and the mirror fragment appeared to shine. Sam took it from Josh, who offered him an approving glance. Sam reached behind Josh with both hands. With one he caressed Josh’s spine, pausing on each bump; with the other he trailed the strange, tragic object along Josh’s taut skin. Their bodies shuddered, the lights went out, and for a moment, the room was filled with fireflies.
Unseen places, forgotten histories, and the dark recesses of humanity populate Natasha’s stories. French-Canadian born, she now lives in the Boston area and is writing her first novel. You can find more stories online at The Ginger Collect, Literary Orphans, and more on her Facebook page: Natasha Leullier