Friday, October 22, 2010

Magpie Tales: Mirror, Mirror


Saturday

Picking his way through tables filled with children's clothes and boxes of toys, housewares and Cd's, James Doones made his way toward his car to leave. Yard sales are not his thing, but spending Saturday mornings alone in his trailer, now that his family was gone, were the equivalent of having a tooth pulled in a back alley.

Pausing at a table, he picks up a cloth doll in a red dress, much like his daughter once held. Seeing someones life strewn across the lawn for strangers to pick through brings painful feelings. Cheryl had ripped his world apart when she took the kids and moved out and it felt like everyone they had been close to had perused their closets during the seperation. She painted him a raving maniac, and honestly it was an apt description, after he lost his job with the insurance company. They only had one more month until the year was up and the divorce was final and he still had not found stable employment.

Shaking the miserable thoughts from his head, he gently smiles at the family behind the table, doling out their memories. He places the doll back in the pile and turns to leave when a brilliant light spears his eyes, blinding him momentarily. Rubbing the spots from his eyes, they fall on a magnificent mirror, wrapped in a golf leaf frame, leaning against the leg of a table. Entranced he walks to the table, kneeling in front of the mirror.

"The mirror belonged to my mother. It hung in her bedroom," a husky yet feminine voice says from above him.

Raising his head, James looks into the tired eyes of the middle aged lady, "My mother would love something like this," thinking as well that it might earn him back into his mom's graces. She had staunchly defended him during the the initial months of ther seperation, but succumbed to the avalanche of of evidence and rumor that Cheryl presented. He has not talked to his mom in a month. Her birthday is in a few weeks and this might be the perfect gift.

"How much?" he asks.

"Take it. It was the only thing that survived the fire. She bought it the week before...," tears stream down her cheek and she manages a weak smile as she brushes them from her face, "It is a constant reminder and I would just as well be rid of it."

"Are you sure, I...," he begins.

"No, really I don't...It was so unexpected...It...," .

"Thank you. I am sorry," he blurts, uncomfortable in the intimacy of the moment.

The lady does not acknowledge his gratitude, turning her back, walking down the row of tables and boxes to find someone else to speak with. He watches her go, feeling a slight pang of her loss in his chest.

Looking back at his reflection in the mirror, he measures his face. The last year has been hard, which can be read in his eyes. The sand of his hair has gained some grey highlights. Most of all he look tired. The image seems to ripple before his eyes, and for a moment he sees who he was before, then it snaps back to his reflection.

"I need to get some rest," he mumbles to himself.

Lifting it gently, he carries it to the car. Popping the hatch, he finds a drop cloth, one he used the week prior on a paint job he had taken to pay the utility bill. He wraps it around the mirror to protect it until he gets home.
_______

Thursday

Blue neon glows in the haze created by cigarette smoke crowding the air in bar but James only notices the woman seated in the booth across the floor from him. It is not like him to be taken with someone so instantly, but ever since she walked his eyes are continually drawn back in her direction. Unlike most of the girls that frequent the bar, she is giving nothing away, dressed modest. Her honey colored hair rest on her shoulders and her lips pout as she sips a fruity drink through one of those small straws.

He has not dated anyone since the divorce. Sure he took care of his needs, once a month, with an old girlfriend from before his marriage, but she was married so that was not going to last. Butterflies jumbled his insides as he considered introducing himself. The long hand sweeps a full circle around the clock face as he waits for someone to join her, before screwing up the courage to slide across the room and introduce himself.

"Hey, my name is James," he stammers through the hammering in his chest.

She smiles, "My name is Melanie."
_____

Friday

Melanie rests, comfortably nestled within the sheets, when he extricates his arm and slips from the bed. The red numbers glare at him from the shadows, 2:30 AM. Sitting on the edge of the bed, face in his hands, he contemplates the turns life takes.

They had talked until midnight about anything and everything. It was the first time he had shared his feelings about the dissolution of his marriage with another person, someone outside of those involved. He told her about losing his job and how inferior he felt with rejection after rejection as he sought new employment. The anger.

She listened intently as if they had known each other for years. Her hand found his arm, providing comfort as she asked questions, engaging him in conversation unlike any he ever had. When all of his garbage was spilled on the table, she was still smiling and he could not help himself from doing the same. He had intended to just walk her to her car and ask her if they could do it again sometime, but under the streetlights he found his lips against hers and they ended up back at his trailer.

She said nothing about the laundry draped of the chairs or the trash that was piled in the corner. They had not taken much time moving through the living area to the bedroom. The last couple hours play back quickly in his head and he thinks this just may be the happiest moment he has had in years.

Out of the corner of his eye, he sees the mirror he bought for his mother, at the yard sale last weekend, leaning in the corner. Briefly he considers how he is going to wrap it before her birthday next Saturday. Rising from the bed, he steps through their discarded clothes to stand in front of it. Pulling away the drop cloth, his naked form is a dark shadow across its surface.

Crouching, he runs a finger along the texture of the frame. The surface of the mirror shimmers, ripples reaching the edges, giving him a start. Rocking back on his heels, he falls to butt, rattling the trailer. Sheepishly he cuts eyes to the sleeping form in the bed, but she only rolls over, settling once more into shallow breathing.

Turning once more to the mirror, he sees himself, but he is on a beach. A vibrant blue sky stretches to the ocean, which is clear and sparkling. He feels the warm sand beneath his toes and smells the salty air. It is not hot, but comfortable and peace radiates across him spreading warmth like sunshine. He watches a sea gull float and play on an unseen breeze.

The beach stretches in each direction and he is alone. Running his fingers through the sand, he takes a handful, looking at it, rubbing it, letting it fall. He is not just watching all of this, he can really feel it. He is not in the bedroom, but his own little paradise. He sighs, settling back into the sand, lacing his fingers behind his head, listening to the lap of the waves. He could stay here forever.
_____

"Hey are you okay?" a gentle voice stirs him, a firm pressure on his shoulder.

He blinks, realising he is laying on the floor in his bedroom. Looking to the mirror, he sees himself and Melanie kneeling behind him. He smiles at her in the mirror, and watches as she smiles as well.

"Yeah, I...," he doesn't know what to say. How do you explain being found naked on the floor instead of in bed with such a beautiful woman? Much less explain that he spent the night on the beach, when there is not one within several hundred miles.

"Why don't you get dressed and take me to breakfast?" she lets him off easy, much to his relief.

"I think I would like that," he says, pulling her into a kiss.
______

Arriving home, after breakfast at a diner near his houseand driving her back to the bar to retrieve her car, James retreats to his bedroom. Melanie had scribbled her number on a page from her date book and made him promise to call. He lays it on the dresser, among receipts and loose change, for later in the evening. He knows he should be cleaning up the house so that he can be a bit more impressive, or working so he could afford to treat her the way she made him feel, but he can not stop thinking about the mirror and the night on the beach.

Searching the surface, he finds only his reflection staring back at him. He runs his finger along the frame again, anxious, searching for a trigger to make it work. Nothing. He stares at himself wondering if he has not finally lost his mind. There was a time a few months after the divorce when he thought he might have. Why now, when he was so happy? Was this just another cruel twist of fate?

The cellphone in his pocket hums against his leg, he retrieves it and without even looking at who was calling, he flips it open, "Hello."

For a second there is dead air, then he hears her voice, "I know what you did last night."

"Cheryl, what are you doing even calling me?" he barks at the phone.

"You slept with her. You did not even know her. If you thought you have any hope of seeing the kids again, you are wrong!"

"How did you even..."

"Don't you worry about that! We will deal with this at the custody hearing! You just killed any chance you ever had!"

"You..." he releases a dam of pent up fury into the phone, stringing a line of profane names long enough to send a court reporter home with carpal tunnel syndrome.

When he pauses to breath, she fill the gap "And Melanie says to tell you hello."

The breath catches in his throat, choking him. Dropping the phone, a guttural scream erupts from within him. He spins around the room, hurling anything within arms distance at indeterminate targets. A glass shatters against the nightstand, sending a lamp crashing to the floor. Drawers from the dresser disintegrate against the wall, spilling what few clothes actually found it among the debris. He is feral in his destruction, until he falls exhausted before the mirror.

"Please, help me!" he screams at its face, which ripples to life.

Tongues of flame dance around him, under him, on him. He watches it in the mirror, howling. The heat is unbearable, his knees blistering beneath him. He is in the mirror. There is no mirror. There is only flame on the floor. The walls. The very air. He thrashes against against the consuming inferno, the anger he originally felt for his ex-wife intensifying until he no longer hears himself, a dark crust forming over his eyes.
______

Saturday

"I think we have the fire out now, sir," an smudge faced fireman explains to the police officers, standing in the blue strobe of the lights on their cruiser.

"That was a hot one, dang near spread to the surrounding forest," one of the uniformed officers exclaims.

"We found what looks to be the charred remains of a man. Probably the owner, James Doone. Not much but bones left to identify whoever it is."

"We'll take pictures and bag those. See anything else?"

"Yeah, funniest thing. Everything in the trailer was destroyed but we found a mirror amidst the cinders and ash, completely untouched."

"Really! That is unusual. Where is it?" the detective in the group asks, intrigued.

"Leaning against that tree over there. What are you going to do with it?"

"Well, I guess I will take it with me until we contact his wife. I will see if she wants it," the detective answers, retrieving the mirror.

"Nothing much we can do this morning until the sun comes up and we can see what we are doing. If you all can take care of those remains," he directs to the deputies, "its been a long night. I will just put it in my garage and log it in later today."

The fireman notices the face of the mirror swim as the detective carries it through the group, dismissing it as exhaustion playing tricks on his eyes.

This is a Magpie Tale.

94 comments:

Syd said...

That is scary story. Wow-- reminds me of the old Twilight Zone stories.

lakeviewer said...

And it's not yet Halloween...

OJ Gonzalez-Cazares said...

spooky evil mirror!!! and spooky evil ex wife too!! great pre-halloween story. Somehow this prompt gives me the chills as is...

Karen S said...

Nice spooky pre-Halloween story! Will your costume include a magic mirror?

Rene/ Not The Rockefellers said...

great..now I'm going to be up all night!

JeffScape said...

You really want me to stop saying "more, longer," don't you?

Pretty good, man. Pretty good.

david mcmahon said...

Amazing post, Brian - it was riveting and I just had to read every word. Would you consider turning it into a novella?

Brian Miller said...

jeff...on this one i would understand....it needs to be longer to establish the fact that the mirror works of the emotions of the person looking into it...seeing beyond what is readily apparent...

david...you honor me with the question...actually i do like the idea...i am working on aome rewrites on another right now pushing it for novella length....thank you sir!

Steven Anthony said...

This was amazing.....I love a good scare...such talent my friend, so happy you see fit to share it with us;)

Sue J said...

Twilight Zone stuff. I really enjoyed it. Puts you off picking up odd mirrors at yard sales!

Me said...

Wow! Great job. I too thought "Twilight Zone" as I read it. Creepy, noir...
*shivers*

Reflections said...

Awesome post Brian. So reminded me of the Twilight Zone stories...
Only colorized.

Should make for a short night.

Ana said...

Brian, I got the emotion thing when I read this -took me a second though. Glad you enjoyed "Gypsy Legend" :)

Bernie said...

This is great Brian, left me wanting to read more.....:-) Hugs

Kim A. said...

“Reality is only seen when the mirror is clean” ~anonymous

Spooky in a E.A. Poe sort of way. I was going to watch the movie, "Mirrors 2", but I think I'll pass. Have a great weekend.

♥namaste♥

TALON said...

What a neat (and completely chilling) take on a magic mirror ...very cool tale, Brian!

kathi harris said...

I luv 2 invent these types of stories. I try 2 come up with nice things happening however. Bcuz I think, suppose one day what I'm dreaming about really happens? I don't want that event 2 b smthing that's going 2 scare me senesless.

Patience said...

awesome mirror story, scary as all get out. One of my fave lines was in the first paragraph,'...pulling a tooth in a back alley...' cool image, perfect description of being unbearable.

ladyfi said...

A mesmerizing story! Wonderful read.

Sheila Moore said...

a sinister mirror...my young daughter won't sleep with a mirror facing her bed...she might know something there. I like the suspense in this.

Angie Muresan said...

I got a good scare out of this one, Brian. Shivers, actually.

christine said...

Scary... but started off so nicely and I was expecting a happy ending.. so very good twist at the end.

adeeyoyo said...

Lovely... *shivers*... very good Brian!

Valerie said...

Riveting stuff, Brian, I'll have to read this again on Hallowe'en.

Claudia said...

how clever - the mirror of the soul..and yes..i felt sad for him..he would've deserved a new start and times on the beach of his satisfied soul..
so when did you say will you write a book..? have to prepare mentally and maybe eat, sleep and shower in advance...smiles

EKSwitaj said...

Painful, painful twists. But I really like the use you made of the mirror.

Deborah said...

Wow ... just wow!

slommler said...

Superbly crafted story! You had me so hopeful his life was taking a turn for the better then BAM he was screwed...big time! Totally bizarre and chilling ending! Loved it!!
And that ex wife...evil lady for sure!! Glad she is getting the mirror!!
Ha!
Hugs
SueAnn

June_Butterfly said...

Oh,Brian!Now you're giving me ideas about writing a spooky one,too.haha.I just love HALLOWEEN!!

Lorraine said...

Too long for me m'dearf, sorry, but I know it's brilliant

25BAR said...

It is that time in the year, isn't it?

TechnoBabe said...

Dang, a set up. When the guy was so down too. Good writing and the mirror has lots more places to go. Interesting that the woman at her yard sale said the mirror was the last thing her mom bought before her house burned down. Yikes.

Brian Miller said...

techno...glad someone picked that up...i kept it fire so it would be a little more obvious...my original intent was to have his mom find the guy frozen, just like his heart...who knows in the edits...smiles.

Flea said...

Fantastic work Brian, had my sitting here reading it all from start to end!!
Looking fw to more ..... please!

Debbie said...

Excellent. And I definitely agree with the idea of turning it into a novella.

Raven said...

Phenomenal, definitely worthy of 'The Twilight Zone.' I was transfixed all the way through.

Boom Boom Larew said...

OOH! Perfect for Halloween! (This has the feel of a Brotin Tale!) Excuse me, though, while I go cover up all the mirrors in the house!

kathew said...

whoa...what really happened? Did he die or just go to a different dimension. Spooky scary...no mirrors for me at the arage sale!
As for the ex wife...yowch- what a bad person.
Great story!

Joseph Pulikotil said...

Hi Brian:)

Magnificent story,very interesting,very gripping,plenty of suspense from scene to scene and a tragic,devastating end all centered on the mirror.

A man is devastated after losing his job, shattered after a divorce,finds solace in new love and once again plunges into despair and death.

Wonderful story and I enjoyed it.

Many thanks for the wonderful writing and sharing.

Best wishes:)
Joseph

Help! Mama Remote... said...

So heartbreaking! Wow his wife set him up! I think she'll be sorry when she hears this. I'm concerned about this mirror? The second fire that we know of. I wish he had told Melanie who he wanted to give it to. Then again I wonder does it hold some curse?

Vicki Lane said...

Oh yes, Twilight Zone time! Nice one!

Lori said...

Wow! I love stories like this, a little scarey but not too much so...kind of like the twilight zone...this could continue into a book Brian. Very good!

Happy weekend to you and yours. :)

Velvet Over Steel said...

I am so sad now. I was very happy for this poor man, possibly finding some compassion and happiness. I had almost forgotten that there was a clue about that pervious owner and fire. & the ending did remind me of the Twlight Zone shows. Intense and scary indeed.

How incredibly passionate and talented you are in your writing, Brian! Brilliant!!
~ Coreen

blueviolet said...

I thought the mirror would bring happiness....not so much.

Myrna R. said...

I'm amazed - not just at the good and solid quality of your writing, but at how much you get done. I read the comment about you writing a novella. How do you do it - blogging, commenting, one stop poetry, and more..oh yes and a family and career?

Regardless, I hope you continue.

This story was captivating.

Daniel said...

I was going to read this last night, but was way to mind-fried to dive in. Today I sat back and let myself escape into this tale. Definitely a Twilight Zone feel to it. I loved the feeling and the mood that you framed here. Nice.

Mona said...

I like spooky mirror stories :)

Snow White and The Snow Queen are my favorite!

This one was gripping and very visual. Well done!

Anonymous said...

a brilliant story brian. tautly written.

fantastic piece.

trisha
mydomainpvt.wordpress.com

Jaime said...

very nice, brian. though i was kinda hoping for a happy ending for poor james.

Julie Jordan Scott said...

Wow - there are elements of the poem I wrote (the one you commented on, filled with TMI about cervixes, etc)... I found that so intriguing how people can see the same visual and get such different (and yet similar) stuff. Enjoyed this very much!

Miss Nikki said...

I agree with the others: Twilight Zone'ish indeed. Brian, Brian, Brian... once again you wrote a top notch story. LOVED it! Please don't ever stop, and please stay away from old mirrors, the world would be a dreary place without your words to fill our imaginations!

Madame DeFarge said...

I love your spooky stories, with a twist. You just don't see them coming. Great read.

Birdie said...

omg! by Saturday I couldn't believe the turn ... :-) did the lady's mother asked the mirror for 'help' as well? did it make her to burn out? ... hmmmm ... a really great story Brian, read it with one breath again :-)

Kathy's Klothesline said...

This was creepy!

Julie said...

No no keep it fire ... the frozen heart, whilst interesting in verse form, I feel would have an 'engineered' feel in a work like this. Repeating the fire worked well.

More to come by email ...

madamebutterfly said...

Great Magpie Brian - really enjoyed it

steveroni said...

I still am in awe of the stuff I get to read on your posts for FREE!

Whew! What a story--and it proves they don't ALL have to end with "Happy-Ever-After"...but THIS was Charring--I mean Jarring--grin!

Steve E

william said...

brilliant mate, excellent story :)

Bossy Betty said...

Shivering!!!

Cindybrown said...

OOOhhh spooky!! Great story right before Halloween!

KB said...

I thought it was interesting how the main character was convinced the family was selling all their own junk they no longer needed. When in fact, they were selling stuff because the fire had made it a necessity. Funny how we presume so much of others without knowing anything really.

Kristen Haskell said...

Brian- That was outstanding! I was on the edge the whole time. Wonderful story. BTW part two of Framescape is up.

:) Kristen

sheila said...

WHAT? That's where it ends? You're killin me smalls! Is this a two parter? On the edge of my seat, GREAT story! FREAKY mirror!

sheila said...

WHAT? That's where it ends? You're killin me smalls! Is this a two parter? On the edge of my seat, GREAT story! FREAKY mirror!

Pat said...

That's it! I am NOT looking in the mirror any time soon! And that's going to be hard since my bedroom has many of them! ( You know, to make a small space look big!)

SuziCate said...

Man, was that ever intriguing...I'm going to be afraid to look in the mirror! I've opened another blog just for poetry www. suzicatepoetry.wordpress.com I'll be keeping the other one for my daily musings.

Sophia said...

....wow....ALOT of things come to mind reading this.......

Magpie said...

Does call for a longer version...so many things that could be expanded upon. Great job.

Baino said...

Ah reminds me of a Twilight Zone or Tales of the Unexpected, I can't remember which, where a war criminal asks to be put into a painting of a tranquil lake and a small fishing boat. Finally he is escaping capture and runs into the museum and begs to be placed in the painting only to find that it's been switched with one of the crucifixion. . . superbly creepy

Joanna Jenkins said...

Perfect timing for Halloween-- That was scary. I'll be sleeping with the lights on tonight.
Happy weekend, jj

She Writes said...

Well done! Brian, I WANTED the mirror in the beginning. Yikes :)!

Susan Deborah said...

Mirrors can induce many things and fear is definitely one of them.

Hope the Sunday is rocking!

Joy always,
Susan

Katherine said...

Do-do-do-do...Do-do-do-do!

This was awesome Brian!!!!

Mirror Mirror on the wall
Who will be the next to fall
... or burn in this instance!!

Nice and Scary..this one!!

Zuzana said...

Beautiful and full of suspense at the same time.;) I have always thought mirrors have a certain supernatural feel to them.;)
Hope your Sunday is great dear Brian,
xo

Book Bird Dog said...

The man in the mirror! Excellent story, Brian!

Tracy said...

Oh, Brian this was super good! Your mirror stories always keep me guessing. :-)

secret agent woman said...

Whoa, that was wickedly intriguing.

Stafford Ray said...

He was no saint but you made me hate the bitch of a wife! And Melanie! Words fail me as they didn't fail you!

Bee's Blog said...

An incredible read leaving me wondering who gets the mirror - the wife or Melanie!

Bloggin'withAmanda said...

Wow what a freaky twist the ending was awesome! Would love to read more about who gets that mirror next!

Selma said...

I hope the ex gets the mirror next. What a conniving woman. Mirrors have such power and I really loved what you did with this. Brilliant!

Who Is Afraid of Alfred Hitchcock? said...

Hi! Brian...
This is a very well-written tale(s) of the unknown tale(s) that you have spin here on your blog.

The tale truly piqued my curiosity or held my attention until the very end.

On a personal note, I think that Claudia, hit the nail on the head without using a hammer with the following comment...Claudia said,"how clever - the mirror of the soul..and yes..i felt sad for him..he would've deserved a new start and times on the beach of his satisfied soul..."

Thanks, for sharing this intriguing pre-Halloween tale with your readers.
DeeDee ;-D

Sarah said...

Oh wow! I do enjoy reading your short stories.

Shail Raghuvanshi said...

Oh My! Brian, the mirror can really scare one out.
Well written.

JStar said...

Ok Brian, this is sad...and has some twists and turns in it...Very suspenful :)

willow said...

Chilling read, Brian. Perfect for the season. Well done. LOVE the caps. ;^)

Carrie Burtt said...

Wow this gave me chills....a wonderously crafted tale Brian!

Caty said...

this is a terrific story with Halloween only a week away. Very captivating; I couldn't stop reading :)

Lyn said...

An object that glides through lives..I hoped for healing! ..wait and see!
Cool..in several ways...

Lydia said...

That was so eerie and so darn good! His anger over unemployment is happening all over so it feeds into that near-universal angst. And Halloween is around the corner so it seems ready to pounce and surprise, but we don't know how until the end...and oh, what an end the poor guy had. Here's what I hope. I hope the wife took it when it was offered to her by the fireman, and then I hope she had Melanie over to celebrate while the kids were safe at the home of a good person. And I hope the wife and Melanie were congratulating themselves in the mirror, laughing like wicked witches until the moment of spontaneous combustion. Poof!

Tammy said...

So cool. Does it reflect bliss? torment? anger? All emotion? Really enjoyed this.

joanny said...

Well done -- this reminds of with a modern twist of course of The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, The portrait serves as a reminder of the effect each act has upon his soul, with each sin displayed as a disfigurement of his form, or through a sign of aging.

Your short essay has some similar allusions to the man's life reflected in the mirror. Bold of you to do a long piece like this for a meme. But you managed to pull it off nicely.

Cheers,
joanny

Beedeebabee said...

Your stories are sooo darn good! You paint such great scenes with your words. I loved this one also. :)

Marla said...

Oh my gosh, this is brilliant. I want to read more.