【Short Story】Man in the Mirror

“You think you’re smart, huh?” I shoved the frail boy into his locker. A loud bang resonated throughout the empty hallway.

“If you’re so smart, you should’ve realized what would happen if you call me an idiot in the middle of class,” I grabbed the glasses off his face, threw them on the ground, and stomped on them.

It was the end of the school day. All the buses had left, and it was mostly people who had clubs that remained. The nerd said nothing, and did nothing to retaliate. Instead, he just preemptively tried to shield himself from any blows I might make.

“You’re lucky I’m in a good mood today, or you’d be in the hospital,” I gave my last words and one quick jab at his upper arm. Tonight, my parents would be gone for work, and my girlfriend finally decided to put out. I turned away from the nerd, and just down the hallway I saw her: my girlfriend.

“Cayla, I thought I told you to wait in the car,” I told her.

“Is this why? So you could bully Kevin without me knowing?” she responded, her voice beginning to quiver.

“Babe, don’t worry about him,” I walked up to her and tried to calm her down.

“Of course I’ll worry about him, he’s been my friend since elementary school!” she yelled at me.

“Well, he should know his place,” I looked back towards him, and saw him running the opposite way down the hall.

“Was it that joke he made during class? You really couldn’t take a joke?” she was starting to turn from upset to irritated.

“Look. No one makes fun of me,” I raised a single finger and pointed at her.

“You used to be different. You used to be a leader everyone could look up to. Now you’ve let it all go to your head,” she folded her arms and turned away. Her long hair slapped my face softly.

“It’s not like that, I promise,” I tried to tell her.

“No, we’re over. I’ll see you in class tomorrow.”

She began to walk away, but instead of chasing her, I went the opposite way. That damned nerd is going to wish he was never born. I ran down the hallway, and nearly caught up to him. He was just outside on the schoolyard, but when I tried to exit the building, the doors wouldn’t open. They wouldn’t even budge. It was as if they were completed fixed in place. I assumed this exit was out of order or something and didn’t even think about how the nerd left. I just needed a different way out. I went to the gym right nearby and tried to leave that way, but again, nothing would budge. Something also seemed off—the gym was completely empty. I thought there was supposed to be basketball practice today.

The front door was shut, the fire exits were locked, and none of the windows would open even the slightest. Not to mention, the entire school was empty. I tried peeking into the staff room, but even there, was nobody. I banged on the windows, and even threw a chair at them, but the window did not break. However, something did happen. A high pitched, inhuman shriek came from the direction of the staff room’s fridge. It almost sounded like someone screaming for their life, but it was more mechanical and inhuman sounding. The fridge door started opening by itself, but I could only see it from the side and the door was opening towards me. I wasn’t able to see inside. All I could see were extremely long, and sharp, metal claws coming out from inside.

Shit, what the hell is going on? I booked it to the only place left that I could think of. As I ran down each hallway and up the stairs, I could hear the sound of metal digging into the floor, and the ear-piercing shrieks continued. I didn’t dare look behind me. Eventually, I made it to my last hope: the door to the roof. It opened with a creak, and made a loud thud when I shut it behind me. A second later, I heard a loud metallic bang and the door shook. Whatever was chasing me must have hit the door. My heart was racing a million miles a minute and my brain couldn’t even think properly as I was guided only by survival instincts. The thing kept pounding on the door, and I backed up to the edge of the building. I looked down and saw nothing. Actually nothing. It was as if the school was floating in empty space, except there were no stars or planets or anything like that. Then, I heard a crashing noise as the door broke down, and what came out was a diabolical machine. It had four sharp metal legs, and two arms. One was a rusty hook, and the other was a pincer. Sitting atop the mass of metal was a human head. It was the head of the nerd who I saw not that long ago, except the flesh almost seemed to be melting off.

With barely a moment to react, the machine darted at me. I tried to turn away and jump into the void, but felt a sharp stinging sensation in my back, and was pulled away from the edge of the roof. I could feel my limps dangling as I was suspending in the air, and the machine turned me towards it.

“You should know your place” it said in a non-human voice, before placing the pincers around my neck.


I suddenly felt myself fall to the ground, except I could not move. After all, who would be able to move without a body? My vision went black, and completed faded out.

Then, I was surrounded by a bright white. It did not give the impression of brightness, so much as the absence of dark. Surrounding me were countless mirrors. I looked down, and saw that my body was still connected. I could move my limbs, but only a little. I was bounded. It was painless, but it felt like I was pinned to a cross. It wasn’t long before I heard a voice.

“Welcome to my world, where you shall atone for all you have done wrong” it said.

“W-who are you?” I could barely even speak at this point.

“The one you so mercilessly tormented,” it emotionlessly spoke back.

“Kevin? Is that you? You have to let me out man. What’s going on?” I began to plead.

“Out? How can a computer program leave a computer?” the voice laughed.

“Huh? What are you talking about? We were just at school together, weren’t we?” I couldn’t hide the confusion in my voice.

“Maybe that’s what you think. Take a look into the mirrors,” he said, and I obeyed.

In each mirror, was a different me. I would see myself picking on Kevin in countless different ways, and then I would meet a gruesome end.

“This is your fate,” he said, before continuing.

“What a beautiful world,”
“What a twisted world,” we said at the same time.

Once again, I was thrown into the mirror, my memory erased, and I was slaughtered, again, and again. Sometimes, I would be forced to experience Kevin’s life, and be beaten up by myself. Sometimes, I would experience my girlfriend’s perspective, and laugh and cheat on myself behind my back. The sea of mirrors and worlds contained within them was endless. After each time, I would end back up in the white space with an amalgamation of memories for a short period of time. Kevin’s voice eventually stopped, but the experience would continue. Endlessly, I would be born, and disposed of. This world could have been anything, but, reflecting the heart of its tortured creator, it became disgustingly distorted. Despite the torture and knowing that I was a piece of garbage without a soul, I still clung to hope. In the end, it felt like having nightmares. But even nightmares are just dreams.

After what felt like a hundred years, I finally heard Kevin’s voice again.

“I think you’ve learned your lesson. I’m satisfied. You’re free to go,” and I was thrust again back into school. This time, I kept all my memories. I was me. I was able to leave and do whatever I wanted. I avoided Kevin and graduated high school, married my girlfriend, and moved to Hawaii to get as big of a change of scenery as possible from that school. I’d get a job as an electrician, make a respectable living, grow old, and eventually retire. I had children who grew up and had their own kids, and on my deathbed, I was surrounded by all my loved ones. I would die in peace. My world faded to black.

Then everything went white.

【Short Story】Museum of Regrets

I lived a quiet, peaceful life. It all started in elementary school. Perhaps my path was determined even earlier than that, but my memory does not go back that far, so I’ll have to begin from the first grade. There was a bully on the playground. He wasn’t in my class, thankfully, but he was a nuisance to everyone during recess. He’d stand atop the play structure and make it so that anybody who wanted to use the slide or monkey bars would have to deal with him. It was unfortunate, but nobody stood up to him. The teachers could not be bothered to do anything about him either, even despite parents complaining. Perhaps they didn’t believe the parents, or maybe they thought the claims were exaggerated. It’s hard to tell. It was a different time back then, before schools had to bow to the absolute authority of parents. Anyway, as long as we stayed away from him, it was usually fine. I say usually, because he wouldn’t stay up there all the time of course. If nobody was coming up, he’d get bored and leave to find someone to pick on. I was never bullied by him personally, but one day, my friend was the victim, and all I did was watch on as the bully shoved him. I should have stood up for my friend. I’m not sure why I didn’t. It wasn’t like I had to fight the bully or anything. I could have just tried to break things up, but I did nothing. Now, of course, you could just blame that on me being a dumb kid, but like I said, that was where it all started.

In middle school, it was me who got bullied. Nobody stood up for me, and I didn’t expect them to. They would take me and throw me outside the school building right before classes began so that I’d be locked out. They’d make fun of me and take my lunch. But I didn’t react. I didn’t fight back. I figured that if I did not give them any reaction, they would leave me alone eventually. And they did, but at what cost? I should have tried to protect my dignity. I should have tried to fight back—maybe give them a punch or two—but I did nothing. In general, I tried to stay as down-low as possible. I didn’t want to cause trouble to anyone, or give myself trouble.

High school was a lot more peaceful. I had a small group of friends, though I would not say we were closely knit. We mainly hung out together at lunch because there was nobody else to hang out with. It was better than being alone, so it was sort of just an obligatory friendship for all of us. I kept my head down, did my work in school, went home, and played video games the rest of the day. It wasn’t bad, but at the same time, other people were beginning their lives. Athletes doing their best to master a sport. Artists developing their skills. Other people were taking school seriously, aiming for scholarships, taking AP classes and planning their entire academic future. Meanwhile, I just wanted to pass with as little effort as possible. Even when it came time to graduate, I didn’t ask anyone out to prom. I didn’t bother taking any chances with girls. In hindsight, high school was the perfect time to develop my social skills, but I didn’t do anything. I didn’t even really get much from the friends I was hanging out with. Like I said, it was obligatory more than anything else. I didn’t see than any other time outside of lunch hour, and even then we weren’t exactly social with each other. But that was okay by me. I didn’t need a date to prom. I’ll find the one for me eventually, right?

My parents pressured me to go to university, so I ended up going. I didn’t really feel determined to go, but I didn’t want to let down my family either. Because of that, I decided to take something that I thought would be safe and easy and majored in business. I wasn’t really invested in the idea of becoming a business man to begin with, but the classes were somehow even more boring than I expected. I couldn’t care less about societal stakeholders or marketing. I just wanted a simple desk job. In the end, it was the math that got me. For some reason, we had to learn calculus. It was bad enough at first, but I’ll never forget the how difficult the chain rule was. But in the end, that was on me. I should have studied more, or asked for help. Maybe if I really tried, I could have understood. Maybe if I really tried, my accounting homework wouldn’t have all been turned in late. It just felt like too much effort. I didn’t want to go to university and major in this in the first place. But again, it was all my fault. I should have argued with my parents about this and tried going to a community college instead. I should have tried to take control of my own destiny. I can say this now that I’ve had so much time to look back on it, but back then, I still had not yet realized the result of my compounding mistakes.

In the end, I dropped out of university, and I was shackled by a mountain of debt. There wasn’t much I could do except work a minimum wage job—call center work from home. Of course, by home, I mean my parents’ basement. I didn’t have much of a life at this point, and working the night shift and not seeing coworkers really didn’t give me a chance to try to turn anything around. 

Years passed, and I finally paid off my debt. I was still working close to minimum wage at ungodly hours, and my parents were starting to get sick of me. That said, they weren’t sick of me simply for living with them for so long. It was a rough economy and they understood that. It was more along the lines of them not feeling proud of me. What had I done with my life? I didn’t do anything special, and I failed when I did try. I looked at what my old high school classmates were up to online, and that was when, for the first time in my life, it truly hit me. One was on his way to becoming a doctor. Another was a parent with a loving husband. There was someone who had started their own business, and someone who had been working their way up the corporate ladder from the very bottom. Everyone was doing something. They were accomplishing something with their lives. What was I doing? I was living a shitty life, but deep down, I believed that someday my life would truly begin. Someday, I’d get the recognition I deserve. Someday.

But that day never came. I kept working low-level jobs, putting in minimal effort while at the same time expecting some kind of break—some kind of opportunity to fall into my lap. I moved out of my parent’s house, but whenever I came home from work, I never felt ready to start a hobby or work on self-improvement, not realizing that there’s never a “perfect time.” I found a girlfriend, but she quickly broke up with me when I wasn’t putting in enough time for her. She tried to tell me, but I always argued back. I never blamed myself and tried to change. In my early life, I had not been assertive enough, but now it was too much. If only I had practiced social skills earlier on, I would have learned the right level of agreeability for different situations. Now that I escaped debt hell, I’d waste my excess money on gambling and booze, when I could have been putting it into good use by investing in something that would give me long-term satisfaction. By the time I was in my mid-forties, I realized. It was too late. I had wasted all my time. There was no way I could turn things around now. The life I lived was the real deal. I spent the whole thing taking no risks—never going out of my way for anything—and I got what I paid for. Instead of taking control of my life, I let life take control of me. Even when I was taken here, I wasn’t able to resist…

Anyway, thanks for listening to my story. All I can do now is think back on what I could have—and should have done, but perhaps you’ll be able to take something from it. Or maybe you’re just here to get some amusement. I’m not really sure, but it looks like my time is up. Once again, thank you.

The red light emanating from the terminal faded, and the speakers went silent. Despite how many people were walking around, the chrome floor remained perfectly clean. Other voices could faintly be heard in the distance. It was quite the large room, but it was very plain, except for the walls which had various wires and tubes running along them. These tubes connected to the bottom of a cone-shaped pedestal, upon which was a cylindrical glass container. It was difficult to tell, but the inside the glass container seemed to be filled with a liquid. Inside the liquid, a snaky mass of flesh and bone with an especially wrinkly lump of meat on the top was suspended. Many wires were connected to that lump. This was only one of many displays. Many other cylindrical exhibits were in the room as well, each with their own terminals in front allowing you to interact with them, and each with their own story to tell. 

Welcome to the museum of regrets.