From the time I was small, the land was dark. Vines grew with nettles, and leaves with fine thorns. Even its flowers lack color, a pallid vibrancy unpleasing to the eye.
My childhood home was dark, full of candles, with shades drawn and shadows painting our walls.
There was mother’s room, too. But mother was gone now, and father forbid me to enter it.
He glared at me in silence that would brook no further insolent questions, and walked out of my room, slamming the door.
But I was only a child, and his glaring authority only turned my childish curiosity to unhealthy obsession. What don’t you want me to see, father?
He always took the key with him when he left.
He hired a nanny for me, daft as she was strict, but she was prone to drink, and more often than not I’d find her sleeping; not being old enough to take advantage of it, I said nothing to father.
I made attempts to pick the lock when he was gone, and nanny was in her cups; one day she caught me at it.
“Eh, girl. What’s this wickedness?”
I’m ashamed of how easily the lie and tears came to me: “It’s father. He’s mean: he locked my dolls in here, and I can’t play with them now.”
She seemed to be thinking, the glass in her hand sloshing a bit as she watched me cry, then she seemed to make up her mind.
“A girl oughtta have ‘er dolls. I’ll let you in, but it’ll be our secret, eh?”
I smiled, hugging her, almost making her drop her drink. “Thanks, Nan. You’re the best…”
She took my arms from her legs. “A’right, child. No need t’get mushy, eh?”
She used a hairpin, and the lock clicked open. Given her addiction, she probably practiced on liquor cabinets and doors in other homes all the time. I thought she’d go in and see there were no dolls, but she didn’t.
“Come get me when you’re done, girl. Don’t forget.”
“I won’t, Nan.” I made as if to hug her again, and she scooted away.
Inside, more darkness: sparse, dark window shades covered with thick dark curtains, the room furnished in fluted, elegant, black furniture, and planks of dark wood on the walls. It seemed more a cellar bedroom than a part of the rest of the house.
I shuddered. There was absolutely no relief, no break of color or light anywhere to be seen.
Then I saw it, framed in the branches of a long- neglected plant, the glass beginning to shimmer and brighten.
A mirror. As soon as I saw it, I knew that’s why father kept me out of here, but it was a chance for me to see what I looked like, so I mimicked Nan in my head: What’s a girl to do, eh?
As I drew close, I began to cry as soon as I saw what was taking shape inside the glass. Westering sunlight laced through wispy clouds, broken up in spots of yellow and blue, the shadows of distant hills silhouetted in the distance, a calm lake leading to a lonely shore.
That’s where mother went; that’s why she left.
I looked back at the open door, heard father come in. He saw Nan sleeping, and yelled at her as she blubbered her apologies. Fearing the worst, he came running up the stairs.
It’s now or never, Nechama. Surely, he’ll punish you…
I reached out my hand, felt the warm breeze skim over the water, making small ripples, saw the sunlight on my skin, felt its heat as bright lights burst and laced through the dark branches that held the mirror.
My body was fading, the lights on the branches extending, lacing around me, over my arms and legs, surrounding my head like a halo of stars.
He saw me step through, and I turned at the sound of his voice calling mother’s name as he ran toward me, but it was too late.
The glass began to cloud over.
He sank to his knees, putting his face in his hands, his sobs of grief breaking my heart, breaking the mirror, breaking our bond.
(MirrorMirroronthewall: Original art by Shadowheart69)