PSA: check your backseat before getting in the car

“I dare you!”

“No way, that’s so immature!”

“Yes way! If you don’t do it, you have to pick truth – and I’m gonna ask you what you and Billy did behind the tree last year!”

“UGH okay FINE.”

The giggling momentarily increased, but the girls grew solemn as they arose and tip-toed, single file, into the darkened bathroom. The cheap fluorescent light of the rec room (which was wood panelled like all good rec rooms are) streamed in around their shoulders, providing just enough light to see their dim faces and shiny sugar-crazed eyes in the large mirror above the sink.

“You know the rules, Sarah. When we close the door you have to face the mirror, close your eyes, and say the words.”

“And we have to be able to hear them!”, shrieked Katie, who was way more into this than she should have been.

“Yeah, and we have to hear you! No whispering. If you do everything right, and the Veil of Spirits –“ Janet paused here to wiggle her fingers in a poor approximation of spookiness. “ — is thin enough, IT’LL HAPPEN.”

The other girls helpfully made “OooOOOooOo” noises like in old Halloween cartoons, but it was less scary than ridiculous. Honestly, who’s dumb suggestion was Truth or Dare, anyway? They were 13 years old now, officially teenagers. This was a baby game, Sarah thought. But it’s Janet’s party, so I have to do what she says.

“.. and said her cousin totally saw it and she went CRAZY. So it’s totally true. Aren’t you scared?”

Janet finally wrapped up her long story about something that didn’t happen. Sarah scoffed at her and said, “I’m not scared, because nothing’s going to happen. It’s just a dumb urban legend!”

“Well, try not to scream too loud, or you’ll wake my parents!”

The giggling resumed as the girls filed out of the darkness and into the bright, warm light of suburbia. Sarah longed to follow them, but didn’t particularly want to admit that nothing had happened between her and Billy – she tried to kiss him but he ran away, horrified. She’d much rather keep quiet and pretend he hadn’t be repulsed by her, and if she had to do this stupid bathroom dare to keep that fantasy, she’d do it.

The door was shut with a grating thump, and all light disappeared. Not even the tiniest ray of light could penetrate the room, because say what you you will about half-assed construction projects that start and end in the basement, badly warped doors wedged into cheap drywall could create a lot of dark.

Sarah reached out in front of her to confirm she was facing the mirror (or to steady herself, she wasn’t quite sure). She took a deep breath, and someone outside hush-whispered “HURRY UP”, accompanied by shushing and giggles.

“Okay okay”, Sarah muttered. She took another deep breath, and closed her eyes. Opening her mouth, Sarah loudly recited the words that rounded out this dumb exercise.

Nothing happened.

Feeling more brave than foolish, Sarah chanted the words again in an exaggerated sing-song.

Still nothing.

Sarah opened her eyes (she thought, it was really very dark in there) and smiled triumphantly. Releasing the breath she didn’t know she was holding she yelled out “SEE, I TOLD YOU NOTHING WOULD HAPPEN” – but didn’t get past the S bubbling in her throat.

In the mirror
Over her shoulder
Out of the darkness
Bathed in a red light
A faint response, growing louder

“.. And baby my heart could still fall as hard at 23
And I’m thinking ’bout how people fall in love in mysterious ways
Maybe just the touch of a hand
Oh me I fall in love with you every single day
And I just wanna tell you I am
So honey now
Take me into your loving arms ..”

Sarah couldn’t make a sound.

She scrambled for the door, but it wasn’t there.

The mirror wasn’t there.

Nothing was there.

Just her
the warm wetness blossoming on her pyjamas
the studio audience
and special surprise guest
Ed Sheeran.


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