The kids at school said that if you followed the instructions exactly, it would come in the night. Jane knew to not believe the stories they told her.
And yet, before sleep could come, her mind wandered to the possibility—remote though it might have been—that it might be true. If some…thing was to come out of the mirror, her mind couldn’t begin to fathom what it would look like. They mentioned blood, and screaming, and a melting face. Those scant details formed no image in her head, just a deep and growing sense of dread. She didn’t want to find out what it truly looked like, even if it probably, definitely, almost certainly didn’t really exist.
Jane tried to push the thoughts out of her mind and force herself to go to sleep. She had nothing to fear. Even if the monster were somehow real—it wasn’t, it wasn’t, IT WASN’T—the only way it could pose her any danger is if she were to summon it, and she wasn’t about to do that.
But then another thought burrowed in through her ears and nestled squarely at the center of her mind, jolting her eyes open again.
What if it was true, and someone else did the thing in front of the mirror? Her parents might have heard the legend, but then they were grown-ups, and they were far too obsessed with making sure the thermostat was at the right setting and whether or not the grass needed to be cut to be worried about beasts from the spirit world. But then there was her older brother. He was three years older and had to have heard about the mirror ritual, too, when he was younger. He was exactly the kind of jerk who would try this, and laugh about it for weeks, regardless of what did or did not actually come out of the glass.
This was silly. She might have described it as insane, but a child—at least a child as normally level-headed as Jane—didn’t have a concept of insane or sane. There was no ghost who could be conjured from a mirror in a darkened room. Such things didn’t exist, except in the kinds of movies mom and dad would never let Jane watch in a million years.
Deep in the night, Jane thought her options through logically, and came up with only one that might, might give her some peace of mind. She emerged from bed and crept towards the bathroom. She closed the door behind her and had to consciously think herself out of the habit to flip the light switch near the door. Illumination from streetlamps at the corner gave the room just the slightest wisps of orange. It was just enough so she wouldn’t trip over anything and make a huge commotion for everyone else in the house.
She left the bathroom door open a crack. Even though there was no such thing as monsters, it didn’t hurt to leave an escape path.
With her eyes closed, Jane turned towards the mirror and tried to gather her nerve, while still being at a complete loss for why she would need courage at all.
Slowly she opened her eyes, and the face that looked back at Jane was not her own. But, wait. Yes, it was. Something about the low lighting made her look distorted, and it took a moment for her eyes to catch up with her mind and exclude her anxiety.
Jane quickly decided that if that was the worst thing to happen to her, this would then be a lot easier than she had feared. There was no more time for fear, or wondering, she just had to do it.
“Bloody Mary,” she called out. Her eyes darted back and forth quickly, trying to bring her peripheral vision to the forefront.
Nothing had changed.
“Bloody Mary.” This time her voice was louder, faster. She had decided that if she said it too slowly it wouldn’t count.
She moved to say it again, but as goose flesh popped up across her skin, fear threatened to take over.
This time it was not much more than a whisper.
But it counted.
A rush of air passed Jane, slamming the bathroom door shut. The hazy branch of light coming from the street blinked out. Jane tried to move out of the way of whatever was happening, but instead nearly doubled over the edge of the bathtub.
A glowing red specter crawled out of the mirror and turned its improbably dangling head toward Jane. Rivulets of crimson poured from the ghost’s face. It screamed like a banshee and Jane knew in that moment that there was no way the rest of the house—or for that matter, most of town—didn’t hear what was going on.
The ghost stopped and looked at Jane askance. Would it eat her? Or mangle her? Or bring her into some newfound dimension of despair from which she would never escape? All Jane wanted in that moment was for whatever was about to happen to her to just happen already so she could stop wondering about it. The end result couldn’t possibly be worse than all of this wondering.
“Are you Emily Smith?” the ghost asked, it’s moaning like the torturous depths of hell itself.
“No.” Jane whimpered. “I’m Jane Barclay. Emily goes to go my school, though.”
The ghost looked back to the mirror, and then back to the tub. “Oh,” it spat. “I was supposed to haunt a cool kid. One that everyone liked and had a lot of friends. Or, like, any friends, really. My mistake. Sorry to bother you. They all laugh at you, you know.”
The ghost contorted its body—folding in on itself—and re-entered the mirror. The lights returned, and the door creaked open.
It was worse than Jane had imagined.