For Weird Tales ~998 Words
A tiny old lady with a measuring tape draped across her shoulders and coke bottle glasses emerged from the back room. She wore a child's sized cardigan sweater, and compression socks rolled underneath a camel skirt. Orthopedic shoes rounded out her look. "Hello, dear!" She said warmly.
Angela thought the little old lady was adorable, but her hopes of finding a dress faded as she looked around. The shop smelled like a Goodwill. Forlorn mannequins modeled wilted, yellowing dresses that had to be decades old. They reminded Angela of dying roses.
"I'm looking for a wedding dress."
"Do you have something specifically in mind?" The old lady approached, her hands folded primly.
"I'd like something modern, and simple." She continued. "Preferably in white satin."
The old lady peered at Angela over her glasses, then shuffled to a rack toward the back of the store and selected a few dresses. She seemed to struggle under their weight as she draped them over her frail arm.
"Can I carry those for you?" Angela offered.
'No!" The outburst made Angela jump. The old lady's tone eased to soothing and maternal. "I'd much prefer to handle the dresses myself until you try them on, dear." Angela felt hurt, and as her eyes began to tear she scolded herself for her emotional reaction. "What the heck is wrong with me?" She thought silently.
The old lady laid the dresses across the settee in front of the mirror, and it occurred to Angela this is where her mother would have sat, gushing at each selection. She repressed the urge to cry again.
"Are you OK?" The old lady asked quizzically. "May I get you a glass of wine?"
"She knows full well you're not." Angela's inner voice warned. "A glass of chardonnay would be great if you have it, thank you."
"Where is your mother now, dear?" The old woman called over her shoulder as she shuffled to the back room.
"She died a couple of years ago." Angela answered pensively. Red flags waved frantically in her mind. She hadn't mentioned her mother aloud, had she? She didn't think she had...
The old lady emerged with the wine. "Shall we get started?"
Angela tried on countless dresses. "Do you have some water?" She called from the fitting room.
"Yes, I'll be right back." The old lady called through the door. Angela could have sworn she heard voices distantly somewhere in the shop, she had assumed they were alone.
"Thank you." She gulped down the water. It tasted bitter, but she was so thirsty. "I don't know what's gotten into me but suddenly I have the worst headache! I'm probably just dehydrated."
The old lady smiled and said nothing.
"Is there someone else here?" Angela asked. "I thought I heard voices." The room was beginning to spin, and splotches of grey swam before her eyes.
She beamed at Angela through the mirrors' reflection. "What do you think of this one?" Angela realized this was the last dress. "Umm... y-yes, I suppose..."
Facing the mirror next to her, the old lady was a solid two feet shorter than Angela. "Has she shrunk since I got here?" She mused. Another rush of light headedness hit her hard. "I have to sit down."
"Stay still, I need to cinch your waist and bodice." The old lady replied impatiently. When she stooped to retrieve the pincushion, her spine bulged grotesquely through her sweater. The woman looked less like a sweet old lady, and more like a withered hag as she worked. When she flicked her tongue across her lips, Angie could've sworn it was forked. A vision of a snake wearing thick glasses and a cardigan sweater flashed through her hazy awareness, making her giggle.
"You've had too much wine, my dear!" The old lady shrieked giddily. Too much wine? Angela couldn't remember having more than one glass... or maybe she did? Yes, she definitely did, she remembered now.
Angela tried, but it took all her willpower to keep from swaying. Something sharp stabbed her in the back.
"Keep still!" Hissed the old woman.
"You stuck me!"
"Yes, I did." She said hatefully. She stood in front of Angela, gesturing to the mirror. "It's perfect."
Having a hard time focusing on the mirror, Angela blinked in a stupor. It was foggy, like after a hot shower, and a vaguely human form began to materialize. "Wait..." She croaked, but speaking was an exercise in futility.
The form was disfigured, lumpy with an enormous head. It was hairy, and an odd shade of watercolor green. Its demonic face was that of a man, but oversized. Leering at Angela with wide eyes and a grin of needles, its expression was obscene. She shrieked in terror as it lumbered toward her alarmingly quickly, slamming against the glass with a shuddering thud. It licked and clawed at the mirror with taloned hands, trying in a frenzy to get to her. Angela swiveled, screaming for help. The store was empty.
The mirror became elastic. The monster's head burst through followed by its bony hand. She tried to flee, but it was too fast. Blinding pain shot through her arm as she felt her bones crack and its claws dug through her skin. She watched in horror as her flesh began to rot beneath its grip.
Sobbing, she clawed at the tiled floor with her free hand as he dragged her through the swirling mirror. She was blinded as an infinity of light reflected from an infinite world of mirrors.
The creature grunted with satisfaction. Angela's vision tunneled, then faded to black.
The next morning, the little old lady unlocked the door to a tidy, if not dated Persephone's bridal. She sipped her tea daintily, waiting for the cheerful bells to signal the arrival of a new bride.