Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Short Story: Mirror

by George Andrews

I woke. Startled. Sunlight flooding in through the window, stabbing into my eyes like shards of glass.
“You’re late.” My sister.
“For what?” I mumbled, in a more irritated tone than was probably necessary. I saw her scowl through my smudged vision.
“School, retard. Get up.”
“Go away.”
“Make me.” I pulled the duvet up over my head and shot a few distorted curses out towards her. I heard light footsteps leaving my room, and got up a few minutes later. I wouldn’t give her the satisfaction of doing what she said, when she said it. I opened my eyes as wide as possible in an attempt to adjust them to the light. My sister was stood in the doorway, arms folded.

“I’m seriously bored of you,” she said with a disapproving tone, and walked off. I heard the front door open, then close again. Quickly, I moved towards the stairs, in something that was more of a skip than I would like to admit, and checked she wasn’t pulling the same trick again. No, of course not. She wouldn’t miss a single second of school. I sighed as I retreated back into my room. Rolling back on my bed, darkness began tugging at the corners of my mind, dragging me back into the dark abyss of twisted nightmares.

I heard the rattle of keys in the front door. My eyes darted to the digital clock beside my bed, no time for adjustment. 15:58.
“Oh sh-“
“What is wrong with you?” My sister stampeded into my room, slightly less light-footed this time. “You can’t just decide when to go to school. It’s a tiny bit compulsory. You’re not messing up your life.”
“I don’t really care any more.” This wasn’t true, it was just to serve the purpose of annoying her as much as possible.
“Well I do, so stop being selfish and deal with it.”
“You love this, don’t you?” I smirked slightly
“What?” She was too obviously taken aback. She knew what was coming.
“You know what.”
“Enlighten me.” Her voice shook a little as she said it. It didn’t come out as confidently as she intended, rather blatantly trying to keep up a hard exterior. She was only ever good at being on the verbal offensive.
“Having the authority. Control.”
“That’s a complete lie! What about Mum?” We had now reached shouting level
“What about Dad? They’re both dead.”
“How can you say that? Mum’s still-“
“When was the last time you saw her?” Silence. I could see tears forming in her eyes. She stared at me, blankly. Although the tears were now creeping down her face, her features held no visible trace of emotion. Wordlessly, I left the room, never losing eye contact. I slammed the door behind me, and didn’t hear her move. I don’t know how long I sat slumped against the door frame. I usually felt some satisfaction after getting the last word in after an argument, but I felt nothing now. I grabbed my keys, scratching into the soft wood of the cabinet they were on and strode to the front door. I held it for a second, weighing up my options, then found myself outside the gate, and running down the road.

Dad was a paratrooper. He was serving the army, and had been since he was eighteen, so naturally he was sent off to Afghanistan. His helicopter was shot down before he even got there.

Mum is... Mum was a teacher. Maths. I always made sure she knew how boring her job was. Now, after what happened to Dad... I don’t know what she is, or where she is. Most days she would come home and sit on the front door step, barely being able to stand, let alone be able to home the keys in on the lock. I told her if this is how she was going to be, then I didn’t want to see her again. I never did.

I ended up at a relatively new bus depot, around a mile from my house. By this time the sun was only projecting a pathetic orange – pink glow across a small proportion of the sky. There was one of those road bridges, stretching over the sea of glass and metal, signs of ‘Sorry, not in public service’ scattered across the darkness, illuminating the scene with an ominous dull green glow. I was sat up against an old warehouse building, with a new shiny corrugated iron entrance, which just looked completely ridiculous next to the flaky crumbling red brick of the building it was previously. I contemplated staying here until my sister came looking for me. It seemed like an attractive prospect; I would be away long enough for her to feel sorry for me, and therefore no apology would be necessary. I always hated apologies. The words stood for nothing.

As if in answer to my thoughts, I heard footsteps down the road, although they sounded a little too heavy to be my sister’s and I only heard one sound per step, which meant they were walking flat footed. Yeah, I pick up weird stuff. I was right – I saw a guy in a brown jacket and worn chinos turn the corner. It looked like he was walking straight for me. I tensed. By this point, I could see the expression on his face. Or rather the lack of it. It unnerved me. He stopped just before he reached me, and I saw him look upwards. He stared at a spot in the air for a minute, then I noticed him slowly turning towards me. And then it hit me. His face had a distinct likeness to the blank look I got from my sister. I got up. I was taller than him. Broader. I attempted to stare him down, make him break the eye contact, but he never shifted his gaze. I pushed past him in an attempt to send him on his way, but when I looked back, he was staring at the spot in the air again. Although now I looked up and noticed it was actually the top of the bridge. His gaze averted to the floor quickly, then he slowly shook his head. He took one last glance of me, and moved on.

 I thrust my hand into my pocket. My lucky day – I left my phone in there from the previous time I wore them. I started walking, pulling out the phone, bringing my thumb up to the power button, and the opening screen with the neon lights flashed up. It was taking a long time. Too long. I shook it in frustration, wanted to throw it but not being stupid enough to.  As it opened up the home screen, I pressed the up button which I had assigned to the new message function. I pressed 4, which I had assigned to my sister. I twiddled my thumbs across the screen, deciding whether or not to continue. I pressed in the letters ‘Sorry’ and planned to leave it at that, but then I put in an ‘xx’ for good measure. ‘Sorry xx’. I could’ve just pressed the lock button and forgotten about it, but if my sister got anything from me saying sorry, she knew I meant it. As I said before, apologies don’t come easily to me. I looked at the send button for a second, enough to make up my mind. I pushed down on the green key, and locked my phone. I would get something back from her within a minute at the most, she always had her phone on her. 

A second later, it starting ringing in the most horrifically embarrassing tone you could possibly imagine. I took a quick look around. Lucky there was no one to hear it. I pulled out my phone again, and noticed she had opened a video call. Weird.  I pressed the accept call button, and her face flashed up on the screen. The mirror. The first thing that caught my eye. Her room was lit up completely, but the mirror held nothing but darkness. It wasn’t a distinct black, rather with a slight smear of blue, tinted with orange at the side. I looked up. The sky was slightly smeared with blue. And the sun was gone now, leaving only a tint of orange... off at one side. I looked back at the phone, and the mirror only showed a reflection of the desk, and of a computer.

There could’ve been a good explanation for it, I don’t know. Maybe my sister was just trying to creep me out, but it just looked so... real.  By this time I had reached the gate. I swung it open, scratching the key around the door until it found the lock, slotting into place, and I turned it cautiously. No answer. I walked up into my room, and sat there for a minute or so, waiting for my sister to come bounding in, with some news about something to change the subject. She didn’t arrive. This was strange. I got up, and went to her room, twisting the handle, and pushing it slowly. The lights were left on, as they were in the video call. She didn’t say a word about the argument when we were talking, just about what her friends were doing at the weekend, and what she wanted to do with her life. I don’t know why I’m the way I am. I just drive people away. Like Mum.

I scanned the room, and saw no one around. I left, cursing, when I realised I had reused the skipping technique from earlier.  Searching the house, I found no trace of anyone either. I went back to my sister’s room, and took another look around. Again, the mirror caught my eye. This time, nothing was in it, but I still couldn’t peel my eyes away from it.

I took out my phone. Pressed the down key, to access the camera. I took a second, gathering my breath. What I saw in the screen now could be anything. I brought my hand up furiously, and saw... nothing.
I breathed a sigh of relief. I just missed the off button with my thumb. Clumsy. I aimed for it again, this time hitting it straight in the middle. Seeing as my sister wasn’t home. I guess it wouldn’t do much harm to go out again. I left through the back door this time, climbing over the wall. Variety is always nice.

I realised that I was walking towards the bus depot again. I don’t know what it was with that place, it just felt right. A place where I could just sit down and think. I looked up into the sky again. I liked observing the colours as they changed from the night to the day and vice versa. By now the orange of the sun was rising from the other side. It was beautiful. I felt a sense of serenity, alone on the streets. You don’t need fields and trees and flowers to feel like this. Just the right state of mind. I felt a buzzing in my pocket. Probably my sister. I pulled out my phone once again, but instead of the horrendous tone, I was greeted with the message ‘1 new picture taken!’ Strange. I don’t remember having a message like that set up on my phone. I opened it up, and stood still.

Frozen. My eyes widened without my realisation. In the picture was the mirror. I must’ve hit the picture button when I missed the power one. In the mirror, the sky was now almost entirely orange, a little darker on one side. I didn’t dare look up. Also in the picture this time, was the bridge. And a dark, sunken silhouette, stood on the side. I didn’t want to focus in on it. I didn’t want to know for sure who it was. My legs started moving of their own accord. Running, but not fast enough. Never fast enough.

I turned the corner, and looked up at the bridge. I couldn’t avoid the sight of the orange sky, with a slight darkness smearing one side. Or the figure. I didn’t stop running, and the figure’s face came into view. There was no denying it now. I sprinted for the bridge, my legs burning, as the silhouette noticed me. As my sister noticed me. I watched as she took a single step forwards. She reached out a hand as she fell, but I wasn’t there to take it.

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