The Version of Her

It started on a morning like any other. But that’s not true—it was a morning littered with oddities. The taste in her mouth, like burnt pennies. Everything seemed too bright. Odd for an overcast day.

She washed her face, forgoing showering as she didn’t want to ruin the texture of her hair that was so hard to achieve. She grabbed her face cream from the top shelf of the medicine cabinet and was sure she shut the cupboard door after replacing the cream.

Her husband stood in the doorway.

“Every moment you spend staring into the mirror is another moment of traffic building up,” he said.

“Is it too bright in here?” she asked him.

“Close the shades if you don’t want the sun to come in,” he said, vanishing from the doorway.

They went to lunch. She kept looking over her shoulder, seeing shadows that vanished when her husband’s gaze followed hers. How can there be shadows when there’s no sun? she thought, squinting at the sky.

“Maybe you should get your eyes checked,” her husband said.

They ran errands, her husband always a step ahead of her. The afternoon slipped by, and they arrived home exhausted. She entered the bathroom and saw the open cabinet. Strange, she thought, sure she had closed it before leaving, but maybe she forgot. A reasonable explanation, but reasonable explanations aren’t much of a shield. They do little to reassure once certainty takes hold. She was positive she had closed the cabinet. 

Horror made her think in absolutes as the worst version of her stared out, not quite mirroring her look of shock.

Her hairbrush clattered in the bathroom sink, her hand knocking it aside as she gripped the edge of the counter. Her eyes meeting her counterpart’s—the expression in the mirror not of horror but of smug satisfaction. Every feature the same, eyes pale blue in a pale face, the hint of a scar at the corner of her eye, a relic of her one and only time skiing. She opened her mouth, not to scream exactly, but to acknowledge the creeping terror inching along her spine. Her mirror version opened its mouth too, but then clamped its lips shut and shook its head. She had an urge to do the same, and her not-a-scream died in her throat.

Her husband’s voice filtered in from the other side of the bathroom door, a world away.

“What are you doing in there? It’s been ages.”

Her eyes never left the thing in the mirror as it smiled, its teeth gleaming.

“Could you open the door? I never understood why you lock it anyhow.”

Her Other reached out, and she sensed her own hand longing to do the same. The cold of the metal lock touched her fingers before she realized what she was doing.

“Sorry,” she whispered, not sure yet for what.

Her husband stared into the mirror, the Other now placid, no hint of malignancy. He said nothing, and her heart leapt in her chest as the three of them stood frozen.

“The lighting in here seems strange, or have you done something with…”

He trailed off, staring. A burst of hope—was she not alone in this?

“It’s your hair and your eyes,” he said finally. “They look darker and… brighter.”

He turned to her, his expression changing to confusion, a flicker of disappointment. He looked back and forth for a moment, before muttering to himself, “Strange lighting.”

She was sure the corner of the Other’s mouth turned up slightly.

Her husband stood next to her as she numbly brushed her teeth and washed her face, the Other in the mirror a beat too slow with its movements. Inside her head was a constant scream.

The Other smirked at her as her husband continued to stare into the mirror. Only when she shut off the light did he come back to himself and follow her to bed.

Now she lives in a constant state of terror, the rapid beating of her heart a constant reminder of what lurks in every shiny surface. Every time she approaches a mirror, she fears what she’ll see. Every time she enters the bathroom, her husband materializes at her side, silent and staring. They don’t speak of this new routine, and the Other’s smile is wider and redder every time she meets its eyes.

She assumes the semblance of an ordinary life, going to work, avoiding windows and concerned glances. Her boss’s hand on her shoulder, telling her that she seems to be under a lot of strain. She doesn’t sleep, and her husband doesn’t speak, his under-eye circles matching hers. She jumps at every sound.

She stands, exactly one week later, staring at the circles growing under her eyes, her Other’s staring back at her, dark and luminous. The Other doesn’t look at her husband; it doesn’t need to. Aren’t you tired? a voice in her head asks. She has never realized the weight of her own autonomy. Haven’t you had enough?

She watches her husband’s fascination, his hand pressed against the glass. Fear is heavy, she thinks. It will not stop dragging me down.

She doesn’t blame him for his fixation. Her reflection is glorious. Stomach-clenching in its beauty. She sees its perfection. And she’s so tired.

The glowing version of her raises its hand, and she sees hers rise in response, her own teeth baring as the Other smiles, both of them reaching to the wall. She is plunged into darkness, alone in the bathroom. The mirror in front of her is empty.

Written by Avalon Bourne

Edited by Molly Rookwood –

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