It was a ritual best performed outdoors, and early in the morning. A man could clear his head in the cool air, let the new light sidle up to him.
Fewer surprises that way.
Wesley Morgan thought through it all as he creaked across dewy grass on Halloween morning. How many years had he been doing this?
More than he wanted to remember.
The razor glinted in the scant sunlight as Wesley stroked it against a thick leather strap. Who would it be this year?
Truth was, there weren’t many left.
The first time, when Wesley was fifteen, it hadn’t seemed strange at all for Papa to appear in the mirror behind him. It wasn’t until Chuck Simmons knocked on the door that evening and Mama broke down crying that Wesley realized Papa was gone.
The next year, Wesley like to jump out of his skin when Chuck himself grinned from the shaving mirror not a week before he got trampled by a runaway horse.
The pattern was set.
Everyone dies, and everyone loses folks, but Wesley saw them coming — one a year.
That last year had been the hardest of all. Martha was visiting her sister up in Manson City when Wesley squared up into the mirror. Finding his wife’s face waiting there for him had been almost too much to bear.
The cough finally took her as summer died.
Wesley ran a fingertip across the razor now, and a trickle of blood bathed the blade. It was time.
Dread clutched his chest as he walked through the front door and stood in front of the washstand, eyes closed. He brought the razor to his cheek, then peered into the mirror.
For the first time since he was a little boy, Wesley’s reflection stood alone.