Tink, tink, tink.
The tin can Addy had just kicked skittered down the broken pavement in front of her. Broken, just like everything else in what was left of her hometown. As she walked toward the old fairgrounds, she passed houses in different stages of disrepair. They all had a common theme though; it looked as if whoever had lived there had left in a hurry. There were old drink cans tipped over on the front lawns, a garage door was left open with children's toys rusting in the elements, and a sweet Raggedy Ann doll slumped over in a pink chair waiting for her partner to return for tea.
If she closed her eyes and paused, she could still hear her mother calling out her name from the porch swing as she stirred her glass of lemonade.
"Addelaide Marie, you come up here right this instant. You need to get cleaned up for dinner."
She thinks she would give anything to hear her mother say her name with that sweet brogue to it she had never lost, even though she'd lived in the States since she was a teen.
Addy's feet slowed as she approached a shoddy, wooden, circular building. She could still hear the gruff voice of Mr. Abbot now.
"Come one, come all into our Hall of Mirrors. Do you have what it takes to truly look at your own reflection? What happens if you don't like what's looking back at you from the other side? Pay your tickets at the door!"
He had been one of the first to leave. Rumor had it, that his daughter caught the sickness, and they took off for the big city to try and find a cure. She doubted things were any different in the more densely populated areas of the country. But she hoped she was wrong.
A singular crow sat perched above the Hall of Mirrors entrance with narrowed beady eyes as if judging her for entering without paying the admission fee.
"Get lost, Buzzbeak. No transaction needed in the current environment." Poking her tongue out between peeling, chapped lips, she pushed aside a threadbare black curtain and stepped inside.
The light from the mid-day sun did little to illuminate her way forward but the few glints from the mirrors she could already see did the trick. And even if it didn't, she had memorized the way forward at this point. It wasn't even the first time she'd been here this week, according to her chicken scratch markings on her day planner back home. Pretty hilarious to still keep a log of anything given the state of things but she was a Virgo. So, sue her.
Ten steps forward. Two side steps to the left. Four forward. Five to the right.
She let her fingers trail the mirror to the right of her as she walked forward. She remembered the joy she had felt when she was younger as the cold glass was such a stark difference from the heat of the summer sun outside. Now, she only felt disgust at the dust and grime covering her fingertips.
Before her, just as always, was a singular mirror set back a bit from the rest. Silver roses lined the sides of it and joined together at the top to form what was once a shining skull. The skull stared at her with empty sockets now, sending a chill up her spine but not doing enough to deter her from stepping forward and placing her palm flat on the glass.
The first time it had happened, she'd screamed and jumped back from the mirror. She had fallen flat on the wooden floor behind her, banging her head and giving herself quite the brain fog.
A slender, young woman stood in the mirror. Light from an entryway behind her illuminated her shiny chestnut hair and the tips of her fingers as she reached out her hand.
The pale lilac color coating them was the same shade her mother used to buy her at the CVS on Elm.
It still hit her just as hard as it always did, seeing the reflection of her past self, staring back at her. She remembered that day. Sunny, with a light breeze, and children running and screaming past the carnival games. Not a care in the world except what to wear to school on Monday.
There was still a glow about her then. Her hair was freshly washed, and her makeup was expertly applied. It was always important to look your best. You never know if you are going to run into the love of your life on the same streets you've walked since you were a child.
She scoffed at her past reflection, shaking her head at how insignificant everything seemed now.
"I wish you could hear me, Addybelle." She felt her eyes begin to well up. "You have it all. You're healthy, your family loves you, you have so many friends. Why can't you just be happy?!"
She didn't even recognize her own voice now. The past two years of constant crying had turned the lovely lilt of her voice into an angry rasp.
"You're so ungrateful!" Past Addy simply stared back, unblinking. Silence.
"You don't even care. And that's why I can't let you exist anymore. You aren't who I am anymore. I've grown." From the knapsack that had previously been slung over her right shoulder, she grabs a wooden bat.
"You don't deserve to be living that life. You took everyone and everything for granted. " She approached the mirror again, this time with a sneer of satisfaction on her face. Past Addy still remained, smiling and watching.
She brought the bat back over her right shoulder in a batter's stance, just like she had been taught in softball. Her dad was so proud of her every time she hit the ball dead on and sent it sailing over the fence.
That's what tips her over the edge. The stark contrast between the image of her father's smiling face cheering her on and the image of the last time she saw him, bleeding from the mouth and ears as her mother drove them to the local hospital. Left with her grandmother, it was the last time she had seen either of them.
"I HATE YOU!!" Her past self smiled and tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. Addy screeched as she brought the bat down and it connected with the mirror.
Shards of glass flew backward, tiny pieces scratching her arm and the skin left exposed by the holes in her jeans. She swung again, each well-aimed hit for someone she had lost since that day.
One. Her mom and dad.
Two. Her brother Jake.
Three. Her dog, Chester. She'd had to watch him run into the street and get hit by a neighbor's car trying to flee the town and the illness.
Panting from overexertion, she let the bat slip limply from her hand as tears slipped down her cheeks.
The core of the mirror had been obliterated. All that remained was ragged bits of the glass around the edges, almost making what remained look like the mouth of an angry monster. She could see the background of the old Hall of Mirrors but no longer the smiling face of her past reflection.
With a sigh, she walked back to her knapsack and once again, she reached inside. From the depths, she withdrew a single photo. It was one of the last pictures that was ever taken of the four of them at the annual Fourth of July celebrations. They were all smiling and the corners of her dad's eyes were crinkled, as they always did when he was tickled about something. She missed his laugh.
She walked to the mirror and bending down, she propped the picture up against the very base of the mirror. This place could use a little light and some warmth. Something or someplace should benefit from the smiles in the photo. She didn't think she could go another day staining her mother's face with her tears, longing for a life she didn't appreciate, and she'd never have again. She bent down and grabbed the bat, her knapsack, and turned around one last time to glance at the mirror.
"Good riddance to the past. I'm starting over." The first thing was to go back to the house and grab the bag she already packed. Then, she headed south on the interstate to see if there were any base camps to be found. There had to be others like her, those who had been somehow immune to the illness.
As she walked toward the exit and her new future, she failed to notice flashes of light from what remained of the mirror's edges. On the other side, screams and cries for help.
"She's bleeding! She's been stabbed! Someone call an ambulance! Quickly!
The body of a young girl lay at the base of the mirror, fingers outstretched as if begging for mercy. Her eyes were cold and lifeless, one clear and blue as a spring sky. The other would be identical if not for the jagged piece of glass emerging from the socket. Behind her, lie a broken mirror, shattered as if it had been broken from the inside. On the wood inside its frame, a solitary handprint appeared as if it had been burned onto its surface.