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TITLE: The Reflecting Eye
GENRE: fantasy, horror
WORD COUNT: 57,181
SUMMARY: A hospital archivist moves to a New England port city to start a new life after a messy breakup. Her new home, however, is no ordinary city. Something dark stirs in the background of the inhabitants' lives. And even the insane may hold greater truths.
Along the coastline, a grayed lighthouse rose as a lone outpost. A mist gathered obscuring the view. Verity wiped the fogging glass with the edge of her sleeve, but the old bus—line seventy-four, the daily connection from the southern, more inland suburbs—had already rumbled past. The heading was north on Avtandil Road, straight to the heart of Monteport.
Verity was alone on the bus aside from the driver, a portly and squinty eyed man lost in his own thoughts as he stared at the road ahead. Line seventy-four, from the schedules, always made a stop at the station in the center of Monteport at noon. She wiped the window again but saw only the line of the land and the sea.
There was a large mirror at the front of the bus where the driver was supposed to look up to check on his passengers. But since Verity was the only passenger, he never looked up. Verity looked though, and since she sat on the second row behind the driver’s seat, she had a view of a pale faced woman with short, badly cut hair. She touched the ends of those dark choppy locks that barely reached her chin. It had been worth it to raze the hair that had once draped down her back. He never appreciated it, and it would have been pointless to keep it.
In another instinctive gesture, she touched her wrists which were covered by bandages and turned to look back out the window.
From the land, strange shapes sprouted from the ground. She squinted and thought she could define them as the alternating squat and elongated blobs of buildings. These blobs grew larger and more distinct. These buildings passed by like old, worn out people with rusted railings and tattered shutters. Dribbles of snow clung to the eaves like perpetual dandruff.
The low grinding of the bus engine that had long since receded to the background was shut off and the sudden silence was as sharp as a bell.
“Monteport,” announced the driver.
Verity got up and felt her spine stretch and pull from sitting for too long. She buttoned her body length black coat and slung an old duffle bag over her shoulder. The first thing she saw as she stepped off the bus was the small transport terminal tucked in beside the city post office and a denuded tree with one crow sitting on the tip of a branch. The bird looked down at her and made not one sound.
She stepped away from the bus and felt the icy snow slip under her boots.
“Verity, over here!”
She looked to the right of her and saw a man, white-haired and intensely faced, dressed in a gray overcoat and black scarf. He was smiling. In response, she felt her own lips moving upward.
“Uncle Matthias. I thought I was going to meet you at the apartment.”
“Change of plans, my dear. I checked the schedules and thought, why not? Everything arrived as planned. I had most of your things moved into the rooms. What happened to your hair?”
“I cut it. It’s too much of a hassle to deal with long hair.”
Matthias slanted her a look but decided not to pursue the subject. “I’ll be leaving tomorrow. I’ll be leaving the car with you, though. Kind of awkward to have that shipped overseas, eh?”
“And what about your things?”
“I had them already packed and sent.”
Verity tucked her hands into her coat pocket as she followed her uncle across the city square which was framed by the main centers: the city hall to the south, the city library to the east, the local college to the west, and the great hulking monolith of cathedral to the north. Matthias’s small tan two-seater, soon to be hers, was parked in front of the library. As they neared the car, she could see that there was five minutes left on the parking meter.
“I feel like I’m kicking you out of your own house,” she said.
“Nonsense. I’m practically going away on a permanent vacation. It wouldn’t make sense to keep an apartment here if I wasn’t going to live in it. I think it’s good timing that you decided to take it off my hands when your new job took you here.”
“Yes, but still…” she trailed off as the sound of a low resonant bell broke the cold air. This sound for midday spewed from the bell tower of the cathedral.