I was five when we moved to a new house. My first memory of it was the three things left behind by the previous owners: an oxygen cylinder and mask, a green velvet chair with no cushions, and a mirror. Victorian tall- its solid mahogany feet pinched the carpet and its silvered glass only shined for one minute after a polish before the dust motes settled.
It looked like an ordinary mirror. Only it wasn't. It was my secret door to another world. I would step through to play inside this mirrored place where I talked and walked backwards- where everything and everyone was forgotten and my only worry was if someone else discovered my secret. And as I grew older I would sit at length, cross-legged, staring at my reflection until I slowly dissolved into nonsense.
Have you ever done this, reader? Looked into a mirror long enough that you disappear? Not for reasons of vanity- often there are no reasons. The need to do so is just because. But sometimes you stare so long that simply looking becomes a search for something far deeper than pleasing appearance: meaning.
I did this yesterday. I was tidying the box room, shifting books and junk to make room for more, when the sun pierced everything. A single golden beam filtered through the curtain, striking my old playground, and light danced about the walls in jolly abandon. My gaze caught on the shiny pane, past smudged prints, dust and greasy streaks, and into eyes. And what started as a general derision directed at those eyes- What are you doing with your life? Where are you going? - soon became a detached wonderment.
Recognition vanished and the face before me morphed into shapes- circles, ovals- randomness. Who was this before me? For that matter, who was I- did I even exist? Question after question dropped seemingly from nowhere into my grey matter- matter that existed somewhere beyond the wall of somewhere else.
It was the strangest of sensations. A tingle, a chill so unsettling that time ceased and everything but this stranger faded to nothing. But as quickly as I dissolved I came back, pulled by the light that danced across the silvered glass and drew my gaze- and myself- up and out of nonsense.
I went back to tidying books and boxes of junk. But golden light flickered, my spine tingled and the unsettled followed me like a grey cloud - a burst of iced air. My mind drifted to the looking glass and I couldn't help but wish I was five years old again...