Life on Repeat - A Reflection

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


Fiction Drama Coming of Age

Friday 17:33

A student sits in the campus bar amidst the throng of other students. She is on her own reading the instructions for her first lesson. Her eyes bright and eager though apprehension lives on their edges.

Monday 09:30 Film Suite, Prof. Arkin

Lesson 1 – Dramatic portrayal of the everyday

Arrive 09:00 for full briefing and camera set up.

You will have 3 hours to create a short film using the attached script, prepare your interpretation now, the lesson has already begun.

Her mind’s eye plays out the entire scene in her head, her right hand feverishly writing colour coded annotations over the freshly printed script, seemingly an automatic response. The visions are ones of desperation, remorse, and grief. Not how she envisioned her films to be. This disturbs her although her minds eye continues to show her its filmic interpretation of the words in front of her eyes. It had done this for as long as she could recall, she was shocked to discover not everyone saw the world as a never-ending film where complete agency is kept by the actors but there was always someone, or something, capturing every minute of the actors’ lives. The sensation of being watched never left her. To her cameras and eyes are interchangeable, there are millions of cameras recording everything in this world.

<dark screen slowly fading out to reveal a digital alarm clock, red display lights with a missing vertical light on the 5>

Male voice over

(Regret, resentment and realisation in the tone)

It keeps me awake, the daily repetition and futility of it all. We are born, we grow, we make our way in the world. That’s our life, yeah life is the uncaring bitch who chews us up then spits us out as husks devoid of vitality, enthusiasm, energy and exuberance, once the flush and beauty known only to the young is devoured by its ceaseless pursuit of perfection through social calibration and peer comparison. Ultimately, that bitch does not give a fuck about any of us. Of course, there are other world views, other paths to traverse in this world, and even other societies engaging in selfless productive strategies; I belong to the race of rats, slaves to money and the trappings of materialism – a few realise the dream they are sold, enough to show it can be achieved and keep the rest of us eager and hungry. We are given an education allowing us to function according to the various systems’ requirements, allocated enough fear to remain obedient servants, and drip-fed systemic overtones of horror towards otherness deceitfully keeping us from galvanising in revolution. All this is realised after a lifetime of playing the systems’ games. Now I understand the rules, although the contract was signed decades ago. If I were to break the rules now it would render my pitiful life null and void; and what have I got to show for that ill-counselled contract signed decades ago? Self-loathing and loneliness befitting the failure I was always going to become, chasing a dream which was never mine to catch.

Monday 07:15 is illuminated in red on an alarm clock. Or it would do if the vertical light worked on the 5.

<camera pans out revealing the position of the clock and other items>

The alarm clock is black and analogue, the type popular forty years ago, scuff marks on all corners and a well-worn snooze button along the top edge. It is placed on a rickety wooden chair being used as a table. Next to the clock on the left sits a half drunken glass of water with scum residing along the rim, to the right of the clock an old yet functional mobile phone, behind the clock stands a bedside lamp without a shade. On the floor to the left propped against the outside wall is an empty whisky bottle.

<camera lingers on the bottle; the brand is not important though to show it is not a quality brand is essential. The camera pans to the bed>

A pile of clothes lay stricken at the end of the bed below the window, whilst under the bed a pair of shoes rest on their side, laces billowing freely across the uncarpeted floor. The shoes are of good quality leather, though dusty and seemingly forgotten about. The bed itself is of simple construction with threadbare covers and occupies much of the space, the walls are stained with damp and cigarette smoke.

<camera zooms out to reveal more of the room and then slowly rises in order to showcase the room in its entirety>

The room is small, and dark except for a shaft of sunlight piercing the ill-fitting curtains, illuminating part of the wall and ceiling above the bedhead. Dust particles dance in the sunbeam, reflecting light like diamonds. On the bed, amidst a heap of bed sheets, a figure is beginning to stir in readiness for another day of life on this planet. He has his morning scratch and stretches with a grimace etched across his face, turning into a scowl upon realisation he has another day of repetitive futility to negotiate.

<camera zooms in on the man’s face>

His eyes are red around the edges, his face sporting at least four days growth and his teeth yellowing with age, alcohol and caffeine. His short hair grey, unkempt and thinning. Beyond him the once fine bed clothes are now a yellowing colour, stained with sweat.

<camera zooms back out>

The middle-aged man begins to throw off the covers with his age weary soft arms and makes his way to the edge of the bed revealing his food-stained grubby grey T-shirt and black shorts; with holes where holes should not be. The T-shirt is snug around his generous waist.

<change viewpoint to base of the bed at kneeling height to capture the man vacating the bed and room>.

The man takes a moment to untangle his legs from the covers then swings his legs out of bed, bringing his body upright at the same time. Again, he stretches this time letting out a groan, then stands and walks across the tattered rug and quickly onto floorboards heading towards a door on his right.

(The only sounds are of the light rain on the window, car horns amongst the hum of life outside the window, the creak of elderly bed springs, groans of a human having slept on an uncomfortable bed, and heavy bare footed footsteps.)

<camera slowly follows the man and reveals the room ahead>.

(Visible through the door is a toilet straight ahead, a sink to the right, a shower cubicle to the left, a small window behind the toilet, and a small shaving mirror balanced precariously on small cupboard next to the sink.)

The middle-aged man staggers to the toilet, fumbles around to open his shorts and empties his bladder into a grimy toilet, farting loudly as he stands with his left hand on the wall to steady himself. The sink has a crack its entire width, though not deep enough to cause any leaks. The taps are encrusted with years of grime and the shower curtain hangs barely clinging to life from 3 shower rings. He shakes himself dry, tucks himself back into his shorts and turns to the sink to wash his hands. He is brought to a halt as he catches his reflection in the shaving mirror.

<Camera moves up and looks over his right shoulder to view the reflection>

The man grunts as he looks at the reflection staring back at him. A younger man with a striking resemblance to the middle-aged man, thick dark brown hair and an eager glint in his eye.


(Angry snarl)

Was it worth it? Come on you bright eyed, eager to please, piece of shit answer me, was it worth it?

Chasing after the promise they beat into you. Like a stupid faithful dog eager to please the cruel master, because that’s all he has ever known.

All the drinks and parties, the never-ending stream of frivolous one-night stands, exuberant cocktails and ignored mounting debts. Was it worth it to be left to rot in a rented bed sit the moment your use is negated by the bombardment of time, and unwise life choices?

(The reflection ages and morphs into the person we have already become acquainted with).

His regret is palpable as he looks at his stubbly face and neck in the mirror. A rasping sound greets his ears when he runs his hand over the growing hairs. He splashes water on his face and lathers it with soap. His right hand gathers the razor from the side of the sink and begins to erase the debris from his face. Short grey and light brown hairs appear in the basin, as a scraping sound fills the room.

<Camera pans out of the bathroom and retraces its steps to focus on the clock once more>

Monday 07:23

(The voice of the man can be heard in the distance mumbling over the sound of running, and splashing, water.)


(Passive tone tinged with anger.)

Miller was wrong, a man can be eaten and thrown away like fruit and its peel. I am but one of the millions of pieces of discarded peel. Our minds exhausted, and our bodies worthless rotting husks as we watch our masters grow fat on our fruits whilst they shamelessly groom the next fresh, ripe, plump batch of eager pups. The dream, oh the dream she laughs at us as our hearts weep. Our hearts, oh how they persisted in trying to warn us it was all a façade and futile, now they break as the last remnant of our spirit expires to the ravishes of time.

(Fade to black screen and the sound of the busy street below. The hopeful and free laughter of children becomes the only sound, then abruptly ends).

End credits – no music. {student note in blue ink – even if I can obtain suitably dark royalty free music, there is to be no music. Let them contemplate their own failings and shortcomings}

{Student annotation in red ink – no just no, don’t ever show that depressing version to anyone. You’ll be kicked off the course a complete failure. It’ll leave both you and the viewer feeling worthless. I am not supposed to show that, I am creating entertainment an escape from human failings}.

She lets out a loud sigh, visibly distressed by her reading and interpretation. Finishes her drink, places her pens and script into her bag before heaving it onto her shoulder and walks into the Ladies toilet. Her mind is still processing the script as she scrutinizes her own reflection in the wall mirror, she ponders about her own role in life and how best to show her interpretation of the script. What was she expected to do in order to please her professor and pass the course? Would it be worth it in the end?

A line of dialogue slams into her mind.

Was it worth it? Come on you bright eyed, eager to please, piece of shit answer me, was it worth it?

Monday 07:15

Alarm wails.

Monday 07:23

Piss, shower, dress, check the mirror, leave the flat.

Monday 09:00

arrive at class script read, and shooting schedule prepared. 

Life on Repeat – a Reflection

A short film by J.Dylinda

July 09, 2021 21:53

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