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Looking Glass This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

I’m standing next to the empty fireplace of my former home. It looks different somehow, not the image my memory recollects. The once richly furnished living room now hangs in poor tatters. The floor is bare and stripped, coated with a fine layer of dust. Shards of glass lay everywhere. A little off the side I can make out a family portrait hanging lopsided, solitary on a dirty wall. The faces look faintly familiar, yet the names evade me. What has happened?

Footsteps sound from the dining room and I jump, startled. A woman enters. She’s a skeleton in a grimy, torn shirt a few sizes too big. I guess she looks to be around thirty, but the prominent lines of fatigue suggest an older age. I duck into the fireplace quickly so she doesn’t see me. Curious, I watch her.

The woman scans the room. Her green eyes fall on a squarish object lying in a corner. Her breath catches and she rushes to pick it up. It’s a leather bound copy of Anne of Green Gables, my favorite book. The bandits who had raided the house surely didn’t have an appreciation for well-written literature. But this woman pores over the book hungrily, almost as if she’d never seen sunlight before. The moment passes and she closes her green eyes, clutching the book to her heart.

I wonder if I should intercept, so I clear my throat loudly. The woman’s eyes fly open and she cries out. Does she see me? For a moment, I’m convinced that she’s seen me, but no. It’s something out the window behind me that captures her attention.

The book is forgotten and the woman sweeps past me, a swift movement that rustles my pale hair gently. She stares outside the window. It’s nothing much – I’ve seen it too many a time. The streets are dark and dirty, the abandoned houses boarded up or torn apart. An occasional group of mourners come by now and then. That’s what is left of the world.

The woman steps gingerly out the window, avoiding the sharp bits of broken glass. She walks away from the house. She should know better. But I still follow her.

She crosses the street in quick strides. I hesitate before stepping off the sidewalk to carefully evaluate our surroundings. The place is deserted. The sun is setting.

“Mary?” the woman whispers softly. She kneels down next to a humped shape lying motionless on the pavement. “Oh, Mary. Please, no…” She reaches to touch the body.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

The woman’s hand freezes. We both whirl around to see a man lounging a few feet away. He looks thin, but not so to indicate starvation. His eyes are a translucent grey, unnerving and penetrating. An unlit cigarette is tucked behind his ear.

The woman recovers. “Who – who are you?”

The man laughs, deep and throaty. “No one you know. Would that be your friend there?” He jerks an unshaven chin toward the dead figure.

The woman winces. “My sister, actually. The last time I saw her was…” She trails off.

“December 21st,” the man finishes, looking unfazed. “2012.”

“Exactly.” She shudders. “I never thought it would happen.”

“Some things are inevitable.” The man’s tone holds no sympathy. His steely eyes find the dead body again. It’s quiet a moment. Wind whistles throughout the deserted neighborhood. I wonder if I should be getting back.

I start to leave, turning away. The interaction between the two is nothing but dull. When the man speaks again, it takes me a moment to realize it’s directed to me.

“Don’t leave,” he says.

I slowly turn back, my eyes calculating. “Are you talking to me?”

“Why wouldn’t I be?” says the man, casually taking a step toward me.

I advance a step as well. “Do you know me?”

The woman’s eyes are confused now, her pretty head swinging back and forth between the man and me. But she doesn’t see me. Too bad.

“I do now,” he answers, and begins walking toward me. His paces are light and graceful. “Why don’t you show yourself to our friend here?”

The woman visibly pales. Ah. Little could she know.

“I don’t think that would be a good idea,” I decline demurely.

The man slips a lighter from his worn leather vest and reaches for the cigarette tucked behind his ear. Slowly, he flicks it so the fire flares. He raises the lighter as if to ignite the cigarette, but instead he narrowly misses, and the fire catches his thumb. The flames go right through. His image falters an instant. Like a hologram.

The smile on my face morphs into paroxysms of laughter. “Oh,” I say moments later, drying my eyes. “I get it.”

“Thought you would.”

Suddenly, I feel something terrible for the woman. Her green eyes are wide with mortal fear, but that admirable ounce of bravely keeps her rooted to the spot.

“I’m not quite sure…” I let the thought trail.

“Don’t worry.” He hastens to reassure me. “You’re strong enough, trust me.”

I nod. “Thanks.”

And so I float toward the woman steadily, calling in the night air as I proceed further. The sky darkens, adding in another effect. Her green eyes are scared. Very, very scared.

She looks to the man for help, but he’s unexpectedly vanished. I can almost hear her heart hammering. The sweetness of fear, the delicious coldness, excruciating agony…

My hand brushes her shoulder. She gasps and jerks away, as if she’s plunged into ice water – I know how that feels. I laugh softly, drunken with the life, the spirit burning within her.

I settle into the dead body on the floor. Ah, there it is. My heart contracts instantly, elapsing into its natural rhythm. I can feel the crisp, chilling air raising goosebumps on my arms. My green eyes spring open and I stretch. I’m alive.

She screams, just as I catch her and hold her down by the neck.

“Mary…” she whispers softly. “Mary.”

“I know,” I say, shushing her with the glinting knife. “I missed you too, sister.”

The sun drops below the horizon and all is dark.



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Matice said...
Dec. 15, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Stunning! You did an amazing job! Keep up the great work. :)

If you have a spare second, I'd love it if you would take a check out and rate/comment on some of my work.

 
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