The antique-framed mirror was a piano without a pianist, oversized and decorative, it just sat there reversing the living room.
Standing in front of it, every bit of makeup needed for her signature look on the sideboard, Trixie waved, jiggled, jumped, and still saw through herself.
Transitioning had been harder than Trixie thought. Years she’d spent researching, watching every film, reading every book, all for nothing. And it wasn’t the big things either.
For as long as she could remember, in life Trixie had a heartbeat. She had invested in mourning its loss. Had practiced what she might feel in the mirror beforehand. ‘Oh, the immortal agony, the anguish, the termination of my sweet humanity,’ it would be something profound like that. But it took her fifty-three hours and thirty-nine minutes to remember she should have noticed it was absent.
Trixie chucked herself off a tower. She thought the deathly plummet minus its rapid pulsing would provoke some semblance of an emotional reaction. Nope.
Thwack. Splat. The ground smacked into her body, exploding her like a ripe boil, spilling her everywhere.
The first time she tried to put makeup on, however, was a post-life trauma. After realising neither waving nor jiggling had an impact, she panicked (exactly the time she would have noticed her heart thumping). Looking either side of the mirror, as if her reflection was hiding side of stage ready for its big moment, there was still nothing but her living room.
In the days that followed, Trixie got inventive. Using old photographs pinned to the mirror trying to trick her brain, doublechecking that she couldn’t be seen through a camera-phone or any reflective surface like her toaster, or a full sink of water. Making a paper mask of her face, she cut out eyes and eyebrows and lips and cheekbones, strapped it to her head and stencilled her makeup.
Convinced it was her best effort so far, she ventured into the corridor, boarding an elevator to the lobby. Unfortunately, the triplets from apartment thirty-one were already inside. All three stared at her frozen, eyes wide, shooting their hands out to grip each other, like they’d seen a ghost or worse. A fiendish, killer clown. Trixie flew back to her apartment.
This had been the push she needed to move forward. The catalyst for her sitting at two in the morning in a small, mostly beige therapist’s office. Breaking the sandy hued walls were six slightly different seascapes. They all displayed skies reflected in water, outwardly mocking her distress.
“You’re a narcissist,” said Dr Black whilst he sucked the end of his pen. His fangs had a habit of shooting out then retracting, like a stapler, and each time he dribbled then slurped it back. It was distracting.
“Oh, that does sound exotic.” Trixie silently tried her lips around the word. Narcissist, probably rare too. She had always been special, it’s why she was picked as the lead in every school play, and now she knew the word for it.
“You are obsessed with yourself. Not being able to see the thing you love the most for the rest of eternity, consequently, is a fate worse than actual true death.”
Trixie tried to listen but the sucking and slurping were difficult to ignore.
“So, how do I get it back, my reflection? I mean, for someone like me, a nar-siss-sist, you can make a special case, right? Fill out a form, pay someone off.”
The doctor’s advice to work on appreciating and developing herself beyond looks was ridiculous. Of course, she appreciated herself beyond appearance, she had literally thousands of wonderful qualities. Like she could persuade doormen to let her in with a flutter of eyelashes and a wiggle of her hips, no matter how busy the club was; she had excellent dress sense, and they were just off the top of her head. He hadn’t solved a thing. The minute she saw his multi-coloured bowtie she should have walked. Incompetent ventriloquist’s dummy.
Not as bad as the makeup catastrophe, but there was the whole ravenous hunger, impulse-control problem. It wasn’t the idea of consuming human blood, or the act of sucking them dry whilst their flailing little arms and legs jiggled in Trixie’s grasp, silly little flappy fishies. That part didn’t raise one of her carefully applied eyebrows. Oh my God. What if my face has no eyebrows?
Trixie had excellent self-control. It had been her superpower. She could have an entire box of pink champagne chocolate truffles, her favourites, and only ever eat one a day, even if it took months. The strength of her willpower meant the parts of her brain that signalled she was hungry or full weren’t used, so they withered into pointless raisins rattling around in there. Bloodlust, she imagined, would get comparably pruned. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite go as predicted. Instead, she tended to rip people’s heads from their necks, consuming the whole box at once, shoving handfuls of them in, face smeared in truffle, cocoa powder up her nose, bits of crispy pink sugar dusting stuck in her hair. It was messy.
Then there were the continual disappointments, where she’d clearly been mis-sold. Being able to fly was a prime example. She could, but only two or three feet off the ground, which wasn’t really flying, it was more hovering. And worse, it gave Trixie awful motion sickness.
Focusing on living forever, she’d overlooked having to work for all of that eternity. And no longer able to commit to matinees, her employer dropped her. Instead of getting angry and biting off his puny human head before using his entrails as dental floss, she committed to pursuing her dreams of being famous. It was, after all, why she worked in the theatrical arts. And there were no small parts, even ice cream sales.
Exceptionally gifted at being still, she carved out a burdening career as an actress playing dead girl twelve, victim three, she’d starred in twenty-seven TV episodes and three straight-to-streaming films. And she was just offered a part in a teen horror, playing a victim before and after death. Her agent said the production team were eager to have her onboard, saving on special effects; they could stab her and, if the camera crew were quick, get the dead shot before she reformed. It would be her first screaming role.
This would have been something to share with Andre, her maker. If he hadn’t abandoned her six hours after transformation, to chase a Transylvanian-born, double-jointed acrobat he’d ‘loved since 1923,’ according to his voice note. Vacillating vermin. Running off before he’d explained a damn thing to her, and before she could shout in his dead French face.
Oh, yes, like how he hadn’t prepared her for the stench. Around a day after transformation, her sense of smell intensified but all it wanted to detect was a dead animal in active decay. She scoured the apartment for putrefying meat. Laying on her stomach and peering under her old bed, she eventually found the remnants of a pizza delivery driver’s head that must have rolled under there.
The only nice thing to say about Andre (who incidentally was so ancient he just smelled fusty) was that he did order-in her first meal and he tasted of liquorice, fried onions, and the salty leather of boxing gloves. Delicious.
Believing she’d handled it; she popped the head in a bag and tossed it in the basement incinerator. But the smell stuck. It followed her everywhere, so far up her nose it couldn’t find a way back down. All dignity in tatters, she was forced to learn about her stinky forever fate from a fake-blonde on a shopping channel, pitching invisible nasal inserts. No amount of Chanel No. 5 could mask it. Even the twenty magic tree air-fresheners hanging in her coffin were barely holding their own.
Tonight, at least, had been a good night. A couple of hours of trawling through some nauseatingly pitiful online posts, she found exactly what she was looking for. And messaged him. He was a doctor, a proper one with a white coat who sliced people open, not just sat there warbling in a cravat.
The forum was for anosmia sufferers. Claiming she’d lost hers permanently after covid, she hooked him in by expressing how much she missed ‘smelling wildflowers on long walks and newborn babies’ heads.’
Dan he was called. And he missed, ‘the first smell of clean air inhaled at the summit of a mountain and freshly baked bread.’
Whilst running a charity half-marathon dressed as a chicken, a buzzard attacked Dan, lashing violently at his head and face. With blood streaming in his eyes, Dan explained, he’d lost all balance and fell, fracturing his perfectly sculpted skull. Medics repaired him back to full handsomeness and fortuitously discovered his sense of smell was permanently annihilated.
They were meeting for a champagne cocktail in two hours. Knowing exactly the killer dress and heels she was going to wear, hair already set in rollers, it was time for her irresistible smoky eyes and bold, blood-red lips.
My writing usually has some theme or angle from psychology within it. I get my inspiration from people acting outside traditional norms or questioning their sociocultural context. I work in a policing organisation currently but was a lecturer in forensic psychology for almost ten years at a UK-based university.