Welcome to Sunday Scribbles!
This Sunday’s prompt is: Reflection
I’ve always liked the use of mirrors and reflections in stories, so I thought I’d give it a go myself. I tried to keep it flash fiction length, as I made an aesthetic for #FlashFicHive’s weekly prompt, but I got carried away this time!
This week’s top tip is:
Keep a notepad by your bed in case you dream great story ideas!
Onto the story!
Before I joined the army I knew who I was. My reflection in the mirror, cocky, confident, handsome, was familiar and reassuring. I had a beautiful girlfriend and my parents loved me, despite their disapproving frowns when I said I was going overseas.
Time passed differently on the battlefield. Over time the man I saw reflected in the dirty puddles around our muddy campsite became hard to recognise. I was a shattered reflection of my former self, who’d lost comrades and caused death with my own itchy trigger finger.
Six months later, on leave, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I barely recognised the smart suited man reflected back at me. My smile was all nerves, and my eyes flitted around the room unable to settle. Who was this strange man in the mirror? Not me, surely? I was a soldier, itching to run back to the battlefield, not a proud son or loving partner.
Then one day, during another special ops mission, I lost my entire team. I barely made it out alive, but instead of being praised I was branded a traitor, dishonourably discharged. They wanted me disgraced, so no one would listen to me when I said they betrayed us.
Back home my girlfriend believed me, but I couldn’t leave the battlefield behind. They had to pay, the commanders who sent us to our deaths, but no one would listen. I sought revenge myself, spilled their blood on the streets, but when she caught me washing it from my hands she left. I was a monster, a killer. Could see it in my reflection in the splintered bathroom mirror.
I carried on my crusade. I didn’t need her, but needed closure. I was fleeing the scene of my latest murder when a cop saw me return fire on one of the guards of the commander whose neck I’d snapped. She gave chase as I flew down the fire escape.
Out on the streets I dodged laughing families and busy commuters, oblivious to the flecks of blood on my face. I rounded a corner and skidded to a halt. The skyscrapers had faded into squat houses, and opposite me was a large overgrown church surrounded by a stone fence. It was the perfect shelter. She’d never expect a man like me to hide in a place like that.
I sprinted towards the wall, vaulted over it, and ran for the large wooden church door. I’d pushed most of it closed behind me when I glimpsed her through the tiny gap that remained. Her gaze as it swept the area was calculating, her blue eyes breathtaking. I held my breath.
She turned away. The tension left my shoulders, and I closed the door all the way. I crept towards the only unstained window and plastered myself to the wall as I peered out. Cluttered slum houses surrounded the church, but the community was bright and vibrant. Not like me.
I peeled away from the window and wandered between wall and pews towards the altar. Panes of cracked stained glass distorted my image, and as I turned away from my murderous reflection in red and crimson I saw the door creak open behind me. My gun was in my hand, finger on the trigger, before I knew it, to match the gun trained on me.
‘Looking for salvation?’
It was the officer from earlier, but I didn’t pull the trigger. She wasn’t my enemy. She was just doing her job. ‘Just tryin’ to clear my name.’
Her jaw dropped open, and one of her hands left her pistol to run through her hair. ‘By killing people? Funny way of doing it.’
‘No one’ll listen while they’re alive. Figured things might change if those in power were dead.’
Her hand flew back to her gun, finger poised on the trigger. ‘You’re a war criminal.’
‘I’m not who you think I am. They betrayed us.’ Stall. It was all I could do. Maybe I could distract her long enough to get to one of the windows either side of me. I shuffled a little to the right.
‘They did?’ Her gun lowered a few millimetres, noticeable only to my trained eye.
I nodded. She was listening to me? I frowned and started talking, and like a burst dam once I started it was impossible to stop. I told her of my military service, our off the record missions, and our betrayal at the hands of the higher ups. I’d nearly made it to the window by the time I’d finished my tale, and her gun was pointed at the floor.
‘Jesus,’ she said, and one hand left her pistol to cover her mouth. She looked around sheepishly. ‘So that’s why you’re killing them?’
I nodded ‘They’re too powerful. The charges would never stick, but they need to pay.’
She took a step forward, and I let her, but my wary eyes were trained on her gun. She met my eyes and holstered it. ‘My parents were killed in the line of duty, after they got involved in what they thought was a military conspiracy. I always wondered if they were right, murdered for what they discovered, but I’ve been shut out at every turn. You could help me.’
She had a determined glint in her steely blue eyes, which showed no fear. I lowered my gun and holstered it. ‘You’re not afraid of me?’
‘You’re doing this for your team. For justice. I can understand that. It’s why I joined up.’ She stretched out a hand, and I realised she’d moved to stand in front of me. ‘Do we have a deal?’
I glanced between the window and her face, hair framing her earnest expression, then shrugged and shook her hand. ‘Deal.’
Weeks later, when I came in through her window covered in blood after another successful kill, she cleaned me up and sewed my wounds shut. I could see the worry lines etched on her forehead in the mirror beside my bruised and battered face, and I shuddered.
‘Why are you doing this? I’m a monster.’
She shook her head so fast I thought her neck would snap. ‘You’re not. You’re a good man, who’s been betrayed and deals in extremes.’ Her arms came around my waist. ‘You’re not a monster.’
I peered up at the mirror, head down, and met my own eyes. My reflection hadn’t changed, but she didn’t see me the same way I did. My lips curled into a small smile, and I covered her hands with my own to hold them up to the mirror. On reflection, maybe that’s all I needed.
Thanks for reading!
I’m not sure how I feel about this one. It’s a bit different from what I usually write and heavily influenced by The Punisher, which I’ve been re-watching and has influenced my dreams. This story’s also based on one of those dreams, but it ended abruptly so I had to improvise!
Why not write a short story or poem based on a prompt yourself?
The last prompt for April is:
One word not enough? I post expanded prompts weekly on Pinterest:
One evening, when you return home from a party, your reflection in the bathroom mirror winks and beckons to you…
If you use one of the prompts, feel free to share your story links below.
Feeling creative? I also run a weekly hashtag game on Twitter, #sunscribbles, where you can share one off lines or quotes from a #WIP around the weekly prompt!
See you next week!