The Mirror Man

Sjoerd van Wijk



On a sunny Sunday afternoon Lady Sniff had Lady Mauve over for tea. Lady Mauve sipped carefully from the hot beverage and listened. Her host put her cup down. Lady Mauve followed and bowed forward. The spoon rang and the saucer tinkled. Lady Sniff nodded to her eight year old son Stanley, who played checkers against himself. Her voice hushed, so as not to disturb him from his game.

“You see,” Lady Sniff whispered, “Little Stanley has always been rather quiet. But ever since his grandfather disappeared, he lives in a world of his own.”

Stanley moved another piece.

Lady Mauve glanced at Stanley. “Oh dear, how awful this must be for him.”

“Stanley just couldn’t believe it when grandfather went missing. And he didn’t say a word when grandfather’s belongings arrived here yesterday.”

Stanley played the checkers match to its logical conclusion, a draw. Against Pop-Pop, as he called his grandfather, the matches never tied.

“Mother, I’m going up the attic,” he declared.

Lady Sniff took notice and warned: “All right my dear, but be careful with grandfathers antiques up there. And don’t touch that mirror!”

She turned towards Lady Mauve who couldn’t help but exclaim as Stanley darted away: “Oh dear, isn’t he the sweetest? If only he’d come out of his shell. Doesn’t he have friends?”

Lady Sniff sighed. “Grandfather was his best friend. The only one to get Stanley out of his little thoughts. Stanley would rather read books than play ball outside. He rarely receives invitations…”


The movers had left deep footsteps in the thicket of dust on the stairs. When Stanley pushed open the hatch it scattered out through the air. He coughed and sneezed and wiped his hands free of it.

“Whoah.” He almost stumbled over the chest with Pop-Pop’s old books going in. There were so many withered parchments inside. On visits Stanley could leaf through them for hours. And ask Pop-Pop all sorts of questions. He reminisced about the visits.


“Pop-Pop, what is magic?” Stanley asked.

The chest contained so many books about it, he had to know. Pop-Pop told the greatest stories to explain how it worked. Of wizards and wyverns almighty. How magic made the world a fun place to be. How new worlds were everywhere if you dared to look.

He once pointed to the old mirror in the hallway. “You see, Stanlikins, reflections are not just images of us. They are the same, but different.”

“Different how?”

“It’s another world in there.”

“Another world?”

“A world of adventure to discover. It’s where Mr. Crowley got his tricks from.”

The adventures of Grand Mage Mr. Crowley, Stanley’s favorite stories. Stanley’s favorite wizard. Whenever the name popped up, he would ask if Mr. Crowley really existed.

“Why yes, he really did.”

“Did you know him?”

Pop-Pop always laughed when Stanley asked him this question. “Well… yes,” he chuckled, “yes I knew him for quite some time. You should have seen him!”


Stanley sighed at the memory. He took the old brown globe next to the chest and spun it around. How he wanted to leaf through books with Pop-Pop again! And hear about Mr. Crowley’s adventures.

The last time he saw Pop-Pop they went to the funfair in town. Pop-Pop took him everywhere. The roller coaster, which creaked slightly too much for Stanley to feel comfortable. The milk bottle game where he won a stuffed bear. The magnificent sights of town from the Ferris wheel. Sweet candyfloss on the way home that glued his fingers together for hours.

Stanley’s favorite that day was the House of Mirrors. Their own selves stared back at them in a way that compelled Stanley to frequent bouts of laughter.

“Stanlikins,” Pop-Pop said after they had stopped laughing at yet another quirky visage, “always see the world this way.” He pointed to the funhouse mirror. “Always see the fun in things.”

Stanley thought about the advice ever since. He whispered it crying after the policeman came with Mother to tell him they had given up the search for Pop-Pop.

He stopped spinning the globe. An undiscovered treasure awaited him covered in white sheets. The mirror. He knew Mother told him not to touch it, but he thought to himself: “Surely if I look out with all my eyes nothing could go wrong and Mother won’t be angry.”

A funhouse mirror slowly appeared from under the cloth.

Always see the world this way.

The police had searched Pop-Pop’s house when he vanished. The house was as orderly as always and they couldn’t find any clues on his whereabouts. Mother told him the only thing out of the ordinary was a funhouse mirror in the study nobody knew he had. This mirror. Had Pop-Pop been studying magic? Stanley looked into it. His sides were a feeble monstrosity in the reflection. The kind that did no harm. Stanley pointed at his quirky self.

Always see the fun in things.

He chuckled, squinted, fell down and laughed until a tear rolled over his cheek. When he opened his eyes again he gasped.

A man stared back from where his reflection once was. A black suit, top hat and a white gray mustache that filled the mirror from side to side. He held a cane and looked at Stanley before he reached into his pockets. A white gloved hand came out of the mirror. It held a letter.

“Like one of Mr. Crowley’s adventures,” Stanley thought.

“Stanlikins,” Pop-Pop once said after one of those stories, “not everything is fun in magic. Especially reflections. That other world might be exciting, while ours is boring. But it might spell danger, while ours is safe.”

Surely a letter couldn’t hurt? Stanley decided in the end and reached out to accept it. The letter had a blue wax seal that was as thick as a thumb. Stanley pulled it off with all his might and unfolded the parchment.

We hereby invite you to our fabulous funfair. Adventures for all! Prizes for all! Come and see!

Stanley looked up with his heart beating. An invitation? For him? The Mirror Man’s hand reached out and beckoned him in.

He thought back to when he turned eight. It was just him and his best friend Pop-Pop. All his classmates were busy that day with swimming, piano or some other obligation. And now here was someone eager to be his companion. Stanley took the hand. The glass flowed like water all around him until he emerged on the other side. A room packed with funhouse mirrors.

The Mirror Man bowed down cheerfully and said: “Welcome, welcome to the Carnival. We have many acts. We have many attractions. Come and see!” Afterward he bowed even deeper and took off his high black hat. Stanley looked at him with big bright eyes.

“Do you have everything?”

“Yes, we have everything.”

The Mirror Man raised up and hopped to-and-fro, as if he was listening to some irresistible tune.

“And is it all fun in here? Pop-Pop said…”

“Of course, of course.”

The Mirror Man pointed all over. “Don’t you see the fun in this?”

His finger stopped at one of the distorted reflections. Stanley snickered.

Always see the fun in things.

“Come, let’s get out of the house of mirrors. We’ve seen ourselves far too long. Let’s see something else.”

“Where do we go?”

“Where do you want to go?”

“I want to win a prize.”

“To the milk bottles then. Where everyone always wins!”

On the way there, Stanley asked the man’s name.

“Names are not important here. But you can call me the Mirror Man.”

At the milk bottle game a pink giant rabbit welcomed them. The Mirror Man waved. “Hello mister Rabbit.” The Mirror Man took off his hat. He poked Stanley and whispered: “Take off your hat, it’s polite down here.”

“I’m not wearing a hat, mister Mirror Man,” Stanley answered.

The Mirror Man laughed. “Well, of course you are.”

Stanley reached for his head. “What?”

A blue magician’s hat covered it. He took it off and bowed as deep as he could. The hat vanished as quickly as it came after Stanley’s gesture of politeness. The rabbit laughed and removed his head, revealing a man beneath the big suit. His large brown mustache vibrated when he chuckled.

“Welcome, Mirror Boy. I see you accepted our invitation?”

Stanley nodded slowly.

“And now you wish to win a prize?”

Stanley’s head moved faster. Yes, he realized, he did want to win a prize.

“Well, leeeet’s geeeet going then!” He clapped his hands and shouted: “Carny boy! Carny boy! We have a new guest.”

A faint blue shade in the shape of a boy entered from a back door. Stanley saw weariness in his eyes, as if the shade hadn’t slept for a long time. As he approached Stanley the moans and whispers that followed it around amplified.

Another world might spell danger, while our world is safe.

Stanley took a step back.

“Don’t worry,” Mister Rabbit told Stanley reassuringly. He bowed over to Stanley, his mustache almost touching him. “He doesn’t really exist.” Mister Rabbit jumped back up and put his head back on. “Okay, let’s start.”

Stanley carefully selected the finest ball and threw it with all his might. The bottles fell down and spun on the ground for a while. The Mirror Man and Mister Rabbit clapped frantically.

“Wow,” The Mirror Man said.

“What a shot!” Mister Rabbit exclaimed. He wildly shook Stanley’s hand and shouted: “Carny boy! Come give the guest his prize.”

A giant stuffed bear clutched by two blue hands shuffled forward.

“Thank you,” Stanley said to the shade, who looked back wearily. The whispers and moans continued as before.

“My boy, my boy, they do not exist. So why speak to them?”

The Mirror Man gave Stanley a soft pat on his back. “What do you want to do next? A thrilling ride? A spectacular carousel? The shooting lanes?”

Stanley expressed his desire to do them all. The Mirror Man looked at his pocket watch and said: “Mmm… All? Mmm… I suppose we can do… three more before it’s time.”


“To close up shop.”

Stanley picked the thrilling ride next.

“I’m glad I stepped into your mirror, mister Mirror Man!” he shouted, swinging his prize stuffed bear around.

The Mirror Man turned to him. “We’re glad you accepted our invitation too.”

Mr. Thrill welcomed them to the roller coaster ride of a lifetime and admired Stanley’s wonderful bear. They got strapped in tight by two blue carny boys who joined in the cart behind.

Stanley pointed at them. “Are they guests too?”

“They’re on a break now,” the Mirror Man explained “they’re helpers just like Mister Rabbit and Carny Boy.”

“But I thought they didn’t exist?”

The Mirror Man laughed and poked Stanley twice. “You’re a funny one you. Don’t think so much. Enjoy the ride!”


“Isn’t it funny? How can something that doesn’t exist go on a break? Hahaa! Don’t you see the fun in that?”

Always see the fun in things.

Stanley felt his hair blowing in the wind and the air cooling as the carts climbed. Just before the cart started down its track of excitement, Stanley looked around. There were attractions as far as he could see. As if there were no end to it.

“Marvelous, isn’t it?” The Mirror Man said.

Stanley’s eye fell on a red wagon. Smoke came out of its little chimney. It didn’t strike him as an attraction at all. As if someone lived there. He pointed to it and asked: “What’s that?”

“That’s the wagon of The Man Who Owns This Plaaaaaaaaaaaaaaceeeeee!”

The ride of a lifetime started.

Two more attractions later Stanley walked with Mirror Man through the funfair. He clutched the stuffed bear and enjoyed his candy floss.

“Did you like today?” The Mirror Man asked.

Stanley shouted: “Yes! I love this funfair! If only we could see more!”

“Yes, if only there was more time… But we have to close.”

“I don’t want to go home! Not yet!”

“We do have a solution for that. We’ll have a word with The Man Who Owns This Place.”

They walked to the red wagon. The Mirror Man halted Stanley. “Wait here for a second.” When the Mirror Man returned he bent down and whispered: “You see… The Man Who Owns This Place is a busy man. Running a funfair is serious business. But I managed to convince him to see you.”

Stanley nodded in admiration. The Mirror Man got back on his feet again and knocked.

“Come in,” a stern voice called out.

The light of three red candles danced in the darkness inside. At the far end a huge chair with its back turned to the door hid behind a big wooden desk. The Mirror Man went up to it and started whispering. “Wss wss wss wss.”


“Wss wss wss wss.”

“Yes. Yes.”

“Wss wss wss wss.”

“I suppose.”

“Wss wss wss wss.”

“All right.” A shadowy hand grabbed a piece of paper from the desk and handed it over to the Mirror Man.

“If you want to stay longer,” the Mirror Man said as he turned to Stanley, “you have to sign this contract. Read it carefully for the contract stipulations… will have ramifications.”

“Mister, what are ram-i-fi-ca-tions?” Stanley asked about the most difficult sounding word.

“Well,” The Mirror Man leaned forward on his cane, “you’ll never find out. You’re a good boy. But if you’re bad…” He pointed down with his cane. The thump resounded. “…There’s always the trash heap shift!”

Stanley nodded with a beating heart. He wasn’t so sure anymore that he should sign. Pop-Pop always said to read everything twice. So he read again and asked what his duties were.

“Well… You see… We need everyone staying here to do a few chores before they can enjoy the attractions. But don’t worry! You’ll have plenty of breaks.” The Mirror Man explained.

“And… and… I have to be blue all day and all night, inside and outside?”

“Yes, yes, we need you to undergo a small cosmetic change.” The Mirror Man leaned forward. “So that we know who can go on the rides for free.”

 Another world might spell danger, while our world is safe.

“Mister, I don’t see the fun in that. And this paper is boring and difficult and weird.”

“Don’t you worry, it’s fun, I promise!” He got his face as close to Stanley as possible. The tip of his hat brushed Stanley’s hair. “Come, sign! Then we’ll get Mr. Crowley to help you learn the chores.”

Stanley gasped. “Mr… Mr. Crowley?”

The shadowy hand of The Man Who Owns This Place reached to the side. At the buzz of a button an older man entered. He glimmered blue like the carny boys. His fatigued eyes scanned around. They paused at Stanley and he fell to his knees. “Stan… Stanley?”

Stanley gasped for breath. “Pop-Pop! Pop-Pop! I wanna go home! I don’t want to be a carny boy!”

Pop-Pop surged forwards, grabbed Stanley and ran outside.

The Mirror Man shouted: “Don’t forget the vast ramifications Crowley! The trash heap!”

Stanley ran and ran with Pop-Pop at his side. The earth shook. All attractions closed up shop. He looked back, hoping the red wagon would be out of their sight. Yet it had grown in size, its shadows expanding outwards almost touching them. Stanley could see The Man Who Owns This Place still sitting with his back to him.

Pop-Pop stopped for a second and looked at Stanley. “Stanlikins,” he whispered with failing breath, “you must flee before it’s too late! They want you to work forever. We have to go to the exit.”

“Pop-Pop! Pop-Pop!”

“Stanley, back to the house of mirrors! We have to find the mirror that got you here!”

They ran on. Shadows grew. The earth shook. The closed up attractions crumbled. Debris from Ferris wheels and roller coasters failing fell everywhere they went. They went on to the house of mirrors shining brightly in the midst of pandemonium.

“Hurry!” Pop-Pop exclaimed.


Stanley looked back. The Man Who Owns This Place in his chair came closer. “Pop-Pop!”

They entered the house of mirrors. Their reflections moved in all forms and shapes. Stanley cried. “Pop-Pop!”

“This way, Grandson!”

The shadows expanded and mirrors turned dark behind. Countless carny boys made the remaining mirrors blue. Stanley ran on. Pop-Pop’s hand slipped away. He looked back.

Pop-Pop was lying on the ground. All around him were carny boys. Everywhere. “Stanley, go on! Hurry!”

The Man Who Owns This Place chuckled. A button buzzed. “The trash heap!”

Pop-Pop fell through a trapdoor into darkness. “Stanlikiiiiiiiins!”


Cold shadow hands got to Stanley. Blue glowed everywhere save for his own reflection. Despite the transformations in the mirror tears still showed coming down like an avalanche. “Pop-Pop!”

He reached for the mirror through which he entered. Banged against it. The shadows enveloped him. Stanley threw himself against the glass. The mirror came down in a smash. Blue everywhere. Blue.

Always see the fun in things.


The sun still shone brightly when Lady Sniff and Lady Mauve ran out of tea and concluded their rendez-vous. They kissed the air twice in the opening of the door.

“Give my kindest regards to Little Stanley and Lord Sniff, my dear,” Lady Mauve said.

“Yes, yes I will do that. Thank you for the wonderful afternoon.”

“And thank you for the lovely scones my dear.”

“I will have the cook send the recipe to yours.”

“Splendid! Au revoir!”

Lady Sniff called out. “Stanley? Love? Stanley?” There was no reply. Lady Sniff traced Stanley’s steps and went to the attic.

Sneezing, she entered. Several books and parchments lay scattered around. “Oh!” she exclaimed. “Little Stanley never cleans up his mess!” Here was no sign of Stanley either.

“Ooh Stanley, Little Stanley my love?” Still no reply. Lady Sniff stepped onward and broken glass crackled underneath her shoes. The mirror. Grandfathers funhouse mirror. “Oooh Stanley! Just you wait until I get you! That mirror was expensive!”

She looked up to assess the damage done. The mirror still shone brightly as ever. No pieces of glass were missing. Lady Sniff gasped. Her reflection was twice her size in width but she didn’t laugh at the absurdity. The sun crept through the window onto the broken pieces of glass. They glimmered blue. Faint blue.




Sjoerd van Wijk (1988) is a Dutch film reviewer and writer living in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Life feels like a dream to him. Its strange. He loves to share this vision through his work. When he’s not writing you can find him behind a GM screen playing Dungeons & Dragons or other tabletop role-playing games.