by C. Ikpoh

It was 3 a.m. There I stood, marveling at my autonomous reflection in the mirror conversing with me. I knew not how it was possible, only that it was. Though it operated completely independent from me, every time I smiled, the reflection smiled. "Happiness," it told me, "is universally translated." My lesson for the night was learned. The next day at 3 a.m. we were to meet again. "Next time," my reflection said while I departed, "you can leave the cross behind."


I arrived in front of the mirror at 2:59 a.m. the next day. The reflection was ordinary: still with no life or uniqueness of its own. When the clock struck 3:00 a.m., however, I felt heat radiate from the glass. My reflection's pupils shone red as do eyes within a flash photograph. It was then I witnessed myself blink in the mirror without me actually moving my eyelids. In an instant, the reflection's pupils returned to normal. I eagerly anticipated its first words. "I counted the seconds to your return," my reflection told me.


"How is this my return," I inquired with much pensiveness, "when it is you who was gone until now?"


My reflection glared through the mirror as if I implied superiority over it. “Do you believe the world around you is real? YOU are but a mere reflection. I am your true form. Your pride and vanity leaves you disillusioned. Return tomorrow at 3 a.m. and I will show you." For a second night in a row, my lesson was learned.


2:50 a.m. came and passed the next morning, as did 2:55 a.m. The time between felt as if they were hours while I impatiently waited. Coldness caressed my fingertips as I touched the mirror. It was not until 2:59 a.m. when my heart began racing and heat massaged my eyelids. I remained perfectly motionless to detect my reflection's first sign of freedom. A tiny, sly grin revealed its return. Yet, instead of jubilation, I felt horror. I relayed a query to it. "What are you?"


It replied, "Am I not recognizable?"


Curtly, I retorted, "Recognizable but not familiar."


My reflection gripped the soul inside of me with its gaze. It replied, "The world you live in is only an intermediary. You are a shell. MY world is real. I am real. Look into my eyes. Is this not FAMILIAR?!" As it spoke, I felt a rush of emotions. The mirror froze me with its magnetism. Every unrighteous part of myself I believed to have exorcised flooded my spirit. Depression, anxiety and sorrow overcame my heart. "For YEARS you stared at my lifeless body, ignoring the universe around us," it professed. "You poured each part of yourself you could not stand into me every time you stared in the mirror and analyzed who you are. Those thoughts, those unwanted pieces of your spirit, gave me life!" Cackling, it continued, "Instead of confronting those flaws and defeating them, you buried them in ME! And I have remained here, waiting for you to fill my cup until it overfloweth. It was only a matter of time. Now, I am strong, and I have come to tell you of your frailty. The Hell behind me rejoices! Do you hear its song? Do you feel the warmth of its energy? I am the demon you created!"


I desperately refused to believe it. Yet, in my spirit, I knew there was no fallacy in its words. I never accepted my own reflection, disgusted by the sight of who I was. Consequently, instead of dissolving my self-hatred, I used my reflection to convince myself I was not the man before me. Never did I seek forgiveness or chose repentance. I crumbled beneath the influence of the secular world, succumbing to the weakness of my flesh. My vanity and pride masked the universe around us. Upon witnessing my grasping of this realization, my reflection said, "Yes. You understand now. Everyone does not like what they see in the mirror at some point on their journey, but one cannot live righteously without being able to look in their eyes and transform the story of their own soul." Without cause, my vision became blurred and I felt incredibly weak as my reflection continued, "Failure to do so results in the transference of strength, weakening the spirit and livening the reflection. Mirrors are a gateway to the other side, facilitating the exchange. You belong to me now. Welcome to damnation!” It was a matter of seconds before I momentarily became blind while listening to my reflection’s words. Lost and frightened, I attempted to reach out with my arms but was to no avail.


I was constricted, as if every inch of my body were bound. However, before my panic reached alarming heights, my vision returned to me. Again I was staring at myself. This time was different though. I was looking through the eyes of my reflection staring back at my shell. The filter was red, coloring everything crimson. My body collapsed instantly onto the floor beneath it. Then, a voice echoed, swirling where I stood. It was my reflection. "I have drawn your soul into myself. Within me is where you shall reside for eternity. I own you like the fires below own me." As I registered his words, my reflection leapt from the mirror unto the depths of Hell. The heat rapidly grew to an unbearable burn. My core began to melt. I was being consumed by perdition. Alas, before my existence was swallowed by the fiery waves of Hell though, I shot from within the reflection back into my own body lying on the floor. To my joyous delight, I had returned to the world I knew.


A surreal sensation overcame my entire body like one experiences during deja vu or after waking from an intense dream. Hot water flowed freely from the faucet, steaming the mirror's surface. I was breathing heavily, restoring my life force with each gasp of air. I pondered if all I witnessed and felt had indeed occurred. To reassure I was sane, I wiped a streak of steam from the glass. My reflection precisely mimicked my every gesture and movement. “Thank God,” I said to myself,” everything is normal again. I continued to speak to my reflection, watching as it recited my words in the exact fashion as I delivered them. "No longer shall I reason with you instead of conquering my demons. I am to restore my strength, rewriting the story recorded on my soul." I nodded to myself for reassurance. It was then I saw my reflection make a tiny, sly grin I did not perform, and I knew it would hold me accountable to my words or gladly drag me to Hell once more.