On arriving at Costelloe’s Fairground l immediately went to the Hall of Mirrors. At the entrance was an old man with a crooked back. Before I had time to enquire the price of admission, he handed me a purple business card. On it, in black lettering, was printed a single word: Reflect. I placed the card in the back pocket of my jeans.
‘How much?’ I asked.
‘The same as the others,’ replied the old man.
I took this to mean that he wanted a pound, which was the average entrance fee, so I handed him a silver coin. He reached out and touched my hand, but he did not take the money. I recoiled immediately, a sharp pain stabbing at my index finger. Looking at the finger I could see a tiny bead of blood ripening at the tip.
In his hand the old man held a needle, its long point sporting a speck of my blood. Very quickly he retreated into the Hall of Mirrors, but I followed him, angrily protesting.
On entering the hall I discovered myself standing in the way. The old man had disappeared. I looked around at myself looking around at myself looking around at myself looking around. I took a step forward, and we all took a step forward, but I knew all the time that I was the real one. When I stopped, we all stopped, but no one could move until I moved.
I walked, cautiously, deeper into the hall, but the nature of the mirrors began to change, distorting my reflections accordingly. Also, the angle of the mirrors had shifted, and I passed myself walking in a variety of directions. I waved, and we all waved. No one would arrive until I arrived, but where was I going?
As I walked through the maze of selves, I would stop occasionally to examine a reflection that took my fancy. To see myself pulled in and drawn upwards like a piece of elastic, or elsewhere bloated to the size of an elephant; in one place my reflection was clear, resonant, in another misted, indistinct, as if my skin had soaked in every impurity that floated in the surrounding air. Some reflections were comical: a perfect head and torso, but my arse suddenly drooping to the ground as if collapsing under a tremendous strain. Others were dark, sinister, my inmost sins revealed in blotches and sores that erupted angrily on the skin of my face.
After a time the hall opened out into a large dome, like the inside of a massive temple. But the entire surface floor, curving walls and ceiling-was one seamless mirror. As I entered into the centre of this dizzying space, it was as if I had become absorbed by the chaos of the reflection, my head expanding obliquely into the heavens. Not only was the surface of this inner room covered with one single spreading reflection of my entire body, but I felt as if I was growing bodily, bursting outwards to fill up the entire room. Flowering upwards until I had become the monstrous twin of my reflection, forced to mimic my reflection’s imprisonment to the whim of the mirror. The room itself seemed to close in on me, as if it could no longer contain my increasing bulk. Soon I had grown to such proportion that light and space were consumed by my hungering body. And as darkness exploded into the room I tumbled into a spinning slumber.
I awoke. My head throbbed and my body ached. I was lying face down on the floor. I managed to stand up only with great difficulty, and was surprised to discover that I was no longer in the large cavernous room, but in a small lobby the size of an elevator. As my eyes focussed I could see the face of the old man in front of me.
‘What have you done to me?’ I said, and he replied ‘What have you done to me?’ and I realised with numbing shock that I was not looking at the old man, but at my own reflection. I stumbled towards the mirror feebly, and as I fell against it, it gave way, for it was a doorway. I fell out of the Hall of Mirrors and into an alleyway formed by the canvas walls of the funfair tents. I collapsed onto damp grass and lay there, immobile and exhausted. And I lay there all evening and into the night, and fell finally into a miserable sleep, sleeping until the early morning.
The dawn’s sun ruptured the sky with light, and the whole area was alive with activity, busy men dismantling the fairground tents and machinery. The men ignored me, stepping over me as they went about their business.
They moved fluidly, working in perfect tandem. counted them. There were seventy of them. And they all looked exactly like me, like I had looked when I first entered the Hall of Mirrors.