The mirror lay on the floor where Sheryl Simmons threw it an hour ago. From her seat in the hallway leaning against the wall she could see it sitting between the white toilet and green trash can. It hadn’t twitched or even vibrated. If it was an antique, like her great grandmother’s silver mirror with intricate engravings, she might understand or at least pretend to. But it was just a hand mirror she paid 3.99 for at Walmart. The burgundy plastic held two circular mirrors. On one side the mirror was normal; on the other the glass magnified the reflection. Sheryl used that side the most. She squeezed blackheads from her nose or plucked at random hairs from her eyebrows or chin. Both were too dark to leave on her fresh young skin.
A crack zigzagged across the magnified side which was facing up. That must have happened when it hit the floor. Was the other side broken too? Sheryl didn’t believe in seven years of bad luck. She also didn’t believe she saw something. But she was still sitting in the floor curled up against the wall in a bath towel, wasn’t she.
Her hair had dried. But instead of brushing it out straight, her natural curls kinked up and whirled in every direction. The green body-size bath towel had kept her warm as she sat there too scared to move. The pink soaked skin on her fingers and toes dewrinkled long ago.
The hair straightener’s internal timer had already clicked off. The flat metal plates had to be cooled off by now. The red device hung off the counter dangling above the mirror.
I didn’t see anything. Sheryl kept repeating in her mind. Just my imagination. My hair bounced into view.
She knew her own lies. That’s why she hadn’t moved.
After her shower during her post bath routine, she looked into the magnified side of the mirror to study her skin. She wasn’t going to turn hairy like her aunts. She glanced to the side to pick up the tweezers when she saw the repeated circles in the large rectangular mirror above the bathroom counter. She’d seen them before but had never studied them.
Sheryl moved the mirror and the reflections spiraled. She knew it was the angles working back and forth between the mirrors, like an optical illusion.
Sheryl played, turning and twisting the hand mirror. Holding it as still as she could, she counted the repetitions. That’s when she saw it. Saw something. She thought it was light bouncing off a deformity in the hand mirror or its frame. But it was shady, not bright or white. She stared into the network of circles growing smaller with each layer. The dark figure moved again left to right. She could only see a portion of the thing as it went, no, stepped into view and out again at the edge of the fifth mirror.
Sheryl threw the mirror and jerked herself, arms and legs flail, out of the bathroom against the wall in the hallway.
Once she slid to the carpet, she kept completely still, wondering if that being was going to crawl out of the mirror and into her house.
In the past hour nothing happened. The mirror didn’t move. The cracked glass didn’t open into a doorway. A portal. Yes, a portal to…to what? Another dimension? Another world?
Those words comforted her. Not a monster, but life from somewhere else. She stood and rewrapped the towel just under her armpits. Tentative steps guided her through the doorway. She stopped and checked the large mirror. Only the bathroom, her bathroom with green shower curtain, green towels and green bath mats from Bed Bath and Beyond, could be seen.
Another step placed her above the hand mirror. Sheryl looked down, straight to the cracked glass. The magnification side distorted the reflection because of the distance from her eyes. She could see blobs of green and white hiding in the glass.
Slowly she kneeled and touched the handle with her fingers. A prod. A nudge. She breathed out. Her hand took the grip and brought the mirror to the counter and laid it down softly as if touching the surface would shatter the object. She kept the magnified side up, keeping the portal side in the dark, closed to this world by a laminate countertop. She left the handle sticking out over the edge.
Was the mirror magical? Or did all mirrors open the door to other worlds? Her fear subsided enough to let her wonder grow. But not enough for her to pick up the hand mirror and take another look. That took another five minutes.
After several hesitations, Sheryl reached for the handle and didn’t stop herself. She counted to ten and lifted it up to see the reflections. She held her breath as she looked into the large mirror and saw her own reflection. She tiltled her head to focus on the environs.
The reflections moved in an arch. Because she could not look directly from the center of the hand held mirror into the large bathroom mirror, each reflection was off to the side. The repetitive visions made it seem as she was looking down a curved pipe or bendable straw. And because she was shaking, the curve kept moving up and down and side to side.
Sheryl tried to relax and settle the mirror. This time she saw something move in the eighth mirror, too small and too quick to identify, moving left to right. But it never appeared on the other side of the mirror. It was as if what ever it was realized it was being watched and knew to wait behind the stack of reflections.
She set the mirror on the counter as if she was sneaking away from the movement within it. Curiosity overwhelmed her fear. Sheryl picked it up slowly, keeping the regular side of the mirror facing down, the magnified side up toward the ceiling. With the mirror level with her neck, she tilted it up to face the bathroom mirror.
Just past the fifth reflection something moved. She could only get a glimpse because with each reflection she could only see the outer edge of each mirror.
Sheryl leaned in, but her towel kept slipping down. She put the mirror to the side and swiped her beauty products to the wall away from the sink. She crawl onto the countertop and sat with her legs crossed, knees against the glass. She put the mirror up to her face, close, intimate. The plastic frame touched her right cheek as she placed the edge to her eye socket. She wanted to prevent the curved tube effect as much as possible.
Sheryl turned her handheld mirror toward the bath mirror. The reflections bounced back and forth instantly; there was no hesitation in the speed of light. She could she the side of her face, her eye and part of her nose repeatedly in the reflections. She fanned it out a bit and lost sight of most of her face. The circles filled her vision. She froze.
Something moved in the fifth mirror again. This mirror was larger than the eighth, which provided her with a closer view, a better view.
The form stepped across her sight. It was the same small creature, animal, demon, she saw before.
It disappeared in the labyrinth of mirrors. Hid behind a reflection.
Then small clawed hands, like a guinea pig or hamster but longer, grasped the top and right side of mirror number four. The crown of a head appeared between them. The creature stared back at her with black eyes.
Sheryl held in the scream that burned in her vocal cords as her diaphragm pushed it out. Maybe if she saw the entire thing her scream would have burst through alerting the entire neighborhood.
Each hand had three bony fingers and a thumb. Gold rings adorned most of the fingers just below knobby knuckles. It wore a beaten helmet of dark metal.
The creature moved a little and she could see part of its face. The black eyes shined. Its flesh or hair was a deep orange color, but the helmet covered most of the facial feature, except for the mouth and chin, which was pointy. Thin brown lips were set tight against each other.
Fear. Bewilderment. Shock. Maybe all three bolted her to the countertop. The creature ducked behind the mirrored reflection. The absence of her discovery broke her statue like trance. She titled the mirror slightly, back and forth, trying to move the strange man like a pinball.
It peeked out again. Then a second being appeared on the left side behind the third mirror. The creatures were similar but not identical. It wore a heavy leather hat and shirt, which could have been armor. She blinked. The second being moved up a mirror, the first followed.
But she still couldn’t tell if they were hairy or just had beards.
The first man rounded another mirror. He wore black leather boots and green pants. Its body was wider than she expect based on the visible hands. Now both creatures were behind the second reflection.
The one in the metal helmet reached with its hand. Reached out to her. Its wrinkly palm held a tiny jewel.
Sheryl stared at the gem. Purple light radiated, glimmered. Her complete focus drained into the brilliance.
In her peripheral vision she could see movement, not a reflection from the mirror against her cheek. She couldn’t take her focus off the gem, enticing her, calling to her. She blinked as an eyelash twitched. An orange hand escaped the bounds of solid glass groping for her eyeball. This scream didn’t fade in her gut. She felt the strain in her voice box turn to pain.
Jarred Simmons unlocked the front door and dropped his gym bag on the other side. “Sheryl.”
He grabbed a blue Powerade out of the fridge. He glanced at the cold stove and clean kitchen. “We going out for dinner?”
He walked down the hall passed the bathroom. She wasn’t in the bedroom.
Jarred turned around and went back toward the living room. “Sheryl.” He paused at the open door. The bathroom was a mess. Beauty products were scattered all over. A green towel lay in the floor.
He checked the garage. Her Honda was there. He checked his cell phone for a missed call or text. He checked the backyard.
He called her cell. The ringtone came from the bedroom. He walked the hallway again, pausing at the bathroom. The mess on the countertop looked different. Like something had spilled that wasn’t there a few minutes ago. He noticed it because it was dark against the pale laminate.
Red nail polish ran over the counter around Sheryl’s hand mirror. He stepped back to look for the bottle and brush. He even toed the towel to see if it fell on the floor. He found nothing. Jarred picked up the wet mirror. The nail polish dripped and splattered as he raised it to his face. Both circles of glass were shattered.
For a split second he thought he heard a woman scream. Then shards and pieces of mirror fell and stuck in the thickening liquid pooling next to the sink.