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My Father's Son, Part IV

By , Bradford, PA
One day as I was rummaging through some of my father’s belongings in his bedroom, I came across a plate of glass that allowed me to see my reflection. I had until then not realized that I had never seen my face; I was not capable of recognizing myself. I suppose I had always had so many other worries in my life that the fact had escaped my attention. Coincidentally, I found close to the mirror a picture of a young boy— undoubtedly my father—with a bony face, aquiline nose and those same garish eyes. He looked to be slightly older than I was at the time, wearing a suit with tie. His appearance was more civilized than I had seen him in all the years I lived with him. Or perhaps he was still his psychotic self back then, as his eyes suggested, and his apparel and innocent age merely adumbrated its manifestation. One way or the other, as I looked back and forth from my reflection in the glass to the photo of my father, I suddenly slammed both down. I could have sworn that the reflection I saw and the photo I had found were of one and the same person. My father and I were practically identical—save that my eyes did not have the same fluorescence as my father’s—and even then they still had the same basic outline and pattern of the iris. In the excruciating horror of that moment, I could feel the vibrations echoing throughout the hollow mansion, and I realized that the clatter I had made had seemed to interrupt an eerily soundless void.

I couldn’t rid my mind of the image of my father—or of myself. I was tormented and fraught with angst. It was a great wonder to me how I could resemble such an evil man! I now held my visage in such contempt that I refused, and perhaps feared, to ever look upon my face again. It would have been worse than to look upon the devil’s soul. Even the memory of the image was enough to make me abhor my entire being.

The forlorn walls of the mansion, impersonal and severe as I had always known them, seemed positively more unwelcoming since I lived in them alone, as if my father were now glaring at me from within. Yet looking upon those unresponsive walls, without a countenance or a reflection, a reaction or a reminder, of myself, was a positive relief. As I wandered daily through the monotonously dim house, I prayed I wouldn’t stumble across another mirror and so unexpectedly accost myself with my own image.

My heart fairly jumped out of its endless rhythm when I first beheld that tiny glint wedged between the wood stove and the wall, like a raw diamond peeking out from the dark mines of the earth. I couldn’t—wouldn’t—believe my eyes: such an event as this could not have been more telling of my approaching end. Even the most honest human being at the first sighting of death would lose the integrity to acknowledge that it was real. And to have the kind of strength to acknowledge it would only bring the hour of its consummation closer to the finish. Perhaps that is the darkness of the truth, that to accept it is to ultimately be the executor of one’s own demise. Yet I would revoke my own senses to say it was merely an illusion of a flash in the darkness; it was palpable, real; its light was a formed entity; I first touched it and then began to hypnotically stroke it, a sick caressing. It was repugnant to my soul; it was my death sentence written on the wall. I wanted to run away from it, to kill it though it didn’t seem that death could have a life. Yet I was strangely captivated by it; its glint, self-damning or no, was the only thing to see in the darkness; indeed that within its shallow form was encapsulated the mystery of my death is what made me fall so inextricably in love with it. As to how I knew what it foretold I could not explain. When I faced the glitter the sense like an inward gleam flickered long enough so that I knew it was there, but always escaped before my mind could take hold of it.

Yet that glint could not just sit there and torment me; that perdurable diamond grew. Overnight it spread out its mycelium over the wall and budded out in surface as smooth and fluent as the serpent’s tongue the grains which would come together as some hostile colony to reflect the light upon my image, so that I could see myself, so that I could become more captivated and more horrified by it simultaneously, so that I could become more fascinated with the grips of death.
I couldn’t understand, I could not control that perfervid lust with which I was excited by it. I was no longer master of my private realm of passions. After having nothing to cherish of myself all my life, I could not have thought I was so beautiful. I couldn’t look at myself once and be sufficiently horrified by that horror. The charm of my beauty overpowered the sense of danger that came with it; a moment after turning away it would pull me back. The menace and repulsiveness of my father would slowly creep its way into the image as I gazed upon it, and suddenly I would perceive I had accepted it into my soul. Yet I couldn’t precisely identify at what point the separation between my sense of beauty and sense of danger occurred, and indeed the beauty and the danger were meshed into one. It was as if my own eyes were playing tricks on me, were making me see things I wasn’t supposed to see. That was the frustrating thing: was it me that could peer more deeply than sight, or was it the mirror that showed me these things? Was I the author of my derangement or accosted by Death? Was I accepting the final truth of my own accord? I would wonder with horror that my father and I were the flip sides of something so similar that we could share the same image. It was impossible to say what that something was. It was something I couldn’t see in the mirror.

Slowly, the walls, ceilings and floors of the mansion began to take on the reflectivity of the glass plate, so that not in all the house could I escape my image. Even worse, when the doors became like glass they were rendered indistinguishable from the rest of the mansion, so that there was no way to escape. Wherever I went, a thousand images, of me—of my father—were imposed upon my eyes. All of those hideous identical faces would follow me with their flashing eyes and whisper, “You cannot escape from me”, in an imperfect unison like a discordant vespers. Their harsh murmurs would echo throughout the hollow mansion until they had reached a crescendo of voices shouting into a shrieking chorus. All these faces were someone I could and could not identify, myself, my father, and someone else. So lost in it was I, that I could have been nowhere at all. A mask of my secret tormenter, someone who had realized it would be particularly convenient to don an uncanny resemblance to my father, was my sole guide now.
In its eyes was the demoniacal flash of my father’s, but for all I knew was it not the flash of my own? I had looked upon my beauty far more than I could stand. If before the vision had pulled me back, now it had to fight to force itself upon my own hardened will, though now it seemed strengthened to win every battle. It had become inscribed, scarred, branded upon my mind. I saw it even when I closed my eyes; in my mind the single image would resolve itself and become clearer than in physical reality. Strange though it may sound, by saying that it became clearer, I mean that it looked more like myself.

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