Johnny Mitchell pulled his roan to a halt and stepped out of the saddle. The abandoned farmhouse looked just as he had remembered it, at this distance, but he wanted to scout the area and make sure that the house really was still abandoned. He steaked Buck close to a nearby springfed pond, and started making his way in toward the house.
It had been a long time since Johnny had had any rest to speak of, and he was banking on this place to be empty. It came to his mind that if he liked it here, he just may settle to this place. After all, the house and the stable were already here, and some poor soul, at some point, had even dug a well. The place was away from most everything, and Johnny, being a solitary man, was thinking that the absence of people would be nice.
After making sure that he really was alone, Johnny returned to Buck, stepped up into the saddle, and rode on in to the yard. After rubbing Buck down with dry sagebrush and picking the burrs from his tail, Johnny set him loose in the corrall to rest, eat, drink, and be happy. The horse deserved it, after the past two months of almost constant movement.
Johnny wanted to start off right in his new home, so before stepping foot in the house, he made his way to the little pond, stripped, and dove in. It wasn't too deep, but it was cold and clear. He drank his fill, and finished up his bath, not bothering to re-dress before making his way back to the house. The cold water had done him a world of good, and he was revitalized enough to explore the house.
It was only one story, but it was layed out nicely, and had four spacious bedrooms, and a large central room, with a kitchen off to one side. On the wall opposite the kitchen was a huge ornate mirror. Whoever had lived here, had been well off, thats for sure. The exploration of the kitchen revealed a large pantry fully stocked with canned goods and dried ham.
Dried ham? This place hadn't been alone too long.. But why did the previous owner leave without his food or even his fancy looking glass?
Johnny shook his head in wonder, and picked up his gear to head to the first, and largest bedroom. Still without the benifit of clothing, he tossed his gear on a nearby chair, and laid his six foot three frame out across the bed. He reveled in it's softness, not having slept in a real bed in more nights than he could count, and before long, his green eyes drifted closed, and his breathing became slow and even. Johnny Mitchell was asleep.
Kaylee Layne yawned and stretched and sat up in bed. She felt like a million bucks this morning, after a very long night. Not wanting to waste a single second of her precious down time, she was off the bed and into the shower in no time flat. "Too many things to do today," she said to her dog, Cody, as she towled off, and walked to the closet to pick something to wear. "I have to run to the bank, deposit last night's pay, pick up some food for you.. hrm.. pick up some food for me.. Clean this place top to bottom, and lets see, what else.. oh yeah, gotta call the Parental Units.. You know they get crabby if they don't hear from me very often, Code."
Kaylee's house wasn't that dirty, but she was a neat freek of the first order. After a whirlwind cleaning jag, the last thing on her housecleaning list was windexing that monstrous mirror in the living room. Kaylee hated it, but it came with the house, and it was too big for her to move. So she dealt with it.
Finally done with all of her self imposed chores, Kaylee ruffled Code's fur, told him to be a sweet boy, and left the house. She jumped into her Dodge Ram and headed to town to take care of all of her errands.
Johnny awoke with a start feeling immediately that he was not alone. He eased out of the soft bed, and tiptoed to the door of the bedroom. Peering out into the greatroom, he couldn't see anything amiss, and he heard not a sound, save his own breathing. "Perhaps I am being too cautious," he thought to himself, but then, caution was the majority of the reason that he was still breathing. Too many times he had seen that erring on the side of caution had saved his neck.
Finally venturing out into the rest of the house, Johnny finally convinced himself that he really was alone, and turned around to head back to the bedroom to get dressed. That's when he saw the dog.
It was a big animal. Bigger than he'd seen as a housepet in a very long time, and it's breed was not evident to Johnny at all. The dog had caught sight of him as well, and started barking up a storm. "Shh! Be quite animal!" Johnny spoke in soft but firm tones, and the dog settled down a bit. They sat there then, dog looking at man, man looking at dog, for a small length of time, then the man reached to pet the dog. Then it dawned on Johnny. The dog that is so alive, and can hear him, is in the MIRROR!
On the other side, Cody is completely at his furry witts end. There's a man in his mom's house.. but not there. Finally deciding that this must be dangerous, Cody slinks away and hides in Mom's room the rest of the day.
As the time passed, Johnny became very intrigued by mirror, and spent hours setting back a bit from it, and watching the goings on inside of it. He discovered that the animal could only see him if he were right up on the mirror, but if he sat several feet back, he could observe with no problems. He came to really know and enjoy the scenery inside the mirror. Especially after he discovered the girl. She was small. A little above five feet, he guessed. She had hair that reminded him of strawberries and sunlight, and skin that reminded him of cream. Her eyes were also green, but not the sparkling bright green of his own eyes, but more muted, darker... almost the color of moss.
Johnny spent hours watching the girl. Watching her do strange things he'd never seen before, such as this thing he heard her call Tie-bow. To his understanding, she wasn't tying anything, and he couldnt see any bows around, but every day she would talk to the dog:"Ok Code, lets Tie-Bow." Facinating! Then she would jump around as though she were in a fight with an unseen predator. Then collapse in a heap, giggling and petting the dog.
She wore strange clothes, men's pants, and shirts with no sleeves or buttons. She wore pants whose legs had been severed, revealing her own legs where the material should have been. She talked to the dog alot, which gave Johnny the impression that there was no man to take care of her.
Johnny began to fall in love with the girl in the mirror, dispite her strangeness, or maybe because of it. He dreamed of a day when he could touch her skin, smell her hair, and taste her kisses. It became such an obsession with him, that it became his primary concern in life.
Yet, it was in death that his wish would be fulfilled.
Kaylee glanced down at her watch and cursed. "Late again, Cody! They are gonna fire me if I dont start getting to the studio on time!". She jumped up off the floor and started for the shower, shucking clothing as she went. Tae-bo was important, but she tended to get lost in her routine and forget about everything else. Now she was really gonna have to hurry to make it to the studio before Calvin blew up her cell phone. That probably meant another speeding ticket from the nice folks with the Arizona Highway Patrol.. JOY!
Finishing her shower with amazing speed, Kaylee was dressed and heading out the door in less than ten minutes. "Oh crap! I forgot to feed you, Code... Hang on." She ran back through the house to the kitchen and poured dry dog food into the bowl of the ever patient Cody. Running back toward the front door, and not looking at the floor, Kaylee caught her toe on some dumbbells, tripped and fell forward, catching her hand on the mirror to break her fall.
"****! Now I've broken my toe and I'm REALLY gonna be late, Cody! How am I gonna feed us if they fire me?" Cody's response was to look sadly at his mom as though he understood every word. Just then, the man appeared in the glass, his face right under her hand. Cody howled, scaring Kaylee who jumped. "Cody! Whats your problem!" She turned to see what he was staring at, and came face to face with electric green eyes.
Kaylee screamed, and forgetting her broken toe, grabbed Cody, and ran to her truck. Calvin could just deal with it. She had an emergency and demon to deal with.
On the other side of the glass, Johnny sat in a daze. She had seen him. She had seen him and he had scared the bejesus out of her. He had only wanted to see if she was ok. Now she's run off, and he had no idea if she'd come back.
Johnny let his guard down. He was so preoccupied with his thoughts of the girl in the glass, he completely tuned out his surroundings. He did not hear the Apache come through the door. Didn't see him sneak up behind him in the mirror. Johnny didn't know anything until it was too late. His guard was down, his rifle was in the bedroom, and the Indian attacked. Johnny died there. Staring sightlessly into the mirror as his lifeblood pooled around him on the floor. Thirty two years of cautiousness ended with one bitter mistake.
"Dang it, Kaycee, I'm not crazy! I know what I saw, and I saw glowing green eyes in that wretched mirror!"
Kaylee stared at her twin in anger and frustration.
"Kaylee, I'm not saying your are crazy. I am only suggesting that maybe you've been working too hard, and your eyes were playing tricks on you. Thats all, sis."
"Kayc', I'm not overworked. Those eyes were there."
"Ok, well, let me ask you this. Is this the first time you have ever seen them?" Kaycee asked gently.
"Yes, but for the last few weeks, the house has felt weird to me. Not uncomfortable... just weird. Like maybe there was someone there besides me and Cody."
At the mention of his name, Cody looked up from his position on the couch and thumped his tail. He liked this house of the lady who looked like his mom. He could get used to being allowed on the furniture.
"You have lived alone long enough not to get the heebie jeebies at night, Kaylee!"
"But it's more than that.. it's not really the heebie jeebies, and it's not really creepy.. just more like a feeling that we're inhabiting a space with someone we can't see. I thought it was safe, I lived with a ghost in my dorm at college, remember. But then today, I saw those eyes, and I don't know why, but it just scared the crap out of me."
Kaycee took her sister by the hand and hauled her to her feet. "C'mon, we'll fix up the guest bedroom and you can stay here for a few days until you think it's safe to go home. What did Calvin say about all of this?"
Kaylee groaned at the mention of her boss' name. "I didn't tell him about the thing in the mirror. He think's I'm crazy enough as it is. I just told him that I had a family emergency and would be out for a few days. He seemed to be pretty understanding, despite the fact that we are really crunched to get this album finished. Almost like he was a nice guy with a heart." She laughed at her own little joke, and the girls commenced to start working on putting fresh sheets on the bed.
Across town, Johnny groaned and started coming to. It took a considerable effort, but he finally sat up.
"What the hell happened?" He spoke aloud. About that time, he caught sight of the mirror. But it was in the wrong place. It should have been on the other wall! Then it dawned on him that he was looking at his house THROUGH the mirror, instead of hers. He saw himself, laying in a pool of blood on the other side. No sign of life at all.
"Well ****! I'm dead!" But he didn't feel dead to himself. He ran his hands up and down on his thighs. Felt like flesh and bone to him. "So, this aint so bad, right? Nobody will miss me. Not even that little mex gal down Sonora way. And now, maybe I can make things right with the girl in the mirror," he laughed to the reflection he faced. The sight of the house as it used to be, with his dead body before the glass slowly started to fade.
"Well, Mitchell, this is a fine pickle you've gotten yourself into," he mused as he started to explore her realm.
Kaylee and Kaycee returned to Kaylee's home with Cody in tow, not sure what to expect. While Kaycee believed her twin, it was almost an unbelievable story. Frankly, Kaycee was at a loss, because in all of their 25 years, the girls had had that special twin bond, and always knew what was going on with the other. But this time it was different. Kaycee was locked out of whatever was going on in Kaylee's mind. It was a new and strange expierence fro both of them.
Kaylee opened her front door very cautiously and peered inside, not sure what she would find. Slowly, she entered the house, alert for any changes. Cody was not that shy. He pushed forward between the doorjam and Kaylee's leg, and bounded into the living room to investigate his home. "Jeez, Cody! Could you at least wait until I see if the coast is clear? Yer killin me here!," she scolded him.
Within minutes, both girls had entered the house, and were looking around to see if they could spot anything "out of the norm." After a few minutes, Kaycee pulled out her digital camera and started snapping photos everywhere.
"What the heck are you doing?"
"I saw it on TV. If you think your house is haunted, you are supposed to take pictures and try to capture the ghost on film... or in this case, in all the ghost's digital glory"
"It's nice to know that you are an authority on these types of things, Kaycee. I'll sleep better tonight knowing you photographed my underwear drawer." Kaylee quipped.
"Laugh it up, sis. You never know till you try!" Kaycee replied....
Johnny was watching all of the "to-do" with great amusement. Ok... so maybe he felt real, but the girls obviously couldnt see him in this state, and neither could the dog... This just might be fun! The flashy thing that the second girl was using kind of bothered him, so whenever she started to point it in his general direction, he would move.
He patiently waited, while the ladies made an entire "search" of the house. Finally they decided that it was safe for the girl to stay here, so her sister seemed to be leaving. Johnny was glad for that. Two girls looking exactly the same really spooked him, even though there had been a set of twins in the school that his father had sent him to for a brief time. It just seemed un-natural.
After the second girl left the home, Johnny sat for a long time, just watching this girl he had fallen in love with. He didn't even know her name really, but he loved her. Lord, but she was beautiful! And for this girl, he had lost his life. Suddenly, she was speaking to him!
"I know that you are here! I can feel you! I feel that you are staring at me! If you can hear me, talk to me, but please dont scare me, ok? I just want to be friends"
"You can talk to me.. but can you hear me?" Johnny spoke aloud.
Kaylee jumped at the sound of a voice in her living room. She too had been watching Ghost TV, and knew that you were supposed to try to communicate... she just didn't expect it to talk back!
"Y-yes, I can hear you...... How did you come to be here? You don't need to linger.. look for the light and go to it.." She spoke slowly, as though to a child.
"Darlin', I dont see no light. All I see is you, and I aint no kid you gotta talk slow with. I'm a man who understands plain english" Johnny shot back. He was humored by her manner of communication.
"Wha-what do you mean you dont see any light.. ghosts are supposed to see the light and go in that direction.. you aren't supposed to linger here on earth. Your time is up, fella.. move on... oh.. and my name is not 'Darlin'.. It's Kaylee"
Johnny threw back his head and let out a deep rumbling laugh. "Is that so, Miss Kaylee.. well here I am ..I'm Johnny, and I'm on the ghost side of things, and I promise you that there aint no light.. So it looks like moving on isn't an option. Linger it is."
The more Kaylee talked to the ghost called Johnny, the more at ease she became, as though she were talking to a living breathing friend. They talked through the night, getting to know each other. Truly becoming friends. Kaylee figured that if she had to share her home with a ghost named Johnny, she might as well befriend him.
As the night wore on, into the next day, Kaylee and Johnny formed a bond. From then on, there was a third member of the family. Kaylee, Cody and Johnny were inseperable. Unfortunately, no one else could see or hear the new "man" in Kaylee's life. Kaycee didn't doubt her sister's ramblings about a ghost in her house, but their parents were very concerned about Kaylee's mental stability.
One morning, about three months after Johnny came into her life, Kaylee's parents showed up on her doorstep.
"Get dressed, young lady. We have an appointment." Her mother demanded as she opened the front door.
"Jeez, Mom. It's seven oh three, and I haven't even had a cup of coffee yet. I don't even get a 'good morning' or anything? I dont have any appointments today. Calvin and I finished the record we were working on yesterday, and I am not due to lay down tracks for the new project until Friday. I don't plan on getting dressed or going anywhere at all, today. What the heck are you talking about?"
"On the contrary, Kaylee Ann. You ARE getting dressed, and you ARE coming with me and Dad. We have an appointment scheduled with Dr. Whitestone. We are intervening to help you get through this whole affair about invisible people and move on with your life. I can no longer sit and listen to you babble on about "Johnny". So get a move on."
"Mom! Johnny is real, and I am not going to your shrink! Get over yourself. I love you, and I know that you are only trying to help, but really... I dont need any help. You are stepping way over the line here. I am a grown-ass woman, far beyond being told what to do by mommy and daddy." Kaylee calmly stated.
"Be careful, darlin. They think you are crazy, so I wouldnt doubt if they have a plan in action for your refusal. Step lightly, because if they lock you up, who's gonna take care of me and Cody?" Johnny said in her ear. "Just humor them, and come home to me."
Kaylee took his words in, turned them over and over in her mind for a few moments, then looked from her mother to her father and back again.
"Know what... fine. I've changed my mind. You guys are not gonna be happy unless I let you meddle in my life just alittle. Give me ten minutes to get dressed and then we can go. But this is the only time, and I am going under duress. Just remember that" With that, she turned and walked out of the room, leaving her parents bewildered in her wake.
In the bedroom, she was angrily changing close and muttering to Johnny about her age and how her parents acted is if she was just a child.
"What can I do to make it better for you?" Johnny asked as he wrapped his arms around her waist and kissed her neck tenderly.
It didn't surprise her that she could feel his touch. She'd been feeling it for a while. Last night, they had even come very close to making love. Hell, maybe she did need a shrink... WHo makes love to a ghost?
But more and more, as she could feel his touch, she was becoming able to discern his form, make out his features... maybe he wasnt a ghost after all.
"Johnny, I have to hurry. My parents are waiting."
He felt her close herself to him, and his heart ached as she rushed from the room. In a matter of minutes, he heard the door slam, and his love was gone. Cody nudged his thigh, and as he absently scratched the dog's ears, he pondered if he and Kaylee would ever be fully happy.
As Kaylee sat in the back of her parents SUV, travelling t'ward her meeting with Dr. Whitestone, she decided to take action. She'd be damned if anyone was going to direct her life. She had worked hard to become independant from her parents and even her twin. She knew her mind and she knew what was real, and she sure as hell knew what she wanted.
As they pulled into the parking lot, Kaylee finalized her plan. Her parents escorted her into the cool building and out of the Arizona heat, one on either side, steering her toward the office of Dr. Nathaniel Whitestone. Once inside, Kaylee's mom, Kendra, walked to the window and signed them in, while her dad, Gregory, led her to a seat in the waiting area.
In a few moments, Kendra joined them, and they waited the few minutes until they were called back to speak with Dr. Whitestone.
"So, Kaylee, you have an imaginary friend." He stated. "Lets talk about him. What have you named him? Johnny?" The good doctor was already getting on Kaylee's nerves.
"Acutally, Dr., I'm not sure what I'm doing here. I have no idea what you are talking about."
"Oh, c'mon, Kaylee... lets not play games. Your parents are very concerned and have had several conversations with me about your fixation on your friend. Lets just talk about Johnny, bring him out into the open."
"I'm sorry, Dr. Whitestone, but I really have no idea who Johnny is. I am sure my parents have misunderstood something, somewhere. I dont have an imaginary friend."
"So there's no 'ghost' that lives in your home, and your parents are just making the whole thing up so they can pay me $300 an hour? Seriously, Kaylee. Are you five or twenty five?"
"I have no idea what would motivate my parents to bring me here today, sir, but I am grown, and do not have to sit here and be insulted by the likes of you. Good day to you."
With that, she stormed out of the office and out the front of the building. By the time Kendra and Gregory caught up to her, she had the Yellow Cab Company on the phone.
"I don't know what had gotten into you, little girl, but your behavior is uncalled for, and I demand an answer!" Her father starts in.
"Daddy, I love you, but I'm not a little girl anymore, and regardless of what the two of you think, I don't have to tell you anything. I am going home, alone, and I don't wish to speak to either of you again. Oh, here's my cab. Good day!" With that, she hopped in the cab, and drove away leaving her parents to stand on the curb and gape at what had just transpired.
Johnny paced the floor over and over. If his feet were real, there would be grooves in the carpet. Cody had long since given up following his "dad" and jumped up on the couch.
"Your mom finds you up there, and she's gonna tan your hide but good, buddy." Johnny talks to the dog to get his mind off of what might be happening to Kaylee.
"Woof" is Cody's only reply.
They had been in this position for a good hour and a half before Kaylee burst in the door. Then she slammed it behind her and threw the bolt. All at once, she crumpled in a heap on the floor and began to cry.
Johnny rushed to her side and gathered her in his arms. "Don't cry, little darlin. What in the hell happened? C'mon now, dry your tears and talk to me."
"Oh Johnny! It's no use. Everyone thinks I am crazy and now my parents are trying to have me committed. I'd probably be in the loony bin now if I hadn't run out of the doctors office like a crazy person. I hopped in a cab and never looked back. But I was pretty mean to my folks. No doubt they are on their way over here right now, with a straight jacket, to lock me up. Why can't they see that you are real to me? That for once in my life, I am in love, and happy. Who cares if you are a ghost! Why can't people just leave us alone?"
She buried her head in Johnny's all too real chest, and cried until she was spent. When she was finally calm, Johnny spoke.
"You love me?"
"Oh God, Johnny, yes, I love you. Everything is so insane and upside down right now and that's about the only thing I am sure of anymore. I am madly, desperately in love with you. I'm in love with a ghost... No wonder my parents want to commit me!"
"A ghost I may be, Kaylee, but I love you too. And you know somethin' else? The more I'm around you, the less I feel like a non person." Johnny whispered in her ear. "You make me feel like a whole man, Beautiful."
"You get more visible and solid to me every day, Johnny. What in the name of God is happening here?"
Even as she spoke, Johnny became more physical to her. His form solidified more than she had ever seen it, and his touch was infinitely more gentle yet infinitely more THERE. Something magical was happening to Johnny Mitchell. He could feel blood pumping in his veins, feel his heart beating in his chest. It was a strange feeling. One he had not felt since the day he died on the other side of the mirror.
"Don't be alarmed, darlin' but I think what's happenin' here is that I'm becoming real again."
Her sharp intake of breath told Johnny that Kaylee was indeed alarmed.
"How.... how.... Johnny, how could that be?" She wanted to deny it, but the proof was right there. Right under her cheek, she felt his heart beating. Heard him take a breath into his lungs for the first time. Tears filled her eyes once again as she realized the one true love of her life was a true person. She held on even tighter, and he responded in kind.
They lay like that, wrapped up in each other on the floor, in front of the door for about an hour. Finally, Kaylee pulled herself together, and got up off of the floor.
"C'mon, babe. We can't veg out all day. Let's get up and do something," she said as she took Johnny's hand.
Johnny grinned. He was getting used to the strange words she used, and was amused by "veg" which he was well versed in by now. He stood up, squeezing his fists together over and over, hardly daring to believe that he had a solid form again. He had no idea what had happened, but Johnny wasn't going to complain. He was finally free to love the woman he had fallen in love with. He wasn't going to waste this chance he'd been given.
"Good choice, my boy!" a voice from behind them said. Johnny and Kaylee both jumped and turned to see a man materializing on the couch right in front of them. Cody, who had been setting on the couch, freaked out, jumped down, and slunk into the bedroom to try and hide his huge furry body under Kaylee's bed.
"What the hell!"Johnny and Kaylee both said at the same time.
"Not exactly, Kids," came the reply from the now fully present gentleman. "My name is Acheron, and I have come to congratulate the two of you, and explain what is happening here."
"Ash-uh what?" Kaylee asked.
"Acheron, or you can call me Ash. Most people call me God." He said, in a calming voice.
"Are you effing kidding me?"Sputtered Johnny, using one of Kaylee's favorite expressions.
"I can assure you, that I am not effing anything. I am here to enlighten the two of you, but if you would rather I leave, I can do that too."
Two voices sounded at the same time. "No! Wait!"
Ash smiled, and said "Yeah, I kinda thought so."
Acheron rose from the couch to his full six foot four height. Humans had always amused him, and these two were no different. He motioned for Kaylee and Johnny to come and sit on the couch.
"Ok, kids, heres the deal, Yeah.. I'm the one that most mortals call "God", but like I said before, you can call me Ash, which is a shortened form of my god-name. See, there are alot of us "god's" around, and so calling me "God" is kind of generic. Anywho, back on topic here; You, Johnny, and You, Kaylee have stumbled onto a very special and magical mirror. Made from "tunnel glass" about four hundred years ago, this mirror is usually the instrument of much evil in the world. However, you two unwittingly used it for something else. Love."
"But we didn't fall in love till I was dead and on this end of the glass, Ash," Johnny interrupted.
"That is true enough, but how would you have fallen in love without it? The mirror played an integral role in your romance, wouldn't you say?"
The two lovebirds nodded in unison, as Acheron continued.
"Unfortunately for you, Johnny, the mirror was also instrumental in your death, yes? Yes, so since you were never supposed to die so young, we gods have decided to grant you your life back. The stipulation was that you could only take a real form again if you truly found love."
"WHAT!??" Johnny started to become indignant...
"Now slow down there. No need to get all riled up. I made the stipulation, because the others were going to insist on something. They don't hand life back on a whim. It is a huge undertaking and a very serious matter. However, I have been watching things develop between the two of you for a while, and I knew that love was a sure bet. Believe me, kids, I've been on your side."
"Why?" Kaylee demanded.
"Excuse me, young lady?"
"Why? I mean, what's in it for you? If it's such a burden to give life back, why bother? What is your angle?"
"Why, Kaylee, don't you know? I'm your guardian angel, your "protector" so to speak. I've been with you and your twin since the womb. Don't you remember your imaginary friend? Ashey played with the two of you until you were about six, when your mother told you that imaginary friends aren't real and you can't see them."
"Oh my god... I remember now. Mom had fits about imaginary friends. Once she said I couldn't see them, I really couldn't any more. You're Ashey. Holy Shit!"
Suddenly, the group jumped, as someone began banging on the door. From the other side, Kaylee could hear her mothers angry voice.
"Kaylee, you open this door right now! Your father and I want a word with you! You will not disrespect us in such a manner!!!"
Kaylee sighed deeply and started moving toward the door, just wanting to get the inevitable over with. Johnny reached out, and stopped her with a hand on her arm.
"Baby, I'll get the door. You and Ash just relax on the couch."