I glanced back behind me even as I slowed my pace. I’d lost them – for now. I could hear their footsteps, however, not stopping.
They’d keep on searching for me until they found me. I needed to disappear.
The inside of the clothing shop felt strange with the lights turned off. Mannequins loomed suddenly out of the darkness, their hands stretched out as though reaching for me. I dodged around them, forcing my mouth shut and trying not to let any sound escape my lips.
There, in the back! I hurried towards the doorway leading into the rear of the shop, below the sign that read CHANGING ROOMS.
As I ran past the counter, however, a corner of my jacket caught at a hook, extending out from the edge. I felt the tug, turned to try and catch the falling item – but my fingers were too slow.
With a crash, a pile of hangers hit the floor, bouncing and scattering across the linoleum. The sound echoed in the dark shop, and I froze, my heart beating wildly.
They must have heard it. Distant footsteps paused, then picked up again as they changed direction. They headed towards me.
No time to waste. I abandoned my pretense of stealth, ran back into the changing rooms. My eyes searched wildly in the dimness, searching for the surface-
I saw it. A full length mirror, extending all the way to the floor. I shoved my hand into my pocket, fumbling, searching. I couldn’t afford to stop, to take the time to dig through my pockets and locate what I needed.
Stepping up to the mirror, I raised my hand, pushing out against the glass surface. When I had first passed through, so many years ago, the glass had resisted, fought back, tried to push me back out. I didn’t belong in that other world on the far side, it told me. No human belonged there.
But I fought back, managed to slip inside. And it grew easier with each successive trip.
Now, the glass barely resisted at all, parting like smoke. I dove in, through the glass, closing my eyes instinctively like always.
I’d kept my eyes open – once. The visions I saw made me determined to never make that mistake again.
My other hand still scrambled in my pocket as I stepped through the mirror, still searching. For just an instant, I felt what I sought, but it slipped deeper into the jumble of items in my pocket.
“A long time, Mistress Delmora.”
“But no time at all, as it may be.”
They closed in on me, appearing out of the misty glass. I knew they were there, of course, knew they’d come, but they always startled me. Creatures of smoke, they appeared and vanished in seconds, dissolving away into the mist between the realms.
Finally, my fingers closed on the objects I sought. “I have payment for my passage,” I quickly spat out, pulling the coins from my pocket.
The silver circles winked in the dim light as I tossed them to the creatures of shadow. No hand moved to catch the coins, but they vanished, never hitting the ground.
I waited. I knew the rituals.
“She has paid the price to cross,” one of the Ferrymen finally intoned, sounding almost regretful.
“We bid her safe passage, in honor of the accord,” echoed the other.
Their eyes, however, lingered on me. “Until next time, Mistress Delmora,” whispered the first, as it melted away. “In no time at all.”
“We will be waiting,” its partner finished, as they dissolved into mist.
For a moment longer, I stood still, gazing back through the floating glass of the mirror. My pursuers wouldn’t be fooled forever, I knew. They’d find their own way through, wouldn’t stop chasing me.
But I’d bought myself time.
Coat swirling around me as I pulled it tight, I turned away from the mirror, striding into the mist of the new world.