Empty Mirrors –
A man is horrified to find that his reflection has vanished, and as he struggles to find what he has lost, he will ultimately reveal the hidden demons hidden beneath all of our pain, jealousy and regret.
|Publication Date||June 22, 2017|
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Copyright © 2017 by John Wiber
You made this easy to write, my dear friend. You. And I’m standing here in front of a broken shard of mirror, just a mere fragment, my reflection dull but present – and I wish I could tell you it was all your fault. Staring with dead eyes into the abyss; where black shadows follow me around at every step, stalking me – with me while I sleep. Sometimes it swoops down in front of my face, brushes against my coarse cheek, hissing and flapping and coughing up bile – and I can see every tiny imperfection, feel the slightest scar or ache or throb of my body. There’s a pile of empty picture frames in the corner of my room, beside my bed, most of them smashed – the pictures ripped up and burned – well most of them. And for some reason, all the candles are lit in my room; the tiny flames dance with my shadow silhouetted all grey on the cold floor. Suddenly, the man in the mirror winks at me, piercing through me with sinister eyes and a sick little grin; and then he is gone.
Woke up this morning; still no reflection. Hollowed out eyes, I can’t see them but I feel them… I know I must look like a monster – my eyes all red and swollen, and my soul desperately seeking release. I haven’t slept in days and I’m scared of my thinning body; because you can’t eat without a reflection. My shattered mirror looks like tiny diamonds scattered across my bathroom floor. There’s something ticking inside my head, not a clock, or time for that matter… but somewhere I know I no longer exist. My soul drained away with my reflection.
And when his body moves he doesn’t feel.
There are devils hiding behind the walls, and last night something pushed up against my bed. I can feel them watching me. My blood has stopped moving, sitting all cold and stagnant in my veins. But somehow my heart still beats.
When I came outside today there was a ringing in my head, maybe because I haven’t slept for 2 weeks, or maybe because of something else; either way, I walked out on something serene today. The sun was hanging low in the winter-blue sky, that clear sort of light sparkling down. I could taste the air, and feel it burning deep down in my chest. My neighbour was buckling his seven-year-old child into the passenger seat of their Silver Dodge RAM, her legs flailing, and I could hear the faint sound of her laughter. The tree in my front yard was covered in snow – the yellow-light of the sun glistening like a million eyes off the white crusted surface, and the branches reached out towards me, beckoning me forward. And all of this passes through me and comes out blank on the other side. There was a gust of air that caught the branches of the tree; pulling them one way and snapping them back another. The hardened snow crumbled from the branches and fell to the ground with a subtle thud. The girl started crying.
I know it should be profound and logical and simple, but it all comes out blank on the other side – so that instead of being enlightened or blessed or inspired, I was left standing there on my front porch with my keys softly tingling in the wind, hanging limply from my detached finger-tips. I felt nothing.
Walking to the store and the air is cold and sharp. I can feel the frost in my flared nostrils and the hollow beating of my heart; I feel like a beast. The winter sky is blank and gray, whimpering flakes of snow drift all around me. Whispering with my tortured eyes: There’s only one set of footprints behind me. And in my desolate pocket I can feel the tiny ring with the sparkling diamonds and the gold band, weighing me down like a giant shadow, or a cloud, and in my pocket, it feels like a rock: solid, vague, and emotionless. I know that love doesn’t really exist.
I move through the glazed-over streets, ice and frost and everything cold. It’s a grey sort of day. I wonder if it looks this way for everyone else. My whole body shivers and I cough and it makes me feel sort of better, I guess. Every once in a while I pass someone, all bundled up and peeking out from their toques and scarves. And suddenly across the street I think it’s her. My heart rushes and I nearly run across the black-frosted road, but then her head turns and I realize that it’s just another nameless face on a cold grey day.
I walk into the convenience store and the bells jingle above me. I grab a Red Bull and ask the clerk for a pack of smokes. He looks me over, figures I look scruffy and worn-out enough to be over nineteen, and so he gives me my pack of smokes without IDing me.
Just before I turn to leave he asks me if everything’s alright.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” I tell him.
“Have you taken a look at yourself in the past couple days, fella?”
“Of course…” I stutter, “I… have to go now.”
I can feel the clerk’s eyes hot on the back of my neck, and outside I have to doubleover because I can’t breathe and all the air in my body is rushing to my head, swelling inside my brain, explosions of bright white pain, hot then cold… and suddenly I’m gasping, wrenching for a breath of air because I’m all alone, my pack of smokes and an empty ring in my pocket. He knew my reflection was gone. The clerk knew I hadn’t seen myself in days.
I take the ring again from my pocket and throw it down the sewer. The tiny band clinks across the pavement before disappearing down into the blackness. I feel slightly better, at least a little lighter, and I look up into the sky and hope that something will happen, some sort of sign or signal… but there’s nothing there.
When she left I thought I would see her again. But I guess that would never have worked anyways, not the way I wanted it to. Still, I would have liked to see her one last time. And wondering how or why she left never seems to help or hurt me, everything is just ambivalent… Sure I told myself I would change after she left. Sure, I tried. But can anyone ever really change? I can remember my mother, lying there all ridden with Alzheimer’s, a shit and piss factory – nothing more. Empty memories absently dripping down inside her skull, spewing out with no real significance, and when she died I was standing right beside the bed. The look in her eyes just before her heart stopped beating said ‘who is this standing beside my bed,’ and I took her hand and said ‘it’s me mom,’ but she couldn’t hear me. I guess things do change, like the seasons, or something. But then again, everything always comes back. I don’t want to live my whole life just to forget everything in the end.
My phone starts ringing and somehow my hand reaches out, although I don’t feel it, and my fingers wrap around the neck of the phone. I hear a voice come out of my mouth that says: “Hello?”
“Geoff, how are you?”
“No… its Pam.”
“Oh, right… sorry…”
“Is everything alright?”
“Yeah, I think so, just been feeling kind of strange lately. I haven’t been sleeping very well.”
“Are you sick?”
“Well, I was hoping we could see each other tonight.” “That sounds great,” I say.
“And you can tell me what you wanted to tell me, you know, that thing you said was really important?”
“Oh… right. Yeah.”
“So do you want to pick me up around eight? I was thinking we could go to that place on Laurier, you know, the little Italian place you took me too the first time…”
“I don’t know if I feel like going out tonight, I’m really feeling strange, like I said.”
“Oh… well, I could just come by your place. I’ll cook you dinner?”
“Yeah, that sounds better. That sounds good.”
“Okay, well I’ll see you soon.”
We’re sitting on the carpet, beside the fireplace – and the orange glow looks nice against her gently rising chest, her swell, and her lips are nice and red while mine are tight and closed. My palms are sweating. We ate dinner and it was a quiet meal. I drank a bottle of red wine to myself while Pam didn’t seem to like the wine at all. She did look nice tonight though, delicate and desperately appealing. Her brunette hair done up in soft curls that cascaded down her slender shoulders, and I know that she wants me to make love to her – to fuck her like she was still a teenager. And the idea is not unappealing to me, but how can I fuck without feeling?
“What are you thinking about, baby?” she asks me.
I shrug, “You, I guess.”
She smiles, touches my hand with her fingers, strokes it and moves up to my arm where she grips my bicep, and then to my neck where she pulls me in and kisses me. I kiss her back as best I can but I can’t really tell if I’m doing it right because my mouth is numb and my mind is a drift. I can tell she wants me to tell her… to tell her what I said I wanted to tell her. But that’s gone now, and whenever I close my eyes it’s always the same… and I wonder if things could have been different, if it even mattered at all. That ring wasn’t meant for her, and if only she knew how close I had been… “Kiss me,” she says.
I think about what it would have been like, getting down on one knee and displaying my heart for all to see. I’m sure she would have said yes, even though we’d only been together for a couple of months. It wasn’t the same with Pam – because I knew I could have her. Allison was a challenge, she was my prize – but now she was gone. Still, I’m sure marrying Pam wouldn’t have been all that bad. But somehow the thought revolted me because the whole spectacle of marriage, which is supposed to be so significant, would have passed through me like a dead leaf, and in the end, it would be another part of my life that leaves me devoid of strength or inspiration.
“Geoff, kiss me.”
And when I lean in, I see it. Myself. My Reflection, hiding there in her eyes. I’m horrified to see the little holes in the sides of my head, I guess for the horns to grow in, and my teeth are all white and razor sharp. And pale, my face, so pale and grey…
I can tell that she is horrified, but it’s a little too late to stop anything now, and inside my head I can hear a muffled scream. My hands wrapping tightly around her slender neck, and she’s still warm and I can tell that she still loves me, which actually makes me hate her more, because how could she love this creature, this shell. I can see her mouth moving, the word ‘stop’ over and over again, but it’s almost done now, I can see myself coming out of her. And when her body falls over all rigid and frozen, I watch myself go twirling into the fire – I feel the scorching heat and the flames licking my entire body and my reflection laughs at me; then it was gone – all feeling, except a tiny flicker.