Black Petals Issue #82 Winter, 2018

Home
Mars-News, Views and Commentary
A Nowhere Friend-Fiction by Roy Dorman
Broken Image-Fiction by Andrew Newall
Monster-Fiction by Paloma Palacios
Salvation_Fiction by Scott Dixon, Featured Author
Scream-Fiction by Anthony ('Tony') Lukas
Surviving Montezuma-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist, Chapters 13 & 14
The Foundling-Fiction by Roy Dorman
The Girl Who Isn't Talked About-Fiction by James Gallagher
Beggar's Curse-Poem by Alexis Child
Marco-Three poems from Christopher Hivner
In Line at the Terminal-Four poems by Michael Keshigian
Ghost Poets-Four Poems by Jerry McGinley
Killer Clowns-Four Cryptid Poems by Richard Stevenson

coveredmirror.jpg


Broken Image


 


By Andrew Newall


 


Role reversal


  


 


The mirror mounted on her living room wall accommodated Nicolle’s slender body perfectly. An old-fashioned gilt frame was a contrast to the contemporary décor in her luxury London apartment, but it had caught her eye on a bizarre website on the occult she stumbled across one evening while casually browsing. What the hell—it was retro and something to show off.


The woman smiling back with flowing blond locks and unblemished skin was successful, independent, basking in cover girl glory. A lucrative modelling career had made Nicolle extremely wealthy—penthouse, top of the range Toyota, all the nice things. Men wanted her. Women wanted to be her.


A photograph of Nicolle and her boyfriend Bryan sat on the small table beside the mirror. Bryan beamed with pride beside his partner. Nicolle liked Bryan. She liked all her accessories.


Four evenings a week, she maintained her toned figure with cardio classes at the local gym. The group of girls who congregated outside with no particular agenda recognised a rich bitch, and an envious comment would sometimes be thrown her way. Usually she ignored them, but one night she glanced back at them, and it was just enough to tell one of the group that Nicolle looked down on them, and enough to make that hooded girl approach her and ask her what the fuck she was looking at…before pulling a small blade from nowhere.


 


Nearly three weeks had passed since the attack. Nicolle hunched on her sofa in the middle of the afternoon, nursing a hot chocolate. Hair, usually kinking its way seductively to one side, now straggled down the front of her face, barely parting enough to allow her to see, while concealing a red scar running from the side of her left eye and down part of her cheek. The softness of a pink dressing gown against her skin offered little comfort as she entered a new era of life without the admiration and nice things.


An old bed sheet carelessly flung over the long mirror deemed it a forbidden zone, vanity sentencing her to solitary confinement. Nicolle had sheets and towels covering all the mirrors, big or small. She couldn’t stand the sight of herself. She stared at nothing, the apartment in silence but for the groan of a loose floorboard somewhere between the mirror and her coffee table whenever she walked across the laminate flooring. Her cell phone rang.


“Hello?” Her usual authoritative voice was now barely audible.


“Do you remember me?” came a whisper.


“Who is this?”


“You should know who I am.” The cold whisper was female.


“Sorry, I think you’ve got the wrong number.”


“You better fix this now or you will be sorry. That scar is nothing.”


Nicolle’s head filled with images of the hooded figure with the blade. The girl had been charged but was free until the court date.


“You’re making a big mistake calling me,” Nicolle said. “Why don’t you leave it alone?”


“This isn’t just about you.” The caller disconnected. Nicolle pressed to obtain the number: unrecognised network.


She gripped the phone tightly, hand shaking, sweating, anticipating a return call. When it rang again immediately, making Nicolle twitch with fright and almost drop the cell, she recognized her neighbor Ora from the apartment below.


Minutes later, after throwing on a tee-shirt and jeans, she was sitting in Ora’s living room. Ora was Nora, but the name Nora was boring. On Nicolle’s advice, she’d dropped the “N” and became Ora, which sounded kind of cool, like Rita Ora the singer. Often, they hit the town’s pubs and clubs. Ora’s nondescript looks, complete with thick, black-rimmed spectacles meant Nicolle’s beauty was never upstaged on a night out.


Nicolle knew Ora had something of a hero worship for her and allowed herself to play along. Perhaps it was living directly below a damn near supermodel, or that playful kiss they shared one night after one mojito too many. Mostly, Nicolle found Ora dull. But, right now, she needed the company.


“It’s about time you got out,” said Ora, more than pleased to see her friend. “I’ve called you tons of times. I thought you’d forgotten about me.”


“Nah, hadn’t forgotten. Just haven’t felt like doing anything,” Nicolle admitted, dismissively. “So what do you think about the call?”


“You sure it was the same girl?” asked Ora.


“Well, who else could it be?”


“She’s probably just trying to scare you into dropping the charges.”


“What if she knows where I live? What do you think I should do?” This was the first time Nicolle had ever asked for Ora’s opinion.


“Even if she did know, she’d never come here. It’s too risky for her,” said Ora. “Anyway, how could she get your number?”


Nicolle shook her head, trying to clear it. No answer made sense.


“Could it have been one of the other models from your agency?” Ora asked. “Someone who knows you and maybe knows that girl too?” Her don’t-know-but-trying-to-look-like-a-detective pose usually irritated Nicolle, but was acceptable under the circumstances. The suggestion opened a network of suspects in Nicolle’s head, all filtered quickly and relieved of suspicion.


“We have fights sometimes, but there’s no way I’ve pissed someone off that much.”


“Where’s Bryan?” asked Ora.


“Business trip. He’s back tomorrow.”


“Have you still got his cricket bat in your bedroom?”


Catching Ora’s meaning, Nicolle managed a smile.


Ora caught it and kept the momentum going. “Take the covers off the mirrors. Seriously. It’s not helping you. You still look beautiful.”


Nicolle listened, eyes downcast, appreciating though unsure as she considered the reality that she might never again look anywhere close to beautiful.


“Okay, the scar’s not going anywhere, but you are. Get yourself back on the life train,” Ora continued. She checked her watch. “I really want to stay but I’m starting work in a half hour. Hang out here for a bit if you want to. Chill out, and watch TV.”


Nicolle agreed and, a few minutes later, Ora was gone. Nicolle was alone again but a different alone. No mirrors hung on the walls or sat on shelves in Ora’s place. The apartment had previously belonged to Ora’s late aunt who was blind, and Ora only used her compact. Nicolle was happy to spend an hour or two lounging in the apartment, realisation dawning that Ora had been more of a friend to her than she had ever bothered to notice.


Before long, Nicolle was lost in daytime TV and the cheering of a chat show audience. She slept, or maybe just dozed, because she heard a sound. A couple on the TV discussing the best kind of soil for growing potatoes were quickly muted while she sat motionless for several seconds, listening to catch it again. She knew the sound—the groan from the floorboard in her apartment above.


Back upstairs, Nicolle carefully inserted the key in her lock, turned as slowly and quietly as possible, and looked in. The first thing to catch her eye before the door was pushed fully open was a folded piece of paper at her feet, just inside—a note.


‘Don’t ignore me!'


Shit, they must have been in the apartment. Panic and rage ripped through her at the thought of someone else in her home. It had to be someone who lived in the apartment block or houses opposite, or maybe the apartments above the news agent she frequented, or the houses across from the Thai takeaway, where she treated herself once a week.


Nicolle scrunched the note up and threw it aside, then flew into her bedroom and grabbed Bryan’s cricket bat from the corner. Wielding it like a Samurai sword, she stormed back into the center of her living room, prepared to hit—hit something, someone.


She roared. No words, just noise. When she breathed in deeply to roar again, her yell dissolved into crying. The bat was dropped, rattling onto the laminate, and she grabbed at her hair, a bunch scrunched up in each grip. After a minute or two, her rage subsided, and trembling started. She told herself to calm down.


The note still lay on floor where it had fallen. She picked it up and looked at it again. The writing was scrawled, child-like. She paid particular attention to the symbol at the end, like a backwards “N”. It was a symbol she recognised. Fetching her mobile from the pocket of her gown left on the sofa, she dialled Bryan’s number. No reply, so she sent him a text to phone her as soon as possible.


Nicolle had been wrong about the caller’s identity. Now, an ex-girlfriend of Bryan’s was the more likely answer, and that was her own ex-friend, Natasha. Natasha had made annoying calls when Nicolle first started dating him. Nicolle figured she still wanted Bryan back.


He and Tasha were still friends on Facebook and chatted online sometimes. A newly vulnerable Nicolle would be a fresh target for a vindictive mind. The note made sense. Natasha always used “И” as a signature. Things were falling into place. She relaxed a little more, confident she could wipe the floor with her if it came to blows.


The cover on the tall mirror had fallen to the floor. She lifted it and paused, looking at bitterness on the face of the woman in there. Was it time to do what Ora said and take the covers down? The words were starting to get through. She cast her eyes aside and replaced the sheet, tucking it in more securely between the back of the mirror and the wall. Maybe not yet.


During a shower, Nicolle contemplated dinner and kicking the shit out of Natasha. Afterwards, standing in the bathroom in her dressing gown, towel-dried hair hanging messily, she unhooked the cover hiding the bathroom mirror and pushed it gently into the glass, clearing off the condensation. Taking her hair to the side, she looked at the red line down her cheek. Shifting her hair over to the opposite side still allowed her the style she liked but would also hide the scar. It lifted her spirits.


The evening continued and Nicolle felt stronger, indeed strong enough to dart from room to room, freeing all of the mirrors in her home, before taking on the master. She stood before it, a superhero challenging the main villain. She lifted the sheet carefully from the top corners and lowered it, bit by bit, then let it drop. She looked herself up and down.


The woman staring back was finding her smile again.


Fetching her phone, Nicolle dialled Ora’s number to leave a message on her voicemail.


“Hi, it’s me. Just wanted to say thanks for talking. I thought about what you said and I’ve done it. You know what I mean. By the way, I’m thinking of getting rid of that big mirror in my living room and getting a smaller one. I don’t really like it anymore and, since you don’t have any, I thought you might like it. Give me a call tomorrow and let me know what you think. See ya.”


A sound entered her dream as she slept hours later. It was her cell’s shrill ring tone.


“Hello?”


“What do you think you’re doing?” Natasha was back, now sounding angry.


“I know who you are!” Nicolle snapped, suddenly awake.


Silence


“Do you hear me? I said I know who you are!”


“Okay…” the surprised voice replied, “Who?”


Nicolle heard the voice more clearly now than before. It didn’t sound exactly like Natasha, but her mind was made up.


“Go on, who am I?”


“It’s you, Natasha. I figured it out.”


“Natasha?” a confused voice responded, followed by arrogant giggling, “Who the fuck’s Natasha?”


“Your note gave it away.”


“Okay then. Come on and see if you’re right.”


Nicolle tensed but said nothing.


“I’m in the living room,” said the caller.


She looked at the door to her room, closed tight. A thin strip of light appeared at the space between the bottom of the door and the carpet and a sick chill ran through her. She sat upright with her back pressed against the wall, trying to compose herself.


“Are you coming?” the voice asked. The question was followed by three quiet knocks on the living room wall. It was only Tasha, wasn’t it?


She tentatively eased herself from her bed, not taking her eyes from the door, and felt her way to Bryan’s cricket bat back in its place in the corner. With the bat vice-gripped, she let go with one hand only to open the bedroom door.


The living room was adjacent, its door wide open, with the light shining through into the hallway. Nicolle squinted as her eyes adjusted while she edged inside, ready to swing at anything that moved, her thumping heart the only sound she could hear. She crept further into the room until she was in line with the tall mirror. Something caught her eye on it and made her look. She saw the reflection of her living room—her living room and nothing else.


 She didn’t hear the rush of footsteps behind her when the other woman struck and threw her arm around Nicolle’s neck, pulling tight. Fear was now whitewashed by desperation. Rasping, unable to cry out, Nicolle threw one arm behind, flailing, trying to claw at her attacker’s face, the other hand refusing to release the bat. The attacker’s nails dug into her skin until eventually the weapon was wrenched free.


Then the attacker released her hold. Nicolle whirled around. She stared, eyes wide, fixed on her nemesis.


The other woman, now clutching the bat, looked identical to Nicolle and was dressed exactly the same, with one or two slight differences. Her hair was parted to the opposite side, her gown closed on the opposite side, and she too had a scar, the same length, but on the opposite side. The other woman was ɘlloɔiИ.


“You bitch! You had everything!” ɘlloɔiИ spat. “I had everything! We were perfect and now you’re going to throw me out and take away the life you gave me because of this?” She pointed to her own scar. “Well, I don’t want to leave!”


Nicolle could only stare in disbelief, the two women locked on each other’s glare in front of the mirror which now looked like no more than a window to another room.


“Are you not even going to acknowledge me?”


Words cowered at the back of Nicolle’s throat.


“Say something to me!” the woman’s voice shrieked.


“Who…who are you?” was all Nicolle could muster.


“Is that it?”


It was then Nicolle caught sight of tiny spots of light in her doppelganger’s eyes, glints from the living room’s ceiling lights reflected in what looked like tears.


“You brought me here,” continued ɘlloɔiИ, a quiver in her voice, “and when you looked at me, when I saw you, I knew we were right. After years of watching people passing by, waiting for someone to be, you and I could have done so much together. I was waiting for the right time to tell you I was here.” She paused, wiped a tear quickly. “When you took the cover away, I thought you were coming back to me.” Her tone then changed, voice deepened, anger rising again. “And now you’re going to give me away? Well, life has just dealt me a shitty hand, but I’m not going to lie down and whimper. That’s you. I’m the opposite.”


Suddenly, ɘlloɔiИ drew the bat up behind her as though to strike, making Nicolle squeal and cover her head. Instead of an anticipated crack of wood on skull, she felt herself slammed backwards into the mirror, but there was no hard impact. She fell through into a living room very much like her own, only with everything on the reverse side.


Regaining her balance took Nicolle a few seconds in her displacement. She looked at the mirror from this new room. She looked through it into her own room.


ɘlloɔiИ stared back at her with a wicked smile, placing a hand on either side of the frame. “See this?” She clicked the frame with her nails. “Best thing you ever bought. It’s also your only way out.”


Gritting her teeth, she snarled, straining to tear the mirror off its fixtures and hold it aloft.


“Please! Stop!” Nicolle screamed, standing on the spot but feeling herself being hoisted at the same time, like the rush of a simulator ride.


“I’m taking everything—your job, your apartment, your life, and even your boyfriend. I’ll take extra special care of him like he deserves. You’re going to love watching that through all your stupid little mirrors, but not this one.”


She grinned goodbye, then smashed it onto the floor, scattering Nicolle’s screams among shards of shattered glass.


 


The End


 


 


Andrew Newall, newall_andrew@hotmail.com, wrote BP #82’s “Broken Image” (+ “A Taste of Innocence” for BP #62). He lives near Falkirk in Scotland, has written short fiction as a hobby since the early 2000’s, and has had work placed in anthologies like The Writer’s Notebook, and from various competitions since then. Winning 1st in the Dark Tales Horror and Speculative Fiction contest, December 2010, with Four in the Morning, he was runner-up in Earlyworks Press Flash Fiction competition in 2011 with The Flight. His first children’s story, The Spider and the Bumblebee, took 3rd prize in the Writers’ Village Best Writing Award, Autumn 2012. In his spare time, he teaches Martial Arts, and has written and produced short films.



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