Behind the Mirror
There is someone in the mirror, and they don’t have a face. This is the last thought the girl had before she ended up… here.
Was this a here? At first, she didn’t notice that she had gone anywhere at all. The room resembled her own, but it was only a shadow of the original; where there had once been four walls, there were now infinite, with each corner sharp-edged as if the room had shattered like a broken mirror.
A strange idea occurred to her: perhaps she was in the mirror. She remembered the feeling of the cool surface beneath her fingers when she had reached out to touch it, and the sensation of a cold rush washing over her before she was engulfed in the dark. When a light is shined in a room with mirrored walls, the illumination is endless—this place felt like a backwards version of that phenomenon: instead of light, it reflected darkness over and over until she felt like she was drowning in it.
The girl could not remember how long she had been here, wherever here was, but the memory of life in the light was quickly slipping from her mind.
“Welcome to the In Between,” a voice called out. It echoed around the space, making it seem as if it was coming from everywhere and nowhere. “The world of shadows and reflections, a blurry image of your own.”
After what felt like hours, the sound faded enough for the girl to reply, “Where?” She heard the words of confusion leave her mouth, but then they were gone, slithering far, far away to reach unseen ears.
“Behind the mirror, silly,” the voice responded in a singsong manner. “I bet you never spared a moment to consider there was something there. But I don't blame you—I believe I was like you, once.”
The strange response was followed by a shrill laugh ringing at a pitch much higher than the girl thought humans—did the voice belong to a human?—were capable of producing. It pierced through the dark as if it were an arrow searching for its mark.
“I—I don’t understand,” the girl answered, inching backwards in an attempt to get far away from the source of the unsettling sound. She was waiting to feel her back hit the wall, to be supported by something sturdy as she began to tremble with fear, but the space only appeared to be expanding. No matter how far she went, the walls never seemed to get any closer—in fact, she was convinced they were moving too. “What is this place?”
“‘Place,’” the voice snickered, letting out a manic giggle that was as unending as the room’s growing size. “You call this a place? That would mean we’re somewhere specific, somewhere fixed, somewhere known, somewhere that can be found. No, no, no, no, no…” The final word was repeated over and over, getting louder each time—and closer. The girl was certain the source of the voice was nearing her, no matter how quickly she tried to scurry away.
“We are not Anywhere, anymore. We’re Nowhere! A dark, lonely, and endless spot outside of space and time…” Now, the voice echoed off into a heavy silence that lingered with despair that the girl found even more frightening. What could have possibly caused such hopeless turmoil? She frantically turned in a circle, scanning the emptiness for something she didn’t know how to identify. But there was nothing there, not until she finally dared to blink.
What she saw before her was a boy. Or, at least, it was shaped like a boy. The body seemed right: long limbs attached to a tall, slim frame as if it belonged to a youth who hadn’t yet grown into his features. It was clothed in shadows, its face covered in an impossibly dark mask.
Only it wasn’t a mask. Where there should have been a face, the boy—figure—shadow—had a gaping hole that looked into never-ending darkness.
If she had not been afraid before, the girl was certainly terrified now. Trying once more in vain to back away, she asked, “What are you?”
Though the shadow’s face was entirely featureless, the girl could have sworn she saw it break into a smile—one too large to look quite right. “That’s not a very nice way to greet someone, is it? I think I used to be a boy, though I suppose I’m not much of anything anymore…” It—he—rushed closer to her, trying to inspect her, and the very large space they were in suddenly became very small. The walls had closed in on them so that a disordered array of mirrors surrounded them on all sides, their reflections watching. Waiting.
The girl tried to flatten herself against the cool mirror on her backside to get as far away as possible from the shadow—figure—boy, but he was too close. The two of them were face to not-face. “You’re a girl. I was hoping for a boy, ” the Other, for she did not know what else to call it, mused. “I wanted a chance to relive what I lost… but beggars can’t be choosers, I suppose!” It—he—let out another desperate laugh of hysteria that went on for eternity.
She didn’t know what to do. Was she going to die? She didn’t want her life to end, most certainly not like this—however this was going to be.
The Other leaned closer until they were nose to not-nose. In a whisper, it—he—asked, “What is your name?”
The girl merely blinked. She did not know what she had been expecting, perhaps for his shadow of a face to swallow her into infinite darkness, but she certainly didn’t think they would be introducing themselves. For fear of offending it, she decided it would be best to answer the simple question. After all, no harm could be done by giving it—him—her name.
Oh, how wrong the girl was.
She told the Other her name and, to make up for her former rude question, she asked, “Who are you?”
She would never forget its—his—her—answer, for it was the reason the girl could no longer remember her own name.
“Who am I? Well, I’m you.” the Other answered. Only it was no longer the shadowed figure she had first seen. The girl watched in horror as its body transformed, limbs shrinking until the figure was of her own height and stature. The face of darkness warped to become a perfect replica of her own. Yet, it was not a replica; the girl hesitantly reached up to her own face to find that there was nothing left of it. In the reflections, she saw the same image over and over, the only event from her short life that would remain with her for eternity: where she stood, there was a figure made of shadows, and where the Other stood, there was the girl she used to be.
The Other—who was now the girl—smiled at her once more, but this time it was a real and proper smile, one that the girl—who was now the Other—had seen so many times before in the mirror. “I would apologize,” the girl said in her voice, “But I’m not sorry. Eternity has been quite the bore.”
For eons, the Other would wonder why she—it—did not do anything to stop the girl from leaving, why she did not put up a fight when her life—her self—was stolen from her.
She—it—had simply watched as the mirrors rippled and the girl stepped out. She—it—had stood frozen as the space expanded once more, as the darkness thickened, as the mirrors became clouded windows into the life that was once hers. It looked on as the girl whispered from the other side, “Enjoy your never-ending time in Nowhere,” before walking away. It could hear the faint sounds of its mother speaking a name that no longer belonged to it, accepting a stranger as her daughter and never realizing that anything had changed.
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