Suggested Audio Candy
 Javier Navarette “Mirrors”
 Rodney Ronquillo “Shadow in The Mirror”
 Frederik Wiedmann “Mirrors”
Sandy Jessup was a self-confessed hoarder. The rent on her three bedroom apartment was extortionate and, considering that she lived alone, it seemed ludicrous to the precious few friends she did have that she paid such a hefty premium. She had come into some money several years ago after a messy divorce from her investment banker husband Darren and lived comfortably as a result of him buying her out of their family home. Their relationship had broken down on account of her fixation with antiques. He was something of a minimalist and Sandy, on the other hand, loved nothing more than a bargain. While their parting of ways had saddened her, she found comfort in all manner of ornate furniture and the like. Over the years it had become an obsession, particularly once the settlement came through. She would travel far and wide to visit antique stores and seek out any wares with a little history attached. She could hardly move for junk although, what others would consider an eyesore, she found fascinating and steeped in history.
“It’s getting to where I don’t know where to move in this place” Sandy’s best friend Lauren remarked. She came over every Thursday for coffee and had done ever since the split became final “Do you ever worry that you might be getting a little carried away with this collecting lark?”
“You spend nearly a hundred bucks a month on gym membership right?” Sandy asked, pouring her friend a decaf.
“Yeah but that’s different”
“Well I actually use it for one. I go to the gym every other day and it gives me a sense of satisfaction to keep myself fit. I dropped two dress sizes in the past two months”
“That’s great hun. Good for you”
“But?” Lauren knew a but was imminent as she had known Sandy since school and was fully aware of her stubbornness.
“But that’s not me. Come on, you’ve got to understand that right?”
“Well…yeah. I get it. But what I don’t get is how surrounding yourself with discarded garbage can actually make you happy. I mean, people get rid of this shit for a reason”
“They do yes. It’s because they have no idea of the value”
“Value? I’m sorry sweet but I don’t see this lot fetching a particularly handsome price at auction and, besides, you’re such a hoarder. You’d never get rid of it anyway”
“That’s because I know what it’s worth. I’m not talking about money. Darren had plenty of that and you saw him. He was a miserable bastard”
“Granted. I think I only ever saw him smile three times in the entire time I knew him”
“That’s what I’m saying. This stuff actually gives me pleasure. More than he gave me in six years of marriage”
“At some point you have got to move on. He left a long time ago and all this isn’t going to make you happy in the long run”
“You see that is where we differ. I’m not acting out. I really enjoy grabbing a bargain. It’s just me, you of all people should know that by now”
“I’m banging my head against a brick wall here aren’t I?”
“Fraid so. It’s sweet that you take such a vested interest in my happiness but all of this that you see, it’s all me. You have your iPad and smart phone and I have my vintage gramophone. But I’m no less contented”
Lauren wasn’t sure whether to push any farther but considering they were engaging in such a frank discussion, she couldn’t resist “You’re a thirty year old spinster. I haven’t seen you out of baggy knitwear for as far back as I remember and it’s three years since you last went on a date” she remarked.
“I’m not interested in men”
“That’s what I’m saying. That shit isn’t normal. Underneath all those ill-fitting cardigans and carpet slippers is a right little firecracker. You used to turn heads everywhere we went and I was jealous of the attention you got if I’m honest”
“And yet I have never been happier”
“You keep telling yourself that and maybe one day I’ll believe you”
“You’re actually busting my balls aren’t you?”
“It’s not my intention. I just think it’s a bit sad is all”
“Maybe to you. But I honestly haven’t ever felt more content”
Lauren decided it was high time she cut her losses “Fair enough. You can’t say I didn’t try” she said.
“Thank you for your efforts” Sandy grabbed her hands and looked into her eyes without distraction “But I’m fine. We’re just different”
With that, there was a ring at the door.
“Excellent” Sandy enthused.
“Oh my sweet lord. You have company? You? The hermit crab. Actual human interaction?”
“Don’t get too excited. I think that’s my mirror”
“Of course. Something to put on your make up with” Lauren quipped sardonically.
“Joke all you like but you’re gonna want to see this” Sandy replied, making her way to the front door to intercept her fervently awaited delivery.
“Goody. A mirror. Haven’t seen one of them before”
Sandy signed for the consignment, thanked the delivery driver, and commenced dragging the full length mirror through to the kitchen.
“It’s Elizabethan. Apparently it used to belong to royalty back in the sixteenth century”
“I’m sure they found it delightful. But, Sandy, come on. Look at it. It’s beyond hideous”
“How can you say that? Take another look at it. Study the intricate design”
“You’re right. My God I think I just gushed in my panties”
“Sarcastic bitch” Sandy joked “You’re so pessimistic. This is a rare find, it took forever for me to track down”
“And aren’t you thrilled that you did?”
“Affirmative. This baby will look simply divine next to my grandfather clock”
“Simply divine. Now I know you’ve lost the plot. Would you like me to fetch a glass of water for your dentures love?”
“Mock all you want. But my day couldn’t get any better at this point”
“That’s what depresses me most” Lauren mumbled under her breath but didn’t have the heart to harp on any further as, admittedly, Sandy appeared genuinely beside herself on receipt of this latest monstrosity.
“I think I’m going to go now. Give you and your regal mirror better chance to get acquainted”
No response. Sandy was fixated, running her fingers around the frame with intense enchantment.
“Thanks for the brew. Same time next week?”
“Uh huh” Sandy was on auto-pilot as she replied and couldn’t take her eyes off the work of art she had acquired for an absolute steal.
“I’ll let myself out then” Lauren added.
“I’m there” Sandy leapt up, realizing that her hostess skills were faltering badly “Sorry babe. It’s just so beautiful. I’m thrilled can’t you see?”
“Well I hope you and your mirror are insanely happy together. Insane being the operative word” Lauren couldn’t resist that final dig “I’ll see you next week. Oh! Almost forgot. I’ll be a little late as Charley has her nativity at four”
“I’ll be here. Not going anywhere”
“No you’re not are you?”
Sandy waved her friend off and returned to the kitchen to salivate further over her new acquisition.
“You want the good news or the bad news first?”
Sandy had known Graham Richardson for a number of years after running into him at a flea market in Saugerties, NY. he was a museum curator and well-versed when it came to vintage furnishings and the like. She trusted his judgement and fed from his shared enthusiasm for items with such rich historical implication.
“Let’s start with the good shall we?”
“Okay. It is indeed well over five hundred years old. From the placement of the signature and, should everything you have told me be correct, then I would say that it was made around 1584. A vintage speculum like this would likely fetch tens of thousands if you were to take it to auction. How much did you say you paid for it?”
“Eighty bucks plus change”
“Remarkable. You’ve outdone yourself with this one Sandy. If you sit on it for long enough then you may well have yourself a rather tidy little nest egg”
“So what’s the bad news then?” she inquired.
“This was a one-off. Arthur Askwith II, I believe. He only ever made this and then died in a blaze. His entire family too. The mirror changed hands many times but everywhere it ended up was struck by tragedy”
“Well it may be a load of mumbo jumbo and probably is. But you may have just unwittingly stumbled across a cursed artifact”
“Graham. You know I’m not superstitious”
“Then why do you collect this stuff? You want to know about its heritage so why not embrace it. When was the last time you opened an umbrella indoors?”
“That doesn’t prove a thing. It doesn’t rain inside dumbass”
“Okay bad example. You believe in arch-fiends right?”
“What has that got to do with anything”
“Just humor me”
“Not particularly no”
“Well you should do. Everything has a past and residual energy can remain long after a physical shell has decomposed. Many believe that spirits can linger and transfer that energy into inanimate objects. Your mirror is one such item if reports are accurate.I’m just saying”
“Well I’m not about to lose any sleep over it if that’s what you’re getting at”
Graham chuckled “Has anybody ever told you that you’re one stubborn customer?”
“Funny you should say that. Yes, just a couple of hours ago actually and what do you want. I’m an Aries”
“Well look. I’ve got to go. I’m in the middle of a bidding war for a broach reportedly worn by Mary Queen of Scots. It’s crazy what you find on eBay. I’ll speak to you soon alright?”
“Thanks Graham. And don’t worry. If any djinn turn up I won’t mention that we had this conversation”
“I much prefer the term eccentric”
Sandy replaced the handset and returned to meticulously cleaning her new mirror.
Sleeping had never been a pursuit that Sandy struggled with. She was ordinarily fast asleep within a minute of her head making contact with the pillow case and tonight was no different. She was aided by the soothing rhythmic tick of dozens of ornate clocks, particularly the center piece in her hallway which tied the whole apartment together. Precious little would wake her once she hit deep slumber; a firing squad could shoot off rounds in her boudoir and she likely wouldn’t come to.
In the hallway, alongside the grandfather clock, her mirror offered an authentic reflection of the surrounding area. As the clock struck midnight and commenced its tuneful chime, the mirror began to react. The brass frame began to emit a dark liquid that appeared to be fresh blood. At first it was only a faint trickle but, by the time the twelfth chime had sounded, it was streaming southward and had began collecting in a pool on her carpet, where it instantly began to coagulate. The reflection hadn’t changed; the room had the same appearance as it did before. But something began to stir in the darkest recesses, seemingly behind the glass. It was a tall, gaunt figure; clad in a long black overcoat and wearing a filthy looking top hat. He began to shuffle forward from the blackness and the cleaver in his hand which he held by his side became visible. His skin was horribly disfigured, a collection of extensive burn tissue and agonizing looking abrasions. His sunken eyes were as black as all hell and screaming despair, desolation and malevolent intent.
A fresh audio began to fill the air as his cane pressed down against the blood-sodden carpet and he stepped through to the entrance way. It was distant screams, the sound of a family in anguish. With each step they began to grow more audible until which point as they appeared to be coming from all around Sandy’s bedroom. Not so much as a flicker; she was totally out for the count thus, when the shadow of Arthur Askwith II fell over her sleeping body, she carried on slumbering oblivious to the threat. He stood over her and raised his idle hand to introduce his rusted blade; running it from her haunch to her lower neck as his eyes began to glow with murderous relish. After sufficient time as he had perused her from top to toe; he returned his weapon to his side and began making his way back towards the mirror, leaving Sandy none the wiser as to his attendance.
Sandy placed the bowl of tepid water beside her newly bled carpet blemish and commenced scrubbing hard. Considering she had consumed a bottle and a half of Shiraz the night before, she naturally assumed she had gotten unnecessary and had a spillage. She didn’t question the consistency of the fluid which had dried into the fabric by this point, and instead, carried on giving her very best elbow grease in attempt to raise the stain.
As she reached for the soapy water to wring out her cloth; she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror and decided to give it her full attention. She sat fixated for a moment and everything appeared synchronized with the reality around her. Then, just as she was about to turn back, she noticed a vague dark spot over by the stairwell about three yards back. That wasn’t there before she thought and span around to investigate. The patch of blackness was nowhere to be seen. Soundly befuddled, she cast her eye over the mirror image once again and let out a vague gasp as she discovered the shadow was still very much present. Her trusty duster lay beside her at the foot of the mirror and she began polishing the glass to confirm to herself that it was purely dirt on the reflective surface. Strangely, she found herself drawn into the blackened void and began leering at it with sudden overwhelming fascination. As her eyes became accustomed to the darkness, her land line rang out and broke her concentration.
“Yes” she snapped.
“I have to commend you on your wonderful warm welcome” came the voice at the other end. It was Graham.
“Hi Graham. Sorry”
“Menstruation?” he jested.
“Not until Wednesday/Thursday no”
“So who shat in your morning oats then?”
“No one. But I’m guessing you’re about to take a dump on brunch”
“Just checking in on you. Have to make sure you haven’t been commandeered by succubi, you understand”
“Did you win it?”
“Nah. I was outbid with thirty seconds left on the clock by some infidel in Bahrain”
“More importantly dear…how’s the mirror? Noticed anything untoward yet?”
Sandy knew that Graham already had his knives sharpened so decided not to give him further ammunition.
“Nope. All my limbs are intact and I haven’t been graced with your demon’s presence as yet”
“Listen Sandy. I know you don’t want to hear this but I’ve been doing some digging around”
“Always the sleuth”
“The last place it was seen was in Philadelphia in the early nineties”
“I hope it claimed back its air miles”
“Can you just be serious for one minute?”
“So you can tell me about a possessed mirror. Of course”
“Milton White. That was the guy’s name”
“So he slaughtered his entire family while they were asleep. It was a real bloodbath. Chopped them up into tiny little pieces and then calmly called 911 and reported the whole thing. I’m surprised you didn’t read about it, it made the national news”
“Oh yeah. Because I keep right up to date with current affairs”
“Jesus you’re cantankerous. Just take care alright. Everything new I find out about this mirror concerns me more. It was packed into storage and forgotten about. Someone must’ve snagged it from the warehouse and now it’s found itself in your hands”
“I’m just lucky I guess”
“I hope so. Truly I do. I don’t know how you can be so nonchalant about the whole thing. If that were me I’d have it out of the house before something really fucked up occurred”
“It’s a fucking mirror”
“Indeed it is yes. But what you seem to conveniently overlook is the fact that this fucking mirror has had far more than seven years of bad luck. I’m pretty bothered about this if I’m honest”
“So sweet. Thank you Graham but I’m fine I assure you. A little hung over but keeping myself away from the clutches of evil. Thanks for the history lesson, it’s been rather enlightening. But I really have to go now”
She hung up the receiver before he could muster a response and returned back to the hallway, duster in hand.
It was just shy of 7 pm on Thursday and it had appeared that Lauren may not show after all. Sandy was busy polishing her mirror as she had done increasingly over the past seven days when the doorbell rang and her contented solitude was broken.
“I’m so sorry I’m late. You know how it is” Lauren pushed past and headed straight for the kitchen as Sandy closed the door behind her friend and headed off to join her.
“Get the kettle on” Lauren wasted no time in putting in her customary order and warmed her hands on the radiator as Sandy kept up appearances.
“Damn it’s cold out there. My nipples have grown their own nipples. Jesus. What is that Godawful stench?”
“I can’t smell anything”
“Then you must like the aroma of burning flesh. It smells like somebody died in here”
“I think you’ve been out in the cold too long” Sandy joked.
“I think you’ve been cooped up in here too long” Lauren replied. “Now about that coffee. Throw in an extra spoonful as I need something heady to combat the smell of dead man’s charred asshole”
Sandy shuffled over to the refrigerator to retrieve the milk.
“Are you limping?” Lauren quizzed.
“It’s nothing. An old gymnastics injury” Sandy replied “It plays up in the winter. I’m sure I’ve told you that”
Can’t say I’ve ever noticed it before” Lauren remarked.
Lauren leaned across and took another look at the gaudy collector’s piece, rolling her eyes as it was absolutely hideous in her opinion, not that that counted for much with Sandy. She turned her chair around so as to blank it out as it was starting to make her feel distinctly uneasy.
“I do worry about you Sandy” she remarked.
“Well don’t. I’m fine. Never happier. When are you going to realize that you can’t teach a cat how to act like a dog?”
“Just fulfilling my duties. Somebody has to give a shit and I figure that may as well be me considering I was head bridesmaid at your wedding and all”
“Your cross to bear”
“Yeah something like that. Don’t want to rush you dear but I’m parched. I haven’t had a moment to myself today and the blood is returning to my caffeine stream”
“It’s coming. God you’re needy”
Sandy left the kettle to continue its percolation and walked through the hallway to visit the latrine by the front entrance. As she passed the mirror, it began to bleed once again. Once she was out of sight, and with Lauren still facing the opposite direction, an antiquated cane protruded from the glass, settling down on the sopping carpet. The grandfather clock began its hourly chime and Arthur Askwith II began his short pilgrimage the handful of meters to behind where Lauren was seated and still blissfully unaware. The chorus disguised his labored movements and she was too busy daydreaming of coffee beans to notice his elongated shadow as it fell behind her. As the final chime rang out, he lifted his cleaver and grabbed her by the scruff of hair on her crown, wrenching her head back violently. Before she could facilitate a scream, the blade was pushed down against her larynx, puncturing the soft skin, and releasing a jet of warm, sticky fluid which continued to jettison as the artery emptied. Her eyes were fixed on him in absolute terror as the life drained from her and, as he released her and she slumped down onto the kitchen table, he began his return journey.
As he ultimately arrived at the mirror which had acted as his portal to this plane, he stopped for a second to admire his reflection. The person staring back at him was Sandy. She was grasping his bloody weapon and caked in her friend’s blood but her eyes were sunken and lacking in any remorse for the atrocity she had just committed. After a minute or so of basking in her own visual echo, she grabbed the duster from the bureau behind her, knelt down, and continued polishing her most prized possession.
Truly, Clearly, Really, Sincerely,
Keeper of the Crimson Quill
Copyright: Crimson Quill: Savage Vault Enterprises 2015