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Home Mystery Stories The Crack on the Mirror

The Crack on the Mirror

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Felix was sitting at the table and drawing. He went on drawing when his mother addressed him. She had just come home and was eager to say something to her son.

"Felix, you hear me? Please, stop what you're doing for a moment. I've been to Desmond Burdick's studio and talked to him about you."

Felix forced himself to lay down his pencil and faced his mother.

"He's got to see your drawings before he makes up his mind whether he accepts you. He asked to see some of your drawings tomorrow. Select the ones you want to show him, and we'll take them there."

"Nope," said Felix.

"What do you mean?" His mother was aghast.

"I don't want to show him any."

"But you do want to take a drawing class?"

"Dunno." Neither his voice nor his eyes tried to undeceive his mother.

"Your dad and I have discussed it with you. Your gift has to be worked on under tutorship. I thought you were all for my going to the studio to talk about you."

"Okay. I'll show him some of my drawings." His tone was as dry as dust as he resumed drawing.

"No offence meant, son. You may have a flare for seeing things your own way . . . the way artists do. Even a gifted person needs schooling. And so do you. What you need is the technique of transferring what you see on to canvas to duly supplement your flare."

There was no response on the part of Felix to what his mother had said; one couldn't be sure he was listening.

. . . Desmond Burdick had been looking at Felix's drawings for nearly an hour. There were three of them of the same room. The drawings were captioned Room, Draught, Someone Hiding. The one called Room was a pleasant surprise and the artist delighted in it. But he fought shy of praising his students, let alone applicants. He held back the words of delight. But when he laid it aside to take another, the words, even tacit ones, were overwhelmed by what he felt. Draught gave him gooseflesh and made the hair of his mustache and beard stand on end. The master looked on and on, now closing, now opening his eyes, aware that he could not get to the bottom of the boy's feat wrought in pencil alone. His exacting gaze dwelled most on that sketch. It was the foretaste of seeing something just as singular and potent, yet another hidden aspect of the room, that made him tear away his gaze from Draught. "What a frenzied pencil," Burdick thought when the last sketch confronted him. The next moment his face grew grim and his hands shook, as if he was the one lurking in the room, as if his was the face that the sinister shadow of the one he was hiding from had been cast on. Burdick clumsily turned the sheet over and rose. He paced the room for some time paying no attention to Felix: he had to regain his composure. Then he addressed the boy:

"I liked your drawings a lot. Have you been long at the game?"


"Has anyone taught you to draw?"

"No, no one has."

"You can do your parents proud—I accept you."

Felix rose to go.

"Felix, have you tried to draw faces?" asked Burdick with something on his mind.

He felt like looking the little craftsman in the eye and feel for his soul (there was something out of the ordinary in it). But he had realized that a face looking out of a sketch would tell him more than the real but closed face. He had realized that Felix the artist could not hide behind the guise that Felix the man was wearing without a difference. He had realized that the kid would reveal himself through a self-portrait.

"Yes," was Felix's answer, altogether too laconic and nonchalant.

"In this case I suggest a deal: draw yourself, your face . . . Say, a self-portrait in pencil (your mother says you also use paints). I hope this task is all right with you?"


"Good. Let's meet here at four two days from now. You bring your sketch, and we begin classes in the studio."

Felix came up to the table, picked up his drawings without saying a word, and made for the door.

"Bye," he said without looking Burdick's way.

"Take care."

. . . Felix's crumpled faces were hitting the floor one by one. Felix was angry: the self-portrait wouldn't come out. Each of the faces he'd drawn was merely a mirror image of his face—not a trace of what he felt inside. He had spent in front of his mother's cheval glass in her bedroom all day one and half of day two, always mindful that the master had given him two days only. At some point, despair took hold of him and made him hurl his favorite tool at that intransigent glass that kept gawping and mimicking him, insensible to feeling, making Felix's aspects in pencil just as insensible. The mirror developed a crack, and Felix's reflection sported a lengthy scar that warped his features. Felix grabbed the pencil and took moments in a frenzy to accomplish what he had failed to do for two days. Moments—that was what it felt like doing his first and last self-portrait.

"I broke the mirror, Mom," said Felix when his mother was back home after work.

She knew he had been hard at work on his master's first assignment and never said a word of reproach that might irk him. But a few minutes later she called him:

"Come upstairs, please, Felix . . . Did you mean my cheval glass?"

"I sure did."

"But it's intact. Look."

Felix approached the mirror and scrutinized it for a long time . . .

Desmond Burdick acted as planned. He took Felix's folder with the coveted portrait and slid it in his leather briefcase. This was the time he had to devote himself to the students, while Felix's new sketch would call for a lot of time and as much feeling. But above all, he wanted to delight in the boy's effort all alone, in his home, for a genuine artist can only revel in another genuine artist's work all by himself.

. . . Now in for the sweet moment! Burdick made some coffee . . . made himself comfortable in an easy chair . . . sipped from the cup . . . opened the briefcase and produced the folder . . . Another sip, and he opened the folder and tremulously removed the sheet. Just a few moments to savor the triumph of his surmise that the sketch would reveal the real Felix. Just a few moments. Revealed to him all of a sudden was what made his heart throb in the gullet—he found himself short of breath. He was struggling for air and gazing. He could not help it: what was on the sheet would not let his gaze go.

"It can't be true!" Desmond Burdick gasped and died, his eyes popping out with an air of being caught between the dead dark and the warp come to life.



Twins by birth. Gemini by jest of the stars. Sudden flashes irritate us from time to time and impel us to writing.


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