The mirror hall was my whole world, an endless shining vista in every direction, broken only by the image of myself staring back at me whichever way I looked. It wasn’t that I knew nothing about the world beyond the hall, but that I knew nothing of the concepts such a world could exist in – of before or after, of above or below. Only the hall, reflecting myself over and over again, familiar, comforting figures hanging against the blank space of perfect neutrality.
A flicker of colour danced in the air, a rainbow moment of wondrous colours. I gasped, tried to catch this brilliance in my hand, and instead found my palm pressed against the wall. The mirror there was trembling. Curious, I pressed my faced against it, felt the movement more clearly through the skin of my cheek, giggled at the tickling sensation.
Then I heard tapping, faint at first but growing sharper, its rhythm tied to the trembling of the glass. It had never occurred to me that there could be a sound outside myself, and I stepped back, unnerved, staring with a furrowed brow as the colours danced again in the mirror. They had seemed so enticing before, but now they felt ominous, a change to everything I knew.
The tapping turned to cracking as a dark line shot across the mirror, then others, splaying like the fingers of a grasping hand. I stumbled back, feet sliding across the smoothness of the floor.
A section of mirror fell out. It exploded as it hit the floor, sharp-edged pieces sliding in every direction. My scream echoed around the hall.
Someone stared at me through the gap. A face, but not like any face I knew. A face that wasn’t mine.
Lips parted and the unsettling image spoke.
“I knew there had to be someone else!”
Their voice was lower than mine, the sound of the words deep and discordant.
“Can I come in?”
They started pushing pieces from the cracked mirror, letting them shatter into flying fragments. One hit my hand, drawing a flash of pain and a shallow line of blood.
“Stop it!” I yelled, waving my arms. “You’re destroying the world!”
They stopped and stared at me with wide eyes.
“I just want-”
“No! Get back!”
I ran at them, arms outstretched. They stepped away, still staring at me as I reached the hole they had smashed into my bright and perfect world.
I looked through, and for the first time saw something beyond. A smaller hall, its mirrors grubby and dim, the gloom made more stark by the bright beam shining through the hole.
I stared aghast. The stranger had let this squalor into my world.
The light pouring through around me framed their face, adding shadows to their look of loss.
I glanced back into my world, this vast space of brightness and comfort, then at the stranger. Now that I saw what they were living with, how could I leave them there? My world might not be what I had thought it was, but that wouldn’t change just because I hid from this other hall. How much better could my world be with someone else to share it with, someone with thoughts, ideas, imaginings different from my own?
I grabbed the edge of the hole, broken glass digging into my skin, and pulled. A section of the mirror broke away. The other person joined me and together we tore away slivers of mirror until there was a gap big enough for them to step through. I held out my bloody hand and helped them through the hole.
Together, we stood in the middle of the hall of mirrors, looking at ourselves endlessly reflected in the bright light. Two of us, so different from each other. A whole new world.
A tapping sounded at the end of the hall, faint but unmistakable.
“Someone else,” my new friend said excitedly. “Let’s go let them in.”
I looked around, considering the vast mirrored walls and the number of halls that might lie beyond them, some perhaps even smaller and gloomier than the one I had seen. And then what? Could there be something beyond even mirrors? Something after the life I was used to? What would it mean to reach past everything I had ever seen and face the unknown?
“No, let’s not let them in,” I said. “Let’s tear this whole place down.”
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By Sword, Stave or Stylus
A gladiator painting with manticore blood.
A demon detective policing Hell.
A ninja who can turn into shadow.
Prepare to be swept away to worlds beyond our own in these thirteen short fantasy stories.
Action, art and mystery all feature in this collection, available in all ebook formats.
From reader reviews:
‘These fantasy genre stories take wordsmithing and storytelling to great heights.’ – Writerbees Book Reviews
‘There isn’t a single story in here I don’t love. All short and sweet (or dark), all fantasy with history woven through, all a slightly skewed perspective that will make you rethink assumptions. Totally worth a read.’