Things Reflected, novel excerpt - Erik Joseff Avalon

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(an excerpt from a long-shelved novel that will here go unnamed)

A hallway like any other in town, with opposing lines of shut unit doors set too close each to its neighbors. Behind one of them, a tiny one-bedroom apartment, dimly lit. To the left, an electric stove under a wall-mounted faux-wood panelled cabinet, a porceline sink, a toilet, and a gleaming white tub. A large window, divided into three immobile panels, took up most of the far wall. To the right, a single mattress rested on a cheap metal bedframe, the bed adorned only with a blood-specked yellow sheet and a caseless beige pillow. A squat, scratched chest of drawers stood at the head of the bed, one tiny shaded lamp the only thing atop it.

A tall woman, pale of skin, stood naked at the sink staring flatly into the square mirror hung above it. Her black hair was chopped rudely short. Her facial features hinted at her Russian origins, but if she spoke, no accent would give her away.

She had worked long to overcome that obstacle.

Back on the earth that had made her, Ilena Marshov had lived a harsh existence. Orphaned, she had been raised by an uncle whom had thought it only right that since he cared for her, she - upon reaching puberty - owed him certain favors. She might have withstood the incest, but he was not content with only his own pleasure. He owed many debts, frequently recurring debts, and thus whored his niece out as payment.

On her nineteeth birthday, one such satisfied lender suggested that if her life really displeased her, the poor daft girl should kill her uncle and be free of it. Liking the notion, Ilena began to practice for the day of her liberation by murdering her "patrons" just as they reached climax.

Within weeks, she felt ready, but rumors reached her uncle that the disappearances of many of his gambling buddies were not merely the usual "vacations" of those seeking to avoid paying some insurmountable loss. He was ready for his niece's plan, and beat her to within inches of her life.

Escaping that long torture had cost her dearly, but had opened the door for another escape: to America.

Leaving her demons behind her, Ilena went to New York, where she assumed the name Eleanor Christine Mars and became a stripper. The work sickened her, but it was preferable to menial labor, and the money was far more than she required.

She lived as Eleanor in peace for months, and Ilena seemed a bad dream. She began to date, and happiness seemed near.

Then, one of her random dates turned out to be a serial rapist. He drugged her drink, carried her out of the bar under the unspoken pretense that his female companion had reached and surpassed her limit, and tied her down in her own bed.

It was a full week before she managed to free one of her hands. All that week, the bastard had come and gone as he pleased, fed her nothing, barely gave her a half-glass of water a day, and used her on whim.

The last time he came into her room, the light was out and the curtains were down, so he could not immediately tell that she was free.

She killed that one quick.

She disposed of the body.

Eleanor tried to forget the ordeal, telling her bosses at the strip club that her sister had called her away for an emergency.

She tried to emerse herself in the life of Eleanor again, but the illusion she had built was irrevocably broken.

Eventually, she began to seek out men she thought would want to rape her. She presented them with the opportunity, and if they took the bait, they paid the price.

There was always the risk that one would be able to overpower her, bind her, beat her, end her, but the danger meant nothing.

The thrill of the hunt sustained her.

When she woke to the town and learnt its nature, she cried for hours, knowing her obsession with murderous release was over. There was no way to commit such acts in this town without discovery, and anyway, if the propaganda was true, there would be no vulturous men to prey upon. The hunt would be fruitless.

And so Eleanor Mars, once Ilena but believing that identity forever out of reach to her, stood looking at the facade she must maintain for the rest of her life.

She looked into the dark circles at the center of her eyes.

She peered into the darkness of her own heart, knowing it was chained, knowing it could never be set free again.

She stared into the black.

Vast expanses of dimensions away, yet also paradoxically closer than her own skin, presenses within some dark realm noticed Ilena's gaze, and looked back.

She stumbled back away from the mirror, her heart racing at the incomprehensible intelligences she had felt trying to pour themselves over into the town through the reflection of her irises.

Her head spun, glancing expectantly into every shadow space around her.

But nothing came.

Nothing was there with her.

Nothing was ready to break through the dimensional walls and spill forth in horror and plentitude, into the town.

Just yet.

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