Reflection


ago
4 min
93
readings
15
Finalist
Jury

Hi! My name is Kelly and I love to read and write! I'm an aspiring TV writer and hope to one day make it my career, but for now, I'm practicing my skills and working as hard as I can to get there  [+]

Image of Fall 2020
Image of Short Fiction
My reflection is staring at me again.
Now I know what you’re thinking: “Of course it is!” you say, chuckling to yourself and thinking I must be an ignorant child, or perhaps or an elder whose had one two many hip replacements. “That’s what a reflection does!”
But listen. This isn’t just any old reflection. It’s the reflection. The kind whose facial features become less familiar and more hardened the longer you stare. The kind that makes you poke and prod your skin to remind yourself that that’s you right there, that’s you in the mirror, and surely you’re only imagining the way your reflection’s eyes are narrowing and its mouth is beginning to curve upwards, baring its teeth, right?
Right?
You blink. The person in front of you goes back to copying your every mannerism and move. Goes back to normal. You shrug and leave your reflection behind, on to whatever task you desire next.
But not me. I’m not blinking.
I can still remember the first time I noticed something was wrong with my reflection. I’d been eleven years old and I’d toppled onto a sidewalk on my skateboard, my head slamming against the pavement. I hadn’t known anything was wrong until my hands came away red and sticky from clutching my cranium.
Two days later I woke up in a hospital and another two after that, I could go home. I remember my mom placing me in front of a hallway mirror and telling me to look at the stitches across my forehead. I could feel them, touch them, tug them, even, but I couldn’t see them. Even now, when I look in the mirror and try to see the scar my parents swear I have, I can’t. It’s like I’m blind.
Like someone else is telling me what to see.
The second time I noticed something was wrong, I was nineteen. It was my sophomore year of college and I was struggling to stay awake in an English lecture. The professor’s droning had gone on, and on, and on, and on....and I woke up an hour later in an empty classroom.
That seems to be a common theme. Losing track of time.
But I woke up just the same, drool dripping out of my mouth and my back aching from the stiff spines of the lecture room chairs. I’d rubbed my eyes and grabbed my stuff and left the room, expecting to see...I don’t know what I had been expecting to see, but I had been expecting to see something, someone.
There was nobody in the hallways of the building, nor was there anyone in the rooms that I passed. I went to a bathroom to splash water on my face, to wake myself up in case I was still dreaming. I looked in the mirror and tried to rub away the bright red indentations I’d garnered from pressing my face against the chair in front of me, and right as the last of the marks disappeared, I could have sworn my reflection lunged at me through the mirror, grabbing my neck and trying to pull me through.
I did the only thing I could: I screamed.
“Hey,” someone said through the warbled noise, and instead of clutching onto the bathroom sink as I had been a moment before, I was now lying on the floor with stars swimming above. A dark, floppy-haired janitor lorded over me. “Are you okay?”
I’d stammered and clamored up from the floor. Yes, I’d said, even though I wasn’t sure it was the truth, because what was the alternative? Admit I was going crazy?
The janitor left and I gave the mirror a passing glance as I followed. My reflection snarled at me.
In the several years that have passed since then, I’ve had dozens of similar experiences. There was a span of three weeks when I recorded everything I did at every location I visited in case my reflection struck again. And for a brief, euphoric moment following an instance when my reflection had slashed a knife across my chest, narrowly avoiding the skin but cutting the fabric, I’d thought my perseverance had paid off. Surely, despite being dropped on the floor with an ear-shattering crash, the camera had caught the evidence, right? Surely even the most determined of reflections didn’t—couldn’t—inhabit camera lenses, right?
Right?
But the video was a bust. Instead of evidence, I possessed static.
I’ve long ago stopped trying to convince people of the demon behind the mirror. Any effort to do so has only been met with resistance. From my peers, from everyone.
Which leads us to this moment.
I’ve tried everything to stop my reflection. I’ve broken more mirrors than I can count. I’ve changed every aspect of my appearance. I’ve yelled, beg, and plead to no avail. The reflection doesn’t seem to care about my feelings, about my wants and desires.
Or maybe it cares too much.
Already I can feel myself wavering, feel the panic and the dread and the fear of the unknown take over my body as I contemplate my next moves. My reflection’s grin is widening, deepening. It’s hands are growing, stretching. Stretching towards me.
There’s only one thing I haven’t tried yet: submission.
Giving up. Would that be such a bad thing?
My reflection is still staring, and I’m staring right back.
I feel my own hands wrap around my torso, and if I didn’t know any better, I’d say the reflection is waiting for something. For me to fight back, perhaps, or for a moment of fury.
But no opposition comes.
The grin splits, baring teeth, and I’m yanked through the coolness of the looking glass.
For a second, there’s nothing. And then—
I’m staring through a window, or at least what appears to be a window. But windows don’t ripple like this. They aren’t breakable like this.
There’s a middle-aged woman and a young child in front of me. The child must have been in a terrible accident, because there’s stitches and gauze and faint marks of dried blood dotting the child’s face and forehead. The child tugs on the edge of one of the bandages and stares straight at me, and I feel self-conscious. Exposed.
“If you keep doing that, your injury won’t heal properly. It’s more likely you’ll be left with a scar,” the mother says. “A reminder of what’s happened to you.”
But the child keeps on tugging.
15

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