This is my Friday Fiction for the Vamplit Blog this week. The prompt was "broken mirrors." I hope you enjoy my different spin on an old tale.
The dog days of summer: God how I hate them. Even at night, the heat rises off the city streets. As I lie naked on top of my sheets, my bed drenched in sweat, the fingers of hot air climb steadily up the fire escape, not stopping until my open window beckons them, imploring that they pay me a visit.
Like I need any added aggravation.
My fan stopped working yesterday, and air-conditioning is as foreign to this old building as green men from Mars. When my wife walked out on me, she took all my cash, leaving me strapped until my Social Security check arrives in two weeks. Damn, I could use a cold beer, but liquor stores want more than a promise. Cold, hard cash is what they require.
Shit! I can't sleep. This heat is driving me crazy. Cold water! That's what I need. Should I take a bath and soak or just use a wash rag and attack my face and chest with the refreshing liquid?
Nobrainer time. Bath it is!
The water chills me to the bone when I first step into the tub and slide down beneath the cold relief. I even submerge my head for a bit, not wanting to waste a drop of it. I'm lost in the solitude and cool comfort for the first time today when the mirror comes crashing down from the wall above the sink and lands on the floor, wedged between the vanity and the toilet.
Just what I need: glass on the floor, under my naked feet and all. Screw it! I'll check it out when I get out of the tub. I'm not leaving this comfort zone yet.
I pull the stopper in the tub and don't get out until the water's all gone. Even then I savor the cold remaining on the porcelain. When I do venture out, I proceed cautiously, knowing that broken glass will get me when I least expect it.
But there is no broken glass. None that I can find. Damn! I am one lucky guy.
I pick the mirror up, not knowing where to put it now that the wall behind the sink appears to be torn up, loose sheet rock exposed to view. No wonder the mirror fell; it's as if the wall is wet , gelatinous even, with some sort of greenish mold clinging to it, pulsing, catching reflections off the city lights.
Smiling as I peer into the deeply cracked mirror, I stare back at a horribly disfigured old man with furrows running down his face, seemingly deep enough to plant a crop in.
A face of evil. Yes, that's what it is.
But this can't be. It's merely me; an old man looking even older because of crack-etched glass. I'm hot, alone, and pissed off, sure. Evil I'm not.
Even after the bath, I'm hot. No sense in hanging around up here. It has to be cooler on the streets. I have no place to go in the morning; I might as well take a little walk.
Tossing on shorts, sandals, and a T-shirt, I walk down the stairs and reach the streets, surprised to see so many people out on such a hot night. Probably, the same as me, it's too hot for them to sleep.
I walk to Reynaldo's, a classic dive if there ever was one. Yes, I've been in there before, but that was when I had a few bucks in my pocket. That won't be the case tonight.
Half a block away, though, I spot some money on the side walk, enclosed in a clip. Oh, yeah! A change in my fortunes. Looks like Reynaldo's will become fact tonight. I pick it up, notice a bunch of twenties and a couple hundreds, and stash it in my pocket.
"Wait a second, old man. That money is mine."
I turn around and stare into the face of some brute half my age and twice my size. And, he has a couple of friends with him.
"Excuse me?" I ask.
"That money belongs to us."
"How do I know that?"
"Because me and my buddies say so. Hand it over and maybe we'll let you leave."
"That's not good odds for me."
Mr. Big guy is getting irritated. "You were warned, Bozo."
He comes leaping at me but slips on something on the sidewalk and goes down in a most unceremonious heap. Anger in his eyes, he climbs to his knees and prepares to get to me once more, his friends egging him on, telling him what a wuss he is.
Something comes over me, the anger inside me escalates, and before he can get up, I reach down, grab a loose brick from off the side of the adjoining wall, and smash it into his head repeatedly. A look of shock crosses his face as he silently drops.
His friends stare at me, confused, wanting to help the piece of pulp lying face down on the sidewalk, but afraid of what I might do to them.
"Drag him out of here!" I shout. "And take yourselves with him."
They lose no time in doing just that, and once they're gone, I waste no time in getting to Reynaldo's.
"Dorian, how's it going, buddy?" the barkeep says to me. "Sorry to hear about your wife leaving you, man."
I stare him in the face. "I'm not, Jack. In fact, I'm glad to be rid of the bitch. Give me the coldest bottle of beer you have."
"Okay, buddy. Coming up."
The beer tastes good going down. My seat at the bar is beneath the biggest fan in the joint. It feels so comforting in here.
Looking at my face in the mirror behind the bar, it appears as if some of the lines are going and my hair is thicker and darker; the gray is gone. Strange.
Noise erupts from a dimly lit corner. Something makes me walk over. I arrive in time to see my wife being smacked around by some big bruiser. I break the top off my bottle of beer and hand him the jagged remains. Still felling rage, he slices through her throat and she stares at me, horror in her eyes, as she falls in a heap to the floor.
Some of the patrons grab and restrain him.
Walking back to my stool, I stare at my reflection in the mirror. My face sparkles with youth. I no longer look like me at all. The mirror. My broken mirror. It gave me good luck and everyone around me bad luck. A full reversal from the broken mirror theory.
The cops come and remove the bruiser, the bastard screaming that someone forced the deadly weapon into his hand.
Once he's gone, Jack brings me over another beer.
"I'm sorry for the disturbance, Mr. Gray. This one's on me."
He stares at me with a peculiar look but says nothing.
Dorian Gray smiles and goes back to his beer . . .