A Short Story
I was alone in the apartment. My roommates had all gone home for the holiday break. The moon stood in the sky, and I had just finished sitting through Chamber of Secrets on ABC. I had a whole four weeks until the new semester started, which meant no homework, which meant if I wanted to I could actually go to sleep.
My old green blanket draped around my shoulders, dragging on the floor behind me like a cape while I shuffled into the kitchen. The fridge was always more or less empty but I plopped myself in front of its open door, figuring if I stayed there long enough something would present itself as edible. That is usually how it worked.
Then there was a tap on the glass.
Confused, I stuck my head around the shelf with the half-empty ketchup bottle to spy the window. There was nothing there.
Did I imagine the sound?
I must have. I lived on the second story.
I resigned myself to cold cereal. Almost stale Rice Krispies, and barely expired one percent. Not the worst dinner in the world. My spoon would clink against the bowl, and a few times I thought I heard something else. Like a knock. But the window remained clear and dark. I pretended it was nothing, enjoying my soggy, factory-imitation grains.
When the bowl was empty and my shrunken college-student belly was not, I put the dish in the sink and started down the hall to go to bed.
I was almost to my door when I heard another knock. There was not a window in this hallway. But there was a mirror. I looked to my right and saw a face. But it was so quickly replaced by my own, I wasn’t sure if my eyes were playing tricks on me.
Then a small thud on the other side of the wall to my left. My bedroom.
I stood there still as stone, jaw clenched almost as tight as the apprehension in my chest. My body began to grow warm under the blanket. Uncomfortable, but the other option was moving, which seemed like a bad idea.
I snapped myself out of it. Noises were a normal thing. A totally normal thing. Totally normal.
I opened the door to my room and rushed to click on the light. But something felt off, out of place. I dropped my blanket on the floor and walked over to the bed. My phone and keys were on the nightstand, and my sneakers on the floor by my fidgeting feet. I could lay down and go to sleep, or I could leave for a bit. Take a walk, a drive, remind myself people exist, shake off the weirdness. Yeah, yeah, leaving was a good plan.
I pulled on my already tied shoes and stood up. The fact I was in sweatpants and yesterday’s ponytail wouldn’t stop me from going out. It never did. I reached for my keys. My phone buzzed. The screen lit up to tell me I had a message. A picture. I slid my thumb across the glass.
The picture was of me. Well, of my reflection. A reflection of me, in my sweats and ponytail, standing beside my bed and looking down at my phone. It was a picture of the mirror on the wall opposite me. An impossible picture. There was no one else in the shot, and I didn’t take it.
My eyes drifted over to the mirror. The phone buzzed in my hand. Another picture. The reflection of my frightened face. No. This was not possible. I looked to see who was sending the photos. It was my number.
I started to shake. I couldn’t take a breath. I forced myself to look back at the mirror. There were words smeared across it. But they were written backwards. A w? –r-o… WRONG SIDE.
I stepped closer. The words were formed from lipstick. A dark pink shade. It matched the one I bought a few days before. The one I thought I’d left on this table in front of the mirror. But it wasn’t there. Until I looked in the reflection. The table in the mirror was bare, except for a golden tube with a matching cap discarded to the side. It was opened and the pink product was smashed flat like a used crayon.
Paralyzed, I stared at the words until they blurred, and my vision focused in on my face. I watched myself blink.
I chucked my phone as hard as I could and the glass shattered everywhere. All over the table and the floor. I didn’t check if I was bleeding, I ran. I ran down the hallway to the front door. I unlatched the chain, flipped back the lock, and tugged at the handle, but the door wouldn’t open. The door wouldn’t open. It wouldn’t even move, it was stagnant.
My hands dropped useless at my sides. Then I was pulled back. A yank at my hip. My shoulder. My feet didn’t budge, but the door grew farther away. I was dragged down the hallway, transported back an inch at a time. It stopped once I was in front of the mirror. Eyes shut tight, I squared my shoulders to face it, preparing myself to look. I let them fly open. But there was nothing. Nothing but the reflection of the wall and open door behind me. The wall behind me, but not me. I turned my head side to side, no change. I tapped the glass. Nothing. Not a sound. I knocked. I hit it, pounded my fist against it, but it swallowed the impact. I tried one more time. A single knock. That one I heard.
Finally I turned around and entered the room again, confused. My blanket was no longer on the floor, and neither was any glass. This mirror was still intact. My lipstick sat closed and upright on the table. My phone was on my nightstand, unharmed. I picked it up and unlocked it. The pictures from before were gone. I set it down and walked out into the kitchen. Everything was normal.
Everything but the window. There was nothing outside the window. Not the blackness of night, but an unending nothingness. I went to the other room, with the television. The two windows there were the same. Empty glass.
I tried to open one. Shove up the pane and break the awful spell, but I found more of the same. I was trapped. I just prayed I was alone.
Back in the bedroom, I paced the floor. I sat on the bed and tossed the phone back and forth between my hands. I gazed once more at the mirror. This time its image was not empty.
I saw myself, pulling on my shoes. On the other side of the glass I stood up and reached for my keys. The phone grew heavy in my hand. I’d seen this before.
I leveled the lens and snapped a picture. Then I sent it to my own number. It worked. I watched my face look in horror at the reflection. I captured another photo, and sent it. I was here. I had to warn myself, I had to warn her. I was on the wrong side. The wrong side.
I snatched the lipstick off the table and used it to scrawl the message. I let it fall from my hands. I waited for myself to look. To receive the warning, to run. I watched myself approach the mirror, stare. I blinked. Then the glass shattered. But only on the other side.