Once upon a time…
There was a beautiful little girl with long hair the color of chocolate, big brown eyes and tiny freckles on her little button nose.
On the eve of her fifth birthday, her mother lay beside her in her bed. She hugged the white rabbit with floppy ears her parents bought her as a present.
She listened quietly as her mother read from her favorite book. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. “If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what it is, it wouldn’t be, and what it wouldn’t be, it would, you see?” Her mother looked into her eyes as the little girl laughed at the funny words.
Once mother was finished the nightly chapter, she kissed the little girl on the forehead and wished her good night.
The child settled into her rainbow blanket, hugged her rabbit tight, closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep.
In the dark of her room, the tiny girl slept peacefully. The soft breeze blew the curtains out from her open window.
As she dreamed of white rabbits and funny caterpillars, a soft laugh woke her from her slumber.
The child opened her eye and listened in the dark.
She held her breath as another laugh filled her room.
Her heart raced as she pulled herself to a sit. Just a tiny bit. The child wasn’t scared. She was curious. She saw no one in her room. No mommy. No daddy. Who was laughing?
She hears the laugh again and she follows the sound to the large floor mirror on the wall across from her bed.
She tilts her head as she stares at herself sitting amongst her pink pillows in the dark.
She watches the mirror carefully. Waiting for another laugh. Instead, the surface of the mirror ripples like a stone thrown into a pond. This makes the little girl quietly gasp and jump. Something came through the mirror.
Grabbing her white rabbits ear, she crawls to the end of her bed to see what fell out of the mirror.
Her little face develops confusion as her tiny feet step onto her carpet. She holds her rabbit to her side as she pads over to the toy on the floor.
She bends over and picks it up by its ear. The rabbit was dirty. Torn on its side and was missing one eye. She looks it over then holds up her own rabbit. They look the same, but the mirror one is broken.
The little girl drops her rabbit and looks at the mirror. She takes the old, ragged rabbit and throws it at the mirror. A smile fills her face as she watches the mirror consume the rabbit in circled ripples. She stares at herself for just a second when the ripples came back and the old, ragged rabbit landed on her pink carpet.
She looks at it and picks it up. She tosses it back into the mirror. She waits and again, that dirty rabbit came right back.
With a giggle, she picks the rabbit up. She likes this game with the mirror. She tosses the rabbit back through. She waits with excitement. When it doesn’t come through, her reflection fills with confusion once again.
The little girl steps to the mirror.
“Come back.” She says in her tiny voice. “Come back, bunny.”
The mirror ripples and the rabbits head appears in the middle of the mirror.
The little girl smiles and reaches for it. Before her tiny fingers could touch it, it pops back into the mirror. She yelps and giggles with delight. The mirror giggles too. Then the rabbits head comes back. It floats there. It’s long ears swing.
She reaches out and grabs the rabbits ear. The small child gives it a tug. Something tugs back. She lets out a laugh as she tugs and tugs.
She enjoyed this tug of war game with the mirror.
“Come out, bunny.” She says as she pulls with her little strength.
“No. You come in.”
The child’s smile fades as her room fills with a dark, scary voice. She stops tugging and before she has a chance to scream, the little girl was pulled into the mirror with the old, ragged rabbit.
The little girls eyes widen. She stands on her feet and looks around her room. This is not a world filled with men in funny hats or Cheshire cats. This world is dark, gloomy and broken. The pink color of nightgown was drown out. Her rainbow bed was ripped and broken. Her toys were dirty, dusty and grey.
She looked in the mirror she saw her rainbow bed in her pink room on the other side of the glass.
Her eyes turned to the ragged rabbit missing one eye and then to its ear. Her heart sped up as she sees a large hand holding its ear.
Her head slowly rises to a large, muscular giant.
His dark, almost angry eyes meet hers and his glare bores into her soul. His eyes glow gold.
She swallows hard. Fear starts to creep in.
It’s only made worse when behind the giant, four large wolves enter the room. Their eyes also glow. Their lips snarl and their sharp teeth snap as the room fills with growls.
The giant looks over his shoulder and back at the little girl. He crosses his arms. The old rabbit dangling from his hand.
“Hello, Damica.” The giant growls. “So nice for you to join us. SHIFT!!”
At his bellowed command, the wolves all shift to four giant men.
The little girl lets out a blood curdling scream as the giants all laugh.
I jolt awake with a start. The child’s scream echoes in my mind.
It takes a minute for my brain to catch up. My heart is racing and I’m sweating a bit. I’m barely able to catch my breath.
I lift my head off my arm and rub my face. “Jesus.” I flop my head back down on my arm. I haven’t had that dream in years. I lift my head again and try to calm myself down.
I give my face another scrub before I look around and remember what I was doing before passing out from exhaustion.
“Ok. I’m in the lab. I’m OK.” I pant as I look around the curators lab. It’s filled with artifacts, cabinets and lighted metal tables.
In front of me is a railway tie that’s not a railway tie at all. I pick it up and roll the four inch iron bar around in my fingers. “What are you?”
I set it back down and my eyes float to the metal surface of my work table. The distorted reflection of my shoulder length brown hair, pale skin and brown eyes stare back at me.
Without moving a muscle in my body, my hand reaches for a piece of paper and covers my reflection.
“Hey, you’re awake.”
I look up and my assistant, Gerome Carvery, walks in with what I think is coffee. God, I hope it’s coffee.
“Why did you let me sleep?” I follow him to my side of the table. He drops the coffee tray on it, beside me.
“You looked too cute to wake up as you drooled on the table.” He smiles.
“I wasn’t drooling.” I shove him.
He laughs as he runs his fingers through his long on top black hair. “Oh, you were.”
I nonchalantly run the back of my hand across my lips.
“So, have you figured that out yet?” He stares at me with deep blue eyes. His muscular arms lean on the table as his biceps threaten his button down plaid shirt.
I pick up the piece. “All I know is this shouldn’t exist. It’s centuries before Iron was even discovered. It shouldn’t be here.” I set it down.
Gerome scrubs his 5 o'clock shadow and he looks at the piece. He strong jaw ticks as he thinks. “It’s definitely part of something, but what?”
I pick up the piece and carry it to the wall of safe boxes. “I don’t know. I have to run more tests, but for now, I need sleep.” I put the piece in a box, shut the door and enter my code to lock it.
He stands and turns, leaning his but on the table. He crosses his arms. “You coming over tonight?”
“No. Not tonight.” I pack up my papers and put them in my bag.
“Come on. I promise, I’ll let you sleep.” He flashes that charming smile of his.
I tilt my head to him. “We both know that’s not true.” I pick up my purse. “See you tomorrow.”
“See ya, Dami.”
I walk out of the lab to the hallway. My anxiety is still up from that dream. It’s only made worse as I side eye my reflection on the glass of the dark labs as I walk by them.
I get to the elevator and look at the floor.
The door opens and blow out a breath. I walk on and turn around. My eyes are glued to the floor. Not daring to acknowledge the metal walls and the picture of myself that they show.
My heart starts to pound and my palms get sweaty.
The bell dings and the door opens. It barely finishes as I rush off it.
I walk out to the main hall of the Smithsonian Institute. My eyes flick side to side as I can’t seem to not look at my reflections in the glass display cases.
My pace quickens as I enter the lobby.
“Good night, Dr. Fox.”
I turn my head and smile. “Good night, Henry. Have a good shift.”
“Oh, I will. As long as the dead things in here stay dead.” He chuckles.
I chuckle back as I exit the front doors. I breathe the night air outside.
I walk to the drivers side door and stop.
I reach in my purse and pull out my pills. Taking two tablets, I open the door.
I sit in the driver’s seat and throw my bags into the passenger seat.
Once I close the door, my eyes meet my reflection in the rear view mirror. Fear jams into my throat. I look away and find my pills again. I take one more and start the car.
“You can do this. You’re OK. It’s safe.” I mutter to myself as I drive in the direction of my home.
Even after ten o'clock at night, Washington D.C. traffic is still murder to get through. I’m trying my best not to look in my mirrors.
I pull into my spot in front of my condo building and get out as quickly as I can.
I run up the steps and stop as I come face to face with myself in the mirrored door. With almost lightning speed, I open the door and rush through it.
More reflective surfaces follow me along as I race to my apartment.
I quickly unlock my door, open it and slam it shut.
I lock the four locks on the other side and slam my back on it. I rest my head against the door and try to calm down. I’m safe. I’m at home. I’m OK. I repeat the mantra as I take off my coat and put down my bags.
My apartment is average. Decorated nicely. Lots of history books. The windows, though, are all covered in paper. The TV is covered in a sheet and all reflective surfaces in this room and the kitchen, are blacked out.
They can’t see me if I can’t see them.
I walk to the bathroom and start the water in the sink. I splash water on my face and dry it off. I stand and look at my bathroom mirror. Every square inch is covered in black duct tape.
I open it up and inside, is shelves of prescription medications. I search through the labels and find what I need. I take two tablets and head to bed.
I walk into my bedroom and keep the door open. Ready to run if I need to.
I change and climb under the covers.
Images and screams fill me as I try to sleep. Glowing eyes haunt me. In pure frustration, I throw the blankets off and get out of bed.
Maybe I should have stayed at Gerome’s. At least, I wouldn’t have to listen to my mind.
I go to my closet and open the door. Pulling out a box, I sit on the floor.
I open it and inside is a scrap book.
I open the cover and the first page as a newspaper article. I read the headline.
“Mystery surrounds the miraculous return of missing 5 year old Damica Fox.”
I close the book and set it aside.
I pull out a tiny, pink nightgown. It’s dirty and four strips of torn fabric sit in its side. I run four fingers down the tears. I shudder and set that aside.
My hand reaches in and it pulls out a white rabbit. I hug it on my chin and set it on my lap.
My other hand reaches in and pulls out a dingy, ragged, old rabbit with one missing eye. I hold the rabbits together. They look the same but mirror opposites. My eyes stare at the dirty rabbit for way longer than I’m comfortable with. I throw the dingy rabbit in the box, along with the nightgown and the book.
I close the box up and shove it back in my closet. Shutting the door, I spin around and jump back in bed.
I hug my white rabbit tight and shut my eyes.
“It’s not real. It’s not real. It’s not real.” I mutter to myself as I slip into medicated unconsciousness.