I’m set free
The man with no face invited me into a hall of mirrors. Some of them weren’t mirrors. They were doors. Some had curtains. I can’t remember it very clearly. It was dark. There was a light shining in my face. I couldn’t see but a few feet in front of me. I had to squint a lot.
The first couple mirrors were just mirrors. I expected them to be warped or something, making me look taller or shorter, or maybe because this was, like, a magic place or something, I thought I would look older or younger in the reflections or like a vampire, or maybe there would be a ghost standing next to me like in that ride at Disneyland, but, no, it was just me, shielding my eyes from that blinding light.
I started to wonder why I came in here. I hate haunted houses. It’s always the same boring stuff. A mannequin head on a platter with a puddle of red gelatin. A guy with a mask swinging a chainsaw. Zombies chained to a wall, reaching out, saying “Brains.” Does anybody find this stuff scary?
But this place was different. At first, it didn’t look like there was anybody else there. The first actual doorway had a heavy velvet curtain draped over it. There was a narrow staircase rising to the side. At the top of the stairs, there was another door, with a sign that said, “No admittance,” but I figured that was, you know, part of the joke, so I pushed it open. It was a loud, dirty, film projection room. There was an old man sitting in a chair reading a magazine next to a massive film projector. The old man seemed to notice me, but he had a crazy eye, so I couldn’t tell what he was looking at when he turned my way. He went back to his magazine almost immediately. I backed out and went back down the stairs.
The next door was decorated with childish construction paper cut-outs of black cats and jack-o-lanterns, very rudimentary, but as I came closer, I could see underneath there were Santa Clauses and Easter bunnies and turkeys and Christmas trees, and they were all faded and covered with cobwebs and dingy brown dust. Real cobwebs. Not that stretchy stuff that comes in a bag.
In the room, there were piles of books and little desks pushed back against the wall. From behind me, I heard my name called, and as I turned, the voice said, “The word is ‘foot.’”
The light was in my eyes, and I was confused. I tried to spell “foot,” but I said the wrong letters, and then there was laughing. Disgusted, I made my way back to the door.
The hallway was full of bright, fluorescent light at this point, and there were dozens of people moving around. As I looked through the crowd, I realized I knew them; I recognized every face. I was so relieved! I completely forgot the weirdness from before and relaxed, just as two old buddies approached me from either side of the area. I asked them if they knew one another. I love introducing people! And as they were shaking hands, I said, “This is Brian, and …”
“No, I’m Dennis,” my friend corrected me, and I went into a fog. The lights faded, and the faces were cast into silhouettes as that bright light shined into my face again. By the time I said, “I’m sorry,” bewildered by the fact that I had forgotten or, more accurately, misspoken my friend’s name, the people had evaporated.
I heard laughing. I followed it into another dark room to get away from that blasted spotlight. I couldn’t see who was laughing. The voice stopped laughing and said, “Isn’t that funny?”
Disoriented by the darkness and trying to see who was speaking, I said, “What’s funny?”
All at once, this little person wearing a most unpleasant, warty mask spun into a sliver of light and said, “The way I made you distrust your friends!” and then, laughing, swung a long razor and sliced through my neck, making my head fall to the floor with a disgusting, splashy thud.
“That’s it!” I said. “I’ve had enough.” And I picked up my head, put it back on my neck, and, moving carefully so as not to let it fall off again, pushed the troll off his feet and left.
For further investigation: If you haven’t seen Nicholas Roeg’s “Don’t Look Now,” this would be a good time to do so.