Everybody knows how mirrors reflect everything backwards. Right?



"What the hell?" Jake McGee scrutinized himself in the antique mirror of his large bathroom. Wearing only a towel and dripping wet from a recent hot shower, he raised his right hand and lowered it repeatedly, tracing its movements in the reflection with disbelieving eyes. He called his wife to see the miracle manifest before him.

Slightly annoyed by the interruption to her own morning routine, Patty McGee strode into the humid, damp bathroom while fixing a large hoop earring to her right lobe. "What's the matter, dear?" Her voice, always raspy and deep, edged with impatience.

"Look at this!" Jake raised and lowered his right hand repeatedly. His dark eyes flaring beneath the plastered bangs of his wet hair, he watched his own movements in the reflection with deliberate intrigue. "Can you believe that?"

"You know I have to present the Dolson case today," she huffed, extracting another hoop earring from her palm and laboring to fix it to her left lobe. She cocked her hips impatiently, and leaned lightly against the door frame. "I don't have time for silly antics."

"Antics? Antics?!" Now he did a sharp jig in front of the mirror. Droplets flew from his hair. "Don't you see it? Well, look, damn it! Not at me, look at the reflection in the mirror." He pointed, and his opposite number pointed back.

"I see it! I see it!" She grew bored of his game, and turned to leave. "You look very nice, dear."

"Patty! Wait, come here a second."

"What?" She spun on a heel, her face cross and her patience exhausted.

"Just… just humor me for a second, huh? Come here. Let me see you in the mirror."

"Honestly, Jake, if you make me late…."

"Come on, baby. I would do it for you."

She returned to the bathroom, where she stood next to him, facing herself in the mirror. He raised his right hand, and indicated she should do so, as well.

Triumphant, he tossed his hand as though discarding something awful, and he turned to her to say, "There! You see?"

"I see, alright," she grunted, turning and exiting the room with a smart, hurried stride. "I see I married a child!"

Puzzled and confused, Jake returned his attention to the mirror. Loudly, speaking to her where she undoubtedly sat on the edge of the bed to straighten her stockings and buckle her shoes, he asked, "You didn't notice anything strange? Anything at all?"

"Nothing beyond my husband, who has too much time on his hands when he's not in orbit. Good-bye, darling. Have a pleasant day! I'll call you after lunch, okay?"

Jake opened his mouth to call her back, but checked himself. He knew she would refuse, because the Dolson-thing really was a big deal. Ever the dedicated professional, she would let nothing interfere with her almost certain victory after so many years of negotiations and posturing.

So he watched himself brood in the mirror. He raised both hands at the same time and he wiggled the fingers. Now he lowered the left, while he raised the right higher. "Son of a bitch," he cursed softly. "Will you just look at that?!"

In the mirror, superimposed over specks of toothpaste and whiskers, when he lowered his right hand, his reflection lowered its own right hand, and not its chiral left, as he expected. Everyone knew that mirrors reflected everything backwards. When he raised his left, the reflection facing him should raise its right. This mirror, however, raised its left, instead.

"Maybe it's the mirror," he thought aloud curiously.

Accordingly, he exited his bathroom and crossed their shared bedroom to his wife's bathroom. It reeked of perfumes and it stifled with lace and frills. He stood before her spotless mirror and he moved alternate arms to watch himself in the reflection. Again, though it should appear backwards to him, the mirror incongruously flipped things into the wrong orientation.

Whimpering, Jake pressed the palms of both hands flat against either side of his head. His opposite mimicked the movement too precisely. Perplexed, he returned to the bedroom. "How can this be?" For a time he sat on the edge of his bed, gripping his towel and shaking his head morosely, and he struggled to remember all he ever learned about mirrors.

"I know," he said aloud to an empty room, "that it's supposed to be seven years bad luck to break one. I know mirrors are made of glass with some kind of shiny metallic backing. I know they present a three dimensional world in a two dimensional format. I know they reflect light to the eye. I know light functions on the basis of common, immutable physical laws. I know these laws dictate that mirror images should be reversed. I know that's the definition of a 'mirror image'."

He reviewed each of his past experiences with mirrors and their reflections. He imagined himself standing before such shiny windows countless times in the past while brushing his teeth or shaving or grooming his hair. No matter how many times he recalled such visions, he witnessed the contrary nature of the looking glass.

Yet, when he raised the hand on the right side of his body, his reflection also raised the virtual hand on the right side of its virtual body. Before the preponderance of such a long, rich history with mirrors, Jake surmised that he had remembered everything correctly. He had passed a dozen advanced physics classes, after all, both as a graduate and an undergraduate, and many of those classes made light their subject matter. If anybody understood how a mirror worked, it was he.

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