God Machine Chronicle – Man in the Mirror

Catia is sat in the Red Lion, a rough looking pub built in the lobby of the apartment block, although it’s not been trading much recently given that fresh deliveries have been entirely cut off by the snowstorm, the manager Redge has a long standing arrangement that he allows the Resident’s Association to use his backroom for meetings; normally the meetings consist of a few busy-bodies who meet up, rattle on for a few minutes and drink the odd shandy or lager, not today though, today the meeting is full of riles up residents who have been trapped in the apartment block together since the beginning of the storm, food is starting to run low and tempers are running high. Despite repeated calls for calm from the few cooler heads in the room (including Catia herself) and chance collision between a youth and a polish gentleman turns first into a shoving match and then into a full scale brawl with parties on both sides wading in, the English blaming the new wave of immigrants for stealing their friends houses, and the immigrants complaining at how they are being treated like dirt and spat upon; during the chaos Catia attempts to duck through the crowd and get clear, she pauses to snatch up a bewildered child on her way out, getting bumped and jostled in the progress, and delivers the young boy safely to his worried mother before advising the woman to take her son back to her own appartment and stay there. Thinking that some sort of distraction might stop the fighting Catia presses the emergency fire alarm, remembering too late that it will also set off the sprinklers in the corridors, they spray a brief gout of water onto the floors of the corridors throughout the building before the frozen pipes seize up and the water flow stops.
In her own room Maggie wakes up from an uneasy sleep to sound of a fire alarm ringing, she looks out the spyhole on her door and notices the slick wet floor of the corridor that has already started to freeze in the cold temperatures, before she can do anything more her mobile phone rings, it’s Catia who tells her what’s going on with riot and asks whether she’d be able to get Joe to help calm it down; Maggie says that she’ll see what she can do, rings Joe and tells him what’s going on in the Red Lion. Wasting no time Joe storms down to the pub where he finds the riot in full swing, spilling out of the pub into the foyer of the building, pushing his way through the crowd, staring down anyone who dares challenge him, Joe finds Redge crouched behind the bar; grabbed a pool cue he smashes it across the chest of the first person who gets too close to him and sends the man crashing to the floor, as a youth spins around with a flick knife Joe picks up a second pool cue and breaks it around the youths head, causing him to crumple in an unconscious heap. As a moments hush falls over the room and the riot pauses momentarily Joe says simply “Enough. Go home.”
Seeing the known to be ruthless criminal standing there holding half a bloody pool cue with two broken bodies lying at his feet the riots think discretion is the better part of valor and begin to disperse, although it is clear from the angry looks being exchanged that the matter is not over, it has just been paused momentarily, the main storm of protest is still to break. Joe checks his phone and is surprised to see that for the first time since the storm started he has a single bar of signal on his phone; ringing one of his boys he receives a garbled response before hanging up:
“Jo…ere ou…een…oads are…in…kay?”
Joe phones Maggie and asks her to bring Catia and meet him in the Red Lion and to bring a shovel, Maggie is only able to locate a small shovel that she uses for potting on her plants but she meets up with Catia and heads down to the pub, by the time they arrive Joe is drinking at the bar with Redge; initially the barman/owner looks a little worried that the rioters might have returned but he relaxes when he sees the two women and goes back to sweeping up the splintered furniture and smashed glass that the rioters have left in their wake. As Joe explains what has happened and that he thinks they should get out of the building (although he has not been able to get in touch with Brian yet), Catia recalls seeing a JCB on a building site to the west of the Specto Vale block just before the storm really kicked in, she suggests that they head to the site, take the digger and use it to make a break through the snowstorm. The three of them dig their way out of the front door of the tower block (which is now massively snowed in) and begin walking to the west, however, after a few minutes they find themselves approaching the Specto Vale entrance again; Catia thinks they must have got turned around since visibility is practically zero, Joe is not so sure though. Deciding to head to the bus stop they arrive and find that there is a still an area around it not touched by the snow, as Maggie described to them previously, Joe tells the girls to stay in the shelter and keep safe whilst he heads of to the building site; however, sure enough, a few minutes after he has left Joe finds himself heading back towards the bus stop, certain that something unusual is going he suggest that they return to the block.
Once they get back inside Joe directs them to the unoccupied flat 113 that they visited previously, the door still hangs in tatters where Joe kicked it off its hinges and the oval mirror is still inside; once the dust sheet is removed from the mirror Catia can see that the room is reflected in it but that they aren’t. Exploring the apartment Maggie finds a small hand mirror abandoned on a dresser in the bedroom, she takes it with her and hands it over to Joe who, acting on a hunch, puts his hand through the liquid-like surface of the large mirror whilst Maggie and Catia look at his reflection in the little mirror, they are surprised to see that his reflection in the little mirror disappears the moment his hand breaches the surface of the large mirror, and re-appears when he withdraws it. Taking the small mirror Joe plunges his head and arm through the surface of the large mirror, on the other side he sees the strange reflection realm, but the surface of the small mirror has turned black and non-reflective, although it returns to normal when he emerges from the large mirror back into our world.
Meanwhile Brian has woken up in his apartment, the sound of the fire bells having roused him from a nightmare about cogs, whirring gears and a strange ticking noise, looking outside his door he sees a frozen skin of water coating the floor of the corridor, confusing he picks up his phone and punches in Joe’s number; Joe explains to him about the riot and, on impulse, puts his phone holding hand and head through the large mirror whilst talking to Brian. Immediately Brian’s voice is replace by a crackling of static and just below it, a business-like voice repeats the phrase “What has risen may fall, what has fallen may rise again.”
As he heads down to meet the rest of them Brian notices that the wounds on his hand appear to have disappeared but there is a small patch of skin near his thumb where he appears to have lost all feeling and sensation.
Having trouble dealing with the concept of these strange mirrors and feeling beaten up after her experiences of the riot Catia flops down in a chair, a shocked look on her face, trying to be comforting Maggie pats her on the back and passes a large joint across to her, whilst this is going Joe has emerged from the large mirror just as Brian meets them in the flat. Joe suggest to Brian that he enter the mirror-verse and go to Mile’s room, nodding Brian enters the large mirror and makes his way through the twisted reflection version of Specto Vale to Miles room where he finds not the tidied up sanitary version of the room from their last visit but the messy, cluttered survivalists hidey hole of their first visit, however everything in there feels real and solid, not like the flimsy fake furniture and items in the rest of the mirror world, he pockets the blueprints he finds on the walls there and, thinking about what Joe has told him about phones in the mirror-verse attempts to make a call on his mobile. He is rewarded with the sound of static and a faint voice saying:
“1…13…2…48…3…18…4…26…5…35…6…19…7…20…8…32…9…29…10…25…11…15…12…23…13…0…14…25…15…1”
Unable to make sense of the number sequence Brian hangs up and heads to his own apartment; it seems (like almost every other reflection version of a place) as an imperfect reflection of his apartment and he is about to leave when he hears a low snoring sound emanating from his room. Warily venturing in the sound appears to be coming from a pile of covers on the mirror-version of his bed, gingerly pulling them back he exposes a hessian sack made into a horrific likeness of a head with two large round button eyes and thick black stitching making a straight line for a mouth, the snoring appears to be coming from inside the sack and it would appear the scarecrow like figure is wearing Brian’s pajamas. Drawing back in horror, Brian knocks the covers exposing the arm of the scarecrow, he notices with terror that there is a small patch of perfect human skin on the right hand of the creature, corresponding with the number patch on his own hand.
In our world Maggie has returned to her own flat, she is determined to throw all of her mirrors away but is distracted by the appearance of a jittery youth who is obviously some sort of addict experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms, he claims to be from one of the second floor flats and says that there aren’t any drugs coming in and that things are going to start getting ugly if people don’t get their fix, he’s heard that perhaps Maggie could hook him up. Maggie only carries weed and so she rings Joe who has a few small samples of harder stuff and agrees to sell the guy some if Maggie gets his apartment number; satisfied the grateful addict leaves and Maggie begins to systematically hurl all of her mirrors out of her apartment window where they shatter on the snowy floor below, however as she throws the last one Maggie swears that she sees eyes not her own staring back at her and then the mirror tumbles into the whiteness and crashes to the ground below.
Brian has traveled through the mirror-block of flats to the reflection of Bartek Prusee’s flat on the 13th floor, he jimmies the door open and walks inside, a barely visible figure sits with its back to him in Bartek’s high backed chair, as Brian circles round the chair warily he sees another scarecrow like figure, this one clad in the same charcoal grey suit that he last saw Bartek wearing; Brian attempts to talk to the figure but gets no response until he tries speaking backwards at which point the head begins to move, following him around the room, soulless black button eyes staring blankly at him. Unnerved Brian writes ‘who are you and what do you want?’ backwards on a piece of paper and throws it onto the lap of the scarecrow; it reaches up slowly with its other arm to retrieve the note and Brian is horrified to see that its right arm is almost entirely human. Again Brian attempts to speak to it backwards saying “Who are you and what is this place?”
Suddenly his phone rings and, when he answer it, over the crackling he hears a voice that sounds like Bartek speaking backwards saying “What are you doing in my home? I thought that you would have bought you friends again.” Realising that he is speaking to the scarecrow and that it seems to have Bartek’s memories, Brian drags the downward facing mirror that was being used a table in the apartment upright and points it at the scarecrow, when he looks into it he sees the real world apartment and the real Bartek sat on his chair, he looks pale and very unwell, he is rubbing his right arm with a pain expression on his face. Brian steps into the large mirror, and emerges under the table in Barteks apartment, when he crawls out and attempts to speak to Bartek the old man fires an antique pistol from beneath his blanket, hitting Brian square in the shoulder, the old gangster shouts “Which one are you?”
“I’m the real one” replies Brian showing the blood from his fresh injury, this seems to mollify Bartek somewhat who directs Brian to some appropriate tools to remove the bullet and cauterise the wound, that he has in his bathroom cabinet. When Brian returns, having cleaned himself up, Bartek (after some small prompting) explains that he originally used to live on the tenth floor of the building, but after he noticed some strange goings on and that they seemed to focus around the thirteenth floor he bribed his way into possession of his current apartment; it was when he moved in he found the mirror and realised that it was potentially a gate to somewhere else, unwilling to go through but not wanting to dispose of it unless someone else was tempted by it Bartek pointed it at the floor and disguised it as a simple table. Bartek asks Brian whether he has seen the original blueprints of the Specto Vale block and, when Brian looks at him blankly, explains that there was no thirteenth floor listed on the original blueprints but there is one on the revised blueprints made available to the public; he also mentions that no-one in the flat seems to remember exactly when the storm began or how long they’ve been trapped here, most people don’t seem to want to know. To Brian’s surprise he finds that he can’t remember the exact dates or times either; Brian attempts to show Bartek some photos on his phone but Bartek tells him not to use a phone saying that people in the block only get a single when ‘they’ want to listen in on you.
Brian attempts to explain about the scarecrows and that he believes both himself and Bartek are having their life drained away into their duplicates, as represented by the slowly spreading numbness in his hand and Bartek’s useless right arm, at the end of the conversation he notes that Bartek has not moved or said anything for several minutes, checking his pulse he finds that the old man has died quietly. 
Walking back down the first floor, the others are surprised when Brian walks in through the door rather than emerging out of the mirror but they don’t have much time to talk as Brian and Maggie (who has been explaining about the face in her mirror) hear the sound of a janitors wheeled cart approaching; still unsure of what is going on with the odd monosyllabic janitors they duck out of the apartment and head to the Red Lion where Redge has swept all the debris from the riot in a single pile and is now getting drunk. Brian shows the photos and video clips he has been taking in the mirror world on his smart phone and also the bullet that he removed from his shoulder, a brief argument breaks out when Maggie brings up the subject of the face in her mirror about whether she or Brian has had the worst day, this ends when Brian asks Redge about how his stock levels are doing and if he can remember what date the storm started; Redge seems to ponder it for a second before getting very irate and changing the subject, Brian holds this up as proof of what he has been saying to the others, they are not where they think that they are.
As Redge heads into the back room to get some more drinks Maggie notices a low hissing from two speakers fastened to the walls beside the bar, although Redge dismisses it as feedback from cheap speakers when asked, the group decide to ajourn their conversation to Maggie’s flat where Brian outlines his plan to re-enter the mirror world; Catia, obviously tired from her exertions during the riot falls asleep on one of the comfy chairs in the flat. At this point everyone’s mobile phone begins ringing simultaneously, Joe switches off both his and Catia’s phones whilst Maggie and Brian reach for theirs and press the answer button.

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