This is a Young Adult story tackling issues of self-harm and suicide. It is intended for teen readers or older. If you want to read from the beginning, click over to chapter 1.
A thick blackness churned around Kassandra, her feet dangling into the open void. No way to tell if she was falling or staying still. Nausea crept up her throat. She squirmed and reached out, searching for something solid. Her feet struck the ground and the darkness drained away, like water leaving a bath tub.
Kassandra stood in a hallway with mirrors on every wall with hundreds of reflections glancing back. What was this place? The world’s longest dressing room? Stepping forward, her Converse sneakers squeaked on the marble floor. The nightingale flapped down the length of the hall. At least she wasn’t totally alone.
Another mirror covered the wall behind her. Kassandra touched the surface—slick and solid. Her fingers quivered. No way back to Dad. He was still trapped. The far end of the corridor terminated in yet another mirror. At least she’d get plenty of time to stare at herself.
Kassandra started walking. Better check everything out before going into full panic mode. There had to be some way out of this room. Slender marble columns punctuated the spaces between the mirrors. The nightingale perched on one of the metal candelabras lighting the hall.
Kassandra glanced at a mirror and stopped. It didn’t reflect the corridor. Instead, it showed Mom’s room, complete with clothes cluttering up the carpet. A reflected version of her stood right next to the dresser, groping through all those bottles of nail polish.
Kassandra remembered this. She’d needed some cash and tried to nab some from Mom.
One of the bottles tumbled to the floor and red polish oozed out. She stepped away from the mirror as the reflected Kassandra started yanking tissues out and dabbing at the stain.
This was freaky, like watching some whacked out personal movie. She’d really done a number on the carpet with the nail polish. Weird, watching it made it seem so much worse than when it actually happened.
The next mirror showed her room—bed in the center surrounded by Auntie Jo’s bookshelves. Mom was there, the empty nail polish bottle clutched in one hand. Kassandra’s cheek was flushed red from Mom’s slap. The mirror was silent, but Kassandra knew she’d just said something snarky. Mom’s shoulders sagged, all the energy drained.
Mom trudged into the hall and the mirror followed, all the way to her room. A huge red blotch still stained the carpet. She stood right inside the door, eyes looking straight ahead as tears trickled down. Finally her hands came up to cover her face.
Kassandra cringed. Mom never cried. She always came off as such a hard ass.
Auntie Jo appeared at the door and Mom wiped her face. It’s the same move Kassandra had done when someone caught her crying.
She backed away from the mirror. This is getting pretty strange. Moving on now.
Kassandra tried to avoid the next mirror, but a single glance stopped her cold. It showed a public bathroom with a bank of stalls on one side and sinks on the other. At first it looked foreign, but then a scruffy version of Kassandra crashed through the door. This was the school’s restroom.
The reflected Kassandra staggered into a stall and slammed the door, but it bounced back open. She snarled and slapped it closed, fingers trembling as they fumbled at the lock. Then she pawed through the purse for the push pin.
Kassandra tensed, wishing she could reach in to stop herself.
The version of her in the mirror held out one arm, crisscrossed with white scars, the pin hovering above the skin. Finally it pressed down and blood beaded on the surface. Tears streamed across her reflected cheeks. Her nose clogged up with snot, creating a bubble with each breath.
Kassandra stumbled away from the mirror. She couldn’t watch any more of this. A glance down the corridor made her heart sink. Not even halfway through. What the heck was this place?
The next mirror depicted her room back in Seattle. The door opened and a version of Kassandra entered wearing the dark blue dress from Dad’s funeral.
A powerful flood of memories washed over her.
Dad had been laid out in a mahogany coffin so polished it seemed to glow. Kassandra could hardly look at him. His body was too still. More like a photograph than a man. Her mind slipped into an icy paralysis and nothing seemed to thaw it out. Not Mom screaming at the car doors that weren’t unlocking. Or even when Mom broke down crying at an intersection as cars honked and whizzed by. Kassandra was anesthetized, all emotions immobilized in rock hard ice. She needed to feel something to break free. Even if it meant pain. And the box of razors had been there on the workbench. Ready and waiting.
Kassandra stared at the girl in the mirror. The room showed a very different version of her. A massive Waterhouse print, with Circe pouring a bowl of water, hung over the bed. A stained glass circle nestled in the window, casting kaleidoscope colors against the pale yellow walls. Miniature fairy houses and bottles adorned every conceivable nook.
Kassandra still had everything stowed away in boxes. Even though she’d been at Auntie Jo’s for weeks, she hadn’t unpacked them. It wasn’t who she was anymore.
The reflected girl sat cross-legged on the floor in a bra and underwear, the razor held over one arm. No scars yet. The bare skin looked too smooth. She glanced once at the locked door and then pressed the blade down. A half smile played at her mouth, oddly peaceful.
Kassandra knew the feeling—total oblivion. Like nothing in the world could touch her.
When the reflected girl lifted the razor away, a thin red slash marred the skin. But she wouldn’t cry.
Kassandra could almost pick the girl’s thoughts out of the air. Crying was stupid. It couldn’t bring Dad back, so why bother.
Real tears trickled down Kassandra’s face as she backed away from the mirror. There was no point hiding them now.
The reflected girl moved the razor to a fresh section of skin.
“No, don’t.” Kassandra reached out to the mirror. “Please.” The muscles on her arm tensed, feeling the phantom pain. She turned, not able to watch, and charged down the corridor. Mirrors flicked by, each showing another cutting scene. Some were close up, with just a view of the scars. Others focused on the face with that scary relaxed look. She finally collapsed at the end of the hall, eyes clotted with tears.
“Why are they showing this to me? Make them stop.”
Kassandra yanked off the fishnet gloves and tossed them on the floor. More scars crisscrossed the left arm, mostly because she was right handed. She’d switched arms only when most of the available real estate had been used up on the left. The scars formed little bumps of flesh, zigzagging along the skin, her body’s attempt at healing. If only it were so simple. She couldn’t scab over a wound on the inside.
The tears dwindled to a trickle. Kassandra took a deep breath and steadied herself. She had to find a way out. Dad counted on her to help Mom.
Scooting away from the last mirror, Kassandra inspected it. This one acted the way a mirror should, the reflection shifting when she moved. Grease and muck coated her jeans from kneeling in the garage and her shirt was soaked in the front from crying. The skin looked puffy around the eyes and her cheeks were flushed red. She was a total wreck. A hiccup of laughter burst out. At least there were plenty of mirrors around.
Kassandra giggled, but it was a crazy nonsense laughter and it worried her. Was she losing it? After a moment, she reeled it in.
“I have to stay in control.”
The nightingale caught up, landing on the marble floor. It pecked at the discarded gloves.
“Help yourself. You can have them.”
Kassandra glanced back at the mirror and noticed something odd. She was reflected, and so was the nightingale, but not the hallway. Instead the mirror showed a door directly behind her. Maybe this was the way out. She didn’t dare look back. It would ruin the illusion. Reaching for the door knob, her fingers clunked into the glass, meeting her reflected hand.
“Swift move. Now what?”
In the mirror, the door was behind Kassandra. Maybe if she reached backward… The round door knob brushed against her fingers. She gripped it and saw the mirror-image doing the same. The door swung open. But now what? Kassandra couldn’t walk forward because then she’d smack into the mirror. And if she turned around, there’d be just an empty corridor.
Kassandra took a step backward, away from the mirror, and the reflected image shuffled through the door. From the edges of her vision she still saw those mirrors. Only by focusing on the mirror in front of her, did she see herself pass through the door. The Converse squeaked as they slipped on something. The marble floor was damp.
She spun around and came face to face with a man, hanging upside down, a thick rope looped around one foot. Instantly, another image superimposed itself—a yellow rope strung up on the garage rafters. Dad’s body dangling right side up. But then it vanished. Only the man hanging from his foot remained.
Kassandra recognized him. This was Gabriel Rykell, Luke’s brother. She must be in the Hanged Man card.