BETTER WATCH YOURSELF
By Adam Godfrey
It was a cool, fall night when it came to me. A simple idea, spawned while listening to the radio at a stop light. A random moment, no different than any other, when the lyrics to a song hit me through the speakers.
You wanna know what Zeus said to Narcissus?
You’d better watch yourself.
It was at that moment that a seed was planted, quickly developing into a unique concept that would eventually mature into my debut novella NARCISSUS.
Mirrors. Reflections. Their use in literature and film is nothing new. However, possession of one’s own reflection is something entirely different, utterly inescapable. Toss in a new spin on an old myth, an adventurous group of young tourists, and we have the making of a terrifying concept fit for Hollywood.
In NARCISSUS, an inquisitive group of American tourists vacationing in Mykonos discovers the subterranean pool by which the demi-god Narcissus pined his life away in self-obsession. Their trip turns deadly when their reflections become infected by an ancient evil that preys on the insecure. As they’re picked off one by one, they battle for survival by attempting the impossible – avoiding their own reflections.
Something that I didn’t realize until the work was finished, however, is that the horror in this story is rooted deeper than the inescapable terror of being tethered to one’s own, murderous reflection, and the seeming impossibility of being able to avoid it in a desperate (and only possible) bid for survival.
There’s a certain familiarity about this tale. About this demi-god Narcissus and how he functions in this story. A certain symbolism that the reader just might recognize if they were to really stop and think about it.
It’s something that we witness daily, devouring the population at an accelerating rate, personified in this novella as a brutal, unforgiving antagonist. A judge that preys on human insecurity. One that levies swift and unjust punishment on those caught in its grip.
I’m talking about society.
I’m talking about the burgeoning vanity and self-obsession and toxic self-perception and dependence on the approval of others that consumes the population one soul at a time, and is doing so at an accelerating rate. With the proliferation of social media platforms in particular, we’re living in a culture of constant, relentless comparison, of overly critical self-evaluation based on facades and false standards imposed by others. Impossible standards that are falsely representative of what we as a human race are led to believe is “normalcy”. The impact on mental health and well-being has been devastating, and the literal death toll has been staggering.
The numbers don’t lie.
For example, taking a look at children aged 13-14, suicide rates were reported to have more than doubled between 2008 and 2018, a period of time that corresponds with the explosion of social media use. And we’re certainly not only talking about children. Not by a long shot. The human populous as a whole is undeniably impacted, often fatally, by this shifting social landscape. Take a look at the following statistical data from a 2023 report from Cross River Therapy:
Anxiety affects 284 million people.
Depression affects 264 million people.
Alcohol use disorder affects 107 million people.
Drug use disorder affects 71 million people.
Eating disorders affect 16 million people.
At the end of the day, self-reflection truly stands to be one of the most terrifying things we humans can endure as society continues to manipulate our perception of ourselves, nourish insecurities, convince us that we’re just not measuring up to our potential, the common ideologies of what the perfect human really is. It’s not so different from the demi-god our four unfortunate protagonists go up against in NARCISSUS.
Pick it up, give it a read, and weigh in with your own interpretation of the story. I think you’ll find your greatest fears don’t lie much farther than your closest reflection.
NARCISSUS is available in e-book, paperback, and audio via the link below:
Adam Godfrey hails from Chesapeake, Virginia, where he lives with his wife and three daughters. He holds over twenty years of experience working for the United States Department of Defense in information technology and cybersecurity risk management. He holds a master’s degree in cybersecurity, and his professional contributions to the field have been internationally featured across a variety of media platforms.
In fiction, Adam is a novelist and author of short stories. His genre-crossing work ranges from the suspenseful to the horrific, frequently characterized by central threads of plausible science and technology gone awry.