The Misty Mirror, part I

Baths didn’t make sense. Not to him anyway, and certainly not in winters. He’d be standing in the freezing bathroom with his clothes off, hugging himself and swaying and jumping and shivering, trying to keep warm, and then he’d switch on the shower, which would gush icy streams of water.

He’d scream, jump back and wait for the water to turn warm, testing it every now and then, and only easing in when it felt right. Then there was the pink, girly soap that smelled of flowers and stuff – the lather found its way into his nose, tasted bitter in his mouth and almost always left patches of slippery froth behind his ears, which his mother would wash off with splashes of cold water from the sink. No sir, baths were a torture that he had to endure every single day in summers, which was somewhat alright, but even every other day in winters was much too much!

One thing about winter baths he loved, were the clouds of steam that filled the bathroom, settled over the tiles, muffled splashes and completely covered the large mirror. Pretending to be in some exotic location, he’d mouth everyone’s dialogues, including his own, as well as inserting appropriate sound effects every now and then. Of course, care had to be taken not to make too much noise or splash around too much, or his mother would come bustling in, hand out a few choice threats and go back to whatever it was she had been doing. What did she do all day anyway?

Sometimes, she’d shove him into the bathroom, telling him to bathe, brush and dress up, without keeping after him to hurry. Those were the days he’d fill the room with steam, trace patterns on the mirror, wiping away mist from the part where his mouth was reflected, watching a disembodied brush brushing equally disconnected teeth. Sometimes he’d wipe away the mist where his eyes were reflected, making brushing fun, but very slow progress indeed.

Today was such a day when he was left to his own devices and had all the time in the world to finish. True to form, he rubbed away the mist where he expected to see his brush. No toothbrush though, was visible. He rubbed away more moisture from the mirror in a circular motion; still no teeth or brush. Peering closer, he found he wasn’t being reflected at all, which was strange, ‘cos he could see his shadowy form moving in the mist covered, rest of the mirror – just not in the part he’d rubbed out! All he could see reflected in the mirror, were swirling clouds of mist in there, which was all well and good, but where on earth was he?

Rubbing another hole in the mist on the surface of the mirror, once again he looked for his reflection. While he still couldn’t see himself, he could make out the rest of the bathroom reflected in the mirror, only, it looked different. The pot was in the wrong place, the color of the tiles were different, the shower was someplace else… was this the same room as he was in? As he stared into the second patch on the mirror, a head came up from below, followed by a grinning, toothy face, to which a brush was immediately applied, vigorously. He gasped, stumbling backwards – that wasn’t him either!

The Grin in the Mirror

So, screaming and running out of the bathroom in his undies, with a mouthful of toothpaste foam wasn’t the most manly thing to do, especially since he could see the beginnings of chest hair. But still, seeing someone else staring back at him from the mirror wasn’t something that inspired peaceful contemplation! One consequence of his misty adventure was that he couldn’t wait for his next bath, a condition that would have caused his mother to experience religious raptures, had she known of his drastic change of heart.

The next time around, he could barely feel the water tumbling all over him, so rapt was he in watching the mirror mist over. On the one hand, the mirror inspired in him a wild terror of the unknown and on the other, an excitement of the sort he had never felt before in his young life. As the mirror misted over, his excitement grew until he was all but hopping under the shower, waiting to see what lay beyond that thin layer of moisture.

Gingerly reaching forward, he rubbed the surface of the mirror, wiping away the moisture to reveal the shiny surface beneath. At first he could make out nothing. Then, as the vista cleared, it looked like water, but from the inside, from underneath. He knew, because he liked diving deep down and holding his nose with his fingers (or water would get in) when in the swimming pool, turning over on to his back and looking up towards the surface of the water, which would be shimmery and reflective and so fascinating to look at. This looked just like what he knew to be the underside of water. How strange, he was about to remark to himself, when the water burst aside with force and thousands of air bubbles scattered all over, and a large head with great, yellow teeth exploded into view snapping to grab anything that came in their way.

Aquatic Monster

So, screaming and running out of the bathroom in his birthday suit might not have been the wisest thing to do, but then all of us are wise in retrospect and he was just a kid. His visiting grandparents would of course need a reason or two for scaring them half to death along with half a dozen of their friends. Those were real teeth! And sharp! How was he to know they belonged to a sweet and gentle old dog?

But this was exciting! He had to do it again, and soon!

Two baths in two days was a little too much for his mother to digest. She however chose not to question her good fortune and allowed him to have as many baths as he wanted, as long as it was once a day, during daylight and he came out fully dressed. She most certainly didn’t want a sniffling, fever-wracked kid on her hands, along with managing her demanding in-laws who came once a year, and ensured they weren’t missed before or after by offering advice by the ton, criticism by the kilo and praise in carefully measured teaspoons.

Since he’d already run through his quota of baths for the day, he would have to wait until tomorrow to try misting the mirror again… or did he? Sneaking into the bathroom, he blew hot breath through his mouth on to the surface of the mirror, then rubbed a hole into the middle of the misty portion and peered in. This time, there was a brightly lit room at the other end; a living room – a very grand one with chandeliers and brass trimmings and gleaming, polished floors and burnished wooden furniture, but no people.

What was it with this mirror?

The Way Ahead

What would you like to happen going forward? Does he keep experimenting with the mirror? Does it break? Does the family move away? Do the grandparents claim the mirror as their own and take it away? Does someone from the remote places he’s viewing, see him too? Tell me what you want to happen; leave a comment below .

Sid Khullar

Sid Khullar is the founder of Chef at Large, a blog that began in 2007. He enjoys cooking, writing, travelling and technology in addition to being a practising Freemason. Health and wellness is a particularly passionate focus. Sid prefers the company of food and animals to most humans, and can be reached at sid.khullar@chefatlarge.in.