Pick a pony at random and ask her to describe a broken mirror. A bit to a cent says she’ll talk about its shattered glass, its fractured reflections, the seven years’ bad luck it brings... all the things you’ll have heard a million times before. And indeed, those words would have painted an accurate picture once, back in the storybook days.
Not any more. Not when even cheap mass-produced mirrors get a hefty measure of magical strengthening as a matter of course.
I should know: I’ve tested a whole lot of mirrors in the last few years. It’s what I do.
I don’t even want to think about how many of them I’ve attempted to break in that time, but it’s going to be a pretty large number. As my old boss used to say, it’s a job that involves a whole lot of bucking. I just never thought it would be quite as much as this. It’s ironic, really: most ponies, even today, will go out of their way to avoid breaking a mirror, yet here I am coming at things from the opposite side all day long.
If you’d told me as a foal that I’d be spending my adulthood trying to smash the things, I’d have been utterly ecstatic. I was one of those colts, you see: I was always building enormous towers and fairytale castles with my piles of wooden blocks like my friends, but in my case I was doing it with a rather different ultimate aim: that of seeing them tumble to the floor in a great clattering roar. Way back in second grade, I told my teacher I wanted to work in demolition.
I guess I got something like that wish in the end.
Ponies who knew what I do with my time might think that my life must be solitary and lonely, and they’d be right. My life is a very lonely one; the loneliness tears at me when I wake up each day and I remember who I am and what I must do... and why.
But it’s also true, I guess, that you’re never quite alone with a mirror. Your reflection is always there with you, parallelling your movements, almost but not quite your twin. As I said, you just don’t expect mirror glass to smash nowadays, but there’s always a tiny thought in the back of my mind: would I, should I, do I have the right to, destroy the pony who is more like me than anypony else in the world, just to get what I want?
But that’s what I try to do, bucking at the glass with all the strength I can muster all day and every day, far into the night until exhaustion overtakes me and I can no longer keep my eyes open.
I don’t do it because I like it – although I’ll admit that I do sometimes feel a certain twisted satisfaction in my being a stallion who poured his young adulthood into learning the subtle secrets of mirror construction, yet now using those self-same skills to try to destroy what somepony else herself might have crafted. I suppose it’s what I was always fated to do—my destiny, though you wouldn’t know to look at my simple, rippled cutie mark.
Though I didn’t know it back then, it’s been my destiny ever since a certain colt on the verge of adulthood started to work for Looking Glass all those years ago.
Yes, that Looking Glass, the one you’ve all probably read about – or, more likely, slept through college lectures about. Who do you think it was that told me all that stuff I mentioned a minute ago about the old days in the mirror business? In the twilight of his days, I was his apprentice, the only one he ever took on – well, if you don’t count a couple of temporary assistants for some of the really big jobs like the Hall of Mirrors in Canterlot Castle.
Looking Glass was getting on in years by then, and couldn’t shin up ladders as he once had, so a young, strong filly or colt who wanted to make a few bits to put by for a rainy day or to buy Hearth’s Warming gifts was always welcome to join the team for a little while. But I was something else. I was the colt he chose to hold his secrets close—to take a piece of him with me after he was gone.
And when those seven long years at the hooves of my master were done and I knew – or thought I knew – all there was to know about the mirror business, I went into that same business for myself.
I’ve never really had all that much imagination, so I just used my own name: Silver Buck Mirror Testing Services was a half-decent pun, I suppose, given that the coins really were made of silver in those days. Mind you, I kept the name even when Princess Celestia decreed the shift to bronze coinage a year or two later. “Bronze Buck” sounded like a slightly dodgy Iron Pony competitor, so wasn’t exactly ideal; I decided to stick with the name ponies had already come to know and respect.
As I say, though, most mirrors these days are almost unbreakable without cancelling the enchantment first. Do that and you have... well, just a piece of glass, but one in which you will never again see a reflection. The spell removes all magic from the mirror and requires intense concentration for an extended period. Not many unicorns are powerful enough to do mirror magic, not even Looking Glass. Other than the princesses, I’ve only met a couple in all my long years.
One of those I came to know quite well became a princess later on, while there was another who probably could have done the same, had she followed a truer path. Oddly enough, the tracks of those two ponies’ lives crossed because of mirrors. That story is a remarkable one indeed, but it is not one to be told now.
Perhaps one day I will be able to spend time telling stories for fun once more.
But to return to my own sad tale... there are just a few ponies who like to keep a little collection of antique mirrors around the place for one reason or another. In some cases, they’re valued family heirlooms; in others, they have some sentimental value; in still others, the mirrors’ owners just have a bit of a thing for old and interesting knick-knacks.
Those mirrors are very rare in Equestria now, and with every passing year they become more so. In theory more could be made, but the type of pony who owns these is uninterested in modern materials, and in any case the skills of non-magical strengthening are almost forgotten. Even I only know bits and pieces from the stories Looking Glass occasionally told of his own youth, far back in the days when one princess alone ruled the realm.
It’s more than likely that nopony will ever again make a mirror in the true Old Equestrian style.
And all of that makes my quest more pressing with every passing year, too. I’ve almost forgotten now what it was like to share each day with other ponies, laughing and loving and living together. My only hope of release from my cursed existence, my only hope for a return to a normal life where I can feel the warmth of the sun and the caress of the rain, is to make my way to one of the ever-diminishing number of those ancient mirrors, when the other face is close, and smash it to pieces myself.
I haven’t managed it yet; perhaps I never will. If not, my future will hold nothing but this endless round of searching, searching, searching, yet never finding.
But I shall not cease my work, not ever, not till the day I lay down my tools for the last time and surrender myself to the other unknown: the unknown of the Great Beyond.
So I buck and I buck and I buck for hour after hour after hour. Occasionally I use my forelegs or my head or even my rump for the sake of making some small change to my tedious routine, but for the most part I buck.
It’s not as if there’s anything much else for me to do in the strange world I now inhabit, trapped between what is real and what is not. In an existence filled with mirrors, how can I even be sure that my whole life isn’t some grand illusion?
But if it is an illusion, if the way out I’m looking for doesn’t exist, then is there any longer any reason for me to exist? I cannot let my thoughts turn that way: to venture down that road would bring me closer to the end, and the end is a place that I will not willingly seek out.
So I go on.
I have to believe that one day, however many more mirrors I must find and examine and buck, I will discover the flaw I’m looking for; that from the shards of shattered glass I will be able to find the piece to make myself whole again.
If there’s anypony in this existence who has the power to have survived all these years in a mirrored dimension that, in truth, is nothing but a glinting prison with nowhere to hide from yourself, it is her. A unicorn who truly understands the tyranny of appearance, but who understands also that this tyranny has its rules and that those cannot be bucked. The mirror-world will not willingly give her up – it therefore falls to me to try to take her from it.
One day I will find my Sweetie – and on that day, I will bring her home.
Perhaps that day will be tomorrow.