Heath Way was a narrow little street that ran behind the fish market and Kelly's Old English Pub in the little town of Hawkins. It was not a well-known street but it was a well-traveled one. Most of the homeless who sought shelter at the back door of Hawkins Homeless Mission used it often when the nights became too cold to sleep outside without any shelter above their heads.
Here, they had warmth and beds to offer, a room to ones` self and a raggedy blanket. A meager meal was being served once a day in the dining hall and all were welcome. Well, not exactly, it was first come, first served. Being located behind the fish market it was hard to tell by the aroma just what the fare of the day was. The fish market smells and the old building, decay and mildew, all blended into one and it was best that one did not sniff too long.
The Mission walls were a dingy gray, having once been painted a light airy green. Long ago Regular donations were originally used to support the old building and its ‘sometime' inhabitants. Over the years, the sponsors had dwindled, yet the Mission still struggled on.
There was a day room at the end of the hall with a cheap television set, blaring intermittently with static, several worn dirty overstuffed chairs of a faded burgundy color and a card table, off to one side. The one bright spot in the whole day room was a full-length mirror on the far wall's shining glass and ornate frame looking oddly out of place there.
One of the ‘sometime' inhabitants was Daniel Carpenter. Daniel was a shell-shocked war veteran. Often he came here to the Mission and sometimes spent the night. Other times he came for weeks, earning his keep by working in the kitchen and pushing a broom up and down the halls.
A quiet man with a deadpan look on his face, he had little to say and appeared to observe even less. He was just there, is the best that could be said, about Mr. Carpenter. He either was a Korean War veteran or if he was younger than he looked, perhaps even Vietnam. Either way, his eyes portrayed the horror that he had seen and betrayed the sadness that he still felt.
Once again, Dan had found himself at the backstreet mission, broom in hand and gnawing hunger racing around his middle. As usual, he had no idea of when and how he had actually arrived.
Dan began his sweeping of the day room prior to his meal. There was not much to sweep, just some foot traffic dust and a few wisps here and there of what looked like vines. Dan wondered where they could have come from, this place being far away from any countryside or farm.
Still wondering, Dan paused in front of the mirror. Each time he had came here this mirror had always fascinated him. Looking into its` reflection was almost like; he could not quite put his finger on it. Like... like... he did not know what, but it was like something... something that always made his headache and his heart yearn.
Suddenly Dan was not hungry anymore. Overcome with an overpowering melancholy, he dropped the old broom and sank to his knees. Tears ran down his cheeks, quickly becoming racking sobs. The man rocked slowly back and forth on the hardwood floor in front of the large mirror, overcome in a sudden agony of grief.
To steady himself, Dan put a shaking hand out to lean against the mirror. As he touched the mirror, he felt a soft hand gripe his and heard, through his sobs, a voice pleading: “Dan, Dan, come back to me...”
His eyes flew open and he saw that his arm had disappeared into the mirror almost up to the elbow. With horror, he tried to fall back but the firm hold on his hand was strong and relentless. He was slowly but steadily being pulled into the mirror, all the while hearing that soft pleading voice: “Dan... Dan...”
Without thinking, Dan automatically threw his other arm up against the mirror as he leaned backwards with all his might. It was all to no avail. He tumbled headlong into the fog that the mirror had become, all the while being pulled by the hand clutching his.
Shutting his eyes and bracing for the fall, he was jolted by his landing. It was on a jungle pathway overgrown by matted vines and smelling of tropical monsoons and carbide. Fear penetrated every fiber of his body. Up ahead, he could see that a body shape lay on the path, unmoving.
Smearing the sweat from his eyes, he began to crawl ahead. Looking at his arms as he reached out to crawl he could see that he was no longer wearing his normal clothing. He was now in camouflage. He would sort this out later. Right now, he was spurred along by the cries of, “Corpsman up... for God's sake! Corpsman up!” �
The cries were coming from up ahead in the dim light. Dan felt an adrenaline rush as the terror again closed tighter on him. He fought it the best that he could and resumed inching forward toward the cries.
Reaching the still figure on the path, he looked into the starring lifeless eyes of a Marine. He recognized the face of his friend, Tommy. A feeling of hopelessness washed over him as he realized he was too late. He stifled a scream of anguish and resumed his forward motion toward the still coming cries for help.
Reaching out he again felt his hand gripped by another hand and again was being pulled along by an unseen force. Was it the enemy that had a hold of him? What was it? Was it the Cong drawing him closer to his death?
Fog was rising around him, looking eerie, reflected in the red light of the flares amongst the jungle foliage. He fought with all his might to loosen the hold on his arm and hand. Again he felt himself falling, falling into softness and fog.
His movements were restricted now, being wrapped in something damp and large... He felt held down and hemmed in. Again, his adrenalin flowed...
Dan flung the perspiration-wet blanket from himself in terror and blinked, seeing his wife next to him, holding his hand.
“Wake up, Dan! Wake up! It's another nightmare...” She was looking worried and anxious, leaning over him and shaking him gently. “Dan... Dan...”
Coming fully aware now, Dan again wiped the sweat from his body. “It's all right... I'm awake... I'm all right now,” he told her.
Looking over his wife's shoulder at the full-length mirror with the ornate frame, on their bedroom wall, Dan wondered if that would ever be true...