Meet The Neighbors.
I dare you.
Valaria Aberdeen’s house stands alone on Brier Road and it stands alone because no one will go near it.
There were other houses up there too, but they’re gone now and all that’s left of them are their foundations. In some lots you might window frames and screens stacked in sloppy piles and here and there are wooden chairs and mailboxes.
And then there’s Valaria’s House.
There is no furniture in Valaria ‘s House but there is a mirror at the end of a hall where the doors rusted off of their hinges years and years ago.
The mirrors face is so clear that you might think you were looking out of an open window, in fact if your were standing in front of it right now I’ll bet you’d even put your hand out and touch the glass just to make sure that it wasn’t an open window.
The funny thing is-that’s exactly what the mirror is.
That’s what I’ve heard anyway.
Every Halloween the Aberdeen Family hosted a Halloween Party.
Everyone wore costumes, everyone bobbed for apples, everyone somehow ended up in the attic to tell ghost stories and then everyone would stumble down Brier Road to their houses by moonlight leaving a trail of candy wrappers behind them.
Valaria Aberdeen loved to host her parties and at the last one she wasn’t her usual energetic self. She didn’t even dress up in one of her elaborate rental costumes-she wasn’t a lady pirate or a lady vampire or a sorceress or a belly dancer.
That year, she wore a black dress and a set of acrylic ‘fangs’ on her teeth and painted her nails black. She had smeared pale blue makeup on her face and penciled dark circles under her eyes.
She just shrugged when Mitchell asked about her costume and said to her husband who was dressed as a mummy ” I’m just not really into it this year, so I guess I’m just going to be a boring witch” then she slammed her felt witch’s hat onto her head with the little ghosts sewn around the brim and then she stomped down the hallway to the kitchen.
Mitchell tried to cheer Valaria up; he helped her finish the decorating and he told her little jokes and reminded her of the fun from their past parties and then the door bell rang.
As the guests started to arrive Valaria seemed to blend into the background and she would hardly talk to anyone. It wasn’t easy to avoid over 50 people in a room but Valaria found a way to do it and that’s exactly what she did for hours.
Sometime during the evening Mitchell looked up and saw Valaria fussing at the table with the food and punch. She looked up and saw him and waved and then she went out to the kitchen.
At about Midnight she came bouncing out of the kitchen with a little wicker basket full of cookies shaped like pumpkins and cats and she was handing them out and laughing…not that thin laugh she had been using all evening but a heart felt laugh and when she saw him she held her basket up and said,” guess what Mitchell I’m into it after all…I’m feeling like my old self again”
” That’s great dear! ” he called out to her over his cup of hot cider.
Valaria winked at him and kept handing out her cookies.She joined him a few minutes later and he put his hand out and asked for one of her cookies.
Valaria looked stunned and hurt. ” Why would I give you one of those Mitchell? “
Mitchell said to her, ” Because you love me…”
Valaria rolled her eyes so far up all he could see were the whites of her eyes. God, he really hated it when she did that. ” It’s because I love you that you don’t get one Mitchell.”
From over Valaria ‘s left shoulder Mitchell could see Missy Jenson from next door start to do a weird little dance and then she started to spin around and around and as she did he could that she was crying and that her tears were red.
In a few seconds everyone in the room were ‘dancing’ and they were shrieking and tearing at their throats. ” What have you done Valaria? ” Mitchell screamed, ” What in God’s name have you done?”
Mitchell watched his wife dance around the room and as she swung her empty basket from side to side he could hear her say, ” Guess what I am? Guess what I am? Guess what I am?”
He chased her down the hall and when he caught up to her she was looking into the mirror her Grandmother had given them as a wedding present.
It was a large ceiling to floor mirror encased in a heavy silver frame and until that moment Mitchell never wondered how they had ever gotten that thing through their door.
Valaria was wiping her face and when she turned around he could see she had taken off most of the thick blue makeup and the black eyeliner pencil from around her eyes.
Now her face was dark, dark red and her lips were black and then she pulled the hat off of her head with a flourish and he saw…
he saw Valaria Aberdeen.
Her pointed forked tongue snaked out from between her lips and she was feathering the hair away from the horns that she now had on her forehead.
” I told you I was feeling like my old self again. Happy Halloween Mitchell” she said with a wink and then she turned and stepped into the mirror.
After that night people started to move away from Brier Road.
Within days the houses the next block over were abandoned and then the houses on the block over from that were abandoned next and after awhile no one lived in that little town at all.
But if you’re feeling brave you can actually go up to Valaria Aberdeen’s House and you can walk in and go down the hall and look into that mirror…and if you stare into it and say, ” I know what you are Valaria Aberdeen…” three times…
She’ll give you a cookie.
(Published in 2007)