The mirror showed a reflection that wasn’t my own.
“Pretty cool, hey?” said Jeannie.
I tilted the mirror back and forth a few more times and watched the reflection turn from a cat, to a bat, to some kind of demonic baphomet monster.
“It’s a trick mirror,” Jeannie explained. “Looks just like a regular mirror but when you give it to some unsuspecting person, they get the fright of their life!” She laughed heartily.
Jeannie lived across the street from me. She had hair down to her waist in curly locks with the occasional braid. She always wore at least five necklaces and made sure to have a chunky ring on each finger. Her makeup was always overdone and her fake eyelashes were almost repulsively long. However, like me, she was a lady who lived all on her own, no kids or spouse. I at least had a myriad of pets to keep me company. As far as I was aware, Jeannie truly lived there all alone, save for the tall cactus in her window that leaned subtly towards the light of the sun.
“I guess it’s kind of cool,” I said to Jeannie, “What are you planning on doing with it?”
“Give the trick-or-treaters a big scare on Halloween! See, the kids will come up to my door and say ‘Trick or treat!’” She said this in a high-pitched voice to mock the kids. “And then I’ll say something like, ‘Oh, your costume is ripped’ or ‘Your makeup is smudged’ or something. Then, I’ll hand them the mirror to look into, and BAM! Cue crying children fleeing from my yard!” she cackled.
Our cozy cul de sac was home to many children, ranging from tiny babies to rebellious punk teenagers. Truthfully, I was planning on shutting off all the lights in my house and ignoring the doorbell. Other neighbors stocked up on sugary snacks and pop to hand out. Jeannie, of course, went for the scare tactic. I handed the mirror back to her.
“Cool, right?” she asked again.
“Yeah,” I said unenthusiastically.
Just then, another neighbor came outside to drag her garbage carts off the road and back up her driveway. Jeannie spotted her instantly. “Hey! Check this out!” she hollered to the neighbor while sprinting across several front yards to reach her. With Jeannie now off my property, I raked up one last pile of leaves and then headed inside.
I was counting down the days until November 28th. That’s when I would be bringing my next pet home. A tiny chocolate lab puppy, not yet old enough to be separated from his mother, was destined to be my newest companion. I had already thought of a name for him: Rocco. I still had several weeks to go before little Rocco came home. I had been crossing off each day in my calendar with a red X. Today, October 30th, had not been checked off yet. The red marker which hung from a string nailed to the wall beside the calendar was waiting for its daily use. I popped the cap off, which fell onto the tile floor and bounced several times, and then covered today’s calendar date with a red X. Only one more day of October. Then, it would be November: the month that Rocco would find his forever family with me, my parrots, my snake, my turtle, my rabbit hutch, and my senior pug, Petey. It’s always disheartening to see a loved and cherished pet succumb to old age. Petey’s eyesight was poor and the arthritis in his back legs prevented him from running or playing. Mostly, he lay around the house asleep and snoring like a lawn mower.
The rest of the day was bland. I was mentally preparing myself for Halloween. Petey and I tucked ourselves into bed and fell asleep to the crackling sounds of a snake shedding its skin and the hum of the turtle’s aquarium. Pets made my life full.
On the evening of Halloween, I sat on the couch in front of the TV and enjoyed an early dinner of microwaved macaroni and cheese. I had to plan out my dinner strategically so that I could be finished eating by the time the trick-or-treaters might come around. The house needed to look lifeless by then.
I shoveled the steaming hot pasta into my mouth and followed each bite with a swig of vodka and cranberry juice, occasionally laughing at the corny Halloween movie on the TV. It was supposed to be a scary slasher film, but I couldn’t take it seriously after each sexy, thin, white girl was stabbed to death while their screams mimicked orgasmic moans of delight and their jock boyfriends wearing college varsity jackets were tied to chairs, unable to save the day. Of course, then, they’d be stabbed too, and the killer would howl at another successful kill. How anyone could find such a thing scary rather than ridiculous was beyond me. All these movies were the same. Masked murderer kills sexy girl. Town puts up missing posters for said girl. Killer goes on a killing spree and kills more sexy girls. Then, one sexy girl thinks she has it all figured out and knows who the murderer is, then she is killed as well. Of course, she would be wearing a bikini that showed off her perky breasts, her makeup would be smudge-free, and her hair would be styled and flawless. Once her throat was slit, the blood would run down her neck, onto her breasts, and then down her perfectly sized torso. And, of course, the killer would laugh as she collapsed.
The doorbell rang. Petey barked. It was still too early for trick-or-treaters. Whoever was at the door could clearly see me sitting inside in my living room. I couldn’t pretend to not be home.
It was Jeannie. She stood at the door in a witch costume, her skin painted green. A pointy hat added to her height by at least a foot and a half. The dress itself was purple and black with black and white stockings. Her shoes, however, did not match at all. A plain old pair of worn-out running shoes. Not very witch-like. “Hi Jeannie,” I said.
She smiled at me, but all I wanted was to simply melt away from the awkward silence. Eventually, I broke the quiet.
“I was wondering if you wanted the trick mirror for tonight.”
“You. . . don’t want it?” I queried.
“Nope! I’ve got something far better!” she beamed proudly.
Again we stood in silence. I raised my eyebrows, waiting for her to reveal her new idea.
“Look at my yard!”
She turned around and pointed. In her yard, I could see what she meant. An animatronic with glowing red eyes and an evil dark cape stood just next to the walkway up to her door.
“It’s motion activated,” she told me. “When people walk by, it raises its arms and screams. It even spits fog at them.”
Spits fog? Her choice of wording was unusual. I don’t think one can really “spit” fog.
“Oh, neat,” I said.
“So?” she asked
“So . . . what?”
“Do you want it?”
Oh, right. The mirror.
“Um, well,” I was planning on letting her down easy, but even if I wanted to ignore it, I knew Jeannie wouldn’t stop pestering me until I just agreed to take it. “Yeah, sure. I’ll borrow it for tonight.”
Jeannie squealed and handed it over. As she walked away, I took another look at her new animatronic. Its skeletal face was unnerving, and its glowing eyes were filled with hate and rage. That thing in the yard across from my house was far scarier than any dumb movie I could watch that night. I closed the door and shook my head to get the image of the creepy black-clothed skeleton out of my mind. I reached down and scratched Petey on the head. His flat tongue tasted the tips of my fingers. “Gonna be a long night, buddy,” I told him. His curly tail wagged.
Once the sun set, the neighborhood was aglow with jack-o-lanterns, inflatables, elaborate lighting setups, and Jeannie’s creepy mannequin’s red eyes. Even as I peered out my window, safe within the confines of my home, I felt that they were looking at me, like they could see my body, soul, and thoughts. God, I hated that thing. To reassure myself, I remembered and made it a point to say aloud that it would only be here for one night.
A knock at the door startled me. “Trick or treat!”
Shit. I was right in front of the window. But all the lights were off. Maybe they hadn’t spotted me. I slinked myself against the wall and slid down until I was sitting on the floor. I stayed in this position until the kids left. Then, I stood myself up and moved quickly. The basement was my refuge.
Movie time. Again I found myself sprawled out on a couch in front of the TV. This time, however, in the lower part of my house. All the lights were off. The only light in the house came from the TV screen which flashed images of sexy girls being cut up and hot nineteen-year-old boyfriends played by thirty-two-year-old actors. It was just as ridiculous as before. Expecting Petey to be seated on the couch next to me, I reached out my arm to pet him and play with his floppy ears. To my surprise, he wasn’t there. I called for him. “Petey! Petey! Here boy!”
I whistled. I shook the treat bag. I squeaked a toy ball. Nothing. Using the flashlight of my cellphone, I searched the basement. “Petey! Pete! Where are you, boy?”
Now, I began to fear the worst. His heart gave out. He went into sudden renal failure. He hit his head. He was bleeding. He was suffering. He was dead. “Petey!” I called out desperately.
I had to go upstairs. He must have been up there. Still, with the trick-or-treaters swarming outside, I dared not turn on any lights. Upstairs, I called again. “Pete? Petey, boy!” I whistled. I made a kissy sound with my lips.
With the light on my phone, I began my search upstairs. My heart was pounding with nervousness. I bit at my lips and fingernails. I jumped at every little sound, even the ones coming from the kids outside or the TV downstairs. At any moment, I was going to come upon the dead body of my senior dog. My boy who had been my greatest companion since he was a puppy. I recalled how he was so small that I could barely find a collar that fit his neck. I remembered how he used to dig at the water in his water dish and splash it all around. Tears welled up in my eyes. “Petey. . .” I said again. This time, I wasn’t calling out to him, I just said it quietly to myself.
I collapsed onto the floor, sobbing. I felt like my world was crumbling down. How would I live without Petey? How would I last a whole month without another dog?
The doorbell rang. “Trick or. . . treat?”
It was then that I realized I was in plain view and could be seen by kids outside. Two of them, one dressed like a superhero and holding the hand of a younger one dressed like a lion, stood at my door. The older kid tugged at the younger kid’s arm. They backed away nervously. Obviously, they had seen me in a distraught puddle on the floor. Even with all the lights in my house off, the eccentric lighting outside on a happy Halloween night was enough to give me away.
Still sitting, I patted the floor all around me. In one last desperate attempt, I would try to get Petey’s attention. There had to be a toy around here somewhere. He liked toys that squeaked. He also liked balls and ropes. Even though his old age prevented him from playing, the squeak of a toy or the toss of a ball was usually enough to get his tail wagging at least.
As my hands searched the floor without any assistance from my eyes, they finally came upon an object that I grasped in my hand. I brought it up to my face to look at what I had unearthed and realized it was Jeannie’s mirror. As if that was going to help me in any possible way right now. Even so, I looked in the mirror. My reflection was a bat. I tilted it slightly and watched it turn into a cat. I tilted it a little more and then watched it turn into Petey.
I stood up quickly, startled and flushed, and turned on the nearest light. Now, I could see the room clearly. Again, I picked up the mirror. This time, the reflection was a grotesque and distorted mix of my face with Petey’s face. Even though I wasn’t moving, the reflection seemed to be. I watched as the reflection distorted and changed even more. It was like the face of the dog was melting into the face of the human. It was as if they were becoming one. What was that movie where the man turned into a fly? Now, that was a scary movie. Far scarier than any sexy slasher film I might have watched that day.
I threw the mirror and sent it flying across the room. It hit a wall, then fell onto the floor, smashing the glass but keeping the handle intact. I returned to a pathetic puddle of a human, sobbing on the floor. My tears were heavy and wet. But when I reached up to wipe them away from my eyes, I noticed something peculiar: my face was hairy. No, furry. My hands explored my face. I dared not look like a mirror. Not only was my face furry, but my nose was wet, and my tongue was wide and flat.
The doorbell rang. “Trick or treat!”
I rushed to the door. I needed help. I opened the door and the smiling faces of a group of young girls dressed like princesses quickly changed to horror and screaming. They fled my yard, spilling Mars Bars and Pixy Stix behind them. I opened my mouth and tried to call out, “Hey! Wait! Come back!”
To my horror, the only sound that came out of me was the insistent barking of a dog.
The full transformation took only a few more minutes. I was fully trapped inside the body of a dog with the mind of a human. Convincing myself this was all somehow just a bad dream, I slept in the dog bed and prayed that I would wake up on my own.
The next day, Jeannie came over to retrieve her mirror. She knew Petey and would often say “Good boy” to him if we were in our front yard or out on a walk. But when Jeannie reached down to scratch my head, she smiled and whispered something new instead.
Gillian Corsiatto hails from Alberta, Canada, right between two major cities: Calgary and Edmonton. She has been a lifelong writer, and her first book Duck Light was published in 2021. Since then, she has been motivated to keep at her writing and further it into an established career, even branching out into writing for the theatre. Currently, a sequel to Duck Light is underway, but she still pumps out scripts and short stories whenever an idea creeps into her mind. You can find her mostly at her writing desk, probably with a cat in her lap, and maybe even spinning a fidget spinner. She thinks those are still cool.