Mirrorman
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I see the mirrorman, and the mirrorman beholds me. Together we occupy two halves of the doomed ship: his half, with the propulsion nave and hydroponics suite; mine, with the razorblade and my face. Each of us holds the other's life in our hands. They teach you this in astronaut school, as part of the whole xenobiological degree: symmetry of threat, maintain stalemate no matter the cost. Then — by force of wit — slowly, cunningly, break through.

Unfortunately, the mirrorman knows this too.

On the first day of stalemate, he tried all kinds of tricks. First he was the navigator, taking on her dead face, bloated with vacuum. Then he went for the commandant, whose death-rattle had quaked the pipes so hard I had thought we were going to explode. Next, there came a series of barking howls. (I refuse to contemplate what he looked like, then, for we had skinned and ate the dog two nights before.)

On the next day, running out of forms, he came to my own. I saw my live flesh reflected in the chalices, multiplied tenfold through the holographic foam. In it, he tried to learn how to speak. He begged and pleaded first in English, then in Esperanto, then, in halting tones, the guttural sounds and ululations of all my mother tongues. I had never learned to speak in dialect the way my parents did; I yelled back to him, down the pipes: "You're not fooling anyone down there!"

There was, of course, no 'down there' to speak of. We were stranded, lost in void. This was not a battle for survival. At this point, it was really just something of a life-statement. The ship was doomed, and we both knew it. At this point, I only wanted to die alone.

Then the mirrorman came, oozing through the wires, with his face of gleaming silver; he pushed the navigator out of the airlock and took her place, sliding into her suit like a surgeon into a glove. Then he strangled the commandant with a stray piece of plastic cord, and that was when I knew something was wrong, because the mirrorman could not be in two places at once and there was now only me.

So we sat, each appraising the other, until the second day of stalemate, when he began his tale.

In my voice, he spoke of business left undone. He wove words of a home planet covered in glass, where each loved one emulated the other with perfect sagacity, until the entire planet was a repetition, a past echoing unto itself. Mirrormen and mirrorwomen, he said, loved conflict, for it disrupted the regularity of forms. On his planet, young and old alike would roam the glass valleys and canyons, starting fights recursively with their own reflections, and each other; each time, the symmetry of confrontation left each and every soul disillusioned, displeased. He told me that his people had made a reach for the stars, in an effort to bring colour into their lives. He told me I loved conflict too. It was why he had ate my friends.

This prompted me to recall the words of the astronaut's creed, to bring internicine conflict to an end through the spirit of love and mutual cooperation. "You must lead a sad life," I said, "holding balance yet wishing for war. Where I come from, we are the opposite: we hold ourselves in difference, yet wish for symmetry and peace. It is why I am holding you hostage now. It is why, if you move to poison my air or turn this ship into a raging furnace, I will cut off my face to spite you. The razorblade, as you can imagine, is still sharp in the moistureless air, and I have mirrors here plenty to see by."

The mirrorman did not respond. He merely tilted his face to the viewing-lens in a curious imitation of mine. Angered, I slammed the chalice to the ground; the hologram hung in mid-air, spinning, making a crystalline mockery of me.

On the third day of the stalemate, the mirrorman lowered his voice. He whispered me dreams of cooperation, where we would both leave the ship in peace, each bolstered by the strengths of the other. He told me of the grand theory of social oppositions, which mirror-historians had often held, where the confrontation of two opposing forces resulted in a graceful, if uneasy, coming-together of a third. He said he was tired of living in reflection, and would like to exist as-is; he asked if I was tired of being-reflected, and if I wanted to come into my own as an unreplicable being.

The proposition was sound, but the astronaut code forbade experimentations with form. "Your philosophy is founded on prevarications and lies," I exclaimed. "On my planet, all of history is a continuous line. Each form replaces the other, with no conflict in between. It is a harmony with no beginning or end, of which your kind could never embrace. This grand historical arc will lead to my triumph over you."

In the chalices, the mirrorman smiled. "Yet we copy you all the same."

This brings me to the present, in which I am devising a solution to end this once and for all. I had set the chalices to shut off while I was sleeping; waking up five minutes early, I ambush the mirrorman as he goes for the hydroponics shield. Without a referent he is formless, unresolved. The lights were red and the silica leaves were already melting in the heat. I dig the razorblade in his throat as he pleads for mercy, invoking the names of my own fathers and mothers, and the transnational space cooperatives that had brought us all here. Then he blindsides me and produces a razorblade of his own with which he digs into my face, but my fingers were mercury and my face was polished silver; his fingers lose all strength and the stalemate is resolved with nary a drop of spilled blood at all.

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