The House in the Rearview Mirror

📅 Published on November 14, 2020

“The House in the Rearview Mirror”

Written by Queen of the Moths
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 9.33/10. From 6 votes.
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Unconsciously, I must have seen it from the start–that run down two-story house, with its paint-peeled porch that lorded over an equally neglected lawn. The rusted, chain-link fence that bowed and dipped in places, tangled in weeds. I mean, had it registered, I would have found it odd. It was out of place in an otherwise average neighborhood.

But my mind was elsewhere that first week. I suppose I just hadn’t had time to really take in my surroundings.

This had been an abrupt, unplanned move. I knew next to nothing about where I’d ended up, beyond what my social worker had told me. But the people were all nice enough–mostly working-class families. It isn’t a busy street, which I like, and though it’s a poorer neighborhood, it’s low crime. Definitely a step up from the last place I lived.

Of course, the main appeal is that it’s two states away, and Dean isn’t supposed to leave Arizona. Regardless of the locale, this town put distance between me and my ex, and that was its true selling point.

After giving myself a day or two to settle in, I started job-hunting. The temp position my social worker had arranged for me wasn’t going to last, and it didn’t pay all that much to begin with. So every morning, just before 7:00, I’d head out to see what I could find.

I’d been doing that for maybe three or four days when I finally spotted it. In the rearview mirror, there was an unsightly, seemingly abandoned house that I’d never noticed before. Most of the homes on the street were single-story, so it stood out, and I had no idea how I’d missed it. Truth be told, it didn’t look like it would be standing much longer. The place had to be condemned. I glanced over my shoulder to get a better look.

Behind me, there were four houses in clear sight, but none of them could create the illusion of a two-story, rickety building. I looked at the mirror again to make sure I wasn’t just seeing things, but there it was, clear as day. Not a shadow or a trick of the light. A vivid, distinct house. The other four homes were still in my line of vision, but in the reflection, there was a fifth house nestled among them, a dead zone among manicured yards.

My stomach began to twist and knot as I looked back and forth from the mirror to the homes behind me. Back and forth, back and forth, until my heart was racing from the sheer wrongness. No matter how I looked at it, there was no fifth house there.

I wracked my brain for a logical answer, but nothing I came up with made any sense. I thought perhaps I was seeing the reflection of another reflection—a nearby home, projecting its image in the windows across from it. But the house was just too distinct. I could see every detail, every patch of broken roof tile, every haphazard pile of debris. I could practically see the dust falling from the crumbling frame.

I got out of my car and looked around, squinting as the sun set higher in the sky. I walked in a circle several times, hoping to find the cause, but the house in the mirror was nowhere to be seen.

By that point, I was running late, but I couldn’t just walk away from a veritable glitch in reality. Part of me was afraid to get back into my car and see it again. It was a slight fear of the uncanny, the fact that I couldn’t explain what I was experiencing, but also the distant worry that I was finally starting to lose it. The stress was getting to me.

After pacing for a good ten minutes, I finally got into my vehicle again and pulled into the street as quickly as possible. I avoided looking in the rearview mirror as best I could, but I still caught a glimpse of the house, hunched and flaking like a frail, elderly woman.

When I got back that night, I parked farther away. I didn’t know how to address what had happened that morning, and I was afraid that I’d still see the house in my mirror. More than that, I was almost afraid that I wouldn’t.

I’d lost a lot over the fourteen years with my ex-husband—my career, my friends, my family, my dignity. But one thing I did have was a sound mind, strong enough to overcome the things he’d done to me. The idea that that might not be so true was deeply unsettling. More than anything, I just wanted to pretend like the house in the rearview mirror had never even happened.

So that was what I did.

I’d actually landed an interview at a promising agency for a position similar to what I’d wanted to do after college. I was excited, but mostly nervous. There was a lot riding on this job, and my head was still all over the place since the move. I’d really left it all behind. No one knew me out here. I had to start over completely fresh. If I could get back on track with my career, maybe I could really make a life for myself here.

All I had to do was stay calm and grounded. It was easier said than done, but that was what Netflix and Xanax were for. In the past, I would have chased it all with a glass of wine, or seven. The fact that I hadn’t touched a drink in months, despite what I was going through with the move, made me feel strong and in control, even if I couldn’t shake my other vices. But after what I’d seen in the rearview mirror, I was dying for a shot or two.

Instead, I curled up on the couch and binged Parks and Rec for a while. I waited for the anxiety meds to kick in, and I replaced all of the dark, niggling thoughts with the familiarity of my favorite show. It was just a matter of letting my mind and body shut down. I thought if I tried hard enough, I might actually be able to get the rest that I so desperately needed.

For the past few years, I’ve had trouble sleeping at night. Dean used to tell me I could never get away from him, no matter where I went—even in my dreams. For a while, it seemed like that was true, as he would invade my nightmares regularly. Being far away from him had decreased his appearances, though. I could never completely push him from my mind, but knowing he was trapped in Arizona, that people would notice if he tried to come after me, allowed me to let go just a little.

After that night, however, my dreams were consumed by a new unwelcome guest. I couldn’t stop thinking about that house. The unlikeliness of it, the mystery. The sense that my sanity was on the line. Nothing is quite as terrifying as wondering if your own mind is turning against you.

But I tried my best, even with the bad dreams, to just push it from my thoughts.

It was three days before I saw the house again. I’d made a point to park on the opposite side of the street, where I couldn’t possibly catch it in the rearview mirror, but finding parking was difficult. I had to take what I could.

I didn’t want to see if it was still there as I got into my car that morning, but I also sort of did. Some part of me was dying to know if I would look up and just see a normal row of houses. The meeting was at noon, but I thought I’d drive around and turn in some more applications beforehand, just in case the interview didn’t work out. That meant that I had some time if the house was still there. If I wanted to get a better look.

Part of me had thought it wouldn’t be there. I really believed I’d look and learn that whatever I’d seen before had been a mild hallucination or something, brought on by pressure and insomnia. But no, there it was. Just as decrepit, just as bold.

I looked over my shoulder again as if the house might be there this time, but it was just like before. In the reflection, there was an old, crumbling structure, and on the street, there were only clean, manicured homes.

My pulse was racing as I looked back at the mirror. I could hear my heartbeat in my ears. I couldn’t sort the thoughts running through my head as I tried to swallow the absurdity of a house that only existed as a reflection.

After a moment, it suddenly occurred to me that I could take a photo of the mirror to compare the two, so I got out my phone and took a few shots. When I was taking the photo, everything looked normal. However, once I’d taken it, the image was just a muddy blur. There was some sort of indistinguishable shape there, but I couldn’t make it out over the gray blend of color smeared over it. Like a negative that had been exposed to the sun.

My hands were shaking too hard to hold my phone by then, and I tried to decide my next move. It wasn’t like I could call the police. What would I even say? The only person I ever really talked to was my social worker, Angie, but I was afraid she’d have me checked into the hospital or something. I mean who the hell was actually going to believe me?

I thought about trying to get someone else to look, see if they saw it too, but I figured it’d be hard, and dangerous, to lure a stranger into my car. With that thought in mind, I pulled out my makeup mirror and held it up to see if I could get the same angle. No matter how I twisted it, though, I couldn’t get the house to appear. It was only viewable through the rearview mirror.

Maybe this is stupid, but I actually started to cry then. It didn’t make sense, and I just felt so isolated and alone. Having to deal with something so weird and unsettling all by myself. Maybe it was just the stress of moving. Of leaving Dean. Of trying to protect myself, save myself, and feeling like I couldn’t even keep it together.

I sat in the car like that for a while, before the tears dried up and I could breathe again. Eventually, I decided that all I could do was try to accept this strange anomaly and the fact that I couldn’t do anything about it. If I was going crazy, and this was the worst of it, I figured I should count myself lucky.

As you can probably guess, it was not so easy to just accept things and move on. All day, the house in the mirror nagged at the back of my mind. I ended up distracted in my interview, and I spent the rest of the day oscillating between thinking about the phantom building, and thinking about how I’d blown my chance at a fulfilling job.

At home, it was getting harder and harder not to drink. I was starting to struggle with reality, like before. Back when I was trapped in a nightmare with a man who monitored my every move. I kept telling myself that I was overreacting, that somehow this all made sense, and I just wasn’t seeing it. But lying to myself only did so much.

The worst part was, after all that, I still had to get up in the morning and go back to my old routine. Every day I’d head out to hunt for jobs. Every day, I’d see the old, creepy house, standing tall like it had any right to be there.

I usually took a break from job hunting on Saturday, but it was increasingly difficult to sit alone at home with my thoughts. So that morning, I decided to keep job hunting, or maybe get a better sense of the area. A good amount of places weren’t even open on the weekends, but I figured there were plenty of businesses I hadn’t discovered yet. I settled into the car and absently glanced at the rearview mirror, no longer surprised to see the old house, existing where it shouldn’t.

Only something was different this time.

I stared for a minute, trying to pinpoint what had changed, before it finally clicked. There was a figure standing in the yard, by an old, dead tree.

The person was pale and dressed in drab colors that made them initially blend in with the trunk, so I didn’t immediately see them. I couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman, as they were faced away from me, but the longer I looked, the more bizarre I found the figure to be. Unmoving, rigid, like a mannequin. In fact, I thought perhaps that was what I was seeing, until it shifted slightly, tilting the head just a bit to the right.

A shudder ran down my back and I locked the doors by reflex.

It had been creepy enough just seeing the old house, but imagining that someone could be living there made it all so much worse. I started to wonder just exactly what I was witnessing. Was there some sort of dimensional rift that I’d seen through? Was I watching a neighborhood from another realm? It all sounded crazy, but what about the situation wasn’t crazy already?

I stayed there for a very long time, just watching. I waited for the figure to turn around, to walk away from the tree—anything. But a full hour passed with nothing.

Then it occurred to me that I’d just sat in my car, staring at a house that wasn’t there, until it was almost nine in the morning. It was then that I wondered if maybe I really did need some psychological help. There was no way to explain what I was experiencing other than some sort of mental break.

And maybe it had been a long time coming.

Truth be told, there were times when I thought some of Dean’s behavior was all in my head. It was just too crazy and wild, too violent. But Dean isn’t exactly a healthy person. Charismatic, sure, which was how he pulled me in to begin with. But underneath all of that, he’s an unstable sadist, completely divorced from reality.

If he were here with me, he’d probably tell me that I was seeing the future, or making contact with the dead. Maybe there’d been a house in that space once upon a time. Maybe I needed to help avenge the person in the yard and save them from their ghostly shackles.

It was all a lot of bullshit, but the way he talked about it could almost convince you it was true. It was part of why I’d been so afraid to leave. He’d hurt me a lot by then, both physically and emotionally, but some nagging part of me always believed his threats. That he could find me anywhere. That I’d never escape from him.

Before I’d completely cut myself off from my old life, he’d started emailing me missing person cases of women who’d relocated to escape a boyfriend or husband, only to end up vanishing. He told me that the power of love made all things possible, even darkness beyond our comprehension. He told me that if I didn’t come back to him, he’d go to any means necessary to find me again. I was bound to him, he told me. There was no place to run.

It sounds stupid now, but it just felt so real in the thick of it. He had always been very good at finding me, finding out what I was doing, guessing my actions before I did them. I later learned that that was just a trait of an expert abuser. He manipulates and controls, and he plays with a person’s mind until they aren’t sure what’s real anymore.

In that moment, all I could really think was ‘fuck Dean’.

Thinking about that asshole gave me a boost of adrenaline, and I decided to stop torturing myself for now. Crazy or not, I wasn’t getting anything out of sitting around and staring at an invisible house.

I did my job search, and I was actually able to push the house from my mind at some point. I connected with a manager looking for someone to work evenings, and given my sleep issues, it seemed like a great opportunity. I was still waiting to hear back from the other job, but I didn’t have high hopes.

I resolved to do everything I could to avoid having to park where that reflection could appear, but it was like the universe had gone out of its way to make that impossible. In fact, the only space I could find was one right in front of my building, perfectly placed to view the non-existent house.

Despite wanting to avoid the reflection and whatever was causing me to see it, I couldn’t help but look once more before I went inside. Just a quick peek to sate my curiosity.

But things were very different this time. The figure by the tree was no longer there. Instead, there were a good ten to fifteen people scattered, standing, across the lawn. Only, they didn’t entirely look like people. The right parts were all there, limbs and torso and what-not, but the features were odd, almost like a caricature of what a human should look like. My stomach dropped like someone had jumped out to scare me, and I gripped the steering wheel.

All of the figures were standing perfectly still, facing away from me. They seemed to be transfixed on something I couldn’t see, rigid and stiff, like living dolls.

This time, I didn’t sit around and wait for them to move.

Once I was in the house, I locked the door as if that could somehow stop whatever was going on out there. I paced around the living room for a while, blasting the TV so that it felt less like I was by myself.

When I finally sat down and caught my breath, I noticed I’d left my phone on silent for most of the day, and Angie had called me several times. She left a message, telling me we needed to talk, but it was late, so I made a note to call her back later. Part of me wanted to call her now, to talk to a familiar voice. As I sat there with my panic, it grew harder and harder not to.

But somewhere along the lines, I guess I fell asleep. I don’t remember doing it, or how I managed to drift off with that much adrenaline pumping through me, but I woke up on the couch the next morning, still in my clothes from the day before.

I didn’t go out to look for jobs. I didn’t even look out my window. Instead, I ran a bath and soaked in the tub, letting my mind wander to the house, because I didn’t have the energy to try to push it away anymore.

I stayed in the bath until it was dark again, ignoring my phone and thinking back to the year after Dean and I had gotten married. It was right when things had taken a dark turn between us, and I used to lock myself in the bathroom, because it was the only room in the house that actually had a lock. I would sit in the bath while he ranted and screamed out in the hallway. It was like I could carve out my own, safe little space. Even if it only lasted for a while.

But eventually, I would have to get out. Eventually, I’d have to face my husband and all of the things that came with it. It felt strange now, drawing parallels to that time. But maybe it was just the sense of feeling out of control. Whatever was happening, I clearly had no influence over it. It just was. And that was the most frightening part of all.

I missed another interview on Monday and instead decided to gather up some snacks and plant myself in the car. I got as comfortable as possible and looked at the rearview mirror.

In the reflection, the figures were still there, facing away from me, but several others had joined them. Taller than the first, like they were on stilts, and they were waving oddly, rocking back and forth, as if carried by the breeze.

For the next few days, I spent almost all of my time watching the house and the people in front of it. Now and then, a new figure would join them, or some of them would move, but never toward me. Never in a position that allowed me to see their faces.

Until last night. Because last night, they unanimously decided to face the street, staring in my direction. And for the first time, I could see their ashen, drooping cheeks. Their hollow eye sockets, their blackened, toothless mouths. I could see the yellowed gums and black-smeared faces of the tall, wobbling men. And I could see something else. Something that stole the breath from my lungs.

The phone rang then, and it nearly sent me out of my skin. My heart beat angrily in my chest, and I fumbled to answer. Angie’s voice trickled from the other end.

“I’ve been trying to get a hold of you,” she said. “I have some news.”

My gaze wandered back to the rearview mirror as Angie faded in and out of my consciousness.

“It’s about Dean,” she continued.

But she didn’t need to say it. I could already see. The slick, lifeless skin. The bloating purple of his face. The jagged wound in his throat. The blood that saturated his hair and clothing. Even the razor he’d used to kill himself, still clenched in his hand.

He was standing there. Among them. Like he’d been there all along. And as a unit, they all began to hold something up above their heads. Sheets of paper. Even from a distance, I could see the faces of the women. The word “MISSING” written distinctly at the top.

“You don’t have to be afraid anymore, honey,” Angie said, but her words were distant. I couldn’t pull my eyes away from the mirror.

All of the people in the yard were still facing me.

And they were grinning.

Rating: 9.33/10. From 6 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Queen of the Moths
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Queen of the Moths

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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