The mirror had hung in the fourth bedroom for as long as Susan could remember. Grandma had always referred to that room as the spare bedroom, which seemed a bit of a misnomer since it contained only a dusty chest of drawers and the aforementioned mirror, no bed.
The room itself had always felt empty and cold, so unlike the cosiness that permeated the rest of the house, and as children Susan and her brother, Rick, had always found it rather creepy. That it also happened to be off-limits to them made it irresistible, and they would sneak into it at every opportunity when they visited.
But the room was only a room, and the mirror just a mirror.
As an adult, Susan stood in the room, the source of such fascination to her once upon a time, and marvelled at her own childish foolishness. Rick had concocted wild, scary stories about it. Susan had never had much talent for storytelling. Shame he’d let that slide as he’d got older, many of the teachers had predicted great things for him as a writer.
“I think this’ll go for two thou easy,” Rick was saying, all but rubbing his hands together in glee. Susan rolled her eyes at his tactlessness. She too was happy at the thought of some extra money coming in as she and her partner Linda were hardly living the life of Riley, but Grandma had only been gone two weeks after all.
“I suppose,” she said. “You know, I really cannot see anything wrong with this room. No structural problems, no damp…wonder why Grandma always kept us out of here.”
Rick shrugged. “Does have some warped floorboards,” he said, tapping his foot on one of them for emphasis. “Maybe she thought we’d trip over them or something.”
“They’re not that bad.” Rick shrugged again, not particularly interested. His indifference irritated Susan: how had her once imaginative brother become such a dullard?
“We should definitely get rid of that mirror,” he said. Susan glanced up at it, frowning — she was no expert, but the mirror looked to be an antique, certainly not something that you chucked away.
“You mean sell, surely?”
“Rick, be serious.”
“It’d do well at an auction, I think.”
Rick shifted, looking uncomfortable, much to Susan’s bafflement.
“Do you know something about it?”
“No, never mind, forget it.”
Susan had no intention of ‘forgetting it’ but her mobile rang: Linda wanted to know what Susan fancied for dinner, and Rick slipped out of the room while they were talking.
Oh well. It probably wasn’t anything important.
Rick was also adamant that they have some renovations done to the house. Although it was a perfectly sound structure, it needed updating in a few areas particularly in regard to ventilation: there wasn’t mould in the spare room, but there was in other parts of the house, sprouting around the windows.
The real estate agent agreed that some tweaks were needed, but assured them that plenty of buyers would be happy to do this themselves. Rick eventually dropped his objections to an immediate sale, albeit with a lot of grumbling.
He remained firm, however, on the matter of the mirror.
“I want it gone, Susie!” was all he would say. Any attempt to probe further was met with stubborn silence. Even his wife Rebecca was unable to glean anything from him and she had a great deal more practice than Susan had.
“Nothing happened in there when you were children, right?” Rebecca asked.
“No. Nothing,” Susan said. “I mean, we used to sit in there and tell each other ghost stories and stuff but that was hardly traumatising. There was nothing even in there except for that mirror and an old chest of drawers.”
“I really don’t understand then,” Rebecca said, apparently as exasperated by Rick’s secrecy as Susan was. Linda, on the other hand, had told Susan that it wasn’t any of her business and maybe the mirror was worthless anyway, so why keep pressing him on the matter? “It really isn’t like Rick to be so…superstitious about something.”
“No, it isn’t.” But that hadn’t always been the case, had it? Perhaps, in their attempts to root out a complex explanation they had overlooked the obvious: that Rick associated the mirror with their scary little tales. But he had come up with most of those and they hadn’t scared him one bit at the time — it was Susan who had suffered through the nightmares!
“I suppose it will have to remain a mystery then,” Susan said.
An offer had been made on Grandma’s house. Susan and Rick had yet to formally accept it, but they planned to. First though, they wanted to say goodbye to the house.
Well, Susan wanted to say goodbye. Rick, apparently, had come to take care of unfinished business. Susan pulled into the driveway at the same time Rick was barrelling out of the front door, the mirror clutched firmly in both hands.
Susan brought the car to swift halt and got out. “Rick, for Christ’s sake!”
He ignored her, instead slowing to a halt on the driveway. Susan watched with a strange sense of horror as he brought the mirror crashing to the pavement, shattering the glass in the frame. The shards flew up into the air, and then fell gracelessly back to earth again.
It was over.
“There,” Rick said. Not triumphant, just matter of fact.
“Did you ever look into it, Susie? Really look into it?”
Susan opened her mouth to say yes, of course she had, but then she realised…she hadn’t. Not once. She had only ever glanced at it. Which was odd, yes, but Rick was being downright (she rejected the word insane) irrational.
And to think, I thought he had become a dullard.
“You never did, did you?”
“No. I don’t think I have. But you did, I take it.”
“And?” She was finally going to get the answers to her questions, yet Susan found that now she wasn’t sure she wanted to hear them after all.
Susan blinked. “Pardon?”
“I didn’t see anything. It was just blank. Nothing reflected in it at all.”
She could do nothing but gape at him. It was crazy. Yet if it was true then Susan could understand now why it had terrified Rick so much.
But there had to be a rational explanation. There had to be!
“Maybe you dreamed it.” That sounded thin even to her own ears.
Rick chuckled, a brittle sound. “I looked in it more than once.” There went that explanation, but perhaps it was actually some sort of a trick mirror, like those ones that distort a person’s appearance, although why their grandmother would’ve had such an object in her house Susan couldn’t say.
“But…it didn’t actually do anything to you, did it? Didn’t demand you hand over your soul or ask you if you wanted to dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?”
“I’m saying, I think you may have overreacted about this, Rick.”
“You’re right; it didn’t do anything to me! But it could’ve, and I was afraid that it would someday. For years. Think about it, why wouldn’t Grandma let us in that room? She was afraid of it too, Susie, don’t you get it?”
“Then she could’ve destroyed it!”
“Yes, but she didn’t because she was afraid of it too!”
This was ridiculous. “And the chest of drawers was that cursed as well?”
“Oh, forget it! I don’t care what you think, but when I looked into that mirror, I felt fear. Pure fear. It’s the worst thing I’ve ever experienced in my life, and it never really went away. I felt like I could never stand out or excel in case…I don’t know. I just knew I shouldn’t draw attention to myself. I know it makes no sense to you, but that’s how I felt.”
He took a breath, and to Susan’s surprise, he smiled. “But it’s gone now. I don’t feel it anymore.”
Susan decided not to point out that all of this may have been purely psychological.
“Does this mean you…might try telling stories again?”
Rick brightened, having apparently not thought about it. “Yes. Yes, I’d love to do that. But,” he added, “Only if you’ll read them.”
Susan laughed, and she knew there was a slightly hysterical edge to it. But it had been a pretty crazy morning.
“I can do that,” she said.
They said their final goodbye to the house and left. As she drove home, Susan wondered what she would have seen if she had ever looked into the mirror…