THE SEVENTH MIRROR

Each sliver was meticulously placed. The bright gash of light reflected every surface, curve and flaw, as tender dawn pierced shrieking night; bloodied fingers pressed shards into virgin plaster, haemorrhaging ruby cherry threads – drying damp, burial brown. Scratching though chimes of light, fingers sighed and sobbed a thick aria; unnatural selection in precise chaos – creation oozing from frozen, shattered ectoplasm that prayed to be whole.

The window saw it all. Each homunculus lifted to its watery light – dumb, distorted duet. Such silence as follows detonation; destination creation, destination destruction – same orchestra, different score. Detonate … deh-tone-ate … the sound consumed. The tongue rolled the words noiselessly in the mind, the tongue licked the fingers, the fingers sang and scratched through the chimes of light. Dawn after dawn, the gash grew wider, a brittle fungus choking its porous host. A confusion of arcs and trails that angled and curved into the facade – its facets legion and its brilliance fractured. Now the fingers were silent, the mind was quiet and the window sparkled as it traced its design and it saw that it was good.

“Seven times seven is forty-nine. Forty-nine. Forty-nine. Seven times seven is forty-nine – ”

The fingers chased the air, the feet turned on a razor, the mind span and the tongue sang:

“Seven times seven is forty-nine. Forty-nine. Forty-nine. Seven times seven is forty-nine – ”

Wet, red glitter spattered the ice, pattered and dazzled into gem pools that melted across the crystal floor. Thick, slick lips that kissed the feet as the heavy, bronze bell of laughter cannoned across a frozen lake, the sound drowned the sinner and the sin skimmed the surface as the skin peeled in prayer.

Rose had heaved and dragged each awkward mirror up the three flights of stairs to the attic she rented in a dark, red fist of terraced houses. The once affluent area was now colonized by shabby, gold bullion take-aways, aromatic late night grocery stores and a tumble of dusty charity shops bristling with static nylon and faded plastic. It was in these latter arsenals of the discarded that Rose found her mirrors, black-spotted relics of the nineteen forties with rusted hanging chains and bevelled edges crimped with imperfections.

She was drawn to the windows of these hoards – their frail panes, shrouded with faded blueprints of worthy causes, framed staring, naked dolls with blistered smiles and matted hair; barnacles of brass bric-a-brac and the petrified faces of pressed voices, peering out from their flat, seven inch worlds. It was in one of these stores that she had bought the hammer. The drag of the rubber handle as she weighed it in her hand felt secure and she knew she could trust it. Cowled in a waxy, crackle of paper, the head was pock-marked, its black patina veined with silvery flecks. Rose held her metal disciple close to her chest as she slid sideways between the ramshackle shelves – like a scared, stray dog picking its way through the stooping, crushing streets of a high-rise city.

She watched her face twist into a grotesque storm, infinity misted the window and the low, growls of cornered thunder coagulated into a wrenched, dripping howl. Directing every inclination of its clawed skull, Rose let the hammer tear her message through the souls of the saved. Redemption exploded into a bright, white kaleidoscope as Rose’s wraiths were exorcised. Once, she had been lovely – once she had been loved. But that was before. Now, her cerulean skies were heavy, grey rain clouds and they poured.

“Seven times seven is forty-nine. Forty-nine. Forty-nine. Seven times seven is forty-nine … Amen.”

© Mel Lampro / Previously published: Artful, University of Sheffield Arts Council Magazine [2006].
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