‘Roll up, roll up. Come on ladies and gentlemen, try the hall of mirrors, mystery around every corner. You there, yes you madam, come along you look like you could do with an adventure’. He twirls his fingers around his waxed moustache, then lifts off his top hat and waves it towards the crowd. People melt away, avoiding his penetrating stare. Some move on toward the big wheel turning in the dark evening sky, lights blazing in the night air. Others drift away and head for the noise of fifties dance music and the shrieking, as the dodgem cars bash and clash together. Marina though stops and in some way is attracted to what he is offering. She slowly slides her arm out from the comfort of the man she is walking with and without consulting him, steps towards the fair attraction.
‘Good choice, good choice’ the stall holder keeps his banter going as he rams his black hat onto his head and then disappears into the pay booth ready to receive the cash. ‘Enjoy, yes enjoy the maze of mirrors.’ That’s two, yes’? The money disappears under the counter. There is a pause, then reluctantly he passes back the change, grubbing about in his pockets until the finds the right coins. Marina waits, knowing the exact amount that should come back.
‘Come on Seb let’s go’ and she pulls the nervous looking young man towards the entrance, her hand wrapped in his. The curtains look old and smell musty. There is a tear in one corner and above their heads a bulb buzzes, flashing off occasionally. Marina confidently pushes through and they find themselves in a room, mirrors all around them, reflecting back to each other. Suddenly they find many versions of themselves creating infinite patterns. She pulls him towards her and the kiss is bounced around them. Then as they turn to both face the nearest mirror, their happy smiles travel away too. Their laughter as they enjoy the moment seems to echo around the room in parallel to the reflections.
They spend several minutes trying out different poses, giggling at each other, watching miniature versions of themselves disappear away into the distance. Then Marina, becoming bored, begins to look for the next curtain, but there isn’t one. As she turns, she just sees mirrors all around them. Then after some searching together Seb finds the door behind a reflection of himself. The way leads to another room, this time filled with distorted reflections. So, now they are sometimes tall, short, fat, thin. Seb admires Marina as she turns to ripples in front of him and she adds to the effect by practising her Rumba dance routine, throwing her arms into the air.
‘Come on let’s see what’s next’ and she pulls at the edges of the mirrors around them looking for a new door. When one suddenly opens, without thinking she steps through. Which is a mistake, as the entrance slopes away and she slides inelegantly downwards ending up in a heap in the new room. The door behind slams shut and disappears into the myriad of mirrors around her. Glancing back she realises she has no idea where the exit is. Her voice comes out as a squeak as she calls for Seb. There is no reply just silence, except in the background the same fizz and pop of electricity and with it the occasional dimming of the lights around her.
Marina feels her normal self confidence beginning to slide away. Getting onto her feet and beginning to breath more rapidly she takes in this new room. No distortions, no infinity, just mirrored glass all around her, a complete circle. ’Stay calm’ she says to herself ‘It’s just a fairground illusion, a maze of some sort. There’s always a way out’. Taking a deep lungful of air, she pushes and pulls each panel repeatedly, leaving a sweaty hand print on the shiny surface of each one. None move. Her face becomes paler as she looks back at herself. Her forehead crinkles, worry lines seem to appear. This isn’t her. She is an assured professional woman, not this person looking back at her. There is smudge on her make up and she tries to fix it. ‘No tears I don’t do tears’ she mutters. Sniffing she wipes a hand across her face and begins a second circuit of the room. ‘Just think it through, just think it through’. Logic works, she knows it does. It always has and will this time.
Her rational brain is beginning to click in now as she assess the problem. People at work say she has a great way of dealing with a crisis, a difficult customer, a worried member of the team and now she feels back in control. Then with one last crackle, the lights go out. All that is left is the glow of an old safety lantern hanging by a loose wire up in the ceiling above her head. ‘Calm, stay calm’ she mutters, deliberately remembering her yoga class, pulling air in through her nose and out of her mouth. She sees the blurred outline of herself in the mirrors, all detail now gone. Yet as she squints at the images, something changes. In one, a scene begins to appear, fuzzy at first then clearing. More details and colour seem to be added as she looks on. Spinning around she sees the same happening in each mirror. Marina gulps, steadies herself and forces herself to look at the scenes one by one, looking carefully at each mirror. In one, she is with her two brothers and her mother and father, no more than three years old. Everyone is laughing, she is on a swing, kicking her legs out to go higher. The next scene is at school. Marina sits and works diligently at her studies with the discipline that will ensure her top marks throughout her education and into her professional training. Turning slowly around she follows her career and her relationships, across the years. The highs and lows, all the way through to being a CEO. Mostly ups, rather than downs. Generally things have gone well.
Then the last few mirrors change. She is caught by the image of the one showing her current business. The colours draw her but then fade as she looks at it. A sadness comes over her as she studies herself in the scene. The last picture is of her in her office . She is sitting at the desk, writing, writing, writing, then dropping the letters out of the window and watching them drift away in the air. This picture makes Marina even more depressed as she reflects on the toughness of work right now and the marketing they’ve done and redone to try get through the down turn. Not letters but endless emails, social media, you name it they’ve tried it. It feels like the business is failing. As she watches, the woman in the mirror moves in closer to the window and studies the activity in the background of the scene. There are people out there, picking up the messages, waving the notes in the air, smiling and moving towards her, saying something she can’t hear. It seems clear she knows what she has to do. Putting her pen down and without packing any of her things lying around the room, even leaving her lap top open with the latest budget flashing red, she moves to the door. It won’t open though, it’s stuck. This is for her safety after all. The security company says. you never know who might try and get in and steal something. Where is the key? Marina watches herself in the scene. Her other self tugs at the door handle again, then turning begins a frenetic search. Papers fly. The marvellous structured filing system for copies of the letters asking for business is pushed off the desk and crashes to the floor. No key appears. She pauses, seems to stop and then makes a decision. Going over to the wall opposite the door and kicking more papers and revised budgets aside, she brings one foot up behind her against the wall and using the leverage leaps forward across the room. Her shoulder crashes against the door and with a bang it swings open. Warm sunlight bursts into the room and the trapped Marina races forward toward freedom and a new future. She hears cheering and shouting.
‘Hello, you all right in there? Need a bit of help to find the exit from the mystery mirror maze’? The voice booms into the room. The lights came on, the scenes disappear and as Marina comes back to herself looking around a mirror swings open. The night time fairground appears in front of her. Lights twinkle, the smells of candy floss wafts in, the sharpness of the evening air comes towards her, she hears the shouts of enjoyment from people having fun. And there, waving at her is Seb,. The stall holder next to him is bowing, in his hand the black top hat thrown outwards.
’Voila, there you are. Our beautiful lady reappears and as you see is different but not different. Wonderful. Who is next for the journey of a life time’?
Grahame Pitts – December 2022
I am intrigued by the idea of mirrors and how they reflect back to us, sometimes very plainly ‘this is what it is’ and other times maybe a touch ‘distorted’. We may see things as they truly are, or there may be something else waiting to be spotted in the refection which can help us into the future. So, a couple of questions going into the Christmas break…..
- When you look in the mirror what do you see? All good, or anything needing consideration at this time?
- If you let the lights dim a little and scrunch up your eyes, what do you see for the future?
- Anything practical action you might take to help you move forward? Who do you need to meet, spend more time with in 2023?