Nothing But Bones and Dust
"Let me tell you a story," the woman said, smiling at the eager kids gathered around her. "A… ghost story, if you will."
"Alright!" the children exclaimed, scooting closer to the calm woman in the rocking chair.
"What book?" one curious child asked, putting their head on the hand.
"Oh, I don't need any simple book," the older woman replied mysteriously. "I've got them all stored in my head. Like a true storyteller would, my dears."
Anxiously anticipating the story, the children lost track of anything else besides the promise of a story, a good story.
"Where shall I begin?" the woman pondered, resting her elbows on the armrests. "Ah yes… I shall tell you the tale of a mirror… a very special mirror and a girl, a foolish one.."
The mirror had always been there, they said. No one had any idea where it had come from, only that it had always been there. She had asked around ever since she had moved there. But no one would give her a straight answer. There were only elusive, whispered rumors that floated around the town, never disappearing.
The only thing they would tell her was to stay away, whatever that meant. Stay way, they said, the superstitious people they were. Something had happened, with the mirror, that they didn't want to tell her. An air of mystery hung around the quiet, inconspicuous town that she had been so drawn to. The mirror was the source of such tales, hushed stories whispered by candlelight, told to reckless children.
The stories only grew more and more wild, the girl realized. Only ever containing perhaps a sliver of truth, the fables intrigued her, catching her attention like a firefly in a pitch black cave. From villager to villager she traveled, collecting the stories and treasuring them, saving them for later. Poring over them, she concluded that the mirror was nothing but a tall tale, just a simple old mirror in a worn down shed. The stories were made up, nothing but a superstition that the village carried. There was nothing to see with the mirror, nothing special, she saw.
But she was drawn to it. The mirror sitting quietly in the corner of the shack, the lone building in the town park. The floor covered in dust and cigarette butts, leftovers from the reckless teens who called this place their hangout. The walls cracked and peeling, the roof sagging dangerously. Spiders and insects crawled underneath the floorboards, and a faint smell of mildew permeated the air. But the mirror never faded. Never collected dust, never broke, never had a scratch. Something about the mirror… Something about it fascinated her like nothing else.
Not even the stories had captured this much interest from her. But she was careful, ever so careful to keep this fascination from her neighbors. How gossipy and nosy they were, if they ever caught a whiff of what she was entranced by, oh how overbearing they would become.
No, it was best to keep this interest of hers hidden, stored and locked away from the general public. But for now… she would keep an eye on this mirror, the one that had garnered so much status in this town. Keep an ear out for more fables and whispers alike, anything that pertained to the mirror.
It was the middle of the night, she knew. But that didn't matter. She just had to go to the mirror, locals be darned.
So here she was, in her pajamas and slippers, having slipped out of her house in the dead of night. Standing before the thing that had haunted her ever since she had laid eyes on it, she stepped closer, ever so closer. It whispered, she knew. It always did. Even now, it called to her, murmuring things she never understood. It called to her as she tried to sleep, every night. The locals never believed her, only telling her to stay away from it. But she couldn't. Tonight she was here for answers.
Straining her ears, all she could hear were words, flowing together, soothing and calming. But for the life of her, she couldn't understand it. All she knew was that it called to her. Called to her in a way no one understood, not even her. Why was she so fascinated? She didn't know, the words simply caught her in their web, pulling her closer.
Reaching out with a trembling hand, she did the one thing that made sense to her. Touched the mirror, did the one thing everyone said not to do. Did the thing that people dared each other to do in the dark of the night when everyone feels emboldened, full of courage. Pressed her nose right against the glass shining in the moonlight, letting her breath fog up the mirror. Her eyes widened, searching the mirror for answers, anything, a speck of dust, a crack, just anything.
And then suddenly she wasn't there anymore. Spinning, twisting, and yet still, the girl closed her eyes and covered her ears as the whispers grew to a shout, blending together in a chorus of terror. Shakily, she opened her eyes, willing for it all to end. She was alone now, in a room with thousands of mirrors, broken and whole, light streaming through or completely dark. Crying out, she had no response. Now, she heard the whispers, but they were different, no longer soothing. Dissonant and haunting, they crawled under her skin and sent shivers down her spine.
That's when she spotted them. The bones, covered in dust that littered the ground, they were everywhere. Letting out a scream, she collapsed on to her knees, overwhelmed. The only thought that fluttered through her mind was the fear that she would end up like this. Nothing but bones and dust.
The next day, rumors of the missing girl spread through town. They said she had an odd fascination with the mirror and so warnings to the children not to be like her emerged. Some swore they heard screams coming from the old mirror during the night, or haunting wails asking for help. It only fed to the superstitions surrounding the mirror, the mystery and the fear. But no one ever knew what happened to the missing girl. No one ever found her.
But eventually, like always, there was no one in the room with the thousands of mirrors. Not anymore.
Nothing but bones and dust.
"What happened next, miss?" a toothy boy asked, awed. For a moment before, no one had dared speak. Breaths were held as the children waited for a whisper, a sliver of information to hint at what had happened.
They were only children, after all. They didn't understand what had happened, the woman in the rocking chair thought. But it wouldn't do not to educate them early, feed them whispers of the fables she held so dear.
"Only fate knows," she answered mysteriously. "Anyway, my dears, I must be heading out now. I shall see you soon, do not fret."
Turning to each other, the children whispered, talking excitedly about the story told. In their excitement, none noticed the woman fade from the room, in the span of an instant. But the children were to busy talking about how wonderful the woman was, telling them a cool story. No other storyteller had told them something quite like that.
One after another, parents filtered into the room, picking their children up. Listening to their children babble on about the story of the day, the parents grew alarmed. Looking for the storyteller, they found nothing.
How odd. Shaking their heads, they towed their children away, never noticing the faded shadow of a woman, smiling by the armchair.