Monday, February 18, 2019
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    Estimated reading time — 10 minutes

    Miranda’s toes curled slightly as her bare feet slid out of bed to go check on her children. It was about 11:40 at night and they had been in bed for a few hours, but she felt too restless to get any sleep herself. She turned on the hall light and crept quietly towards her son’s room, knowing full well that her 2 month old wouldn’t have gotten into any trouble. She named him Seth in honor of his father who had died recently, shortly after he was born. He was in the service, and had been hit by a roadside bomb overseas. He had fought for days in the hospital before passing away. Opening the door just a crack, she went over to the crib and gently put the palm of her hand on his back, stroking him softly and enjoying the moment.

    Her daughter, Emily, was 5 years old and as precious as they come. Her husband was so proud of their first child together; she wanted to savor this. The camera she had bought recently was just in the hall closet, and she didn’t think the flash would wake Seth up. Just as she was turning to walk down and grab it, she heard something. A faint whisper, “Miranda.” Ice shot up her spine and froze her in her tracks. She had to be imagining things- she stood very still, scarcely breathing. “Miranda…” was whispered again, only this time it was a teasing, sing-song kind of voice, drawn out and a little louder than before. Someone was in her house.

    She bolted back into her son’s room, grabbing him from his crib in the dark. He immediately panicked and began wailing, having been woken up so roughly from his sleep. She ran to her daughter’s room next, and as she passed by the closet her name seemed to echo dimly all around her, “Miranda…” She threw open her daughter’s door and shakily woke her up. “Emily, sweetie, I need you to do something for me. Wake up baby.” She stared up at her Mom, bleary eyed and sleepy. “What’s wrong Mommy?” She put her son down on her daughter’s bed and quietly explained, “Emily I need you to watch after your younger brother for just a little while ok? I need you to lock your door and don’t open it for anybody but me. You don’t need to be scared alright? I’m going to go call for help now…”

    Emily looked up at her with wide, scared eyes- she was so beautiful, even in the darkness. “Ok Mommy.” She kissed the top of her forehead and shut her door gently, making sure it was locked from the inside. Her phone was on her bedside stand, if she could just keep her kids safe until the police came…she shut her door, picked up the phone and dialed 9-1-1. “911, what is your emergency?” She cleared her throat and spoke as loudly as she dared, “I live at 1422 Northwood Drive. There is someone in my house. My kids are home, please help me!” She could hear the operator typing on a screen, “Alright, help is on the way. Are the children with you? Can you hide in a safe place?” She fought a shiver as she replied, “Yes, my kids are locked in my daughter’s room. I’m making this call from my bedroom.”

    “Alright, just stay as quiet as you can. Officers should be there in about 20 minutes.” She swallowed hard and hung up the phone. Just then she heard a knock on her door. Tap. Tap. Tap. Three intentional strikes on the wood, a triad of danger. “Miranda, I’m here.” She began to sweat profusely, she knew that voice. How on earth was she hearing that voice?? She grabbed a baseball bat from the closet and threw on both the light and the door. But there was nothing…nothing but the darkness of the hallway, and a spider slowly crawling up the wall. Her fists clenched around the shaft of the weapon, and she closed her door. Something wasn’t right. Someone was playing a very cruel joke.

    “Miranda, let me in…” She began breathing heavily through gritted teeth, “Show yourself you bastard! Or so help me God I will kill you myself!” Again, the voice whispered, “I’m right here little Bluebird…I never left.” She whirled around, blinded by the sudden tears welling in her eyes. She caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror, but there was someone standing beside her, one arm on her shoulder in the reflection. Her voice cracked and she began sobbing uncontrollably. “Seth! Oh God, Seth! H-How? You- You aren’t real! You can’t be real…”

    Her husband was dead. But yet he was staring at her from the other side of the mirror as if he had never aged a day. “Miranda. I didn’t want to leave you. But I had no choice…I miss you so much my love. I miss the children.” She shuffled closer to the glass, tears streaming freely down her face, making damp spots on the wood beneath her. “I miss you too…” She sniffed. She wiped her nose on her robe, ignoring for a moment, the madness that swirled around her. Seth was here. That’s all that mattered. “Miranda, do you miss me too?” She pressed her face into the cool surface and whispered, “More than anything.”

    “Come and join me Miranda. You and the kids can just step through, and we’ll be a family again. We’ll all be happy together…just think how happy Emily will be to see her Daddy!” She gasped and drew in a sharp breath. “Seth…you do know you’re gone right? I- I can’t reach you anymore…you need to go.” She drew back slightly from the mirror, the beginning of a new fear dawning on her. “We were working on a secret project in Afghanistan.” He sighed deeply, “It was going to be a way to enter bad guys homes without breaking down the door.”

    He put his head in his hands, scrubbing his face, exhausted. “They would never see us coming. It was called Operation Nightshade and I couldn’t tell you about it before. But I’m not gone. I’m just stuck. It only worked part way. The explosion on the roadside was merely a cover up. I can’t leave the mirrors Miranda…” His voice cracked with emotion, “I am so sorry!” Shoulders hunched, he stood there weeping.

    Miranda slowly backed away from the dresser where the mirror was and sat on her bed. She couldn’t process what was happening. Her husband, her Seth would NEVER ask her to do something like this. This thing, whatever it was was NOT her husband. She stood up and retrieved the bat she had tossed to the side, never taking her eyes off the thing trapped in the mirror. Shaking with rage and determination she screamed, “YOU ARE NOT MY SETH!! GET OUT!!” And slammed the wood into the glass, shattering it on impact.

    Pieces glittered all around her, each one with a distinct shape and color reflecting her room. Everything was silent. Then, faintly, a twisted darkness threaded its way through her bedroom door. “Bluebird- you shouldn’t have done that.” Miranda swallowed hard, threw open the door, stomped several feet down the hall and swung the bat as hard as she could at the mirror that hung off the hall closet. “Stay out of MY HOUSE!!” More glass lay twisted and broken on the floor, and some of them managed to nick her. She knelt down to pick it out of her foot, but when she did her blood ran cold.

    A sneering, evil grin painted the face of her once beautiful husband. Red eyes, blackened skin,and ears that were just a little too large to look right. Something crawled beneath the surface of his right hand, demanding her attention. It looked like a parasite. Again, it repeated, “You shouldn’t have done that Bluebird. There’s still time to make things right…” Fear welled up in her eyes as she heard her daughter crying in the other room. Why couldn’t everyone just be quiet?? She needed to think! “I know that you miss me Miranda. Do it for the children. No one should have to grow up without their father, and it’s so beautiful over here on this side.”

    Its face stayed the same but its voice had changed to a melodic, soothing, familiar tone. It lulled her into a false sense of peace, and she could feel her fear receding. Like a sailor caught in the Sirens Song she could scarcely see straight. “For the children…” She murmured. “Yes love…for the children.” It crooned back. She hesitated slightly before rising and knocking on her daughter’s door. Emily quietly asked, “Mommy, is that you?” Miranda reassured her, the door opened, and she walked in not even bothering to shut it behind her. “Its ok baby. You’re safe now. We all are.”

    *************************

    Officer Ronald Jones responded to the call for a home invasion around 12:08am. As first on the scene, he and his partner Alexander Vern entered the home through the front door on the ground floor. They swept the area room by room and made sure it was clear before they made their way to the upstairs. The master bedroom was empty, but the remnants of a mirror lay scattered at the foot of the bed. There was a small amount of blood in the area, but certainly not enough to portray a struggle.

    Jones gestured to Vern to clear the second bedroom while he went to check on the third. He peered his head around the door which lay half open, and whispered, “Jesus…” He put his lips to the radio on his shoulder and called out, “We need an ambulance to 1422 Northwood Drive, with backup requested. It looks like we have a homicide on our hands.” His partner, Vern walked into the room and turned on the lights. Three bodies lay on the floor. The mother was kneeling at her daughter’s bedside, head resting on the sheets. She had superficial bleeding on her feet and ankles, likely from the broken mirror in her bedroom. There was glass embedded in her arm where she had narrowly missed a major artery.

    He knelt next to her, trying to feel for a pulse. Her body was still warm, but she was gone- her eyes staring at the pillow in front of her. He shut them gently, and turned away. Vern had already confirmed the infant’s death, and from the marks on the body it looked like suffocation. The young girl, Jones realized with horror, was still breathing. He rushed over to her side and placed her on her back with a pillow underneath her head to staunch the bleeding on the back of her skull. She moaned softly, “Please don’t hurt me…” before falling back into unconsciousness.

    “EMS is only minutes away. She’ll make it. She’s got to make it.” Vern lowered his head and stepped out of the room. “I’m sorry, I just need a second. I have a daughter at home.” Jones nodded, “It’s ok. Take your time.” He looked around the room and noticed something sickening. There were only three bodies here…but in a family photograph on the girls desk there were four people. Her father stood proudly in the picture, wearing his U.S. Army uniform in front of an airplane on the tarmac. This was one notice he was not looking forward to giving.

    *******************

    Seth Cross of the U.S. Army waited in a dull blue chair in the hospital, head lifted towards the ceiling making a silent plea to God. He was stationed overseas in Afghanistan when his commanding officer gave him the news about his wife, daughter and infant son. He was allowed an extended leave of absence to take care of legal matters and his own health and was on the first plane out of the country as soon as he was told his daughter was still alive. While he was making his way here, his little girl had endured a grueling 12 hour surgery to repair the damage that had been done. According to the report that had been made, Miranda had had some kind of psychotic break.

    When his daughter Emily had regained consciousness briefly before the surgery, she told the doctors that, “Mommy said Daddy told her to do it.” He shivered in the chill air of the hospital. His little girl was so brave…what on earth had he done to deserve her? And Miranda- Miranda was gone. He would never understand what could have made her snap. This wasn’t his first deployment overseas, and he certainly made it a habit to call her often and send flowers on special occasions. He had just spoken with her a few days prior, and she sent him pictures of the new furniture she had gotten from a rummage sale. A couple of chairs for the dining room, a crib, and a new mirror to replace the old one on her dresser.

    She was so excited about it! Just thinking of her smile brought him to tears. He wiped his eyes and took out the phone he kept in his left breast pocket. He dragged his shirt sleeve across his nose, and took a good long look at his wife. Her brown eyes, long wavy hair, and her milky complexion that hinted at the sun…She stood facing away from her dresser so that he could see the frame of the new mirror behind her. He squinted to get a better look, something had caught his eye. There, in the corner of the reflection, barely visible in the image was a figure. A tall, rugged figure that smiled in the doorway on the other side of the glass. His daughter’s words echoed dizzyingly in his head…Daddy told her to do it. The room faded out of focus, and buzzing filled his ears. It was him. He was in the reflection on the other side of the world, just staring. Operation Nightshade wasn’t supposed to work like this! Their fragments were supposed to be contained, the whole concept of replicating their souls to be used in psychological warfare was borderline madness but when it worked…they were promised that they couldn’t leave their designated areas! He never would have agreed otherwise. What had they done???

    CREDIT : Olivia (Elizabeth) Gates

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