Mime in the Mirror

Prompt Day #305: Everyone says they’re afraid of clowns. What are clowns afraid of? Depict their worst nightmare.

Mime in the Mirror

                “Tell me about this nightmare.”

“Well Doc, it’s like this; it started out as a nightmare. There is this mime, right, and he is wearing a form fitting, black and white version of my costume.”

“Is he thin, or roughly the same build as you?”

“He is thin, real thin, almost skeletal. My suit has this hoop thing around the waist, it makes me look fatter—you know so people don’t realize that I am big in real life, you know? But this guy, he’s thin.”

“How many times have you had this dream?”

“See, Doc, that’s the thing, I was having it like every night, right? I mean at first I chalked it up to my own insecurities. You know? Nobody likes clowns no more. I mean, kids cry when they see me, you know? I even tried changing my make-up, accentuating the smile. It’s so big now, it’s like half my face is the mouth. I don’t know, I try to be boisterous and laugh, even bounce up and squirt ‘em with my flower but they just run away screaming.”

“I know, we’ve talked a lot about your feelings. Let’s try to stay focused on this dream. You say every night. Is it the same every night?”

“No, see it started with just this mime, you know, like I think I am awake and I see this mime staring at me.”

“Does he ever say anything to you?

“Mimes don’t talk, Doc. Anyhow, so something seems familiar about him, right? Like at first I don’t make the connection that he is wearing the same patterned costume as me only just black and white and no hoop in the waist. So a few nights later, I decide to try to get outta bed, you know, try to approach him. That’s when it gets weird, like he mirrors all my movements.”

“Isn’t that what mimes do?”

“You know, Doc, I don’t know. I never did get the point of mimes. They’re like sad, boring clowns or something. Yet the thing is, no one’s scared of them. Why do you think that is?

“Oh, I suppose maybe because they are quiet and unassuming. Their colors aren’t so flashy. I think people fear clowns because the bright colors and big smiles could be hiding something more sinister. I think movies and books have played with that fear so much that clowns have become equal to classic horror monsters. It is a sad turn of events.”

“Yeah, I guess so. So, anyhow, he mimics me. And that’s when I start to realize about his costume and then I realize that his make-up is like mine but there is no smile and it’s all black and white. I start thinking that this guy is like the dead version of me, you know?”

“No, Bernard, I don’t. How did you make that connection? Why do you think he is a dead version of you?”

“Because it’s like me from the other side! Like Alice through the looking glass.”

“But Alice wasn’t dead. That wasn’t her afterlife, Bernard.”

“You sure about that, Doc? I mean have you ever watched that movie? She dies when she falls down that hole.”

“I think we’ll have to agree to disagree on that. So, tell me more; in the beginning of the session, you said ‘it started out as a nightmare’. What did you mean by that?”

“Because now, he follows me everywhere. Always mirroring what I do.”

“You see him when you are awake?”

“Yeah, all the time.”

“Is he here now?”

“No, I think he knows I come here to talk to you about him. He’s trying to make me look crazy. But I can’t go on like this, Doc. He terrifies me. I can’t sleep. I’m so paranoid, always looking around to see where he might be. I’m afraid to look in the mirror for fear he’ll be there and that ain’t good. I’m a clown, I gotta look in the mirror all the time for my make-up, you know? I think he is like death coming to get me.”

“Let’s talk more about that. Why do you think he is death? What makes you say that he is a dead version of you?”

“I told you. Because he is me. A drab, black and white, unhappy version of me. He is thin like a skeleton. And he only mirrors my movements. He is dead me.”

“Ok, then if he is in fact, you, you have nothing to worry about. He isn’t going to hurt you, obviously.”

“But see, that’s where you’re wrong, Doc. I think he wants out. That’s the thing with Mimes. They are always trying to get out, see? He wants to be free and the only way that can happen is if I am dead. But I can’t let that happen. I’m gonna get him first. I’m going to kill him before he kills me.”

“How exactly? Do you have a plan?”

“Yeah, I have an idea. But I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Bernard, you know I have to ask you if you have any intentions of hurting yourself.”

“Geez, Doc, have you listened to anything I said? I don’t want to die, got it? He wants me to die so he can be set free, but I am not giving him the chance. I am going to take him out. I just need you to understand that I have no other choice and that I am not crazy, right? I mean if I were crazy, then I would think my dreams were real, but I know he is not a dream, he is real therefore, I am not crazy, right?”

“That is an interesting to look at this situation. I just need you to promise me you will not hurt yourself or anyone else for that manner, Bernard. I’m serious. If I think you are a danger to anyone, I can have you committed. I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt here because you have never exhibited any violent tendencies or aggression before. I think you are very stressed. I think you are torn between your job and your self-esteem. You love being a clown, but you do not love the way you are being perceived by the very children you are trying to entertain. This leaves you with a tough decision. I think this mime is a symbol of the death of your career. Your brain is trying to make sense of your feelings. That is what most dreams are. I think these worries have become so overwhelming, they are consuming your thoughts both day and night, so you keep seeing this mime. What I would like you do, rather than lash out, is to begin to keep a journal. When you see this mime, I would like you to immediately write your thoughts and feelings at that time into the journal. What were you doing and feeling just prior to seeing this mime. Write that down. Bring it with you to next week’s session and we will see if we can’t make him go away. Violence of any kind is certainly not the answer. Ok?”

“You don’t think he’s real? You think I’m crazy, then? Huh. Ok, Doc. I’ll try. That’s all I can promise.”

“Ok, Bernard. That’s all I ask.”



“Dr. O’Neill?”

“That’s me, yes.”

“Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. We found an appointment card in the victim’s apartment with your name on it. Did you know him well?”

“Bernard? Yes, he has been a patient of mine for the last two years. You say ‘victim’ was he attacked?”

“Well, we don’t know for sure until we get the ME’s report back but my hunch is he did it to himself.”

“Is he going to be ok?”

“Oh, sorry doc, no. No, he’s dead. Throat was slashed from one ear to the other.”

“And you think he did it to himself? What makes you say that, if I might ask?”

“Well, Doctor, first of all, we found every mirror and every glass surface in the apartment broken. Mr. Nelson’s knuckles were cut up pretty bad consistent with punching injuries. We found him in his bathroom. He had a large shard of glass in his right hand, with a deep cut running through that palm. The cut in his throat seems to have gone from left to right consistent with someone right handed doing it to themselves. From a search of the apartment, we gather your client was a circus clown, is that right?”

“Oh, yes. Bernard has been a performing clown for the last twenty years. He’s been struggling with it recently because children don’t seem to enjoy clowns anymore, in fact, anymore most children—and adults I might add—are just terrified of clowns.”

“You, know that’s the odd part of this. We found several photos of Mr. Nelson in his costume. A bright blue and yellow suit, big white ruffles and red puff balls running down the center. One of those fat clown suits, right?”

“Yes, that’s correct.”

“And his face paint, a big loopy red smile, blue ovals around the eyes? A yellow triangle over the nose?”

“Yes, That sounds right, although at our last appointment, he mentioned changing the smile, trying to make it bigger, happier looking. I was worried about that because the way he was describing it sounded terrifying. I worried at the response he might receive from the children.”

“Well, that’s the darndest thing. When we found him, he had make-up on. But it was all black and white. White face, black lips, slightly downturned, black X’s over his eyes. Like a dead mime. He was even wearing a black and white version of his costume, only it fit him, you know it wasn’t a fat suit. And no big floppy black shoes, instead black ballet slippers. It was so odd.”

“The mime.”

“What’s that, Doctor?”

“Oh, nothing. He had been talking about a mime a lot lately, he equated the mime with death. In his mind, the mime was his personal grim reaper.”

“Was he suicidal?”

“Perhaps he was. I didn’t think so. I was worried he was developing a paranoia, a schizoid type reaction to his stress. In fact he was quite emphatic that he did not want to die.”

“You think he had a split personality then? Maybe the mime part of him was suicidal?”

“Yes, that’s very possible. I know the mime wanted to be free. Freed from the mirror in fact. Yes, officer, I think you’re right. I completely missed it.”

“Ah, I suppose that’s the thing about mental illness, it’s unpredictable. Nothing you could have done, Doctor. Thanks for the info, though.”

“No problem, officer. Thank you.”

“Reminds me of that Alice in Wonderland, through the looking glass story. I always had this theory that wonderland was really the afterlife and she had died in the fall. Guess a clown would fit in just fine on the other side of the mirror, eh Doc?”

“Hmm. I suppose he would. At least I sure hope he does.”