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wayyward
I'm Cat, but you can also call me wayyward if you feel so inclined.
I like to draw, and I always have!

Cat @wayyward

Age 24, Female

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Prompt: Glass

Word Count: 2831


Below is my entry for Jamriot's Writer's Jam 2024!! It's a short story using the prompt, glass.


Haunted Mirror


Three teenage girls were having a sleepover one summer night. It was nearing midnight, and they were all getting bored of telling ghost stories. 


“And then,” said Rachel, “the wife told her husband on her deathbed, ‘You can remove the green ribbon now, sweetie.’ So the husband slowly untied the ribbon, and—”


“Her head fell off,” said Emily, not looking up from Tiger Beat’s “Ten Shocking Secrets about Eminem” issue.


“You ruined it,” said Rachel. “You bitch.”


“I’ve heard it before.” She sighed. “Let’s face it. There’s no good horror being written anymore. The only true horror genius is–”


“Your boyfriend, Howard P.,” said Rachel. “Whatever. I’ve heard all his stuff before. From you.”


“Well at least you heard it somewhere. He was so ahead of his time.”


The third girl, Isabella, was hosting the sleepover, and they were all camped out in her room. Magazines, nail polish bottles, and empty bags of chips littered the floor. They had chosen her house because it was the biggest. One of those old Victorians. Some of the staircases and hallways were narrow, and it smelled super old.


The only other downside to staying at Isabella’s house was that her room had this ridiculous collection of cowboy memorabilia. Like Wild West crap. Isabella was obsessed with it. She even wore her hair up in a bandana because she liked the look. People made fun of her for it. But then again, everyone had their thing. Emily liked horror and boy bands. Rachel liked theater and Broadway musicals. But Isabella’s thing was just weird.


Isabella pushed back her dark bangs and said quietly, “I have a story. A true story.” 


“Is it the one about the time you just happened to run into Dolly Parton at Seven-Eleven?” said Rachel.


“No, this time it’s actually real. I swear.”


“Alright,” said Emily. “Tell it. But I’ll be honest, I’m not easily impressed.”


“We know,” said Rachel.


Isabella began her story.


“I have a mirror in my house that’s different from the others. I think it’s broken. But not in the way you’d expect a mirror to be. It’s broken in the way you’d expect a TV or computer to be. Like it displays the wrong picture.”


Rachel screwed up her face trying to understand. “You mean… what?”


“The mirror used to be here in my room,” Isabella continued. “And there didn’t used to be anything wrong with it. But weird things started happening. It creeped me out so much! So I put it in the basement, cramped in by the furnace. It’s next to a couple old pieces of furniture and boxes full of dolls from when I was a kid. And I replaced it with the white-framed one right there.”


She pointed to the new mirror hanging on the wall over the vanity.


“Is it in your basement right now?” asked Rachel.


“Yeah, if I have to go down to that part of the basement, I always pass it. I covered it with a sheet, but mom took the sheet off and washed it. Told me not to take all the sheets out of the linen closet cause we need them or something... Anyway, now I just have to deal with looking at it. The other day I looked at the mirror and it showed one of the storage bins in a different place than it was in real life. Only a few inches in the wrong direction. But enough that it was noticeable.”


“You sure it’s not an old Halloween decoration or something?” asked Rachel. “Like a fake ‘haunted mirror’?”


Isabella shook her head. “It's not. It's not mechanical either. It’s flat like a normal mirror on the back. There's no room for a battery pack or electronics.”


Emily sat up in her sleeping bag, evidently forgetting about Tiger Beat. “Alright, alright, now this is an interesting concept. When you looked in the mirror, did you see any, like, geometry that didn’t make sense? Not that I believe you or anything.”


“I don’t think so,” said Isabella. “It’s just that some pieces of furniture or details aren’t there in the mirror, but are there in real life. Sorta like those ‘Spot the Difference’ puzzles they sometimes have in magazines.


“Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I just broke the glass. Maybe the weirdness will stop. Or maybe something’ll get let out. Honestly, I don’t wanna do it. I feel like it would put some kind of curse on me. Even worse than what you’d get for breaking a normal mirror.”


“Have you told anyone about this?” said Rachel. “Like a doctor or something?”


“I’ve told my family about it, and they think I’m just making it up or being hormonal. So I usually don’t mention it anymore.”


“Can you show us?” Emily asked, adjusting her glasses. “Just— just so I can debunk it.”


“I don’t know,” said Isabella. “It might be dangerous. I don’t want to mess with the energy or whatever.”


Rachel fixed her blond hair in the new bedroom mirror. “Which is another way of saying you know it’s not actually haunted, and this will prove you wrong.”


“I don’t think you should see it,” said Isabella. “But I can’t stop you.”


“You’re the one who brought it up,” said Rachel.


****


The three girls descended the narrow staircase into the basement. The air became cooler and damper with every step down. Isabella's basement was unfinished. So unfinished you could see roots snaking out of the cracks in the brick wall on one side.


The furnace in the corner of the basement was a big beast with shiny silver air ducts like protruding arteries. Strange vents led to who-knows-where, and there were a dozen warning labels slapped on. It looked like every other furnace, but somehow, it felt bigger, more dangerous, more terrifying. Behind it, tucked away next to some old storage bins, the mirror poked out.


“Here it is,” said Isabella. She hoped Rachel and Emily would see something scary in it too, so she’d know she wasn’t crazy. But at the same time, she hoped she was imagining things.


Rachel leaned down and looked into the very normal, rectangular mirror sitting on its side against the basement wall. She narrowed her eyes and gazed at her reflection in the glass.


“Oh my God!” She jumped back and shrieked. Isabella and Emily ducked and covered their heads. “My face! I saw it melting off!”


“Really?” said Emily, with a hint of excitement.


“No,” said Rachel. “Stupid.”


Isabella knelt down on the floor next to the mirror, but she didn’t look directly into it. “Usually I don’t see anything just by looking at my own reflection. I just see stuff change in the room. Out of the corner of my eye.”


“People hallucinate stuff out of the corner of their eye all the time,” said Emily. “Especially if they're already scared. Your mind is looking for potential danger. It plays tricks on you.”


Rachel picked up the mirror and examined it from all sides. She ran her hand along the completely-flat back plane just to make sure there were no battery compartments or little screws.


“Look,” said Isabella. “I’m not normally someone who believes in ghosts. I'm not making this up. For example, yesterday, I came down here and—”


Rachel placed the mirror back on the floor, then recoiled again. “Ah!”


“The joke was only funny the first time,” said Emily. But it made her jump too.


“No, this time I saw something,” said Rachel, shaking her head.


“What did you see?” said Isabella.


“I don’t know. I think it was nothing. Like an optical illusion.”


“What did you see?” she asked again.


“Something over by that storage bin,” said Rachel. “Something that shouldn't be there… But that doesn’t mean anything. I still think this thing could be electronic. Or just… I don’t know a joke mirror. Or a movie prop. Isabella, do you know anyone who works in Hollywood? Like… a screenwriter or a director or something. Even like a janitor. Or an amateur filmmaker. Anyone?”


“No,” she said.


“Anyone who likes collecting movie props?”


“No.”


“Or just collecting weird shit?”


“No.”


“Or… I don’t know. Anyone who works at the circus?”


“No, I’m telling you, it’s a normal mirror.”


“What about a magician?” asked Emily. “Maybe it’s some kind of trick mirror.”


“No, I don’t know any magicians.”


“How do you know?” said Rachel, starting to encroach on Isabella’s personal space. Her voice was a couple octaves higher than usual. “Maybe you have an uncle or something who you didn’t know was a magician.”


Isabella shrunk back against the wall and wondered if Rachel was gonna torture the information out of her. “No, no, I’m telling you, I don’t. I got this thing brand new. At IKEA.”


Emily stood between Rachel and Isabella. “Guys, calm down. The mirror being haunted is the least likely possibility, out of all the explanations this could have.”


“I’m going back upstairs,” said Rachel. “Honestly, let’s just pretend this didn’t happen. It would help me sleep better.”


“Alright,” said Isabella, equally smug and terrified.


Rachel walked ahead of the other two girls. As they climbed the basement stairs, Emily turned to Isabella and said, “Rachel's perception of the world just shifted. It terrified her. I’ve seen this all the time in movies. She would rather pretend it didn’t happen than face the reality of her paradigm shift. The fear will eventually eat her alive. Best case scenario, she’s a functioning alcoholic by age–”


“I can hear you,” said Rachel.


****


The next morning was oddly quiet. None of the girls got much sleep the night before. There was little conversation aside from, “Rachel, can you pass the syrup?” or, “I can’t find my glasses case. Isabella, can you look for it?”


Rachel left first. She had been the quietest that morning. Normally she was the loudest.


Emily stood by the front door with her rolled up sleeping bag under one arm, and she told Isabella, “Good luck. I didn’t see what Rachel saw, but I believe you.”


“Thanks,” said Isabella.


Emily crossed the threshold then stopped on the front doorstep. “You know, I always had a bad feeling about this house.” She tilted her head toward the gables. Isabella watched her gaze travel along the rooftop, across all the windows. “Have you ever thought of like, hiring a witch to clear the energy or something?”


“No,” said Isabella. “I have never once thought of something like that. I mean, my parents are Catholic. I think they’d hire a priest to pour holy water all over everything… But I haven’t even considered anything so ridiculous.”


“Alright, alright,” Emily said, turning to go. “Well, it’s your decision.”


“I don’t think this house is haunted,” said Isabella. “It’s just that mirror. Like I said, I don’t believe in ghosts, but I’d swear on my life, there’s something wrong with that mirror.”


Emily pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose. “Listen, my aunt is a yoga instructor. But she also works at theme parks and fairs as a freelance psychic. When I get home I’ll send you her contact info over AIM.”


Isabella wasn’t convinced some Tarot card reader was going to understand anything about her mirror. “I don’t know. I’ll pass.”


“Alright. I’ll do some research though,” Emily said. “I’ll look through my DVD collection and my books to see if I can find anything on this.”


“Dude, that’s fiction, this is real life.”


Emily turned to go and didn’t look back this time. “I’m gonna do it anyway!”


****


Isabella spent a long time that day cleaning up the mess Emily and Rachel left in her room. And dusting her cowboy collection.


She had a bunch of figures of cowboys. Cowboys on their horses, cowboys standing still, holding revolvers, or running. Her walls were covered with posters from old Western movies. She had no idea why she was so drawn to cowboys. It had always been that way.


Isabella jumped when she heard the phone ring. She leapt across her bed and picked up the handset from its place on the side table.


“Hey, it’s me,” came Emily’s voice.


“What’s up?”


“I did some research, and I think I thought of something that might help you.”


Isabella knew it was probably just movie crap, but her stomach still flipped.


“Okay, what did you find?”


“So with mirrors,” said Emily. “I had a few horror stories to look through. At first I was sort of going the Bloody Mary angle. You know, the game where you chant her name three times? And then I was thinking about how your mirror works. It shows our reality, but slightly altered. So, where else to look than my favorite author?”


“Oh yeah,” said Isabella. “Him.”


“H.P. Lovecraft wrote about alternate dimensions all the time.”


“You think the mirror shows an alternate dimension?” said Isabella. 


“Well,” said Emily. “It’s a theory.”


“An alternate dimension where some things are just slightly out of place?" said Isabella.


“Yeah,” said Emily. “It’s kind of creepy isn’t it?”


Isabella twirled the phone cord around her finger as cold fear crashed over her. “I want to test it out.”


“Really?” said Emily.


“Yeah. I want to take notes on what’s missing. I want to watch the mirror to see when it changes and why.”


“You really want to do that?”


“No, I don’t want to, but I think I would feel worse if I didn’t. I would feel worse not knowing.”


Emily was silent on the other end. Then she said, “I can talk to my aunt. Bring the mirror upstairs tonight so you can stay by the phone. It might be safer upstairs anyway. No offense, but your basement is creepy… Anyway, I’ll call you.”


“Alright, thanks.”


“I’d go over to your house for moral support, but… I have a dentist’s appointment. And I’m probably gonna be… recovering from it for the rest of the day.”


****


Isabella sat on her bed next to the phone. She had set the white-framed replacement mirror aside and hung the scary one back up. 


The creepy mirror had been hanging there for at least two years before anything weird started happening. But the very same day it started, she put it straight in the basement. She didn't like having it up again, in her personal space.


She waited for a couple hours, and didn’t see anything strange. But she used the time to write a list of nearly every item in the room. She took photos too.


The silence was shattered by the phone ringing. Isabella immediately picked it up. 


“Hey, it’s me,” said Emily. “So, I talked to my aunt.”


“I thought you were at the dentist,” said Isabella.


“That was a lie. Sorry. And after what my aunt said, I’m even more scared to go over there.”


“Great.”


“Anyway, here’s what my aunt said after she did a Tarot reading on it. She said that the mirror has ‘karmic significance’. Her words, not mine… And she said something about cycles. She pulled the Wheel of Fortune card.”


“What does that even mean?” said Isabella. “Honestly, I’ve been sitting here since like noon and— oh my God.”


“What?” said Emily.


“I saw something move. Let me look at my notes.”


She flipped through her spiral notebook, going over every detail she had written. She examined the photos she’d taken on her digital camera.


Isabella picked the phone back up so fast she almost pulled the wire from the wall. “Holy shit!” 


“What?” said Emily.


“My lunch. My lunch is sitting on the bedside table in the mirror. Right now.”


“And in real life...?”


“I took my dishes downstairs an hour ago, right before I took the mirror up here and… Oh my god. It changed back. Just now, it changed back.”


“Are you pulling a prank on me?” 


“No, no. I’m gonna have to call you back.”


She hung up the phone and scrambled to the mirror. But she didn’t look directly into it. She stood back just enough for it to show what her room looked like, and only her room. The reflection in the mirror showed her bedside table cleared of the dishes, like it had been an hour ago.


“Last night,” Isabella said.


The reflection changed. Emily and Rachel’s stuff was strewn on the floor.


“Last week,” said Isabella.


Her school books sat out on the desk. She hadn’t put them away for the summer until a couple days ago.


Her heart pounded. She positioned herself directly in front of the mirror, so she could see every detail of her own face. “Five years ago.”


Her eleven-year-old self, from back in 1999, stood there on the other side of the glass. Braces and all.


“Last lifetime.”


She was no longer staring at Isabella. She was standing face to face with a cowboy.


She felt lightheaded and weak as she said, more of a question than anything, "Twenty years from now."


7

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