Henry and the Mysterious Mirror

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
Henry discovers an antique mirror in a remarkably strange place. The mirror is there, and yet it is not there. He looks closer and suddenly finds himself in the grip of a phenomenon that defies reason. This is an expanded rewrite of a story first posted in April 2014.

Submitted: April 09, 2015

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Submitted: April 09, 2015

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Henry and the Mysterious Mirror

 

There was nothing remarkable about the full length mirror. The ornate gold frame and heavy base gave it an antique look; but even that was not remarkable. What was remarkable was the place where Henry found it.

Since his wife died a year ago, Henry had been taking regular walks in a park near his home. It was a large park, mostly made up of playing fields. There was also a walkway where people could walk their dogs; or just walk themselves in the fresh smoke-free air. The walkway passed through a large native bush reserve in the centre of the park. This was Henry’s favourite place, and it was here that he found the mirror.

He had been strolling along the bush track, enjoying the smell of damp vegetation, the echoing sound of birdsong and the fluttering of unseen wings. After rounding a bend in the track, he saw himself coming from the opposite direction. Startled, he came to an abrupt halt; then saw that his ‘other self’ was just his reflection in the mirror. It was standing almost in the middle of the track, facing him.

Where did that come from? Henry couldn’t think of any logical explanation. It wasn’t unusual for people to use bush reserves as illegal dumping grounds; but this one was surrounded by open playing fields. It was not the most convenient place in which to dispose of a large unwanted mirror.

Henry examined the mirror. It was flawless, and not at all the kind of mirror that one would dump. It could be worth a lot of money. He thought briefly of taking the mirror with him, but it was much too heavy. He would need some kind of a cart if he was to take it. Having no cart, Henry continued on his way. He glanced back just before he rounded the next bend, and then stopped in astonishment. The mirror had gone!

Curious, Henry retraced his steps. He could see the indentation in the ground where the mirror had stood, but saw no trace of the mirror. He walked around the indentation and suddenly, there it was, just has he had seen it before. He walked around the mirror three times.

From the front, the mirror was there. From the back, it wasn’t. It wasn’t just invisible, either. He could walk right through it from the back, but gave himself a nasty bump on the nose when he tried to walk through it from the front. Clearly, this was no ordinary mirror. Henry didn’t believe in magic; but try as he might, he couldn’t come up with any scientific explanation for it.

Henry hadn’t taken much notice of his reflection as he walked around the mirror; but as he passed around its front for the third time, he got another shock. The reflection in the mirror wasn’t his! He stopped and stared. A pretty girl stared right back at him. He took a startled step backward. The girl took a startled step backward. He rubbed his eyes. The girl rubbed her eyes. She mirrored every move he made, just as if the image were his own.

This was too much for Henry. It stretched credibility far beyond anything that could have a scientific explanation. He must be hallucinating. He should go somewhere quiet and sit down with a nice cup of tea; but curiosity overcame him. He reached out and placed the palm of his hand on the mirror. The girl in the mirror did the same. She looked so real that Henry expected to feel her warm palm against his, but all he felt was cold smooth glass.

He leaned forward, pressing his palm against the glass. Suddenly, the mirror wasn’t there any more. Caught off balance, Henry fell forward and landed face down on the track. Spitting leaf mould and bark chips from his mouth, he picked himself up and brushed the debris of the track from his dress. Wait a minute - from his dress?? He knew that this was impossible, but there was no doubt about it. All of a sudden, he was wearing the girl’s dress.

It took Henry a while to realise that he wasn’t just wearing the girl’s dress. He had somehow become the girl. No, that wasn’t quite right. He was still Henry, but he had somehow acquired the girl’s body. He was utterly bewildered. He reached up and felt his face and his hair. They weren’t his. He looked down and saw the same dress on the same figure as he had seen in the mirror. Incredible though it seemed, Henry had somehow swapped bodies with the girl in the mirror. In that case, his body should now be the one reflected in the mirror; but when he looked, the mirror was gone, and so was his body.

Henry wondered who this girl was. He had her body, but not her soul. He had no access to her memory or personality. Regardless of how he looked, he was still Henry. The unaccustomed clothing and the different shape of the girl’s body should have felt weird to him; but it didn’t. Along with the girl’s body, he had acquired her instinctive response to stimuli. Whatever felt normal to the girl also felt normal to Henry. The look and feel of the dress he was wearing pleased his senses so much that he knew it must be the girl’s favourite.

Henry was a logical man. He didn’t believe in miracles, and he didn’t believe in the supernatural. This was all much too real to be a dream, so he clung to the belief that he must be hallucinating. He had read that this could be just like real perception.

Having decided that there was a rational explanation for his alarming experience, Henry felt better; but not by much. He admired and respected women but had never aspired to be one. He wondered what could have triggered this weird phenomenon. He ought to see a doctor about that; but his immediate concern was how long it would last. Surely it couldn’t last for more than a few minutes.

Henry waited for a few minutes. Nothing happened. He waited until he lost patience and decided not to wait any longer. Perhaps he could force this delusion out of his mind by continuing his walk as if nothing odd had happened.

That was easier said than done. He tried to ignore the way he looked and concentrate on his surroundings; but his female body kept bombarding his awareness with sensations that he couldn’t ignore. He felt the swish of her dress, the soft caress of her hair on his face and neck, the coolness of the air around his unclad legs.

Henry consoled himself with the thought that, since this was all in his mind, nobody else would see him as a girl. They would just see good old Henry out for his regular daily walk. So Henry resumed his walk. He reached the bend where he had looked back to see that the mirror had gone. He stopped and looked back again. Same thing. The mirror wasn’t there. Of course it wasn’t. This entire experience was just an illusion – wasn’t it?

He was about to resume walking when he saw a man coming toward him round the bend. Henry hadn’t heard him coming. He wanted to turn round and run the other way, but it was too late for that. The man stopped in surprise when he saw Henry, and then leered at him. Henry hadn’t been leered at before. It was an unsettling experience. Clearly, the man hadn’t seen good old Henry. What he saw was a pretty girl all alone on a bush track. There was nothing pretty about his leering face as he stood in the middle of the track barring Henry’s way.

The man wore baggy trousers that had seen better days. His stained T shirt looked as if it had been liberated from somebody’s rubbish bin. The expensive leather jacket that he wore looked out of place on him. It had almost certainly been stolen. On his head, he wore a balaclava rolled up like a beanie. He needed a shave and almost certainly needed a shower. He did not look like a nice man. He looked like a scumbag.

‘Well, this is a pleasant surprise I must say,’ said the scumbag. ‘A pretty young lady like you shouldn’t be wandering through the bush alone.’

‘Please step aside and let me through,’ said Henry coldly. He moved to go around the man, who side stepped to block him. Henry moved to the other side. Again, the man side stepped to block him. The leer became a grin. The scumbag was enjoying this little game.

Henry considered his options. Should he scream? He wasn’t sure if he could do that. The girl’s body was no doubt capable of screaming but it didn’t come naturally to him. A swift knee where it hurts most might do the trick; but he would have to get in close. He didn’t want to get close to this piece of garbage. He decided on a pre-emptive strike; something that the scumbag wouldn’t expect.

Without saying another word, Henry drew his fist back and launched himself at the man. Using the full force of his weight and strength, he rammed his fist into the yielding flesh of the scumbag’s unguarded belly. Air exploded from the man’s mouth, accompanied by a set of dentures, which went spinning over Henry’s shoulder into the bush.

Henry didn’t wait to see the result of his attack. At this point, an immediate evacuation of the area would seem to be in his best interest. He ran!

In all probability, Henry could have walked casually away without fear of pursuit. It would take a while for the scumbag to recover from the painful punch to his paunch. It would take him even longer to find his dentures, which had no doubt cost him a lot of money. But Henry found that running was exhilarating. He hadn’t been able to run like this for years. He stopped once to kick off his shoes, which were not designed for running. He scooped them up and ran much faster in his bare feet. His hair streamed out behind him. The hem of the dress bunched up over his pumping knees and fluttered behind him like a flag in a gale. He exposed an indecorous amount of leg as he ran; but he didn’t care. He felt great.

As he neared the exit to the park, he noticed that a dip in the track had filled with rainwater, forming a broad puddle. He could have run around it; but had an irresistible urge to leap over it instead. Without pausing, he launched himself into the air and landed safely on the other side. Jeez, that was fun! He immediately slowed down to a walk so he wouldn’t draw attention to himself. He wasn’t even puffed! It was great to feel so young again. He paused to put on his shoes and then walked casually into the open area of the park.

What a happy place this was. There were people everywhere enjoying the sun. A nearby children’s playground was crowded, as were the strategically placed park benches for watchful parents. Lots of people were out walking, throwing things for their dogs to fetch, or playing a variety of ball games. A cricket ball landed near Henry’s feet. He picked it up and tried to throw it like a man, which was physically impossible in his present body. He grinned sheepishly at the good natured laughter that greeted the awkward result.

Henry found a vacant park bench and sat down to consider his predicament. Earlier, he had convinced himself that he was hallucinating. Now he wasn’t so sure. Everything that was happening to him was much too real.

Something really weird had happened to him, that was for sure; but he had no idea what or why. He could go mad trying to figure that out; so he stopped trying. He was in a situation over which he had no control. The best thing he could do to preserve his sanity was to put the past and the future out of his mind and live for the present moment. He had read a book about that once. The present moment had a lot going for it. It was a nice day, he felt great after his run, and he had escaped from the scumbag in the bush.

Henry got up from the bench and headed across the park. He might as well head home. That’s where he was going anyway before he encountered the mirror. He might have a problem getting in to his house because the key was in the pocket of his trousers, which he was no longer wearing. The dress didn’t have any pockets. Whatever the girl had been carrying must have been in a bag, which Henry hadn’t noticed when he left the scene. He put the problem of the key out of his mind. It wasn’t part of the present moment, so he would deal with it later.

As he walked, Henry’s mind drifted on to things he would do when he got home. He would potter in the garden, watch a bit of TV, tidy up his man cave, wash his hair and maybe do his nails. He could pick up a manicure set and some nail polish from … Hang on a minute! Where did those ideas come from? They hadn’t come from his conscious mind so they must have been instinctive. The girl’s body knew how to take care of itself and was sending appropriate messages to Henry’s brain.

That was good news and it was bad news. It was good news because Henry had no idea how to take care of his female body. Anything the body could instinctively do for itself was great. But this was also bad news because Henry’s control over this body was not as absolute as he thought.

He passed near a group of men playing some kind of ball game. He didn’t feel threatened by these men, despite the good natured wolf whistles and lewd comments that came his way.

‘Hey girl,’ said one young buck, ‘I’d sure like to get into your pants.’

‘Why,’ replied Henry, ‘did you have an accident in yours?’

That was an old joke. Henry never thought he would be in a position to use it, but it was a perfect squelch. The ball players looked stunned for a moment, and then burst out laughing. Henry moved on.

‘Hey, wait up,’ called a voice from behind him. Henry looked around. The young man who had expressed a desire to get into Henry’s pants came running up. Why is this fellow so interested in my pants?

‘I just wanted to say ‘sorry’ for that dumb remark I made back there. I guess I was just showing off.’

‘You mean you don’t want to get into my pants after all? Henry enquired, as if he were genuinely interested.

‘Of course not; I mean yes I do, I mean … oh crikey!’

‘Forget it,’ said Henry, ‘but just for the record, I’m not that kind of girl.’ Actually, you might be surprised to know that I’m not any kind of girl.

‘Of course not,’ said the young man. ‘Look, my name is Archie. Will you let me make it up to you by buying you a coffee?’

Buy me coffee? I wonder what he will expect in return. Oh hell, why not? He seems like a nice guy. A cup of coffee is just what I need right now.

‘Alright,’ said Henry, ‘but just a coffee OK?’

Henry rather liked the name Archie. It conjured up an image of a World War II Spitfire pilot with an enormous moustache crying ‘Tallyho!’ as he blasted another Hun from the sky. The guy he was with didn’t fit the mould. He had no moustache and looked more like a rugby player than a spitfire pilot. He was muscular, unshaven and had a neck as thick as a lamppost. Girls might see him as ‘hot’. Henry saw him as nothing more than a free mug of coffee.

‘What’s your name?’ asked Archie.

‘Janet,’ said Henry without thinking. Janet? That must be the girl’s name. Her body had responded to the question from reflex rather than from memory.

As they walked together to a café just across the road from the park, their hands accidentally brushed. Or was that on purpose? Next thing, Archie was holding Henry’s hand. Henry felt a pleasant thrill at Archie’s touch. Whoa, what’s happening here? Henry wasn’t even remotely gay; but Archie’s touch stimulated Janet’s body and sent panty dropping messages to his brain. It felt nice; but it was also repugnant to his male ego. Henry promptly withdrew his hand and wiped his palm down the side of his dress as if wiping away the feel of Archie’s hand.

Archie interpreted this as shyness. He wasn’t at all put out by it. On the contrary, he thought this girl could be an interesting challenge. He was the kind of guy who thought all girls were ‘that sort of girl’. Some just took a little more time and effort than others.

***

The coffee was good; but Henry began to regret that he had accepted the invitation. Archie had excited Janet’s body in a way that he found hard to control. He tried to ignore this; but his willpower seemed in danger of losing the struggle. Damn! Why couldn’t he have come through the mirror as a young man?

Through the mirror. He wasn’t sure where that thought came from; but it came to him as a revelation. The mirror that he had fallen through wasn’t just a mirror. It was a portal to another world; a world that was identical to his, but in a different dimension. He had heard of this kind of thing before but had never believed it until now. It was an inexplicable phenomenon; but one that made better sense than hallucination. Yes; that must be it! He had fallen through a portal into a world that was not his own.

Except that wasn’t quite right. He hadn’t passed through the portal. Only his soul had done that. His body must still be on the other side, no doubt occupied by Janet’s soul, whose body he had taken over. Poor kid. She must be just as confused as he; but at least she would be safe in Henry’s body from molestation by scumbags.

Henry lost interest in his coffee. If he was right, there was a possible way out of his predicament. He had to go back and find the mirror again. Hopefully, Janet’s soul will have reached the same conclusion. She would be waiting for him in his body on the other side of the portal. It was a slim hope, but it was his only hope. He had to get rid of Archie and get back to the bush track without delay.

Henry had lost his awareness of the present moment during his reverie. He came round to feel Archie pressing his leg seductively against Janet’s leg under the table and – oh my God – Janet’s leg was pressing back. It felt good, but it felt wrong – dreadfully wrong. Oh you wicked girl Janet! Henry jerked Janet’s leg away and pushed his chair back, ready to get up.

‘Look, Archie,’ he said. ‘I appreciate the coffee and it’s been nice talking to you, but I really have to go now.’

‘Why?’ asked Archie, reaching across the table and taking one of Janet’s hands in a firm grip. ‘We were just getting to know each other. I thought we might take in a movie or something.’ He had just invested the price of a cup of coffee in this girl. He wasn’t about to let her go now.

‘I – uh – I’ve got to wash my hair.’ As soon as Henry said that, he knew how pathetic it sounded; but it was all he could think of at short notice. He could hardly tell Archie that he had to go and jump through a mirror.

‘Your hair is just fine the way it is,’ said Archie. ‘Come on, let’s go’. Still holding Henry by the hand, he stood up and pulled him to his feet, and then led him out of the coffee bar. There was a movie theatre just down the street. Archie made for that, towing a reluctant Henry behind him. Henry couldn’t break free because Archie’s grip was too strong. Besides, he still naively believed that Archie was a nice guy and he didn’t want to hurt his feelings by rejecting him outright. He wanted to let Archie down gently.

‘There’s a session just about to start. Hang on while I get tickets.’ He let go of Henry’s hand and headed for the ticket box.

‘No don’t! I can’t …’ called Henry after him. Archie pretended not to hear.

Henry should have run then; but he was still reluctant to offend Archie, who had been kind enough to buy him a cup of coffee. He would wait until Archie came back and then insist that he return the tickets and get his money back. He would be nice about it, but firm. He had to be. His life and Janet’s life might depend on it. But Janet’s body was his greatest impediment. It was temporarily ‘his’ body but his ego was in constant conflict with his female body’s response to stimuli. Specifically, Janet’s body had the hots for Archie, the very thought of which disgusted Henry.

Archie returned with the tickets. He took Henry by the hand and led him toward the auditorium. Henry tried to hold back but Janet’s body wouldn’t respond. If her mind had been there, she might have been able to control the situation, but it wasn’t. Janet’s body was running on autopilot, reacting only to sensual stimulation. Henry was just a helpless passenger.

The movie must have been an unpopular one for afternoon audiences. The theatre was almost empty. Archie admitted that he had no idea what movie was showing. That didn’t surprise Henry. He knew by now that Archie wasn’t such a nice guy after all. He had brought Janet’s body to the movies for one reason only, and it wasn’t to watch a movie!

Henry’s willpower struggled to regain control of Janet’s body; but it wasn’t working. He had to wait for an opportunity to get away from Archie. Perhaps he could fake an urgent need to visit the toilet. It wasn’t much of a plan but it was the best he could do. He would concentrate on an image of running water in the hope that it would induce an urgent need for Janet to visit the little girls’ room.

Archie didn’t waste any time. Before long, his skilful caressing had the poor girl’s body in a state of ecstasy. Archie and Janet’s body were both so fired up with passion that Henry’s suggestion of a toilet break might not have gone down too well.

After a period of mutual groping, Henry felt Archie’s hand creeping up Janet’s leg under the dress. He felt Janet’s excitement at this and was at once alarmed by it. He needn’t have worried. Janet’s body had been conditioned not to go ‘all the way’. Archie had just crossed the line. Janet’s body tensed. She clamped her legs together defensively. The spell was broken. Henry’s willpower came flooding back.

‘Please, I don’t want you to … mfff!’ Henry’s plea was cut short by Archie’s lips pressing against his. Good grief, was that his tongue? This was too much. Archie had no right to behave in this way with a girl he had just met. Henry exploded from his seat, twisted round and aimed a punch at Archie’s jaw. Then he remembered that he was supposed to be a lady, so he opened his fist and gave Archie a resounding slap on the face instead.

‘How dare you,’ shouted Henry, quite unaware of how melodramatic that sounded. He ran from the theatre in tears; leaving Archie frustrated, angry and with a slowly fading outline of Janet’s hand on his face.

Henry headed straight back to the park. He resisted the urge to run. There were too many people about and he didn’t want to attract attention. He hesitated a little at the entrance to the bush walk. Was the scumbag who had accosted him before still there? He didn’t care. He was in a mood to pulverise anyone who got in his way. He kicked off his shoes and started running like the wind along the track. He startled two ladies out for an afternoon walk; but refrained from pulverising them.

He reached the place where the mirror had been. It was not there! But yes, it was there. It had been there all the time. He had just been looking for it from the wrong direction. He ran right over the indentations made by the mirror’s legs, and then stopped and looked back. There it was. Without hesitation, Henry turned and took a running leap at its glass surface.

***

Mabel and Clara loved the bush track. It was a favourite part of their regular walk in the park. They had been close friends for going on 50 years. They were inseparable. Both were spinsters. Some said that they were lesbians; but that was just an assumption. There were men in their past who would testify to the contrary.

Neither of the ladies would have ventured along the bush track alone; but as long as they were together, they felt safe from predators. Clara was rather hoping that they would meet one today. She had acquired a can of pepper spray and wanted to see how well it worked. They had passed one likely candidate. A rough looking fellow with no teeth; but he was too busy searching for something in the bush to pose any threat.

When they heard the pounding of running feet approaching them from behind, Clara reached into her voluminous bag for the can of pepper spray. She whipped around to face their attacker; but it was just a girl. She seemed to be in a terrible hurry.

‘Perhaps she is running away from a predator,’ said Clara as she fondled the can of pepper spray in anticipation. No predator came into view. ‘Drat!’ she muttered. ‘If we don’t find a predator soon, I will just have to squirt this thing at whoever comes along.’

‘You will do no such thing,’ said Mabel, horrified. ‘Now leave that nasty can alone and let’s enjoy our walk.’

They came across the girl several minutes later. She was lying on the track with an ugly bruise on her forehead.

‘Oh look,’ said Mabel. ‘Isn’t that the girl who passed us in such a hurry?’

‘Is she dead?’ asked Mabel.

‘I don’t think so,’ replied Clara, ‘but you know what this means don’t you?’

‘No, what?’

‘She’s been attacked by a predator!’ Out came the pepper spray again. Clara’s eyes darted about in search of someone to spray.

‘Oh don’t be silly Clara,’ said Mabel. ‘The poor girl just ran too close to that overhanging tree branch there. You see?’

‘Oh,’ said Clara, disappointed. ‘Well, we had better get some help for her then.’ She pulled a cell phone out of her bag. It had only one auto dial number on it – the police. She rang the number and explained what they had found.

Having done their civic duty, the ladies toddled off home to put the kettle on for a nice cup of tea. Neither of the old dears thought it necessary to stay with the girl. By the time help arrived, the girl had regained consciousness and left.

***

Meanwhile, Henry had picked himself up and brushed the debris of the track from his jacket and trousers. The dress had gone! He was back in his body. Relief washed over him. But what about Janet? Was she OK? He looked around. The mirror was still there; but now with a long crack diagonally across its surface. He could see Janet through the damaged mirror. Her forehead was bruised and bleeding a little. Oh my God! Have I killed her?

Just then, the mirror reflected two old dears tottering into view. Henry looked behind him. There were no old dears here; just their reflections in the mirror. He watched as they made Janet comfortable, and then called someone on a cell phone. She can’t be dead then. Henry saw the two old dears toddle off, leaving the unconscious girl lying beside the track. He was tempted to try and go through the mirror again to see if he could help; but common sense prevailed. He watched as Janet eventually stirred and then sat up. She gingerly felt the bruise on her forehead. Then she looked up and stared directly at Henry through the mirror. Her eyes widened in alarm. She backed away, and then turned and ran off. Henry watched her go, and then turned and walked away, satisfied that the girl whose body he had shared had come to no serious harm.

On his way back along the track, he passed two old dears who looked exactly like the ones he had seen in the mirror. One of them watched him with dark suspicion and reached into her bag. Henry greeted them politely and they passed without incident.

There was no longer any doubt that the mirror had been a portal between two worlds. Everything in each world was duplicated in the other. That would explain why he saw the same old dears on both sides of the mirror. It could also explain why his soul passed through the mirror without his body. There couldn’t be two of Henry’s bodies on the same side of the mirror.

He emerged from the bush track to find everything in the park much as it had been when he had come off the track in Janet’s body. Archie was back playing ball with the other men just as he had been when Henry first met him. This wasn’t the same Archie who had taken him to the movies, and yet in this world it was. It was Archie’s double.

Just then, a girl emerged from the bush track behind Henry. Henry recognised her immediately. It was Janet, except she had no bruise on her forehead. This girl was Janet’s double. She had come off the track barefoot. Henry watched as she slipped into the shoes that she had been carrying. A cricket ball rolled toward her. She picked it up and threw it awkwardly. Henry had a weird feeling that he was watching a scene in which he had recently played a part in another world; a feeling which was not far from the truth.

Henry sat on the park bench and watched her progress. Archie called something to Janet as she walked by. She responded. The other men in the group laughed. Henry watched as Archie then ran after the girl. She stopped. After exchanging a few words, the pair went off together, little knowing that, in another world, their doubles had been down this road already.

Henry hoped that Janet would enjoy the movie.

End


© Copyright 2018 Joe Stuart. All rights reserved.

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