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I was about to close up and hang the sign on the door when the knock came, timid, as though it wasn’t quite sure that it wanted to be heard. For half a heartbeat I thought of leaving it unanswered, but no matter how late the night, turning custom away leads only to hunger; so I opened the door, and found before it a woman, with a large oval mirror clutched to her breast. It was an older piece, framed in tarnished silver, but her eyes were what caught me: large and dark, and almost frightened.

She hesitated a moment on the doorstep, until I waved her inside. “Come in,” I said. “Are you selling, then?”

She shook her head, setting the mirror down carefully, face-down, on one of my end-tables. “Only as a last resort,” she said. “Do you do repairs?”

The question startled me, and I checked in the midst of closing the door. “Generally not,” I answered at last, but closed it all the same. “I resell antiques, Miss –”

“Mrs Witherblume.”

“You’re married, then?”

She hesitated just long enough for me to think it odd, then gave a shrug with aspirations to nodding.

“People don’t usually come to an antique shop looking for repairs, Mrs Witherblume.”

“I expect you get things broken from time to time, though – surely you’re able to refurbish the odd enchantment?”

There was something desperate in her tone, and despite everything I found myself eager to be of aid to her. “I’m no expert,” I warned her, “but I’ll do the best I can. What’s the trouble?”

Mrs Witherblume gestured to the mirror. “It’s stopped working.”

I stepped around the table and began to lift it, careful to keep from scratching the glass. “What was it meant to do? Scrying, warding, communication?”

“Just the usual,” said Mrs Witherblume. “It reflected the one who stood before it.”

Again, for a moment, I found myself pausing. “Ah,” I said at last, and turned the mirror over.

It seemed, to my eye, to be working just as it should. It reflected the ceiling of my shop with no difficulty, and the jewelled birdcage I had hanging from a rafter gave it no pause. Just to be sure, I passed my hand over the glass: it shone back from the mirror just as it was, down to the white lace that trimmed my sleeves.

Of course, one must not be an artificer to know that a mirror’s reflection is no enchantment but a simple physical property of silvered glass. It would take a curse to darken it.

“Would you come here for a moment, Mrs Witherblume?”

She came to stand beside the end-table, and I caught up her hand. Her fingers were cold, even through the light black glove she wore. I passed our joined hands over the mirror: within it I saw only my own, clasped around empty air.

I became aware, suddenly, of the beating of my heart; of the blood that rushed through my veins; of my fingers, still intertwined with hers. I squeezed lightly and let them go.

“Do you have other mirrors at home, Mrs Witherblume?”

“Of course.” She hesitated a moment. “But none other that shows the viewer’s face at once, I think. There’s my hand-mirror, of course – I did make certain that one was still working. It was enough to fix my hair with, at least.”

“Is it glass too, then?”

“No – polished steel.”

I liked this less and less. I felt for Mrs Witherblume, with her dark eyes and gentle fingers and timorous demeanour; I did not want for the obvious answer to be the right one.

More to busy myself than in hope of finding something, I took up the little jewelled brass rod that I use to sort out the enchantments on my wares and felt through the auras of the glass and the silver and the frame. As I had feared, there was nothing there. The mirror was as ordinary as a mirror could be.

I set the rod aside and looked back up at her, holding her eyes with my own. “When did you first see that the mirror was – no longer working?”

“This morning,” she answered at once. “I brought it over as soon as I could. It wouldn’t do to have it around, with…”

“Yes,” I said when it was clear she did not mean to go on. “Mrs Witherblume, you had better sit down. Have a spot of tea.”

“You can repair it, can’t you?”

“Of course,” I said; and for that matter I could, if my fears were true. “But I do need to know how this came about. Mrs Witherblume, would you mind terribly telling me how you spent your day yesterday?”

“But I had nothing at all to do with the mirror,” she said, taken aback.

“All the same: humour me, if you would. What was the last thing you did last night?”

She hesitated, eyes wide, fingers cold against the cup of tea I pressed into her hands. “I don’t remember.”

-

Harold.

The name had been on the tip of her tongue all night, though she hadn’t dared to speak it aloud. Are you married? I’d asked her, and her silent nod-shrug answered: Harold. (Well, she wasn’t married any longer, for what little that was worth. Until death do us part, as the vow goes.)

She’d brought the mirror over as soon as she could. It wouldn’t do it have it around, not when Harold might see, might wonder. She never dreamed that he might already know.

It took two cups of tea and a glass of Scotch to get his name past her lips; but then the rest tumbled into place as neatly as anything. His sneering ownership of Mrs Witherblume, his temper, all the bruises she wore below her neckline. Even when she recalled, at last, his hands around her throat and the taste of blood below her tongue, she didn’t know what it meant that she awoke in the morning with her reflection in silver nowhere to be found.

“I’ll repair the mirror for you, of course,” I said. My skill with enchantment is small, of course – I am no artificer – but altering a mirror to show the dead is simple enough a task, and one I’ve had cause to practise before. “But, please – take this with you as well.”

I handed her a silver bauble, all wrapped in curses.

“Let it fall into Harold’s tea,” I told her, “and I promise you will be free of him.”

-

I found Harold Witherblume’s obituary in the paper some few days later. I never found Mrs Witherblume’s: with the mirror freshly enchanted, there was little cause for anyone to suspect she was anything but alive. I am still not fully certain whether she knows it herself.

Because I did her a kindness when I repaired her mirror, and because I shared tea and comfort with her, and because – perhaps – she took a liking to me as I did to her, I am a welcome visitor to the Witherblume place these days. I keep her enchantments in order as well as I can, of course, but I am no artificer. Mostly I come to share tea and comfort, to speak of this and that and other things. She is doing quite all right for herself, these days. Her freedom suits her.

Her name is Mary.
Written for A Game of Genres, Week 2. Paranormal mystery, under 1500 words.

Wordcount: 1240.

DD 12.09.2017: Thank you so much to everyone who reads and comments, and especially to akrasiel for featuring!
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Daily Deviation

Given 2017-09-12
Her Name is Mary by GDeyke ( Featured by akrasiel )
:iconwishingunderthatstar:
WishingUnderThatStar Featured By Owner Nov 5, 2017  Hobbyist Writer
This is really good. It pulls you in and keeps you interested right until the end.
Reply
:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Nov 5, 2017   Writer
Thank you! :D I'm glad you enjoyed it!
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Oct 31, 2017  Hobbyist General Artist
I think this does a good job of straddling the line between the obvious and unexpected. Like, there's clearly something off with the woman, but there's not an exact reason to think death until you say so. It's not so out of the blue as to not make sense, but it isn't necessarily the only option.
Reply
:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Nov 1, 2017   Writer
I was actually somewhat worried it would be too obvious, so it's great to hear that. Thank you!
Reply
:iconmikesscribbles:
MikesScribbles Featured By Owner Oct 23, 2017  Hobbyist General Artist
And in a time or place lacking any other meaningful thing to buy, sell , or give a measure of comfort is a thing of infinite worth when spent, and holds not value when hoarded.
Well done.
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:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Oct 24, 2017   Writer
:nod:

Thank you!
Reply
:iconfaolsidhe:
FaolSidhe Featured By Owner Oct 17, 2017
There is great tenderness in the writing. The antique dealer is such a gentleman.
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:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Oct 17, 2017   Writer
Thank you! ;)
Reply
:iconscfrankles:
SCFrankles Featured By Owner Sep 30, 2017  Hobbyist Writer
So beautifully and delicately done, and so moving. I love this strange but still recognisable world you've created.  

Congratulations on the DD! ^__^ 
Reply
:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Sep 30, 2017   Writer
Thank you! I really am pleased with how this one turned out. :D
Reply
:iconliliwrites:
LiliWrites Featured By Owner Sep 26, 2017
This is sweet! Well, as sweet as a story about a murdered woman can be. :) Congratulations on the DD. 
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:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Sep 27, 2017   Writer
Aw, thank you!
Reply
:iconmemnalar:
Memnalar Featured By Owner Sep 26, 2017  Hobbyist Writer
Well done. I like it very much.
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:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Sep 26, 2017   Writer
I'm very glad to hear it. Thank you!
Reply
:iconkyjaybob:
kyjaybob Featured By Owner Sep 18, 2017
wow, I love to read,  Great piece.  I look forward to more. 
Reply
:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Sep 19, 2017   Writer
Thank you - and thank you for watching! :D Welcome to dA!
Reply
:iconerzsabet:
Erzsabet Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2017  Professional Artisan Crafter
This is good, I quite enjoyed it. I don't often stop to read lit pieces, but this one caught my eye and I had to open it to read the rest of it.
Reply
:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Sep 14, 2017   Writer
Thank you! :D I'm delighted to hear that it caught your interest.
Reply
:iconloksuven:
Loksuven Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2017  Hobbyist General Artist
Book This is a real page scroller; after I saw the first few sentences in the thumbnail, I just had to read the whole thing!
Reply
:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Edited Sep 13, 2017   Writer
Glad to hear it. :D Thank you so much for watching!
Reply
:iconsalyssong:
salyssong Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2017  Hobbyist General Artist
this song came up when i red this:

When your time is over
And we come down to take you away
You better pray to Jesus
May the serpents of god lead your way

And when you find salvation
In revelation
This is the son of the earth

And the you cross the liar.
The devil's fire
Mother as sign of rebirth

Mother Mary is a bird of prey
Bird of prey
Bird of prey

When your life is over
And the angels are falling from grace
And in the eyes of Judas
You're born on the darkest of days

An when you find elation
Illumination
You are the son of the earth
And then you kill the liar.
In Satan's fire
Hell is a sign of rebirth

Mother Mary is a bird of prey
Bird of prey
Bird of prey

Stand up and pray!

"Mother Mary Is A Bird Of Prey"-Powerwolf
Reply
:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2017   Writer
Now there's a nice coincidence. Powerwolf are awesome. Horns 
Reply
:iconericvonschweetz:
EricVonSchweetz Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2017  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Congratulations on the DD!
Reply
:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2017   Writer
Oh, wow. :o Thank you!
Reply
:iconant-under-glass:
ant-under-glass Featured By Owner Aug 31, 2017  Student Writer
Completely taken off guard by this one! No wonder it was featured! :+fav:

I really like the way you used the language in a sort of slow, easy-paced way that didn't rush the story, but that added to the feelings of tension all the same. There's a very noticeable build-up in the drama without over-hyping it, which I think is incredibly well done. Although the description of the characters was rather vague and didn't allow the reader to make any quick impressions of them, it definitely added to the shock value at the end when you realize that things aren't what they seem, and there's a lot of fill-in-the-blank going on here, which is honestly just super engaging and infuriating at the same time. 

Also, I'm not sure if this was intentional, but I love that the first encounter and the continued encounters are parallel to each other (the continued use of "I am not an artificer" establishes the narrator quite well). All in all, congratulations on your feature and thank you for sharing such a fantastic piece with us! :heart:
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:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Sep 1, 2017   Writer
Thank you so much! :D I'm delighted that you enjoyed it - even if it did somewhat infuriate you as well. ;)
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:iconsleyf:
Sleyf Featured By Owner Aug 31, 2017  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
  Undiscovered-gem by Sleyf  
Thanks so much for sharing your truly captivating tale.  Be sure to check out the other features sharing the Monthly Round-up!

From the admin of
:iconwritersink:
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:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Aug 31, 2017   Writer
Ah, thank you! :w00t:
Reply
:iconsleyf:
Sleyf Featured By Owner Sep 1, 2017  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
You're welcome!
Reply
:iconthornyenglishrose:
ThornyEnglishRose Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2017  Hobbyist Writer
A very clever and rather charming tale. Like absolutely everyone else, I was thinking of vampires; seeming to be predictable and then surprising your audience is a clever trick. Congratulations for placing in week 2. :)
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:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2017   Writer
Thank you, and I'm glad you enjoyed it! :D
Reply
:iconsquanpie:
squanpie Featured By Owner Aug 28, 2017  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I love this one. It's got all the elements it needed - but it's so sweet and light in tone at the same time. There's so much awesome packed in here; the mirror's strangeness being its normality, the careful conversation around taboo topics, and the kindly way the protagonist avoids alerting Mary to her state. The setting is wonderfully intriguing as well: where enchantments are common as technology, and the dead walking is no great cause for concern. 

I'll admit, I was thinking vampire too at first - but that didn't really seem to fit the style. This is better. 
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:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2017   Writer
I'm not saying Harold didn't have it coming, but I'm kind of amused with the fact that I'm getting comments on the light tone and happy ending given how casually he was killed off. :XD: All the same, this is more or less exactly what I was going for - thank you! There's something awfully compelling about someone losing their reflection and immediately thinking it's the mirror that's not working properly, isn't there?
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:iconsquanpie:
squanpie Featured By Owner Sep 3, 2017  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Well he was killed off casually in a light and happy sort of tone? :lol:

I loved the idea of something so simple as a mirror 'not working.' She's such a dear soul, just for that level of innocence there.
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:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Sep 3, 2017   Writer
Fair enough! :XD:

:nod:
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:icondeviantfredda:
DeviantFredda Featured By Owner Aug 28, 2017  Hobbyist General Artist
Ooooh, I loved this again.
Though at first I thought she had been turned into a vampire without her knowledge (vampires not having reflections either) and would end up killing the protagonist.
But I like the happy ending a lot. :-) Keep up the great work!
Reply
:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Aug 28, 2017   Writer
Thank you! :D I was also sort of thinking of vampires when I first started (this is actually also why she hesitated on the doorstep until she was invited in), but I think this made for a better story.
Reply
:icondeviantfredda:
DeviantFredda Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2017  Hobbyist General Artist
Aaaah. Nice reference. :-)
Reply
:icondamonwakes:
DamonWakes Featured By Owner Aug 28, 2017  Professional Writer
This is a really interesting setting - I like that the mirror not being enchanted proves significant. It actually reminds me a little of the Fallen London setting, partly because of how common magic seems to be and partly because there are apparently a fair few dead people wandering around just getting on with (un)life.
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:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Aug 28, 2017   Writer
I think Victorian-London-with-completely-commonplace-magic-in is a lot more common than I'd realised. :XD: I'll have to give Fallen London a look: thanks for pointing me towards it!
Reply
:icondamonwakes:
DamonWakes Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2017  Professional Writer
It's the same setting as Sunless Sea if you'd prefer something a little easier to dip in and out of. I like both - and they actually interact a little bit if you're signed into them with the same account, which is very cool - but I sort of find they fall at extreme ends of the same spectrum. Fallen London is something you've got to be in for for the long-haul, while Sunless Sea frequently sees you getting eaten by nameless horrors before you've really had a chance to do anything at all.

Failbetter Games is one of just a handful of developers that actually hire writers long-term, though, and it really shows. The setting is remarkably consistent across both games, and they're clearly not afraid to expand it. They strike an excellent balance between grimdark and humour too.
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:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2017   Writer
Ooh. :eager: Sounds excellent!
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:icondamonwakes:
DamonWakes Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2017  Professional Writer
They've just released a new game - Sunless Skies - as an early access title. I heard about it back at EGX and apparently the Kickstarter funded in under an hour.
Reply
:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Aug 31, 2017   Writer
On the one hand, I can see why people like early access and get excited about it. On the other, I like for my games to be actually finished. ;p
Reply
:icondamonwakes:
DamonWakes Featured By Owner Aug 31, 2017  Professional Writer
Personally, I think Early Access actually helps ensure that. I can see the temptation for developers to put games in front of a wide audience as early as possible - it means more eyeballs to catch problems, and also more different kinds of computer than they could possibly test on themselves - but I really hate the idea of games being released broken with the intention to fix them later.

There's been at least one instance of a game (one of the Tony Hawk titles) being released for console in a literally unplayable state, then fixed with the patch. It wasn't a slip-up on the part of the developer either: the rights for the game were about to expire, so they chucked the discs out with a demo on them and then supplied the actual game as a day one patch. Anyone who gets that thing after the PS4/XB1 (or even just the game itself) is no longer supported/maintained will be completely unable to play it.

Basically, since Early Access is billed as Early Access, and there's usually a bit of a discount to sweeten the deal, I think it's fair enough to get that out of the way before declaring the game finished. I think it might also help combat a worrying trend for players to expect non-stop updates to games they own. I hope there'll be fewer "No updates for 6 months?!?! This game is DEAD!" Steam reviews if developers can get across that updates during Early Access are to complete the game, and updates after release are a bonus. As it is, I can see why people who are used to getting something barely functional on day one feel hard done by if there's no support after purchase. At a certain point you've got to be able to draw a line between something that's unfinished and something that's just poorly made.
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:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Aug 31, 2017   Writer
Yeah, that's a really good point. If early access is essentially beta testing, and results in a more polished actual release, it's definitely a good thing.
Reply
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