Whenever the Spell Is Cast

By Charita Gil

From the wall clock, Mira’s eyes strayed to the high-waisted dress hanging on the wall. The enormous garment was blood red and had a floor-length circle skirt and imposing white collar—the Blood Countess’s dress. She’d debated for weeks whether to show up for the office Halloween party as Valak, as portrayed in The Nun, or Elizabeth Báthory in Báthory: Countess of Blood. But when the night arrived, she made other plans instead.

Mira looked at the wall clock once again. Just three minutes before midnight. It was time.

She picked up the lighter from the bedside table and lit the white votive candle. After replacing the lighter, she walked toward the light switches. In a second, the white light disappeared, and flickering golden candlelight flooded the room. She went back to the bedside table and picked up the candle and the small, round mirror. Then she walked toward the big vanity mirror across from her bed. She placed the paraphernalia on the vanity table and picked up a hairbrush.

Mira took a deep breath as she looked at herself in the mirror. Her heart pounded. Many times before she’d been too frightened to do this. But this time she wouldn’t let that stop her.

She sat down in front of the mirror and started brushing her shoulder-length hair. One…two…three… She counted each gentle stroke of the hairbrush and brushed a few locks of hair over her face. Twenty-three…twenty-four… The strokes of the brush now formed a transparent veil of hair over her face. When she reached forty-eight, she thought of the kind of man she would like as a lover.

He didn’t have to be handsome, but he had to be manly in every way. He should be healthy and fit. He should have a stable job and a nice house. She stood five feet and seven inches tall, so she’d like her man to be around six feet in height. He should be warm-hearted and respectful. He should read more books than she did. Seventy-six…seventy-seven…seventy-eight… She didn’t like to go out on weekends, so she needed a bookish man if she wanted to see him often. Eighty-four…eighty-five… Her upper arm started to tingle from the strokes, but she couldn’t stop now. It was almost over. Ninety-seven…ninety-eight…

After the one-hundredth stroke, she gently put the brush down and picked up the small, round mirror. Her hand quivered, and her throat constricted. But she remained quiet. Slowly, she lifted the mirror in front of her and peered at her reflection through the thin locks of hair that veiled her face. Carefully, she tilted the mirror to see what was behind her.

Nothing.

She moved it to the other side.

No one.

She held it up for a few seconds more and then put it down, shaking her head.

“This is nonsense,” she sighed. What if the man she wanted to see in the mirror was simply at the office? She could have just attended the office Halloween party instead of going to these lengths. The costume was a waste of money.

Annoyed at herself, she brushed the strands of hair off her face and looked in the vanity mirror. Her reflection smiled sarcastically. The crooked lips seemed to point out how pathetic she was to believe in the mirror spell. She looked away. But then she sat transfixed. Smile?

She didn’t smile.

She looked in the mirror once again and saw herself smiling derisively. She put her hand over her mouth in utter shock, but her reflection crossed its arms over its chest. She jerked up, but a pair of hands suddenly came out of the mirror and pinned her to her seat. Her eyes grew with terror as the face in the mirror—her face—came out as well, and the grip on her shoulders tightened.

She could barely move or make a sound. She forgot to breathe. The powerful hands holding her shoulders were pulling her closer and closer to the mirror. She tried to wriggle free of their grasp but accidentally knocked over the votive candle that sat on the vanity table. As glass shattered on the floor, the golden light died away. Then it was pitch-dark. Silent.

*

“Miranda!” Mira’s mother Felicia called as she knocked on the door. “Don’t you have to go to work today? It’s already nine. You didn’t attend the Halloween party. Why are you still—”

The door opened to Mira dressed in the red Elizabeth Báthory dress her mother knew she would have worn last night to the Halloween party. “I’m attending it now, Mother,” she smiled triumphantly. “Everybody will bow to the Blood Countess.”

Felicia’s brow furrowed as Mira walked past her. She’d expected a shy Blood Countess in that costume. When did her daughter learn to display such a sassy attitude—even if she was just acting?

Mira stopped and turned to her mother. “I want my vanity mirror replaced, Mother. Please get me a new one.”

“Why? Is it broken?”

“No.”

“You chose it yourself at the garage sale. You wanted it.”

“I don’t want it anymore,” Mira said. “I want it out of the house. Give it to a friend or whoever wants it. I’m going. I’ll have someone fix my hair and makeup.”

When Mira left, Felicia stepped into Mira’s room, still confused about her daughter’s strange attitude. Mira didn’t sound like Mira. She was like a different person.

Felicia froze.

“A different person?” she muttered, shaking her head.

Across from the bed, the vanity mirror was covered with white cloth. She walked forward and removed the cloth, but she didn’t dare let her eyes stray to the mirror. How could a mirror image have her own reflection? And how could she have known Mira’s vanity mirror was one of those cursed looking glasses? She’d avoided mirrors for years. And she still would until this body weakened and expired.

She looked at the things lying on the vanity table: a small, round mirror and a broken white votive candle. A hairbrush sat on the edge of the table rather than with the other hairbrushes in the holder.

The air she breathed in and let out made a long hissing sound.

If every girl in the world believed in the mirror spell, she thought painfully, then seven out of ten would probably be like her—and like her new daughter. Forever avoiding mirrors, needing someone else to fix her hair and makeup for special occasions, pretending to be someone else even when alone, taking over the role of someone else. For there was no way of escaping from it. Each girl who looked in such a mirror would spend the rest of her life wondering where the real her was and what she was doing each moment.

For the first time in many years, she looked in the mirror. She touched the glass gently, shaking her head once again. The mirror reflected the bed, but not Felicia.

Women seeking true love lost their mirror images this way. They lost their identity, loved ones, and roles in life. They lost their souls. Or was it their physical selves they lost rather than their souls?

Was it then a mistake to unknowingly own such a mirror and at the same time want to see her future lover as a mirror image in the hope of finding true love? She bet it was.

An image appeared at that moment, but it was inside her head. And it was her image. Her own image for which she’d inevitably long for the rest of this life.

She picked up the white cloth and put it back. With both hands, she took the vanity mirror off the wall. She was in the doorway when the mirror slid from her quivering hands, the loud thud echoing through the four corners of the quiet house.

“Oh, Miranda…” she cried as she staggered to the doorframe and slumped onto the floor.

After a few moments of grief, she wiped her tears with the long sleeves of her cashmere sweater. She eyed the covered mirror on the floor with bitterness and anger. Why did these cursed mirrors have to exist in this world? The thing wouldn’t break even if she put a bullet in it or let it fall down the stairs. She’d tried many times to break the mirror that had trapped her true self, but to no avail.

She rose heavily and picked up the vanity mirror. She would remove it from the house. And for Mira’s sake, the daughter she had learned to love, she would give it to someone else who longed to see her future lover.

Charita Gil edits web content during the day and writes fiction at night—if not being just an introvert and watching historical and Korean dramas. She’s a journalism graduate from the Philippines, and she loves languages, bread, music, books, dogs, and cats. She is a serious French and Spanish bathroom singer, thanks to the influence of her idols, Céline Dion and Thalia. Her first-ever work of romantic fiction was published by My Special Valentine in 2011. Her other work of varying genres has appeared in 101 WordsThe /tƐmz/ Review, ARTPOST magazine, The Brown Orient, and Flash Fiction Magazine. She is currently studying Spanish at Instituto Cervantes de Manila. Visit her at her website <charitagil.com>, Facebook <https://www.facebook.com/charitagil>, Instagram <https://www.instagram.com/charitagil/>, and Twitter <https://twitter.com/charita_gil>.