It was Saturday, one of Neal's days off. He had decided to go exploring around the neighborhood for something interesting to do. His two mile radius wasn't much but the area was rich in shops and other interesting places to visit including Central Park.
Neal found himself glancing through the window of a shop he hadn't noticed before. It had recently opened up and seemed to be some kind of "antique" shop. He looked for a way in and saw the proprietor watching him, then point towards the nearby alleyway. Neal nodded and walked a few yards into the alley before finding the entrance to the shop. He pushed open the door and heard the tinkling of a small copper bell.
"Welcome to Prentiss Antiques. Was there anything in particular you were searching for, sir?" The shopkeeper appeared to be in his late 50s to 60s, of European descent, his accent slightly watered down with something remotely New Yorker. He had a shock of salt and peppery hair, the peppery part more a raven black, his skin not as wrinkled as it could be and his eyes… they were an extraordinary shade of lavender blue like nothing Neal had ever seen. He smiled back at the man and shook his head.
"Actually, I was just window shopping and notice this lot had been taken. It's been abandoned for a while. When did you open shop?" Neal was already browsing the wide array of unusual and typically antique items within the confines of the store. One item made him gawk a bit; it was a small hand, five fingered but severed just above the wrist. It looked almost human but for the reptilian skin and coloring. It had long talon-like nails at the end of each fingertip and a keychain like appliance at the severed end like on a rabbit's foot. Neal didn't know if he wanted to ask what it was but the owner seemed to notice his interest in it.
"Very interesting item I picked up on my journeys abroad. Considered a very lucky charm in some areas. Only ten dollars and one of a kind." The man smiled broadly revealing shiny white teeth. Neal nodded, still looking at the thing with a fearful curiosity. If not the for the fact he had recently reread "The Monkey's Paw" He might have considered getting it a gag gift for Peter or even Mozzie but that story always gave him the creeps just like this little "charm." The man chuckled.
"It won't bite. I'll even bring down the price to five dollars if that helps." Neal looked up at him and shook his head apologetically.
"Not really what I was looking for. Thanks, but I'll keep browsing." Neal smiled as confidently as he could, although the store was giving him the creeps now, the owner nodding with that strange smile.
"If you need any help, just ring the bell at the desk."
Neal must have combed every corner of the small shop. For being so compact, it seemed he had roamed for hours if not miles through out the building. Time had escaped him and he noticed nearly an hour had passed since he had come in. He was supposed to meet Mozzie for lunch. Neal started back the way he came. He got turned around in the little shop and ended up staring at a person at the end of the aisle.
The person looked rather familiar. They wore a nice suit only instead of dark blue it was black. The white linen shirt inside was now a soft sky blue with a skinny maroon instead of striped tie. They wore the same fedora and if Neal hadn't known he was looking at himself he would have thought something was wrong.
"Hmmm… must be a trick to this thing." He looked up and down at the glass, his blue eyes glittering back at him in curiosity. The glass was a beautiful shimmering silver, clear like water and seemingly moving when he gave it a closer look. It had to be the lighting. He shrugged, looking at the beautiful framework in what seemed to be a burnished bronze with symbols and leaf designs all around the edges. He couldn't quite figure out the language although he had to think it was runic if not something a little older; Possibly Sumerian. He wasn't sure what it was, running his fingers gently against the raised design and feeling a kind of electricity running through him as he did.
"You know, this mirror is magic. It can make all your dreams come true." Neal turned around but nobody was there. He didn't see the shopkeeper standing anywhere near him so he wondered if he had imagined the voice.
"No, you heard me. Anything you've ever wanted to do but didn't, this mirror will grant you that wish." Neal looked around again then realized he saw a motion out the side of his right eye. He turned and saw his reflection winking back at him. Neal took a few steps back, blinking at his reflection which now was behaving itself. He sighed and laughed at himself.
"Neal, you're seeing things. Probably the atmosphere. Time to go." He was about to turn, giving himself one last look in the mirror when he definitely saw his reflection do something odd. It flipped his, no its hat at him roguishly. Neal stared at the now moving figure no longer following his lead. It laughed and gave a little flourish.
"I would introduce myself, but I think you know who I am." It held out a hand as if to shake, its range of influence ending within the glass. Neal awkwardly, and for no other reason than he was in shock, held out his hand towards the glass in a likewise manner. It was a sudden kind of 'tingle' like someone rubbing their feet on the carpet and then touching your arm. He felt it flow through him as his right hand and the reflection's left hand met.
"I never know when I can find someone who'll let me out. I guess today was my lucky day. Perhaps you'll find someone." Neal blinked trying figure out what the reflection meant when he realized he was holding out his right hand but facing the wrong direction. He saw his 'other' self smiling back at him and waving as it walked away and disappeared down the aisles of stuff he had been lost in. Neal stared for a moment, trying to get a grasp when he realized what had happened.
"Wait! Where… " He turned around and found nothing but blackness in the background, the only light from the glass of the mirror, filtering through as if from underwater. Neal reached forward but there was a barrier, the watery surface hard like ice and even cooler. He beat on it, the iciness burning his knuckles. Neal yelled again.
"Let me out of here! Hey! Someone let me out of here!" He heard the faint murmurings of voices in the background and then the sound of a bell over the door tinkling briefly before another sound of someone locking up. The lights went out, the glow from the watery surface fading to a sullen fluorescence. Neal beat on the glass over and over again till he saw a figure approach. It was the old shopkeeper.
"Hey! Hey! Let me out of here! Please!" Neal beat on the glass but the old man didn't seem to see or hear him. He was looking at something in the glass but it wasn't Neal. The old man pulled out a large blanket and threw it over the mirror leaving Neal in near darkness.
"Please! Let me out of here!" Neal was yelling now, his voice growing hoarse but the old man couldn't hear him. A faint sound of footsteps retreating echoed into the distance and then silence. Neal finally just knelt on the cool stone of the floor, his knuckles raw from hitting the icy surface. He pulled out his handkerchief and wrapped them in it, wiping at his face. He was crying? This wasn't like him at all. He just sat there a moment before he remember his phone.
Neal pulled out his cell and saw he had a signal. He dialed Mozzie, listening and waiting as the number rung. After a moment he heard someone pick up.
"If this is some kind of a joke…" Mozzie's voice sounded irritated, the sounds of other people in the background.
"Mozzie, this is Neal. I need your help." Neal waited for his friend to reply but only heard a quiet murmuring as if Mozz had covered the receiver and was whispering to someone else.
"Hmmm… uhm, I doubt you're who you say you are because you're standing right here." Mozzie sounded even more irritated now, another voice, someone familiar in the background whispering.
"(Hang up already!)" The other person sounded almost angry, Mozzie whispering back.
"(I am I am… ) So… Besides the fact your number is unlisted… I'm sure you're getting a laugh out of this but I'm not, so bye." Mozzie hung up, the number going dead.
Neal would have said more but it was too late. He sighed, a feeling of frustration rushing over him. Now he knew who was in the background talking: The other him. He rarely listened to his own voice (he wasn't that kind of narcissist) but it had been his voice he heard. So it knew his itinerary for the day and had gone in his place to meet Mozzie. Neal cursed. He dialed another number.
"Burke residence." Neal was relieved to hear Peter's voice.
"Peter? I need to…" It was a short lived victory as he realized he had gotten the answering machine.
"We're busy at the moment so please leave a message after the beep. Thanks." Neal heard the beep and didn't know how crazy it would sound but he had to do it.
"Peter… Elizabeth… if I show up today, you have to keep me distracted and take me to 'Prentiss Antiques' down the street from the Park. Remember: Prentiss Antiques. It's very important." He had barely gotten it all out when he heard the beep. Neal sighed and hung up, dialing another number.
"Burke." Peter's voice answered pointedly, without much emotion. Neal whewed and spoke quickly.
"Peter, it's Neal." Neal tried not to sound too desperate but it was hard to hide his emotions when he wasn't sure what was going on.
"Neal? Your voice sounds kind of garbled." Peter was moving in the background, another voice audible.
"(Did you want some egg rolls honey?)" It was El speaking.
"(Sure, give me a second.) Neal, what did you say again?" Peter sounded farther away.
"Peter, I need you to visit Prentiss Antiques." He could hear static on the line now although it had worked up till now. Dammit.
"Peter, listen to your answering machine!" He had barely gotten that out when the static became a whine and then some horrible feedback. He pulled the cell from his ear and saw the signal had died. Neal sighed, messing with the phone but the signal didn't come back. He shivered in the near darkness of the place he was trapped and gazed around with a bit of fear.
"This has to be a nightmare… I must be dreaming." Neal repeated this to himself, tiring himself out, curling up on the floor and finally falling asleep.
Story Note: The thing about the little reptile hand on the keychain actually happened to me at an estate / garage sale. Thing creeped me out to no end and I had just finished reading the "Monkey's Paw" and kept wondering if this thing was like that. The guy saw me looking at it and said it was $5 bucks. I didn't have the cash but I kept looking at the thing till my mom threatened me if I bought it. She hated it! LOL Then the guy walked up to me (the seller) and whispered: "Just take it. It's yours! I won't tell." I would have but for the whole creep factor. So yes... that part of the story is semi-true. ;)