For the past month, Piper hasn’t been herself, and it’s all because of her reflection.
She’s covered all the mirrors in her hotel room with duct tape, now. She doesn’t want to see it. It’s an omen, a rotting prequel of things to come.
The first morning she saw it was like any other. She’d eaten two bowls of cereal and bounded upstairs to brush her teeth. Her mom was yelling at her. “Piper! Hurry up, you’re going to be late for school! You have a test first hour, remember?”
“Yeah, yeah, I hear you, mom!” she’d yelled back, down the stairs. “Gotta brush my teeth!”
She’d lifted the toothbrush to her mouth, but it never made it all the way there. Instead, it clattered uselessly into the sink when she saw the thing in the mirror.
It was her, she was sure it was. When she raised her hand to touch her face it raised the same one, albeit with long-nailed, bony, blighted-looking fingers. They were covered in fungi, and pus-filled boils.
It only had one eye, baleful and red. Where the other eye should have been there was a socket filled with squirming maggots. When she screamed, it did too, but it was high pitched and wailing, like what she imagined a banshee might sound like.
Piper screamed and screamed, until she felt dizzy and collapsed to the floor.
She woke up in the hospital, concerned doctors and nurses buzzing around her like a hive of bees. The first words out of her mouth were nonsensical to them. In their eyes, she was confused, and sick.
“The thing in the mirror,” she gasped, “It was me. I was dead.”
Her mom started crying, and a nurse patted Piper soothingly on the arm. “Honey, you’re all right. You’re probably not sure what’s going on. Just rest now, and we’ll figure out why you passed out like that.”
“Because I saw…I saw it…”
But Piper wasn’t really sure, at the time, what she saw. Maybe they were right. Maybe her brain, deprived of oxygen, or tumor-filled, had hallucinated that thing. Her double, dead and leering at her with moss-filled teeth.
They ran all sorts of tests, and found nothing wrong. But there was. There was something wrong. Because the nurse had held a mirror up to Piper’s face after she had washed her hair, and there it was again. Leering. The other Piper, the one with clumps of hair and skin missing from its rotted scalp. She didn’t scream, though. Not this time.
They’d send her to some facility if they knew, which is why she kept quiet. It wasn’t all in her head, though. She wasn’t going crazy, she knew that. It was her, and it wanted to take her deep down into its cold, dead world. She could feel it, feel its icy breath on the back of her neck. It was coming for her.
That’s why she ran away. She never told her parents why, didn’t want them to think she was losing it. She just left a note that said she was sorry, took out all her savings from her bank account, and cut her debit card in half.
Everywhere is the same, now. She sees it in the bathroom mirror, in the rear view mirrors of taxis, in shop windows. She moves hotels every week, covers all mirrors she can while she’s there.
Eventually, Piper knows, it’ll catch up to her.
After all, no one sees their doppelganger and lives to tell the tale.
When it comes, in the middle of the afternoon, on a beautiful sunny day, she’s convinced herself she’s ready. She’s tired of running. There’s a knock at the door, a hollow sound, and when she touches the doorknob, it’s ice cold. She opens the door, just a crack. Its hand snakes through, pushes the door wide open. She can smell its rancid breath.
“I’m ready,” she says, her voice knotted into a hard, cold, scared little ball.
She isn’t, really, but it doesn’t care.
Its hands close around her throat.