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Part of Me

Broken Mirror

By Molly StahlPublished 6 months ago 7 min read
Part of Me
Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

The mirror showed a reflection that wasn't my own. Sick and pallid, cheeks that were once the color of peonies now looked like the gray ash of burnt paper. This is what death looks like, I thought. Running my finger over cracked lips, tracing each crevice. This was my reality. Barely able to move, trapped in my childhood bedroom. Pictures of me smiling and laughing with friends, reminding me I would never be that girl again.

I couldn't help but laugh at the irony of it all. Beauty pageant winner, prom queen, most likely to succeed, and here I am, 24, my hair almost gone, my eyes so sunken into my skull that they may as well disappear. Dying. That's the word. I remind myself. Let roll over my tongue. I say it over and over again, so it doesn’t sneak up on me. So, the weight of it all won’t crush me. I turn from the mirror and slowly lumber to the window, my bones feeling as though they were breaking and turning to dust inside me.

I opened the blinds, light streamed in. I could see children playing catch in the park down the street. The tree near my window shook in the wind, the leaves doing a little shuffle. It all made me sick. I fell into bed and let sleep take me. It seemed to be the only escape I truly enjoyed anymore. My dreams were seldom good, but at least I was me in them, beautiful and alive.

I bolted, upright, soaked in sweat and urine. “Fuck.” I cried and ripped the blanket from my body. Stumbling forward. As I lurched from bed, the tears burned. I tore off my bedding and collapsed on the floor in defeat. The door pushed open quietly, but quickly.

“Anna, Anna. Honey, are you okay?” My mother whispered, trying to see into the dark room.

“No,” I shouted. “I'm not okay, Sharon. I'm dying and pissing myself.” The anger bubbled. It's easier to blame her I thought, as though it was her fault for bringing me into this world.

She flicked on the light. I could see the hurt in her eyes. Somehow it made me happy to see her in pain too. As though it would ease my own suffering.

“Oh sweetie,” she said as she moved closer and took me in her arms, her honey-colored hair smelled of vanilla as it tumbled over my face. I used to love the smell of her hair and touching her soft beautiful curls. Wrapping each one around my finger as she read me stories. Now I wanted to rip them from her head and take them as my own. I sobbed harder, heaving low and hard.

It suddenly washed over me how horrible my thoughts were.

“I love you, mom. I'm so sorry.” My body shook with guilt. Where did these thoughts come from?

As I lay on my freshly washed sheets staring into the darkness, I noticed something shift on my vanity. Great, I thought, now I’m seeing things. But there it was again. And this time a light switched on. My mirror lit up in a warm glow and I could see my entire room. As though the light was on above me. Was my light on? Was the golf ball in my skull stealing my whole reality?

I walked over to the mirror. Staring absently into the lit room I could hear giggles coming from the other side. Then I saw my reflection, me, the real me. Tan summer skin, chestnut wavy hair, soft full lips. I touched them and could feel the dry shriveled remnant of what had been. My hand jerked from my face repulsed and confused.

I couldn't take my eyes off the mirror. So beautiful. I sat, absorbed in her, for hours not moving. And as the sun began to rise, the reflection faded. The lovely girl turned into a monster. As though watching flesh decay, the stunning face melted away. I blinked hard at what now stared back at me and screamed, slamming my fist down on the table. nauseating pain reverberated up my arm.

All day I sat awake in bed watching the mirror, too exhausted to move or speak, just staring, hoping the light would come back. By the time night fell, pain shot through every inch of my exhausted and dying body. Darkness quietly ascended as night took over. Then it happened. The comforting light struck on. I moved hurriedly to the mirror, stumbling with every step.

There I was. There she was. She smiled. Teeth, white and healthy. There was something about her eyes that was so unfamiliar, dark, and empty. Black, all black. When you looked into them, you could feel a part of yourself disappear. But what did it matter? There I was, all better. Beautiful. The reflection moved.

Her hand shifted upward to her mouth. My stomach turned as I realized she was not me.

“Who are you?” I whispered.

She lifted a finger to her lips and quietly, inaudibly, said “Shhhh.”

I realized the tumor was affecting much more than my physical health. At this point, I was experiencing full-blown psychosis. I should care, but I wanted to see her. I want to be her. She grinned as though she had heard my thoughts.

“You can be.” Her voice was mine, but somehow hollow, and faded.

I stared harder trying to remember what the doctors had said about hallucinations. I couldn't remember. I could only remember telling my mother it was her fault for feeding me processed food as a child.

“Who are you?” I whispered again.

She looked at me with those black empty eyes. “I'm who you can be.” And then as quickly as she had appeared, she was gone.

The door swung open and my mom’s shadow dragged across the floor, the hallway light hugging her from behind.

“Honey, Anna, are you awake?”

I turned abruptly. “Yes. I'm sitting here, aren't I?”

“I just wanted to make sure you were okay. I thought I heard voices.” She turned her head trying to look around the room like she did when I was a teenager and would sneak boyfriends in late at night.

“I'm fine,” I said, looking away, back to the mirror absentmindedly, immediately forgetting my mother still stood in the doorway. I sat there barely blinking, waiting for her to come back to me. My eyes burned. But as night came again so did she.

She walked over and sat smiling. Rage burned inside me. I hated her. It was her fault, I was like this. Tears burned my eyes, rolling down my face, stinging my lips, as I watched the reflection I could feel my whole world crumbling.

“You want the world to see you as beautiful?” She asked.

“Yes.” I sobbed.

“You can be beautiful again, for a price. Life always comes at a cost.”

“Anything, please.” I wept.

“Are you sure?” Her expression was mild, but darkness cast heavily over her face.

“Anything.” I murmured.

The reflection moved her hand to the mirror and pressed on the glass. I copied her moving mine and up and pressing the glass with every ounce of strength I had left in my body. Every inch of me folded like paper, turning in on itself. My stomach whirling as it did on a carnival ride, and then it stopped. Nothing. I was back in my room right where I had been.

The mirror was dark, but the light in my room was on. I reached up touching my face and could feel my sallow cheeks and leathery skin. I was delusional.

“Ha!” I shouted at the mirror.

Then, suddenly the light in the frame flicked on, and there I was staring at the mirror, beautiful with a face of shock and wonder. Bright green eyes spilled with tears.

“She did it.” The girl in front of me howled. “I'm better. I'm better!”

She leaped onto her feet and spun around. I watched, horrified as the door burst open. My mother stood there gaping

“Anna!” She screamed and ran enveloping the girl in her arms with all her might.

“I'm so sorry, mom. I've been so horrible.” She cried.

I pushed my body hard from the vanity. I screamed and stumbled forward crashing into the desk.


I lunged for the door. The knob wouldn't turn. I screamed and pulled with all my might pain shooting up my arm.

The window, I thought, propelling myself through the room, pulling on the blinds. But there was nothing. Darkness, empty. Everything was gone, the tree, the stars, the street lights.

“Mom!” I screamed, but no one came.

No one ever came.


About the Creator

Molly Stahl

illustrator, nature lover, really good at sleeping.

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