Other Side of the Mirror


Perhaps it was only a flash, a trick of weary eyes, but he was almost certain that he had seen something…wrong.

Emily Stocksdale, Staff Writer

The moon hung lazily in the sky, barely illuminating the sheer cliffside and dark pines far below.  Shadows posed in eerie battle stances, their forms grotesque as they shifted with the wind.  He had not noticed until then how cold the night was, how unwelcoming.  Even the silence, usually so peaceful and comforting, had taken on a cold, disturbing chill.

By now, his feet were numb, clumsy as he faltered along.  He had lost sight of his car long before.  The useless thing had finally given out on the side of the road, and after a moment’s hesitation, he abandoned it in search of a place to sleep that did not reek of stale Doritos and engine trouble.

One tennis shoe caught on something hard and rough, a tree toot perhaps, but before he could chastise himself for not having the presence of mind to bring a flashlight, he was on the ground.  Now, knees bloody and hands raw, he began to wonder if he shouldn’t have just waited in the car.

With his admission of fallibility, Petrov became sickly aware of the shadows morphing strangely around him.  Silhouettes of oak and pine appeared to him as some great, incorrigible beast.  An owl stumbled in the wind, issuing a mournful, harried cry before flying on before him.  The world seemed to have changed completely from the one he once knew.

It was silly, really, to be so frightened.  Still, alone in the darkness, Petrov could feel his heart beating faster, his breath quickening slightly.  He sped up, nearly running, though he could hardly see more than a foot in front of him with the moon’s inadequate light.

He didn’t notice the building until it was right upon him.  Composed of craggy stones, it rose to a formidable height, though it slumped slightly against the mountain’s face.  It was nestled between two worn rocks, practically a part of the cliff itself, overlooking the road and the valley far below.  The door hung slightly ajar, and in the light seeping from inside, Petrov stopped for a moment to catch his breath.

He had never seen the place before, but perhaps that wasn’t surprising.  He had only been on the road a couple of times, and it was hard to drive on: narrow and winding so that one had always the feeling that they would lose focus for a second and fall straight over the mountain’s side.  It was rather unnerving, and easily a reason why he may not have noticed the building in the past.  Yet, even with this reminder, he still felt wary to enter.  Derelict taverns in the middle of nowhere never did bode well with him.

Petrov was never quite certain why he ended up going into the building.  As he pushed the doors open, the rowdy mass within quickly hushed and turned to stare at him.  Petrov felt instantly like a boy back in grade school, entering another classroom in the middle of the teacher’s lecture.  He paused for a moment, drew in a deep breath, and scuttled over to the nearest seat at an overcrowded bar.

A man with a long beard and shoddy jacket glanced at him indifferently and went back to sipping his drink.  Someone behind him coughed loudly and lurched against his chair; another laughed near his ear and launched into a confusing story which may have been in several languages simultaneously.  Petrov crouched against his chair and again wondered at the wisdom of leaving his car.

After several long moments, when he was certain he could breathe properly once more, Petrov glanced up to note the bartender staring at him.  “Er… Just water, thanks,” he muttered, pushing some spare change across the counter.  The man snatched it up and stalked off to fill a rather grimy cup with tap water.

Now, feeling more relaxed, he allowed himself a few covert looks at his surroundings.  The place was not nearly as shoddy on the inside: it was badly in need of fresh paint, and most of the furniture had been out of style since the second World War, but it was cozy and well-lit.  Later he would ask to use a phone and call a tow truck to pick up him and his car.  For the moment, though, he would just sit and warm up a bit.

The man returned with his water.  He accepted it gratefully, refrained from remarking on the state of the dishes (quite an accomplishment, really), and sipped at it as he continued to look around.

While nice, there wasn’t anything too outstanding about the place.  It was rather average, except in one respect: a large mirror that hung on the opposite wall from him.  This in itself would not have been too impressive—many bars have mirrors, after all—but this particular one was enormous.  It covered the entire expanse of the wall, floor to ceiling, and stretched about twelve feet in length.  The mirror also happened to be the cleanest thing in the entire room, which only drew more attention to it.

The more he stared at it, however, the more he became aware of something amiss about the mirror.  Perhaps it was only a flash, a trick of weary eyes, but he was almost certain that he had seen something…wrong.  He wasn’t certain as to what, but in the back of his mind, the thought surfaced unwaveringly.  Something was wrong, and he didn’t want to stay long enough to figure out what it was.

He started to rise, and again he noticed it.  It was barely there, a flash of movement that should not have existed.  Almost imperceptibly, the mirror was reacting after him.  He stood, and not an instant later, his reflection was also on his feet.  There was hardly any delay at all, but there was still a delay.

Petrov set the glass down and nodded his thanks to the bartender once more, almost unconsciously.  His mind was focused only on getting out.  He did not understand his apprehension, honestly, but with the events of the last few hours, he thought he could afford a little caution.

He made for the door and was about halfway there when a voice called out to him.


“Hmm?” He turned slowly, eyes darting from his reflection to the speaker, the man in the tattered jacket.  “Sorry, what?”

“I asked if you were okay! Man, that was some crash, yeah?”

“What?” Petrov said, confused.  He glanced back to the mirror, but his reflection was no longer standing in the tavern.  It was lying haphazardly along the road, perhaps miles away.

He looked down to see himself slowly disintegrating.  Fear vanished, and he had a strong sensation of being pulled through thick dark mud.

A man with a long beard and shoddy jacket appeared beside him, crouching down.  “Yeah, you might have a concussion or something… I think you’ll be fine though.”

Petrov could hardly hear him.  He sat up dizzily.

“What happened?”

“I don’t know, really.  I was just driving behind you, when… I guess you fell asleep at the wheel or something.  Your car just weaved to the side, smashed right into the rocks over there,” he pointed, and sure enough, his car lay a crumpled mess on the other side of the road.  “I guess you were just lucky that you didn’t veer the other way and fall off the cliff, huh? Yeah.  Anyway, I stopped and got out.  Called 9-1-1, so they’re coming soon, I guess.  I pulled you out of the car, though… You didn’t seem to have any really bad injuries, but you weren’t waking up, and I was…worried, I guess.”

Petrov nodded slowly.  “And the bar?” he asked.

“Bar?” the man replied, surprised.  “What bar?”

Dimly, Petrov remembered stopping at a tavern on his way home from work.  He had just wanted water, but he had ended up leaving without drinking anything.  The place was a pigsty.

“It’s probably nothing,” he muttered slowly.

The man nodded.  “Oh good,” he muttered, as if to himself, “I thought perhaps you’d remembered.”

He may have continued, but Petrov wasn’t listening.  He grabbed his head and groaned.  I’ll not be taking this road again, I suppose, he thought wearily.  Too dangerous.

To the crescendoing sound of sirens, he laid back down.  An owl swooping overhead hooted angrily.

How curious.  And yet, I do recall a mirror…