That night, I had strange dreams. I dreamt I was playing poker with Little Frankie and Mike Molloy, an old friend from high school. We were all drinking and smiling and laughing, but I noticed that they both had holes in the middle of their foreheads. Bigger than bullet holes and perfectly round.
Suddenly, there were snakes slithering through the holes. The snakes slithered, half hanging out of their heads, but they still smiled and laughed like this was nothing. I backed away, dropping my hand of all blank cards.
Then, without transition, I was walking down an alleyway talking to Mike Molloy. "She knew you were there," he told me. "She wanted you to see her glory."
"What is she?" I asked.
"She's the Serpentine Mother," he said. "The Mother of All Lamentations. The Lady of Shining Scales. You know, the mirror-scalèd serpent is multiplicity and all that."
"What?" I said.
Mike Molloy turned to me and he looked as I had seen him last: emaciated and dying of cancer. "She is ready to return, Boyd. She waits. Don't say a word." He raised a finger to his mouth and made a shushing sound. He smiled and his teeth were black and oozing.
And then I woke up. I tried to dismiss what happened yesterday as a dream. I went to the bathroom and splashed water in my face. Then I looked in the mirror and saw my sink was filled with snakes. I jumped backward, but they were gone.
I went to my normal pub, DeSelby's. There, I met the man who hired me, Caleb. "Great job," he said.
"I'm sorry?" I asked.
"I don't know how you did it," he said, "but that was a great job." He slid over this morning's paper and pointed on an article near the bottom: Federal Witness Dies of Aneurysm. Little Frankie was dead. "I don't know how you got it to look like an aneurysm," Caleb said, "and I'm not going to ask. Must be like being a magician, you know, everybody's got their secrets."
"Yeah," I said, "secrets." I ordered a shot of whiskey, even though it was early. Caleb was already on his first Guinness. I wondered what I should do. Everyone thought I killed Frankie - but from what I had seen, whatever did kill him was something else entirely. I thought back to the woman I had seen.
And I saw her again. In the mirror behind the bar, I saw her walk behind me and smile. I turned quickly, but nobody was there. "What is it, Boyd?" Caleb asked.
First the snakes in the mirror, now the woman. What was she, some sort of Bloody Mary monster?
I downed my whiskey and got up. "I gotta go," I said. "I got errands to run."
"Errands, right," Caleb said. I let him think whatever he wanted to think and left.
The window outside DeSelby's shown like a mirror and I saw the woman behind me. She reached out with one hand and touched the back of my neck and I felt something wet. I turned, but she wasn't there. She was only in the mirror.
In my car, I covered the rearview and sideview mirrors with duct tape. So what if the police pulled me over, it was worth it.
I drove around, not knowing where to go, when finally it came to me: church. I could talk to a pastor or priest or something. They had to believe me, right? Luckily, there was an abundance of churches where I lived. I chose the closest Catholic church - hey, old habits die hard, that's how I was raised.
As I walked inside, I passed the baptismal font and looked inside. There was my reflection and there was the woman, her dark red hair flowing down onto her chest. She was still the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. I turned, finally expecting her to be gone.
And there she was. Right behind me. "She is ready," the woman said. "She is ready to reveal herself. She waits to reveal herself." She moved forward and I moved back. I couldn't stop looking at her. "She allowed you to witness the birth. She waits to reveal herself. You will see, Boyd Walker. Open your mouth and-"
"Excuse me?" I heard the voice, probably the pastor, but I couldn't stop looking at the woman. "Can I help you?"
The woman turned away from me and I watched as she walked towards the pastor. "You will witness," she said and I knew she was still talking to me. "You will be witness to her return. She is ready."
"I'm sorry?" the pastor said. He was tall and gangly and looked like he was around twenty. "Did you...can I help you with anything?" The woman strode forward, somehow becoming sinuous. I looked at her legs weren't legs at all, but the tail of a snake. She coiled around the pastor and he began blubbering and then sobbing. She coiled around him tighter and then opened her mouth and I saw her fangs, long and white and sharp, as she quickly bit down on the pastor's neck.
After a minute, she dropped the pastor's body to the ground and looked at me. "She waits," she said. "She waits for you, Boyd Walker. You will open your mouth and speak for her. You will give her more. She is the Lady of the Shining Scales. You will never escape her."
And then she slid down the rows of pews and out the door. I slumped to the ground and tried to figure out what the fuck was going on.
The only thing I could think of to do was run away, away from the dead pastor, away from DeSelby's, away from any and all mirrors.
I wish that had helped. Oh God, I wish that had helped.