Ottawa's Festival of Ideas Since 1997

The Dark Reflection

I hold the mirror in my hands. I don’t know what to do with it. Keep it or Smash It. Smash it or keep it. I see the guards out of the corner of my eye. I have to decide now. I look into the mirror once more. I know if I smash it, I kill everyone in it but if I keep it, it will consume me. Okay, so I’ve decided. I’m going to smash it... and keep it. Then I can sell the pieces and get some easy money. Perfect. I’m going to hit it against the wall, but someone grabs me. It’s a guard. I’m pushed to the ground, the mirror is taken out of my hands and handcuffs are put around me. “Great! That’s anoth- er five years at least,” I think.

“All stand for the judge.”

I stand up, handcuffs digging into my wrists. I know this time the only way to get out of jail is to plead mental illness. I’m only doing this because the uhh... “lawyers” I found, suggested I do it. I don’t know how much I trust them though, they do act like pigs. I mean they kind of slack off and I think they fake their diplomas. Whatever, they’re cheap and I don’t really have money to spare.

“what does the defendant have to say?” the judge rumbles as he wakes me from my thoughts.
“We plead mental illness,” the lawyers respond.

The rest of the trial goes by quickly. It’s hard to follow but I don’t think it’s going to well. There’s a lot of yelling. Out of the corner of my eye I see a cloaked figure. I turn quickly. There’s no one there.

“What was that?” I say under my breath.
“Jury do we have a ruling?” the judge says loudly. Everyone turns and looks at the jury.
“Minimum of two years in a mental hospital” is the jury’s reply.

That’s okay, it’s at least what we wanted. Okay now I just have to spend the next few years in a mental hospital... that I don’t actually need to go to. Amazing.

The van drives me up the driveway of the big white building that will be my home for the next five years and I’m thinking about how I might actually go crazy if I spend too much time here. I step out of the van and I see people poking their heads between the curtains of the windows. I go in and get a quick tour and I’m led to my room. Curfew is 9 p.m. sharp, so I have about ten minutes to do whatever.

That night I have a weird dream. I’m holding the mirror again. I look around and everything is on fire. I turn back to the mirror and see black hole trying to suck me in. I’m halfway through and the figure walks in, the same one I saw in the courtroom. I try to scream for help but I can’t find my voice. I’m about the be sucked in when I see the figure’s face. No. Wait, it can’t be.

I wake up with a jolt. My mind wanders to the year before. El walking towards the mirror. Being held back and not being able to stop her. The mirror seeming like it’s reaching out to her. El walked into the mirror breaking free and running towards her to stop her. The mirror closing before I get there, trapping me on the wrong side. The side without her.

There’s a knock on my door that brings me back to reality. I check the clock and realize that it’s time for breakfast. Time for the first day. Here I go.

The next few weeks go by quickly. The same thing happens everyday: get up, breakfast, free time, exercise, dinner, down time, bed, repeat. Same thing over and over again. I feel like I am robot pro- grammed to follow instructions to a T.

During my free time a group of girls come up to me.

“What’s your deal?” one of them says bluntly.
I look at them confused. They seem annoyed at me for some reason. “Like why you here?” a different one says aggressively.
“Oh,” I reply dryly.
Five seconds of silence go by before anyone says anything.
“So like, you gonna tell us or nah?”
“Sure” I say and then mutter “don’t know why you care though.”
“What was that.” one of the snaps angrily.
“Nothing, nothing,” I say defensively, holding my hands up.
“OK,” one of them replied “then start talking.
“Stole some stuff, didn’t want to go to jail, got some lawyers to convince the judge I was insane.” I shrug off the last part of the sentence.

“Nonono,” says the one who hadn’t said anything yet (I assume the main one since she is in the mid- dle) “The whole story.”
“Well take a seat, this story ain’t short.” I reply.

Let’s go back about five or so years ago when I first met El. WE hit it off right away. We were both from poor families and did risky things to get some money to help support them. Soon enough we were together all the time we would help each other go around and find anyone and anything that could get us some extra cash. Soon enough it got so bad that we were performing robberies and threatening people just so we didn’t have to choose between water and food. One day El convinced me that we could sneak into the queen’s castle and get her mirror. The queen’s prized possession.

We go to the castle and sneak in and go to the mirror room. As we walk into the room El notices the mirror.
El walks towards the mirror. All of a sudden I am being held back and not being able to stop her. The mirror seems like it’s reaching out to her. El starts going into the mirror. I break free and run towards her to stop her. The mirror starts cloing before I get there, trapping me on the wrong side. The side without her.

I continued on with a life of crime getting riskier and riskier until I got caught then I spent some time in jail, got let out, went back to crime, got caught again and now I am here” I say. Then add, “I don’t plan to be here for long.”

“Interesting,” the middle one replies, “we’ll have to keep an eye on this one, she seems crafty.”

One month later...
“So we clear of the plan?” Cindy asks.
“Yeah, I reply “Crystal clear”.
“So, you’re going to take care of the windows and the doors and we’re going to take care of the guards. Then once we’re all ready we’ll jump out all the windows and just run. If anything goes down it’s every woman for herself.” Cindy clarifies.
Okay. I know we might be moving too fast but it works. I’ll do whatever it takes to get out of here. It may even be worse than jail.

A few months later...
I jump. Landing outside of the main wall, I start to run. I know I should make sure the others made it out safely but I was told that if something goes down, it’s every woman for herself. It has only been six months into my sentences and I am already breaking out. I can’t believe I haven’t waited that long. Usually takes me about a year just to figure out if it is really worth it to try to break out. I guess this time is different. As I run towards the what seems never-ending driveway I think I can hear footsteps from the other girls behind me. Then a siren goes off. I think to myself “oh no”. Here. We. Go. Again.