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Authors: John A. Heldt

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BOOK: Mirror, The
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She had left the same employer exactly one week earlier so she could spend extra time with Cody before he left for his freshman year at UCLA. She had hoped that a rock-climbing trip to Olympic National Park would solidify their seven-month relationship and help get them through the coming separation.

It seemed like a good plan until Cody informed Ginny that he had slept with the waitress who had served them dinner at a Lake Union restaurant Saturday night. The waitress, a giggly piece of work named Wendy, was a sophomore at UCLA.

Ginny had little difficulty navigating the maze, which, like the building itself, was a replica of the 1960s original. She guessed that the designers wanted to challenge customers but not so much that they became frustrated and pushed the mirrors over to get out.

When she reached the mirrors that made you fat and then the ones that made you skinny, she paused to do another inventory of her life. Perhaps she should stop stressing about Cody Williamson and Marta the Magnificent and focus on the things that really mattered – like family, school, and personal fulfillment.

As she left the thick-and-thin mirrors, she tilted her head to better hear the music. The song "Soldier Boy," by the Shirelles, took its turn on the House of Mirrors' soundtrack. There were a lot of things Ginny didn't like about the early sixties, but its music wasn't one of them. Like her father, she was a fan of Motown, classic rock, and the rhythm and blues Grandma Cindy had listened to as a kid. A poster of Elvis hung on a wall in her bedroom.

When she neared the end – or what she believed was the end – of the maze, Ginny picked up a second, fainter sound: her sister's voice as she talked on a cell phone. She wasn't at all surprised that their mother had asked Katie to make the call. She was the most likely to do so.

From the start, Katie, the younger twin, had been the more responsible and the closer to Grace Vandenberg Smith. She was the better student and, generally speaking, the better kid – the one far less likely to keep her parents up at night or find herself in the vice principal's office.

Ginny was closer to her father, Joel, both personally and temperamentally. She acted on impulse, challenged authority as often as she could, and lived life as completely and zestfully as a surfer who rode bulls, wrestled alligators, and jumped out of planes when the surf wasn't up.

She retrieved her cell phone from her purse and saw that the time was 9:59 p.m. She didn't like the idea of going home so early but conceded that Katie was probably right. Maybe it was time to call it a night. A restful night of sleep sounded good.

Ginny put the phone away as she rounded the last bend in the maze. "Can't Buy Me Love" by the Beatles began to stream through the speakers. When she reached the maze's opening, she glanced first at the front door and then at the end of the long corridor.

She expected to see Katie talking on the phone or perhaps checking for fat cells in front of the oval mirror. Instead, she saw something that made her stomach drop to the floor. She saw her sister walk through the mirror and disappear.

Ginny covered her eyes with her hands, shook her head, and reminded herself that human beings simply didn't vanish into thin air. She dropped her hands, opened her eyes, and looked again at the end of the hallway, which measured maybe fifteen feet by forty. She saw the mirror but no sister.

"Katie?" she asked. "Are you in the maze?"

Ginny walked briskly to the mirror.

"Katie, please answer me," she said as she spun around. "This is not funny."

Ginny entered the maze and passed through it quickly. When she exited near the front door, she again looked down the corridor and saw nothing but the mirror. She ran outside and circled the building, where she saw fairgoers and cleanup crews but no Katie Smith.

She considered running a short distance to Performance Park, where a policeman talked to a young couple and pointed toward the nearest exit, but decided instead to reenter the House of Mirrors. After calling Katie's name two more times, she walked toward the source of her fears.

With each step, Ginny wrestled with a new question. Was this somehow part of the exhibit's experience? Did the fair's sixties theme include acid trips? Did Katie's disappearance have anything to do with Marta's disturbing prediction? Was Ginny Smith flat out losing her mind?

When she reached the end of the hallway, Ginny studied the mirror. It looked exactly like the one she had admired just minutes earlier. When she looked at its polished surface, she saw herself and the corridor behind her and only those things. Katie was gone.

Ginny leaned against a wall as the first wave of nausea swept over her. She pulled herself together and reached for her phone. When she dialed Katie, she got no answer. When she dialed her mother, she got a voicemail message.

She was about to call her father when she saw a strange bluish-green light shoot out from the mirror's ornate frame. Within seconds the images in the glass changed too. Where once she saw a reflection of herself and the hallway, she now saw an image of her sister.

Katie was in the House of Mirrors, all right, but she was on the other side of a barrier Ginny could not even begin to fathom. The Katie she saw apparently did not see her. She instead ran from wall to wall in an empty room, shouting words Ginny could not understand. Her face was the picture of horror.

"Katie!"

Ginny grabbed her stomach and looked for a garbage can. She found one near the door, tore off the top, and deposited her dinner. When she was done, she dropped to the floor, curled up in the fetal position, and rocked back and forth.

Pull yourself together, Ginny. Do it now. Do it right
now
.

A moment later, when the pain in her abdomen began to subside, she took a deep breath and did her best to clear her mind. She didn't have the slightest idea what was going on, but she knew that she had to do something – and do it quickly – or she'd never see her sibling again.

Ginny retrieved her phone and saw that it was ten after ten. The fair had closed for the evening. In another twenty-four hours, it would close for the year. She put the phone back in her purse and slowly rose from the floor. She gathered what was left of her strength and courage, turned to face the mirror, and stepped forward.

Ginny sighed as she drew closer to the mirror and saw that it had not changed, which she considered a good thing. She didn't want anything to change until she figured out what she should do – or even could do – to get her beloved sister back.

When she reached the mirror, she looked into the glass and saw a heartbreaking scene. Katie held her head in her hands as she sat on the floor cross-legged in the middle of the room. She appeared to be weeping.

Ginny stepped toward the mirror and placed a hand on the glass and found it as hard and unyielding as a wall of stone. Then she tried again, this time with both hands, and looked on with shock and horror as both hands passed through the plane. She pulled them back quickly.

There was now no doubt about the decision that confronted her. She could walk through this strange portal and join Katie on the other side or try to enlist help and risk losing her forever.

Ginny knew that the smart thing to do – the prudent thing – would be to call her parents or the police and wait for assistance. The paranormal was way beyond her understanding.

She knew in her gut, though, that she didn't have the time to do anything but act quickly. The bluish-green light, once steady, had begun to flicker. This was the supreme test of her faith and devotion, and she suspected that the forces conducting the test would not allow her to phone a friend or take a few minutes to find answers on the Internet.

Ginny looked again at her sister. Just seeing the anguish on her face was enough to make her cry. She couldn't imagine what was racing through Katie's mind.

She stepped back a few feet, took a deep breath, and gave herself another minute to weigh the pros and cons of proceeding. The pros won out. She didn't know whether she could save her twin, but she did know that she would never be able to live with herself if she didn't at least try.

Ginny grabbed her phone, pushed a few buttons, and started a text message addressed to her parents and her four other siblings. When she finished typing I LOVE YOU, she hit SEND, returned the phone to her purse, and threw the strap over her shoulder.

Armed with fresh resolve and newfound courage, she approached the mirror one last time. She wiped away a tear, said a quick prayer, and took another breath. A few seconds later, she placed both hands on the glass, pushed them through the membrane, and slowly stepped forward.

With that, Virginia Abigail Smith of Seattle, Washington, age nineteen, walked through a shimmering sheet of glass and left the only world she had ever known.

 

CHAPTER 5: GINNY

 

Ginny remembered nothing about the passage. One minute she was standing in front of a glowing mirror. The next she was standing in a windowless room – a room that looked a lot like the one she had left. The chamber was empty except for a young woman who sat on the floor and stared into space as if in a trance.

"Katie!" Ginny screamed as she ran to her sister.

Ginny fell to her knees and shook Katie several times.

"Wake up! It's me, Ginny. Please snap out of it. Please!"

Ginny wrapped her arms around her twin and held her tightly. She didn't ease up until she heard a faint whimper. When she heard what sounded like a sob, she pulled back and studied her sister's face and saw that Katie's eyes had changed from vacant to fearful. She was coming back.

"Katie, it's me. It's me, sweetie. It's Ginny."

The name apparently did the trick. The moment Ginny uttered her name a second time, Katie looked at her sister like someone she knew and fell forward into her arms.

"Ginny? Ginny?" Katie asked with alarm in her voice.

"It's me, Katie. I'm here. You're safe."

Ginny, of course, knew nothing of the sort. As far as she could tell, she and Katie were stuck on a set of the
Twilight Zone
– the one with no furnishings and teal pinstriped walls.

"It's you," Katie said as she held Ginny more tightly. "It's really you."

"Just take a breath, Katie. I'm not going anywhere."

Ginny felt the tension leave her sister's arms. Her words had finally registered.

A moment later, Katie withdrew, sat upright, and let her eyes wander. She looked at Ginny and then at the room as if she had emerged from a deep sleep and was just coming to grips with the conscious world.

"Where are we?" Katie asked.

"I don't know," Ginny said. "This looks like the same room we left, only without the mirrors and the garbage can."

Ginny suspected she was right but drew little comfort from her hunch. If this place was, in fact, the House of Mirrors, it was not the same house she had left. There was no maze. Nor was there a large, oval mirror on any of the walls. In short, there was no visible way back. Ginny stood up and extended a hand to her sister.

"Let me help you up."

Ginny pulled Katie from the floor and gave her another hug and a much-needed smile. She was as terrified as her sister but sure as hell wasn't going to show it. Not now, anyway.

"What happened?" Katie asked.

"We both walked through a mirror, the big one on the wall," Ginny said. "When I got out of the maze, I saw you step through the glass. A few minutes later, I did the same."

Katie looked at her sibling with puzzled eyes.

"I walked through a mirror?"

"You did. Don't you remember it?"

Katie shook her head.

"I don't remember anything."

Ginny sighed. She had expected as much. If Katie had any memories of the past few minutes, they were undoubtedly buried under ten tons of trauma.

"It's OK. We're together now. That's all that matters."

"Is there a way out of here?" Katie asked.

Ginny glanced at the far side of the room and saw that it had changed. She noticed a door that looked a lot like the one she had entered a few minutes – and a lifetime – ago.

"There's a door back there," Ginny said as she pointed away.

"What door? There's no door in here."

"There is now."

Katie turned around and stared at the back of the room with wide eyes.

"That door wasn't there a minute ago."

"It doesn't matter now," Ginny said. "Let's just get out of here."

"Where are the mirrors?"

"It doesn't matter. Let's just go."

Ginny threw an arm around her twin and pulled her close as they walked the length of the room with the pinstriped walls and the checkerboard floor. A moment later, she hit the push bar on the door and led Katie out of a chamber that seemed torn from the pages of science fiction.

The room, however, was nothing compared to what lay beyond. When Ginny and Katie stepped out of the room and out of the building, they did more than leave the indoors for the outdoors. They traded cool air for warm air and darkness for light.

They traded night for day.

 

CHAPTER 6: GINNY

 

When Ginny stepped outside, she saw that the Twilight Zone looked a lot like the grounds of the Cedar River Country Fair – but not the grounds she had left. She saw six buildings, including one that looked familiar, but all were boarded up and apparently unoccupied. This fair wasn't just closed for the day. It was closed, period.

"It's daytime, Gin," Katie said in a shaky voice. "It wasn't daytime ten minutes ago."

"I know," Ginny said.

Katie walked about ten yards to a maple tree that guarded the front of the House of Mirrors. She put a hand on the tree and looked back at her sister.

"This tree wasn't here either."

Ginny could see the fear return to Katie's eyes.

"I know. It's OK. We'll be OK."

Ginny tried to sound reassuring. She could sense that Katie was still on edge and could fall apart again at any minute. Before she could convince her sister that they weren't in one of Dante's nine circles of hell, though, she had to convince herself.

BOOK: Mirror, The
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