For Jasmine, who would have probably made this much creepier 🙂
Upon looking at my reflection in the mirror, I could not help but notice the child in the corner eating ice cream… yet to my shock, the child was me when I was 5 years old..
Katerin looked down at the notes from the interview and shivered. Most people would say the old woman was delusional, out of her mind, but most people hadn’t been there, in the room, interviewing her. Katerin had been, and she wasn’t so sure. Something in the woman’s white eyes and the expression on her wrinkled face told Katerin that the woman, at least, believed what she was saying to the core.
Katerin continued to read the shorthand written in her own large, loopy handwriting.
You understand I was almost fifteen at this time, but the identity of the child was unmistakable. I was sure this was the magic mirror that the people with no faces had been telling my father about. Here it was, hidden in plain view, but only one with the Sight would be able to see it for what it truly was.
Katerin knew about the Sight. Although the Order had tried to stamp it out, the ability kept popping up, and now people were smart enough to keep their mouths shut about it. This meant the old woman, who had wished to remain nameless, had the Sight. It didn’t matter; she was dying and she had no family, so even if the Order came for her, there was little they could do, for she had no descendants that could be harassed to worry about. But the implications of her story were very dangerous. So dangerous I might have to put them in the box, Katerin realized.
Pushing the thoughts from her mind, she brushed a strand of red hair out of her eyes and continued reading.
I was young and foolish at the time, so I thought of course I could take on the dangerous men who had smuggled it in to the small mountain town where I grew up. I thought I could use the mirror against them, to protect my father who I thought was in great danger, into something that he would drown in. How stupid of me. How arrogant. How lucky I did not lose my life.
Here the woman had paused, her fingers moving in front of her, painting an invisible picture of that place and that day in her childhood. Katerin remained silent, letting her gather her thoughts and memories. When the woman started to speak again, her voice had the breathless wonder of a child recounting the sight of a far-off dragon.
I broke into the ice cream parlor later that day, after it was closed, and tried to take the mirror. It was too heavy for a girl to carry, and though I managed to get it off the wall, it fell on me. I doubt it would have survived the fall, despite the cushion my body would have provided, but there was someone else in the shop with me! He was very tall, and thin, and had glowing red eyes…
Katerin imagined the terror the young girl must have felt at the sight of that. She knew she would have been terrified. The scribe pulled her thoughts back to the present, and her pen flew across the paper, capturing the old woman’s words in shorthand.
I thought for sure I was going to die, right then and there. This beastly creature was going to rip my still-beating heart right out of my chest. But he didn’t. After catching the mirror and leaning it safely against the wall, he offered a hand to help me up. I thought he was some kind of devil or demon. Turns out I wasn’t far wrong. Thankfully, I was even wronger about his intentions.
His name was Gehlen, and he was one of the men my father was speaking too.
At this point in the interview, Katerin had asked if the woman’s father had the Sight. The woman hadn’t known, her father had never told her anything about it. The nameless woman hadn’t even known she had the Sight until Gehlen explained what it was. The woman – then a young girl – had been thrilled and terrified to know her own eyes glowed red to his eyes, just as his did to hers.
But only in the presence of the mirror, the tall man told me. The mirror was special, in a way that no mortal man could understand. The Order, just in its formative stages back then, would do anything, including kill, to possess it, in order to manipulate its power to the Order’s ends.
The mirror must be kept safe, for the good of all. Gehlen was to take it onto a boat, bound for the Hinterland. I agreed to watch the street so he could take it out the back without being seen.
After that night, I never saw or heard from Gehlen again. I don’t know what happened to the mirror. I don’t know if it made it onto the boat. I never saw it in the ice-cream parlor again, though I went there frequently to check. The woman had patted her ample stomach with an expression of regret and nostalgia.
Why did you call me now? Katerin wanted to know.
I just wanted the story to be told before I died, the woman had shrugged, her blind eyes wandering a bit as she spoke. Katerin had tried to see if they had a hint of red at all, but could see none.
Perhaps she was making it up, Katerin thought, looking down at the incredible record on ivory parchment curled over her knees, though a part of her did want to believe it. Even if it were true, Katerin thought with despair welling in her chest, what does it matter? The Order still reigns supreme in Merivia. I am only a single scribe, not even well-known. What could I possibly do with this story?
There was no other course of action. The red-headed scribe stood and went to the back of the study, where a curtain of purple velvet hung on the wall. Pulling it aside, Katerin counted bricks in the closed-up fireplace – the excuse for the tapestry was to hide the unsightly blemish on the wall – and pressed the right one. Before her, the wall opened up and she looked down at the old wooden box.
The box held all the stories that should never be repeated that Katerin had gathered over the years. Before she had become a scribe, she would never have thought a story shouldn’t be told, but the Order was very clear about what was acceptable in writing and what was not.
Katerin knelt and put the story in the box, and pushed it back into the hidden recess in the wall, drawing the curtain across the opening. One day, maybe, but for now, it’s best if that story, and that mirror stays out of sight and out of mind.