A Cerberus Jaw

A Cerberus Jaw

Clay’s life has been one of control. A life planned and everything in order. Order to everything, from walking the same path every day, to a rigid shaving ritual. But when the Coffee Bang happens, everything in Clay’s world gets turned upside down and nemesis Cerberus starts to finally get its teeth into him. An ever increasing chaos starts affecting his life to the point where he is no longer in control, and certainly no longer in control of what he sees in his reflection in the mirror. It is a reflection which horrifies him, and pulls him back into a dark place.


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The razor slipped from Clay’s wet hand. It bounced awkwardly off the edge of the ceramic basin with a clink and hit the tiles of the bathroom floor hard, the blade-head separating from the handle. Ignoring it, Clay stared at the bathroom mirror in front of him with abject horror. Condensation mist still clung to the lower half of the glass, resisting the pull of the overhead extractor fan. But as the mist had started to clear at face-level, just after Clay had made his first angled pass of the razor down his right cheek, he’d noticed something amiss.

Something was not in order and there always had to be order to shaving.

Order came from the comfort of first feeling the shaving cream lathering up over the cheeks, then the chin and then the neck. It was impossible for Clay, even after twenty years of shaving, to ever gauge the right amount of shaving cream to squirt into the palm of his hand. Instead it was easier to find order in ensuring that there was always excess foam left in his palms that had to be washed away after lathering up. As long as after applying foam to his face there was substantial shaving foam left on his hands, he could then give them and the razor itself, one last preparatory pass under the running hot water. Only then could the razor be applied to the right cheek. Always the right cheek first. That initial stroke was to be taken before the steamy glass had been given any chance to fully clear, a defence against having to really look at himself. A routine to avoid self-scrutiny. Then on to the left cheek with the razor, then the chin, followed by the neck and then finishing with the stubborn moustache area, which always needed longer under the cream as the hair was always thicker and harder there.


That was the order of the shaving ritual. Clay’s shaving ritual.

“But not today, Clayton,” he told his reflection through the clearing mist in front of him. He was quick to kid himself that the dark patch on the mist-softened reflection of his right cheek, was nothing more than a trick of the overhead shaving light. An imperfection in the glass, maybe. But Clay knew that he wasn’t really convincing himself. He knew all too well about imperfections and when something was falling into chaos, for order was something that he craved. It was something his mind excelled at, something which kept his soul in quietude.

But people always seemed to have an unyielding purpose to disrupt his order. Like having to deal with the onset of sweating palms whenever intruding well-wishers from his family started dropping by after the Coffee Bang. Visitors who would persist on setting upright the face-down picture frames in Clay’s home. Too polite to say anything to their faces, he’d stick it out, but the gnawing sensation in his brain would be screaming at them to go away and leave the pictures face down, just how they were supposed to be. Similar internal storms were whipped up when he’d first met Elsa, before she’d had time to experience the intrinsic foibles of her new suitor. For Clay, the excitement of the new relationship was somewhat tempered in enthusiasm by the chaos which came from it. Like his dread of having her leave a book out of place on the shelf, or misplacing a CD out of alphabetical order in his collection.