Conversing With My Reflection

📅 Published on January 31, 2022

“Conversing With My Reflection”

Written by Eli Pope
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 7.33/10. From 3 votes.
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Chapter 1

I pulled the door open and stepped inside Dutch’s Tavern, it seemed familiar, but I paused at the entry until carefully glancing over the bar’s interior. My eyes scoured the inside from the left side of the door completely around to the right of the entrance I’d just entered. I quickly noticed the usuals, of which I myself had become since moving into the neighborhood three months earlier. At first glance, I thought the place was a seedy dive filled with middle-aged alcoholic men who more than likely hated their lives, their old ladies, and rugrats. There were always likely widowed wives who’d possibly killed their loser husbands and were now frequenting this joint to pick up men who would tickle their sexual desires. Well, and of course work on drinking the insurance money dry. Don’t get me wrong, the real estate in the area appeared to be well kept, but the actual people’s appearances and attire who sat in here didn’t seem to fit the neighborhood. But who was I to judge? I’m just the new move-in to the community, trying to stay back in the shadows and blend. Yeah, blend, a quick guffaw escaped from under my breath. I smiled as I then laughed out loud as if I was with somebody. That seems to be my life story. Don’t ever stick out too much and live life! Just be happy settling back and fading into the scenery, or at least that’s what I had convinced myself. I wasn’t totally certain of just what my reality was nowadays. Life was a bit of a blur since…never mind, I wasn’t going down that lane tonight. Not until the call for bourbon was answered.

The large mirror behind the bar was lined up with the establishment’s different flavors and varieties of whiskeys, gins, vodkas—you know—if you’ve ever stepped foot into any small local bar, they always have their libations lined up in front of a mirror, lights always shining brightest on the labels they’re trying to push. The ones with the best profit margins. I held no favorite. Just give me the house version and keep pouring.

I supposed I fit into that grouping that laughed at marketing and cheap whiskey was what usually called out my name. Branding didn’t matter; I’d been introduced to Jack Daniels like most any other high school kid back in the day. I never understood the drawl to old Jack though. It had a bite, only enjoyable as an additive to a coke or 7-Up, not smooth enough to enjoy straight up, but I’d drink it if they were pushing, and the price was affordable. I favored a Wellers or a Dickel, but in this town, I reckon they must be considered a special import. Hell, my wallet was too thin for either of those tonight anyway. I chuckled aloud to myself again at my wit. I hadn’t found a bar that carried either anyway, so house brand it was. Most the time it was a good smooth bourbon for the price. At least after the third round.

The large mirror called my name for other reasons than just the fact it made their collection of bottled booze appear twice the quantity that was truly there. Reflections. They don’t always tell the truth, do they? At least that’s what I’ve determined through the years. There were many times throughout my life when I’d walk by a mirror and say to myself, “you’re a Goddamned good-looking man” when deep down I knew the reflection was certainly making me appear twice as handsome as I truly was.

Reflections tell little white lies that we take in and soon start believing. That’s what I’ve come to realize anyway. It has its exceptions to the rule, of course, like about every other observation does. For instance, tonight when I investigate the mirror’s reflection of myself, as I sit here waiting for my usual double bourbon on the rocks. Nary a word from the bartender, I can just nod as a regular now, my momma would be proud, I snickered. Anyway, that mirror reflects that I appear twice as lonely as I think I look. Only thing is, that’s only half of how lonely I truly feel tonight. Crazy thought, huh? Well shit. Here I go carrying on another internal conversation with myself as if I were just two regulars sitting at a bar enjoying each other’s company. By the time I get a double or two down, I’ll be internally slurring my conversation—both sides. I chuckle to myself again at my comedic attempt. I laughed another short guffaw after realizing if I’d had my drink in hand, I’d be wearing part of it on my lap appearing like I’d peed myself.

The bartender just poured the second jigger of tan liquid friendship into the glass of ice. My heartbeat tempo sped up just a beat. Does this make me a guy with a drinking problem?

“Here ya go, buddy. Double bourbon on the rocks.” He set the glass down on top of a napkin as if this were more than just a small neighborhood watering hole. “I know you’ve been here several times, I’m not that great with names yet, but I think I remember yours is Dwayne. Is that right?”

“That would be correct, Paul,” I retorted as I lifted the glass and held it up, slightly tipping it to acknowledge a thank you.

“Well, enjoy this one on the house, Dwayne! Good to see you here again,” he smiled.

I nodded and took a sip. Paul turned and began mixing drinks for other patrons, leaving me here to my current conversation with myself—and staring at that damned good-looking, lonely guy across me tipping his glass to his lips in unison with myself. I grin, the other man is of course—me, and he’s just average in the looks department. If I were a woman, I guess I’d do him. Another chuckle gurbled up from the diaphragm.

I gazed at my reflection but attempted to picture myself at a much younger age, back when I used to sit beside my dad at the local bar. Back when nobody said that couldn’t be done. Back before we fucked this world up for our kids, or at least finally realized it. Everything now so damn politically correct and non-offending. Anyway, I remember he’d let me drink the foamy suds from the top of his beer. We’d sit together while he talked to his navy buddies when they were back from sea duty. It made me feel special and older than the nine or ten years I probably was. I heard more cuss words and stories involving naked women and gettin’ the hell out before her old man came back home, than I can remember now.

Funny how you want to be grown up and older when you’re young. Hell, now that I’ve passed sixty and sitting here noticing the grey creeping into my now thinning hair—I’d probably give a year’s pay to go back twenty years for a do-over. Guess that’s certainly proof that God has a sense of humor, or at the least a small bit of evil inside.

I tipped the glass back to my lips and drew a deep sip, letting the flavor of the whiskey pool on my tongue for a second or two before swallowing it down. I could feel my ghosts begin to stir inside as they more than likely began to commingle with the alcohol. They were most always friendly ghosts, but they were still ghosts. I’m not crazy. At one time I’d sworn they were just my imagination, but I knew better now. I knew just when my brain let them enter inside too. I was nineteen, vulnerable, and high as a fucking kite.

Chapter 2

Lysergic acid diethylamide. LSD. My mood had been altered even before the substance was induced. It was a Friday, work had sucked. My boss was an asshole trying to sell me down the river while he hurriedly paddled upstream—right up his boss’ ass. I was ready to walk. But I had rent and food…and beer obligations to buy. I’d stick it out one more week. Therefore the evening became a quagmire not too far from the start.

I looked back into the mirror. It seemed to be challenging me. I realize it’s inanimate and in a normal world it wouldn’t be possible for such a thing to happen. Two things. I accept its challenge to a staring contest because it has no idea how many hours of my life have been spent exploring every aspect of my face; right down to the nose hairs I swear I saw grow once. So many hours staring and conversing with myself, through my reflection that I’ve realized a mirror is my best friend. And the other thing, this world I live in, runs parallel to the normal world you and the others exist in. I know at least at times I can be seen, but most times people look right through me as if I don’t exist. As if I’m just a glitch or flaw in the corner of the reflection. This brings me to the conclusion I must bounce in and out between these two worlds with absolutely no control over it. I get fooled into thinking I’m in your “Real World” when I’m actually in “Mirror World” and vice versa.

The LSD a “friend” gave me when I was nineteen was the vehicle that flipped my existence to where I’m now trapped and live. The hallucinations left, but the world it transported me to, refused to relinquish my soul back in its entirety, but instead, toys with my existence.

Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? I laugh out loud as I realize I’m again carrying on a silent conversation—as if you are sitting next to me sharing a drink like real friends do at a bar. Only my friend—happens to be me. It’s pathetic the way that sounded. It makes me want to walk away and rethink my choice of friends I keep company with. I laugh again and the bartender glances over my way. He probably assumed he missed another customer walking up that might need a drink or a refresher—until he noticed again, it was only me. I’m about to need another drink though, so I hope he sees me and I’m not invisible.

So—back to the quagmire-filled evening, some thirty years back. That’s why you’re sitting here with your attention on pins and needles in expectations of my story­—right? I’d been going out with this new girl, well, like two times—we really weren’t an item yet. Of course, we did sleep together, so there’s that. But I kinda told her I had plans. Hell, I thought I did. It wasn’t an everyday occurrence that I ingest LSD. A guy I worked with “turned me on to it.” I laugh again reminiscing about the hippy language way back then and the fact I still use it. Occasionally.

We were supposed to go out bar tripping. His words, I later understood just what he meant. Anyway, I’m just starting to hum along, seeing some trails from any movements I noticed. My dog walked by, and he looked like he was doing eighty! I chuckle as I see my face in the mirror again and catch myself talking with my hands—but I know the dialogue is silent, just inside my head. I bet Paul by now is keeping a keen eye my way, probably thinks I’m tripping now. I smile at the thought. If one could bypass all the crazy drama that came with my first and only trip, I think I’d enjoy doing it again. But I’m too old and mature now. The grey hair around my temples screams volumes that LSD would not be a good idea at this point in my life. I’m probably in the stroke or heart attack age now.

Anyway, I’m buzzing along waiting for my friend to show and all the sudden as if I forced it with my mind, there was a knock at my apartment door. I bet it took me ten minutes to find my way to it. My apartment was very small, but when you’re “tripping” apparently the new world you’re visiting makes everything that was once mundane or banal become something brand new and deeply intoxicating to stare at in-depth. I stopped and studied every picture on my wall and every knick-knack paddy-whack piece of crap on the tables, couch and breakfast bar. Old empty beer cans were now works of art, masterpieces to appreciate. If one was dented in the slightest, it became the Picasso. If there was a piece of drooping pizza beside it, it became a Salvador Dali. I suddenly realized my messy apartment wasn’t messy, it was a fuckin’ art museum! I finally made it to the door and opened it and I was trying to decide how much I should charge for tickets to enter and admire my collections.

My guests weren’t the friend I was expecting. In fact, it was the girl I’d “gone out” with and she seemed very unhappy to see me. She’s running around with my friend Dave, whom I didn’t even know they knew each other, and I’m the bad guy sitting at home alone. She started calling me every name in the book and as she and Dave moved around my living room, the trails began mixing and their faces mutated into cackling clown monsters. I wasn’t sure if I should run and hide, sit and laugh profusely or search for a weapon to defend myself.

I lifted my drink and tipped it so far back to finish the last drops, that the ice cubes rolled down and smacked me in the upper lip and tooth. It kind of hurt and brought me back to “Current World.” At least, I think. Paul was right there to ask if I needed another to which I raised my eyebrows and followed with, “Does a shark shit in the ocean?” He snickered and grabbed the half-empty bottle.

The evening was still young. Here in this little neighborhood bar in nowhere-ville. I started to continue my story—to myself but grew tired. Besides, I spied an older woman coming in and she wasn’t half bad to look at. I could use some real company. I think my body could even hold up to some actual physical activity, if you know what I mean. I winked into the mirror. I watched and I couldn’t believe she came and sat at the bar—only one seat between us. I thought, what the hell? “Could I buy your first round, miss? I’m harmless, I promise.” I grinned what I felt was a cute but non-threatening smile. I nodded as I saw she already had a drink, “whatcha enjoying tonight?”

“Dewars White label,” she replied.

“Not too bad, if you like honey and fudge, with a grapefruit finish…Hey Paul! Pour the lady another Dewars White—double over the rocks, thanks brother.” He nodded and I turned back to the lady. “Dwayne, Dwayne Killigan. I’m new to the area.

“Kill again? I’m not certain I should tell you my name,” she tried to grin but now seemed taken back.

“No ma’am, it’s pronounced like Gilligan, you know, Gilligan’s Island from…well, I won’t presume you’d be old enough to remember that sitcom.” I tried to recover.

“I’m just teasing you—Dwayne. My name is Shannon. For now, let’s just stick with my first name, just in case…,” she smiled slyly again and licked her lips after taking a sip.

She was correct. I’d kill again to have company like her tonight. It’s been a long while. I turned to the mirror and saw my twin nod in agreement. I glanced away from my reflection to Shannon’s and was surprised to see her moving to the chair that was once separating us. I blushed for a minute as my heart raced. My conversations are usually rather one-sided and rarely with the opposite sex. Awe, sex. I think I’d still enjoy some of that. I wasn’t used to picking women up though. I brazened up and moved my gaze from her reflection in “Mirror World” to “Real World” in the flesh. I could see a familiarity in her face. I couldn’t put my finger on it though. “You look like somebody…” I blurted out. This time I think I said it out loud. My throat tickled for a minute and would not let another word follow.

She gave me an awkward chortle, “Well, you look like someone too! I guess we both have that. Must make us special.”

It came to me all of a sudden. I knew who she reminded me of. “I meant someone public, but I got it now. You look like Joanne Woodward! I’m sure you’ve heard that before haven’t you?”

She smiled as if she was caught off guard and her smirk reminded me even more. “I’ve heard it before,” she said, holding her Dewar’s to her lips.

“Yeah, Joanne Woodward, I always wished I could fuck her.” Dead silence filled the space between us. Had I actually said that out loud? I looked back to the mirror for an answer without having to look her square in the eye.

“Hmm,” her eyes batted a few times, “…so, you wanna,” she asked? “I mean—I’m not really Joanne, but…”

“Are you serious?”

“Well, you suggested it and I’m just saying, I can be Joanne for you. I can be any lady you want me to be.”

“Hell yes! I hate to say something so overused and script like but—your place or mine?”

Chapter 3

“Mr. Killigin…” The orderly leaned over and spoke again, “Hey Dwayne, it’s time for treatment, buddy.” The orderly rolled his eyes, “Not again, with the self-gratification, Mr. Killigin….”

“But I’m with a lady, look at her! I think she’s really Joanne Woodward! She wants to have sex with me! Ask her.”

“Dwayne, buddy…” Mike nodded to his helper. It was a silent signal that there may be some agitation. “…Dwayne, it’s time for your treatment again, it’s your final one. I don’t know how to tell you this, but there’s no woman here. It’s just you and the mirror out here in the commons, again. It’s okay. Charlie and I are gonna help you up, okay? No troubles, just gonna take you for your last treatment.”

“But…but…Joanne…she’s…” I looked up at the mirror to see Mike, the Mike in “Mirror World.” “…she was there, you’ve run her off, dammit, I haven’t been laid in….”

Mike reached over and tapped my arm. He didn’t think I’d see it coming but I did, in the mirror. “Don’t touch me, I’m going with Joanne…Joanne Woodward…” I grinned because I knew she was here, probably in the powder room freshening herself up.

Charlie came over quickly and got on one side of me while Mike tightened in on the other. I fought them though. They weren’t gonna stop me from getting laid by a movie star. “Argh…stop…I’ll kill you sons-of…okay, okay. That hurts, just let me…” My breathing was fast, I couldn’t suck enough air in my lungs, but I fought as if my life depended on it. I wasn’t gonna let these real-world monsters take me. I didn’t want to get strapped in again…I can’t handle not being able to move my arms or head. “Stop…help! Somebody, I’m being kidnapped!”

My chest hurt. It hurt bad. My arms were cramping too. “Help! Joanne! Call the police! They’re…they’re….”

It hit like a lightning strike. My back arched and the room went blurry. All I could see were the outlines of ghosts. The monsters were winning, they had too many. “Joanne!” I screamed as loud as I could. “Paul! Paul!” Rapid breathing, short breaths and spent energy. I kicked and hit anything I could catch contact with as I was drug down the hallway. “No…don’t put my arms in that! I can’t…please don’t…” All of a sudden I felt a pain like I’ve never felt. I think they stabbed me. I want to scream but I can’t make words exit. It hurts so much. “Please ‘Mirror World’…take me back…I don’t wanna be real…I don’t wanna….”

Chapter 4

“So, this was the state sanitorium at one time? The one they finally closed down because of my mom’s work?”

“Yes ma’am, Ms. Akers. Your mom investigated many of the stories that were the talk of the town thirty-two years ago. City Council has been talking about tearing it down. Kids sneak around and try to get in, but it’s been kept secure and under video observation for the last twenty or so years. Not a soul’s been inside since 1998.”

“That’s, what… twenty-three years?”

“Yes, Ms. Akers, this place has been home to a lot of rumors and controversy. I for one will be glad to see it removed. A lot of lives have been altered or shattered because of this place. The town just about died when it closed. And then there’s all the ghost stories. I’ll admit there’s been some crazy stuff happen around here while I’ve been in charge.”

“But Mr. King, you are still going to let me go in and look around, and later point me in the direction of some of the doctors and nurses that are still alive. Ones willing to finally share their stories, right?”

Ben King fidgeted. “I’m a man of my word. I’ll admit though, I wish I wouldn’t have agreed. Sometimes I think there are things better left in the past. Dead and buried.”

“I’d counter with the fact that most times, it’s better not to suppress secrets and let them become twisted rumors. Plus, if some of those rumors are correct and the abuse really did happen…” Ben King began walking towards the front door. “…then it’s time to clear the lies and possibly get some retribution for the families who may have lost their loved ones to some inadequate treatment and even intentional abuse.” She followed Mr. King up the chipped painted concrete steps. The large wooden doors held chains through their handles and cameras pointed down at them blinked on and off making her aware she was being recorded. The boarded-up windows needled her imagination to conjure visions of how haunted the dark interior would be.

Mr. King tried key after key, attempting to insert them in the lock until Bettye Akers heard the clunk, and watched the lock drop free and swivel to the side. Mr. King squeezed the trigger on the handle releasing the door and making it free to open, he continued, “There’s going to be a lot of dust I imagine, are you allergic?”

“No sir, we’re here and it’s taken four months to get this done, you’re not going to dissuade me now that we’re to this point and the door is open!”

The door creaked and took some pressure from Ben to push it open enough for them to squeeze in. “This of course must be the commons. This would have been an area the patients who could be trusted or were low-level threat could sit and read or…kill time.”

Bettye’s eyes roamed the room and was strangely drawn to a large mirror to the far right. She looked over to Ben as if to ask if she was free to walk around. He nodded in agreement. She walked slowly at first but after seeing something that interested her, she walked more briskly. Ben followed behind.

The large mirror was cracked as if something hit it hard. It was shattered in the corner, and she noticed there appeared to be a scuffle in the area below. The entire floor was covered in years of dust except for the area around the mirror. It looked like a painting with brushstrokes of smeared dust exposing a light green and grayish speckled terrazzo floor. Bettye looked over to Ben inquisitively. “This looks fresh. It’s almost polished clean in sporadic strokes of movement or struggle.” She walked closer to the mirror and studied the area that had been hit with something. She spied a dark red liquid. Her finger went instinctively to it and dabbed it. “It’s still wet Mr. King!”

“That can’t be, Ms. Akers, there’s been no one in this building for over twenty years!” He drew his finger towards the glass mirror and touched the red spot. He rubbed his thumb and finger together lightly and held them up to his nose. “Smells kind of like rust or something?”

They both glanced around and noticed footsteps and an area that looked as if something had been dragged. Every so often it appeared as if there were a scuffle and then more dragging marks through the dust.

The two followed the trail down the hallway full of doors on both sides for several feet, maybe fifty or sixty and then made a turn down a different hallway. Another fifty or so feet of the same dust cleared path before it ended at a doorway. The door had a sign above a frosted paned window that held wire reinforcement within. The sign said: Warning-Electroshock Treatment-High Voltage DANGER.

The two looked at each other. While they glanced around the hallway, almost dazed with what they were seeing, they both were jolted back toward the room. The window had flashed as if the lights went on and off quickly. An audible hum could be heard followed by a muffled groan. A groan that sounded as if it came from pain.

Chills appeared to fill both of their faces. Bettye’s arms instantly mimicked a plucked turkey’s skin. Before they could react, the door began to open. Both Mr. Kings and Ms. Akers eyes were open as wide as possible. White completely visible around each of their pupils and iris’. There were several silhouettes with doctor’s gowns and head coverings along with masks and they began to usher Ben and Bettye in.

“Awe, Mr. King and Ms. Akers, we’ve been hoping to see you. There have been rumors you would be…visiting us.”

Neither Mr. King nor Ms. Akers were able to say a word or see the wicked smiles that were most certainly hidden underneath the masks.

The door closed quietly and a few minutes later, the window began to flicker on and off again…the faint hum of high-voltage electricity filled the empty hallways.

If nobody hears the screams of terror and pain—is there really a sound being made? Or like an empty forest would anyone standing on the outer edge ever notice a tree fall in the middle? One wonders if there were a mirror inside the room—would the reflections of terror be transmitted to other mirrors in “Mirror World” for others to witness?

A barstool sat empty at Dutch’s Tavern. A woman who resembled Joanne Woodward sat on a stool beside the empty spot, staring at a half-filled glass of house bourbon. As she glanced up at Paul, the bartender, she swore she saw the reflection of an older gentleman lift the half-empty glass to his lips before disappearing in a flash.

Rating: 7.33/10. From 3 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Eli Pope
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Eli Pope

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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