The Stranger in the Mirror.
She hung up the receiver with a slam, sending it almost crashing to the linoleum floor. She could feel the blood rising in her cheeks amidst the steady hum of speech coming from the other room. “You better not be watching T.V.” She yelled into the living room from the kitchen. “I am serious Suzanna! I am not going to be the one who takes the blame…Again!… for you being out of your room…” She rounded the corner, growling and balling her hands into tight, deliberate fists.
“What if I am?” The blond haired demon said glanced up from the television to see all one hundred and twenty five pounds of sister racing towards her. Grinning through plastic fangs, the demon stretched itself lazily across the couch making the black beads around its neck jingle.
Lucy snatched the remote from red nail polished claws and shut off the T.V. “Do I have to phone her again?” Green eyes rolled up lazily under thick mascara locking Lucy’s steel blue in a menacing glare.
“Just try it.” The demon growled, scratching Lucy’s palm in an attempt to grab the remote. “Just because you’re a year older than me doesn’t mean you can tell me what to do.” It lay back smugly and stretched one foot then the other across the coffee table, hording the remote like a sunken treasure. “And besides what do I care what your mom says she’s not my mother.” The TV hummed back to life.
“Well, she’s the only mother you’ve got.” Lucy pushed Suzy’s legs off of the table. “And if I remember correctly it was your father that laid down the law about you going out this Halloween.” Lucy leaned against the skeleton on the wall. She was careful not to knock the other decorations down. She studied a Jack o lantern before continuing. “Considering what happened last time, I’m surprised you’re pushing it.” Lucy remembered the flash of red and blue and the sound of sirens from last halloween.
“That wasn’t my fault.” Suzy jumped to her feet, knocking over an electronic raven.
“Never more!” It wailed, as it’s feathered head hit the floor with a thud.
“That was Bobby who broke that pumpkin over Mr. Avery’s yard. It wasn’t me.” She collapsed against the couch and grabbed the candy bowl. “Honest” she ruffled through the chocolate bars and sweet chews, glancing up only slightly to catch Lucy shaking her head. Suzy stuck out her bottom lip…“Well at least I still get candy…” she mopped, popping several toffee chews in her mouth. Lucy just stood chuckling to herself as she remembered an orange stained Suzy being escorted to the front door.
“I didn’t do it!” Suzy exclaimed between bites as she tucked in her legs and tried to look small, and harmless. Lucy tried to hold back her laughter; all she could see was her stepsister in full she-devil costume trying to look innocent and it just wasn’t happening.
“Not too much, or you’ll be up all night.” Lucy smiled, lunging for the bowl.
“ Ah… how about no.” Suzy pulled it away laughing. Resorting to the tickle and grab, Lucy wrestled the bowl from Suzy’s grasp and laid it back on the table by the door.
Having forfeited the stash, Suzy, still red with laughter turned and faced Lucy. “So come on, let me stay out here…please?” Pleading she clasped both hands together, employing the pout lip… “Pretty please? … ”
Lucy rolled her eyes and crossed her arms. “You promise to go to bed by twelve? And look after the Halloween candy handout?”
“Yeah, yeah, sure, sure…” Suzy reached and turned up the volume. “Now Shhhhh… I’m watching…this is a great part.”
Lucy looked to the television screen; a sea creature rose from the murky depths, grabbed a poor sailor and dragged him under. “I’ll just be in my room”
Lucy turned and headed downstairs as Suzy dismissed her with a hand repeating. “Shhh… I’m watching”
Sanctuary Lucy’s bed bounced as she fell onto the red comforter. Propping herself up on an elbow she turned and hit the wake button on her alarm clock. Light classical music escaped softly into her ears as she laid back and closed her eyes. The soft lull of the flute calmed her nerves making her happily ignore the consequences of leaving Suzy alone upstairs.
She raised her arms and conducted the invisible symphony with her hands. Letting each note paint the picture of winds rustling through the leaves as autumn turned them from a rich emerald green to a dark enchanting ruby red. In her mind’s eye she could see the leaves dance in the air as they descended and could feel a gentle smile form on her lips as the piece came to a close. Ah music… how it tames the savage beast
She sat up on her knees and holding lightly onto her bed frame gazed out the window. Looking up at the moon, she grimaced. It was a full moon, and through the light drizzle of rain, daggers of light lit the eye level driveway with claw-like shadows.
Mocking herself for being silly she shuddered and she fell backwards onto the comforter. Its Halloween Lucy it’s suppose to look scary on Halloween, otherwise it wouldn’t be Halloween. Bracing herself up on her hands she glared back up at the window frame. Determined that nothing as silly as shadows were going to get the best of her, she rose to her feet and grabbed onto the window.
Tracing the shadows on the driveway back to their source, the bushes lining the yard, her eyes went wide. Detaching itself from the others, a bladed shadow clawed its way across the concreted surface and split off into daggered hands. Unable to tear her eyes from the window, she scrambled off the bed. Pressing her back against the door, she dug her nails into the wood and trembled as the shadows wept through the window frame. Lightning flashed through the sky illuminating the pitch-black gloom stretching and reaching for her across the red comforter. Stone with fear, she couldn’t move.
Laughing thunder muffled her cry as one of the shadowed claws pinned her to the door. Light headed, she grasped at the shadow in her side, her hands slick and red as she pulled it from her. Collapsing to the floor, unable to do anything but watch the shadow’s companions make their way across her carpet she uttered a silent scream.
Slithering up the walls on either side the talons inched towards her and slowly wrapped themselves around her neck in a tightening embrace. Finding herself unable to breathe, she clawed at their icy grip trying to pry them from her. Slipping slowly into darkness, she saw white branches whip by her face and heard the sound of screeching tires.
She closed her eyes.
This is not real, Lucy wake up this is not real…She felt her window explode in a shower of glass, cutting deep into her cheeks. Torrents of Rain lashed out at her from the hole in the window, drenching her from head to heel.
“Lucy! Wake Up!” She clenched her hands tightly, willing the room to return to normal. The talons loosened their grip on her throat but still held her firmly to the wall. She heard a woman screaming, a crash of metal and the sound of a horn blaring its final warning, then silence. She opened her eyes.
Released from the vision she clutched at her throat and gaped at the window, its frame still intact held unbroken glass. Her hands moved down her sweat soaked sweater to her side, there was no blood and the pain was gone. She took a deep breath and reviled in the cool air filling her lungs. Nothing’s wrong, nothing is going to hurt you…Lucy calm down. Her heart slowed, she took a few more breaths, calm down. “Nothing is going to get you, it was just your imagination.” Something pounded at her door, Lucy screamed. Whipping around to face the door she latched onto the end of her bed for dear life.
“Quit screaming.” Suzy yelled through the door. Lucy put a hand on her chest. “What do you want? ” She gasped between breaths again trying to calm herself down.
“You have to come quick.” Lucy heard the crash of glass, and the faint noise of a horn. “Please, Lucy.”
“No, no…” Lucy shook her head, propping herself further up on the comforter. The noise grew louder nearly deafening. “ It was only my imagination.”
“Come Please Lucy!” Suzy pounded on the door. “Come on! Lucy!”
Lucy shook her head again in disbelief. Lightning flashed again behind her casting the talons again across the doorframe. “No…no…no” She struggled to her feet. “It was only your imagination nothing is going to hurt you.”
The horn ceased abruptly its blare.
She glanced at the door, the knob twisting wildly. Cautiously she took a step and reached slowly to unlock the door. “Lucy!” Startled she took a deep breath and twisted the knob. “LUCY!” The door slid open.
“Who was that Lois?” Jane smiled faintly, beneath large coke bottle glasses. Her other pair had ended up in the trash, another product of the under the foot system. With two kids and her hubby anything portable ended up under foot and in the trash.
“Nothing, just my kids again.” Lois replaced the receiver and swirled back in her chair to the computer. She knew leaving the two of them alone all day was going to cause problems. “Apparently, little one pulled one of her fits and the big one didn’t know what to do…” Lois glanced over at her partner in crime, with a roll of her eyes.
“ A mother’s work is never done.” Jane laughed before pushing her glasses up and pressing her nose up against the small glowing screen. “Damn font, who said size ten was standard needs glasses.”
“You’re telling me…” Lois laughed as she finished typing a twenty-page, ten font report of her own. “Finally.” She said clicking the save button and letting out a sigh. “Now I get to go home.” She heard the faint whirl of the printer behind her. “Time to save the munchkins.” Yawning, she got up and grabbed her jacket off the back of the chair.
“You’re done all that paperwork for Mr. Poulie already?”
“Yep, home time.” Lois glanced over at an overflowing inbox on Jane’s desk. “Looks like you are going to be here awhile.” Lois reached over, shut her computer down and picked up the report from her printer. “Want me to give you a hand before I go? … Jane?” She looked over to Jane, but Jane, so absorbed in reading the font had her face pressed to the monitor and wasn’t listening.
Lois jacket in hand walked over and knocked on Jane’s wood desk to get her attention. Jane came too and looked sleepily at Lois “Huh?”
“Need some help with that before I go?” Jane had several more invoices to complete before she could even think about going home, but she knew if she told Lois that, they’d both be pulling over-time till nine.
“Yeah, Yeah get go. I’ll turn on the answering machine when I leave.” Jane smirked and stretched before resuming typing.
“Well here’s my new cell number.” Lois grabbed a pen. “If anyone calls before then phone me.” Lois placed the sticky note on Jane’s computer.
“That mean’s Jack’s home.” Not looking up from the screen, Jane hid a knowing grin as her friend headed to the door. “Well, Happy anniversary.”
“Thanks, Jane.” Lois straightened her purse on her shoulder, and opened the door. She shuddered; something’s off…She searched her purse; lipstick, cell-phone, driver’s license, car keys, No all here… She looked to her desk, the report was in her hand and she had rescheduled that appointment that her boss had had at two o’clock tomorrow for four, everything was done. Yet, she couldn’t shake the feeling that she was missing something important and shouldn’t leave just yet. Jane’s eyes glanced up through the glasses thick lenses, to see Lois standing with the door half open and her coat in one hand.
“What are you waiting for? Go feed your kids already, or you’ll end up like her” Jane pointed at a picture of a secretary hidden behind paperwork with a ball and chain attaching her foot to the desk. With thirteen secretaries on staff it was a running joke. “…You’re here…”
“Till you’re fired…” Lois finished, the joke was getting old but she laughed anyways. She waved to Jane before she opened the door all the way “See you tomorrow.” A warning bell sounded in her head as closed the door behind her.
“See you tomorrow” Jane bent down and continued the report but the lines in front of her were still a blurred mess. She wiped the screen with her sleeve, knocking the sticky note to the floor. “Stupid Computers.”
“Well, isn’t this just great.” Wiping his brow, he thought to himself silently. Why me? He kicked the car’s back tire. The rental whined as its engine cooled. Several miles from any known civilization, it had quit on him. Refusing to believe the sheer idea of getting a tow truck at this hour was impossible; he had phoned the nearest town.
“You sure you can’t come earlier? …” He muttered under his breath a curse before switching the cell phone to the other ear. “Uh? …Yeah… Dead as a door nail…” He silently rolled his eyes at the laughing full moon. “Yes, I’ve tried to restart it! I already told you the damn thing wouldn’t turn over” He moved for better reception to the front of the car. Placing an elbow on the hood he rubbed his temples as the reception cleared slightly. “…Uh huh…. Yeah… fine, how long will it take you then? ……” He turned around, leaning against the car.
“An Hour!!” He straightened, rapidly looking at his watch. “I have a plane to catch in an hour and I’m already late…. What! Maybe two?” He switched the phone again. “Damn rental.” He glared at the car, its fender curved like a grin. “Oh…no… I’m just remarking on craftsmanship…. Yes… Okay,” He sighed, collapsing against the hood.
“Thank you, bye.” He closed the receiver. “Damn.” He turned around and ruffled through his suit jacket on the hood for his address book. After a few moments he found his wife’s work number.
“Stupid Rental” He clutched the address book tightly. The phone rang…“Hope she hasn’t left yet.” He looked at the wilting roses in the back seat; he’d have to buy new ones at the airport, if… He gazed down the broken highway in front of him… when he got there.
“Come on…” he pleaded into the receiver. “Come on…” It was their anniversary and his office had scheduled a meeting with some big partners for that afternoon. He would have had just enough time to fly out, wine and dine the bosses and be home by nine but with the meeting running late…
“Come on pick up,” A slow hiss of air let loose as he kicked the back tire and another ring rang through his ears. “Great, just great…” He paced around the car opened the driver’s side door and rustled through his work papers for the rental agreement. There is no way I’m gonna pay for this, “Stupid piece of junk… Couldn’t you just work once?” The other tire let loose a deliberate whine. He slammed the car door and it clicked shut in disagreement.
“Sorry, the number you are calling could not be reached at this time, please hang up and try again.” A pre-recorded message played in his ear. “Drat, she must of left the office…” He looked down sadly at the other flat tire as the phone beeped low battery. “It’s all your fault, you know.”
The car's fender in the moonlight looked like it curved into a grin.
He reached for the door handle to get his spare battery in the glove compartment but the door was jammed. He placed the phone on the hood and began to pull with both hands. After a few jerks, he looked up at the still beeping phone then back down to the door frame letting his gaze pass over the door’s depressed lock button and his keys dangling on the wheel. “Damnit!”
He straightened, snatched his phone and looked at the power meter. There was just enough time left on it to make one last call.
Jane ignored the ringing of the phone, it was after six and the office was closed. She knew there was something that Lois wanted before she left but she couldn’t remember.... Meh…She shrugged and kept typing.
“Go away! ...” Jane waved at the phone on Lois’s desk as it continued to ring “Don’t you know that the office is closed?” It rang again. She glared at the black receiver across from her. “Don’t you dare ring again, I have to get this done or my butt is in a sling.” It rang defiance. “Fine, have it your way.” A slow grin crept across her face as she reached for the alarm clock on her desk. “I’ll just turn on the radio.”
Even over the radio, the phone was a nuisance and to make it stop Jane saved her work, got up and picked up the damn phone. This better be important or I’m going to give whoever is on the other line a piece of my mind. “Doodley mortgaging and housing, Jane speaking, how may I help you.” She said sweetly…
“Jane, this is Jack. Has Lois left?” The cell phone beeped.
“Yeah, just a few minutes ago.”
“Why? What’s wrong?” Jane took a seat.
“I’m going to miss my flight and have to catch the next one, so I won’t be in until well after eleven.” Beep…
“What happened?” She settled into Lois’s chair. Jane could hear him cursing in the background.
“Car trouble.” She heard a loud crash through the receiver.
“What was that?”
“The hub cap.” He kicked the piece of metal down the highway. “Anyways, could you phone her and let her know.” The cell phone crackled and buzzed.
“Yeah, sure, but why can’t you…” The line went dead. “Phone her.” Jane replaced the receiver and went back to her desk to look for Lois’s cell number.
Lois grabbed at her jacket collar shuddering again as she located her car in the poorly lit parking lot. There was something to say about having you’re office in the middle of nowhere, the scenery looks a lot scarier in the dark.
She fumbled with her purse looking for her keys. She found them by the time she found ‘the little red wagon.’ It’s dirty red hue stood out roughly against Jane’s bright blue focus. She fiddled with the lock before getting in, nearly dropping her keys in the puddle under the front tire. She tossed her purse and the report on the passenger seat and buckled in. Before pulling out she took one last glance at the office. The long reaching shadows stretching across its red brick surface seemed to drag her back inside, urging her to remain there in the parking lot a bit longer.
“Something’s not right.” She took a fleeting look at her watch as her hand rotated on the wheel… “Drat. I’m going to be late.”
Lois figured herself a fairly good driver; more often than not even her husband didn’t grumbled when she got into the driver’s seat of their station wagon, but something made her hesitate a moment before laying her foot to the petal. She looked up at the sky barely seeing the moon, full and daunting through the dark clouds still hovering overhead. She shuddered, the light through the trees made the shadows themselves seem like talons griping at the road. She shrugged the image off and sped through the murky puddles.
Eager to get home she ignored the muddy film on her windshield from them as she drove. She’d still had to make a rush to the airport to pick up Jack and doubted they’d get home in enough time to tuck the kids in. Speeding up sent more water flying through the air. Specks of rain started to fall, pummeling the car with torrents each harder than the last. She flipped on the wipers and leaned closer to the glass to see. She concentrated on the flashing yellow line to her left, using it as a guide while the trees to her right grasped out at the car.
Dread, like a snake coiled in Lois’s mind, she hated driving in storms, something about the way thunder heralded lightning disturbed her. Lightning, she learned as a child revealed much that the mind did not want to know. She glared at the road, taking her mind off her childhood fears, before extending her hand and turning on the radio.
Light classical music escaped softly into her ears and though rain barreled down harder on her windshield she could picture winds rustling through the leaves as autumn turned them from a rich emerald green to a dark enchanting ruby red. She let a gentle smile form on her lips as the piece came to a close.
The phone rang.
Startled, the cell phone slipped from her hands bouncing of the rubber floor mat under her chair. She reached down, taking her eyes off the road…
The car fishtailed as it bounded down the steep slope of the embankment. Like a spinning top from hell, it spun, tossing the loose papers in the car in her face. She clawed them away as she struggled to maintain control, but the demon insisted. Turning violently to the right; it dove into the ditch plowing away shrubbery like butter taking her along for the ride; trees smashed against the sides playing Ping-Pong with the doors as she latched onto the wheel. Knuckles turning white she stared at the incoming birch and waited for the roller coaster to end. Her head hit the steering as the tree bit deep into the fender, shattering the glass around her. Branches pierced the cabin pinning Lois to her chair. Her hands came away red as she clawed at the branch in her side.
She saw a specter move above her in the rain but, blood loss had already started too cloud her vision making the figure’s silhouette fate and distant. She raised her arms trying to protect herself as two black gloves reached for her. She screamed as she lost consciousness and collapsed against the wheel. The single blare of the horn rang through the chilled night like a scalpel.