The Catoptromancer

Posted on: November 30, 2016

I took a deep breath and picked up his phone. You have to do this, I said to myself.

My husband was watching a 70's action flick in our living room. It looked grainy and washed out on the flatscreen. I stood silently behind our couch, listening to the gunshots and watching the fake blood fly. I considered waiting for a commercial. Can we talk? I couldn't get the words out.

"Ezra," I finally managed. He turned around, saw my face, then clicked off the TV.

"What's wrong?" He asked.

I held his phone out to him. "Someone called this morning while you were asleep."

He looked disgusted as he took his phone out of my hand. "It's nothing."

So shut up about it already, Haidee. I felt hot and cold at the same time as I forced more words out. "They called 27 times."

He looked back at the TV. "I'm sure it wasn't 27 times." The disgust had dripped into his voice.

No, it was. I know, because the buzzing woke me up and wouldn't fucking stop. He wouldn't fucking stop.

"You're going out again tonight? And she'll be there?"

He snatched up the remote and turned the movie back on. Over the sounds of a fistfight, Ezra said, "Don't be like this. You're so much better than that."


Adam Tucker's ancient, rust-red convertible was parked on the side of his featureless adobe house. I rang the doorbell and thought about running away, but my feet didn't move before the door opened.

He looked like he always did: junkie-thin and arrogant, with grey bird's-nest hair and a neat, white goatee.

"Haidee Clark," Adam drawled. "I never expected to see you out here. What can I do you for?"

I felt nauseous. "I'd like to employ your services."

"Would you?" He asked with a leer. "I'd hardly think that would be proper, Mrs. Clark."

Proper. The word lit in my brain like a match. It felt like my whole being whooshed into flames while I stood motionless.

Should I scream at him? Punch him? What could I say that would wipe the condescension off his face? I'm not always proper...

The words stuck in my throat, like always.

"Do you take credit cards?" I managed. He laughed.

My jaw tensed. "They say you do readings. Tarot, or something?"

"Or something," he replied. Looking thoughtful, he opened the door further. "Come in."

He led me to a pedestal--a wide basin perched on a column as tall as my waist. Adam stood across from me. The basin was filled with water and our steps made it shiver, threads of light breaking over its dark surface.

"This is mirror-magic," he said. He spoke a strange word, and the water became bright. I could now see a mirror glowing in the bottom of the basin.

"Look into the mirror," he said.

I looked. I saw my face. Then everything went black as I felt myself start to collapse.


"You've been out for a couple hours," said a nurse in floral scrubs. She was standing over me as I woke, clearly in a hospital. "What's the last thing you remember?"

"Falling," I croaked.

"Did you fall when you were running from the fire?"


"I'm sorry, miss," she said, "your house burned down. You and your boyfriend made it out, though."

"That's not her house," a familiar voice said from the end of the bed. "I don't know if Tucker is her boyfriend or not, but I'm her husband."

I stared at Ezra, waiting for some feeling to come over me. Nothing came.

I turned to the nurse. "My head is killing me."

She nodded. "You don't have a concussion, just a nasty bump. When you're ready, you're free to go." She left.

"You're alright," Ezra said. His voice and body were stiff.

I moved my limbs a bit, felt at the lump on my head. "Just a little sore."

Unspoken words twisted Ezra's face into something hard and furious. I felt like I should know what was coming next, but I didn't. I watched him and waited.

"Why were you at Tucker's house?" He finally asked.

Why? I tried to remember what happened after looking in the mirror.

"Let me guess," Ezra said. "The house burned down because you two set the sheets on fire."

"I didn't go there for sex," I said.

"You were so righteous yesterday, laying into me over some phone calls. Calls that don't concern you. And all the time you were whoring around--is he the only one? Or do I get sloppy seconds from this whole damn town?" He was yelling, but he seemed to be a little bit happy, too.

"He tells fortunes. I felt hurt and angry and betrayed by you, and I didn't know how to help fix us."

"You know what would help?" Ezra yelled. "Not being jealous or paranoid or whatever the hell you are all the time. Oh, and not breaking our marriage vows. That would really fucking help, Haidee."

Nothing he said made any sense. I felt like I would have known what he meant, before the fire.

"So tell me your fortune," he said. "What'll fix this whole mess?"

"Catoptromancy." Where had that come from?

"What the hell is that?"

"Mirror-magic," I said, and then I remembered. My reflection in Adam's mirror had told me about catoptromancy and had said a word--fuganesydrac. Flames had spread across my reflection, circling my mirror-self. I had said the word out loud and Adam's house had gone up like it had been doused in gasoline.

"You aren't making sense," Ezra said. I ignored him. It had been so easy to say. Fuganesydrac. It would be so easy to say it again. I could burn the hospital down.

"Where's Adam?" I asked.

"Bitch," Ezra snarled. He left, wearing his anger like the cloak of a king. Watching him go, the emotions I had never allowed myself to feel finally came. Resentment, anger, pride, betrayal, joy, and loss all bloomed in me like teddy-bear cholla in the desert, native growth in the garden that was us.

But the feelings were wispy, and they dissipated the moment I recognized them. They were only memories, ash floating in the wake of the mirror-magic's fire. Purpose was what burned in me now. I would find Adam and he would teach me his catoptromancy. I had to learn everything about mirror-magic that I could.

I had finally found words that didn't get caught in my throat.

Written by: Manda Green
Photograph by: Daniel Vidal

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