Mirror Image

Stand in front of a mirror.  It can be any kind of a mirror, really–a simple bathroom mirror or an ornate affair in the ball room of some luxury seaside hotel.

mirror

 

Pause for a moment, and look at your reflection.  What do you see?  Maybe you’re looking great, refreshed, ready to take on the world.  Maybe you’re tired, with weary, sleepy eyes and a dour expression.  Either way, surely you just intend to see yourself in the mirror.  No one else.

catinmirror

 

But for Millicent Barnes, the protagonist of a first-season Twilight Zone episode titled “Mirror Image,” things aren’t quite that simple.

When we meet her, Millicent is sitting on a bench in an Ithaca, New York,  bus depot.

millicenttroubled

 

It is stormy, raining, after midnight, and the bus depot is near-deserted.  Impatiently, after checking the wall clock, she gets up and approaches the baggage clerk, a gruff older man with glasses and a perpetual scowl, and asks him when her bus will arrive.

“It’ll be in when it’ll be in,” he grouses, and says all the complaining in the world won’t make it arrive any sooner.  He tells her to stop coming up and asking him about it every ten minutes.

She is taken aback.  She tells him this is the first time she’s asked him.  But he looks at her, as if she’s speaking in an alien tongue, and shakes his head.  She’s already asked him several times, he asserts.

Dazed, Millicent approaches her bench and sits back down.

Rod Serling’s voice-over breaks in as we see a close-up of the woman’s face . . .

“Millicent Barnes, age twenty-five, young woman waiting for a bus on a rainy November night.  Not a very imaginative type is Miss Barnes, not given to undue anxiety or fears, or, for that matter, even the most temporal flights of fancy. . . . [But] circumstances will assault her sense of reality and a chain of nightmares will put her sanity on a block.  Millicent Barnes, who, in one minute, will wonder if she’s going mad.”

Indeed.  Because strange things continue to happen.  She notices her bag on the floor behind the clerk’s desk.  How did it get there?  She is sure she never checked her bag in with him.  The clerk, gruffer than ever, informs her that of course she did. . . .

goingtoladiesroom

 

Even more confused now, Millicent heads to the Ladies Room, where a cleaning woman is finishing up her shift.  The cleaning woman asks her if she’s okay–she was just in here a few minutes ago, and didn’t look so well.  Angry now, Millicent tells the woman this is the first time she’s been in the Ladies Room.  What is going on?  Are the employees in this nondescript, nearly empty bus depot all setting out to trick her, play a practical joke on her?

She opens the restroom door, about to storm out, but then turns around to say something else to cleaning woman.  In doing so, she looks into the mirror, and, with the door open, sees the depot’s main waiting area reflected there–the clock on the wall ticking, second by second; the slate-gray floor; the hard-backed bench upon which she had been sitting.

She gasps.  She is sitting on the bench.  She is right there.  But how could that be?  How could she be in the Ladies Room and, simultaneously, on the bench in the waiting area?  The woman she sees on the bench looks exactly like her, dressed in the same outfit.  It’s impossible.

mirrorimagedouble

 

She closes the door.  “I must be overtired,” she says.  A moment later she dares to fling it open again.  This time, the bench is empty.  Her doppleganger, or imposter, or the illusion she saw is no longer there.

Returning to the bench, Millicent wonders what’s wrong with herself.  “I must be sick,” she thinks.  “But I don’t have a fever, no fever at all . . .”

A young man comes in out of the cold, wet night, and joins her on the bench, introducing himself as Paul Grinstead.  He is waiting for the same bus she is–to Cortland.  From there he will go on to Binghamton; Millicent to Buffalo, about to start a new job.

paul!

 

Sensing she can trust this kind stranger, Millicent tells him about the odd things that have been happening to her tonight.

“Delusions,” he says.

paulandmillicent

 

She is quick to agree, but then says she hasn’t ever experienced anything like this before.  She is not prone to imagining things that aren’t there.  Besides, “why did that man and that woman say they’ve seen me before?  They haven’t!”

Paul doesn’t have an answer.  “This one’s tough to figure out,” he admits.

The bus arrives.  They head outside together, but just as she is about to board, Millicent sees herself already seated on the bus.  This “other” Millicent smirks at her, a glint in her eye, and she screams and races back into the depot.

bus

 

Paul follows her in and tells the driver to go on along without them, they’ll catch the next one.  The next bus, however, doesn’t arrive until seven.  They will have to while away the night at the depot.  The baggage clerk turns down the lights.  Shadows crawl and gather along the floor and on the walls.  It is quiet. “Like a tomb,” the clerk tells them.

Millicent, now lying on the bench, recovering from the shock, begins to recount something she read once, a long time ago.  Something about different planes of existence, parallel worlds that exist side by side.  And each of us has a counterpart in this other world.  When, through some freak occurrence, the two worlds converge, the counterpart comes into our world, and in order to survive, it has to take over–replace us, move us out, so that it can live.

“That’s a little metaphysical for me,” Paul tells her.

Millicent is beyond hearing him.  “Each of us has a twin in this other world.  An identical twin.  Maybe that woman I saw . . .”

Paul breaks in, “Millicent, there’s another explanation.  There has to be.  One that comes with . . . more reason.”

She doesn’t listen, won’t be comforted.  She is convinced the woman she saw on the bus is her doppleganger, her counterpart, here to take over her life and identity.  The more Paul tries to calm her, the more wide-eyed and unresponsive she becomes.

wide-eyed

 

Finally, he tells her he has a friend nearby.  He’ll call him.  Maybe he can stop by and lend them his car, or even drive them part of the way.

But as Paul tells the baggage clerk, who has eavesdropped on the entire conversation, he has no friend nearby with a car who will drive them anywhere.  He is calling the police.

“She needs help,” he says.  “Medical help.”

The police arrive minutes later and take Millicent away to the hospital, for observation.  Meanwhile Paul decides to settle in for the night, maybe sleep on the bench.  But as he takes a drink from a fountain, he notices a man stealing his suitcase and running out the door with it.

“Hey!” he yells after him, giving chase.  And that’s when he realizes it’s not just any man he is pursuing.  It is his double.  Himself–looking back at him as he runs away, a twisted grin on his face.

paulstwin

 

“Hey!” Paul keeps shouting, over and over, into the cold November night.  “Where are you?”

“Obscure metaphysical explanation to cover a phenomenon,” Rod Serling announces as the scene fades.  “Reasons dredged out of the shadows to explain away that which cannot be explained.  Call it parallel planes or just insanity.  Whatever it is, you’ll find it in the Twilight Zone.”

infinitymirror

 

********************

Mitchell Brant, surely, would not call it insanity.  He would go for the parallel-planes explanation.  Unlike Millicent Barnes, however, Mitchell does not limit himself to just one “other self.”  Literally, there is no end, no limit.

endless

 

In chapter 12 of The Eye-Dancers, as he is about to fall asleep, Mitchell ponders this.

“‘Good night, Mitchell,’  he whispered, to himself, to all of his selves, in all of the worlds in existence.  His last thought before sleep finally took him away was of a line of Mitchell Brants.  They stood, single file, one in front of the other.  He started to count them in his mind’s eye, but the line went on and on, forever.  He was infinite, endless.

“When he counted the two hundred sixty-third Mitchell Brant, the line began to melt away, disintegrating into the netherworld of his dreams.”

************************

So the next time you stand in front of a mirror, look deeply.  Look closely.  Perhaps, just perhaps, it is not just your reflection, and your reflection alone, staring back at you.

mirrormaze

 

Thanks so much for reading!

–Mike

49 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. ptero9
    Nov 22, 2013 @ 19:00:26

    Although they were reruns, Twilight Zone and One Step Beyond were teenage favorites of mine! Great post 🙂

    Reply

  2. Laurel Leigh
    Nov 22, 2013 @ 19:16:22

    This post was too fun to read. I used to watch TZ a lot but never saw that episode.

    Reply

  3. John W. Howell
    Nov 22, 2013 @ 20:26:17

    Very cool. I was lucky enough to see the original airing. Good job

    Reply

  4. stockdalewolfe
    Nov 22, 2013 @ 20:58:45

    Twilight Zone is fresh even today. Never saw this one. Thanks for posting.

    Reply

  5. jeffgoulding
    Nov 22, 2013 @ 21:08:19

    I am a huge fan of Twilight Zone that was fun to read and I loved the use of screen shots. They really took me back. Loving your writing cheers

    Reply

  6. Freda Moya
    Nov 22, 2013 @ 21:21:39

    Hey Mike;
    You just sent shivers down my spine with your final words there! When I was younger, around 9 or 10 I think, I couldn’t look at myself in a mirror without getting the oddest sensation that it wasn’t really me looking back. It has always remained the weirdest feeling I’ve ever had and it lasted for years and I have never been able to explain it. The only thing I have ever reasoned is I saw something on TV involving mirrors which somehow freaked me out and having an overactive imagination, as children do, I allowed it to play on my mind. It stopped quite suddenly I think, but whatever; I still can’t look too closely into a mirror without the dread that funny feeling will wash over me again as it did back then. So er…I won’t be following your advice to look deeply and closely in the mirror, even if it is a nice gilded one in a hotel suite! 😀 But thanks for sharing. Perhaps one day I’ll turn that feeling I had into a story!

    Reply

  7. Master's Slave
    Nov 22, 2013 @ 21:55:05

    Great story….i love the unexplained. But It could be déjà vu it would certainly be explainable. I have dreamed things and then lived them later. Incredible.

    Reply

  8. tonyroberts64
    Nov 22, 2013 @ 23:07:36

    That is certainly a strange happening. But, having lived near Ithaca, I think I can safely say it is not the only strange thing that has ever happened at that bus station. 🙂

    Reply

  9. Eric Alagan
    Nov 23, 2013 @ 01:04:31

    Twilight Zone was one of my favourite series and I’ve caught the re runs – thanks for the memories and those screen shots.

    Reply

  10. laurie27wsmith
    Nov 23, 2013 @ 05:15:40

    Sit in a room in front of a mirror, have the lights off and a candle sat to one side so it lights up the mirror. Stare at your image and keep an open as to what you see.

    Reply

  11. honeydidyouseethat?
    Nov 23, 2013 @ 06:06:50

    Love when you reference “The Twilight Zone”

    Reply

  12. Fashion Mayann
    Nov 23, 2013 @ 13:31:41

    Really scary ! Once again, this is a fantastic “Twilight Zone” post ! But I think I’m going to avoid mirrors for a while !

    Reply

  13. teagan geneviene
    Nov 23, 2013 @ 23:24:47

    As a child the Twilight Zone heavily influenced my imagination and the handful of stories I wrote [before my parents demanded that I give up writing them]. What a great show it was!

    I was also fascinated with mirrors, for as long as I can remember. When I was little I imagined that surely they were some sort of gateway. They are such fuel for stories. Thanks very much for the post!

    teagan

    Reply

  14. Sherri
    Nov 24, 2013 @ 19:58:21

    Love this Mike! This episode of the Twilight Zone, of all the many that I adore, troubled me the most and really scared me. I’ve never forgotten it. Have you ever read ‘From the Corner of his Eye’ by Dean Koontz? I’m suddenly remined of it now and if not, I think you would love it 🙂

    Reply

  15. eemoxam
    Nov 24, 2013 @ 21:55:25

    Today has been a day of mirrors for me! Your post could not have been more Twilight Zone-timed!

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Nov 25, 2013 @ 20:32:51

      Thank you! But you have me very curious about your “day of mirrors”:)

      Reply

      • eemoxam
        Nov 27, 2013 @ 13:40:57

        It was just weird! I had a dream about a mirror, then I had a kind of funky experience looking into my bedroom mirror, stumbled across an article about the shadow self, which isn’t really mirror related, I guess, but felt like it and then read your blog. I was creeping myself out over here!

  16. Janice Spina
    Nov 28, 2013 @ 15:49:39

    This was mesmerizing! I remember this episode. I am a big fan of yours and Twilight Zone!

    Reply

  17. 2embracethelight
    Nov 29, 2013 @ 23:09:50

    I am a fan of Twilight Zone. Still watch the reruns. Can’t recall this one however. They are simple yet so deep in their plots and meanings. Very good how you did this so much justice.
    yisraela

    Reply

  18. Enchanted Seashells, Confessions of a Tugboat Captain's Wife
    Nov 30, 2013 @ 05:53:19

    I wish I saw a kitty in my mirror. Still miss my darling Bandit who used to follow me everywhere, especially the bathroom so she could drink from a dripping faucet and watch me blow dry my hair. Our reflection together made me smile all day.

    Reply

  19. likeitiz
    Dec 01, 2013 @ 03:13:55

    Good read! I’ve always been an avid Twilight Zone fan.

    Reply

  20. WordsFallFromMyEyes
    Dec 01, 2013 @ 09:15:50

    How well you’ve told this story – & just love the b/w photos. Love the name Millicent for a character. Really good, Mike 🙂

    Reply

  21. Carrie Rubin
    Dec 02, 2013 @ 21:19:41

    I used to watch the Twilight Zone all the time when I was young. I don’t remember that episode–probably because if I saw it, I likely didn’t understand it at my young age. What an interesting concept, though. It would be nice to see another TV series like that come on, instead of the endless reality TV that’s taking over the top spots.

    Reply

  22. beebeesworld
    Dec 03, 2013 @ 02:14:14

    thanks for reading my blogs! I read yours-some of the old ones wont let me respond, but i still read them! beebee

    Reply

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