Olivia stared at her reflection in the mirror, dwelling on the conversation she had with her friend, Eli, earlier that day. Lifting a hand, she rested her palm against the glass and kept her emerald optics glued on the reflection staring back at her.
“I have a proposition.”
“Okay…I’m all ears.”
He took a deep breath. “We aren’t the only realm that exists on this planet. Think of this other one like a two-way mirror, Olive. From our side we just see our reflection, but on the other side of the glass is where the other beings lie. They look human, but they’re not. Not entirely, anyway.”
“Oh, yeah? So, you’re telling me there’s some half-human creature things hiding in the medicine cabinet behind the mirror in my bathroom? Or in the bookcase that’s behind the mirror in my room?”
“No, no, no.” He exhaled slowly, pinching the bridge of his nose. “I’m just saying that it’s a similar concept to a two-way mirror. They can see us, all the time, but we would never even know they existed. Not unless they wanted us to. Have you ever been looking in a mirror and thought you saw something move behind you in the reflection, but when you turned there was nothing there?”
“Yeah… Oh no. Don’t you dare say what I think you’re going to say.”
“It wasn’t something behind you.”
“Jesus, Eli.” She pushed out of her chair, shaking her head slightly and pivoting on her heel away from him.
“I’m not kidding, Olive!” He stood, wrapping a hand around her wrist. “That was something internal. A flash of their realm. It only happens every once in a while. A way to show us that they’re there, to prove to us that we’re not the only ones to exist, but all too often we just write it off as our eyes playing a trick on us.”
“Eli, just stop.”
“Olive, just hear me out. This other realm has been co-existing with ours for thousands of years inside the mirrors. It’s not our eyes playing tricks on us. It’s their realm trying to get our attention.”
Was it possible? Could there really be another realm within the mirrors? One that has been co-existing with theirs for thousands of years without anyone in this realm knowing it was there?
“No, no. It’s not possible. Stop buying into his crazy talk, Olivia,” she muttered beneath her breath, dropping her hand back by her side.
Turning her attention from the mirror, she picked up her toothbrush and squirted some toothpaste onto its bristles before lifting it to her mouth. Even after telling herself that it was just crazy talk on his behalf, she couldn’t help but dwell on the possibility of it all.
“Or maybe…it’s just a mistake, Eli. Maybe they’re not trying to get our attention, but sometimes mistakes are made. That’s why it’s not consistent and only happens every so--“
“It’s not a mistake,” he blinked, keeping his gaze on the back of her head. “They intend to be seen. They want to be noticed to, like I said, prove that this isn’t the only realm in existence.”
“Alright, Eli, that’s enough.” She turned around to face him finally. “There isn’t another realm within the mirrors, but I think you could certainly use that idea for another one of your science-fiction books.”
His face fell and he dropped the grip he had on her wrist. Stepping back from her, he turned towards the front door. “It’s not for a book, Olive. What I’m saying is true, even if you don’t believe me.”
“Eli,” she reached out, placing a hand on his forearm, but he was quick to rip his arm from her grip.
“Just remember that when you begin to notice them, they start to pay more attention to you, too.”
She hadn’t even been able to ask what he had meant by that. He’d walked right out the front door before she could get a single word out, leaving her confused as hell. The last part hadn’t gone along with anything he had said prior. According to him, they would have been watching already, so noticing them wouldn’t draw attention if they had already been watching. Right?
Her gaze flickered to the mirror briefly and the reflection mirrored the action. When her hand lowered to the sink to rinse her toothbrush off, the reflection did the same. When she placed it back in the holder, once more the reflection copied her. Nothing unusual. Everything was normal. Wasn’t it?
His last warning whispered through her mind once more. Digging her teeth into her lower lip, she took a step closer to the mirror, leaning her face closer to the glass. She examined her features. From the freckles that speckled her fair skin to the curly blonde locks that framed her face. From the sharpness of her features to her soft pink lips that were parted slightly as she exhaled. Everything looked alright. Not a strand out of place, not a feature that didn’t belong to her. So why did everything feel so wrong?
It was in the moment that she was staring intently at the mirror that there was a flash of movement in the mirror behind her. She didn’t turn. She didn’t look behind her, something compelled her to instead look closer at what was right in front of her. Lifting her hand, she placed it against the glass.
That’s when everything changed.
Although what she was looking at still had similar features as her bathroom, everything just seemed wrong. There was something darker about it, but what struck her the most was her own reflection. Her blonde hair was a tinge darker and rather than being curly, it was straight. Her skin tone was off too, giving her an unearthly appearance. Pink lips were a deep scarlet instead, and the freckles that typically dotted her face were missing. Her eyes. Her emerald hues were locked on the cerulean blue ones of the thing that stared back at her. She couldn’t tear her gaze away and her hand felt rooted in place. It was only when the thing began to smile at her—an action that Olivia wasn’t doing herself—that fear really took hold of her. Pearly white fangs were revealed in the reflection and it was then that she finally yanked her hand off the glass and stumbled back.
“What the fuck?!” She pressed back into the wall, keeping her attention on the glass, where the thing still resided, staring at her with a malevolent grin.
Before she had a chance to scream or make sense of the situation, her vision darkened around the edges. Olivia attempted to fight off whatever it was taking hold of her. In the end, however, she had no choice but to succumb to the darkness that blackened her vision and thus rendered her unconscious.
When she finally awoke from her unconscious state, she found herself in an unknown area. The walls were painted entirely black and were it not for a few overhanging lights, she wouldn’t have even realized that she wasn’t alone. There were other cots surrounding the one that she was on. Some of them were occupied, whereas others were unruffled as if someone hadn’t yet claimed it. Sitting up, she scanned the spacious room and found that some of the people milling around nearby were actually classmates she recognized.
“Olive,” a familiar voice greeted her ears. A voice that normally would have brought her relief, but instead only caused a knot in her stomach. “I’m so glad you’re okay.”
“Get the hell away from me, Eli,” she was out of her cot instantly, which brought on a wave of vertigo. Eli steadied her, wrapping an arm around her waist. She pushed it off of her the moment she regained her balance.
“Olive, it’s me,” he went to place a hand on her arm, but she slapped it away and stepped back from him.
“No. No.” She struggled for words, to phrase all her racing thoughts. “Why the fuck---where---how did you even know about this world, Eli?!”
She threw her hands up, exasperated, and desperate for answers. Tears began to pool at the brim of her eyes out of sheer anger and confusion at the current situation.
“I didn’t. Not until my psych professor told my class about it a couple days ago.” He sat down on the edge of her bed, but she still remained where she was, attempting to regain her composure as he pressed on. “Or, at least, what I thought was my psych professor. He dared us all to go home and just try it. To look into the mirror with the idea of there being another realm inside of it. To just entertain the possibility of it. So, I did, despite any confusion I had about the relevance of that to personality disorders—“
“A couple days ago…?” Her voice hitched slightly. “You’ve been stuck here for a couple days?!” He nodded, finally realization flickering in his gaze.
“Oh my god.” He was on his feet; this time when he put his arms around her, she didn’t move out of the embrace.
“How could I not see that it wasn’t you?! He looked exactly—it was you. He was you.”
“My psych professor looked like himself, too. The mannerisms, the way he talked, everything was him.” Eli breathed out, stepping back slightly to meet her gaze. “Ever seen Invasion of the Body Snatchers?” She nodded. “The concept seems similar to it, except these things have emotion. Our emotion. Our thoughts. Our memories. Everything is us, except the thing in control. It’s only once you’ve seen them or if you’re one of them, that you see their true form. Their arms are longer than what they should be and their hands have sharp, black talons at the end of each tip. Their legs are longer than normal and, without shoes on, their feet look a lot like their hands. You’ve seen their head, it’s like that of a human. It’s like you, but warped. Everyone in our old realm has a shadow self in this one, but usually they remain hidden. They need to be acknowledged by their shadow self in our realm in order to reveal their true identity.”
Olivia blinked in confusion at him. “How do you know all this?”
“Because once you’ve met your shadow self and been transported here, the secrets begin to fill your mind. As if you’re getting all the memories and thoughts that thing had. It took a day for the shift to occur, which is why you didn’t meet that thing until today.”
Slowly she nodded, wishing it was all a bad dream she could wake up from, but knowing that it wasn’t. This was her new reality. There were no mirrors in this room, no way to try and get back to the realm she called home, but she’d be damned before she gave up that easily.
“It doesn’t seem like they’ve made that big of an impact in our realm yet,” she glanced around the room at the throngs of people scattered through it.
It seemed like a hefty amount of people, but in retrospect, it didn’t even come close to how many people actually lived in the other realm.
“Oh, I thought the same thing.” He said, his voice suddenly growing softer. “Until I realized these were only people the same age as me. That’s how they categorize here—by age. They’ve been planning this infiltration for a while. Once you get the memories of that thing, you’ll learn that at least one-fourth of the people in our realm are merely shadow selves of this realm and still growing.”
“Oh.” It was the only thing she could think to say, feeling a lot less hopeful than she had a moment before, but she was still determined to find a way back home if it was the last thing she did.