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.