Upon Reflection

Submitted into Contest #101 in response to: Write a story that involves a reflection in a mirror.... view prompt

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Fiction Horror


“Don’t. Don - don’t come any closer.”


The figure does not respond, except to take one step forward and wait, watching her with eyes unblinking.


Jaya stumbles backwards, palms out and pleading. She trips on the corner of a rug and falls hard, thrusting an arm behind her as she does, in attempt to break the impact. The figure - the, woman? - does not react, and Jaya’s fingers fumble blindly for something, anything, to defend herself with.


They find nothing, and so she sits there, on her treacherous rug, and raises her fists, hoping to intimidate, and knowing she simply looks pathetic, with her legs splayed before her and every cell in her body straining to lean away. “I’m warning you,” she calls out, limbs trembling. “Stay back.”


The finger tilts its head slowly, tilts its blank, blank face, and Jaya is certain that behind those glassy eyes it feels amused.


It regards her for a long, silent moment. Then, as slow and expressionless as before, the figure straightens, and turns.


Frozen on the floor, Jaya watches her reflection walk away.


****************************************************************************


She does her best to clear the incident from her mind. She throws the rug over the looking glass, and goes about her business the best she can, and if she seems a little pale, a little withdrawn, then it is nobody's business but her own.


Her mother accepts her excuse of feeling ill with ease; she suspects her lie is aided by the anxiety she is sure has made a home on her face - her mother has commented more than once on her pallor. Her eyelids hang heavy with tiredness, and she is sure her complexion is wan.


She wouldn't know. She is yet to uncover the mirror, and besides which, she knows that her reflection has not returned. She knows from the way that she cannot see herself in her washing basin anymore, and from looking at window panes when the sky is black and seeing only stars - she knows it empirically, but she knows it irrationally as well, bone deep, with a certainty that frightens her anew.


Still, she tries to feign ignorance, and feels marginally better for it, though she never even comes close to convincing herself of the lie. It works, to an extent. It works enough that she can make it through each day scared and on edge, but functional. Just barely.


It works enough that, out on a stroll on a bright sunny morning, her mood is light enough that she can almost imagine that she did invent the whole thing. For the first time in many weeks she is calm, as she lets the sun bear down on her, lets the light and warmth chase away the fears and evils that plague her steps.


When the wind blows her hat into the pond at the centre of the park, she barely hesitates before kneeling besides the water to retrieve it. As if to reward her for this recovered state of mind, she looks down to see her reflection gazing up at her, perfect imitation and perfectly innocuous. Jaya breathes, and does not flinch when her hat drifts here and there in the breeze, settling for a moment over the head of her mirror image as if it were wearing the thing.


As if to reward her for this newfound stoicism, her reflection smiles, eyes locked on her own, lips thin and knowing. It raises a hand to the rim of her hat, and nods, as though to doff it, and Jaya runs home screaming and does not care who hears her.


****************************************************************************


She does not leave the house anymore.


She cites the worsening of her sham sickness as her reason, and her mother does not realise her deception. Something in her face must once again complement her lie. She still would not know.


Her reflection has returned, and returned with vengeance. She refuses to see it - refuses to lift the rug from over the mirror, refuses to draw back her curtains at night. When she washes at night it is swiftly with her eyes screwed shut, and when she eats she keeps her gaze trained resolutely away from the silverware.


It does not matter. She can feel its eyes watching her. It comes and goes, though she does not know how or why, and finds her where she least expects it, and perverts the natural world by staring at her back, so that both person and image are facing the same direction.


It waits in the window panes she cannot control, in floorboards as they’re being polished, in her mother’s golden jewellery and her worried gold eyes. It oftentimes does not reside in these place even though all logic would dictate it should. She no longer knows whether she is more frightened when her reflection is there or when it has disappeared.


She walks through a carpeted hallway in near darkness, staring down, and when she raises her head she thinks, just for a moment, that she can make out her own face and figure standing in the open doorway, and from that point on new terrors haunt her every waking hour.


****************************************************************************


Sometimes her reflection visits while she sleeps. She knows these are dreams, because there it speaks.


It taunts her, tone in flux between crooning and mockery. ‘Look at me,’ the reflection says, ‘free to go as I please, wherever that may be.’


‘Look at you,’ it says, ‘trapped eternal in a prison of your own design.’


‘Look at us,’ it whispers, ‘and know that I am growing more real than you will ever be.’


****************************************************************************


She does not leave her room anymore.


The maid comes, footsteps timid, and leaves meals outside her door that she rarely eats. Her mother comes, footsteps measured, purposeful, and calls to her from behind the door, and sighs as she takes her leave when there is no answer.


Sometimes, the footsteps outside her room are so light that she knows she should not be able to feel them, and are merely accompanied by syncopated knocks on her door. Jaya buries her head beneath her bedclothes and prays that those sounds she only imagined.


She does not leave her room. She barely leaves her bed. The curtains are drawn; the mirror is covered. She does not see her reflection anymore, but it hardly matters. She is scared. Fear is her constant companion. As surely as she does not know where her reflection goes when it is not following her, she knows that her end is coming.


****************************************************************************


Jaya stands, knuckles white around a fire poker, hand outstretched and trembling.


Enough, she thinks.


She stands before the covered mirror, hand outstretched and poker raised, and tears away the rug.


Her reflection stands there waiting, and its eyes widening is the last thing Jaya sees before she smashes the glass.


****************************************************************************


It was a mistake.


Shards of glass lay scattered around her, pointed like icy daggers, and she is surrounded. Her reflection moves from fragment to fragment without a care, and she is cornered with nowhere to run.


She feels a presence behind her, and suddenly it does not matter that she is barefoot and trapped. She throws herself away, bleeding soles and all, towards the large wardrobe in the corner of her room, the one last safe place in this fraught haven of hers that she has so utterly destroyed.


There, behind the walnut doors, it is dark. She curls up in a space where reflections cannot exist, and hears movement in the room she has fled. Her breaths come shaky, as she closes her eyes and waits for the inevitable.


****************************************************************************


Jaya wakes already standing.


Her back is straight, braced by a wall of some kind, and she looks out into her bedroom.


She cannot move, but in her confusion this does not panic her as much as it should, until she sees someone step into her limited view.


Her reflection is before her once more, blank face and blank eyes. It regards her for a long, long moment, and then tilts its head.


Jaya strains to keep still, but her body will not obey her, and her reflection smiles, amused, as her neck creaks and rotates in two dimensions, far further than a human body should, in painful imitation.


As slow as before, her reflection turns and leaves the room, and then only Jaya remains, frozen in place, trapped behind glass.


July 10, 2021 00:36

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