By Andrew Newall
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
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
“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
“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
“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
“Even if she did know, she’d never come
here. It’s too risky for her,” said Ora. “Anyway, how could she get your
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
“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
Catching Ora’s meaning, Nicolle managed a
Ora caught it and kept the momentum going.
“Take the covers off the mirrors. Seriously. It’s not helping you. You still
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!'
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
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
The woman staring back was finding her
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.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Natasha
was back, now sounding angry.
“I know who you are!” Nicolle snapped,
“Do you hear me? I said I know who you
“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
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
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
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
“Say something to me!” the woman’s voice
“Who…who are you?” was all Nicolle could
“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
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.
Andrew Newall, firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.