Nothing At All
By: The Earthotic Way
The smell was overwhelming in its sweetness, the aroma confined by the bounds of the house. It had remained part of the Joseph family for more than six generations. The high ceilings and intricately carved woodwork surrounding the windows were all immaculately polished. They offered a beautiful view of the sloping front lawn. Leafless trees, swept clean by winter’s hand, danced along the water’s edge. Held firmly in the lawn’s grasp, the bare branches reached for the heavens, as if asking for a reprieve from the chill.
Leanne stood in the doorway, a tastefully styled black dress adorning her slender form. Her eyes scanned those gathered within the wake room. The somber mood reflected within the pale, drawn faces, the conversations soft.
Each mirror was enshrouded by black velvet, a tradition handed down from one generation to the next. Publicly it was so those gathered to pay their respects didn’t have to concern themselves with their appearance. Leanne knew better.
She looked at the casket, the lid propped open, a partially visible face bringing tears to her eyes. Stepping into the hall, Leanne was surprised by movement behind one of the velvet coverings draped over a full-length mirror at the end of the hallway. Had she imagined it?
No, there it was again.
A wave of motion brought a ripple through the fabric, hand clutching at her throat, goosebumps dancing along her arms.
Then she heard it.
Relief moved through her, realizing it was Jessica, her five-year-old daughter. Walking to the shroud, she heard another giggle and reached for the velvet, feeling sickly sensuous to her touch. Pulling it back, her daughter’s face was beaming as she looked up.
“Hi mommy.” Jessica bounced up and down, happy and excited.
“Sweetie, come on out of there. You shouldn’t play behind there.”
Jessica paused to look behind her, peering into the folds as if looking for something.
“Come on, sweetie.”
“What were you doing back there, anyway?” Leanne asked, patting her daughter’s head, refastening a barrette.
“Just playing, momma.”
Leanne watched her daughter, heart pinched, emotions trying to swallow her whole as she gave her dad a hug. Her husband, smiled nodding to her, another wave of emotion slamming into the sand castle of her resolve.
Curtis broke the hug and walked toward Leanne. “How are you holding up?”
“I’m all right.” It was lie.
She looked out the window, fingers toying with the necklace, her thoughts a thousand miles away, the mirror and the velvet covering forgotten.
Exhausted by the day’s events, Leanne found sleep a rather easy lover. It took her deeply in its arms, washing away the emotional refuse of the day in its tide, gently soothing her. She hadn’t been asleep for very long, when something made her stir beneath the sheets.
Her eyes fluttered open in the moonlit bedroom, immediately turning toward the glowing face of the digital alarm clock. Leanne realized, a soft grown escaping, that she had only been sleeping for a few hours.
Immediately the hair on the back of her neck stood out. It had to be her imagination. She didn’t want to believe it.
Going downstairs, the whisper came again and she realized it was coming from the end of the hallway, the mirror still covered. The highly polished floors glowed with the ample moonlight spilling through the windows.
“Leanne, please…” The sound skittered across the floor.
The longer she stood looking at the mirror, her slippers scooting across the marble floor, the colder the finger seemed tracing an ice choked trail down her spine, the more frightened she became.
It couldn’t be.
The casket was gone from the room, but the ghost of that memory loomed large in the dimly lit house. It didn’t alleviate the sense that was not right in the house. Something was definitely amiss. The chills wracked her body again.
Gooseflesh raised along her arms, as she turned toward the source of the voice. The hallway seemed to stretch infinitely between where she stood and the cloaked mirror facing her. Leanne remembered how Jessica had been playing behind it. The shroud seemed to billow out in irregular intervals, as if something were pushing against it.
Had Jessica come downstairs and gone behind there to play again? Something told her that wasn’t the case. If she wasn’t there, then what was making it move? What was giving her the chills so bad?
Leanne immediately wished Curtis was at her side.
Her fingers reached for the covering, trembling slightly, though she reached for it none the less. When she touched the velvet cloth, Leanne felt a remarkable chill move through her, taking her breath away. So complete, it felt like an icy hand curled around something inside her, squeezing, squelching trying to get her attention. She didn’t stop though, pulling the cloth back.
As it fell away from the large mirror, she again wondered what had drawn Jessica behind the cloak. As the thought fluttered upward in her mind, the silvered mirror offered her reflection and the lavish surroundings of the ancestral home. A wave of relief passed over her, when she realized nothing was lurking behind the cover, no fanged monster, no vampiric memory ready to devour her. That sense of relief was short lived as the voice repeated its earlier plea and this time there was no doubting where it came from.
It was coming from within the mirror.
Instinctively, she reached for the mirror and immediately regretted it. The chill seemed to increase, the surface of the mirror stretching outward toward her. It seemed as if the mirror was made of liquid and something beneath was forcing it outward, reaching for her outstretched hand, a silvery bubble billowing as she watched.
Though transfixed, Leanne was terrified.
A section began to darken in the upper corner of the mirror, a movement, a hint of something spinning, swirling. It was like something lurking beneath the water, a whisper of motion. As the silvery surface liquified, pushing outward, she realized it was an arm. Thin and bony, it was reaching for her.
Fear gnawed at her, voracious, cruel it made her insides raw but she was mesmerized. She had to look, to watch as the arm began to solidify as it broke through the silvery surface. In next few heartbeats, broken glass, the remnants of terror pulsed through her veins as other sections of the mirror began to billow outward.
How could this be?
The form pushing through was that of her dead mother.
The smile, the light laughter, all of it was her. Wearing the dress, she’d been buried in, she seemed lively, taking Leanne’s hand, the touch not cold at all, but warm and giving. There was no doubt it was her.
“Leanne,” her mother said, “thank you for coming to me.”
The smile faltered for only a moment, before regaining its usual steadiness.
“Mom?” she asked, rather bewildered by it all, though the chill and fear seemed to have tumbled away, the blossom of love all but overwhelming in its clarity.
“Yes, dear. It’s mother. I had the chance to say goodbye to Jessica earlier today. That’s why she was beneath the cloth when you saw her. She is so beautiful. Such a sweet thing. I’m going to miss watching her cute face light up at Christmas. I’m going to miss a lot of things sweetheart. I just wanted to say goodbye to you, Leanne. You’ve always been so caring and loving to everyone around you. I will be watching; it’s amazing how much you can truly see on this side. Just remember I love you and won’t be far away.”
The tears she had managed to hold in check throughout much of the wake now came forth, pouring down her cheeks in a hot stream. “Oh, mom, I love you too. I can’t believe that you’re gone. There is still so much I wanted to tell you and so much…I miss you.”
“Now, don’t worry. As I said, I’m able to keep tabs on all of you and, I already know. I love you so much now.”
As her mother finished talking, she winked at her, dispelling some of Leanne’s fears, some of lingering cobwebs of doubt. Feeling the reassuring grip on her arm, Leanne sighed with relief. As she watched, her mother’s hand opened her own and placed two small objects on the upturned palm. At first, Leanne wasn’t sure what they were, but then realized they were the pearl earrings her mother had been given on her own wedding day. Leanne remembered seeing those earrings in the wedding pictures, one of which they had set out for the funeral.
Nothing was said between them, they just stared at one another. Leanne couldn’t be sure how long they stared like that, standing perfectly still when the visage of her mother seemed to fade momentarily, the outstretched hand retreating, her body stepping back into the mirror, bubbling and billowing around her form. The fading of her mother’s visage in the mirror coincided with the moonlight being taken from the sky by roving cloud cover. As Leanne’s surroundings seemed to darken—the thick blackness taking control of the entryway—she inhaled and caught the scent she’d missed so much. Magnolia. It was her mom’s perfume.
The darkness ran completely, taking control of the mirror taking her mother from her again.
Leanne sat bolt upright in bed, her breath coming in hot jags blinking rapidly in the darkness of the bedroom, the memory of the dream clearly held in her mind. Her eyes were wet with fresh tears, her nose running. Passing a hand across her face, she wasn’t surprised to find it covered with sweat. Looking at the clock, she realized the alarm was about to go off. A faltering smile comforted her as she wiped her face.
Why would the dream come? Had it been because she wasn’t given the chance to tell her mom goodbye?
As the alarm sounded and Curtis stirred, he reached for her as he did every morning, giving her arm a squeeze and kissing her lightly on the forehead. He stood up and headed to the bathroom, her legs swinging off the edge of the bed, feet stepping into her slippers. She cried out in surprise as something sharp stuck in the bottom of her foot.
“What is it, sweetie?” Curtis asked, from the bathroom.
Picking up the slipper, she reached inside and pulled out two pearl earrings. Rocked with emotion, she clutched them to her chest. It hadn’t been a dream. Her mother had been here. They were the same earrings. Looking at the wedding picture of her mom and dad, she smiled, the earrings on display.
“Nothing sweetheart, nothing at all.”