As anybody who has been paying the least bit of attention (hello? hello? are you out there?) would know, my failures in these NYC competitions are well documented. And consistent. It has come to the point where any sort of success would feel like the breaking of a perfect record. But don’t worry, that’s not likely to happen.
The latest competition demands a story of no more than 250 words – which is ridiculous, of course. It normally takes me more than 250 words to describe the weather.
My assignment was for a romance which should feature ‘looking into the mirror’ and the word ‘warm’. I wrote a quick first draft and submitted it (this is a tactical procedure – at least something is submitted. Every time you update it the NYC people take your latest submission as the valid one) with the intention of getting back to it. But I didn’t get back to it.
Myself, my son and my grandson went surfing, instead. Which was kind of appropriate, And was time well spent.
Certainly, in retrospect, there is a lot of words that I would have changed. But sometimes a raw first draft carries the original message better. I’m not sure.
But here it is ….
A Ghost in the Mirror
Stepping from the shower and wiping the warm mist from the centre of the mirror he found himself reflected in sad silhouette. Blonde curls and blue eyes that had once shone proudly back had faded now to grey. A body, once tanned and toned by the sun and the surf to hold her at night in a strong, safe cocoon, now stood alone before him white, weak and withered.
Yet somehow, in that mirror, he still caught occasional glances of her as she stood before it brushing invisible blemishes from her skin. Her own eyes, shining green and mysterious back through time reflected the playful promise he remembered from nights when she had discovered him standing there behind her, watching her undress.
But it was in those eyes that he had first recognised the onset of the disease. The fits of fear and panic gave way to dull confusion before, eventually, everything turned to gentle surrender. Towards the end she would look in the mirror and fail to recognise herself, and he would struggle to recognise her either.
He buried her in the cemetery to the south of town that overlooked the ocean where she would lay forever with strangers as the waves crashed relentlessly against the cliffs below.
And when the fog in the mirror had gathered itself into tiny pools that slid down the glass as teardrops he switched off the light and walked quietly to their bedroom where he might, again, search for her in the darkness.