"Look straight at the mirror and heed my words. They cannot know us: they never will ..."
|Look straight at the mirror and heed my words. They cannot know us; they never will, but your face records every nuance of fear, of anger, of lust. They know it. Stare straight now, do not turn. My words burn through your eyes, pool in dark shadows beneath lashed eyelids. Each syllable expelled with my breath frosts on your lips. Do not pout. And never wiggle your ears.
Laura couldn't move. Her right side felt numbed by the cold, the awkward position from having slept in the closet. Through the open door, she could see the double halo of the moon through the haze. She wondered what sat next to her in the corner and gazed. She dared not look. She shut the door and fell back asleep.
When she woke again Laura knew what she had to do. Stretch. But her muscles reminded her that her workout yesterday must have been more than enough, that the scrapes and bruises hadn't healed overnight, probably wouldn't for another week.
It was bright outside. She sensed that much but decided not to wait for the cloak of darkness to leave. She opened the door a crack slowly to not make a sound. The room was empty. Sunlight streamed through open windows; lace curtains swayed to a breeze. Chirps from outside told her the birds and critters were fine. She sighed. Then did a happy dance for herself; there was no one to see it. She quickly grabbed her purse and jumped out the window.
It felt good to be outside in the sunshine. She bounded with confidence down the lane. No one would know how scared she had been; still was. It struck her how easy it had been to leave unnoticed once her mind was made up.
She had walked a good mile before the unease returned. The emptiness and quiet felt like a Sunday morning after all her family had got drunk. Too quiet. Where was everyone? She thought of a hymn and began to sing the first verse: "O Lord, let something remain."
She went to the corner café, relieved to see Betty at the counter. Same spot every day. But the scowl on her face didn't bid welcome. Laura ordered an espresso from Hal and asked where everyone was. He harrumphed, then went silent.
A breeze wafted along her flesh, caressed goose bumps, the tic in her eye, scalp that felt flush. She drank wondering what had changed while she slept in the closet. She sipped another coffee until a shower passed through, leaving while trees were still glistening. People were out and about as if her morning had been some strange dream. Where they had been; why were they back? But she noticed that no one was speaking.
After two weeks, Laura joined the other werefolk in the planting of turnips and beets. Under the dark of the new moon, the roots of Earth's blood coursed through the fields surrounding the town. Here on the northern plains where buffalo had roamed the horizon stretched to the stars and the Milky Way was a stairway to heaven in the cold dark hush.
This was her home.
But the unease increased day-by-day with the freshening moon. She basked in its beams asking the Old Woman what tale she sought to tell her; why she hid her other face. Soon a month had almost passed and Laura ventured out less each day, slowly withdrawing into her house, then her room, until one evening she opened the closet and looked at its emptiness, surprised by her reflection on the back of the door in the mirror. The warmth beckoned with secrets and memories stored in the dark. She hummed her favorite refrain: "O Lord, let something remain."
Laura started to pray and fell asleep in a pleasant dream of running wild under the gleam of the Old Woman's radiance casting shadows before wind, hearing calls of the hunter, the trembling of prey.
And from the shadow a movement, a voice in her ear:
Look straight at the mirror and heed my words. They cannot know us: they never will ...
© Kåre Enga (2007)
Notes: About 700 words. Recorded in a notebook under [163.595,608a,608b; 164.9,21a,21b]. Written for the contest: "Short Shots: Official WDC Contest" "O Lord, let something remain." is a quote from Yeats.