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  • Victoria Gadson Wenninger

Mirror Image

Updated: Oct 29, 2023

How far would you go to avenge your sister?
Do you know any identical twins? Can you tell them apart?
Have you ever had a nightmare and been unable to wake up?

 

  Shay stared into the eyes of her twin sister. They were identical and nearly impossible to tell apart, but for the fact that their eyes were two different colors. Sarah had soft, chestnut brown eyes while Shay’s eyes were an unusual forest green color.


          “Don’t worry, I’ll be back soon. I promise I won’t take too long,” Shay whispered as she turned away from the mirror. She exited the room, flicking off the light as she went, and gingerly closed the door behind her. Quietly, she moved to the top of the stairs and paused briefly, listening for any sign of movement from downstairs.


          “Looks like everyone’s asleep,” Shay muttered to herself as she started down the stairs. She reached the bottom and made her way to the front door. After disarming the alarm system, she slipped out into the night and quickly made her way down the street. A few blocks down she spotted a familiar car, opened the door, and slid into the passenger seat.


          “Brian’s house?” the young man in the driver’s seat questioned.


          “We’ll stop there first, then head over to the usual spot.”


          “You sure about this?” he asked, one eyebrow raised slightly.


          “Jamie, don’t ask stupid questions!” Shay snapped. She turned away and stared out the window, trying to fight back a fresh wave of anxiety as the car pulled away from the curb. Fifteen minutes later, they pulled up to a house located in a modest neighborhood filled with cookie cutter homes and moderately manicured lawns. The car came to a stop beside one of the houses and Jamie turned the car off.


          “I’ll be back.” Shay’s voice shakily broke through the silence as she exited the vehicle without saying another word.


          “Shay, wait!” Jamie’s voice trailed after her as he called for her to stop, but she ignored him and proceeded up the gravel walkway that led to the front door. Before ringing the doorbell, she softened her expression and her eyes shifted from green to brown. A few minutes later, the door opened to reveal a college-aged guy with scruffy brown hair and glasses.


          “Hi Jake, sorry to wake you. Is Brian here?” Shay asked softly.


          “Yeah, but what are you doing here? I know your parents didn’t let you go out this late. Especially after what happened to Shay. Why are you and Jamie driving around at this time of night anyway?” He gestured to Jamie’s car as Shay tensed slightly at the sound of her own name.


          “I know, I know, but I really need to see Brian. I miss him, and he’s one of the only people who understands what I’m going through right now.


          “Ok, ok. Come on in Sarah. Our parents are out of town on business for a few days. I’m just here to watch Brian for them.” Jake shrugged and moved aside. Shay stepped inside cautiously. She’d never been in Brian’s house before, but her sister had spent a lot of time here. Before she could think of something to say, Jake continued speaking. “I’m going back to sleep.” He yawned and rubbed his eyes. “I’ve got exams to study for. You know where Brian’s room is.”


          Without another word, he headed up the stairs and Shay followed. She waited until his door closed and the light turned off before making her way down the hall to Brian’s room. The door was slightly ajar, allowing her to slip inside. She approached the bed where Brian lay sleeping and sat down beside him. He had a frown on his face and groaned as his body adjusted itself into a more comfortable position.


          “I don’t know what Sarah ever saw in you.” A look of disgust crossed Shay’s face as she leaned close to him and whispered in his ear, “You deserve to suffer.” Knowing there was no turning back now, she grabbed his hand, interlaced their fingers, and closed her eyes.

 

 

    Brian opened his eyes and sat up. A young woman stood at the foot of his bed, her back facing him. Slowly, she turned and looked at him. Her brown eyes glistened in the moonlight.


          “Sarah? What are you doing here?” He threw back the covers and moved to get out of bed. He took a step towards her expecting her to meet him halfway, but she turned and slowly walked out of his bedroom through the open door instead. Confused, he followed her through the dark hallway and down the stairs. She stopped at the front door and turned to face him.


          “Let’s go to the cliffs Brian.” Sarah flashed a playful smile at him. “You remember all the good times we had there, right?” Before he could say anything, she turned back around and walked straight through the closed door.


          Brian shook his head in confusion, sure that he must be dreaming. He walked over to the door and grabbed the handle but didn’t open it. He couldn’t shake the feeling that something was off, but if this was just a dream, it didn’t matter anyway what happened. Brian opened the door and stepped outside. He was greeted with a large clearing surrounded by woods. In the center stood Sarah, next to a raging bonfire.

 

          During the summer, this was where the local teens came to hang out late at night every weekend, away from the prying eyes of the town’s adults. Off to the side, was a partially hidden trail that led down to some cliffs that overlooked the ocean. During the day, Brian and the other teens would spend their time at the beach, but at night they’d gather in the clearing around the bonfire, drinking, laughing, dancing, and telling stories.

 

          A select few would sometimes break off from the larger group and head to the cliffs. This close-knit group included Brian, Sarah, Shay, and Shay’s boyfriend Jamie, along with a few others. They’d sit and talk about life and their dreams for the future. When they got tired of that, they’d playfully dare each other to stand as close to the cliff edge as possible. They’d never jump though. Everyone knew that jagged rocks lurked beneath the surface of the waves below the cliff. Eventually, they’d all wander back to the bonfire.


          Brian shook off the memories and looked at Sarah. She was staring at him intently with those large, beautiful brown eyes that he knew so well. He started towards her, and she reached out her hand to him. Without hesitation, he took it. As soon as he did, an icy chill ran down his body and he froze, looking at Sarah in horror as her eyes shifted from brown to green.


          “You didn’t think I’d let you get away with it did you Brian?” Shay laughed without humor. He tried to pull his hand away, but her grip only tightened. She studied him closely, searching his face with a shrewd, nonchalant stare.

 

          “You have no words? Well, it doesn’t matter anyway. This is only a dream after all.” She shrugged, her words echoing his earlier thoughts. “Let’s go back to night you killed me.”


          The blood drained from Brian’s face. Shay started walking, heading down the trail. He had no choice but to follow. Though his mind wanted him to flee, his legs carried him forward. When they reached the end of the trail and emerged from the trees, Shay stopped and so did he. They stood side by side, both staring at the two figures that stood before them. They were arguing about something. Brian couldn’t hear them, but he didn’t need to. He already knew what they were saying.

 

          He watched his past self as he lunged towards the young woman and shoved her. She stumbled backwards towards the edge of the cliff but managed to tip her weight forward as she started to fall. She grabbed onto a sturdy rock embedded in the ground with one hand and fought to pull herself up with the other. Brian stood above her, looking down with hatred in his eyes. Shay glared back at him and started shouting, screaming as loud as she could. He looked over his shoulder once. Satisfied they were alone, he lifted one foot and savagely kicked her in the face. She lost her grip on the rock and fell.

 

          Brian stood there for a moment longer, looking down into the waters below. His eyes were dark as he turned and strode past where Shay and Brian still stood. They silently watched as he detoured away from the trail leading back to the clearing, and in that moment, Brian came back to himself. He ripped his hand away from Shay’s and turned on her.

 

          “You deserved to die you bitch!” he screamed in her face.


          “No, it should have been you who died that night” Shay snarled. “Death is too good for you anyway. I have something else in mind. But first, let’s refresh your memory. After I died…I mean, after you killed me, my sister never got the chance to tell anyone what you did to her. She was afraid of you and grieving, and I wasn’t there to protect her anymore. You, Sarah, Jamie, and everyone else at the bonfire that night were all grounded while the police investigated.” Shay’s voice was icy as she stared into Brian’s hateful eyes. Clenching her fists, she continued.


          “Sarah told you what you did to her. What you had been doing to her for months, so I decided to confront you. Jamie took Sarah back to the bonfire while I stayed behind. It was just the four of us at the cliffs that night, and I guess you figured everyone was so drunk that no one would notice you never came back to the clearing. Jamie knew. Sarah did too. Once my body was found, you were afraid they’d tell, because the bruising on my face indicated murder, so you told Jamie you’d kill her. That you’d kill Sarah if they ever told anyone that you were the last person to see me that night.”


          “It doesn’t matter Shay. Sarah loves me. She’ll never leave. She knows she can’t.” Brian smirked savagely, his voice cold and devoid of empathy.


          Shay threw her head back and laughed. “Oh, but it does matter Brian, because today is your lucky day. You don’t have to worry anymore about the truth coming out, because tonight the truth will set you free.” Brian watched as Shay walked backwards towards the cliff, her green eyes never leaving his.

 

          “Welcome to the beginning of your end Brian.” She turned and jumped, but when he finally gathered the nerve to approach the cliff edge, there was no sign of her in the water below. He started to back away slowly.


          “What the fuck is going on!” Brian shouted. “This can’t be happening. She’s dead. Shay is dead. Rage and fear simmered within him, threatening to burst forth as he turned and slowly walked back towards the clearing, his fists clenched tightly at his sides. Instead of the clearing, he found himself back outside his house. Too on edge to question the insanity of it all, he silently entered, climbed the stairs, returned to his room, and laid down. He closed he eyes, knowing that when he opened them again, the nightmare would be over.

 

 

          Shay stared into the flickering flames of the bonfire. They were the only ones in the clearing tonight. No one hung out here anymore.


          “I guess this goodbye then,” Jamie said, his voice heavy with unspoken grief.


          “I’m scared,” Shay said softly. Jamie turned to look at her, his stoic face softening slightly.


          “Why?” Shay let out a soft laugh in response to his question.


          “Because. I’ve been in this kind of limbo ever since I died. I had unfinished business I guess you could say. Now that I have to leave for good this time, I’m scared, because I don’t know if I’m going to heaven or hell.”


          “You’re not a bad person Shay.” Jamie reached out and brushed her face softly.


          “I know. I’m not exactly good either. I just…I just wanted to protect her…” Shay’s voice trailed off as silent tears began to fall. “Jamie?”


          “Yes?”


          “Can God forgive you, even if you’re already dead?”


          Jamie let out a deep sigh. “All I can say is that he loves us.”


          “You know that doesn’t really help right?” Shay laughed as she wiped away her tears. “I should probably get back now. Sarah’s probably worried.” The fire had died down by now. The lingering embers would burn themselves out soon enough. Jamie stood up and grabbed her hand, pulling her into a tight embrace.

 

 

          When Shay opened the front door, a familiar voice greeted her.


          “How’d that master code for the alarm work out for ya?” She glanced over to living room couch to find her mischievous seven-year old brother sitting there in his pajamas. The tv was on, but the sound was muted.


          “Shut up, before someone hears you,” Shay whispered in hushed tones. “Why are you up anyway Ryan? It’s late and way past your bedtime.”


          “I couldn’t sleep.” Ryan turned to look at his sister and their green eyes met as a silent look of understanding passed between them.


          “Be back in bed before our parents are up ok?” Ryan nodded and turned back to the tv. “Oh, and Ryan, can you do something for me?”


          “Yeah, sure. What?” Ryan said as he popped some more gummy bears into his mouth.


          “Take care of Sarah for me.” Shay fought back tears, knowing this would be the last time she’d ever see her little brother.


          “I will. I love you Shay, we all do.” Ryan hopped off the couch and ran around it to give her a quick hug before returning to his cartoons.


          “I love you too,” Shay whispered as she ascended the stairs. When she reached Sarah’s room, she quietly entered and closed the door behind her. Slowly, she walked to the mirror beside the window, gently touched its surface with one hand and stared at herself. She looked miserable but didn’t have time to reflect on her fate as the reflection’s eyes shifted and turned brown. Shay smiled, both happy and sad to see her sister again, and Sarah smiled back.


          “You don’t have to be afraid anymore,” Shay said. Sarah nodded in response, unable to find the words as she choked back tears. Both girls closed their eyes, and when Sarah opened hers again, she saw only her own reflection in the mirror. Shay was gone. Tears she had been holding in started to fall. Knowing she’d have to face tomorrow alone, she crawled into bed, closed her eyes, and cried herself to sleep.

 

 

          Sarah sat quietly in the chair next to Brian’s hospital bed. He’d been in a coma for the last five weeks. The doctors didn’t know what was wrong with him. He was healthy, and his brain was showing a significant amount of activity. Everyone expected him to wake up eventually, but Sarah knew he never would. She’d played the grieving girlfriend for long enough. She had loved him once, but now she felt nothing. She was free now. Free from Brian and the abuse that she’d suffered through, but she’d lost her sister, and nothing would ever bring her back A nurse came in and smiled at her, bringing her back to the present.


          “I was just leaving,” Sarah said as she stood up quickly. The nurse nodded and began adjusting the bed sheets.


          “Goodbye Brian.” Sarah touched his hand with hers softly, then turned and walked out of the room. Brian’s body lay still, but his mind was awake. He had heard Sarah speaking to him over the last several weeks whenever she visited him. He heard everything that went on around him. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t respond or get himself to wake up. To the doctors he was something of a medical mystery, but he knew what was actually wrong with him. He was trapped in a dream of his own making.

 

          Shay hadn’t done anything to harm him. Not physically. He wasn’t even on life support and would live a long life. The only thing Shay had done was confront him with the truth of what he had done to her and Sarah. During the day, he was aware of his surroundings. Aware of the life he was missing out on. But when night fell, he relived the moment he killed Shay. The moment that sealed his fate, and he was forced to watch himself as he pushed her over the cliff, over and over again.

© 2022 VICTORIA GADSON WENNINGER. All Rights Reserved.


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*This post has been reposted due to moving website hosts

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