Mixing a brew of freelancing and writing in the pan of social media
Let me share with you my second short story titled ‘Future Mirror’. It has around 2800 words, with approx reading time of 18-20 minutes.
“Hey, Toshi, see you at the party today!”
“Ya, sure. I won’t miss it. Get someone for me too,” shouted Toshi from his office cubicle. ‘As if, he would go. Why do they keep inviting me to parties? They know that I don’t do parties,’ he thought.
Toshi’s friends kept inviting him to parties to show off their latest girlfriends. And Toshi would always commit to being there with the parting line ‘get someone for me too’.
Reality was quite different though. Toshi had found peace in the past one year and was definitely not looking for anyone to come into his happy space and take away his freedom.
“I am quite happy with myself for the time being. Had enough of the drama last time I was in a relationship one year back. And the time invested in it was shocking. I barely had time for myself. When I found that my mental space was no longer mine, but 90 per cent occupied by her, that’s when I had to cut it off. Ruthless, I agree, but definitely necessary,” Toshi had explained this to one of his friends, who was adamant that he meet someone he knew.
He had adjusted well to his new girl-free life and was very much the bachelor that everyone confirmed he was. He lived happily alone in his 1BHK flat. He cooked, cleaned, washed his own clothes and even managed to have breakfast before leaving for his office sharp at 9.15 am.
On way back from office, he would buy some utilities from the market and he would be in his flat by 6 pm. Nice, uneventful, routine life. And he loved the monotony of it. Boring, some would say, but Toshi kept smiling throughout the day, didn’t he?
‘Need a comb, toothpaste, chips, biscuits, soap and a small mirror,’ thought Toshi, as he looked at the aisles in the supermarket. He looked at the slip of paper in his hand and kept ticking off mentally all items that he put in his shopping cart.
‘Now, where are the handy mirrors. Ah, there they are, with the plastic flowers. Hope there’s a small blue one. Odd, I know. But so what? Even men can keep small hand-held mirrors in their man-bags. I am not buying lipstick for god’s sake,’ thought Toshi, arguing a point with himself.
He found a small blue mirror with a flip cover, saw his face in it, checked out his receding hairline and made a mental note to use that heavily advertised hair oil that he had bought last week. It was high time that he win the losing battle and somehow save his hair.
‘Yup. Got everything. Comb’s nice and the mirror’s sharp,’ thought Toshi. He was frankly surprised when he saw that the mirror quality was so good. He admitted to himself that he felt his face looked even better – even with the three-day-old stubble – when he saw it in the blue compact mirror. He was sure the bathroom mirror in his flat did not do justice to his looks.
He shrugged, paid the bill and was home in his flat by 7 pm. After a shower, he changed and switched on the TV, keeping it on mute. He made a sandwich for himself, poured a glass of soft drink and switched on his laptop. He was in the mood to hear some jazz music that he had got from his friend.
He checked out the shopping list again and his mind went back to the mirror. After putting all the latest shopping buys into their designated places, he lay down on his bed and flipped open the blue compact mirror. He was a bit tired and the soft strains of jazz were making him sleepy.
He saw himself in the mirror again and brought it closer. ‘Yes. He looked good. But why didn’t the other mirrors in his flat show him the same nice face that he was seeing now,’ wondered Toshi sleepily.
Then he remembered the sandwich and sat up on the bed again. While munching on his sandwich and taking sips of cola, he looked at the mirror again.
He couldn’t see his face clearly now. The reflection was vague. There seemed to be some condensation on it. He cleaned it with a soft cloth.
‘Yes, it looks clear now. But wait…is that my face?
Toshi sat up straighter now. He peered into the mirror again in his left hand. His heart started beating faster. ‘Is that a girl’s face?’ His mind was beginning to speed up now. Unborn thoughts were taking shape faster than he could understand them.
As Toshi continued to look into the mirror, he started seeing more.
‘Yes, it is definitely a girl and she is standing – somewhere. In a crowd… with some people… friends probably… and she is chatting and smiling… looks like a mall,’ thought Toshi.
“Looks like brother Toshi is going cuckooooo, crazeeeee and plain bonkerrrrrrs,” said Toshi softly to himself. He found his voice wavering and carefully put the mirror on the bed. He got up and stepped away quietly and quickly from the bed. He didn’t want to disturb the moment.
The images kept playing in the mirror like a mobile video. Toshi looked around his room. The TV was playing on mute, jazz was on and the girl in the mirror seemed to be stealing glances at him occasionally, while chatting with her friends. Toshi saw the handy mirror on the bed, the girl and then his full length reflection in the big mirror right next to his bed.
“Ok. This is a dream and all’s good,” said Toshi and slapped his right cheek hard.
“Ow…ow…ow… Not a dream…Not a dream. It’s real. Mirror’s real. What’s happening here,” he said in a louder voice. He took a few more sips from his cola and tiptoed back to his bed. He looked at the mirror cautiously and inched his face closer to it.
The girl was now moving away from her group and walking towards the escalator. Toshi could see her back. And it seemed the mirror was not far behind.
‘Isn’t this supposed to be creepy or something?’ thought Toshi, shaking his head. His eyes were glued to the mirror. The clock in his room showed 9 pm.
The girl took the escalator, came to the first floor of the mall and started walking. She kept looking back.
“Is someone following her or what?” Toshi said and carefully picked up the mirror again.
The girl now entered a gift shop and started looking around at the items on display. The mirror followed her. There were greeting cards, keychains, soft toys and posters with prices clearly marked on them.
There was also a graceful woman at the counter. The girl asked the woman something, who then pointed a finger to her left with a smile.
“Yo, Toshi bro. Hey man, don’t you recognize that woman on the counter? It’s her. She is the one who pointed you too towards that pendant you bought for your ex-girlfriend a year back,” said Toshi to himself in an excited whisper.
He remembered clearly. And he also knew this shop. It was the same one, in a mall that was near his office.
Toshi’s hand was shaking a bit now, but he held on to the mirror, which now showed the girl walking in the narrow aisle lined with cards. There was also a shelf of small glass statues on which was a handwritten note that said, ‘Don’t touch. If it breaks, consider it sold’.
“Holy Macaroni! Is that me?” said Toshi loudly now, while looking hungrily at the mirror.
Now Toshi saw himself standing in the same aisle facing the mirror, just a few feet in front of the girl. He was looking at a small glass figurine of the ‘smiling Buddha’ priced Rs 1500/-. The girl came closer and looked at it too. Then she glanced at Toshi and smiled.
“That’s it. I want to know what’s going on. The girl is pretty and all that, but who is she? And what is this mirror?” Toshi asked himself, expecting answers. He got up from the bed with the mirror in his hand and went and sat on his rocking chair.
Toshi now saw the girl extending her arm and reaching out to touch the ‘smiling Buddha’. At the same time, the mirror also showed another girl wearing a cap coming right behind her in the narrow aisle. She came close and attempted to pass ‘Toshi’s girl’ from behind.
Toshi rocked himself slowly, absorbed in the mirror.
But before he could understand what happened next, he saw in the mirror that the ‘smiling Buddha’ was falling from the shelf in slow motion.
Next, he saw the mirror showing a succession of images: expression of horror on the pretty girl’s face, ‘mirror Toshi’ looking dejectedly at the broken pieces of the ‘smiling Buddha’ lying on the ground and the ‘cap girl’ looking back at both of them and the broken Buddha with a surprised expression.
The final image was of the pretty girl pleading with the graceful woman at the counter, who kept moving her head from side to side slowly and then pointing her hand grimly at the electronic watch behind her. The time and date displayed was 8.45 pm, August 19, 2013. The closing time of the shop was handwritten – 9 pm.
Toshi jumped out of his rocking chair. It was August 18, 2013 today and he knew it was not the pretty girl’s fault.
“Is the mirror showing me something that’s going to happen tomorrow?” said Toshi with a loud whisper.
He saw the girl in the mirror looking at Toshi and then looking at the counter woman with a sad, dejected expression. The mirror kept showing her face by zooming in on her eyes and then zooming out to show ‘mirror Toshi’ looking at her unhappily.
And suddenly it was over. The images in the blue compact mirror vanished and Toshi began seeing his reflection again. This unsettled him. He put the mirror on the bed and started pacing the room. It was 10 pm. He cooked some quick noodles for himself and had it with another glass of cola.
The alarm went off at 6 am. Toshi got out of his bed with a heavy head. He didn’t know when he had gone to sleep.
After dinner, he had held the mirror for a long time, while lying on his bed. The mirror’s images kept going on in repeat mode in his mind. A number of questions also fought for his attention.
‘Can I do something about tomorrow?’ he had wondered. If tomorrow happened the way he saw in the mirror, would he actually meet the girl? Was there such a girl in the first place? Could he somehow save the girl from her unhappy plight? Would he be friends with her? Shake hands first, exchange numbers next, go on a date later, maybe?
Something had to be done and Toshi was sure he would do it.
‘Today evening I am going to the mall. I’ll find out if that girl exists,’ thought Toshi, while shaving in front of the bathroom mirror. He made his breakfast of omelette sandwiches and started getting ready. While wearing his tie, he looked for the compact mirror on the bed. It wasn’t there. Surprised, he looked on the side table, the rocking chair and the TV table. Not there.
He looked on the floor, around the bed. There it was, lying on the ground. He picked it up, dusted it and flipped the cover open.
“What’s this? A crack in the mirror?”
Toshi reached the shopping mall at 6.30 pm. He couldn’t concentrate on his work the whole day. The girl’s face kept intruding, as he prepared reports and attended office meetings.
He had his laptop in his shoulder-sling bag. As he parked his bike in the mall stand, he could feel his heart beating faster.
And then Toshi saw her. “Is it her or am I imagining it,” he said excitedly. “It’s definitely her. She is wearing the same blue jeans and orange top with ‘I know’ written on it. The mirror was right.”
She was in a group, which passed him. Toshi hurried behind to stay with the group and his left foot hit a foot stand of another bike close by.
“Ow…OW…god…not now”. He felt sharp pain rising from his ankle to the calf muscle. He saw her walking away in the distance about to turn a corner to the mall’s entrance. He put his left foot on the ground lightly and put more pressure. The pain shot up. But with firm resolve, he started limping slowly to the mall. He checked his mobile. It showed 7.15 pm.
‘I still have time. I have to be in that shop by 8.30 pm. It’s going to happen between 8.40-8.45 pm and I have to be there,’ thought Toshi quickly.
He entered the mall which was very crowded and started searching for her. There seemed to be no sign of her. He limped ahead to the centre of the ground floor.
“There she is. Just as I saw in the mirror,” said Toshi to himself with relief. She was standing next to a pillar, with her back to him. He went closer and must have stared at her for a second longer than necessary, as she noticed him. Now, ever so often, Toshi saw her stealing glances at him with an inquiring look. After some time, she left her group and he knew where she was headed.
“Hey Toshi! You here? Shopping again?” Toshi looked around and saw his boss and his wife coming towards him. Both were quite talkative and he had to do something fast so that he could lose them. Toshi could see that the girl had left the escalator and was already on the first floor.
“Hello sir, good evening Ma’m,” said Toshi with a forced smile and limped a few steps towards them.
“What happened to your leg?” asked his boss.
“Nothing much sir. Just hit it on a stand,” replied Toshi and gave more details about his condition. With the boss and his wife getting into chat mode now and his mobile showing 8.10 pm, Toshi called on formula number 55.
He immediately took out his mobile, looked at it and excused himself with “got a call, sir”. He limped a few steps away and 15 seconds later came back. “Sir, got to go. Someone’s waiting for me. Bye sir, bye Ma’m.” He waved and limped quickly to the escalator. The pain urged him to slow down, but he shook his head.
On reaching the first floor, he hurried to the shop. He checked through the glass door entrance.
‘Yes, she is there, talking with the woman at the counter. And the time is 8.30 pm. Hurry Toshi. The ‘cap girl’ will be coming soon now,’ he thought and entered the shop.
He limped slowly to the spot in front of the ‘smiling Buddha’ in the narrow aisle. The pain was more severe now, but he managed to ignore it as he saw the girl coming towards him.
He had worked out his plan. He would catch the falling Buddha, the pretty girl would be grateful to him, they would shake hands, chat and exchange numbers.
She was now looking at the ‘smiling Buddha’ and then she smiled at him. Toshi smiled back contentedly. He was ready. He saw the ‘cap girl’ too in the same aisle, about to cross ‘his girl’ from behind.
She bent and reached out her arm towards the Buddha on the waist-level shelf.
“MAHNOOR…IS THAT YOU?”
Toshi saw the pretty girl drawing back her arm and turning back to look at the source of the loud voice.
“ALISHA…IS THAT YOU?” The girl immediately walked back and hugged ‘Alisha’. Then both girls walked out of the shop chatting excitedly.
Taken aback, Toshi shook his head slowly many times. His eye remained stuck on the glass figure of the ‘smiling Buddha’. The ankle pain came back to his awareness with renewed force. Slowly he stood up straighter.
“Excuse me,” said the ‘cap girl’ to Toshi, wishing to get some way to go onward in the narrow aisle. Toshi leaned in closer to the Buddha shelf, the ‘cap girl’ moved on ahead.
Toshi picked up his laptop bag from the floor, turned towards the shop entrance and took a slow, painful step forward.
Suddenly, he heard the sound of breaking glass just behind him.
Share your thoughts with me about this story in the comments below.