In the looking glass, p.1
In the Looking Glass, p.1
IN THE LOOKING GLASS
© 2015 M. Ramon
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When Frank saw it leaning up against the side of a building on Dresden Ave. he gave it a glance and nearly walked on by. How different things would have been for him if he had done just that. But he hadn’t. Something nagged at him as he passed the full-length mirror, its reflective surface streaked with such dirt and dust that barely any reflection could be seen at all. His steps first slowed, and then stopped altogether. He turned back and walked up to the mirror.
There was a folded scrap of paper tucked into the edge of the frame. Frank looked around; he was alone on the street. He pulled the scrap of paper free of the frame, unfolded it and read, in a neat, slightly slanting script:
I am free. Take me.
Someone wanted to get rid of the mirror, and instead of just tossing it in a Dumpster they had left it leaning there for anyone to take. Frank thought about it for a moment. His apartment was cramped as it was. He might not even have an apartment much longer if he didn’t find another job soon. Did he really need one more thing that he would have to lug with him if he had to move?
But it was just a mirror. It wouldn’t take up much room at all really.
Taking one more look around, and seeing no one else on either side of the street, Frank slipped the scrap of paper in his pocket, picked up the mirror and tucked it under one arm. It wasn’t too heavy. He felt a little silly walking around carrying a full-length mirror, but screw it. It wasn’t true that nothing in life was free, but preciously few things were. Why not take advantage of it?
Less than twenty minutes later Frank walked up the flight of stairs to his apartment, setting the mirror against a wall long enough to fish his keys out of his pocket and open the door. Frank carried the mirror into his bedroom, accidentally banging it against the doorframe. The mirror was undamaged.
He set the mirror so that it faced the bedroom door. By extending the kickstand attached to the back of the frame he made the mirror stand on its own. He stood looking at it, admiring it. The frame looked beat to hell, but he admired it just the same. It was his. And hell, it was free.
While Frank couldn’t do much about the frame, he could do something about the glass. He searched under the kitchen sink and found a half-full spray bottle of Windex. After spraying the mirror surface down (and letting it settle for a bit, giving the cleaning solution time to break through the layers dirt and grime), he went at it with a cloth. In all it took three applications of Windex and the same number of scrubbings, but damned if he didn’t get it clean. After switching out for a clean rag to wipe away a few last spots and streaks, he was satisfied.
Frank’s cell rang. He pulled it out of his hip pocket and looked at the screen.
It was Hayleigh. Frank slid his finger across the screen to accept the call.
“Hey, babe,” he answered.
Frank turned away from the mirror, taking a seat on the edge of his bed. He talked with Hayleigh for a while, making plans for dinner the following day.
The mirror watched.
The next morning Frank awoke from a nightmare. He had no memory of what it was about, but a feeling of inky dread had followed him out of the dream, and there was a sheen of slick sweat on his body. By the time he jumped in the shower a half hour after waking (after a quick standing breakfast of leftover pizza and a glass of pink lemonade), the dream was already in the past, part of another life.
Frank gave himself a once-over in his new mirror before he left the apartment, once again admiring just how clean the glass looked, a far cry from the grimy thing it had been when he found it. As for himself, he thought he looked good. Well, decent. Decent was good enough.
He left the apartment, locking up after himself.
His first stop was the temp center to see if they had any work for him (they didn’t), then the store to get supplies for his dinner with Hayleigh. He was cooking, something he enjoyed in spite of the fact that he wasn’t particularly gifted at it. She had told him to surprise her, and he’d decided to attempt a Penne dish with chunks of eggplant and grape tomatoes. He made sure to pick up a cheap bottle of wine. Cheap was all he could afford; thankfully Hayleigh wasn’t a snob.
At home again. Frank stowed the groceries. He had plenty of time before Hayleigh would show up, so he wasn’t in a hurry. He walked through the open door into the bedroom, throwing a glance at the mirror without a thought.
He stopped in his tracks.
He saw something in the mirror. Not his reflection. His reflection is what he should have seen, but instead of reflecting the doorway of his bedroom, and him standing in it, it reflected what looked like a spacious living room. In that phantom living room a bay window looked out on a brightly lit day.
Even though he knew it was a ridiculous thing to do, Frank turned to look behind him. The same doorway, the same hall beyond. Definitely no bay window.
He turned back to the mirror. The same living room, the same bay window, but there was a difference. He saw the reflection of a person in the mirror this time. Not him, no. It was a woman. She was moving toward the phantom window. She had on a light summer dress. The feet at the ends of her long legs were bare as she stepped slowly through the living room. She stopped, staring out the window at something that the mirror did not reveal. For some reason, although all he could see was the woman’s back, Frank got the impression that the woman was very sad.
Someone else entered the mirror, like an actor walking into frame. It was a man. The man in the mirror stood watching the woman. Perhaps he was the woman’s husband, or boyfriend. Maybe he was neither.
Frank stepped closer to the mirror. He reached up to touch its surface, and an image came to him of his hand slipping right through it and into that other world. He pulled his hand back. While the thought of his hand slipping through a mirror might have seemed ludicrous just minutes ago, now it seemed like a reasonable possibility.
The man in the mirror walked up behind the woman and placed his hands on her shoulders. The woman didn’t respond to the man’s touch; she continued staring out the bay window. The man took his hands away from her shoulders and put them in his pockets. They stood there for a moment, seemingly unaware that they were being watched through what not long ago had appeared to be an ordinary mirror.
The man took his hands out of his pockets. His right hand was empty, but there was something in the other hand. Frank couldn’t make out what it was. The man in the mirror put his hands together, and when he pulled them apart there was something stretched between them. It looked like some sort of cloth. Frank tried to make it out.
It was a necktie.
The mirror man swung the necktie over the woman’s head so that it looped around her neck. He pulled tight, and the two mirror people began struggling.
Frank expected to hear the sounds of that struggle, but this strange movie appeared to be the silent kind. He took a step away from the mirror, fear rising up his spine.
The mirror man pulled the woman to the ground, straddled her struggling form. The tie was still pulled tight around her neck. She fought for life, but the man was bigger than her, and stronger. Her movements became sporadic, and then ceased altogether. It was only then, when she was perfectly still, that the man released her.
Then, afraid that the man in the mirror had heard him, afraid that the man might turn and look at him, Frank dashed out of the room, closing the door behind him. His breath was coming quick and sharp, and his heart felt like a trapped animal beating at its cage.
He tried to think rationally. What he had just seen was a visual hallucination. It must have been. It was strange to think that the thought that he may have been hallucinating, possibly experiencing the first signs of oncoming mental illness, was a comforting one.
After a few minutes, fighting a cold dread, Frank slowly opened the bedroom door. Across from the doorway, in the mirror, there was a man. Only this time the man was him. There was no spacious living room, no bay window. No woman lying dead and no man standing over her. Just Frank reflected in the doorway to his bedroom.
Frank walked up to the mirror, and this time he did touch it. There was nothing strange about it at all. All he felt was smooth glass, and nothing more.
He went into the bathroom, ran the sink and splashed cold water on his face. He looked at himself in the mirror over the sink (a mirror in which he had never witnessed a man murdering a woman in a sundress), and stared closely into his own eyes.
Maybe this is what it’s like to go crazy, he thought. Maybe I’ve slipped a gear.
Frank stayed out of
In the Looking Glass by Mike Ramon / Horror have rating 3.6 out of 5 / Based on18 votes