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The man who lost his reflection

John woke up that morning humming to himself. It was a Monday morning, and normally he would not be at all happy about that, but he felt, for some reason quite cheerful. He came downstairs, made his way to the kitchen and put on a cup of tea. A slice of bread in the toaster, a pot of jam on the table and he felt ready to face the world. Outside he could hear the noise of traffic, and the chatter of mothers taking their children to school. ‘Better have a quick wash and comb my hair’ he thought. So he made his way to the bathroom, pausing on his way to pick up his morning newspaper from the front door. In the bathroom, he turned on the tap in the wash-basin, and splashed cold water onto his face to wake himself up.

            Then he looked up staring with horror. There was no reflection of himself looking back at him. Just the back of the bathroom, and the door that he had just come through. But no sign of him. He shook his head to clear it and then looked again. Still no reflection. Just the bathroom. ‘I must still be dreaming’ he thought frantically. He walked away from the mirror, and then back again. No! No reflection! He didn’t seem to exist!. He went up to his bedroom to dress, his mind turning and turning. No, he thought, I’ll go to work and check in any mirrors I see on the way that I am really here. He finished knotting his tie, put on his coat and picked up his briefcase. Then he went out.

            But he had an even worse shock. When he said good morning to his neighbour, she completely ignored him. Even worse, she seemed to look through him as if he didn’t exist. He said good morning to her again, but she still didn’t say anything. On the way down the hill where he lived, he saw the postman, Norman, that he knew well. But Norman walked past him as if he wasn’t there. He stopped in the street, dumbfounded. Why were people treating him as if he didn’t exist? He walked down to the bus-stop, to catch his normal bus. It came along as usual, and he waved it down. But it simply drove past as if the driver hadn’t even seen him. He stood in the street, stunned and frightened for a few seconds, then finally set out to walk to work. It took him half an hour, and he was perspiring by the time he got there. On the way , he looked into shop windows, but with no result. Nothing could be seen of himself, even though he could see other people reflected in the glass.

            By now desperately worried, he entered the lobby, and greeted the porter there. He didn’t even give John a glance. He was talking to one of the junior managers, and was saying “ I haven’t seen John this morning. It’s a bit strange because he’s normally on time. But I’call him at home if you like.” The manager replied fretfully that he should report in if he’s sick. “Leave him a message”.John walked in as if he was a dream. He sat down at his computer. Sandy was sitting at her’s at the desk next to him, and he said “Hallo, Sandy, It’s me” He liked her and she liked him. He felt shy at asking her out, though he wanted to. But she made no response. Her eyes were on her computer screen, and she simply ignored his presence. Not a single person in the office seemed to take any notice of him. And when he began to work on the keyboard of the computer, nothing appeared on the screen. He tried again and again. He called for the technician, who simply walked past him.

            He simply could not believe it. Were people playing a joke on him? He suddenly began to shout frantically: “Hello! Hello! I’m here! I’m here! Talk to me! Is this some kind of joke! Tell me!” But no-one answered. It was as if no-one heard. He got up from his desk, and left the building. He didn’t even bother to put his coat on or pick up his briefcase. He ran down the staircase and out into the street. There he tried to hail a taxi, but no-one seemed to notice him at all. So he walked and walked until he came back to his own house. He went straight to the mirror and gazed into it. As he feared, there was no reflection of him at all. Just simply the room in which he stood and nothing else.Then John burst into tears. For half an hour he cried, until, finally, he calmed himself. “Perhaps I should go to bed,” he thought, “and things will change tomorrow”.

            But when he got up the next morning, nothing had changed. His mirror still did not reflect him, and to make matters worse, he over heard two of his neighbours outside. “Funny thing that  John’s not around. He usually tells me if he’s going away.” “Yes”, said the other, “It’s almost as if he ceased to exist. I hope he’s all right”. John ran to the window, threw it open and screamed “I’m here! I’m here! Can’t you see!” But the two carried on their talk as normal.

            John sat down on his bed with his head in his hands, sunk in misery. He didn’t go to work that day. What was the point? In the afternoon, he had a phone call from work. He picked up the receiver and said “Hallo, this is John” But the caller seemed not to have heard him. “Sorry you’re not there, John. I’ll leave a massage on your answer phone”

In the days that followed, John became utterly depressed. Life no longer had any meaning for him. To eat, he had to rely on the tins of food in his cupboard, since whenever he went to the shops, no-one took any notice of him, or seemed to hear him. He began to wonder whether he would actually survive at all It was the darkest, darkest period of his whole life.

            Then one morning, he got up, stretched, and then walked into the bathroom. Almost without thinking, he looked at the mirror, and then stood there, transfixed, unable to move. There he was, staring back at him. He moved away quickly, and came back . His reflection was still there. He then began to do some foolish things, like jumping to one side and then jumping back again, waving his hands, pulling faces, turning round and round and leaping into the air. But the reflection mirrored his every move. There was no doubt: his reflection was back. John was overjoyed. Desperately hoping it would not disappear again, he decided to get dressed and go to work. On his way, one of his neighbours saw him and waved. “Morning, John! You been away?” “Er, yes” admitted John. The bus driver saw him and pulled in, so he got to work in good time. The first person he met was his manager. “Morning, John! We were getting worried about you. What happened?” “I was really ill”, said John, “ and I couldn’t phone you”. Sitting at his desk, the girl who he liked smiled at him. “It’s good that you’re back. I missed you”

            Back home, still feeling worried he looked at the mirror again. But no, there it was: his reflection in the mirror. The he noticed something in the background of the mirror. There was a small white card  on the door behind. Puzzled, he turned round to look. There was no card there on the door. He looked in the mirror again. Yes, there it was! He could make out some writing on it, but it was too small to see.

Going out into the living-room, John remembered that somewhere he had a magnifying glass that someone had once given him. Rummaging through a drawer, he finally found it and rushed back to the mirror. The card was still there.  Close to the mirror, he held up the magnifying glass and peered at the mysterious card. And then for no apparent reason, he burst out laughing. The card said: “ Sorry about that. Been on Holiday.”


Everybody greeted him normally. The postman, his neighbours, even the local shopkeeper. But he still kept worrying about that reflection, or rather, the lack of it. He kept looking for any mirrors on the way, but couldn’t find any. ‘Wait until I get to work’, he decided,’ and then I’ll go to the toilet and check there’. At the front door to the office where he worked, everyone greeted as if there was nothing wrong. Sitting at his desk, the girl next to him asked him if he wanted a coffer. He rather liked her, and he thought she liked him too. But where was his reflection?