Winston M. was stuck in front of his reflection, falling into it, searching for his identity, yet finding only self-misery. Nothing else. His being emanated out the grime-cornered mirror, where cheap, artificial wood-coating false-splintered on the side of the bathroom cabinet but gave no reply. An overused memory, worn out, fraying at the edges—that was all he saw. Someone/something Other.

A caterpillar-shaped squeezed section of toothpaste sat on his toothbrush, bristling finely as if they were elongated rows of fine teeth. A frothy, curved minty tip, where water had reacted with it; reminding him of whipped cream, ice, dog shit.

A globular of sputum was hurled from his mouth at the thought ... water swallowed, glugged down from a greened tap.

Controlling his acute gag reflex—at last—he brushed and brushed…until the white bristles were covered in pink gum-blood. He stared at, through himself as he brushed away the dirt, the decay, the feeling from them. Blood-shot sclera eyed him with suspicion, making him finally stop: pink wash circulating around the basin; salty- water swirling in his mouth.

He heard her calling him again. Screaming to his self: lost. 

—Winston, where are you? I need you, we need you. Please, Winston! We went off the road, we’re trapped!

She’d barked at him to help. The memory cutting segments from his temples. The fiery pain inside them relentless, fused with the thoughts.

The ditch. That’s where they were. His girlfriend, fiancée. Daughter. Dying. Lying there. They waited for him, even now. But it was not him. They were not his to save, to have. He recognized not what stared back at him: with derision, with repulsion. With hate.

The worm-filled, wet earth—centipedes crawling over them, digesting them—filled his echoing mind.

Winston M. opened up the bathroom cabinet door, squeaking in discomfort, and put the toothpaste and brush, blue, back in its rightful place. Next to it, the razors rested, as they always did for him. No more. 

Across wouldn’t kill, everyone knew. Vertical—as straight as a ventricle. That was the only way.

He ran the tap, the pipes banging, the water increasingly hot, steaming the bathroom, misting the image. Two shiny, innocently fragments of metal rested in the carved-out porcelain pocket, delicately waiting, showing their own distorted reflections. He closed the door, the latch clicked with mockery.

He rubbed away the moisture with a squeaking, stared into, through himself again, absorbed by the mirror. Knowing it was a forgery. He heard the calls again, the pleading, the screams from the phone.

Winston M. hesitated, bled, but did not die. His corporeality lied as much as his image. The reflective trap: refracted through societal impulse and false promise.

He left the two things that waited for him.


L.P. MELLING writes from London, UK, and frequently visits the U.S. His short fiction has appeared in Sci Phi Journal and Nebula Rift. He has received an honorable mention from the Writers of the Future Contest 2016 and won the short story competition ran by his Russell Group university in the UK, adjudicated by the Head of English, while studying English and Philosophy for his first degree. His second degree in Law has led him to a career in the charitable sector, where he currently assists victims and witnesses of crime. He also works a freelance editor in his spare time, and lives with his partner and their elongated hound.