“Mir is his name”, she said.

“Mir?”, I kept my mouth open for a second. “Is that a nick?”

“I don’t know”, she said. “That’s what I’ve always called him”.

After a pause, she added, “I think that really was his given name. His mother was indeed known to have a remarkable, if unexpressed, sense of precognition. Maybe she always knew”.

Suddenly she stopped, as if snapping out of a daze, and looked at me. Perhaps she realized that she’d spoken much more than my trust level warranted. “I need to go now, but I’ll send over Salem to pick up the discs”.

Still, this was more than anyone had spoken to me factually about the Mirror in the seven days I’d been on Pheny.

“Yes, of course, I’ll send you a message as soon as they’re ready. Should take a day or two”. Of course, it wouldn’t take that long to cut the discs for the key that she’d just given me, but I lied. As I often do.

“Goodbye”, she waved, turned, and left.

Pheny was the third planet on my disc distribution run, and seven days ago when the transporter had dropped me, still drooling from the cyro cyst, I’d wanted to get the cutting done asap and head on. Marty had two clients here, and the first cut I did on the first day itself. The work is intricate but I’m brilliant at it, so it didn’t take long.

But the second client had misplaced their keys, so I had to dawdle around for the next few days. The clouds didn’t help my mood, and I just sat around and drank and talked to the other people drinking at the bar. They were surprisingly talkative, but perhaps my foreign appearance was inviting in these relatively rustic backwaters.

The Mirror came up in more than a few conversations, but it was always when my conversation partner would be delirious enough to speak of what they otherwise wouldn’t, so I didn’t know how much of it was fact, and how much drunken fiction.

From what I’d gathered, the Mirror was a boy who lived (or was kept?) in the old abandoned village that Pheny City had outgrown. He was called the Mirror because he reflected the people who met him. Not literally, but in a more mysterious, menacing, mental sense. Every smudge in your own personality, any trace of motion contrary to the silent ocean of being, would be reflected in him. This sounded interesting to me, I could see why it might seem a bit menacing, though maybe I’d rather classify such a thing more under mildly interesting.

But the people I spoke to told me that this quickly gets out of hand with the reinforcing feedback loops at play when you’re around him. You start picking the smidges that are being reflected back at you, and subconsciously start exaggerating or repelling the reflection, but the Mirror picks up this exaggeration or resistance, and reflects that back at you again. Soon this feedback loop runs amok. A common example was how even a trace of hate spirals soon into murderous rage under the infinite reflections in this setup of facing mirrors. Even a hint of light dropped in an otherwise room of dark, imperfect, mirrors soon takes a life of its own.

So only a few people were allowed to, or wanted to, meet him. They gave him food etc, and games to tinker with, but otherwise generally let him be. The people of Pheny were not particularly wholesome, they were a bit ruthless rather, so they could’ve just killed him too, but I figured that just how the hate spiralled, so could the love. Even though he was like the entire city’s dark family secret, they, or the some who knew him, still endeared him enough to let him be.

By now my curiosity had taken complete hold of me, and I wanted to meet this person. I didn’t think he was a boy anymore, even though they still called him so. I’d travelled enough to understand how local myths form, and very likely this was just some autistic man who lay in the uncanny valley that some neuro-typicals found simulating.

So come dawn next day, I hooded up and headed out towards the old village. The home star of Pheny was out today, and it was as brilliant a day to walk the untended outgrowth as I would ever get. It’s funny how time flies, when I’m cutting discs, and when I’m walking. Did I tell you how brilliant I am at cutting discs? Marty said that I’m the best he’s ever met.

I reached the village, feeling awfully pleasant at the ground beneath my feet, the star over my eyes and the general sense of warmth and comfort of existence. Most of it was dilapidated, so it didn’t find me long to scope out the only house that was a home. Taking a deep breath, I knocked twice at the door.

I heard sound of rustling inside. Then some more shuffling around, as if whoever was inside wasn’t expecting me, or anyone. Finally, I heard someone approach the door. I nervously straightened. He opened the door.

To my horror, for the first time in my life, I saw myself.

Manav Rathi
Dec 2023