I was working as a scientific researcher in Northern Canada. We had a very small team of scientists and I was honored to be one of the few women selected to work there. It was very cold at that altitude. Outside the outpost was snow, blowing snow and ice, everywhere.
One day in October, there was an incident inside the complex. Adrianna, one of the other women who worked with us, wound up stabbed in the shoulder with a screwdriver. The injuries were superficial. After they had bandaged her up, it was decided that I should be the one to look into the incident as I was outdoors when it occurred and so was not a suspect in the investigation. We were researching a type of bacteria that thrives deep under layers of ice. I had been out collecting samples. Geoff, the head of our research team, considered me to be an honest person so I was placed in charge of figuring out what had happened.
When I spoke to Adrianna, she sounded confused or as though she were lying. I wasn’t really sure. So I sat down with her and with Peter, who worked in the same area of the lab as she did. I interviewed them in the small meeting room in the complex. The room was a rounded rectangle in shape, and there were a dozen chairs set up in a circle around its circumference. I was sitting at one end of the room with Adriana on one side of me a few chairs over. Peter was across from me.
“What happened, Adrianna?” I asked her again.
Adrianna didn’t answer right away. Instead she looked at the empty chair across from her. She looked like she was listening or something. Then she looked back to me with a helpless expression on her face.
I looked at Peter. He looked confused by her behavior.
“Peter, can you explain what happened?”
“I don’t know,” he said simply, shrugging. “All of a sudden I heard her screaming and then, when she came into the room, her shoulder was bleeding.”
“Don’t you see it?” said Adrianna, suddenly.
“What?” I asked. “What are you looking at over there?”
“I see my reflection. She’s talking to me. She’s telling me I didn’t do this to myself.”
I began to think that she was a crazy person, that she had done it to herself, and that Peter was telling the truth when he said that he didn’t have anything to do with her injury at all.
“Look!” said Adrianna. “Can’t you see my reflection?”
I said, “No…no I can’t.”
She said, “Well go get a mirror; then you’ll see it.”
I don’t know why I decided to humor her. There happened to be a mirror, a little bit larger than a piece of writing paper, hanging on the wall in the meeting room. I took it off the wall, walked over to the chair across from Adrianna, and held it so that at the reflection of a person on the chair would be shown in the mirror. Of course there was nothing in the mirror.
Adrianna gasped. “My reflection’s gone! It’s just an empty chair.” I turned and looked at her, watching the shock and fear in her clear blue eyes. “Try it on him,” she motioned to Peter.
Her theatrics meant little to me since I was pretty convinced that she was loony, but, again I decided to humor her. So I walked over to Peter, and, as I turned the mirror so that his reflection would appear in the glass, he disappeared. The guy wasn’t there anymore!
“See!” said Adrianna. “Try it to yourself.”
I looked at my own reflection in the mirror. I was still there. Then I turned the mirror to Adrianna and she was still there too, with me in the room. Something was going on. Something much bigger and much more serious than the injury was happening.
I announced over the loud speakers that all staff were to assemble immediately in the meeting room. Soon they were all there. All the chairs were full save one. Peter was still gone. None of the others asked about it, though. Then, without explanation, I went around the circle with the mirror. As they reflected into the mirror, most of them disappeared, leaving Geoff, Adrianna and myself alone in the room.
We looked at each other. I could see the horror in their faces.
“We gotta get out of here!” said Adrianna.
“I concur,” said Geoff, standing to his feet.
“There’s something really wrong with this place,” I whispered as we walked quickly down the hall to the main exit.
Either the people we had thought were staff had never existed or…something had happened to them and the real them was gone.
Geoff could pilot the helicopter that would take us to where we had left our vehicles, where the roads ended. The chopper roared to life as we banged the doors shut. The snow whirled around us as we rose up into the air. We were away, but fear kept us silent for several hours as we traveled south in the helicopter. It almost seemed as if speaking of what had happened would somehow cause it to follow.
When Geoff set the chopper down, the three of us scrabbled out of the chopper just as soon as the blades stopped turning. We hurried into the parking garage, each to our own vehicle. When I got into my car, I just put the pedal to the metal. I drove as fast as I could get away from there and I didn’t look back.
I drove for over eight hours. Then, when I came to a little town, I figured I was far enough away. I went to the little school in that town and applied for a job. I had a degree in Science and Education. I wanted to teach. I was done with researching! I was done with that. I didn’t what anymore of that. Whatever that was. I got the teaching job right away as they had been looking for a Grade Three teacher.
It was autumn when I got the contract teaching in North-eastern Manitoba. My first day on the job, I realized it was Halloween that day and I didn’t have anything to give out to the children. The teacher’s assistant, Mark, was a young guy, just out of high school. It was the beginning of the lunch hour and all the children were eating in the lunch room. Mark was still in the classroom tidying up.
“I’m not sure what to do,” I said to him. “I don’t have anything to give to the children for Halloween.”
He straightened up and looked at me. His soft brown eyes met mine as he considered thoughtfully. I began to feel uncomfortable as I realized he was quite attractive. He had black hair and a much darker skin tone than I had.
“I know,” he said suddenly. “There’s a mall nearby. We could just zip over there during lunch and pick something up for them.”
“Great idea!” I said, relieved he didn’t notice the awkwardness I was starting to feel.
“Let’s just take my car,” he suggested.
Gratefully, I followed him out through the large heavy school doors to his vehicle. He smiled at me reassuringly as we fastened our seatbelts.
The mall was very close to the school. Inside the building, we stopped at a Halloween display. He rifled through some foil-wrapped chocolates shaped like pumpkins.
“I guess these aren’t very healthy,” he said finally.
“No, I guess not,” I agreed.
So we went to the McDonalds in the mall. There they had jam-filled mini muffins so that’s what we bought for the students.
Then we went back to the school, arriving with just enough time to eat our lunches before the noon hour was over. When class began again, we handed out the muffins to the students. They were very happy, and I was relieved that we hadn’t missed Halloween after all.
Standing to one side of the classroom while the children ate the snack, Mark and I also each had a muffin. The raspberry filling was wonderful! Again I noticed his dark hair as he smiled at me. I felt a warm feeling flood into my heart. This was turning out to be a very, very good change. I turned to organize something on the counter behind me. Glancing up, I saw a large wall mirror mounted there. In the mirror, I saw my own reflection but Mark was gone! I spun to look beside me where Mark had been. He wasn’t there. Rapidly my eyes scanned the classroom. No Mark.
I swallowed a huge lump of fear rising in my throat as I gathered up a pile of paper from the counter. I glanced up at the mirror again. There he was! Startled, I gasped. The reflection turned to look at me and gave me a tentative smile.
“Is something wrong?” The voice came from beside me.
I turned to look and there he was!!! There was concern now in those deep brown eyes.
“Uhhh…I don’t think so.” I reached out and put my hand on his arm. His smooth light brown skin felt solid, real and wonderful beneath my fingers.
“Thanks for helping me out today,” I said finally.
He smiled warmly again. “Sure, no problem.”