Full Ghost Moon
by Jessie Lynn McMains
There are many stories about moons and mirrors and Hallowe’en. I’ve heard that if you stand in in front of a mirror in a candlelit room on the night of a full moon and say Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, her ravaged ghost will appear, red-drenched and shrieking, to tell you of your future. I’ve heard that at midnight on Hallowe’en, if you hold a candle and eat an apple while looking into the mirror, then over your shoulder you will see the shimmering vision of your husband or wife to be. But those are only legends.
Where I live, the full moon of October is called the Full Ghost Moon. On that night, when the moon is a big copper penny in the sky, if you stand in front of a mirror with a candle all a-flame, if you knock on the mirror three times very softly and then wait, wait, stare into the mirror until your eyes water, you will see a ghost. Not the ghost of a murdered woman. Not the shadow of your future spouse. You will see your own ghost-twin, who lives in the world on the other side of the glass. It is a lark for the youngest and happiest among us. Girls at slumber parties who are sugar-giddy from caramel apples, young men drunk from too much cider - for them, itâ€™s a party game. They each take their
turn at the mirror, to see their ghost-twin peering out from the other side. Their twin might wave to them, gently, their motion blurring the image like an out-of-focus photograph; or they might oﬀer them the hint of a sad smile. Then they flicker and are gone, snuﬀed out like a candle, not to be seen for another year; and the sugar-buzzed girls and cider-drunk lads burst into spooked-out laughter. “Isn’t it strange,” they say, when they’ve caught their breath, “someone who looks exactly like me lives in there.” They point to the mirror, which now looks the way mirrors look any other day of the year.
For some of us, though, it is not a game. It is dangerous for the ill and infirm, the ones whose every breath and step burn like candle flames. It is dangerous for the old ones who are alone, whose friends and family have all passed on before them. It is dangerous for the spurned lovers and the laid-oﬀ workers and the opium addicts. It is perilous for those who feel only sadness and pain, who can’t see beauty in the yellow leaves shivering in the October breeze, or the branches reaching toward the moonlit sky. Their ghost-twin will sense their sorrow, their pain, and oﬀer to trade places. “Dearest twin,” they will whisper, their breath fogging the other side of the glass. “I can feel how much you
hurt, and I can give you the cure. I will take your place in your world - and no one will even be the wiser, for we are exactly alike. I will take your place in your world, and you will take my place in mine. In this world, there is no pain. There is no death or illness, no heartbreak or addiction or poverty. Switch places with me, and you can live a life like sleep, like sleep without the nightmares.â€? The jilted lovers and rotgut drunkards, the unemployed and old and lonesome, the sad ones, they all consider it. It is such a tempting oďŹ€er - a life with no pain. Some of them donâ€™t go
through with it. The ones who are still holding on to a tiny scrap of hope, or the ones who feel a warning zip through their veins, a tiny voice that tells them don’t do it, things could change for the better, don’t do it. They say: “Thank you, but no. I’ll stay here.” (And if they looked into their mirror-twin’s eyes at that moment, they would see anger, like black clouds passing in front of a full moon.) But many do accept the oﬀer. If they’ve given up all hope, can find no joy; if they don’t listen to that warning voice, they say: “Yes. A life without pain is my deepest desire.” Each twin touches their palms to the glass, and quick as a flash the mirror-twin is in this world, the sad twin inside the mirror.
My twin came to me a year ago, last October, the night of the Full Ghost Moon. The boy she loved had chosen to marry a richer, prettier girl, with golden curls where our hair is brown and lank, new lace dresses where our hems are stained and frayed. She thought of killing herself, but then she remembered the legend. For a month or two, she floated ghost-like through her days, and on that windswept full moon night, she lit a candle and stared into the warped mirror of her hand-me-down dresser. She waited, she stared, and then - I was there. “Dearest twin,” I whispered. “I can feel how much you hurt, and I can give you the
cure.” “Please,” she said. So I gave her my life, and I gladly took hers. There are things the mirror-twins don’t tell their forlorn doubles. They don’t tell you that once you have switched places, you can never switch back - unless they perform the ritual on a full moon night in October and oﬀer to trade lives once more, which they will never do. Because the other thing they don’t tell you is There is nothing in that world on the other side of the glass. Your lover will never leave you, your family will never die, you will
never get ill, you will simply fade to black when your twin in this world passes on. You will never be laid oďŹ€ from your job, or become addicted to anything. That is all true. But you will never know the crisp pinch of cider on your tongue, or watch the full moon rising over the cornfields. You will never see the rosy apple cheeks of a newborn babe, or taste your new loveâ€™s lips upon your own. There are no slumber parties, or dresses, or legends about future spouses or ghosts. It is a life like sleep, like sleep with no dreams.
It is October, and tonight is the Full Ghost Moon. My poor dear twin now lives inside the glass. I can hear her calling to me, so faint and ghostly it may only be the wind hushing through the window gaps. “Please,” she is saying. “I was wrong, I was wrong. I want to come home.” I think: “Yes, you were wrong, you stupid girl. You never thought to ask what you’d be giving up, and even if you’d known, you wouldn’t have cared, you were so wrapped up in your pain. You forgot that hearts and dresses can be mended. You forgot that there are boys who like brown hair. I have a new beau, and he will be here soon. He is taking me to watch the moon rise.”
I can hear his boots clomping up the porch steps. I can hear her, getting desperate now. “Please.” She is nearly yelling. I think of the nothing on the other side of the mirror, and I shudder. “I’m sorry, dear twin,” I say. “I can’t switch back.” I throw a cloth over the warped mirror, and I go to greet my love.
cover photo by Oliver
Hammond, from Flickr
story by Jessie
Lynn McMains, October 2015
A short little ghosty shiver of a story.