art by Agata Maciagowska
The Hades Hotline
by Alex Petri
***Editor's Note: Mature Theme, Disturbing Tale***
"You have to call them today," I said. "We've waited too long. We should have done that the day she disappeared."
Karen became suddenly very busy washing the dishes.
"If you feel so strongly about calling, then call," Karen said. For a second I caught her reflection in the window over the sink. The angle was funny; the darkness behind the glass turned it into a streaky mirror where I could see the rectangular gleam of the lampshade and the wan oval of her face. If you forgot for a second that it was a reflection, you could half convince yourself that there was a pale glinting world on the other side of the window where a thin shadow of Karen was doing the dishes with her mouth set in a tight line. Maybe if you broke the glass you might be able to see her better. It was like being on the wrong side of an aquarium.
The whole month had been like that. The world seemed to be swimming behind thick protective glass. Most people heard your daughter was missing and then every time you tried to talk to them, they got these very funny smiles like you would put on if you sat on broken glass in the middle of dinner with the Queen. The longer you talked the worse it got. Then they bolted and you never saw them again. No, that wasn't quite fair. Maybe they'd bring you a casserole. But you had the sense that they had a meter running somewhere while they talked to you.
"You're down a tunnel again," she said.
"You don't have to apologize. I was just saying." She turned from the sink. It was still like looking at a reflection of her. Maybe that was how she would look from now on, just a little too far away to touch.