Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What You See's Not What You Get

[Author's note: I originally attempted to write this in my short-story notebook, but I hit too many distractions and it wasn't as even as I'd hoped. Here I shall attempt to rewrite it the way it should have been written to begin with.]

I brush my bangs back, unaware the mirror I'm looking in isn't the crystal reflection I've seen my life through.

The faded, smoky, jewel-encrusted mirror shows eyes of a goddess, the most fabulous blond hair, and a smile that could blow a hole straight through a mountain.

"Who wouldn't want you?" I ask myself with a smile.

I turn from the mirror.

This place isn't my bathroom. I've somehow come to stand in a large, endless room with vaulted ceilings littered with dangling decorations. The room is sepia and foggy. The lights are dim; vague, orange smudges sporadically glowing along the walls.

I stop in minor awe. This place is lovely. I begin to wonder how I came to be here, when I notice the masses of people hidden in the dark. They smile at me and beacon me come. There are smiles and compliments and glistening, gorgeous eyes...

And I want to be one of them. They float along with perfection, and their alluring smiles cause me to crave that same perfection. I look in the jeweled mirror and sense I'm nearly there. With a face like this I should be accepted in immediately.

But all the while, a feeling burns in the back of my being. It's uncomfortable and leads me to fidget, but with each approving smile it escalates. I take this adrenaline for happiness and continue on my way.

With each word I speak and each word returned I feel that rush. This must be what acceptance feels like, what confidence feels like. This must be what I've been missing.

I dress before the bejeweled mirror each day. I paint my face to perfection. How is this shirt? Does it hug my curves? How do I look from the side?

And they smile at me with their porcelain eyes, and this feeling grows higher. But with it grows the crave for more. I'm not one of them yet; I must do all I can to make it so.

I'm leaving my old friends behind. In between the alluring smiles and flashy compliments I miss them. I see them down there, outside this window. But this feeling within me won't allow me to visit. If I leave this place, all I've worked for is gone.

I can't have that.

But I'm still nudged with discomfort, though I'm positively unsure why.

I lay there in bed, growing anxious for the coming day. I know what I'm wearing and how I'll do my hair. I can't wait to hear their remarks! I can't wait to see their smiles! I...

Something hits me. A freight train of knowledge collides with my brain.

I slip from under the covers, barefoot, to the ground. I make my way to the window and peer outside. It's dark from here. All I can see is the distant, distant ground below. Looking out, there is no horizon; no mountains, no trees.

"It's just a stormy night." I tell myself. Nonetheless, I lean farther out, examining the blackened fog.

Something small chips from the cement windowsill beneath my fingers and drops slowly to the ground outside. I watch it land to the dirt at the base of the building.

But the base...

I recoil back in shock. I run to the jeweled mirror, willing it not to be so. But it is. The mirror is black, and all but a few jewels have crumbled from the frame.

I reach a reluctant hand out and rub away at the black.

My eyes are dark and quiet, lined and painted in a desperate attempt to bring the life and light back to them. My hair is greasy and frayed and coming undone.

I don't try smiling.

They watch me as I gather my things and wrap them in my jacket. That strange twinge within me finally feels at peace.

"Why are you leaving?" One asks as I head slowly for the door.

I turn back and explain.

"The Devil is sly, but his vanity is slyer."

I looked in car windows and smiled at myself. It's nice to know you're pretty, it's a great confidence booster when you're having an off day. But I looked one too many times. I commented on myself one too many times.

And with each glance, with each compliment I gave myself, I became more and more consumed by the great and spacious building. It was so subtle and minor that I didn't even realize it was there. I don't remember looking longingly over, I don't remember timidly climbing the stairs, I don't remember pressing open the door.

It was all in the looking glass. Day by day it grew blacker and blacker, jeweled only to keep the appeal. I continued to look, and it continued to change.

I gave up the place I'd held before for something newer and, for the moment, better. I'd finally found my lot in life.

"You look pretty today, Erica."

The compliment was answered with a, "Thanks!"

But it somehow became an implied, "I know."

I must keep my eyes open, and keep aware of my surroundings. I must ensure the mirror won't lead me back there. Because, after all, it wasn't much of a choice. You don't choose to enter the great and spacious building.

It enters you.

It becomes you.

It controls you.

I will no longer be a slave to the world, I will no longer look pleasingly at the secular things.

I smile to my goddess's eyes as I brush through my hair.

"Pretty as always." I smile.

I use my finger to buff away the black, smoky smudge slowly encroaching the glass.

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