Mirror, Myself, and I

The rhythmic chirping of the alarm clock penetrated his earhole sans lubrication.

Alan sat bolt-upright, swiftly forming a tapered beak with two fingers and a thumb, and pecked at the snooze button without taking even a second to aim or look where he was probing. He clicked down the button on the first try, a result of the practiced precision of years of waking up to the same goddamned assault.

Immediately the ear-fucking noise ceased, but the racing of his heart and the throbbing of his head pounded to a matching tempo. Just a few more minutes of sleep, he would bargain, maybe an hour at most–that wasn’t asking too much, was it? He considered laying back again against the cool comfort of his pillow, maybe pull the quilt over his shoulder and chin–just along the jawline so as to provide maximum warmth without making breathing stuffy and uncomfortable–but decided against it.

Instead, he grasped the corner of his blanket and whisked it over his half-naked body, allowing him room for escape. His legs swung over the edge of the bed and his bare feet planted themselves flat on the carpet. He rested his still-aching head in his hands, elbows on his knees, and sat for a moment in silence. His heart-rate steadied as he felt the cool morning air wash over his unclad torso, allowing some semblance of cognition to return to his sleep-addled mind.

He rubbed his eyes, flicking away the little flakes of crust that had gathered in the corners overnight. The blinding light of the morning sun shone through the window opposite him, his eyes taking their sweet time to adjust. Focusing on the bright-red bars on the face of the alarm clock, he vaguely noticed a blurry series of numbers that looked more and more like 8:17 with each subsequent blink.

“Fucking hell,” Alan said in a yawn. He wasn’t late or anything: this was just common yawnspeak. Cursing came more naturally to him in yawn form, for whatever reason, and “fucking hell” was a favorite yawn phrase.

“Shit,” uttered Alan between clenched teeth, stretching out his arms and arching his back. He also liked to swear when stretching. He was a profane morning person.

He thumbed at the side of his alarm clock, flicking the switch there until the little red dot to the right of “AL.” on the face of the clock disappeared. This assured he would not walk into another instance of alarm-induced ear-fuckery when returning to his room after taking a shower. He tousled his matted brown hair and rose to his feet, knees popping audibly as he straightened out.

His mouth tasted like stale Coke. It wasn’t pleasant. He made a silent promise to himself to never drink Coke before sleeping ever again. He’d made that promise before.

Vision hazy, Alan made his way out of his bedroom, down the hall, and into the bathroom, somehow without bumping into anything or falling over. He noticed on the way that his roommate’s bedroom door was closed. Normally the late-riser was Alan. Ethan, Alan’s roommate, woke up first almost every day since they moved into the apartment. Maybe this sudden change in behavior should have tipped Alan off as to how unusual the day would turn out, but he ignored it and went on with his morning routine.

Shutting the bathroom door behind him, Alan closed his eyes and turned on the light, noticing the change in brightness even through his eyelids. He slowly blinked them open and allowing them to adjust, the surrounding white walls and porcelain complicating the task. After a few seconds his vision cleared.

Mirror-Alan stared back at him.

“Hello,” said Alan and Mirror-Alan simultaneously. “Lovely morning, ain’t it?”

They each nodded in agreement.

Mirror-Alan had shaggy brown hair and hazel eyes, with a perpetual five o’clock shadow on his narrow chin. He looked tired, and Alan could sympathize, being tired himself.

As Alan moved away from the mirror, his reflection followed, and disappeared into the mirror’s frame. Alan felt a momentary pang of loneliness, but soon became thankful for the privacy, as he adjusted his boxers and began to relieve himself into the toilet bowl. Though fond of Mirror-Alan’s company, it was always awkward whenever Alan would use a bathroom that had a mirror posted behind the toilet, forcing the two identical Alans to watch each other drain snake and mirror-snake alike. It made the action almost competitive: maybe a race, or a see-who-outlasts-who, but it would almost always end in a tie, so there was rarely an upside to the awkwardness.

Alan flushed. Unlike Ethan, Alan never forgot to flush after a piss. Alan understood, of course: everybody’s tired and confused in the morning. And sometimes maybe you’d turn on the shower before pissing, and you don’t want to flush and fuck up the temperature of the shower, so you wait until the shower’s over, but by then you’ve long since forgotten about what you might have left in the toilet for your roommate to find later. Alan got that. It didn’t make it any less unpleasant walking into a urine-smelling bathroom, and looking down to see already-yellow toilet water.

But today, Ethan slept in, and Alan stood before a virgin toilet. The toilet water shone clear and pure, just waiting to be defiled, and defiled it was. He almost regretted flushing–leaving Ethan to Alan’s usual fate was an amusing thought, but he reasoned that doing so would only discourage Ethan from being the second to rise more often, which might prevent Alan from encountering more clear toilets in the mornings.

It was all about the big picture.




Day 234’s three writing prompt categories were, “Morning routine,” “A belligerent alarm clock,” and, “A tired cliche.”

Ah, the good old morning ritual cliche. Nothing beats describing a character through looking in a mirror. Am I right?


Maybe there’s more to this story than tired cliches? We will find out.

– H.

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