I was never a particularly cute kid. I don’t recall ever being held by my relatives as I said hello and being complemented for being a striking toddler. So when I found the mirror in my aunt’s basement at the age of six, my parents didn’t seem to understand why I was so entranced with it. It wasn’t a fairly remarkable mirror either. The frame was a rusty copper tone that only held a few specks of rotting golden paint that once used to cover it completely. The mirror itself had blotches of grey and yellow that covered the hair-like cracks running through the edges. There was nothing beautiful about it but for some reason I was never able to shake away that spell it had over me. But regardless of whether I was deemed cute enough to gaze at my reflection, my aunt allowed me to take it home. My mother passed a cotton rag over the crystal and showered it with an ill-smelling liquid until it turned clear. My dad hung it over my door with two new nails.
It was at twelve forty-three a.m. that I woke up to go to the bathroom and saw her. At fist, I thought it was only the effect of waking up so quickly, a dream that had crawled its way into reality. But when she blinked, for some reason that movement of her eyelids pulled me to realize that she wasn’t a dream. I touched the cold crystal and she jolted back. I don’t think we spoke that night, but I was so tired I wouldn’t have recalled even if we had spoken.
I saw her every night after that. We would just stare at each other for an hour or so before I returned to my bed.
When I turned seven, I had grown curious of her. She was like a doll to me, a decoration
that appeared one day and did nothing but adorn my room. I caught a bad cold that winter, one that turned into pneumonia as Christmas rolled around the corner. I was bed ridden for three weeks. The day I almost died was the day she first spoke to me. This time, it was at one thirty-two in the morning when my fever awoke me. The girl looked into my eyes and moved. It wasn’t the blinking or breathing I was used to. It was a soft movement coming from her arm. She touched the mirror, pressed her hand against it and breathed on it. Her breath was cold as ice. She asked me why I was sweating. I was too tired to reply and too sick to realize it was the first time I had head her voice. It wasn’t what I was expecting although I wasn’t sure what I was expecting. Maybe something melodic or evangelic. I was surprised to find that, just like the mirror, her voice was completely unremarkable. It even cracked a bit. She tilted her head and asked if I was going to go away. Confused, I said I wasn’t moving away. Not move away, she corrected, go away. The way she said it, so accepting of it, I knew she meant to ask if I was going to die. I didn’t respond. She asked me to come to the mirror but my legs hurt too much to stand. She tapped the glass and said not to fall asleep. I don’t know if she was there for the rest of the night or it was just her voice that accompanied me. My eyes were shut for the rest of the night but each time I was falling asleep, she’d tap the glass and ask me something. Then she’d keep tapping the crystals until I answered. She asked odd questions about my fears, how I thought I would die, what makes me suffer, who I feared losing. Then morning came and she stopped asking. The light of the morning was enough to keep me awake. My mom found me at the brink of death and took me to the hospital.
Had I fallen asleep that night, I would have died.
She knew it and she saved my life.
When I returned to my house, she was there, in the reflection of the night. I asked her why she kept me awake. She said it wasn’t time yet, that she didn’t want me to leave yet. We shared our first conversation.
What is your name? I asked.
I don’t have one. She replied. What is your name?
Thomas. I said. Do you live in the mirror?
No. Do you?
No. I live here.
Where is here?
I went on to describe the house that night. The creaking floor boards, the rotting paint, the high ceilings that seemed to hide a secret of their own, but to me, none of it seemed scary but rather just mysterious. The night after that, I told her about the red flowers that grew near the back wall and how from the porch you could see the woods. We talked everyday for a month or so. I did most of the talking, describing the forest, my school, my family, my friends. When I asked about her, he said there was nothing to tell. After a while, our conversations grew shorter and shorter. Some nights we talked, some we didn’t, some I slept through and sometimes we just stared at each other.
I noticed that she began to age with me. Her white gown grew longer as she grew taller. She was not a friend exactly, more like a confidant. She disappeared the night I had my first girlfriend over but came back the night after. I wrote songs about her, although for some reason they always sounded melancholic.
I met another girl at school, one who sang the songs I wrote. Her name was Emily. I met her when I was thirteen and we became best friends. We tried to form a band. At fist it was just me in the guitar and her in the vocals, but her two brothers soon joined us and started to play my songs. When I showed Emily the song I wrote about the girl in the mirror, Emily asked me why I wrote such sad songs. I didn’t think they were sad. They just weren’t cheery but not completely void of happiness.
When I was sixteen, my aunt came to visit us. She went into my room and as soon as she saw the mirror, she laughed. She remembered that I was at my uncle’s funeral when I found the mirror. Somehow, I had managed to find a picture of him in his casket and I was holding on to it when I asked for the mirror. I didn’t remember that. She began to cry. I wasn’t sure why.
I was about to graduate when Emily decided to come over. My parents were gone for the weekend. We practiced a few songs we hadn’t performed in years. When we were done, Emily pulled down my guitar down and drew close. She told me she was going to do something for me that I would like. She pushed me onto the bed and kissed my neck. I told her I didn’t feel that way about her. She kept going. I tried to push her off but she said that if I did that, she’d say I beat her.
About an hour later, she got up and left. The night fell and the girl in the mirror appeared. She stared into my eyes for a moment. I got off the bed and walked to the mirror. My hands reached out to the crystal. She stepped back. I never touched the crystal but I was so close. I fell onto my knees and cried. I don’t know how long I cried. I talked to the girl every day after that until I graduated and Emily moved away.
I fell very ill by nineteen. My parents took me to a hospital and I got my diagnosis. I didn’t understand how three letters could make me feel so weak. I told my parents about Emily but I told them I had started it. I guess I was afraid of the truth.
Some nights, I could swear the girl had found her way out of the mirror and next to my bed. But it wasn’t possible. She always lived in the mirror. She did talk to me more often. Sometimes she said I could cut the mirror with a knife and go with her, but I never did do it although many times I was tempted to. I never did go to college. I worked at a bar as a singer. I wrote about her much more than before. The people at the bar seemed to like it. Perhaps that is why I never had the courage to grab the knife.
The day the doctor told me the dreaded three letters turned into four, she looked beautiful. Her pale face glowed like the moon and her dark hair seemed like silk. I told her I thought I loved her. She shook her head and said that it wasn’t called love, that there was another word for it but she couldn’t remember it.
I got sicker each night. My head hurt, my body burned, my lungs could barely keep up. Then one night, I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t get off my bed. I couldn’t think. I knew that night would never end for me. Then, she tapped the glass. She said there was no pain in her side of the mirror and told me to touch the glass. I asked her if it was time yet and she said it is always too early and always too late.
I stood up. My legs didn’t hurt anymore. I wasn’t afraid. I was ready. I looked into her eyes and told her that she was the only thing I’ve ever loved. “Thanatos,” she said, “That’s the word.” She reached out. I touched the glass and stepped into t