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I remember when I was a young boy visiting my grandparents. Around once a month my father would drive us out of the city and into the beautiful English countryside. To get there we had to cross acre upon acre of farmland and trees, I remember the square fields looking like patchwork, like a huge checkered shirt made from earth, wheat and grass. My grandparents were a wealthy couple and lived in a huge mansion with what seemed like a hundred different rooms of all shapes and sizes. My brothers and I would run from room to room playing army men, we would jump under the table with our plastic guns and shoot imaginary monsters, or we would play games of hide and seek that lasted hours.
We were allowed in every room of the house, except for one. At the time I put it down to my grandparents wanting some semblance of privacy, or maybe it was because my brothers and I would make such a mess and there were delicate items in the room. I guess in a funny way I was kinda right.
It started off innocent enough, they asked me kindly not to go in there, and for the first seven or eight times I didn’t. On the day of my eleventh birthday I threw a small party at their house. It was the largest place I could throw a party without my parents having to book somewhere, and despite my grandparents wealth, my parents were strangely impoverished throughout my upbringing. There was a buffet held in the dining room, consisting mainly of sandwiches and little slices of cake. After we had eaten we decided to play a game of hide and seek, seeing as though it was my birthday I had every intention of winning the game and given that my grandparents explicitly told everybody that nobody was to go in that one certain room, I knew exactly where to hide.
My brother stood facing the front door with his hands over his eyes with slight gaps in his fingers, probably trying to catch a glance at the reflection in the glass. He counted down from ten and we scattered in every direction, up the stairs and down the halls, doors swung open and then shut again. I ran up the stairs and counted the doors. Third door on the left, this was it. I slowly turned the handle and stepped inside.
I closed the door behind me to avoid being seen. The room was pitch black and devoid of even a single window. I fumbled in the dark looking for a light switch, there was none. This didn’t particularly bother me because although I wasn’t fond of the dark, I knew I would only be here until the game was over, so I just sat next to the door, the door opened inwards so even if somebody did open it to peek inside they wouldn’t see me. After a few minutes my eyes became adjusted to the dark.
The room was pretty much empty; I didn’t see what all the fuss was about, just a few wardrobes and an old mirror. I pulled myself up and stepped towards the mirror, I could see the vague outline of my body through the darkness, though I appeared taller, and thinner. I stared into the mirror for a long time. I kept telling myself that I should hide in case my grandparents came in or my friends decide to check the room, but I couldn’t, something was pulling me towards the mirror. There was something strangely comforting about it. It wasn’t doing anything special, merely casting a reflection like any mirror on earth, but staring at it through the darkness had some kind of profound effect on me, I felt wiser for having looked at it.
The door swung open. It was my grandfather. “What the hell do you think you are doing?”
His eyes were feral and castigating. I stuttered. He stormed in and grabbed me harder than I had ever been grabbed in my life and pulled me out of the room; he spent the next half hour screaming at me in front of my friends, I remember seeing his angry face through my blurry, crying eyes. I still didn’t understand why I wasn’t allowed in the room, but if this was what happened when I did, I knew I never wanted to go in there again.
Some fifteen years later both my grandparents died, they killed themselves. they both killed themselves within the same year. I had cut off contact with my parents as soon as I was old enough to move out, they were mean spirited and selfish and I wanted no part of them. I was left nothing in their will but I was told that once my parents had taken what they wanted that I could take whatever was left. To this day I don’t know what it was that made me go because there was nothing there that I really wanted.
The house was completely barren; my parents must have taken anything that they could sell. I walked around the empty rooms looking for anything either sentimental or valuable I could take. I walked up the stairs and checked every room until I was there. The third door on the left. I opened the door, the wardrobe had been taken but that didn’t matter, that wasn’t why I was there.
The mirror was still there, caked in dust; maybe this is why it distorted my reflection so much. There were still no windows, but this time I could see that there used to be windows and that they had been bricked up. The mirror was around six foot tall and freestanding, an oval shape. I would have difficulty getting it in my car but besides that I was excited to get it home. There was nothing else in the house of interest, everything had been taken, and probably sold by now.
By work of some kind of miracle I got the mirror into my car.
When home I decided to put it up in my bedroom, against the wall at the foot of my bed, it looked good in my room; I had a four-poster bed and I guess my room in general looked classy and old and the mirror was a perfect addition. The mirror was old I was certain, Victorian maybe, but then again it could have been from caveman days for all I knew.
I looked into the mirror for the second time in my life, I looked considerably older this time with a raggedy beard and nicotine stained fingers. The mirror hadn’t lost any of its charisma, though this time I could see myself in the light of day, almost. The image was clearer but I hadn’t wiped the dust from it yet so while it was brighter I was still indistinguishable from anybody else who looked into it. Blurry and amorphous. I left the room to grab a sponge.
When I returned my room seemed darker and somehow smaller. There was no dust on the mirror. I put it down to lack of sleep and glanced into the mirror, my reflection glanced back at me. Something about this didn’t seem right, it was certainly my own reflection looking back at me, and every time I moved the mirror moved in sync (as any mirror should) but still something seemed off, there was a shimmer in the eyes of the reflection that seemed alive.
I pondered on the thought for a few seconds, staring into space as I did so. Out of the corner of my eye I saw it, it may have been on the periphery of my vision but I knew that I saw it. My reflection moved, its head slowly turned towards me and smiled, its eyes were wide and its smile was menacing. I shot my head around to look at it directly, but as soon as I did I returned to normal, and all I could see was my own terrified face.
I decided not to dwell on it I obviously just needed some sleep, so that’s what I did. I didn’t dream that night, but I sure did sleep, it was like I would never wake up. I did wake up, but in truth, I wish I hadn’t.
Where once the morning sun would shine upon my face there was only darkness. I sat upright and looked around, my room was smaller, it may have seemed smaller last night but I couldn’t be sure, this time there was no denying it, the walls had closed in on my room. The window was missing, replaced with bricks. I reached for my nightstand but it was gone. I was in pitch-blackness. I opened my mouth to scream but physically couldn’t make a sound. I shot out of bed and towards the mirror; by this point my eyes had adjusted to the darkness. My room was empty except for the mirror, my bed had gone too, I was in it less than a minute ago, but now it was gone. I fumbled for the light switch. It wasn’t there.
I sat in the darkness, in front of the mirror. Inside the mirror I could see my room as it used to be, with my bed and nightstand and my window. I could see my reflection sleeping on my bed. I screamed and shouted and swore but there was silence all around me, I couldn’t make a sound. The reflection woke up and got dressed and then walked over to the mirror. It looked me in the eyes, and I was compelled to look into his. The room was once again filled with light, but then he left and I was once again plunged into blackness.
He returned holding a comb in his hands and then light appeared again and so did a comb, I was holding it in my hands. His eyes once again met mine and I could do nothing but follow him. His hands moved towards his hair, and so did mine. I tried to fight against it but I couldn’t, in fact so long as he was looking at me, I could do nothing but mimic his actions. So I stood there, combing my hair, no matter how hard I fought I could do nothing else. He turned to leave and I heard my bedroom door close, and I was in the darkness again, and that’s when I realised it, he wasn’t my reflection.
I was his.