“The mirror showed a reflection that wasn’t my own,” she said. The stylish young woman pulled out a cigarette, thought better of it and apologized. “I know how insane this sounds.”
She’d yawned it more than spoken it.
Cybil Danner had just spent thirteen hours on her private jet and another three in a rental car navigating the narrow, twisting back country lanes of Luxembourg to meet with a man few people had ever seen in person. She’d sought him out after his appearance on Joe Rogan went viral.
“Not at all insane,” he assured her, in unaccented English. “Whose reflection was it?” He awaited her response with sincere interest.
The singer was taken aback. She’d assumed convincing the reclusive giant of something so outrageous might require a bit more coaxing. The pop star combed a long, bright auburn bang out of her eyes with sculpted nails and tucked a few stragglers behind her ear.
“I mean, it’s mine. It is my reflection. But it isn’t me in it.”
Cadeau listened calmly. Cybil was a wreck. The famous lady could have chalked up her disheveled appearance to jet lag, but it had everything to do with lack of sleep.
The person she’d gone to such lengths to meet was more urban legend than man. A figure shrouded in intrigue, he spoke over thirty languages with casual fluency and wit on topics that ranged from world cultures, geography, geopolitics, religion, philosophy, and quantum physics – to anthropology, mythology and any other subject presented to him. He was an author and online sensation whose knowledge of humanity’s genetic and sociological origins was so well-informed and rational, speculation ran high that his observations might be first-hand.
The guru’s penchant for simplifying complex metaphysical and scientific topics into everyday language had both beguiled and motivated the singer.
The few who had experienced him in person described Cadeau Dumage as inhumanly large – seven and a half feet or taller – and unusually kind. Were he anyone else, such a package might have been effortlessly marketable. For his part, authoring books from the comforts of his chateau and the occasional appearance on podcasts over Zoom had sufficed. He demonstrated no interest in financial gain and kept his life private. It had taken every string a person like Cybil could pull to make the encounter happen because Cadeau Dumage did not take meetings.
Sitting in his presence, the diva was now having second thoughts.
“What is it about this mirror that has you so distraught, Miss Danner?”
She rummaged for her keys in the bowels of her oversized purse.
“Nothing at all,” she huffed. “Except that I’m losing my mind or I’m taking too many pills or taking the wrong pills. I’m sorry for all of this...trouble, Mr. Dumage. I really must be going.”
The singer lingered at the open window to take in the view. Her cinnamon hair inhaled the sunlight like a halo.
“I wish I could stay,” she hummed. “This is beautiful.”
Cadeau poured tea into two delicate porcelain cups. They reminded her of tea party toys in his massive hands.
“Miss Danner. You’ve gone to considerable effort to find me. I may or may not have answers,” he said. “But I do have time and an endless supply of tea.”
Cadeau’s manner was sophisticated and graceful. He moved purposely through his environment as though choreographed; unusual for such an unnaturally tall man. With his cascade of long sandy brown hair parted in the middle and beard meticulously groomed, one could be excused for making instant comparisons to Jesus or early 70’s Lennon. His icy green eyes were penetrating without being intrusive. Cybil estimated his age at thirty-three or thirty-four, but he was certainly much older. Cadeau’s natural radiance rendered him ageless to the throngs of truth-seekers who hung on his words and marveled at the depth of his wisdom.
Cadeau Dumage was famous, but nothing approaching the stratospheric Cybil Danner – CYBYL to her global audience of worshippers proudly branding themselves as Cybbies. It was Cadeau’s ready acceptance of her story that had triggered Cybil’s flight response. Misery may love company, she’d often said, but insanity abhors it. The icon instantly distrusted anyone who took her account at face value because no rational person could or should believe it. She’d had her fill of philosophical dead ends and had lost all patience with ‘yes’ men and hangers-on.
The woman stood immobilized in her decision to remain or flee as Cadeau looked on – perfectly content with the awkward silence.
“I find that when confronted with intense conflict, our first thought is generally the truth and the first words we speak are a lie,” he said. “I’m happy to offer what truth I possess in return for yours, Miss Danner.”
The singer descended slowly back into the soft leather couch – punctuating the action with a sigh of resignation.
“What is your first thought about what is occurring with the mirror?”
She brushed a tear aside with a sheer, aubergine scarf accented in gold details.
“I’ll start with my lie,” she said. “My lie is that someone has chosen to mess with me and has succeeded beyond their wildest dreams – through some means of technical voodoo capable of altering my reflection in a mirror in real time.” She took off her sunglasses, put them back on then took them off again. “Utterly implausible. Dot com.”
Cybil held up a photograph on her phone. “It’s a pre-Victorian, masterfully carved, free-standing Cheval mirror,” she said. “Wood, brass and glass – with a long, inconvenient horizontal crack at the eyeline. There isn’t an LCD screen hidden in the frame, Mr. Dumage. That I assure you; no cords or cables – and no way to fake what I’ve been seeing.”
Cadeau examined the image with interest and handed the phone back to her. “I see. And your first thought, Miss Danner?”
She released the breath she’d been holding. “I’m turning 27 in two weeks.”
“The 27 Club.”
Air knotted in her throat. “Yes,” she said, astonished. “That’s exactly what I’m afraid of. My first, last and most terrifying thought is that I’m cursed and I’m about to die.”
“Like Jim Morrison –”
She nodded. “And Janice Joplin. And Jimi Hendrix, Ron ‘Pigpen’ McKernan, Robert Johnson, Brian Jones, Amy Winehouse, Cobain. All of them who had made the same devil’s bargain currently ruining my life.
“Fame is a trap,” she said. “Adoration, fortune, shallow expressions of affection, control, suppression, hypocrisy on parade and that ever-looming piper to be paid – all of it hangs over my throat like a Sword of Damocles. Each member of that horrid club had come to the same conclusion I have.”
“I want off the treadmill. I want it all to stop.” Cybil could no longer contain her tears. “Every last misguided one of them sold their souls for this lifestyle only to quickly regret it. And, boom. Each of them, gone at 27.”
She picked up her tea cup with a hand still trembling.
“Miss Danner, did you know there are entire cultures who cover their mirrors at night?”
“Not for the same reason, I hope.”
“They cover them out of a sincere belief it will keep unwanted spirits from entering their homes and infecting their dreams.” He handed her a box of tissues. “So don’t think you’re possessed, insane or alone in your trepidation.”
The giant opened a leather portfolio and started scribing notes.
“Do you mind if we conduct a brief process? It may provide useful insight.”
“As you picture these encounters, is there a particular color or shape associated with it that comes to mind?”
She closed her eyes. “Black and, I don’t know, spikey, I suppose. Like a jagged stone.”
“Describe the sensation in your abdomen as you imagine seeing the Other you reflected in your mirror.”
Cybil looked at him, helplessly.
He smiled. “Your solar plexus is an effective means for discerning energetic frequencies. Just relax and describe any sensation you feel.”
She took a breath and shook her head. “Nothing down there but dread. Lots of it.”
“Ask these questions in your mind; am I dealing with a trick of technology? Is it a malign entity like a ghost or demon? Am I interacting with a parallel version of myself?”
Her voice cracked as she repeated the list. “I didn’t know I had so many options, Mr. Dumage. It all just aches.”
“And the reflection in the mirror. What can you tell me about it?
“I don’t know, she shrugged.” She looks normal. Like me. She’s just...off.”
The singer’s overnight success had come after years of struggle, rejection, and other indignities – fueled by a steady diet of Raman noodles and personal compromises so deeply upsetting, that when her big break finally came, she’d already lost the joy of it.
Cybil Danner’s life was no longer her personal property and she desperately wanted to get back what she’d lost before success killed her.
“I bought the goddamned mirror because of your goddamned book,” she chuckled. But there was no humor in it.“Your mirror process is exploding all over social media. And I thought, if it works for so many normal people out there, why not me?
“So, I acquired a beautiful antique mirror to initiate my spiritual practice.” The singer scoffed, haughtily. “I insisted on a treasure worthy of me.”
Cadeau raised a brow. “And the Abyss stared back.”
“It blinked back.”
The giant awaited the punchline.
“My reflection blinked,” she said. “I watched it happen with eyes fully open and mind fully lucid. And that’s just the beginning.”
“Describe your reaction when that occurred.”
“Reactions. We both reacted,” she said. “Our actions – were nearly identical, but not completely. There was a subtle delay that was impossible to miss. My reflection, my Other, and I tested it again and again with varying levels of freak out. That’s what brought me all this way, Mr. Dumage. I’m freaked out. How is any of this possible and what does it mean?”
“May I examine that photo again, Miss Danner?”
He enlarged a section and handed her phone back. “Have you studied this image carefully?”
She nodded. “I think so. I don’t know. I mean, it’s a mirror...”
“Do you possess more than one cell phone?
“No. Just the one. Why?”
Her bejeweled pink designer phone case was custom made and clearly pricey. In the photo, the Other held an identical phone case – but hers was green.
“Will you please excuse me, Miss Danner? I’ll be but a moment.”
A clock ticked off the seconds as she surveyed her surroundings. The giant’s study was done up in early banker and held the memory of tobacco and leather. Fragments of red cuneiform tablets, religious artifacts, shelves of ancient books and framed works of art hung on walls clad floor to ceiling in rich mahogany. Windows soared to open fields above and below where cattle, sheep and horses grazed. The giant’s latest work lay open on a lamp table.
“Through a Glass Darkly,” she mumbled. “A Journey into Radical Manifestation by Cadeau Dumage.” Cybil set the book down. “You started this, you bastar –”
Cybil caught her reflection in a mirror and jerked away. In recent weeks, she had covered or removed all of the mirrors from her home and now carefully avoided her reflection in store windows, passing cars and shining surfaces. Getting ready for an average day now took place in front of a video camera array with a bank of wall-sized monitors for reference. Cadeau reappeared, carrying an elegant tray. He discovered Cybil on her feet.
“Not leaving, I hope.”
“I’ve taken up enough of your time, Mr. Dumage. Thank you for seeing me. I can...will show myself out.”
Cadeau lowered his gaze. “Time isn’t a problem for me. Is it for you?”
The singer broke into sobs. “I don’t know.”
Two weeks later, Cybil celebrated her 27th birthday quietly at home and happily alone – relieved to have dodged the bullet of a surprise party. She’d taken the giant’s advice to heart and had stayed away from the mirror entirely. It stood in the center of the empty guest room draped in a gray bed sheet; ready for the movers to haul away.
She’d said it, but realized she suddenly didn’t mean it. Something different was growing within her; a feeling gaining in intensity that made no sense. Cybil experienced profound pangs of loss about the mirror; sensations she couldn’t account for. She felt herself being pulled – compelled toward her reflection in the glass.
Just a quick glimpse, she thought. No eye contact. No problem.
Cybil Danner wasn’t trying to convince herself. She was more concerned with persuading a memory of a man half a world away.
“Four possibilities come to mind,” he said. “However unlikely, you may have stumbled upon a form of astral gateway, Miss Danner.”
“A portal. These exist in many forms throughout the universe and are in use today by numerous civilizations traveling to and from earth. It’s possible one of these devices fell through a very tight crack.”
“That’s a thing? Really?”
The giant nodded. “Another possibility is a dimensional exchange with a parallel version of yourself. Our energy is in a constant state of exchange. We consciously or unconsciously opt in and out of dimensional timelines with every decision we make – trading positions with energetically identical, parallel versions of ourselves.”
Cybil Danner wasn’t following.
“Decisions open new dimensions,” he explained. “When we depart one timeline, a parallel version of ourselves simultaneously rushes into the reality we’ve just departed in order to continue on that line for its own unique purposes and growth. This exchange is seamless and we never realize it’s occurring.”
He smiled. “You have likely crossed into or out of at least a dozen discrete dimensions since our conversation began and you haven’t noticed a thing.”
“And door number three?
Cadeau’s expression darkened. “We may, in fact, be dealing with your deepest fear; a relic possessed by an untoward attachment – a snare, drawing upon the dark power of malign forces. Mirrors are commonly employed as traps set by lower vibrational entities to gain mastery over the living.”
“Lower vibrational entities?”
“Demons. Ghosts. Denizens of lost realms, forever scheming a way into the light and tangibility. They are every bit as real and conscious as you, me and E.T. – and can fool even the most witting soul through any number of supernatural deceptions.”
The woman tensed.“You’re saying the mirror might be...it could be...”
“The word you’re looking for is haunted.”
Cybil shifted uncomfortably in her seat. “You said there were four possibilities.”
Cadeau raised an eyebrow. “Drug induced psychosis. Photoshop trickery...”
Cybil was aghast.“You’re not suggesting I’m hoaxing this.”
“Miss Danner. I don’t believe for a moment you went to this degree of effort, time, inconvenience and expense to cross the globe in order to pull a fast one on me.
“Regardless of what this mirror is or isn’t, it is not to be trifled with. Listen to me carefully. Do not make eye contact with your reflection again. It is vitally important not to feed it energy of any sort. Love, hate, fear, envy, jealousy – any strong emotion can trigger a desired action. If you must interact with it, approach it with calm indifference.”
And yet, here she was face to face with the very mirror under review. With her sparkling pink cell phone at the ready, she cautiously drew back the bedsheet and was instantly and deeply locked in the gaze of her Other. Both Cybils moved in perfect synchronicity.
Both mouthed identical words, “I envy you.”
Cybil was not indifferent as she imagined the woman on the other side of the glass living the life she’d longed for – easy days without end, free of schedules, managers, lawyers, contracts, perverts, shysters, oxygen thieves, interviewers, fans and all the other rigors of fame. She’d gladly exchange any form of life for the hell she was living. Her heart swelled with jealousy.
‘I want the life you have, sister. I want it.’
She and her reflection snapped their farewell photos, bowed to each other, then covered the mirrors in perfect unison.
"See, Cadeau? Not a problem."
Cybil felt at peace with the closing scene of the mystical mirror saga and was certain even Cadeau would have approved. On impulse, she texted him the image she’d just captured – and gasped.
The room was the same, her clothes were the same. But in her hand was a green bejeweled phone.
She wrested the fabric aside. Her reflection was no longer visible. In its place was the gray bedsheet clinging to the Other’s side of the glass.
In the moment, she was more intrigued than frightened. Perhaps the timeline she’d entered was confirmation of the dimensional exchange theory Cadeau described to her. Perhaps she had indeed made it to her heaven.
“Let’s check this sucker out. Happy birthday to me.”
The door didn’t open to her new heaven. It opened to a terrifying, bleak and rugged alien landscape. A canopy of strange stars cast their luminescence across spans of dark, empty plains punctuated with a smattering of small, spikey black rocks. Silhouettes of jagged peaks rose in the distance like fangs. Cybil was driven back by a blast of frigid air that burned her lungs and raised boils on her skin. She slammed the door shut behind her. Sliding to the floor, she sobbed in bewilderment and heaved uncontrollably.
“Not cool, bitch. Hey!” Cybil pounded on the darkened mirror with increasing frustration. “Hey! You! I want my world back!”
Glass erupted outward in a hail of shards. When the dust settled, a third of the ancient mirror lay in fragments at her bare feet – and with it, her only chance of ever getting back home. Cybil Danner was no longer on planet earth and she was alone.
She wrapped herself in the only amenity the room had to offer against the biting cold – the gray cotton bedsheet.
“Cadeau,” she cried. “Cadeau! I’m so stupid. I’m so sorry.”
There was no way to gauge time in her perpetually dark and poisonous hell. She sat, curled up in a ball cursing the biting bits of glass that covered the entire floor. The mirror stood as a sinister reminder to watch what you wish for. In her lucid moments during the days or weeks of her captivity, she studied the unfamiliar sky from a small window; hoping for a star to wish upon. But there was no comfort to be had in the unforgiving alien heavens.
A universe away, Cadeau looked up from his monitor and clicked his mouth. “She didn’t listen to me,” he sighed. “Have you seen this?”
Cadeau’s father regularly stayed with him while his ageless wife was off planet on deployment. Over his son’s objections, the senior Dumage had busied himself with home repairs and domestic duties.
The story absorbing the public’s imagination and trending across the globe centered on the inexplicable disappearance of CYBYL. The mega star had vanished from her career, her friends and her family. She’d been a no-show for concert dates and television appearances with no notice nor apology given. Her staff abandoned her business enterprises when the checks started bouncing. And though she’d ghosted all of the popular social media sites, someone matching her description had been spotted in the company of a wealthy Polish industrialist. The rumor mill churned out countless scenarios about the missing celebrity as the earth held its collective breath.
“Who is this?” the woman barked into her bejeweled phone. “How did you get this number?
“Good afternoon, Miss Danner. I hope I haven’t reached you at an inconvenient time.”
“I notice the mirror you sent never arrived and I wanted to follow up with the shipping company personally if you’ll provide the details.”
“Who is this? What are you –”
A male voice said, “Just hang up –”
The giant looked up from the phone and groaned. “I’m off to the states, dearest. Again.”
His father nodded. “I’ll see to the arrangements.”
“And don’t tidy up while I’m away. I beg you. ”
Cybil awoke to the sight of light streaming in through the mirror. The Other stood tapping its foot impatiently. She could only see the Other’s torso and legs due to the missing glass. It bent at the waste and howled with laughter at what the superstar had been reduced to.
She could barely move. Her body ached from hunger and dehydration and her clothes hung on her emaciated frame in tatters. Her famously luminous hair littered the floor in clumps like straw. The star’s skin, once technically perfect, was now ashen gray, crinkled and riddled with ulcerations and cuts that wouldn’t heal. Dry, rough patches resembling reptile scales consumed her legs and back and her cracked lips bled with sores when she cried – which was all day – though she had no moisture left to produce tears.
The Other slapped a note against the glass.
Congratulations. This body of yours I’m wearing is about to join the 27 Club. Today is your big day!
With effort, Cybil managed a trembling middle finger. The Other quickly scribbled a smiley face on a card and sent it spiraling callously to the floor.
You look awful. Have you noticed the walls of your pen, lately?
The Other’s prisoner craned her neck and was stunned to find her cell fading into the landscape. The brighter stars shown through the ceiling and the flooring was giving way to the rocky, barren surface of the cruel planet. Winds roared savagely against what remained of the walls.
When the walls become invisible, the outside comes inside. So, hold your breath as long as you can.
The Other backed away to afford Cybil an unencumbered view of her former healthy body as the demon danced and spun on her toes. It brought a cheeseburger into view along with a chocolate shake, still glistening with condensation. The monster posing as Cybil took several bites before dropping what was left of the burger into view at the base of the mirror.
Would you like fries with that?
Cybil buried her face into bleeding hands as her body convulsed. The Other was elated with its prize. The next note read,
I’ve loved your body and all your fun MONEY! And that sunshine! As soon as my new fiance gets here, I’m trading in your body for his. Then my life really begins. Congratulate me. I’m going to be a Polish billionaire!
It is vitally important not to feed it energy of any sort. Love, hate, fear, envy, jealousy – any strong emotion can trigger a desired action.
The only rule of heaven is to follow your heart. The only rule of hell is to follow someone else’s.
Cybil was in someone else’s hell and playing by someone else’s rules. The Other was calling the shots for what little time of her life remained. She adopted a new tactic and began ignoring the Other’s notes.
Show me your face. This next part is epic. I have to watch it.
Cybil turned her back and smiled to herself. She clutched her knees tightly to her hollow chest as the night sky and plains became increasingly more visible through the darkening walls. Death might be minutes away, but Cybil would rob the Other of the pleasure of watching it when the moment came.
Hey! I need to see your face, bitch!!!!
Anger is as intense an emotion as love, Miss Danner. The difference is, anger is powerless.
Her mind raced. What was it Cadeau had said about intense emotions?
Negative entities feed off intense feeling and may draw you in against your will through the power of your emotions.
It was a shazam moment.
“Two can play that. Bitch.”
Eye contact and intense emotion. That was the formula which had landed her in the alien cell to begin with. What if that same formula could also be her way out? She grinned her first real grin since her birthday.
The room had grown almost completely black – illuminated only by the scant light streaming through the mirror. She could feel the temperature dropping. Huddled behind the mirror, and wrapped only in a tattered and bloodied bedsheet, Cybil shivered – but not with cold. She had a plan.
Stop this now! You turn around!
The notes fell in a flurry – one after another in furious succession. Robbed of the pleasure of the Cybil’s pain, the entity lost it.
Cybil crawled over the broken glass to the rear of the mirror – out of the view of the Other.
Love conquers every other thing because love has no need to conquer.
She repeated Cadeau’s mantra over and over in her mind and then put it to music. “I love you. I thank you. Please forgive me. I bless you. I love you. I thank you. Please forgive me. I bless you. I love you. I thank you. Please forgive me. I bless you.”
The Other’s meltdown was reflected in the large fragments of mirror on the ground, allowing Cybil to witness the Other without the Other seeing her. The angrier it got, the more love Cybil expressed and embodied.
“I love you. I thank you. Please forgive me. I bless you. I love you. I thank you. Please forgive me. I bless you. I love you. I thank you. Please forgive me. I bless you.”
She filled her heart with the warmth of family – the love and support of her friends and fans. Her love for Cadeau. Love was her lifeline. The entity dropped to its hands and knees, mashing its face into the glass as it struggled for a glimpse of its victim. It pressed cards to the glass in piles.
I hate you.
I HATE YOU!
Saliva whipped from its mouth in long tendrils that smeared across the glass as the demon pounded the floor with its fists.
SHOW YOURSELF! I HAVE TO SEE YOU DIE!
The moment had come. As swift as a scorpion’s sting, Cybil jumped into view of the monster inhabiting her body. They locked eyes. The Other was taken aback by the powerful peace and acceptance in the eyes of its victim. It paused a moment, then roared back in fury. Though neither could hear the other’s voice, they both understood the feelings being expressed.
“I HATE YOU. I HATE YOU!”
“Thank you for the lessons you’ve taught me,” Cybil said, serenely. “I love you. I love you. I LOVE YOU.”
The last of the oxygen rushed out as the walls dissolved to nothingness. The planet's acrid atmosphere bit her throat and stung her eyes, but Cybil smiled through it as she inhaled one final, deadly breath. As the tempest raged around her, she clenched her eyes against the burning chill, but the smile never left her face. Or her heart.
Suffocating and burning alive, the pop diva belted, “AND I WILL ALWAAYS LOVE YOUUUU –” then collapsed to the floor.
She was on a floor.
SHE WAS ON HER FLOOR!
She was alive.
She was breathing.
She was out!
A tangle of note cards stuck to her hands and legs as she pulled herself to a sitting position. The floor was strewn with remnants of the Other’s final, frenzied moments. Cybil seized the half-eaten cheeseburger and chocolate shake like it was manna. Warmth, light, love and relief pulsed through her body in waves of gratitude. She was home.
A reflection caught her eye. Legs. Big legs. The giant and the singer watched soundlessly as the demon jerked and twisted its ending just beyond the threshold of the darkened glass – convulsing and contracting inward until it was indistinguishable from the millions of black, jagged rocks dotting the surface of the alien wastes. A sudden gust launched the stone into the roaring vortex as the Other’s mirror exploded into a constellation of wood and glass.
What little remained of Cybil’s demon was caught up in a dance to the death with the tattered sheet – driven down, then swept up and outward to take its place on the plain of endless shadows alongside the lonely monuments of Jim, Janice, Jimi, ‘Pigpen’, Johnson, Jones, Amy, Kurt and countless other members of the 27 Club from a million different worlds – the club’s founder, destined to be its final victim.
Cadeau covered the mirror and caught his breath. “Miss Danner, I presume?”
He helped her to her feet.
“IT WAS ALL THREE GODDAMNED DOORS!” the diva laughed through her tears as she pounded his chest. “You bastard.”
And then, looking deeply into his icy green eyes, Cybil Danner, international music mega star, took the giant’s massive hands in hers and whispered, “God, I could go for some fries.”
©2023 Evan Lord [email protected]
About the Creator
The only rule of heaven is to follow your heart. The only rule of hell is to follow someone else's. I've written for everyone else during my career. Today, I'm following my heart and writing for people who love to read, laugh and grow.
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