A boy discovers a mirror with an unusual power, and must decide what to do with it.
Read on the Wordhaus site here.
The first time he was sent to the attic he was five. His mother was on the phone, red lips rounding and curling, forming words he did not understand. His cup was on the table, out of reach. He called to her; she turned her body away, pressing a manicured hand to her ear. Men came and went, drinking and puffing their cigarettes; women milled and lolled about. They paid him no mind.
Grasping the runner, he pulled it until the cup was near the edge. As he reached for it, a precariously placed decanter of sherry tumbled and shattered, the crystal glistening like blood-covered snow. She loomed over him. He looked up, pleading, and was answered with a smack across his cheeks.
Picking him up she ascended the stairs. He was quiet as she pulled down the trapdoor in the ceiling and stairs descended from the yawning black hole. She dropped him on the dusty floor and latched the trapdoor. The fading sound of heels on hardwood drove him to terror. Large shapes loomed and cast oblong shadows. He cried, but there was no answer. He wept for some time, then fell into a still and heavy sleep.
He learned to stay out of her way. His mere presence offended her, so he spent much of his time with the ladies in the parlor, who doted on him. Years passed like this — a cruel and unusual game of cat and mouse.
Tonight, he went door to door looking for his toy train. The first room revealed Daisy, lounging by an open window, smoking while a man snored loudly from the bed. After noticing the glow of his flashlight sweeping the room, she shooed him out.
Cracking open the next door, he saw the train under the bed in the flashlight’s beam. Crawling slowly, he focused on the train: die cast, blue, with red stripes on the engine. As his fingers closed around it, a floorboard creaked beneath him.
“Who’s there?” a man said. The boy froze, hand outstretched. The man, propped up on his elbows, looked down at him, chuckling. “I’m afraid mama’s busy right now.” His mother, whose pale face hung over the edge of the bed, burned with rage.
This time, she grabbed him by the scruff of the neck, clubbing him with her fist. He hung limply, hoping to discourage further beating, knowing he could not escape banishment. As the latch clicked closed, he took stock of the bruises. He winced, but knew it would do no good to make any sound.
He turned on his flashlight. It cast a strange, eerie light on the sheet covered objects, which were not as imposing as he remembered. It was the stillness, more than anything, that gave him pause. A tall object caught his attention. He felt strangely drawn to it, as if it had been waiting for him. He pulled off the sheet and let it pile at his feet.
It was a full-length, oval-shaped mirror, set in a heavy wooden frame. It hung suspended between two legs by round pegs set into deep grooves. He placed his palm on the glass, which was remarkably cool to the touch. His reflection showed shaggy brown hair sticking in sweaty strings to his forehead, blue eyes wide and searching.
There was nothing particularly eloquent about the design of the mirror; sleek, elegant lines lent it a remarkable simplicity and beauty. Casting his light toward the base, a brass plaque read “SPIN ME.” Curious, he reached out a forefinger tentatively to poke his reflection. The mirror tipped backward slightly. He pushed until the glassy oval lazily spun on its axis, then settled back into place. Grinning, he shoved with all his might, again and again, the muted glow from the flashlight dancing crazily as his reflection sped past.
Suddenly his stomach lurched. Pain radiated in waves through his body. With each beat of his heart he felt himself expanding in all directions—his pulse pounded in his ears, agony wracking his frame as he sunk to his knees. He placed his hands on either side of his head, to keep it from splitting in two.
Just as suddenly as the pain had come, it began to ebb. He sat still for a moment, panting, fighting a wave of nausea that almost overwhelmed him. Picking up the flashlight where it had dropped, he turned it toward the mirror. He froze. A tall, hairy, pale man he had never seen before looked back at him. He quickly peeked over his shoulder. One of the clients must have snuck into the attic behind him, he thought. But he was alone. He reached out tentatively to touch the man in the mirror, only to find the hand he extended was not the one he remembered.
His hair was long and wild and sprouted from every crevice. His muscles were long, lean and defined — none of the softness of a young boy remained. His hands were sinewy and long-fingered, his arms corded with thick blue veins. The remnants of his clothing hung haphazardly from his lean new frame. He stood there naked, a bewildered and terrified expression upon his face. It was undeniable. He had, in the course of a few minutes, grown into a man. A low, rumbling groan escaped from his lips. What was he to do now? What if his mother saw him like this?
What if she saw him like this?
He turned to his surroundings. Finding a dusty comb, he ran it hastily through his hair and beard. He rifled through a wardrobe until some trousers and a faded buttoned shirt fit him. They were incredibly dirty and moth eaten; he looked like he had walked out of the dust bowl. A mixture of fear and determination danced in his eyes; adrenaline surged through his new veins.
He climbed out the window, carefully sliding down the slanted roof until his feet touched the railing of the second floor balcony. Slipping through the door, he crossed the empty room and peeked out the door. He crept down the hall to his mother’s room, sitting down heavily in a chair outside the door, still unused to his new weight. There was low murmuring before the door opened and the man backed out of the room, lips locked with hers. She retreated behind the closed door as he noticed him. He gave him a curt nod after taking in his disheveled appearance.
“Hope I didn’t tire her out too much for you, pal,” he joked as he walked away, whistling as he went. He waited until the whistling faded away, then entered the room.
She was at the vanity, brushing her hair in long, slow strokes. She started when she saw him in the mirror. “I’m sorry,” she said, not turning toward him. “I’m afraid I’m retiring for the evening, but Maude will be available shortly.” He made no move to leave. She doesn’t know who I am.
She snatched an empty tumbler and poured amber liquid into it. “For the road,” she hinted, handing it to him. He held it dumbly for a moment before drinking it down, feeling the fire burning his throat and stinging his eyes. He remembered the sharp rake of her fingernails on his face, the small but able hands that formed themselves into paddles or fists at her discretion. The fire ignited his senses with an electricity that raced through his new body.
“Mrs. Fitch can direct you to Maude,” her voice shaking. Retreating to the vanity, she opened one of its drawers, not taking her eyes off him. As she pulled out a Derringer he stepped forward and clumsily struck her face with a meaty fist, and she crumpled to the floor, moaning. He quickly picked her up and half led, half-dragged her up the flight of stairs, to the trapdoor. He pushed her up ahead of him and dragged a chair in front of the mirror. She slumped into it, dazed. When she tried to stand up, he planted his arms firmly on her shoulders from behind.
They stared mutely at their reflections in the mirror. The train lay in the pile of clothes on the floor. He picked it up and held it in front of her as her eyes went wide, then let it drop into her lap. “Please…please…why?” He slapped her until he was certain she wouldn’t move, then stood behind the mirror, peering around it at her. “Please…please…” He considered her pleas only briefly, then spun the mirror.
He relished in her pain, watching her smooth hands become wrinkled, liver-spotted and curl into themselves like claws. The mirror took on a speed of its own, whirling with an otherworldly power. She jerked crazily as her skin sagged and peeled off; graying, brittle hair cascaded out over exposed, shriveled intestines.
She disintegrated before his eyes, with only a pile of dust to show she had existed at all.