When A Mirror Speaks...



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Scene Title When a Mirror Speaks…
Synopsis Kaylee Ray returns to her old family home in the ruins of Cambridge, Massachusetts and uncovers a long-forgotten secret from the past.
Date May 3, 2021

It’s hard to imagine America will ever recover.

Beyond the Safe Zone, the United States feels like another country. Driving north along what remains of Interstate 95 is like watching the collapse of civilization in slow-motion. The reconstruction efforts going on around New York fade quickly, and with each passing mile the nation’s infrastructure collapses further and further into decay.

There were once refugee camps here, scattered along what little of civilization clung to the freeways, but now years after the war all that are left are empty tent cities and collapsed temporary shelters. The residents either moved on to more permanent settlements or simply vanished. All the way up through Connecticut the story is the same: one ghost town after another, vast stretches of empty freeway interspersed with blockages of derelict cars pock-marked with bullet holes.

Eventually it’s impossible to continue the journey up the interstate, as it becomes too choked with derelict vehicles the closer it gets to Rhode Island. So many people were fleeing from one scene of violence, only to wind up in another. The story is the same across so much of the country, where these years-old tableaus lay frozen in time. The road is a long, harrowing one, and the destination…

…even more so.

The Ruins of Boston

May 3rd
5:17 pm

At a distance, the skyline of Boston resembles that of post-war New York. Eviscerated skyscrapers glitter against a backdrop of demolished concrete and indistinct plumes of smoke rising up from sporadic fires. The desperate and the destitute struggle to live within the ruins of Boston’s once thriving shadow, living in the bombed-out remains of tenement buildings, scraping together supplies not yet picked over from shopping centers and abandoned residences. But after so many years, those options are running scarce.

There’s almost no traffic on the road, mostly because the roads themselves are congested with war-ruined vehicles or closed off by abandoned military blockades. Behind the wheel of a sturdy Yamagato Lapis, Kaylee Thatcher feels the rumble of the crumbling roads in each mile driven. What should have been a short drive north to Egremont Massachusetts turned into a sixteen hour circuitous drive to Boston. Now, in the face of the ruined city, she’s left to wonder if this was ever a good idea.

But members of the Ray family are nothing if not suckers for the sunk cost fallacy. She’s come this far, it’s too late to turn back now.

“Just a peek. That’s all.”

Kaylee was talking out loud to herself, trying to convince herself this wasn’t the best idea. Telling someone who wasn’t there it was okay. Mainly, because she could hear fictitious versions of her friends in the back of her mind, yelling at her for this sudden and unexpected side trip. As it was, she had said she’d let them know when she was leaving for her mom’s place… but then skipped town with the thought that she’d text them once she arrived safe later.

They were well meaning - especially Luther and Aman - but she had needed to see her mom alone.

Of course, when the signs for the Boston turn off started counting down the miles, Kaylee tried to ignore them. The city she had been born in and had spent her early years. Years she didn’t remember and an apartment that plagued her dreams.

BUT she had an agenda and her mom was expecting her.

When the interstate suddenly split, a sudden flash of impulse and courage (Or stupidity, depends on who you ask) had her taking the Boston exit. From there, the first hour or so was filled with the thrill of excitement for her sudden last minute decision. Followed by hours of her starting to wonder what she was doing. Only to convince herself to keep going.

And so it went, an endless cycle.

Which is how Kaylee ended up there with a stomach churning with anxiety and excitement.

It takes close to an hour to negotiate the ruined streets of Boston to find her mother’s old apartment. Even after Edward left she stayed there, living in that little two-bedroom apartment. It was like a part of her couldn’t let go, or perhaps a part of her stubbornly refused to do the one thing he’d asked her to do:


Abandoned Apartment

The Ruins of Boston

May 3rd
6:24 pm

Up four flights of stairs, Kaylee ascends into the court of childhood memories, where nostalgia is king. No one has lived in this tenement building for years, not since the onset of the war at least. All of the apartments Kaylee passed on the way up the stairs had been looted, some turned into temporary shelters, none of which lasted.

Apartment 4 doesn’t even have a door. Kaylee is able to walk inside, crunching broken plaster from the ceiling underfoot as she does. It’s haunting, stepping in to the same mustard-yellow kitchen she remembers from her childhood. The kitchen table is gone, all the decorations are gone, curtains stripped off the walls, paint is peeling where the walls aren’t cracked from the concussive impact of distant bombings.

Her eyes immediately gravitate to a tear in the linoleum by the kitchen sink. She can hear the sound of a stoneware plate shattering, her father’s gasp.

The kitchen just opens up into the living room, though the couch and television are gone there’s scuffs on the carpet that show where they were. Echoes of better times, of Karen listening to music and making Kaylee sing along, of the times she and Edward would dance together in the living room. The few, fleeting moments of happiness.

Golden rays of sunlight spill through the street-facing windows, casting long shadows. Almost as long as this place’s memory.

A shaky breath blows out from between pursed lips. An attempt to quell the tight knot of anxiety Kaylee has standing there, turning in that slow circle. She can already hear that wretched song that plagued her nightmares, blasting loudly in the back of her mind.

To think, she used to love that song.

Fingers of one hand pushed through her hair, as Kaylee started to wonder why she felt a strong need to be there. Maybe it was some misplaced need to see if it existed. Not that she doubted it, but… if it didn’t then maybe it was all a lie put there by a certain telepath.

Eyes drift to the window and the fire escape just beyond the hazy, cracked glass. The wishes of a little girl bubble up again, begging the universe to take her away. Just being there brings it all back, what little she remembers back, forcing Kaylee to blink rapidly and look away.

Kaylee desperately focuses on the good, stepping away from the kitchen. Turning her mind on memories like the feeling of her tiny bare feet on the toes of her father’s leather shoes, the way the seams pressed into her heels as he danced with her in a circle and swinging their arms, even after a long day away. He’d seem so large and strong then, giving her a sense that he’d always keep her safe.

Maybe that’s why it hurt so much when he looked at her like that… the day that haunted her.

With a growl of irritation in the back of her throat, Kaylee brushes at tears that won’t stop. No matter how much she wants to hate her parents, that little girl in her can’t, because she remembers when it was better. She can’t help but wonder why, again, why she was doing this to herself… but then she looks at the stairs leading up to the bedrooms.

Giving a small laugh that echoes off bare walls, sounding far too loud in her ear. “Might as well,” Kaylee murmurs under her breath and moves to climb the steps towards her room.

There’s silhouettes on the wall, brownish-yellow tinged outlines of pictures that once hung here. Edges of memories lost to time. The carpeted stairs creak just as she remembers, and walking up them feels like walking into the past. The stairwell is shorter than she remembers it being as a little girl, just eleven steps up to the next floor when it once felt like a hundred she’d ascend on her hands and feet like some sort of wild animal.

At the top of the stairwell the hall feels claustrophobically tight. The walls here are faux wood paneling on Kaylee’s left, studded with finishing nails that once hung other picture frames. She can’t remember what was in any of them now. The wall to the right is bare and white, save for an old smoke alarm that never had batteries in it.

The first door down the hall leads into a vacant bathroom. Dim light spills through a high, narrow window and diffuses through an old, flaking plastic shower curtain. The mirror in here is broken into dozens of pieces scattered across the floor. Kaylee briefly catches a glimpse of herself in them as she continues to the second door. It’s only open a crack.

There is no paper sign on the door, and yet she remembers one:

No Monsters Allowed

Kaylee can’t help but stop hesitantly outside the door, her breath catching as a long forgotten detail suddenly bubbles to the surface of her mind. Unbidden, slender fingers trail over where the sign once hung, feeling the woodgrain of the door, noting that bits of tape were still clinging stubbornly to the door.

“If you don't get Kaylee out of here she's going to hurt someone.”

Was she a monster? He looked at her like she was and maybe she did become one. How many times did she say that monsters know their own? And she knew many, but Edward was just as much of a monster, if not more. He just rationalized it away as being good or the right thing. He did save the world, but he also killed whoever and whatever he felt he needed to reach those ends.

Instinctively holding her breath, Kaylee flattens her hand on the door and gives it a gentle shove open.

Twenty-Nine Years Earlier

The door to Kaylee’s bedroom slowly creaks open. Goldenrod shafts of morning sunlight spill through the gauzy curtains over her bed. The noise of the city is muffled, the house is quiet, and Karen Thatcher looks over at her daughter laying in her bed with the warm, tender smile of an adoring mother.

“Thought you might be up,” Karen says with a growing smile, padding barefoot across the floor.

“I was talking to the man in the ceiling.” Little Kaylee says as she sits up, her hair tousled from sleep. Karen exhales a breathy laugh and looks up at the ceiling with furrowed brows and a wry smile.

“Hopefully only about good things.” Karen says, coming to sit down on the corner of Kaylee’s bed.

Kaylee nods, then looks down at the rumpled blankets in her lap, then back up to her mother. “Only good stuff.”

Karen smiles, running a hand through her daughter’s hair. She dismisses the notion as a childhood invisible friend with a laugh and rises from the bed. “I’m gonna pour you some cereal and put on some music, you come downstairs when you’re ready?”

Those little moments of autonomy Karen gave her young daughter helped her feel like she had some measure of control over her life. Kaylee’s beaming smile reflects the impact that has on her.

“Okay mom, love you!” Kaylee chirps.

“Love you too, Bean.” Karen says as she steps out of the room and partly closes the door.

Kaylee watches her depart, then looks back up to the ceiling.

“Sorry, you can finish now.”

Present Day

The door to Kaylee’s bedroom slowly creaks open. The carpet has been peeled up in places, revealing the plywood flooring beneath. Dim evening light filters through wide open windows. Broken glass glitters in the ruined carpet. Though there is physically no presence of a child’s room left in here, Kaylee still feels it in her heart. She knows this room like the back of her hand.

Being back here, she remembers things of her childhood that had been repressed for so long. That was the morning before Edward showed up in a panic. A memory she had forgotten until it was dredged up by the Nightmare Man eleven years ago.

Now, standing in the footprints of that memory, Kaylee is left to wonder how much more it is she’s forgotten. How much of what she remembers is accurate.

A quavering breath left her lips at the sudden surge of memory. Without even telling them, her feet move forward. Kaylee can feel the way her weight breaks down the shards of glass further and hear their crunch of protest. But her blue eyes, full of uncertainty and fear, stared at that point on the ceiling.

How had she ever forgotten him? The man in the ceiling.

Head tipped back fully, Kaylee shuffles sideways until her head aligns with her memory of where her head would have lain in bed. Mentally, she reached out for the thready wisps of memory. Desperate for more.

Was he someone that lived above them? How could it? Her ability didn’t manifest until she was… thirteen? The day she killed a boy who’d tried to do bad things. There was a ripple of sharp regret for what she’d done.

Maybe it was just some imaginary friend that Kaylee created in her loneliness and need for acceptance… but why didn’t it feel like it? “And why was she so nice,” Kaylee murmured, thoughts turning unbidden to her mother. Twisting a look over her shoulder to the door, Kaylee could now clearly imagine her mother standing there with that look most moms reserve for their children.

A look of love.

Kaylee had always suspected tampering of her mind, but it was another thing to find it was a potential reality. Tears pricked at the corners of her eyes at the deep seated sense of betrayal at the mere thought of being denied memories of love and care from her mother. Something she’d always dreamed of.

Turning her attention to the ceiling again and going up on her toes so that finger tip just barely brushed it. “Who were you? Were you real or my imagination?” The words were a breathy plea to the past.

The ceiling does not share its secrets.

But there is familiarity here that Kaylee had long forgotten. As if her recollection of her past, of her family, her childhood, had been previously viewed through fogged up glass. Ironic, in a way, that when she is physically at her worst her mind seems to find purchase on what had long been lost. Or maybe that’s the why entirely.

But then, looking up at that faint water-stain discoloration on the ceiling, Kaylee feels something stir in the pit of her stomach. Anxiety, nerves, something—

Twenty-Nine Years Earlier

Warm sunlight spills through the windows of a classroom. Small desks are arranged in neat rows, children seated at them all. Kaylee is two rows from the windows, unable to sightsee or daydream as effectively, so her focus is down on a small spiral-bound notebook on her desk, filled with scribbled drawings and half-finished rhymes.

Amid the margins of princesses and castles is a circle in blank ink. A circle she’s drawn over and over again so hard that the paper is splitting from the wear. Her lip is sore—split but healing—and she can feel an ache around her right eye, the skin tender and bruised.

But it’s the whispering that is bothering Kaylee the most. Whispering of her classmates, all of whom are heads-down working on a test. But she still hears them, their thoughts, their fears, their everything.

She keeps drawing the circle, pen tearing through the paper to the other side.

Present Day

Kaylee’s hand reflexively pulls away from the ceiling. She reels with this new memory. This new revelation.

Kaylee manifested younger than she remembered.

It had taken her a long time to learn to block out those voices, reducing the voices to a mere hum of background noise. Were the injuries from revealing someone thoughts, or revenge on thoughts against her? Manifestations in young children were rare, but that never stopped her from worrying about the kids… about Carl.

And slowly a puzzle piece clicks into place. “Oh god… no wonder…” A hand covers her mouth.

“She’s going to kill someone,” Kaylee whispered those words, in shock at the revelation, spoken by her father in that tormenting memory. And she did eventually.

Kaylee felt her back connect with the dingy wall, she hadn’t realized she had stumbled back til just then. Placing a hand flat against the wall to steady herself, she presses the other to her forehead with a hiss of annoyance. Maybe it was a sweet mercy that she hadn’t remembered all those memories.

Rolling that moment over and over in her head, seeing so much in a different light, Kaylee slowly becomes aware that she is drawing a slow lazy circle against the wall as if on instinct— like a nervous tic. Jerking away from the wall, she grips her wrist loosely and glares at it as if betrayed. She’d know that symbol anywhere, what it represents. The snake eating its own tail, ouroboros. The cycle of life and death. Kaylee could taste the bitter tang of bile rising at the back of her throat, even as a place in the back of her mind yearned for the familiar whispering presence of the red-eyed temptation.

Kaylee had been so young when she was drawing that and when she handed her mother the rock. How long had that thing in her head been driving her towards it’s preferred destiny?

And why her?

The room feels smaller than before, now. As if a child’s memory of how spacious it once was had faded, leading back into the claustrophobic reality of adulthood. The sentimental shine has worn off the space and the ugly water stain on the ceiling feels like something looking back in reproachful judgment.

Beyond the blown-out windows, distant pops of gunfire remind Kaylee that there are still people living in these ruins. The goldenrod patterns of light on the wall remind her that the sun is going down. Neither is better together. There can’t possibly be anything else for her here, just pain and repressed memories.

What Kaylee had hoped to find here, she wasn’t sure. Running fingers through her hair to settle her nerves. Everything was jumbled in her head. A war of emotions knotted at her stomach. While she'd regained a few wisps of memory, it had left her with so many more questions and a healthy dose of dread.

“And the two people you’d talk to about it are not even in this world,” Kaylee sighed out in resignation, rubbing a hand against the side of her face. Either way, it felt useless to stand there any longer.

Another staccato of loud pops pulls her from sinking into her thoughts much further. So casting a final look around the room, Kaylee moved to leave. Even making sure to take the time to gently close the door behind her as if fearing to disturb the ghosts of the past any further.

However, Kaylee doesn’t leave just yet. There is a small detour to the kitchen window where she used to sneak out onto the fire escape. It’s rough metal surface with it’s chipping paint looked different now. It looked cold and unkind, unlike when she was little. In fact, she could also picture the little blond haired girl, kneeling on the cold metal, fingers curled around the uprights, watching the sky, and making wishes to be taken away to make her momma happy.

The memory has her blinking her eyes rapidly and turning away, scrubbing the heel of her hand against an eye. There was a feeling of finality in this moment, as she headed for the apartment—

Twenty-Nine Years Earlier

—door opens, unexpectedly. Karen is off the couch fast, bare feet slapping onto the floor and the bowl of popcorn in her lap upended. Color has drained from her face and the man that just entered her house—a man in a nondescript black suit and skinny tie—is a stranger.

“Kaylee!” Karen shouts, looking back to where her daughter sits on the couch. “Kaylee—” Whatever Karen was going to say is cut short when another person enters the apartment. He is dressed in a suit as well, but his tie is an earthy shade of blue that contrasts against his dark skin. His eyes are tired, dark, old. And when he raises a hand, Karen finds herself unable to protest.

“I’m not going to hurt you.” The intruder says in a calm, deep voice. “You or your daughter.”


Karen eases, and Kaylee watches on with wide eyes. It had already been such a turbulent day with Edward coming back, with Karen chasing him out. She just wanted some semblance of normalcy, and it’s that urge that Charles latches on to and teases out. This is normal, Karen’s mind tells her, thoughts that aren’t her own.

“Mr. Thompson, could you step outside and make sure we aren’t interrupted?” Charles asks to the man in the suit behind him. Thompson looks at Karen, then Kaylee, and gives Charles a nod and steps out of the apartment, closing the door behind himself.

“There.” Charles says with a comforting tone of voice, heading across the apartment to the couch. He gently lays a hand on Karen’s shoulder, looking her in the eyes. “Take a seat, relax.” He looks at the television. “Watch the olympics, this’ll all be over in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.”

Karen smiles up at Charles, deliriously, and settles down on the couch. Kaylee can tell something is wrong. The popcorn is still on the floor, her mom is acting weird. She curls up small on the couch, staring wide-eyed up at Charles.

“It’s okay, Kaylee. It’s me.” Charles says with a rise of his brows. Her mind touches his, and she sees him for who he has always been.

The man in the ceiling.

Suddenly her expression softens, fear melts away.

“I’ve come here to grant you your wish,” Charles says gently, taking a knee beside the couch with a hand on Kaylee’s shoulder. “I know it’s been hard for you, being different. But you’ve been very strong, you’ve been very patient, and I think—maybe—you’ll handle this better when you’re all grown up.”

Charles gently touches Kaylee on the forehead. “Do you want me to make the voices stop for a little while?”

Kaylee nods, looking at her mother, then back to Charles. “I want momma to be happy.”

Charles’ smile is a sad one, but understanding. He cups Kaylee’s cheek in his hand. “What you have is a gift, Kaylee. But you just unwrapped it a little early. I’m going to tie a bow on it, wrap it all up, and when you’re ready you can open it again. Okay?”

Kaylee nods again, trusting.

Charles would never hurt her. It’s the absolute truth. Charles Deveaux would never knowingly hurt someone.

But as Charles reaches into the young Kaylee Thatcher’s mind, he has no way of knowing the harm he’s doing.

And neither would Kaylee. Because his parting gift would be making sure that she and her mother—

Present Day


The flash of memory stops Kaylee in her tracks, her body wavering at the sudden arresting motion. A hand to her mouth, she’s shocked. Charles Deveaux. A man she knew well from memories of others. A man who’s skill she’d always admired.

Anger boiled up behind the shock of the revelation that she’d been manipulated by Charles, cut off from her ability… it was an anger fueled in part by her current powerless state.

However, just as the corners of her vision turned red with her indignation and fury, it was doust by a simple thought. Why hasn’t he taken her? Like the company had done to Odessa? Turned her into a…

Kaylee huffs out her irritation and sighs. “Maybe he protected you…you ever think of that?” she murmured to herself, knowing that her ability at such a young age could have caused so much… Chaos and pain.

Of course, she remembers the boy who’d stepped off the pier at her bidding. “Geesus…” she hisses out at the meer thought of a five year old Kaylee doing the same thing. Giving a shake of her head at the dodged bullet, she forces herself to move again. A part of her wasn’t completely convinced that the sacrifice of her mother’s love was worth it.

Kaylee casts a final glance behind her, “No use crying over spilled milk.”

Those tears would be better reserved for later.

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