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Fiction Horror Suspense

It was more a shape than a face that moved behind the broken glass, and instantly, I felt drawn in. Pulled. 

I leaned toward the surface, and the face moved with me. The figure remained obscured, partially masked by a veil of dirty fog brushed over the reflective coating, distorted and disjointed from the splinters. 

I bent my head toward my left shoulder; my eyes focused on the figure in the shattered glass, and as I moved, the misty reflection followed suit.

A large section of the mirror at the bottom right was undamaged. I moved to set my face in front of the untarnished shard; perhaps I would get a clearer look there.

I wasn't afraid then.

I should have been.

"Ludwig Kalenteri was a fine man…"

The words from Father Dennis faded to a mumble as I looked up at Dad sitting beside me, looking at the coffin as the preacher spoke about Grandpa. I jostled and poked at my brother, sitting beside Mom.

Mom grabbed my wrist, leaned down and gave a whisper that still sounded like a shout, "Leave your brother alone and be respectful. Stop fidgeting!"

I was fidgety. And hot. I wondered if all churches were so uncomfortable and never understood why we couldn't bring a water bottle—Mass always made me thirsty. 

I thought of the broken mirror in Grandpa's garage. I thought of the face I saw in the corner, and my body broke out in goosebumps, and my bones felt cold.

I thought of the two words mouthed by the face that looked like mine.

"Help. Me."

A shiver ran down my spine, clear to my toes, and I felt a surge of panic rush from my ears to my fingertips.

I never wanted to see that damn old mirror again, but I had to know if she was still there. I needed to know who she was. I knew I was going to help her if I could. Then, Dad took my hand, and we were standing again. Father Dennis walked by and nodded at Dad.

"Okay, guys, let's go," Dad said quietly.

As we walked down the aisle to the front of the church, I saw Father Dennis standing at the door and shaking hands with people, I pulled on Dad's hand and stopped walking.

"Autumn!" Mom's voice snapped at me from behind. "I almost trampled you! You don't just stop right in front of someone!"

I don't know what made me say it, but I squeezed Dad's hand to make him look at me.

"What is it, Autumn? We're holding up the line."

"Grandpa wasn't crazy, Dad. He was just sad. He was always looking for Grandma Berta." 

Dad's face went a little funny, but his eyes got wet, and he looked at Mom, then back at me.

"Of course, he wasn't crazy, Autumn. Whoever told you that?"

"Felicia," I answered. "Every time we visit, she asks me what it was like to have a grandpa who lost his marbles."

"I don't like that girl, Autumn. I don't particularly appreciate how she's always glued to your side when we visit. Now get a move on." Mom said, gently pushing me forward with her hand on my shoulder.

I tried to squeeze in, but there wasn't enough room. The door to the garage bumped against the front of the car.  

"What are you doing?"

I shrieked and stumbled backward, bumping into the car. It was Juno. He was standing there with half a sandwich in one hand and two cookies in the other. 

I scowled, "Why are you always creeping up on me like that? Can't you mind your own business? What does it look like I'm doing? Ding wad! I'm trying to go into Grandpa's garage, but Dad parked the car too close, and I can't open the door enough! Satisfied?"

Juno took a bite of his sandwich, looked at me and the car, then took a bite of a cookie. "Why don't you just move the car?"

Exasperated, I explained the obvious. "Because I'm thirteen, numbskull. I can't drive."

 "If you hold my food, I'll move the car."

"You can't drive either, genius. How are you going to do that?"

"It's Gramp's car," he answered as he handed over his cookies and the half-eaten sandwich. "It's a standard."

Taking his food, I watched dumbfounded as my little brother opened the door, got in the car, and vanished. A moment later, I heard a metallic click and pop, and the car silently rolled back a few feet before jarring to a stop. Juno emerged from the car, smiling, walked to the garage, and opened the door without impediment.

 "So," he said, reclaiming his food, "Are we going in or what?"

Walking to the back of the garage, I felt uneasy and wondered if I should have Juno with me. I stopped at the covered mirror and then turned to my brother.

"Look," I said, sounding as relaxed as possible. "I'm going to show you something, and it's weird."

"Cool!" he answered, stuffing the last cookie into his mouth.

We walked to the back of the garage. There it stood, beckoning, impossible to ignore. 

I grabbed the blanket and pulled it off the mirror. Then I kneeled on the cement floor, leaned into the corner, and looked.

A face looked back at me.

"Juno? Do you see her?"

I could feel Juno's breath on my neck, which only made me more aware of the goosebumps on my skin.

"Autumn? How come you look so old? Is the mirror wrecked or what?"

I turned to face Juno, and the reflection that wasn't mine also turned and looked at him.

Juno, transfixed on the mirror, took a half step back. "That's—that's not you—is it, Autumn?"

We both looked back at the face behind the glass and watched as she mouthed the two words again.

"Help. Me."

Juno moved beside me and took my hand. We leaned in closer. I raised my hand to wipe the mirror, but before I touched the surface, her hand suddenly shot up ahead of my reflection, the palm slapping hard against the mirror from the other side.

Juno screamed. He pushed his heels against the floor, throwing himself into me. My knees felt frozen to the floor. The hand pulled away, leaving only the pointer finger touching the glass—we watched as two words appeared in the filmy glass. 

HE'S COMING.

Juno whimpered, "Autumn…"

I jumped to my feet, grabbed the blanket, threw it over the mirror, grabbed Juno's hand and pulled him to his feet. Two hands reached out from the shadows in the dim light and grabbed our shoulders. "Yahhhhh!" a voice screeched.

"Ahhhhhhhh!" Juno and I screamed. 

I pulled Juno to my chest, covered his head, and closed my eyes, waiting for the ghost from the mirror to kill us.

Gleeful, shrieking laughter filled the air.

Confused, I opened my eyes.

It was Felicia—the girl Mom didn't like.

"Ha-hah-ha! Oh, my god! You two dumbasses should see your faces!

You look like you've seen a ghost! Ah-ha-ha! I got you good!"

Pulling Juno with me, I brushed past my "friend."

"Wait! Where are you going?" Felicia called out. "Oh, c'mon, don't be sissies! I was just joking around!"

Outside, back in the sunlight and safe, Juno tugged my hand and stopped. He wiped the tears from his eyes and pulled on my hand again. "Autumn? Who's in the mirror?"

Before I could answer, Felicia appeared behind my brother.

"What mirror? Who's in a mirror?"

"I knew it!" snapped Felicia, "I knew your Grandpa was a weirdo. Everyone in town knows he was crazy."

Juno had calmed down, and I explained everything about the mirror to Felicia. I finished, not knowing what to say or think.

"I want to go back in and see the mirror! I didn't see anything!" she complained.

"Felicia, I don't think that's a good idea."

"You don't know anything except that you saw some dirty old face and a hand. It was you, and it looked weird because the mirror is broken, and you two pansies got spooked."

Trembling, I told Felicia the truth, "It—it wasn't me."

Before I could stop her, Felicia sprinted to the garage door.

By the time I reached the back of the garage, Felicia was pulling a crate from behind the mirror—I hadn't noticed it before. I glanced toward the mirror, relieved to see the blanket still covered it—tough talk or not, Felicia wasn't above fear; she'd been careful not to touch the mirror.

"I think I found something." Reaching into the crate, she raised a hand holding a tattered paperback book. "'Transcending the Reflective Plane–Meditation for Moving Between Dimensions.' This is the key!" She stated. "Show me the mirror, and let's read what the book says."

"Umm–I don't think that's such a good idea, Felicia."

Felicia was older than me by a year and taller by three inches. She moved closer and looked at me, unhappy at being challenged. I wasn't ready for whatever this was. The mirror and the book seemed like things we shouldn't be messing with. I wasn't prepared for this. I wasn't brave.

"It's getting late. My dad will call us in soon, and if he catches us in here, we'll have to explain what we're doing and what we found."

The moment of silence stretched between us. 

"Okay, fine. But I'm taking this book home with me and studying each page cover to cover. We only have a few days to figure this out before you run back to the big city. I'll meet you back here tomorrow at 10 am!" Then, as suddenly as she had appeared in the garage, scaring us out of our wits, she stepped back out the door and disappeared.

"Mister and Missus Kalenteri," Detective Blume said with well-practiced patience. "I know how hard this is, how emotional it is. But I need you to focus. When was the last time you saw Juno and Autumn?"

"Please, Jeff," Julius Kalenteri told his childhood friend, "Let's go by first names here. Don't treat us like strangers."

Detective Blume nodded and sighed. "You're right, Julius; I'm sorry. Look, May, Julius–I'm positive the kids are okay. They probably wandered off into the gully. There's no reception down there; they'll pop back up over the bank any minute. Probably wet and muddy but no worse for wear. 

May Kalenteri interrupted, her voice shaky, pure panic only a stitch away, "Jeff! They're not in the gully. I'm telling you something is wrong. I don't think they would go in the gully, not with the creek. Juno is terrified of moving water."

The detective looked at May and Julius. "Let's start at the beginning," he said gently, "When did you first notice the kids were missing?"

"At lunchtime," May answered. "They didn't come when I called."

Detective Blume nodded, making notes in his pocketbook. "Where was the last place you saw them, or where they were supposed to be?"

"In the garage," Julius spoke up. "They said something about a treasure hunt. Felicia came this morning and said she'd found some clues, and they could solve the mystery."

"Any idea what this mystery was, or what kind of clues?" the detective asked.

May looked at her husband and shook her head. Julius shrugged. "I don't know. It sounded like kid stuff. I was happy they found something to keep them busy–it's been a tough week, not a lot of fun for them."

"This is good news. That Staddler girl, Felicia, and her brothers practically grew up in that gully. If they are down there, your kids are in good hands. Felicia will get them out or help if they're in trouble. She's a tough kid."

May suddenly changed her opinion about Felicia Staddler.

"Okay, we'll get a couple of fellas on the ATVs and have them run the gully. If we hear anything, we'll call you immediately. The same goes for you. If they show up, give me a shout. Stay put."

Tired from carrying the broken mirror through the woods and down the slope to the gully floor, Juno and I sat on a log. Standing a few feet away, Felicia flipped through the book's pages.

"Okay," she announced. "I know what to do, but I gotta say, this is pretty weird; your grandpa sounds like he went crazy–but if what he wrote down is true…."

"…. then that's Grammie Berta in the mirror," I said, finishing the girl's sentence.

"Is Grammie trapped in there like those bad guys from the Superman movie?" Juno asked.

"Kid, you're too gullible," Felicia answered.

"Do you think it's true, Autumn? Was Gramps crazy?"

"Of course, he wasn't. Don't listen to her. She doesn't know what she's talking about." I said while glaring at Felicia, who stood defiant, her hands on her hips, jaw jutting out, and staring back. "Gramps was sad, that's all. He spent all his time looking for Grammie. He was heartbroken."

"Then Grammie is in the mirror?" Juno asked.

"Stop jabbering, and let's do something!" Felicia ordered. "Get the mirror and put it in the creek. Make sure the glass is facing up."

Juno looked at me, panic in his eyes.

"It's okay, Juno. The creek isn't any deeper than your knees, and you can stay on the bank; I'll go in the water." I told him, taking hold of the mirror. "Just help me carry it to the edge."

"You promise I don't have to go in the water?" Juno murmured.

"Promise I don't have to go in the water?" Felicia whined, mimicking my brother's plea. "Geezus, kid, you'd have to try pretty hard to drown in this little creek!"

"Shut up, Felicia! Leave him alone! He almost drowned, you know! He's allowed to be afraid."

"Gee, sorry!" Felicia snapped back. "That was a long time ago, and he was little then. Even if he fell in, he couldn't drown, is all I'm saying!"

A minute later, I stood in the creek, the water just above my ankles. The mirror lay submerged just as she had instructed.

"Okay," Felicia ordered, "Now we get some big rocks to anchor it in place. The mirror can't move while we try and open the gate."

 Felicia stuffed the book in the pocket of her jean jacket and gave the next instructions.

"Everyone gathers around and places their hands on the frame." With a glance at Juno, then me, Felicia said, "Juno, you can sit here on the grass and hold the bottom. Autumn and I will hold the sides."

"Then what?" I asked as we moved into position.

"Then we look through the water until it goes flat. Your Grandpa's book says that when flat water moves over the mirror, the glass will move like the creek. That opens the gate."

"Then what?" This time, it was Juno asking, sounding much braver than he felt.

"Then we wait to see who shows up first," Felicia told him.

"What do you mean, 'who shows up first?' "Juno's courage cracked with his question.

"It might be your Grammie Berta in there, or someone else, but the book says there are also other–things–on the other side. Things that want to come out and be on this side."

"What do we do if we see one of those things?" I asked, masking my concern with false confidence. 

"Simple pimple!" Felicia replied. "We just muck up the water. They can't get out."

At first, the soft undulation of the clear water made it hard to focus, and we had to hold our eyes open wide to see our muddled reflections in the broken mirror.

Then the water turned flat as though it wasn't there at all. We forgot about the stream and looked deep and long into the mirror.

The glass began to move.

Hypnotized, we leaned in ever closer.

Two hands slapped against the mirror from the other side and held.

The face of a long-haired, old woman appeared, looking dark and sad, and she stared at us from beneath the glass, but I saw no relief in her eyes. I saw evil.

The glass turned dark, its surface moving in slow, syrupy rings and curls.

At the edge where the glass touched the wooden frame, pale, wrinkled, bony fingers crawled out. Unable to pull away or explain, I reached for the hands.

Felicia's eyes went even wider. The words from the sentence underlined profusely in red ink in the notebook raced across her mind. "NEVER LET THEM TOUCH YOU!"

"No! Autumn, don't!" cried Felicia. "SPLASH THE WATER!!"

It was too late.

In the mirror, falling deeper beneath its surface, the black glass folded around me like a blanket. In shock and horror, I looked pleadingly back at my baby brother. I reached a hand to the edge for Juno.

Juno plunged his hand into the creek, clasping his hand around my wrist.

The twisting curtain of blackness curled over my face. The old woman's pale arms pulled me deeper into the dark water; her fingers gripped tightly on my hips from below, and my brother clinging to me from above. 

Numbed by shock, Felicia pulled back from the water, but her hands would not give up their grasp on the wooden frame, and she saw the boy follow his sister beneath the water and through the gate.

She watched through the flat water as the woman's face reappeared.

As she felt the water filling her ears, her final conscious thought told her that the woman behind the glass was never Grammie Berta Kalenteri. 

Felicia watched the world wash away. 

The mirror rose and rode the water, following its bends, rushing through the small, rolling rapids. 

A few miles downstream, a group of children frolicked and splashed.

A boy pointed upstream. "Look! I see a boat!"

November 22, 2023 05:53

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8 comments

06:24 Dec 02, 2023

Great story! I liked the twist at the end. For the critique circle feedback, the only think i saw one of two places where the rhythm of who was speaking felt a bit jumpy, Id recommend keeping the action on the same line as the dialogue and not putting in a new line.

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05:27 Dec 04, 2023

Also, I see you are doing great on Medium.com ! Do you have any recommendations on what type of content works there? i'm thinking about paying for membership, but not sure if medium works for fiction, or more just for non-fiction essay writing.

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Arpad Nagy
01:26 Dec 05, 2023

It depends. Some of my fiction pays well, others, barely a sniff. Nonfiction, memoirs/essays pay 10x that of fiction, but I don't really care. I write what I want, how I want--screw the algorithm--it's not about money. Saying that, I do earn enough to cover a decent bill at month's end. If you write well, you should do well. It's well worth the small investment, IMO, and the peer group and interaction is much better. Although there is a crapload of content garbage.

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02:52 Dec 05, 2023

Thanks! I'm going to give Medium a try, guess need to work at networking/marketing to get subscribers there (rather than trying to win a competition to get views) Adjusting to how hard it is to get views for fiction, as I had been on twitter and had posts with millions of views, but got tired of current events and arguing, it never leads to anything, and want to do something happier. I've got a few good journalism/essay ideas I can work on for medium in the next few months.

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03:07 Dec 05, 2023

I signed up and I see.. there are "publications" on medium. that looks like a good middle ground filter to get stories to a wider audience. On Wattpad one just needs to do everything yourself to pull readers toy our profile, thanks again for getting me gonig with this

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Arpad Nagy
08:02 Jan 06, 2024

Hey Scott. If you pass along your medium handle, I'll follow. There a few you with the same name. Thanks!

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Arpad Nagy
01:23 Dec 05, 2023

Thanks, Scott. I kind of rushed through this one, reworking an older piece so I didn't edit as carefully as usual, but that's a great point. Thank you.

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