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once before

I used to like contemplating my reflection. In the uncertain glow of twilight, my current face - heavy eyelids, wrinkled, thin, and blemished skin - melted into the face of once before - large, dark-rimmed eyes, narrow mouth, pale complexion, and gaunt cheeks. I remembered that exact moment when, wavering from the weight of the foul-smelling chamber pot, the then little girl had stopped for a moment in front of the mirror hanging on the wall. Despite her fear - the ogres could ambush her at any moment - she had sent a silent message, filled with melancholy and hope, to the adult she would perhaps become - if I ever survive, she seemed to say, remember me. I wanted to reassure this child, to tell her she would be able to escape before her masters devoured her and that in time she would grow into a respected, independent, and... free woman. I rested my forehead on the cool surface of the hand mirror and closed my eyes. A shudder seized me, my head spun, a pestilential odor choked me, I lost my balance and found myself standing in the room I so abhorred. From the wall mirror, a terrified girl looked at me... She dropped the chamber pot, opened her mouth, and began to scream.

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