The Mirror’s Curse

[mc, mf, fd, ma]

((One of my personal favorite stories. Written in 2004, slightly revised in late 2009, early 2010 when I was in the midst of reuploading my work to the EMCSA. If you like magic and masturbation, I think you’ll like this one.))


It was, without a doubt, the best day in Matthew Malloy’s life ever since he had looked at journalism as the only truly satisfactory line of work. His article on the scandal at PatCorp, the highly egotistical name of multi-millionaire Patricia Campbell’s Perfume Company was the first real scoop in his career and a major boost to the fulfilment of his dreams of fame. The staggering news had reached first page and the printers were already working on a third edition – it seemed everyone was interested in the story that could bring down America’s most recent business sweetheart.

Dan Roberts, his boss was equally happy (if not more so…) mainly because, for the first time in twenty-years of history, the newspaper’s sales were skyrocketing and leaving the competition behind. In the presence of such an exciting turning point, one could already hear whispers in the corridors about a well deserved promotion.

“You did one hell of a job, Matthew!” that was the sentence he heard most. He was still hearing it in his head as he drove to his modest house in the suburbs. The sun had already sunken in the horizon and there were threads of dying, hazy light outlining the buildings. Little did he know of what was to happen next…

Ten minutes after turning the lights on, he was crossing the living-room, semi-dressed with a glass of red wine dancing in his fingers. The TV was on and as he waited for the broadcast of the Knicks game, he glimpsed the latest news presented by a middle-aged man with a stern look upon his face.

The events described were utterly uninteresting with the exception of one that made his heart gallop all of sudden. There had been an accident on the Interstate a couple of hours ago, of which had resulted a single victim, positively identified as being one Hideo Nakata, an employee at PatCorp, and precisely the man who provided him the necessary evidences to reveal his greatest story to the world. The circumstances regarding the accident were still confusing, but an eye-witness who had seen the car skid away in the road, claimed the driver was in turmoil, moving his arms furiously as if trying to wage war against his own anatomy… it was the witness opinion that he was probably under the effect of some heavy drugs and therefore experiencing some form of vivid hallucination when tragedy struck.

Matthew found it very hard to believe that explanation. He had talked to Nakata several times before publishing the story and, on every occasion, the Asian man appeared to him as a very distinguished person, a man imbued with that oriental charisma and profound sense of honour that made very hard for anyone to doubt his good intentions. The shocking discovery of the real products used in the creation of some of the world’s most famous fragrances had been too much for its integrity and, as he confided once, “he would never feel like a real man if he didn’t do anything to expose the situation…” To think that a man capable of such a daring action would inject himself with illicit substances on the very same day he had the chance to see the truth exposed was preposterous indeed! If the police came to find drugs in his system, someone else was clearly behind it…

As he dwelt in his thoughts of hidden conspiracies, Matthew heard something: the sound of heavy footsteps on the hallway interwoven with what appeared to be static coming in from a walkie-talkie.

Through the peephole he saw two muscled men in black suits securing the hallway and another one getting ready to knock on the door. Immediately, Matthew ran back into the bedroom to fetch a clean shirt and his miniature recorder, which he immediately concealed in the left pocket of his pants. His guts were telling him that a new story was about to enter his life.

When he opened the door, the recorder was already running but there was no man in sight: only a very elegant light brown-haired woman with an interesting, yet surgically created, silhouette. A body like that could make a lot of heads spin, whether tucked in a sophisticated dress or a rather masculine, striped suit, like the one she was wearing.

Her eyes lay hidden behind a pair of very dark lenses, but the pink, collagen lips were plainly visible. They were partly open, already forming a question:

“Mr. Malloy? I would like to have a word with you… May I come in?”

Matthew bowed his head ironically.

“Since you had the trouble of coming all the way here… please do, Miss Campbell!”

Patricia Campbell wasn’t at all surprised with the fact he had recognized her right on the spot. After all, she was a public figure, always appearing in the social magazines and television ads. A funny thing about her business methods, one that attracted a lot of attentions, resided in the persistent habit of participating in the campaign of all the products, which were always, expensive, extravagant and eye-catching, the three e’s that were synonymous of guaranteed success. More than an entrepreneur, one could say she was a real celebrity.

Matthew closed the door after she entered the house and opened the conversation with a rather idiotic joke:

“Have you come to congratulate me on my story, Miss Campbell?”

She glanced at him, expressing both pity and disdain at the same time, as she silently analyzed his taste for interior decoration. Accustomed to luxuries beyond compare, one could see she was far from impressed. When she spoke, the words came out with a small hiss in-between…

“No. Actually, I came to give you an opportunity of writing an even better one: an article where you retract yourself and apologise to me and the whole world for the atrocious lies you published about my company!”

“Atrocious lies?!” Matthew laughed. Oh my, it was utterly amusing to hear her use that phrase when her pose screamed everything but innocence! “You mean the part where I wrote that you use dangerous chemical agents in your perfumes, compounds that increase in almost fifty percent the risk of developing cancer? If that were a lie, you wouldn’t have come here today.”

Pretending not to hear him, Patricia Campbell sat on his sofa, looking at her fingernails. She felt so superior to him in every aspect that continued talking out loud never once inclined to initiate real eye-contact.

“What you wrote is pure gibberish! Unfortunately, gibberish is what people tend to believe most. In just a couple of hours, your article cost me a great deal of money, Mr. Malloy. I really don’t like that… it makes me lose my temper.”

“Too bad about that…” replied Matthew as he sat on the other end of the sofa so that he could be closer to her new sworn enemy… “My investigation gave me the necessary evidences to write down the story. Whether you like it or not it’s the truth and the public has the right to be properly informed. So you lost money… big deal when compared to the many lives your products may have doomed already!”

“Does that mean you are not willing to write down the article I have just proposed?” she asked as the veins in her neck became increasingly pronounced. A reptilian form of anger was beginning to show in her almost perfect body.

“That’s exactly what it means!” retorted the journalist. “And the fact that you’re asking me that only proves that everything I wrote is true. Sue me if you want. This is a battle you can’t win!”

Patricia Campbell accused his challenge by removing the glasses and showing him for the first time her emerald-like orbs. The flame of hate wasn’t visible to the plain eye, but it was definitely there, waiting for the right moment to reveal itself.

“I wouldn’t feel so sure, if I were you…” she said “There are many ways to win a battle, Mr. Malloy. Some are quite obvious whilst others work in the shadows…”

The last line intrigued him. Was she really implying something else, something that didn’t exactly go hand in hand with the spirit of the law? Such form of intimidation was rude but, at the same time, a wonderful pretext for another article to cement his latest achievement.

“That can be considered a threat, you know?”

“I’m not the kind of woman to make threats… I consider them a waste of time especially when it comes to business. The best way to get the results is simply strive to get them, no matter the cost. That has always been my philosophy. You can quote me in the story you’re going to write after I’m gone, if you like.”

“I’ve told you already, Miss Campbell: I’m not going to write anything!” blurted Matthew.

“Is that so?” she asked with a faint giggle. “Not even the description of my little visit so you can give your newspaper an extra reason to maintain the sales ratio?” A sudden change in her expression gave him the shivers. “I know you have a recorder hidden somewhere in this room, close enough to capture my every words… and don’t look so shocked! You’re not the first journalist that crosses my way… but I sure hope you’re the last!” she concluded making sure he clearly understood the emphasis in her words.

Matthew understood it perfectly but failed to be intimidated. Irony was still at the tip of his tongue and he wasn’t afraid to use it.

“With the way you handle your empire I doubt your wish will be granted… Especially after the news I’ve just heard about the death of one of your employees in the Interstate. Tell me, Miss Campbell, is murder a part of your business techniques as well?”

“Now you’re being a jokester, again.” Patricia Campbell replied whilst preparing to hide her green eyes behind the glasses again.

“Telling the truth is no joke.”

Feeling bored with his words, she let out a sigh that revealed exactly what she felt for him at that precise moment: pure contempt and nothing else.

“Truth is merely a point of view…” she murmured and decided it was time to leave that vulgar house and his equally vulgar owner. She got up promptly from the sofa as if her legs had gained springs all of a sudden.

“I’m afraid I disagree.” said Matthew mimicking her movements.

“You’re in your right to do so… for the time being, that is… I have to go now but before that there’s something else I want to tell you…”

Patricia Campbell approached him very softly and a faint whisper slipped out of her lips. She uttered a mysterious sentence in an equally mysterious language, one he couldn’t at all recognize. The sounds were confusing, and the words apparently meaningless. He wasn’t sure of what he had heard, but in written form, it was bound to be something like this: “Dhay teb xiir roos ers myr mnu, Matthew Malloy!”

“Excuse me? What did you just say?” he asked as soon as she finished talking.

“Nothing… nothing at all… Like I said, I have to go. We’ll talk again.” She handed him a small card with printed gothic letters. “Call me when you’re feeling… a bit more cooperative.”

“Forget it!” he said abruptly. The woman’s ego was getting on his nerves. It was a good thing she was on her way out, or he would be forced to resort to rudeness, something that he didn’t like but knew it was necessary from time to time.

He watched her move towards the door, swinging her overconfident ass. She looked back one last time before leaving, giving him a most enigmatic glance. It was the look of someone deeply amused by some private, secret knowledge. Matthew had the feeling that she was mocking him and the feeling was strong enough to make his body quiver. He thought of throwing her card right into the wastebasket but he wasn’t brave enough in the end and so he left it by the crystal ashtray, right in the middle of the room.

Alone again, he rewound the tape. He wanted to listen to the whole conversation one more time before deciding what to do with it, but as soon as he hit the “play” button all he heard was static; then, out of nowhere, an extremely high pitch sound afflicted his ears and the tape, instead of running, simply snapped inside the recorder, leaving him with no other alternative than to swear, even if only in his mind.

“Damn it! There goes my only evidence that she was actually here… Now, I really need a drink. Where did I put that glass of wine?”

He found it waiting for him by the bed, just like the silent young lover he often dreamed of and drank it all, feeling nothing but delight. It was so easy to forget all his worries with just a small amount of that sweet beverage sliding down his throat that it didn’t take him long to see things from a different angle. So that chance was gone, but there would be others: she had said so. It was obvious Patricia Campbell wasn’t going to give up so easily – that just wasn’t her modus operandi. All he had to do was sit back and wait patiently. Sooner or later the universe would find a way to restore the lost balance.

Of course, that wasn’t going to happen that night because he was already feeling a bit hazy. The wine could hardly be considered strong for someone with an average resistance to alcohol, but Matthew was always above or below the average in all aspects of his life. When it came to the noble art of flavouring one of mankind’s most exquisite discoveries, he just couldn’t take it and a single glass would suffice to grant him a quiet, dreamless, night.

It had happened before. That night, history repeated itself.

* * *

He woke up with a powerful sunbeam rampaging through his bedroom. Sunbeams are quite silent as you all know but to him, who felt drowsy in a sunken world, that particular flash of light brought along the awkward sound of more than one hundred African drums playing simultaneously in his head. As a result, he got himself a consistent and irritating migraine before he could even think of getting up.

When the sunlight receded into a corner allowing him to realize the abnormal quantity of wrinkles that made all of his clothes look no better than a handful of dried plums, the drums faded, and he could hear his consciousness urging him to go to work.

It was a hard struggle but eventually his brain produced the necessary electric impulses in order for him to drag his legs into the bathroom. Upon reaching the sink, the first thing he did was confront the mirror. His face looked exactly the same ever since he had left puberty and the fact that the third decade of his existence was now closing in really had no affect whatsoever in the smoothness of his complexion that so often produced good results with the ladies.

Though his vision was still a bit clouded by the leftovers of the alcoholic slumber, he could clearly see his angular traits, the dark-brown rebel hair (that wiggled every morning as if it was suffering from a severe case of demonic possession…) and the small speckles of beard bursting a way through his chin. He also noticed something that was too weird to be real.

His lips on the reflected image weren’t his at all. They were rosy and feminine; a living replica of Patricia Campbell’s money-generated anatomy somehow overlapping his world. The image was disconcerting and it gave him goose bumps when he realized that the lips were moving and he could actually hear a voice in his head, constantly hammering the same freaky words that would turn his world upside down: “Dhay teb xiir roos ers myr mnu, Matthew Malloy!”

Almost instantly, before he was given the opportunity to understand the reorganizations that were occurring in his brain, his left hand slid down soundlessly into the centre of his manliness. He unzipped his pants and began to stroke vigorously, faster and faster as the words gained ontological consistency only to be absorbed by his personality as something natural and desirable.

It has to be said that Matthew hated masturbation. He was still immersed in the old beliefs that sexual satisfaction should be the result of a mutual exchange of sensations between a man and a woman and not the outcome of anything else. He had only resorted to it a couple of times in his life when the sexual tension was powerful enough to break his self-imposed confinement. On that particular day, at that particular moment, there wasn’t enough room in his head to give lodge to such trifling principles… it was good to fondle his genitals, to melt in anticipation as the promise of pleasure empowered his body and weakened his spirit. So good… so good… so perfect… he really needed to go all the way through… into the spiralling ascent of pure ecstasy.

He only stopped when he felt his hand sticky and his penis became pale and withered. The contrastive lips had disappeared from the mirror and he was in a pool of sweat. Making an effort to rationalize the whole situation, he immediately concluded that what he had seen was some form of hallucination caused by the few molecules of alcohol still participating in wild races in his veins. As for the savage way in which he had masturbated, he simply repeated to himself that it was one of those moments of stress that only happened twice in a decade and that was it… no more worries… he had to go to work.

He got changed, put on his darkest sunglasses so that the morning light wouldn’t make his head throb anymore and came out into the open for a minute or so, as he tried to remember where he had parked the car.

It was right around the corner, a black Pontiac with worn out seats. He was saving the money to have them replaced, or at least he was trying to save the money, which is something completely different. It was hard not to be a big spender when his body could no longer function without two packs of cigarettes, three black coffees and half a dozen cherry donuts a day…

Just before entering his vehicle he looked at the left rear view mirror. He couldn’t see his face very well in it, but his vision was good enough to notice the strange distortion in his anatomy appearing once again. When the voice was about to invade his head again he stopped looking at his reflection and took the driver’s seat. He immediately perceived that his dick was half erect and that a great number of his hormones (it was impossible for him to know for sure how many…) were experiencing a little turmoil. He paused to regroup his thoughts, came to the very same conclusions as before and hit the road. Time was running out on him: he didn’t want to be late…

The journey was hard and bumpy because every time he glanced at the polished glass surface, his hand simply refused to stay still and went down to engage on the same ritual as if that was the only possible course of action.

“What the hell is going on with me?” he kept thinking out loud. He was prone to daydream from time to time but that day he felt like being stuck in a horrible nightmare. His driving was feeble and a bit schizophrenic. There were times when he was perfect, a model driver abiding all rules; unfortunately, whenever his sexual impulses went berserk, rules seemed unimportant and he would simply let go of the steering wheel. The description of Nakata’s struggle before his fatal crash immediately came to mind. Could he have been suffering from the same strange instincts at the time?

It’s a real mystery how Matthew managed to reach the newspaper’s underground parking lot without wrecking the car or hitting someone, but the truth is he did. Almost starting to believe he was losing it for good he threw his head against the dashboard and stood quiet, with his eyes closed, for what seemed to be a very long time.

He was brought back into the world of the living by the irritating falsetto voice of forty-two year old Jim Ferguson. Jim was one of the newspaper’s oldest collaborators (God knows the reason why!), a cynic, self-centred pseudo-intellectual with rather dubious tastes concerning the arts. He wrote dull and amorphous critics on books and movies and, although he claimed to like everybody, the truths is he only liked his belly, and trust me when I say it was quite a prominent one.

“Is that you, Malloy? What exactly are you doing in there?” he asked, his fingers playing on the driver’s window. “Taking a nap before work?!”

Matt’s answer was a crude and loud one.

“Leave me alone, Jim! I’m not in the mood for your crap today!”

“Oh… you’re touchy!” retorted Jim, much more amused than a normal person would be in the same circumstances. “If you don’t mind me asking, how much did you drink last night to wake up like this?”

Matt had no problem in continuing to use the same strategy to get rid of him the fastest way he could. His tongue was sharp:

“Don’t talk about what you don’t know. If you don’t want me to smack you in the face, bugger off, okay?”

“Very well… it’s obvious I can’t dialog with you in such a deranged state. Take my advice, though and drink a couple of coffees before going upstairs. I don’t think Dan will be very pleased if you show up with that kind of attitude.”

The troubled reporter gave him the finger and heard the sound of footsteps growing weaker and weaker. When he was all alone again, he got out of the car and proceeded to the elevator. He was still holding on to the foolish belief that wine and stress had produced such upheaval in his mind. If he could only calm down, his strange needs would surely subside…

He entered the elevator and was about to press the button to close the doors when Laura Davis appeared in his line of sight begging him to let her take the ride. Though he was obviously disturbed, he couldn’t find the required strengths to say “no” to her femininity. Laura was the newest intern, a lovely blonde nymphet always ready to show her magnificent legs and her perfectly smooth round ass in-between small amounts of fabric usually known as mini-skirts. Her outfits were always a bit provocative and it was hard for any man to maintain his focus on the work in hands whenever she happened to be near. Matthew had his eyes on her for quite some time; she knew that and enjoyed teasing him, as she waited for the day when he would finally ask her out on a date.

She wore black and blue that day, the two colours Matthew enjoyed most in women’s clothing. Her laced top was a naughty one due to the way it let the light pass through thus revealing the natural firmness of her young breasts.

“Thank you for waiting, Matt. You’re a real darling.” She leaned towards him and gave him a small, apparently innocent kiss in the right cheek. The truth is she was way beyond innocence and even a simple gesture like that could turn out to be an ingenious way of flirting. When he reached for the button that made the old contraption go up, he couldn’t help a small glance at the insidious outlines revealed by her blue tight skirt. He felt himself blushing just like a young boy dealing with his first crush but luckily she didn’t seem to notice.

Soon afterwards, the elevator began its slow ascent. Unlike the majority of the more sophisticated devices, this unstable piece of machinery had no sound system incorporated, except for the natural metallic tune of rusty doors and dying cables. The eerie mixture of sounds one could hear from inside it wasn’t at all reassuring as it gave the impression that the whole contraption could break apart and collapse at any moment. Nevertheless, to the narrow and lazy minds of twenty-first century men, the risk involved in the ride was far more bearable than the tiresome alternative of taking the stairs all the way to the top floor.

He kept glancing at her more often than usual, as he found her slender body to be heavenly soothing to say the least. For a few moments, it was if he had fallen into a hazy limbo, where his mind could roam freely, forever and ever… but soon this self-imposed liberating state faded into the grey lines of a desperate reality: his erection was growing again alongside with the uncontrollable urge to masturbate… and all because of a small reflection in a compact mirror that had just been released from the confines of her purse.

“What are you doing?” he asked, alarmed, as the need intensified and his left hand gained a life of his own, sliding down into his pants.

“Oh… just freshening up my make-up…” She looked through the mirror and caught a glimpse of his restless hand trying to start a revolution. One might expect that she would be shocked with such unexpected behaviour on his behalf but she was quite an unpredictable woman. Raising a curious eyebrow, she threw him a naughty question:

“Wow, do I really make you that horny?” Her eyes glittered with sexual desire.

Matthew had no time to be shocked. He just wanted to be able to stop but the fingers had gone haywire on him and were now fighting desperately against the dark blue cloth hoping to grab the oversized bulge. He blurted a few words:

“It’s not… what you think. That mirror… I…”

Laura was now facing him, holding the mirror in such a way that he could see his face in it, as well as the emerging outlines of another… the one of that wretched woman uttering the obnoxious phrase: “Dhay teb xiir roos ers myr mnu, Matthew Malloy!”

He unzipped his pants. Laura seemed pretty excited and hurried to stop the elevator, so that they wouldn’t be disturbed.

“Right… you’re pretty kinky, Matt! Did you know that? Did you also know I like kinky stuff? Of course you did! Why else would you decide to put on such a show for me? My, my… what a truly arousing sight! I feel like masturbating, too… would you like that? Afterwards, we can take on the regular procedures…”

“No… I don’t… please, Laura… just put away that mirror…”

“What’s the mirror got to do with it?” she asked as she prepared to place her free hand between her thighs.

“Everything… it’s…”

Matthew was now masturbating furiously and all of his thoughts were merging into that single idea. He knew now for sure it wasn’t really his… it had been imposed by an evil force that lived inside those incomprehensible sounds, and Patricia Campbell was the one to blame. He looked at Laura like a wounded animal in a trap, and suddenly jumped in her direction, thus managing to push her against the elevator control panel. The young woman hit her head in a mesh of buttons, and the elevator halted his ascent. The mirror fell from her hand and into the ground breaking into a dozen little pieces. Almost instantly, the voices in Matthew’s head disappeared and all of his bodily functions returned to normal.

“What the hell is the matter with you?” yelled Laura as she watched him zip up his pants. “Why did you push me like that, you jerk?”

He thought of a lot of things to say but no words seemed right at the moment. The only ones he could mutter were:

“I’m sorry, but I had to get rid of the mirror. Are you alright?”

She avoided the sweaty hands that were trying to lift her up. Her trust in him had clearly been broken by that bizarre occurrence. The earlier wittiness of her voice was no longer present and was now replaced by an ominous tone:

“Besides a sore shoulder, yes, I’m fine. But what on earth is this nonsense about mirrors? What’s that got to do with that fetish-like behaviour of yours?”

A breath of cold escaped Matthew’s lips. If only he had reasonable answers…

“I’m not sure. I’m only starting to figure it out for myself. Don’t laugh at me but I think I was bewitched or something…”

“What? You expect me to believe that?”

“I don’t know.” He said being as earnest as possible in the given situation. “Do you?”

Laura’s answer was prompt enough and spoken with great conviction.

“Of course not! I believe in unusual sexual frenzies, but witchcraft… spells? Come on, those things don’t exist!”

“I wish I could be so sure… I don’t have enough words to say how truly sorry I am… can we please pretend none of this happened? I think it’s the best thing… for both of us…”

“You don’t forget something so freaky just like that but… you do have a point… considering the way I acted as well, I’m not exactly the more qualified person to be issuing moral judgements… let’s just put this behind our backs… I don’t want you any harm so I won’t tell anyone about this awkward episode if you promise to do the same…”

He crossed his heart and resisted the temptation of kissing her.

“That’s a promise. I’m sorry about the mirror. I’ll buy you another when I get to the bottom of this.”

Laura caressed her hair and smiled at him.

“Don’t worry about that. It’s just a piece of glass. How are you feeling right now?”

“Scared! In fact, I think it was a mistake to get out of bed this morning. I’m going back to my place. I’m pretty sure I can’t work like this.”

“What about Dan? What are you going to tell him?” her preoccupation with him was genuine and he felt flattered.

“I’ll think about it when I get home. Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to the ground floor and then walk all the way home…”

“Walk? Didn’t you drive here today? Are you just going to leave your car in the parking lot?”

“It’s as good a place as any other. It will be better off here than with my hands holding the wheel, that’s for sure.”

Having said this, he pressed the necessary button to make the elevator work again. He remembered the small card Patricia Campbell had given him the night before. He knew he had left it somewhere in the living-room before going to bed, but he just couldn’t remember where. Oh, well… he had to look for it as soon as possible – both his life and sanity depended on it.

* * *

He didn’t have too much trouble finding it. When he entered his house, the card was next by the phone. There was also a slight feminine aroma in the air: a combination of lavender, lemon and an exotic fragrance he couldn’t identify.

There was only a conclusion to be drawn from it all: Patricia Campbell herself had been there again to make sure he didn’t forget to call her. Was she afraid of him? It sure looked that way, considering the circumstances.

That peculiar fact made him wonder: she had conjured something against him, that was a fact, but whatever that thing was, may be it only lasted for a couple of hours… that could explain the rush in her actions… or may be he was just trying to find an easy way out of the mess without compromising his work. He couldn’t really say and that couldn’t be good. The hesitation was growing…

In the end, he decided that it would be best to do what she wanted and called the number on the card. She didn’t take too long to answer:

“Ah, Mr. Malloy… I was waiting for your call. Did you like the present I gave you?”

“Not really. What exactly have you done to me?”

Patricia Campbell’s voice sounded like a seductive whisper. One could almost visualize the delight in her face as she explained it all:

“Nothing much… it’s just a small curse to break your spirit… While you’re under it, you’ll never be able to look at a mirror without being consumed by the need of masturbation…”

“A curse, you say?! No doubt caused by those words I keep hearing in my head… Is that you did to Nakata? Was that the reason behind his car crash yesterday?”

She laughed with contentment.

“You’ve been doing your homework. Not bad, Mr. Malloy! The words you heard me say work as a trigger that affects your body and most especially your mind to force you to fondle yourself whether you’re home alone or in some place public with lots of people watching. It’s very difficult to resist it, as I’m sure you must have realized by now.”

“Unfortunately, yes.” he sighed. “How’s the curse lifted?”

“Well… all it really takes is a series of words with the power to counter the effect of the ones previously used. Nothing too fancy… Just a sentence or two… Write the article we discussed before and I shall deliver you from that unnatural desire of yours.”

“That will destroy both my reputation and my credibility.” he exploded. The anger inside was growing with each sentence he heard her say:

“True, but you will have control over your life again… unless of course you like the effects of my curse and don’t mind living with them for the rest of your life…”

Matthew’s anger slowly subsided, followed by a wave of resignation that wet his lips:

“It seems I have no choice.”

“You’re quite right! It doesn’t have to be a long article: a page will suffice, as long as you explicitly admit that your previous story regarding my products was a complete hoax, one you invented to sell more newspapers…”

“Very well… I’ll write the piece for you.”

A chuckle was transported along the line.

“Good. I knew we would come to an agreement. Have it ready before lunch time, if you don’t mind. When the clock strikes one, my driver will ring on your doorbell and bring you to me. I’ll lift the curse after I read what you wrote and not a moment sooner, so don’t get any ideas. One more thing: try your best to write something really good… if I don’t like the result, you can be sure that the curse will keep on haunting you forever!”

“Understood…” He said in a low, almost imperceptible voice.

After the phone went dead he reached for his laptop and started writing what he hoped to be a series of self-destructive paragraphs that would please her. It took him longer than he anticipated, probably due to the fact that he still wasn’t entirely convinced that he was doing the right thing. He thought of her mocking at his inner weakness… he had been such an easy prey after all! How on earth could he do that to himself without feeling useless and pathetic? More important, how would he feel after submitting the paper? Besides, she could very well stab him in the back and not remove the curse at all, even if he played by her rules: that way she could make sure he would never bother her again… if only he could fight his dark ego that was awakened by those words…

Fight… the word definitely rang a bell in him. He could almost hear her voice again, saying: “It’s very difficult to resist it, as I’m sure you must have realized by now.”

The newly found hope hit his thoughts coming in from all the sides of the brain. The mental flow that was being produced conveyed the following logic:

“She said very difficult. It’s very difficult to resist, very difficult to fight… but very difficult doesn’t mean impossible. I wonder… if I focus hard enough, will I be able to drive her voice away and be myself once again?”

He had two hours to find out, before her wretched driver came for him in his black carriage from Hell. Speculations were starting to shift into fragments of truth: It could almost certainly be done: Had he not managed to break Laura’s mirror before the end of the ritual? His mind started smiling long before his body made the expression visible… walking into the bathroom, he confronted the ancient power of the mirror’s curse.

When the words rose in his mind and the images in front of him began to open the door into a world of darkness, he fought back bringing all of his memories into play: happy scenes of a long forgotten childhood, like the inescapable thrill of kissing Heather Donahue, the most beautiful girl in San Valley High at the age of fifteen… he saw himself reaching the outskirts of the big city with a pocket full of dreams that eventually came true – he was strong before the curse because he had the right amount of reason and perseverance to overcome the obstacles in his path, and now that strength was coming back, like a breathtaking melody locked inside a music box. All he had to do was open the lid and let the music come out into the open, rising until eternity…

It wasn’t long before he started singing the echoes of his freedom – the scattered notes coming from his lips were fighting the collagen reflections on the mirror… his hands were closed and nowhere near his genitals, imbued by an almost perfect sense of accomplishment. Patricia Campbell’s distorted image was beginning to fade away…

Out of the blue, the balance was broken once more.

Dhay teb xiir roos ers myr mnu, Matthew Malloy!” shouted the ghastly voice from the depths of a very dark pit. The intensity of the attack caught him off-guard, made him lose his concentration: both his legs trembled at the same time and his head became really heavy. As if it were an intelligent creature of some sort, the curse had succeeded in eluding him long enough to get past his defences, thus creeping into his lips. Unwillingly, he realized that he himself was now repeating the enchantment out loud, heightening the power of the suggestion in every corner of his brain.

Both hands fought for the right to the rush of pleasure and this time it was the right one that got the spoils. He had been overpowered once again, but he believed that the war wasn’t over yet.

During the next hour he continued to confront the voice of his damnation, losing round after round, each time falling deeper into a guiltless void governed by the lonely pleasures of the flesh. When he finally got out of the bathroom most of his sanity had simply disappeared…

He felt like a piece of food being slowly digested in the belly of a giant beast. Even the sofa gave him that impression: he was sinking in it as the shapes all around billowed and nightmare hands played him like a toy, pushing and pulling as if trying to sever him in halves.

The laptop screen was the most hideous sight in the world at that time. All of the words combined in it formed a death sentence.

Though his life was on the verge of ruin, he decided he wasn’t going to give her the chance to pull that stunt again on some other poor old fellow who simply wanted the truth cleared out. With all that power, Patricia Campbell was a very dangerous woman and his own consciousness told him that if he didn’t stop her, no one else would.

He had a gun hidden behind a secret compartment of his mini-bar. It was a small pistol, so small that it could only fire two rounds. Due to its dimensions and the lightness of the materials used in its design, it was the sort of object that could easily be concealed in a pocket without causing too much attention. He was pretty sure that it would pass a metal detector as well in case the place where he was to be taken had such safety devices, something that seemed very likely in a woman of her wealth and position.

It was a desperate plan, only to be taken in account if indeed she tried to outsmart him. He got changed, cleaned himself nice and easily without looking at the mirror a single time and, after printing the so-called article of contrition, waited silently for his ride…

* * *

It was half-past one when he entered Patricia Campbell’s private domains, located on the top floor of PatCorp’s main building, an impressive glassy tower that stood over fifty storeys high overshadowing the competition with its aura of opulence. He had no trouble with the gun whatsoever, majestically tucked in the inner pocket of his jacket.

The multi-millionaire was at the far right end of the floor, in a division that comprised of a magnificent black-varnished desk surrounded by gigantic bookshelves, embellished with rare collections of books of the Occult. This time, she had decided to show more of her money bought sinuous curves in a black dress that was mainly cleavage bursting out. Behind her there was a rectangular shape covered in a red silky cloth.

She smiled at him and lit a perfumed cigarette that not only was a sexy fetish object, but also helped to clean the air around her, soaking it with promises of open, flowered fields.

“Welcome to my study, Mr. Malloy” she said while crossing and uncrossing her summer-tanned, tempting legs.

He wasn’t in the mood for her games and demonstrated it on the spot.

“Let’s cut the crap, shall we? I brought the text. Read it, approve it and lift the curse so everything can get back to normal…”

A look of fake shock crossed her face.

“You’re in a hurry… Well, I suppose I can understand the reason why… if you don’t mind handing it to me…”

He gave her the piece of paper. Looking at him she saw that his eyes were sparking with loads and loads of contained anger.

“Oh, please smile… it will all be over soon. Why don’t you take a seat, while I read it?” and she pointed to a chair next to her desk.

“I’m fine the way I am, thank you.”

“Whatever… hmmm, let’s see…”

She started reading and could not hide her enthusiasm. Placing the cigarette on a marble ashtray, she used one hand to hold Matthew’s future, and the other to draw invisible circles on her breasts. Afterwards, she went for the legs, making the dress go up a bit and then down again, as if preparing to strip dance for him. Matthew looked away… and examined the odd titles of the hard-cover relics that held the power to distort reality’s deepest enclaves. It was probably an illusion but some of books appeared to be floating on the shelves, as if they weren’t really there… The more he absorbed the words written on the covers, the more nervous he became, imagining all of the terrors she could unleash just by reading a few lines on a page.

He gazed at her once more: she had finished reading the text and was now speaking to him:

“Very good, Mr. Malloy! You’re most talented in the ways of writing, even when going against all of your principles. These paragraphs are truly exquisite but I guess I won’t need them after all…” she picked up her cigarette and placed the flame near the paper. She burned the edges, then repented herself and blew softly to put the fire out. “I guess I’ll just tear it up. I don’t want to cause a fire needlessly and accidentally burn my library to a crisp.”

“I don’t understand!” he said in dismay. “I did everything you asked…”

“I know, but just before your arrival here, my lawyers got the deal of the century and I now own your working place. That’s right; I own the newspaper which means you’re my employee now, although not for long…”

Matthew was awe-struck. That was worse than he had imagined, far worse. He didn’t know exactly what he was supposed to say. The only thing he knew was that she was mocking him, showing him her true colours – the ones that reflected her vindictive, ill-temperament.

“Tomorrow’s edition of the newspaper will be a giant apology to me, to my company and to my products. I’ve decided to save a little bit of your honour by simply firing you. Of course, I’ll never let you write another newspaper article in your life…”

“What about the curse?” He asked getting ready to reach for the gun the moment she started laughing at him.

“I gave my word that I would set you free and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. You’re just going to have to trust me – I need to say the proper words in order for it to work.”

“Do it, then!”

“Don’t give me orders, Mr. Malloy! Remember that I’m the one with the advantage here… some manners would be nice on your behalf.”

He relaxed the killing anxiety growing in his limbs and lowered his tone of voice to whisper the word “please…”

“That wasn’t so hard, was it? Now, stay still and don’t make a sound until I’m done.”

The hand with which she had been playing drew a line on the desk as she started speaking on that eerie language from the past.

Ayos ethmer iorr sem yru fet!”. There was a slight pause and then she added: “Srolo ybe glo ust wome nonu, Matthew Malloy!”

She repeated the words three times. After a brief moment of silence, she started smoking again.

“Is it over?” he asked.

“Yes. The curse has been lifted. You’ll no longer masturbate in front of a mirror, unless you really want to…”

“I don’t feel any different. How can I be sure?”

“May I? She pointed to the structure covered with the cloth and moved towards it. She unveiled the sixteenth-century mirror, with gold engravings of snakes and inverted pentagrams. “See for yourself!”

He watched his reflection and nothing ordinary happened. The voice didn’t invade his mind and there were no ghastly apparitions coming out of the polished surface. The burning desire of fondling was no longer taunting him.

“Are you happy?” she asked.

“I think the correct word is relieved. Thank you for keeping your end of the bargain. Now, if you’ll excuse me…”

“Leaving so soon? How about if I buy you lunch to celebrate the conclusion of our arrangement?”

“No, thank you! I’m not hungry!”

“Too bad… I guess I’ll just have to settle with your submission, then! Close the door on the inside and come to me, Matthew!” She ordered.

“Yeah, right…” He moved for the door so that he would leave but his hand turned against his brain and the door was locked just like she instructed. Afterwards, his legs simply marched in her direction, rigid and obedient. He stopped when she told him to, gazing at her face that, in a matter of seconds, had gone from attractive to utterly dazzling and intoxicating. Slowly, she let her smoke hit him in the eyes…

“Grow hard Matthew, now!”

He did, and liked it… just the way he was supposed to. Strangeness took hold of him – Patricia Campbell didn’t look vile anymore nor did the prospect of going against her wishes seemed right. That could only mean she had tricked him again, using a more powerful spell this time right underneath his nose.

“You promised you’d release me…” he muttered . She kissed him on the left cheek as he remained motionless. Then, she purred:

“And I kept that promise. The mirror’s curse is no longer upon you, but I couldn’t waste the opportunity of binding your soul for good, could I? I need to protect my empire from meddling creatures such as yourself and I find the job much more pleasing and rewarding when I turn them into sexually driven slaves, exactly the same way I did to you. Now, I can twist you round my finger anytime I feel like it. You’re mine, Matthew! Take off that jacket and the rest of your clothes while you’re at it…”

Matthew took off the jacket and handed it to her. She touched it, smelled it and felt something that it wasn’t supposed to be there. Soon, the mini-gun was in her hands and she was ordering him to keep his pants up.

“I’m surprised that my security guards let this one pass through, but that’s unimportant, at the moment. Explain, servant! Were you actually planning to kill me?”

The answer was a cold “Yes.”

“You should have done it, then! You know, the mirror’s curse is a very weak spell… it only lasts forty-eight hours, then it wears off and for some magical reason cannot be used on the same individual again, but the one I used a few minutes ago lasts forever. I’ve bound your existence to mine. The shackles in your mind and body cannot be broken…”

Matthew forced his lips to move and growled:

“I managed to resist the power of the mirrors for a while. I’ll be able to find the power to weaken this control of yours as well, long enough for me to find a way to dispose of you.”

“No, you won’t, slave! I’ve told you; you belong to me now! You can only obey me and keep me happy, something you can do by sucking my breasts, eating my toes or fucking me like a dog anywhere I choose… You cannot shoot me and I’ll prove it to you. Move closer to the door!” His mechanical limbs went back. Patricia Campbell blew him a kiss and said:

“Catch!”

The gun flew in the air and landed on his left hand.

“Listen to my voice, Matthew! You will not shoot me, because you no longer wish me any harm. You will not shoot me, because you’re unable to resist my commands and I’m commanding you not to do it! You may point the weapon in my direction but there’s no way you’re going to pull that trigger! Your beloved Mistress has spoken and my words are your law!”

Matthew held the gun high. It was obvious he was trying to aim for the head. A clean shot, that’s all he needed… he would show her… he would…

Patricia Campbell’s body seemed to be glowing, emanating a vibrant aura that demanded his attention and complete respect. One moment she was dressed and the next she wasn’t. She began clearing the desk, laid down on it like a luscious porn-star and emphasized once more that the power was hers:

“You’ll obey my instructions, fucktoy Matthew! Let go of the gun, undress and come satisfy my lust until you’re out of sperm for today. I want you inside me… right now… completely surrendered to my voice and will!”

A shiver went down his spine and he resumed his original task of getting rid of all of his clothes, the gun already forgotten in one of the shelves. Since he was already hard, he wasted no time in penetrating her magnificent body, pushing himself all the way through according to the rhythm she imposed every time her glorious voice reached his ears.

They did it twice on the desk and another two on the floor, in a rush of non-stopping orgasms. Whenever his dick threatened to fail, a single touch of one of her fingers in his skin would make it grow again. Fucktoy was playing his part…

At the fifth round of the hostilities, the melting bodies rampaged against the bookshelf he had placed the gun in. The small, deadly object fell next to him. He blinked, all of his dispersed anger returning… It was effortless to simply let go into her world of twisted desires, but that didn’t mean it was right. In the truest sense of the word, that woman was a witch… and witches had no place in his concept of a rationally governed world. Patricia Campbell raised her head in astonishment as she took notice of his sudden outburst of defiance and began chanting at him:

Srolo ybe glo ust wome nonu, Matthew Malloy! Srolo ybe glo ust wome nonu! What are you waiting for, you pathetic worm? I pull your strings, now! You must do what I tell you!”

Her last words resonated inside him, bringing within a reminder of who he was before she had entered her life. A supernatural last breath of resistance came to him and, against all odds, he reached for the gun and succeeded in pulling the trigger. The two bullets in the chamber were fired at her. Both hit the target.

In-between Patricia Campbell’s sweaty breasts, blood roses were born and its petals rolled across her dress and onto the carpet. The noise of the shots alerted the security guards, who rushed helplessly to the locked door, but it was too late. The shots had been very precise and even with all her mystical knowledge, she was going to die soon enough…

“Now you’re really fucked!” Matthew whispered to the dying figure, whose face was undergoing severe transformations. Her attractiveness and power were beginning to fade… she looked old now, her skin withering by the second until it was all grey and plum-like, and her eyes became almost colourless above a mouth that was just a big black hole with no teeth…

“That… won’t… save you.” She gasped while choking in her own blood. “Soon, your broken mind will realize its mistake. The pain… of killing your Mistress will drive you insane…”

“I’m already half-mad thanks to your previous spell. But I really don’t mind… I’ll be a happy fool knowing I won in the end…”

Her last laugh echoed all around.

“I’m coming back for you, Matthew Malloy… and you’ll serve me in Hell!”

Her body spasmed and death conquered it. Almost simultaneously, the office door was bust open by a vigorous kick of a Scandinavian giant dressed in a dark-brown uniform, holding a fully loaded gun.

* * *

Matthew Malloy was arrested and the subsequent trial for his actions ended up being no more than a mere formality since he admitted his guilt without hesitation. He didn’t tell the court the events related with the curses Patricia Campbell had placed upon him but Laura Davis, who sat in the front row of every court session, could clearly see that his actions were directly related with that unforgettable scene inside the elevator and the awareness of it all made her cry.

He was sentenced to life for murder in first degree without the right to parole. The chronicle of his downfall appeared in every media as well as the uncanny story revolving his unexplainable death.

Two months after the reading of the sentence, he was found sitting in a corner of his prison cell with his head shattered, as if it had burst from inside out. The smell of perfume was in the air and an intriguing message had been written in blood on the wall in front of the corpse. In it, one could read the last words his brain had assimilated before the final act:

“I told you I would come back for you…”

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