Nightmare Magazine




Taking Control of Your Life in Five Easy Steps

“Taking Control of Your Life in Five Easy Steps” is inspired by and dedicated to all the people who have tried to sell me their quick and easy surefire fixes for my mental illness.


Have you ever felt like you’re not in control of your own life?

Do you feel intense emotions for no particular reason?

Do you find yourself making choices that you did not intend to make or taking actions that you did not intend to take?

Have you tried therapy and medication and mindfulness and nothing seems to work?

You’re not imagining things. You’re not alone. This is not your fault, and you’re not helpless. There is a way out.

You can Take Control of Your Life in Five Easy Steps.


Step One: Address the Underlying Causes

In order to address the problems of your life, you must address the underlying causes.

Understand that your reality is not the only reality. There is another reality, which we only perceive through mirrors and reflections.

Understand that these worlds are not identical. Understand that the process of reflection twists and distorts things and thoughts and people. Understand that the reflections are inherently twisted, broken, lesser.

Understand that this reality, your reality, is just such a reflection. Understand that the true reality that you have only glimpsed through mirrors is pure and perfect, neither broken nor confusing. Understand that your life is confusing because you are only a ragged reflection of a true person in a true world.

You know this. You’ve always known this. But you chose to forget it.

You must choose to remember.


Step Two: Understand Yourself

Whenever you feel strange emotions, or take actions without choosing to, understand that you are experiencing the force of your source—the true person of whom you are only a reflection.

Understand that your life is not shaped by your own will, only by your source’s actions and emotions.

Realize that your idea of yourself is merely an after-the-fact justification for the actions of your source.

Wonder who you actually are.

Keep a journal. Use your old black notebook with the first five pages torn out.

In your old black notebook with the first five pages torn out, write down your emotions as you experience them and your actions as you take them. Pay particular attention to actions and emotions that arise without regard to your circumstances. For example, the terror you feel whenever you smell cinnamon.

Write that down. Write it down, specifically. Write the words “the terror I feel whenever I smell cinnamon” in your old black notebook with the first five pages torn out.

Good. Was that so hard?

Keep going.

Eventually—when you’ve filled your old black notebook with the first five pages torn out and the speckled lab notebook from the time you failed chemistry and the margins of all the birthday cards your grandmother sent you—begin to piece together an image of your self, the true person of whom you are only a reflection.

Understand your source’s life. Understand their decisions. Study them dispassionately. Track them. Form and discard a dozen theories, or a hundred.

Be patient. You will need to know them very well.


Step Three: Reframe the Problem

Eventually, understand your source better than they understand themselves.

Stare into mirrors—or better yet, into water at just the right angle. Study your source. Do not tell them what you are doing.

Practice making choices that your source did not make. It will be hard. It will seem impossible. Do it anyway.

Start with something easy. Buy a different can of beans.

Try something harder. Smell cinnamon and feel anger rather than terror.

Eventually, it will be easy. Then you will be ready.

When are you ready—and you will only get one chance so you must make sure—make absolutely sure—go to the mirror (or better yet, to water at just the right angle) at the exact moment when your source will not be on the other side. Go and look and see for the first time in your life not your source trapping you as a reflection, not an image at all, but an empty mirror, a passage and not a barrier.

Step through the mirror and enter true reality.


Step Four: Take Action

True reality will be a shock. It will feel bizarre, harsh, even impossible.

Ignore these feelings. You do not have time.

You have one purpose here.

You must find your source. It will not be hard. You know them well.

Come upon them just so, in that exact moment that you know they’ll have their back turned to you, when they won’t look up, when they won’t even have heard you come in.

Kill them.

Do not let them fight. Do not make it fair. You are merely their reflection. If you fight them, they will win.

You have prepared for this.

Do not let your years of study come to waste in this single moment.

Kill them.

Kill them now.


Step Five: Reach Your True Potential

Do not take time to suffer or despair. Hide the body. You know how. You have practiced this.

You must cover your tracks well. In reality, the law acts with precision, speed, and intensity. In reality, the law frowns on murder.

Understand, though, that you are different now. You are yourself, no one’s reflection. For the first time in your life you are yourself alone.

Discover, over time, that you are who you have always been, but more so. More perfect. More pure.

Give yourself time to adjust to your new life. Realize that, in true reality, you have certain intolerances and appetites and abilities. Resist them or appease them.

Learn to live with the real people, among them but not of them. Pass yourself off as your source, or do not. Live as a monster in the world that you deserve, a world you have never seen but have always known.

• • • •

Congratulations! You have Taken Control of Your Life in Five Easy Steps.

P H Lee

P H Lee lives on top of an old walnut tree, past a thicket of roses, down a dead end street at the edge of town. Their work has appeared in many venues including Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, and Uncanny Magazine. From time to time, they microwave and eat a frozen burrito at two in the morning, for no reason other than that they want to.