Dane Prescott stared blankly out the passenger side window. The sunlight reflected off the glass, shining brightly in his eyes. He squinted against the light, shielding his eyes with his hand.
“Do we really have to move?” he whined, turning to face his father.
His father clucked his tongue in a disapproving tone. “Dane, we’ve been over this. A fresh start is exactly what you need.”
“No, it’s what *you* need,” he retorted, folding his arms across his chest and slumping back against the seat.
Dane sighed. He knew his father’s warning tone all too well. He only used it when his patience had been pushed to its breaking point.
He glanced back out the window again. The sun had disappeared behind some trees in the nearby woods.
His father had this great idea about packing up and moving the family across the country after Dane’s mother died. She had been diagnosed with throat cancer nearly a decade ago. She had kept the evil C word at bay for years, proving doctors wrong and showing them just exactly what sheer willpower can achieve. After all, those quacks never factored into the equation how much his mother wanted to live.
Dane closed his eyes, remembering her final days. She had grown weaker, her body more skeleton than human and her skin had a tinge of yellow to it. If the cancer wasn’t bad enough, her kidneys began to fail her. Her hair had fallen out, her eyes became sunken hallows. She was a shell of her former self.
He had moved her, with permission of the nursing staff, to the viewing room so she could look out at the grand lake the hospital was built near.
She had placed her hand on top of his, her bony fingers gripping tightly at his. She didn’t say a single word. They sat there in silence for hours, just holding hands.
It pained him to admit, but Dane could feel her life slipping from her and it came as no surprise when she did eventually pass away.
But what annoyed him the most was his father’s reaction to the whole thing. For the first few weeks, while Dane mourned, his father acted like nothing had changed.
Then, out of nowhere, his father had this brilliant idea to move across the country to the town where he grew up. Dane protested but his complaints fell on deaf ears. His father said they were moving and that was that.
Dane opened his eyes. The car rolled passed the Welcome to Inglewood sign. He sat up straighter and took in the view. Through the woods, Dane could barely make out the houses. He knew they were there because he could see driveways winding from the road that disappeared into the woodlands.
The car rolled slowly into town, passing by the local stores. Dane pressed his face against the window. There was a large clothing store on the corner and a post office next to that. An office supplies store, an antiques store and a video store nestled in the middle, while a large supermarket filled the remaining space of Main Road.
“This place is from the dark ages,” Dane muttered turning away from the window. “They have a video store and it’s not even a Blockbuster.”
Out the corner of his eye, Dane saw his father’s jaw clench. Dane knew he was gritting his teeth, holding back a lashing that Dane probably deserved.
Despite his grumblings, Dane did hold some excitement regarding the move. He had been a victim of bullying at his former high school. So much so that when he got the news they were moving, Dane took it upon himself to give the bullies a taste of their own medicine.
But as the moving day loomed, Dane’s heart filled with dread. He may have hated his high school and being a target for harassment every day wasn’t something he relished or jumped out of bed with joy for, but there were some aspects that he was going to miss.
The car turned, pulling up into a long drive way.
Dane’s head snapped up as he shook his depressed thoughts away. A large house loomed in the distance, its wooden siding visible through the thickness of the trees.
The trees parted, revealing the entire exterior of the house.
Dane swallowed hard. The old Victorian manor stood gracefully among the forest. Though dilapidated from age, it held a kind of characteristic charm that would never have been found in the big city.
The car came to a stop directly in front of the porch steps. Dane got out, his jaw dropping in awe at the grandness of the manor.
He tuned to face his father. “Did you live here?” he enquired, shoving his hands into his jacket pockets.
“No, it was my grandmother’s house; your great-grandmother,” Mr. Prescott explained, opening the backseat door and unloaded a couple of boxes.
Dane followed in his father’s lead, grabbing three small boxes from the back seat of the car before making his way up the porch steps.
The wooden floor boards creaked beneath his weight. For a minute, Dane felt like the stair would give way, breaking beneath him. The porch didn’t feel any sturdier. He anticipated falling into the crawlspace beneath the house while his father fumbled about with the keys.
Once the door was open, Dane raced inside.
Much to his surprise, the house inside was in great shape. The wainscoting was as good as new. The dark mahogany tones were of another era, but seemed to work so well with the modern fixtures.
A loud thud snapped Dane out of his daydream. His father had dropped a box in the grand hall. “Welcome home,” he enthused, hands on his hips, legs apart in a manly stance. He turned to his son. “Go upstairs and find your new room. There’s four to choose from.”
Dane obliged, taking the creaky old staircase two stairs at a time. He sauntered down the landing, running his hand over the damask wallpaper that was fading with age. He pulled open the first door on the landing. A large bedroom loomed before him. A wooden wardrobe sat against one wall while tucked into the corner was a full length mirror.
Dane poked his head inside the room. It was dusty, and the wallpaper was peeling, but there was a certain charm about the room. The floorboards groaned beneath his weight as he strolled into the room.
It was a large bedroom; nearly twice the size of his room back in the city. He opened the two large windows, allowing the musty smell to escape and to allow the fresh, crisp air of Inglewood to flood the building.
“Dad!” he called, leaning out of the window. “I’ve found my room.”
His father glanced up from the car, squinting in the sun. “Great. Now get down here and help me unpack. The movers will be here soon.”
Rolling his eyes, Dane mimicked his father’s tone, muttering his condescension under his breath. He dropped a box of his stuff on the floor and headed back downstairs.
The movers came and left. Boxes lined every wall of the house. Dane had spent the afternoon putting his bed together before dumping the mattress on top of the frame.
As Dane wrestled with the fitted sheet, his father poked his head in the door. “Most of the lounge and kitchen are done but I can’t be bothered cooking. Pizza or Chinese?”
“Chinese,” Dane answered, his tongue poking out the corner of his mouth as he tugged the sheet into place. “Beef in black bean sauce please. And don’t forget the sweet and sour pork this time.”
He heard his father chuckle and then the door close.
Dane glanced around the room, his hands on his hips, sighing. There was so much to unpack but he had no energy to go through it all. At least his bed was set up. That was something.
The fitted sheet was on so at least the most exhausting part was done. He grabbed the two pillow cases from the same box and began fluffing his pillow before sliding it between the cotton fabric.
As he tossed the pillow onto the mattress, a faint giggle assaulted his ears. Dane froze. What was that? He glanced around the room, half expecting his father standing at the door but he was alone.
After taking one last look around his room, including checking inside the closet, Dane shrugged off the phantom laugh as nothing more than the settling of an old house.
He finished making his bed and slowly began unboxing his clothes, moving them into the closet. As he was putting some sweaters up on the top shelf, Dane heard the noise again. He paused, cocking his head to one side. It wasn’t a creak or a groan of an old house. It was a definite laugh of a human being.
He stepped out of his closet and moved to the window. He could see the delivery driver pulling up the winding drive way. His stomach growled. He hadn’t realized how hungry he was.
He glanced over his shoulder, his eyes moving past the full-length mirror and landing on a box of his old comic books. His eyes snapped back to the mirror, his mouth hanging open in awe.
His reflection stared back at him, mimicking his movements. But it was the outfit that had him befuddled.
Dane stared down at his dusty, torn jeans and grey t-shirt. On his right wrist was a black leather cuff. He locked eyes with his reflection again. His reflection was wearing a suit. A three piece suit with a shiny gold Rolex on his left wrist.
He raised his right arm. The reflection raised his left. Dane waved at the mirror. The reflection waved back.
A knock on his bedroom door startled him back to reality.
“Dad, get in here.”
Mr Prescott poked his head in the room. “What? Dinner’s here.”
“I don’t care. You need to see this.”
Dane dragged his father in front of the mirror. “Look at my reflection,” he demanded. “It’s not really a reflection. The damn thing is wearing a suit.”
His father stared him curiously, arching his eyebrow. “Are you feeling okay?” he questioned, placing his hand on Dane’s forehead.
Dane shrugged him off, insistently pointing towards the mirror. “Dad, just look.”
Mr Prescott turned towards the mirror, the look of confusion still etched on his face. “Suit?” he mused. “I don’t see a suit. But I do see a pair of jeans that have been ripped above the knee. What is it with you kids and the fashion nowadays?”
Dane turned to the mirror. The suit was gone. The cocky smile of his reflection was replaced by a quizzical expression.
“B-b-but it was there!”
His father patted him on the back. “Dinner is here. Delusional imagery is often a sign of lack of nutrients.”
Dane arched his eyebrow, shooting his father a curious glance. “I have to teach you how to surf for porn on the computer as opposed to the self-help section.”
His father smirked. “What makes you think I don’t already know how to do that?”
Repulsed by his father’s comment, Dane gagged. His stomach growled loudly. His father roared with laughter, slapping his son on the shoulder before leading him down the stairs to the kitchen where the Chinese food waited patiently.
After dinner, Dane returned to his room. Exhausted from the move and the brief stint of unpacking, he threw himself on the bed. Tired didn’t begin to cover how he felt. Borderline dead would be far more accurate.
As he closed his eyes, Dane curled up into a ball, covering himself with a sheet. He never realized how quiet the country was. For years the hustle and bustle of city life flooded his bedroom window late at night. Cars driving past, people out partying, the express train rumbling past.
Dane rolled over, tucking the sheet underneath his chin.
Dane yawned and tossed the sheet off, sticking his leg over the side of the mattress.
Right, this time he wasn’t dreaming. He sat bolt upright, his eyes scanning the darkened room. Boxes lined the floor, their shadows taunting him in the night. Some of them were open, others tossed into the corner, empty.
A light flickered out the corner of his eye.
Cautiously he turned to face the mirror. His reflection stared back at him. Dane scooted backwards on the bed. Unlike him, his reflection was standing, fully dressed in a suit and tie.
The reflection stared back. “It’s about time you noticed us,” it taunted.
“How is this possible?” Dane squeaked.
The reflection chuckled. “For a kid as smart as we are you sure are pretty stupid.”
Dane felt his chest tighten as he stared at the mirror. The reflection smirked at him, adjusting his tie and slicking back the stray strand of hair from his eyes.
“Clearly I need more lessons on this subject,” Dane retorted. He climbed out of bed, his feet touching the wooden floorboards.
The reflection rolled his eyes. “Have you ever wondered why you can’t cross through mirrors?”
Dane arched an eyebrow. “Ugh, because it defies the laws of physics?”
“If you’re going to be flippant about it, then maybe you don’t need to see what I can show you.”
Still in complete disbelief that he was having a conversation with his reflection, Dane pursed his lips. He had to be hallucinating. He was so sleep deprived that he was delusional and seeing things that weren’t really there. That had to be the explanation.
But then again, curiosity had always gotten the better of him when it came to information others possessed and he yearned for.
“Show me what?”
The reflection smirked, his eyes piercing through the glass. It was eerie that he was a direct reflection of Dane yet looked nothing like him.
“Without going all Disney on you, but I can show you a whole new world,” he retorted, spitting the words with such venom that for a second Dane was a little afraid.
The reflection leaned in a little closer, dropping his voice to a whisper. “I can show you your upmost desires. You miss your mother, right? Well, technically our mother. I can give her back to you.”
Dane’s jaw dropped open. “You can do that?”
The reflection shrugged nonchalantly. “Between you and me, she’s an insufferable bitch.”
Dane narrowed his eyes. “Hey!” he shouted. “That’s my mother you’re trash talking!”
“Our mother, Dane. And let me be the first to inform you that you got the better deal. Cancer is a nightmare, but what survives from it can often be far worse. You were the compassionate one so I’d recommend you dealing with her. Gives me some breathing room.”
Dane shook his head, attempting to clear the thoughts that clouded his mind.
“You can see her again. All you need to do is change places with me.”
“What do you mean by change places?”
“It’s easy. You just have to step into the mirror the same time I step out,” the reflection explained. “Then you’ll be able to see our mother again. It’ll be like she never died.”
Still skeptical, Dane moved towards the mirror. He put his hand up to the glass. His reflection did the same.
As Dane’s hand touched the glass, an eerie glow filled the room. Next thing Dane felt was the flesh of another hand.
Dane swallowed hard, suddenly feeling very freaked out. He tried to pull his arm back but felt a strong grip tighten around his wrist.
“Hey!” he cried, tugging hard. He could feel his arm being twisted. He glanced up at his reflection. What he saw terrified him.
His eyes were no longer the bright blue. They were charcoal. Even though his reflection was smiling, Dane could feel how hostile that smile was.
The more he struggled, the tighter the grip got.
“Dad!” he screamed. “Dad! Dad, help!”
The reflection threw his head back and laughed as he leaned forward, his arm stretching out from the mirror, gripping at Dane’s shirt before pulling him through the glass.
* * * * *
The bedroom light flipped on.
The reflection turned around and flashed his father a warm smile.
“You were screaming. Is everything alright?”
The reflection nodded. “Yes, father. You can put down the baseball now. I simply heard an unusual noise and saw a shadow that I’m not quite familiar with. New house and all.”
Mr Prescott didn’t look convinced but decided not to push the subject.
“Very well. Good night, Dane,” he said, reaching for the door knob. “Did you always own that suit?”
The reflection’s smile broadened. “Mother gave it to me.”
Mr Prescott nodded before closing the door, his footsteps thudding down the hall.
Removing his tie, the reflection stared at the mirror. “What if the only reason you cannot walk through a mirror is because your reflection blocks you? What if they’re protecting you? What if they know that the other side is horrifying and painful and they are trying to stop you from ever crossing over?”
Dane slammed both palms against the mirror, screaming at him.
Laughing cruelly, the reflection cupped his hand to his ear, as though he couldn’t hear a word that was being said.
Dane began throwing his weigh at the glass, willing it to break.
He watched helplessly as his reflection undressed.
His reflection turned back to the mirror.
“Now it’s your turn to be the reflection,” he deemed, before turning off the light and climbing into Dane’s bed.