Me and the Mirror
William M. O'Brien, Jr.
One year after she was divorced, Nellie Beals moved to a distant city. She had accepted a position as a commercial artist at an up and coming firm close to the middle of town. Also she had heard there were many opportunities available to sell her own paintings. And a college nearby where she could teach if she wanted to.
She found an apartment, an older townhouse close to town, which was spacious enough for her to have a bedroom as well as a studio in another room.
When she was married, she had done her artwork in her bedroom because it had had the largest window in the place. Plenty of light there, but her then husband had counted her artwork among the many things he criticized her for.
But in her new apartment, there were bedrooms with banks of windows lining one wall. Plenty of light for artwork. Also, among the things that had attracted her to this particular townhouse was the fact that it was partially furnished. There were pieces of furniture almost in every room.
For instance the room she chose for her studio had an old couch and a chair. Her bedroom, next to her studio, had a bed, which looked almost new, a picture on the wall over her bed. A bureau on the far wall, and a Sheraton mirror beside the bed. And there were other brief furnishings in other rooms along with all the room she could be comfortable with.
She rearranged some of the furnishings and promised to buy more. One thing, however, caught her eye from the outset. What was a Sheraton mirror doing beside the bed? Shouldn’t it be by the door or at least someplace where she could use it while getting ready for work?
As soon as she began unpacking the things she had brought with her and emptied the truck she had rented, she moved the Sheraton mirror to the hall, where it would sit at the end of the hall outside her bedroom. To do this, she had to move a picture that was on the wall, an old print which she thought would look better in her dining room.
She quickly moved the picture and the mirror and then busied herself with unpacking things until she ate a brief supper and retired for the night, since she had to be at work by eight the next morning.
She slept soundly, comfortable in her new home. However, toward morning she was awakened suddenly by the sensation her covers were being pulled off her bed. Her immediate thought was that she was a child back home and her dog was pulling her covers off, as was his custom. But, coming to her senses, she rose up to her covers lying on the floor and the Sheraton mirror alongside her bed.
Annoyed, she discounted the covers as having been kicked off in her sleep, but the mirror. Why was it here by her bed?
She thought she had moved it to the hall. Had she moved it at all? Apparently she had only thought about it and not done it, as she had done such things in the past.
Getting out of bed she headed into the hall to find the old print in its place where the mirror should be.
Am I losing my mind, she thought. Or did I really screw up. Her absent mindedness was another thing her former husband had criticized.
Noticing four AM on the clock by the bed, she replaced her covers and wiggled under them. But she was still a bit alarmed by the mirror.
The next morning, although tired, she reported to work thirty minutes early. She had always been an early riser no matter how late she had retired the night before. But this morning she had a drowsiness she hoped would not be noticed by her new associates, and especially her new boss, who, although not an artist himself, was very well versed in the commercial art field. In fact, he had found and hired her. She had not found him. However, this morning she was very self-conscious of her sluggishness.
Things went well that first day and the
first thing she did upon returning from work was move the Sheraton mirror
to the hall and take the old print to the dining room. She moved other pieces
of furniture around as well, all the time noting the position of the mirror
in the hall each time she entered it.
“There, that’s much better,” she said to herself.
Satisfied that everything was how she wanted it and shrugging off the mirror’s supposed movement as just the result of her absentmindedness, she made a drink and sat down in a comfortable chair in the living room.
She was amazed at the amount of space she had in the apartment. Although old, the interior had apparently been remodeled and new carpets had been laid down. She was particularly proud of her new studio, a corner room where daylight flooded in no matter what the weather. She would have plenty of light to work at home.
Later that night, warmed by the drinks she had had, she settled into her bed and read for an hour before she turned out the light.
I even have a storeroom I could turn into a library if I wanted, she thought, after turning out the light. There were five boxes of books on the storeroom floor along with a couple of suitcases.
The next morning she awoke, refreshed, to find the Sheraton mirror not by her bed, but in the hall where she had moved it the evening before.
“Well, that’s a relief,” she said to herself. “I thought I was going crazy.” Laughing at herself, she went about eating a small breakfast and then readying herself for work. Twice she walked into the hall to examine herself in the mirror.
After a busy day, she returned to her apartment to find the mirror back by the side of the bed. The thought immediately crossed her mind that the caretaker may have moved it, thinking that its proper place was beside the bed. That can be the only explanation, she thought.
“I must speak with him,” she said aloud, as she moved the mirror again into its place in the hall. Of course she had to move the print back to the dining room to its proper place.
After dinner and TV that night, she retired to bed, stopping in the hall to stare at the mirror and wonder what will happen next. “What good could a mirror do beside a bed,” she mumbled to herself.
But the next morning she awoke to find the mirror back beside the bed.
“What in the name of God,” she said aloud, still drowsy from sleep. She angrily kicked the covers off to the floor and sat up. Then she shifted her body toward the mirror.
“Why the hell are you back here,” she barked at her reflection in the mirror.
However, her reflection, instead of her angry self, showed a grinning face that rapidly spread to a wide smile.
“What…What in hell…” Nellie backed away across the bed. But when she reached the opposite edge, she turned back to the mirror to find it had gone blank, showing only the darkened bed with ruffled bed covers.
She sat and stared at the blank mirror, slowly catching her breath.
“Am I losing my mind,” she muttered through clenched teeth. “Where in the name of God did this come from?” she whispered, still staring at the mirror.
Now she was afraid to touch it but somehow, she knew, she had to get the mirror out of the room. But where was she to put it? She wanted it out of her house.
Suddenly the mirror returned to its proper form, her image reflected and only what could be seen of the darkened room behind her.
Nellie rose and, after moving her bed away a few inches, turned the Sheraton mirror to the wall.
“Now, it can’t reflect anything,” she muttered, sitting on the side of the bed after the movement. The mirror had been surprisingly heavy, heavier than she would have thought. She didn’t remember the mirror being so heavy when she had moved it out of the room. Anyway, the movement to the wall took the troublesome object temporarily out of her life. Later, she would dispose of the mirror.
She could not return to sleep as the weird image of her own reflection remained in mind. How has this happened, she asked herself over and over. Was this a trick of her sight? Her mind. This was certainly something that had never happened to her before.
Even though she had not returned to sleep, she returned to work the next morning. She thought about telling someone about her experience, but decided against it as these people were only very new acquaintances. The thought of this made her feel alone with her problem. After work she would call a close friend in her hometown and tell her about it. She wouldn’t trouble her parents, who lived in the same town.
Later that day, she was clearing her workplace when she came across a picture, apparently recently drawn, of the Sheraton mirror.
Did I draw this my first day on the job? She thought. That was the only explanation. She wadded up the drawing and tossed it into a nearby waste basket. But the troubling thought was she didn’t remember doing the drawing at all. She always had vivid memories of everything she drew or painted, whether it was bad or not.
On the way home that day, she thought about the drawing as well as the troubling experience of the night before. She still could not remember doing the drawing she had found.
At home she found the mirror still facing the wall, although she had expected it to be turned around facing the bed again. She vowed she would not touch it but go about the business of feeding herself supper and preparing for work the next day. But something now told her things were not right.
Something weighed upon her. Something in the house, a sinister presence that she couldn’t see, or touch or smell. But it was there, waiting for her.
All her life, she had had a strong mind and a strong will. But she had never encountered anything like this before. She vowed she would try to ignore it and go about her business for she knew that this thing was just a figment of her mind, brought on by the incidents of the mirror. And she now realized she had moved the mirror the first day in her apartment.
That night after a refreshing shower, she went to bed to read for a while before she went to sleep. But what she was reading, although it was interesting, put her into a deep sleep.
She awoke at three AM with the light still on and her book open on top of her. Sitting up in bed she immediately noticed a strange smell, as if someone in the kitchen was cooking something.
“Now what the hell is that?” she mumbled to herself. She arose and headed into the kitchen, thinking there might be a gas leak. But whatever this was didn’t smell like gas. It was something else.
Nellie opened two windows in the living room and the single one in the bedroom.
However, the hideous smell lingered. She came to the conclusion that there was something dead nearby, maybe a rat in the wall.
“That’s the only thing it could be,” she mumbled to herself. She wished she had some fans to help the stink out of the apartment, but she had left them behind in her former home.
That day at work, a sleepy Nellie barely accomplished her daily tasks. But, on top of everything else, she was still worried by what she would find when she arrived home. She would soon find out.
Walking into her bedroom to hang up her coat, she immediately noticed the Sheraton mirror turned back around, facing the bed.
“Now what the hell does this mean?” she muttered to herself.
Tearfully, she stationed herself in front of it on the other side of the bed, but the only reflection was the right one. Her standing in her work clothes.
At a loss at what to do next, she decided to let the mirror alone and see what happened next. She already knew that if she removed the monstrosity, it would return to its present location. And if she turned it around, it would right itself again.
She could destroy it. She had a claw hammer and an alley in which to accomplish this task. However, what would happen next? She did not want to find this out.
So, at bedtime, she retired, all the time keeping an eye on the mirror, which she dared not touch.
That night she had a dream in which a darkened figure had walked out of the mirror and stood on top of her. She had no sensation of anyone or anything on top of her so she stayed asleep as the figure squatted and focused its face on her face on the pillow.
For a while the figure did not move, but suddenly its head moved closer to hers until it was less that ten inches away. Then two large eyes opened and stared straight at her.
Immediately she awoke. Now she felt the sensation of a weight on top of her but the configuration was gone.
She sat up and immediately switched on her bedside light. Turning to the mirror, she saw nothing but the reflected mussed up bedcovers and the opposite wall.
The time was four-thirty, but she dare not go back to sleep. Instead she rose, headed into the kitchen and made coffee. Then, she returned to her bed, coffee cup in hand, lay down on the bed and stared at the mirror.
What’s the next move, Monstrosity? She thought.
Finishing her cup, she set it on the nightstand and then moved down the bed to the mirror. But when she turned to stare into the mirror, there was no reflection. She simply wasn’t there.
The bed was there; the rumpled bed clothes were there, but she wasn’t. Feeling horror welling up within her, she jumped up from the bed and stared again into the mirror.
This time, however, her reflection appeared in the mirror.
“My God, this thing is making me lose my mind,” she sobbed. She sat on the edge of the bed and buried her face in her hands. There after crying for some minutes, she came up with an idea.
“Antique stores buy Sheraton mirrors, don’t they?” She whispered to herself.
Suddenly, she felt much better. She had come up with a solution. She turned toward the mirror and stepped in front of it. Her reflection again appeared. “Today’s Saturday. And by tonight, You’ll be history,” she said aloud to the mirror.
That morning, with the help of a gardener, Nellie loaded the mirror into the trunk of her car. Part of the item hung out of the trunk so she had to tie down the lid with a heavy cord. She asked the gardener if he knew where there were any antique stores nearby and he told her there was a big one only seven blocks from her apartment.
So that was where she headed. She had no idea how much she could get for the mirror, but, at this point, she would accept anything she was offered.
An old woman in the shop offered a hundred dollars for the mirror, which she gladly accepted, and left the shop feeling like a great burden had been lifted from her shoulders. Now the damned thing can cut up all it wants to, she thought on her way home.
After supper that night, Nellie opened a bottle of wine she had brought from her old apartment and drank half of it, thinking that now she was free, she might as well celebrate.
At bedtime, lifted just enough by the wine to feel apprehensive, she was overjoyed to see the blank space beside her bed where the mirror had stood. The easy feeling along with the drink put her into a deep sleep that lasted until morning.
However, she awoke, expecting to find the mirror back in its place, and when she discovered it not there, she experienced a feeling of joy that lasted through Sunday until Monday morning.
Over lunch that day she told some new found
friends about her experience with the mirror. Both retaliated with their
own “psychic” experiences, one later informing Nellie about
how valuable antique Sheraton mirrors could be. Passing off the day’s
elocutions as one-upmanship, she still was comforted by the knowledge that
the troublesome item was out of her life.
Days passed, days that brought a change in her work that she interpreted as a “promotion” as well as a possible boyfriend with whom she began to spend more and more time.
Albert, known to his friends as just “Al,” was that stalwart commodity in the job world known as the “workplace comedian.” He had heard from one of Nellie’s new acquaintances about her experiences with the mirror.
“Mirrors do funny things,” Al said over drinks after work one evening. “With my looks I try to avoid them.”
“It was a harrowing experience, I tell you.” Nellie sipped her drink while speaking. “And finally, thank God, I got rid of it.”
Nellie and Al began to frequent the same nearby bar after work two or three times a week, until one day, Nellie confronted something that was apparently new in the place.
Sitting against a wall near the restrooms was a Sheraton mirror. When she first noticed it, Nellie was terrified. It had not been there before or she would have noticed it while visiting the women’s room.
“They probably just got it,” Al remarked. “Didn’t you say you sold it in a place nearby? And how do you know it’s the same one you sold?”
“It’s got to be. I recognize the design at the top of it. “
Fearing the worst, Nellie rose and walked slowly over to the mirror next to the hall leading to the restrooms. Hesitatingly, she stepped in front of it. She appeared in the reflection as she should have. There was nothing strange about the mirror here.
“It’s probably not the mirror you sold,” Al remarked when she returned to her seat. “You’re mirror is probably giving hell to someone else who bought it.”
“I don’t know.” Nellie shook her head slowly. “It sure looks like it.”
All the way home that night, she couldn’t get the strange encounter at the bar off her mind. Was it thereal mirror, or one just like it.? She didn’t know much about Sheraton mirrors, but something told her that the encounter was more than just mere coincidence.
A few days later, Nellie and Al revisited the same bar with the mirror only to find the mirror was gone.
“Maybe they moved it to a private room,” Al said. “Or maybe some drunk busted it and they had to get rid of it.”
“I don’t know, Al. But this is really weird.” Nellie folded her arms in front of her. “It’s like…It’s like the damned thing is following me.”
The vanished mirror lay in Nellie’s mind all that week and into the next. She wondered where the phantom mirror would turn up next for she knew that it would.
And turn up it did, in a restaurant where Nellie was having a quick lunch. She had become sick at her stomach upon suddenly spotting the thing over a crowd of customers. Al had mentioned that the mirror wasn’t the only one in town, that there was bound to be others because at one time they were popular. But she knew that this one was her former mirror.
She rose and headed for the exit without finishing her food. In a small alley across from the restaurant she threw up and began to cry.
“What the hell is going on,” she sobbed.
Only a strong will allowed her to return to work that day. And after work she was afraid to go home, afraid the hideous mirror would be there.
It was not there, when she eventually returned home and immediately made herself a drink. Now the question was where would it turn up again. It was only a matter of waiting.
That night, she awakened at two AM, thinking the hated mirror was back in her bedroom. She switched on her nightstand light and examined her room all around to find nothing there. Only her bed, nightstand and closet, the door standing open. No mirror.
After fetching a drink of water, she returned to bed and tried to sleep. However, she was so keyed up she remained awake until her alarm startled her at six AM.
“This is ridiculous,” she whispered to herself while dressing for work. “What the hell am I afraid of? Some damned old mirror that nobody seems to want. If I keep on being afraid of it, I’m going to lose my mind.”
At work that day, she felt better than she had in days. She fully expected the mirror to turn up somewhere but she would ignore it. Hopefully, eventually it would go away.
But the mirror didn’t turn up. Anywhere she went. Soon Nellie found herself looking for it, but for four weeks, there was no trace of the mirror.
Now she began to believe that the hideous object was out of her life for good. Four weeks and no trace of it.
One night she filled Al in on what had been happening in the meantime.
“It’s been four weeks now,” she said over a mug of beer. “And I haven’t even seen that creepy mirror.”
“I think someone along the way got rid of it for good.” Al took a long sip of his beer and smiled. “It’s probably in some junk shop now for sale.”
“Better there than here. Or better still at my place.” Nellie took another sip and scanned the room. “Can you believe that damned thing scared the shit out of me. I’m hoping it’s on a trash heap somewhere.”
“And now it’s gone.” Al looked around the bar himself. “Have you ever thought you might not be the only one the damned thing was scaring? There might be other people cursed by that thing.”
“It wouldn’t surprise me.” Nellie shuttered. “That night with that thing in my house by my bed. I thought I was losing my mind.”
“You probably imagined a lot of that.”
“Maybe so. But now it’s all over and I can get on with my life.” She took another sip. “I find myself wondering who left that thing in my apartment to begin with.”
Al laughed. “Maybe a sorcerer. Or a wizard. Or an evil queen.” He laughed out loud.
“Or maybe a clown.” Nellie smiled.
Another week without encountering the mirror and the hated object was all but for gotten.
One night at the end of the month, Nellie had an important date for a party at her bosses’ house so she had to hurry home and dress.
Entering her apartment, she quickly kicked off her shoes and headed into the hall toward her bedroom.
She was almost at her bedroom door, when she was halted, dead still.
Three feet in front of her stood the mirror, in the hallway where she had wanted it in the first place.
But now the woman was stricken with a terror that would not let her move.
When the horror of the mirror’s presence began to subside, another took its place. In the mirror there was no reflection. Where Nellie’s body should be standing, there was nothing but a hallway leading to the living room at the other end of the hall.
Forcing herself to move, Nellie walked up to the mirror and turned toward her bedroom door but before she could take another step, something latched hold of her left arm.
She turned to see a hand, her hand, clasping her arm just above the elbow. She then looked up to see her own reflection in the mirror, reaching out and grabbing her left arm.
Momentarily frozen by the horror of her situation, she suddenly tried to jerk herself loose from the monstrous grasp. The effort, however, resulted in the reflection reaching its right arm out and grabbing Nellie by her waist belt.
With all of the strength she could muster, Nellie jerked her left arm toward her, the momentum forcing her body to slam into the frame of her bedroom door.
Doubling over in pain, she made her way to her bed where she turned around to see her reflection climbing out of the mirror, its eyes all the time staring at her.
“What in hell is this!” Nellie screamed, holding her painful left arm close with her right hand. She was now collapsed on the floor beside her bed.
The monstrous reflection paid no heed, but instead stepped into the room toward Nellie.
Her left arm now throbbing, Nellie reached
a shoe under her bed and flung it at the oncoming apparition.
The missile, however, sailed effortlessly through the reflection and struck the wall of the hall outside the door.
Nellie crawled on top of her bed as the thing came on.
She grabbed a pillow and flung it at the thing, but it, too, met no obstruction, sailing into the hall and falling harmlessly on the floor near the bathroom door.
Now Nellie realized that if she didn’t act fast, the thing would be on her.
She scooted over to the floor on the other side of her bed and, rising to a squat, darted toward the bedroom door, keeping the monstrous vision on the other side of her bed in her eyesight.
She reached the door, but was halted by a sudden grasp on the back of her blouse. Ripping the front savagely, she tore the blouse off her, the buttons popping off onto the floor.
As fast as she possibly could, she reached the living room.
In the living room she stopped to see if the awful presence had followed her. Totally out of breath, she put her hand on her head and turned around again away from the hall. At that moment, totally unexpected, the doorbell.
Much relieved, she opened the door to a smiling Al, whose countenance completely changed when he looked upon Nellie.
“I have just had a god-awful experience like the ones I told you about,” she said, her hands clasped together in front of her. “But this time, it’s much, much, worse.”
She invited the young man in and, still breathing heavily, in as much detail as she could muster told him about what had occurred just prior to his visit.
“That’s the damndest thing I have ever heard, Nellie.” He shook his head and lay back on the couch. “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were making it up, or smoking something”
“Come on,” she said, turning around to the hall door. “I’ll show you the mirror. It’s the same one we saw in the restaurant and the bar. I know damned well it is.”
He rose and followed her into the hall where the Sheraton mirror stood at the end just by the bedroom door.
Nellie watched her reflection in the mirror, followed by that of Al just behind her. When they reached the bedroom door, they were in arms reach of the mirror.
“All right, you piece of shit! Do your stuff!” Nellie’s hands darted out and struck the hateful object, knocking it back against the wall.
“I don’t see anything wrong now,” Al remarked, still behind Nellie.
“Al, I swear to God this thing came alive.” Her chest rose in frustration, the horror not completely subsided within her. “It followed me in there.” She pointed into her bedroom. I barely got out of there before it grabbed me.”
“You say your own reflection.”
“Yes, damn it. My own damned reflection.” Now she turned facing her friend. “I don’t know what it would have done if it had grabbed me again.”
Nellie could tell Al didn’t know what to believe. What…what are you going to do now?” He asked, shaking his head.
“Didn’t you once tell me you carry a baseball bat in your car?”
“Yeah. For defense…”
“Go get it!”
“Oh, God,” he said. “You’re not going to…”
“Yes, I am.” She turned back around. “I’m going to stand here and watch this thing carefully. Then when you get back, I’m going to smash the living shit out it. I’m going to put it and whatever shit is in it completely out of existence. I mean there’s not going to be enough of this damned thing left to put in a trashcan.”
“Okay.” Al slowly shook his head again.
“Go get it, damn it!”
Al slowly ambled out the door while Nellie, arms crossed over her chest, stepped back two paces and riveted her eyes on the mirror.
All seemed to be well. Nellie’s reflection in the mirror before her was normal. But she knew better.
Sooner than she had expected Al returned, baseball bat in hand.
“I still think what you are going to do is very foolish,” he said, handing the bat to the woman. “What about seven year’s bad luck?”
“That’s bullshit,” she said. “Stand back. I’m going to end this shit once and for all.”
With all the strength she could muster, she slammed the bat into the hideous mirror again and again, until she had only shards of shattered class of every size, metal parts, and broken wood in a large pile at the end of the hall. Much of the remains of the mirror lay on Nellie’s shoes.
She stepped back away from the rubble. “Now, “she said. “Let’s get the broom and sweep up this crap. I have two large sacks in the laundry room down behind the garage we can put it all in.”
“Be careful and don’t cut yourself with that glass,” Al remarked as he headed into the kitchen for the broom while she went to the laundry room for the bags.
Carefully, Nellie swept while Al held open each bag. In only a short time they had the remains of the mirror in the bags and were headed to a dumpster down the street from Nellie’s workplace.
“If I could get away with it, I would burn this shit,” Nellie had said when they set out, the two bags in the bed of Al’s truck.
“Free at last Thank God I’m free at last,” Nellie announced after they dumped the bags. They headed to a nearby bar for a nightcap, it being too late for the boss’s party.
However, she was apprehensive, as usual, that night when she entered her apartment to go to bed. Her biggest fear was fear of the unknown. The unknown qualities of the mirror, now shattered into pieces and lying in a mile away dumpster.
Again there was a period where nothing happened, but after two weeks, Nellie began to be apprehensive again. This had happened before. The mirror had appeared out of nowhere after she had thought it was long gone. Now she began to expect its appearance, in some shape after being rendered into many pieces.
But this did not happen. Now she began to think her experience with the mirror was truly over. It had not survived its destruction. She would sleep better now.
Shortly after Nellie’s complete resolve to put her horrible problem behind her, she and Al visited a popular bar and grill where they had never been before, miles from their work, to celebrate the Friday night onset of the weekend.
She and Al found a table after a short wait and after a few beers, Nellie rose and announced she had to visit the ladies’ room.
At the door, she met a stout women who blurted out, “It’s all yours, honey.”
Nell just smiled and entered the rest room. Just inside the door, though, at the wash basins, a figured straightened up and turned around.
A familiar figure stepped toward her. Wearing the same short, denim skirt, the same cotton shirt, the same jacket, and, most hideous of all, the same face.
Nellie was facing herself. A mirror. A
reflection of herself.
The figure stepped up to her.
“You destroyed my home, my shelter. You bitch.” Suddenly, It produced a large butcher knife from behind its right thigh and thrust it solidly into Nellie’s stomach.
“This is what you get,” it announced, and then vanished.
It wasn’t long before Nell was on her way to the hospital, accompanied in the ambulance by a bewildered and frightened Al. There, in the hospital emergency room, there was much rushing about to get the stricken woman into surgery.
Only when Nellie came to two days later, was she able to answer a few questions:
From a detective in a corduroy coat who leaned over her head and questioned, “Who stabbed you?”
“You wouldn’t believe,” the weak reply.
“Try me.” The cop’s response
In weak, halting testimony, she explained she had been stabbed by a woman she did not know who had vanished. The detective turned to Al, who stood nearby.
“The city’s full of crazy bastards,” Al replied.
Nellie survived and recovered, despite
the ER doc’s “You should be dead.” From then on she lived
apprehensively, not knowing whether she would confront her “other
self” again. The mirrors in her apartment became smaller and smaller
until she used a hand mirror on a stand to ready herself in the mornings.
And as far as her clothes went, she relied on reflections in store windows
on her way to work.
Later, she told a coworker what had happened to her, leaving out the most unbelievable parts. In turn, she learned of the concept of the doppelganger, the exact copy of the individual, one who is never encountered.
She certainly had a reply to this, one
which she knew would not be believed. She had found hers, and it had almost
cost her her life.