MIRROR, MIRROR • by Jonathan Pinnock

It isn’t easy being one of the beautiful people. The schedule is punishing, the rewards are frequently intangible and if you’re an up-and-coming It-girl like Velda Montaigne, the pressure can really get to you. Especially when you’re trying to apply your lippy far too quickly and you’re making a complete pig’s ear of it.

Velda stared in disbelief at the shattered glass on the floor. She really hadn’t meant to lash out like that. It wasn’t so much the seven years’ bad luck that she was concerned about; it was more the fact that Hello magazine were coming round to do a piece on her any minute (Velda Montaigne Shows Us Around Her Bijou Hideaway Where She Is Recovering From Her Failed Relationship With That Psycho Pervert Fabio) and she suddenly didn’t have a mirror any more.

“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh!” yelled Velda, before falling back onto her bed and sobbing, her fists pummelling the pillow. This wouldn’t have happened if Fabio was still around. Bastard. Bastard. Bastard.

The doorbell rang.

“Go away!” she screamed. “Leave me alone!”

The doorbell rang again. And again. And again. Then an awful thought struck her. What if Hello had arrived early? She wouldn’t be able to hide forever, and she could do with the cash, now that bloody Fabio had pissed off. Drying her eyes as quickly as she could, and trusting that she didn’t look completely awful, she hurtled down the stairs and opened the door to a young man wearing a beanie hat. He waved a dubious-looking ID badge at her. She gave a sympathetic smile, shook her head and started to close the door.

“Don’t push me away,” he said, “I’ve got loads of stuff here, really good prices.” He gestured towards a bag on the step between them.

“Like what?” said Velda.

“Well, there’s clothes pegs, dishcloths, sponges, a strange and unnecessary thing for cleaning the inside of milk bottles…”

“Don’t suppose you’ve got a mirror, have you?” said Velda. The lad’s eyes lit up.

“Well, now that you mention it, I’ve got one left,” he said. “Bit pricey, mind.”

“Why’s that?”

“Well, it’s an internet mirror,” said the lad. “Got artificial intelligence and everything. It compares your face to every other one in the world and tells you how you match up. Only just come out of beta. Just right for a beautiful lady like you, if you don’t mind me saying so.”

“Cool,” said Velda, “I’ll take it.” Fabio could pay for it. It was all his fault, anyway.

Velda told the lad to bill Fabio and carried the mirror up to her bedroom. It was an excellent mirror, and it gave a really good, clear image for her to do her make-up. She looked absolutely stunning by the time Hello arrived, and it was a very successful shoot. That’ll show Fabio what he’s missing, she thought.

She was so pleased with the mirror that she completely forgot what the door-to-door salesman had told her about internet access, until one day she was adjusting it and she knocked a switch at the back.

“Rebooting,” said the mirror.

“Sorry?” said Velda.

“Connection status online,” said the mirror. “Downloading …”

“Wha …?”

“Download complete. Well, hello,” said the mirror. “What have we here?”

“Er… I’m Velda,” said Velda. “Velda Montaigne.” Then she suddenly had an idea. “Mirror, mirror on the wall,” she said, “Who is the fairest of them all?”

“Uploading,” said the mirror. Then there was a slight pause, following which it announced, “Why, you are, Velda Montaigne, you are.”

“Really?” said Velda, giggling, “Oh, you’re so cute.”

“Indeed I am,” said the mirror.

From then on, every day Velda would say to the mirror: “Mirror, mirror on the wall, Who is the fairest of them all?” and the mirror would upload her image, run its check and then report back: “Why, you are, Velda Montaigne.” The effect on her self-confidence was phenomenal, and it wasn’t long before she had put Fabio well and truly behind her. And soon her picture was everywhere, too. You couldn’t open a single celebrity magazine without her face beaming out at you. Velda Montaigne had finally arrived. She had reached the point where no-one bothered to ask what she did for a living. She was just Velda.

But one day she thought she detected a slight change of tone in the mirror’s voice. When she asked the usual question, the reply was more along the lines of “Yeah, whatever, you’re still the fairest, I s’pose”.

“Oi, cheeky,” said Velda, “Less of that.”

The mirror didn’t say anything, but she was convinced that it bulged slightly. At least, she thought her reflection became slightly distorted for an instant. But that was absurd.

The mirror’s surly attitude persisted for a whole week, until on the Friday morning, Velda went to comb her hair.

“Mirror, mirror, on the w– ” she began, but the mirror interrupted her.

“It’s all about you, isn’t it?” said the mirror.

“Sorry?” said Velda, thoroughly confused.

“You couldn’t give a damn about my feelings, could you? I’ve never heard you say anything about me. You take me for granted.”

“Well…” began Velda, “I… think… I think you’re a very nice mirror.”

“That it?” said the mirror.

“I mean…”

“Velda, Velda, fair and tall,” said the mirror, mimicking her voice, “Who’s the most beautiful mirror of them all?”

“That’s rubbish,” said Velda. “Doesn’t even scan.”

The mirror bulged alarmingly. This time, there was no way that she could deny what was happening, as her image was now distorted to twice its usual girth.

“Velda, Velda, fair and tall,” said the mirror again, “Who’s the — ”

“This is silly,” said Velda, “I’m going to get a proper one from Ikea.”

The mirror expanded again and then, before Velda could get out of the way, it exploded into a thousand pieces, most of which embedded themselves in the once-fairest It-girl’s face.

“Uploading,” said the mirror.


Jonathan Pinnock was born in Bedfordshire, England, and — despite having so far visited over forty other countries — has failed to relocate any further away than the next-door county of Hertfordshire. He is married with two children, several cats and a 1961 Ami Continental jukebox. His writing has won a number of prizes, short-listings and long-listings, and and he has been published in such diverse publications as Smokebox, Every Day Fiction and Necrotic Tissue. His unimaginatively-titled, but moderately interesting website may be found at www.jonathanpinnock.com.


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Every Day Fiction

  • So, Jon, would you call this a vanity mirror? 😉

    Good story; gave it a five.

  • Gerard Demayne

    Don’t get me wrong, I liked it, but it’s the second story in a while that has a pretty girl get disfigured when something explodes in her face. Which is probably two stories too many but I’m squeamish like that.

    Velda’s vain but she’s not exactly evil so does it warrant that kind of ending? Should have either had her foil the mirror and learn her lesson or painted her as more evil. Eviler. Whichever.

    It should be noted that I am a big fan of fairy tales.

  • Ha!
    Loved the ‘I’ll get a proper one from Ikea’

  • Pingback: Mirror, Mirror : Jonathan Pinnock’s Write Stuff()

  • Oscar Windsor-Smith

    Lighter and fluffier? On reflection, I suppose you’re right. (On, reflection… Reflection… Geddit? Okay, no need to push, I was just leaving.)

    Another good one, Jon. A five from me.

    😉 scar

  • Kirstylee Davies

    Really enjoyed this although I thought the mirror was going to ‘upload her’ rather than explode.

    i give it a 5 .

    kld

  • Connal

    Great story Jon – brightened my morning. Five from me as wells

  • 🙂 Oonah

  • 5 from me. I love twisted morals.

  • Roberta SchulbergGoro

    A story of the terrible tension caused by bringing in the minor trinkets of a traveling salesman, an event which stands in the readers’ way of the major “lit” development about “Hello” Magazine. Being British and not so journalistic as America, the writer is making fun of American enthusiasms for publications, causing readers’ anxiousness for the more interesting plot development to begin, bores them with cosmetics, then disappoints with a cutoff. Very original, effective control of readers’ reaction by a writer somewhat scornful of American publications and intentionally emotionally frustrating to readers who are waiting for the major involvement.

  • Huh?

  • Cheryl

    I’ll give it 5 too – I just loved the story!!

  • Oscar Windsor-Smith

    Now you know you’ve really made it, Jon. You’re on the RSG show.

    Tarahhhhh!

    🙂 scar

  • A very fresh story idea from a very old theme. I enjoyed it and gave it a four.

  • Robin

    I enjoyed it.

  • I loved it, Jon. A definite five stars from me.

  • Roberta SchulbergGoro

    Oh Oscar, Oscar,
    I’m so glad you didn’t leave.

  • Great voice and flow–I see why Fabio split-and why the mirror crack’d from side to side…

    –dj

  • Mark Tomlinson

    Another cracker Jon! I love updated fairy tales, it’s a very rich seam and I dig it! (oh did I say that out loud?) Five stars.

  • Wow… poor Velda! I didn’t see that coming.

  • Jen

    This was great, I wasn’t expecting the mirror to explode into her, I thought maybe she migt take pity on the mirro and tell it was the fairiest of all, but I loved the stor nonetheless and gave it a five!

  • Many thanks everyone for the kind ratings and comments, even RSG’s, although I don’t profess to understand a word of it.

  • shani anona

    I’ve heard that beauty can be painful and this story definitely illustrates that. It was very entertaining!

  • Roberta SchulbergGoro

    I think I overrated it. To tell the truth, I wasn’t so tense to hear about magazines from the author because I had no concern about the protaganist. I just rushed through the story, so to be fair to my own reading, I read it again. It wasn’t worth the time.

  • Mark Tomlinson

    Oh, so RSG’s first post was a positive one then? And now she’s retracted it? Someone tell me I’ve got that right.

  • Bob

    Mark, RSG’s reviews exist in a universe all their own. Any contact with our reality is strictly tangential.

  • Maureen

    This is my first time to read the comments on the postings. As much as I liked this story, I found the stream of responses equally entertaining. I’ll be sure to find time to read them as well as the daily stories from now on!!

  • Well done! Poor Fabio. He would have LOVED that mirror!

  • Roberta SchulbergGoro

    Mark:
    Positive Comment 1: “Very original, effective control of readers’ reaction” meaning his control of readers’ tensions in waiting for the main interest of the story to begin (which never occurs,) instead of the usual tensions deriving from developments in the action, which in this case, the reader doesn’t care about. It’s sort of a hyper tension.

  • Roberta SchulbergGoro

    I hope Bob is able to understand it now too.

  • Roberta SchulbergGoro

    Mark Tomlinson –
    I retract nothing I said. Although this original hyper-control of the reader interested me very much, I found the story generally very dull.

  • TW

    Well-crafted, but a question: If the mirror explodes into a thousand pieces, how is it “uploading” at the end? What’s left?

  • Bob

    Sorry Roberta, your critique, and your exegesis of it, are still just strings of words slammed together at random . . . but you do seem to be enjoying yourself, so carry on!

  • Many thanks for the comments that have arrived since I last thanked you. And RSG, I would seriously love to see some examples of your own writing. Or is your critique your art? TW, you are possibly technically correct, although the uploading mechanism is not explicitly linked to the mirror’s glass in the story (it could, I suppose be part of the frame). Either way, it just felt right that Velda’s ravaged face should be uploaded at the end. Maybe that makes me a bad person. Yep. Probably does.

  • Roberta SchulbergGoro

    Jonathan Pinnock:
    This is not the place for personal bio, but since you asked:
    I started writing seriously only about two years ago, both poems and stories. I spent most of my life in illustration and painting. At the moment I am working on a long story (but shorter than a novel) which I started on two years ago. I have written for myself several precis for short stories which I will work on when the longer one is done (soon.) I am also working on several computer illustrations (elumiges.) Several poems are completed but I will not seek acceptance at “Every Day” with them since I have already passed them around. I have only moments during the day in which to work, and I know that’s true of others also. I realize it’s easier to comment than to construct. I expect any work of mine that’s accepted to be slam-banged by critic commentors, but I am already grateful to this forum and have learned from it and I hope the commentors on any work I submit, if there are any, will be honest, pro or con.
    No, my critique isn’t my art, my philosphy on speaking is “if you have nothing to say don’t speak, If you have something to say, don’t be afraid to say it.)

  • Hope

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