A Vampire in the Mirrorbykuellar©
It was easy to see why people thought the house was haunted. It certainly looked the part: old, gothic, and forbidding. The house had two wings and one central tower, although one of the wings was almost completely destroyed. The walls were crumbling and blackened - the house had been ravaged by a fire, or so the story went. Some sort of growth covered most of the exposed surfaces, something like a vine, except it had no leaves. The thin branches snaked everywhere, creeping over the old stones like veins.
James took off his backpack and threw it over the gate. He gripped the iron bars tightly and clambered over, careful to avoid the sharp spikes. His feet hit the gravel with a muffled crunch. There was a stillness here, a sudden quietness. James shouldered his backpack, suppressing a shiver, and started up towards the house. The trees lining the path were twisted and dead, gnarled fingers frozen in mid-grasp. Not a breath stirred the air.
"This place is amazing," James whispered. The sound of his own voice was comforting. He could feel his heart racing already. Everything here just dripped with atmosphere - there must be something to the stories.
The front door was heavy, wooden, and creaked loudly as he opened it. It was dark inside; the shafts of sunlight that streamed through the windows were pale, cold, leeched of life. James rummaged in his backpack and produced a torch. He flicked it on, playing the beam around the room. All the furniture was covered in dusty cloth. There was a stone fireplace on the left, surrounded by what looked like chairs. Ahead of him was a large central staircase, splitting at the top, each branch - he assumed - leading to one wing of the house. James approached the stairs and ascended, moving slowly, swinging his torch from left to right. Behind him, the front door swung slowly shut.
The one intact wing of the house stretched before him, soaked in shadow. The thin beam of the torch revealed a long corridor, with rooms on both sides. The floor was carpeted, the colours and designs long since faded to a dark, mottled grey. Portraits lined the walls. James moved forward, studying the paintings. Most were blackened and scarred, but some were relatively intact. They showed men and women in period costumes - medieval, James guessed, but he really didn't know enough to be sure. One in particular caught his eye, a beautiful woman -
James swung around, the torchlight dancing from wall to wall. He strained his eyes against the darkness, but saw nothing.
"Jaaamesss..." The voice was soft, breathy, female. He gripped the torch tightly, heart pounding. A haunted house - this was real! With a deep breath he took a tentative step forward, eyes and ears straining. Another step.
"Here, James..." The door on his right. He was sure of it. He eased it open.
The room was empty except for a large object in the centre, covered in cloth. He reached out, grasped the rough fabric, pulled. The sheet slid to the ground, revealing an ornate mirror in a gilded frame, dull with age.
There was a woman in the mirror.
James gasped. She was gorgeous! Her skin was pale, her long dark hair tumbled over ivory shoulders. Her face was exquisite, midnight-black eyes, aquiline nose, ruby lips. She was dressed in a flowing dress, blood-red, that failed to hide the swell of her expansive bosom.
James watched, entranced, as she approached him from behind and laid her hands gently on his shoulders. "Thank you, James," she whispered, her breath tickling his ear.
He spun around, and the feeling vanished abruptly. There was no one there.
He turned around again - and there she was, her hands once again caressing his shoulders, her hair brushing his cheek. She gazed at him in the mirror, dark eyes intense.
"Who are you?"
She smiled at him. "I am the Lady of this house."
"Are you... a ghost?"
"I am not dead, James. Merely trapped."
She nodded slowly, her eyes never leaving his.
James frowned suddenly. "Wait a minute - how did you know my name? Did you read my mind?"
Now she chuckled richly. "My, such an imagination! Most people would be trembling in fear right now."
James cleared his throat and tried to stand a little bit straighter. "Well, I'm not afraid."
"No, I think you tremble for a different reason." Her hand slid down his arm and brushed against his thigh lightly. He followed the movement in the mirror, and felt his face going red.
"But perhaps you should be afraid," she said, drawing his attention back to her face. Her red lips peeled back in a wide smile, revealing two sharp, milk-white fangs.
With a strangled cry, James turned and ran.
Not until he was outside his house did he finally stop, out of breath, gasping. And yet he couldn't help but smile. A real haunting! He would go back tomorrow - and this time he would be prepared. He stepped inside, tingling with excitement.
"Alice! Kid's back."
"Hello, father," James said, receiving only a grunt in response. His father lay sprawled on the couch, eyes glued to the TV.
"James! You're late! I thought you were coming home straight from the university?" His mother appeared in the kitchen doorway, wearing a dirty apron, face drawn, hair in an untidy bun. "Dinner soon, go up and get changed." She disappeared back into the kitchen. James trudged up the stairs.
He was washing his face in the sink when he felt a presence behind him. He froze. A slender hand ran through his hair.
"You're here," he whispered, looking up slowly at the mirror above the sink. "How - did you follow me?"
"We have a connection, James." The woman in the mirror smiled. Her ebon eyes bored into his.
James saw the tips of her fangs protruding over her lower lip. "You're a... vampire?"
He shook his head. "But vampires don't have a reflection."
She extended a hand into the water from the still-running faucet, and brought it up to his face. He felt cool wetness as she ran a finger down his cheek, over his lips. "Which side of the mirror is the reflection?" She arched an eyebrow.
"But... I can feel you."
"As I said, James, we have a connection. You came to my house. You uncovered the mirror. The first person in a long time."
For a moment she glanced away, and James thought he saw a flicker of sadness in those midnight eyes. He was no longer afraid, he realised.
"What happened there? Is it true that the house burned down?"
"They... tried to kill me. Tried to burn me, in my own home. I hid in the only place I could."
She nodded. "One side to the other. I was trapped for so long... but now I am here. Thanks to you."
"James! Dinner!" His mother's voice sounded faintly from downstairs.
The woman in the mirror began to fade.
"Wait! What's your name?"
"Valeria." She smiled, and vanished.
That night she came to him in his dreams. The memory of it was hazy, dark images of her writhing above him, raven hair flying, eyes flashing. She bent down, whispered in his ear. "So long since I have... had a man..." The feel of her wrapped around him, passion, welcoming wetness, but somehow cold. The exotic, musky scent of her. Her nails dug into his flesh as she rode him.
And then, just before she left, she whispered to him again. "Take a mirror with you, tomorrow. So we can be together... it has been... so long..."
He awoke with an erection, painfully hard, gasping, covered in sweat.
He cradled it carefully in his hands, while he sat on the bus. The silver was tarnished, but it still caught the sunlight, glancing reflections dancing across his face. There was an inscription on the back - just one word: Alice. Barely recognisable now, worn down with age and hardship. He ran his fingers over the faded letters, over the smooth round edges, over the slender handle.
He turned the mirror over. Valeria smiled at him. She sat next to him, and it was a strange feeling: he could see her in the mirror, her flowing dress whispering over the rough leather seat; he could sense her presence next to him - but when he turned his head there was no one there.
"You found a mirror," she said. "I am glad."
James nodded. "My mother's."
She reached out and laid a hand gently on his arm. "Why did you come, James? Why did you come to my house?"
"I was... curious."
"Oh, there is more to it than that. We have a connection, remember? You were hoping to find something."
James shrugged, shifting in his seat. "I suppose I was. Something..."
There was a couple sitting in the seat in front of him. They turned at the sound of his voice, saw him apparently speaking to a mirror. The woman rolled her eyes. "Freak," the man muttered.
"Something more than this," James said, softly.
Valeria said nothing for a moment, her eyes flashing into his, her gaze unreadable. "I am glad you came," she said at last. "Trapped in that mirror for so long... but I think you understand, James. I think you know what it is... to be lonely..."
Her hand drifted down his arm, brushed lightly against the crotch of his jeans. He jerked away, turned the mirror over. She vanished.
The bus trundled to a stop outside the university. James sat through the first lecture in a daze. The lecturer droned on about literary tropes, but in his mind James was replaying his visit to that house. The initial excitement of his discovery had worn away; now he was beginning to question his own sanity. He had hoped to find something out of the ordinary, something more than the mundane - but he had been unprepared to actually find the thing he was looking for.
In the toilet he splashed water on his face, trying to clear his head. He felt a profound discontent well up within him. He held up the little round mirror, turning it over in his hands. Why shouldn't it be real? Why should he care if people thought he was crazy?
The toilet door swung upon and two burly figures walked in. They stopped short when they saw James.
"Well well well, what have we here?"
"Jimbo Dorkface himself, alone in the toilet - doesn't that bring back memories?"
James stepped away from the sink, his heart suddenly pounding. "Look - Clive, Frank, this is university, for god's sake. When are you going to grow up?"
"When are you going to move out of your mommy's house?" They shared a high five.
"Look, Jimbo," Clive said. He gestured to an empty cubicle. "What say we take you for a little spin? For old times' sake?"
They advanced on him slowly. James backed away until he was pressed against the wall between two urinals. "Just leave me alone."
"Look's like Jimbo's backed into a corner," said Frank. "Still as slow as ever. There's only one way out of this - what's it gonna be, Jimbo?"
In desperation James glanced to his left, at the mirror above the sinks. Valeria gazed back at him. "Just say the word, James," she said softly.
James looked again at Clive and Frank. At their hooded eyes, their sneering lips. He saw the faces that had stolen his childhood, all the pain and terror he had felt from those cruel hands - he saw in them everything that made him weak and impotent, everything that filled him with silent rage; he saw in them everything that was wrong with his world, and he felt a sudden surge of white-hot hate -
It was over in an instant. Valeria grabbed Clive by his collar and flung him against the sink. His head smacked against the tiles with a dull thud, and he slid limply to the floor. Frank gaped. Valeria grabbed him from behind and sank her teeth into his neck. There was a wet tearing sound, blood sprayed against the wall.
James stood frozen in shock. She looked so out of place, standing there in the midst of the carnage, her flowing dress as immaculate as ever, blood pooling from the body at her feet.
"You... you killed them."
"They were going to hurt you, James."
"You shouldn't have killed them!"
The toilet door swung open again. There was a scream, and a storm of retreating footsteps.
"Someone has seen you. Quick, hide!" Valeria grabbed his arm. James stood unmoving. "Get inside, James! Hurry!" She dragged him into a cubicle.
More footsteps swarmed into the toilet. In the cubicle James trembled. "This can't be happening," he whispered.
There were gasps and shouts from outside. "He's in here," someone said.
James held the mirror in his hands. Valeria knelt down next to him. "James, listen to me."
Someone banged on the cubicle door. "Open up!"
Valeria clutched his arm. "James, they think you did it. No one else can see me."
"What's happening to me?"
"Come with me, James. I can take you away from here. We can be together. No more fear, no more loneliness, for either of us."
"I don't -"
"If you don't open this door we're going to have to break it down!"
James looked at her. "What do I do?"
"Put the mirror against your neck. And trust me."
James felt the cool glass against his skin. The cubicle door shuddered. He felt the points of her fangs, scraping... There was a sudden sharp pain, and thick wetness ran down his neck -
The cubicle door shuddered again, and burst open.
"Fuck me," said the man. He ran a trembling hand through his hair. "Never seen anything like this in my life."
The body lay sprawled on the toilet seat, head back, mouth open. Thick rivers of blood ran from the neck, dripping onto the floor. A broken mirror lay in the pool of blood, glinting silver.
The other man pointed. "Did he cut himself with the mirror?"
"I guess he must have. This is some fucked-up shit here." The first man leaned down and gingerly picked up the mirror, only to drop it with a hiss. It was freezing cold.