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The House of No Reflection

*Content warning*

By Susanna KiernanPublished about a year ago Updated about a year ago 13 min read
Runner-Up in Broken Mirror Challenge
The House of No Reflection
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

“The mirror showed a reflection that wasn't my own.” Samantha Banes said, while David wrote notes at a furious pace on the yellow paper pad on his lap. She sat curled up in her armchair looking into the distance, as if the window beside her was not obstructed by a daylight rimmed curtain.

“It had been a long time coming I suppose,” Samantha continued, “She’d been lurking in the background for a while, but every now and then she would suddenly be closer. Until she was finally at my shoulder. Until she finally took my place.”

David peered at her and took note of the way the hairs framing her face had prematurely started to go grey. It created a kind of sunburst surrounding her face. So far this was the most evidence for anything she said to be true. He wondered if anyone had told her about the grey hairs.

He went to push back his glasses, but then remembered they weren’t there. He hadn’t been allowed to keep them on. “Did you tell anyone about her?”

“Of course,” She said, “But I was a kid who had witnessed her mother be murdered. No one really thought I was mentally stable.”

“Tell me about that.”

Samantha let out a long low breath while she reached for her wooden mug. She cradled it close and the steam from the tea swirled around her throat.

“What is there to say? I was in the room while my father beat her up. He threw her into a mirror, which broke on impact, and used the shards to kill her.”

She’d said it all in a very matter of fact tone. Some may have been surprised by her emotional distance, but David was used to interviewing such people. This wasn’t his first time writing an article on a cult leader.

“And your mother is the woman in the mirror?”

“I’ve never been able to tell. In a distorted way, maybe. She looks different though. Her skin is an inhuman white and her eyes are red all the way through, no whites. Her hair is also black. Mum was blonde.”

David did a quick doodle of what he expected the woman in the mirror to look like and made a note to get an illustrator involved. It would make a good image for the front page.

“Tell me, David,” She said, looking at him with her big, round, watery eyes, “Have you ever seen someone be killed? Or even a dead body.”

“Thankfully not,” David said, tucking his pen behind his ear, “Not a murder at least. I was in the room when my father died though. But he was old and in pain. It was all very natural.”

The door creaked open. The hunched man standing there, Richard, held it ajar. He was tall and lanky with greasy black hair. He was a man of darkness. His presence made David’s muscles tense.

“The bath is prepared.” Richard said.

“We’re not quite done,” David said.

“Later.” Richard scowled, tilting his head like a bird of prey.

Samantha unfolded herself and went to the doorway. “We will continue this later then, yes? Please, make yourself at home. You can go anywhere you like.”

She disappeared without looking back. Only Richard stared before closing the door leaving David in the study alone. He sat there for a moment in the silence, observing the darkened space around him. The place was all the darker for the fact that every object was matte or made from a material that absorbs light. No shine, no gleam allowed for fear of potential reflections. It didn’t make much sense. The woman had only ever appeared to Samantha within mirrors. Samantha had become beyond paranoid since people started following her. It gave her permission to give in to her insane compulsions now that she was no longer forced to live in the real world. It was the most severe and severely under managed case of PTSD he had ever encountered.

People here wore contacts instead of glasses. Used cutlery and table wear made from sanded down wood. Read clothbound books in dim candlelight. Closed curtains before Samantha entered the room. Cameras were certainly not allowed. Not even in phones.

Even liquids were limited. Her bath was specially prepared so that it was so hot steam filled the place and distorted anything that may be reflected in the water.

Indeed, Richard had personally searched David before he entered the property grounds. He’d received a rough pat down and thorough bag search. David had been grateful there hadn’t been a nude search. Partially for modesty, largely because of the snivelling Richard, but mostly because of the contraband he carried in his boxers. A compact mirror. He wondered if he would be brave enough to use it.

David packed up his belongings and headed outside. It was a beautiful set of grounds. Planes, interspersed with lines of trees and manicured gardens, rolled on for longer than the eye could see. It felt a shame that she owned all of this and would never get the chance to see it. Never again would Samantha Banes feel the sun on her skin or the breeze in her hair or listen to the rustling of leaves. She had chosen a life of decay; a house to slowly rot in.

It was the kind of grey day where you can’t make out any single cloud, it’s all just a sweep of watered down paint. It was the kind of day where you would want to pretend the outside world didn’t exist due to seasonal depression, but David wanted to minimise the time spent in Samantha’s house with her cultists. The longer he spent in there the more he could feel himself rust. And so he walked along the closely cropped grass.

A pond left a silver mark in the distance. David walked towards it. The stillness of the water was balm for the soul. He knelt beside it and looked into it, feeling like Narcissus. He saw a muddied version of himself in the murky water. He tried to imagine what it would like like to see someone else in his place.

Someone cleared his throat behind David. It gave him such a startle that he nearly toppled over. His fist splashed into the pond in a search for balance. It cut ripples across his reflection.

“We ask that you don’t look at yourself in any kind of reflection. Even water.” Richard said, standing with his hands clasped in front of him, oddly preastlike in his jeans and jumper. “She watches everything. She knows who Samantha associates with. If she sees you in a mirror she will be able to find Samantha.”

“It’s not a mirror.” David said, standing up, shaking the icy water off his hand.

Richard only stared at him expressionless before turning on his heel.

“Dinner is served,” He said, “Come.”

It wasn’t hospitality. It was an order.

Richard walked ahead and David stayed a couple steps behind as they walked back to the looming house.

“What made you come to join Samantha and her lifestyle?” David asked. He might as well make the most of being stuck with Richard.

“I am not who you are here to write about.” Richard said without turning back.

“That’s not entirely accurate.”

“We are not a cult. I know that is what you think of us. It is what all simple minded people think. We are simply protecting a woman in need of protecting, a woman that the government is not helping.” The words poured from Richard in a stilted a precise manner. “They so often refuse to help those who need it most. If Samantha was in danger in a way that they understood she would be in a safe house with a new identity.”

“But has anyone actually seen the woman in the mirror other than Samantha?”


“Have you?”

Richard walked a few more paces in silence. David thought he wasn’t going to get an answer.

“Yes.” Richard said quietly.

He didn’t answer any more of David’s questions.


Samantha sat at the head of the table, her followers and David sat along the side, and the opposite head was an empty frame propped up on a chair. It was meant to symbolise the overcoming of strife and looking death in the face.

The followers sat in such a solemn silence that David half expected them to sacrifice him or start pouring out cups of kool aid. Samantha had a surprisingly warm demeanour as she gazed at each one of the attendees with love. Even David.

“I’m so happy to spend another evening with all of you,” She said, “And I am so grateful for our guest, David.” She lifted her wooden cup in quick toast. “We so rarely have visitors and I am honoured that you have come to share my story. I hope that it may… Lift the vail to those who don’t live as we do, so that others may come to understand and accept.”

Is there a threat in that? David couldn’t help but wonder.

He didn’t have much time to wonder, for Samantha lifted her cutlery to start eating and the others followed. No one talked. David wasn’t certain if it was because of his presence or Samantha’s. He heard laughter and chatter through the halls throughout the day, as if he was visiting any family home.

They seemed like regular people – other than Richard that is. Of all the cults he had investigated this was the most staggering one for its normalcy. To his right was a twenty something woman with her hair tied in a loose ponytail, bits of frizzy hair sticking out the side in an endearing manner. To his left was a man who reminded him of his brother. He made a mental note to try to get each of them alone for a conversation about what brought them here and if they too had seen the woman in the mirror.


The next morning Samantha and David were back in the study. This time Samantha was pacing while he interviewed. She was surprisingly lithe and agile for someone who spent their days inside. He felt that in another life she would have made a great runner. Perhaps later on in the week he would be able to sway her into coming on a jog with him on the grounds.

“I’d lived in a normal flat before,” She said, wringing her hands, “I hated going outside. I’d been doing groceries when I walked past a mirror and she nearly pushed through.”

“What do you mean by that?”

She shook herself like an animal who had just escaped a predator. “She’d started pressing her fingers against the mirror, but one day her finger tips came through. I knew then she would kill me if I let her.”

“How did you know?”

“Feminine intuition?” Samantha chuckled, “You spend enough time in his life living as a woman and you develop a sixth sense for when you are in danger. Your life quite literally depends on it. Do you have a daughter?”

“Not yet.”

“A wife?”

The thought brought a smile to his lips. “Only a girlfriend right now, but hopefully a wife soon.”

Samantha’s pacing had brought her in front of the bookshelf and she started to trace her fingers along the spine, her back to David. He started to search his jacket pocket for something.

“You take good care of her don’t you?” Samantha said, still intently studying the books, “Men need to take care of their women.”

He found it. “Do you have any romantic partners here?” He asked as he flicked it open.

“No. I always liked adventurous men. They would never be happy here. Still, my friends give me all the love I need. Can’t complain.”

He pointed the compact mirror at her. It seemed to catch the candlelight as it reflected a golden orb on the books. Samantha spotted it and for a moment seemed like a child in awe. No. She was a kitten reaching a gentle paw to the light.

Then she snapped her head back to David, fury riddled on her face.

He couldn’t believe what he saw. Two crisp white fingers had emerged from the mirror. They clawed in the air like tentacles. Two more from an opposite hand came out and together the four fingers gripped the edges of the mirror and pushed.

Samantha screamed. David knew he should drop it, smash it, do something. But he was in a trance of disbelief while he watched the mirror in his hands grow bigger as the hands tore it wider.

When a head of matted black hair came out of the mirror, he jumped from his seat and the mirror fell to the ground. There was no crash, just a thud as it hit the soft carpet. He watched as the woman in the mirror come out as far as her waist and start crawling towards Samantha. Arms reaching forward. Mirror dragging behind.

Samantha tried to run for the door, but the mirror woman was too fast. She grabbed Samantha’s ankle, pulling her to the ground. Samantha clawed at the floor as the woman dragged her into the mirror. Samantha’s screams turned to chokes as blood and foam streamed from her small mouth.

The door burst open revealing Richard. David knew that if the mirror woman didn’t kill him than Richard would.

The door was too far, so David tore down the curtain and crashed through the window. Splints of glass grazed against him and stuck into his skin, but he didn’t let that stop him as he ran through the grounds faster than he ever had in his sprint practice. He ran.

He ran.

He ran.

His heartbeat in his chest was the only sensation in the world.


In their bed, Lily cradled David’s head. Her fingers lightly threaded through his hair. Her fingernails gentle scratched his scalp. He’d had a long day of press as the one survivor – and a journalist at that – of the Banes cult murder-suicide. After Samantha’s death the rest of the cult had taken the shards of broken mirror and used them to kill themselves but not before setting the house alight to burn down with their carcasses.

The official story was Samantha had sparked off a moment of mass hysteria, but David knew different. He couldn’t unsee those bonelike fingers coming from the mirror. They came ready to choke him in nightmares that he would wake from in fitful screams.

“What actually happened?” Lily whispered into the softness of his hair.

“You don’t want to know.” David said.

“Was it real? You can tell me.”

David pushed himself up and leaned against the headboard, gazing up at the ceiling.

“You’ll think I’m insane.”

“I won’t.” Lily took his hand in hers.

They sat there like that, with her thumb tracing circles into the back of his hand, for long enough that he lost track of time. But then again, time had become meaningless in recent days. At any moment his mind was half filled with remembered sounds of Samantha’s choked gargles.

“I saw her,” He said at last, “The woman in the mirror. She was real all along. For once the conspiracy was real.” In his mind’s eye he saw Samantha as her head flicked back to him seeing the mirror and then again the look of betrayal as wine like blood poured from the vessel of her fleshy body. “And I killed her. I brought the mirror into the house. I used it to show Samantha’s reflection. It’s all my fault.”

Lily took a moment to take it all in and then said, “Well at least no one will ever know.”

She wouldn’t assuage him of his guilt. It was futile and well deserved.

“This will all pass soon,” Lily continued, “And then we can move on with our lives.”


They stood in a circle.

“Cheers gentlemen!” David’s brother and best man said as they chinked their shot glasses together. “It’s showtime!”

The men jostled each other in their suits as they started to file from the hotel room. David went to check his tie in the mirror one last time. He couldn’t be waiting at the top of the aisle for Lily looking like a slob.

A glint of red twinkled in the background beyond his shoulder in the reflection of the room. He ignored it as he passed a cursory hand through his hair. Just as he was tweaking his bowtie the twin red marks fully registered in his mind. His eyes swivelled to look at what was behind him in the mirror.

There she was.

Sitting in the far corner of the room.

Staring at him. Motionless.

He pressed his face closer to the mirror to see better. He knew if he turned around she wouldn’t be there. It was Samantha, or at least a distorted version of her that resembled the original woman in the mirror. She now had the paper white skin and the rabbit red eyes.

He pulled a notepad from his suit pocket. Even on his wedding day a writer is never without the tools of his trade. He started taking notes. If this was really going to happen he would at least write the story of his lifetime. He would at least log it, study it, try to find out what really was happening.

He knew he wouldn’t have forever. Years, yes, but not forever. She would come closer and closer still.

Until one day she will be at his shoulder.

Until one day the mirror will show a reflection that isn’t his own.


About the Creator

Susanna Kiernan

20-something English nomad trying to write some things.

Often whimsical. Sometimes dark. Always fantastical.

| Curtis Brown Creative alumni | Arts Council England funded |

You can find more of me across the internet here.

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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  1. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

  2. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

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    Arguments were carefully researched and presented

  1. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  2. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

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Comments (6)

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  • Jeremy Hallabout a year ago

    Great story; creepy and engaging. Made me want to read to the end! Poor Samantha :(

  • Addison Alderabout a year ago

    Very chilling and full of bold horror visuals throughout. Nicely plotted and the antagonistic dynamic between David and Samantha is very well drawn.

  • How did David have the heart to do Samantha dirty like that 🥺 Poor Samantha! Well, he's gonna get what he deserves, lol! This was such a creepy story!

  • Excellent challenge entry , great story

  • Max Russellabout a year ago

    This story had great characters that lept off the page. I was hooked from the beginning. Thank you for sharing this story!

  • The Invisible Writerabout a year ago

    I really kinda hope David gets it sooner rather than later. He did nothing to stop the evil he unleashed. You can forgive him for showing her the mirror but not for running and lying about it after he killed Samantha by showing her the mirror.

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