The Man in the Mirror

By Taylor Jevning

 

Day 10 – November 21

 

It’s been ten days since I started writing down the changes I’ve been undergoing. No sign of improvement. These events occurred tonight exactly as I describe them.

 

I’m staring at myself in the bathroom mirror, making heavy eye contact with a reflection that feels like it is looking through me. To say I have clammy hands would be an understatement, my fists squeezing together in an attempt to grip something for stability, though nothing was present for me to hold onto.

 

I then remember that clammy hands are a symptom of my condition, wiping them frantically against the fabric of my jeans before hastily adjusting the shower tap to a temperature I don’t bother to check. As I remove my clothes, I stare at the reflection once again as if I’m viewing myself in third person. I feel as though that’s how I’ve been viewing myself for days, like I’m watching my body go through the motions as I disconnect from myself more and more. I’d had a sudden, pervasive, overwhelming feeling this would happen from the first time I saw what I had seen two weeks prior, but some part of me is still optimistic that my fate has not yet been sealed.

 

I step underneath the stream of scalding water, allowing it to wash over my skin despite the temperature being far too hot for the average person. I wonder, for a moment, if my reflection will still be staring at me if I peek at the mirror and caught it off-guard. Since becoming aware of the condition, I’ve felt as though I’m being constantly watched, like I’ve been bugged. The thought of it makes me scrub at my skin under the water, attempting to remove a layer of what I’m becoming and uncover a pigment of what I used to be underneath.

 

The changes are occurring at an accelerated rate.

 

The first physical sign was my heart rate.

 

It’s not normal for your heart rate to slow beneath 40 beats per minute. That was the first time I realized I needed to see a doctor. He checked my symptoms inconspicuously, attempting to disguise his concern behind thick glasses and a clipboard with a generic assessment sheet. He proceeded with the check-up normally so as not to alarm me, but when he paged someone for a second opinion, I felt the sense of unease wash over me like I’d been woken up from a deep sleep by falling into a bathtub. I wouldn’t have even noticed the heart rate if it wasn’t for my watch tracking it, but the subsequent changes have been more…noticable.

 

My reaction speed has gone up. I’ve noticed that while gaming online with my friends. I’m not likely to be the top player in a game against my friends due to the fact I have an actual job and an inadequate number of hours to dedicate to improving my gaming skills. Last week, I played a game where none of my friends would have believed it was me playing if I hadn’t been using my microphone, and I haven’t played since. There’s something shameful about displaying symptoms of my prognosis, regardless of whether they are considerably positive symptoms when compared to the sweating, shaking, and metabolic issues wreaking havoc on my worn-out body. I’m more concerned about what this increased performance means, like I’m being physically reprogrammed to be capable of more than the average person, but for all of the wrong reasons.

 

The shower had become a safe space for me over the last week. Since the first symptoms began, I’ve lost most of the colour from my face and started presenting as pale and sickly. After a few urgent tests by my doctor, we realized by body could no longer digest sugar properly, and they gave me a prescription for injections I was expected to give myself four times a day. They helped initially, but by the third day, I needed five times the insulin to even begin to stabilize my blood sugar. By the end of the third night, the needle refused to penetrate my skin, and when I tried to force it, it broke at the tip, leaving me with no physical marks. I’ve come to realize that this condition may not be treatable from a biomedical perspective. Even scarier, I’ve resorted to not eating, and my body is working more efficiently than it had before I noticed the first symptoms. Food and water only seem to weigh me down at this point of optimal performance and bodily efficiency, which, as counterintuitive as it seemed, I enjoyed not having to cook for myself over the past few days.

 

I can run at speeds only expected from Olympic athletes. My tasks at work are completed within the first hour while I’ve always been the person to procrastinate and stretch my tasks throughout the work day. Within a week, I’ve unnaturally become more charismatic. My boss keeps speaking about promotions and my friends invite me out as if I am the centre of every friend group I am a part of. I’ve been avoiding the situation entirely, isolating myself in my room and blaming the distancing on “medical issues.” I’m not being dishonest, and if I admit it, being revered by the people in my life was a pleasant change from always being the person who faded into the background, but there is a sick, unsettling reality about my newfound confidence in that it is accompanied by inescapable, negative thoughts.

 

When I say negative thoughts, I mean thoughts you can’t even imagine. I can picture vividly the potential harm and danger I’m posing to those close to me, and I’m afraid if I don’t distance myself soon, I may act on the unspeakable things that keep creeping into the back of my head and planting themselves there as if I’ve been chipped and someone is controlling me to act out these things that would make me nauseous to describe in detail. The issue is that the more I detach from people, the easier it gets to picture myself carrying out these tasks that would make the most desensitized person’s stomach churn. The vivid dreams of dismemberment, arson, and torture of those who are close to me are becoming too real to control. I only really got scared one night; I had a dream about slamming one of my friend’s hands in an oven door and holding the door shut, feeling disconnected to the pain and screams that followed. When I went online the next day, that same friend mentioned that he burned his hand while taking food out of the oven earlier that day, and I changed the topic, unable to cope with the guilt I wasn’t even sure I should be feeling.

 

Ever since the first time I saw the man in the mirror, his eyes so wide that they were bugging out of his sunken in eye sockets and his smile stretching nearly from ear to ear, my mind and body have been preparing me to become almost like a machine that is hell-bent on destruction. I’m at peak physical fitness and growing stronger every day, and the thoughts and actions I am capable of now move closer to the forefront of my brain with every passing hour. I’ve avoided thinking too much about this, but the dream was in third person, and the expression on my own face matched the man in the mirror: same manic expression, same toothy, twisted grin. In the dream, I looked my counterpart directly in the face in horror as if he was standing right in front of me, and I was filled with dread as wondered if this was how other people would come to see me over the course of the next few weeks.

 

I turn off the shower for now, knowing well enough that I’ve wasted enough hot water in the last week trying to cope with the sweating and shaking of my entire body adjusting to it’s new “normal.” As I step onto the cold bathroom tiles and wrap my towel around myself, I wipe the steam off the mirror messily with my hand to reveal what I’ve been dreading to see. The reflection smiles at me wickedly, corners of his mouth twisting up all the way to his ears to reveal two rows of brilliant teeth, eyes open and wide in the most menacing display, but my own expression remained neutral. I shake my head, closing my eyes, but when I look back into the mirror, I see the same unpleasant, unsettling distortion of my own face. It has been two weeks since my reflection has been accurate to my actual expression, but at this point, I’m so desensitized from lack of sleep and food which my body no longer requires to pay much mind to it. My watch is showing my heart rate to be about 20 beats per minute, my eyes are burning as though I’ve left a pair of contacts in for an entire week, and despite my misery, the corners of my mouth are sore as if I’ve been laughing at the same joke for days straight. I’m going to try to go to bed now, but even though I’ve turned all of the mirrors around in the bedroom, I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep knowing he’s on the other side waiting.

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