Sarah stood before a large dressing mirror and pondered over the text scratched into the wood by dulled fingernails. She gazed at the seven distorted versions of herself taking the time to reflect on each of the shards still clinging to the wood for dear life. She studied the mirror trying to decipher the text before giving up entirely.
“Whatcha doing in here?” her grandmother asked coming up the stairs as she balanced a tray in one hand and a basket in the other. Sarah jumped back startled by her grandmother.
“I was just looking,” Sarah said as her fingers grazed over the dents in the wood.
“Sarah, please, do as you are told and step away from the mirror. I don’t want you to hurt yourself.”
Reluctantly Sarah did as she was told and stepped back from the mirror. As she glanced over to her grandmother, she noticed her grandmother sigh with relief. There was a fear in her grandmother’s eyes, a terror the old woman hid.
“Grandmother, where did you get it?”
“It doesn’t matter where I got it, my dear, what is important is that it is kept safe and hidden.”
“Hidden from who?”
“No more questions, come downstairs now and I will make you some lunch,” the grandmother said setting down the tray and basket. Sarah glanced over her shoulder as more questions popped into her mind. She turned to her grandmother and smiled dearly to her before obeying and went down the stairs.
The grandmother paused briefly taking a moment to herself and straightening her apron. The grandmother glanced at the mirror for a split second before pushing the tray and the basket closer to the mirror.
“You can’t have her,” the grandmother whispered. “She belongs to me now.”
The grandmother turned and quickly headed back down the stairs to greet her bewildered granddaughter.
“What was in the basket?” Sarah asked as her grandmother quickly walked by without saying another word.
“That is not your concern,” the grandmother’s voice was strained and harsh. Sarah stole a glance at the stairs before she noticed her grandmother standing beside her.
“I don’t want you going up there again, do you understand?”
“No, I don’t understand. What is up there besides old junk?”
“I don’t want you around that mirror,” her grandmother shouted. Sarah raised her hands up in surrender.
“What’s gotten into you?” Sarah asked stepping away from the stairs and her grandmother.
“Nothing,” the grandmother snapped.
“No, something has twisted your knobs, what is it?” Sarah stepped away even further until she backed herself into the kitchen table.
“Sit down, there is something you need to know, and I can see that if you don’t get your answers, you will learn the hard way.” The grandmother sighed deeply as she wiped her hands on her apron masking the sweat and her fear.
Sarah took her seat and watched her grandmother sit down across from her. Sarah’s grandmother shifted in her seat gathering her thoughts for what seemed like forever before she finally spoke.
“There is magic in this world, dark and powerful magic that can’t be controlled. That is what is inside the mirror and that is why you must be very careful around it.”
“Are you telling me you are a witch?” Sarah sat back in her chair as her heart began to drum in her chest. Her grandmother nodded, still refusing to look at her.
“I swore to your mother that you would never know magic. But you are curious, and you needed to know the truth.”
“So, what does that have to do with the mirror?”
“Do you remember what happened to your mother?”
“She went crazy.”
“She was tempted by the dark magic and was seduced by it. She grew powerful and uncontrollable.”
“Wait, are you telling me, my mother is trapped in the mirror?”
“You are clever aren’t you?” the grandmother said finally looking at Sarah. “I had no other choice.”
“That’s why the mirror is broken, isn’t it? So she can’t get out.”
“I am not proud of what I have done. But there was no other way.” Sarah’s grandmother stared at her with a fire in her eyes. Sarah saw for the first time that what she had always mistaken for rage, was, in fact, her grandmother’s magic.
“Do I have magic too?”
“Of course, you do, you come from a long line of witches.”
“Will you teach me?”
“No, absolutely not,” the grandmother said with a stern voice as she leaned back in her chair. “I am sorry, but I can’t take the risk. After what happened to your mother, I can’t, I’m sorry.”
Sarah glanced at the stairway wondering what other wonders lay hidden in the trunks and cobwebs.
“What was in the basket you brought upstairs?” Sarah asked as she turned her attention back to her grandmother.
“For who? My mother?” Sarah’s grandmother laughed shaking her head as the laughter filled the small kitchen.
“No, that is absurd. Your mother is in the mirror.”
“Then who is the food for?”
“Do you want to see?” There was a sparkle in the grandmother’s eyes as she leaned forward closure to Sarah.
“Yes,” Sarah smiled as her heart drummed with excitement.
“Come on then,” The grandmother stood and extended a hand to Sarah. “We must be soundless, though, and I don’t know if they will come out. But they are timid little things and sound often spooks them.”
Sarah took her grandmother’s hand as she led her up the stairs and back into the attack. Sarah’s grandmother paused on the last step.
“Look,” the grandmother whispered and pointed. Sarah snuck up behind her grandmother and glanced over her shoulder. Sarah’s eyes grew wide with wonder as she watched the tiny sparkles of light flicker around the basket.
“What are they?”
“Are they like fairies?”
“Oh, no, fairies are vicious and destructive. Sprites are much more helpful and kinder as long as you feed them well.”
“Why are they here?”
“Every witch has them in their homes. Think of them as helpers. They keep the garden growing, and the fires lit. They are the reason the place looks so tidy,” the grandmother chuckled darkly glancing at the floating lights before adding, “Do you think an old woman such as myself couldn’t keep this place neat all by myself?”
Sarah smiled as she turned her attention back to the balls of light dancing around the room and bouncing from one spot to the next. A dark shadow passed by catching Sarah’s immediate attention.
“Grandmother,” Sarah whispered as she pointed to the center of the room. “What is that?”
Sarah watched the shadow on the ground shift and moved about. When she lost sight of it, she took a step out into the attack. A loud shriek echoed throughout the house.
“She didn’t know,” the grandmother said as the sprites darted and swarmed around Sarah’s head. Sarah tried to stay out of their way swatting them as they passed her by, but she couldn’t keep her balance and tripped over the basket. The dark shadow moved with her.
“NO!” The grandmother cried out as Sarah crashed into the mirror. “What have you done!” The grandmother cried as a million shards of broken mirror rained down to the floor causing the sprites to hide.
“Don’t move, not one inch,” the grandmother warned as she tried not to step on any of the broken shards getting to Sarah.
“I’m sorry,” Sarah apologized as she tried to remain as still as possible.
“Sarah, please try not to move. Now that the mirror is broken, one drop of your blood, your mother’s blood and the mirror will restore itself.”
“I told you, that I trapped your mother in the mirror. I used a blood curse to bind the spell.” The grandmother shifted around the broken shards carefully and fumbled through an old trunk next to the window.
“Here,” the grandmother said pulling out an old pocket mirror from the trunk and handed it to Sarah. “You were wondering what the inscription on the mirror was, see for yourself.”
Sarah held up the small mirror and gazed through the small reflection. Her mouth dropped as she could understand the inscription and slowly read the words out loud.
“Animam malam in hac vita aeterna septus in speculo.” As soon as the words left her lips, the shards of glass lifted into the air and began to fill up the wood frame of the mirror piecing itself back together.
“Don’t move, not yet.”
“But grandmother,” Sarah could feel the magic swirling around her and through her as the mirror reconstructed itself whole once more.
“Here,” the grandmother said handing her a small hammer. “When I tell you, you must break the mirror or your mother will be released!”
“What if I don’t want to trap her?”
“She is evil, Sarah you must!”
Sarah sucked in a deep breath as the glass sliced her cheeks and arms. Sarah locked her eyes on her grandmother waiting for the signal to strike the glass.
“Sarah?” A soft, frail voice called out to Sarah breaking her concentration on her grandmother. “Please, Sarah.” The voice begged.
“Don’t let her in,” the grandmother cried out as the wind kicked up. “You must not listen to her!”
“Mom?” Sarah turned around crushing the glass with the palm of her hand. A single drop of blood landed on the shards laid out around her, but she didn’t care. She stared at her mother lingering on the other side of the mirror.
“It ‘s nice to see you,” Sarah’s mother said with a smile as the glass shards continued to piece together the broken puzzle.
“I have to,” Sarah said holding up the hammer.
“No, you don’t. You don’t have to do what she says.”
“Sarah, now! Break the glass before it is too late!”
“That woman is not your grandmother. She died several eons ago.”
“This is what I warned you about Sarah, and the darkness will make your mother say anything. Please, break the glass before it is too late.”
As the last piece of glass fit into its place the mirror glowed brighter than the sun. Sarah shielded her eyes from the light as she heard her grandmother scream.
“Sarah, give me the hammer,” Sarah’s mother stood right beside her as she placed her hand upon Sarah’s shoulder. “It’s okay.” Calmness filled Sarah as she gave up the small hammer to her mother. Tears fell from her eyes as the room dimmed once again.
“I put you in that mirror for a reason!”
“I know you did! So you could steal my youth, my daughter, my life!” Sarah’s mother shouted as she raised the hammer up and slammed it hard into the mirror.
“Close your eyes Sarah, and whatever you do don’t open them,” Sarah’s mother said as lunged towards the old woman. “Your turn!”
Sarah’s mother snatched the old woman by her shirt and flew her into the mirror.
“Animam malam in hac vita aeterna septus in speculo!”
Sarah heard screams rise and fall as the light flickered about causing her to wonder what was happening. She began to peek through her eyelids when she heard her mother’s voice above the screams.
“Don’t open your eyes or you will be sucked into the void with her!” Sarah tucked her head down so that she couldn’t hear anything and so that no light could penetrate through her eyelids.
“You can’t do this!” The old woman cried out as Sarah heard the glass crack and the voice was gone.
“You can open your eyes now.” Sarah did as she was told and slowly looked around the room.
“Mom?” Sarah looked at her mother with awe.
“Yes, it’s me.”
“I don’t…” Sarah couldn’t put into words what she was feeling. Everything was just too much. Sarah stared at the mirror for a moment and watched her grandmother fade into the darkness only to be replaced by her jagged reflection.
“I know it is a lot to take in,” Sarah’s mother said smiling weakly. “I know it has been 17 years since you have seen me, but believe me when I say that I have spent the last 17 years watching you from the other side of that mirror and loathing that woman who took you from me all those years ago.”
“But she was my grandmother.”
“No, she wasn’t. She was just an old hag who tricked us all.”
“What do you mean?”
“Seventeen years ago the hag came to our doorsteps begging for shelter for the night. I begged your father not to let her in, but it was a harsh and brutal winter. She promised us she would spell our fields so that the winter wouldn’t harm the harvest and so your father let her in. You began crying the moment she stepped into our house. I went upstairs to check on you but I couldn’t sooth you. The hag offered to hold you for a moment. Against my better judgment, I let her and you fell right to sleep in her arms.
She asked if we might sell the child to her, but we refused. She asked again saying how she would make it worth our wildest dreams. Your father kicked her out that very night. She cursed us all that very night.
Morning came, and your father left to go hunting the way he always did, but he never returned. Hours turned into days, days into weeks. Then, one day a package arrived. It was the mirror. I couldn’t stand to look at it, so I put it up here in the attack. After I had settled you down for a nap, a knock came, and it was the hag. I turned her away, but she forced her way in. I retreated up to the attack with you in my arms when she cast the spell. I was pulled into the mirror. She told me only you could set me free as my blood link to this world. For seventeen years I waited in the dark. The sprites kept me company during those long years.”
“Grandma. I mean the old woman said every witch has them to do the witch’s bidding.”
“No, my dear. Sprites are the links between realms. They are there to give loved one’s messages, just as I was trying to give you a message. When you tripped, though, they knew they had to cut you to break the spell.”
“This is all,” Sarah paused looking at the mirror.
“I know, it is, and it will take both of us time to reconnect.”
“Well, I guess the first mother-daughter thing we should do is get rid of this mirror.” Sarah’s mother smiled as she hugged Sarah.
“This is odd,” Sarah said as she studied the markings around the mirror. “The words have changed.”
Sarah’s mother looked at the carving. “Hand me the smaller mirror.”
Sarah did as she was told. Her mother lifted the mirror up and turned her back on it to read the inscription.
“Clare ardeat, verum ardebit.”
The words rolled off the mother’s tongue like it was water. The old hag appeared in the broken shards of the mirror as the wood caught on fire. And as the flames licked and ate the mirror, Sarah, and her mother stood back and watched till the old witch was nothing more than ash.
“How about we clean this up and go downstairs?” Sarah’s mom said. Sarah nodded.
“I think that is enough magic for me for one night. But,” Sarah paused. “What were those words you said? What were the words I said? Was that a spell?” Sarah’s mother laughed as she grabbed a broom and swept up the ash and tossed it out the window.
“I thought you said that was enough magic for one night?”
“I know, and I believe it is, but there is just so much to know.”
“And you will. I will teach you in time. There is a lot you can learn being trapped inside a magic mirror.”