Buried the Needle

It took Spengler a while before he realized what was going on; their tortures were subtle at first, so subtle he was only aware of them subliminally – the flashes of light in his peripheral vision, the slight hesitation between his hand and the reflection in the mirror. He thought he was getting clumsier, as the little nicks piled up, and he worried. “My mind’s going,” he told his face, and its lips echoed it back to him, perfectly delayed, a movie just a frame out of sync. He gripped the edge of the sink until his fingers turned white and started tingling.

He didn’t dare tell anyone. What if they didn’t believe him? What if they did? He knew the word but he didn’t dare say it, even alone, even with the lights off, but he knew the word and it ate at his brain.

When they got bolder he was staggered, at first. The face in the mirror was reversed; or, it had the wrong nose; or, facial hair sprouted and disappeared; or, his reflection would bend forward suddenly and vomit into its sink, while he stood watching it, face as white as the toothpaste that foamed around the brush in his mouth. “Dementia,” he whispered, and reached a trembling finger for the call button.

After Spengler had broken down in his arms, the orderly kept craning his neck. “What are you looking for?” Spengler asked him.

“Nothing. It’s just – I keep seeing someone in the mirror standing behind me, but there’s nobody there.”

Spengler surged to his feet, joyously, all his doubts gone. “Ghosts!” he cried, and would have danced, if he’d known how.