VOLUME INDEX



Chapter XXVIII: Aftermath
Chapter XXIX: Mirror, Mirror
Chapter XXX: The Hollow in the World

 
 
 




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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 about him.”

“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 memory.

“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.

“It’s cold.”

“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.”

“How?”

“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?”

“No.”

“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!

“Wait—stop!”

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 neat.”

“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 control.”

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 me…”

“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 hurt.”

“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.”

 
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