She slouched in the doorway, leaning against the frame as she stared blankly into the room. The due date for her college essay was quickly approaching, and she felt no desire to sit down at the desk and work on it. Shaking her head, Breanne moved forward and sank heavily in the antique chair she had fallen in love with long ago, when she first spied it tucked into a dusty little shop corner.
She dragged her fingers through her dark hair and tucked it behind her ears. Stubborn strands immediately fell forward into her eyes. Sighing, her chin dipped to her chest wearily. Even her hair would not cooperate, she thought. From under her lashes, she caught the image of herself in the mirror above the desk, eyes cast downward.
Bree’s motivation lagging, she reached out for a pencil and spun it idly between her fingers. The outline for her paper was lying directly in front of her, neatly printed in the spiral bound notebook she carried to class, but she could not make herself reach for it. She could put the paper off another day, possibly two, but she was going to feel the same then so she may as well not delay it further. Her black moods were increasing in frequency, and the medication she was on did not seem to be helping as it once did. Leaning forward, she began to work on the introduction
For several moments, the only sound in the room was the slow scratching of lead across paper. Her forehead creased as she focused her attention on the major points of her paper. Soon enough, the voices started softly, whispering doubts across her concentration.
You’re not smart enough. Not worth enough, and not nearly pretty enough.
The voices grew louder, their mocking laughter echoing and crashing through her mind. She bit her lip and continued writing, but the voices would not be ignored. The voices always won. Silent tears ran down her cheeks and plopped fatly onto the paper, smearing words she had just written into an illegible mess.
She set her pencil down and massaged her temples, digging in slightly with her nails. The sharp bite of pain did nothing to alleviate the pain she felt deep inside.
Stop. Don’t listen to them. They do not know you, who you truly are. Only I do.
The new voice startled her. Amidst the chorus of jeers, the new voice cut across the others, strident and strong. She swung her head around the room, her black curtain of hair swinging wildly. The voice had been so determined and powerful; she nearly expected to see someone standing behind her. No one. Turning her head back, damp blue eyes met her in the mirror.
“You truly are losing your mind,” she whispered to herself. “At least there will be something new to talk about in the doctor’s office.”
“You are most certainly not crazy. You’re depressed, angry, and lonely. But you are not crazy.” The eyes staring back into hers narrowed.
Stunned, she could only stare as the woman in the mirror left her seat suddenly and began to walk around in quick, agitated steps. She sagged back in her chair, clutching the arms, her knuckles whitening. Her mouth snapped audibly shut as the woman whirled on her and accused her of looking like a gaping fish.
“Times have been rough, yes. You feel worse than you did before, yet nothing has changed. Why? Is anything different? No, you just keep sinking further into your despair. You’re wallowing. What you need are fresh eyes. To see who you really are, what you indeed have to offer. That’s what I’m for.” The woman threw her hair back from her face and stood there defiantly, hands boldly on her hips.
Of course. Her hair stayed in place, Bree thought irrationally. “Fresh eyes? You are a delusion of me that is currently starring in a psychotic episode. You are for…”
“I am not a delusion of you.” The woman’s eyes sparked. “I am you. I am everything you are. When you’re not sitting around morosely, that is. We are the same person. And I can prove it to you. I can show you exactly what you are worth.”
This delusion was spinning wildly out of control, but she decided not to fight it. “What do you mean, prove it to me? I can clearly see we are two different people. Look at you. You’re…”
Her eyes softening, the woman held out her hand. She smiled sadly and coaxed, “Come with me. I will show you everything that you truly are, and more.”
Eyes wide, Bree sat back in her chair, the legs skidding on the hardwood floor. “Come with you?”
“There is a way. Come with me, and I will show this world. A world in which only truth exists. Not how you feel. Not how people make you feel. Only what and who you are.” The woman came closer and placed her fingertips on the mirror. Except that they did not flatten against the surface but pushed through it. Polished nails emerged, followed by a shapely hand that rotated until its palm rested upwards and the fingers curved in invitation. “Come.”
She caught herself starting to lean forward, toward the woman who looked like a better, happier version of herself. What she wouldn’t give to be that woman. To feel so confident. She shook her head in denial. “I can’t”
“You won’t. Because you’re scared of learning that I am right. Scared of taking that first step. But you don’t have to take it alone. I will be your guide. I can show you, if you only take my hand.”
Wanting to believe her, suddenly needing to be with her, to be her, Bree reached out and grabbed the hand outstretched to her. There was no resistance as her hand moved through the glass, merely a cool feeling washing over her fingers. Her body moved closer to the mirror in anticipation, watching her arm move into the mirror. The woman smiled at her and clasped her hand at her elbow, guiding her through. Bree found herself smiling back into those eyes.
Even as she felt those warm eyes upon hers, they changed. Suddenly flashing, the pupils rapidly expanded, until the blue was extinguished. Black bled through the whites of her eyes until Bree stared into a bottomless pit. She watched in horror as the flesh in that lovely face became drawn, until the skin lay taut over harsh bones. Pain blossomed and she looked down to see scarlet ribbons trailing down her arm as the flesh on that warm, caressing hand shrank and those beautifully polished nails grew to talons that sank into her arms.
She was yanked fully through the glass and began to fall. The floor faded away and she continued her descent. Bree tried to scream, but she had no voice. The pain in her arm lessened, then numbed completely. She felt nothing. Her body, mind, and emotions strangely hollow, Bree was quickly discovering that feeling nothing was far worse than feeling something.
John Wiswell said:
At least the delusion had a few nice words. But if we’re to be swallowed in illusion, it might as well be one of affirmation rather than nihilism. Can she steer herself to proper shores?
Janelle R Jensen said:
Perhaps in an idyllic world, the redemption we seek will always be fulfilled. In this case, it showed that oftentimes it gets worse before it gets better. Will she find herself, and love herself, again? Perhaps. In time.
Thanks for stopping by and commenting! 🙂
Great story, Janelle! Chilling with truth. Indecision leads us to deception and age. I enjoy your writing– vivid
Janelle Jensen said:
Thanks Dannie! Much appreciated! The human spirit is always facing some battle, often internally.