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.
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
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
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.
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
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...
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,
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.
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.
were restricted now, being wrapped in something damp and
large... He felt held down and hemmed in. Again, his adrenalin
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...”
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...