Justin Boote

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Justin Boote

by Justin Boote

By their very nature, supermarkets terrified Trevor Richardson anyway. Hoards of people bustling and jostling along the aisles, oblivious to their shopping carts blocking passages. The kids racing around with the cart pretending to be Formula One drivers, crying and screaming when candy or biscuits denied. It was chaos—not organized—and created a sense of claustrophobia and tension that turned a simple operation into a potentially terrifying one.

Especially on a Saturday. Then, the stress became twofold. His nervousness was multiplied by the sheer overwhelming presence of men, women, and kids going about their business as though they were the only ones with business to do.

He’d once seen a movie in which dozens of people were trapped in a supermarket while monsters roamed outside. He found himself standing in a vast queue for the checker, impatiently waiting to pay while others tutted and groaned expressing their own impatience. It was not the recommended place to start having nightmarish visions.

He spotted another line inevitably moving faster than his and was about to make a mad dash to it, when an elderly woman somehow beat him, her shopping cart brimming with goodies. He looked desperately at the other queues, the contents of their carts, and the stakes of changing from one to another, and was forced to accept that the one he was in was probably his best bet.

And so, the waiting game commenced.

He caught a glimpse of himself in one of the mirrors that adorned the concrete posts.

A zombie-thing looked back at him. It was a face riddled with decay and decomposition, dribbles of pus giving weight to the flaking skin that fell lazily to the floor like feathers. A ridiculous yet terrifying smile wrinkled its leprous features, the lips cracking and oozing with unnameable secretions, the smile so wide it threatened to pierce the earlobes. It waggled its tongue at him.

Trevor gave a high-pitched cry of fright. He staggered back, knocking into the elderly woman who in turn began shouting, accusing him of being drunk or on drugs.

He turned around to see everyone was staring at him. Some wore grins of their own, others frowning and shaking their heads. The security guard made a bee-line for him. Sweat appeared miraculously on his forehead and ran down his face in eagerness, replicating the dribbles of the zombie-thing.

To Trevor, it was as though watching it through another’s eyes. The people seemed blurry and hazy as he looked in disbelief from one to another, then back to the reflection in the mirror. A chorus of faint whimpers that he was terrified could be his own mingled with those of the snickers and mumbling coming from others, accentuated with the thick voice of the security guard whose words he couldn’t interpret.

Among those sounds was a hissing. He looked down to see that he’d dropped the double six-pack and one can was spraying its contents in alcoholic delight, showering his legs and those of the elderly woman. More whimpering and gasps of shock and embarrassment.

He jumped when the guard put his hand on his shoulder, causing him to inadvertently glance once more into the mirror. What looked back now was his own red, sweating face, eyeballs bulging—he wasn’t sure what was worse; the zombie-thing’s or his own—and that was when he bolted, barging past the others who had frozen in amazement to watch proceedings.

He ran the distance to his paltry little apartment in record time.


If time heals all hurt, Trevor thought he might have to live an eternity to recover from the earlier episode. It was obvious he could never return to the supermarket which was a shame because they sold the cheapest beer and food, but under no circumstances could he risk being spotted by a previous witness. They would surely laugh and point at him. This was petty though compared to what he had seen in the supermarket mirror. And there could also be no doubt that it had been real and not the hallucination of a stressed mind. Because it wasn’t the first time it had happened.

The first time had been at work. He had been carrying a tray of drinks to the terrace when a glance in one of the decorative wall mirrors had caused him to drop the tray.

What stared back at him had been a grotesque caricature; a rotting, senile face whose bloodied eyes hung literally by frail threads of nerves as they bobbled on his cheeks. The ruckus had caused Trevor to flee to the toilet and hide himself for several long, terrified minutes.

After smoking one cigarette after another, the conclusion was reached that it had been a hangover-induced hallucination. What else, after all, could it have been? When he finally returned to the restaurant, he managed to convince his supervisor that he had slipped and no, he was not on drugs, and it wouldn’t happen again.

And it didn’t.

At least not at work.

In the three months since that first incident, the images had come thick and fast, yet never while surrounded by people as in the supermarket. At the restaurant his claims of slipping were perfectly legitimate; it happened often to someone or other and did not provoke unease or laughter among workmates or clients. This, though, was a devastating new turn in events that required serious contemplation as to its origin and reason.

“I am not going mad. I’ve never taken drugs so there is no chance of flashbacks being the cause, and monsters do not exist. So, what are we left with?” he asked the sleeping cat on his living room sofa. “I’m not going mad. There is no reason for me to be losing it and seeing faces in mirrors, so…”

And then it hit him.

“A brain tumor. That’s it. I have a tumor that is causing me to see things and I am going to die slowly and horribly. Fuck.”

He thought about it for a while. This was both terrifying yet strangely reassuring in an odd way. Knowing the answers—however grim—to one’s problems at least solved the problem of origin and purpose, and usually implied that something might at least be done about it. A brain tumor, though? That was a toughie.

But didn’t a brain tumor usually bring as company constant headaches and migraines, nausea, and double vision? He hadn’t suffered any of these ailments for years. And never double vision.

It was time to see a doctor. In the meantime, he needed courage. That meant a drink.

It was more expensive, but Trevor often considered the little Pakistani twenty-four-hour supermarket the eighth wonder of the world. Certainly, its façade was discreet at best but that beer was available even in the darkest hours of the night. And just as important, no queues were necessary, so he could be in and out in minutes.

As expected, the store was empty except for the owner. Trevor strolled confidently over to the fridge where the beer was kept (another bonus; it was already cold, unlike the bigger supermarket), grabbed himself another double six-pack, and headed to the till. As he fumbled for change, the owner distracted him,

“You want a bag for this?” he asked.

Trevor looked up and screamed. There was a mirror behind the checker.

The face that sneered back at him in the mirror behind the counter was foul. Mountainous warts and obscene growths throbbed and exploded over the thing’s face; a greenish-yellow pus running down it like lava, splashing onto its swollen tongue and running down its throat. The eyes seemed alive, like eggs; as though behind them something parasitic and hellish strived to break its way through and hatch. Obnoxious, rotten black teeth wobbled and swayed as the thing opened and closed its mouth as though trying desperately to escape themselves the surely poisonous river of pus.

He threw a can of his precious beer at the mirror and ran, only vaguely aware of the irate Pakistani’s own screaming.


Experience had taught him that he was not safe in the refuge of his own apartment either. There was now only one mirror remaining—in the bathroom—that was required for hygienic purposes before heading to work; the others he’d thrown to the garbage. And yet, reflections could appear in the most unlikely of places and in many guises. So, to counter, he grabbed one of his beers and darted under the warm blanket of his bed.

He awoke several hours later in desperate need of the toilet. He staggered from the bed and stumbled towards the bathroom, cursing his throbbing head and throat that felt as though he’d eaten mud for supper.

As he emptied his bladder for what seemed an eternity, he couldn’t stop himself from looking into the mirror.

A hand, skeletal and clawed, popped through the glass and reached for him. The other followed, then two long arms, half-way between skeletal themselves and decomposed gristles of flesh, aimed for his neck and slowly dragged him towards the mirror. He resisted as much as incompetent legs and failed strength allowed but knew that it was in vain. A face awaited him on the other side, grinning and sneering with its fabulous mock smile, and he also knew in that moment that it was his own face that reflected back at him.

While the arms of his tormentor dragged him through the mirror into a world where monstrosity and distortion was ruler and abundant, he almost gave thanks. It was a reprisal from those that looked to him with disgust. Now he could finally fit in.

Justin Boote is an Englishman living in Barcelona for over twenty years working as a stressed waiter in a busy, centrical restaurant and has been writing short horror stories for two years. In this time, he has published around twenty stories in diverse magazines and anthologies. He is also moderator for a private writer’s forum The Write Practice.

He can be found at Facebook under his own name or at his Amazon Author page.