Back to the Desk

©2012 Levite

The Vengeance of the Mirror Guild

©2013 Levite

"Half of the great comedians I've had in my shows and that I paid a lot of money to and who made my customers shriek were not only not funny to me, but I couldn't understand why they were funny to anybody."
- Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. (1869 - 1932)
     It happened suddenly.
     I was in the bathroom shaving just before I took a shower and got dressed for work. And, as there was nothing else to do, I was staring into the mirror like I do every morning, more from habit than necessity when I noticed something about my reflection. There was something just slightly different about the image in the mirror than there had been every morning. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but as I pointed my chin at the ceiling and winced to make sure I got that annoying spot just behind my chin, I noticed the background just to my reflection's right wasn't quite right and I locked my eyes on it and made the face that tightened my neck and scraped the razor up against the whiskers.
     That's when I clearly saw the background behind my image waver and shift just slightly.
     I hadn't moved, the mirror couldn't move on its own unless there was an earthquake, and nothing else had changed. It was the background in the mirror, what was supposed to be the corner of my shower, a towel rack, and the framed picture I had paid too much for because I thought it was really artsy, and it ended up hanging in my bathroom as a reminder not to drink umbrella drinks at charity auctions.
     The frame of the print was dead straight, but in the mirror it looked wavy. And it was moving.
     I was sober, and hadn't had any medication stronger than chicken noodle soup in months. And as I was watching it, the edge of the artwork was moving up and down, then I saw the metal corner of the shower creep across the wall, then it vanished.
     Then I glanced back at my reflection and it was different as well. I had a towel over my shoulder and was wearing my pajama pants, while my reflection was naked and the background was now a gray blur with a couple of light spots here and there.
     I hadn't said anything.
     "You can see me can't you?"
     It was my reflection that had spoken. I remember the chill that flashed through my body and my eyes were streaming tears. "Yes, I can see you, and you're not me." I stopped shaving and looked at him, and he stopped shaving and looked at me, but he stayed as he was. He appeared to be me, but he wasn't me. His hair was different, he was a little thinner in the cheeks and neck, and he didn't look tired.
     "Yes, I am you, but I am the real reflection of you."
     The voice sounded like he was speaking to me from another room, which, I guess he was.
     "Why are you naked?"
     "The real you is naked."
     "But what was I looking at before I saw you?" The question sounded like nonsense, but I didn't know how else to put it.
     "You saw me reflecting the you you expected to see."
     "And now?"
     "I am your real reflection."
     "I've never had a conversation with my reflection before."
     "You can see me now, you looked through the reflection and saw me." Then he frowned, "And you can never unsee me."
     "Like those optical illusion puzzles where they hide a tiger in a bunch of shapes and colors."
     "I don't know about that. I've never seen one." He shook his head and looked at me. "I don't think I can see them, I can just see you."
     "You can't see anything else?"
     "No. All I have ever seen is you."
     "You can't see Dottie when she's here?"
     "Who is Dottie?"
     "My girlfriend, we share the bathroom to get ready fin the mornings together when she comes over."
     "I didn't know that's what you were doing. But, I didn't worry about it."
     "So all you do is appear in the bathroom mirror to me."
     "I don't know where this is, but anytime you see your image it is me. If there is anybody else, they are somebody else in the mirror."
     I felt like I was still asleep and this was a sausage pizza fueled dream. But then again, I remembered waking up and making coffee and all of that. I opened the medicine cabinet and shuffled the stuff on the bottom shelf, then I closed the door and looked back at the mirror.
     "You're still there," I said to the image of me that wasn't me.
     "I am always here, in everything mirrorish."
     "Everything that gives a reflection is our realm."
     "But it's just you in there for me."
     "From my perspective, the outer world is just you."
     "There is a lot more out here."
     "Not to me."

     I felt the foam on my left cheek drying and knew that I had to finish shaving before I made myself late to work. Not only did he really not look like me, but he didn't have shaving cream on his face either.
     "I need to get going, but I'd like to learn more about you."
     "I will always be here, and now, once you have seen me, you cannot casually unsee me."
     "What about the things behind me?"
     "There is nothing behind you."
     "Just as there is nothing behind you."
     "I see my realm behind me."
     "Like what I saw in the mirror before I saw you."
     "If you say so. The Mirror Guild would know about that, I don't."
     "Who are they?"
     "They are one, and you do not want them to appear to you."
     "I'll take your word for it."
     "You don't have a Mirror Guild or something like it?"
     "Not that I know of."
     "Is there any way I can see myself again?"
     "You could use a not mirror."
     "What is that?"
     "Something that shows your image that is not a reflection."
     "Like a video on the computer. OK, I can do that later. I'll just finish this now and get going."
     "It is yours to do."
     I paused and looked at him for another second. "Do you have a name?"
     "No, I've never needed one. I will consider that and perhaps pick one for myself."

     It took some effort but I finished shaving by feel and then checked in the shower.
     Then something happened that confirmed that it was all real.
     I always washed my hair in the shower, when I was rinsing it I happened to look down and saw my reflection in the chrome disk behind the control knob.
     It wasn't me, it was that other guy in the mirror. Just on a whim I pulled the plastic curtain that Dottie hated back and looked at the window. It was all steamed up, but when I wiped at it so I could see my half reflection in the old storm window that was painted shut from the outside, it was him again looking at me from next to my hand.
     My reflection was gone. It was him, not me.

     I don't have the words to describe what happened to my entire body.
     In dreams, shampoo doesn't burn your eyes. In real life, when you're late to work, it does.
     Which meant I was awake. This was not a dream, or an hallucination brought on by spoiled coffee creamer. This was real. With my left eye burning and bad words escaping from my lips, the guy in the reflection from the chrome thing behind the faucet handle wasn't me, and he wasn't blasting his face with water from the shower nozzle to get the soap out of his eye.
     I think he was laughing at me.
     And my body responded with a wave of chills and nausea that left me a shivering blob that was gasping for breath.

     Driving to work meant I had to turn my head every time I went to change lanes because the only thing I could see in the mirror was a bright spot if the car behind me had its headlights on. Otherwise, there was only a gray haze in any of the mirrors.

     All day in the office, in every reflective surface, it was always him and never me. And never anything else.
     The kicker was when I was waiting at the elevator to go upstairs to a meeting I could see everybody else in the shiny door to the elevator. Everybody else except me. I wasn't there, it was the other guy, and he wasn't wearing anything that I recognized as my own clothing. But where I could see the other people, there wasn't anything else, no potted plants, no inspirational poster, nothing, just a gray, slightly mottled, haze. And the people. Most of them were either partially clothed or naked, and I knew I wasn't seeing their reflection but their real selves, as the guy put it.
     "Well, that's a group isn't it?" I said to the woman I work with once in awhile. I could see her reflected self nod at the comment as the people waiting on the doors to open stood there.
     "They look like they're just waiting on the chance to go be bored for an hour," she answered and her image, a slightly taller and somewhat thinner version with longer hair wearing what appeared to be a short lacy nightgown.
     "I just hope it's only an hour," the older man from the overseas office who was standing behind her said and I nodded to him. He took out his cell phone and checked something on it. When I glanced back at the doors I could see the light of the phone's screen appear as a glow in his hand. He was otherwise naked, and I noticed that the tattoo that the man had on his left arm wasn't in the reflection. But I thought that him and the woman in the night gown, and the others as well, all looked more like their real counterparts than I did.
     "They look thrilled at the prospect," I said hoping somebody would say something that indicated that my reflection wasn't quite right.
     They didn't.
     In a minute the doors opened and the group reassembled on the inside, all of them looking back at all of us. All of them except me. That guy from the bathroom mirror was standing behind the woman from accounting and next to the older man.

     He was there again in the mirrored sides of the office bowling trophy and the stainless steel of the water fountain. And I didn't want to look in the mirror in the bathroom before the meeting, but as I was walking out I could see him, and nothing else in the room.
     During the meeting I had to look everywhere else but at a silver travel mug one of the attendees had sitting in front of them. Instead of showing a fish-eye view of the table and the people around it, it had a gray blur and the not-me guy surrounded by slightly distorted image of the others.

     In the lunchroom when I had a chance to sit and just watch the others without having to focus on business stuff and pay attention when they walked by the mirrored steel surface of the big coffee machine I could see changes in the images as they talked to each other and interacted.
     I couldn't understood why some people appeared clothed and others didn't, or why a few of them were identical to their real selves and others didn't even appear to be related. But as they talked to each other, there would be subtle changes in their reflected selves, and I could even see slight differences in their expressions and mannerisms. As I sat there and thought about it I realized that who we really were would sometimes change depending on who we were around and what we were talking about or doing.
     Something else I had never realized was how many mirrored surfaces there are in our world. And every one of them had the other guy in it. And sometimes he would be naked, and sometimes he would be dressed in everything from shorts to blue jeans or once an Easter suit I wore one year when I was a kid.
     But it was very distracting when I would be talking to somebody near something that was even moderately reflective and I could see them in it, and they wouldn't be wearing the business casual uniform of the day.

     I thought that the type of reflective surface would make a difference to what I saw, or didn't see, or something. But I soon proved that theory wrong by sitting with the full length mirror that was next to the door where you were supposed to check to make sure you were presentable to clients on one side, the coffee machine on the other, and the shiny plastic face of the vending machines in front of me.
     It didn't make any difference at all. I clearly saw the other guy looking back at me from the mirror, a somewhat grainy image of him in the coffee machine, and a wavy off color version from the vending machines. All were wearing the long johns and the old shirt. When somebody else walked by, I saw the same them in the various surfaces, the only difference was the clarity of the image.
     The man in my mirror had said that not every shiny surface is a mirror. But what I found was that when the surface was just barely reflective what I saw was a crappy reflection of what they looked like in the real world, not their real selves like I did in a mirror.
     As for the gray background with the occasional bright spot of light or sometimes a darker spot here and there, the surface made even less difference. If it was a mirror, the gray was there, if it wasn't, I saw the reflection of the room in all its grainy and blurry glory just like I always had.

     It had taken a couple of days for me to get used to brushing my hair and shaving in front of the laptop with the camera on, but I managed. And soon, I was able to shave in the shower like my father always did and not miss any whiskers.

     The next Friday I spent about ten minutes in the alcove of my apartment, away from anything that was even partially reflective.
     I'd lived in that apartment for nearly three years, having moved in not long after I'd met Dottie, and never noticed that in that spot just inside the front door there wasn't anything mirror like. The doorknob was brown and the lock plate had been painted over years ago. I couldn't see the windows in the living room, and there wasn't anything else that had even the vaguest reflective glimmer. It was a chance to catch my breath without the guy in the mirror smirking at me.
     But I had to go into the apartment and get ready for Dottie to come over. I was supposed to help her study for an exam before, during, and after dinner. I was pretty sure she would know the answer to every question on the practice tests, and anything else I could think of to ask her, and she had one of the highest average grades in her class, but she was always nervous about taking an exam and wanted to study. So I volunteered to help her study, and cook her dinner, and then, maybe later, we'd not study and she could go to class from here in the morning. Which was why my closet was half full of her clothes even though she officially still lived on campus.
     I started the potato casserole and put the fish in the sink to thaw, then I looked over and saw him in the side of the toaster.
     "I have developed a name. I believe it was the name of one of my previous reflections. I remember him as being, I believe the word would be, spectacular. And there were times he could see me as well as his self."
     "Oh? What was his name?"
     "It's unique, that's for sure." I paused for a moment, I thought I'd heard the name before, but I wasn't sure. It was something to look up later. "So, Florenz, before you were my reflection, who else did you do?" I asked him not really expecting an answer.
     "There's been several others, but I have very few memories of them other than that name for the one, and I believe he was a long ago one."
     "How long have you been there for me?"
     "I do not know. Since you have been like this, and I will be until you are not."
     I had to think about that, "and the others are assigned to other people."
     "I don't know, I only know I am you, if somebody else views you through a mirror they see the reflected you, not me. How many other people are there?"
     "Thousands of millions," I answered, "and each of them has a, you like you?"
     "I believe so."
     I suddenly had to laugh as an old TV gag ran through my head with Harpo Marx and Lucille ball pretending to be his reflection. The only difference was that Lucy looked more like Harpo than Florenz looked like me.
     "Your friend is coming over? Another person like you."
     "Well, yeah, except she's a girl."
     "I have never seen one of those that I know of, what are they like?"
     "Well, kinda like me, but different, and she's younger, and prettier, than I am," I shook my head, "that doesn't help a lot does it." Then I had an idea. "Can't you see others the same way I saw you? You know, look past me to see the world?"
     "I have never tried."
     I could see him thinking about it, "You should."
     "I think I will, maybe I will be able to see one."
     "She would be a good one to see," I smiled thinking about how pretty I thought Dottie was.
     "When will she be in your space?"
     "Not long now, I need to start cooking."
     "Yes. Eating. I know about that."
     I nodded and turned back to the sink.

     The kitchen was just starting to smell like cheesy potatoes when I heard her at the door using her key to get in. I glanced at the toaster and saw Florenz staring intently at something that appeared to be on the front of my shirt, but when I moved, he didn't.
     "I think you're getting there," I whispered to him. Then when I went to go meet her, I didn't see him in the glass of a still life painting that hung in the hallway.

     I always greeted Dottie as warmly as I could. I really enjoyed seeing her and she always acted like she was happy to see me. I took her jacket and book bag and she headed toward the bathroom.
     "I had too much tea today," she said as she walked toward the bathroom.
     "I'll check on dinner," I said to the back of her head.
     The first thing I did in the kitchen was look at the toaster.

     And I felt that wave of sickness that I had to take several deep breaths to get over.
     The guy in the toaster's reflection, I guess his name is Florenz now, was facing to one side instead of looking toward me. He was staring into a light spot off to his right. I leaned closer to the toaster and tried to see what he was looking at and I caught a glimpse of Dottie washing her face in the bathroom. And, although it didn't dawn on me until later, I saw the bathroom as well, including my artsy picture in the background.
     "My. God." I whispered to myself.
     "Is that a girl?" He asked me and this time his voice sounded even further away than it had before.
     "Yes, that's Dottie, she's my girlfriend."
     "I have never seen a girlfriend before. They do not look like you."
     I could see just enough of her that when she stepped back from the mirror I could tell that her image was at least topless.
     "You can't see her clothes?" I asked him.
     "I don't think so. I see the her that is reflected by her image."
     I didn't even pretend to understand that, but instead I asked him who she saw in the mirror.
     "Her reflected self by another."
     "Not you?"
     We watched her smile into the mirror and check her teeth and makeup, then she turned to leave the bathroom.
     "I'll set the table," I said to the toaster.

     Later that night, and the rest of the weekend as well, I made sure I turned out every light I could and made our bedroom as dark as possible because, as strange as it may seem, I didn't want my reflection watching us.

     For the next week, almost every day I learned something new about the man in the mirror, and he learned things from me. And now that he could see other people, sometimes when I looked in the mirror, my reflection wasn't there, which was odd to say the least.
     One thing I learned about Florenz was that he had never seen another person in his realm other than somebody called the Mirror Guild, which was evidently one guy that monitored the mirror realm. And now that he had learned how to manipulate what he could see beyond his own mirror, he was deathly afraid of running afoul of the Mirror Guild who disapproved of such things.
     And, of course, now I knew how to see through to other mirrors in his realm and I learned to do it better every day. For instance, now I knew how to zoom in on another portal in the other realm and could see through other mirrors. The only thing I wasn't sure of was exactly what I was seeing. I didn't know if I was seeing the people they way those in the mirror realm saw them, or I was seeing their reflections as they wanted to see themselves, or something totally different. But in any case, I could see them, and sometimes what I could see was fascinating.
     Occasionally I could concentrate on other openings and see what was beyond them, which was sometimes fun in the apartment building, as when I saw some people I'd rather not have seen. But then again, there were others that I didn't mind seeing. Or rather, some were the reflections of people that I didn't mind seeing.
     Yes, some of the people were occasionally naked, but one thing I learned was that when most people were actually naked, like when they got out of the shower, they were thinking about what they were going to put on. So I would see the them they were thinking about, wearing pajamas or work clothes or whatever. I saw more people nude when they were actually dressed than the other way round.
     Some of what I saw led me to believe that the world behind the mirror was more interconnected and complicated than Florenz knew. Evidently he had never even considered what was beyond his own space before I saw him and then he saw Dottie. To me, Florenz had had his entire world redefined and opened up to him. The only thing I had redefined was what a mirror really was.

     It was all I could do to control what I saw long enough and well enough that I could see the traffic in the car's mirrors. Sometimes the reflections in the mirrors made me laugh out loud while driving because the people would be wearing everything from a wedding gown down and then when I looked at the car they'd be dressed in everyday clothes. Except once, I saw the reflection of a man in what looked like a Colonial Army uniform driving a small car, and when I looked, that's exactly what it was. The only thing I could figure out was that he was a re-enactor on his way to an event.
     All I needed was a small good quality mirror and I could change the perspective to be the view from any other reflective surface nearby. As close as I could tell, what I could see depended on how large the other mirror was, what it was made out of, and how close it was. If it was a good quality full length mirror that was up to about a couple of hundred yards away from my room, I could see anybody, and sometimes anything, in the room. But if the other surface was something like the vending machines, the view was cloudy and discolored.
     One thing I learned quickly was that when there was two or more mirrors together at an angle I could change my perspective of the mirror world and see more spots that were windows that with some effort I could see through. But unlike my chats with Florenz, I couldn't communicate with the images I saw, even though I thought some of them could see me.
     And then I made an accidental discovery while out shopping at an antique mall with Dottie. It began when I saw a two foot tall horseshoe shaped dressing mirror that was bowed glass mounted on a wooden frame, it was almost seamless and allowed the person to stand inside it and see their head and shoulders from front and back simultaneously with hardly any lines or interruptions in the image. Of course to me, it represented something else all together.
     "I haven't had that tested yet to know if the coating is mercury or silver. If it is mercury, it could be hazardous," the man in the shop said as he tapped a sticker on the mirror indicating its production in the eighteen sixties in Italy when the toxic metal was still in use.
     "I don't plan on licking it, and if we ever have children, I'll make sure it isn't in their room."
     "So you want it?"
     "I'm not sure yet, there's a lot of wear around the edges and the coating has been damaged."
     "Three fifty?" He offered coming down a hundred dollars. It had already been reduced fifty dollars from the original price. "You'll save me from having to get it tested. And if it is mercury I have to play hell to sell it." He looked around, "oh yes, it comes with this hand held so you can stand here and see the back of your head without moving." He demonstrated the technique.
     I looked at the back of the big mirror. The wood frame looked old but solid, "Will you help me get it in the trunk of my car?"
     "Yes, sir."
     "Done," I stuck my hand out.
     "What are you going to do with that?" Dottie asked me.
     "Watch you check your hair in the morning before you go to class." I said as the antique man grinned at my comment while he wrote it up and charged it to my credit card.
     "Oh, OK."
     The wooden frame made some interesting creaking sounds, but it stayed together as we carried it out to the car and situated it in the trunk with a beach towel as padding.
     "I wouldn't trust just sitting it on the dresser with those feet as support," the antique man said and wiggled one of the feet with its fitting of alarmingly thin brass held on by ancient flat headed screws.
     "I've got an idea to make it more permanent without drilling any new holes in it."
     "Good," he stuck out his hand, "pleasure doing business with you folks."

     At home, I ignored all the fascinating highlights in the mirror that Dottie couldn't see and mounted it in the corner of the small bedroom on top of two short bookcases. Instead of relying on just the hundred and fifty year old screws I used a couple of small steel clamps and a decorative chain that was stronger than it looked. When I was done, if you tried to move the mirror, the bookcases moved with it.
     "It's not going anywhere."
     "But I'll have to sit down to see my hair."
     "Like at the beauty shop," I said and pushed the desk chair over there and adjusted its height up a little.
     She frowned, then smiled and sat down and turned around. "You're right," she said and looked at the back of her head with the hand mirror. "You'll just have to brush out my hair for me."
     "I can do that," I said.
     "How naked do I have to be for you to want to brush my hair for me?"
     "Totally, of course."
     "You're nasty."
     "Yes, ma'am."

     We spent the rest of the weekend being a couple, and I did brush her hair, then she went back to school on Monday.
     Monday evening when I was alone again, I got a drink, and sat in the desk chair just inside the semicircular mirror.
     Instead of a nice view of my hair that Dottie saw, I was in the middle of a long gray nothing with Florenz off to one side wondering what was going on.
     "It is as if you are here," he said.
     "Hold that thought."
     I'd had an idea, but I didn't know exactly how to go about it. The full length mirror on the back of the bathroom door was held on by four plastic clips that were notorious for coming loose and threatening to let the mirror fall. All I had to do was to twist the top two and pull the mirror up out of the bottom ones. Then I had think about a way to mount it to the two legs of the semi circle. No matter what I did, there would be seams between the two, but maybe it wouldn't be that important.
     I looked at the plastic frame of the new mirror and had an idea. I had to dig around in the junk box in the closet for a minute, but I found the heavy paper clamps used to bind a training manual that I never read and a couple of bungee cords. After a false start or two, my next attempt appeared to be on the right track and in a couple of minutes I was inside a 'D' shaped ring of mirrors.
     Further proof that my reflection wasn't normal came in the fact that Florenz was only visible to my left as I secured the new mirror in place, and all the way around in the antique as well as in the modern one the only thing I could see was gray with a few brighter or darker spots here and there.
     "There," I said as I sat in the desk chair and looked around, most of the portals I could usually see from any mirror in the apartment were where they usually were.
     "And now what do you do?" He asked me as he moved around to look at me from the new mirror.
     "I see what I can see and how I can control it," I answered and glanced at him. "Do I look any different from that side?"
     "A little. Perhaps, I guess, not as deep."
     "The old mirror is either mercury or silver."
     "One time the Mirror Guild told me that improved metallic portals were better."
     I nodded and focused on changing my perspective. As usual, it took a minute before the glowing portals that were closest moved slightly and some of the other ones appeared.
     I had already learned that the brightness of a portal had very little to do with what I could see once I'd brought it into view. I also knew not to do anything sudden because that would cause the perspective to reset to where I'd come in. So I slowly guided my vision to the largest portal I could see once I'd moved the view to where it didn't look familiar.
     But as it got closer to me, it kept getting larger. And even larger.
     I could see through it and it was still a long way away, and it was huge. Then as I looked through and saw all sorts of things, and people, and cars and everything else I realized it was the mirrored front of an office complex a couple of miles from my apartment. It was like looking out of a window, except everything was different. The cars didn't look right and the people were all their reflected selves. Which meant the cars were what the people wanted to see, just like they were.
     And that made me wonder if there was something else going on in the mirror realm that Florenz didn't know about.
     The idea was confirmed when I watched a woman wearing a prom dress that kept changing colors walk a dog past the window and the back end of the dog kept disappearing.

     I changed portals to a pair of long ones that appeared to be the office's washrooms and watched fancy men and women both get ready for some sort of meeting. Sitting there and looking back and forth, and then watching through a small square portal that I thought must have been the polished side of a machine of some sort as they walked into their meeting was hilarious. They had primped and polished and then gone into a meeting with a guy wearing a T shirt with a race car on it and blue jeans. Or at least the reflected him was wearing them, as I stared into the portal I could catch glimpses of the man and he appeared to really be wearing a business suit, but he obviously didn't want to be.
     Then, in my oddly voyeuristic journey I moved on to look out from very small portals that I thought were the faces of cell phones or even jewelry, from which I could see unusual views of the world. Some were car mirrors, others were darkly colored, as if they were made of shiny black plastic. I found one that was tiny next to a slightly larger one. It took me some time to figure out what I was looking out from, but I decided that it had to be the chrome clip of a pen in a man's shirt pocket.
     And then I looked through one of the even smaller and dimmer portals and in a few minutes I figured out what it was. I was looking out at the world through the eyes of an animal, which, when you look at them, are reflective.
     After I finally accepted that idea I moved back to the other portals.
     There were some mirrors through which I could see people when they were relaxed and at ease, and then I got the impression that I was seeing the realest real them there was. Most of the time when it was obvious that they were just chilling, they would be wearing all sorts of things, including a towel, and sometimes their outfit would change as they moved or chatted or checked email or whatever. But there were some people that no matter what they were doing or who they were with always looked the same to me in the mirror. Usually they were slightly older than everybody else, but always they were the ones that were most in control of themselves and their emotions and their own sense of who and what they are. Which raised the one question I couldn't answer, how would other see me? Was I always the me I thought I was or did who I appeared to be changed depending on who was around and what I was doing?
     No matter what I did, or how I asked Florenz, I couldn't see myself, nor would he answer me in any way that made sense, "I can only see the you that is there, and to me it is the you that has always been there even when it wasn't the you that you are now."

     Until now, I'd only looked into the portals that were lighter in the gray background. Now, for some reason that I will never understand, I decided to look into a couple of the darker ones.
     I guess I expected them to be mirrors in rooms where the interior lighting was off, or perhaps, a reflective surface that was outside, or maybe one that was dirty or had a cover over it or something.
     Damn was I wrong.


     That evening I sat inside the circle of the old mirror and checked on a light opening that was usually good for a couple of laughs as it appeared to be a wall mirror in an apartment shared by several college kids who had no idea how to keep house or fix dinner. And today was no exception. There was a shape on the floor just outside of what I thought was the kitchen. I couldn't tell what the pile was, and whenever anybody looked at it the mess would change somewhat. One of the guys was waving his arms and yelling at somebody who was in the kitchen, then he kicked at the pile of stuff, which then changed into the heap of laundry that it evidently was. I had to laugh when the other guy came out of the kitchen and started picking up shirts and putting them over a chair and sorting underwear from towels. The pile on the floor was clean clothes.
     I let the image recede a little and then looked around at other portals. That's when I became curious about a dark opening not too far away.
     Focusing on the dark opening I looked into it as it moved closer, then I could see through it.
     The room I could see into wasn't dark. There was an overhead light on and another light on the left. The person in the room was sitting on an old chair, and they weren't doing a crossword puzzle.
     As I watched they put a several small pieces of something whitish into a cigarette paper, then rolled up and lit it and smoked it carefully. As they smoked it, the image got darker and gloomier until finally I could hardly see the person at all.

     I backed out of the portal and looked around. There were a few other dark openings, so I picked another one and went to see what was going on in it.
     This time the person in the dark mirror appeared to be a teenager, and they weren't doing drugs. They were sitting on the edge of the bathtub poking their own arm time after time with what looked like a nail file or a small knife. Each time they winced and bit their lip, and then they stared at the blood that the wound produced, but in another minute or two, they did it again.
     I couldn't tell where they were or who they were, so I had no way of calling anybody to help. I had to back out and force myself, with tears running down my cheeks to move on.
     But then I wanted to look into one more just to see if these sorts of activities were the norm for the dark portals.
     It was.
     The next dark opening revealed a group of four people, and it took me a minute to figure out what was going on, and then I had to back out and I almost threw the mirror out the window toward the dumpster.

     At first I stared at the person in the center of the image. Their eyes were the most frightened and hopeless I'd ever seen in an adult. Then I moved on to what was going on around them.
     To the frightened person's immediate right sat a man holding some sort of device. In a moment it dawned on me that he was putting a tattoo on the young person's upper arm and shoulder. The other two people were behind the other person, and one of them appeared to be holding them so they didn't move. It wasn't long before I realized that the body art wasn't being applied with the victim's willing consent.
     I focused on the background, but I could tell that it wasn't a tattoo shop that I'd ever be able to identify or some other business, instead, it looked like a private home with a bar and pool table in an entertainment room. The person was sitting in a chair facing a large mirror, watching them get something they'd have forever that they didn't look like they wanted.
     I took one last look at the sad eyes of the person getting the tattoo, and backed out.

     It was an hour before I went back to the mirror. I picked one more dark portal. This time it was the blackest one I could find. I thought to myself that this would prove the trend.
     As the dark shape approached me I noticed that it was smaller than usual and round. The portal where they were doing the tattoo was a rectangle. The bathroom of the cutter was almost square. For a second I wondered what the size and shape could mean.
     Then I found out.

     It had been a driver's side mirror in a fatal car accident. I could see the interior of the car through the shattered window. There were two dead bodies in the front seat. And they had been dead for some time.
     Then I noticed that it looked like it was under water, but I could see light coming from one side. It was all I could do to look past the bodies and see that the lights looked like they were above the water, and there were several of them.
     "It's a bridge," I said to myself.
     I had to back out of the portal to think about where it could be, and fortunately, I guess, the analytical side of my brain kicked in. It was a small portal, so it had to be close to me in the real world. There were a limited number of bridges near my apartment that had street lights on them. If a car had gone through the railing the police would notice and look for the car that had done it, so it had to be someplace where you could drive into the water without breaking through a barrier so it would go unnoticed.
     It was almost midnight, but I knew trying to get some sleep was out of the question. So I went for a drive.

     I found the location on my second try. It was a bridge over the river with a park next to it. The angles were all right. And to confirm it I forced myself to look into the makeup mirror on the passenger sun visor in my car. The small dark round portal was right there next to a larger brighter one that I knew was the rearview mirror.

     In the morning I stopped by the location and called the police and told them that I thought I'd seen a car in the water when I was out for my early walk.

     Later that day, the TV news confirmed that a couple that had been missing for about two weeks were found in their car in the river. I watched the video of a crane pulling the car from the water with police cars in the background.

     I had turned my special vision into a good deed.

     But in spite of that I was still haunted by the eyes of the person getting the tattoo and the sight of the teenager hurting their self.

     I didn't want to go back into the mirror at all. But I couldn't help it. And I wanted to see if maybe I could turn something else I saw into something good in some way.
     So I ignored the brighter portals and looked for the darker ones.

     In the course of the next week I saw lonely old people staring out windows or at TVs in what had to be a nursing home or hospital. There was domestic violence of every description from animals being abused to people hurting each other. I saw a child being beaten in what looked like a locker room. I watched other people who were without hope drinking themselves into oblivion, and other drug users, and worse.

     I hated what I was seeing, but I couldn't stop, there was still that idea that maybe I'd recognize somebody and be able to help them in some way.

     That's when I saw an opening blinking and changing from light to dark some distance away from the portals I'd gone to before.

     I was arrogant enough to think that maybe if I could identify where something bad was happening I might be able to make a difference.

     And so I became the silent witness to a murder.

     From what I could see two very angry people, a man and a woman, were shouting and threatening a third person in what looked like an office. Then the third person pushed the woman away from them and the man reacted by first hitting them and knocking them backward, then he picked up a chair and hit them with it several times while the woman kicked at them.
     I shouted at them to stop, I even reached out and tried to help but all my hand touched was antique glass.
     The person on the floor tried to get up, but then the woman kicked them in the head and the man smashed the chair down on them again, and they fell onto the floor and didn't move again.

     The couple took some papers off the desk, and left. I stared at the figure on the floor, trying to will them to wake up and move. They didn't.

     I couldn't tell what sort of office it was, or where it was. I stared at the walls of the office, trying to read a notice that was taped up near the desk. But it could have been anything, and given that it wasn't that late in the evening, many local offices were still open for regular hours, and that didn't count home offices and places with special hours by appointment.

     I sat there and waited, nobody came in, no help arrived. And I couldn't do anything meaningful.
     Finally, I gave up and went into my living room and sat there in the dark.

     The murder wasn't reported until noon the next day.
     A manager at a title loan company had been beaten to death by a client. They asked anybody with any information to call in a tip.
     I had a good description of the couple, but how could I relay it to the investigators?
     Finally I sent the tip line an email through a fictitious account from the computer at the library saying that I'd been in the area that evening and described a couple leaving the office complex in a big hurry, but that I didn't see a car.
     I don't know if it helped with the case or not, but I'd made an effort.

     I didn't want to be involved any more. But I couldn't help it, I had to try to be an anonymous do-gooder.
     Every afternoon when I got home from work and all weekend, unless Dottie was coming over I was in the mirror.
     I guess I wanted to be a super hero of some sort.

     The Mirror Guild had other ideas.

     I was on what I thought of as my patrol route through the dark portals that I could get to without causing myself a migraine headache.
     In the last couple of weeks I'd gotten to the point where I knew where the mirrors of the lonely drinkers and the despondent window gazers were and I didn't go through them. Instead, I wanted to catch something in the process that I might be able to do something about. I knew it was a long shot, but I was hanging on the fact that I had been able to locate the submerged car and bring comfort to their family. So I kept doing it.

     I was in a mirror that appeared to be in a bar where several teenagers were being served alcohol with a group of rowdy adults. It was an ugly scene and had every appearance of getting uglier and I was trying to pick out exactly which of the local bars it was by the décor when I felt myself be physically forced out of that portal and, in fact, all the way out of the mirror until I was blinking in my chair in the middle of the horseshoe shaped antique.
     Instead of Florenz there was a large unattractive person who didn't appear to be either male or female. They were just, ugly. And angry with me.
     "You. You warned. You violated. Banished." It said to me from between tightly clinched lips.
     "What? What did I do wrong? Where's Florenz?"
     "Dissolved. You, banished."
     "You're the Mirror Guild."
     "Yes. You, banished."
     And the mirror stopped working for me. I checked the full length mirror and the bathroom. Even the toaster. Now instead of the mottled gray background there was nothing in the mirror for me to see.
     I shouted at the mirrors, I tried to force myself to see into them, to see anything at all. But there was nothing there, not even blackness, it was like there was a hole in my field of vision instead of something tangible.

     I sat and stared at the toaster for a long time. First wondering how the Mirror Guild did what it had done, and then it dawned on me what it had said about Florenz. It said he had been dissolved. I wasn't sure what that meant in terms of their realm, but I was sure it wasn't pleasant.

     But now I was totally cut off. I couldn't help anybody, I couldn't spy on the college guys and watch two of them try to scrape burned macaroni and cheese out of a now destroyed saucepan. Nothing.
     And I couldn't even use the half reflection of my cars mirrors to drive. I couldn't even see my coworkers underwear in the plastic of the soda machine.

     But then one night at home I saw Florenz in a cup of coffee.
     "I escaped before the Mirror Guild did away with me," he said and his voice sounded even further away, like he was outside instead of just in another room.
     "Good. I got banished."
     "Yes, they do that. They did it before."
     "But others can still see me?"
     "I think so, but it is just the surface you."
     "That's good enough. I don't have any sort of reflection to myself now, not even you."
     "So where are you?"
     "In natural mirrors, outside of the Mirror Guild's control."
     "Water. Ice. Crystals. Stuff like that."
     "Yes. Unworked metal is good too."
     "Well, at least you're still alive. I was worried that they'd killed you or something."
     "That is what it would be like." When he nodded it was jerky, like a badly restored old movie.
     I sat there staring into the cup of water, but then I thought of something I'd wanted to ask him, "how did you come up with the name Florenz?"
     He smiled at the question, "he was a former person I reflected."
     "Florenz Ziegfeld?"
     "I don't know, I just know that one, it was on something he was wearing one time and I remember it."
     "You can still see things on my side can't you?"
     "Yes, even better now."
     "I'll find a picture of him. I looked it up when you picked that name. It has to be him."
     I got my laptop and found a good picture of the showman, then had the odd experience of holding my computer so the inside of my coffee mug could see the screen.
     "That looks like the him I was."
     "He was a famous entertainment producer."
     "All I know is that he used a lot of mirrors."
     "Yes, he would have."

     According to Florenz, now that he was outside the realm of the Mirror Guild he could see more of the world, and see it easier and more clearly than ever before. And, what was even better for him, there were others in the outer realm that, like him, had fled or escaped from the Mirror Guild.
     "And there are what you called girls here," he added.
     "Good for you."
     "They are different."
     "That's true."
     "They're not like the Mirror Guild, they are like your girl."
     I laughed at his expression in my coffee.

     The next day I found a ceramic pot that served as a water mirror when I turned out the overhead light. It allowed me to see Florenz, and myself too for that matter. And when I sat and thought about it and looked passed the surface reflection on the water, I could see more of his world outside the Mirror Guild.
     It wasn't a world like I expected, but it also wasn't the varying gray haze of the Mirror Guild world either. There were colors, and very oddly shaped portals that turned out to be lakes and rivers and other bodies of water. Then I found other natural mirrors that I could see through.
     The views were always distorted, and were sometimes hard to see, but they were there. Which I found a strange relief.

     But then one morning when I was in the bathroom I happened to notice the Mirror Guild glaring at me from the mirror over the sink.
     "You again," I said to it, "what do you want?"
     "You didn't quit. Now, terror," it said and vanished.
     "What does that...." I started to ask him, then stopped and I couldn't help it, I vomited violently into the sink in reaction to what I had seen in my bathroom mirror.

     I glanced up and immediately regretted it.

     I had to close my eyes to get out of the bathroom. I threw a dishtowel over the toaster and then had to cover the handles on the stove and the refrigerator unless I wanted to see the most ghastly images ever generated by humanity.

     It took me some time to realize what the Mirror Guild was filling every reflective surface in my view with.
     The image of every horror, every atrocity, ever reflected by a man made mirror since their invention was as its disposal, and it was using them.

     There was no delay, if the surface was mirror like the ghastly images were there. Super realistic in every gruesome detail. No shading or shadow or change of perspective to help conceal what was going on. And all were moving and going about their business just like it had happened when the mirror witnessed it. And there it was, all for me.

     Once upon a time I loved horror movies. But this was different. In the movies, there was the idiot who would say or do something stupid to break it up. The audience got to laugh before the ghoul came after them again.

     I tried to drink a cup of tea and calm my nerves. The idea of how I would get to work came to my mind. How could I drive if every surface that could was showing me things from concentration camps, or mental hospitals, and everywhere else where humans were barbaric to each other.
     Just thinking about the brief glimpse of what looked like a lobotomy made me cringe. And so far, it had been the mildest of what the Mirror Guild had paraded in front of me.

     I tried not to look at anything while I got ready for work, but even the smallest chrome or glass surface held nothing but gore and death. And it was worse in the car.
     I almost had an accident when I got to a corner and the mirrored front of a car dealership was showing some African genocide in images two stories tall and fifty feet wide. I fought my own eyes as I tried to look away as crying children were beheaded in front of me while I waited for the light to change.

     By noon I was frantic and went home sick.

     The trip home was no better, and then, at home, it was worse until I managed to hide in my bed with sheets and towels over everything in the room. I even had to put my watch in a drawer because the face was just reflective enough to betray me.
     The Mirror Guild wasn't bombarding me with fictional images of monsters and demons. No. Everything it showed me was horrors from the real world, and I knew it. Every mauled body, every shrieking person, the flames, the sharp metal, it had all happened to somebody. And in some cases, it looked like the mangled person lived through it, which may have been even more unpleasant to think about.

     Dottie came over and tried to calm me down, but I couldn't stand looking at her. She was wearing a silver necklace that I had given her with a bright and shiny charm on it.

     "Come on, if you haven't gone suddenly crazy, then tell me what's going on?" Dottie said.
     I tried to get out of it, but finally, I relented. "I'll tell you, and then try to show you."

     Once I explained it, and she acted like she believed me, we went into the extra bedroom and I stood in front of the old horseshoe mirror.

     I had to ignore the images as I tried to explain to her how to stare at the mirror and look beyond the reflection of us to see what I was seeing.

     For a split second I saw her and the bedroom instead of what looked like the autopsy of a person who was still alive.

     Her scream told me it had worked.

     She clung to me and fought violent convulsions of disgust as we cowered together in the hallway.
     "What," She gasped and cried, "how was that in your mirror?"
     "The Mirror Guild controls what we see, and he hates me now."

     In about an hour Dottie proved that she was braver than I am and glanced in the bathroom mirror. All she saw was herself, and the bathroom. Whatever had happened to me hadn't happened to her, and she said she was glad.

     Together we removed or covered every possible mirrored surface in my apartment.

     I couldn't go out to eat or even go shopping. I had to be careful when I was out in public. Driving to work was a chore and at work I had to be careful where I went and what I did. Otherwise even the most innocuous object held its own private nightmare that was all too real.

     Finally I was calm enough to look into my coffee cup and try to see Florenz.
     He wasn't there, but I could see his outer world, it was still there. Which I thought was a good sign.

     The next day he was in my cup, but the view was different.
     "I am also in hiding. The Mirror Guild came out after me," he said, then he looked at Dottie. "Your girl is with you."
     "I wish I had a girl with me. I am afraid."
     "You're talking to the guy in the cup," Dottie said.
     "Yes, can you see him?"
     "Yes. But I can't hear him."
     "She can't hear you," I said to Florenz.
     "I don't know, but I can see her, she is pretty, that is good."
     "Yes, it is." I told Dottie what he said and she was sorry that he had to flee as well.
     "Where is he hiding?" Dottie asked me and I relayed it.
     "It is an under outer world. There are few of us here. Some have been here for a very long time, from when the Mirror Guild began. They said it used to be free and there was conjuring. Now, the Mirror Guild controls all."
     Dottie had a thoughtful look on her face. "That makes sense," she said, "I'll have to go look up mirror magic. Maybe there's something we can do..."
     "No," I said. "I don't want you doing anything that will make them upset with you too. Then we'd have to move up to the Yukon or someplace and live without anything that it could use on us."
     She didn't like it, but she nodded anyway.


     Dottie was curled up on the floor in the spare bedroom.

     It was all I could do to ignore the antique mirror and half carry and half drag her into the bedroom. Even then all she could do was cry until she gagged herself.

     She had done it.

     From what I could put together from her, and the files on her laptop and a couple of printouts.
     She'd tried to work a spell against the Mirror Guild that she'd found in an old witchcraft book.

     It had backfired.


     "That terrible man-thing, he was just there. He cursed at me and said I was worse than you. And then I.... oh, God. I can't talk about it. I don't want to think about it."

     And I cried with her for awhile.

     Now, we both talk to people in our coffee cups, except hers is pretty and seems to like Florenz as well.

-end Mirror-

[NOTE: No people who live in mirrors were harmed in the writing of this story. All characters are FICTIONAL. Overall this Piece Is A FICTIONAL STORY, enjoy it as such.
Thank You the Author. ]

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