Shin's mother is the one who Names him. He's not quite sure why he remembers this detail as important, in a town where everyone knows each other's names, but it's something he's never quite able to forget.
There are other children like him, who speak of childhood fairy fantasies and strange dreams. However, none of them are truly Like him. He forgot why. Still, their considered "weirdness" brings them together in a town where no one seems to have the patience for that sort of thing.
But then they grow up.
Little siblings mature them, the fairy stories no longer for themselves but instead for others. Shin doesn't have a sibling to ground him like they do (he's not quite sure he's meant to be part of a family like they are). One moves away, to the city with his family. The other stays behind. They grow closer in a way that makes them feel farther apart.
And then Shin moves.
Back to the place he was born (but not exactly) to attend university and possibly even to work. He wonders why such a small town has such a large institution if all of its children go to school in other towns (although he was one of them, in a way).
When he looks in the mirror, he doesn’t recognize himself anymore. His friends do, welcoming him with open arms. The city and the responsibility have changed them. Has he changed too?
As he walks back home, an old lady waves him over. A bangle of intertwined wood is thrust into his hand, a round metallic charm hanging off it. She gives him a knowing look. “For the you in the mirror.”
Shin accepts it, knowing that this exchange is free of cost (but how?). It doesn’t stop the nightmares of a melting face, a changing shape nor does it stop the movement out of the corner of his eye but when he sees something crawl out of the mirror, something all too familiar (his own face why is someone else wearing it is this a dream is this a nightmare) it drives it away, back into the mirror where it came from.
Shin never takes it off after that. Especially in the bathroom where he can see his own (or not at all his) reflection smiling crookedly at him.
“I am you. Or at least, you as you should be.”
The words sound more like a hiss: inhumane and screeching. He can’t hide his own shaking every time he walks into a bathroom alone. So he doesn’t. His friends don’t question his sudden need to always be accompanied to the toilet or his desire to spend more time together. When he closes his eyes, he still freezes every time he thinks about that face that is both him and decidedly Not Him.
“I want to see what you have. You can have a glimpse into mine if you’d like.”
“A glimpse? Mine?”
“We’re two sides of the same coin.” The figure’s arm reaches through the mirror, knowing better than to reach for Shin after that last incident. The face seems to change, seemingly reacting to Shin’s discomfort. Blond hair and piercing purple eyes stare back at him, a smile filled with teeth too sharp to be human.“I have your life, you have mine.”
“What do you mean?”
“Don’t you want to have a look and find out?”
A part of him wants to say yes, even though every inch of him is screaming about how wrong it is. “What do you mean by a look?”
The smile turns into a thin line. “A day in each other’s shoes. Are you pleased by that?”
“And they won’t know?”
“Don’t worry, I know how to be you.” The smug smile is back.“The question is, how well can you do me?”
Shin doesn’t quite remember what he said, but he ends up on the other side of the mirror nonetheless. He watches as Not Him changes to match him almost perfectly, sparkling almost inhuman blue eyes the only inaccuracy. Not Him waves before walking out of the bathroom.
Shin turns away from the mirror with a sense of dread. An unimaginable landscape comes into sight. It seems almost straight out of a poem, those he pours over with a close look and careful eye.
Then he feels it. Something strange coursing through his body. It’s almost like a sugar rush. A caffeine rush. He stumbles forward, each step feeling distorted by the energy rushing through his brain. He finally reaches a pool of a shiny liquid (liquid mercury almost?). He falls to his knees (the terrain is rough and should be untraversable but it isn’t, it’s easy and that strikes a chord). His reflection seems twisted (there are too many teeth too pointy his eyes look nothing like that) but Shin knows that what he’s Seeing is right. We’re two sides of the same coin. Shin reaches out to his reflection, half hoping that somehow he can reach his double. Instead the pool freezes over. The reflection off the now frozen surface is more stable, showing details like pointed ears and iridescent skin.
“Alright, I'm good. A day in your time is more than enough to cause trouble.”
Shin turns around, coming face to face with Not Him. (He used you, you made a deal without knowing the consequences how could you every good fae knows how to-
“I see now that I got the better deal. I appreciate it.”
With Shin’s next blink, he is back in his bathroom, staring at his own reflection that seems far too much like him for his own comfort. He’s gotten far too used to Not Him staring back. He reaches out to touch the mirror, trembling as his fingers brush the cold surface. It stays solid under his touch.
The world of his true birth stays locked away.