“I don’t care!” Lauren shouted. She slammed the door shut to emphasise this.
There was a muffled sound from the other side of the door from somewhere in the house.
She pressed her back against the door facing the mirror right opposite the door, deliberating whether or not to respond to the mumble and hoping it would just stay a mumble for good. And by responding, it was basically a matter of repeating the phrase for the benefit of her listener. Not responding held the appeal of being far more dramatic. But then again, there was an opportunity to squeeze in something more dramatic if she opened the door, if only to shut it once again.
After a half-minute of silence, she decided to open the door, just a bit, and paused, waiting to see if the mumble would repeat itself.
No such attempt was made on the other side.
“Fine,” she thought to herself.
A little louder, she reiterated, “I don’t care!” and slammed the door, again. Mission accomplished!
Contented, she turned around and allowed herself a half-smile.
Now there was the matter of sifting through her room for the thing that she had promised to find her friend. She had even gone so far as to have ambitiously promised said friend she’d take it out to her. But to do so would have involved the efforts of a disaster relief crew well-trained in the ways of excavating salvage from hurricane-affected piles of debris. She had neither the inclination nor the time to do so.
She half-entertained the prospect of giving in and calling out to the mumble for assistance. But that would just give in all too easy and she had no intention of letting her mum win this little battle. Not yet, anyway.
“I can find this.”
She lowered her eyes to the mess around her in that little space she called her room. There was more of a mess than there was a room, but she’d really hate for me to labour that point, so I won’t.
She noticed something rather odd about the mess; not that it had magically categorised itself into more manageable batches of mess, but that it looked strangely different. She picked up one of the things next to her feet – a stuffed pillow that looked vaguely like a cuddly panda.
She had never owned a pillow of that nature in her life. Rabbits, sure, but not pandas! She put it down and looked around.
It was a mess, alright, just not her own.
There were discs lying around that belonged to bands that she hadn’t listened to, nor, to her knowledge, had anyone else in the house. It felt odd. The discs just had cartoon-like words scribbled on artfully “Pow!”, “Whap!”, “Zing!”… you get the picture.
A thought crossed her mind then went away quickly because now was not the time to think of when she last played her favourite video game.
Another thought crossed her mind. Maybe her mother had decided to add some random mess to stress her point? After all, Lauren did say that she didn’t care about the state of her room as she could still find things in the room.
But that would be too far.
She rifled through some of the other things lying around – plastic plants, another stuffed pillow, a bean bag cover, a few postcards. She flipped the post cards over to see where they were from or who they were addressed to.
The writing looked… strange.
It looked almost recognisable and yet wholly different from what she expected. In fact, if the writing was Ancient Chinese or Biblical Hebrew it would have been less surprising. The writing looked English enough. And yet it didn’t.
She looked to see who it was addressed to – no name, just something that looked like “rawe”. The picture on the other side was even more perplexing. It looked awfully like a place she’d recognise, like San Francisco, but it had a different label. A whole other name. “Won Yawanrut”, it read.
She tapped her pocket to see if she could pull out her phone and google the name of the place.
This was alarming. She’d always complained about the pockets being so small they may as well be non-existent.
The hairs on the back of her neck started to stand.
All of a sudden, the room ceased to be amusing in its differences and was starting to unnerve her.
A lot of the things that she saw – the plastic plants, for instance – were things she’d only recently mocked. She made fun of people who had plastic plants in their house for being so daft that they’d even over-water plastic plants. She also felt that people who lived with bean bags invariably ended up being as shapeless as their favoured furniture.
Something choked her just then.
The last thought she’d had during the row with her mother was that she could turn her mother’s voice into a kind of white-noise machine.
She turned back to the door and pressed her ear against the door.
There was a soft muffled sound on the other side, the words completely indistinguishable but audible.
Then, as if the mumble had an identity of its own, it stopped. Maybe it knew she was listening for it.
She held her breath to make sure she wasn’t losing some of the words.
The muffled voice started again and seemed to be moving closer to her door.
Panicking, Lauren stepped away from the door and tried to lock it. No luck!
She looked around for something to barricade her room. Nothing was big enough! There was a ridiculously small chair (“A toddler could make this chair seem small!” she said of her neighbours’ new furniture set) and the discs (“An inebriated elephant walking into a glass workshop could make better music than some of these new bands!“). The only other thing that was usefully long was the mirror.
She remembered looking into the mirror and wishing that the mumble would remain a mumble.
She had no time for magical mirrors as the mumble marched closer and was almost at the door.
She pulled the mirror off the opposite wall and tried to jam it against the door, the reflecting side facing the doorway.
Stepping back, she waited to hear the mumble get closer and then stop. It laughed.
A muffled laughter crept in through the door. A mocking, bizarre laughter.
Lauren waited and looked around to see what she could do. She contemplated jumping out the window but as it happened there was no window (“The sun is so damn bright, can’t I just turn the brightness down to zero??“).
The laughing stopped.
She gulped and inwardly kicked herself for all of the casual things she wished.
“Now’s not the time for kicking myself,” she thought to herself and took a deep breath.
Then, half expecting a battering ram to be brought out (“You may as well-” and she had to stop herself from completing the sentence).
The laughter resumed and instead of the door opening, she saw that the mirror was starting to lift off the ground.
Then, completely horrifyingly, the mirror was cast aside and it fell reflecting face up as a figure stood where the mirror did. The figure fell out of the mirror.
The figure looked a lot like her mother.
Only the face was warped by a certain kind of malice.
The face made a muffled sound and Lauren could see that the face had no mouth, just a painted-on one. “Like the pockets on my je- now’s not the time!!”
The muffled sound rang in her ears as the figured lunged at her and she ducked out of the way.
There was no way this Thing wanted a hug.
There was a kerfuffle as the Thing and Lauren danced around for the better part of two minutes in the room (“And here I thought I had two left feet“).
The Thing lunged at Lauren again and backing away, Lauren tripped on the plastic plant pot, falling on her backside. She looked around for some kind of weapon.
She decided to pick up a few discs to throw at the Thing (“The only kind of spinning these discs should get to know“)
The Thing dodged the discs with style (she had to admit) and was surprised by this turn of events.
Apparently, in this altered dimension, Lauren was not expected to retaliate.
“Like hell I’m going down without a fight,” she thought to herself as she flung a “Thwap!” disc that, true to its name, made contact with the Thing.
That blow enraged the Thing and It ran at her.
Lauren rolled over to her side and caught a glimpse of the mirror about half a metre from her.
She rolled a bit more to her side, towards the mirror and the Thing saw her do this. It fell to its knees and tried to grab her by the ankles.
She pulled herself closer to the mirror and touched it, hoping some ancient magic would nullify the thing. Sadly, no such magic exists. Mirrors weren’t that ancient, in any case.
She pulled her entire body onto the mirror and then realised that the Thing let go of her ankles. So the Thing couldn’t make contact with the mirror.
Lauren then stood up and tried dragging the Thing towards her in the weirdest version of “the floor is lava” she’d ever played.
The Thing now feared for its, well, existence seems a bit strong for something that shouldn’t exist.
Lauren stuck her left foot off the edge of the mirror and as if drawn in by some unconscious instinct, the thing lunged for her ankle and immediately regretted it.
Lauren was too quick for this No-Mouth thing. She grabbed its wrists and pulled it towards her. Losing her balance, Lauren fell, pulling the Thing with her.
The two of them fell through the mirror into some weird space between the dimensions. Lauren was as amazed as she was annoyed by the Thing wrestling with her.
At last, they broke apart and drifted strangely in the medium the found themselves in. Lauren looked around for an escape and saw a light coming out from above her.
The Thing saw it, too. Lauren swam towards the opening a split second before the Thing did and that’s all she needed.
She swam through the opening and fell out onto the floor of her room, about a metre away from the door. Without a moment’s hesitation, Lauren kicked at the mirror and shattered it to a million smithereens.
Obviously, this caused some concern in the house. Her mother flung the door open with as much force as Lauren had used to shut it.
“Oh my gosh, Lauren! What happened?!”
“Just adding to the mess?” Lauren said, half-jokingly, looking at the familiar mess that lay around her room with the right animal patterns on stuffed pillows strewn about.
Her mother laughed a little and muttered something inaudible (yet not muffled) about how the mess needed to be cleared so that Lauren would be able to find things.
She was just glad that her mother was her usual self, even if it was complaining about the mess her room was in and what would people who live with her have to say about the state of her room in the years to come.
Lauren smiled at her mother and said quietly, “I don’t care.”