Back in the day, television sets were reflective when they were turned off. Most times I used that feature like corner mirrors in convenient stores. I trusted the TV to warn me about what was in the room before I walked into it. As with anything that has purpose, the object could be used for good or bad. I used it for the benefit of my safety. But that summer day, that dead man used it to his advantage.
Spring cleaning doesn’t just happen in the springtime. Not in my family. Deep cleaning was a weekend event that started upstairs and ended in the sub-basement.
You would think there wouldn’t be much to clean with Brandy and Sal barely being in the house and the rest of us having our own rooms, but Mom’s worst enemy is clutter. It makes her freak out when she can’t find stuff where it’s supposed to be. So when she says “clean” she means every little nook and cranny. And Mom never really feels like the house is really clean until every room has been “de-cluttered” and the furniture has been switched around. So I was going to spend my only two days off school cleaning. Fun.
Sara came downstairs and saw the windows open in the Blueroom. She didn’t realize what that meant until she saw the kitchen was a total wreck. I was standing beside Mom who was on her tip toes in a chair cleaning out the tall kitchen cabinets. She was handing me things that didn’t belong for me to put in a basket so we could sort through them. And the whole time all I’m thinking about is watching Sara because if you don’t catch her, she’ll disappear upstairs and go back to sleep and leave the work for me and Mom. Not on my watch.
“Sara, after you get breakfast, I need your help,” Mom said.
Sara poured herself a big bowl of cereal and joined Brandy and Ari at the dining room table. They sat there eating forever. Always taking their time so they didn’t have to help. I could never understand why they waited to get it done and over with. The sooner you get your work done, the more time you have to do whatever you want.
“Okay, Ray. We’re done up here. Let’s clean out the bottom ones,” Mom said.
We pulled all the mixing bowls and strainers out of the middle cabinets, wiped the cabinets out, put the dishes back in and then we were done with the tall cabinet. We turned our attention to the fridge next. Trash day was coming, so we got rid of all the food that was expired.
“Who put the damn sauce bottles back in the fridge empty?” Mom said, shaking them at Brandy.
Brandy just shrugged and sat her bowl in the sink. “I don’t know.”
Mom threw the empty sauce bottles away. We tossed old food from the freezer and pulled all the remaining food out to wipe the shelves and inside out.
“Ray, put the baking soda in the door. Leave the top of the box open. It’ll absorb the odors.”
I did what she said.
Then we had to clean out all the cabinets. We pulled all the plates and bowls out, wiped the cabinets out and I was wondering why it was just me and Mom still. When I turned back, the dining table was empty. My sisters and niece had disappeared.
“Mom, why aren’t they helping us?” I was tired already of cleaning. We had done the bathroom upstairs, the Blueroom and now we had pretty much cleaned the whole kitchen by ourselves. I wanted to spend time with my characters before I had to go back to school, and there’s no way that would happen with it just being the two of us.
“Sara!” Mom yelled up the stairs. “Brandy! Get in here and help!”
“But Mom, I have to poop!” Sara said.
Of course. She always had to poop when it was time to clean.
“You got five minutes to poop, Sara! Then I want you down here helping!”
Brandy and Ari came into the kitchen. “I’m cleaning out my room, Mom.”
“Well, you need to help with the house we all share first. Bran, sweep the floor. Ari, can you carry these up to my room?”
Ari took the container of tools upstairs.
Brandy swept the floor. I wondered if she ever felt like because she was an adult that she didn’t have to listen to Mom anymore. I could never imagine a day where I just didn’t follow my mom’s directions.
“Why does Sal get out of it?” Brandy said.
“Because he’s never here to make messes,” Mom said.
It was true. Sal didn’t move out, but he was gone all the time. Sometimes he would come home to get clothes or do his laundry. We were so excited to see him, but it was never for long because he always left again.
“Watch out, Ray. There’s bleach here.”
Mom had bleached the sink and put some dishes in there to soak. I avoided the sink in my black tank top. I started scrubbing the stove with an SOS. Mom plugged in the radio and put on her old sixties music. It was always fun to see her dance to her favorite songs. I sang along with the parts of the Fleetwood Mac song that I knew.
When we moved on to clean the Woodroom, we turned the radio up.
“Help me in the bathroom,” Mom said.
We mopped the floor, cleaned out empty soap bottles from the shower, bleached the sink. We were already done with the bathroom when Mom realized Sara and Brandy were getting out of it again.
Mom did her signature whistle. It was the kind of whistle Sal used to be able to hear from down the street when we lived in our old house. He used to go down to Charlie’s house and Mom would have to whistle when it was time to come home for dinner. The ringing in my ears hurt for at least ten minutes.
“What, Mom? Whaaattt?” Sara whined, stomping into the Woodroom.
“Stay down here where I can see you. Get the broom and sweep the back hall. Brandy and Danny, come out on the deck with me.”
We followed her out there with another broom. I swept the dirt and leaves from the deck to the yard. Brandy had to mow the grass. She wasn’t happy about that. I don’t know why. It was cloudy and beautiful out today, not hot like normally. It was going to rain soon, so she had to hurry and maybe that was why she was upset. Brandy wasn’t the fastest at finishing stuff.
I cleaned the patio table and dusted off the chairs. We zipped the net walls on the canopy closed to keep the net from getting torn in the wind of the incoming storm.
“All right. Let’s get the pool covered,” Mom said.
Sara came outside to help with that. Ari was walking around the yard picking up sticks so Brandy wouldn’t mow over them. Mom, Sara and I were left to get the plastic tarp tied over the pool.
“Ray, hold that side down!”
“I AM, MOM!”
“Watch your mouth.”
“Sorry. It’s just really hard. It’s digging into my fingers,” I said.
“I almost got it.” Mom tied the other side down. “Okay. Sara, tie yours down.”
Thunder cracked in the sky. It had been a few hours since we first started cleaning, and I can’t believe how fast the sky had gotten dark. It was sunny one minute with the windows open and the air blowing in. Now the sky was dark gray. I wasn’t complaining, though. I love thunderstorms.
“I can’t do anymore, Mom. My arms hurt,” Brandy said.
“Here, I’ll do this side,” I said. It was the last thing we had to do before we could be free. Or so I hoped. Sometimes we would go back in just to find out what Mom forgot about something we had to clean and we weren’t done after all. I hoped that didn’t happen today.
I got behind the mower after Mom started it. I pushed it around the backyard thinking about my characters and my story. A thunderstorm was the perfect setting to write a fighting chapter.
Sara waited outside with me until I was done mowing. Mom had gone down into the crawlspace to straighten up the gas cans and the weed eater. I let the lawn mower die before I pushed it back to its place. Mom helped me get it down the ramp. Then we locked the crawlspace door and went inside. Just in time, too, because rain started pouring.
“Sara, hold on. Help me fix this curtain,” Mom said.
The one on the Woodroom window had fallen off and she needed someone to help balance it back into place.
Brandy and Ari had already gone back to their rooms. I was ready for a shower, but I decided to take a break in the Blueroom and wait to see if we were really done cleaning first.
I sat down on the endtable beside the couch in the Blueroom. The TV was in front of me and I could see my reflection in it. Something about me was wrong, though. I sat very still to figure out what it was. I looked normal in the TV. Same basketball shorts and a tank top I was wearing, my hair was tied back in a ponytail. Everything about that was the same in the TV. But something didn’t feel right. I watched, waited.
The light in the upstairs hall flickered. Maybe the power was about to go out. If it did, that last sliver of light would make the entire front half of the house dark. I prayed it didn’t go out. Please, God. It flickered again.
Something felt off. My body was buzzing.
And then I held my breath.
Because exactly where I was sitting, a man leaned forward and put his elbows on his knees. Which were my knees in the TV, too. He was sitting inside of me! How…?
I started at it, but the longer I stared, the harder he stared at me and the more I realized this was real. I had two reflections in different positions, but only one of them was actually me. I was staring at a man who was sitting right where I was sitting. He was moving his head right and left, and I understood that the buzzing I felt was his energy pulsing through me.
I couldn’t take it anymore. My brain just snapped or something because I screamed and rolled off the table, scooting as far away from the TV as possible. I put my back against the Blueroom wall and put my head in my arms.
Why me? Why always me?
Thanks for reading, guys! Knowing you’re there with me when I relive these experiences is comforting. If you’ve ever experienced anything paranormal, I’d love to hear it in the comments below!