Taxicabs, for all their apparent
compactness on the street, capably contain a large number of people and
luggage. Usually for trips hither and thither, taxis were the workhorses of the
city, grounded and somber. Even with all that, however, Vex’s taxi barely
contained the bickering that refused to remain only in the backseat. The
backseat held Nathan—wearing a tight black shirt displaying a single slashing
lightning bolt that he swore had nothing to do with Harry Potter—alongside
Patrick who dressed in a band t-shirt she’d lent him and sported a days worth
of rugged stubble, and finally Alex. Of course, it was Alex who planted the
seeds of dissent and the argument revolved around, of all things, genres of
It took only a few minutes before Megan, who happened to
be sitting in the passenger’s seat, joined in with her clipped replies and
acute recall of band names and albums. She seemed irritated, distracted by
something, and that tetchiness showed on her face and echoed in her tone.
Vex tuned them out in order to drive—a skill she had cultivated
from years of listening to children whine, married couples lash each other with
words (often no better than the kids), and a myriad of other reasons one might
not want to get drawn into a conversation occurring only a few feet away. There
were moments when she would cut in, adding her own thoughts on subjects to the
heated discussions, attempting to diffuse—but now a long veteran of those conversations,
she knew when not to bother.
Instead of listening, she reflected on her day.
In spite of hoping to offer herself a reprieve and a day
off from the ongoing investigation, Vex could not wholly withdraw herself from
concerns about what the future held. Alex invited herself along, in true
I-just-want-to-help-you-chill fashion after Vex called to ask her about the
nightmares she’d described. She’d refused to speak about them on the phone, and
kept pushing away the subject the entire ride.
After that abortive telephone conversation, Vex decided to
call her godmother, Madame Summer, to see what her cryptic message on the
answering machine meant. Nobody picked up. A strange event—the Wanton Wand had
a voicemail service. Instead of letting that dampen her resolve, she went there
directly. And found the store closed. The message on the answering machine
suggested as much would happen by the end of the week. But a closure during the
day, on a Tuesday? This was not normal.
That was when Vex noticed a message to her carved into the
trim of the door. Constantly being replaced and carved, any mundane passerby
would have thought the trim around the door was just arcane decoration meant to
reinforce the atmosphere of the Wand on the visitors. However, those who could
read the Irish Ogham alphabet gained an altogether different insight from
running their eyes and fingers along the long boards. About eye-level, on a bit
of trim very recently replaced—so that there was only one message to be
seen—Vex saw her name in the Oghams. Jenny, Madame Summer’s granddaughter—a
girl whom often referred to herself as Vex’s niece—followed a Druidic spiritual
path, and she took it very seriously. The Oghams were an outgrowth of that
singular academia and she’d often left messages for her friends on the doors in
This message was written by Jenny, but obviously dictated
by Madame Summer.
goddaughter mine, there have been grave developments in the fortunes of man. My
husband, Jenny, and I will be leaving the city sooner. We still need to speak.
Return to the wand on Wodan’s Day—that was Jenny being cute: Wednesday—and we shall commune.
With that avenue closed to her, Vex decided that perhaps
it would be good to just take the day off. Instead of returning home, she went
to see Nathan during his lunch break at the Coffee Plantation on Mill.
Returning home would mean she could peruse that book she had plucked from the
shelves of Those Were the Days on Saturday, but that would indeed mean further
“What do you mean Evanescence is not goth?” Of course, it
would be Alex to break Vex’s concentration. “Amy Lee sure dresses the part and
the music is played in goth clubs.”
“Being played in a goth club does not make you goth,”
Megan sniped back.
“They seem gothic to me,” Nathan said. “How can they not
be? If Depeche Mode and other music gets considered that way, why not
“Nathan,” Vex said aloud, an act that stunned the rest of
the cab into silence. “Didn’t we have this conversation before?”
She could see him roll his eyes in the rearview mirror.
“You hate Evanescence!” he said. “You’re not exactly the least biased authority
on this subject.”
Patrick, bless his heart, decided that moment to add his
own take. “Actually,” he said. “I think she’s the most authoritative person in
this cab. Compared to Vex we four all are wannabes when it comes to what is goth.”
“Thanks,” she said. “I don’t think Evanescence qualifies
as gothic because they’re trying too hard.” That elicited a snort and a
headshake from Alex. “Sure, they’re influenced by it, but they lack the
haunting sadness or the I-wish-you’d-die angst that’s at the core of gothic
music. They’re too fluffy.”
“You’re a hard one to disagree with,” Alex said, “and I
don’t mean to call you elitist, hon, but you’ve got a touch of it. Too close to
the subject, I’d wager.”
“Fringe goth at best.”
“Tell me about who we’re seeing tonight, again?” Patrick
All eyes shifted to him, even Vex’s, who caught him
looking at her in the rearview mirror.
“Crüxshadows!” Megan said. “Definitely goth.”
“Absolutely,” Alex said. “They’re brilliant. I use their
music during work outs. In fact, I once thought of applying to be a dancer for
them at one of their concerts.”
“They have dancers?” asked Patrick.
“You’ll see,” she said.
Twilight dimmed the sky as Vex turned off of the highway
and onto surface streets. Streetlights were already beginning to flicker on as
she guided the cab through intersections and past shadow-gripped houses. The
bickering had subsided, at least, and changed into a discussion about the bands
that they’d be seeing tonight.
The parking-lot outside of the Bash on Ash, the venue of
the night, was thick with vehicles. Fortunately, it wasn’t difficult to find a
spot further away from the entrance.
“Here we are!” Vex said, killing the engine. “Everybody
out. The show starts in twenty, so we have plenty of time. And that’s just
The back doors opened as she unhooked her seatbelt. Megan
hadn’t even touched her belt yet, she fiddled nervously. “Could you…stay a
moment and talk, Vex?” she said.
Patrick raised an eyebrow, Alex shrugged, and Nathan
closed his door totally oblivious.
“Girl talk,” Vex said.
Alex smirked and Patrick followed her out of the cab. When
the door closed, Vex tilted her gaze across to Megan.
“I’ve…” she said. “I’ve been noticing things in mirrors.”
As part of the metaphysical world, mirrors were potent objects.
They provided gateways for stuff on the other side to gaze through and
sometimes reach through. The mirrors of the cab weren’t—Vex made certain of
that—they were prisms which were then consecrated in a way that disrupted the
flow of magickal energy through them. Only one mirror in her cab had a
capability of being used in that manner and it was safely stowed in the glove
compartment, wrapped in a dampening cloth.
“You know we talked about my visions,” Megan said. “I’ve
been doing some of those meditation exercises that you told me to do. I haven’t
had that dream again. I’d like to learn more.”
Vex shook her head. “Get a handle on what’s going on now.
Then I’ll teach you about theurgy.” She’d totally forgotten about the girl over
the past few days. Not forgotten precisely, but forgotten to look for a person
in the city who could be an appropriate mentor. It would take time. “You’ll get
there. Now, tell me what you’ve been seeing.”
“Birds,” she said, “and sometimes women.” Her eyes flickered
to the rearview mirror for a moment, then she shook her head. “Not in your cab,
though, but the mirror at home. I don’t know what to make of it.”
“I think your encounter with the ghost-world had an effect
on you.” Having nearly been killed could traumatize almost anyone, and Megan
didn’t react well to how Vex chose to handle it. “That girl could have wounded
you. You should talk to Alex about this. She’s a healer.”
“Okay,” Megan said. “I’ll do that.”
“You think you’ll make it through the concert? If not, I
can call Alex back and we can get this figured out right now.”
The other girl shook her head. “No. No. It’s alright. I’m
just wondering. It’s weird. Seeing other people in mirrors.”
“Welcome to the surreal side of life,” Vex said.
People with newly awakened magick often didn’t handle it
so well. Megan seemed extremely well adjusted. She absorbed the visions of
horror and strife unfazed. This was exactly why Vex had chosen her to come
along when she and Andre called upon the lwa to find those missing children—she
might even be a valuable asset when Vex went for the last girl whom still
remained “missing” in the ether.
“Alright then,” Vex popped her door open. “Let’s go enjoy
Once they’d made it inside, Megan excused herself from the group
and slipped into the restroom. She felt flushed, hot all over, and it wasn’t
from the argument she’d gotten into. Sure, music was a subject she could carry
on about and it was fun, but that wasn’t the biggest problem she had. Ever
since Sunday night, things had gotten really strange.
Yes, she was seeing things in mirrors. But, what she’d
left out when talking to Vex was that things were also seeing her.
A couple other women were using the restroom: washing up,
applying makeup, barely registering each other’s presence as they checked
clothing and fixed their hair. Megan found a stall and shut herself in. She
pulled her feet up and stared at the back of the door.
The meditation exercises that Vex taught her were simple.
They involved clearing her mind and imaging a ball of pure white light. Long
ago, Megan had learned a similar thing for calming down when she was
overanxious. It worked well enough then. Still, it was kids’ stuff. There were
probably a lot better things she could learn, if only someone would teach her.
Ball of white light affixed in her mind, Megan tried to relax and waited for
her breathing to calm.
As well as this, Vex told her she could teach her how to
control the visions, even gave her some ideas on how to ignore them. The
information seemed slight, lackluster, just advise about how to let it slip
by—like when her mother told her how to ignore the other girls teasing her at
school, and equally effective. Ignoring the woman in the mirror didn’t do very
much to make her go away.
She’d first noticed her Monday morning. Megan went to
brush her teeth and the other girl walked into the bathroom by passing through
the shower curtains. The toothbrush hit the sink, and the girl in the mirror
glanced at it, but then she looked directly at Megan. For a moment, she felt
like she could hear the breathing of another person in the room—she turned and
there was nobody. She turned back to the mirror and the girl was gone.
For hours, she felt agitated, like someone watched her.
Gooseflesh sprang up every time she passed a window, or the bathroom, or her
mother’s room. That evening, as Megan was cleaning up the living room, she
strayed past the TV set. It was off. The dark screen reflected the room,
distorting furniture and sleeping cats. There, reflected as a part of the room,
the ghostly girl appeared, also twisted by the curve of the television screen.
As she watched, the ghost reached down and tried to touch her shoulder.
Megan screamed and fled from the room.
Her mother chastised her brutally for waking her up.
Tuesday, she took the day off of work and went down to
Mill. There were too many mirrors and mirrored surfaces at work—no telling
where the ghost girl might appear in them. Unfortunately, the windows of shops
all along Mill Ave would have the same problem, as did the windows of the bus.
With her iPod up loud and her eyes closed, Megan managed to make it from her
house into Tempe without even a glimpse of the ghost girl.
Megan heard someone washing their hands, then the door to
the restroom open. For a moment, while it was open, the sounds of an announcer
could be heard loud and clear, suddenly muffled into quiet when it closed
again. Empty. No swish of feet, sound of jewelry jangling. The concert was
probably close to beginning. How long had she been sitting on the toilet?
How stupid she was to go into the bathroom, with a mirror!
Surely, once she opened the door, the girl would be there. Steeling herself,
she reached out and undid the lock on the stall door, it swung open slowly.
And the girl was there, reflected in the mirror, standing
next to Megan. She spread her hands, pleading.
“Can you hear me?”
The voice was very quiet, weak and whispered. At first,
Megan tried to ignore the apparition; she walked over to the sink and began to
wash her hands. The girl spoke a little more, Megan could tell, but she
couldn’t make out the words over the sound of the running water.
She turned it off and stared into the mirror.
“—can help me. I… I’m a student. At ASU’s nursing
college. My name is Tiffany Mains. And … I think I’m dead.” The voice
paused for a moment. “Do I know you?”