The Problem with the Mirrors
We used to think we had it hard. That was before the problem with the mirrors.
Life was always hard, of course. Money was tight, people died too soon, the wicked prospered, there were unjust wars. Sometimes you locked your keys in your car even though you were already having a really bad day and didn’t need that shit. It was never easy.
But the problem with the mirrors changed everything.
It happened so suddenly, that’s partly what made it so bad. There was no time to adapt.
I’ll tell you a story to illustrate. It’s easier that way.
Raymond woke up at 6:30am. He yawned and stretched. His wife, Joanna, rolled over and pulled the sheets back over her head. Raymond walked to the bathroom. He turned the lights on, squeezed the toothpaste onto his toothbrush, turned on the water, and then turned to look in the mirror and saw his reflection.
Joanna woke to a scream cut short by a sound like snapping branches and wet meat splattering on tile. She tore off the covers and rushed to the bathroom to see Raymond lying on the floor, what was left of his face frozen in a scream of agony. Blood was smeared on the walls and mirror. Pieces of skin and bone were plastered on the ceiling. Joanna tried to scream, but could only manage a dry rasp. Then she turned towards the mirror and saw her reflection.
Their daughter Sophie sprinted into the empty room, with panic in her eyes. She ran to the open door that led to the master bath and gasped at the ruined bodies of her parents. She fell to her knees and vomited onto the carpet. Then she ran to the phone in the hallway to call 911. As the phone rang, she looked up at the mirror that sat in the alcove above the phone.
Little Brian survived. He hid in his room. He was too short to see himself in any mirrors.
Around 750 million people died the first day, and another 112 million over the following weeks while the world figured out what was happening. We didn’t know what it was in the mirrors, but every mirror was lethal. Death was immediate, violent, and inevitable.
At first people tried to destroy them, but that just turned one mirror into many. They had to be covered and melted down, along with TVs and computer monitors with any sort of reflective screen. Getting the word out to the survivors was difficult as the world tried to contain the damage, especially with the danger of screens. There are more mirrors out there than you’d think once you start to look for them.
That was the problem with the mirrors. It was a catastrophe beyond all imagining, and it nearly brought humanity to its knees.
That wasn’t the worst of it though. We thought it was, we thought we’d made it through. We built a new world that looked very different from the old. But the thing is, the problem wasn’t just the mirrors. And even amidst the ruins, we didn’t realize how bad it really was.
I’ll tell you another story.
It was 6 months after the crisis. The world was trying to move on. Jonathan stood in his bathroom, straightening his tie as he looked at a picture of a boat drifting serenely on a Scottish loch. He didn’t need to be in the bathroom to get ready, obviously, there was no mirror in there anymore, but old habits die hard.
He pressed open a piece of particle board where he would have once had a bedroom window and checked the weather. It was a brisk fall night. He grabbed his coat and headed out onto the street.
He was going on a date. He couldn’t believe it, it felt like a crazy thing to do, after everything that had happened. But life couldn’t stand still forever. They’d met over a landline-based phone dating service. Smartphones were obviously impossible.
The restaurant was a nice place, a few blocks away. He sat down and chuckled as he looked at the table setting. Fine wooden chairs, a white table cloth, and plastic flatware. Glass was too dangerous. The restaurant had no windows, nowhere had windows anymore, but the heat was cranked up and it was comfortable. He took his coat off and sipped on his water.
His date was named Savannah. She said she’d be wearing a blue dress and a flower in her hair. He saw her come in and his heart skipped a beat. She was gorgeous, with pitch black hair down past her shoulders and eyes like golden fire. She saw him and gave a little wave. He waved back. She walked towards him and time stood still.
She wasn’t wearing makeup (how could she?) but she didn’t need it. She was beautiful,
funny, and disarming. They talked and joked for an hour. They ordered drinks, then dinner.
It made everything seem different. He gazed into her eyes and smiled. She smiled back.
Then his eyes went vacant. His skin turned grey and he tensed up. It was like he swallowed a meat grinder. His chest split open and his jaw burst in two. His guts splattered across the table and Savannah’s gorgeous blue dress. His eyes never left hers until he tipped backwards away from the table.
Then she finally screamed.
He’d stared too deeply into her eyes, that was the problem. It was never the mirrors. It was the reflections.
The mirrors we could handle. The problem with the reflections was infinitely worse.
Society was never the same after we came to realize the extent of the damage. No one could ever look too deeply in anyone else’s eyes ever again.
We tried many things, of course. Science marched on. But the damage could never be truly undone. Relationships were never the same, and the world could never be the same after the problem with the mirrors.
In Which I Pretentiously Refer To Myself In The Third Person And Begin Titles With “In Which”
At first she liked being detached;
A haughty independence hatched...
Forgotten friends and forlorn hopes
Harassed no more with horoscopes;
Those touchy-feely wretches...
Free of them, she whispered "ciao"
In sultry sumptuous stretches...
Though scabrous flings and fallacious facades
Delay the assault of Moirai's promenades,
Betwixt twisted raptures
Vacuity captures her mood midst the meager mean musings of age,
When her penitent breath dews the bars of her cage,
And secretly a thought distends
Invisibly from wispy ends;
A thought injected, fierce and wry:
"What good upon the earth am I?"
She offers no resistance.
And so she sits and so she sighs
Nostalgia misting gluey eyes
Until the next foul ache decries
The ennui of existence.
an elborate diorama
in a make-shift museum
in the back room of a Texaco
added on in 1967
before they moved the main road.
with the others
and native village displays
looking for the restroom
and puts a quarter in me
so my life can advance in jerks
three minutes of amusement
they move on to see
what the jackalope will do.
White House, White Coats
I think I’ve been here a week.
A sprawling set of sanitised squares.
They say I wasn’t acting right, which is funny, because I don’t remember ever acting any other way.
They can keep me here for 28 days, but will assess me before the end, and I could be detained under ‘section 3’ for longer.
I’m not sure what ‘longer’ means, but it doesn’t sound good.
At around 7.00 a.m. each day, doors beep and click-clack open. We are pretty free to wander, but there are some non-negotiable ceremonies and activities: scoffing magic hair mouth pills, repetitive 1-2-1 ‘chats’, and various group sessions.
The dry man that conducts my 1-2-1 chats is a right piece of work.
Today, he ticked through what felt like a deliberately exhausting list of questions and prompts. All of them unwelcome. Some of the more triggering ones were: “How would you describe your relationship with your family?” - “Do you enjoy being around large groups of people?” - “Tell me about a time you were upset.”
At the end I asked him if he was happy that his life’s work was basically playing Connect 4 with chemical criteria checkers.
I also asked him if he thought his emotions were real.
He wasn’t happy.
It’s safe to say I won’t get out of here soon if he has anything to do with it.
I’ve heard if you try to fly, and they scoop you up, you get the straps and the syringe.
It used to be the watt wig or a scalping, but apparently those methods aren’t considered humane anymore, whereas poison bondage is.
I’ve decided it’s worth a shot.
Feathers won’t be a problem, there’s enough peacocks in this life.
I just need to keep the wax away from the sun.
Wish me luck.
God knows I need it.
A far worse place than this
I've been to many timelines, and divergent universes. Most of the SUUUUCK. Sad to say, the mulitiverse is mostly awful. With endlesss potential, there are trillions of quadrillions of possibilities , and all of them turned badly. all of them are
meaningless in their recognizable yet different gloom. Maybe it's just my impression...
I'll tell you of my last trip..just because you asked.
Well, the divergence started with french conposer Claude Debussy, who did not have a daughter in that universe, and consequently did not compose his 'Children's corner' (1908). What made the diffetence particularly acute is its mocking quotation of Richard Wagner's Tristan and Isolde. Oh, it's amazing how a sharp few bars can change the world..
I dont know how it happened, but this minute change, brought all kinds of things. by our time, civilization has developed into this thing, where sympathy is a required tax, imposed and measured. People are required by law to wear a wide, flexible band over their foreheads, which in shining letters, tells everyone their 'status' the status may be some social, familial, physical, or financial setback, which they are required to post. If you lost your job, the sign says "unemployed", if you have Chrone's disease, the sign shows all your condition. The sign is hooked to the network, and is updated regularly. As all people are miserable in obe way or another , there must be something to out on the sign. Of course it could be just 'uncomfortable' from wearing the sign, but then the sympathy tax benefits are lower. The sign is also a very compact PET scanner. It can tell if as you walk and encounter others with their misfortune, you feel sympathy. Genuine sharing in others pain and the desire to help. The tax system calculates the troubles you have and the sympathy you feel , and the total is added up, which you are required to pay. Now, you would think that the sorrows. and sympathy you have are calvulated in favor of those who are miserable, but its quite the opposite. Those who suffer, for theselves or others, pay proportionally more than those who don't. It's all built around the desire to see misery in the world reduced-so all who live must creatively find a way to reduce the level of misery in their status (not easy, as it's all connected to hospitals and banks and not up to you to post the status), or to refrain from feeling sympathy. Punishment for tax evasion is severe and goes all the way to being consigned to hard labor in a chain gang , where convicts must help people move house and organize their stuff. You see them with their orange overalls moving sofas and TV sets, all because they showed sympathy. I showed my concern for these unfortunates, and was promptly landed with a fine, which i shall not pay.
But some things are good over there. The beta site for prose.com never appeared, and so people can enjoy posting things. It's actually a very important platform over there, in the underground movement.
<<You know what?>> I said with an angry face and continued. << I wish I loved you in the 90's!>> I said to him and now I realized that I made a bad mistake. As I looked at his face, his eyes were ready to cry as a tear left on his chick. I wanted a big hole to drag me to hell for what I said to him, he didn't deserve that, but I couldn't keep me anymore.
This fight started a few days ago, where we both acted strange and full of secrets that now finally blew up and they had no turn back. I met Nicklaus in the most unexpected and surprised way in my life but after 2 months things started to go wrong. We were fighting a lot, thoughts about him flirting online or wanting something much more than I already am, doubts and the list goes on.
<< Nicklaus I'm sorry, I didn't mean that!>> I said
<< No I think you did Crystal!>> he said and continued. << Why? You possibly think that if we were back in the 90's we could be different? That our fights won't exist?>> he said as he could try to understand me.
Before I try to answer something started to happen and within seconds I lost Nick. Few minutes later I woke up in a room. Started to think how in the hell I came here and where was I but there was no answer only when I saw the date and the year and I couldn't believe it. My wish came true. I was back in time, in the 1990. How in the actual hell did this happen? And mostly why? And Nicklaus? Where was he?
As I tried to find answers my doorbell scared me. Everything seemed a bit strange and looked like I had already a life. I opened the door only to find my best friend outside with a bag full of chocolates. How in the hell my friend is here in this time with me?, I questioned myself with no answer.
<< Alex? How did you came here?>> I asked her surprised.
<< Girl I broke up last night and you told me to come over this morning. What is wrong though with you?>> she said as she entered inside the house.
<< Oh my angels Alex I'm sorry, I forgot! What happened? Oh wait to bring some chocolate cake I weirdly have in my fridge! >> I said and brought the cake in the living room and Alex started to tell me what and how she broke up.
A couple of hours passed by and it was almost night so me and Alex decided to go out to cheer her up. We got dressed and went for a walk before dinner. Honestly I can't believe that I am in this time and my friend has no idea for the other life of us! It's like we are living in two worlds at the same time.
Time flew quick and we went for dinner in my favorite restaurant, according to Alex. We were about to order when I spotted him. It was him. Nicklaus was here too but he seemed to not know me or he pretends. As I start to think more, I believe that my wish is giving us a second chance or gives to me a second chance to make things right with my only one true love.
<< Miss your order please?>> the waiter said.
<< Oh yes, I'm so sorry, I will have the number 24 from your menu please.>> I said as I kept looking at Nick.
<< Girl you like that guys don't you?>> she said
<< What? No! Please stop.>> I said shyly
<< Oh so is it okay if I flirt him?>> Alex asked and as much of an idiot I am, I saw her how I didn't like what she said.
<< Uhm yeah>> I said but she knew I lied
<< Crystal you like that guy as if he was yours for real. Girl don't fall so fast!>> she said and if she only knew. But I couldn't tell her that
<< Well I don't know Alex but he has something that made me wanna fall fast for him. He is so gorgeous and now I should stop cause we are here for you and not me.>> I said with a smile on my face.
<< Girl go ask him for his number or else I'll do it for you!>> she said and so I did.
After a few months of dating with Nicklaus I felt like we finally are there. We are in our best and we do not fight like we used to do. Weird thing is that he doesn't know that this, all this, is just a wish of mine, a wish for a happy life without arguments and fights and unhappy thoughts. Maybe one day I will tell him or maybe I don't! Right now, all I want is to be happy with him and our life here before everything turns into ashes and dreams.