The Friend in the Mirror
The mirror showed a reflection that wasn't my own.
Well, it was but it wasn’t. The features & clothing all matched, but something was off, as though the image that was supposed to be mine was a split second behind.
I’d first noticed this phenomenon a few weeks back. I had been resting in the shadows of the living room watching tv. It was early evening but well before sundown—our clocks had long been sprung forward & summer was almost upon us—but all that shone through the windows was dark, dim, grey & only vaguely resembled light.
Still, I had been able to see well enough to make it to the bathroom. There were no windows & so I had flipped the switch for some illumination. At first I thought it was just my eyes, that they had not yet adjusted. But as I stood before the mirror waiting for my vision to clear, what I was seeing didn’t change.
A glitch, like what one might see on a monitor where the video jumps back & takes a moment to catch up, happened once, twice, then a third time. I squeezed my eyes shut & blinked a few times. Just a flicker, but there it was again.
I wondered if it might be from the television, but it didn’t sync with what I could see reflecting off the wall in the hallway. There it was again! Could it be from the overhead light? Was there some minor fluctuation in the electricity that was causing this? But no, the light held steady even as my reflection flickered twice more.
I became obsessed, standing in front of mirrors wherever I could find them, studying my reflection when no one else was around, sometimes for hours. I began to notice other things, like a smudge of dirt I could not find on my own clothes or a dried crust of mucus dangling from my nostril that just wasn’t there when I felt for it. I thought perhaps the mirror was dirty, which I subsequently polished to no effect. Could it be a small imperfection in the glass? But the anomalies moved with my reflection as I shifted & nothing else was affected.
Then, just two days ago, I saw it in a single blink of my eyes—or rather, its eyes. I was back in my bathroom when I actually saw my reflection blink—while my own eyes were wide open! I stared, scowled, sneered, looked away, then looked back with a sideways glance, & stuck out my tongue. My reflection followed, but somehow slightly tilted & imprecise.
I squared myself with the mirror & lowered my eyelids, almost closed but not quite, trying to look as though I had them shut but so that I could still see.
The reflection’s eyes remained opened! At this point, I could no longer pretend that the reflection was mine. This was something else.
I studied those eyes through my own nearly closed. They were a deeper blue than I had ever seen in mine. It felt as though they were peering into my very soul. Not once did they blink.
Until I got spooked. Once I had run from the room I had no idea what the reflection did. I wondered whether it was still there or if it only showed itself when I was standing in front of it. Could anyone else see it? If so, did it still look like me or did it look like them? Had anyone else noticed that something was off?
I thought about these things in great depth, but for the past two days I had not looked into a mirror. Not until now.
And so, leaning toward the bathroom mirror with my hands on either side of the sink, I stared into a reflection that was not my own.
“Are you going to say something?” I asked.
“I was waiting for you,” it responded. “I find it goes better if I don’t begin the conversation.”
It surprised me, hearing my reflection answer, even though I was the one who asked the question.
“And what is this conversation we’re supposed to have?”
“Whatever you want to talk about,” it replied. “I really am all ears.”
As it said that, I could have sworn its ears flashed several sizes larger.
It waited for me, but I remained silent. Honestly, I couldn’t think of anything to say. So it continued, “Why don’t you start with what’s been bothering you these past few weeks.”
“I…, I don’t remember,” I stuttered as I seriously tried to recall how it had begun. Something had upset me & made me terribly angry & depressed, but after awhile the cause had disappeared & only the mood remained.
“I understand,” the reflection chuckled. “It happens to me sometimes, too. Sometimes I just feel the way I feel & cannot find a reason for it.”
“So who…, or what are you?” I asked.
“Beyond being your reflection, I really couldn’t say. Though I guess I must be something more…, or at least different. As to what that is…, no, I just really couldn’t say.”
I wasn’t sure whether it was playing with me or being serious. But we continued to visit & after a bit I found I was beginning to enjoy it.
Finally I said, “You know, I haven’t talked with anyone like this for years, not even with my family. I wish you could come out of the mirrors & just be here with me. I think we could become great friends.”
“That would be fun,” it replied. “Just think, all of a sudden you would have an identical twin your parents & siblings didn’t know about!” Then it grew serious, “But be careful what you wish for. I know about wishes. Wishes have consequences.”
“What do you mean?”
“Granting wishes is one thing I know I can do. That, & mirroring others.”
“Really?” I asked. “Please explain. Give me a for instance. I’ve never known simply making a wish to cause problems.”
It didn’t even have to think as it continued, “It does when you make them in front of me. Remember being down in the dumps a week or so ago, not just down but really down, & you were trying to think of something that would help you get out of it? You stood in front of this very mirror, trembling, barely able to stand, & said, ‘Maybe a bowl of ice cream would do it. A bowl of French silk chocolate ice cream with chocolate syrup drizzled heavily over top.’ You thought about it for a moment, closed your eyes as though ready to give up, & said, ‘I really wish I had a bowl of French silk chocolate ice cream swimming in chocolate syrup.’”
“And that very same day,” I followed with growing wonder & dismay as I remembered, “my coworker brought me a bowl of ice cream, exactly as I had described, & specifically told me it was because they knew I’d been down & they were hoping it might cheer me up!”
“That was the same day you lost your favorite pen.”
“What? Really?” I asked “The very same day?”
“Wishes have consequences when you make them to me.”
“So I got a bowl of ice cream but lost my favorite pen?”
“Wishes have consequences,” it repeated, nodding its head.
“It was a good bowl of ice cream. It was also a great pen. But I have to say, I’d probably make that trade again. So I wished for ice cream. I got the ice cream. And losing my pen was the price I paid?”
“I can’t say for sure. I don’t deal with consequences. I just know they happen & that seemed a likely candidate.”
“So, you just grant the wishes?”
“Right. I like granting wishes. I’ll grant pretty much anything that’s within my power. But I don’t like thinking about consequences. Still, I know that it’s important you know they occur.”
“Is the cost of a wish always something like losing a pen—I could handle that—or do they get worse?”
“Oh, they can get much worse. They tend to be comparable to the magnitude of the wish.”
I wasn’t sure I wanted to know the answer to this question, but I asked it anyway. “What’s the worst consequence you’ve ever witnessed?”
It hesitated, a great sadness seeming to weigh upon it. “Do you remember the first day you noticed me, that little flicker?”
“Trying to figure out what was going on between the two of us was not the only thing on your mind that hour & a half you stood there studying me. Do you remember what else was going on?”
“She was very sick. Everyone thought she was on her deathbed. She was very dear to you.”
“And I wished she would get better.”
“Standing right here, in front of me, with tears streaming down your cheeks. Your voice was quivering.”
“And she recovered.”
“And what happened next, on the day she was getting released from the hospital?”
“Grampa had an accident on the way to pick her up. He died before the ambulance could reach the scene.” I paused for a moment, trying to wrap both my head & heart around this thing I didn’t want to believe could be true. “Are you saying that because I made a wish, my gramps died? I killed my grampa?”
“No, of course not. You didn’t kill him. But wishes do have consequences.”
“And his death was the consequence of my wish?”
“I cannot say for sure, but it seemed to fit.”
I thought about that for a long while as the reflection watched with sincere care & concern etched upon its face.
Finally I said, “So making wishes is not a good thing.”
“They have consequences, at least when you speak them out loud in front of a mirror.”
There was a long & deep silence between us as I tried to figure out what question was stirring inside my heart.
“Is this true for everyone?”
“I don’t know. I don’t think so. But I only know about you.”
From that time on, I spent a lot of time in front of mirrors. If it hadn’t been for the fact that I did my best to make sure no one else was around, people would have thought me hopelessly vain & sincerely crazy. I decided to remove the word “wish” from my vocabulary. Before long it didn’t matter whether there was a mirror nearby or not. It became a mania for me. Even just hearing someone else say it made me cringe.
But the reflection & I became fast friends. We talked about everything. It never judged me. We never used names. Between the two of us it was always just “you”, “me”, “us”, & “we”.
Late October, I was in the bathroom conversing with my friend, when my daughter walked in. I didn’t know she was up.
“You have someone in the mirror, too, Baba?” she asked.
It took me a moment, to recover from the start & get my heart out of my throat. “What do you mean?” I asked.
“I heard the two of you talking,” she said. “I have a nice friend, too, but I only get to talk to her when there’s a mirror. She grants me wishes!”
My heart was back in my throat, my panic level rising rapidly.
“Wishes? What kind of wishes?” It hurt just to use the word, even though I wasn’t wishing for anything.
“Well, I wished for a lollipop & then I got one. For my birthday, I wished for a dollhouse & I got one. Today, I wished I’d gets lotsa candy on Halloween, & I know she’s gonna give it to me. She already promised!”
So far, those hadn’t been too bad. They shouldn’t have cost much. Although…,
...the first thing that leapt into my mind was that we would now suddenly find out she’s diabetic. I was becoming desperate. She was too young to understand. Sooner or later she was bound to make a wish that was too big for any of us to handle. I needed to stop this.
She was standing on the stool talking to her friend in the mirror. “My Baba has a friend too, just like you. This is the first time I’ve heard them talk, but I think they have fun together, just like us. I wish everyone in the whole wide world could have friends like you!”
“Is that possible?” I whispered to the reflection in front of me. I didn’t want my daughter to hear what I was asking. I hoped she was so involved with her own conversation she wouldn’t notice.
“I don’t know. Granting such a wish is not within my power, but I don’t know about her reflection. I only know about you, me, us & we.”
“I told myself I was never going to do this ever again.” I struggled frantically with what I knew I needed to say next. “But I have to. I have to make a wish.”
“Remember, wishes have consequences.”
“I wish…,” I could barely think, speak or even stand for that matter.
“Are you sure?”
Without allowing myself to think any further &, with my eyes winced shut, I sputtered, “I wish that my daughter would never see her friend again.”
As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I sensed something reach from behind me, another reflection like my friend in the mirror only thin & ghostly. A chill ran down my back, a deep sense of foreboding. The figure covered my daughter’s eyes with its misty, bony hands, then drew them around where I could see. Between its fingers it held two small, glowing orbs, like the shadows of sight that used to be.
“Sometimes the consequences are more immediate,” my friend sighed. “I don’t usually get to see them like this.”
“Baba, did the ‘lectricity go out? It’s got dark. I can’t see anything.”
It didn’t take long for the horror of what had just happened to overwhelm me. “That’s the consequence? My daughter’s sight? No! No! Not that!” I screamed in a desperate whisper to my friend. “Don’t let my daughter become blind!”
“Do you have a wish?” it asked.
“I want my daughter to see!”
“What about her friend in the mirror? If your daughter can see, she will be able to see her. It’s not within my power to prevent that.”
“Then I wish that my daughter’s friend could not grant any more wishes!”
“That’s not within my power.”
“What can you do, then? How can we fix this?”
“Do you have a wish?” it asked.
My mind was racing. What wish could I possibly make that wouldn’t make matters worse?
“Then…,” & I said the only thing I could think, “I wish that my daughter would stop making wishes!”
Again, I felt the chill of my ghastly reflection reaching toward her. It stuck its fingers inside her mouth, struggling with something I could not see. When it stopped, it did not withdraw its hands, but I could see blood trailing from the corner of her lips.
“No!” I wailed. “No! No! No! Tell me what to do. Please, just tell me what to do!”
“Do you have a wish?”
“I wish you would tell me why you’re doing this to me. I thought we were friends.”
“I have not done anything to you,” it replied. “This is on you. All this is you.”
“I thought you said consequences weren’t my fault!” I screamed as the realization of the nightmare I had been creating rose within me.
“Did I? Sorry. That’s my bad.”
My heart sank. I buried my head in my hands, sobbing uncontrollably. Finally, I whimpered, “I wish none of this had ever happened. I wish I had never met you. I wish…, oh my, my, my,” I gasped, collapsing to the floor. “I wish this whole thing…, no…, no…, no…, I wish I had never happened.” My voice failed as every bit of strength &/or hope drained away from me.
“That is not within my power.”
It was a long time before I was able to compose myself. I moved my hands from my face, wiped at the tears & looked up at the detective sitting in front of me. Having listened intently as I recounted everything, she sat there speechless, as did her partner sitting behind me. Finally, & without a word, they stood up & left.
The District Attorney & Chief were in the observation room staring through the one-way glass when the two detectives entered. The air was thick with the gravity of what they had just witnessed.
“What do you think?” the Chief asked of no one in particular.
“Her tongue was ripped out, her eyes gouged, thumbs pressed all the way back into her skull. Blood everywhere, no other prints. No one else was there.” The lead detective could barely form sentences. “We found empty bottles of Sertraline, Fluoxetine, Clozapine, Aripiprazole, Quetiapine, & Citalopram all around the house. Looked like the place had not been cleaned in a long while. A bottle of both Sertraline & Quetiapine appear never to have been opened. Both were filled over six months ago.”
“She couldn’t have been more than three,” the Chief shook his head. “Have we located the family?”
“Not yet. Canvassing the neighborhood, we discovered she’d been at daycare just a few houses down before she wandered off. We have a couple of officers checking out the places the provider told them her parents might be, but so far we’ve not had any luck.”
“Bring the psychiatrist in,” the D. A. said without looking away from the glass. “I need to know if this is for real. I want the full battery of tests & every evaluation we can come up with. I don’t want to miss anything.”
She continued looking through the glass at the figure standing in front of her on the other side.
The Chief rubbed his eyes. “I must be tired. I’m beginning to see double every time I look back at this creep. My eyes are getting kind of blurry.”
“I noticed that, too, when I was in there,” the second detective joined in. “Really freaky. Something’s not right.”
The four of them stood there in silence for what seemed an eternity—watching, pondering, suffering together. It was the D. A. who eventually broke the spell.
“So tell me, after what we’ve just heard, which disturbs you more: the fact that this lunatic is right now staring into a mirror or the fact that they’re talking to whatever it is they see in there?”
“I don’t know,” the Chief replied. “What are they saying? I’m not good at reading lips.”
“Just two things,” the D. A. replied. “First, they make a wish, which is always followed by the same words:
‘That is not within my power.’”
About the Creator
Randy Wayne Jellison-Knock
Retired Ordained Elder in The United Methodist Church having served for a total of 30 years in Missouri, South Dakota & Kansas.
Born in Watertown, SD on 9/26/1959. Married to Sandra Jellison-Knock on 1/24/1986. One son, Keenan, deceased.
Wow, very very creepy. We're surprised you didn't get acknowledged for this in the challenge. Takes the old genie in the bottle story in a very disturbing direction.💙Anneliese & Pernoste
That is... highly creepy! It surprises me this story doesn't have more likes Randy. The quality of the storytelling is first-rate and the dialogue is particularly effective. In particular the mirror's responses and use of repetitive phrases seem very 'realistic' for lack of a better word. This was a very enjoyable story in a genre I'm personally not really all that big a fan of. Excellent!
I had a wish but I'll save it😉✨❤️💯👍😄Nice Storytelling❗