They moved into the house on a Saturday, and despite the worries from the weather reports that it was going to be raining all the while, the Muddletons got all their things moved in with nary a drop upon the carefully taped cardboard boxes. Lara and Merve Yes-That’s-Really-My-Name were relieved once the door on the back of the van slammed shut and the moving men drove away, and they were able to tell Joseph that yes they were all excited about the new house but there was no reason on God’s Green earth why there should be Legos littering the corner of the staircase already. They set up his bed and gave him permission to open any boxes he wanted IN HIS ROOM as long as everything he took out of each box found its way when he was done onto its proper shelf or into one of the plastic toy bins. They had pizza for dinner that night sitting on the wood floor in front of the unlit black fireplace with its high carved wood mantle and called it a picnic, and Lara and Merve got their own bed set up and started unpacking the boxes in the kitchen and the bathroom, respectively. At bedtime they discovered Joseph’s floor a landline of legos and toy cars, but they were too tired to do anything more than to tell him to go to sleep and pick up in the morning. They did not make love.
On Sunday Lara picked through the boxes in the kitchen until she found enough things to make pancakes on the stove, and the dishes went into the sink to soak until she could figure out which box the dishsoap had ended up in. Merve told her with quizzical pride that Joseph must have picked up his room before they all woke up because the toys were gone from the floor when he went to fetch the boy for breakfast. He finished unpacking the bathroom much to Lara’s delight, and Joseph opened another box and found it disappointingly full of clothes instead of toys, which he put away more to get them out of the way of his fun than out of any dutiful sense of helping. He was, after all, only seven. In the garage, Lara found a large mirror that she was sure hadn’t come from the old house, and was very concerned it had been left behind by accident by the old owners, until Merve suggested that perhaps it had been a gift from the real estate agent like they did on those property newbie shows, and actually wasn’t it just right to go over the fireplace between the two old-fashioned lights? They slept with their backs to each other.
On Monday they all went to work and to school. When they got home, Lara found the dishsoap, and Merve hung the mirror over the fireplace. The room, in the reflection, looked quite barren he realized, although he could see the reflection of some of Joseph’s toys through the reflected doorway. Resolving to set the boy to cleaning up yet again, Merve went looking for him, only to get distracted by the task of unpacking delicate odds and ends to decorate the bare walls instead. Joseph complained that he couldn’t find his things, for which his mother admonished him and sent him to his room to unpack more. Lara broke a dish when she was washing and Merve made her a cup of tea before bed and gave her a tissue to dry her tears. After all, it was a big move, broken plates happened, didn’t they? She fell asleep before he got to bed.
On Tuesday, Joseph didn’t answer his parents when they kept calling into his room to wake him for school, and they kept reminding each other to go get him up. When finally they heard the bus come and go, Lara went into Joseph’s room to find the bed unmade, but empty. His floor was still clean, at least, and his shoes were gone. He must have actually gotten ready on his own for once, she told her husband with a wry smile, and sent him out the door with a kiss on the cheek. In the mirror over the mantle she could see how bare the room still looked, as well as several of Joseph’s toys and a plate, and resolved to have a talk with Merve about making sure he finished putting away one thing before moving on to the next. When Merve got home from work, the house was very quiet. No lights were on, and he couldn’t smell dinner cooking. Lara did not answer his call, nor did Joseph. Had there been a parent meeting at the new school? He couldn’t remember and was too tired to drive over there. He ate a sandwich, unpacked a box of linens, and went to bed alone.
On Wednesday he awoke to an unnervingly silent house and crept through it it feeling like he was in the wrong place. Nobody answered him, and his stomach turned unhappily. Where were they? He looked around the still mostly empty dining room and began to mull over calling the police when a bit of movement caught his eye and he turned toward the mirror. There he could see Joseph through the doorway running a car around the bottom of the stairs, and Lara appeared from beyond, looking frightfully haggardly at her husband. Whirling he began to demand why she had not answered him – but there was nobody in the doorway. He turned back to the mirror and saw her there, and she walked past Joseph, past him, right up to the reflection, but she wasn’t between him and the mirror as she should have been. Merve walked close to the mirror, and he could see the tracks of Lara’s tears as she reached out toward the mirror. Her mouth was moving, and he could not make out what she was saying. He reached out too. The crash of the mirror shattering on the floor was very satisfying. He went to work and when the school called asking about Joseph, he told them that his wife was supposed to bring their son to school when the boy missed the bus.
On Thursday, the house was very, very quiet.
On Saturday a pair of uniforms went to the house and found the front door unlocked, a mirror shattered in the dining room, and no sign of the Muddletons any newer than a half-eaten piece of pizza catching flies on the kitchen counter. They called in a missing person’s report, investigate the whole house, and finally left it to be closed up until some sign of the family turned up. The Forensics team was so interested in the lack of fingerprints on the frame of the mirror that nobody noticed the several pairs of eyes peering out at them out of the shards.
Eventually the house was foreclosed and put up for sale, and all the Muddleton’s belongings sold to pay for as much as possible of the loan. Somehow the bank’s realtor missed the oblong mirror leaning against the wall in the garage.
This piece of Nightmare Fuel was inspired by this picture, by Burning Shark of DeviantArt.
For more info on the Nightmare Fuel project, click here.