Mirror Phase
by cgb

You are you in the mirror. You are you as you reflect off those around you. You are the man lost in the mountains, the boy whose father blows up in his boat, the blind photographer, the girl seeking revenge for her murdered father. It is this that defines you.

You are enunciated into being each time someone says your name (whichever name). You say it yourself, over and over but it's not the same as watching it fall from a stranger's lips.

You pretend therefore you are. You think therefore you pretend.

You are special. They told you that, but if you've learned anything from the outside you've learned that everyone pretends. Everyone adapts to suit their surroundings.

The Victorians created normality when they created its perversions. So maybe it's okay that your idea of justice is the fear of god, because normal by your standards is an adult man who spent his life removed from family, society and glucose.

If there's a standard in there somewhere then you meet it. You probably surpass it (can you be more normal than normal?).

The man tied to the chair still calls you "crazy".

The room is smoky. The room is actually on fire, but it's not hazardous (not yet) and you have much to say before you burn.

The man tied to the chair has a lot to say, too. None of it useful.

"Jarod! For god's sake Jarod, we're going to die if you don't get us out of here."

His name is Henry Brinkwater, a clinical psychiatrist for a large pharmaceutical company called "Marrimont." They're in one of the Marrimont laboratories now, waiting not so patiently to burn to death. Brinkwater's concern is justified.

And he is, after all, tied to a chair.

"Did you ever read Lewis Carroll?"


You take that as a "yes". Hasn't everyone? "You ever wonder what itŪs like to step through the looking glass? See what it's like on the other side?" You bend down so you can meet Brinkwater eye to eye. "Ever heard voices?"

He looks at you now. Really looks at you. Looks at you like he might just understand where you are coming from. "Jarod - it wasn't me÷"

"Miguel heard voices," you tell him. "So did Lisa Binni, and Geoffrey Waight, and Marie Pfennig."

Miguel was a homeless man who once told you his story. You think it's something in your faces, or in your eyes. Or maybe it's because you never expected anything different. It's not that people tell you things it's that they don't tell anyone else.

Miguel was schizophrenic. He couldn't live with people and he couldn't hold down a job. He forgot his social security appointments and doctor's appointments and he was sometimes violent. He lived with his sister until he went crazy and threw the glassware at her husband. He could have killed them. He said so himself.

Three days after he met you he booked into a clinic to trial a new wonder drug for schizophrenics. You never saw him again.

"What do you want from me?" Brinkwater wails. You don't care that he's frightened. You don't care that your punishment is cruel and unusual. Your mind is racing and the blood is flowing through you like electricity. You feel alive and it excites you and disturbs you at the same time.

"You told them it would help them. You told them they would be cured." The smoke in the laboratory is filling your head. You won't be able to see Brinkwater soon and neither will the camera you're hiding in the ceiling vent. "But you didn't cure them, you made them worse! You made them worse so that Marrimont would shut down the programme and you would be able to fund your own research - didn't you?!"

"Jarod - I swear I didn't mean to hurt anyone÷" Brinkwater looks like he's going to cry.

"Tell me!" You fall onto one knee so that you can get in his face. He looks shocked and he instinctively tries to move backwards. It's only your hands on the base of the chair that stops if from falling backward.

Now. It has to be now.

"It was just for a few weeks. I never knew÷ I never thought Marie would÷"

Marie killed herself. The first casualty.

"So what did you do?"

"I÷" his eyes take in the flames and the smoke and you can't tell whether it's the smoke that's making his eyes water or whether it's the regret. "I started a fire in the lab. I wanted to destroy the drugs and the surveillance records - I wanted it to look like an accident÷ "

"But Miguel saw you."

"I locked him in - I didn't even think about it, I just acted. I swear, it was like I was under a spell÷Jarod, I'm sorry! Please don't let me die."

The smoke is thick now. Too thick. Asphyxiation occurs before the victim burns to death. Still, it's not a pleasant way to die. The heat is unbearable, painful, and the lungs strain against the smoke as it scorches them, blackening them with impurities and poisons.

Miguel died in pain and in fear. Alone.

You stand and reach for the remote control you on the bench. You press a button and wait for the water to fall from the ceiling.

Only it doesn't.

You rigged it up yourself. You put a stop on the sprinkler system that could only be removed by activation from a remote radio connection, a remote you hold in your hand right now.

You try again. Nothing.

You wanted to get as close as you could. You wanted those seconds to be crucial.

And now they are.

Today you are a scientist. Today you are a torturer. Today you are a fireman but you're always a pretender and you always know what to do when it needs to be done.

You "break glass in case of emergency" and you take the thermal protective blanket and throw it over Brinkwater. You pull a Swiss army knife from your pocket and you cut the bonds around his hands. You tip his chair onto its side and he falls to the ground. You kick the chair away.

He screams and he pleads with you and you yell at him to "stay down!" You wrap the blanket tightly around him and leap onto the bench. You raise your hand above the smoke, your knuckles brushing the ceiling. You aim the remote at the sensor you installed in the ceiling vent.

The sprinklers come to life and it rains on you and your parade.


You nearly went too far.

You watch the boy on the screen. You put your hand to the image and tell yourself it isn't you. You are the real. He is the unreal. He is the representation, the baby in the mirror.

But you never had anything else, you never had a chance to be a real person, and when you look at him you know he has identity (such as it is): the captive, the boy genius, the child who can't remember his parents.

This makes you the reflection.

Alone in your room (another empty room) you take remote control apart and check the emitter. It was supposed to be omni-directional but you notice the casing has come loose. You must have knocked it in the scuffle with Brinkwater. A simple error.

And hardly life threatening, but you made a mistake and you nearly went too far.

You don't want to be alone. You think about calling Miss Parker because you have new information for her about her mother and because you love her and hate her and you want to feel like that's normal too. Your enemy is your best friend and she would laugh at you if you told her. Miss Parker's laugh is hollow, a sound that brings fear rather than joy, but you want to hear her sometimes and that's complicated and strange but so are you. So is she.

Miss Parker won't tell you what you need to know.

You call him instead. He knows it's you. He expects you, waits for you. He says your name and it's already an affirmation. He hears the fear in your voice and he's instantly concerned, worried for you. He asks you what's wrong.

And you ask, "Am I normal?"

You can hear him smiling down the phone line, you can see him looking at ceiling as though it isn't there, as though it's just the sky above him and he's pleased with this world because you're in it, and in one sense or another he put you there. "You are possibly the most normal person alive," he says.

"I nearly killed someone today."

"Your methods are unorthodox. You have your own style of justice but you won't take a life for a life."

But sometimes, sometimes÷ "I think about it."

"It's not the same."

Categorically, you are more normal than normal, and the Enlightenment may have created psycho-analysis but Joan of Arc heard voices six hundred years ago and she lead an army.

They burned her at the stake too. No gift goes unpunished.

"Am I dangerous? "

"Only if you choose to be." He has an answer for everything, but you know he is afraid for you. You know that even he can not define you, can not name you by that which you are. He speaks softly to the child. He does not wish to frighten him.

Everyone pretends.

You tell him, "I met a man who heard voices," and you know he will understand.


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