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The People in the Mirror


The sentence was harsh. One hundred and twenty months. She was brought to the door, which swung open and she stepped inside. The door closed slowly behind her. She stood holding the light that followed her in for as long as she could. To the right there was a wall lined with vines. Once the light faded, her hand fingered along the wall. The vines were rough to the touch, the leaves of the vines were piercing sharp.

There were flickers of light that allowed her eyes to take a mental snapshot of her position. Her feet felt heat. Tar oozed and pools of flame, licked out like a hot tongue, slurping up butane gas as it drifted clear of the surface. Her legs were soon bare the skin began to callous.

“We-Wha,” she called when the leaf of the vine caught a careless finger inching along. She moved further into the dark. Butane fed torches flared and extinguished. After days of travel, and the echoes of 'we-wha' bounced along the walls of her confinement, and returned to her, she stopped to rest. She tried to remember how to cry, but it was no use.

She stood, determined to push along. The lesson that she was alone was learned early. She squatted, being cautious of the leaves of the vine. It was in this position that she first heard a voice.

“Up ahead there is a place of relative comfort, away from this road.”

She found the bristling vine and pulled herself to her feet. The fingers of her hand moved along like a spider, ever careful of the pain offered by the needle sharp leaf. Miles further along, the path widened, the sparking butane fed light dwindled into darkness. The vine ended. Her arms went out full length. They waved looking for an anchor in the dark. They reached forward into nothingness. They reached back.

The voice said, "Just to the right, you will find a door. All who arrive here are free to enter.”

'We-wha,” she screamed in anger. “We-wha.” The darkness offered nothing. Her body sensed solid an instant before her fingers felt it. First they felt a seam, then discovered a latch. She lifted the latch and walked into a dimly lit room. Three feet from the floor, mirrors were installed along each wall.

“You will serve your sentence here,” said the voice.

From the corner of her eye she saw a shadow move along the wall. “Who is that? We-wha.”

“You know me. I am from the past. A long time ago. I am the tall red haired boy, you danced with all night. It was an early fall evening, you remember, it was during the big war. You snuck out against your Aunt's wishes. You said you were in high school and there was no longer time to be young. You said, only men would come back from the war, so I could not go as a boy.”

Shadows drifted across her vision; some were very deep inside the reflection, both small figures and large. Two shadows approached wearing nun habits. “Come with us little girl, we can dig through the rag bins and see what we can find for you to wear.” Just for a moment she was a child, pulling a dress from the rag bin, lifting it up to the nuns, a smile on her face.

Her fingers were stiff, numb and covered with scars. She raised her palms and rubbed her eyes. She squatted, As she squatted, she heard a tapping on a mirror to her left. A short man, with deceit in his eyes stood there. There was no warmth in his practiced smile.

“You? What are you doing here? You know, how much you hurt me. I was never enough for you. To hell with you. Why aren't you bothering all the other women, that you just had to have. You left us, me and the children. You are a coward. I don't need you. I don't need anyone.”

“Mom, can you hear me?” A woman with silver hair had approached from her side of the mirror placing both of her palms against it pressing hard. “I am here Mom.”

“Who are you? I don't know you. Why are you calling me Mom. My daughter is a small child. Just a child.”

“I am right here Mom. I am your daughter.”

The silver haired woman turned and looked at an old man standing a pace behind her. He said, “I can do this.” He stepped to the mirror. “Hey, you. This is a fine mess you have got yourself into. You traveled one hell of a path to get here. Is this where you wanted to go?” His expressionless face often betrayed his feelings.

“You are a funny man. Just who are you?” The woman with silver hair took a few steps back, again becoming a silhouette, puzzled by the approach.

The old man began, “Me, it does not matter who I am. I am here. I will be here, just like your daughters will be here. That does not change that fact that you took the hardest possible road to get here. Help me understand.”

“You have to fight. I fought them all.”

A nurse in scrubs walked to the window holding a still born baby. Out of the corner of her eye she saw the nurse as she turned from the mirror.

She walked closer to the mirror to get a better look. “I don't know you. What are you doing here? Why do you think you know so much about me?”

The woman who had taken a step back came forward and put her hand on his shoulder. “It's no use.”

“I know a great deal about you. I know your husbands, your children, grandchildren, great grandchildren. Where you lived.....”

“We-wha,” she peered into the mirror. There were so many people milling about.

"Are you spying on me? How do you know, these things?”

“Maybe you can tell me a time when you where happy. Is there any period of time that stands out in your life? Any place you liked more than another?”

A figure passed in the background. She pointed, “You can't trust him. We-wha.”

The old man did not take his eyes off her. He stood hoping for an answer. The silver haired woman, the old man's sister, stepped beside him. “You are disturbing her.”

“What are you talking about? I can't treat her like a puppy, just come and pat her on the head. She just asked me if I am spying on her. She is basically fact checking. I mention something and she verifies or tells me I'm full of it. She knows the names of her brothers and sisters. Sometimes she gets the names of her children correct. It appears to me, she is trapped alone here with just the people in the mirror.”


© 2019 mckbirdbks


mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on May 19, 2019:

Hello Peg - Watching the effects of a person gripped with dementia is heart wrenching, as you know. The 'we-wha' seemed to be a mantra, as she walked through the darkness, not here, not gone. There are mental consequences for the people on both sides of the mirror. Thanks for coming back to visit this piece of writing.

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on May 19, 2019:

Back to read this one again. So well-written in its capture of the confusion and other aspects of dementia. Loved the "We-wha." Have heard such expressions that make sense mostly to the one saying it.

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on April 08, 2019:

Listening to the song choices. Some of my favorite ones.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on April 08, 2019:

Hello Peg – Glad you are back and have found your land legs. I read Two Years Before the Mast, so I know how rough those sea voyages can be.

Thank you, despair is a very good word to describe what was going on. The entire family is tested as their loved one follows an uncharted path. The best her children could do is muster a smile and offer kindness. Her mind was in lock-down with all the insults, all the pains, all the injustices that she received throughout her life and she was angry about it. Oh, the human condition, if only we could put it into words.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on April 08, 2019:

Hello Shauna – This is one time where not being able to follow the story, may be part of the story. The person in the story slipped away from the world but remained. Her thoughts escaped randomly as I learned over time.

I am glad you have made peace with yourself. That is so important to your health and happiness.

The notification of this comment must have flown in a different direction, sorry for the delay in replying.

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on April 08, 2019:

When I read this I recognized who and what this was about. Sorry I missed reading it for so long. I've been out to sea, as you know.

You've captured the despair, the confusion, the hauntingly eerie voices of the past and those images which make it through the din of dementia.

I remember meeting folks at the home where my relatives stayed and wondering what it was like for them to face strangers every day as well as the strangers who once were family. One woman who sat at our table regularly, slipped from conscious thought and conversation, into paranoia about her food and her surroundings and developed an inability to recognize anyone - even those whom she had brought into being. Sometimes I thought I saw a glimmer of recognition, but it was momentary.

Nicely done, Mike. You've captured it well.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on April 02, 2019:

Wow, this is creepy, Mike. To be honest, I had a hard time following the story. Once I read the comments, it all fell into place.

If my mirrors threw reflections at me like those that appeared in this story, I think I'd go mad. Fortunately, my mirrors don't haunt me. My soul isn't haunted and I live with no regrets. Not that I haven't made mistakes - oh, I've made tons of them. But nothing I wasn't able to fix, made amends for, and move on.

I can't imagine the hell it must be to live with mental illness. You painted a pretty good picture with this story. May I never lose my sanity!

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on March 25, 2019:

Hello cmpearson - What a surprise. Yes, 'she' certainly was trapped, frightened, and ultimately alone, just the people in the mirror to roam with her in her darkness. Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment.

cmpearson on March 25, 2019:

Trapped in her own prison both mentally and physically. She is free now Uncle Mike. Great imagery, real life. Haunting only in its truth and for the loss.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on March 25, 2019:

Hello Genna - Thank you. When I was reaching the end of the story, it occurred to me that the people in the mirror should not be talking to each other. That made them too real and gave them a dimension that they should not have had. Reading the comments I see I confused a reader as to just who was who. Your perception is correct, 'she' is in a room by herself, with incomplete thoughts. She reached the room after a journey no one would want to repeat. I appreciate your comment and the compliment.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on March 25, 2019:

Hello Audrey - Thank you. On the big screen this could be terrifying. This is a magnification, and perhaps dramatization, of a woman witnessing the decline of her mind. She was strong in her heart and intends to fight until the end.

Genna East on March 25, 2019:

Sorry, meant to type, "in the mirrors of her conscience.." Have a great week. Hugs.

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on March 25, 2019:

Enthralling, Mike. A brilliant write. Even more mysterious is that at times, we aren't sure of who is saying what to whom. "It appears to me, she is trapped alone here with just the people in the mirror.” Dark, but so compelling!

Audrey Hunt from Idyllwild Ca. on March 24, 2019:

Wow. Mike! I want to see this story on the big silver screen. Very well written and thought provoking. What's next?

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on March 24, 2019:

Hello Shyron - Thank you for taking the time to visit. I have not been around HP as often myself. We are all required to carry such a load in this life. The burdens can feel overwhelming. That's why, when needed, we reach out a hand to those around us. I wish I had presented something uplifting and fulfilling to welcome you back. I appreciate the compliment and as always the blessings.

Shyron E Shenko from Texas on March 24, 2019:

Hello Mike, I finally make my way back to HP and your hub is the first I read and I feel like it is me in your story. I feel like I am running all the time, no time for anything else.

You are such a fantastic writer.

Blessings my friend.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on March 24, 2019:

Hello Linda - Thanks for the visit. The catalyst for this story was a scene from a movie, that allowed me to structure my thoughts around a self created hell, and the 'sentence' that was so harsh. Many go through this, effecting all those around them.

A mind lacking constraint can be a terrible place.

Linda Rogers from Minnesota on March 24, 2019:

Wow Mike, this is so intriguing & terrifying. It could be looked @ in many different ways but all showing we create our own kind of hell. Excellent & thought provoking. I enjoyed listening to Todd Rundgren too.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on March 24, 2019:

Hello Ruby - Laughter is indeed the best medicine.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on March 24, 2019:

" Hiding from the fallout " I can't stop laughing. Hee..

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on March 24, 2019:

Hello Ruby - We all drag around Marley's chains and we should stop and put them down. I am sure my skeletons are ready and waiting to finish me off, but they can wait a bit longer. For all of us there are stories yet to tell. Thank you for the visit - we are none of us alone.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on March 24, 2019:

Mike it is 12 noon here and I do not want to eat. Oh the mirrors, If I let them rule me, I would have some explaining to do. We all have skeletons in our closets, and if we let them come out they would finish us off. Thank goodness we realize our mistakes and promised not to repeat them. This is dark but intriguing. I do wish you'd had the carriage there to take her to happier times. Your writing is spellbinding and I want more. Hugs

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on March 24, 2019:

Hello Patty - I see I am going to have to dial back my creepy. I looked up 'Us' and see it is playing now. Sounds like a very scary movie. High praise indeed. I appreciate the visit, and will work to get back to uplifting stories.

Patty Inglish MS from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on March 24, 2019:

Hi Mike-- I think you wrote Jordan Peele's third film here. This story is just as provocative and important in theme as "Us." I appreciate it.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on March 24, 2019:

Hello Bill - Yes, unsettling. I have been in a funky mood...

I saw the announcement that you finished your novel. Congratulations. I showed the jacket design to a few people and they all seemed to approve.

Thanks for the visit.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on March 24, 2019:

Hello Martie – I agree with you. Many people lead their life with disregard for the damage they cause to others. There has been discussions here lately about honoring a person, and respect. I just scratch my head.

As for the mirrors in your room, 'make peace with them.' We are all in the process of doing that as well. Shame is dished out liberally to all of us. Part of our philosophical journey is to examine the burdens we are carrying and figure out just how they got on our backs. You have learned a very important lesson and that is many people love you. What could be better?

The woman in the story died in a trap of her own creation. There was no saving her and yet we mourn.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 24, 2019:

Well that was a bit unsettling. My kind of story! lol My goodness, what a way to start my day...with chills!

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on March 24, 2019:

Hello Verlie – Thank you or the visit. This is a sad story. In this instance, the dystopian flourishes were her 'life' – the path she traveled to reach her destination. Once there she was alone in a room, unreachable with just the memories in the mirror calling to her. Her existence was carried away to another plane. The Zombies said it well, “Her voice was soft and cool, her eyes were clear and bright,

But she's not there”

“Things are not always as they appear,” is a great sentence when applied to this story.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on March 24, 2019:

Good morning mar – This whole episode came from a line “People in the mirror,” inspired by a scene in a Dracula movie, where he could not see his reflection. A couple of hours later I wrote this in one sitting. It was nice to write something. I guess I could have included a horse. Thanks for the coffee.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on March 24, 2019:

Hello John – Yes, something very different. I toned it down. Thanks for visiting. My muse has been away, hiding from the fallout.

Martie Coetser from South Africa on March 24, 2019:

Those mirrors!

Maybe I should not say there comes a time in every person's life when they find themselves in a room with mirrors, because many very mean people eventually die without even realizing that they had damaged the souls of many.

The mirrors in my room are pretty hostile, confronting me only with the wrongs I have done, and even with the things I could/should have done better. To stay sane I have to close my eyes and deliberately remember what I have done right, and how many people love me just because I am super-imperfect me. Perhaps 'she', too, has some memories of things she had done right?

What saddens me about this story, Mike, is that she, like many others, dies in a trap they have created all by themselves.

Well-written, thought-provoking story.

Verlie Burroughs from Canada on March 24, 2019:

Morning Mike, This is truly disturbing. What a way to get inside someone's head, wow! For me this journey reflects what a person suffering from dementia would feel and experience, but I love all the dystopian flourishes which you are always so good at creating, so I can see it as a wander through purgatory, just needing a place to pin it down I guess, which is maybe what the story is about to begin with. How our mind plays tricks on us, and things are not always as they appear. We-wha is a strange call too. I think I need a coffee. Exciting to see you writing, thanks for adding music to soften the story.

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on March 24, 2019:

Dear Mike,

Listening to H & O and thinking that the silver haired woman has finally been released from her mental prison sentence of 120 months.

This is a powerful and sobering story - rich with authenticity.

It's not even 6AM here ... I'll put the coffee on. Happy Sunday.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on March 24, 2019:

It's always good to see a new story from you, Mike, and something so very different. Intriguing.

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