She sat alone, amongst the clutter of boxes that filled the attic. Tears were held at bay as old memories flooded in, Julia’s sweet elderly grandmother may have passed peacefully in her sleep, but she left a long list of items behind in her big old house. The funeral was a week away and while cousins, aunts, uncles, and the like were making their way down to celebrate the kind-hearted woman’s passing, only Julia lived near enough to go through her grandmother’s possessions.
She was surprised to find her old high-chair in the attic that she used from infant hood all the way to age five, having been a petite child. Julia had always assumed her parents had given it away. Along with it, she found many other items- a china tea set, a few disturbing old porcelain dolls neatly stacked in a large trunk, a marionette doll hung by its strings from the ceiling of the attic near the entryway.
Julia shivered, the marionette was beginning to creep her out, its dangling wooden limbs seemed to sway out of the corner of her eye, but when she looked it was perfectly still. She would need a step-ladder to get it down later. For now, the marionette’s feet grazed the top of her head ever so slightly when she passed under it, so Julia kept from taking too many trips down the attic steps and instead isolated herself with most of the boxes on the other side of the room, keeping her back turned to the marionette’s watchful gaze.
Opening box after box she found all sorts of items that were antique and collectible. Each one made Julia smile. When she moved onto the last group of boxes, she picked the first one that caught her eye the most. It was a dusty rectangular black wooden box with white designs, like ivy, that twisted around the edges. Pulling it close, the box was perhaps the size of a small shoe box. The paint was chipping in some places.
Blowing the dust and dirt from the lid, Julia unlatched the box, its two clasps creaking from slight rust after years of being forgotten. Inside she found a silver-backed hand mirror. The interior of the box itself seemed unburdened by age, the velvet inside almost seemed to glow with a soft red sheen. Julia reached out and touched the soft material, wondering why such beautiful things would be left in such a sad, eerie place.
Julia finally allowed her gaze to rest upon the mirror, its shiny silver back facing up at her. The metal was curved and soft, a picture ingrained within it. The side profile of a beautiful woman liken to Aphrodite herself looked down upon a flower, seemingly plucking at its petals. Aphrodite’s hair wavy and pooling around her frame, similarly to the long hair of a siren below the sea, a crown of flowers placed upon her head. More flowers still were carved in the metal, they must have been sunflowers. Julia couldn’t begin to describe the handle of the mirror, which was short and slender, but sturdy and looked warm if she were to reach out and pick the piece up from its container.
Julia let out a sigh and stood up from her spot upon the floor, her joints creaking despite her young age of twenty-one. Raising her arms above her head, her hands brushed the ceiling and she could feel the muscles in her shoulders stretch and her back let out a pop before she was able to relax again. Yawning, she closed the lid of the box and walked down stairs to make herself a hot cup of tea, ducking the marionette’s feet as she passed under it.
Coming back, she took her place upon the floor with the box once more, grateful for having taken a break. Opening the box again, the attic seemed to feel cooler than before. Julia shrugged off the lower temperature as the attic simply being drafty. She finally reached down and picked the hand mirror up, deciding to take a closer look at the object. The handle was cold at first, but warmed slowly in her hand. Turning the mirror to face her, she paused.
Something wasn’t right. She stared into the mirror, unable to understand what she was looking at. It was a reflection, but not of her. Julia could see the boxes behind her and the marionette hanging, she could see the wall and wooden beam holding up the ceiling. But she couldn’t see herself. She waved her hand in front of the mirror and still could not see herself. Feeling unsettled, Julia shivered and put the mirror back down. She picked the box up and walked to the other side of the attic, near the only window.
Opening the window, she hoped maybe the fresh air or extra sunlight would help settle her mind. It was a trick, she told herself, simply a trick. She would find the reason why. Picking the mirror up again, she still could not see herself in it. She searched the box for clues and found nothing. Shaking her head, she continued to stare into the mirror. Julia’s lip quivered, fright and sadness held heavy in her heart from not being able to understand such a strange phenomenon, this trick mirror that her grandmother left behind.
Julia slowly dropped into a squat below the window as she huffed and continued to stare into the mirror, swallowing her fear and grief for the curiosity that continued to take over. Nibbling the nail of her left thumb, she was lost in thought as her eyes stared off into the mirror like a trance. Pulling her hand from her mouth, Julia reached her left index finger out and went to touch the glass. The reflective surface rippled under her touch and her finger slid through the mirror.
Nearly dropping the mirror, Julia jerked her hand back reflexively. She could feel her heart beating in her ears and released a breath that she hadn’t realized she was holding in. Looking around as though she’d done a sinful deed, Julia pushed her finger into the mirror once more. She shuddered as she slipped her hand through the mirror. She couldn’t tell where it went, didn’t feel anything on the other side, and the back of the hand mirror remained as it was.
Julia removed her hand and held her breath as an idea came to mind. Pushing her forehead against the glass, it rippled again and she managed to slide her head into the portal down to her mouth. The feeling of the quivering portal on her skin had the same effect as placing one’s face into a bowl of water. It felt cold and wet until she passed onto the other side.
Opening her eyes slowly, she was astonished by what she saw…