Aaron is the only son of a British tycoon. He loses his mother in a horse-riding accident in his childhood. His father marries an extremely beautiful woman, Shakira. She takes Aaron wherever she goes like a real mother. While exploring his father’s estate, Aaron with his stepmother enters an old storehouse that his father has prohibited them to go in. Inside the eerie, unearthly storehouse, they find a beautiful mirror. When Shakira speaks to the mirror, it tells Shakira that she is the loveliest woman on earth. Aaron tiptoes into the storehouse at midnight and talks to the mirror. The mirror predicts that Aaron would be the most beautiful on earth in the future.

When Aaron turns 18, Shakira realizes that the mirror’s prediction has come true. An insanely jealous Shakira orders her assistant Imogene to take Aaron away from her sight and to shave off Aaron’s exquisite auburn hair. Aaron is subsequently abducted from home. He wakes up, naked and tonsured, in a dark dingy basement, where he is chained like a dog. Thereafter, Aaron is ordered to wear tattered female clothes and toil away as a maidservant in a house comprising of a vicious-looking old woman and her four evil daughters.

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Forbidden Mirror

The Fatal Gift of Beauty

Chapter 1 – The Presage

I can’t believe it’s happening. My father, a top cheese business magnate, is getting married again. It’s painful to accept, considering my father had sworn that the only woman he ever loved was my mother. Bryony Aveyard, my mother, was the most beautiful woman in Lake District. Her best feature was her long luxuriant auburn hair–a red thistle blowing in the wind. I have vivid memories of walking with my mother through the myrtle lakes, mountains, grasses and cobblestones around the region, sharing stories and laughing gaily. That silvery laughter came to an abrupt stop last year. My mother fell off a horse and suffered a fatal hemorrhage. The scenery of Windermere became dimmer after my mother died and the cheerful song birds fell silent. My father became a mere ghost of his former self and withdrew into a shell.

His bereaved state lasted for a whole year until he met Shakira. That’s her full name: Shakira. No middle name or surname. My father met Shakira at a party thrown by a friend during a business trip to Greece. He was apparently smitten by Shakira’s exotic beauty: her full statuesque figure, even brown complexion and smoky tip-tilted eyes. I remember someone mentioning that Shakira wasn’t a native of Greece, but had settled there for a great many years. As to whether Shakira was from Turkey, the Middle East, South America or somewhere else, nobody ever knew.

As I watched Shakira, in her shimmering beige bridal trousseau, carrying a bouquet full of pristine white roses, I understood her charm. The elusive scent surrounding her, the lithe grace of her movements, and the magical quality of her slightly wolfish smile had us all in its thrall. Soon, I too, became mesmerized by Shakira. And my affection for her paid, because Shakira wasn’t the stereotypical wicked stepmother one reads about in books. She was really quite amiable and kind. She took me along with her wherever she went, be it to a local cocktail party, the beauty salon or to the globe theatre in London.

“You really don’t have to let me tag around everywhere” I said with the typical embarrassment a 12 year old boy sometime feels “I wouldn’t like to intrude”.

“Oh sweetheart” said Shakira kneeling down and cupping my face in her shapely hands “you are like my very own younger brother. I don’t see you as intrusion; I see you as excellent company”. The beautiful husky voice, with a hint of exotic French accent, cast its spell. I was ineffably bewitched by the exquisite, exotic creature. Had I not had due respect for Shakira’s status as my new mother, I would have had a crush on her.

One dreamy Sunday, Shakira and I were sauntering around my father’s huge estate that we lived in. The house, a huge white building with grey triangular roofs, stood right in the middle of it. In front of it was a splendorous garden, where roses and azaleas blossomed. To a side was a stable, housing one or two of my father’s prized thoroughbreds. Behind the stable was a rectangular stone building that my father had prohibited me from going close to. The old storehouse that had remained locked for several generations.

At the moment, it beckoned, invited and magnetized. Before we knew it, Shakira and I were walking towards the stone building almost against our will. As we tiptoed towards the storehouse, hand in hand, I could feel the clamminess of my stepmother’s hand. When Shakira glanced in my direction with her dark doe-like eyes, I could see a contradictory mixture of curiosity and apprehension.

I could feel a bead of sweat form on my yet hairless upper lip. Perhaps Shakira and I were making a huge mistake by not paying heed to my father’s warnings? Anyway, it was too late for contemplations and regrets. My stepmother and I had unlatched the door and had walked straight into the old storehouse.

A queer, change in air was conspicuous as soon as I stepped in. Ostensibly I was still on earth, on the familiar territory of my father’s estate, yet I felt as though I had stepped on another planet. The air around me was thick, almost viscous. I could also discern a significant change in air pressure and felt the way you feel when on an aircraft. Also, there was a kind of stillness around the room that gave one the feeling of walking in a dream.

I could discern that Shakira felt the same. She had let go of my hand now and wafted around with a surreal glaze in her eyes. As she moved about the room, caressing each piece of decrepit furniture, grand moth-eaten draperies and superfluous chunks of porcelain, I followed her. In spite of the trance-like state that we were in, both Shakira and I were acutely conscious of each other’s breathing. Eventually, Shakira wafted towards the chink in the shuttered window, beneath which something glimmered.

A closer look told Shakira and me that we were looking at a wall mirror: the most exquisite one I’d ever laid my eyes on. It was round, with a clear spherical surface, and was surrounded by lovely sea shells. Shakira walked towards it and dreamily stood in front of it. The smooth clear surface of the mirror reflected her chiseled face with its smoky eyes, slim arched nose and heart-shaped lips. Shakira’s dark Eastern hair framed her face perfectly. Unable to endure the sight of her own beauty, Shakira gaped at the mirror. In a voice that was hers, yet in a strange way, distorted, asked:

“Mirror, mirror on the wall. Who’s the fairest of us all?”

The room became stiller. At this point, I am sure I’d even have heard a pin drop. Then slowly, much to my disbelief, the surface of the mirror lifted up a bit like a plate of the earth thrown up by tectonic activity. It formed a vague, vaporous simulation of a visage, before actually answering:

“You, Shakira are the fairest living woman on earth. Your beauty and elegance are unrivalled”.

A shaken Shakira startled and involuntarily took a step or two backwards. I too moved along with my stultified stepmom. Trembling like two leaves, we looked at each other. The voice from the mirror sounded like that of an elderly male’s. A thought crossed my mind. I looked into my stepmom’s dark doe-like eyes and beheld my own skepticism reflected there. Both of us opened the door of the storehouse and peeked outside to check if someone had played a trick on us. The deserted parchment of land stared back at us for miles and miles. There was no one. The mirror had spoken.

“Let’s once again to ascertain that wasn’t an illusion” said Shakira and resolutely dragged me back into the storehouse again. She stood in front of the mirror, and repeated her question. The mirror’s vaporous face emerged and it repeated what it had said, even more firmly than the last time. Shakira and I exchanged awestruck glances. It was obvious that what she and I had experienced was no illusion.


That night, I couldn’t sleep. I relived what had happened earlier in the day and could feel it all: the surreal stillness of the storehouse, the oppressive thickness of the air, the relics of my forgotten history and of course, the mirror. The same magnetic force that had drawn me and Shakira towards the storehouse my father had forbidden us to go to, beckoned me towards it once again. As much as I knew my father would disapprove, I tiptoed out of the bedroom, dressed only in my striped pajama-suit and bunny slippers, and got down a flight of stairs. I retrieved the key from above the refrigerator and softly opened the front door, hoping against hope that no one heard me. Once outside, the cool, crisp air of the night fondled my face. It was a full moon night, yet I switched on the flashlight in order to be able to see well.

I walked across the stable and reached the storehouse. I gingerly unlatched the door and walked in. If the air had appeared thick in the morning, it was positively gelid now. The room had got stiller and a queer kind of hush hung about the room. The mirror glimmered beneath the right side window. I walked towards it like a sleepwalker. With a feeling of awe commingled with that of forbidding, I stood in front of the mirror. My own marmoreal face, containing huge almond-shaped blue-green eyes, chiseled nose, shapely lips and dimpled chin, stared back at me. In the dim beam of the flashlight, the glorious shoulder-length auburn hair that I had inherited from my mother glinted like burnished copper.

“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of us all—in the past, present and the future?” I asked in a quivering, tremulous voice.

The surface of the mirror lifted up like a plate of the earth pushed up by tectonic activity. A hazy, vaporous apparition, resembling a human face, rose and spoke in the same old man’s voice of the evening:

“Your mother Bryony Aveyard was the fairest in the past, your stepmother Shakira is the loveliest in the present. You, dear Aaron, will be the fairest in the future. In a few years you will be even more beautiful than Shakira or anyone else in the world”.

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