Megan sat in the bathroom, her back to the mirror. She didn’t
need to see Tiffany to hear her speak. Looking at the image of the dead girl
had quickly become too much for her. The girl tended to fidget with her fingers
and pace back and forth while gesturing; her nervousness was infectious,
causing Megan herself to feel anxious.
When Megan arrived at home her parents were thankfully
asleep. The birds, however, rattled noisily in their cages. Instead of waiting
to be told—and possibly find herself harangued about the chore—she set about
cleaning some of the cages and making sure they were fed. Keeping them well
kempt was a constant duty and it gave her something to take her mind off
everything else that happened that day.
It wasn’t long before she found little else do to and went
to seek out solitude—and Tiffany—in the bathroom. At least with the door locked
even if someone awoke, they wouldn’t bother her. Just in case someone heard
voices, Megan took her cell phone with her as a ready excuse.
Reflected in the mirror, Tiffany talked about her life
before she found herself dead.
“My grandfather had a descending paralysis that originally
appeared as Bell’s palsy,” Tiffany said. “That’s why I got into nursing. I’d
been a teenager then, and nobody else in my house had time to take care of him.
His wife already dead. Mom and dad worked. We didn’t want to send him into a
nursing home… Those can be really terrible places. He had family that cared
“So, you want to care for old people?”
“Well, I wanted to do something with my life, and pre-med
stressed me so bad that I broke some of my teeth.”
Tiffany and Megan connected on levels that she never
expected. Especially being that both of them acknowledged that Tiffany was in
fact actually dead. Well, Tiffany acknowledged that fact a lot better than
Megan did. She acted rather perky for a dead girl. Glib and wordy enough to let
Megan listen to her long-winded explanations about what being dead was like—too
much of that, though, and Megan quickly asked questions that took her back to
her days among the living instead.
“I’m so glad that you’re talking to me,” Tiffany said.
“You could use that—talisman. Your friends seem pretty resourceful about this
sort of thing. I don’t understand why you don’t want to tell them about me.”
Megan shrugged. “I don’t quite know either. I guess I just
don’t know what they’ll think. Not… Not that they won’t believe me. I
don’t know what they do to you. Does that make sense?”
“Yes. Thank you.”
“How did you die?”
“Ah, that.” The ghostly girl click-clicked her tongue and
paced a few more times. “Someone beat me to death in a parking garage. At ASU.
I know there’s a service to get escorted to your car from late classes…but I
didn’t think I needed it. Boy was I wrong.
“I did have a huge can of Mace. I sprayed some poor
janitor guy right before it happened. I feel pretty bad about that. I was
terrified. He kinda jumped out at me.”
Megan slid off the counter and sat on the toilet. In the
mirror, Tiffany stood near the door. Her dark-streaked blonde hair fell lankly
against the sides of her head framing her eyes, which glowed in dark
depressions. She gazed sightlessly into a distance somewhere over Megan’s head.
The dead girl shook her head slowly as if trying to refuse some terrible
“When did it happen?”
“Friday,” the image said and shivered. “I have a three
hour lecture that ends at nine P.M. I was walking back from that. I stayed
after for a while to get a chat in with our TA but she didn’t have much to say
to me. I’m not exactly the most exceptional student. And that’s a large class.”
She touched the mirror with her palm. A foggy section
formed there in perfect reflection of her handprint. She frowned at it. Megan
stood and touched it with her fingers.
“Is it?” Tiffany said. “I can’t feel anything over here.”
The strange finality of the words “over here” sent
a trill down Megan’s spine. She withdrew her fingers and stared at the dead
girl in the mirror. “I wish I could help you myself,” she said. “But I’m not
that good at it yet. I’m just learning what it’s like myself.”
“Thank you,” Tiffany said. “Though, I—I think I can help
“You might not believe this, but I have an idea of what
you want to know.” In the mirror, Megan watched Tiffany move through her.
Ghostly fingers trailed over her shoulders, the nape of her neck, raising
gooseflesh. “It’s really quite odd. Like anatomy but not quite. For example,
after years of nursing and pre-med I can tell you exactly where the zygomatic
process is—” Her fingers crossed Megan’s cheek. “—and what happens if you
swallow too much aspirin. It’s not pretty. But I also know, or I can see,
where you have to reach to find help.”
Megan backed away from the mirror, Tiffany did not move.
“What do you mean?”
“I’ve been watching you for a few days now,” the girl said
airily. “Ever since I was yanked out of wherever I went when I died. I first
remember seeing you and your friend named Vex, but I didn’t understand—and
another girl, a redhead. I tried to talk to Vex, but she’s surrounded by a
barrier of noise and words. So were you, but I felt connected to you somehow.”
Megan sank back onto the toilet again and stared goggled-eyed
into the mirror at Tiffany’s thoughtful expression. “You must have been there
when Vex and I went into the dead-world after Mary Beth! She must be the
red-head. Do you know her?”
“Maybe you just accidentally came along for the ride.”
“Maybe.” The dead girl knelt down in front of Megan to
look directly into her eyes; but, Megan could only see her in the mirror, so
she only saw the back of the other girl’s head. “I know you have visions,”
Tiffany said. “And I know that you want to do more than just see things. What
if I told you that I can teach you the anatomy of the spirit world? What if I
told you, I know where they sleep?”
“You mean magick? Like you mentioned back at the club?”
“Yes. You want to learn? You’re my only connection
to…well…everything else. We might as well help each other.”
Megan leaned forward. Certainly, Vex had promised to teach
her how to use those latent abilities that gave her visions eventually, but it
couldn’t hurt to start learning them early. Tiffany had been a real, living
girl, almost a classmate. And Megan really didn’t want to dismiss her
friendship because she was dead. A fine disability, for sure, but—after a
moment’s consideration—Megan decided she could forgo the criteria of “having a
pulse” for intelligent conversation and possible tutoring.
“It’s just like finding a muscle. Like knowing where the rhomboid
and the scapula are in the body. May I…show you? My first gift.”
A tingle shot up Megan’s arm as Tiffany pushed her hand
through her flesh. The chill clenched her muscles and for a moment she was
startled. Could she trust Tiffany? Was the girl trying to take possession of
her? Evil spirits could do that—Alex did warn her that there were dangerous
things. The charm was in her pocket, but she couldn’t move to reach it!
Then her arm moved, her fingers reaching out towards the
mirror. She saw herself move in the mirror—along with Tiffany’s hand guiding
her wrist—but she didn’t appear to move where she sat. She could feel something
brush the palm of her hand. A smoky, cold sensation tickled her flesh,
flickering like the wings of moths.
Tiffany smiled and released then sat back against the
mirror. “Do you feel that? Pinch it between your fingers.”
Megan did. A thread of silk between fingertips.
“Now pull back.”
When she withdrew her hand a wisp of white drew out of the
air. It curled about her hand like a ribbon. She could sense it in her head,
like another person in the room but also like having another hand. Following
that thought, she reached with the ribbon to the sink. There, it snatched up a
toothbrush and returned it, twirling through the air, to her hand.
Megan marveled at the toothbrush and the ribbon. “That’s
“I knew you’d like that,” the dead girl said. She moved so
that she was once again looking at Megan through the mirror. “They get more
complex than that. That one is like a bone—simple, structural, easy to find and
And so useful! Megan thought that if she could control
more than one it would make cleaning the birds a lot easier, the dishes would
be a breeze. Maybe when nobody was looking. Today a toothbrush, tomorrow
cleaning her room! Idly, she recalled the Sorcerer’s Apprentice and
vowed not to unleash an army of water bearing brooms on the world the way the
main character in that story did with his own magical incompetence.
“What do I do when I’m done?”
“You can dismiss it by asking the servant to go, or
waving. It’s the thought that’s important—the servants are an extension of your
will. At least, simple ones like this are.”
“You can go now.” Megan made a shooing gesture with her
hand and the servant disappeared, evaporating like smoke.
“I think I can do that again,” Megan said. “And that’ll
happen every time?”
“Every time. There’s more of them there. Be
careful, though, they’re not always that obedient. I picked a very, very simple
one that time.”
Megan flexed her fingers. They still tingled numbly with
the tickling sensation.
“I hope that’s enough for you to agree to be friends and
not shut me out. I think you realize, I probably need you more than you need
“I’m sorry you’re dead,” Megan said. “I kinda wish I’d
known you when you were alive. You make a wonderful friend.”
“If I was still alive, I wouldn’t know any of this stuff
I’m teaching you now.”
“Did it hurt?”
“Dying or being beaten to death?”
“Oh, that’s right. You said you were… I guess that would
“It was strange,” she said. “When I was being
killed—imagine saying something like that—I thought I was being beaten with a
musical instrument—a harp. But now, I think it was a violin.”