The Mirror

Image of Long Story Short Award - 2022
Image of Short Fiction
The mirror startled her. She did not see it right away, not until she had already gone several steps past it. Her inability to immediately recognize the mirror was not simply a lack of awareness; rather, she was totally enriched in the book in her hands and, looking down to read it, did not realize at first what she was passing. Then, out of the corner of her eye, she glimpsed what looked like a shadow. This made her jump and spin about wildly, trying to see who was following her. (One would normally not be so afraid of a shadow, especially when that shadow is quite conceivably one's own shadow. However, she was the kind of girl who had reason to be afraid of her own shadow, so we shall forgive for this seemingly absurd reaction.)

She soon realized it was not a shadow at all, and it was certainly not a murderous stalker following her across the field. The field was nearly always empty at this time of day, which is why the girl used it as a shortcut on her way home from school. Later on, it would be filled with children kicking soccer balls and parents watching from a respectable distance while they sipped coffee and had internal crises and teenagers holding hands and talking about things they pretended mattered. For now, though, the field next to her house was empty. Empty except for the mirror.

She retreated and turned to face the mirror, staring into it. It was a full-length mirror with an oak trim, standing on its oak legs in the middle of the soccer field. There was nothing else around it, no inscription, nothing hanging on the mirror, no apparent purpose. Besides the fact that it was placed in the middle of an empty field, there was nothing else extraordinary about this particular mirror. Oh, except for the fact that it was not her reflection in the mirror.

At least, it was not her current reflection. The her in the mirror was not wearing unripped jeans and an oversized, hand-knitted sweater that her Grams had given her. The her in the mirror did not have a captivating book in her hands. The her in the mirror did not have her dreadlocks pulled back into a long, subdued ponytail. The her in the mirror looked nothing like the her in the field, and yet somehow, instinctively, she knew that she was looking at her future self.

She almost dropped her book in surprise (the key word being almost). The version of her in the mirror smiled mischievously, pleased to see that her more tangible counterpart had figured out that they were one in the same. She (the her in the mirror that is) was taller and curvier, and she wore contacts instead of large navy-framed glasses. Her dreads, a handful of which were colored electric blue, fell prettily around her mature face, a face where confidence—but not arrogance—lingered wistfully.

Standing before the mirror, the girl did not have any of these things. But still... their noses were twins, their eyes a perfect match, their cheekbones cut in the same fashion, their skin tones an identical rich brown—though the older she wore a fitted black tank top that showcased far more muscular arms than the ones hidden beneath the white sweater.

The she in the field stared hungrily at this version of herself. She was confused and scared, of course, but she was too intrigued to be hung up on those unpleasant feelings. Did this mirror show the future? Did it show a long-lost sister? Or her mother when she was young, before she died?

No, she thought. She is me and I am her. There could be no question about that. How then, is she in there while I'm out here? The her in the mirror, unfortunately, did not answer. She continued to smile that mischievous, tantalizing smile, as if she knew something which the her in the field did not. (The truth of matter, of course, is that she knew many things the she in the field did not, but the she in the field was not to be made aware of this fact quite yet.)

"How can I get to you?" she asked herself, desperate for some direction or sign.

To her surprise, the her in the mirror answered. Not with words, for no words of wisdom can be handed down from future self to past self (this much history has taught us). No, the her in the mirror answered with a gesture. She lifted her hand and beckoned, urging the her in the field to come her way.

She was confused. How could she go to the her in the mirror? Did she mean to walk forward, past the mirror, and continue in that direction? Or did she mean...

The question had not yet been fully formed when the answer arrived. The she in the field had reached out her hand to feel the solid glass that separated her from her alternate self, but it was not solid glass at all. It felt more like a thin sheet of rubber, not completely fluid, but still flexible enough to succumb to her touch. In an instant her hand had broken through the mirror (though no glass shattered), and the image of her had become distorted and blurry. Still, the she who was half in the field and half in the mirror thought she saw the she in the mirror wink before, with no warning, she vanished.

This time, she dropped the book. She stood completely still, fighting off panic as she looked at her entire left hand inside the mirror. It sent a strange buzzing feeling throughout her entire body. She looked around, but still the field was empty. There were no kicking children nor drinking parents nor talking teenagers nor knitting grandmothers. It was only her and the mirror.

With one hand, she tightened the straps of her backpack and closed her eyes. There's no going back now, she told herself. (She was indeed right about this. If she had tried to pull her hand out of the mirror, it would have been futile.) She took a deep breath, opened her eyes, and plunged headfirst into the mirror, pushing against the rubbery surface until it gave. The moment it did her whole body followed, and she did the oak mirror.

The book lay dirtied and forgotten in the damp grass.