You aren’t supposed to be the one saying that.
The gun was so heavy, and she just wanted to scream, to throw herself into a wardrobe and to hide until everything passed her by. This wasn’t a choice she was supposed to have to make, this wasn’t the life she was supposed to be leading.
She wasn’t supposed to be aiming a gun at herself.
It’ll be the easiest thing you’ve done lately, and you don’t have a choice.
You’re supposed to be the one that stops me from making stupid decisions.
Pull the trigger, Spyder, if you want to protect him, you have to pull the trigger.
I can’t, I’m scared…I want to, but I’m so scared.
It’ll take you less than a second, now would you shut up and trust me already?
Sure you can, lift your finger, there, like that, good girl…wrap it around the trigger, just like your old light gun…just don’t expect to get any points for this.
I want points!
You are such a child. Fine, pull the trigger and you get a million points.
And a gold star?
Two stars if you will just shut up and do it.
She took a breath, and pulled the trigger.
JESUSSHITFUCKCHRIST! OWIE OWIE OWIE OWIE!
She bit down hard on the washcloth, screaming into it as loud as she dared – which wasn’t very loud.
Gold stars. Now, slide, slide, slide, fall.
She let her knees buckle, and she landed in an untidy pile on the floor, her shoulder hurting even more as she landed on it. The gun clattered on the ground beside her, and she was glad that it was finally out of her hand. That she was finally free of the temptation to actually put it to her head and pull the trigger.
Hard part now, Spyder, come on, you’re running out of time.
Her shoulder still pumping blood onto the floor, she carefully reached around, making sure that there was an exit wound – there was, and that was good, it meant that the bullet was in the tile, so it would answer one more question, and not leave even more plot holes in her desperate story than it already contained.
With a grunt, she reached for one of the broken pieces of her bathroom mirror. Tears streaming down her face from the pain, she centered herself and lifted her shirt, placing the sharp edge to where her breastbone should have been. There was nothing there now, no major barriers between the skin and her heart. Nothing that she couldn’t slice through.
You can have another gold star.
I don’t want to hurt myself.
This isn’t emo-you and a bottle of pills, this is pain for life. This is your only shot at getting out of here, and besides…
Yeah, I want to touch it.
Then do it, it’s ok, I’m right here.
She dug the tip of the mirror into her chest and began to saw open a small hole.
I can’t, it hurts too much!
It’ll hurt more if that bitch comes back and tears out your heart, like that guy in Indiana Jones. Agent, remember? She can probably punch out your ribcage. Do you want that, or this?
Warm blood flowed over her fingers, a strange contrast to the relative cool her shoulder was feeling. Biting harder down on the washcloth, she ripped a bit more of the skin, enough to let her wedge her pinkie finger into her chest.
Slimy, ew, slimy…
She pushed it in further, then felt something against the edge of her finger that definitely wasn’t slimy. By instinct, she retracted her finger a little, lest she wish herself out of existence.
You gonna let me do the talking?
Yeah, I’m kinda terrified that I’m going to turn myself into a giant cookie.
Ok, then just repeat after me-
She pressed her finger forward to the heart again. ‘I want several broken shards, please.’ The sharp pressure against her palm told her that the shards had appeared there. She pulled her finger out and dropped the shards in the pool of blood around her shoulder, then stuck her finger back into her chest. ‘Please,’ she said, ‘I want to go to the mansion.’
With that, she disappeared.
The sensation of traveling by mirror magic wasn’t like a normal shift – it was prettier. Her apartment walls seems to curve in on themselves, then break apart as she found herself being whisked across the city. Broken pieces of the mansion’s garden appeared in her vision and quickly pieced themselves back together as she appeared beneath a tree in the side garden – or at least what she thought of as the side garden, as it had been outside her room, which was on the side of the house. She rested her head up against the tree, only to find her head in an ant trail, so she hung it forward again. Slowly, she retracted her finger from her chest, and let it drop for a moment, the sensation of freshly-cut grass a pleasant difference to her slimy innards.
Her shoulder burned, but it was healing – that, or shoulders with bullet wounds in them naturally moved of their own accord, hurting significantly less than they should – a terrifying possibility presented itself: that it wasn’t healing, that the blood loss was giving her a false sense of security. She lifted her tired hand and yanked her collar to the side so that she could see the shoulder beneath, sure enough, it was healing.
Awesome, I’m Deadpool.
Really thought you were going to say Wolverine.
Come on you, let’s get this done, what fun we shall have!
…I’m not your little yellow boxes, I’m a sign of a serious psychological condition.
Yeah, but if I was fictional, people would love you. Like I do.
Dying better not have made you a wuss, my job is hard enough already.
She stood and brushed herself off as best as she could, though she suspected that she still looked like a crazy axe-murderer.
You saved my life. Again. I’m just being grateful.
No, you can’t reach in there and make yourself a cookie.
She pounded a bloody fist on the mansion’s door, slumped against it and tried not to scream at the pain in her shoulder. The door was pulled open and she fell, managing to catch herself on the door frame. ‘I was here a few weeks ago,’ she muttered. ‘One of the hackers. One of Dorian’s. I want to see Jon. Please.’
‘I shall ask him,’ the valet said before slamming the door.
‘Thank you?’ she said to the closed door.
The door was opened. ‘You may go through to the kitchen,’ the valet said. ‘Use the service entrance.’
She stared at the man in disbelief. ‘I’ve just been shot in the fucking shoulder.’
He crinkled his nose. ‘And the rugs are Persian. Use the service entrance.’
She limped around the side of the house, through the creaky gate and to the back entrance to the kitchen. A few bandages and a small bowl of hot water awaited her. ‘Try not to make a mess,’ the valet said. ‘The master of the house will be joining you soon.’
She sat on the only stool, slowly and painfully dipping her bloody hand into the hot water. After it was red and burning, she pulled it out and let it rest on her knee, small red droplets of water dripping to the kitchen’s stone floor.
‘Perhaps Dorian should have let you come with us,’ Jon said as he walked into the room, leaning more heavily on his cane than she’d remembered. ‘Less, ah, shooting.’
‘How’d you know it was a gunshot?’ she asked.
‘My dear, I was helping to dress plasma burns when I was the equivalent of five.’
‘Knew it, knew it, knew it!’ she cried triumphantly. ‘There was too much weird shit for you not be the the other starchild that Astrin mentioned! You were the only other person he knew.’
He looked up at her, removed his glasses, and for the first time she saw the purple glint in his eyes. ‘Starchild I am.’
‘It was your tech that Astrin was using, wasn’t it? That’s why your name was in the code. Why the hell did you need us to hack it if it was your system?’
‘It was my father’s system,’ he said. ‘I never knew how it worked, only how to turn it on. That’s how Astrin could record his data, I just couldn’t use it to help him. If I’d been able to, then maybe-‘
‘Maybes are for people who can change the past.’
‘So why are you here on my doorstep with a bullet in your shoulder?’
‘Actually, the bullet went into the wall, I made sure of that – I wanted them to be able to match the caliber. And…I have absolutely nowhere else in the world to go. I don’t have any money. I don’t have-‘
‘You cracked the code, didn’t you? That means I should be cutting you a cheque.’
‘It was all for nought. Astin’s dead, so is his world.’
Jon blew his nose on a handkerchief. ‘When he didn’t return, I suspected as much. You did the work, so you get rewarded. It all goes my fath- To Dorian when I die, I’m sure he won’t mind sharing.’
She stared at the ancient wooden table. ‘Just let me stay here a couple of days, and we’ll be even. I just need to sleep, and to figure out where to go next.’
‘Dorian’s room is made up, I’m not expecting him, you can sleep there. Do you know how to get there?’
‘Is there a way other than the hidden stairs?’
The old man managed a wink. ‘That way is the most fun.’ He passed her a key. ‘You’ve missed dinner, I’m afraid that I eat rather early. However, I presume you’ll still be here for breakfast, so I’ll see you then.’
‘Thank you,’ she whispered as she stood up. ‘You’ve really got no idea how much this means.’
‘Hm? Yes? It’s fine.’
She grabbed a tea towel from the sink as she walked past and wrapped it around her slowly healing shoulder so that she didn’t drip on the precious Persian rugs – something she was sure the valet cared more about than the starchild did.
Walking down the hall, past the room where she’d been time trying to hack an alien system, past the empty hacker bedrooms and around the corner toward the secret stair. She spared a look out the window, just in case there were any more ghosts to be seen, but only saw her reflection. How fucking apt.
She unlocked the door, flicked on the light and walked up to the stairs – this time having no fear about breaking her ankle or about what was going to be on the other side of the door.
Through the office and down the hall to Dorian’s room, it was pristine, just as it had been the last time she’d been there. She locked the door behind her and pulled the curtains shut before walking into the ensuite.
She pulled off her grey t-shirt and tossed it into the hamper – the bullet hole had almost closed, but had left a scar, another scar for her collection. She exhaled a deep breath and placed a hand between her small breasts, feeling the scar that the mirror had given her, and the second, smaller one that she’d given herself. She pressed her fingers against the flesh, feeling the lack of breastbone, and the vague coldness that the mirror exuded.
She shook her head, dampened the tea towel and washed the dried blood from her shoulder and hand before leaving the ensuite and went toward the wardrobe. She opened it, hoping that there wouldn’t be the sharp smell of snow, the brush of trees and the faint light of an out of place lamppost. For once, she knew she wouldn’t be able to handle Narnia if she found her way into it.
She grabbed the first shirt that presented itself, wriggled into it without undoing any of the buttons, then curled up in the large bed and was asleep before she had a chance to think anymore about her situation.
Dreams came fast, furious and without any sense of reason, causing her to wake several times during the night, each time, a brief look at the clock told her that it was still too early to wake. However, when the dawn light was creeping in through the curtains, so she abandoned all hope of getting back to sleep and got out of the bed. She pulled the sheet and blanket up, just in case the maids didn’t bother to service a guest bedroom.
She stared at the wardrobe – now she was ready to investigate it. She crossed the room and pulled open the door, hoping for something exciting, like another hidden staircase, but only clothes filled her vision. As she always did with new wardrobes, she stepped up into it, just to make sure it ended at the back wall, and didn’t have a forest beyond it.
She stepped down from the wardrobe and pulled out another silk shirt and a pair of pants. The material felt expensive – but then again, everything in the wardrobe looked expensive. She slowly buttoned up the shirt, glad that the pain in her shoulder was gone.
Pulling the belt tight, she walked from the room and down the hall toward the office and the secret stair. Books lined the wall – and it dawned on her that it wasn’t so much an office as it was a retrofit library.
She ran her hand along the leather bound books, the decaying paperbacks, the thick manuals and the brittle song sheets. Staring at the upper shelves, one word caught her attention, a single name in faded gold leaf – a name that had given her so much comfort as a child: Lewis.
Turning quickly, she pulled the chair from under the desk and pulled it over to the shelves. Standing on it, she extended her short arms and reached for the book. Grasping at the very edge of it with her fingernails, she managed to extract it from the shelf. She pumped a fist into the air, taking what small victory she could. ‘I did it,’ she said to the world at large, hopped from the chair, pushed it back under the table, and took refuge in the secret staircase to read her favourite book.