MY MIRROR IMAGE
by Andrew Ricchiuti

I CARRIED MY BELONGINGS into the new room I rented. My new landlord saw me as a deadbeat and demanded I pay in advance. I figured I could afford about thirty days.

I paid with most of my available money to cover that first month. Now, I needed to get more before the time was up.

As usual, I inspected the room to see if a previous tenant left anything I could sell. A few times I’d found some items that brought me a little cash.

I could use cash today, but found nothing except for an old dusty set of safety glasses. I played with the plastic head strap while I paced the room.

The room wasn’t any different than any of the other rooms I lived in over the last forty years. White dirty paint peeled off in spots from the walls. A window faced out at grimy street and didn’t open. Bickering voices sounded from the other apartments. I sighed. My life ran downhill for decades, yet I didn’t want to accept it.

Still holding the glasses, I checked the bathroom. I saw nothing out of the ordinary. I opened the medicine cabinet. Sometimes I found some prescriptions I could sell. Not today.

I shut the door and saw my image in the cracked dusty cabinet mirror. I didn’t like my looks. My face looked wrinkled. My eyes drooped and my skin flopped. On a whim, I put the glasses on.

My image didn’t show in the mirror. Well, not me today. I looked closer. The image showed me from at least forty years ago. My hair looked dark, my skin tight and my face full of hope.

I removed the glasses and looked in the mirror. Present me appeared.

I put the glasses on again, the younger me returned.

I walked into the other room and examined the glasses. They looked like a standard pair of safety glasses. A closer inspection showed a marking with the brand name of Birtuala.

Birtuala made virtual reality glasses. Is that what these were? I put them on again.

I stared out the window at the street below. The street looked cleaner and the vehicles older. I removed the glasses and looked at them. They weren’t virtual reality glasses. I looked out the window again. Everything was back to normal.

Why? How?

I went outside and sat on a bench. Three people entered a store, but I couldn’t get a good look at them. On the corner, a man wanted to cross the street. He looked my age. He stood and waited for the light to change.

I put the glasses on. Everything changed again. I saw people this time. They wore clothes styles I hadn’t seen for years.

The man waiting to cross the street looked younger. He caught me staring at him. ‘What’re you looking at?’ he said

He saw me. He spoke to me. Could he hear me?

‘I’m sorry,’ I said. ‘For a moment you reminded me of someone else.’

‘Okay,’ he answered.

He could also hear me.

I removed the glasses. As I expected, everything returned to normal. The traffic light finally changed. The man crossed the street.

A few more tests with people confirmed what I suspected. I had to be looking at someone or something for it to change. If I looked direct at a specific person, they could see me, speak to me and hear me.

I wasn’t sure why or how the glasses had this power, but I would use it somehow. I returned to my room. I held the glasses tight to me.

 

In my room, I tried to prod my thinking into an orderly process. I needed to think logically, but my thoughts made me believe the glasses would solve my problems.

I couldn’t change my ways. My hopes never went beyond food for the day and a place to sleep for the night. Maybe if I had started at a younger age, it would have stuck with me.

Ideas and hopes to change my life filled my mind. If they worked, I would have to persuade an uncaring mind to follow my new life ideas.

I had nothing to lose. I walked to where the dirty half broken mirror still hung on the wall. I didn’t care about the looks. As long as I could see myself, I’d try.

I put the glasses on and stared into the mirror. It worked. My younger self appeared. Now for the next step. Could I talk to the younger me?

‘Why’re you staring at me?’

The words came from the face in the mirror. It saw me. It could talk to me. Would it hear me?

‘I’m you,’ I said. ‘An older you.’ I stopped. The words sounded ridiculous even to me. My mirror image wouldn’t believe me.

‘You’re kidding me, right?’ the mirror image said. ‘You must think I’m pretty gullible.’

He could hear me. Next, I had to convince him I’m him.

‘No. I’m really you. Like I said. I’m older you.’

‘You’re crazy. I’m leaving.’

‘I don’t think you can leave,’ I said. ‘As long as I’m looking at myself in the mirror you have to stay with me.’

‘Try to stop me.’

The mirror me bolted from the room and ran into the kitchen. He looked around and smiled.

‘Why’d you run into the kitchen?’ I said. ‘I’m still here.’

His smile faded. He left the kitchen. He crouched down to half his height and crept into a bedroom.

‘No good,’ I said. ‘No change. I see you.’

He ran away again. I told him I was still with him. He moved again. Again, he saw me. He heard me. He went into the other rooms. He went outside. He tried to hide. I stayed with him at every move. His face turned red. He gasped for air.

Finally, he stopped. His breathing returned to a normal pattern.

‘Okay. What’s happening? Tell me.’

He became me. Calmer, open to a new idea. I remember that’s the way I used to be. Before I became old me.

I pointed to the glasses on my face and explained.

‘I don’t know why or what’s happened,’ I said. ‘I think it’s something from the glasses. I thought they were VR glasses, but they have a different use.’

‘Let’s try something,’ the mirror me said. ‘Remove the glasses and keep them off for five minutes. After the five minutes, put them back on. See what happens. See if this is really happening,’

‘Okay.’

I removed the glasses. I waited five minutes. Would the mirror me still be there? Would it remember me and our discussion?

I put the glasses on and stared in the mirror. The mirror image looked as surprised as I felt.

‘Do you remember me?’ I asked. ‘Remember what we discussed?’

‘Yeah,’ mirror me said. ‘Everything. What do you want from me?’

‘Good question,’ I said. ‘I’m not sure. I found these glasses and by accident discovered what they do. I haven’t thought much further yet.’

‘Good. Then let me go. Nice talking with you. By the way, the place you live in looks like a dump. Can’t you do better than that?’

That was what I hoped he’d say.

‘Glad you noticed,’ I said. ‘That’s the whole point of this. It’s up to you.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Remember, I’m you. This is how you’ll become.’

‘Not happening.’

‘It is. It will. I have all your memories. I also have memories of things that haven’t happened yet to you. ‘

‘You’re serious?’

‘Yes. I am. You need to change. You need to focus your life. Become disciplined.’

‘I’ll think about it.’

‘Don’t think about it. Do it. Remember. With these glasses, I can find you anytime and anyplace. If you don’t do it, I’ll be back. I’ll make your life miserable until you do.’

He stared at me, but didn’t say a word. I removed the glasses and broke the connection. The mirror me disappeared.

I looked outside. Darkness covered the world. I didn’t realize how long the connection lasted.

A bad feeling passed through me. None of this remained in my memory. Why didn’t it? Did he listen to me? What happens now?

I decided to sleep. I hoped I would awake into a different life without any memory of the day’s events.

I wasn’t going to take any chances. I clutched the glasses tightly in my hand as I drifted into sleep. Tomorrow would be better. It had to be. I’d make sure of it.

 

 



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