It was about five minutes past five p.m. Not too late. Alison stepped out of her car, gazing up at the tall apartment building before her. She was about to call Daniel Hoffinger’s cell when the young man came running up to her from the front doors.
“I’m glad you’re here,” he said, breathing heavily. He shook a hand in front of him, taking in another breath of air. “Sorry, I’m out of breath. Elevator’s broken. Had to take the stairs. We’re on the sixth floor.”
“Anything happen since this morning?”
Daniel shook his head. “Not that I saw. But I was at work most of the day. Joan, my girlfriend, said she heard a lot of weird noises coming from the bedroom. But she didn’t check to see what it was. She was too scared. She’s had the door to the room barricaded shut since we woke up this morning.”
They headed through the glass doors to the lobby of the apartment. The inside was wide and carpeted, with the main office located to the left of the entrance. They made their way past the elevators, an ‘out of order’ sign hanging across the front, to the staircase at the far end of the hall.
Daniel was right. The stairs were exhausting. By the time Alison reached the top of the six flights of stairs she was gasping for air herself. She followed the younger man the rest of the way down the hall of the sixth floor. His room was 605. She watched as he opened the door and peered inside of the apartment.
The girlfriend, Joan, was standing in the kitchen with an open can of beer in her hand. “Thank god you’re here!” she let out loudly. “This has been hell.” She drank from the can. “Total hell. You told her what happened, right Dan?”
The young man nodded, gesturing for Alison to follow. Alison raised a brow at the sight of the closed bedroom door. Indeed, it was barricaded shut. With a turned over chair and small table pushed up against it. “This is the room.”
“Well, let’s take a look then.” Alison helped him to push away the furniture items. She pulled the door open and Joan let out a yelp, backing away, even from her distance in the kitchen.
“I’m outta here,” Joan said. “Call me when you’re done, Dan. I’ll go pick up some dinner or something.”
“Okay,” Dan called back.
Alison could see the tall mirror standing in the corner of the bedroom. She stepped into the room, cocking her head to the side as she came closer. There was definitely something here. She could feel it. Something different.
Daniel walked up beside her. “So… what do you think?”
“I’m not sure yet.” She took a few more steps forward until the mirror was standing directly in front of her. Her eyes moved around the heavy, carved frame, taking note of small animals carved into the side. The dark finish was peeling and chipped around the corners. It really was an antique.
Now that she was closer, the unnatural energy around it felt stronger than ever, verifying his claims of supernatural activity. The energy felt thick and strong, radiating from the center of the glass and extending outward. It almost felt like a window. No, more like a door to somewhere else entirely. She reached forward, touching the smooth glass.
The mirror rippled suddenly. She let out a gasp, stepping back. The surface had moved like water. It vibrated in tiny movements across the glass starting from the point she had touched. How strange. She had never seen anything do something like that before.
The ripples faded away slowly and the glass began to turn in liquid waves that splashed forward and pulled back as if in a great storm. What the hell was this? A shadow rose from the depths of the mirrored world. She watched in frightened awe as the face engulfed in shadow appeared before her. It was the same face. The one she had seen many times before. But why? What did it mean?
It changed now. It was transforming itself. It was changing from the shadowed figure she had seen in her television and in Emily’s attic into something that appeared human. It formed the long pale face of a man, with a pointed nose and a smooth head. Its body appeared with it, thin and lanky and dressed in black pants and black coat. She felt frozen in place at the sight, completely terrified stiff.
What was it doing here? Had it come for her? The way it had come for her sister?
He looked up at her. The pupil and iris of his eyes were entirely black, and they narrowed and widened as they focused on her, as if the man were narrowing invisible eye lids over them. “Alison.”
She let out a shriek. She closed her eyes, screaming loudly and wishing for it to disappear. Her head spun frantically to Daniel. Wasn’t he seeing this? Wasn’t he frightened too? They should be running away. What was keeping him from leaving?
To her astonishment, Daniel neither moved nor ran. He didn’t blink. He didn’t breath. He appeared completely frozen in place. She realized, he was frozen. The man didn’t move, didn’t blink or acknowledge anything that was happening. It was as if time had stopped itself completely, leaving the room in a silent limbo.
The man in the mirror began pulling himself forward, his head poking out through the glass. He continued to pull the rest of himself out, exiting as if through an entrance. His hand emerged and then his legs. Soon, he had disentangled himself completely from the confines of the full-length mirror and was standing right in front of her.
His body stood at a height of almost seven feet tall. Alison stared up at him, her breath coming out in heavier and heavier gasps of air. Her limbs felt useless as she stood there, as if her muscles had completely atrophied by his very presence. “W… Who are you?” she stammered out. She wasn’t even aware she had asked the question until it left her lips. She thought of the conversation she and Joshua had that morning. He had asked her if she was ever scared. Yes. Right now, she was terrified.
“Death,” he replied.
She wasn’t thinking. Her mind was blank with fear. “I knew it,” she murmured. Scared. She was so scared. She knew his face. Death’s face. She had seen him moments before her sister had died. He was always there, always taking lives. He was disaster in the flesh. “You killed her.” She didn’t know what she was saying. It was all happening too fast. “Why’d you take my sister?” He radiated darkness. The air felt heavy with pressure. It suffocated her. His presence pressed down on her, crushing her. She felt tears in her eyes. “She was only fourteen.”
“Death doesn’t choose its victims. It simply obeys the laws of the universe. I can’t be blamed for carrying out my sole purpose.”
Alison felt herself stepping back. She couldn’t stop herself. Her natural instinct was to flee. She felt the back of her leg bump roughly against the side of the bed. Before she knew it, she was falling backward, her hands against the top of the bed and her butt against the edge of the mattress. “What… What are you doing here?” She didn’t understand why he was talking to her like this.
“I’m not your enemy, Alison.” He blinked and his body began to flicker before her eyes. Like a projected hologram turning on and off. “I can’t stay much longer. When the Blessed die the world will end. The unnatural is becoming natural. When the Blessed die, this world will disappear.”
“The Blessed?” She couldn’t think. She had heard that somewhere before. From… From… She couldn’t think. Her mind drew a blank. Too scared. She was too scared.
The image of his body began to flicker again. It disappeared and reappeared before her eyes. “You’re a messenger that connects the living to the dead. When the Blessed die, the world will end. Pass the message. It won’t be long…” His voice faded out. His body disappeared and reappeared. The voice faded back in slowly. “…of Hell…” The voice faded out and in again. “…and everything will die.” The man began to disappear completely. Only his voice was left. It echoed his last words. “… and everything will die.”
He was gone. Completely gone.
“So… what do you think?”
Alison turned to look at Daniel, who gave her a nervous smile. “What?” she asked. He was moving again?
“I mean, is it haunted or what?”
“I… I don’t know.” She paused. He didn’t see it? “You didn’t see anything strange… just now… Did you?”
He shook his head quickly, his eyes widening. “Why? Did you?”
“I… I’m not sure. I’ll have to… look at it a little longer.” He didn’t see it. It was as if it had never happened. Was she going crazy? “Actually… I … I have to go.” She turned around, hurrying away from the mirror. It was real, wasn’t it? She hadn’t made it up.
She ran from the bedroom, out of the apartment and to the stairs. It was real. Death had spoken to her. Death had called her a messenger. She couldn’t think. She ran faster. Down the stairs. She was too terrified to make sense out of any of it. She was a messenger? What did that mean? Was she supposed to do something now? She didn’t want it. She didn’t want to even think about it.
She ran to her car. It had started raining. Death had spoken to her. Death.
She stepped up to her car. Just as she reached for the door handle, Greg popped up in her driver seat, waving up at her and she started screaming. She turned away, her hand covering her mouth. The rain poured over her head, dripping from her hair and soaking into the shoulders of her blue blouse.
“What’s wrong?” Greg asked, looking perplexed. “Did I scare you again?′
She wiped her face with her hands. Greg. That was the one. He was the one. He had mentioned ‘the Blessed’ to her before. She pulled the door open and climbed inside.
Greg floated to the passenger side, giving her a weird look. “Are you okay?”
“N… No, I’m not. I’m not okay.” She pulled her keys from her purse, jumbling them around in her hands before stuffing them into the ignition. “I’m not okay, all right?”
“I got that much. Why? What happened?”
“Nothing.” She started her car and pulled it from the parking place. Spinning the wheel, she pulled her car from the parking lot and headed toward the road. “No, it’s not nothing,” she said. “You mentioned ‘the Blessed’, didn’t you? Remember? You said it last night. You said to tell you if I heard anything.”
Greg’s face went serious as she spoke. “You found something?”
“Yes. No. I have no idea.” She didn’t understand. Why did it tell her? What was she supposed to do about it? “I saw a… a thing. It looked like a man but it wasn’t a man. It was… like death had made itself a body. And it… it said that when the Blessed died the world would end. I don’t know what it means. I don’t have any idea what it was trying to say to me.”
“When the Blessed die, the world is going to end?”
“Yeah.” She was crying. She never cried. “It scared me. I never get scared and it really scared me.”
“Hey, it’s okay,” Greg said, as if trying to comfort her. He reached forward to touch her shoulder but his hand fell through her back instead. Sighing audibly, he pulled his hand away.
She sniffled loudly, wiping at her face. She didn’t want to talk about it anymore and she didn’t want to make Greg worry when he didn’t have to. She said, “I ran away from my client. He probably thinks there’s something wrong with me now. I never should’ve done that. I panicked.”
“You keep this up and you’ll end up going out of business.”
“Yeah, I know, all right? He’ll tell his friends what happened and they’ll tell their friends. I’m ruined.”
“It’s not like you did it on purpose,” Greg said.
“I don’t even want to think about it. Just forget it. I’m fine.” It embarrassed her showing so much emotion in front of him. There was nothing she hated more than breaking down in front of other people. She let out a breath of air, turned the steering wheel and headed right.
“You’re not fine.”
“No, really,” she said firmly. “It’s nothing. I completely blew the whole thing out of proportion.”
“But if it scared you that much…” he insisted.
“Honestly,” Alison said, cutting him off. “I don’t want to talk about it anymore.”
Greg looked annoyed. “But what about the Blessed? What else did that thing say about it? I mean, what did it look like? Did it try and hurt you? You need to tell me this. This is really important to me, Alison.”
She had forgotten about that. To Greg, this wasn’t about her. This was about him fulfilling whatever purpose he had given himself on this Earth. This was about his death. She couldn’t just ignore that fact when it was convenient for her. She wasn’t that selfish and he was too important to her for her to do something like that to him. Breathing deeply, she said, “I’m sorry, I wasn’t trying to be a bitch.”
He looked at her at her for a moment before shaking his head, a hand going to his forehead. “No, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t’ve pushed you.”
“It’s not that,” Alison said. “I do want to help you. I really do. That thing didn’t try and hurt me. It just looked like a normal man.” She hesitated. “His eyes were strange though. They were completely black and they changed shape a lot.”
“It didn’t try and hurt you at all?”
“No. It just said I had to pass the message, that when the Blessed died, the world would end. That was pretty much it.”
“Oh,” Greg said. “I guess that doesn’t help me too much.”
“Greg,” Alison said. “Seriously, what’s this about? How did you really die?” He looked reluctant to answer. He was so secretive about it that her mind couldn’t help but jump to all kinds of crazy conclusions. What could possibly be so awful that he couldn’t tell her about it?
“I do want to tell you,” he reassured her finally.
“Then tell me.”
“Not now. Maybe later. Just not now.”
He was always doing that to her.
There was too much on her mind for her to argue with him further about it. What was the connection between the thing that called itself Death, the Blessed, and Greg? What did any of it have to do with her? Death had told her to pass the message, but how was she supposed to do that when she didn’t even know what it all meant?