Jenna had been walking with friends, but now she left them to turn the corner toward her own house. “See you tomorrow!” she called, waving at the other girls as they continued down the street.
“See ya!” they called back. They returned to their conversation, while Jenna shifted her book bag to her other shoulder and headed up the deserted side-street. She was thinking about how much homework she had to do, and lamenting how much harder middle-school was than she had been expecting, and so at first she didn’t notice the face.
“Help,” a voice whispered, and Jenna immediately began looking around for its source.
“Hello?” she said tentatively. Beside her was a car – one that had been parked there for a long time – and she thought maybe the voice came from inside the car. But when she looked in the passenger window, she didn’t see anybody. “Hello?” she said again, louder, looking up and down the street.
She was on the verge of deciding that she had imagined the voice – or that it must have come from too far away for her to do anything about it – when she heard it again. It was still just a whisper, but the tone was more urgent, almost panicked. “Help!”
She frowned, and double-checked the empty car, and when she turned her head just right, she caught sight of the face. She jumped back with a startled cry.
The face had appeared in the passenger-door mirror, but no one to whom this reflection should belong was sitting in the passenger seat – or anywhere, for that matter. Jenna was alone on the block, except for the face in the mirror.
She blinked at it, not able for a few seconds to wrap her head around what she was seeing. “What the heck?” she breathed, squinting at the mirror. “What’s going on?” It must be a hoax, she thought. Somebody was playing a trick, and was no doubt filming this whole thing from some hidden location. Yes, that must be it. The mirror was really some kind of screen, projecting an image from somewhere else.
“Very funny!” she called out. “I’m not falling for it!”
“Please!” the voice begged. It was a woman’s voice, and a woman’s face, but Jenna had never seen her before. She looked truly terrified, but Jenna had watched enough “real” videos to know better than that.
“Where are you?” she called in irritation, looking once more up and down the block.
“Please,” the woman said again, and her voice trembled with tears. “Let me out of here.” Her hand appeared in the mirror then too, reaching out as though she wanted Jenna to reach in and grab it. “Let me out!”
Jenna frowned. Something about the perspective … it just didn’t look like a recorded image. She bent closer to the mirror to get a better look. “How did you do this?” she asked, searching for signs of wires or electronics. Her face was only a few inches from the surface of the mirror.
The woman’s hand darted forward, coming through the surface of the mirror and clutching desperately at Jenna’s hair.
Jenna screamed and jerked her head away, watching in horror as the hand retreated back into the mirror. If this was a trick, she didn’t want to stay to figure it out. She turned and ran the rest of the way to her house, her screams echoing along the street.
Behind her, the woman’s expression had dissolved into one of abject despair. “Please,” she called out to Jenna. “Please come back. I need to get out.” She began to sob, and her tears spilled over her cheeks, down her chin, through the mirror’s surface, and onto the asphalt below.