“You need to hold your hand up to the glass,” Emma’s voice came through the door. “You call out her name three times, and something bad’s supposed to happen.”
“I don’t know that I believe that,” Kathy whispered.
“Then why do you sound so scared?”
“I’m not scared. I just… don’t like standing in here,” Kathy set the candle down on the vanity and watched it flicker for a moment, then looked back up to her own face. Maybe she was a little scared. Her lips curled down slightly, with eyebrows retreating behind the muddy brown of her hair.
She looked down to the sink. The world drifted away, and no sounds prevailed aside the distant tick of a grandfather clock. She wanted to close her eyes, but that proved to be way more frightening than she could tolerate. Instead, she focused on the candle—considering how dumb she’d feel leaving the bathroom without a good try. She raised a hand, and maintaining her focus, placed it on the glass. It was cool, and comfortable. It allowed a little bit of solidity in the shifting darkness.
“Have you done it yet?” Emma said.
“Shhhh! I need to concentrate.” This allowed her enough relief to close her eyes, and focus on the smooth surface of the glass under her fingers. I have to say it now, she thought. If she could say it, then there was nothing to worry about. Once the words were said, then she could turn around, open the door, and Emma wouldn’t have the right to call her a wimp. “Bloody Mary…”
She took a breath. The clock ticked. The house shivered.
She could feel eyes. Cold, dead eyes judging her with every movement. Kathy tried to remain still. Maybe if she didn’t move, it couldn’t see her. Did the glass feel a little… warm? It’s just a mind game. Ignore it, and it can’t hurt you. Just one more time…
Stillness. Sudden, purified stillness flooded the room. Kathy spun around and pulled the door open to find a chuckling Emma, “Oh my God that look on your face. You weren’t scared at all I bet.”
“Nothing happened, Emma.”
“Yeah, sure scaredy cat.”
No more than five minutes of bickering, and downstairs Emma’s mother shouted for her to come down. “Probably groceries,” Emma sighed and excused herself. “Just wait here until I get back.” She would have offered to help, but such proposals were always discarded with insistence to wait. “You know the way moms are Kat, she doesn’t want to bother anyone that comes over to the house,” Em had said.
For a minute Kathy laid still on the floor—her back propped up against a wall, but it did nothing for her restlessness. She’d heard that, right? The sound of a grandfather clock. She’d heard it now and then coming from Emma’s bathroom, but seeing no clock, there was nothing it could be except for pipes or the furnace. The latter couldn’t be true; it was the middle of summer and no less than eighty degrees outside at any time. So for pure amusement, she entered the bathroom and stood perfectly still—listening.
Tick, tock, tick, tock…
Slow and heavy. Never ringing the hour.
But where the hell was it coming from? She set her head down by the vanity and paid careful attention to the sink, but the sound didn’t change. The same went with the bathtub and tiles walls surrounding it. But before she decided to give it up altogether, there were one last place—specifically, the wall with the large, rectangular mirror fit snugly into its surface a couple inches deep. She placed her ear to it, trying to dismiss the images of a blood-soaked woman she’d imagined staring into the candle.
The ticking was louder, almost piercing her skull through the glass. She placed her fingers on it, nearly convinced she’d melt into it just like Alice. But the mirror was solid in place just like anything else.
Going on nothing more than a hunch, she left the bathroom and checked to see what lay just down the hall. Below the stairs grocery bags crinkles and shoes clapped on tile. There was another room right next to Emma’s, with a big wooden door that could probably stand replacing. A door she’d never considered entering. She turned the knob deliberately—so as not to make too loud a sound, and entered what seemed to be a small bedroom: nearly bare of furniture.
There was a bed frame and mattress without sheets, a nightstand, and a mahogany dresser caked in dust. What stood out most was the stale air—which would’ve been a queue to leave, but such is the trouble of not seeing enough. The trouble of curiosity.
There was another door to her right, and that’s where she knew she must go to understand.
But she could never no matter how much she tried.
The first thing to meet her gaze was that grandfather clock—ticking louder and more definitely than ever. It’s wood was splintered—the wood paneling removed on one side—suggesting someone had spent time tampering with it. Next were the markings on the wall.
“THE HOURS WE’VE SPENT,” scrawled in chalk. Below that—hundreds, maybe thousands of marks. Quintets of lines keeping count without order.
There were papers too—crumpled and scattered this place and that. But the most chilling of all was the window. Looking through she could see a blank, creme-colored wall and tiled surfaces to the left. Below everything, and closest to the window frame itself was the bathroom sink. That’s when it all clicked.
Kat nearly stumbled to pick up a pile of copy paper that was neatly stacked on a wood rocking chair. There were three words repeating themselves again and again, written in sweeping, yet precise cursive:
Mother loves you.
Mother loves you.
Mother loves you.
Mother loves you…
Every sheet. Undoubtedly thousands of times.
“Kat, where’d you go?” through the transparent mirror she could see Emma’s shadow cast just beyond the door of the bathroom.
Kathy let the pages fall to the floor, asking herself what she would say, if she could say anything at all.
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Oh, and I’m sorry if you feel a little more uncomfortable in front of mirrors. Let’s hope your close family is a little less deranged than in this story.