Behind the Mirror

     My first mistake was looking behind the mirror. The second mistake? Recording what was behind the mirror.
     At first, it didn’t seem like a big deal. This year’s winter was colder than usual. When I noticed a draft in my bathroom, I figured it was probably just shoddy insulation or something — I kind of expect it from an old apartment building in New York.
     So, I decided to investigate. I pulled at a corner of the mirror, and it was loose. Before I opened it all the way, I called my friend Angie to tell her about it.
     “Oh my God, don’t open it until I get there,” she said.
     Of course, I waited.
     “You should record this, Mary,” she said when I opened the door.
     “Yeah, it could be like one of those creepy videos we watch all the time.”
     Literally everyone was obsessed with videos on social media these days. Little clips of people doing stupid tricks or pranks or whatever. Angie’s favorites were ghost videos.
     “It’s probably going to be nothing,” I said.
     But if my video went viral, it could be something to add to my resume. There were a lot of marketing jobs available, but nothing about my resume stood out to hiring managers.
     I pulled out my phone, flipped the camera around to face me, and I hit record.
     “There’s this draft in my bathroom and I think it’s coming from behind my mirror,” I said to my phone. “I don’t know what’s behind there, but let’s find out, I guess?”
     You can hear Angie’s laugh in the background, but when I watched the video back, it sounded nervous.
     She had every reason to be nervous.
     I handed Angie my phone to record me prying the mirror off the wall. It didn’t take too much effort; it kind of popped off. Angie made sure to zoom in on my face when I turned back to her. My eyes were wide and wild — I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that expression on my face before. To be fair, I’d never discovered a giant hole behind my bathroom mirror before.
     “What. The. Fuck,” I said.
     “You can’t go in there,” Angie said, still recording me.
     The hole was big enough for a person to get through. It didn’t look like it was cut, but rather peeled at over time.
     I started to put my arms through the hole, but it was so cold. And I really didn’t know what I was going to find. I stopped.
     “Angie, call Mike,” I said. “Turn it off. Turn it off.”
     The last thing you saw on the first video was my hand covering the lens.
     We posted the video that night and drank a bottle of wine while we watched what happened.
     It blew up.
     “Holy shit, it’s already at fifty thousand views,” Angie said.

     The next morning, I had so many messages that I couldn’t respond to them all. Obviously, we needed to record another video.
     Mike called and offered to come over to help. Angie stayed the night, and she volunteered to record again.
     “I guess we should do this in different stages or parts,” Angie said, and checked the battery on my phone.
     Mike unzipped the duffel bag he brought with him. He pulled out an axe, a baseball bat, and a gun.
     “What the hell, Mike?” I said.
     “You can’t be too careful,” he said, and handed me the axe.
     I caught Angie rolling her eyes.
     “You can’t hit a ghost with a bullet or a bat,” she said.
     Angie opened the app and checked the stats of the first video again.
     “You have thousands of comments here, and views hit three hundred thousand overnight!”
     I looked over her shoulder and watched as she scrolled through the comments, which was mostly people asking for more — they needed to know what was in the darkness beyond the little room we found. Angie clicked on my camera roll and scrolled through my older content.
     “You’re definitely getting more likes for this video than the hundreds of selfies you take,” she said. “And you take them all in the bathroom?”
     “Don’t judge me.”
     I wasn’t going to admit that I found the hole behind the mirror while taking a selfie.
     “Let’s go!” Mike said.
     We gathered our weapons and headed into the small bathroom. Somehow we all fit in there and I gave Angie a thumbs-up to tell her I was ready. She hit record.
     “Okay, we’re going back in the hole right now, but I brought more support,” I said to the phone’s lens.
     Angie pivoted toward Mike and he waved, and then it was back on me.
     “That’s Mike, and he’s insisting I carry this,” I said, and hoisted up the axe to get it in the camera’s view.
     We climbed through the hole and into the room behind the mirror. Mike pulled out his phone to light the way and Angie followed. The room was kind of a small square space, but there was a small hallway that seemed to just end. I don’t know what I expected, but what we discovered was not on my list of possibilities. It was nothing.
     “There’s nothing here,” I said. “No trash or bed or anything that would mean someone’s living back here or something.”
     Mike swept the light from one corner to the other.
     “What about down there?” he said.
     I walked down the short corridor that seemed to only lead to more darkness and more nothing. Mike followed and shone his light all around.
     I turned back to face the camera.
     “Well, I guess that’s the end of the mystery,” I said, and shrugged.
     “Wait, what’s this?” Mike said.
     Angie whipped the phone upward where Mike was pointing. We all focused on the seam on the wall and followed Mike’s finger as he traced the line up, over to the right, and down.
     “Is that a door?” I said.
     “I stopped recording,” Angie said behind us.
     “What? Why?” I said.
     “Because we need to do this right to get the most views,” she said.
     She started recording right after posting the unedited video to my profile.
     “I don’t care if you’re recording or not,” Mike said. “I’m going in. Hand me the axe.”
     I handed him the axe and he lifted it above his head.
     “Wait!” I said.
     “Seriously?” Mike lowered the axe.
     “No, just, like, I think you can pry it open. Here,” I said, and took the axe from him.
     I jimmied the blade of the axe into the tiny gap between what looked like a door and the wall and pushed and pulled. Mike got the idea and helped by getting his fingers into the wider gap I’d created and pulled.
     It didn’t take long for us to pull the drywall door open. There was a lot of plaster dust or something that made us cough. Mike pulled his phone out again and turned on the flashlight.
     “It’s a tunnel,” I said toward the camera.
     The opening was wide enough for us to walk in, but we had to crouch as the space got tighter and lower. Eventually, we were on our hands and knees, crawling toward something or nothing.
     “Does this thing ever end?” Mike said behind me.
     “I don’t know! Let’s just keep going until we can’t anymore.”
     The tunnel twisted multiple times, and there were even times where it seemed like we were crawling uphill. We heard voices as we went, but we assumed they were voices of the other residents in the building.
     We explored slowly, feeling the walls along the way for any new paths or seams. But there didn’t seem to be anything new. Finally, we reached the end of the line.
     “That’s it. There’s nothing else,” I said. “We need to turn around and go back.”
     “I can’t,” Angie said.
     “What do you mean?”
     I heard her breathing hard and fast.
     “Are you okay, Angie?”
     “I can’t turn around. It’s too tight, and I … can’t … breathe,” she said.
     Of all the times to develop claustrophobia.
     “Turn off the camera and hand me my phone,” I said behind me.
     Mike was trying to turn around, but being stuck between me and Angie, he was having a hard time. Angie handed me my phone.
     “Okay, Angie, you’re going to have to back up a little. Just crawl backwards,” I said.
     She must have backed up a few inches because I felt Mike turn and his feet were touching mine. I managed to turn myself around so I was facing Mike’s ass and I could see Angie’s face over Mike’s shoulder.
     I turned my camera back on and figured this could be good footage.
     “I need to turn my light off,” Mike said. “The battery is almost dead.”
     The tunnel went dark and Angie screamed.
     “It’s okay, Angie, I’ll turn the light on over here,” I said.
     I tapped the screen on my phone and saw Angie’s face in my video. She looked beyond spooked.
     “Something touched my foot,” she said.
     Her face was white and she seemed frozen in place. I could see little puffs of vapor each time she exhaled. It was getting colder in here.
     “Nothing touched you, Angie. Think about it. We didn’t come across anything in this tunnel — how could there be anything behind you?”
     Logic wasn’t registering with her.
     “Mike, help her turn around.”
     He sat up on his knees so he could use his hands on Angie’s shoulders and tried to shift her sideways. She barely budged.
     “Mary … Mary … I can’t.”
     I swallowed hard, realizing that her panic might be contagious.
     “You can. Just turn to the left and use your hands to push yourself all the way around. Here.” I handed her the axe I’d been dragging along with me. She wouldn’t be able to do much with it if there was anything behind her, but it might make her feel better.
     She took the axe and nodded at me and the camera, but I’m pretty sure she didn’t even know I was recording.
     Mike helped her turn back the way we came, and slowly, we were moving again.
     I tried to keep my phone up as I crawled with one hand, but it was getting difficult. I was just about to turn it off when Angie stopped and screamed again. I pointed the light high above our heads and in front of Angie. Nothing was there.
     “Angie? You good?”
     “It’s back. Whatever it is, it’s back,” she said, her voice shaky.
     “For fuck’s sake, Angie, just keep going. There’s nothing there,” Mike said.
     “He’s right, Angie. I don’t see anything, and we’re almost there. Just a few more turns, and then we’ll be back at my place.”
     I’ve got to give Angie credit. She kept going. I could hear her crying and her teeth chattering. When we saw the light at the end of the tunnel, her cries turned to laughter. She crawled faster — we all did.
     Angie pulled herself through the hole in the wall behind the mirror so quickly, she fell and hit her hip on the sink. Mike and I followed, and he covered the hole back up with the mirror.
     When I got into the living room, I saw Angie was already bundled in a blanket on my sofa. I swept the room with my phone, still recording. Angie stared at a wall.
     I made some hot cocoa (with a generous splash of peppermint schnapps) and we warmed up, all three of us cuddled on my sofa.
     “Do you want to watch the videos?” I said.
     Angie shot me a wild look.
     “No,” she said.
     Mike, sitting in the middle, took my phone and tapped on the recording. He turned up the volume and we watched our adventure. Angie looked out the window and watched the snow fall.
     Mike and I laughed at me holding the giant axe, clearly confused about what to do with it. Angie did a great job getting our expressions when we found the door. And then there was a lot of bobbing in the video as we crawled through the tunnel.
     When we got to the end when Angie screamed the first time, I sensed her flinch on the couch next to us.
     “It’s okay, Angie,” I said, trying to reassure her. “There’s still nothing there.”
     “You should post it,” Mike said.
     I took my phone from him and hit the button. We started with unedited videos, so we’d keep doing it. We’ll show them all of it and see what happens.
     “Want to watch a movie or something?” I said.
     No response.
     “Okay, I’ll pick,” I said. “I’ll be right back.”
     I took my phone with me to the bathroom and studied my face in the mirror. It was so cold in here. And our trip through the tunnel left streaks of white dust in my hair and on my face, but there was something about it that looked cool. I took a selfie and checked it on my phone. Needs a filter. I swiped through the filters and found one that softened my features. Snap. Snap. Snap.
     I picked the best one and posted it in my stories. I waited for the likes, which came more quickly than I was used to. People must be watching the video. I checked the comments on the latest video posted.
     Uh, did anyone else see that at 4:18?
     That shadow? Did it have horns?
     It was just an illusion because the lighting was low. You guys are so paranoid.
     No, there’s definitely something.
     Check out 6:43 — that’s something.
     Are you going back in, Mjay?
     I hit play on the video and fast forwarded to the time stamps the commenters mentioned. How did we miss that before? There was something, but I had no idea what it was. I paused the video at the four-minute mark and walked back into the living room.
     Mike and Angie looked up at me from their phones. Angie’s face started twisting into frowns and hard lines.
     “So I guess you guys saw it, too?” I said.
     “It didn’t stay in the tunnel,” Mike said. “Something followed.”

To be continued …