In this short story, a woman gets more than she bargained for
|Claudine stood staring into the full-length mirror on her bedroom wall. Like everything else in the room, it was beautiful and perfect- not a real antique, heavens no, real antiques could be dirty and cracked and God knows where they may have been. No, it was a pristine imported reproduction of a well-worn, gilded French provincial behemoth that still hung in an obscure village museum, virtually hidden from the public. Claudine’s mirror, in contrast, had been purchased at an upscale furniture gallery. It was symmetrical and unblemished and symptomatic of her thought process. New is good. Old is bad. An air of faux reality pervaded her boudoir, her house, her life.
What Claudine had no way of knowing, and probably no interest in, was that the museum curator could not afford help, and would clean the original mirror himself. No way of knowing that this man often had dizzy spells that sent him reeling and crashing against the closest object. That the original was at that moment heading from its hook on the wall to become a pile of splinters and shards on the tile floor below. No way of knowing the history of that other mirror, and no way of knowing the attention it’s demise was getting from far below her apartment in Manhattan, below the street and subway, in a place where molten rock flowed and eau de sulphur was the designer perfume of choice…
As she stood looking at herself with a critical eye, she knew that she was just not new enough, and that something must be done about it. Her hair color was just not fresh enough, even though d’arron (with a little d, so trendy and new) colored it every two weeks for her at the same day spa where she got her mud wraps, her fruit based face peels, and her sea salt pedicures. Her skin sagged just ever so slightly more than it did in the photo of her at Cannes, her figure showed just the slightest effect from gravity. She had no idea that her name was still the one that people brought up as the standard of eternal youth. “If only I could look like her, she never ages!” they would say, but she would not have believed it even if she knew.
So she said it. Said it right out loud into the mirror, purposefully, truthfully, and in ignorance.
“I would give ten years of my life just to look ten years younger right now!”
And that was all it took. The presence below who had been the creator of the original French mirror, who had controlled everyone who had owned it since, and who had despaired when it was donated to the museum that he would never have any fun again at all, heard and was filled with hope. For now that his mirror was broken and gone, he could move on to this copy created unwittingly in its image.
Claudine peered closer into the mirror. Yes, she saw herself; she saw her Persian rugs, her white leather settee, the glass shelves, the cool and uncaring photos of the cats on the wall (real cats are just too untidy to keep around, and don’t last near as long). But she saw something else, and leaned in to inspect more closely. And in the mirror she saw a man dressed in black heading her way from across the huge room. But- as she caught her breath and spun around to the empty room- she had already realized that something very different, something filled with promise, was happening. So she slowly turned back to the mirror as her eyes narrowed. And she let him speak first.
“No introductions needed, no explanations, no time to waste. Do you want to do this deal or not?” he practically crooned to her, his voice both honey and fingernails on the chalk board all at once. “10 years younger looking for a mere 10 years of your life?”
And she started it all by saying, “Yes, of course. Do it.”
What Claudine could not see in the mirror was the tiny but vigorously dividing clump of cells that lay deep within her chest. The very thing that was going to kill her within the year. The laughter of the demon shook the very foundation of the building- this was the perfect pact he had awaited for so long! For, if a person gives you ten years of her life, and was never destined to live that long, how can this deal be carried out? He must have his ten years… And so, summoning the dark powers he commanded, he sent her back in time to live out the ten years owed to him. But, the demon rejoiced, back then the deal did not exist, and he now had the delicious pleasure of watching time move her toward the day when she would actually make it. The selfsame deal. And then make it, and make it, and make it….
And as the demon watched her bounce back and forth through eternity, he just couldn’t help thinking that all of that newness was making her look older…