Copyright 2020 Rico Lamoureux
The dawn sky looked as though it had just been set ablaze, which in turn caused the revelation of the rural landscape below, once home to miles and miles of cotton fields, now bare, with fields of pattern that gave the feeling of a hidden past.
This was Joseph’s favorite time of the day. After working all night at a job which required him to constantly look at his own reflection he treasured the twenty minute walk down the old dirt road leading to the isolated two-story house he called home. A visual symphony when compared to the world of mirror production.
Breathing in the cool crisp morning air, blissful thoughts of matrimony filled his mind. Just six more weeks until the big day. A day when he and his beloved Margaret would seal the bond of foreverness.
Lunch pail in one hand and a bag of groceries in the other, Joseph could see the silhouette of the old black blind woman rocking in her chair up on the porch as he approached the house.
Another lover of the dawn, Aunt Mama was born and raised in that house. Some said she had never set foot off the land, for no one had ever witnessed her having done so. Others said she was born in the early a.m., and due to the misdeeds of her ancestors, had been chosen to pay the price. That during the early hour of her birth, as the light outside overtook the darkness, the darkness of her kin overtook the light in her eyes, leaving her completely blind.
According to the old stories, during the last decade of slavery the house and land had belonged to a white family who went by the surname of Matheson. They were a wealthy bunch, having made their fortune in the business of mirrors. Soon they became the South’s primary producer of such products, with everything from hand-held mirrors to elaborate dresser ensembles. Such success put the small town of Destiny on the map.
Like most other white folks during that time, the Matheson’s owned slaves, many of which belonged to the same family. A family that kept to themselves. Not even their fellow laborers congregated with them during resting hours. It was as if they were feared. Not only because of their manner during the day, but also on the account of the secretive rituals they would often perform before waking hours. As for the white folks, they knew nothing of it. They even seemed to be oblivious to the fact that every birth within that particular slave family occurred during dawn.
Being the last decade of slavery, many slaves were already free, some of which even acquired land.
That decade also turned out to be the last decade of the Matheson’s, or so it was believed. It was the first day of October, Hallows’ Eve. A day that started off like any other. The slaves were the first up, the house slaves preparing breakfast for their owners, the other female slaves and their children heading out to the surrounding cotton fields, the men preparing to tend to glass. The food was cooked and ready to be served, but not a single member of the Matheson family showed to the table.
They were nowhere to be found. Nearby white folks came by to investigate, but the mystery remained unsolved. It was as if the family had simply disappeared. Weeks turned into months and months into years. The feared family of slaves kept the business going as if they expected their masters to return. The only ones to suspect anything fowl of the family were the non-related slaves, but they knew better than to say anything, or even think on it too much, for those who did were also never heard from again, including the occasional ones who claimed to have caught glimpses of members of the Matheson family in the mirrors around the house. Eventually the slave family was named rightful owners due to abandonment. Over time, the Matheson’s were all but forgotten about.
Tales of truth or fables of fiction? Joseph didn’t know, and really didn’t care for that matter. It had been nearly a month since he, Margaret and Margaret’s younger sister Elise moved in on the second floor upstairs. And the only thing he knew of Aunt Mama was the kindness she had shown them. As for the house, it was like a home he never had. For a reason he couldn’t explain it provided a sense of belonging. Perhaps it was the fact that for the first time in his life Joseph didn’t have to share it with twenty other souls that were just like him. Kinless, he had grown up in an orphanage and never knew his true roots. A thought of the past that brought sorrow to his heart. But then he would think of the present, and the hopes he had for the future. The purity he and Margaret shared, and the strong family they would create. No longer would his life be tainted by the past, for now he had an existence of cleanness. The pristine that only innocence could bring.
“Mornin’, Joseph,” Aunt Mama’s thick southern accent pouring from her equally-thickened lips. “I see y’uh home early thea’s mornin’.”
“Yes, ma’am” Joseph politely answered. “Work load turned out to be light last night.” He motioned to the bag of groceries as if the old black blind woman could see it. “Thought I’d come home and surprise the soon-to-be-Mrs. with breakfast in bed.”
“A fine youngin’ man y’uh the’a, Joseph. Not many a men would’a stepped up to that kind’a responsibility.” She moistened her lips and continued. “Be a darlin’ and save some of tha bacon grease for ma, will y’uh?”
Joseph entered the house, walked past the staircase, through the living room and into the kitchen.
Taking out bacon, eggs, fruit, and biscuit mix from the grocery bag, a smile came over his face. He decided to make a quick trip upstairs to place a light, warm kiss on his beloved’s cheek. Just to let her soul know he was home.
Being quiet so as not to wake her, Joseph made his way up the stairs, that innocent glee of love still covering his face. He stealthfully made his way down the hall then turned into their bedroom doorway.
His eyes found a darkness that immediately absorbed his entire being.
Sitting up in bed, her back facing him, Margaret’s body moved in a rhythm as if riding a wave of ecstasy. Below her… A man driving that wave.
So engaged in their adulterous love-making, they failed to see Joseph standing there in the doorway. Devastation slowly backing him up into the hallway, his back found the nearby wall. The wall also caught the back of his head, for if it hadn’t been there to hold him up his despair surely would have taken him to the ground.
Mouth agape, his tears mixed with perspiration as they made their way down his cheeks, past his lips, and onto his tongue. His taste buds absorbed the salty taste of sorrow while his sense of hearing was overtaken by the bitter sounds of Margaret’s moaning. Momentarily unable to move, his mind was taunted by a random thought that he would never again be able to taste a salty substance without being thrown back to this agonizing moment.
From inconceivable shock to sickening hurt, a third emotion engulfed the entity that used to be Joseph; Anger!
The medicine cabinet in the bathroom flew open, Joseph’s hand darting in long enough to snatch up a straight razor.
Still in a world of her own, Margaret didn’t realize Joseph was in the room until his hand came down atop her bare shoulder. Before she could collect herself from the shock of his presence Joseph shot forward with a backhand to her face.
The backhanded blow knocked Margaret’s nude body off her adulterous partner and onto the floor.
Not even giving the stranger a second to react, Joseph brought the straight razor up and came down with a diagonal slash, slicing off the very thing that was used to rob him of the life he had always dreamt of. The stranger’s severed body part gave off the sound of a wet plop as it landed on the floor in front of Margaret.
The two cheaters screamed, one in horrific shock, the other in excruciating pain.
Joseph walked around to the other side of the bed, picked Margaret up by the hair and proceeded to drag her out of the room.
Like a squealing pig who somehow knew it was headed for the slaughterhouse Margaret kicked and screamed as Joseph led her down the hall toward the bathroom.
Passing Elise’s bedroom, the door flung open. The younger sister couldn’t make sense of the situation. This was a side of Joseph she had never seen before. She pleaded with him to let Margaret go, but the kind gentle man he once seemed to be was no more. The attempted defense of her sister was of no use, the fragile sixteen-year-old tripping over her night gown as Margaret was violently dragged into the bathroom by her hair.
“You fucking whore!” cried Joseph as he forced her to look at herself in the bathroom mirror. “We made a promise we’d wait until our wedding night! If you couldn’t wait, you should’a just told me. We could have sealed the bond anytime. Godammit, our chastity was for each other! You swore you were different.”
Slamming her head into the bathroom mirror, the impact caused her forehead to gash open. He let her fall to the floor then turned to leave. Elise rushed in to her sister’s side.
Aunt Mama remained rocking in her chair, as if she knew nothing of the commotion that had just occurred upstairs.
Bloodstained, with straight razor still in hand, Joseph walked out onto the front porch.
“I know y’uh hurtin’, Joseph. That whore don’t cherish the pureness of chastity like y’uh do. But it ain’t o’va. Thea’s still a way, Joseph.”
He looked over at her.
“The youngin’ ”, she continued. “Thea sista’. She’s still’a pure. Innocent. Thea a way for y’uh to have ha foreva’. What ah y’uh willin’ to do, Joseph? What y’uh willin’ to do to ensur’a a princess of pureness foreva’?”
Joseph walked over to her.
“Thea infinite numba’ of realms surroundin’ us. Just ‘cause we cain’t see ‘em don’t mean they ain’t thea. If y’uh take ha into one of thea realms, y’uh have ha all ta y’uh self foreva’.”
A glimmer of hope passed over Joseph, followed by a level of determination few men ever reach.
“What do I do?”
Aunt Mama reached out and cut her own finger on Joseph’s straight razor. She then took her blood-dripping finger and repeatedly drew the infinity sign with it on the arm of her rocking chair.
“Thea two mirrors in y’uh bathroom. On one of ‘em, draw thea’s with thea innocents blood. On the otha’, cova’ it with thea guilty’s blood.”
Joseph was on his way back upstairs.
Both on the bathroom floor, Elise held a towel to her sister’s bleeding forehead. Without saying a word, Joseph came in and once again picked up Margaret by the hair.
The two young women screamed. Elise grabbed for her sister, but Margaret’s fate was sealed. With one fluid movement Joseph tilted her head up toward the ceiling and sliced open her throat, blood spewing out onto the bathroom mirror.
Still rocking in her chair downstairs, the old black blind woman continued to repeatedly trace the infinity sign with her blood-dripping finger.
The cataracts in her eyes began to move about like shifting clouds.
The bathroom mirror now covered in Margaret’s blood, Joseph let her limp body fall over onto the bathroom countertop.
He grabbed the hysterical Elise by the hand and pulled her to the mirrored medicine cabinet.
With Elise’s hand in one of his and the straight razor in the other, Joseph raised her hand to the mirror and sliced open her palm. He put her bleeding flesh flat against the mirrored cabinet and drew the infinity sign with it over and over again.
Downstairs, Aunt Mama’s rocking became faster, as well as the blood-soaked tracing of the infinity sign on the arm of her chair.
Her cataracts were hardly visible.
The two blood-covered mirrors upstairs turned into two gateways to another realm. Joseph jumped up on the bathroom counter and began to pull Elise up with him. Beyond hysteria, all she could do was fight to try to get away.
Joseph’s body was now halfway in the realm. Elise made one last attempt to get away by grabbing for the medicine cabinet, causing its mirrored door to open and face the bathroom mirror.
His blood-covered hands losing their grip on Elise’s silk nightgown, Joseph fell back and was sucked into the realm alone. Desperately holding on to the two sides of the mirrored medicine cabinet’s door, Elise was sucked into that mirrored realm.
Both mirrors began to absorb the blood which covered them, in the process replenishing any and all damage done, leaving them like-new again.
The bathroom mirror and cabinet mirror were still face to face, mirror to mirror. As the last of the blood was absorbed by the bathroom mirror, the reflection of the cabinet mirror became clear. The two reflections created an image of a mirrored staircase.
Standing on one of the steps of the mirrored staircase, Joseph, whose eyes were now iridescent. He looked straight ahead to the opposite mirrored staircase. There at his side, also with iridescent eyes, stood Elise.
He looked to his side. She was not there.
Realizing she was in one mirrored realm, and he in another, with no hope of ever truly being together, Joseph began to break down.
Then, as if things couldn’t get any worse, lost souls of the past began to appear in the mirrored walls around him. The old stories had been true, for those surrounding him were the forgotten Matheson’s. In his case, ancestors.
“NO!”, he screamed, shattering one mirrored wall after another. But it was of no use. Each mirrored wall he destroyed, the previous one would become like-new again.
The blood-dripping finger of Aunt Mama slowly came to a stop.
Her eyes were clear. Cataract-free. Iridescent.