The mirror is liquid.
Images shift, distort, move.
I didn’t know that when I bought it in the discount section of Marshall’s. Then it was just an ordinary mirror with a gilded frame that I believed would lend a touch of elegance to my crummy apartment.
Now it is alive.
It distracts me when I am trying to sleep, because there are lights in it that I can’t turn off.
So I haven’t been sleeping. Even when I am able to fall asleep in spite of the mirror, I have strange dreams.
I am dancing with one man, then another, and then another. I feel the warmth from their hands on the small of my back as they take turns leading me across the floor. I feel the weight of my skirts thrown outward by the centrifugal force of my spins. I look down, and see that I am wearing lace, velvet, chiffon, or satin. I always wear gloves in the dream, and jeweled slippers. The lace makes me itch, the tight bodices makes me sweat, and the corset makes it difficult to breathe. My hair is heavy; it makes my neck ache. The dance is unrelenting.
When I wake in the morning, I don’t feel I’ve slept at all.
This goes on for weeks, then months. I am losing weight, missing work, or falling asleep at my desk. I am afraid I will lose my job.
I go to a shrink, and tell her about my dreams. I don’t tell her about the mirror.
How do you feel in the dream? She asks.
I think about that. Tired, is all I can come up with.
Not physically, she says, emotionally. Are you afraid? Are you sad? Are you having fun dancing? Is it pleasant or unpleasant?
I think some more. I feel out of control.
The therapist writes out of control on her yellow notepad. Tell me more about that.
We talk for a while and she suggests sleeping pills until I can discover the underlying issue behind my dreams.
I try the sleeping pills. They keep me from noticing the mirror, but they are ineffective at silencing the dream.
I go to a psychic.
His office walls are covered in dream catchers. I specialize in dreams, he’d told me over the phone. I didn’t tell him about the mirror either.
You are dream-walking, he says, after I describe the dreams to him. Do you have a cat?
No. The psychic looks at my palm, and consults his runes.
You need a guide. Get a cat. The cat will guide you on your dream-walk so you do not exhaust yourself.
I give him $200.00.
I don’t want a cat, so I borrow a friend’s cat for the night. He is all black; I thought that might help. He runs from me when I open his carrier, and gets stuck under the sofa. He will not go into my bedroom, and when I carry him there, he howls angrily, scratches my arms until I let him go, runs back into the living room, and gets stuck under the sofa again.
I don’t take the sleeping pills that night. I have the dream again, and when I wake, the cat is still stuck under the sofa. I give him back to my friend.
When I tell my friend that it didn’t work, he offers to help. Let me stay the night, he says. I’ll watch what you’re doing while you sleep. Maybe that will help you understand what’s going on.
I agree, although I don’t think it will work.
That night, I wear new pajamas, so my friend doesn’t know that I usually sleep in nothing but old underwear. I make him coffee. He takes his coffee into the bedroom and sits on a chair by my bed.
As I drift off to sleep, I notice him noticing the mirror. I hadn’t told him that part. He looks afraid.
I have the same dream, but this time my friend is in it. He is always behind me, calling to me, but I can’t hear him, and the dance makes me turn from him again and again.
When I wake, he is gone. The coffee cup is on the floor by my bed, the coffee spilled and dried. I look for him in the rest of the house. He isn’t there. I call his phone. He doesn’t answer, but I hear a phone ringing.
The noise is coming from my room. I look everywhere, but I don’t see his phone. The ringing stops, and I call him again. This time, I stand in the center of the room and close my eyes. I point my finger out in front of me and spin around slowly. I stop and point in the direction my ears tell me the ringing is coming from.
I open my eyes, and I am pointing at the mirror.
I walk over to the mirror, and look carefully at everything it shows. I notice that even though the chair in my room is empty, the chair in the mirror has something on it. I can’t see all of the chair, so I take the mirror off the wall. I set it on the ground and hold it out in front of me with one arm, and point it toward the chair.
The chair in the mirror shows my friend. Someone has cut his throat, and the blood has soaked the collar of his t-shirt, the front of his t-shirt, and the top of his jeans. His head is resting on the back of the chair, and so I can see the wound in his neck gaping. I can see the skin, the muscle, and the trachea. I think I see arteries, but it is not deep enough for me to see the bone. His skin is pale white, and if I could touch him, he would be stone cold.
I put the mirror back on the wall so I can’t see my friend anymore.
I take a hammer from the junk drawer in the kitchen. I walk into my bedroom, and I smash the mirror into a thousand pieces. I try to throw the pieces of mirror away, and badly cut myself doing it. I stand there for a while watching the blood ooze out of the cuts on my fingers and drip down my arm before I pass out.
My neighbor finds me and calls an ambulance. How did this happen? She asks. I don’t answer.
Later, after I return home with bandaged hands, I find the mirror has been cleaned up and thrown away.
That night, for the first time in ages, I sleep like the dead.
When my friend is reported missing, the police contact me. You were the last one to see him, they tell me.
I say, he left in the middle of the night when I was sleeping and I don’t know where he went. I tried to call him, but his phone went straight to voicemail. I have not seen him since.
When they search my apartment, there is no evidence to the contrary.
At least I don’t have trouble sleeping any more.
By day Erin Michelle Jendras helps students at her local community college decide on a career path. By night she mostly sleeps, but can also be found writing short stories and poetry. By day or by night, Erin’s goal is to uncover emotional truths that merge the magical with the mundane, and turn a light on in your soul. You can find out more about Erin at http://www.linkedin.com/in/erinjendras/.