Author : M.K. Langley

The basement was dark, and the cool damp air smelled of mildew. Jack and Charlee’s mother didn’t allow them in the basement, but she was at work and unable to tell them no. So the boy and his younger sister had spent the morning digging through stacks of old photographs, playing with broken toys, and climbing antique furniture covered in dust.

Charlee had wandered into the area underneath the front porch steps where the cement floor dropped down into dirt. Bits of plaster and piles of bricks peppered the floor. Leaning against the underside of a stair was a full length mirror.

“Look, Jack, I found a mirror.” She scrambled over some bricks to get a better look. “Maybe mom’ll let me put it in my room.”

“Mom can’t even know we’re down here.” Jack pulled his head from a trunk with a pair of neon-green sunglasses straight out of the ‘80s. “You can’t ask her to keep something you’ve never seen.”

Charlee peered into the mirror, but years of dust muted the reflection. She wiped the glass with her hand for a better view.

Jack glanced over expecting to see his sister pouting, but she was gone. “Where’d you go, Chuck?” He snuck up to the mirror and peaked behind it, but she wasn’t there. Then he looked into the mirror and saw her, but his was missing from the reflection. He poked at the glass to figure out the trick.

“What just happened?” Charlee stood behind him.

Before he could respond, sound came from upstairs. A door slamming and a clamoring of foot steps.

“Out the back window.” Jack tugged at his sister’s arm. “Mom’ll think we’ve been playing outside.”

In their panic, the children hadn’t noticed that the dampness was gone from the air. The furniture had shifted, and the clutter had disappeared. As they reached the window, two children ran into the backyard.

“I’m gonna get you, Janie,” called the boy.

Jack and Charlee stared out the window. The kids were about the same ages as they were, but the girl was older.

“Leave me alone, Tommy.” She opened a book and leaned against a tree a few feet from their window. A tree just like it but bigger was in their yard. Janie wore her hair in a high pony-tail off to one side and her clothes were covered in neon-colored splatters. She had huge front teeth and glasses too big for her face.

Jack looked at the girl called Janie, then at his sister. Except for the glasses, the girl looked just like Charlee. “Janie—Jane! I think that’s our mom, Charlee.”

Janie’s head jerked toward the basement window where Jack and Charlee were spying.

The two of them looked at each other then ran back to the mirror. When they touched it the air changed again—warmer and drier, no longer mildewed but stale.

Charlee turned away from the mirror and said, “Uh, Jack, why is the basement empty?”

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