The People in the Mirror
The sentence was harsh. One hundred and twenty months. She was brought to the door, which swung open and she stepped inside. The door closed slowly behind her. She stood holding the light that followed her in for as long as she could. To the right there was a wall lined with vines. Once the light faded, her hand fingered along the wall. The vines were rough to the touch, the leaves of the vines were piercing sharp.
There were flickers of light that allowed her eyes to take a mental snapshot of her position. Her feet felt heat. Tar oozed and pools of flame, licked out like a hot tongue, slurping up butane gas as it drifted clear of the surface. Her legs were soon bare the skin began to callous.
“We-Wha,” she called when the leaf of the vine caught a careless finger inching along. She moved further into the dark. Butane fed torches flared and extinguished. After days of travel, and the echoes of 'we-wha' bounced along the walls of her confinement, and returned to her, she stopped to rest. She tried to remember how to cry, but it was no use.
She stood, determined to push along. The lesson that she was alone was learned early. She squatted, being cautious of the leaves of the vine. It was in this position that she first heard a voice.
“Up ahead there is a place of relative comfort, away from this road.”
She found the bristling vine and pulled herself to her feet. The fingers of her hand moved along like a spider, ever careful of the pain offered by the needle sharp leaf. Miles further along, the path widened, the sparking butane fed light dwindled into darkness. The vine ended. Her arms went out full length. They waved looking for an anchor in the dark. They reached forward into nothingness. They reached back.
The voice said, "Just to the right, you will find a door. All who arrive here are free to enter.”
'We-wha,” she screamed in anger. “We-wha.” The darkness offered nothing. Her body sensed solid an instant before her fingers felt it. First they felt a seam, then discovered a latch. She lifted the latch and walked into a dimly lit room. Three feet from the floor, mirrors were installed along each wall.
“You will serve your sentence here,” said the voice.
From the corner of her eye she saw a shadow move along the wall. “Who is that? We-wha.”
“You know me. I am from the past. A long time ago. I am the tall red haired boy, you danced with all night. It was an early fall evening, you remember, it was during the big war. You snuck out against your Aunt's wishes. You said you were in high school and there was no longer time to be young. You said, only men would come back from the war, so I could not go as a boy.”
Shadows drifted across her vision; some were very deep inside the reflection, both small figures and large. Two shadows approached wearing nun habits. “Come with us little girl, we can dig through the rag bins and see what we can find for you to wear.” Just for a moment she was a child, pulling a dress from the rag bin, lifting it up to the nuns, a smile on her face.
Her fingers were stiff, numb and covered with scars. She raised her palms and rubbed her eyes. She squatted, As she squatted, she heard a tapping on a mirror to her left. A short man, with deceit in his eyes stood there. There was no warmth in his practiced smile.
“You? What are you doing here? You know, how much you hurt me. I was never enough for you. To hell with you. Why aren't you bothering all the other women, that you just had to have. You left us, me and the children. You are a coward. I don't need you. I don't need anyone.”
“Mom, can you hear me?” A woman with silver hair had approached from her side of the mirror placing both of her palms against it pressing hard. “I am here Mom.”
“Who are you? I don't know you. Why are you calling me Mom. My daughter is a small child. Just a child.”
“I am right here Mom. I am your daughter.”
The silver haired woman turned and looked at an old man standing a pace behind her. He said, “I can do this.” He stepped to the mirror. “Hey, you. This is a fine mess you have got yourself into. You traveled one hell of a path to get here. Is this where you wanted to go?” His expressionless face often betrayed his feelings.
“You are a funny man. Just who are you?” The woman with silver hair took a few steps back, again becoming a silhouette, puzzled by the approach.
The old man began, “Me, it does not matter who I am. I am here. I will be here, just like your daughters will be here. That does not change that fact that you took the hardest possible road to get here. Help me understand.”
“You have to fight. I fought them all.”
A nurse in scrubs walked to the window holding a still born baby. Out of the corner of her eye she saw the nurse as she turned from the mirror.
She walked closer to the mirror to get a better look. “I don't know you. What are you doing here? Why do you think you know so much about me?”
The woman who had taken a step back came forward and put her hand on his shoulder. “It's no use.”
“I know a great deal about you. I know your husbands, your children, grandchildren, great grandchildren. Where you lived.....”
“We-wha,” she peered into the mirror. There were so many people milling about.
"Are you spying on me? How do you know, these things?”
“Maybe you can tell me a time when you where happy. Is there any period of time that stands out in your life? Any place you liked more than another?”
A figure passed in the background. She pointed, “You can't trust him. We-wha.”
The old man did not take his eyes off her. He stood hoping for an answer. The silver haired woman, the old man's sister, stepped beside him. “You are disturbing her.”
“What are you talking about? I can't treat her like a puppy, just come and pat her on the head. She just asked me if I am spying on her. She is basically fact checking. I mention something and she verifies or tells me I'm full of it. She knows the names of her brothers and sisters. Sometimes she gets the names of her children correct. It appears to me, she is trapped alone here with just the people in the mirror.”
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