Ice Window

by Jonathan Duckworth

Every night the mirror in the hallway of your parents’ cabin turns into a window. Every night since discovering this, you’ve waited for your parents to fall asleep to talk to your friend.

You’ve been here in the mountains three weeks now, far away from everyone you know. Your friend helps with the loneliness. He’s shorter than you, which is one reason you like him so much. It’s good to be taller than someone. You wonder if his face is really his face, or if it’s just a mask, but you’ve never asked—that would be rude. Last summer while walking in the woods back home you found a deer’s skull; his face looks just like it. He has antlers; big, branching antlers. His eyes are just empty holes. The first time you met he scared you. Those black holes staring out from the woods, those flat teeth chattering as he shivered. But then you decided to call him Tony—because you always wanted a friend named Tony—and then he wasn’t scary anymore. He listens to you when you talk; none of your friends back home listen like Tony listens.

Tonight, you sneak out and report to the mirror. The mirror doesn’t show you in your pajamas, doesn’t show the hallway or the stuffed goose mounted above your head. Instead it shows you the woods, shows you the skinny, white trees and the moonlit snow falling around them. Where you should be, Tony is standing.

Last time, Tony showed you his new raccoon pet. It was pretty cute, but it didn’t move at all. Maybe it was just scared, maybe it didn’t like how Tony was holding it by the tail. This time it’s your turn to show him something. In your hands you have the newest Spider-Man comic, or at least the last one you were able to get before your parents took you to the Rockies. You don’t want to assume, but you’re pretty sure Tony’s never heard of Spider-Man, so this should all be new to him.

But something’s different about Tony tonight. He’s much closer to the mirror’s edge than he should be. Usually he hunkers back like one of the shy kids at school—another reason you like him—but tonight Tony is close to you, so close the long end of his face is almost touching the mirror. Little circles of fog spread and shrink on the mirror near his nostrils.

“What’s up, Tony?” you whisper, “Is something wrong?”

Tony points at you with his clawed finger and then moves his hand like he wants you to come closer. This is new and exciting. You felt bad for thinking it, but honestly, Tony was starting to get boring. You shuffle toward the mirror. Tony gestures for you to come closer again. You can feel the cold coming off the mirror on the tip of your nose.

“Tony, I can’t get any—” you reach forward, and your hand touches the mirror, for one instant feeling the cold glass, and then your hand falls through like if the mirror’s not there, and hard fingers close around your wrist and drag you forward.

One second, you’re tumbling, and the next everything’s very cold. You’re not in the hallway anymore, you’re in the woods. Your feet are sinking into snow, your socks getting damp. The wind blows and you’ve never been as cold as you are now. Up ahead you see something. Between two trees is a window, floating in the air. You see Tony through the window. He’s standing where you were standing. You call out to him for help, but you can’t even hear yourself over the wind. There’s something different about Tony—he’s gotten taller. A lot taller. His antlers are almost as high as the stuffed goose, almost scraping the ceiling. You see his body for the first time, a body of bare bones and pieces of loose skin that hang like the bark on birch trees back home. Tony turns back to you, and you think you see something like a face—something like your face—looking out from a dark hollow place inside of his ribcage, but then he turns away. He’s standing outside your parents’ bedroom door.

You try to yell again, but the wind takes your voice away. You reach for the window, but your hands only touch a pane of ice so cold it makes the snow and wind seem warm. Through the window you see Tony’s wooly, clawed hand fumbling with the knob to your parents’ door. Tony turns the knob, and the ice window becomes a mirror again.

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