The new girl sat next to Cassie and smiled at her. Cassie glanced around and returned a feeble smile. No one ever sat next to Cassie during lunch, and she felt ill at ease. Before meeting Adrian, she spent her lunches in solitude, often within earshot of the other girls, who laughed and gossiped about her. Mom always said Cassie had remarkable senses; they were keen, to the point of being supernatural. Little had Mom known…
Nowadays, she often jumped to a meeting place behind the high school gym and had lunch with Adrian. But today, he had an exam. Cassie wished he were here.
The new girl was beautiful and chic, and Cassie noticed how Becky and her friends had taken to her the moment she stepped into the classroom. Cassie suspected she wanted to gather information and gossip about her with the other girls. She disliked the way the new girl fixed her gaze on her. It made her uncomfortable.
“Hi,” the new girl said, “you’re Cassie, right?”
Cassie gazed into those icy blue eyes and shivered. She wanted to say nothing more. In fact, the thump, thump of her heart told her to beware. What was it about those eyes? She has seen them somewhere…
“So what’s up?” The new girl tried to make idle talk.
Cassie wondered why this girl wanted to talk to her, of all people, but shrugged and unwrapped her sandwich, taking a big bite.
The new girl gave her a quizzical look, then gathered up her meal.
“Well, see ya,” she said, and walked towards the building.
Cassie gazed after her, bewildered. Ethur came to life and kicked at Cassie’s bellybutton. She had tucked him under her T-shirt the moment that strange girl laid eyes on her. She squeezed Ethur beneath the fabric and whispered soothing words.
Cassie finished her sandwich and crumpled up the plastic wrap. She stood, marched to the trashcan, and threw it away. She then hurried inside the building. She would hide in the bathroom stall, and jump to her favorite place, the Old Cemetery. There, she would steady her nerves, and gauge her unease and Ethur’s alarm.
As she entered the corner stall and closed its door, she heard the bathroom door open and footsteps approach. Cassie slowly slid the lock into place. Something was wrong. Her whole body shook, and her ears rang with a tinnitus so clear and high-pitched it alarmed her.
Cassie held her breath and risked a peek through the gap between the door and the stall separator.
The new girl stood before the mirror. A dense black cloud fogged her reflection. The new girl ran her hands across her face, and Cassie watched, amazed at how the young, beautiful girl morphed into an old hag. Only her eyes, those icy blue eyes, remained the same.
“She’ll be a hard nut to crack,” the hag spoke into the mirror.
Out of the black cloud in the glass, a figure appeared.
Cassie almost screamed, but she stifled a gasp. She pressed one hand to her mouth, the other squeezed Ethur at her bellybutton.
The figure in the mirror cackled. He wore a top hat, and his icy blue eyes glinted with malice. The new girl knew the Ugly Man in the Mist! Since the first time she saw him, his hellish countenance had been giving her nightmares.
“You’ll have to try harder, Mother,” the Ugly Man hissed, “you can’t let someone like her get away.”
The old hag spat at the mirror, “Don’t you give me lip!”
The Ugly Man’s expression went from smug to chagrined to scared and back to smug in an instant, but Cassie caught the changes, and her own fear increased tenfold.
“We’ll get Cassie,” the old woman hissed.
The old woman whipped around and growled. She banged open all the stalls and found no one.