Bob, my new husband, turned the key. We went inside and revisited the living room, kitchen, and the two rooms that would be bedrooms. It was a three-bedroom house, but the largest of the bedrooms would become our office. It had plenty of room for each of us to have our own workspace. Our first thing to work out in our new marriage; who gets the workspace near the large picture window?
We would begin moving our things into the house during the next week. It was time to make sure everything was in order. Of the two of us, I’m the most organized. Everything must be in its place. There is a place for everything.
We stood in the office, sweet-talking to each other. The premium space near the window remained unclaimed. It was time to explore the rest of the house. Bob headed to the basement. I headed to the attic.
As he opened the door to the basement, Bob turned to me. “I love you, Karen.”
I loved the way he blurted that out at any given moment of the day.
“I love you too, Bob.” I smiled at him. “Now get to work!”
I opened the door to the attic stairs. The stairway was very narrow and steep. It was mid-day, a bright sunny day, and yet, at the top of the stairs, the attic looked very dark. Just for a moment, I felt a strange foreboding tingle run up my spine. I slowly ascended the stairs.
At the top, I flipped the switch on the wall. A pale light lit the attic just enough that I could see it. I cringed at the amount of spider webs connecting nearly every surface. Otherwise, the attic space was nearly empty. In the center of the space, shrouded in shadow, stood a tall standing mirror. It was at such an angle that I couldn’t look into the mirror from where I was standing. I took a few steps forward.
We had gotten such a bargain for the house because it was older. “A fixer-upper,” the realtor had said. I expected the attic may be drafty. But there was a breeze. A wind seemed to swirl around the attic, with the mirror standing stoically in the center. It wasn’t a strong wind, barely moving the spider webs, but it was a chilly wind for late June. I stood there a moment before I noticed the smell. It was subtle at first, taking a moment for my mind to register the scent. A multi-layered foul odor of dust, mold, and some unnamed decaying rot. I coughed a time or two as my eyes watered. Oh my, what is that?
I looked around, trying to find the source of the smell, but all I saw were the spider webs and the mirror. Dark shadows filled two-thirds of the space. I reasoned that was simply because there were only two small windows, one on either side of the attic. Each of them had thin curtains that were made thick by the amount of dust clinging to their fabric.
I took small steps toward the mirror.
It was massive, tall, and made of some sort of wood. The mirror stood on two large legs that split, half going front, half going back to balance its weight. I was sure that thing was seven feet tall. Intricate vines were carved into the wood all the way up the heavy frame. Halfway up the frame on either side was a female silhouette entangled in the vines.
As I came closer to the mirror, the wind became warmer, and the odor more intense. When I came to be in front of the mirror, I saw that the reflection was much darker than the attic itself. I could see all of me. Blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail. One of Bob’s college t-shirts, pink shorts, and my favorite Skechers. I’m kind of pale by nature. But in the reflection, my skin was dark, as if I were one of the sun worshipers on the beach. I can’t say how long I stood there looking at myself. It could have been a few seconds, or it could have been hours. A swirling effect appeared on the outer edges of the glass. I couldn’t look straight at it; I couldn’t look away. Peripheral vision saw the subtle swirling as my eyes were locked into the eyes of my reflection.
My heart nearly leapt out of my mouth at the sudden, loud burst of my name. I fell back and my rump landed hard on the wooden floor.
“What are you doing? I’ve been calling for you for some time.” Bob approached with a look of puzzlement and concern on his face. “My God, you’re white as a sheet!” He knelt down beside me. “What happened?”
I couldn’t answer him right away. My head was fuzzy as he helped me stand up. He turned and noticed the mirror. “Wow, that is beautiful.”
I frowned. “It is creepy. It has to go.”
“But honey, I’d bet it’s an antique. Likely worth a fortune.”
I don’t know why I yelled, “Then we’ll sell it. But it has to go!”
Bob looked back at me with such concern in his eyes. “Come on honey, let’s go.”
He looked around the attic. “It stinks up here.”
Taking my hand gently, he guided me down the stairs.
It took two weeks in all to get moved in. Nearly everything was in its place. Bob and I sat on our sofa having a glass of wine before bedtime. We kissed and flirted as newlyweds do.
Bob stood up and turned toward the bedroom. I happily followed him.
As we entered the room, I saw it. Standing across from our bed was that creepy mirror.
“What is that doing there?”
Bob turned to me, confusion in his eyes. “I don’t know, honey. I didn’t put it there; thought the movers had taken it with them.”
“It has to go.”
“I told them they could have it.”
“Bob – “
He took both of my hands in his and kissed me softly. “I’ll get rid of it in the morning, honey.”
We got into bed and turned out each of our bedside lamps.
I tried. I really tried, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that the mirror was watching us make love.
I finally fell into a restless sleep. I knew I was tossing about, kicking my legs, thrashing my arms about. Something inside me said to wake up, but I couldn’t. I yelled, even a few profanities. I kicked and screamed for what seemed like an eternity.
Then I abruptly sat up with my eyes wide open. I first noticed the foul stench I had smelled in the attic. Then I noticed the strange wind that seemed to swirl around our bedroom. It was dark in our room, middle of the night, but enough light came in through the windows that I could see Bob standing in front of the mirror.
“Hey, what are you doing?”
He didn’t answer.
“Bob, get away from there and come back to bed.”
He, standing there naked, looking at his reflection in the middle of the night, would have been comical if it weren’t so strange. I got out of bed and went to his side.
He didn’t move. He didn’t speak. Bob stood there looking at the eyes in the reflection. I saw the swirling around the edges of the glass. It was increasing in size and speed, moving closer to Bob’s reflection. Alarm raced through my mind. I tried to shove Bob and yelled at him to move away. I pounded my fists on his shoulders. He didn’t move.
Was he sleepwalking, in some sort of trance? I couldn’t wake him. My eyes filled with tears as fear bubbled up inside me.
“Oh Bob, please, get away from there!” I tried to pull him by his arm. He wouldn’t move. His arm wouldn’t move. It was as if he were a stone statue. He just stared into the eyes of his reflection.
Panicking, I moved over to the door and ran full on, crashing my shoulder into Bob’s arm. It was as if I hit a brick wall. I bounced off of him like a rag doll.
“Oh my God, what can I do?” The words escaped my lips as I searched the room, looking for an answer.
The swirling in the glass touched the edges of Bob’s reflection. I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I was sure it would happen soon.
I don’t know why it crossed my mind, but it seemed worth a try. Standing behind Bob, I reached up and around his head, covering both his eyes with my hands.
Bob flew backwards as if the mirror has shoved him away. We both crashed onto the bed.
Bob was on top of me. It took all my strength to roll him off. I climbed to my knees and looked into his eyes. “Are you ok?”
He looked at me for a moment, then whispered, “I saw her. We have to help her.”
“What?” I rubbed my hands on his chest. “Who Bob, who did you see?”
He shook his head as if clearing his mind, then he sat up and looked straight at me.
“Serenity.” He put his hands on my shoulders. “Our daughter.”
I was stunned. I didn’t know what to say. Had my new husband gone insane?
“I know how this sounds, Karen. But I’m telling you, something has trapped our daughter. We must save her, or she will be stillborn.”
Now it was my turn to be in a trance. Completely dumbfounded. “You know we don’t have any kids. I’m not even pregnant.”
His eyes were loving, but intense. No doubt he was serious. I didn’t move. I stared back at him. Why would we name our daughter Serenity? I don’t know where that came from, but it was a valid thought.
“Honey,” he said softly, “I know there are a thousand questions running through your mind. There are as many in my head too. But there is only one question we need to answer.”
He kissed me. “If, in some crazy mixed-up way, our daughter is in danger, will we try to save her?”
The words have faded since that night, and I don’t know what all we said to each other. But in the end, there we stood, looking into a huge swirling mirror.
We focused our eyes on the eyes of our reflections as the swirling began in the glass. The wind swirled around our bedroom, and the dank odor returned.
The swirling in the mirror reached the edges of our reflections. In tiny increments, the edges of our reflections joined the swirling. Was it instinct? A calculated guess? Was it some strange force that pulled us? Somehow, we knew the right moment.
We stepped into the mirror.
My husband and I were newlyweds. Ready to start our life together in middle-class suburbia, we stepped onto the porch. It was a pretty Cape Cod up on a hill. The house was in a pleasant neighborhood, spread out, a good distance from the closest neighbor. Private, peaceful, it was a wonderful place to begin our life together.