By Rachael Kemme
Mirrors never show the truth on our birthdays. They show only fractures, pieces that we can almost hide, but never completely.
And this mirror is no exception.
I steel myself before peering inside its depths. Darksouls—the reflected versions of ourselves living in mirrors—have a persuasive air about them. And today, on my eighteenth birthday, I must make sure my darksoul does not become too powerful. I must not give in to her negative thoughts.
My reflection appears for the first time in a year. If not for her red, hateful eyes, we would look identical. Same obsidian hair, same pimple on our noses, same pale lips.
Yet, she is not one hundred percent me.
She is everything dark about me.
She speaks first. “Bad day, huh?”
I ignore her. I must follow protocol. No conversation between us.
“You know, you can talk to me.” Another difference between us—her voice is smooth as polished wood. Mine is raspy and uneven.
I take a deep breath, focusing. Emery, concentrate.
All my darkest thoughts obediently surface in my head. I tune in to the loudest one, the one which whispers, “You’re nothing,” in my darksoul’s voice. This is the one I must eradicate.
“You really are.”
I jump, startled. “What?”
Instantly I clap my hand over my mouth. I’ve talked to her. I’ve made a connection.
“You’re nothing, I mean.” She smirks, a hint of scarlet appearing on her cheeks. “That’s why you failed your audition today.”
I would close my eyes, but in order to weaken her, I must keep eye contact.
Your darksoul knows how to get to you. Ignore her.
“Who are you?” she continues. “You’re not ready for the adult world. You never will be.”
“Be quiet,” I say, my voice rising in pitch.
She smiles. “Make me.”
I bring my thoughts back to dispelling her. But I can’t quite get her voice out of my head.
I am something. I am important.
“If you were important, you would have done well in your audition.”
Memories of the audition judge surface in my mind. “Who told you that you had a good voice? Look, I’m going to be honest: singing is just not where you’re headed in life.”
But singing is my passion, my life. If I really cannot sing well . . . No. Don’t go there.
“Shut up!” I raise my fist to bang on the glass but stop myself just in time. Physical touch would just make everything worse.
“Why should I? If anything, you should shut up. Your voice cracked so many times—”
“If you say one more word, I swear I will break this window.”
Her smile widens, and her eyes light up. “Prove it.”
Rage pools in my body. She’s just trying to rile me up, I remind myself.
But it’s working. My negative thoughts are getting stronger.
She is getting stronger. “You’re not worth anything. Who even cares about what you do?”
No. Refocus, Emery. Don’t let her win. Singing doesn’t define you.
Except . . . it has for the last eighteen years. Music defines my life, even now.
If my voice is worthless, does that make my life worthless?
My darksoul crosses her arms. “If you can’t even do well in an audition, what makes you think you can weaken me?”
“Because I’ve done it before, that’s why.”
She raises a single finger, mocking me. “Ah. But see, you had proven yourself those days. Today, you are a failure.”
I can’t stand to gaze into her eyes anymore, and despite knowing that this will only benefit her, I look down. “Be. Quiet!”
But her words still rain on me like hail. “You. Are. Nothing.”
My fists clench. That is it.
I grab a toothbrush off the bathroom counter and throw it against the mirror. It doesn’t shatter the glass, but it makes me feel better.
My darksoul laughs, a loud cackle that rings in my ears. “Worthless.”
“I have worth,” I shoot back and chuck a comb at her. It collides at the spot between her eyes.
To my horror, a part of the comb sinks behind the mirror’s surface and she catches it. The comb stands suspended between our two worlds. She must truly be strong to liquefy the glass.
I lunge for my side of the comb. The teeth poke into my fingers, but I don’t care. Bracing my feet, I pull back with all my strength.
Most of the comb is drawn out of the mirror.
Then my darksoul yanks. She’s stronger than I thought possible. The comb slowly drags me forward, millimeter by millimeter, until any movement will touch my hands to the mirror.
Her eyes glitter at me from behind the glass. “Good try, Emery. Valiant effort.”
My stomach curdles as I see a pale, dainty finger emerge from the mirror and inch forward along the comb’s surface. I try to move, but fear keeps me in place.
The finger touches my own, and suddenly all strength leaves my body. My vision blurs, and darkness swallows my thoughts.
When I rouse myself from my daze, I know something is wrong.
I am no longer in my bathroom. Instead, I am in a nondescript room, its shape obscured by darkness. What little light there is comes from a square hovering in midair.
My breath catches. It can’t be.
A familiar face stares at me from a bathroom. My bathroom.
“As I said, Emery,” my darksoul says, smirking more than ever, “good try. But did you really think you could beat me forever?”
I resist the urge to scream, and I say, “You will pay for this,” between clenched teeth.
She shrugs. “I don’t think so. After all, I’m you, remember?” Her red eyes flash, then turn dark—the exact shade of my own. Then, she skips out of sight, whistling.
I stare at the now-empty room in disbelief, reaching out my trembling hand and touching only glass.