The Museum of Mirrors and the (Mostly) Dead

You can’t remember how you never saw it before. It was so obvious when it was finally pointed out to you, but it was easy to see how the entrance to the museum seemed to blend into everything else around it as if it didn’t want to be found (but secretly kind of did). From afar, the door frame looked newly painted, but a closer inspection revealed that the paint was actually fading and peeling in places, the paint below the exact same color as that which covers it now, itself peeling and revealing a third layer of the same, but faded, color beneath. Apparently the owners loved this shade of dark green.

You stepped back from the door and gave the building another look. The door frame stood alone, framed by the two adjacent apartment buildings on either side built up and over the door, as if the original construction was unable to either destroy the door or incorporate it into the new architecture being built around it. Almost as if it had simply sprouted from the ground between the two and squeezed its way into being. Both belonging there and not.

You didn’t understand the compulsion, the absolute need to find out what resided inside, but you approached it anyway, unwavering in your steps. The door gave way easily as you turned the knob. Despite its seeming age, there was no creak to the door, only a soft swish of the weather-stripping across the base as it slid across the floor. The space within was a long, dimly-lit hallway with deep gray walls and a single black stripe zipping along horizontally at knee level on both sides.

Far off, at the end of the hallway, you could see it open up into a larger, darker room. You walked what seemed an impossible fifty yards before the space opened up into a perfect square bisected by a half-wall in the middle.

No one stood guard to take tickets or money; there felt like an implied trust that lay thick about the room. As if, because of the ten mirrors on display, you were always being watched through one of them anyway.

So, not trust.

Not really.

You looked around the room, a place far darker than the hallway. The half-wall bisecting the room was completely blank, a faceless, nameless white. The walls behind you on either side of the hallway held a single mirror each, all bathed in what felt like intentional darkness somehow; unviewable, save for their outlines against the walls. The full walls on either side of those held three a piece. You walked around the half-wall; a large, single mirror hung on its backside.

You followed the walls around the room, giving each darkened mirror a cursory glance as you walked by. Brief flashes of things exploded inside your memory, light tickles of the past whispering truth on the air. The taste of something long ago and familiar bubbling up at the back of your mouth as the corners of the room seemed to disappear backwards into their own shadows. A feeling came over you once you’d crossed the hallway’s threshold completely, like the room was your own personal cocoon.



In that moment, you forgot where you had originally planned on going that morning, much less if you were headed somewhere intentionally at all. Was it important? Were you meeting someone or just out for a walk? Your purpose had been replaced with the sensation of the world stopping mid-spin so that you (and only you) could live within a frozen moment, within this room, indefinitely while every other living thing waited.

Your pace around the room slowed as you slipped deep into thought.

The half-wall facing the hallway was no longer blank. Across its surface was a painted, malleable grey muddled with streaks of swimming black. It swirled and eddied before turning completely black, the cloud unraveling and materializing slowly into letters, words, phrases, paragraphs, a black and white photograph of a teenager posed on a sand dune, the ocean behind him glistening on the day it was taken. A light sound, like that of time being sucked backward, broke the silence as the final letter solidified on the wall. Then silence again.

You stepped toward the wall and hesitantly ran your fingers across its surface, half-expecting the letters to be…what? Wet? Not real? There was a surface, a thickness, a difference between the letters and the wall itself, the outline of each word prominent and tactile if one’s eyes were closed.

Confused, and strangely satisfied, you stepped back to read the wall:

Alain Silvanestri, Collector
B. – May 7th, 1896 (Udine, Italy)
D. – October 23rd, 2001 (Chicago, Illinois)

From 1916 to his mysterious death in 2001 at the amazing age of 105, Alain Silvanestri traveled the globe, seeking out the ten mirrors in this collection. While Silvanestri never revealed how he found each one (or even found out about them in the first place), he kept painstakingly detailed notes about the particular idiosyncrasies of them all and the stories behind their creation and lives thereafter (at least as far back as his provenance hunting expeditions would allow).

Silvanestri found far more mirrors than appear in this space, however. Because, as he later wrote, he had many small,  secure warehouses in several European cities by then, almost half of his collection ended up burned, broken, or passed down Nazi familial lines during the height of World War II. The bulk of his collection, an estimated 243 mirrors, lay strewn about his childhood home in Udine near the Austrian border. Unable to remove them all before the German occupation, he gathered what few he could and left for Switzerland in the west in the hopes that, “If I couldn’t save the entirety of my past, I wasn’t going to allow myself to lose my future as well. Allow myself to get caught and tortured by violent fascists? In the country where I was born and raised and loved? Never.”

In early September of 1943, just days prior to the Third Reich’s invasion of his town, Alain Silvanestri found himself on American shores along with scores of other immigrants fleeing Europe in massive numbers. Through some stroke of luck, as he says, he was able to offload two of the smaller mirrors he’d brought with him as bribes for entrance into the country. Having been born and raised in an oceanside town, he believed New York City might make it feel less like he’d just lost the entirety of his life. After two weeks, Silvanestri couldn’t handle the constant noise of the city. With nothing but the clothes he wore and a suitcase packed with mirrors, a little money, and food, he bought a train ticket to a place called Chicago, where he lived out the rest of his life.

Of course, his travels didn’t stop there.

Chicago became the new hub for his discoveries, the central point where all the collected mirrors came to be stored. He’d heard rumblings from old compatriots from the old country about new mirrors (perhaps some of his previous collection, they hinted) floating around Europe and Asia.

While Alain Silvanestri worked numerous odd jobs to build up his travel budget again, he spent his free nights scanning newspapers for odd news and library books for any mention of a mirror that might be worth collecting. The entirety of his notes were gone as well, burned or confiscated by the SS, so he started over again as if this were simply the beginning of his obsession rather than its second act. He searched stateside first, realizing it would not only be cheaper to do so, but would familiarize himself with the American landscape. After a slow decade, Silvanestri was finally able to consider himself a citizen and began travelling to the outside world again.

Lisbon, Cuba, Germany, Switzerland, Iceland, South Africa, Argentina (for hadn’t there been rumors of Nazis moving there shortly after the war?); the world was no longer off limits to him.

“In 1974, just before the Worli rioting occurred, I found myself lost in a Mumbai marketplace. I had been chasing this particular ghost of a mirror for almost fifteen years. The seeds of self-doubt burrowed themselves deep in my gray matter; what was I doing? Was it worth it? Out of the last hundred mirrors found, only one or two were remarkable enough to even mention. The climate played havoc on my headspace, the language of the Indian people a constant buzz in my ear from sun-up to sundown. I felt confined in a strange kind of vertigo that kept me wobbly. Ironically, I never found my center in India.

The sun had been too much. They told me I’d passed out right there in the middle of the market. I had to believe them because, when I came to, I was lying inside the home of a friendly older woman who kept bringing cold, wet rags for my forehead as they dried quickly in the equatorial heat.

She took care of me for a several hours. Eventually I was able to explain to her what I was doing in Mumbai. She seemed excited for me and then ran out of the home. She returned with an older gentleman, his beard a long and stark white against the darkness of his skin. By some incredible stroke of bizarre luck, he was the owner of the mirror I’d been looking for. He seemed to be relieved of it when I left with it beneath my arm, wrapped in older, unused fabrics to protect it.” (See: Mirror 2 – “The Twin Sister of the Desert”)

This collection first appeared in Oslo, Norway in 1992. While several of the mirrors are from the original first appearance, a few of the artifacts have been swapped out for others multiple times over the seven years that followed as Silvanestri continued to hunt down pieces containing near-mythological aspects.

No one heard from Alain Silvanestri in 1999. Or the year after that. For whatever reason, he had stopped traveling and didn’t seem to be at his home in Chicago. Many friends assumed he had passed on, having been over 100 years old then. And while they shed a tear and mourned his passing, they knew he’d lived an incredibly long and fascinating life. When he finally made his presence known again in the summer of 2001, it was through a full-page ad he’d taken out in the Chicago Tribune.

Both fans and critics of his work wondered what the paranoid rambling signified in Silvanestri’s life. Having removed himself from the public eye two years previous, many believed it couldn’t possibly be him as everyone simply assumed he had died. Was this some imposter posing as Alain Silvanestri? What possible reason could there be to do so? Who would benefit the most from his name floating across newspaper pages and appearing all over the internet?

As the world buzzed over the possibilities and theories, Silvanestri returned to radio silence until his body was found two months later on the alley side of a hotel. Detectives at the scene found that he’d been staying at the hotel under a pseudonym, Elias Jakobsen. When they searched his room, they found it in shambles. Bed sheets were scattered across the floor, along with mattress springs and pillow stuffing. The closet had been ransacked; clothes torn and luggage ripped apart. His wallet lay open and face down on the floor by the bathroom, each slot devoid of identification, the wallet itself devoid of any cash or credit cards.

It was first presumed that he had jumped from his 8th floor balcony, but the sliding glass door was found to be locked from the inside of the room. Upon further inspection, there was no way to do so from the outside.

While the hunt continues for the rest of his collection, his case remains open as cold case experts hunt down leads as to who (and why) someone would murder a 105-year old man. Was his two-year silence a way of hiding from these people? Had he simply lost his mental faculties completely and fallen into a deep state of depression? What happened to the rest of the collection that was not bequeathed specifically to this museum and has never been found since?

We have no answers, but we do have these remaining ten mirrors as monuments to a monumental life.

– The Curators

Each letter seemed to be sucked backwards into the white of the wall, turned into thin, fluid filaments before turning to grey, then eventually disappearing. The wall became a perfect white again, all trace of Alain Silvanestri’s story gone, poof, like magic, as if he himself had never been. You touched the wall again; the tactile nature of the letters was gone. The wall was completely flat and empty, lit up by a single bulb in the dark room.

Behind you, a light shined brighter on your left, further illuminating the first mirror.

And so you began the tour, reading the informational placard to the right of each mirror as you went along.

Mirror #1

“Dr. Cavanaugh’s Professional Mirror”

Created in 1978 by MedFirst Inc.
Found in 1984

Materials Used:
Sea Green Plastic
Medical or Dental Use

Type of Reflection:
Highlight Bodily Deficiencies
Normal Planar Reflective Surface

What You See:

The green plastic surrounds the circular mirror, then thins out and comes together, expanding gently toward the floor like a fat, singular rivulet of paint frozen in the air, forming a handle. Both the mirror and its placeholder are tarnished from time and scratched from use. Brassy spots lay scattered across the reflective surface, evidence of rot creeping in and making a home. This is what you see as you stare into the virus-like reflection:

Jaundiced skin. Brittle teeth. Plaque gathering itself inside your arteries. A slowing down of blood flow. The melting loss of tendons and ligaments between joints. The clouding of cataracts in the eyes. The thinning of hair, the shrinking of skin. Liver spots appearing as tiny specks, but quickly growing into dime- and quarter-sized blotches across your dermal landscape.

You see all this in the blink of an eye. The visuals are too much too quickly, so you turn away and find yourself panting in the dark of the room. Panic lights up every nerve along your spine; every inch of your body tenses up. For several terrifying seconds, you forget how to breathe. The darkness of the room begins to feel claustrophobic as if it were a heavy blanket closing in around you.

The light behind you dims while another blooms into brightness above the second mirror to your left on the next wall. You remember how to breathe and control it until you’re calm again, nerves no longer standing at attention.

A cursory glance behind you reveals that both the first mirror and its placard on the wall have disappeared. No glimmer shines back from the depth of the dark in the corner. You made your way over to the second mirror and read the information posted beside it…

Mirror #2

“The Twin Sister of the Desert”

Date Created Unknown/Unconfirmed
Found in Mumbai in 1974

Materials Used:
Diamond and Jewel-Encrusted, Silver Frame

Type of Reflection:
View of Sister Mirror’s Location
Two-Way or One-Way Mirror; Partially Reflective and Transparent

What You See:

Still shaken from the first mirror, you approached the second one gingerly, edging yourself across the floor inch by slow inch until you could see the briefest sliver of your reflection…but it never appeared.

You stood to one side, then directly in front, then on the other side. You waved your hand up and down the length of the mirror – nothing. Your reflection didn’t exist between the borders of the frame. It took several moments for you to process the effect, finally understanding that the mirror was looking through the location of another mirror; the two were somehow connected.

You peered into the frame as if it were a window instead, instinctively holding your hand above your eyes to block out unnecessary light. Past the mirror’s surface was a room. Dark with wooden walls. Large like a warehouse room, so maybe a barn of some sort? Crates lined both sides of the view. A large door at the back of the room shook in its frame, allowed tiny amounts of drifting snow to enter through the tiny gap between it and the floor. A single lantern’s light illuminated the room, made outlines of the shadows.

You wondered if it was April and warm here, where would it be snowing?

The door at the back of the room suddenly opened wide, flung back by the wind, and a figure hobbled in. The figure locked the barn door and removed the lantern from the wall, pivoting slowly and heading straight for the mirror. 

You gasped at the snarl on the man’s face, made even more frightening by the strange light of the swinging lantern as he approached. You ducked to the side of the mirror, afraid that you’d already been seen. But what exactly was he going to do? He was in another mirror somewhere across the world.

You chanced another look at the mirror from the side. The snarling rictus was pressed against the other mirror, his bloodshot eye large and looming from the other side, rolling around in its socket as he sought you out.

He whispered something in a foreign language that you could barely hear. Just outside his line of sight, you watched as he pressed a gnarled hand against his mirror’s surface, rippling the surface of the one beside you, and his fingers swam through as if stuck in molasses, creeping across and searching for something. You backed further away from the mirror, heard a woman’s scream gurgle through the rippled surface, and then the fingers vanished back to their when and where. The mirror went dark, as did its placard, and the next mirror became illuminated by its own light overhead.

Mirror #3

“The Tragic Glammer of Robespierre”

Date Created Unknown
(Estimated Early to Middle 18th Century, French Origin)
Found in 1967

Materials Used:
Gold Gilding on Diamond Shaped Frame

Type of Reflection:
Decision Maker with Catastrophic Results
Normal Planar Reflective Surface

What You See:

The mirror is black and reflects no light, a perfect black diamond on the wall, as if it’s somehow been turned off, that it’s broken, out of order. The black feels thick and deep, impenetrable. What reflection there is (if it could be called such) is merely the hint of your outline. Your general shape exists, but your specific details do not. Then…

A separate placard on the wall.

“While the provenances of many of the mirrors in Silvanestri’s collection are difficult to divine in the best of circumstances, the collection is lucky to have a brief, if somewhat muddled, lineage for ‘The Tragic Glammer of Robespierre.’

Maximilien Robespierre became the de facto ruler of the country of France in 1793, but was then later executed for charges of tyranny and dictatorship, which he argued against vehemently.

The night they came for him, he attempted suicide with his pistol, but ended up only destroying most of his jaw. The day after his arrest, the executioner at the guillotine ripped the bandage off Robepierre’s healing face and allowed it to bleed while Robespierre screamed in pain before the guillotine’s blade severed his entire head.

While it remains a story wholly based in myth, some believe that Robespierre’s blood was drained at the execution site and then used to cover and splatter all of his earthly belongings before burning everything in a pyre. It’s said that only this mirror survived the blaze. Were it not for several light areas of charring on the frame, this story could be easily dismissed.

True story or not, the mirror exists and was passed down from French ruler to French ruler for generations, ending up in the possession of Emperor Napoleon III until his surrender to the Prussians in 1870 at the end of the Franco-Prussian War.

Here, much of the mirror’s history ends as not much is known about where it ended up in Prussian hands. No known historical records of it exist until its reappearance in India during the middle of World War II, where it became a kind of family heirloom passed down generation to generation because of its obvious worth in the frame alone.One could posit that the nature of the mirror is that of an advisor to the ruler in possession of it, that the mirror somehow led these men to rule their people with tyrannical methods, but there are no evidentiary reports that back this claim up during its existence within India in the hands of a single family.”

You reached out a finger to touch the surface of the mirror and immediately drew it back. The surface was ice cold; colder, even. Cold enough to burn almost instantly. And like that, the overhead light diminished, bathing the frame and placard in dark shadow again while the lighting above the next mirror on the adjoining wall came into being, sparkled off strange edges and angles and caught your attention from the corner of your eye.

Mirror #4

“The Proof That He Lived”

Date Created Unknown
(Estimated Early 14th Century)
Found in 1951

Materials Used:
Severed Human Fingers (Real), Epoxy, Silver Coating

Type of Reflection:
Truest Hunger
Silvered Mirror/Decorative

What You See:

The frame seemed dipped in silver, the bumpy edges appeared to be rough wood until a closer inspection revealed every tiny “limb” to be the bottom side of a human finger, print side facing the viewer. They were stacked and stuck together in such a way that you questioned whether or not they were moving several times. The detail on the fingers was immaculate; each swirl of print on the tips was easily visible, each knuckle divot expressive in its own way.

After examining the frame, you stared into the silver-coated surface. Deep in the middle, far off in some reflected horizon, a cloudy spot appeared and grew larger. In the swirling eddies of the spot, the image of a former lover appeared, one you hadn’t spoken to in years (though you both thought about each other often enough). As quickly as it appeared, the image was gone, left burning a copy of itself on your retina and your memory.

And then you read the placard. The fingers composing the frame weren’t carvings, but were instead actual fingers glued together by some monstrosity of a human being and then turned into…this, whatever this was. You couldn’t fathom the concept. Not only the amount of work, but the sheer number of fingers numbered at least ten missing hands (and who knew what they had done with the thumbs since none were found within the frame’s construction).

Below, another separate placard on the wall.

“Alain Silvanestri was as prone to following leads based in fact as he was to those based in pure folklore. This mirror, ‘The Proof That He Lived,’ is one that rides the fine line between both of those as the story attached to it has been considered English propaganda demonizing the Scottish during the time.

Alexander Beane, the supposed creator of the mirror and incestuous cannibal, left his home town with a woman. Together, they created a home in a coastal cave hidden away from the majority of society in a place called Bennane Head.

If one is to believe the stories, they raised a family within this coastal cave; 8 sons and 6 daughters. Those sons and daughters themselves had children together, giving Alexander Beane and his wife approximately 18 grandsons and 14 granddaughters.

To survive, the family would attack travelers that came anywhere near their stretch of the coast, robbing their victims before killing them outright. The bodies of the victims would then be dragged back to the cave where limbs and organs were eaten, pickled, or tossed into the ocean after dismemberment. Of course, as oceans do, the water brought the evidence back, washing it all up on shore.

Nearby coastal villages soon grew suspicious at the amount of mutilated body parts washing up in their hamlets. Their suspicions were founded when a man came running into the middle of town, screaming that his wife had been not only attacked, but disemboweled. He had even seen the attackers drinking her blood right where they’d been accosted.

Bloodhounds and teams of men hunted down the clan of inbred cannibals back to their cave. The men found every wall covered in flesh; some quite fresh, others dried out long ago. They also found barrels of body parts being pickled for eating later. The entire clan, all 48 members, were executed without a trial.

Later estimates put the clan’s number of victims around 1,000.”

A shiver went up your spine as you imagined what those villagers must have thought walking into that coastal cave – the skin of men and women and children hanging up like bad decoration throughout the subterranean dwelling; the smell of violence rotted through by time. Had a finger in the frame moved during your reverie? Readjusted itself among its colored and compacted brethren? Before you could get a closer look, the light above dimmed into darkness as the next mirror over revealed itself beneath its own luminescence.

Mirror #5


Date Created Unknown/Unconfirmed
Found in 1993

Materials Used:
Cherry Wood, Ornate Carving, Art Itself

Type of Reflection:
Alternate Future
Normal Planar Reflective Surface

What You See:

The frame is a deep, reddish brown. It is three inches thick all around and intricately carved. The swirl of battle scenes flowing into tranquil scenes and back again runs along every inch. Though unconfirmed, the frame feels like someone has tried to imprint a general history of their country and their people into it in case the memory of them got lost along the way somewhere else.

And the mirror’s surface? Nothing. It appeared to be a regular mirror until you were close enough to breathe on it, the heat misting up on the surface before dissipating quickly into an image of your past, a pivotal moment, a life-altering direction based on a choice. The scene played out towards its inevitable, knowable end…which never came. Not as you remembered it. It was, in fact, the opposite of what actually happened; a completely separate decision had been made and you were viewing the ‘what could’ve been.’ The results were fascinating until the image fizzled back out into a cloudy gray and disappeared.

Another info placard hung on the wall to the right, but you couldn’t remember if it had been there before or not.

“Until his successful coup d’etat in 1973, Chilean president Augusto Pinochet seemed to make leadership decisions slowly, often mulling over an idea for days before ever vocalizing the order. The week before the coup was planned to take place, a constituent had given him this mirror as a gift. After that night, while he locked himself away in his room for hours at a time, he seemed to become brutally decisive in everything he did. Knowing what we know now, we can safely assume that Pinochet spent his free time playing out the endgames on a million different choices through the mirror’s image.

Ironically, sources claiming to have been close to the dictator say that his use of the mirror in making political decisions wasn’t about accumulating power in the moment, though that had been a perk. The driving force behind his abuse of the mirror’s ability was to find a way to make himself immortal, to be forever remembered in the pages of history until the book closed for good. Political power had been a close second, but only insofar as it could propel his name far into the future long after he’d been turned into food for worms.”

You stepped back in front of the mirror and breathed upon its surface again. There was no movement from deep within, no nothing. The light above dimmed; the light from the next mirror came into brightness.

Mirror #6


Date Created Unknown/Unconfirmed
Seemingly Ageless Based on Testing
Found in Greece in 1995

Materials Used:
Bone (animal or human; unclear)
Mirror is polished with a mixture of:
Aqueous humor fluid from one or several eyes from the dead;
Blessed water; infant tears; grain alcohol.

Type of Reflection:
Alternate Moments/Removal of Presence in Time
Normal Planar Reflective Surface

What You See:

The mirror appeared to be framed in wood until you got closer. Finely compressed bones, many somehow still intact and undamaged, were bound together in twine spiraling around the entire length of the frame. Some kind of glue or epoxy was then slathered on, preventing further damage or decay. You could tell that some were the bones of animals; you assumed the others were not. Your stomach curdled a little; the taste of bile rising in the back of your throat, souring your mouth.

The mirror itself contained a milky shine, as if cobwebs had somehow been frozen within, not quite blocking the reflection, but dimming it. Aging it.

The reflection came into focus and then slowly began erasing you, fading you out.

A montage of your memories, from last to first, flipped by in the mirror’s surface, your image quickly being erased from all of them all the way back to your birth. A mother’s belly shrunk and then grew again. The man with her was different, the child that emerged was not you. A new montage flipped by, the you-that-wasn’t began living your life (though it was no longer yours) and making your decisions, altering the outcomes of instances where your simply being there, your saying one right (or wrong) thing, your decision to stay or go changed a multitude of timelines in good or bad ways. New ripples of effect, new scenes of the not-past began muddying up your actual memories. So many of the moments in the mirror’s surface felt familiar for some of their parallels to actual happenings – not unlike a disquieting déjà vu.

When you could watch no longer, you stepped back from the mirror and swallowed. The taste of bile had not disappeared, no matter how many times you tried to swallow it away, yet still you tried and hoped your own memories had not been tainted by the not-memories you’d just seen.

The light on the mirror dimmed down, allowed the room to disappear again briefly before the light above the next one hanging on the adjoining wall to your right came into shine and beckoned you to the next exhibit.

Mirror #7

“Standard w/ Millhauser’s Miracle Polish”

Created During the Great Depression
Exact Year Unknown
Found in 1958

Materials Used:
Square, Wooden Frame, Smooth Finish

Type of Reflection:
Silvered Mirror/Decorative

What You See:

The mirror was the kind of average thing one might find in a home; utilitarian, plain, not for decoration. Below it, a thin, circular pedestal hoisted an old plastic bottle just below the bottom of the frame. Across its front, the phrase “Millhauser’s Miracle Polish” read in an exciting, but somehow subdued, font. The phrase was faded with age and the years of fingers rubbing against it. Beside the bottle, a miniature chamois sat folded neatly, ready to be used.

No prints, fibers, or streaks marred the surface as you stared into it, seeing your reflection perfectly. Not perfectly, no. There was an extra something to the reflection that stared back at you. Not quite an aura, but somehow a more perfect you, and more “you” you than you had ever been. A strange feeling of pride bubbled up inside you, warmed you from the inside out until your reflection beamed the widest smile back at you.

You cocked your head and turned your body from side to side, admiring yourself like a modern day Narcissus. You couldn’t believe how much you’d changed since the last time you’d seen yourself in a normal mirror. Had the previous mirrors ruined your idea of your self-worth with each viewing since stepping into this weird anomaly of a museum? Had your reflection always looked this good? You didn’t think so, but the room had, so far, warped your sense of all normalcy in the last half hour.

You stepped closer to admire yourself up close and the lights quickly blinked out, shuttering the mirror and its bottle of miracle polish up in the shadows again. Your need to see the reflection again, and immediately so, quickly eclipsed your rational mind as another light clicked on, begging you to see the next reflection. You hoped it would evoke the same kind of feelings within you as the Millhauser had done, but deep down, you knew that expectation would be blown apart and desiccated within mere seconds of seeing your visage in the next gleaming surface.

And so you moved with trepidation towards the next mirror on the wall, the grip and pull of the previous mirror slowly dissipating with each step.

Mirror #8

“Father Brenmawr Pays a Dowry”

Created 1896
Found in 1992

Materials Used:
Wood Frame, Plain, Rough (Unsmooth Edges as Well)

Type of Reflection:
Normal Planar Reflective Surface

What You See:

The mirror’s frame is rough, unsanded, with an army of tiny splinters jutting up and out from the edges. The mirror’s surface is cloudy, but only from streaking left from its last clumsy cleaning.

Another placard appears below the main one:

“This mirror (what is called affectionately ‘The Dowry’) can be traced back through a highly religious family on the eastern coast of America, many of whom made their living building furniture. As the family grew in size, their offspring moved in more southern directions, all the while creating a family business that began in Boston and spread down into the deep Carolinas.

Inscribed on the back of the frame is the phrase ‘Fr. Brenmawr, Dowry,” the abbreviation most likely meaning ‘Father’ as shorthand for a member of the clergy.

What few notes Alain Silvanestri left behind are mostly ruined with mold, the pages having been tainted by moisture and time. There is a brief mention of this mirror in particular, but only in so much as Silvanestri and the mirror were both born in the same year. Beyond that, not much special relevance is placed upon this particular piece other than what Silvanestri would call its ‘affect,’ the word being intentionally misused, though perfectly understood in its gently mangled context.

After lengthy examination and numerous tests, we curators were able to discern Alain Silvanestri’s journal entries on the mirror later. Unlike the other mirrors in the collection, this one requires the viewer to spend significantly more time with their reflection before the mirror would offer up its affects, many of which were often unobservable until much later.

In some way, the mirror acts as a vast cache for the viewer’s memories, specifically those forgotten. The mirror will play these forgotten memories for the viewer and, once the memories are re-cemented within the viewer’s brain, they are never played through the mirror again. While each experience is obviously distinctly unique for each viewer, the lasting effects seemed to give a fullness to the lives of those who kept journals of their experience on our behalf.

Since following the history back directly to Father Brenmawr has been complicated and woefully incomplete, we assume that the mirror was a gift for a more forgetful member of his family or a member of his religious faithful. Though it is strange that a man of God would put any measure of faith into an artifact such as this.”

As you read the final word on the placard, the light above dimmed slowly, the dark of the room seeming to drink it all up greedily. To your right, on the wall leading to the hallway, the next mirror was revealed in soft glow, ready to be examined by your curious mind.

Mirror #9

“The Two Faces of Terroir”

Created in 1996 by the American Standard Company
Found in 1996

Materials Used:
Bathroom Mirror

Type of Reflection:
Normal Planar Reflective Surface

What You See:

You stepped over to the last wall connected to the hallway entrance. The light beamed down and surrounded the bathroom mirror like a halo. There was nothing special about the mirror from the outside. Since you didn’t seem to be allowed to touch the exhibits (you assumed; no signs were posted allowing or not allowing it), you wondered if a typical bathroom cabinet lay hidden behind it. If so, the large single mirror would be a single door as well. You wondered if it opened from the left or the right side.

Nothing seemed to happen as you stood there, staring into it, eyes darting around each stretch of surface to see if you were simply missing something. No shimmer of mirror surface; no strange effect revealed itself; no gnarled hands came reaching through trying to pull you over to the other side.

You rubbed your chin, confused. You began making faces in the mirror, stretching out your mouth in unnatural ways, raising your eyebrows, crossing your eyes, sticking out your tongue. For a brief moment, you were a child again, enjoying the brief respite of whimsy in the dark room. You could see half of the wall bisecting the room behind you in the reflection and wondered if the last mirror on its other side would be this disappointing.

And then your nose began to itch. 

You closed your eyes and felt your fingernails scrape along the skin, alleviating the annoying feeling. You looked up into the mirror and saw what looked to be large swathes of skin bunched up beneath the reflection’s fingernails. The skin along your nose and cheek was red, blood blooming up, your nails having left deep marks.

You stared down at your own hands and saw nothing. No blood, no skin. You pressed your hand to your face, felt nothing but skin exactly where it was supposed to be. You looked at your fingers and again saw no blood while your reflection continued to tell a different story.

With your other hand, you ran a fingernail along the other side of your nose, watching as the skin bundled up along the reflection’s fingertip. Again you looked down and saw no such evidence on your own hands.

And with that, the light above blinked out as the bisecting wall behind you became illuminated from the other side, the last and final mirror exposing itself to be viewed. You turned towards it and walked back, counter-clockwise, through the room. When you turned, you saw the long, ovular mirror taking up nearly the entire width of the bisecting wall.

Mirror #10

“The Three Truths”

Estimated at Nearly 250 Years Old;
Date Unconfirmed
Found in 1977

Type of Reflection:
Augury, Past-Reader, Now-Knower
Convex Style

What You See:

The long, ovular mirror is framed in tarnished bronze. You guess its dimensions to be two feet from top to bottom and six feet long from side to side. Your head appears on the left side of the mirror as you round the bisecting wall in the middle of the room. Your visage is that of a younger you, a more youthful you, but most certainly a you that once was.

As you move to the center of the mirror, your face changes in subtle ways, ages and elongates until you have reached the far right side of the mirror. Your face changes more noticeably now. Your hair thins, your face tightens up and then begins to sag in areas. Wrinkles appear.

You walk backwards toward the right side of the mirror, never letting your gaze waver from it surface. You do this over and over, watching your face age and then become youthful; become youthful and then age again.

On the right side of the mirror, a placard hangs:

“While the provenance of this particular mirror is completely unknown, it was crated up and delivered with two pieces of information: the name of the mirror and a copy of Alain Silvanestri’s full page letter in the Chicago Tribune mere months before his death. Because there was no immediate provenance to be found for the mirror and due to Silvanestri’s puzzling death, we felt the final mirror should be displayed with the full page ad he wrote in the hopes that maybe viewers will leave knowing the fullest story we have. Perhaps someone will come along with information about what actually happened to the famed mirror collector in the days leading up to his untimely demise.”

July 7th, 1999

Chicago, Illinois.

Dear Patron Saints of the Windy City,

I’m here. I still exist. I am a thing in which purity reigns, even after 103 years of transient life upon this earth. Despite my constant running from the phantoms that have chased after me through the shadows of Middle Eastern markets and Slavic churches, across mirage-filled deserts and fever-dream inducing cityscapes…

I. Am. Still. Here.

There aren’t many who will understand what it takes to give one’s life over fully to the passion, to get drunk on it, and then to find one’s self suckling of its bottle from first waking moment to last. Here is where I am, a drunkard of my lusts, unable to part ways with the things that I have sought after for so much of my life.

But I suppose it’s easier when it’s forced upon you rather than simple life-as-happenstance. To watch your home be overtaken by fascists, to have your home uprooted and turned inside out into something completely unrecognizable. To become a foreigner in your homeland does strange things to a man. Little slivers of the bravery façade break off and fall, smashing on the ground to leave trails of glittery gleam in your wake.

And yet we’ve still not yet figured out how to rid the world of its evil. We conquer one threat and five more (all worse than the first) pop up to replace it, multiplying like vaccine-resistant strains that never seem to remember how things played out before. They never seem to realize that the history books are close at hand and so easily referenced with just a little effort, and yet…still they make the same movements, say the same things, act in the same subversive ways. We don’t always see them for what they are in the beginning, but they often make themselves easily spotted. Their impatience makes them stupid; their lust for power makes them weak.

But too long I’ve remained silent and must now speak out against forces that, through my travels and worldly learnings, I now know actually exist. They are constant, perpetual, ever-present, timeless. They bow to no man that I’ve ever met and still they press onward and inward, wishing to curdle all the goodness the world has to offer.

We. Cannot. Allow. That.

It is time for us to stand up and fight back against these accursed spirits that so easily warp our views of the world and of its people. Perhaps I knew at an early age that my purpose would one day find me standing steadfast in their path, a lone man fighting against the often intangible. Perhaps I have always been drawn to the struggle, that it has been a birthright I carried upon my shoulders like a yoke from sun up to sundown.

But I’m an old man now. My bones are frail and my skin no longer pliable. It is time for someone else to pick up where I’ve left off, to run headlong into danger with no sense of self-preservation left inside them.

Someone, anyone. Please.


Alain M. Silvanestri.

And then, inexplicably, you were back out on the sidewalk, staring at the green door that seemed to have grown up out of the ground between two apartment buildings in the middle of a bustling city block. The sun felt blazing hot against the back of your neck as you tried to remember how you left the museum. You stared up into the sky, across the street, down the sidewalk, confused.

You walked back up to the door and tried to open it again, wondering if you’d simply missed something or if time had gone funny on you and warped your sense of place. The doorknob didn’t budge. The door wouldn’t even shake in its frame for you, like the museum had been sealed shut like a tomb to keep its secrets hidden from passersby. Without any specific destination in mind, you took off down the sidewalk and wondered if you had simply imagined it all. You’d stop by tomorrow just to be sure.

But one of two things would happen tomorrow: you’d forget the location of the museum’s entrance or you’d no longer remember the experience, save for the leftover emotions that bubbled and gurgled inside you each time you saw a mirror from that day forward.

Either way, you would never look at your reflection the same way again.

Adam “Bucho” Rodenberger is a surrealist writer from Kansas City. He earned dual bachelor’s degrees in English and Philosophy from the University of Kansas City-Missouri in 2009 while minoring in Political Science. He earned his MFA in Writing from the University of San Francisco in 2011 and continues to work on short stories and novels-in-progress. He released his first short story collection, Scaring the Stars into Submission, in 2016 and is set to release his second collection, The Machinery of the Heart: Love Stories, in early 2019. He has been published in multiple journals and anthologies. He blogs at: