I wrote this story for the Australian Writers’ Centre March Furious Fiction challenge. I had to include the following: a person in disguise, set it in a park and include a mirror.
Standing in line to order my third coffee for the day from the Hyde Park cart, a striking glint appeared at the edge of my eye line. Looking around, I couldn’t see where it came from, so turned back to see where I was in the queue. The bored barista drawled “Next”, and I stepped forward.
“Can I grab an almond latte please?” I asked, debit card poised to tap.
“Sure. Can I grab a… What the f?” the barista said, squinting. “What sort of idiot blinds people in a park?”
“I just saw that too, but thought I imagined it,” I said.
“Wherever it’s coming from, they need to stop. A-sap!” the barista spat. “Sorry, it’s been a day and this is the last thing I need. What’s your name?”
“Jack, and no rush. I’m not feeling overly productive today.”
“I wish I had that luxury right now. It’ll just be a few minutes, bud.”
Leaning against the gnarled trunk of the fig tree that shaded the cart, I scanned the park for the culprit. I saw three couples laying on picnic blankets dotted around the soft grass to my right. One pair was mid-kiss, the second entwined in an embrace and the third feeding each other strawberries. I smiled wryly to myself, thinking how unlikely it was that I’d be a character in a similar scene after last night.
On my left were groups and singles sitting around the edge of the fountain. Many had stripped off a layer, allowing the sun to warm their skin after a long winter. Some were reading books, others were chatting and laughing, but most had their heads bowed, scanning their phones, like I had been doing minutes before.
“Here you go bud: almond latte,” the barista called. “I threw in a Florentine too, just so there’s no hard feelings about my crankiness,” he said, handing me the cup and a brown paper bag.
“Thanks mate. You didn’t have to, but my sweet tooth won’t say no,” I laughed and walked back towards my imposing office tower.
Almost at the edge of the park, I was blinded by a white light and screwed my eyes shut against it. Opening them gingerly, I turned and saw a human statue about 100 metres away. The figure, painted and dressed completely in a pewter shade, was frozen in an animated pose. Her shiny satin dress had a fine lace skirt skimming the top. Woven in between the folds of web-like lace were shards of broken mirror.
I stood in front of the frozen figure, watching her change position. As the grey web moved the mirrors shimmered, catching the sun.
“I’m impressed, but you know you’re blinding people with those mirrors, right?” I said to the grey mistress.
Still and silent, she refused to change her pose in front of me. Realising I’d be late, I turned back towards the road.
“But it got you look up from your phone,” a pretty voice said behind me.