A cat in the mirror

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

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Science Fiction Fantasy Horror

The sound of the mobile phone alarm woke Darren up. It was still dark and the room freezing cold. It was a crime to leave the warm and cozy bed on that cold winter Monday morning. But Darren had a job, and there was no way to stay in bed and continue his sweet sleep.

Darren was a graduate civil engineer and had recently secured his first job. And there were many more unemployed graduate civil engineers willing to fill his place if he loses his position. Therefore, he couldn’t afford to stay in bed and call sick and risk losing his job. He reluctantly got out the bed, walked to the kitchen, and turned the electric kettle on. Then walked into the bathroom. He turned the light on and looked at his face in the mirror. It looked dirty with two days’ growth of stubble. Darren rubbed the stubble on his chin. It felt like coarse sandpaper. He took his Chick Shaving foam and applied a generous amount of lather on his face. As he was a hairy man with a thick beard, experience had taught him to give shaving foam a minute or two to absorb by his skin, to soften his coarse facial hairs. So he walked back into the kitchen, took his French press out of the cupboard, added two teaspoons of coffee grounds in it, and filled it with boiled water, and left it to brew. Coffee was his drug, and without it, he couldn’t function.

Darren returned to the bathroom, took his Chick razor, got close to the mirror, and began shaving by moving the razor from his neck upward. While facing the mirror and busy shaving, a sudden movement behind him, more accurately behind his reflection in the mirror, attracted his attention. He sensed an animal, likely a cat rushed across the bathroom floor behind him. He immediately turned his head and inspect the bathroom. There was nothing. Darren didn’t have a cat, and in that cold weather, he kept all doors and windows shut, so the chance of a stray cat sneaked into his flat was near zero. Darren quickly dismissed it as an illusion and blame the lack of proper sleep as the cause of his vision. He soon finished shaving, and after having a quick breakfast, left home toward the nearby bus station. His residence was just less than ten kilometers away from the city center and his workplace, and with heavy morning traffic and the high cost of parking, it wasn’t economical to drive if he had a car. Darren would ride his bike if it was summer. Now his bicycle was in winter hibernation inside the apartment’s storage room.

Winter passed, spring came, and soon spring gave its place to summer. And Darren had totally forgotten about his weird experience while shaving on that wintery day.  

Finally, it was summer with its long warm days and pleasant evenings, and Darren, like most people, was happy and tried to take the most advantage of the season. Darren was a summer person and a sun worshiper. Summer was the party season for him, but partying and correlated unhealthy eating habits aggravated his acne. Darren had been suffering from acne since his teenagehood. Though his acne wasn’t as bad as when he was in high school. Still, at twenty-four, he had sporadic pimples on his face, mainly on his nose, chick bones, or forehead. And now he had a big pimple appeared on his nose since last weekend, the punishment of having lots of fatty food and alcoholic beverages. The pimple grew from a small red spot to an ugly red giant boil in just a few days. This morning, it was red with a firm sizeable white head, like a mountain with its snowcap. After a long life battle with acne and pimples, he knew well it was ready to pop.

Darren took the tissue box and the alcohol gel dispenser and walked into the bathroom. He put some alcohol gel on a piece of tissue and wiped his nose clean. Then got closer to the mirror and began pushing on the base of that monstrous boil.

 With a muffled popping sound, the pimple’s head exploded, and a large amount of pus jumped at the mirror and stained it. Darren took a piece of tissue and began removing that disgusting, white, gooey stuff from the mirror. It was at that time he saw the reflection of a gray cat calmly sitting behind him. Darren turned his head and examined his back. To his surprise, there wasn’t any cat behind him. However, when he turned his attention to the bathroom’s reflection in the mirror, the cat was still there, calmly grooming its fur. Darren panicked jumped one step back. His reflection simultaneously did the same reaction and jumped away from the mirror. Darren again checked the bathroom. For sure, there was no cat there. But in the mirror, in the bathroom’s reflection, the cat was still there, busy leaking its front legs.

The sight of the cat scared Darren out of his wits. And as fast as his muscles let him, he ran out of the bathroom. He was scared and couldn’t calm himself. What he saw there in the mirror was like a scene out of a supernatural thriller movie and shouldn’t happen in real life. While pacing around his lounge room, he anxiously asked himself, ‘What was that? Am I hallucinating?’

After Darren’s nerves chilled a bit, his curiosity kick in. He wanted to recheck the mirror. ‘My mind played a trick, and what I saw was an illusion.’ Darren argued with himself. After all, he was a rational person. Darren forced himself back into the bathroom to see if the cat was still there or not. So, with unsteady steps, he struggled into the bathroom. His reflection simultaneously appeared in the large mirror and mimicked his movements, as we all expect from our reflection in the mirror to do. There was no sign of the cat. It made him a bit relaxed. Then, out of the blue, a thought, an idea, passed through his mind. He walked back to his room, took a notepad and pen, and returned to the bathroom. His reflection had also held an exact notepad and pen. Nothing out of the ordinary.

Darren momentarily stared at his image, and the image stared back at him, then wrote, My name is Darren Smith, on the notepad. And held it faced the mirror. As he expected, his reflection did the same, and he read in reverse, My name is Darren Smith.

Darren flipped to a new page and wrote, I am a civil engineer.

His reflection wrote the same thing in reverse. I am a civil engineer.

Darren then flipped to a new page and hesitantly wrote, I don’t have a cat.

His reflection did the same thing. But this time, he wrote in reverse, I have a cat. It sent a shiver down his spine, and with a sharp and piercing scream, he ran out of the bathroom and apartment. Two days later, Darren moved to another apartment, as he couldn’t live in that haunted flat anymore.

Now seventy years old and retired, forty-six years after that bizarre incident, still he could clearly remember that weird event as if it happened yesterday. Darren had experienced nothing like that again. But he had never stopped looking for an answer. He wanted to know what exactly happened on that day in that old flat. He attended countless seminars and read many books on supernatural events, but none gave him a satisfying answer. They all sounded fake and unscientific. Until one day, he watched a BBC documentary on alternate universes. Apparently, besides the universe we live in, there are infinite parallel universes. Some similar to our universe, and others totally different. Now he was convinced that by a freak of nature, that mirror was a window to an alternated universe. That universe was an exact copy of this universe but in reverse until his doppelganger got a pet cat. So from that point, two universes began diverting apart. But how could he prove his hypothesis? The best strategy was to stay silent and kept it to himself. Otherwise, he would easily be branded as a crazy old man.

July 06, 2021 09:54

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