I saw the thing looking back at me from the mirror again today.
I can’t explain what it is, and to anybody else it would look like a normal reflection. It looks just like me and acts exactly like a reflection should, but I know it’s just trying to trick me. When I wave my arm, it waves. When I move, it copies me, it has my face and my eyes, but it’s not my reflection, it is something else and I think it knows I know. Sometimes I can see a look in its eyes when I wake up in the morning.
I look up with groggy eyes to see it staring back at me, staring at me with a look of somebody with a secret. It got to the point where I was even afraid to go near the mirror fearing that I might get too close and be pulled right into that strange place reflections are born, and come face-to-face with the creature that wears my appearance as a disguise. The first time I noticed something was wrong was only a couple of days ago, but since then things have gotten progressively worse.
Like every other Monday, the grooving sound of the oldies woke me up at seven in the morning, about three hours or so earlier than when I would have liked to be woken up. I slowly and angrily smashed my fist down on the alarm until it shut off, and shuffled my way into the bathroom. If I had been awake I might have noticed the difference right away, but instead of looking anywhere else, all my attention was focused on making a bee-line to the shower.
Knowing I had to be at work at eight, I quickly rinsed off then hopped back out, a little more alive and alert than when I started. Still moving quickly to make up time, I started up the easy auto-routine I had for shaving. I lathered up, started running the water and prepared to get down to business. Just as I was finishing up, I noticed it. I was looking into the mirror, all closed eyed and half asleep, and my reflection was looking right back at me, eyes wide open and grinning.
Now I know for a fact that it is almost impossible to have a grin on my face that wide, on a Monday morning. This wasn’t a normal grin either. It wasn’t the “I’m happy,” or the, “I just heard something funny,” kind of grin. This was the kind of grin you see on someone’s face right before they pull your chair out from under you, or make you sit on a whoopee cushion.
It was the grin of someone who was about to pull the mother of all pranks and no one knows about it but the person who is getting ready to pull it. A grin that says, “It’s ok that you know, because there is no way you can stop it.” The look my reflection gave me unnerved me so badly that I left the bathroom without finishing shaving, and hurried out of the house with shaving cream splotches still coating my wet face.
That day I couldn’t work, I sat in my cubicle trying to determine if I even saw what I thought I saw. Or maybe I had been working too hard and was losing it. Folders of every color and size littered almost every corner of my desk, and stacks upon stacks of paper littered the keyboard, making it almost impossible to type or get any work done.
The insurance company I work for has been cracking down and wants me to get all the claims from last year’s hurricane season taken care of before more from this year get piled on my desk. Sometimes that requires me to stay up well after two in the morning, trying to figure out exactly how much someone’s old collection of transformer stamps costs. I sat and nodded absently as my boss came by and tried to tell me to hurry up on the claims, like he did yesterday, and the day before. I even think I might have fallen asleep while looking at him.
Every day is the same for me. I get up and start getting ready for work with the same routine, every day. Making it to work at the same time, going the same route, without change. Even the work I do is almost the same day in and day out. It feels like I don’t even have to pay attention, or even be awake to make it through the day. One minute the time seems to go by in what seems like the time it takes to blink, other times one minute seems to stretch the whole day, no matter what I’m doing, or how busy I am trying to keep myself.
I got up slowly from my desk and made my way to the bathroom, and as I did I saw my reflection looking at me from the window across the office. I could feel its eyes on me even when I wasn’t looking, and no one else seemed to even notice it. It took all the strength I had not to go screaming down the hall, pushing people out of the way as I ran past, screaming all the way to my car. I rationalized it away by blaming it on my lack of sleep.
I walked slowly to the bathroom, pacing myself and trying not to panic, taking up as much time as a bathroom break possibly could take. I refused to look at the mirror as I washed my hands and splashed water on my face. I closed my eyes as the cold water ran smoothly down my brow, and I tried to remember the last time I actually had something that resembled a social life.
It had been so long that it actually took me a couple of minutes to remember anything, then vaguely there was a memory. There was a girl, maybe a friend or two but that was it, that’s all I ever had. It didn’t even matter anymore, I should have gotten a dog, I thought to myself. That might have been able to break up the monotony, but that would have required a break in the routine. A break that was a long time overdue. Then I heard something, something I pushed far back in my mind and hadn’t thought about for years.
I was too boring for her. That’s what she actually said, and after time and time again of blowing off the small amount of people that actually would hang out with me, the calls came less and less, and eventually they stopped altogether.
I didn’t even have a phone anymore, there was no point. It’s not the fact that no one called anymore, or even the fact that no one cared that bothered me. It’s that looking back on it, I chose this. I chose not to do anything, I chose not to go out, or hang out, I chose to go home instead of going out, to work instead of play. I could change my life at any moment, get a new job, move to a new area, meet new people, but I don’t. I am more scared of what the change would bring than wasting my life away by not doing anything.
Slowly I lifted my head and noticed that my reflection was already staring straight ahead at me. It opened its mouth and laughed silently as if reading my mind and mocking me. I quickly dried my face off and walked briskly to my desk to shut everything down, scattering huge piles of folders onto the floor as I went. I couldn’t stay anymore.
My head was swimming and everyone seemed to be staring at me. I rushed out of the office to my car, turned the ignition and sped as fast as I could, all the way home. I didn’t even bother to eat dinner, I felt sick and just laid down to sleep. The next day it was like nothing had even happened. I woke up at seven and just about forgot all that went on the day before, until I glanced in the bathroom mirror to get ready and saw patches of brown scruffy hair in the places I forgot to shave when I ran out of the house the day before.
I left the house without incident and made my way to work, using the route I had grown accustomed to. While at work I tried not to talk to, or even look at anybody. Nobody even cared or showed that they noticed, although every once in a while someone would walk by my desk and try to hold in their snickers. I didn’t mind it, I went through the whole day on auto-pilot. I didn’t even speak a word, and I tried not to look at anything that might hold a reflection in it. I might have thought I was going crazy, but I didn’t want to chance it.
I was thinking maybe if I just ignored it, then it would go away; out of sight, out of mind is what people say anyways. Like everything else in my life I thought that if I stopped caring, maybe it wouldn’t even matter anymore. The whole day went by without anything exciting happening, it seemed as if yesterday was a dream. Just a bump in reality, my mind’s way of giving me something to think about while I drone on and on, going about my pitiful life.
When work was over I found myself in my car with a pile of folders on the seat next to me, my boss wanted me to put in some long hours at the house and catch up with the work I didn’t do at the office. As soon as I got through the door of the house, I dropped the pile of folders on the floor, creating a multi-colored mess and went straight to my bedroom and crashed for the night.
The next morning I knew something was wrong right away. I was lying in the bed and saw movement out of the corner of my eye from the reflection in the bedroom window. The window was about 4 feet off the ground and to the right of my bed so I couldn’t get a very good look at what caused me to notice it. I got out of bed, without giving it much thought and walked right on by the window into the bathroom, and paused at the vanity mirror.
Instead of following my movements like usual, my reflection was leaning up against the glass. Both of its hands were pushing so hard against the glass that the veins in its neck were threatening to bulge through the skin. It looked as though it was trying with all its might to push the glass panel out and climb through. I stood still, horrified and unable to move as the image looked up at me, wearing a mask of hate. I could see that it was shouting something, but no words made it through to my side of the mirror.
The reflection took a step back and brought a fist up menacingly and drew it back, not hiding the fact that it planned on trying to break through the glass, to get to this world. The reflection smiled as he propelled his fist forward and prepared to collide with the glass. I closed my eyes and braced myself, not wanting to be caught off guard when that thing finally made its way into my bathroom. After a couple of minutes I realized I was still waiting for a crash that never came, and I slowly opened my eyes to see myself staring right into my own dull brown eyes.
I could tell whatever the thing was that was trying to push its way through the mirror a minute ago was now gone, and in its place was just this normal reflection. The eyes were different, instead of the previous wild look, weariness and helplessness replaced it, like the eyes of a bear at the zoo. Not totally convinced and still shaken up about what had happened, I hurried up and got out of the house before the thing could come back. As I drove onto the exit ramp for work I had the strangest urge to just keep on driving.
I saw the exit that I needed to take and instead I fantasized about not turning, to just keep on driving past the exit, past work, and even past the state line. With no plan or sense of direction, just driving until my small blue Pontiac Sunfire ran out of gas. Then wherever I ended up, that would be where I would start over, the right way. No more plan, no more auto-pilot option, a total renewal. I would force myself to actually live, give myself a life. I would need to talk to people to survive, to get a new job, and a new place to live.
I would see new things and be around new experiences. But instead I turned towards the same exit that I have turned towards everyday now for years. For a second, as I made the turn, I thought I actually heard a yell of frustration. My head spun around trying to find the source of the noise that had already faded, like it never existed. No one was there, my eyes cast a fearful glance at the rearview mirror, not totally surprised at what I saw.
Looking back at me was my reflection screaming his silent rage and beating against the rearview mirror glass. I ignored it as I parked in the same parking spot and straightened out my tie to start the same day all over again.
Slowly I walked across the parking lot and spotted my reflection shaking its head in the glass door leading to the lobby. I grabbed the door handle and it held its hands up as if to block me and scowled as it was forced to swing outward with the door. Slowly the day dragged on. As the minutes crawled by I tried to rationalize why my reflection would be trying to attack me, and what I should do about it. It isn’t really something you can tell people about, so I knew I was on my own, but that didn’t bother me, I was used to it.
Staring at my computer screen not even pretending like I was working I tried to find evidence that I wasn’t crazy; which I was desperately trying to convince myself of, but with no proof that was almost as hard as figuring out why it was happening. The whole time my reflection just stared back at me, nothing more than light reflecting off of the glass surface of the computer. Having to mimic my every boring move, day in and day out.
The only job I knew of that was worse than the one I had. As I looked into its eyes I started to feel bad for it. It had no choice, it couldn’t decide one day to stop following, to not go through the same routine day in and day out. It was forced to do the same thing, always reflect, and no wonder it had been acting up.
For years it has sat and stared at me through the computer while I stared back at it, waiting for the day to be over. Or at the house through the TV waiting until it was time to go to sleep and start the same boring process all over again. I had a choice, my reflection didn’t and it wasn’t fair.
Then today it came back again and now I know what to do. I have to break him out; I have to let him free. It was my fault, it had been trying to tell me it couldn’t take it anymore but I wouldn’t listen. I can’t listen, it is too late for me, but I don’t need to drag him down too. Maybe it could have the life I wanted to have. It is tired of the routine and needs to be let go.
I don’t need him, I don’t need anything, and I gave up. With it gone it would be better for me, I could go back to the routine, and I could go back to being me. The same old schedule of waking up, driving to work, watching TV, and then sleeping, just like I have gotten used to. The life I have accepted for myself, the life I deserve.
That’s what brought me here, standing in my bathroom staring at my reflection with a hammer in my hand, smiling almost as wide as my reflection, as I tried to figure out the best way to break him out.
I knew that it was the right thing to do, no longer fearing the thing in the mirror, I watched as he beckoned me closer, nodding his head as I lifted the hammer. I cocked it back as far as I could go and was about to let go when that same grin crossed its face. As the hammer was about to crash into the glass, I tried to change my mind, but by then it was too late.
The hammer went right on through and I fell. Everything got dark and I couldn’t see where I was right away. I spun around and what I saw made me sick to my stomach. All the strength left my arms and I should have dropped the hammer, but I couldn’t. From where I was standing I could see the thin off-white wall and the silver flash of light reflecting off my own bathroom, and there, standing right in front of me blinking absently and staring at the hammer in his hands, was my reflection on the other side of the mirror!
A scream raised in my throat as I tried to rush into the bathroom only to be met by an impossibly thick slab of glass, that didn’t budge an inch no matter how hard I hit it with the hammer. I could only watch my reflection look at me through the barrier and give a small chuckle as he turned and hurried out of the bathroom as if he might get sucked back in if he stayed too long.
I woke up, trying to figure out what day it was and remembering vaguely that it was probably Tuesday. I looked at the clock and seeing that it was almost noon I decided to pull myself out of bed, thankful that I never had to hear the grooving sounds of the oldies at seven in the morning again.
I took a long hot shower, taking my time and enjoying getting ready for my big day. Relishing in the fact that I could finally take the time to get a good shave in, and head out the door feeling like a new man. So many possibilities now, new places to go, new people to see and most importantly a new life. I filled the gas tank up and pulled onto the interstate. Going about eighty, I didn’t even acknowledge the fact that I flew by my usual exit ramp that would take me to work.
I just kept my eyes on the road and thought about how I used to be pushed aside and ignored every time I suggested something new, or put down when I wanted to live a little. I glanced in the rearview mirror and gave a low chuckle. “Well Buddy, where should we go first?” I asked out loud to myself. My reflection tried once more to push against the glass that held him and finally put his head into his hands and sobbed silently. “You’re in for an adventure now,” I said to him and stepped down on the accelerator even harder.