Time Is Magic

Entry by: Alobear

7th January 2016
Jane leaned back precariously from her perch atop a wooden stool, in an attempt to ascertain whether or not the mirror was straight. It was quite large, with an ornate gilded frame; not the sort of thing she would normally buy, and it had been quite a task to affix it to the wall on her own. She was distracted for a moment by the reflection of her young son, Jeremy, who was sitting on the floor behind her, playing with some blocks. He had just managed to create a wobbly tower of three of them, and was surveying his achievement with obvious pleasure. He reached out with both chubby hands, as if planning to hug the blocks to him, and it was no surprise to Jane when he knocked them to the floor. He evidently hadn’t been expecting this consequence himself, however, as he let out a wail of despair and immediately turned a bawling face in her direction, seeking comfort.

Jane climbed down from the stool, crossed the carpet and scooped him into her arms.

“Now, then,” she said, soothingly. “There’s no need for that. They’re only blocks. Shall we see how high we can build them if we work together?”

She sat down on the floor, settling Jeremy between her legs, and was soon absorbed in the play, the mirror forgotten.

It had been an impulsive purchase. Jane and Jeremy had been taking their usual Thursday walk through the park, when Jane had spotted a market that had been set up in the adjacent car park. She had diverted from their normal route to take a look, weaving Jeremy’s pushchair through the other people perusing the stalls. There was a range of different wares on offer; cakes and biscuits, jewellery and ornaments, greetings cards and notebooks. Jane worked out a path that took in every stall, but was not tempted to buy anything, until she reached the very last one. This stall had a staggering array of mirrors, of all sizes, shapes and styles. She stopped, almost overwhelmed by the multitude of reflections looking back at her.

“See one that takes your fancy?” a voice said, pulling her attention to the woman behind the counter.

She was old, her face a mass of wrinkles. Her dark eyes peered out from beneath a colourful head-scarf, which entirely hid her hair. She was dressed in an assortment of brightly patterned layers, which reflected back out of the mirrors behind her, making the stall look very festive. She smiled encouragingly at Jane.

“Oh, no,” Jane said, not wanting the woman to be mistaken about her intention to buy something. “I really can’t afford…”

She trailed off, as one of the mirrors caught her eye. It was off to one side, propped up against the side of the stall, almost separated from the others. Jane found herself wheeling Jeremy’s pushchair right up to it. He waved at himself and giggled happily as his reflection waved back. Jane reached out and traced the carved pattern of the gilt frame with her fingers. The mirror was much too large for her front room, and the frame would look garish amongst her drab, utilitarian furniture. Besides which, she would never be able to carry it home by herself.

“I could get my nephew to deliver it tomorrow afternoon, if you like,” the stall-holder said, as if Jane had spoken aloud.

“That would be lovely,” Jane heard herself say, then found herself pulling her wallet out of her pocket.

The transaction was the work of a moment, and Jane provided her address for the delivery. Then, she and Jeremy went on their way, their usual routine re-establishing itself as soon as they were out of the market. When the mirror was delivered the next day, Jane discovered that the wall over the fireplace was exactly the right place for it, and that it actually made the room look much bigger once it was secured.

Jane didn’t give the mirror much thought over the next few days, until she came to dust the mantelpiece about a week after it had been installed. She was manoeuvring her feather duster between the ornaments in a desultory fashion, when she caught sight of Jeremy’s reflection behind her in the mirror. But she had dropped Jeremy off at nursery hours ago. She spun round in alarm; no Jeremy. A little unnerved, Jane turned slowly back to the mirror, and there he was again, sitting on the floor with his blocks. As she watched, he reached out and knocked over the tower he had made. His face scrunched up in despair, but there was no accompanying noise. Jane was even more shocked when a separate reflection of herself suddenly came into view and comforted Jeremy before sitting down with him on the floor to play with the blocks.

The memory came back now; that had happened the day she had hung the mirror up on the wall, a week before. Somehow, the mirror was showing her a scene that had occurred in the room in the past. A few seconds later, the phantom Jane and Jeremy faded away, leaving the reflections of the room, and Jane herself, as they should be. Jane was amazed, but wasn’t sure what, if anything, she should do. She wanted to tell someone, but who would believe her? She had no evidence of what had just happened, and anyone she spoke to about it would just think she was mad.

Over the next few days, Jane watched the mirror carefully. The phenomenon was repeated nearly every day, but frustratingly only when she was alone. She invited her sister around for tea one afternoon to try and catch it out, but the mirror remained stubbornly rooted in reality the entire time. Otherwise, it showed her snippets of activity that had taken place within its reflective sphere during the previous week.

The following Thursday, Jane took Jeremy to the park and looked eagerly for the market, hoping to be able to ask the stall-holder about the mirror. But the car park was empty.

Eventually, Jane just got used to the mirror’s odd quirks, and found it quite comforting to have Jeremy’s reflection available to her when he wasn’t actually in the flat. The scenes were never from longer than a week ago, and only ever lasted a few minutes at most, but it became an interesting game to predict when it might happen and what it might show.

Some weeks later, Jane had just made herself a steaming mug of green tea and carried it through to the front room to drink. She put it down on the coffee table, then bent down to ruffle Jeremy’s hair, where he was sitting on the floor with one of his trains.

“All right, popkin?” she said, and he smiled happily up at her.

She was just about to sit down on the sofa, when she spotted that one of the picture frames on the mantelpiece was askew. She crossed the room in two quick steps and reached up to straighten it. In the mirror, she caught sight of some movement and focused on Jeremy. As she watched, transfixed, he pulled himself up to a standing position – the first time he had ever done such a thing – holding onto the edge of the coffee table to steady himself. Jane found herself completely unable to move or react as Jeremy stretched one hand out towards her mug of boiling tea and tipped it all over himself. In the mirror, his reflection screamed in shock and pain, but she couldn’t hear him.

As if released from some kind of spell, Jane suddenly found she could move again. Heart in her throat, she turned to see Jeremy still sitting calmly on the floor, pushing his train along the carpet. It rolled slightly under the coffee table and he scooted forwards to follow it. When he encountered the edge of the table, he regarded it solemnly for a long moment, then grabbed hold of it and pulled himself to his feet. Jane rushed over and picked up her mug of tea before he could reach for it. She deposited it on the top of a nearby bookcase, then collapsed onto the sofa, looking from her son to the mirror and back again.

Jeremy was gazing at her with an exquisitely smug expression on his face, as if waiting for some kind of response. Shock, disbelief, relief and amazement battled within Jane’s mind. The last won out and she directed at her son’s achievement.

“Darling! What a clever boy!” she cried, delightedly, and his face split into a triumphant grin.

Jane reached her arms out and hugged Jeremy to her, deciding not to think too hard about what had just happened. The mirror had saved him and that was all that mattered.