“Who are you?” I ask her. She repeats those words back to me, in perfect unison. Her voice blends with mine. I stare at her. She stares back. “ANSWER ME!” I scream. She screams it back. “WHO ARE YOU?!”
I reach out towards her. She reaches out towards me. Disgusted, I pull my hand away. She does the same.
I watch as her face distort into a smile. The smile twists into a maniacal grin. She laughs, the wretched sounds bouncing off the walls and hurting my head. It forces its way through my ears and into my brain. I hear it running around in there, chasing my thoughts in never ending circles. It drowns everything out.
It stops. There a knock on the door. “Krista?” My mother’s voice. The laughter is gone. “Are you okay in there?” I look at the mirror. She’s gone.
“I’m fine.” I say.
Then I hear it. Her low voice blended with mine.
She’s still here.
A flicker to my left catches my attention. I turn.
Her face stares back at me. Her expression seems to say ‘Did you think you could get rid of me that easily?’
I back away. Her eyes are darker than a starless night sky. Her smirk widens. I feel like she’s about to reach out and grab me. I’ve never seen such a maleficent expression before.
My head is spinning. I want to avert my eyes but I can’t. They’re glued to hers. I want to yell at her, to scream until she goes away, but there is no breath for my words. I want to run to the door, to run into my mother’s safe arms, but my feet are stuck to the floor.
I opened my mouth but the air refuses to come in. It stays at the boundary of my quivering lips. My lungs desperately try to breathe without new air, but the constriction makes me choke. I cough the stale air from my lungs and my gaze breaks from hers. The cold, welcome air rushes through my nose and mouth, speeding down my trachea into my sore lungs.
My muscles are too weak. I fall to the floor. My arms give out from beneath me and I lay there, sprawled awkwardly on the cold tile.
Darkness edges into my vision. It cuts the corners out of the room and makes its way towards me, concealing everything in its path in an inky black. The darkness reaches my fingers. I try to pull back but it’s too late. My hand is gone. Soon my arm disappears too, followed by the rest of me.
I don’t realize my eyes are closed until the light behind my eyelids prompts me to open them. The shapes in front of me are blurry, just a mess of colors.
I blink. The shapes become a little clearer. I blink again. I see that I am still in the bathroom. I don’t know how much time has passed; maybe a little, maybe a lot.
I look for the clock, but it’s not there. That’s strange. Did my mother take it down?
My eyes are immediately drawn to the mirror. My hearts pounds a mile a minute as I sneak a glance at my reflection. Green eyes. Brown hair. Tan skin.
She’s gone. Staring back at me is my reflection, not her’s. She’s truly gone.
I won. I got rid of her! I won! Relief floods through me. She’s finally gone.
My reflection moves. Tears fall from her eyes, streaming down her face. She is frowning, though I know I’m smiling. Her eyes are sad. Why are her eyes so sad?
I reach up to my eyes. There are no tears falling from them. I touch my lips. They’re curled up in a smile.
Something pokes my finger and I instinctively pull back. Curious, I reach towards it again. I feel it, sticking out just beneath my lower lip, cold and hard. I push it forward with my tongue. The metal tastes bitter.
Her arm remains at her side. She seems almost motionless with the exception of the tears and her quivering lips. I see her nose crinkle as she sniffles, but I can’t hear anything.
Why is she crying? I’m not crying. What is on my face? She doesn’t have anything on hers.
As these thoughts run around in my head, the bottom edge of the mirror races down to the floor, as though someone had gripped the two corners and was pulling them. The sink in front of me disappears though I can still see its reflection in the mirror.
I reach forward to where it should be. There’s only empty air in its place.
I catch a glimpse of my hand in front of me. It’s pale as flour. My fingernails are short and painted black. I’m wearing a ring on my middle finger, one with a skull on it. The skull has ruby red eyes and a stony grin. When did I buy such a ring?
My attention is captured by a movement in the mirror. She has placed her hands on the edge of the porcelain sink. She’s no longer looking at me. She’s looking down into the sink. What is she looking at?
I watch her tears fall into the white basin. She seems to be watching them too, silently staring at the warm, salty drops as they disappear down the drain.
I feel entranced by her. I can’t look away. Even as she looks up at me with despair painted on her face, I can’t look away.
She pulls a small razor blade out of her pocket, staring at it until it’s soaked in her tears.
“No.” I whisper. The word comes out on its own. Still, I can’t tear my eyes away. She places the blade against the soft, fleshy part of her arm, between her wrist and the crook in her elbow. I watch the blade make a small indent on her skin as she presses down.
“NO!” the word is launched from my throat. It bounces against the mirror and hits the floor. She doesn’t hear it. I run the two steps it takes to close the gap between me and her. The glassy surface of the cool mirror blocks my way.
I desperately try to reach through it, to pluck the blade from her fingers, but it’s futile. I can’t. I pound on the mirror. My fists don’t make a sound. My throat feels hoarse and I know I’m screaming at her but I can’t hear what I’m saying. It doesn’t matter. She can’t hear me either.
She pulls the blade across her skin, one single, clean cut. It rips through her flesh with unbelievable ease, as though she were using scissors on paper.
My arm throbs as I watch the blood on hers pool into a small, abstract shape. It drips down the sides of her arm. Crimson drops hit the tile floor.
A look of relief floods her face and she smiles, looking up into the mirror. It’s as if everything has been lifted off her shoulders by the single cut. Her somber eyes have been replaced by a vibrant green.
Something about her gaze makes me feel extremely dizzy. The room spins faster than the teacups at Disneyland. I can’t keep my balance. I fall backwards. My head hits the ground and everything fades to black.
When I awake once more, the sink had returned to it’s usual place. I sit up on the cold ground and gripped the edge of the porcelain basin, using it to pull myself up. I force myself to look in the mirror, scared that the monster had returned.
She hadn’t. The reflection staring back at me was of myself. I sighed with relief, but she didn’t. She kept staring at me. My hand reached up to the mirror. Her’s didn’t. The fingernails on my hand were still painted black. Why? I never paint my nails.
The glass was really cold, ice cold even. It felt as though it would melt beneath my fingertips. As I watch, she reaches up with a black eyebrow pencil and begins coloring her eyebrows. Next she pulls a tube of liquid eyeliner from a small blue bag.
She keeps applying more and more dark makeup on her face, covering every inch with some sort of liquid or powder until she was nearly unrecognizable. What is she doing? Why did she do this?
I didn’t say anything this time, even as I caught a glimpse of the scars forming on her arms underneath the long sleeved shirt she wore. I didn’t say anything as I saw the deep red cut she had just made because I knew she wouldn’t hear me. I knew there was no point. I just watched until the room spun and threw me to the ground again.
The mirror was even colder this time. So was she. Her hair was no longer the medium brown that I’d grown up with. She had dyed it black.
She stood in front of the mirror with a straightener in one hand and scissors in the other. I watched her chop off short sections. The black strands fell into the sink and clumped together near the drain.
I watched horrified as she chopped off more and more of her hair until it was a short bob with messy, uneven layers.
She put the straightener and the scissors down and examined her handiwork in the mirror. It looked terrible, but she seemed satisfied. She picked up a comb and one of the layers of her hair, reached underneath it and messed it up more with the comb. Her hair seemed to stick up farther on her head. The comb did add volume to it, but it looked like a bird’s nest that surrounded her head.
When she was done and looked in the mirror, my heart skipped a beat. Terror pulsed through my veins. She almost looked like the monster in the mirror.
There were only two differences between her and the monster: a lip ring and red contacts. My hand reached up to touch my lip again, fingering the metallic object it found there. Could this be-
For the third time, the room spun and darkness engulfed me.
I knew this would be the final time I would look in the mirror and see her. She had the lip ring. She was putting in the contacts. Her complexion had grown much, much paler, losing every bit of tan I had taken years to acquire.
She was the spitting image of the monster. Red eyes. A ring on her lip. Messy black hair. Scars covering her arms. Dark makeup hiding more than half her face.
Despite the smirk on her face, her eyes were dead. The corners of her up-turned lips sagged. She had bags under her eyes which she tried to conceal with makeup, but they were definitely there.
I shuddered. Who was she? I asked myself.
The answer came to mind before the question was finished.
The monster in the mirror is me.
I reach up to touch the lip ring. She does the same. I trace the curve of my eyebrow. She does the same.
“Why?” I ask aloud. My voice is gone, replaced by hers. I know she won’t answer me.
The room doesn’t spin this time. It goes pitch black in the blink of an eye. I can’t see anything. I can’t hear anything. I’m not even sure I’m still standing on the same floor. Am I even standing?
Time passes; maybe a lot, maybe a little.
The room goes blindingly white in an instant. I blink several times to adjust to the sudden change.
I am no longer in my bathroom. In fact, I’m not in any room of my house. I’m not even sure I’m standing in a room.
Both of them stand in front of me, myself and the monster. I see them clearly like before-and-after photographs.
I used to be this tanned, healthy-looking teenage girl with bright eyes and a happy smile. Then I turned myself into an emotionless monster.
I don’t even know who I am anymore. Am I still the happy “before” girl or am I the troubled “after” photograph, the one who shrouds everything in darkness to keep others from getting in and hurting her?
Am I both?
Am I neither?
I want to ask these questions aloud but I have no voice, just like the two of them. I want an answer to my question, but I have nowhere to look for it. I want to know but at the same time I’m terrified of the truth.
The “before” girl is the first to move. I watch her fall back, unrestrained, and land in a coffin that materialized beneath her the instant before she hit the ground. The lid slams shut above her and the whole thing disappears beneath the ground.
There is my answer, clear as day.
I killed her.
I murdered the girl I used to be.
What has taken her place is a cold, empty shell of whom she used to be.
The monster I see is the monster I am.
I watched as she floats towards me, then right through me, and disappears. I close my eyes and know that when I reopen them, I will be in my bathroom, staring into the mirror. And staring back at me will be the mask I have created to hide the corpse I have become.