Mirror, mirror, on the…

Fuck. No. That’s a terrible way to start.

I’m staring into the mirror. A dark hotel room in Venice. Striped wallpaper. Polished glass. Sounds of water outside. There’s someone behind me, lying on the bed, just out of frame. Only her bare feet can be seen hanging from the end of the bed, very still. I’m staring into the mirror.

I didn’t lose my reflection. It’s right there, right where it’s always been. Behind the cold, invisible screen. I knew I wouldn’t lose my reflection. It was all just a myth, a stupid metaphor for alienation from mankind, or something. I smile. He smiles. I wave, and my reflection waves back. He looks pale, but that’s understandable. He’s lost a lot of blood. His eyes are sore and red, and if I didn’t know better I’d say he’d been…

Something crawls in the shadows behind him.

I don’t move. I don’t want to turn around. I glance at the feet on the bed – she hasn’t moved. Maybe she doesn’t see it? How could she not?

Maybe she doesn’t care. Maybe this is all part of the initiation ritual, the part she neglected to tell me about. Maybe this is her idea of a lesson, my last lesson – the loss of empathy and the shattering of the self’s mirror image, the construct of ourselves seen through the eyes of other people. Maybe not.

There’s something coming towards me in the mirror, but I can’t focus on it. It’s only half-there, hidden in the folds of the bedsheets and the lines of the wallpaper. It’s outside my field of vision.

Anamorphosis. It’s when you need to view something in a mirror to see it clearly. Da Vinci was a big fan – they say he used to paint hidden images into his biblical works, blasphemous drawings that perverted and overturned the meaning of the original scenes. They say that by placing the right kind of mirror in exactly the right spot against the painting, just so, you’ll see them. They swear they’re not imagining it all.

I’m not imagining this. The thing is creeping closer now, shambling and deforming where I try to look. I don’t dare turn around. I press my head towards the glass – the painting moving closer to the mirror. And I see it. I see the whole hideous form of it. Terrible, beautiful, clear.

It’s my new self, coming towards me in the mirror. It’s the man I am going to be. I wave at him, and he waves back.

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Xander Bennett rearranges words for fun and profit. Read a preview of his new book at

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