The mirrors in Gran's house are the color of dust and aged, scratched glass. The backs are splotchy and mottled with gold-brown and silver-gray and flecks of black. Dad says it's because they're old and weren't made properly, but he never looked close at them. If he had, he might've run his hand along the glass and found it smooth, and then he might have questioned how the glass became scratched from the inside.
If he asked, I would have told him. The real reason the mirrors are like that is because when my brother was still little, my dad accidentally tripped on a house spirit and made it angry. The spirit, who had been nice enough, for a spirit, got mad and cursed my brother sick.
Mom and Dad tried everything they could with doctors and medicines while Gran did everything she could with tinctures and teas made from loose leaves that she carried in a pouch. She made my brother drink them, even though he hated tea. When that didn't work, she put oils on his skin and scraped him with a silver spoon to let the toxins out, and when he still didn't get better, she said,
"The spirit doing this is very petty."
My parents humored her. They didn't believe anything she did would help; only Gran could see the spirits.
My brother kept getting worse. I remember how he looked then, tiny body twisting above the blankets, his fact red from crying, his little hands and baby-sharp nails tearing at himself and his pajamas. So while mom and dad were at the hospital with Tom, Gran took me aside and said,
"My, we need to catch the spirit that's plaguing your brother."
"How?" I said. I believed Gran more than Mom and Dad when it came to spirits.
"Here," she handed me two sticks, each as long as my forearm and thick around as my thumb. Someone had carved in criss-cross patterns and the faces of animals into the smooth wood. "Take these and stand in the middle of the room."
I did as she said. While I stood there, she fiddled around the room, gathering all the mirrors in the house and setting them up so that they looked towards me. I offered to help, but she told me to stay still. All I could do was examine the sticks.
"There," Gran said eventually. That should do it. Now, My, We have to wake it up."
We went around the house, her banging pots and pans and me banging the sticks together. We made a circuit of the house three times, going into every room, and on the end of the third time, we went back to the living room and both of us stood between the mirrors, still banging pots.
"Get ready," Gran said in English. She shouted a few words in the old language and waited. All the shadows in the room started to melt. The faint ones in the corners where the lamp didn't quite reach, the dark ones under the sofa, the ones between the books on the shelves that couldn't usually be seen all dropped down and crept liquefy across the floor. It all met across from Gran and I and molded itself into a puddle of black goop. The goop stood up and turned itself into a little sludgey imp.
The imp growled and threw itself at us. Gran moved aside, and when the imp was almost on top of me, I banged the sticks together. There was a ringing sound like a bell, and the mirrors lit like lamps. The imp screamed and vanished. When the light was gone, only Gran and I were left.
"That should do it," Gran said.
"Where did he go?"
"Into the mirrors."
I looked, and sure enough, in all of the mirrors, there was the reflection of the imp. It beat its fists and clawed st the glass, and though some tiny, tiny scratches did appear, the spirit made no noise. I went to the closest mirror and touched it. The imp tried to bite me, but couldn't through the glass.
"My, get away from there," Gran snapped. She took the small mirror and went to the kitchen, where she got some plastic trash bags. She double bagged the mirror, then hit it against the counter so it shattered.
"Now it can't get out. It needs all of them to leave, just like it needed all of them to get in."
I nodded like that made sense. The imp reflections in the other mirrors were still there, but they ere getting fainter and fainter. Soon, it was as though they had never been there at all.
"Is it still there?" I said.
"Yes," Gran said. "And it's going to stay in there."
"Forever?" I said. I felt a pang of pity for the spirit. It used to live here peacefully, after all, and Forever seemed like a long time to be trapped. I'd gotten into Time Out the other day for sassing Mom, and that fifteen minutes had felt like forever. Real Forever must be much worse.
"If we say so," she said. "If I think it's learned its lesson, I can get it out." She frowned. "Don't feel sorry for it. It hurt Tom."
That helped a little. "He's going to get better now, right?"
"Yes. I wouldn't be surprised if we heard from your parents within the hour. Come on, help me put all these mirrors back."
I did as I was told. While I was hanging the rose mirror in the hallway, I saw into Gran's bedroom. I watched silently as she took the plastic bag of mirror shards knelt at the chest at the foot of her bed. Then, as if plucking it from the air, she took out an old-fashioned and unfamiliar key. it appeared silver, but in the light of Gran's oil lamp, it gleamed like gold, but just for a moment. Gran opened the chest and placed the bag inside, then locked the chest. When she started creaking to her feet, I hurried down the hall and into the living room. When she came out, I was returning the last mirror to its place in the dining room, nestled inside the old china cabinet and surrounded by the odds and ends Mom and Gran collected.
"All done," I said.
"Good. Go clean your room," Gran said. "I want the place clean for when your parents come home."
Somehow this didn't seem fair, but I did as I was told. Gran had been right; within the hour, Mom called the kitchen phone, and Gran came up to tell me they were on their way. Tom's fever had broke, the tests they had run came back normal, and though the doctors wanted to check in on him tomorrow, he was deemed well enough to come home tonight.
Gran and I waited by the door, and the three of them arrived, Mom and Dad looking tired, but pleased. I still felt a little bad about the spirit, but then Mom bent down to show me Tom, who gurgled when he saw me and smiled his gummy, open smile, and all thoughts of the spirit vanished.