A note: For today I have another tale from the jar that took much longer than 10 minutes.
She stares at her reflection. If she was in a horror film, something would move behind her right now. Or her reflection would move. Nothing happens. She can see her shoulders move up and down as she breathes but other than that nothing moves. The tap is dripping. She twists it until it stops while still staring at her reflection. She wonders when she developed such prominent bags under her eyes. Her reflection stares out her, looking tired and withdrawn. She walks away, needing to start her day sooner rather than later. She doesn’t see her reflection smile as she turns.
The next day she stares again, although she doesn’t know why. Her reflection seems brighter today, dark circles less than yesterday despite her interrupted sleep. She feels more tired but she looks more awake. She leaves and her reflection smiles again.
At work they comment on how tired she looks, she’s confused but when she sees herself in the bathroom mirror she again looks like death warmed up. Skin pale and dark circles under her eyes. Maybe the lighting in her own bathroom is more forgiving than she thought. She resolves to go to bed earlier and thinks nothing more of it.
She really tries to go to sleep early as well, half 9 and she’s under the covers with a book. Her eyes feel heavy and she only reads for a little while. But every time she tries to fall asleep a noise awakens her. Something is scratching at glass, but whenever she opens her eyes the noise stops. It must be a cat outside, or her sleep deprived mind playing tricks on her again.
She eventually falls into a troubled sleep, tossing and turning and waking up every couple of hours, that same scratching, clawing rousing her. She gives up and pulls her window closed despite the summer heat. Her throat feels scratchy from sleeping with her mouth open, her eyes feeling swollen and dry. She’s still awake when her alarm goes off.
She stares for longer than she intended at the reflection in the mirror. By all accounts, she looks happy and healthy. There’s a summery glow to her skin and the bags under her eyes are minimal despite her lack of sleep.
At work they comment on how ill she looks and even suggest she might be better off resting at home.
The next night is much the same. Only louder. Like nails on a chalkboard every time she tries to drift off to sleep. The scraping continues all night and she sweats under the duvet, pretending she can’t hear it.
The next morning, she tries to not look in the mirror, doesn’t want to see the lie but something compels her. Maybe it’s curiosity, maybe something else. A happy, rosy cheeked girl stares back. She feels like death. She stares and stares, confused and unable to look away. She glances at her phone, sees the dark circles under her eyes and pale skin. Looks back at the mirror. She could have sworn her reflection had been smiling. She’s so tired, though.
She calls in sick to work, to the relief of her manager. She closes the bathroom door firmly and sits on the sofa, mindless daytime tv on so loud she can’t think of anything.
She doesn’t even get to close her eyes that night. The scratching is back, loud and painful. She grabs the nearest weapon she can find, a broom handle with no broom that she hadn’t gotten around to throwing away. Her hand hovers over the handle to the bathroom. She’d scurried in and out without looking in the mirror whenever she had to go in. But now she had to look. Had to see.
The sound stopped as soon as the door squeaked open an inch. The silence was deafening after the din she had been enduring. Her ears rang. She yanked on the cord for the light, expecting something but seeing nothing. The bathroom was still and silent, not even a dripping tap. She stepped in carefully but still nothing moved. Even the blind was still over the open window. She stood in front of the sink, but stared down into its white bowl, too scared to look up.
She gripped the broom handle until her knuckles turned white and her hand ached. She looked up. The girl that stared back at her was not her. She had bouncy, shiny hair. Her skin was tanned and healthy looking. Her lips rosy and full. She reached a shaking hand to her face. Her reflection’s hand did not tremor one bit, but it didn’t reach up for her face. It reached forward, clawed so her nails could scrape against the glass of the mirror. Her left hand joined it, no sign of the broom she could very much feel she was gripping. Her reflection smiled out at her. It pulled its hand back. She stood as still as possible, unable to fathom what might be happening. She trembled and held the broom out without any idea what she might do with it.
The reflection lunged forward, no more scratching and scraping. The glass shattered into a million glittering pieces and as she stepped back she felt tiny pinpricks of pain on her feet. She could only close her eyes and scream, unable to move or understand, hoping it would be a dream. A horrible, terrible nightmare. There was total silence as a cold hand clasped her shoulder, she had stopped screaming but she didn’t know when. She felt like she was drowning but could offer no resistance as cold hands turned her around and pushed her backwards.
There was a small cough, like someone was trying to get her attention. She still gripped the broom handle, now with both hands clenched around it. The cough became more insistent and she had to look. She just had to open her eyes.
Her bathroom stared back at her, as still as ever but all wrong. Everything was on its opposite side, the window now on her left along with the shower. Her reflection still stared back at her, still healthy and happy and grinning. She watched as her reflection turned and walked out of the bathroom, switching off the light. She was plunged into darkness and completely unable to move. Not out of fear or instruction. She just couldn’t move. She reached a hand forward and felt the cold glass of the mirror in front of her. She began to sob silently as she heard her own laugh coming from the other side of the bathroom door.
Tales written from a prompt in just 10 minutes.
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