In this short story about an old mirror, Jonas begins to see the truth about himself and it’s a life-changing experience.
Jonas Hagget made his final offer. “Look, I’ll give you all I’ve left. That’s six quid in your hand, right now, and you won’t have to take this old thing home again. You ain’t going to get a better offer.”
He held out the money and smiled innocently.
The elderly couple glanced at each other with the suggestion of a smile, and the man nodded. Jonas left the car boot sale in triumph. The mirror – his mirror now – must be worth at least two hundred. It was dark when he arrived at the small apartment he shared with his girlfriend Debbie. She was not pleased.
“I haven’t seen you all weekend, Jon. I don’t see any point in going on like this – I’m twenty-nine, and I spend more time alone now than before I moved in.”
Jonas knew what was coming next. He’d heard it before.
“You’ve got no money and no prospects. How can we have children, when I’m the only one that earns any money?” Debbie’s voice started to wobble. “I don’t think you want children, anyway.”
He hated it when she did this. “Look, you knew what I was like when you came here. How can I be someone else?”
Having made his point, he flounced to the spare bedroom to polish his new acquisition. The room, which Debbie had intended for their offspring, was already filled with junk beach-combed from numerous car boot and garage sales. He hammered a nail into the wall and hung the mirror up, stood back and looked at himself. A thirty-something year old man, heavy brows, a scowling, sallow face. Not someone to buy a mobile phone from, and yet that was his occupation. He saw Debbie enter the room and stand behind him. She used to be vivacious and attractive but she now had a permanently wistful expression.
She said, “Where did you get that piece of crap, anyway?”
“I bought it from this old couple. They had no idea how much it’s worth. You can see how ancient it is from the patina at the edges,” he said, caressing the frame.
Debbie was not interested in patina. She was looking at him in a calculating way, as if a decision was being made.
Unaware of the risk, he carried on. “There’s a slight duplication of the image, but it doesn’t matter. Look, you can see two of me.” He waved his arm in the mirror.
“I can’t see anything wrong,” she said, then added ominously, “Look, Jon. We need to talk,” and walked away.
When he entered the living room she was waiting with arms folded, and he felt his stomach lurch. “There has to be a big change, Jon.”
He swallowed. “Or…”
“Or it’s over.”
He looked at the floor between his feet, noticing a lump of chewing gum he had dropped whilst watching the big match. “Well, I’m listening,” he said cautiously, putting his foot on it.
“You don’t pay me any attention. You don’t make any money. And you go out and spend mine, drinking with your stupid mates or buying this – this junk. This crappy old mirror.”
That was going too far.
“It’s not crap. I work just as hard as you, and you should try selling mobiles, instead of giving lectures to a bunch of teenagers. You don’t know what work is.” He stood up aggressively. “You go out with your friends and now I’m going out to meet mine. I don’t want to hear any more about this, okay?”
Before she could reply, he banged out of the flat.
When he got up the next day, Debbie had already left without saying goodbye. He dressed carefully, adjusting his tie in the old mirror, and kissed his reflection. Today he would show her. The mobile phone store was located in the new, characterless shopping plaza that dominated the town centre. Jonas tried to look knowledgeable and welcoming but as always, the customers headed for his colleagues. Mr Adams the store manager looked at him and frowned. By eleven, Jonas was having a crisis of confidence, and so he slipped out to the Boots store opposite for some deodorant. He re-entered the store via the rear exit, but at the top of the stairs he ran into Adams.
“Jonas – I don’t know how you did it.”
Jonas flushed, and fumbled for an excuse. “Well, I…”
“Selling four mobiles in thirty minutes- it’s unheard of. I was going to let you go, then you do this.” Adams punched him on the shoulder.
Jonas entered the store, sensing the respectful glances. Although he had no more successes that morning, he still felt lucky. So at lunchtime he visited a betting shop to invest some of Debbie’s earnings. On return from lunch, he discovered that had sold another three mobiles. He felt proud, confused and a little scared. However, the afternoon passed quietly with no further sales. He arrived home feeling self-important, until he saw a vase of red roses.
Debbie came up to him, smiling. “Oh Jon, they’re lovely. I do love you too.”
She kissed him passionately and he responded, whilst trying to read the greeting card. As soon as she had left the room, he snatched it up. The message read, ‘To my darling Debbie, I’ll love you always, Jon. xxx’.
Jonas squeezed his eyes closed and tried to remember, but could not recollect buying the flowers. Besides, it was simply not something that he would do. Encouraged by the kiss, He helped to prepare supper and even opened a bottle of his vintage wine (£1.35p from Blackbushe market). Later that night, Debbie was feeling passionate and Jonas did his best, but he was tormented by the written message. before he went to sleep, he went to gaze into the mirror.
The next day, there was another surprise. To get back from the betting shop to the phone store, Jonas walked along the far side of the piazza, looking into the shop windows to avoid being seen. When he was opposite the phone store, he caught its reflection in a shop window. Someone that looked identical to him was working there, but this person was chatting eagerly to two customers. He turned slowly and looked again, but the man had already moved out of sight. When Jonas re-entered the store, he had miraculously sold not just three mobiles, but an incredible five, two of which had extended guarantees. He looked around, but there was no one that looked like him.
Adams shouted, “My god, man. We’ll have to order more stock just for you.”
However, Jonas did not sell a single phone that afternoon.
When he arrived home, Debbie was looking pleased with herself. She was wearing an extremely short skirt and looked flushed. “I didn’t hear you go out, Jon. Christ, you excelled yourself this time. In fact, how about another quickie before we eat?”
Jonas flopped onto the sofa. “Sure, I’ll have a gin and tonic. You look like you could do with a drink too. What you been doing, jumping up and down?”
She laughed uncertainly. “That’s one way of putting it, tiger. I didn’t mean a drink.” She sat beside him, throwing a slim, bare leg over his lap.
Tiger? Jonas felt annoyed. First, the roses. Not from him. Then, this flirtatious behaviour. She was making fun of him. These were mind-games. After all, she taught psychology, didn’t she? Maybe she really was having an affair and using these tricks to confuse him. His head pounded. Before she could make another move, he stood up abruptly.
“Sorry, but I’ve got to nip out again. The lads are expecting me at the Greyhound. You know how it is.”
He checked himself in the mirror, then walked up the road with hands in pockets and shoulders hunched, mind in turmoil. However, after spending the evening discussing women with his friends, Jonas concluded sadly that Debbie was indeed having an affair. As he looked up at their apartment, her revealing silhouette slid across the blind and when he entered the room, Debbie was lying on the rug naked, other than stilettos. Two glasses of champagne stood on the table.
“All right, where is he?” Jonas demanded, pale and angry.
Debbie was bewildered. “What?”
He stepped towards her. “I go out for a couple of hours, and you get up to this. What’s going on?”
She sat up and sniffed as a tear trickled down her cheek. “You’re frightening me, Jon. You only went out for a minute. You said that your friends were less important than us – you undressed me.” She faltered.
Jonas felt deflated. He felt that she was telling the truth, so what exactly was going on? He was either loosing his memory or his mind. “I’m going to bed. I’ve got a headache,” he snapped accusingly. “I don’t know what you’re up to, Debbie, but I’m going to find out.”
As he lay in bed trying to sleep, his brain would not be still. Someone else must be selling the phones. Someone else must also be shagging his girlfriend, because she had never looked like that after doing it with him. He would set a trap the next evening. Behave as normal all day, then catch them at it. That would do it. Jonas left work early in a foul mood.
As soon as he got home that evening, he shouted to Debbie, “I left something at work. Back in an hour.”
He went down the stairs, opened and closed the door, and hid in the cloakroom. After a little while, he heard laughter from upstairs. Since when had Debbie laughed with him like that? He continued to listen. He could hear music, a crash and more laughter. It was the little laugh she used in bed. Jonas crept up the stairs with a snarl. Now he could hear something bumping rhythmically and he knew what that meant. He pushed open the living room door and stopped in horror. His girlfriend was straddling a naked man, her bare back towards him and thrusting enthusiastically. The man saw him in the doorway, raised his head and grinned.
Jonas felt his world spin and collapse around him. Clutching his head and moaning, he ran down the stairs and left the house. He staggered down the street into the pub at the corner and ordered a double scotch. As the alcohol did its work, he tried desperately to understand what was happening to him.
It started after I brought the old mirror. That bastard shagging Debbie was my double. Where do you find doubles? In mirrors. It’s something to do with that fucking mirror.
Jonas realised that the pub had gone quiet. He’d been talking to himself. Loudly. Before the barman asked him to leave, Jonas sidled out and wandered home. Without thinking, he let himself in and climbed the stairs, then went into the spare room. He walked up to the mirror. There was nothing special about it until he looked more closely. Now he could see that the double reflection had gone and the image was sharply defined. He sat down in an old armchair behind the door and waited. After about an hour, the door swung open, partially hiding him. Footsteps crossed the room as a shadowy figure approached the mirror. As he watched, the stranger climbed into it as if the glass was a pool of liquid. Jonas switched on the light and confronted his reflection.
“I know what you’re up to. Let’s see you,” he said as firmly as he could manage.
Nothing happened at first. Then the double image separated, and from behind his true reflection the other Jonas appeared. Jonas resisted the urge to look behind himself. The three of them stared at each other – Jonas, his reflection, and the mirror Jonas. Jonas touched his head and so did his reflection, but the mirror Jonas laughed. Jonas could hear it clearly.
“What are you?” he asked quietly.
“Well, let me see. I’m what you should be. Better at work, kinder to Debbie, much better in bed. And in the living room. Who are you?”
Jonas ground his teeth. “I may be a failure at all those things matey, but at least I’m real. Now, tell me this. How did you get in there, and how come you look like me?”
The other looked at Jonas through slitted eyes. How did I get in here? That’s a secret. You need to move closer so I can tell you.”
Jonas stepped nearer and an arm shot out, grabbing his shirtfront. He felt as if he was plunging into water, and then the illusion passed and he was once more in the room, looking at the mirror, and the reflection was as before. To his surprise, the fake Jonas reached forward and took hold of the mirror’s wooden frame, and lifted it. The room Jonas was in span wildly and he fell back into empty darkness. He shouted and screamed, but there was no sound. Jonas found that he could assume any position and float, as if in space. Some distance away, he could see a rectangle of light. He tried to swim but he could not get any nearer to it, and so he closed his eyes and slept fitfully.
Jonas was awoken by the sound of his own voice. He could hear himself talking to Debbie.
“Let’s get rid of all this junk. I’ve asked someone to come round to collect it. We want to use this room for the baby, don’t we?”
“Oh, Jon, I’m so pleased. I can’t wait to get started.”
There was the sound of kissing and then panting. Jonas sat, floating in darkness, gritting his teeth. Then without warning, he felt himself propelled towards the light, where his double was standing. Jonas pressed his hands to the glass, even kicked it, but it made no difference.
“I just wanted to say goodbye,” was all his double said.
Before Jonas could reply, there was a massive shockwave that felt like an earthquake and the image in front of him shattered into hundreds of shapes. He felt himself falling and pulling apart, but there was no pain. When he opened his eyes, he was looking at the ceiling through a tiny triangular window, and he could see part of Debbie’s face looking down at him. Next to her, the new Jonas was smiling.
“Whoops,” she laughed, then swept up the shards of mirror and dumped them in the bin.