Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Haunting Muses

So, last Halloween, I wrote a short story, much shorter than this, that was sort of a haunted passage about an older woman missing her deceased lover (Stormy weather) ... I suppose at that time last year, it was apropo to things I was feeling, trying to let go of, etc. I'd felt haunted then.

The inspiration behind this one, well, like most of my short stories, it came from a single thought mentioned during a conversation — walking through an antique shop. And then it grew in my head and I knew it would become whatever it was meant to ...

Mirrored Shadows
Emmeline took a sip of her coffee before placing the cardboard cup back in its holder and turning on her windshield wipers.
The rain slashed against the window with such abrupt intensity, she caught her breath. Pulling up to a stop light, Emmeline looked in the rearview mirror at her eyes ... dark, shadowy, tired, sad. Just looking at herself drew up tears she quickly choked down. She leaned forward and brushed her long side-swept bangs to the right and dabbed gloss on her lips, appearing plum against her ashen skin and dark hair.
Suddenly, as quick as the rain down poured, a jagged pain ripped through her chest and down the veins of her arms. Sorrow and loneliness always manifested itself in her veins it seemed.
Emmeline slightly shook her head and pulled backward against her seat, seeing the light turn green.
Peering through the streaming windshield, another green light caught her eye, but this one was neon and said simply "Antique Store Open."
Whether it was the desire in that very moment to be rescued from the despairing rain or her ever present love for antiques, Emmeline pulled into the lot and ducking under her sweater, ran to the door.
She heard a familiar sounding bell jingle as she turned the doorknob and entered the shop. The scent of musty wood, mothballs, tarnished brass and polish assailed her senses. Emmeline felt the floor creak beneath her boots as she slowly walked past the entryway and into the main room. It was much larger, almost hall-like, than she imagined.
There were only a few people inside as far as she could tell and hear. An older gentleman with a scraggly salt and pepper beard and round glasses sat at the check out counter. He was hunched over the countertop, leaning on his elbows and seemingly engrossed in a book when he heard Emmeline approach.
"Looking for anything in particular?" He asked, squinting up at her.
She shook her head, fidgeting with her scarf, a nervous habit she'd acquired some time ago.
He seemed to study her a moment as though she, too, were a book to be read. He brought his hand near his mouth as though in thought, before opening it again.
"Well, if you have any questions or need help finding anything, just give me a holler ... but be sure to speak into my good ear," the man said with a chuckle, indicating his "good" ear was on his left.
Emmeline simply nodded and began moving down the aisles. It felt warm inside the shop. Her numb, cold, wet skin felt kindled by the heat. Her shivering bones began to go slack.
As she shuffled her boots against the hardwood floors, she felt each creak under her weight as though the floor itself was groaning with aches.
Emmeline made her way through a few aisles before arriving back near the front counter again. The old man this time was sipping on a mug of hot apple cider and cleaning an old silver taper candle holder.
"You sure I can't point you in a particular direction?" the man asked again, this time knowing it was her without having even looked up.
She began to shake her head, but realized he wouldn't notice.
"No thank you," she said in a low, quiet voice, then hesitated and turned back in his direction. "Actually ... where do you keep antique mirrors and furniture?"
"Ahhh yes ... I had a feeling there was something pulling you in here," he said.
The sentence felt peculiar to Emmeline, but she couldn't put her finger on it.
The man put down the candle holder, but held onto the sooty rag as he walking around the counter and down an aisle to the left of them. Emmeline followed, realizing then, no one else occupied the store anymore.
She glanced at her watch and saw it was 7 p.m. Most people probably left to get home to their families for dinner.
The thought burrowed deep into her dispirited heart, like a sliver of wood.
She picked up her pace as she noticed the man ambling ahead of her and glancing back. They turned a few corners and finally came to an open corner of the store filled with stacked furniture, couches and lamps.
Then she noticed several standup mirrors as well as vanities and wall mirrors ... some, turn of the century while others looked straight out of the 1950s.
"Well, here you are Miss ...?"
Emmeline, instantly pulled from her trance, realized the man was inquiring about her name.
"It's Emmeline."
The man stuck out his hand, exposing age spots and deep, blue veins. Emmeline took it in her own.
"Pleased to meet you Emmeline. My name is Greyson, Greyson Watts. And ... it is 'Miss' yes?" he asked.
The question took Emmeline off guard. She quickly withdrew her hand, but continued to stare at Greyson curiously. His pale bluish green eyes seemed familiar somehow.
She only nodded, not trusting her voice all of a sudden.
"I meant no invasion or discomfort. I just couldn't help wondering why a seemingly lovely woman such as yourself looks so forlorn and alone ... almost haunted," he said, but then seemed to realize he'd just dug his foot deeper down his throat.
He shook his head and looked down at the floor, turning slightly pink. The gesture made Emmeline immediately wish she could take the entire exchange back and put him at ease.
She leaned in and he looked back up again, his mouth parting as though to backpedal or apologize.
"It's ... OK. I'm not offended. Yes, it's 'Miss' and I'm doing just fine really," Emmeline said, hearing how feigned her voice sounded and inwardly cringing.
Greyson's face softened a bit then, returning back to its original color.
"Well, I have a hunch you might find what you're looking for in this area," he said, gesturing behind him.
"I'll be back behind the counter if you need any help carrying anything. These ol' bones still have some life in them," he said, making Emmeline smile as she watched him retreat down the aisle.
She then turned around and began looking through all the furniture. It was then she noticed a rocking chair ever so slightly moving. Perhaps Greyson hit it as he turned around, she thought. Though she realized he'd went a different way.
Perplexed, but not to the point of fixating, Emmeline continued rummaging through the lamps and mirrors.
Each one highlighted a different part of her face, it seemed.
She stopped on one that cast shadows around her eyes, almost losing them to the darkness. She leaned in to try and get a better look when she felt a vibration against her skin, almost like static.
She jumped back, hesitantly touching her cheek and looking around.
"Greyson?" She said, but her voice came out a scratchy whisper. She could hear him shifting around at the front, but concluded he hadn't heard her. Then she remember his crack about his hearing.
Emmeline leaned in again and felt the same sensation as she neared the face of the mirror. She put out her hand and splayed her fingertips, lightly touching it.
It felt as though her hand fused with the glass and everything inside her felt drawn in, elated, almost like stepping at the threshold of home after a decade's journey away.
Her heart began to flutter as she closed her eyes and surrendered to the sensation. It riveted through her entire body, along her veins until suddenly, she felt as though she were inside a vacuum. The air cackled against her eardrums as she opened her eyes again and realized she was no longer facing the mirror.
Feeling that same static at her back now, Emmeline turned around, coming face to face with the mirror. She looked around the room. It looked almost the same, except everything was somehow, opposite ... and newer.
It was then she felt the presence of someone. She turned around and saw a man rocking in the chair she had noticed moments before. He looked about her age, medium build ... but his clothes mimicked the attire of someone in the 1940s ... perhaps even earlier.
Yet, something about his eyes seemed hauntingly informal, almost intimate.
He stood up and held out his hand.
Emmeline began to outstretch her own.
"I don't believe I've met you before ... Miss ...?"
She gasped then, withdrawing her arm and backing away.
He quickly withdrew his own, shuffling back.
"I didn't mean to scare you," he said.
Emmeline could hear in his voice the warm hesitancy she now expected. She shook her head and smiled. The man looked baffled, but pleased at her expression.
"Emmeline," she said. "Miss Emmeline Thomas."
She then shook his hand, but he didn't let go immediately. Instead, he pulled her slightly inward and brought his other hand up to her temple.
His brow furrowed and eyes squinted slightly in perplextion.
Emmeline, so taken by the quick and unexpected motion, just stood there, breath held, eyes inches from his.
"You just seem so ... familiar somehow," he whispered, as though in a trance.
Emmeline swallowed, seemingly breaking the spell, and he released her and shook his head, as though remembering himself.
Emmeline also shook her head, slightly startled, before looking up at his eyes again.
"Forgive me, but you look ... you look so sad," she found herself saying to him. "As though you've been sitting here for a long time, not quite yourself."
Emmeline couldn't believe she was saying that, it was as though she'd switched places with the old shop owner.
The man in front of her didn't seem offended, however. He seemed relieved somehow, as though hearing this assessment released him.
He touched her cheek again, running his thumb along her cheekbone and this time, she placed her own hand over his, both of their eyes closing.
Suddenly, she felt the static pull again, this time at her back. He seemed to sense something, too as his eyes snapped open. She tried not to turn, but just as before, everything inside her was beckoned by the sensation. It felt as natural as breathing.
The man also released her as she turned, as though sensing it was out of his control.
But just before she surrendered to it, she turned her head to him. His eyes fixed on her, his arms slightly outstretched, but no longer holding her back.
"I ... I didn't get your name," she uttered. She watched his mouth part to answer her, but then the vacuum hit and she was plunged into darkness.
Moments later, she felt her ears ringing. She looked in the mirror and saw her eyes were no longer vacant or lost in shadow.
She shook her head, looking around. But this time, her gaze caught on Greyson, standing against the shelf of an aisle, staring right at her.
His eyes penetrated hers with an intensity she didn't think possible of a man his age. She felt confused, hazy and exposed in every possible way as her mind reeled on everything that just happened.
Did she black out? Did she hallucinate?
But this man in front of her was real and so was his gaze. Emmeline leaned against a dresser for support as she felt her knees weaken. This seemed to pull him from his trance as he came over to her. She stopped him, putting her hand up while she bent forward a moment to catch her breath. But he drew nearer until he was right in front of her. He reached out to her chin and gently raised her head up to meet his eyes.
"It was you," she said, though shaking her head in disbelief.
He merely nodded.
"But ... how?"
He didn't say anything.
Just then, they both heard the doorbell jingle, ripping them from the moment.
Greyson pulled back and began walking toward the entrance. Emmeline could hear another male voice and then both men murmuring.
She began to walk toward the door and noticed a man, similar in build and height to the man she'd just seen ... yet distinctly different in his stance and gate.
When he turned around, however, his eyes and brow were almost identical to Greyson's.
"This, Miss Emmeline, is my son ... Greyson Jr.," he said, his face clearly flushed with several emotions, including a sheepish grin.
Emmeline shook his hand and then backed up, overwhelmed with bewilderment and weariness. Greyson cleared his throat, gave his son what Emmeline assumed was the day's earnings and said goodbye.
His son stared at Greyson and then studied Emmeline a moment.
"Do you need help with anything? Or a lift somewhere?" he asked, looking at her still wet clothes from the rain.
Emmeline slowly shook her head. He paused a moment as though wanting to say more, but then turned and left.
Emmeline began to leave as well. Greyson didn't stop her, though he stepped forward as if to do something.
However, he only opened the door. She walked outside, feeling the steady rain upon her now feverish skin once more, her breath misting before her.
"I ... I hope you found what you were searching for," he simply said, looking past her. She turned around, following his gaze and saw Greyson Jr. walking slowly toward his car. Once he got there, he turned around and stared at her again.
This time, it was as though he was waiting for her.
She glanced back at Greyson, feeling stretched in every direction with no room to breath. The static sensation filled her insides as she studied his eyes.
They held peace, warmth ...  sadness. He nodded at her.
She gasped, wiping her eyes with the ends of her sleeve.
"I ... I think I did."
She turned away from him a moment; She noticed his son had disappeared, the car gone.
When she turned back, Greyson, also seemingly confused, looked into the mist, speechless.
Emmeline gently brought his gaze back to hers.
"Greyson .... I would like to buy that mirror."



  1. It's amazing how the inspiration for some stories can come from a single thought, utterance, or conversation. This is truly beautiful my friend.


    1. It is fascinating how muses work. And thank you :-)