Elaine had just finished cleaning up the table after a leisurely breakfast when her daughter Martha came screeching into the kitchen.
"Mommy, Mommy," she cried.
"There are handprints in your bathroom mirror!"
"Then wipe them off, pet. Mirrors still work, even if they're dirty."
She said this last part with a chuckle to herself. She had expected much larger issues than routine washroom upkeep from her darling little fussbudget. After Martha's father walked out on them a year ago (apparently Elaine had become a totally different person than the big bosomed bird he'd married a decade prior), she fixated on the smallest things to distract herself. It seemed like Elaine's days were filled with a never-ending onslaught of requests from her little princess. She wouldn't have it any other way, though.
"No, Mommy! You aren't listening to me! They aren't ON the mirror, they're IN it! It's like they're on the other side! I saw something in there!"
"Oh, darling, it's just an old dirty mirror!"
This statement was met with what can only be described as "The Martha". She just shut down completely. Elaine could tell that she wasn't going to make any headway until she resolved the issue.
"Fine! I will go check out the bathroom mirror, but there's nothing to worry about."
To be quite honest, Elaine didn't really WANT to go check the bathroom out. Lately, it just felt... off in there. And she would never tell Martha this, but that old mirror gave Elaine the willies. She could never place her finger on it, but it just gave her a bad feeling in the pit of her stomach, like a storm about to hit.
Elaine entered the room, cleaning products in tow, expecting to find some very Martha-shaped hand prints smudging the mirror. To her surprise, there were none. The only thing she saw was the tiny hairline fracture running down the center of the mirror that came from nowhere and seemed to be rapidly expanding as of late. A flash of something danced across the mirror, in the center of the fracture.
It was the light in the bathroom, surely. That has to be it. She gave the mirror a parting wipe when the flash happened again, longer this time. It wasn't just the light that time, and she knew it. What in the world was she seeing? She started to pick at the crack when she heard a loud crash and crying coming from the kitchen.
"What in the world happened in here? Are you okay?"
"Y-y-yeeeeeees. I f-f-feeeeell downnnnn and hit my h-h-heaaaaad," cried Martha between the childlike gasps of the truly terrified.
"There, there," Elaine cooed.
She got Martha calm and told her to take it easy for a bit and to go lie down, to which the child begrudgingly agreed, but only on one condition. Elaine had to sing. Playing with Martha's hair until she finally slept, her mother sang,
"Say nighty-night and kiss me,
Just hold me tight and tell me you miss me,
While I'm alone and blue as can be,
Dream a little dream of me."
Elaine couldn't stop thinking about the mirror and the flashes she had seen. How long ago had that been? An hour? It felt like more. She checked the time on the wall clock, only to discover that the clock was dead. Hadn't she just replaced the battery this morning? She couldn't even remember hearing it tick or chime today. Shoddy craftsmanship, that was what was really to blame.
Come to think of it, she hadn't heard the phone ring all day, either. She ran over and picked up the receiver only to be greeted by no dial tone. She rang the rotary to zero to attempt to reach the operator, the only sound being the rotary clicks, and silence on the other end. This town should at least notify its citizens before working on the lines. She paid bills just like everyone else. This was ridiculous, she needed to stop getting so distracted and look at the mirror again.
Assured that Martha was resting soundly, once again to the mirror she went. It looked as odd as ever, but the fracture seemed to have gotten wider and longer since she had been there last. How was this possible? She felt the groove in the crack and felt a jerk in the pit of her stomach like someone had tugged a fishing hook placed just behind her naval, and the entire room seemed to flicker. Elaine was nauseous and just plain terrified, and she scrambled towards the locked door as another flicker happened and a face became visible in the mirror that stopped her dead in her tracks. It was her. She reached out to touch the image that she couldn't believe was real.
"Mommy," came a scream from behind the door, "don't touch that! Come play with me instead!"
The tone of her daughter's voice made her leave the door locked. There was something wrong, something she didn't recognize. Something bad. The next flicker widened the crack in the mirror and she saw herself again. She was in a bed that was not her own and in a house that wasn't hers. She was screaming. She rose to touch the mirror again.
"MOMMY, NO. STAY HERE WITH ME. PLAY GAMES WITH ME. DON'T LEAVE ME. YOU CAN LIVE HERE AND PLAY FOREVER, MOMMY. WON'T THAT BE SUCH FUN? PLEASE STAY WITH ME, MOMMY!"
That was not Martha out there. She didn't know much right now, but that fact was certain. That voice was not her daughter's, either. Something began hitting the bathroom door with such force that it wouldn't last on its hinges much longer.
She steeled herself for what she knew she had to do.
"YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND."
"YOU NEED TO STAY!"
"YOU'LL REGRET THIS."
She had no idea what would lie beyond the mirror, but it had to be better than whatever monster lie behind the rapidly weakening door. She plunged her whole fist into the crack in the mirror and everything around her seemed to shimmer before going totally black.
"She's usually much calmer, but with today being the anniversary, she acted up a bit and busted her hand punching through the mirror in her bathroom. It was a mess and a half, but at least she's alert enough to feed herself."
"Why does she keep asking where a Martha is," asked the newest of the nurses to the head nurse. "Is that a sister?"
"Daughter. Quite tragic story, Elaine's. Poor dear, a workaholic since the husband left, came home one day from work to find her house broken into. She starts yelling for her daughter and can't find her anywhere. She tore the house apart looking. Finally, she looks in the downstairs bathroom and finds her in pieces in the tub. They apparently tortured the poor little baby for hours before it was all said and done. Apparently, it was a big bloody mess. Bathroom mirror smashed all over the place so she could see the scene a thousand times at once. Found one of the bigger shards covered in her bloody little hand prints.
"Well, she had enough of her wits about her to call the police but by the time they got there, she had the poor baby's head in her lap, stroking its hair and singing it to sleep. They sent her here after all that. Sometimes she's lucid enough to tell me about it. Don't guess she can move on. They never found the one who did it, but Elaine has sang the same story all the years she's been here and hasn't changed a single note. Said she thought she saw someone run out of the house that night after she got inside. Said it sounded crazy but it looked like her Martha. Said it looked so much like her that it was just like looking in a mirror."