She, In The Mirror

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Iris was sure she was being followed. There was a stranger in the house. She would creep around. None could see her. But Iris was sure. She would find out...

Submitted: November 17, 2011

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Submitted: November 17, 2011

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In the morning when Coral went looking for her coloured tattoo strip Iris had hidden under her pillow, she pulled out a cracked, round, hand held mirror. Immediately that went to Mom. What a first-rate way to begin the day! There, you have it for hiding my tattoos. You don’t sleep with a mirror under your pillow. She handed it over to her mother and walked away, smug, with the feeling of victory.

Mrs. Adler looked annoyed. This was the second time it had happened in a fortnight. First it was the mirror at the wash basin. Someone had smashed it with the ivory flower vase till both broke into bits. There were blood splotches on the vase. She knew Iris was doing this. Before she could confront her, Iris ran to her and took the mirror from her hand.

“Who did this to my mirror?”

“You tell me. Someone broke the wash basin mirror also. You tell me who did that?”

Iris thought hard. “I don’t know “, she quietly uttered and went into her room, holding the cracked glass. A scarred, distorted image looked back at her. A deep gash appeared on her chin and scratches zigzagged their way all over her face. It was the intruder again, in her room, last night. She had struck her repeatedly with a can opener, injuring her face. But none believed her. Not even Mother or Coral. She’d been telling them how the girl roamed around the house freely and none could catch her. They couldn’t so much as even see her. Day and night, week after week, she came and went. She had tried chasing her after she had stood behind her at the dressing table and tried taking away her comb, her perfume and her hair clips. She had run to Mommy and dragged her into her room but by that time the thief was gone. Her mother had closed the glass windowpane and drawn the curtain across. She had asked the sisters to be careful. But that was all. On Friday again when she crept in and stood behind Coral to take her things away, Iris hit her hard, with the ivory vase from the bathroom. Coral screamed for Mommy and the toothbrush dropped from her hand.  Mrs. Alder snatched her away from Iris. She grabbed her hands to stop her.

“What, in the name of God? Iris Adler, stop it. Stop hitting the glass, I say.”

“I told you last time. It’s her again. There”, she pointed at the mirror, “there she stood, fearless. Ready to take Coral’s things, but for me. But when she raised the vase to hit me, I pushed her away, took it from her hand and began hitting her. See, it has wounded her.”

Mrs. Adler told her firmly, “There’s no one else in the house. No thief or mugger.  You were attacking a mirror.” She would be punished. No Friday late night for the coming four weeks. Mrs. Adler had washed her blood streaked wrists and palms and bandaged them. She shouldn’t hide it anymore from her only living relative. So she rang up her father-in-law and narrated the details. He asked her to note down the address of his Psychotherapist friend, Mr. Adam Nelson who lived a couple of blocks away. She had to fly down to meet him. So be it.

 

Iris was sitting on a swiveling chair in the cosy chamber in Mr. Nelson’s three bedroom apartment. He was asking an awful lot of questions to her. Questions like, whether she remembered her mother’s favourite colour or whether her grandpa carried a walking stick with him. Of course she did. Silly. Flying for four hours to answer such questions.  After he had finished talking with her, he had a small chat with her mother. They had to meet him again on Wednesday next. So they left. She would be missing school again.

“What did he ask you, Mommy?”

“Just what you like, whether you’ve had any illness recently…what’s your ambition…all these.”

“Just these?”

“And yes, he asked you not to worry about the intruder. She would be gone soon.”

On their next visit, Mr. Nelson looked through her reports.

“You went to a family picnic in August last year? Great fun, aren’t they?”

“Rollicking!”

“So how did you hit your head?”

“We had parked, reaching home. I was getting out of the back seat. I heard a furious honking behind and something blasted the car boot and banged against my head. Woke up after a week almost."

"Your cracks have healed, almost. Going by your last X-Ray reports. We'll need some recent ones." Mr. Nelson spoke at length to his friend and then to Iris. This went on for a couple of months.

He informed the Adlers that Iris was suffering from Mirrored Self Misidentification. She had critically damaged the right Hemispherical lobe of her brain in that lethal accident and underwent extensive neural damage.

"You are lucky that she hasn't slipped into other, more devastating delusions. Her nervous system is still high strung."

"So, you're telling me she's lost it completely?”

"No. She hasn't. She's just lost -"

Mr. Nelson's explanation was cut short by a loud wailing. It came from the chamber. As the hapless listeners dashed off towards the room, the air was rending with shrieks. Someone was hitting something very hard. Heavy banging was heard. And Iris screamed and cursed. Mrs. Adler flung open the room. The chairs were overturned. The doctor's tableware lay in shambles. The glass top paper weight was spinning on the ground. And at the right hand corner of the room, Iris stood, holding a baseball bat with both hands, striking the life sized mirror that stood against the wall, brutally. Splinters of glass flew off the mirror and struck her face carving out flesh. Her bosom heaved with each stroke she hammered onto the mirror. She stomped on the broken pieces that fell to the ground.

"You can never get to me. You may follow me as much as you like but you can't ever hurt me. I'm going to rip away your face. You’ll never again have one to show." Iris was screaming threats to a nonexistent intruder - her mirror image she couldn't recognize.

Mr. Nelson dragged her away from the wall and propped her against the chair. The carpet was wet at places where her blood fell. Iris had fainted. Mrs. Adler was too shocked to speak.

“This is what has happened. Iris has lost the ability to recognize faces. That's the reason why

she thinks she’s being followed, or that there’s an intruder in the house. She can’t recognize her own face. Her own appearance is alien to her now.”

They carry her to the bedroom and lay her on the bed. Mr. Nelson sat at the head of the bed and stroked her forehead.

“But she looks at our faces and can make out who’s who.”

“For now. She might no longer be able to. That is, unless we work fast. Those who are diagnosed with Mirrored-self Misidentification or Prosopagnosia often recognize other things relatively bang on. That’s the reason I asked if she could recall minute details about people around her.”

“Like carrying a walking stick?”

“Exactly. I wanted to show you the severance of her disorder and, pardon me; I had kept the mirror in my chamber uncovered, intentionally. She reacted normally and took to destroying what she perceived of as a threat.”

 

Mrs. Adler stayed for over two months. Little by little, Iris learnt to use secondary clues. Mr. Nelson called those ‘Feature by Feature recognition strategy’. She was guided to associate Mommy’s clothing, voice and gait, her own body shape, her favourite scarves, her gloves, her voice, Coral’s hair colour and her speech. Sometimes she would get mixed up. Sometimes her memory would churn up a flimsy patchwork of disjointed information. But she was not one to give up. She kept on trying. They kept on trying with her. She was steadily climbing the upward trajectory of her recovery.

 

They returned home in the spring. Iris did not react unkindly towards her face in the mirror.  Just a tiny crease of worry would appear on her mother’s forehead from time to time. Mr. Nelson came over to their place.

“She stops abruptly while going from one room to another. At street corners. Last week, in the Church she said, ‘God told me He loves me very much. I must listen to what he says.’ The Priest thought she passed a blessed moment. So did us. But now, she would suddenly stop at the crossings and listen. God speaks to her, she says. We thought it wiser to inform you.”

“Her delusion is gone. That’s what I thought. It hasn’t totally left her, it seems. Does she talk to God also? Have you noticed?”

Coral stepped forward. “Yes, at nights, before we go to bed, and before I enter the room, she speaks to God. All she says is ‘Yes God. Yes, my father, whenever you say.’ As soon as I go in, she hushes up. Its spooky you know. I’m afraid of lying down with her in the same room.”

They lead Mr. Nelson to the living room where Iris was sitting.

“Hello Iris! How’re you doing?”

“Mr. Nelson! Welcome to our home! When did you come?”

“Last night. You were asleep.”

“You know, after I returned home, something strange happened. An angel appeared in my dream and from the next day, guess what? I could hear what God’s saying to me! Isn’t it great? Mr. Nelson?”

“You seem to be quite anxious to know about Heaven?”

“Oh yes! Before I go there, I’ll have known the place like the back of my palm.”

Her eyes were shinning.

“I can’t hear him, Iris.”

“Only the blessed.” Iris left the room.

 

They were having dinner together. Mr. Adler was interrupted by Iris.

“I’ll say grace.”

She was the first to finish eating.

“You all come to my room after you’re done.”

 

Mrs. Adler couldn’t hold on to her composure any longer.

“So, what do you think?”

“I think her mind has just deviated from one delusion to another. Instead of eliminating the delusion, it has just changed its course. She’s hallucinating. Answering to some commands she thinks are from God.”

Coral came rushing.

“She’s locked herself in the attic!”

All of them hurried up the stairs. The two men banged open the door. Iris was nowhere to be seen. Coral switched on the lights. Iris was moving wildly across the room. She raised her arms upwards and made her way to the window. Mrs. Nelson caught her by the waist but couldn’t match her in strength. Iris pushed her away and cried, “

God is telling me to jump out of the window!” It was almost a battle cry, and Iris hurled herself out right before their eyes. Coral stood frozen on the spot. Mommy leaned halfway down, out through the window. Mr. Nelson took the lift down. But it was too late. Iris lay on the concrete avenue in a heap.

 

Someone dialed for the ambulance.

 

 


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