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With Child

The mirror showed a reflection that wasn’t my own.

By GK BirdPublished 11 months ago Updated 11 months ago 17 min read
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With Child
Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

The mirror showed a reflection that wasn’t my own.

Whoever I was seeing in the mirror was more than a bit pregnant. She was almost-ready-to-pop pregnant. I wasn’t pregnant at all. I knew with one hundred per cent certainty I was not.

Even though it was illogical, I looked behind me, but I was alone. I looked back at the ornate mirror that leaned against the wall of the second bedroom in my new apartment, puzzled by the illusion.

It was disconcerting but also intriguing. It must be a trick mirror like the ones you see at carnivals; the ones that make you look taller and thinner, or shorter and fatter.

I was a graphic designer, not a scientist, so I had no idea how this type of illusion worked. But it was good. It was very good.

I walked towards the mirror, and the reflection walked towards me. The way the mirror was positioned, I could only see my counterpart from just above her bulging belly down to her bare feet with the black-painted toenails.

She wore a tight-fitting ankle-length red dress, buttoned down the front, that did little to disguise the baby she was carrying. I was wearing black skinny jeans, a navy-blue t-shirt, and running shoes. Her black waist-length hair swung gently as she moved. My blonde hair didn’t reach below my shoulders and wouldn’t have been reflected anyway. Her hands rested protectively on her stomach; mine held a box of books.

I put the box down and turned back to the mirror, but now I was looking at myself. I reached out and touched the glass. I don’t know what I expected to happen. Maybe I thought my hand would go through the glass and I’d reach through into another world.

But nothing happened. There was no strange woman on the other side of the mirror. No Wonderland waited to welcome me into a fantastic new world.

“What are you doing?”

I almost jumped out of my skin and stood up so fast my head spun.

“You scared the life out of me,” I blustered, trying to cover my embarrassment.

Claire was standing in the doorway behind me holding a box. She’d been helping with my move and this second bedroom was destined to become my office and library.

She put the box down and raised her eyebrows at me before looking at the mirror. “Where did that ugly thing come from?” she asked. “Have you been out buying stuff?”

I watched the reflection as Claire walked towards the mirror, but it was just Claire. No strange pregnant lady in a red dress.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I don’t remember it being here when I inspected the apartment. Maybe the moving guys made a mistake and got someone else’s stuff mixed up with mine.”

“Hmm,” Claire said, running her hand over the chunky gilded frame. “This could be worth something, as ugly as it is. It looks pretty old.”

“You think?” I replied. “I don’t think it’s that ugly, but you’re right, it does look old.”

I forgot about the mirror while we unpacked as much as we could before Claire complained she was hungry. We spent the next few hours lazing in the living room, eating pizza, watching horror movies, and drinking a bottle of rum Claire produced with a flourish from her backpack.

Around 2 am, Claire called it a night. She rang a cab and headed home. I stood in the doorway after she left, just listening to the quiet of my new place.

I moved through the apartment, treading softly, and running my hands along the walls. This was my place. My very own space. I’d never lived alone before. When I moved out of home, I lived in share houses where there were always people coming and going, no matter the time of night. There was always noise, even if it was just people snoring. My new apartment was quiet. As quiet as a graveyard, my mind helpfully added.

When I got to the second bedroom, I entered quietly and stood in front of the mirror, looking down at it. The room was mostly dark, with just a sliver of light making its way from the living room and glinting off the glass.

I don’t know how long I stood there, staring at it, daring it to show me what I saw before. But it was stubborn, and all I saw were my own legs. I eventually gave up and went to bed.

But I lay there, unable to sleep. My mind turned every small creak or swish into footsteps and started to make up scenarios from true crime stories I’d watched on YouTube and the horror movies Claire and I had watched.

There’s someone in the living room. Is that someone murmuring outside the window? Are you sure you locked the door? Can you smell smoke? You do know you’re absolutely alone here, don’t you? There’s no one here if you need help.

My hearing was in overdrive and I thought I heard fingernails squeaking on glass. Don’t be stupid! There’s no one else here. What are the odds that you’ll get murdered on your first night alone?

I desperately wanted to go and check every room, but I also didn’t want to. So, I pulled my blankets tight around my body and buried my head, blocking my ears. I don’t know when I finally fell asleep but in the morning, I didn’t feel like I’d slept at all.

***

In the light of the day, my fears of the night seemed silly and over the next couple of weeks, I began to enjoy being on my own, with only myself to please. I could do what I wanted, when I wanted, and the apartment soon felt like my own.

I set up my office in the second bedroom. I did remote freelance work, and I had a few jobs on the books, designing logos and report covers.

I emailed the moving company but they didn’t know anything about the mirror. I thought about moving it or selling it and I tried to pick it up, but it was heavier than it looked, so I left it where it was. Maybe next time Claire’s here, she can help me.

The mirror was behind me as I sat at my desk. I was playing around with some images on my computer when the hairs on the back of my neck decided to stand up like small flags. I turned and looked at the mirror, but it reflected only me and this room. But there was something mildly unsettling about working with the mirror staring at my back, so I grabbed a spare blanket from the closet and threw it over it.

I got back to work and managed a few good hours of focused work and forgot about the mirror. I’m pretty sure the blanket was still over the mirror when I finished for the night.

But, the next morning when I came into the room, the blanket was lying crumpled on the floor as if the mirror had shucked it off during the night. This happened every morning from then on. No matter how hard I tucked that blanket around the frame, every morning the mirror was uncovered. After a couple of weeks, I stopped picking the blanket up and left it on the floor. It’s only a mirror. It’s a thing. An object. It can’t hurt you.

Work picked up and the next month was full of demanding deadlines and sixteen-hour days. I’d fall into bed every night and be asleep within minutes. I know my dreams were unpleasant because of how rumpled my bed was when I woke up, but I could never remember them clearly. I woke up tired, feeling like I hadn’t slept, to begin the next long day.

I know I wasn’t eating properly and there were dark circles around my eyes after a week or so. More than once, I found myself standing in front of the mirror just staring at it. I never remembered walking to it and, when I became aware of where I was, all I saw was my own reflection.

I started to become fatigued and irritable during the day. Before long, I was finding it hard to concentrate for more than a couple of hours at a time.

I began sleeping later in the mornings, even though I’d always been an early riser. I even began to catch a few hours of sleep in the afternoon, which was unusual for me. I’d never been able to sleep during the day, even as a kid.

As the month wore on, my body felt bloated and tight. My breasts ached and it got to the point where I could barely keep anything down. The smell of coffee had me rushing to the bathroom, whereas I used to down several cups a day.

One time I jerked awake in the middle of the night. I was standing in front of the mirror. I’d never been a sleepwalker and the thought of not being in control of myself, of doing something I was completely unaware of, scared me more than you know. What if I sleepwalked outside? Anything could happen.

The light from my computer screen cast a soft glow in the room and I stared at the reflection in the mirror. It was, again, not me. It was the same woman as before, but different.

This time, she looked less pregnant, if that’s possible. Her belly was not as distended, not deflated like she’d had her baby, but just…less pregnant. Her baby bump looked smaller and higher than the first time I’d seen it.

She was wearing the same red dress, but the hem was dirty and torn, and there were brown streaks of dirt on her bare toes, as if she’d waded through mud and it had dried on her feet. Her toenails were longer than I remembered and yellow, not painted black now, and they curled around the tips of her toes.

She was standing on wet, dark cobblestones, not the soft pile carpet I was currently curling my bare toes into. As I watched, a trickle of blood run down the inside of her right leg and pooled on the ground near her right instep.

I suddenly realised I was mirroring her posture. My hips were pushed forward, and my back was hollowed. I had one hand on the small of my back and the other was caressing my stomach in the same way she was rubbing her rounded one. Her hand was mesmerising, and I couldn’t look away.

I don’t know how long I stood mimicking those circular movements before I realised my stomach wasn’t as flat as it used to be. It was rounded now. Not as much as the woman in the reflection, but noticeable.

I reached towards the mirror, and the woman reached towards me, extending her index finger. I stopped just before touching the glass, but her fingernail, longer, yellower, and more ragged than last time, squealed as she scraped it sideways along the glass. The thick scratch she left looked like a scar overlaid on her stomach.

I shook my head, bent down, grabbed the blanket, and tossed it back over the mirror. Then I backed up and sat heavily in my office chair while my heart thumped beneath my ribs.

This is a dream. This is not real. So, you’ve put on weight. It’s not like you’ve been exercising lately.

I went back to bed, but I lay there for the rest of the night staring at the ceiling and listening. Listening for footsteps. Listening for the sound of someone climbing through the mirror and into my apartment.

In the morning, I found two small drops of blood in front of the mirror where I’d been standing the night before. I wasn’t bleeding now, but I realised I hadn’t bled since I’d moved in. I was late.

***

Claire finally bullied her way into my apartment after six weeks of me cancelling what was supposed to be our weekly girls’ night out.

“What’s going on,” she demanded, barging past me towards the living room. She tossed her handbag on the armchair and spun on her heels ready to berate me, but her face went white when she properly looked at me.

She came over to me, gently took my arm, and guided me to the couch. I started to cry into her shoulder, and she pushed a strand of hair off my face and held me tightly.

“I don’t know,” I sobbed. “I don’t know what’s going on.”

Claire breathed deeply, pushed back from me, and stood up.

She gestured to me. “Stand up. Come on. Let me look at you.”

I stood and endured Claire’s investigation. She walked around me, looking me up and down with narrowed eyes.

“You know what it looks like, don’t you?” she stated harshly. She almost sounded angry.

“I am not pregnant,” I yelled. “There is no way I could be. Unless miracles are a thing now and I missed the memo.”

Claire walked around me again. I could tell she didn’t believe me, and it irritated me.

“Well, why don’t we check?” she said, grabbing her handbag from the chair. “I’ve got a test in my bag. Let’s check right now.”

“OK,” I said defiantly. “But I know what the answer’s going to be.”

***

When I came back from the bathroom, Claire had her back to me, looking out the window. She turned when she heard me and she didn’t look happy.

“What colour is the line supposed to be?” I asked.

“Two pink lines means positive,” she said. “One pink line means negative.”

“Well, there must be something wrong with this test, because one line is pink and the other is black,” I said.

“That’s not possible,” she responded, stalking towards me and grabbing the test strip from my hand. “Try again. There’re two in the box.”

“I did,” I said. “I’m not an idiot. That is the second one. They both say the same.”

“Well, I don’t know,” said Claire, throwing her hands up in disgust as if I was blaming her for the faulty test. “What have you been doing for the last six weeks? It’s clearly something that you don’t want me to know about. And you look like you’re more than six weeks pregnant. Is there something I should know?”

“I’ve been working,” I spat. “I’ve barely left the house. I haven’t slept with anyone since Andrew, and that was over a year ago. I can’t be pregnant. It’s impossible.”

“Well, then,” said Claire, raising an eyebrow in that condescending way she always did. “Maybe you should see a doctor. Get a real test.”

“I don’t need to see a doctor,” I said. “I know I absolutely cannot be having a baby. Unless the laws of reproduction have suddenly changed and they forgot to let me in on it.”

“I think you’re not telling me the whole story,” Claire said, heading down the hall to the front door. “I’ll be here for you when you decide to let me in on what’s going on. You know my number.”

With that, she slammed the front door and left. I twisted the deadlock and turned and leaned back against the door, breathing heavily and closing my eyes. I was so angry at her. She was supposed to be my best friend, but she was acting like a jerk. Like a jealous jerk.

***

A week later, I woke to find myself in front of the mirror again. In my unconscious state, I’d pulled my shirt up and was rubbing my stomach which felt even bigger than when I’d gone to bed. I snatched my hands away.

The woman in the reflection looked even less pregnant now. Several buttons were ripped off her dress, exposing the skin of her belly which she rubbed with her hands. Round and round and round. The backs of her hands were spidery, with black veins popping out, and her nails now curved out and back under her fingertips like an eagle’s talons.

I felt something move beneath my skin and I put my hand over the spot where I’d felt it move. When I looked down, I noticed dark veins streaking across my belly. The dark blood coursing through them burned as it pumped furiously just under the skin.

I looked back at the reflection and saw something black and sharp push violently against her stomach as if the baby in there was desperate to get out. I thought I heard her singing softly to it, but it couldn’t have been. Reflections don’t make noise, do they?

The woman stretched out a nail and scratched the glass in the same place she had before. She dug her nail in, gouging the glass scar deeper.

I backed away from the mirror and went to the living room and turned my television up loudly. You’re imagining things, I told myself as I flicked through the stations. Get it together.

***

My stomach started to get bigger by the day. It was like something from a sci-fi movie where a human gets pregnant to an alien and the gestation period speeds up double time.

I lost track of time but I could no longer deny it. Something was growing inside me. But how? It’s not possible!

I tried to stay away from the mirror. I thought if I didn’t look at it, then everything would go back to normal. I moved my computer out to the living room and tried to work there, but I couldn’t focus and I lost clients because I kept missing deadlines.

Almost every night now, I’d jerk awake, and find myself in front of the mirror. Sometimes several times a night. Both of us would be rubbing our baby bumps, but hers was shrinking, while mine was growing. She also screeched her ever-lengthening fingernail along the scar in the mirror, gouging deeper and deeper until I thought the tip of it would break through, but it never did. I wondered how thick the glass was and what would happen if it did break.

Eventually, I stopped fighting the compulsion and started spending most of the day in front of the mirror. I stopped showering. My hair became stringy and matted. The pungent smell of sweat assaulted my nose, but I couldn’t be bothered getting changed or washing my clothes.

The phone often rang in the other room, but I ignored it. Once I heard Claire banging on my front door, but I yelled at her to go away, and she eventually did.

Then one night, at around midnight, when I looked almost as pregnant as the reflection had been at the start, the woman stepped forward and pressed her now almost flat stomach up against the scar in the glass.

I could hear her whispering to me now. Come closer, she whispered. It’s almost time. Help him into the world.

I tried to resist but I no longer had the strength or willpower. I stepped forward and pressed my huge belly up against her flat one with the glass scar between us.

The glass was icy cold. Suddenly the mirror cracked along the glass scar and something even colder passed between us. My stomach became tighter and heavier. Heavier than it had been before.

I looked down and saw what looked like goat horns scraping along inside me, just below the surface of my stomach.

I looked up and the woman in the reflection stepped backwards into the dark until I could no longer see her.

My womb contracted, water and blood flooded the carpet beneath me, and I screamed in pain.

Take good care of him. He’s a prince. A prince among men, I heard her whisper.

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About the Creator

GK Bird

Australian fiction writer and reader, always on the lookout for good writing.

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