A Lesson in Subtlety | Solo

There were words going around town, briefly associated with Ashford River. New developments. This time, regarding mirrors and reflections not representing the reality around them. Reed thought it was interesting, mostly because he never noticed anything out of the ordinary and he wondered if this was a new craze that just skipped over him. Part of Reed had been disappointed at the discovery, his mind’s own curiosity unable to be sated except vicariously through others; hearing people talk about their experiences from afar, under their breaths to someone else’s ears, was never completely satisfying though. Nothing could ever compare to personal experience and he still felt like he was missing something, not completely understanding why this was so upsetting and alarming to many people. Reed heard about it all in passing, unintentionally when he wasn’t meant to, and all of his Google queries yielded no appropriate results. It was nothing he wanted actually. He began to believe it was another thing dealing in magic, of course. What else could it be?

Initially he thought the idea of faulty mirrors to be amusing, like they were technological machines infected with malware and hard-to-remove viruses. As days passed and he lingered wherever he was, discreetly listening to what people were describing, it no longer seemed worthy of a small chuckle. What some people said was concerning. Still, Reed couldn’t jump into a conversation — well, he could, but he took pride in being nosey in other ways. Making it obvious he was eavesdropping wasn’t one of them.

So after work, one of the first things he did was drive home and go directly upstairs into his bedroom. There was a full-length mirror, scarcely used with light touches of dust across the glass. There was insanity in unchanged repetition, he knew but Reed remained optimistic that he could see what people were experiencing. It would be different. And different it was this time. Not gut-wrenching but halting while Reed watched his reflection. It wasn’t apparently outright, he noted, outfit aside. Reed looked like Reed although tidier and clad in a crisp button-up and pressed pants; he was almost in awe until deeper examinations drew him closer to the mirror, the toes of his shoes bumping against the bottom of the frame. Peering now with a tilted head, Reed stared at the man before him and picked up immediately on two things: loneliness and the space around him. His bedroom was bare save for necessities, perfectly in trend with the minimalist lifestyle; however it looked like he hadn’t completely unpacked, hadn’t completely settled and moved in, like he were planning on leaving someday. That bedroom felt as cold as frostbite, reminiscent of his counselor’s office and Antichthon.

Reed’s own bedroom in contrast was filled, littered with baseball hats, dog toys, books regarding the supernatural and anything he could take home with him from work. Then Reed drew his attention back to the man who stood front-and-center, loosening his bowtie; hand movements were slow and disinterested, not completely there in the moment as if he were lost in his own head. What was he thinking about, Reed gave contemplative pause before raising his eyes to match the other’s. Their irises were the same, everything about their face looked unchanged. If there were minimal differences, Reed has yet to notice. Of course, that wasn’t the point of his intense focus to detail but rather the unspoken silence around the other man that surrounded him. It was the quiet while it screamed unheard, the loneliness that looked like it completely drowned him paired with some edge of defeat or more accurately, the acceptance that he was alone and would always be. 

Reed frowned staring at himself and gingerly reached forward, lightly pressing the palm of his hand against the dusty glass, trying to create a human-to-human connection, hoping deep inside that the other him would touch his hand. He didn’t. Instead he continued to work on his tie until he tossed it on top of the dresser beside him and then pulled his tucked-in shirt overhead and off — not bothering with the buttons at all. How badly did that Reed want out of his skin, out of this or that town? It was isolating, powerful enough to reach through whatever dimension there was between the two towns and hug tight around his own frame; that loneliness was suffocating and foreign. Again he was reminded of how different they were despite the subtlety, like it were high-functioning and aware of their similarities, not readily seen to the lazy observer. Perhaps his other self was unexciting and plain, not so different from himself rather than like the more nightmare-like versions he heard people panic about. That was better then, far more preferable over being rebellious or murderous. That meant the other him was probably more successful career-wise as well. And safe!

How long had this been going on before Reed finally took notice and saw what everyone else was gossiping about? He thought about all of the mirrors he stepped in front of over the past few days and weeks, all of them functioned like they were meant to — or how he thought they were supposed to — which begged the question, how similar were they? Flicking his eyes to the undone bowtie in the middleground, Reed didn’t think he’d toss it to one side like that; it was more likely he would pack the bowtie away like it were processed evidence at his lab. Then he noticed the CSI badge, squinted and saw the print of his name. Reed Hand. Hand? Hand? He grimaced before noticing the lack of another badge, specifically his police badge — that wasn’t right. He felt discomfort as he shifted from foot to foot when he looked at Reed again, looking for giveaways of impressions, of a chain or wallet meant for his police badge in the fore and background only for his frantic search to turn up unsuccessful. Next he risked a quick glimpse down at himself, outfit passing enough to be presentable for work but not astoundingly professional… Was that why he noticed now? Because it was the only thing about them both that was more readily obvious and difficult to overlook? Or was this some kind of placebo effect, a trick of the mind because he was so desperate to see and believe? Is this real?

Reed’s eyebrows crinkled down as his lips pressed together, pondering. “Can you see me?” He mused aloud, softly, and soon realized that even if the other Reed could or couldn’t, he was oblivious to it. Did he not believe in the supernatural or odd and unexplainable occurrences, in what people in Ashford River were possibly talking about as well? Was he aware? No, Reed concluded quickly as soon as he watched himself step away from the mirror and carry on with his business until he left the bedroom completely. Left to stand in front of the blank mirror by himself and gawk at the whole expanse of vacant wall behind him, Reed got the impression this wasn’t exactly an experience to write home about. 

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