THE LURE OF THE LOOKING GLASS • by Barb Lundy

A symphony of action and reaction played between mirrors in the window display of the small shop in the New Orleans French Quarter. Once inside, Etta surrendered to the fantasy. Convex and concave reflections faced one another in one corner. She found a tall, non-reversing mirror on a tabletop. Etta wiggled her fingers. Then, she leaned in and drew her eyebrows together. This ‘true’ image allowed her to see herself as others saw her.

“Can I be of assistance?” came a question behind her.

Etta turned. “Yes.” She dug into the side pocket of her purse and pulled out Juliet’s picture. “This is my sister, Juliet. She told me she enjoyed browsing here with friends. I’m trying to track her down.”

“I’m the owner,” the woman said, studying the photo. “I don’t remember her.” Realizing the woman started to turn away, Etta added, “I expected Juliet to meet me at the airport. She’s not answering her phone. I’m starting to get worried.”

The tall woman shrugged. “I can’t help you with your sister, but you are welcome to look around. I’m Delphine Boudreaux. I’ll be at the desk in the back if you have any questions.”

The model of an acoustic mirror caught Etta’s eye. She’d heard of the sound-capturing devices but had never seen one. It looked like the top of an ice cream scooper. A note to the side explained. The curved surface concentrates sound waves into a central point. A sound collector picks these up and transfers them to a microphone.

Etta gazed through a two-way glass and saw Delphine at her desk. She headed that way but got lost in a maze of distortions. Delphine popped up when Etta turned right and dissolved when she turned left. Backtracking proved impossible. Sweat beaded on Etta’s forehead, and dizziness descended. Worry and exhaustion, Etta told herself, nothing more.

She closed her eyes. Took deep breaths to calm down. Baseless dread got her nowhere. Etta turned again and saw Delphine dusting a wall of framed portraits. One of the paintings looked like Juliet. Odd. Etta wondered how she missed the exhibit.

“Delphine,” Etta called out, trying to mask her building panic. “Somehow, I’ve gotten myself stuck. I can’t find my way out.” Etta despised the tremor she heard in her voice. Silence followed. She looked bent in half in one nearby reflection and coiled into thin wire when she gazed at another. Etta called Delphine’s name again.

“Where did you go?” Etta heard Delphine ask.

Etta gasped. Stifled a scream. An unwavering image loomed at the end of the twisted passage. A large eye, amber with gold flecks, studied her. Not any eye. Delphine’s. Delight shimmered in the woman’s laser gaze.

How had simple wandering landed her here? In horror, she realized Juliet’s fate. And her own. She felt a movement up and then forward. She stumbled against a glass wall and fell to her knees. Delphine had trapped her. The woman carried Etta to the window display. With a turn, Etta looked out at the street and wondered what Delphine named her prison to attract buyers. Phantasm? Haunting Revelations?

Cradling her face in her hands, Etta knew she’d find no escape, no hidden exits. She circled her arms around her knees and struggled to displace her terror. When a child’s thumb pressed against the window, she understood her diminished state. A smile wreathed in chocolate lit up the child’s face. His emerald eyes examined her.

“Can we go in?” Etta heard the child ask.

The child’s mother gazed down. For a brief moment, the woman caught Etta’s gaze. Grabbing her son’s hand, she pulled the child away. Neither the boy nor his mother noticed Etta rise to her feet. They did not see her reach out in silent supplication.

“There’s a lady in the mirror.” Etta heard the boy exclaim.

“Just a trick of the light,” The mother mumbled. “Let’s pick up your brother and go to the park.” As they turned the corner, Etta understood her fate. She’d become a curiosity locked in a looking glass.


Barb Lundy’s poetry has appeared in over 70 literary journals, including The Lyric, MacGuffin, and Rattle. Shotgun Honey, Mystery Tribune, and Flash Fiction Magazine have published her short stories. In 2023, Barb received The Lifetime Achievement Award from the Colorado Authors League.


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