In darkness there is nothing, nowhere is anywhere, and nobody says a word. When touched by light, everything very suddenly and very brilliantly exists, and sometimes there exist twice as many of a thing than there are. A very real house existed happily in a bright and enlightened neighbourhood and was home to a very bright room. The room was filled with a suffusing white glow of the kind you might find in a hospital, but with the warmth and presence of sunlight. Were you to be touched by such a light, you would be experiencing ideal conditions for existing. It bathed the perfect white walls, the perfect white floor, and a large upright mirror. Inside this mirror there was everything that existed outside of the mirror, but backwards. Now, to understand what it means for something to be backwards you must first be well acquainted with the notion of things being frontwards, so reflections are a complex matter. Maurice was a complex man, and so he stood in the room, in front of the mirror, contemplating the backwardness of his image with all the mental dexterity of someone accustomed to understanding things very thoroughly in both directions.
Maurice stood before his own image, admiring his realness. He had broad shoulders, a thick oak-like chest, and wiry fronds of black hair pulsated beneath his cotton shirt. Perched either side of a proportionate and well calculated nose were the sly, observant eyes of a cunning fox. It is widely known that men who choose a stocky and hirsute build over weaker hairless models are timeless geniuses, he mused, admiring his mathematically precise facial features. The good sense that informs such a choice is surely what separates us from the many animals whose cunning I possess in spades. Look at me, he thought, I have the look of a man who is not to be trifled with. Were I to do any trifling, it would not be with this man here, for I am not a fool, thanks to my buckets of cunning. He revelled in his lack of foolishness, gently jigging with glee, neat coils of chest hair bouncing gaily under his clothes. My brow, he marvelled, is very furrowed, and it has been said by many wise and great thinkers that the depth of one’s furrows correlates directly with the depth of one’s brilliance. In a game of wits, I would surely win.
‘In a game of wits with oneself, winning is a fool’s errand,’ a voice said.
‘I detect great wisdom in your voice,’ Maurice noted, ‘would I be right in thinking that you are me?’
‘We are both very astute. I must praise your keen ear,’ the voice spoke, perfectly. Maurice realised that the man in the mirror, who was him, was the source of the voice. Initially, he presumed this meant he had also been speaking, but quickly deduced that he had not been.
‘I must know, as the man whose face this is, how it is you came by it?’ he asked, handsomely.
‘Well, as we can both clearly observe, we have the look of a very complex thinker with an intricate brain. I postulate that brainy thinking can happen twice at once,’ the voice reasoned, quickly. Maurice was floored. What a brainy thought! It was one thing for someone to have thoughts as brainy as his own, but quite another for said someone to be a man with his face and voice. He was perturbed. The more he looked at the man in the mirror, the more his backwardness seemed to be a superior orientation to his own frontwardness. Maurice was very proud of being him, but as the two men studied one another, he felt a growing resentment.
‘I am afraid to report that I feel a growing resentment towards you,’ menaced Maurice, forwardly.
‘I understand. We are now no longer unique,’ came the maudlin reply, backwards.
‘I fear you may even be as brainy as me, which can only pit us against one another.’
‘You have cleverly preempted my devious intent to pit us against one another.’
‘If anyone is positioned to preempt deviousness, it is a man with buckets of cunning. I sense an inevitable conflict. How shall we proceed?’
‘If you will allow me to become the new you, I can offer you an emeritus position.’
‘You have the diplomatic instincts of a well seasoned negotiator, but my seasoning is pinched from the same pot. I intelligently decline.’
‘Then I can offer only a game of wits.’
‘Aha! Oho! Your first and final misstep. I have surmised that you are sensational, but I fear you underestimate the thoroughness of my faculties. They are not inconsiderable. I must inform you that I have thought this through in both directions. In a game of wits, I would surely win. You surely know this already, which I have now deduced, and the totality of outcomes is brain knowledge I now possess beyond measure.’ Maurice furrowed his brow a little deeper to punctuate his complexity.
The very real man in the mirror side-stepped out of frame and flicked the lightswitch. Maurice immediately disappeared with an inaudible pop.
By Jonathan Davies
Featured image from “Echo and Narcissus”, John William Waterhouse, 1903