Mirror Image

It was a despicable picture, the seven-headed wolf. A cave painting, thousands of years old. The wolf both watched and glared; the lead head stared viciously. There was a mysterious magnetism about the image that made it near impossible to look away.

***

You hear a noise in front of you, a growling, snarling sound. It’s coming from the painting. You freeze, unable to break your gaze. You know you have to run but you can’t. Something is holding you there. The image starts to come alive. Wolfish saliva drops down on to your front; you can hear the monstrous breathing, smell the carnivorous breath. It can sense your fear, your terror and scent your sweat. The wolf knows you’re weak. Your knees lock together, chattering loudly. You’re trembling. You’ve got to run, you have to run. Your time is running out; it’s time to run away! Your stare remains unbroken. A paw stretches out of the frame. Its claws are bared. Coming closer. Ever closer. It’s inches away from you, yet you still stand motionless. Rooted to the spot, petrified. You close your eyes, tightly shut. Wait for the inevitable. The pounce, the snarl, the scream and the feel of tearing bloodied flesh.

A pause.

Silence.

Nothing happens.

Your heart beats faster. There’s still nothing but you can still smell it. The stench of the beast. The stink of decayed flesh fills your nostrils; the remains of its previous victims etched upon its yellowed fangs. Your heart beats louder. It pounds in your chest. Your breathing becomes ragged.

You open your eyes. It’s just a painting. The saliva dripping down your front is your own. The outstretched claws are yours. The putrid smell is your own scent. You are the wolf. Staring, wide-eyed, your teeth caked in dried blood. You keep staring. Is it just a picture? Or something more? The image sparkles; a glare of light. It’s not a painting. It’s not a photo. You stare at a mirror. Seven mirrors. The position of the glass gives off the impression of a seven-headed reflection. Everywhere you look you’re trapped. The oldest trap. The easiest trap. You turn, but a wolf head stares straight back. You bare your teeth. It bares back. Turn to the left. Another wolf. Turn to the right. Another wolf. You howl. All wolves howl. Rear up on your hind-legs. The other wolves copy. A perfect reflection. The howling echoes inside your head. You’re screaming inside. You’ve nowhere else to turn. You breathe heavier and heavier. Your nostrils are flared. Your claws dig into the soft wet ground, tearing through the mud. Pain shoots through your paws as your claws scrape against cold stone. You tense. The terror in your heart increases; the screaming in your skull intensifies.

There’s no way out. There’s nothing you can do. You’re trapped. A prisoner of your own fragile mind.

You raise a claw. Up to your throat. A jagged slit. Your freedom.

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