Author's Note: So this is an prologue to a story I've been working on for a while. Please leave comments with what you liked or didn't like, or just to say you stopped by in general! Warnings for some gore.
There were a million acts of chance that led up to this moment, to facing this polished white door. Her picking up a random small town newspaper in the café that sold inky coffee to check the date. Her choosing that specific newspaper, instead of the others. The first page of the newspaper being dog-eared slightly so, just barely revealing an ad for a teenage girl's car washing services, and Cassidy's eyes being drawn to it. The cellphone number being included in bubbly font, and Cassidy working up the nerve to call it. And the girl herself, Cassidy's sister, picking up the phone just as Cassidy was going to hang up.
And then there were the things that didn't happen; Cassidy didn't misplace her wallet, therefore allowing her no excuse to not buy a bus ticket, Cassidy didn't miss the only bus in the next three days going to Medina, Washington. After getting off, Cassidy didn't get run over by the bus.
Cassidy, facing the door after ringing the doorbell, was starting to wish that the bus had gotten her.
Of course Cassidy knew that her sister would not look the same as when she left her. It had been four years since Cassidy had last seen her sister, but for some reason it still surprised Cassidy when the girl answering the door wasn't a gangly seventh grader.
"Cassidy?" her sister asked from the door hesitantly, her eyes widening.
"Why so surprised, Joan?" Cassidy answered warily. "I called to tell you I was coming. You were the one who gave me the new address."
"Yeah, but calling and actually showing up are two very different things," Joan replied bluntly. Cassidy shrugged, not bothering to defend herself. Joan did have a valid point. At the time of the call, Cassidy did not think she was going to follow through, either.
"Why don't you come in," Joan offered, turning on her heel and disappearing into a massive foyer. Cassidy followed hesitantly.
"So, you moved?" Cassidy asked. "It's a nice place."
Joan snorted. "Since when have we been able to afford something like this?" Joan gestured generally to the enormity of the house.
"I don't know, Joan," Cassidy sighed. "Mom's job pays pretty well, doesn't it?" Mom. Cassidy had not said that word since the big blowout that had led her to turn her back on Washington and not look back.
Joan laughed, but there was no humor to it. "Oh, that's right. You don't know. She got fired three years back, right about the time she and Dad got a divorce."
"Mom and Dad split up?" Cassidy balked. "They seemed to be sailing pretty smoothly when I last saw them."
"Well, they went through quite a lot. It strained things in our house. It was impossible to go a night without them yelling," Joan said matter-of-factly. Again, Cassidy did not bother to deflect the accusation, just shrugged impassively to her sister, already wracking her memory for the closest road in this crappy town from which she could hitchhike her way back to Phoenix-.
"I made coffee. Want a cup?" Joan asked, arriving in a pristine kitchen full of sealed cardboard boxes and with a simple plastic table and two folding chairs. Cassidy sat herself down uncomfortably in one of the chairs, and grimaced. "Only if it's decaf," she replied.
Joan snorted. "Of course it's decaf. The caffeinated stuff from the coffee shop tastes like crap and makes you as jittery as a racehorse on crack."
Cassidy realized it would probably be socially appropriate to laugh, so she forced one out, folding her hands over her lap uncomfortably. "Yeah, I remember that." She also remembered that the manager of that coffee grounds store had been her dealer for two years, but Cassidy decided to keep that insignificant detail to herself.
Joan seemed to pick up on how out of place Cassidy was feeling: even as a seventh grader, she had been incredibly perceptive, and Cassidy could only guess what four years had done for her wise sister. She patted the table. "Make yourself at home, coffee will be out in two minutes." Joan walked swiftly into the kitchen, leaving Cassidy alone with a cheap table, an empty chair, and her own musings.
Joan was so much more different than she had been when an estranged Cassidy had left her behind. Gone was the pimply, clumsy, flat-chested, greasy-haired and overly eager sister, and in her place was a girl that had finally filled into her height, moved with grace and kept her light hair back in a tight bun like a ballerina- did Joan do ballet? Did Joan even ever dance? Cassidy couldn't remember.
Cassidy rubbed her temples wearily. She wished she had not gotten herself into this mess, into the series of occurrences that all led up to Cassidy waiting for coffee from a girl who seemed like a stranger, not her blood sister. But it wasn't Cassidy's fault- well, smoking pot for the first time was, but the rest really wasn't. Her parents had asked for too much from her- National Honors Society, cheerleading, three languages and the whole trophy daughter package. She had tried to turn to her mother for help after she had that first joint- it had scared Cassidy. She could see clearly for the first time the path she soon would be following to a future she didn't want for herself. But no one had bothered to listen. Not even when she told her parents for the first time. No, instead of listening, they had shipped her off to rehab for two months smack dab between Junior and Senior year. No one would even have to know she was ever gone.
Cassidy had known she was in trouble. And eventually, her parents got the picture, too, because they were insisting she go to rehab again. But rehab hadn't helped Cassidy the first time around, and she knew it wouldn't help the second, either, but it had lead to a large blowout between Cassidy and her dad, plum-faced from screaming, until three days after she graduated she packed up a bag, withdrew her college fund from the bank, and calmly promised her family they'd never see her again until she was completely clean.
"Milk? Sweetener? Or just plain black?" Joan called from the kitchen. Cassidy laughed at the irony to herself: most of the guys who over the years had a one night stand with Cassidy knew how she took her coffee without ever learning her last name, while her own sister had no clue.
"Cassidy?" Joan persisted.
"Just a splash of skim please," Cassidy called back. A few minutes later, Joan was walking into the room with two steaming mugs, sitting down across from her long-lost sister and sliding over a cheerily painted mug. Cassidy took a sip- it was scalding hot, and burned all the way down her esophagus. She liked the burn; it distracted her. She took another sip, just wincing slightly.
"So." Cassidy coughed, trying to make conversation with her sister. "Mom lost her job. Our parents split up. What else did I miss?" She winced at how fake her tone seemed to be but Joan either didn't notice, or was just as uncomfortable as Cassidy was and decided to go along with it. Probably the latter, judging by Joan's incessant tapping of her foot on the floor.
"What did you miss?" Joan laughed, but it lacked humor. "You have been gone for four years, Cassidy, you sort of missed a lot."
"Then try giving me the Cliff Notes version," Cassidy asked, annoyance leaking into her voice.
"Nothing, really," Joan said honestly. "Of course, Mom did get remarried…"
"What? And she didn't call me?"
"Like you would have answered," Joan scoffed, and Cassidy just glared in response. "Well, it wasn't exactly a romantic occasion. Ten people invited in all, to see her be joyfully remarried to the man of her dreams, the wonderful Daniel Bentley."
"You don't like him?" Cassidy asked, taking note of Joan's infliction of her Stepfather's name.
Cassidy had a Stepfather. Weird.
"Absolutely not. He's full of himself, a hotshot accountant who spends half his salary on that greasy crap he slicks his hair with, and the rest on gambling," Joan complained. "And his daughter's even worse."
And apparently she had a Stepsister, as well.
"Bailey Bentley is her name. She's fourteen, looks nothing like us, and she is a brat. How did you stand me at that age?" An awkward silence followed when Joan realized the mistake in her question- when she was fourteen, Cassidy was probably somewhere across the country, going through withdrawal.
Both the sisters took another gulp of coffee in unison, cherishing the burn.
"So, you said this wasn't our family's house?" Cassidy asked.
Joan didn't look comfortable with the subject change. "No, it isn't. It belongs to my best friend and her family. They were supposed to move in yesterday, but they had to fly across the country a few days back for a family emergency, and they asked me to watch it."
"Well, whoever they are, they can't be poor, because this house doesn't exactly look cheap," Cassidy observed, ignoring the exasperated look shot from her sister. "Do I know this best friend? Who is it?"
"Highly unlikely. Her name is Amelia Bielard. I met her in a therapy program, geared towards kids with absent family members," Joan said sharply.
Cassidy cleared her throat, and went for another sip of coffee, and sighed when she saw the cup was empty. "Well, I guess I'll hit the sack for the night. Where can I crash?"
"Seriously?" Joan asked disbelievingly. "It's seven thirty."
"I had a long day," Cassidy fibbed. She had actually slept through the whole bus ride.
"You just finished a cup of coffee!"
"It was decaf," Cassidy threw back at her. "Now, can you just show me to a damn bedroom? Or should I get a cab for the nearest motel for the night, and be on my way tomorrow?"
Joan's eyes softened. "I was hoping you would stay for at least a few days."
Cassidy's anger deflated, leaving her with the same weariness she had carried since Joan had first opened the door. "Where can I sleep, Joan?"
"Up the stairs, third door to the left, there's a guest bedroom. It already has sheets on the bed, but no top sheet. Is that okay?"
Cassidy was already halfway up the stairs. "Thanks, Joan! Goodnight, little sister!" The enthusiasm was as easily seen through as Saran wrap, but Cassidy didn't care. She just wanted to escape.
She found the bedroom, all but slammed the door behind her, and sighed with relief. She had forgotten how taxing it was to put on the effort to be amiable, especially around family. Collapsing on a Queen sized bed that was the sole piece of furniture in the room apart from some packed boxes, Cassidy curled in on herself, sighing.
She could remember a time when she and Joan had been inseparable- with Cassidy being short and petite for her age and Joan being mature beyond her years and ridiculously tall, some even mistook them for fraternal twins. Cassidy entering high school had defined the gap between their years, and the sisters had grown apart, but they had still loved each other, no doubt.
Cassidy could not even say that anymore. She still checked up occasionally on her family's health and well being, but it was more out of habit than actual caring. It was easy to label herself and Joan as sisters looking back at them four years ago, even despite how tense their relationship was because of the drug use. But Cassidy had grown into a different person over the lost time- each experience good and awful shaping her into a different person. She was hardly recognizable from the high school junkie who had left her family behind. Cassidy was sure the same applied to Joan, as well. The transformation of each girl left the new Cassidy looking at someone who in her mind had no resemblance or relation to herself.
Cassidy felt regretful for making the girl have hope. Joan had suggested she stay a few days, but Cassidy could see it in her sister's eyes- she wanted Cassidy to stay, maybe move in with Dad or Mom when those Bielards came home to claim their house. Maybe Joan believed that with time, she and Cassidy could grow close again. They could laugh about how ridiculous Mom, her sleezeball husband and her obnoxious replacement daughter were. They would go to rom coms, and stay up all night catching up, whispering so no one else would hear their secrets. And maybe then, in the darkness, Cassidy could open up to her sister about the past four years-
Cassidy laughed bitterly to herself. Sure, she would let Joan have her private small seed of hope, but long-term settlement was a deal breaker in any situation. Over the years, Cassidy had fallen into the comfort of being a nomad. The urge to keep moving pumped with the blood in her veins, and she would not have it any other way. She never visited the same place twice, and the longest she had stayed in one town in two years was a fortnight. And Cassidy knew she certainly was not staying with her sister, now a stranger, for a fortnight.
But Cassidy would not take off in the middle of the night, either. It was cruel of her to threaten Joan earlier with that in the first place. Cassidy knew that when she departed from Medina this time, it would most likely be her last, and she would never look back. Maybe she would send Joan a postcard at Christmas, if she remembered. Cassidy owed it to Joan, the little girl of the past who was the last to leave her side, and never gave up on her, even after four years. Cassidy would stay three days, maybe four, as a thank you to her sister, and once her debt was paid, she would leave.
Cassidy contemplated her decision as she stared up at the ceiling. It would not interfere with any plans- Cassidy could not remember the last time she had a plan- but her bag with what little belongings she owned was in a small locker at the bus station thirty minutes away. The only pair of clothes she had was the set on her back.
The girl sat up, remembering the untidy scrawl she had seen on one of the packages in the corner of the room- GOODWILL. Cassidy lacked guilt as she fished through the box for pajamas her size, but she could not find it in herself to care. She was the Goodwill's best customer, anyways- she deserved a 100% discount just this one time.
Cassidy was sliding out of her dirty clothes and was in her underwear when she felt it. A prickling sensation on the back of her neck, the hairs on her arms starting to slowly rise with the pebbled goose bumps. Someone, or something, was watching her get undressed. She carefully inspected each cranny and crevice of the room with a few quick movements of her eyes, but it was a fairly small room- no closet, no one outside in the hallway, not even a window. Cassidy looked for the telltale reflective lens of a camera, but as far as she could tell, there was nothing there that could let someone see her at that moment.
But Cassidy was certain of it, knew that there were eyes glued to her body right now, as certainly as if the individual had been right behind her, breathing hotly down her neck.
Cassidy knew she was probably being silly, that she should just put on the pillaged pajamas and go to sleep, but she was paralyzed. Her skin prickled and she felt slightly feverish. Sweat beaded on her forehead and trickled down like tears. Cassidy felt the watching eyes just increase their intensity, until she could almost hear someone whispering her name, using it as a taunt. "Cassidy. Cassidy. I can see you. No matter how much you run, I will always be able to see you. Cassidy."
She could not breathe. The eyes were everywhere. The walls of the room felt like they were closing in on her, and she needed to leave right now.
Cassidy bolted into the hallway, and entered the first room she encountered, closing and locking the door shut behind her. She was completely submerged in darkness, and her fingers groped blindly at the walls, searching for a switch.
When she finally found one, she flicked it on, and after a few seconds, a light sputtered on. Cassidy squinted, her eyes adjusting to the bright light, before she realized that she was in a bathroom, complete with a toilet, shower, sink, and an ovular mirror hanging on the wall.
Now that she was out of that constricting room, Cassidy no longer felt like she was being watched, and began to feel a slightly ridiculous for being spooked like that- she had faced far more frightening things than a small dark room in her lifetime. More than that, she felt gross. Her hair was matted against her forehead, her skin shining with cooling perspiration. Cassidy's eyes moved to the shower, which seemed more and more appealing with each passing moment.
"Why the hell not," Cassidy muttered, stripping out of her disgustingly sweaty underclothes and turning on the shower. The feverish feeling was lingering, so she made the temperature freezing cold before going under the steady spray of water.
Cassidy immediately started shivering, but she gladly accepted the small discomfort because the frigid water simultaneously felt so good against her warm skin. The liquid washed the sweat and grime from travelling on the bus all day down the drain, and Cassidy enjoyed the feeling of being completely clean, letting the constant pressure beat against her back.
The water began to grow gradually warmer. At first Cassidy did not mind, but she missed the sharpness of the icy temperature, so she tried to change it back, figuring she had hit the knob by accident. But the arrow on the knob was still directed at the highest extreme for cold. She frowned as the water continued to get warmer, and suddenly, the water was not just warm, but unbearably hot, boiling and burning her shoulder. Cassidy stumbled out of the shower, cursing and clutching her skin. The skin had made a sizzling sound when the water came into contact it, and maybe Cassidy could have passed it off as her imagination, but for the fact she could smell it, the scorched and blistering skin.
She tried to examine her shoulder in the mirror, biting her lip to hold back the moans of pain. Even air made the burn hurt more, made it demand more of Cassidy's attention. But soon she discovered she had larger problems than pain. Once she got in a position that she could see her shoulder blade in the mirror, she saw that her injury was very distinct- it was a circle, about five inches in diameter, with some sort of design in the center. It was too small to tell, but Cassidy could have sworn there were even words, looping around the circumference of the circle. The wound looked less like she had been scalded by hot water, and more like she had been branded.
The hot water was still running forgotten in the shower, creating steam that clouded up the mirror. Wanting to examine the burn more closely, Cassidy wiped at the mirror in an attempt to clear the surface, but at first did not notice that through the fog, her reflection looked different- her hair darker, longer, her skin paler, and her eyes full of malicious intent.
She certainly did notice it though as soon as she looked up, the mirror wiped clear. Her reflection stared back at her, but her reflection was certainly not one of herself.
The woman in the mirror had pale, almost transparent skin, the barely visible spidery veins dancing through her sunken cheeks. Her eyes were hidden under dark overgrown bangs, which lead to wild and untamed black curls falling down past her shoulders. The woman's lips looked pale and blue, like a cadaver's, but were cracked into a dangerous smile, one that promised terror.
Yes, Cassidy was definitely not looking at her own reflection. Which meant this was her cue to run like hell, and wait for whatever drug she was having a bad reaction to work its way out of her system.
But Cassidy could not move an inch. She tried to move her feet, even blink at her own will, but she could not. And the woman in the mirror smiled as she watched her predicament grow, as her desperate attempts failed.
"Cassidy." The woman's cracked dead lips opened and spoke in that same dry whisper that Cassidy had thought she had imagined earlier. "Cassidy, I can see you." The woman began to laugh softly, barely a wheeze, as if she was speaking from the inside of a coffin and had no breath to spare.
Before Cassidy could even comprehend the situation she was in, the woman lifted a bony hand, brought it to her mouth as if she were going to blow Cassidy a gentle kiss, and tore a papery line of skin off her palm with rotted, black teeth.
Cassidy gasped, choking on the scream that was impossible to release, her eyes stinging with the tears of pain that it wanted to let loose. But she was a prisoner within her own mind, only capable of feeling a warm liquid drip down her right hand onto the floor, and being engrossed in the woman. The lady of the mirror's hidden eyes seemed amused, seemed to tease, Go on. Look at it. And suddenly Cassidy's quivering hand was in from of her eyes, a deep chunk of her skin missing, sure to need stitches. It was surely one of the worst wounds Cassidy had ever received, but even worse, she could see teeth marks, ones similar to her own. And she could have sworn she now tasted a copper like substance on her teeth.
"It is beautiful, isn't it, my child?" The woman asked in her soft voice, and yes, Cassidy was entranced by its allure. The blood trickling down her wrist, creating patterns on her tanned skin. The fluid that kept her alive finding its way out of her body to stain tile floor…
"Finish it, my child. Become mine, Cassidy Cottler, Second Prophet." The Lady of the Mirror's words did not even register in Cassidy's mind. She just slowly lifted her right hand to touch the burn on her left shoulder blade.
Agony. That was the sole feeling that Cassidy felt, agony that was so good, it bordered on ecstasy. The feeling made every broken bone before seem like a small irritation, made every high Cassidy had threw away her life for seem like a weak substitute for this. Cassidy was in awe of the pain and power throbbing through her, the epicenter of her bleeding hand and the burn humming, and never before had she felt so pure. She knew that she could die right now and go to heaven or hell and feel happy, triumphant even. Maybe she was dead, and this was what it was like to perish.
The overwhelming wave of sensation abruptly stopped, and Cassidy debated whether to thank the Lady for the brief reprieve or to beg for more, but she is startled to see that the Lady had been replaced by a normal looking pretty brunette- normal, other than she was inside the mirror, and she still was not Cassidy's reflection. Cassidy did not care who this new girl was, only that she wanted her gone and the Lady back.
"Who are you?" Cassidy demanded, her entire being itching for the return of the woman with the black hair. She was pleasantly surprised that she could speak again, but a quick test soon determined that the rest of her body was still inexplicably paralyzed.
"Let me move," Cassidy pleaded. "I want just a little bit of my control back."
"My apologies, but I am afraid that your request is not possible in these circumstances," the brunette said. The way the brunette spoke, Cassidy mused, was almost as if she belonged in the early twentieth century, if not further back in time. "If I were to return to you your ability to move, you would be able to comprehend the full discomfort of your current injuries, and it would be quite difficult for you to have the conversation with me that is necessary. The White Lady will return very soon, for I only have the ability to postpone her return for so long- "
"You sent her away?" Cassidy asked angrily. "Bring her back!" She began to fight against the invisible restraints preventing her movement.
"She is no one's friend, and certainly not yours, Cassidy," the girl warned, but Cassidy continued to struggle, until she finally felt the girl let her free.
Cassidy fell to her knees and sobbed. The pain of the burn, the scoop taken out of her hand hit her for the first time, and it certainly did not feel comfortable like before. Now Cassidy would do anything to get rid of what the Lady had done to her. Before she knew what was happening the pain was gone. Cassidy was jerked upright into standing like a marionette and, mostly paralyzed again.
"The White Lady is not your friend," the girl insisted firmly. This time, Cassidy did not protest.
"My name is Eva Gould. I am gone from Earth forever, and you will never see me in this form outside of a mirror. Or, 'tis how it should be. There are others like me, who have waited patiently for several years to escape this prison. It has been foretold in our prophesies that one day, you would be standing before this very mirror, and that it would be the Beginning."
"The Beginning? The Beginning of what?" Cassidy asked, shaken.
"The Beginning of the End. The great breakout from this abyss, and reentrance into your world. By speaking to each other right now, we are beginning the fulfillment of the prophesy, so it is urgent that we get to the point quickly."
"How does this prophesy end?" Cassidy asked, not sure how to even begin believing a word of what was being spoken.
"Hell on earth, essentially." Eva said grimly. " 'Tis called 'The Beginning of the End' for reason."
"What can I do?" Cassidy asked. "I am just an ex-druggie. I have nothing to do with all of this!"
Eva laughed. "You have no idea just how incorrect you are, Cassidy," she said. "And luckily for you, I have clear directions." The girl frowned, and started to look nervous. "Unfortunately, I must leave with haste shortly. The White Lady shall be back momentarily, and she will not be pleased with either one of us. You must run as well, I am afraid."
Cassidy felt a tickling sensation on her good hand. "What are you doing?"
"I am writing down the address of where you must meet me. It is safe, and I will be able to protect you. Arrive at 143 Stony Pond Lane, no later than a week from now. If you delay yourself further than that, it may be too late for both of us."
Cassidy swallowed through the lump in her throat that was growing with her panic. "Ok. I will try, Eva, but I can't guarantee any-"
"No!" Eva cried, panicked. "It is not enough to merely try, you must be there, or else-!"
Eva was gone, and the White Lady was back, looking less amused than before. "There you are, my child. I am sorry for that rude interruption. Dear Eva has not quite had enough discipline drilled into her yet…" Dead lips grimaced. "Become mine. Be mine, my child."
"No," Cassidy replied, her voice's strength surprising even her.
"No?" The look in the White Lady's expression was murderous.
"Sorry, but I will not 'be yours'," Cassidy sneered. "I can take care of myself alone, thank you."
The White Lady seemed to contemplate her for a moment, and Cassidy foolishly hoped that the Lady would agree. But then she screamed.
The scream seemed to not leave the room, but rebound in volume and pitch, and the mirror shattered. This did not dissipate the image of the White Lady, but only multiplied her image in the shards, twenty of her, shrieking in unison. Cassidy clutched her head, feeling blood begin to leak out from not only her ears, but also her nose and eyes. Her whole world became the White Lady's screams, and Cassidy was not sure, but she was almost positive that she was screaming with her, their voices mixing together to make more sound and pain, until…
…Until Cassidy was submerged into the peaceful bliss of unconsciousness.
When Cassidy woke up, her eyes were blurry. She tried to wipe the fogginess away, but was unable to move her arms. She wondered if she was still paralyzed, but she was able to move her legs slightly- which were under a blanket, it seemed. Cassidy blinked the sleepiness out of her eyes, and saw that her arms were strapped down. She seemed to be in a hospital bed.
"Oh look, you're awake!" Cassidy startled, and looked towards the source of the voice. It was a kindly looking woman with a saccharine voice, probably in her forties, though she was not aging well. "Do you know where you are, sweetheart?"
Everything seemed groggy. Cassidy nodded slowly, and felt dizzy by doing so.
The woman sat next to Cassidy and smiled. "You are at St. Joseph's, honey. You have been unconscious for five days, but now that you are awake, you can be assured we will take good care of you."
Saint Joseph's, a mental hospital local to the region. Great. But that was not the news that alarmed Cassidy the most. If she had been unconscious for five days, then she just had a couple left to meet Eva. The world may have seemed fuzzy, but Cassidy remembered her experience with the mirror clearly. "Excuse me, ma'am, but do you know where 143 Stony Pond Lane is? How close is it to here?" Cassidy did not know how, but she would somehow escape Saint Joseph's, find her way to Eva before it was too late, just after this woman told her where she needed to go and left-
The woman smiled gently, and placed a small hand on Cassidy's shoulder, causing her to jump. "Why, darling. You're already there. 143 Stony Pond Lane- that's St. Joseph's address."
Cassidy was already there. In that case, where was Eva?
Her gaze was drawn to a mirror, older and simpler than the one in the bathroom. It sat directly across from the bed, right in Cassidy's view.
And as the woman buzzed in Cassidy's ear about what her daily routine at the hospital would be during her stay, she saw her eyes darken to Eva's brown, her skin tone alter to olive, and her hair change to a dark brunette. She ignored the woman beside her, and devoted her full attention to the girl in the mirror, who held a skinny finger over her lips.
A/N, again: Thanks for reading! If anyone likes it, I may post more.