The Laughing Mirror (From the Poltergeist and Aunt Betty)
Betty woke up, confused and in a cold sweat. She put her hand out, searching for clues to her surroundings. An old-style paper phone book jumped into it. Slowly, she focused her eyes on the words ‘Lake Charles.’
“Oh, yeah,” she mumbled.
“Aunt Betty!” A cheery voice piped into her room from somewhere.
“Somebody’s awake.” She chuckled.
Rubbing her eyes, she searched for a clock. “No sun in here,” she recalled. Little lights glowed softly around her, just as they had done the day before. Her room all but obliterated the passage of time.
Someone had thoughtfully transported her to her bed, she guessed. All she remembered from the night before was chaos, ending with the sweet void of unconsciousness. She breathed and counted, breathed and counted.
She imagined a warm body curled up next to her. The fantasy was a familiar one: ever since Timothy’s death, she had imagined him ‘still with’ her in some mystical way. However, the presence felt a little more real today. She thought of Nacogdoches, gone for good. She needed him more than ever. Her eyes swept over her nightstand and stopped. There he was, or at least there was his photograph, smiling back at her. “Somebody found you for me,” she mused with a tear. “Beverly?”
The word came from nearby. She gritted her teeth. There was a giggle. She closed her eyes in defiance, mouthing the word, “No.” She opened them and faced the longest mirror.
A misty, filmy, but familiar face stared back.
There was the figment, the dream, returned from the night before. Foggy, distorted nebulae gathered inside the glass, playing with shadow and light. Was it clearer this time? She thought that eyes coalesced for her, staring up from about three feet off the ground. “That’s new.” Betty scratched her head.
“Bang!” the mirror giggled.
“You’re not there,” she retorted.
Another giggle. Her bed started to bounce up and down.
“You’re not there,” she insisted, “but at least you’re not jumpin’ on my belly this time.”
Breathe and count, breathe and count. Betty spied something else on her nightstand: someone had delivered her paper bag from the sink. Gratefully, with eyes shut tight, she grabbed it and breathed.
“Breathe in, Betty.” She took in a full tank of air.
“And, breathe out.” With this, she emptied her ample lungs with the speed of a gale-force wind.
The bag was smaller than she remembered.
BANG! It popped like a gunshot. Betty shrieked.
“BANG!” The mirror giggled with delight. The bed bounced, the curtains twirled, and lights overhead swung drunkenly. Betty put a hand on her mouth, certain she was about to be sick.
“What in the world?” a man’s voice yelled through the kitchen.
Everything in the room froze: bed, curtains, lights, and Betty. “I’m alone,” she realized, gazing at the mirror. “And I am getting up. Now.”