Reflection

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Tom had expected the store to be dusty. Just the word—antique—suggested to him a dim shop with thick layers of dust, pierced by narrow shafts of sunlight that illuminated the dancing motes stirred into motion by a meandering shopper. He assumed that true antique shops were sparsely visited, and the items were never touched, except on the rare occasion someone fell in love with some 100-year-old object that would really tie the room together.

Antiquing had been Julie’s idea. Their home décor was simple and boring, and neither had any real idea how to spice it up. The ground floor of their house was fairly open, the dining room and living room just different parts of the main space, and it presented a decorating challenge. But the internet came to the rescue, and Julie’s searches brought her the idea of finding just the right antique or two that would somehow transform their plain home into a place with style.

So Tom took a Friday off work, and now they were out in some small town, three hours away from the city. Just a narrow main street, a single stoplight, a gas station and a short row of storefronts. And on the very outskirts, a hundred-year-old home converted into an antique shop.

Surprisingly to Tom, the store was bright and nearly dust-free, with huge windows and polished wooden floors. For a short while, he had actually enjoyed exploring the three separate rooms that held the antiques, searching for something that might solve their decorating problem.

But it didn’t take long for him to realize there was nothing here worth buying. He didn’t know what he had expected to find, but this stuff was simply…boring. After walking through all three rooms a second time, he was ready to go. Julie, however, had barely made it through the first collection of items.

“There’s nothing here,” he said to her in a low voice as she examined an ornate liquor cabinet of dark wood.

The woman at the back counter—the owner, he assumed—looked up as he spoke, though he was sure he had pitched his voice too low for her to hear. She was a thin woman in her 60’s, with short, cropped, white hair and piercing blue eyes. There was something about the way she looked at Tom that made his skin crawl, and he suppressed a shiver.

“We’ve barely started looking,” Julie replied. “And there’s a lot of great stuff here.”

“I’ve already walked through the whole place,” he told her. She looked up at him and he shrugged.

“Do me a favor and take another, longer look?” she asked. “I’d like to get a chance to see what’s here for myself.”

Tom had no desire to spend any more time in this shop, but he nodded and turned to the large window that overlooked the field that ran along the road out into the distance. A chill ran down his spine and he turned to see the old woman staring at him. She smiled and resembled nothing so much as a grinning skull.

He nodded back to her and forced himself to focus on the various pieces of furniture, knick-knacks, and other items in front of him.

Julie had wandered into the next room, and he heard her voice as she let out an “Oh!” Tom turned and made his way toward the doorway, but the old woman got there first. He saw her smile at his wife, and the woman’s profile wasn’t any better than seeing her full-on.

There was no single element of her face that was wrong. But when she smiled he got a mental image of those teeth sinking into his flesh, her eyes boring into his and keeping him helpless while she consumed him.

He turned away and shook his head, trying to get rid of the feeling. This wasn’t like him, to get creeped out by an old woman and imagine stuff like this.

Julie and the woman were talking about something his wife had found. He entered the room and saw her holding the top edge of a large mirror that was sitting on the floor. The frame was made of wrought iron, strands twisting and turning into a pattern that he couldn’t follow with his eyes.

“This is it,” Julie said to him.

Tom hadn’t seen the mirror when he came through this room before. It had been tucked partially behind a roll-top desk against a wall, and he completely missed it. Not that he would have stopped to examine it more closely—he thought it was rather ugly.

“The mirror?” he asked, trying not to sound too negative in front of the store owner, but trying to give Julie the message that he didn’t see the appeal.

Julie looked at him and squinted her eyes slightly, obviously not pleased with his reaction.

“Yes, it’s perfect. We can hang it on the wall in our dining room over the sideboard.”

Tom glanced at the old woman—she was watching his wife with those crazy blue eyes—and back to Julie.

“Maybe we should see how much it costs first,” he said, reaching for anything that might allow him to avoid bringing this thing home with them.

“It’s six hundred dollars.”

Tom raised his eyebrows at his wife.

“I thought we were looking for something for the living room. We can’t get the mirror and another piece, too. I think the dining room is fine for now. You wanted to fix up the living room.”

Julie gave a small shake of her head.

“This is it,” she said. He noticed she was holding onto the frame so hard that her knuckles were white. He turned to the old woman.

“Can we have a moment to discuss it?” he asked her. She showed her teeth to him again and as he tried not to recoil, she left the room.

Julie waited until the woman was out of earshot and then frowned at Tom.

“I get that you didn’t really want to do this, but at least you could try not to sabotage it.”

There was a note in her voice he had never heard before—not anger exactly, but…contempt?

“I’m sorry, Julie. I’m not trying to sabotage anything. But we can’t afford to throw away six hundred dollars on a mirror when we were looking for a piece of actual furniture.”

“Forget the living room,” she snapped at him. “This is the piece I want. You agreed to give this a try, and then you let me do all the work researching how to buy antiques. You don’t then get to dictate how we’re going to spend the money.”

Tom stepped back, stunned by Julie’s reaction. This was completely unlike her. She never spoke to him with such venom in her voice. He didn’t know how to respond.

Six hundred dollars was a lot of money for a mirror he didn’t really like, but it was obvious that Julie needed this. Was it really worth fighting over?

“You’re right,” he said, taking a deep breath. “You know more about this than I do, and it was your idea in the first place. If you want this mirror, that this is what we’ll get. But don’t you want to look through the rest of the store first? Maybe there’s something you’ll like even more.”

Julie just shook her head.

“I don’t need to see anything else. This is it.”

Tom nodded at her and reached out for the mirror. Julie stepped back and pulled it away from him. Then she blinked at him and seemed to realize that he was trying to help bring it to the counter where they could pay for it. She reluctantly let go and let him pick it up.

It was heavier than he thought it might be. He carried it into the other room and leaned it on the counter where the old woman kept her cash register.

After making the purchase, they loaded it into their car and headed for home. Tom tried a few times to start a conversation, but Julie seemed distracted and the ride was mostly done in silence. They stopped to pick up a pizza for dinner, and Julie stayed in the car.

~

When they got home, Julie wordlessly went inside while Tom unloaded the mirror from the car. He carried it inside and found Julie standing in the living room. She motioned for him to follow her. He carried the mirror into the dining room and saw that she had already cleared a space on the sideboard.

“I made room so you don’t have to worry about knocking anything over while you hang it.”

Tom clenched his jaw, but then forced himself to relax.

“Do we have to hang it right now? I just spent hours driving and I’d like to relax for a bit.”

“You can relax once it’s done. Otherwise, it’ll just be hanging over your head.”

Tom had intended to leave the mirror until at least tomorrow, or maybe Sunday, but realized Julie was still in her strange mood and expected him to hang it right now. He wanted to argue, but felt this was the wrong time to push it.

It took him over a half-hour to hang the heavy mirror properly, and when he was done he felt that it didn’t look any better up on the wall than it had on the floor of the antique store.

But Julie stood in front of the mirror and just stared at it. He could see her eyes travelling over the strangely-patterned frame, over and over.

“Hey,” he said to her. She visibly struggled to pull her eyes away from the mirror.

“Let’s sit down and watch a movie. We’ll eat the pizza, and I’ll make some popcorn and open a bottle of wine. How does that sound?”

She looked at him for a moment before she answered. Finally, she nodded and seemed to relax.

By the time the movie was done—they had selected some generic superhero flick—Julie was half-asleep. They went to bed early and Julie fell asleep almost as soon as her head hit the pillow. Tom sat up and read a book, not quite ready to turn in just yet.

It was nearing midnight when the smell of rotten meat came wafting into the bedroom. He got up and checked the windows, but found they were closed. He stepped out onto the landing, and the smell got stronger.

Their garbage can shouldn’t smell this bad—he had changed the bag yesterday and there wasn’t much in there yet. He went down the stairs and stepped into the kitchen, but could tell immediately that the smell wasn’t coming from here.

A terrible feeling of foreboding came over him, and he reached out and snapped on the lights in the kitchen. He stepped back into the open space where the living room and dining room met and the smell was nearly overwhelming.

For some reason, his mind went immediately to the mirror. Could there be something wrong with the metal of the frame on the mirror that gave off a toxic odor?

He stepped to the wall and reached out for the light switch. The feeling of…wrongness…increased and he had to force his hand to move. He flicked the switch but the light didn’t come on.

His heart lurched, and then he remembered the dimmer. He turned the dial and the dining room lights came up. As they did so, the smell of rotting meat faded away. Tom looked around the dining room, but nothing seemed out of place. The mirror hung in its new spot on the wall above the sideboard. From where he was standing, he couldn’t see himself in its reflection. He had no desire to step into view in that mirror.

Tom flicked off the light and returned to the kitchen. The smell was gone as if it had never been. He didn’t want to turn off the bright kitchen light, but silently berated himself for his silliness. There was nothing here. The smell must have come from outside.

He forced himself to turn off the light and go back upstairs. Julie was still asleep, and he sat down on the bed, knowing he wouldn’t be able to drift off for a while now. He grabbed his iPad and watched videos on YouTube for another hour before he was ready to try to sleep.

But despite trying to get his mind distracted by internet nonsense, his dreams were filled with unseen horrors and feelings of dread.

~

Julie seemed to be back to herself the following morning. Tom avoided looking at the mirror, but noticed her going to stand in front of it a number of times over the course of the day. Julie made a nice meal for the two of them for dinner—roasted chicken breasts and assorted vegetables—and Tom decided that he was going to try to get used to the mirror. He carried their plates into the dining table and set them down while Julie poured herself a glass of water in the kitchen. Tom went to grab his own glass off the coffee table in the living room when the smell of rotting meat the room again.

Eyes watering, he turned around and looked for the source of the smell. He was standing on one side of the table, and his gaze focused on the mirror. In its reflection, he could see the table. Both of the plates of food seemed to be writhing. He wiped his eyes and focused on what he was seeing.

Maggots were crawling all over the food.

Tom swore out loud and spun around to face the table. But when looked down at the plates, there was no sign of any maggots. The plates of food look just as they had when he put them down a minute before. Once again, the smell of rotting meat faded away.

Heart pounding, Tom turned back to the mirror, terrified by what he expected to see. But the reflection showed him the dining room as it was supposed to be.

“What’s wrong?” Julie asked him, coming in from the kitchen.

Tom opened his mouth, but he didn’t know what to say. It had obviously been his imagination. His eyes were watering when he looked into the mirror, and it must have made the food look like it was crawling with maggots.

But he couldn’t bring himself to believe that. On the other hand, he couldn’t exactly tell Julie that there was something wrong with the mirror. It’s not like either of them believed in magic, or ghosts, or anything supernatural, really.

“It’s…it’s nothing,” he finished lamely.

Her face showed concern as she looked him over.

“You’re white as a sheet,” she said. “What just happened?”

Tom considered what to tell her

“I smelled something bad last night. Like something was rotting in here. I smelled it again just now. I thought maybe an animal had gotten into the house and died in here somewhere. It freaked me out, that’s all. But the smell is gone again.”

Julie frowned and sniffed the air. But there wasn’t anything to smell now except their dinner.

“Well,” she said, sitting down. “Spend some time tomorrow looking around the basement and in the vents. Maybe something did get in here, like a squirrel or something. If so, we want to find it as soon as possible.”

Tom nodded and sat down across from her.

She raised her glass and toasted him before cutting into her chicken. Tom cut a piece for himself and raised it to his mouth. He looked down at the hunk of flesh for a moment, but it seemed fine. He shoved it into his mouth and forced himself to chew. It tasted fine, and by the time dinner was done he had managed to calm down enough to enjoy the food.

~

Tom spent the following morning in the basement, looking for any sign of an animal. But the smell didn’t return and he began to think it was a pointless search. It was nearly noon when he came back upstairs to find Julie standing in front of the mirror again.

“I know you’re beautiful and all, but don’t stare at yourself too long,” he joked. Julie spun around and the look of rage on her face took him by surprise.

“Who gives you the right to tell me what I can do?” she yelled at him. “Maybe I like this mirror, I like the frame—maybe looking at it makes me happy. Did that ever occur to you, or maybe you don’t give a shit about me being happy as long as you get your way!”

“I was making a joke!” he snapped back her, now angry himself. “I don’t know what the hell’s gotten into you lately, but you need to calm down and stop taking everything I say as an attack on you.”

“ ‘Calm down?’ ” she repeated, her eyes widening. “So I’m what, just some hysterical female that takes things too seriously?”

“That’s not what I said and you know it. You’ve been in a foul mood since we went to that bloody antique shop and—”

“And found the one thing I wanted! And you couldn’t even give me that without an argument. You need to think about doing something for someone other than yourself for once.”

Tom couldn’t believe what Julie was saying.

“Are you serious? I do everything for you, whenever you ask. All was trying to do was stop you from throwing money away on that ugly piece of shit.”

Julie very deliberately closed her mouth. She looked at Tom for a moment and then turned and went upstairs.

Tom stood in the living room, still angry but not knowing what to do. He knew chasing after Julie right now would be the wrong move—it would just result in more bitter accusations and bad feelings. He went into the kitchen and poured himself a glass of water. He heard Julie come downstairs and then she opened the front door and left, slamming it behind her.

He figured she would visit one of her friends, or maybe go to the mall. Either way, she needed her space from him and he knew it was probably for the best. They’d be able to discuss it more calmly tonight.

Tom went and stood in front of the mirror, looking at the source of their fight. It was still ugly. The frame was still weird and off-putting, and he still couldn’t seem to follow the pattern of the frame with his eyes.

He looked at his reflection—he was still red-faced from yelling and knew it would take some time to regain his normal color.

Behind him, Julie walked back into view and stood with her back to him, looking down at the coffee table in the living room. He hadn’t heard the front door open again—perhaps she hadn’t actually left when she slammed it a couple of minutes ago.

He turned to face her and gasped out loud as he saw the living room was empty. He could feel a rush of adrenaline flow through his body as fear took him. He turned back to the mirror without thinking.

In the reflection, Julie stood there watching him with ragged black holes where her eyes should be. The walls of the living room were covered with what looked like black scorch marks that spelled out strange phrases in a language Tom couldn’t identify.

He screamed and forced his legs to move. Nearly colliding with the dining room table, he managed to shove himself forward and stumble toward the front door. He could feel a presence behind him, and he knew it was too late. He was going to die before he reached the safety of the outdoors.

His hand landed on the doorknob and he twisted it savagely and yanked on the door. It swung open and he flung himself out onto the front lawn. The sun was a bright orb almost directly overhead and the normal outdoor noises—kids playing, cars on the adjacent through-street, the wind rustling the leaves of the trees that lined the road—hit him like a gasp of air to a drowning man.

Tom turned and looked behind him. His front door stood wide open and he could see into his living room. There was nothing out of place and no sign of anyone or anything pursuing him.

He stood on his lawn and gasped for breath. Luckily, none of his neighbors were out right now, and the kids were playing a good dozen houses down the street and remained unaware of him. He looked around the street, trying to figure out what he was supposed to do now.

Tom knew he couldn’t go back inside that house. There was something unnatural about the mirror—the admission shook him to his core. He didn’t believe in stuff like this. It couldn’t be true. And yet he hadn’t imagined what he had seen.

Unless it was all in his mind. That thought should be even more frightening, but there was a certain comfort in the idea that he was hallucinating. It meant the universe was still working the way it should.

He needed to talk to someone about this, no matter how crazy it would sound. He pulled his phone out of his pocket and tried to unlock it. His hands were shaking so badly it took him three tries to punch in the right numbers.

Justin answered on the second ring.

“Hey, Tom.”

Tom took a breath and tried to steady his voice.

“Justin, are you free right now?”

“Yeah, I was just going to watch the game, but—”

“I need you to come over right now.”

“Is everything okay?” his friend asked. “You don’t sound so good.”

“I…I can’t explain over the phone. Julie’s out for a while and I need to talk to someone. Can you just come over?”

To Tom’s relief, Justin didn’t hesitate.

“Sure, give me twenty minutes.”

Tom stood there after Justin disconnected, not sure what to do. He wasn’t going to go back into the house, he was sure of that. He thought about sitting down on the front porch step, but the thought of putting his back to the door of the house frightened him.

He opened the garage and grabbed a lawn chair, unfolding it on the driveway and sitting so that he could see both the street and the front door of his house.

True to his word, Justin pulled up twenty minutes later. He parked his pickup truck at the curb and Tom stood up and came over to him.

“What’s going on?” Justin asked him. “Is everything okay?”

“No, it’s really not. Can we just sit in your truck and talk?”

“Your front door is wide open.”

“Yeah, but we can’t go anywhere in case Julie comes home. I don’t want her going inside either.”

Justin looked confused, but Tom just climbed into the truck. Justin came around to the driver’s side and got back in.

“Okay, tell me what’s going on. Why can’t Julie go inside the house?”

Tom hesitated, trying to find the right way to tell the story without sounding like he was crazy.

“On Friday, Julie and I bought an antique mirror. I hung it on the wall in our dining room, over the sideboard. I didn’t like it, but Julie really wanted it. As soon as she saw it, something came over her. She had to have it. She barely let me carry the thing because she didn’t want to let go of it.”

He looked over at the front door of his house.

“But there’s something wrong with the mirror. The night we got it, I smelled rotting meat in the house. And then the food…”

“Rotting meat? What does that have to do with the mirror?”

Tom realized he wasn’t doing a very good job explaining himself.

“Justin, you know I’m a rational guy. I don’t believe in supernatural shit, right?”

Justin nodded.

“There’s something wrong with the mirror,” Tom repeated. “It’s…it’s showing things that aren’t real. Horrible things. I think it’s…haunted or something.”

He regretted the word as soon as it was out of his mouth.

Haunted.

What a ridiculous word.

“Haunted?” Justin said, trying to be supportive but obviously thinking that Tom was exaggerating things.

So Tom explained what he had seen, what he had smelled, Julie’s behavior, everything as calmly as he could. He watched Justin’s face, seeing his friend struggling to accept what he was hearing.

Tom leaned forward and covered his face with this hands, rubbing his eyes.

“I know it sounds stupid, but I’m terrified to go back into the house,” he said. “Maybe I’m going crazy, but I know what I saw in that mirror.”

He lowered his hands and opened his eyes, and screamed.

Darkness had descended from out of nowhere. The windows of the houses down his street were lit from within, as if it was nighttime. The streetlights were on.

Justin flinched as Tom yelled, his eyes wide.

Tom looked at the front of his own house and saw that the lights in the living room were now on.

Their car was in the driveway.

Julie was standing on the porch, holding what looked like a few bags of groceries. She walked into the house and moved out of his sight as she stepped into the kitchen.

“Tom, calm down!” Justin said loudly.

Tom clawed at the door to the truck and threw himself out onto the front lawn of his house. He almost sprawled onto the ground, but managed to keep to his feet.

“Julie!” he screamed as he ran. He knew what was going to happen. The door was going to slam shut and he’d be unable to get in, to save her. Whatever was in the mirror was going to kill her and he would be unable to do anything about it.

He could hear Justin getting out of the truck as he ran toward his front door. And then Tom reached the threshold and forced himself to stop, to shove his shoulder against the open door so that it couldn’t close and trap either—or both—of them in the house.

“Julie!” he yelled again, and she came out of the kitchen, a look of fear on her face.

“What’s wrong?” she asked as she rushed over to him. He grabbed her arm and pulled her out of the house onto the front lawn.

Justin came running up and grabbed Tom by the shoulders. Tom lost his grip on Julie’s arm. Justin shook Tom once, hard, and put his face right in front of Tom’s.

“Tom! Calm down. What’s gotten into you?”

Tom looked around at the night sky.

“Don’t you see it?” he asked. “It was daytime a minute ago! How did it suddenly get so dark?”

Justin gripped Tom harder.

“Tom, it was dark when I got here a couple of minutes ago. It was eight o’clock when you called me and asked me to come over.”

Tom shook his head.

“No, it was just after noon when I called you. It’s the mirror that’s doing this.”

Justin looked at Julie.

“What mirror?”

“I just told you!” Tom demanded. “There’s something wrong with that mirror! There’s something inside of it!”

Justin let go of Tom.

“Show me this mirror,” he said to Julie.

“No! You can’t go back inside,” Tom protested, but Julie and Justin walked back into the house. Tom was rooted to the spot unable to move, to grab them and stop them.

He watched, helpless, as they stepped across the threshold and the front door swung closed behind them.

“NO!” he screamed and suddenly he was able to move again. He ran at the door and grabbed the handle, but it wouldn’t budge. He pounded his fists onto the hard surface of the door, once, twice…

Tom’s body hit the floor, pain shooting up his left leg as his knee collided with the hard wood. Something had grabbed him, preventing him from moving. He opened his eyes and found himself in the bedroom of their house, on the floor beside the bed.

He struggled to free his arms and realized that he was wrapped in a sheet. The lamp on his nightstand shone brightly into his eyes.

Forcing himself to breathe, Tom carefully extricated himself from the sheet and climbed to his feet. Julie lay in bed, sleeping deeply.

Tom looked around and fear clutched at him. He was back in the house. They had been sleeping—how had they gotten here? The mirror…

But the images in his mind were already fading. It had been a nightmare.

It couldn’t have been a nightmare. It was all so real.

Already, though, the disjointed nature of what had happened was starting fall apart in his memory. It was a dream.

Just a dream.

Tom looked down at Julie, sleeping peacefully in the bed. She hadn’t stirred when he had fallen out of bed and hit the floor. He wanted to wake her up, but was starting to feel foolish for being so afraid.

It was hard to concentrate. Had the mirror been a part of his dream, too? Or was it down there in the dining room? His sleep-addled brain couldn’t be sure.

He limped out onto the landing and turned on the light over the stairs. The pain in his knee was starting to fade, too, but he needed to favor it as he descended the stairs. He stepped into the living room and flicked on a light.

The mirror hung on the wall of the dining room above the sideboard.

A wave of fear flowed through his body and he stood there, unable to move.

It was just a nightmare, he told himself.

But what part of it? He couldn’t remember if the smell of rotten meat had happened in his dream or in the real world. Or seeing the maggots crawling over their dinner.

No, that stuff had to be part of the dream. None of that was real. It couldn’t have been real.

Tom went back upstairs, but couldn’t bring himself to turn off the lights.

He reached the landing and stepped around the corner into their bedroom.

Julie was sitting up in bed, facing him. The dark, ragged holes in her face stared at him. The black scorch marks covered the walls of the bedroom, the blasphemous writing writhing across the smooth surfaces.

Julie’s lower jaw dropped open, pulling her cheeks down as the flesh split into ropey strands.

He’s coming…

Tom screamed, the air in his lungs forcing itself out, his own jaws creaking with the effort of opening wide enough to let loose the terror boiling in his blood.

He spun and nearly tumbled down the stairs in his attempt to flee from that apparition. But he barely managed to keep his feet under him and reached the ground floor without tripping. He had just enough presence of mind to grab his car keys from the hook on the wall as he wrenched open the front door and bolted outside.

Justin’s truck was parked at the curb, and Tom faltered. He could just make out Justin sitting in the front seat of the truck. Tom took a couple of steps forward, opening his mouth to call out to his friend.

Justin turned his head toward Tom, and he saw the skin of Justin’s face had been flayed away, exposing bloody muscle and bone.

Tom had no more screams left in him. Uttering a low moan, he threw himself toward his car in the driveway. He fumbled with the keys but managed to get the door open and start the car. Backing out of the driveway, he saw Justin get out of his truck and start to walk in Tom’s direction.

As Tom sped past the figure of his friend he caught a glimpse of Julie’s silhouette in the doorway to the house.

Without stopping, Tom swerved out onto the main street and accelerated. He wasn’t sure where he was going, but he needed to get away.

“Slow down!” Julie yelled as Tom plunged through an intersection, running a red light. He turned to see her sitting in the passenger seat of the car, a look of fear on her face. Tom nearly lost control of the car at her sudden appearance.

“No!” he yelled at her. “You’re not real.”

He glanced down to find that he was fully dressed, not in the pajama pants he had been wearing when he fled the house a moment before.

“You’re going to get us both killed. Please stop the car,” Julie pleaded. “I don’t know what’s wrong, but let me help you.”

Tom shook his head. This couldn’t be real. It was the mirror, messing with his mind. Julie wasn’t really here. She had been taken by the mirror.

“Tom,” she said. “I love you. Whatever you’re going through, I want to help you get better.”

“You’re not real!” he yelled again.

“Please just stop the car,” she repeated, tears in her voice. “I don’t want to die, and you don’t either.”

Tom glanced at her and saw the tears running down her face. She was terrified as he drove through another red light, his foot heavy on the accelerator. Luckily, he hadn’t seen another car on the road yet. It must be very late at night, though he had no idea what time it actually was.

Julie reached out and touched Tom’s arm, and he flinched away. She drew her hand back. Her touch had felt real enough. He didn’t know anymore what was real and what was being caused by the mirror. Could Julie really be here, in the car with him?

“We need to get away from there,” he said to her. “As far away from the mirror as possible.”

“Tom, please, I don’t know what you’re talking about. Please let me help you. I love you, but you’re going to kill us both.”

Tom glanced at her again. She wept as she pleaded with him to slow down, to stop the car.

Was it possible it was all in his mind? No, he didn’t want to think about what that meant.

Off in the distance, he could see the headlights of another car approaching in the opposite direction.

“I can’t stop the car,” he said to her. “I just can’t. If we stop, whatever is in the mirror will find us.”

“Tom,” Julie said, her voice low and calm. He looked at her one more time, and saw her watching him with a small, sarcastic smile on her face. There was no sign of the tears that had been there a moment before.

“Tom, he’s already seen us both. There is no hiding. There is no running. We belong to him now.”

Tom’s heart stuttered at her words. The Julie he knew was gone. And he believed her words—there was no escape from whatever was in the mirror. As long as he was alive, it would come for him.

“I’m sorry, Julie,” he said. “I loved you, too.”

Tom’s foot pushed the accelerator to the floor. The oncoming headlights were very close now.

Taking a deep breath, Tom yanked the steering wheel to the left.

© 2016 Andrew J. Luther