Behind the Mirror
My heart pounded with the knowledge that I might have to subject myself to a cross-examination if I didn't get my facts straight. To make things worse, I didn't like how the guy looked at me when we took our seats in his office; he sat across the desk from me in his cushioned-backed seat and I on the other, while my parents sat nervously on the chairs near the doorway staring at both of us.
When I looked around his office, I saw that his desk was situated against the bookcase full of case books to the left. To the right of his desk, where there was enough space to walk through, were panes of tinted glass. And behind his desk to his right side was a door that led to the hallway and towards the elevators. What all of this meant, I hadn't a clue.
Then the lawyer requested my parents to leave, and with my urging, they went out of the room and shut the door; I still heard them talking further down the hall. For my part, I requested total confidence, and he gave it to me with a nod of his head.
Then the lawyer introduced himself as Alan Westerfield and shook my hand, a strong shake, a shake that told me he could crush my hand if he felt like it. From my seat, he towered over me, made me extremely uncomfortable. Then he said, "I imagine you're getting tired of all the questions, aren't you?"
"Trust me, you have no idea," I said.
That put a smile on his face. "Well, I'm just gonna burden you with one question, okay?"
"How did Karen Waters end up in your room?"
"I don't know."
"You don't know?"
"I said I don't know! I… I can't explain it very well without sounding like I lost my marbles or something. I mean," and I flicked my gaze at his stony face and down at my reflection in the varnish of his desk, "I can't expect you to believe it when I can barely believe in it myself."
"I'm your lawyer, Mr. Trent, not the prosecutor, not the judge, but your lawyer. I'm not asking you if you believe it or doubt it; I'm just asking what happened, plain and simple. Just tell me what happened, that's all."
Then I inhaled and exhaled and said, "All right, but… Don't say I didn't warn you. It's kind of weird telling you about this, because everything is still going on. Cameras are still rolling; blowhards are still talking; almost everyone still suspects me of having something to do with this mess." I sighed at this fact, still reeling over the endless accusations and speculations on the television news, then said, "But before I get ahead of myself, I'll start from the beginning. Not the disappearance—that comes later. For me, it started seven months before her disappearance, starting with a mirror…"
* * *
On that day, I woke up with a start; it was like falling off a cliff at the moment when you realize you can't fly. I didn't like that feeling, and when I sat up on the bed, I realized why—my birthday. Unlike most kids, I hated my birthday. And on top of that, I couldn't believe what greeted me on the door—a mirror. But not just any mirror; it was a dingy old dressing mirror with all the tracery on the edges, and on it was pasted a note that read in big Expo marker letters, "HAPPY BIRTHDAY & APRIL FOOLS, JAY!—FROM GRANDMA ROSE!"
I seethed on the inside. It's bad enough having your birthday on April Fool's Day, but it's worse having a grandmother give you weird presents. I didn't like her presents that much. They were either too creepy, or too gross, or just too weird. But I guess it could've been worse. Last year, she gave me a dreamcatcher that didn't catch dreams; instead, it funneled and concentrated them, making my dreams that much more intense. The year before that, she gave me a small chest that was supposed to attract coins when you're not looking, but it only attracted bugs—big ones. I can go on and on about the other presents, but I'll leave it at that.
Anyway, when I got off the bed to check out this antique of a mirror, I glared at the thing. Staring back at me was my reflection against the backdrop of my bedroom in all of its insignificant glory. Then my parents called. But as I turned to go, something happened; it was barely an instant when I turned and noticed it. I didn't so much as turn my head when I saw out of the corner of my eye that my reflection never moved but stayed there facing me. Instantly, I took a double-take, but it was over; my reflection was back to normal.
Back then, I just shrugged it off, blaming it on my sleepiness before going to the bathroom to brush my teeth. But in the bathroom, I got that weird sense of anticipation; I found myself stealing glances at the mirror in front of me as I brushed, trying to replicate what I saw (or thought I saw) in the other mirror. But to no avail. Nothing else happened, so I got dressed as quick as I could and headed out the door and down the stairs.
At the breakfast table, my parents greeted me with knowing smiles. Dad, already dressed in his slacks and office shirt, once again had his nose deep in the pages of the Review Journal, while Mom said she was cooking up something really special, since I was the birthday boy that day. I smelled the scent of frying pancake batter and the sizzle of the bacon bits.
Dad said behind his paper, "Top of the morning to you, Jay. How'd you like the present Grandma Rose gave you?"
"You mean the mirror?"
"Yeah, the one on the door." Then he set his newspaper down and looked at me. "Hope nothing weird happened with it."
"Now, now, go easy on him," Mom said. "He needs his breakfast before you start scaring him again. Besides, it's only a mirror; it's nothing like the other presents she gives him, for once."
"Yeah, but you know how her presents cause weird stuff around the house. Like when she gave him that cane that keeps disappearing and reappearing all over the place; I'm still looking for that thing, you know."
"Don't get too caught up in the past. Today's a new day, and today just happens to be Jay's day," and she came over and placed a plate of flap jacks, five high, in front of me and Dad. "Here you go, honey; enjoy your breakfast."
"What about me?" Dad said. "Am I going to starve now?"
"Your love handles are becoming fistfuls, Carter. You need to get your tush on a diet or at least an exercise plan and actually stick to it." Then she looked at her watch. "All right, I'm off; see you two later," and off she went to work to do battle with her cohost on The Morning Show.
After we said our goodbyes, Dad and I were left alone, and for a while silence reigned as we dug into the flap jacks.
Then Dad said, after swallowing his mouthful, "So, Jay, what's on your mind? You seem extra thoughtful today."
"I don't know."
He raised his brows. "You don't know what exactly?"
"Well…" And my words drifted off, my thoughts still unable to rationalize the reflection on the—
"It's the mirror, isn't it? Did something weird happen with the mirror? I know Grandma Rose gives all these weird things for you on your birthdays."
"No, it's not that," I lied; I didn't want to talk about it.
Silence reigned once again. Then he cracked a smile and said, "Oh, I see, I see. Thinking of getting yourself a girlfriend, eh?"
"NO!" I stopped, not expecting to yell.
"Okay, okay, sailor, okay. I was just saying, that's all." That pretty much killed the rest of the conversation for the next few minutes; I guess in his attempt to be buddy-buddy with me, he ended up annoying me. But if he saw what I saw, he wouldn't be laughing about it; he'd be telling Mom about it, arguing with her yet again over Grandma Rose's 'little eccentricities', as Mom called them. So we finished off the pancakes in silence.
When it was time for me to go to school, though, I picked myself up from the table and made for the door but then stopped. My heart picked up some at the faintest thought of something, though I was pretty sure it wasn't the mirror, oh no. it was something else, a premonition maybe, but it felt more like an epiphany. After giving it more thought, I thought I knew where it stemmed from. So I just assumed. The mirror, it was the damn mirror.
"What's the matter?" Dad said. "Forget something?"
"I forgot my backpack," I said, turning around and heading for my room. At this, I heard my dad say that I really must be getting old or something, but I ignored it, going up the stairs. On opening the door and letting it swing shut, I looked at the mirror; beside the mirror on the foot of the door was my backpack, which I then swung over my shoulder. Then I looked up. Staring back at me was my reflection, all dressed up for school with a backpack overloaded with binders and books. Why I carried so much stuff in my backpack when I could have stored my books in my locker, I blamed it on a faulty lock and a stripped-out key; how they got that way, I have no idea. Hence, I was called the 'turtle boy' on the butt of some of my friends' jokes.
I turned from those thoughts and was about to head out but stopped again.
The straps of my pack really dug into my shoulders this time, as my bag felt like it was gaining weight. Then I felt something moving inside my backpack, before I heard the zipper open and was tempted to look back at what caused it. I found nothing out of the ordinary, until I turned and looked at the mirror. There in the reflection, I saw a hand creep up over my shoulder and cup at my mouth.
I panicked, almost choking on my tongue before throwing down my backpack. Then it was over; the zipper was closed; the hand was gone; and when I picked up the backpack again, it was back to its normal weight. I made sure and opened it to check, and sure enough, no hand was there, not even a severed dead one. When I looked at the mirror again, I glared at it, daring it to do it again in my half-sane state, but nothing came about.
So I just crumpled up the unsettling memory and threw it in the waste bin of my mind, there to be forgotten until the times when I got nightmares about the mirror.
* * *
Since Grandma Rose gave me that mirror on the auspicious day of my birthday, I did some research over the next few months into the superstitions of mirrors. If eyes are windows to the soul, then mirrors are said to be reflections of it. Mirrors are said to never lie; they can only show the truth. This fact troubled me; vampires are said to have no reflection in a mirror, and the devil is said to have one. If this is so, then what would explain that hand I saw? I shuddered thinking about it.
Also, since mirrors are reflections of the soul, breaking one will supposedly break your soul and give you seven years of bad luck. But this is only seven years and not a lifetime, because mirrors are also said to regenerate every seven years, coming back unbroken. Moreover, two mirrors facing each other create bad luck, making a house of mirrors unlucky in the extreme. Furthermore, a mirror that falls off of a wall or breaks or cracks under mysterious circumstances are said to be haunted; little did I know how prophetic this would turn out.
In addition to research, I also had nightmares about the mirror in my room. I won't go into every detail about them, because I don't want to waste your time or your nerves on needless details. I will only say that of these, I dreamed of four of my worst nightmares. Four in number, like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
The first one happened one night around June. I had one of those outer-body experiences some people have of floating off the bed and drifting bodily towards the mirror, bearing eerie similarities to an alien abduction. And as the mirror got larger and larger, a hand would grab at my feet and pull me through the reflection into God knows what, while my terrified self would be kicking and screaming. At this, I woke up sweating and panting in horror.
The second one happened one night in the middle of September. I found myself in the presence of a naked woman standing in front of the mirror, beckoning me to her. And as I drifted closer and closer and ogled at her beauty and even dared to touch her in the worst way, wanting to grope and feel and kiss and enjoy every part of her, I would look at the mirror and see something else. Instead of this beautiful woman, I saw the bloated decaying corpse of an old hag, at which point I woke up screaming—with an erection.
At those moments, I thought it couldn't get any worse. But it did the day of the disappearance, the day Karen Waters entered the headlines.
* * *
On that day, October 24, a Wednesday, I first heard of Karen Waters' disappearance on Fox News. Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and the rest had a field day, spouting speculation after speculation about who, what, when, where, how and why it happened. Her smiling missing-persons photo was plastered to the screen besides the talking points, a sunny doe-eyed face with a cascade of dark hair falling past her shoulder straps. It was the usual foot-to-mouth ordeal of overstated punditry and understated fact. Adding to this, Mom and Dad always added their own overstated opinions to what they had to say, while I sat there on my chair during dinner, filtering out the bull.
First, Karen Waters was seventeen and lived in Las Vegas, Nevada, where she still lived with her parents before she disappeared. Second, her friend and high school classmate, Diana March, said Waters had visited her residence about two blocks down the road from Waters' house that night at 8:00 p.m., one hour before her disappearance; Waters told her she had a falling out with her parents after she caught them spying on her. Third, Waters was last seen at 9:00 p.m. the night of her disappearance at the Palisade Village neighborhood by Oakey Boulevard and Camber Lane, about two miles away from the March house at Oakey Boulevard off Buffalo Road. Fourth, when police asked March why she left, she said that Waters' parents suspected their daughter of an illicit affair that she vehemently denied, but her parents won't believe her. This was all they had when the story came out, and from this so-called 'illicit affair' stemmed all the speculation.
Speculation before the release of the facts showed a clear case of poisoning the well. If you asked me, I hated it; due to the sensational coverage, I was sure that the public would suspect Waters' parents of bringing about her end, albeit without knowing. And though they had solid alibis, the eventual blame would land (at least in part) on the parents.
If there's one thing to blame, it's the parents for raising her that way, my Dad always said.
Well, I conceded to that point, but that was beside the actual point. The real point, I observed, rested on the discrepancy between where she was last seen and where she might have disappeared. One thing didn't always preclude another. For all anyone knew, she could have disappeared where no witnesses were around to see it, implying that she might not have told her friend where she was headed, because she wanted to be alone. But did she expect to be alone? And who was the last person that saw her on Oakey Boulevard and Camber Lane? Nobody, so far as I know, picked up on that. Was she truly alone?
Or was she stalked?
That part scared me the most; goosebumps formed on my forearms, as I considered the possibilities, considered with bated breath. I thought about it, because I was stalked once, though I never told police, my parents or anyone about it.
Now, it's not what you think; it happened at Derfelt Elementary during the afternoon Safekey when I was ten, when my friends and I decided to tell ghost stories as the sun began to set in that red October sky. I remembered one kid, Cade, telling me of ghosts that stalk you if you dare them to. It's called a ghost dare. Of course, I thought it was a load of bull, but when he challenged me to it, I backed off; I was too chicken, I'll admit. So after calling me chicken, Cade took on the dare himself and said an incantation which I won't reproduce here; it's not something to mess with. But then, after he called me a four-eyed chicken, I got angry and took on the dare as well, repeating the incantation.
Then we waited for it to happen, but it didn't happen the way we thought it would.
Three days after that dare, Cade died of a heart attack, though the jury's still out on what caused it. I bawled when I found out and didn't sleep that night; I couldn't stop thinking about him. Then on the third day after he died, six days after the dare, I had an experience that troubled me for a while. During afternoon Safekey, still depressed over his death, I started hearing footsteps wherever I went in the lunch hall, though none of the other kids heard them, not even while they were with me. After this continued for a week, I decided to go into the bathroom and splash water on my face to calm my nerves.
That's when it happened.
When I looked up at the mirror, I jumped back at the image. Cade stood behind me in the reflection, smiling; but when I spun around to face him, he wasn't there. And when I turned back at the mirror, he was gone. Back then, when the terror was fresh and real in my mind, I was insane with terror and half-suicidal with guilt. But as the incident lost its edge over the ensuing years, I began to think of it under a different light; I thought of it as Cade's way of having the last laugh, as he turned over in his grave in gut-busting hysterics. Even in death, he was the joker. That's how I used to think about it.
Until Waters' disappearance. When that happened, the terror had rekindled and now loomed fresh as carrion in my mind, with those terrifying questions coming at me like a one-two punch: Was she alone? And if not, then who or what followed her?
Those questions must have shown on my face, because my dad said, frowning at me, "You're thinking about that girl's disappearance, aren't you?"
I looked up at Dad, then averted my eyes. "Yeah, I guess so."
Mom shook her head, saying, "Don't, Jay. You don't even know who she is. For all we know, she could've just ran away from home; I know I would if I had parents like that. Maybe it's not as bad as you think it is."
"What if it is as bad as I think it is?" I said. "And how do you know what I'm thinking?"
"I don't, but you always seem to think of the worst-case scenario in everything."
"What if the worst-case scenario is the truth?"
"Okay, okay, Jay, we get it," Dad said. "Enough with the rhetorical questions already, okay? I know you're a smart kid, so don't waste it on something terrible like a murder."
"And how do you know it's a murder?"
"Enough, Jay, we're eating!" Mom said. "Carter, please change the channel."
As Dad handled the remote, I said, "How come when you two talk about it, it's okay, and when I talk about it, it's not?"
"You're too young to think of that stuff, Jay."
"I'm sixteen, not a baby!"
"Jay, don't yell at the dinner table," my dad warned. "We didn't raise you to be that way."
"But how come she yelled, and you didn't say anything?" I shot back.
"Because we are your parents, Jay. Do as we say, not as we do, okay? We know you're a smart kid for your age, and—God willing—you might make one hell of a cop someday, but you're not ready for that kind of stuff. Not yet. Give it time, all right? Just give it time."
"Carter, I know you mean well," Mom said, "but don't tempt him. I don't want him to be a cop. It's too dangerous."
And on the conversation went, drifting from Karen Waters' disappearance to my future prospects. It's funny how things turn out in family conversations. One moment, it's the news, the next moment, it's you. In the end, no matter how absurd the idea seems, all events seemed to connect to me in the minds of my parents (especially my mom), who take precautions to guard me from them. It's the classic case of the paranoid and overprotective parent.
The rest of the dinner was uneventful. But as I ate in silence, I turned the features of Waters' disappearance over in my mind, trying to puzzle it out. But the more I thought about it, the more it scared me, as memories of Cade's death and the soundbites of Waters' disappearance floated to the surface like floating corpses. I hadn't the slightest clue how they were connected, or even if they were connected at all, but they resonated in my mind throughout dinner and into the night.
Thus, in that state of mind, I went to bed and had my third nightmare. Though I didn't remember what I dreamed of at first, my parents said they heard me talking in my sleep, tossing and turning over the sheets, moaning and sometimes screaming or crying.
At first, I was perplexed (even curious) of what I had dreamed. But as the days drew on and the more I knew about Karen Waters' disappearance in the ensuing updates, the more I realized that I didn't want to know what happened in my dream on that night. There are some things in this world better left unsaid, unrecorded, unknown.
But, so far as I knew, the mirror had other plans. Because during the next few nights, I had that recurring dream about entering the mirror again and waking up just before I went all the way in, moaning and sometimes screaming or crying. Until one day, when I woke up to find a crack in the mirror. When I saw that, I knew one thing for sure. The mirror Grandma Rose gave me was haunted. That's when all the really weird stuff began to happen.
* * *
On the day I met Karen Waters, October 31, other weird things happened besides the mirror cracking. For one, I woke up hearing a voice whispering in my ear. And though I wasn't sure who it was or what it said at the time, I think it was trying to say, Help me, please, someone help me get out of here.
But that was just the beginning of my troubles.
At school, a whole assortment of weird things happened. I won't note every weird occurrence, though; that would waste too much of your time, and I don't want to waste it on needless details. I will only say that of these weird occurrences, one stuck out in my mind for the same reasons you might already have heard. For all I know, the folks on the primetime news on News Watch, Fox News, CNN, ABC, NBC, MSNBC and the rest are still talking about these attacks I had at school. Some people said I had hallucinations; others said I just made them up to get attention; hell, there were a few conspiracy theorists saying that I covered up the details to hide the fact that I was the so-called boyfriend behind the infamous 'illicit affair'.
I tell you now, honest to God, all of that is bullshit. I did not have hallucinations, I did not make it up, and I sure as hell did not have an affair with Karen Waters, period!
Anyway, the attack occurred at school during first period P.E. I still don't remember much after the attack, but I can recall the details leading up to it, including the attack itself. That morning, a Wednesday morning, Mr. Roberts made us run laps around the track all period for pissing him off the day before; but let me explain why we pissed him off first.
* * *
The day before, we were playing soccer when Mr. Roberts lost it. Now, it's not what you think. Nobody got into any major fights. And though a few of the boys roughhoused each other and got a few bruises, nobody got seriously hurt.
As for me, I ran my ass off chasing after the ball, or rather trying to keep up with Ross, who had the ball and was kicking it over our heads like a real soccer star. He scored four out of the eight points we had on our team, of which I and a few others made no contribution. I could only run so fast and for so long before I was bent over, clutching at the beating drum of my chest and gasping for air as though I were drowning. The last run across the field was a long one, interspersed with short mindless bursts of fury as I made futile attempts to steal the ball from an opposing player.
With bad results. The ball left the opponent's foot and flew right into my face, knocking out one of my contact lenses. But aside from that and a bruised ego, I was fine. But Ross then came up to me, yelling, "Hey, Jay, you all right?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. I just need to find where that lens went," I said, looking here and there amongst the turf. "Aw, screw it; I can always get another one."
"Maybe you should sit down for a bit. That ball smacked you pretty good."
"Don't worry, I'm fine. I still got one lens on my left eye. I guess I'm One-Eyed Jay for the rest of the game."
Ross smiled at this, patted me on the back, then said, "One-Eyed Jay. I like the sound of that one, man. You always come up with the best names."
"Like Ross, the Boss?"
Then he laughed, saying, "Yeah, that's a good one, too."
And so we went back to our team of seven guys and huddled up, planning out our next comeback, when something caught our attention. Ross was the first to notice, and soon we all broke up our huddle and looked in disbelief as Mr. Roberts threw down his clip board in a fit of rage and exploded in a torrent of anger, screaming at us.
At first, I didn't catch what he was saying; it was so unexpected, so inexplicable, that I was a mix of conflicting emotions—of confusion, of curiosity, of slight amusement, of realization, of fear and then outright terror when he repeated his threat: "Everybody runs around this field until I tell you to stop! You hear me? Nobody stops running until I say so!"
And so I ran; hell, we all ran, ran with the terror of Mr. Roberts' words ringing in our ears. I ran with my legs burning like hot coals under the grill, ran with my feet swollen and painful in the soles of my sneakers, ran with ragged breath and bursting lungs as though my life depended on it. And all the while, as I rounded the fence where Mr. Roberts stood like a sentry eyeing prisoners of war, I heard him repeat his threat: "Pick up the pace, or tomorrow will be your WORST NIGHTMARE!"
And so we ran. And ran. And ran. We kept running for the next twenty-something minutes—an eternity, believe me—until just a few minutes before the first period bell rang, at which point Mr. Roberts ordered us to get out of his sight.
I've always heard that Mr. Roberts was some kind of a hard-ass P.E. teacher, a real stickler for discipline, but I had never heard him like that. And by God, I hope I never will again.
At first, I hadn't a clue what set him off, but I found out later on that day. As it turned out, Mr. Roberts lost it when too many of us were swearing our heads off during our soccer games, but none of us really noticed until it was too late. In retrospect, it was understandable, really. For much of the time when we were all playing, we might have been swearing worse than cops.
* * *
Anyway, that's why Mr. Roberts had us running around the track all period on the day of Halloween. And by the time he ordered us to stop, we were just as beat and sore as the day before when we entered the locker room to change.
But as for me, I didn't so much as slow down afterwards but ran—no sprinted—towards the locker room doors, dashed past the lockers and into the restrooms, where I unloaded the contents of my bladder into one of the stalls. It was like having a water balloon the size of a watermelon draining out through a garden hose, at which point I almost fainted with relief; by God, if I could only have fainted right there and then, I would have never experienced the horror that transpired next.
Because when I went up to the sink to wash my hands, I saw her. I saw Karen Waters in the mirror where my own reflection should have been!
At first, I didn't do anything except stand there, staring in idiot disbelief. But after a time, I regained myself and looked at my hands, then up at the mirror again. Karen Waters still stood there looking at me. Then I turned and looked back to see if she was behind me, but she wasn't; oh no, she was somehow on the other side of that mirror.
"Hey, what's going on?" I said to her. She didn't respond; she just kept on staring past me, oblivious to my presence. "Hey, are you listening to me?"
Then it hit me. She was on the other side of it, staring at her own reflection on that other side, as though it were a one-way mirror. As far as I knew, the mirror in the restroom of the boy's locker room was a normal mirror, not a one-way mirror that you can see through on one side, not when there was supposed to be a wall of concrete blocks on the other side of it.
What the hell is going on here? I thought. Then, once I got over the confusion of it all, I realized how beautiful she looked in a way no missing-persons photo could capture on a television screen; for me, it verged on the edge of voyeurism, as I stole glance after glance of the cheekbones of her face, her eyes, her lips, the smoothness of her neck and even down to the valley of cleavage beneath her blouse. And before I knew it, I was mesmerized.
The room door slammed shut, rattling its hinges, but I was oblivious to it.
Then she reached her hand out as if she were reaching out across time and space, as if to place it against the surface of the mirror, and without a second thought, I reached out and copied her movements, placing my hand on the surface to meet hers.
We touched, fingertips to fingertips before we both jerked away in shock.
This is crazy, I thought to myself, looking at my own hand with the tingle of human touch still lingering on my fingers, before looking up to see someone else in the mirror with Karen Waters. Right then, I swung around expecting to see someone, but I saw nobody behind me and turned back to the mirror.
And to my horror, she was oblivious to the man in the black suit walking up behind her, walking without the slightest sound in his steps, walking up to her with his thin bony hands wrapped around a knife.
"Hey, hey, get out of there," I yelled, "get out of there, get out of there!"
At first, she didn't respond; but before I could catch my breath and yell again, she looked straight ahead of me in the palest shade of fright, her jaw slack, her pupils shrunk to bullet points. She then swung around and screamed so loud that my ears began to ache.
The door then gave a sudden jerk with angry fists pounding on the steel and rattling its hinges. Then Mr. Roberts' yelled, "What the hell is going on in there? OPEN UP!" And he continued the poundings, following it with kicks.
While in the mirror, the man in the black suit came closer and closer, raising his knife in a horizontal arch, as if he was getting ready to decapitate Waters with one backswing of his arm.
As I looked on in horror, my brain was on fire, my heart was in my throat, my voice was hoarse, my breath was ragged, and I barely noticed the banging at the door. I was frozen to the spot where I stood, pounding my brains to think of something, to do something. But nothing came. Nothing came!
As the man began his murderous arch, I reached out towards the mirror to push her out of the way as if there was no mirror at all between us, when something else happened. Instead of reaching towards the mirror and touching the surface, I reached into the mirror as if I were reaching into the bottom of a swimming pool and just managed to shove her out of the way—
Before I jerked my hand away.
And instantly the pain seared through my fingers and bowled me over onto the floor in agony. The knife had barely even nicked at my fingers, and already pain flared through my fingers. A moment afterwards, the hand tremors came, and I had to ball my hand into a fist to stop it from trembling. I kept it balled up tight for a few seconds, and when the trembling stopped, I opened it and found blood in my palm, drips of red splatting to the tile floor, my mind in a daze.
Just as the restroom door banged open, I began to lose consciousness. Several boys ran in including Ross, followed by a winded Mr. Roberts. The last things I heard before the lights went out were running footsteps, panicked voices and disjointed phrases of "Jay, Jay, can you hear me?" and "Jay, stay with me, stay with me!"
I didn't know if Ross or Mr. Roberts or someone else said those words. But in my better moods, I'd like to think it was someone of the opposite sex; sometimes I think it's nice to die in the arms of a beautiful woman, like a nurse or a girlfriend, or maybe, just maybe—
Someone like Karen Waters.
* * *
The interim between the time I lost consciousness and the time I regained it was spent in a dreamless sleep that lasted seven hours in the nurse's office. When I woke up, I found myself in the hospital bed with a blanket over me; and when I looked at the clock on the wall, it was already past 3:00 p.m., two hours after school hours ended. Then I got a look at my hand; four Band-Aids were wrapped around my fingers.
A middle-aged nurse came over to my bedside and said, "Hey Jay, you feeling any better?"
"I think I am. Where am I?" I said.
"You're in the nurse's office. You sure you're feeling okay?"
"Wait!" I almost half-bolted out of bed at the realization of what happened. "Where's Waters? Is she okay? What happened to her?"
"What? What are you talking about?" Confusion plastered her face for a moment; then it hit her. "Wait, are you talking about Karen Waters, the one who disappeared?"
"Yeah, where is she? Is she okay? I hope she's all right!"
She looked at me, dumbfounded and nervous. "I… I don't know if she is, but I hope so."
Before I replied, my parents must have heard the commotion from outside and came in, both of them looking stressed out and pale. My mom looked like she was on the verge of having a mental breakdown, and my dad looked as though he were about to get a vasectomy.
My mom blurted out, "My God, is he all right?"
"What happened to his fingers?" my dad added. "I heard he passed out."
"Don't worry, he's okay. But I think," and the nurse looked at me with real concern in her eyes, "he needs a full week of bed rest. And keep sharp objects away from him in the meantime."
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a minute," my dad said. "Are you telling me and my wife that my son is suicidal? Because I talked to Mr. Roberts, and he said that Jay must have had a knife and cut himself while he was in the restroom."
"No, no, I'm not saying that, Mr. Trent, but it's for his own good. You can't be too cautious."
* * *
The rest of that day was spent in search of any and all sharp objects in my room. Nothing was spared. My dad checked everywhere, overturning my bed, checking the contents of my backpack, going through my books on the shelf and rifling through my closet; pocket knives, X-Acto knives, spare razor blades for shaving, even pencils and pens and staplers and rulers with that copper strip on the side were suspect and confiscated.
And even at dinner, the steak knives and forks were moved to another location, and after I was done eating with my fingers, I was excused from washing the dishes and told to go immediately to bed.
All the while, through the contraband inspection and the dinner, they peppered me with endless questions of where I got the knife I supposedly cut myself with in P.E. To this, I couldn't say anything except that I didn't know. When asked if I still had that knife, I lied and said that I threw it away. Of course, they were still suspicious.
But then again, I was trapped between denial and an ugly truth. What was I supposed to say? That I got these cuts when I saved Karen Waters from decapitation? That there was a man in the mirror wearing a black suit and holding a knife in his hand, who in turn somehow slashed my fingers in the process? If I was crazy enough to tell that, I would have been in an insane asylum before I ever went into this office.
Anyway, after my room was cleared of all sharp objects, I went to bed and waited. I don't know why I waited, but I waited with mounting dread for something to happen with the mirror hanging on my bedroom door. And waited. And waited. And waited. 8:00 p.m. on the clock changed to 9:00 p.m., then to 10:00 p.m. and so on, while I lived a lifetime in the span of every minute as though I were waiting for Judgment Day.
It wasn't until 3:00 a.m., the Devil's hour, that I began to drift to sleep and dream. In that dream, I replayed the same recurring dream I had ever since I saw Karen Waters' headline on Fox News, the one about entering the mirror again and waking up just before I went all the way in, moaning and screaming and crying.
Only this time, I didn't wake up.
* * *
Instead of waking, I shifted to my side towards the sound of a girl's voice saying something that was just out of earshot. But when I opened my eyes, I got an eye full of two kneeling legs in denim jeans with a perfect close-up shot of her—
"Hey, no looking where I don't want you to," the girl said, shifting her legs.
I sat up on the spot and flushed, realizing what I've been staring at. "Sorry, I didn't mean to—" I stopped when I looked at her. She was Karen Waters, the girl I saw in the mirror!
"What? What is it?" she said, looking over her shoulder before turning back to me. "Come on, spit it out. Don't leave me hanging."
"Y-you're Karen Waters."
"Yeah, I am. What about it?"
"What do you mean, 'What about it'?" I said. "You've been missing for seven days."
"What! Seven days! But I've only been here for six hours!"
"Seriously, I'm not kidding. It's been seven days since anyone has seen you, and you're disappearance is the talk of the town; hell, all the newspaper and media blowhards around the country are talking about you. Some of them are saying you've become the next Natalee Holloway."
The shock on her face slowly turned to disgust when she said, "Figures. Probably my psycho parents fanned the flames just to get back at me. God, I can't believe they actually think I had sex with a boyfriend when I don't even have one! It's just… Arrrrgh, it's so frustrating to make them believe a word I say!"
She was still angry, that's for sure; and if what she said was true, that she's only been missing for six hours, then she didn't have a clue what happened to her mother during the interval. I thought about telling her about it but decided against it. I didn't want to make her predicament any worse than it already was.
But she must have caught my indecision, because she said, "What is it?"
"No, really, what is it? You had that really serious look just now." Silence. "Come on, tell me already!"
I didn't like being the bearer of bad news, but I had no choice. "Listen, don't freak out when I tell you this, okay? Your mother… had a… She had a mental breakdown after you went missing for three days. I heard it on the news."
All color drained from her face, as worry and guilt etched themselves onto it, a hideous transformation in slow motion. Then her mouth gaped, and she seemed to be on the verge of tears. "H-how did my father take it?" Silence. "Come on, tell me, damn it!"
"You're father took it very hard. I think he's turned to drinking," I said, taking care not to mention the time when he blew an interview with Geraldo Rivera in front of live television in a drunken stupor. "But he's very strong. He keeps by your mother's side all the time now."
That was the feather that broke the camel's back. Her brows knitted and her nose scrunched up; she fought back tears but to no avail. "He's not supposed to be drinking; he swore off drinking. I… I… I just wanted to be alone, that's all, just to clear my head—not this! I don't want this!" And she turned away in shame, sobbing and sniffling.
Her tears churned through my insides. "It's going to be okay. Once we get out of here, it'll all be okay," and I placed my hand on her shoulder to reassure her but to no avail.
She just went on wailing and saying through her sobs, "It's not okay. I don't want them to die. If Mom dies, Dad's gonna kill himself, I know it! I can't imagine living without them; if they die, I wanna die, too!"
"No, don't say that!" And I grabbed her by the shoulders and forced her to look at me. "Don't you ever say that, you hear? I almost saw you die once; I'm not gonna let that happen again!"
After my tirade, all was silent, except for our heavy breathing. For a few moments, we didn't talk or even make a move, only looked at each other, face to face. And in all honesty, I surprised myself just as much as I surprised her.
Then realizing I still had both hands clamped on her shoulders, I let go, saying, "Sorry, I… guess I overreacted."
"How did you know that?" Silence. "Did you see that man, too? The one in the black suit?" But before I could answer, she noticed my left hand. "What happened to your—?" And she stopped, looking at me in awe with her mouth agape. "Are you the one who told me to get out of the way?"
I nodded. "Yeah, I did. Wait, you actually heard me?"
"Loud and clear. You startled me. But then I turned around and…" She looked at the bandages on my left hand. "You're the one who pushed me out of the way. My God, I don't know who you are, but I owe you my life."
"You don't owe me anything yet," I said, looking around the place. It was a melange of mirrors inside surrounding a oval-shaped bed, and when I walked over and opened the double doors leading into the hallway, I saw a labyrinth of rooms and doors, as chaotic as the Winchester Mansion. "We still have to get out of here. Where are we?"
"I have no idea. I checked all the rooms, and none of them seem to have any doors leading to the outside, and there are no windows of any kind in any of the rooms. Not even the kitchen or living room has any windows. But there are a lot of mirrors. Lots and lots of mirrors. This is a weird place."
I'll be honest; I was stumped at first. Why would a house have no windows to the outside? On top of that, why would there be so many mirrors?
"You're thinking about it, aren't you?" she said. "Why there are so many mirrors but no windows, right?"
I nodded. "Yeah. It's strange. Wait a minute. When you heard me on the other side of the mirror, could you also see me?"
She shook her head. "Nope. But I could hear you perfectly, which was the reason why you startled me. What's on your mind? You seem to be thinking of something."
And I was. I had a gist of what all of these things meant, and slowly as I reasoned through it all, it began to dawn on me. "On the night you disappeared, how did you reach this place and at what time?"
She stood there and thought for a bit, then said, "I took a taxi to one of the carnivals—I think it's called, Cirque du Soleil Funhouse or something like that. And I think I arrived at around 12:00 or thereabouts. Why, what's on you're mind?"
"Cirque du Soleil is a stage production, not a funhouse. I know that, because I attended one of their shows. Also, the last person who saw you spotted you around Oakey two miles from your house at 9:00 p.m."
"Yeah, yeah, that's right," she said, "because that's the place I took the taxi cab and asked the driver to take me to a show he liked. He called it the Cirque du Soleil Funhouse."
"And what did he look like, this taxi driver?"
"He was a tall man wearing a tuxed—" She stopped when the realization hit her like a brick. "Oh my God, do you mean the guy who attacked me and that taxi driver are one and the same?"
I nodded, piecing the puzzle together in my mind. "Not only that, but he dropped you off at a location he knew to be this place at 12:00 a.m., which is said to be the Witching hour, at which point you entered and was never able to get out again. Am I right?"
She nodded, her face turning pale again.
"Also, you say you've been here for six hours, when on the outside, an entire week has passed. What time did he attack you?"
Her hand started trembling, and her voice broke in fear. "Thirty minutes ago."
After a few moments of thought, I said, "I think I got half of it down. Don't you see how it goes? It works in threes. 9 from 9:00 is divisible by three, at which he picks you up and drops you off three hours later at this place. After that, you don't see him for another six hours while you're in here, while nobody has seen you for six days outside of this place."
"A-and 6 is divisible by three," she added, her face turning grave.
I nodded. "And what time is it now?"
She looked at her watch again. "3:00 a.m. What? What is it? Christ, tell me what the hell is on your mind!"
It was a terrifying revelation, something that still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. I said, "I think we're dealing with the Devil."
"W-w-wait, wait, you're… Please tell me you're joking!" But then I wasn't joking, not one bit; after that, her face contorted in horror. "Are you serious? YOU MEAN THE DEVIL IS IN THIS HOUSE? YOU MEAN HE LIVES HERE?"
I nodded again. "Right on the Strip, right in the heart of Sin City. And 3:00 a.m. is known as the Devil's hour. So if he drops you off at this place at 12:00, which is also divisible by six, and if he leaves you alone in here for six hours, and if you last encountered him thirty minutes ago, then in another thirty minutes (3:30 a.m.) he'll be here. Sixty minutes between the times you encountered him. So if you put the time in the order of days, then hours and then minutes, you would have encountered the Devil between six days, six hours and sixty minutes, all of which culminates at 3:30 a.m. on Halloween night. And if you take those sixes together, you get—"
"666," she added, now completely frozen in horror.
I nodded. "That's right. The number of the Beast, the number of the Devil."
For the next few minutes, neither of us made a sound, both of us trying to digest it all against the stomachs of our nerves.
"Hey, about what you said earlier, about pushing me through the mirror," she said. "Is there a way to get out of here through these mirrors? Please tell me it's possible to get out of here."
I sighed for a moment. Should I tell her the truth? Or will this last truth kill whatever hope she still clung on to? "Do you really want to know?"
Dread dug into her features, and I could tell she didn't want to know, but she mustered whatever courage she had left and nodded her head.
"We can't. Don't you remember what we said earlier? All these mirrors are one-way mirrors for a reason. From the outside, you can look in through them like a window, which is why I could reach in from the restroom and push you out of the way when he attacked you in the mirror. But from the inside, if you can't look out, then you can't pass through. I'm sorry, Karen."
At first she was only silent, but then she began to cry again, but I didn't stop her as she bowled over and wailed into my shoulder. There, in the middle of what seemed to be the master bedroom that connected to the master bathroom (filled with mirrors galore), in the apocalyptic horror that we both knew to be coming in thirty minutes and counting, I wrapped my arms around her in mutual commiseration. I don't know how long we stayed that way, but after a time, I felt something in my left hand.
When I let go of her, I realized that I was holding onto Grandma Rose's missing cane!
"What is that?" she said, wiping her cheeks dry with the sleeve of her blouse.
"It's the cane my grandma gave me when I was seven years old. Seven. That's the last day of the week, the day God rested after He created the Heavens and the Earth, the day of rest."
"You mean, the day of the Sabbath?" she said.
I nodded. Then I examined the workmanship of the handle when, without thinking about it, I twisted the handle off and drew something out; from the handle I held, I had drawn out a long blade. At first, it perplexed me for a minute or so; then it hit me. Grandma Rose didn't just give me a cane; she gave me a sword cane.
"Why would she give me a sword cane?" I muttered to myself. But then, like a revelation from the stars, I knew that all the weird presents Grandma Rose gave me had a purpose. Every one of them. Including my latest gift, the mirror hanging on my bedroom door.
"What now?" she said, looking confused. "I don't understand. What does it mean?"
"It means we have a chance to get out of here," and I sheathed the blade, grabbed her hand and smashed the vanity mirror to my left with one swing of the cane's silver-weighted end.
"Wait, what the hell are you doing?" she said, grabbing hold of my arm. "Don't you know you'll get seven years of bad luck breaking one of those?"
I pulled away, saying, "I'm ignoring that for now," and ran on smashing mirror after mirror in the master bathroom of the adjoining space.
I then turned and confronted her, saying, "Listen, I know it's bad to break mirrors, but I'd rather be alive with seven centuries of bad luck than be dead right now! All these mirrors are one-way mirrors used by the Devil to track us down in this place. If we break all the mirrors in all the rooms, we'll at least slow him down for us to buy more time."
"But… But how are we gonna get out of here if we break all the mirrors?"
I gave her an all-knowing smirk to reassure her. "Look, I haven't told you how I came here yet; I came into this place through the mirror my grandma gave me on my birthday, a two-way mirror that I'm positive will help us get out of here. If we break all the one-way mirrors in this place, then we'll be able to pass on out of here through my two-way mirror."
"So where is it, then?"
"That's the hard part. I don't know; that's why we need to check all the rooms with mirrors in them."
"But how will we know which mirror it is?"
"I know what it looks like. And," I added, placing my finger on her mouth before she spoke, "I already know what you're thinking. I'm one step ahead of you. If the Devil can enter and exit this place at will, then he probably has a mirror similar to mine; but I know mine has a crack in it. You're just gonna have to trust me on this, okay? How much time do we have left?"
Again she looked at her watch, then said, "Thirteen minutes!"
"Shit! Why do we have to cut these things so damn close?" Then I grabbed her hand and pulled her along with me, not letting her out of my sight, as we went in room after room smashing mirrors left and right. Broken shards and long slivers of reflecting glass got strewn on the carpets of the bedrooms, on the polished wooden floorboards along the halls, on the tiling of the massive private study and the dining room, and on the linoleum flooring of the kitchen. It seemed that in every place we checked, there were more mirrors, mirrors, mirrors! Not a single room or hallway was spared of these God-forsaken mirrors!
During this mirror-smashing melee, as I left her alone to check the adjacent room with yet more mirrors in it, smashing them with my cane, she entered the room with a crowbar and helped me smash the rest of them in the remaining rooms. I never thought I'd be so tired of smashing mirrors when we finally smashed the last one in the living room. In all, I thought we smashed close to fifty mirrors, though Karen told me it was actually closer to sixty. We then plopped onto the living room couch, both of us exhausted and sweaty, both of us with our arms and hands riddled with nicks and cuts.
I looked over at her, spied the crowbar and said, "Where'd you get that?"
"I got it from… the laundry room… in between the wall… and the washing machine," she said between her gasps. "Good thing I got it, right?"
"Right," and I nodded my approval and smiled at her.
"It's kinda strange, you know—that laundry room?"
"Why is it?"
"That's the only room where I didn't find any mirrors, no matter where I looked. I guess that's one place the Devil doesn't go in all that often; he always wears sharp clothes." She then smiled back at me, but that was only for a moment. Because right there and then, she stared at something, tried to say something but couldn't, tried again and said, "W-w-what is that? I didn't see that mirror before."
I jolted round and saw my mirror!
"That's my mirror; let's get the hell out of here," and I led her towards the mirror and pressed my hand to the surface and saw it disappear through the surface. "This is it," I said; but just as we were going to enter it, I noticed something off about it. I looked for it, but I couldn't find it. "Where is it?" I muttered to myself.
"The crack. There's no crack in this mirror."
"I-i-is that s-supposed to mean something?" she said, her voice cracking in renewed fear. "What does that mean?"
It means we're fucked if this is the Devil's mirror! I thought. "What time is it?"
She looked at her watch and turned a whiter shade of pale. "Oh my God, it's 3:30! He's gonna be here any moment!"
"Where is it?" I then turned to her, grabbed her arms and demanded in a half-sane, half-insane state, "Where's this laundry room you were talking about?"
She didn't say, because time had run out; she only led the way, almost sprinting along the corridors strewn with broken shards of mirrors, while I sprinted after her. It was as though we were two trapped tiger cubs being stalked by a hunter, who might be over the hill somewhere with his scope set on our wanted heads.
We sprinted through the maze-like enclosure, before she stopped to a halt and said, "There's the laundry room," and she pointed to it, where the door was left wide open.
And in that laundry room, with the light still turned on, was my mirror!
Then a deep rasping voice unlike any I have heard said, "Where do you think you're going?"
We both looked back and saw the Devil, the tall man in the black suit, standing at the other end of the hall. Then he walked towards us at a leisurely pace, as if he were inviting friends over at his house for a little Halloween get-together. All the while, his glowing eyes leered at us in all their blaze of basilisk horror!
As we backed away, the Devil said, "It's not nice for guests to leave so early." Without another word, we bolted for the laundry room, while through the hall echoed the Devil's rasping voice: "It's been such a long time since I had two guests at my house. With all three of us, we'll have triple the fun, triple the joys, triple the treats and triple the toys!"
When we reached the laundry room, our hearts beating like drums in our chests till I thought our lungs would burst with the effort, I grabbed the handle, swung the door closed and locked it.
Through that door, the Devil kept saying, "Oh, don't be that way, when all through this Halloween night, we all will be happy and gay! We all will have so much delight! We'll have oral and vaginal and anal's delight! We'll have double-penetration and flogging all night!"
And on and on the obscenities continued, until, at the last moment, it all stopped. All was silent, except for the labor of our breathing. And nothing else.
When I thought the coast was clear, I whispered to her, "Go on, I'll follow you."
But before she had a chance to speak, a huge BOOM resounded through the space and splinters of wood flew from the door. Now she was screaming, out of her mind in terror. Then another BOOM and more splinters. More screaming. BOOM and more splinters. More screaming. BOOM and more splinters! More screaming!
"GO, NOW!" I screamed and shoved her through the mirror.
BOOM and more splinters, BOOM and more splinters, BOOM and more splinters! The Devil had been using an axe and had opened a big-enough hole through the door. Then his face looked inside and said, "Youuuuuu are a naughty, naughty little boy, Jay Trent!" And he smiled a horrible smile showing black teeth.
"I'm not afraid of you," I managed to say at the end of my wits, unsheathing my cane sword.
"Oooooooh, I like you're spunk, naughty boooooy! I bet you have the hots for that Karen Waters chick, don't you, don't you? Oooooh, I'd seen CEO's jacking off to chicks like that! You wanna screw her, don't you? Screw her in the ass, don't you? I bet that manhood of yours is aching to stick itself inside her! Blow your load inside her! Whataya say?"
"Fuck you," and I lunged half of the length of the blade between his eyes and drew it out again, and all at once, he disappeared and all was silent. Not a sound pierced the air.
Sheathing my blade again, I was just about to turn around and go, just about to leave this God-forsaken place forever, just about to step inside Grandma Rose's God-send of a mirror and be home in my bedroom where Karen waited there safe and sound, where I'll make love to her on the bed—
Wait! I thought, squeezing my eyes shut. What the hell am I thinking? It's not supposed to be that way!
"But it will when I kill you and take your body," the Devil said.
"Not if I can help it," I muttered swung the cane on the mirror over and over, widening the crack until the reflection was a mosaic of cracks. One more swing, and the mirror will be gone.
But before that happened, and without a warning whatsoever, the door exploded in a wave of splinters. Some of them biting into my skin and into my clothes. And I was blown backwards through the mirror and into the darkness—
And into my room in a shower of breaking shards of reflective glass.
* * *
I laid there on the floor over a bed of broken shards, staring up at the ceiling, smiling my head off.
Waters was there in an instant kneeling by my side, half-shaken out of her wits, half relieved. "My God, I thought you'd never get here! Is it over? Please tell me it's over."
I smiled up at her, saying, "I just bested the Devil himself. Of course it's over."
She returned my smile, but then that smile turned to surprise, then to realization and then to horror. "You're hurt, you're hurt really bad," she said, looking wildly around the room for something. "Where's the phone? I need to call an ambulance!"
"What are you talking about?" And I tried to get up.
"Don't! Don't move! Just stay there!" She panicked, rifling through her pockets. "Damn it! Why didn't I take my cell phone?"
"What's wrong?" I said, but the running footsteps up the stairs and the panicked voices of my parents drowned out my words. Then the door swung open, revealing my parents, both pale with panic.
My dad came storming in, followed by my mom. "Jay, what in God's named did you—? Oh my GOD!"
"You need to call an ambulance, fast!" Karen said. "He's hurt bad!"
Then my mom began to scream when she looked at me, completely losing it; she screamed so much that my dad had to restrain her and drag her out of the room before making the call.
Then Karen Waters left my side and stomped her way down the stairs, where I heard her dialing the numbers, then the dial tone, then her frantic voice screaming for the ambulance to get here at the address of the house.
At this, I looked down and saw my stomach welling up blood beneath my shirt, a spreading pool of it seeping into the carpet. That's when I knew that I haven't bested the Devil; the Devil had bested me.
I began to feel dizzy, as I heard footsteps rushing up the stairs, followed by Karen Waters rushing to my side. "Jay, Jay, hold on for me, please!"
"I'm sorry, Karen."
"No, NO, don't say that! It's not you're fault! You don't have to be sorry for anything; it's my fault for getting you hurt!" She then leaned over me, cupping the sides of my face in her hands, as I began to lose consciousness. "Just don't LEAVE me, please! I don't want you to die, not like this, not after everything we've been through!"
But despite everything, I smiled up at her, knowing that if I died, I would die in her arms. As my vision began to blur into blackness, the last thing I saw was her eyes spilling tears on my face as she screamed, "Jay, stay with me, stay with me!"
* * *
"That was the last time I ever saw Karen Waters in person," I said to the lawyer, completing my statement. I shifted in my seat. "Since that night, I haven't seen her except on the news with my own face plastered with hers on the television screens. As they say, everything else is history. The media circus that began with the disappearance of Karen Waters became an even bigger one; camera crews, interviews, the whole nine yards got into the act, which led you to me. There. I'm done."
Silence reigned for a long minute.
The lawyer, Alan Westerfield, looked at me keenly for a moment, then said, "Well, now that's one hell of a statement you made there, son. You could be a novelist if you wanted to. I tell you, I've been in this lawyering business for twenty-five years, and nothing from that time comes close to what you just said."
I frowned. I knew this blowhard wouldn't believe me. "You don't believe me, then?" I said.
"No, it's not that," he said, leaning back in his seat. "You just confirmed everything that Karen Waters said to me when I interviewed her yesterday."
"Wait a minute," I stammered, "you actually met her? What kind of lawyer works with both parties to a suit?"
"Well, you're looking at one of them, kid. You see, I'm not your ordinary run-of-the-mill kind of lawyer, per se. I don't do court cases. I'm a special kind of lawyer, a trustee. And what this interview is about is nothing less than an offer for a settlement between the two parties involved in this matter."
"Okay, I don't know what you just said. So can you go over that in English?" I said. "I don't speak Legalese."
"What I'm trying to say is this: You and Karen Waters were involved in a supernatural incident."
"Wait a minute," and I stood up, "you actually believed in what I said?"
The man nodded. "Therefore, you and your parents, and Karen Waters and her parents are legally bound to keep this supernatural incident a secret. Is that clear enough for you?"
"Yeah," I said. "But why all the secrecy?"
"Let's just say there are things in this world better left unsaid, unrecorded, unknown. Now do you agree to those terms?"
"Yeah, I guess I do."
"Good. Because there's a certain girl dying to meet you," and before I could ask who, he flicked a switch in a drawer of his desk, and the tinted windows to the right cleared up—
Revealing Karen Waters, her parents and my parents. I stared in idiot disbelief. Then Karen Waters rushed through the door and almost tackled me, saying, "Oh, thank God you're all right! I was worried sick about you for weeks." Silence. "What? Don't just stand there; say something."
I still couldn't believe it. I looked over to my parents, then to Karen's parents, then to the lawyer. "I still don't get it. What's this supposed to mean, exactly?"
The lawyer sighed, then said, "Kid, for someone that did what you did, you still got a lot to learn. I'll tell you this, man-to-man, okay? It means that you saved her life," pointing to Karen, "and came out of it alive and well; it means that you've got a girl that's really into you. Now forget about whatever the hell the others might say; their opinions don't matter, because they don't know anything about this. If you're a real man, Jay, you should know the rest."
And I did. I knew exactly what to do.