Inside of the dim sanctuary all signs of morning were banished aside from her stirring. A small round looking glass was drawn out from the nightstand drawer. Its tissue wrappings removed and it was placed face down on the floor. Her cosmetics carefully lay displayed across her bed.
First the foundation was applied. Thick and cakey and a shade slightly too dark for her skin tone she pressed the applicator to her face. With practiced hands she smoothed the mixture of facial paint up to meet the hair line of her forehead.
Then it swooped down to spread the artificial pigment behind her ears and down her neck. She knew the makeup she wore was bordering ridiculous yet it was the only way she felt safe throughout her day. She knew blending was key to keep from looking monstrous. Ironic she thought.
A thick layer of flesh toned powder was applied following. She then cautiously lifted the oval mirror from its resting place and quickly, furtively glanced inside of it. Not even the overdone layers of cosmetics could hide her dry and flaking skin.
Opaque brittle pieces poked up from underneath her mask as if ready to slough off of her facial structure to leave it raw and bare. The glance was all she needed. Merely to make sure that she hadn’t made a blunder of it. If she only peeked quickly it couldn’t surface fast enough, not behind her mask.
The brushes, colorful powders and liquids that sat in order of succession across her bed were used and returned to their case. After affecting each one she would take a look into the mirror. Then place it down on the floor with the reflective surface towards the ground. When the preparations were completed she would then neatly fold the glass in its soft packaging and hide it back in the drawer. Close enough to be aware of but remote enough to not distress her.
The mask was completely for her benefit. She had been aware of the creature’s existence long enough to have noticed that other people couldn’t see it. She thought it was only for her eyes or perhaps it simply hadn’t grown strong enough yet. She also knew that it wasn’t like something out of a horror movie.
It didn’t exist in the mirror on some supernatural plane of existence. It wasn’t trying to contact her. It didn’t reside in her mind either. Her subconscious playing tricks on her projecting the image onto the other worldly medium of a looking glass.
She had contemplated, almost been convinced that the later was the case. That seeing this thing must be evidence of her insanity. It was a sound argument if it weren’t for the children. Adults could not see it in her. Yet children had a way of seeing past a person’s exterior. Ripping through their outer shell of defense to find what vulnerabilities lie beneath. What buttons to push.
For this reason she had once loved children; their candor and openness. Now it was for that very same reason that she despised and feared them. Once she had been on the path to getting a degree in early childhood education. Her condition made her realize how unwise that reality would have been. Having to spend every day with the small humans would have been torture.
Her opinion of them now was akin to insects. They were small and un-alarming enough. Yet you never knew how their brains worked, what actions they would take. They couldn’t be counted on to sit politely in their seats and stare blankly ahead of them.
They may glance over at any moment and uncover you for what you really are. She feared that reality every holiday when the children would be unleashed from the confinement of their schools. The probability of being found out rising with each new blockbuster movie hitting the marquee or main street fair flyer.
She knelt down inside of her comfortingly dark closet. One of her most sacred of rituals was commencing. After having dressed herself she would pull the gently wrapped rectangle from the closet. The black cloth was gingerly removed and placed to the side.
Two squares of cloth now lay to her right and the muted brown of cardboard backing was apparent. The clean white frame was gripped as she turned her face away and placed the mirror upright against the wall. She stood before letting her eyes be lead to the glossy surface.
From the angle she had propped the artifact only her body could be seen from rib cage to ankles. The truth was that she found it impossible to not look in the mirror even before the thing had come inside of her. She went through these painstaking rituals to allow herself those same indulgences.
Her face however could only be viewed sparsely and vaguely. If she stared at it too long it would appear all too vividly. The experience was ghastly, both terrifying and disgusting. She must eliminate such occurrences if she had the power to.
She gazed down at her thin legs. They had always seemed too thin to her and only more so now with age. As a melodramatic teenager she had claimed that no one would ever love her with those legs. She knew that no one could love her now. How would anyone ever truly look at her, if she couldn’t even look at herself? The fabric of her days dress clung against the smooth protrusion of her stomach eased into the gentle broadness of her hips and then tapered down to her spindly legs.
She smoothed the wrinkles from her abdomen and buttocks. Then there was something down towards her calf. She reached her fingers towards it tilting her chin up awkwardly careful to not allow her face into the reflective visage. As the fingertip of her index finger brushed her skin she saw what had caught her eye.
A dark blue mass seemed to grow over her muscle. It elongated almost serpentine undulating across her leg. She raised her skirt in disbelief. Her skin like rice paper the moving mass became more evident. Like watching cellulite form something writhed inside of her. It flowed beneath the spidery network of her vanes.
Her fingers gripped her skirt tightly with horror and then grew slack. Repulsed and yet intrigued wanting to touch it; to dare to run her hands along her skin and feel this illusion. She wanted to place her hands against what appeared to be scales and ridges pressing urgently against her skin.
It wasn’t painful she couldn’t feel the sensation at all. Her hands could not fulfill the curious fantasy of brushing against the repulsive writhing mass. She dropped her skirt. She thought that it had disappeared.