Imagine if the Evil Queen only ever saw Snow White in her mirror: a porcelain face, blood-red lips, ebony black hair created by photons streaming through glass, hitting the silver coating, then reflecting toward the queen’s gaze. Would you be able to trust such a mirror: one that conjured an image of a stranger–absorbing and scattering bits of your soul while the light bounced right back? The queen knew of her sallow skin, wrinkles creeping on her face like roots latching onto a rock, threads of silver in her hair that might have gleamed had they not been desiccated and brittle like the hay fed to horses each morning. The feeling of ugliness sat like an undigested avocado seed in her stomach; ugliness always festered from the inside first. And yet the mirror showed white skin, red lips, black hair–so that must be what others saw, and how do you resolve the discrepancy between how you see yourself and how others see you?
You discover that the Evil Queen used a body length mirror, a piece of silver-backed glass framed by baroque-style antiqued gold patterned with scintillating leaves, and you think the natural element feels out of place. Your stare meets another pair of eyes–not watery, not dry, not like your own tearing up from the pressure on your inverted diaphragm because you tried too hard on the blow job. You always try too hard.
Of course the queen tried to kill the imposter who couldn’t wear her face properly. Of course the queen tried to carve out Snow White’s heart to confirm if it beat to the same rhythm as her own, if the splattered blood skeletonized like a water ring on a coffee table, if it turned brown and then black in the same way her monthly bleeds had stained her underwear before menopause. Of course the queen ripped a comb through that ebony hair, curious if it would fall out in clumps–chemotherapy spares no one; of course the queen found the reddest Red Delicious in her pantry so she could compare the red against Snow White’s lips. Yet when the queen looked into her mirror, Snow White stared back–a doll cased in glass, a corpse frozen with cryoprotectants, a vegetable for a brain, skin as white as snow.
You wonder how anyone could find this mirror useful. You know that your ribs only become visible when you raise your arms above your head or you suck in your stomach but look, from that reflection, you can trace bone from fixed to false to floating rib, and maybe if all of your bones flipped inside out, you’d be able to feel the costal groove, a dinosaur’s back calcified under your skin. Your reflection–because you don’t know what else to call it–always smiles in a way that hides teeth yet contracts your zygomatic major muscle. You touch your mouth, wondering if you are smiling as well, but your fingers get distracted scratching off the dry, peeling skin from your lips. A tube of ChapStick hides underneath the table, where lost things that don’t want to be found go, covered in cobwebs.
Magic mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all? A question the queen might have asked had she trusted the mirror. But she did not. Not the thin layer of silver sprayed on the back of glass, not the dubious magic the salesperson had marketed even though she’d been determined to haggle down the price, not the specular light-print. The queen thought the reflection looked like a girl who’d wait for a prince to kiss her awake, a slumbering fabrication dreaming of dwarves playing beer pong with red wine.
You don’t trust the mirror. You know you are still hunched over, stomach sore from the esophageal spasms last night. You know your skin flakes and cracks, how the surfaces of your hands form a keratinocyte grave.
Maybe the Evil Queen fell victim to the mirror’s coaxing–that’s who you are, that’s who you ought to be–so she strangled Snow White, squeezed and squeezed until capillaries burst, and you want to reach from the mirror, from the glass, from the casket, and tell her, it’s all right.
Lucy Zhang is a writer masquerading around as a software engineer. She watches anime and sleeps in on weekends like a normal human being. Her work has appeared in various publications, including After Alexei, Digging Through The Fat and Bending Genres. She can be found at https://kowaretasekai.wordpress.com/ or on Twitter (@Dango_Ramen).