I woke up to hear knocking on the glass. At first, I thought it was the window until I heard it come from the mirror again.
I swallowed hard and refused the flinch that flooded my muscles with adrenaline. My teeth ground together as my throat crushed the incriminating whimpers threatening to escape. If I just lay still enough it wouldn’t notice. It wouldn’t.
The knocking continued for some time. Each rap against the mirror set my teeth on edge until I could feel a cramp forming under my left eye. Finally, it stopped. I allowed myself to relax, but held still for another few minutes. When nothing else was forth coming I curled myself into the fetal position and pulled my comforter over my head. If it started up again, maybe this time I’d be able to sleep through it.
I awoke feeling fatigued. Lethargy filled my limbs with sand as I dragged my arm out from under me. It waffled between the stages of falling asleep and waking back up; the worst sensation next to stepping on a Lego. Snuffling, I shook my head and smooshed my nose sideways against my comforter. Confused, I squinted as I untangled myself from the suffocating cocoon I had made for myself at some point during the night.
After an epic struggle against the down comforter of doom I managed to swim my way to the surface and took a great lungful of cool, fresh air. Blinking the sleep from my eyes, I grimaced at the ceiling. It couldn’t have gotten that cold during the night could it? Yes, it was winter, but I wasn’t stingy about turning the heat on, and my battalion of blankets was nothing to sniff at. Flinging the blankets off and snorting derisively at my own strangeness, I rolled to face my room, and felt my jaw lock.
There was another smudge on the dresser mirror.
Last night flooded back to me in a dark, terrifying flash of blood chilling fear. Swallowing hard, I let myself shake and curl tight once more. Flinging the blankets off of me, I decided, had been a mistake. Feeling naked and vulnerable, I wanted to dive beneath my bed and not come out; anything to put even another inch between me and that god-awful piece-of-crap antique.
I shook hard enough to rattle my brains against the inside of my skull before finally falling still. Swallowing to stave off the urge to hurl, I shakily sat up and placed my bare feet on my bedroom carpet. Hesitantly I stood and took a step forward. My mirror image did the same. I did a quick hip jiggle and arm swing, looking for any discrepancies, but my reflection only followed my movements. I squinted at it for a moment before charging. Pulling up short, I breathed across the surface, obscuring my face, and then just as quickly swiped it away. My reflection stared back at me.
With a smirk.
While my sister was over for dinner later that week she asked why I had covered the mirror. She made it clear through tone and a liberal application of eyebrow tilt that covering Mom’s gift was suspicious.
I declined to answer.
It was a month until I could bring myself to remove the Star Wars beach towel from its conspicuous hanging place on the dresser mirror. I flinched at my own reflection and ignored the finger smudges still smearing my mirror’s surface. I had scrubbed at them until I’d accepted that the smudges weren’t on my side of the glass. Swallowing the stones in my throat I folded the towel up while I watched myself in the mirror.
My reflection followed every one of my movements without the slightest failing. I gnawed on my inner lip without even realizing it, and waved my hands, towel still clutched in my grasp, like a loon. Once more my own foolishness reflected back at me.
The first two tests down, I moved to the third, and final, test. I leaned forward and exhaled across the reflection of my face. My hand came up to wipe the condensation away, but I froze. I couldn’t do it. The memory of what had happened last time still haunted my dreams, and made me jumpy when something moved in my periphery. Everyone at the office thought I was a bit unhinged, but nothing made my adrenaline spike like an unexpected knock on my cubicle.
The condensation faded away leaving me staring into my own face. No unexpected smirks looked back, just a pale, sweaty, disheveled looking twenty-something with his hand over a mirror.
A tremulous laugh wavered out of my lips as I stood up from my slight stoop. It had been a trick of the mind all those weeks ago. I must have had a bad dream and scared myself witless. I shook my head a tad too hard as I turned toward the closet to replace the towel. I had scared myself with something that hadn’t been there, that was all. Swallowing was a chore as I puttered about my room uncomfortably. Maybe there was something on TV?
I ignored the chill that settled in my gut as I passed the mirror to leave my room.
I hadn’t just seen a flicker of a smile out of the corner of my eye.
It was just my mind playing tricks.
By the end of the first week after uncovering the mirror I had slept in my bed a total of zero times. Every time I thought about going to bed I’d find another show to watch, or another chapter to read. Falling asleep in front of the TV or in my computer chair kept me from the bed, but caused a horrendous crick in my neck.
It was becoming ridiculous.
My coworkers had changed from staring at me with suspicion and confusion to watching me with pity. Apparently while I was still the office nut they found the dark circles of my eyes less potential axe murderer, and more poor bastard. I guess that was an improvement, but I tired of standing and immediately sitting back down because my lower back decided to spasm. The various aches I was giving myself were starting to interfere with my paycheck, and that was something I could not afford.
With that in mind I ignored the knocking of my knees as I found myself once more in front of the dresser. Shaking my arms out and rolling my neck, I grasped the heavy thing and tugged it out from the wall. I had already emptied what little I had put into it either under my bed
or in my closet. All that remained were the drawers it had come with, and the mirror.
Carefully, I scooted it around until its face pressed against the wall. I waited a few moments, my gut telling me something was going to happen, but nothing did.
I waited several minutes more, palms sweaty, and breathing fast, but still, nothing.
A nervous chuckle escaped me as I swiped my palms on my jeans. Shaking my head I turned to my bed, already deciding where I was going to move the last few shirts. Finally it was over.