Sunday 2 June 2013

The Mirror

By Sarah Begg.

In the city of Venice among the winding canals and narrow streets there is a house that has stood for hundreds of years. There is nothing extraordinary about his feat in a city such as Venice, nor is there anything particularly remarkable about this house to the unenlightened eye. The house is small and narrow, made of ancient stones, its sides squashed up against the houses beside it. However to the visitors and tourists that find themselves exploring this particular street in Venice, a small sign out the front indicates that this was once a house of some significance.

Venice Historical Trust:
The house of Carmella Vilotta Verdanesta (The Violet Rose) c. 1660 – 1712.

No other details are given about the former owner of the house, yet the gate stands open and a small sign on the door indicates that visitors may wander through the interior provided they leave a small donation in the box at the front.

It is in the upstairs hallway of this house that the great carved mirror hangs fixed to the wall. All visitors who walk past cannot help but stop and gaze at themselves in this mirror, their eyes wide with what they see reflected there. One woman who was contemplating suicide saw hope and light – a sign that things were going to get better. She left a different person, all thought of the unthinkable now gone. An old man saddened that his son no longer spoke to him saw reflected in the mirror his own worst character traits – it was not his son that was at fault, but he himself who had caused the rift. He left already reaching into his pocket for his phone, dialing his son's number before he was out the gate.

I first heard of this mirror from a friend who had recently returned from a holiday in Italy. Before leaving, this friend of mine was awash in the sea of uncertainty and hesitation, unsure what to do with his life and what to make of himself. He returned from his holiday a changed person – confident, full of ideas and determined to start his own business. When I remarked at the change in him and asked what had happened on his holiday to bring about such a difference, he first hesitated and then confided in me about the mirror.

“I don't know how to describe it,” he said. “I had been wandering around the streets of Venice for hours and was actually looking for a place for lunch when I came across this house. It was open to visitors so I went in and had a look around. The house was eerily quiet, and there was nothing particularly noteworthy about it. Yet when I walked down the hallway on the first floor the most amazing mirror was hanging on the wall. I don't know why, but when I looked into this mirror I saw myself as a whole new person. I felt as if I were having an epiphany – as though I could suddenly see where my life was going to lead me and I knew, somehow I knew that it was really going to happen. When I finally walked away from the mirror I suddenly knew what I was going to make of myself, and all the insecurities I used to feel just melted away.”

I was highly skeptical of the report my friend had given, however being a naturally curious person as well as an aspiring detective, I decided that I needed to visit this house and see this intriguing mirror for myself. It was easy to rearrange a few days of an upcoming trip I already had planned to ensure I could visit Venice. In the few weeks before I left for my trip I spent hours Googling the mysterious house to try and find other visitors' reports.

To my surprise and subsequent excitement, I came across a number of similar experiences written from people all over the world. A woman who had been feeling insecure about her husband's fidelity saw reflected in the mirror confirmation that he was having an affair. Sure enough, when she confronted him about it he revealed that he had been unfaithful. She credited her trip to helping her finally cut off contact with her cheating husband and start her life afresh. Another woman wrote that she had found peace in her own self upon her trip to one particular house in Venice – gazing into a mirror, she realised that life was too short to worry and stress about every little thing, and she had gone on to become a highly acclaimed meditation teacher.

With every story I read I found myself becoming no longer simply curious from an investigative point of view but excited to gaze into this mirror and experience my own epiphany, for the more reports I read the more convinced I became that a miracle was happening in this small house in Venice.

Finally the day came and I found myself walking with trepidation towards the house with the mirror. When I reached the gate I paused and gazed at the house, feeling my heart beat wildly and my hand shake slightly. Yet then the most heartbreaking, gut wrenching sound blasted forth from the house – it was the sound of glass shattering into hundreds of pieces.

Mortified, I sprinted into the house and up the stairs only to see the mirror I had traveled from afar to visit currently being destroyed by a ragged looking man wielding a hammer, himself hysterical and weeping.

I froze and I stared at him, and then he saw me, a mad gleam winking in his eyes.

“It ruined my life!” he screamed, smashing the remnants of the mirror off the wall, as if he needed to justify the destruction he was wreaking. “Lies – it was all lies it planted in my head! An evil demon, sent to torment me for years and years!”

Dropping the hammer the man suddenly rushed past me down the stairs, howling with a sound that was half laughter, half weeping. Within moments the sounds of his departure vanished, as did he.

Walking forwards in sorrow, I approached the wall that had formerly housed the magical mirror, carefully stepping through the hundreds of glass shards now littering the floor.

Looking at the wall, my brows creased in consternation. There was no back to the mirror and poking through the bare bricks were strange metal implements. The crazed man had caused many of the bricks to come loose, and there was a small hole about eye level, just big enough for me to get a finger into. In a brief moment before I pulled at the bricks and forced a larger hole in the wall I distinctly heard the soft sound of weeping coming from the other side.

As the loose bricks gave way and collapsed towards me, I saw a person crouching in a small cavity beyond the wall. It appeared to be a man, though his skin was so pale it was almost translucent, his grey hair and beard were so long and matted it looked as if it had never been cut. For the briefest of seconds I saw him as he was – hunched over, cringing and sobbing softly. Then he realised that the wall was gone and, looking up, our eyes met.

They were so pale they were almost white, clear orbs that might easily have scared me, yet all I saw was the combination of sorrow, loss, fear and despair held within.

And then he was gone, vanishing suddenly down a warren tunnel I could barely see.

“Wait!” I called, but it was as if he had not really existed at all, so silent and empty the cavity was left.

As I pulled away the rest of the bricks I discovered the most amazing contraption built into the wall beyond. Though it was mostly destroyed with the collapsing bricks, I was able to gauge it's basic function. Using a variety of light and force, the device could manipulate the surface of the mirror, causing the viewer to see an altered form of reality.

To this day I still don't know how the strange man did it, or what became of him once his mirror was destroyed. I have never written about what I discovered until now, preferring to let all those who had experienced a miracle keep their dreams alive. Yet I know, and now you do too, that it is the realm of no man to presume to know what others need to see.

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