Fair warning, O readers: today's Fiction Friday post is creepy. Very creepy. With this warning, I disclaim all responsibility for nightmares, scary images, or other lasting effects it may have. Or rather, I cackle gleefully at the thought that my evilness has invaded your mind, and run away to continue plotting more evil story twists of evil.
Those of you who read my fan fiction have probably noticed a distinct downturn in my production lately. This was not intentional, but may have been inevitable. It is, after all, spring, and tree pollen and other allergens interfere with such small yet necessary bodily functions as breathing. My body-mind connection is also very strong, so that if my body is not feeling well, my mind finds reasons for it. My emotions have been gleefully dragging me through a roller coaster ride for the last couple weeks, and I hate roller coasters with a burning fiery passion.
Still, life is not all bad. Tomorrow I get to go see my brother graduate from college (I remember when he was born, when did this happen), two weeks from tomorrow my other brother is being confirmed (same argument but more so), and by the end of this month, my sister won't be a teenager anymore (next verse, same as the first). Plus I have lots of story ideas, like a crossover between Robin Hood and Beauty and the Beast, a couple different takes on Cinderella, and a Sleeping Beauty with a definite touch of DV in it, given that the Prince is a gardener and gets into the Princess's castle not because he's her One True Love but because he knows how to handle briars...
I'm also going to have some time to think about those story ideas and maybe get some words logged on them, because I'm taking a week off from work in the middle of this month. It's not the greatest timing as far as my many managers are concerned, but it's kind of necessary if I'm not going to start screaming and running around the floor hitting people with things, which I think everybody wants to avoid.
And so, we come to the part of the post you're actually here for, O readers: the story. It's got roots in something we all know and love, but I've worked to make it just enough different that it could be the tale of almost anyone who's ever felt despairing and overwhelmed, and made an impulsive decision based on that feeling. Everybody take a deep breath, get your cuddle buddies ready, and off we go. Thanks in advance for reading, and I'll see you next time!
He stared at his disheveled reflection in the mirror, feeling the familiar bitterness rise in the back of his throat. For now, he was alone in here, but that wouldn't last.
"I never wanted any of this," he whispered hoarsely, tears prickling at the corners of his eyes. "I swear I didn't!"
"I used to know that. But now I don't anymore." He drew a long, shuddering breath, trying to keep himself from breaking down entirely. "All I want now is to get out of this mess I'm in. To find a place where I'm safe, where no one can hurt me anymore. And to make sure my family will be all right, that no one's going to torture them because of my mistakes. But it doesn't look like I can get even one of those things, much less all three!"
Are you so sure? The voice was growing clearer by the moment. Maybe I could help...
"Who are you?" He turned his head suspiciously, checking the corners of the room to be sure he was still alone. "Show yourself."
He lifted his head and met his reflection's gaze in the mirror.
A sparkle lurked in the eyes which looked back at him out of silvered glass, a sparkle he was certain existed nowhere in his own expression.
"Why would you do that?" He swallowed against the twin sensations of panic and hope, not sure which one was causing him to feel more ill. "What's in it for you?"
"That sounds too good to be true." He planted his hands on either side of the sink, leaning forward to stare more intently into his reflection's eyes. "Is it?"
For one instant, he hesitated. Then, before he could change his mind, he raised his right hand and pressed it against the glass of the mirror, his reflection doing the same in perfect synchrony.
A shock ran through his body, like a cold chill or the first breathless instant of a nightmare—
And then he stood precisely where he had been, staring through silvered glass at the mirror image of himself.
"So this is what it feels like," said his reflection reverently, lifting its hands to regard them closely.
"What what feels like?" he demanded, or tried to. His lips opened and closed, he could feel his throat vibrating, but no sound came out of his mouth. Then he looked around him.
His world ended on either side of him at a dark, square frame of wood, barely wide enough for him to stretch out his arms. Above and below him was the same, and behind him the tiled wall curved up and around with no sign of an exit.
"Having a body. Being alive." His former reflection looked up at him with unholy amusement dancing in the familiar eyes. "You're the reflection now. I'm the real one. We traded places when you put your hand against mine."
"No, I didn't." His former reflection laughed, the sound low and satisfied. "Everything you said you wanted, you'll have. You're not in that mess of yours anymore, are you? I am, but unlike you, I've got the guts to get myself out of it. And once I've done that, once I've followed through on all those promises you made, your family—or should I say, my family now—will be perfectly fine. As for you, with your wish to be safe..."
His former reflection made a twisting motion with two fingers, lifting the mirror off the wall and shrinking it down to handheld size. "You'll be as safe in your little world as I can possibly make you. After all, you started out as the real one here, so as long as you live, so will I. And I'll never have to worry about wrinkles, or getting fat, or losing my hair, because all of that will happen to you instead of me." The former reflection pursed his lips, looking thoughtful. "I wonder how long it'll take me to get tired of being young and handsome, rich and powerful? Probably at least a thousand years."
"Nighty-night," said his former reflection with a sweet smile, and slipped the mirror into his pocket.