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The Reflection

I take a shortcut through the woods, just like I do every day on the way home from work. It’s a warm, sunny summer day; not a cloud in the sky. I walk through the green, lush forest, hearing the birds chirping in the trees. A slight breeze brushes through the trees and cools me. I love this weather; it invigorates and energizes me. There are so many different wildflowers on the side of the path that I stop to stare at them. I come to a fork in the path, which takes me by surprise. The first path is the one I normally take - the way I have always gone. The other path seems to have appeared out of nowhere. The normal path is narrow, dark, and ominous, crawling with snakes and spiders; the ground littered with thorns and poison ivy. However, rays of sunlight illuminate the second path while butterflies and hummingbirds fill the air; the ground carpeted with vibrant flowers.

          I decide to be adventurous for once and follow the new path. I journey for a few minutes until I come across a small river. Even though I should go back, my legs continue to carry me near the riverside. I bend down and stare into the still, blue, calm river; it is almost hypnotizing. My reflection is as clear as can be. I see every flaw, every blemish. I hate looking at myself. I look disgusting. Why can’t I look prettier? Why do I have to look like this?

          I grimace and turn the other way. Out of the corner of my eye, I see that my reflection did not imitate me. Making sure I am not crazy, I smile, then frown and turn my head again. The reflection smiled, but it did not frown. Instead, it had a blank, apathetic face with piercing, pale-blue eyes that look right through your soul. My eyes are brown. Although I’m terrified and have a sinking feeling in my stomach, in order to remain calm, I tell myself that I’m probably just dehydrated and seeing things. Accordingly, I take the water bottle that I’ve been carrying with my right hand and lift it to my mouth - empty. My throat is suddenly dry like sandpaper. Not thinking, I put the river water into my water bottle and begin to drink it. I keep drinking the water, but it won't satisfy my thirst. I filled it up three more times but still was not refreshed. In fact, I think I’m thirstier than before. I ignore it for now and look closer at the reflection. I reach my right hand out to touch it, which the reflection’s left hand mimics.

          My hand breaks through the water’s surface, and something touches my hand from underneath. Dropping my water bottle, I bounce back and slowly retreat to the path. I turn around, but the path isn’t there anymore. Instead, there are trees clustered together where the path used to be! Don’t panic, I tell myself, this is just one of those very vivid dreams, there is no way this is real. Fog pours in from the river, covers the ground, and surrounds every part of me so that I can barely see my own hand in front of my face. The wind becomes stronger, and it’s getting very cold. I look for room to hide between the trees, but they are so close together – there is no way I can get through.  

          A shadow passes over me, and I hear a great clap of thunder – the ground beneath me and the trees shake. The birds that were once chirping are now silent. A splash of water lands on my head, then another splash. I look up to the now dark, gray sky as huge droplets of water begin to rain down on me. The river, that a few minutes ago was calm and still, is now rushing and flooding over. I begin to panic. My heart is beating faster and faster. I can’t slow my breathing, and my stomach turns to knots. The river is getting higher and higher as muddy water starts to pool around my feet. I begin to shiver; my bones are now drenched with water. The water from the river is up to my ankles now as the current pulls me ever so slightly. Something other than the current starts todrag my ankle down. I try to kick my foot up, but it won’t move. It’s trapped, and I’m stuck. Creeping up to my knees, the water engulfs me, and its current becomes too strong to stand against. Violently, the water pulls me under its surface.  

          I can’t see anything – it's so dark. I inhaled so much water from trying to scream that my lungs feel like they are about to implode. I try to get my head above the water, but I don’t know which way is up and which way is down. The water tosses me back and forth, but I’m able to breathe a little bit of air. I’m able to tread water for a few seconds, but I feel something pull me back down under the water, preventing any way of escape; my fate is sealed; my doom is inevitable. The current pushes me to and fro. My body is slammed into a rock, and my head is bashed against it — hard. Everything fades to black. 

          My eyes slowly blink open. It takes a moment since the bright sun is bothersome to my light blue eyes. I’m floating on top of the water. It’s calm and still once again. The clouds roll away while the sun shines through. I take a sigh of relief and climb onto the riverbank. Somehow my clothes are bone dry. I see my water bottle stuck in the mud and pick it up with my left hand before walking over to the path, which has reappeared.  

          My plan seems to have worked, but I need to make sure it is complete. I turn back around and bend over the river. There is only water, no reflection of me. I look over to the other side of the riverbank, and I see a rock covered in crimson-colored blood. I see a few bubbles come from the water, and then nothing. I wait for a few minutes, but I don’t see any more movement under the water. Finally, I’m free of this place. I will no longer be trapped under the water, forced to copy the people who see me, who don’t even appreciate seeing themselves.  

          I’m no longer just a reflection. 

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