Aches and Mirrors


Maybe it was a trick of the light, but as the world grew darker the mirrors on our walls became lighter and more brilliant. That was the first sign. To begin, no one thought to question it. It was reassuring in a way that’s hard to fathom now. But, after staring for so long at the opaque and oppressive landscape that stretched to the horizon beyond our windows, it was a relief to see that sparkling, crystal clarity that hung, placid and welcoming, from every wall; literally, every wall.

True, when the ashen reality of the scenes outside first dawned on us, it became the fashion to add more and more mirrors to our homes and workplaces, as a kind of antidote. But after that fashion died out the mirrors still seemed to proliferate. While those already in place seemed to expand their surface areas, from one tile to the next; like a vertical spillage of precisely cut puddles, which slowly met and agreed to form precisely cut lakes.

Our buildings, by this time, were totally made of inescapable mirrors. Scientific studies were published about the phenomenon. They didn’t help. Holding the text up to the reflected light that abounded, it seemed to shift before our eyes, back-to-front and back again; upside down and spinning. Religions had the answer. They said that god was revealing his majesty in the mirrors’ dazzling omnipresence. Atheists said the mirrors revealed god’s absence because everything in existence was reflected in their truth-telling panes, and they displayed no gods of any sort.

I gave up those questions a long time ago. The energy left me. Now I look into the reflection’s overpowering brightness; I’m staring out from the pervading gloom, and I concentrate hard. I reach out my hand and feel the cold, hard, impenetrable surface of the glass. And I can’t for the life of me remember on which side of the glass I’m supposed to be situated. Nor whether those identical fingers that tremble towards mine are the original or copy. I feel a deep ache; it feels genuine to me but I doubt it proves anything. Who knows if mirrors can ache too?


This piece of flash fiction was written in response to the Fairy Tale Prompt #28 at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, where all stories in the link-up were prompted by the photo by Anja at the top of this post.  There’s an excellent story by Borges, called The Fauna of Mirrors, which I read ages ago and had in mind, slightly, as I wrote this.

14 thoughts on “Aches and Mirrors

    • Thanks. Yep, along with Borges, Philip K Dick was definitely the other influence in trying to get the feel of what I wanted here. I watched Blade Runner the other week and it’s still lingering… 🙂

  1. After a while it would have to be confusing indeed — at what point would the mind no longer be able to right itself, orient itself?

    There’s a type of mirror therapy that helped me, as an amputee, deal with phantom pains. You put a standard 6-foot long mirror lengthwise between your “normal” leg and your “residual” leg – then move the regular leg, touch the regular leg, etc. and it fools your mind into thinking you have two legs for a bit.

    The philosophical/religious talk about mirrors in this piece was so interesting — I can see/hear it happening. Another great write —

    • How bizarrely the mind works, with an internal logic all its own that often hardly seems logical at all. The idea of phantom pains is so far outside my own experience that it’s impossible to imagine how disorienting and distressing it would be – it’s fortunate that medicine has come up with ingenious treatments to ease the trauma, slightly, but as you said to me once “cancer’s definitely not for wimps.”

      • Definitely not.

        My “phantom” limb feels like something from a Salvador Dali painting. All the parts are there, but they’re in unexpected positions and proportions. And still — after seven years — I can wiggle all my “toes”. Weird, huh?

        But … they’re working on prosthetic limbs that can be “plugged” into residual limbs and if/when that happens I’ll be a great candidate, no?

        Sadly, our fascination with war is speeding research in this area.

      • As I say, I simply have no terms of reference for how that must feel. Do you mind if I ask a personal question (please do feel free to ignore it if you’d rather not discuss it any more)?

        Would you say it’s a slight comfort to retain that sense of your “toes”, rather than feeling nothing at all? As if it constitutes the mind’s coping mechanism for such a trauma, even though it’s plainly not rational.

        But then, once the next gen of prosthetic limbs arrives, the mind’s non-rational approach will suddenly become completely rational and practical again. Strange. Here’s hoping it’s soon.

        Yes, lots of important people have lots of billions of dollars invested in having lots of people regularly lose life and limb around the globe, so it will certainly continue to be a growth area for research for some time to come.

      • That’s a good question — no, I don’t mind answering.

        Sometimes it’s an odd sense of comfort, feeling that the toes (and the whole limb) are still there. I say “odd” in that the toes feel like they’re situated on a leg that’s compressed to half its normal size and bent at an odd angle. So it’s a weird comfort-wonder situation.

        But the phantom pains that keep me from sleeping at night? I’d like to get rid of that – permanently. It’s an ever-changing sensation with burning, tingling, stabbing, and even spasms. Oh how I’d like to get rid of that.

  2. Sue!!!. So powerful… Are mirrors thresholds maybe?. Has reality become a sort of Speculate game… Can we go beyond those mirrors?… Blue mirrors which represent diffuse, previous borders. Perhaps?. I can’t answer either. “I gave up those questions a long time ago. The energy left me. Now I look into the reflection’s overpowering brightness;”
    Congratulations on this one, Blake!.
    Best wishes, Aquileana 😛

    • Thanks, Aquileana! I’m glad you enjoyed this story and had so many intriguing responses, especially since one of the key influences for writing it was Jorge Luis Borges, from Argentina 🙂

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