I roll onto my back with heaving breaths.
Hana stands up, but doesn’t take her eyes off me. “I’ve never seen anyone react like that to the glass before.”
“I was drowning. You’ve never seen anyone drown in water?” I pull my knees toward my chest and lean up to hug them, coughing as I do. She looks away from me, and a pink flush grazes her cheek.
“Am I the first person you’ve ever brought into your world?” My voice is hushed at first, but she doesn’t respond. Her eyes seem occupied by some other bullshit somewhere else. “Jesus Christ, you could have killed me!” I stand up and put my hand up to my head, ready to attack the sopping wet mane, but my hair isn’t wet. “Why isn’t my hair wet?”
“Because the glass isn’t water. It’s still glass, but it’s a faster moving liquid than normal glass, so it doesn’t make our hair wet. I can still breathe in it, but I function differently than you do. I thought you’d be fine.”
I probably should have been fine, like a totally normal person would have been fine, but these panic attacks just kind of come from nowhere. I’m not sure if I should tell Hana that, though, so I just shrug instead. I look back to where we just made our entrance into this world. I thought I’d see the same ancient mirror, but instead, it’s a smooth flowing waterfall, but not like Victoria Falls or anything. There’s a small river above it, but the water that comes down drops to nowhere it seems.
“Weird.” I touch the water gently, hoping not to jam my fingers again, but it acts just like I expect water to. “Why can I touch it when we’re here?”
“You don’t need a guide to leave the world,” she says. My eye brows raise.
“But you can’t get into your mirror without me,” she says quickly.
“Oh, okay.” I turn back around to see the new place we are in. Mostly, there are trees. Just like a shit-ton of trees and green except for a dirt path that cuts right down the middle from the portal we just walked through. “Are we in Washington?”
She shakes her head. “No, this is the first step to enter into Glass.” Her hands wave over the ground above us, like a welcoming gesture. I’m still unimpressed. I mean, we’ve got trees in my world.
“All right, show me what’s so special about this place.”
The ocean line expands before me, pulsating, tugging at my memories.
Sofi holds my hand, and Gloria stands rigid at my side. She looks over at me.
“I know this place,” she says.
I nod. “This was my favorite beach. We came here when we were girls.”
“Ah, we used to race to see how far we could swim. You were such a good swimmer for being so little.”
Her words feel like a wasp sting to my gut. “My parents brought me here when I was young–every summer–until…” I snap my mouth closed.
“Haize? Why are we here?”
There’s salt water running down my face, then. The stones in my chest multiply, but the pressure built behind my eyes for nearly twenty years rejoices. Relief and heartbreak–how these feelings are so deeply intertwined.
“Teddy’s here.” My voice is barely audible above the crashing waves.
“How do you know?” Sofi asks.
“This is where I left him.”
Gloria doesn’t speak. Sofi unclasps her hand from mine and wraps it tight around my waist. She’s young, but in that moment, I watch her childhood fade. She won’t remember Glass after today–none of us will. I can only pray that we remember each other.
There was a low murmur in the trees that night. I should have known then she was coming.
The sun had begun to set, and darkness hummed in the east with the wind. Crickets chimed as I stood on my porch, ringing like alarms. The trees in my neighborhood seemed to whisper her name is they danced around me.
Angeline, Angeline, Angeline.
Their warning gave me pause at the front door, tousling my hair, desperate to hail my attention.
But I pretended not to speak their language. “Everything is fine,” I said, slamming the front door behind me.
There’s a loose spring poking me in the ass of the vomit green couch I’m currently plastered to, but I can’t move. I miss the smell of pine that brought me so much comfort this time of year. God, I miss it. I miss that sense of same. My lungs are on fire, and my eyes are stinging, and I keep rubbing and rubbing and choking and sucking air into my lungs but nothing is working.
Mom wouldn’t buy a tree this year. She doesn’t even want to celebrate Christmas, like the rest of us don’t exist. I strung the lights myself and pulled all the goddamn decorations out of the garage myself and will celebrate Christmas myself. He’d want it this way. If he knew Mom wasn’t partaking in the holidays, he’d never forgive her. She’s sad. We’re all sad, but she doesn’t have to be a selfish bitch about it.
So I sit here in front of this plastic piece of shit. It doesn’t look real at all. It was twenty bucks at target, and I stole the money from her wallet to pay for it. If she were in her right mind, she’d understand and forgive me. She hasn’t even noticed.
I tried to make the wire branches look real, but nothing worked. I shoved that fucking tree in the corner where it belonged and threw some lights on it. I’m terrible at stringing lights. Like my six-year-old cousin could make this shit look better. I moved the baby grand piano, green and faded like a penny oxidized over the years and the ivory keys yellow like the dead elephants they came from, to the cherry wood table that was supposed to be the center of the family. It’s covered in dust and shoved in the corner of our dingy linoleum kitchen. The walls have outlines of sun stains save little brown squares, iridescent reminders of the life we should have fucking had. None of it matters anymore. Christmas is dead, but I’m going to fucking celebrate it. It’ll be the same. I’ll make it the same. It has to be the same. I choke some more and hack up some mucus and suck in more air. Nothing works.
I stand and hustle my legs into my room. If I have to stare at that tree any longer, I’ll go fucking crazy. I shouldn’t have bought it. I shouldn’t have tried to celebrate Christmas. I run past my parents’ room, plugging my ears. If I have to hear that woman cry one more time, I swear to God I will snap. The barren white hallway feels like a hospital. I hate hospitals.
I slam the door of my room, and the mirror behind it click-clacks against the door. I turn to look at it. I tacked one of my old princess sheets, folded in half and then half again, over the mirror. There’s a pin in each corner. I glare at the stupid sheet. Hana isn’t Santa. I don’t want her popping up on Christmas, sucking me into her god-forsaken world pretending everything is fine. It’s fucking not.
By request, here’s the next little segment of the story I posted last week.
“You’ve been struggling lately, and I think I can help,” she says from across the room in sing-song voice.
I cross my arms, pushing my wrists deep into my armpits. “Oh.”
I chance a glance at the girl. From this far away, she almost looks normal. She’s wearing a tight spaghetti strap shirt and a pair of baggy khaki-like pants, like an outfit that’d be popular in Europe or something. Certain parts of her don’t fit—her hair and death lips, for example. It’s like when I used to play video games: the characters looked real, spoke real, acted real, yet there was always something that felt off.
She walks over and tries brushing her hand against my face, but I pull away. All of this is weird and wrong and why is this stranger acting like she’s known me forever? My mouth twists to the side, while I glare the brown and black and purple stains caked into the carpet. I dig my toes into a purple stain that came from a poor attempt at dying my hair—that faded within the week. I look back up at the red-haired girl before me and try to not be jealous of her dye-job.
“There’s a world behind your mirror.”
A chill prickles down my spine, jolting my shoulders. I stand and pace around the room. “I’ve officially lost it.”
There’s a trashcan in the corner, over flowing with paper, crumpled tissues, clothes I decided I hated and cheap jewelry I didn’t need and books I knew I’d never read and letters and cards that family gave me and other shit. I’ve been on a trash-binge lately, I guess. There’s a pile of clothing on my bed that’s probably been there for the better end of a week. I’ve kind of just been sleeping on it. My room is never this messy. I don’t know what’s gotten into me lately. Okay, maybe she’s right. I haven’t been doing so well, but why am I hallucinating? I turn on my heel and glare at her, hoping some explanation might form into tangible words in the air, but nothing happens. I get that same sense again that I’m looking at a video game character. It’s that part of her that doesn’t feel right, that seems off, but that keeps me from running the hell out of my room screaming. Why haven’t I run the fuck out of here? I don’t believe in auras or any of that other shit, but the feeling I get from her tells me that something incredible will happen. She feels like adventure, and I have no idea how else to explain that. Weird as she might be, I want to play along. Curiosity killed the cat, I suppose.
“Okay imaginary human, what are doing here?”
“I’m not imaginary,” she sits next to me on the bed, tucking her feet under her ass. The bed holds her weight as if she weren’t even there, there’s not even a fold or molding. It’s like she’s floating on top. “I want you to come with me to Glass,” she says.
I look up at her. “Glass?”
“That’s what we call the world that lies beyond your mirror.”
“You’re trying to tell me that my mirror acts like some portal to a world far, far away?”
She nods. “But not just your mirror: every mirror.” Her eyes soften, and those pale lips spread, revealing teeth nearly the same color. I think she’s trying to be reassuring, but the attempt gets lost as my mind begins to whirl.
A flash of memories passes before my eyes: bad solos, naked dancing, awkward sexual encounters, tears, speeches dedicated to myself, and a whole slew of embarrassing and personal things I’ve done—all in front of mirrors. My secrets. My deepest, most private moments, all done in front of this mirror. Jesus Christ.
My mouth gapes open.
“Don’t worry. I don’t watch you all day long, all though, I do enjoy your singing.”
I feel hot, and my head does that thing where it gets all light-weight and my chest starts heaving. I think I’m dying. I might actually be dying of shame.
“For fuck’s sake. What a creep,” I almost yell. “You must know me pretty well by now, as well as everyone else who lives there.”
“Only I watch.”
“Huh, oh great. I feel much better.” I roll my eyes. I really wonder if you can die of embarrassment. I snarl and pull myself off the bed. I stomp toward the corner of the room like a stubborn little kid.
“I promise it’s not a big deal, Haize. I was drawn to you, like everyone where I’m from. We’re each drawn to only one person.”
I cross my arms, hoping that maybe I can keep my lungs from exploding. “This isn’t okay. You can’t just watch people.”
She nods. “I know. I wanted to tell you before, but it wasn’t the right time. I’m sorry.” She looks down, and pulls her mouth to the side. My back releases some of its tension.
“What’s so special about this place?” I whisper.
“Come with me and find out,” she says.
Her hand reaches for mine, stalled in mid air, waiting for me to lace my fingers with her. But I don’t. I stare at her hand and the long delicate fingers, calloused at the tips. She doesn’t wear any rings—or any jewelry for that matter—but on her wrist hangs a bracelet made of wound leaves and twigs.
“Trust me,” she says, and her mouth pulls loosely on one side. Her glistening eyes stare deep into mine.
This is a new novel I’m working on–incomplete save a few chapters. This is a little snippet of the beginning (foul language involved).
When a hand jutted through my bedroom mirror, I was a little taken aback—okay, a lot taken aback. If I said my underwear was completely dry, I’d probably be lying.
My first thoughts when she completely came through the mirror resembled something like, shit, I should have cleaned my room and oh my god, my dirty underpants and bra are on the floor and my mom would kill me if she knew I had someone in my room when it looked like this and I wish I had brushed my hair and god, I really want to change my underwear, but quickly followed by the reality that this human came through my mirror, so it doesn’t actually matter that my room is messy or that my appearance is less than favorable because the uninvited, magical creature-human-thing walked through the fucking mirror.
“My name is Hana” is how she announced herself after she came through—her smile wide and welcoming, almost like everything was normal. It’s been a good five or so minutes of me just gaping at her, not speaking. She’s been gracious enough while I try to figure her out.
Her bright red hair—like red, not orange—falls along her hair line in a low ponytail that hides behind her shoulders and neck. She’s got some sharp-ass cheek bones and ice-silver eyes, but the weirdest part of her must be her lips—almost completely white. Even her olive-tone skin is darker, like olive undertone, but these lips are death embroidered in a living corpse. I’m pretty sure she isn’t a zombie, though, since she doesn’t have pale white skin and all her body parts seem to be intact and functioning. Her teeth aren’t pointy for cutting through flesh or sucking blood, so I can rule out vampire as well.
My tongue keeps wagging behind my mouth, but it’s not working to form actual words.
“Wha…what are you doing here?” I finally blurt out.
“I want to show you something,” she says.
I pinch the bridge of my nose. My voice makes some unnatural cracking noise, like a dinosaur or something. My brain already hurts, and my eyes feel heavy.
“And you couldn’t knock on the front door like everyone else?”
She chuckles, “Not really.”
This is a little much for one day. I think I’ll just take a nap. Maybe I’m already napping, and this is a bad dream. That’s probably the case.
“You’re not dreaming.” I look back at her. I hadn’t even realized I’d be staring at my unmade mess of a bed. “This is the only way I could come. I’m not from around here,” says Hana.
“Well fucking obviously.” I roll my eyes and flop on my bed, making more inhuman grunting noises on my way down. The pile of clothes jumps a bit when I land on top of the mattress and a yellow and black flannel shirt tumbles to the ground. I grumble a few curse words and grab the shirt and throw it back on the bed, and plunk my butt right next to it. A steady stream of water dances on the roof and hits the edge of the window. Fog forms around the outside of my window sill. I inhale deeply, imaging the smell of wet concrete and moist air that will bless my nose. The tightness in my chest loosens a bit.