It was time. Somehow, he knew it was.
It felt as if minute hooks tugged at the pores of his skin, making it tingle and break into prickles. An invisible smog impregnated his cluttered room. It even had a faint smell, rather, an amalgam of smells. It smelt of, of so many things, of rust on wrought iron railings, wet newspaper ink, burnt cellophane, static on woollens, and memories long repressed. And of things he had forgotten beyond recall. It made the already musty air of his room grow heavy, and his breathing, even heavier.
It’s probably been weeks, no, months, since the ominous feeling had started. A feeling that had only increased with time. A feeling that swam like an enormous ray fish just beneath the veil of his senses. A feeling that dangled, writhing restlessly, in the hollow of his floating ribs, right below the diaphragm. Not quite an ache, it was rather an inconspicuous, but irritatingly persistent, sensation. Maybe he should have seen a doctor about it. But he was dubious of how to describe his state. What would he say? That it felt as if a mighty bird were fluttering its wings inside him, faintly, for the first time. That ripples of heat and cold swept through his body without warning, making him sweat and shiver alternately, only to disappear in mere seconds without a single trace. That something was swelling, surging, in his innards, something immensely powerful, but he had no clue what. That sometimes he felt his vision blur momentarily, and it seemed the reality shifted imperceptibly in that split-second, like a transparent serpent forged in mercury. That at times, he had brief flashes of oblivion, and when he came back to senses, there remained an uncanny sensation of having travelled, as if in a dream forgotten. That it was an uncomfortable feeling, sure, but not an altogether bad one. He couldn’t possibly tell all that to a doctor, or to anyone else for that matter. Surely they would think him crazed, hallucinating even.
It was too late now anyway.
It, whatever, or whoever it was, was already here. He, in his trance-like state and heightened senses, could almost see the air molecules, charged with a strange and unseen energy. The molecules of his own being felt unnaturally taut, as if expanding to accommodate something, or someone. A power of unknown origins was in tumult inside him, for reasons equally unknown. The strange feeling grew rapidly, overpowering everything else. His senses nosedived, and sank like an anchor, deeper and deeper into the depths of oblivion. Soon, he couldn’t feel anymore, not in the conventional sense anyway. It was getting harder and harder to cling to his usual sense of self-awareness, of being unique, and distinct from everyone else. He panicked and got up, his sinews twisted like a bunch of cables host to a stroke of lightening. Something shimmered at the edge of his vision. He turned abruptly to look at his dirty mirror, that glimmered slightly like a water surface. On the other side, was someone who looked like him, but was anyone but him, a stranger in his own skin. His lips moved, but the words merely scraped against his throat, refusing to spill out. And then everything went dark.
He came back to senses with a start, and gazed at his room. Strangely, it lied across the shimmering surface that he recognised as the surface of his mirror, only the other side of it. There, in the middle of the room, stood a stranger, who despite bearing his likeness, was quite obviously someone else. A being of power. A God from another reality? The being gazed back at him. He tried to voice his question, ‘Who are you?’, but failed. The ‘him’ across the mirror, as if gathering his thoughts, glided up to the mirror, raised a finger and scratched something upon it while looking him in the eyes with a gaunt expressionless face. Then he abruptly turned back and left the room. He tore his eyes away from the receding back of the stranger and forced himself to look at the mirror. His eyes widened with what could be part horror and part surprise.
There, in the middle of the mirror was scratched just one letter. ‘M’.