Upon Reflection by Shay Leigh
Emma played in the living room, sitting on the beige throw rug that had been softened and flattened by everyone else in the house for years. Her brothers didn’t want to play with a little girl. Her mother was always busy with one craft or another. Her father would grab a few beers and tinker on one of the broken-down cars that littered the yard when he got home. And her grandmother was watching her “soaps” in her room. Emma was lonely and longed for a playmate, like most 7-year-old girls would do, if they lived on the edges of a small town in the desert too.
Then, she met Amy. Amy was fun, had a laugh that reminded Emma of the bell her grandmother would ring when she needed help up from her chair, and was very pretty. Amy was everything that Emma was not. Where Emma had short plain brown hair, Amy had long flowing locks of spun honey that shimmered in the sunlight. Amy had soft edges to her body, but Emma was all gangly legs and jutting bone. Amy’s white play dress always looked crisp and pretty with its eyelet laced sleeves. Emma hoped that Amy never saw the worn spots of her hand me down jeans and t-shirts. Despite Emma’s envy, she always felt comfortable with Amy. She never felt judged by her new friend.
This was the best summer Emma had ever known. Like clockwork, Amy would show up and play on the rug too. They played house with ratty thrift store dolls, drew pictures of rainbows and princesses, wrote silly songs about animals and each other, and whispered secrets behind hands held close to each other’s ears. From the break of day, until dinner time, the girls were inseparable.
Eventually Amy asked Emma to go play with her at her house. Looking into the mirror that hung on the back of the coat closet door, seeing Amy’s house so bright in the summer sun, Emma felt a chill go through her. “There’s something bad in that house and I don’t want to go in there,” she thought to herself. Instead of saying this to Amy, she told her newfound friend that she would get in trouble if she went to someone’s house without permission. Amy seemed to accept this excuse, but something, flickered in her deep green eyes, when she nodded her understanding. Emma felt a knot of fear coil in her stomach when she saw the change, in her friends’ eyes.
Amy didn’t stop asking for Emma to visit her every day for the rest of the week. With each declined offer, Emma felt something change, within her friend. It felt as if the heat of the day’s sunlight had been sucked from the world when she saw that flicker, in those emerald colored eyes. After Amy asked on the sixth day, and Emma declined yet again, Amy stood up and said “Fine. Then you can play all by yourself.” Emma felt a deep sadness as she watched Amy climb through the mirror and walk to her house. When Amy reached the door, she looked back at Emma coldly, and the mirror only reflected Emma, once again. Emma stared at herself for over an hour, before the tinkle of her grandmother’s bell forced her to leave the room.
Amy didn’t come back the next day. Or the next. Or even the one after that. After having had a friend for so many weeks, Emma felt more alone than she ever had before. She would sit in front of the mirror for hours, waiting for a flicker, a sign, forgiveness. On the fourth day her dad made her help him work on one of the many cars that littered the yard. She handed him tools and parts, got him a cold beer when he finished the previous one. Finally, he got tired of her unending questions about the cars, the parts, his job, nature, and anything else that crossed her young mind, and yelled at her to get out of his way and to go play somewhere else.
Her brothers said they would play hide and seek with her, but they never tried to find her. After what felt like hours in hiding, she saw them playing down by the arroyo, having forgotten about her completely. She tried watching her mom paint, but quickly became bored while her mom tried to mix a color “just so” and to “please stay still and be quiet if you insist on being in here”. Grandmother was dozing in her recliner in her room, the television playing quietly in the background. Eventually, Emma found herself in front of the mirror again. She missed her only friend. She reached up a small fist, still covered in grease and grime from helping her father, and hesitantly knocked on the glass.
Immediately, Amy was there, her smile bright and happy. Seeing that smiling face, Emma thought herself silly for ever thinking that something darker lurked behind her friends cupid bow smile. “Do you want to come and play at my house now?” Amy asked sweetly. Emma looked over her shoulder at the room behind her. “Nobody will know. Nobody will even care,” Emma sadly thought to herself. With a wild skip to her heart, she turned back to her friend and nodded. Amy’s hand came through the glass, palm up. Emma looked down at the hand, the color of peaches and cream, and grasped it with her dirty one.
She felt a tug, and then she was standing in the yard in front of Amy’s house. Emma turned to look out of the mirror, but stopped with a gasp. For in the reflection was her. But she wasn’t herself. Her hair was soft short waves of copper and bronze. Her eyes were the blue of the cleanest, deepest ocean blue. Instead of her brother’s stained and torn hand-me-downs, she wore a dress of the softest shade of pink. All of her sharp angles were softened, hollows filled in. Looking at herself, she saw herself as pretty for once. As if reading her mind, Amy said “That’s how I see you.”
The reflection of herself smiled, and turned back to her friend. “Let’s go inside, there’s cupcakes and lemonade!” Amy said brightly. Emma felt her stomach churn, in hunger and fear. But she was already here, and she may as well break all of the rules, she thought defiantly. With that, she headed up the path, and listened to the soft thuds of their feet climbing the stairs to the door that waited so hungrily across the wood of the porch.
Susan called for Emma to come to the dinner table, again. “Zach, go find your sister”, she said to one of the boys sitting at the table when there was no response from the girl. Without watching him leave the room, she poured out three glasses of milk and set them in front of the children’s’ plates. She could hear Zach’s voice going through the house “Emma. Emma! Emma, dinner!” She buttered the bread, and eyed her watch. Eventually her oldest son came back, but there was no Emma in tow.
Within hours, the house was total bedlam. Susan’s husband, Bill, was outside checking all of the broken down cars with the police, hoping for a sign of the missing girl. The Grandmother sat on the porch swing, and gave the two preteen boys ideas of where else to look for their missing sister. Susan was hunting through old photo albums for a picture of her little girl to give to the two officer’s that stood behind her with grim faces. Neighbors and locals roamed the house, yard, and arroyos calling the girls name. They looked for a sign of the shy girl that they only saw at the local grocery store with her family, the one that would stare at her shoes while trailing behind the grocery cart.
After it was too dark to search properly, and the extra people faded back to their own lives and homes to whisper “how sad” and to check on their own sleeping children, Susan sat on her daughter’s bed. She hugged Emma’s tattered teddy bear to her chest, tears streaming from her eyes. “Mommy?” She thought she heard. Lifting her head, she said, “Emma? Emma, come out right now young lady!” Oh, if this was a ruse for attention, that little girl of hers was in some serious trouble, Susan thought. Tossing the bear onto the bed behind her, she stood and looked around the room, trying to find her little trouble maker. “Mommy!” She heard the muted scream, as if from another room. Walking out of the bedroom, she stood in the hall. “Emma! Emma Lee, get out here right now!”
The boys’ bedroom door cracked open, and Zach stood there with his tousled brown hair, rubbing his bloodshot eyes. “Mom, is Emma back?” Before she could respond, the door opened wider and her other son stood there with tear swollen eyes, “Is Emma home? Is she okay?” The look of hope in her sons’ eyes cooled her ire with her prankster daughter. Again, a muffled “Mommy!” broke the quiet of the house. She heard the front door swing open and Bill shout “Emma, where are you?” Susan and the boys ran down the hall, not stopping when the Grandmother’s door opened and she looked out. Eventually they all stood in the darkened living room, listening for the muffled voice.
“Mommy! Daddy! Help me!” the cry was still stifled, but it was clearly coming from somewhere within this room. Bill flipped on the overhead light switch, illuminating the darkened room. The sagging couches sat empty in the room, Emma’s toys littered the old rug in front of the mirror, but there was no sign of the girl. Grandmother tottered into the room, just when the coat closet door started to shake and rattle, as if someone was pounding on it. Emma’s screams of “Mommy! Daddy! Zach! Jeff! Grandma! Help! Help me!” fought with the growing noise of the trembling door. Bill ran to the door, swinging it open wide, but the closet was only full of coats and winter shoes abandoned for the summer heat.
The screams were full of terror. Horror. Pain. Susan could taste the fear; her heart was pounding in fright. Desperately, she ran to the closet, and helped her husband tear the coats and shoes from its depths. When all it held was dust and a few empty hangers, they looked at the rattling door in confusion. Turning she saw her sons covering their ears, tears streaming from their eyes. Wanting to help her daughter and comfort her sons, she did what she could for the ones she could see by walking to them and gathering them into her arms, at a loss for where her daughter was.
Bill was screaming Emma’s name over and over, but they only received the same cries as before. The door began to shake violently, which caused Bill to back away from it with a frightened look on his face. Grandmother made her way to the door, flinching at the noise of Emma’s screams and the quaking door. Reaching out a shaking hand, she pushed it closed.
In the mirror stood Emma.
She was covered in cuts and blood, wearing clothes unfamiliar to Susan. “Mommy, help me! She’s coming! She’s going to hurt me more! Please, Mommy. Help meeee!” Susan ran to the mirror, not understanding how this was possible. Reaching for her little girl, all her hands touched was cold glass.
Emma was desperately slamming her bloody fists against the glass, swinging her head to look back behind her constantly. Bill was standing next to Susan, beating back on the glass, desperately trying to get to his terrified daughter. The boys were screaming Emma’s name, adding to the noise of the room. Then Grandma whispered at them all, or maybe to herself, to look. Susan glanced at her mother, then back into the mirror, beyond her daughter’s visage. On the porch steps behind Emma stood a beautiful little blonde girl, in a grungy gray dress, splattered with both bright and dark blood. In one hand she held a wicked looking kitchen knife, the other hand dripping with blood, the drips splattering onto the wood of the porch floor.
Less than twenty feet stood between this scary, yet pretty, creature and her horrified daughter.
Bill ran from the room, screaming something about tools, while Zach and Jeff both started screaming to Emma to run and hide. Grandmother just stood still, in shock, recognition written all over her face. Susan was still banging on the glass, wishing she could pull her daughter from its cold depths. Emma glanced back and saw the girl standing there, a hollow smile lighting her face. She spun and placed her back to the mirror, watching the evil girl as she slowly walked across the porch and down the stairs.
Susan and the boys kept screaming for Emma to run, but she stood there, petrified. Suddenly, Bill was back holding a wrench in his hand. He barely gave his wife and sons time to move before he took a swing at the glass. The metal slammed into the mirror, but instead of hearing a satisfying crack, the wrench only bounced off. Bill wasn’t willing to give in, so he gripped the tool in both hands and swung again. But instead of the expected spider web of fractured glass, only a small crack formed.
The blonde girl hissed at the man, her face changing in the process. All of the bright color faded from her skin and hair, hollows appearing in her cheeks, her eyes becoming sunken pools, their colors that of an Irish marsh. Bill didn’t stop swinging the weapon. He kept aiming for that one crack, making it grow and splinter. Emma glanced back at him, the decaying girl mere steps from her. Tears streaked down her cheeks, knowing he was too late.
Bill saw the haunted despair in his daughter’s eyes, and then the flash of the knife in the other girls’ hand. He heard his daughter scream out in pain. But he kept slamming his wrench into the glass, finally getting it to web. He saw his daughter fall to her knees, clutching her hands to the red that seeped out from underneath them. And still, he kept hitting the mirror, flinching from the pain it obviously caused him.
“Help. Me.” His little girl whispered one last time, the light fading from her eyes. The evil thing bent over his daughter, her hand wiping up some of the dead girls blood. She stood up and walked to the mirror. Zooming in on Grandmother’s eyes, she began to write. She smirked when Bill stepped back, dropping his tool, and looking at the Grandmother with confusion. Her laugh no longer sounded like bells, when she heard the younger woman whisper “Mom, what does she mean?” Grandmother just shook her head, tears falling from her eyes. The boys seemed immune to all of this. They only saw their little sister lying dead on the grass, on the other side of the mirror.
The decayed girls smile was grotesque when she heard Grandmother say, “Amy, Amy.” The younger woman screamed “Who is Amy? What the hell is going on, mom?” The Grandmother looked at her daughter, and said “She used to be your friend honey, don’t you remember?” Susan felt confused, angry. Then her eyes caught the form of her dead child on the ground, and she fell to her knees. Looking through the words on the glass to the face of the thing in front of her, wanting to harm it, kill it, like it had done to her daughter, the memory hit. A little girl in white, “Want to play at my house?” And the voice of her reply as a little girl, spoken to this same mirror, “I can’t. Mommy will be angry.” Memories suddenly resurfaced of her telling her mother about the girl in the glass, and having to leave when the preacher came to “clean the house of evil”.
She hadn’t seen Amy since, but the words “If you won’t come to play with me, I’ll just have to find someone else to play with, and you’ll be sorry,” echoed through her mind.
She looked at the words written in her daughter’s blood on the other side of the mirror. “I have a new toy to play with now. Sorry yet?”
The creature looked over at Susan’s sobbing sons, and asked “Want to come to play at my house? I have a new toy you can play with.”
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