What could it mean? What would happen to me?
I stared at the empty mirror for what seemed an eternity before I finally forced myself to shower and eat. Meanwhile an internal battle raged.
The only thing I could imagine is that my lack of reflection meant I would no longer exist; that sometime, before dawn tomorrow, I would be dead. If I knew I would die, did it matter what I did? Would it happen no matter what choices I made? And if this was to be my last day, did I want to spend it alone and afraid?
After breakfast, I called my parents. They weren’t home but I left a message telling them I loved them. I called my girlfriend who was away on business just to hear her voice. I’d never told anyone about my reflection, so I had no one to confide in now. Who would believe me?
Finally, at noon, I made myself leave my apartment.
As I walked down the sidewalk on a busy Saturday afternoon, it took every ounce of willpower I possessed to avoid checking my reflection, a reflection I already knew would not be there.
My favorite coffee shop beckoned with the smell of roasted beans and steamed milk. I ordered a large mocha and a poppy seed muffin, then left an unusually generous tip. I carried my treat to the park, reveling in the heat which seeped through the lined cup and into my fingers. For most of the afternoon I watched the river as I sipped and stared and thought.
I finally came to the conclusion that this couldn’t be the end. Everything just seemed too…normal.
When I’d had enough tortured contemplation, I deposited my empty coffee cup and muffin wrapper in the garbage and headed home.
I made it halfway down Main Street when the ground began to shake; merely a mild tremor at first, like the ragged intake of breath before a blood-curdling scream.
I picked up my pace.
As I rounded the corner, I could see my apartment building in the distance. I began to jog until the ground shook again, this time hard enough that I grabbed hold of the nearest lamp post to maintain my footing.
People began to swarm out of buildings like bees out of a disturbed hive. Eyes were glued to screens and fingers flew across digital keyboards.
I only made it two more blocks before a tremor shook that city so violently that pieces of buildings began to fall. The pavement split as the world shuddered. People ran screaming.
No lamp post prevented me from falling this time. My knees hit the sidewalk and I heard the groan of the earth rending apart as I placed my hands in front of me and crawled. An unnatural calm settled over me. Finally, the worst was here. Sometimes the anticipation is harder than the reality.
The shaking, the screaming, the crash of cars and debris; the noise drowned out my ability to think.
I looked up in time to see my apartment building collapse and then something hard struck the back of my head.
The world went black.
When I finally woke, I felt my eyelids peel apart. Darkness greeted me.
I heard something beeping at steady intervals to my right. I heard the sound of distant voices, muffled by the scratchy gauze which wound around my head, over my eyes and ears.
“Hello?” my voice cracked in my dry throat.
“Hey there, Drew right? How are you feeling?” A voice I didn’t recognize moved closer until I felt warm fingers press against my wrist.
“Where am I?”
“You’re at the hospital. Rescue workers found you in the rubble and rushed you here. You’re lucky to be alive.”
Lucky to be alive…I’m alive.
“What day is it?”
“Monday, June 18th.”
“Monday,” I breathed. Two days had passed since I’d looked in the mirror and no one had looked back. “Do you have a mirror?”
“Uh, yes, I do,” the voice replied slowly.
“Help me get this bandage off. I’ve got to look in a mirror.” I began to pick at the bandage, trying to find an edge that I could peel away.
Warm fingers pressed against mine and then gently moved my hand down by my side.
“Let me.” A hand lifted my head and began to roll the gauze, yet no light penetrated the thinning cover. I knew when the last of it came away, my skin could breath again.
“Why can’t I see?”
“Drew, you were injured in the earthquake. You have a pretty good lump on the back of your head-”
“Is it permanent? Am I blind?” I could hear the panic in my voice.
“I honestly don’t know. Let me go get the doctor.”
The squeak of rubber soles retreated from the side of my bed. Noise from what I assumed was the hallway increased and then died as the door opened and closed.
I was alive, but I couldn’t see. I might never see again.
I might never again look in the mirror and see the reassurance of tomorrow.