The Mirror Story
By Josh Reynolds
About the author
THE CONCEPT OF THE MIRROR
has always been a question of sorts for me. I have always felt that
they are a useless symbol of mankind's vanity. Why use them?
To see, yes? To comb your hair, check for imperfections, check for those minor niggling flaws that render you unable to congregate with the vast expanse of the human beast. In effect, those sinister panes of polished glass show us those things which no sane human would want to see; they destroy our carefully formed illusions and masks...or else, they aid us in forming the dangerous, blinding illusions that can kill us if we are not careful. Take for example the bulimic or the plastic surgery junkie. If not for the mirror, they would perhaps not be the pathetic things they are now. Or maybe they would.
Some mystics even believe that the mirror is a window to the soul...that your reflection is your soul in all its glory and hideousness.
I hope not.
Otherwise I am surely damned.
Let me tell you a story. It begins, innocently enough, with this fascination with mirrors I have. This loathing. It began with my grandmother's mirror. A large type, the kind used to examine every part of your form in all its twists and folds.
She would stand me in front of it. And then she would tell me what she saw. It was one of her favorite activities. A lesser child would have broken, or perhaps bent, becoming twisted and as hateful as his victimizer. Perhaps even dangerous. Isn't that how Dahmer started out? But not me. If I was bent, it was only a little. And catharsis came quickly in any event.
When I turned thirteen she died, and I stood over her casket and told her then what I saw. I have never enjoyed anything more.
But, irregardless of such little joys, she left the mirror to me. From beyond the grave and all that rot. A last parting shot from a virulent old hag determined to destroy whatever hope I had for a normal outlook on life.
Luckily, for all that she destroyed my personality, what was left was iron, cold and unfeeling. So I merely looked upon the gift of the mirror as one of life's tasteless little ironies and had my family put it away, wrapped in an oily tarp in a dusty attic and thought no more of it. I kept no mirrors in my home after I moved out. Out of sight, out of mind. That is, until I decided to hold a garage sale.
I crawled into my parent's attic, bruising my shins and wrists on the protruding junk and bric-a-brac and filling the dusty air with curses. I was in need of extra cash to give some breathing room on a few of my more gnawing debts and a garage sale was the only legal method I had for getting the cash beyond selling portions of my biology -- something I am not a big fan of. I thought briefly of knocking over a liquor store, but I'm allergic to pantyhose and police officers with guns, so that left the garage sale. As I kicked and shoved boxes of antique junk through the attic trapdoor, I backed into the hulking shroud of grandmother's mirror.
It had been several years since I had had it lugged up there and buried but, as I idly pulled the tarp back, I saw it had lost none of its luster. Hateful thing.
My reflection looked back at me through the glass, bound in shadow and almost indiscernible from the darkness of the attic. When I grinned, it grinned. I waved, it waved. I decided then and there to sell it. Such an antique would be worth a lot to some bumbling idiot and I could be rid of a vile memory and gain several hundred dollars all in one swoop. How could I lose?
I'll tell you how.
No one bought the damn thing. It sat in the wet grass on my front lawn like a garden gnome afflicted with gigantism, its wooden frame redolent with garish carvings and termite holes. Staring at me. Me. Every time I turned, my reflection was there, staring.
And not one of my customers gave it a second look. At the end of the day, I had just enough to cover my debts and a revitalized sense of self loathing courtesy of grandmother's mirror. I thought briefly of tossing it, but pride wouldn't let me.
She wouldn't beat me. Not now that I was grown and she was dead and rotting. She would get no post mortem delight in whatever comfy corner of hell she squatted in that I still feared her mirror.
So I brought it in to my home and sat it in my bedroom.
Initially, it took a few days to stop jumping every time I saw it. It was a constant finger in the scar tissue prevalent in my psyche, poking, prodding, tearing. But I got used to it. Eventually, it became just a mirror...just a polished section of geometrically cut and squared New England glass. On a visceral level, I still despised the whole concept of the mirror, with the clear view it gave me of my imperfect features, my narrow face and dark eyes...a fox's face, my grandmother always said...but I came to accept it. Accept its usefulness. I was no longer a vampire, smashing every mirror I came across. I had at last made peace of sorts with my phobia and loathing.
And then, I saw the woman.
It was early one morning. I rolled out of bed, just as light began to flood the horizon, and snatched a pair of jeans from the floor. As I stood and zipped up the pants, I caught sight of the mirror out of the corner of my eye. Or, rather, I caught sight of the woman reflected in the mirror. She was laying in my bed, curled up next to the empty space where I had been laying. She was beautiful, moreso than I was used to bringing to my bed in recent months. I yelped and swung to look at my bed...only to find it empty! I flung my gaze back up to the mirror, meeting my reflection's eyes, and beyond my own features in the glass, there was nothing. Nothing more or less than my own bed and the room around it.
I shook my head and grinned at my reflection. Wishful thinking. I forgot about as the vagaries of the day came to bear on me later.
Two nights later, I saw her again, this time as I was getting in bed. As I pulled back the covers, I glanced at my reflection, a habit of all owners of such large mirrors. And there she was! In my bed, under the covers, staring at my back, her mouth moving, but no sound emanating. I shrieked and fell out of bed, stumbling back against the wall, gawping at my empty bed.
I stood, trembling and met my reflection's eyes. Was I going insane? No. Stress. It was stress. And I went to sleep, discomfort forgotten.
A bit of undigested beef. Wasn't that how Scrooge described it?
Stress was no longer a comforting explanation after my fifth sighting of the redhead in the mirror. This time, at midday, as I came home early from work and tossed my wallet on my bureau, I saw her standing, folding clothes on my bed, but once more, only as a reflection in the mirror! As my reflection entered the mirror, she turned and jumped happily into his...my arms. I stumbled back in sympathy with my double, though no weight came upon me. I could only gape as they kissed, and talked silently to one another. Some part of my brain felt like an intruder. It grew in strength as they began to undress in haste. I backed out of the room, away from the mirror, and got a beer out of my refrigerator. And then another.
After four or five, just enough to calm my shocked senses back into a semblance of working order, I got up the liquid courage to stalk back to my room and the mirror.
The woman was dead.
Blood coated the room...or at least the reflection of the room. And my reflection himself. He sat calmly beside her corpse, stroking her face tenderly. He looked up as I entered, and mimicked my reactions, just like a good little reflection. Albeit naked and bloodily And as I stared into my own eyes, I...he winked. Just ever so slightly, just enough so I couldn't tell whether my own eye had been the cause of the movement or not.
I fainted, falling heavily backwards across the bed.
When I awoke, it was several hours later and the room in the mirror was once more a pristine duplicate of my own. And my reflection was lying across his bed, just as I was mine. Nothing out of the ordinary, to suggest what I had seen.
But I had seen it...hadn't I?
Over the following months, I saw more women. White, Black, Hispanic, all types, all races, all beautiful, just like the first. And when I wasn't watching, they all died at the hands of my reflection.
I like to think there was nothing I could have done for them.
And through it all, my reflection taunted me. Every time I entered my room, he was there, a normal reflection in a normal mirror. He parroted my actions so well I almost began to doubt my own sanity once or twice. Though his mask slipped occasionally. Winks. Laughter, silent and mocking, like a child making faces in front of a mirror. He knew. Just as I did. Bastard.
Once or twice, I almost got rid of the mirror. But then I thought, what would happen then? My reflection killed when I wasn't around...would it continue? Or would the darkness of the attic stop it? Had he been killing all that time, all those years in the attic?
Could I shatter it? Would that end it?
I knew only one way to end it.
But could it be done? Was I right?
So I began to covertly study my reflection. I sat one entire Sunday in that bedroom, staring at myself in the mirror, striving against sleep. And he sat there as well, the same look of consternation on our twin features.
I tried this tactic several more times until I was satisfied. I was right. My reflection could do nothing while I was there, while I watched. But if I slept, if I left, then he would be free.
Free to kill.
Why, I wondered as I planned what I was going to do. Why did he kill? In that little mirror world, why did I kill? That line of questioning opened other doors of inquiry even more disturbing if that was possible. Like, who was he killing? Other reflections? Or was I the reflection? And he the real man? Which of us had actually suffered at my grandmother's hands...me or him? Both?
I recall once catching an episode of an old sci-fi TV show when I was younger. It dealt with a astronaut leaving earth and returning later through a cosmic storm, whatever that was. When he lands, he realizes everything is subtly different about his world. By the end, he discovers he is, in fact, on an alternate world, parallel to his own, but different slightly.
I didn't recall ever traveling through a cosmic storm in recent months, but a parallel world sounded as good an explanation as any. Or, perhaps, what I was seeing was my soul. Even more disturbing.
Maybe my grandmother had won after all.
No. It wasn't over yet.
I quit work that afternoon. I told my family I was going on a trip, and not to call or come looking for me. And then I pulled all of my money out the bank and used a good portion of it to buy a cabin in the woods, back far and away from civilization. I took enough food for a few days, two at most and I bought a bucket for my toilet.
After I set up at the cabin, barren but for a single chair, my food and my bucket, I brought in the mirror. I had covered it in a tarp, the same one from the attic and, as I pulled it off, I fancied I saw a slightly startled expression on my reflection's features. I locked the door, and sat in my chair, my eyes locked on his. And I slowly pulled the bottle of pills out of my shirt pocket. Stimulants.
I downed enough to stay awake for days.
And I did.
And I still am, even as I write these words. So is he, though it appears unwillingly. I have noticed as the hours pass that we are not so similar, nor so tightly bound as I thought.
For instance, he is screaming at me.
And I, I am merely smiling.
I was right.
He cannot leave. He cannot move his body unless I do, while I watch him. Why this is so, I do not know. Nor do I care. He is mine.
His face contorts as I mouth those words...you are mine...and he struggles, though weaker than before. I can tell. Hunger you see. We are both starving...the food ran out two days ago.
I wonder, if I die..will he?
As a reflection, can he die?
Is he a reflection trapped by a man?
Or am I a reflection who has trapped a man?
It does not matter.
Irregardless, we will die. Eh?
What is this?
He is standing...or trying. I feel my limbs trembling with his effort. My own reflection, forcing me to parrot his actions! He is trying to reach the mirror...to smash it!
But...if it were to be smashed, who would cease to exist, whose world would shatter like shards of that demon glass?
I must stop writing, I must drop this pen. My...his fists are limply falling towards the glass...we are not the same.
He fears the slow death. Fine then. Smash the mirror you murdering bastard!
We will see whose world shatters firs............
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