The needle plummeted from the ceiling straight down, released from its dangling thread by a pair of scissors, set to close with a simple tug from another string running along the walls. The string was fed through a series of small metal loops, attached finally to the doorknob. If the doorknob was turned, the light tug would close the scissors' jaws, severing the thin thread which held the needle from its twenty-foot plummet onto the man in the bed. King Jared.
The needle's tip, weighted down by a few drops of led, penetrated Jared's arm through his silk pajamas, drawing a slight bit of blood, and Jared opened his eyes. He smiled, his red goatee spreading across his uneven skin as it stretched. So it does work, he thought, proud of his own invention that would unfailingly alert him of an intruder. He'd invented the mechanism at age twenty, and for twenty long years, it had never been triggered except for his test trials. Now it was working, and he couldn't be happier, despite his nervous, thundering chest.
He was facing away from the door, but he heard a faint footstep, as well as the slight creak of his door, which he had purposefully neglected to oil for so long. His arm, hanging loose over the edge of the bed, slowly reached under the mattress, gripping a small dagger which he hadn't touched for twenty years. He made sure to regulate a slow, peaceful breathing pattern, his shoulders rising and falling as if he'd never awoken.
From this point, however, he encountered a problem he hadn't thought about. While he was aware of an intruder, he didn't know how close he was to him. As such, he wouldn't know when to turn around and surprise him. He listened with desperate ears for a sound of the person padding his way towards him, nearby breathing, a rustle of clothing, anything. Jared tightened his eyes, silently cursing himself for not having thought of that sooner. He would have to do what it was he despised: guess.
Now is a good a time as any, he determined, ripping the dagger from the mattress and whirling on the intruder, who, by this time, was not far from him. Jared yelled as loudly as a just-woken man could, nearly lunging forward at the shadowed figure before him. Misjudging the distance in the darkness, Jared's attack fell short of the mark, the figure leaping back with a small cry into a beam of moonlight.
Jared prepared himself to make the lunge to end the intruder's existence, but stopped short for a second, then flung himself back in the opposite direction, stumbling onto, and then behind his bed. He picked himself up, making sure he had seen what he thought he saw, at the same time raising his dagger to a throwing position.
He took a closer look, and it did nothing to settle his now frayed nerves.
"Well," said the other, smiling a bit, his bright red facial hair crowning his full mouth, "I'm impressed. I can become invisible around my next victim, but you made it physically impossible for me to enter your room without waking you."
"Y – who are you?" gasped Jared, shakily, already trying to calm himself down.
The figure looked up. "A pair of scissors attached to the door," he mumbled, looking back at the entryway and nodding. "Clever."
Boldly, Jared managed to stand up, though he still hadn't torn his eyes from the figure. "What are you?" The man - or thing - he saw looked exactly like him. Red goatee, wrinkled around the eyes, and even a narrow scar across the left cheek. "You're – you're not what I think you are, are you?"
"Well, that depends on what you think I am, and if I am what that is."
"I'm dreaming..." Jared muttered, stepping back, arms reached behind him to grab onto the bed railing as he stumbled.
Jared's false twin shrugged. "If you were dreaming, you wouldn't have woken up," he observed.
"You're a fairy tale!"
"I am a fairy tale! Ha, ha, ha, hah!" Other Jared slapped his knee, bending over. "But that doesn't mean I can't be real, huh?" Despite looking exactly like Jared, he sounded like anything but. Jared's deep, though mild voice was nonexistent in the other's, and was instead a sort of rumbling echo that sounded barely human.
"You're the…" Jared stopped breathing.
"My real name, I suppose, is Trite. But that has changed so many times, it is almost irrelevant. My title you humans have given me, which I have adopted, is Night Mirror."
With a loud cry, Jared threw himself over the bed, using it to launch into a desperate lunge, dagger outstretched and ready to impale whoever it was in his room. The Night Mirror stepped back just slightly and grabbed Jared's knife-wrist, using it to yank him to the floor. He bent over. "Understand, I'm not going to hurt you. In fact, if you're smart, this'll be an interesting experience for you. You see, I intend on changing places with you. I've traded places with kings, in the past, only a few times. I'm sure you're wondering what will become of you, and it is essential for my existence that you know exactly what you will be doing once I take your body and you take mine.
Jared attempted to stand, but the Night Mirror laid a firm knee in the middle of his back, preventing him from rising.
"Well, lucky you, you'll become the Night Mirror, and I'll become King Jared. You may become invisible, if you wish; I would suggest it, from my experience."
"I'll look like you," Jared gasped.
"Actually, the only reason I look like you is because I'm about to become you, and I'd like very much to get used to the body I'm going to be in before I have to go public with it. And don't fret – consider this a learning experience. Just remember to find yourself a body to switch in a week; and the person cannot believe in you, either. If you'd believed I existed, then there'd be no reason for me to take you in the first place."
"I…believe in you now."
"No, you still don't. Even after this, there's a seed of doubt. Almost always is. You're still convinced that I want something…that I'm pulling your leg. You might even think that I'm just a dream; I wouldn't put it past you." He bent over. "Now, there are a few rules you must follow, before I let you go. These rules are rules you must tell your next victim, and that your next victim must tell his or hers. Listening to me?"
With his face flat on the stone floor, Jared couldn't nod like he wanted to, but moaned a jagged "yes." The pressure on his back was getting to him.
"Good. Now, as I mentioned; one, you have a week to choose who will be next, or I will choose for you."
"Well, yes, I will be you, but you will also be me, and by becoming me, you receive my thoughts and memories. I'll still retain mine, as well; this'll resolve the inevitable inconveniences of me becoming you, and you becoming me. Our minds will meld, some information might be lost along the way, but at least we'll know what our favorite foods are and who our spouse is. Am I being clear to you?"
A begrudging "yes."
"Okay. Second, you can only take your victim at night. This is imperative. And enjoy yourself, okay? Catch 'em by surprise, mess with their minds a little. I remember about twelve people back that I pretended to be a ghost, and that I would only go away if my victim – it was a woman of maybe twenty four – did some rather ridiculous things. She couldn't stand on her head, that was for sure!"
Night Mirror's knee jerked with uneven pressure on Jared's back as he laughed at the memory, which Jared would probably share with him in a few minutes.
"And last, don't every let anyone see you in the daytime. In fact, nobody should see you at night, either, except for your next human. This means you'll have to stay invisible for most of the time. The reason for this is that if you are spotted – and you will be spotted – news will spread, and unless you can travel faster than the spoken word, you'll find it harder and harder to find a disbeliever in your week's time. And if nobody for you to trade places with is within reach, you'll disappear."
"D…die, you mean?"
Night Mirror looked up, sighing. "Well, I've talked enough. And don't take this the wrong way, okay? This is necessary for my survival. So don't let me die. Find a good, juicy unbeliever and watch him squirm in the same way you are."
Jared tried desperately to believe, thinking that it would somehow save him from whatever happened next. He wasn't even sure what was going to happen.
Then the Night Mirror released Jared. "Look, I don't want to do this to you. But it's the only way I can survive! Try to understand that."
In a strange and sudden turn of events, the Night Mirror was almost asking for an apology. "I'm afraid, okay? Look, my time is nearly up, so listen well. I have one week to live. Every time I die, I become someone else, and someone else becomes me. I don't want to die, even if it means that many, many other people lose themselves. Understand me?"
Jared, even in his terror, understood. "You're as terrified of death as I am."
"Exactly!" He took a glance at the moon, checking the night's hour. "Only minutes left…that's the problem with being immortal. You're so used to living, you're scared of what's on the other side. Maybe the grass is greener, healthier than over here in the realm of the living. Or maybe there is no other side at all…" He seemed to snap out of his rambling spell, reverting to his old self. "No matter. It's time." In a sudden rush, he grasped Jared's head with both hands; a steady booming sound filled the king's head as he let out a thin scream. "Nothing personal, please," said the Mirror.
Jared closed his eyes against the sudden strain – he couldn't move, he couldn't breathe, but he almost didn't need to. Then he felt memories rush into his mind, memories he'd never experienced or dreamed physically possible. He was exposed to fear, as well. Fear of being remembered – if he was remembered, he would almost surely die. Because, as the Night Mirror, he needed an unbeliever, because death was not a person he was pleased to meet.
He wasn't even living a life worth being in - he was merely existing. He felt no joy, except for a few times, and those were sparse throughout the years. Fear kept him going, with nothing more than the power to become transparent to his name. As well, truth was revealed.
He was a stranger, and alone.
But he feared death more than loneliness, for even in loneliness, there was hope for company. In death, there was no hope, wherever he went. Whenever he went.
***The editor pulled his glasses off his nose, placing them lightly on his desk. He rubbed his eyes. The story was good enough to publish, but it wasn't purely fictional, which was one of the requirements. The story was an old fairytale, retold in a shorter and vastly different style – which was a shame, since the writer must have put a lot of work into it. "Night Mirror," muttered the editor, rubbing the patch of hair that occupied his chin. "Haven't read a rendition of this quality in some time." With a remorseful sigh, he tossed the pages into the wastebasket, which his secretary would eventually empty. Plus there was no last name - it was just signed, in large cursive, "Trite," which was a strange name.
He stood up, yawned, and strolled to the exit door of his office, passing the Night Mirror as he shut off the lights. The Night Mirror had devised a method of testing the humans' beliefs – tell the story to them themselves. The editor obviously dismissed it as fiction based off of a fairytale, so he would probably be the next victim.
I'm having doubts about this story - it's a bit disjointed, but I figured I'd at least let the SSotM keep going, so I threw this together. However, I'm fully aware that I could have made it much cleaner, and done a lot more with it than I did, which disappoints me, but I'm currently on a mild writer's block. CC all you want - enjoy.
Edited by Wriste13, 26 January 2010 - 02:47 PM.