The Devouring Mirror

📅 Published on December 9, 2023

“The Devouring Mirror”

Written by H.K. Reyes
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: 10.00/10. From 3 votes.
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“That one is very special,” said the old man running the antique shop.

Emily looked up from her phone to see a large baroque mirror with a gilded frame of carved flowers.  The late afternoon sunlight that shone through the storefront glittered over the frame, making the flowers appear to throb and writhe on the wall.  The spotless circle of glass reflected Emily’s body back at her: wispy black hair, round, pensive face, baggy blue sweatshirt, threadbare jeans with holes near the pockets.  Her nose twitched at how ridiculous she looked encircled in flowers on this tacky thing.

“It’s perfect,” her mother said.  “Isn’t it, Em?”

Emily said nothing.  She refreshed her feed on her phone and scrolled down to the picture she had posted some hours ago, a carefully edited selfie with her acne digitally removed and her cheeks and chin warped to appear slimmer.  No likes and no comments, still.

“It’ll look wonderful in your room,” her mother said.  “Brighten things up in there a bit.”  She gave a sheepish little smile to the old man behind the counter as though she were apologizing for something.  “I’ve been trying to redecorate and improve the ambiance in there.  You know how teenagers get.  Doom and gloom, even when they don’t have anything serious to complain about.”

The old man’s smile was warm, and his faintly yellow teeth gleamed behind his thin, gray lips.  “I think the world can be a harsh place for a young person today.”

The mother scoffed.  “Well, to hear this one tell it, you’d think she’s suffered as much as Mother Teresa.”  She tilted her head back and let out a high, rolling laugh, a laugh that Emily knew well.  It meant that her mother was “only kidding” and that anyone who took offense to her words was simply “too sensitive.”

Emily’s phone buzzed.  A cute boy from her French class had left a comment on her photo.  She swiped it open excitedly, but her shoulders slumped when she saw it was just a pig emoji.

“This mirror has quite a history,” the shopkeeper said, shuffling out from behind the counter in a pair of black slippers.  “It belonged to a wealthy Romanian gentleman in the 18th century who cherished it above all of his possessions.  Even as his fortune dwindled to nothing, he refused to sell it.  He is said to have spent hours sitting before the glass, contemplating its depths.  Apparently, he developed some rather curious beliefs with regard to the mirror.  He was convinced it had been enchanted with great power.”

Emily smirked, but when she looked up from her phone, she saw the old man was entirely serious.  “According to his letters, he believed that he could see things within the mirror, more than simply his reflection.  He was convinced the mirror could…fulfill certain desires of his.”

The mother opened her purse.  “Well, no need to worry about that.  Em fulfills her desires enough as it is.”  She patted Emily’s round belly hidden within the folds of the sweatshirt, and Emily swatted her away with an annoyed grunt.

The mother laughed again and fished for her wallet in her purse.  Emily moved away from the counter, her face flushed with anger and embarrassment.  She turned to glare at the back of her mother’s head, but an odd feeling of unease floated through her.  Her gaze drifted toward the mirror.  Her conscious mind grasped for an explanation as to why she felt so anxious all of a sudden, but all it could come up with was the absurd notion that whenever she looked away from the mirror, her reflection would look away just a bit more slowly, like it was trying to stare at her a moment longer.

* * * * * *

“Don’t you think two servings is enough already, Em?” her mother called down the hall.

Emily pulled the door shut to her room and slumped into her creaking desk chair.  She set down her dinner plate with a heavy glass clunk.

She glared at herself in the ugly mirror that was now hanging over her desk.  No, she thought to herself.  Not tonight.  She opened her laptop and played a video, trying to ignore the cold, aching pressure gathering in her chest.  Two servings is enough.  I’m not even hungry anymore.  It should be enough.  Isn’t it?

She glared at the plate of undercooked spaghetti with its sticky coating of cold tomato sauce.  It’s not even any good, she thought.  It’s gross.  I hate it.  I don’t want it.

But the cold, oppressive pain pressed down on her chest, pressed until it seemed to suck the air right out of her lungs.

She slammed her laptop shut, snatched the plate, and shoved pasta into her mouth.  She tasted nothing, eating only for the temporary relief it brought from the pain.  Even then, the food was hardly relief at all, just a single stone removed from a great heap under which she had been buried.

She set the bowl down and pressed her palms into her eyes.  A few tears leaked out, but she held her breath, stifling the urge to sob.  She didn’t need her mother bursting in to lecture her on how good her life was.

You’re pathetic, she thought to herself.  Pathetic and fat and ugly and awful.

She lifted her head to say those words out loud.

She saw that her reflection was smiling at her.

She gasped.  Terror flashed through her, and her legs became slabs of frozen iron.  She couldn’t move, couldn’t scream.

The reflection touched its finger to its lips.  Its smile held no malice, no hostility.  Kindness and warmth radiated from its deep brown eyes, which, unlike Emily’s, had a slight reddish tinge to them that made them seem brighter and more lively than her own.

Emily felt her fear leaving her in slow pulses.  She raised her hand, its fingers barely peeking from the sleeve of her sweatshirt, and she waved.

The reflection girl giggled silently and waved back.

Emily swallowed to moisten her throat.  “What are you?” she whispered.

The reflection brought its hand to its chin in a cartoonish show of thinking.  It shrugged and giggled.

“What do you want?”

The reflection licked its lips and rubbed its belly.


It nodded emphatically.

“Well…I have some…some food here.  Do you want that?”

The girl in the mirror nodded eagerly.  It reached out with both hands for the plate of pasta on its side of the mirror.  Ignoring the fork, it scooped up a big handful, opened its mouth much wider than Emily could, and ate it.

Emily’s plate didn’t move, but the portion that had been eaten disappeared in a puff of purplish smoke.

Emily watched, eyes white-rimmed and shining with amazement, as the food vanished from her plate with the girl’s every bite.  Before long, the reflection had finished the meal, and Emily’s plate was empty, save for a slick purple residue on the surface.

The reflection leaned back, patted its belly with its sauce-covered hands and belched silently.

Emily stared at the empty plate on her desk.

“It’s gone,” she said.  “It’s gone, and I feel…full.”

No, that wasn’t quite right.  Physically, she could tell she hadn’t actually eaten anything.  But she had tasted every bite the reflection had taken, and there was a profound sense of satisfaction in her heart, as though some spiritual appetite within her had been sated, even if her body had not.

The reflection leaned forward and, with a hand dripping in sauce, wrote on the glass, MORE.

Emily jumped from her seat and ran to the kitchen.

Her mother called down the hallway, “Dessert too?  Em, you’re never going to meet any boys unless you start taking better care of your—”

Emily slammed her door and dumped an armful of candy, chips, and ice cream on the desk.  The reflection ate voraciously, ripping packages open with its teeth, shoveling sweets and snacks into its gaping mouth by the fistful.

By midnight, both Emily and her reflection were slumped over, exhausted on their desks.  The reflection’s belly, now round and distended, rose and fell with every labored breath.  Emily felt full to bursting, even as her stomach growled.

“That was amazing,” Emily said.  “It was like eating, but…not eating.  So I don’t have to feel bad about it.”

The reflection laughed, and potato chip flecks spattered against the inside of the glass.  She lifted her finger and wrote in a smear of grease and melted ice cream, I WILL EAT FOR YOU.  SO YOU BECOME BEAUTIFUL.

“Why are you being so nice to me?”


Emily slept soundly that night, feeling that life was about to become very different.

* * * * * *

Night after night, Emily brought her dinner to her room and watched her reflection devour it all.  She would pile her plate with as much as it could hold, and the girl in the mirror would eat and eat until its belly looked ready to split open, yet it never seemed to be satisfied.  Every night, with a hand coated in sauce or grease, it would write on the mirror, MORE.  And every night, Emily would feed it again.

No longer desiring food for herself, Emily began to lose weight.  The roundness in her face pulled inward, like a blueberry shriveling in the sun.  Her waist shrank.  Her limbs became long, thin poles, and her fingers were as spindly as spider legs.  Where she once dreaded stepping onto a scale, she now looked forward to it as her favorite part of the day.  She bought one for her room and placed it right in front of the mirror, so she could track the dwindling number and celebrate milestones with her reflection.

She ditched the hoodies and baggy t-shirts for slim dresses, fitted jeans, and crop tops.  Boys who had ignored or mocked her since childhood began to take notice.  They flirted with her, or tried to, in their clumsy and awkward way.  She could sense how nervous they were when they spoke to her, how eager, yelping for her attention like puppies.  She could sense the power she had over them, and she liked it.

Not all the attention was pleasant.  Some of the girls became rude and nasty, especially the ones whose boyfriends cast glances in her direction.  They spread wild, obscene rumors.  “That whore,” they would say.  “Did you hear what she did with Mr. Blackwell in the equipment room behind the gym?  It’s true, Stella saw everything.”

Sometimes the girls were so mean that Emily would race home and cry at her desk.  Her reflection, by now enormously fat, would fog up the mirror with its breath and write with a thick, stubby finger, JUST JEALOUS.

Yes, jealous.  Emily knew it was only jealousy that motivated the cruelty of the other girls, just as it had been jealousy that drove Ms. Cobb to hold her back after Biology class one day.  “I’m very concerned for your health,” she had said.  “Poor nutrition can have serious consequences for your body.  I want you to know that you’re not alone, and I’m here to support you and help you find healthy ways to” blah, blah, blah.  Emily had rolled her eyes and walked out.

Some nights, as the mirror girl was chomping down its food, a pang of true hunger would strike Emily like a bullet, and she would feel the urge to eat something real.

But whenever she reached for a bite, the mirror girl would nip at its own finger, and Emily would feel it.

Yes, she’s right, Emily would think.  She won’t let me make bad decisions.  She is me, after all.

* * * * * *

Emily sat across from her mother at the dinner table.  A steaming plate of gooey casserole sat untouched in front of her.

“May I be excused?” she asked.

Her mother set her napkin on her lap and said, “Em, when I said I wanted to eat dinner together, it wasn’t because I like watching you sulk.  Eat something.”

Emily huffed, gathered up a cheesy bite and stuck it into her mouth.  She pushed the food into her cheek, where it could be stored and spat out later.  “There.  Can I be excused now?”

Her mother set her fork on her plate and clasped her hands together.  “Your teacher phoned me today,” she said.  “To express ‘concerns for your health,’ as she put it.  She told me she’s worried I haven’t been feeding you enough.  Do you have any idea how embarrassing that was for me?”

Emily pushed her plate away and took out her phone.

“No phones at the table,” her mother said, but Emily ignored her.  Her feed was glittering with notifications for her latest photo, a selfie in a tight pink dress.

“People talk, you know,” her mother said.  “I’m sure your teacher is talking already.  Oh, they all pretend to be ‘concerned’ about this and that, but in reality, they’re judging you.  Laughing at you.  That trashy family, they’re saying.  Look what a mess they are.  Too poor to even afford food.”

Emily scrolled through her photos, basking in the likes and shares.  A notification popped into view, and she saw that the cute boy from her French class had commented on her selfie.

“I’m just looking out for you, Em,” her mother said.  “I know you’ve been improving yourself, and that’s admirable.  But I don’t want you to go so far that you end up making us look bad.”

Emily smiled as she opened the notification, but her face fell when she saw that the boy had only commented with a skeleton emoji.

“I just want you to be happy, Em,” her mother said.

Emily looked up at her mother’s arrogant, pitying smile, and something in her cracked.

“Stop calling me Em,” she snapped.  “My name is Emily.”

The outburst shocked them both.  A charged silence gripped the room.  The air itself seemed to become thin and cold, like pressure dropping before a storm.

The mother’s hands fell slowly to the table.  “I named you,” she said, her voice straining under the effort to control herself.  “You wouldn’t even have a name if it weren’t for me.  I can call you whatever I want.”

Emily’s heart raced.  Her hands felt cold, like she couldn’t get enough blood into them.  “You always do what you want,” she said.  “You never care about what I want.  You don’t even ask.”

“I don’t ask because I won’t get any useful information.  What would you say if I asked what you want?  To sulk around your room all day with your face buried in your phone?  To yell at me just because I’m trying to do what’s best for us?”

Rage and fear churned in Emily’s blood.  Her hands gripped the table.  “You’re not looking out for us.  You’re only looking out for you.  I’m not stupid, even if you think I am.  You couldn’t care less about me.”

Her mother tilted her head back and laughed.  “Oh, yes, that’s why I spent hundreds of dollars on an antique mirror for your room.  That’s why I spent so much money on all those nice new clothes you wanted.  That’s why I wasted an hour of my time to make dinner for you tonight, even after I’ve been working since six o’clock this morning—”

Emily slammed her fist onto the table.  “You’re the reason I hate food!  You’ve made me feel bad about everything I’ve ever eaten.  I thought if I got skinny you would be nice to me, but now you’re worse than ever!”

“Oh, so you’re angry I made a few jokes?  I knew you were oversensitive, but this takes the cake.”

“No, I’m angry you treat me like dirt because you’re jealous.  You’re jealous that I look good, and you just look like the awful old bitch you are!”

Her mother drew back like she’d been struck.  Emily knew at once she had crossed a line.  A great gust of fear swirled through her.  She felt dizzy and lightheaded.

Her mother stood from her seat.  “Why on earth would I be jealous of a miserable, sniveling little brat like you?  You think you’re hot stuff now, but I know what you really are inside.  You’ll always, always be a fat, weak little pig no matter what you look like!”

The words scorched Emily to the soul, and she ran out of the room.

She slammed her door shut and collapsed into loud, wracking sobs.  Pain gathered in her chest, the dull pressure she knew so well.  This time, it was accompanied by a feeling of tightness, like a great, constricting snake had coiled around her heart.

She lifted her head and squinted through tears into the mirror.  Her reflection was staring back at her in confusion and sympathy, its jowly cheeks sagging, its hair shining with grease, its rolls of body fat juddering with every movement.

This is what I really am, she thought.  This is what I’ll always be.

The reflection wrote with its oily finger, WHAT WRONG?

“Just leave me alone,” Emily said between hiccuping sobs.

The girl in the mirror kept writing.  HER?  MOTHER?

“She hates me,” Emily moaned.  “And she’s right to.  I’m disgusting.”

I CAN HELP, the reflection wrote.

“What could you do to help me?”

HUNGRY, it wrote.

Emily laughed bitterly.  “I’m sorry, but I’m pretty sure dinner’s ruined for tonight.”

The reflection shook its head.  NO, NOT USUAL DINNER.

“What do you want, then?”

A soft knock at the door startled her.  Her mother’s voice came through softly.  “Em?  Can we talk?”

Em turned toward the reflection to tell her to wait, but the words written in the glass stopped her cold.


The door opened, and her mother stood in the doorway.  Daylight was fading quickly, and shadow had pooled into the depressions around her eyes and below her tense, quivering mouth.  “Oh, Em, I’m so very sorry.  We sort of let things get out of hand there, didn’t we?”

Emily stood up with difficulty.  Her heart felt like it was sputtering in her chest, like a motor running out of fuel.  She leaned against the desk for support and saw that something had changed in the reflection’s face—no, not a face anymore, not exactly.  It was something else.

The mother stepped into the room, her white skirt undulating with shadow as she moved.  “I shouldn’t have said that just now,” she said.  “It was a terrible thing to say, and I have no excuse.  To be honest, I was just shocked by how much you sounded like me at your age.”

Emily gazed into the reflection’s eyes, eyes that no longer resembled her own, eyes that had become warm pools of crimson red above a grinning, toothy maw.  And she understood.

“In fact, I’m pretty sure I said the same thing to your grandmother just before I left home,” her mother continued.  “It’s funny how these things work out.  I swore I’d never be anything like her.  I’ll bet you’ve told yourself the same thing.”

Truth washed over Emily like a cold, cleansing rain.  Yes, she understood now.  She had been hungry all her life, but not for food, no.  She had eaten to ease the pain of living, but all she had needed was one particular bite.

“I tried to make things different for you.  I got us a home, so you would never know what it was like living out of a car.  I bought us nice things, so you wouldn’t have to be embarrassed about bringing anyone over.”

It was all so obvious.  Emily wondered how she had never seen it before.  No matter.  She knew what had to be done now, and that was enough.  She touched her hand to the mirror and, through the glass, felt the warmth of the reflection’s scaly claw on the other side.

“I tried to avoid the old trap, but it seems like I just found another way to fall into it.”

The mirror-thing pulled away and, on its side of the glass, crept up behind the mother.  Its teeth glinted like broken glass as its lipless mouth pulled open.

“I guess what your grandmother said just before she died is true.  If you don’t face your demons, you’ll end up feeding them.”

The creature arched like a cobra and struck, sinking its teeth into the woman’s throat.

The mother’s head snapped back, and she was thrown backward against the wall.  Her fingers shot to her neck, grasping at the invisible force that had suddenly constricted around her windpipe.  Blood vessels burst in her eyes, coloring the whites a bright scarlet.  She tried to scream, but could only squirt a wet gurgle from her crushed throat.

The skin of her throat puckered and split in a jagged, bleeding line.  The mirror creature wrenched its head back, and the flesh vanished in a puff of purple smoke.  Blood gushed from the open wound.  It sucked into her windpipe as she struggled to breathe, came up again pink and frothy.

Emily tasted her mother’s throat exploding into her mouth.  Blood pumped over her tongue like juice from a ripe tomato.  The reflection chewed, and Emily tasted the soft, yielding meat.

She threw her head back and laughed, a wild, gleeful sound that was halfway to screaming.  As her mother reached out for her and mouthed, “Help,” Emily leaned down to laugh in her face.

“What’s the matter, mommy?” she cried.  “It’s just a joke.  You’re not too sensitive now, are you?”

Emily’s heartbeat was wild, irregular.  The tightness in her chest exploded into a blazing white fire.  She was still laughing, savoring the blood and meat, when her legs gave out from under her, and she was swallowed in darkness.

* * * * * *

Later that night, the old man at the antique shop noticed with mild surprise that the mirror had returned to its usual spot on the wall.

“Oh my,” he said, staring at it in the murky dark of his empty shop.  “You’ve come home early.”

He placed both hands on the frame and leaned his face toward the glass, as though he were dunking his head into a barrel of black water.

“Oh, I see,” he said, staring wide-eyed into the unintelligible blackness.  “Well, that woman was awful.  It serves her right.  Pity about the young girl, though.  But not unexpected, given how weak her heart must have been at that level of undernourishment.”

He let go of the mirror and shuffled back behind the shop counter.  Darkness pressed in on him, and he wore it like a slithering robe.  Not even moonlight touched him.

“Still, it seems that everyone got what they wanted,” he said.  “All in all, a successful sale, I’d say.  But no time to rest on our laurels, gentlemen.  Another customer might arrive at any minute.”

His teeth were a pale yellow crescent as he sat behind his counter and smiled in the dark.

Rating: 10.00/10. From 3 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by H.K. Reyes
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: H.K. Reyes

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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Mr Grey
Mr Grey
1 hour ago

Would love to narrate and produce this story. Is this something you might be interested in?

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