39 – Through the Looking Glass

Stars and distant galaxies wheeled under Stef’s feet, a tiny comet burning her face as it rushed past.

What…what happened?

I’m not even going to try and guess.

She took a step and whatever was holding her disappeared – she fell through the universe, through the multiverse, through the cores of galaxies and left trails in huge nebulas.

Am I…really doing this?

Stars grew and shrank as she watched, making her as small as a speck in comparison, or the stars small enough to be held in the palm of her hand. She couldn’t close her eyes – she wouldn’t close her eyes – if this was how people died, if it was the last experience, then it was an amazing one; and one she that needed every detail absorbed.

She stopped falling and landed on a flat, non-existent surface. A planet hung in the space to her right – a huge green orb roughly as tall as she was – spun slowly. There weren’t huge oceans as there were on Earth, rather an abundance of inland seas and interconnected lakes. The world spun and grew in her vision and she saw that the tiny polar caps played host to glittering cities made of ice, or of crystal.

Her heart rumbled as the auroras shone rainbows over the cities, and suddenly she knew where she was.

‘Dajulveed…’ she whispered. She reached out for the world – she couldn’t touch it, the tingly static field of the atmosphere stopped her.

With a tiny pop, the planet began to shrink, until it was smaller than her dirty shoe.

She knelt on whatever invisible platform was holding her up, poked it with her finger.

Great idea, Spyder.

The tiny planet trembled, then cracked like an egg. Wind spiralled out, throwing her back, then drawing her in.

All remnants of size and perspective disappeared as she was pulled into something that was simultaneously the size of a world, and the size of an egg.

Stef fell through the sky, clouds passing by her, and through her, as if she was still nothing but a ghost. For a moment, it was amazing, it was a skydive, and a rush of freedom.

And then she saw the ground.

She was going to die, her skull dashed open against the concentrate, a splash of red and nothing more, just-

Stef screamed, flailing her arms against the air, trying to catch onto something, anything, to stop her from becoming a smear on the ground.

She closed her eyes, and thought of Neverland.

Breeze rumbled at her ear, the sound of falling at terminal velocity, and with a bump, she landed, rolling on hot, soft grass.

‘Oh, fuck you physics, now you want to be nice to me?’ she opened her eyes, and shaded her eyes against the strange sun, enjoying the feeling of warmth against her face.

If this is heaven, maybe I can handle it.

She stared up at the patchy sky – parts of it were the star-filled space she had come from, other parts were a simple sunset sky, a warm rainbow of colours playing out over the clouds.

There was a trumpeting sound – something animal, rather than musical; and she sat up to look around – any company was better than no company, even if it was animals. Tarzan and Mowgli had handled it just fine.

More like Stef of the Jungle. Think of the poor trees!

A parade of blue creatures approached – ghostly and see-through, rather than proper living things. Ghosts that had missed out on the parade, perhaps. Whatever they were, they weren’t animals she recognised.

‘What the fuck are those?’

Call a Smeerp a Rabbit, go on.

Animals she had to call elephants – four strong legs, skin that looked like leather, and a short, wide trunk, walked past her – led by ones that were easily recognisable as “elder” from the wear and tear on the skin. Younger “elephants” followed, trialled by three little ones, all with little blankets of leaves on their backs.

Okay, I totally want one as a pet.

She reached up to touch of one of the baby heffalumps as it went past, only for her hand to pass straight through the translucent blue skin.

The herd passed, and all went silent again – with nothing better to do, she flopped back against the warm grass.

She lay there for a moment more, wondering what to do, if there was anything to do, or if this was it, if it was just going to be her, an LSD trip of a dead planet and a herd of ghost animals. She took a deep breath, appreciating that at least the grass was soft and that nothing was trying to hurt her.

There was a rumble beneath the surface of the world, and she jumped to her feet.

Half a dozen of the tall trees to her left fell, making a clear path to a shining lake. She pushed herself up and walked down the freshly-cleared path.

Her heart hummed and vibrated as she stepped onto the sand, she took a few steps toward the lake, unsure of what to do, then looked back toward the forest. The path no longer existed, as the trees had picked themselves back up and made the impenetrable tree line. Something caught her eye though – her footsteps through the sand had turned to glass.

As she stared at the glassy impressions, they cracked and lifted into the air, then shot into the lake. Seeing no point in being afraid, she continued to the very edge of the lake, tiny waves lapping at her dirty sneakers.

A tree walked past her, its trunk split into the rough shape of a man – it strode into the water until it reached the centre of lake and sank down until not even its topmost leaves could be seen. The rest of her footprints shattered and flew into the lake, decorating the surface like diamonds.

Her heart screamed, the screeching noise hurting her ears, and she stumbled away from the edge of the lake in time to see it lift fully from the land, like a large bowl. It rotated slowly, not spilling a drop as it lifted into the sky.

The sky fell.

Clouds and sharp piece of solid colour clattered on the ground around her, insane, shrieking, horse-headed bolts of lightning rushed past before crackling out of existence. Thunder shook the ground, threatening to shake the very world apart.

Above her, the lake-bowl turned inside out and rained down the water in continuous streams, leaving her in a sparkling, wondrous cage. The water slowly pooled around her feet, then began to rise when it was unable to escape.

The man-tree that had apparently drowned itself was firmly rooted to the bottom of the lake-bowl. Slowly, he began to extend downward, his roots and branches curling into one another until it reached the bottom, then wove into pathways for her to walk on.

She jumped onto one and ran to the very edge of the watery cage, touching the flow when she reached it.

It froze like ice, and slowly crystallised, a silver sheen following it.

Mirror. It had turned into mirror.

The water slowly stopped flowing, turning into mirror until it felt like she was trapped in some sort of meta fun-house.

Her reflection grinned at her and danced away, joining a hundred others. Some looked exactly like her, others were worse for the wear, some were dressed as though they belonged in Solstice. Some were dead – by car accident, gunshot or mirror. Some were pregnant, bellies heavy with the next generation. A few were dressed in the clothes of professionals, only a quietly beeping ankle bracelet as a clue to a criminal past. All her. All not her.

There was something else in the mirror – something that wasn’t a reflection of her. A huge dark shape lumbered closer.

It’s a fucking mirror, genius, turn around!

She did, but there was nothing in the watery room aside from the tree and the slow trickle of remaining water. When she turned back to the mirror, the dark shape was gone.

Her heart jumped from her chest.

She screamed and clutched a hand to her chest, but after slowly counting to ten and finding herself still conscious, she felt brave enough to open her eyes again. Her heart hovered in the air in front of her, as she reached for it and it flew into the mirror in front of her. She touched the mirror again, and this time, was sucked through.

The room she found herself in was roughly the same size as the one she had just left, though this one was completely Spartan, there was nothing in it. No trees, no water, no mysterious dark shape.

Only one reflection stared back at her this time, and it smirked, smug and obviously smarter than her. It looked up, then faded away, leaving her staring into a mirror with no reflection.

The mirrored wall rippled and suddenly she was looking at a rocky outcrop.

At the very top of the outcrop was the bottom half of a man who looked as though he was made from stone himself – sandaled feet were overgrown with thin, wispy grass, bare legs were home to lichen and tiny birds.

His top half was beyond her vision, beyond what the mirror could show her. Only a huge hand hung down, a strange rocky hand, whose number of fingers seem to change every time she blinked. The massive hand, which may have been the size of a room, or a world, held her tiny silver heart in it.

He closed his hand and she heard it crunch, when he opened it again, only mirror dust remained. It stayed in his hand for a moment, like a small pile of salt ready to be thrown over a shoulder, before a strong breeze whipped it from his hand.

It was all picked up, spinning as though inside a tornado for a moment. All she could do was watch it, unsure if it was coming back to her, or if this was-

The mirror dust began to move away, and a cry she didn’t remember starting came from her throat. The dust stopped, then whipped back through the mirror, catching her up in the windstorm, lifting her from the floor and spinning her until she was dizzy.

Blood pumped from her chest, and expelled tiny red chunks of what she could only assume were the remains of her human heart, fell from her body and fizzled out of existence when they hit the ground.

The mirror dust began to invade the hole in her chest, the tiny particulates choking her until they all coalesced into her heavy, cold heart again.

It dropped her on the ground and she felt it beating. It was a strange, pulsing sensation – not a normal human heartbeat. It was the heartbeat of two people, of ten, of a hundred, of a star, of a galaxy, of…

It stopped.

When she sat up, the giant in the mirror had disappeared, replaced with her all-knowing doppleganger. The smirk faded into a smile, then the reflection-Stef turned away and walked deep into the mirror before fading away.

Death faded into view beside her. ‘My father can only be seen in reflections,’ she said. ‘While existence remains, they are all that is left of him.’

‘Where…are we?’

‘Nowhere. Everywhere, inside you, inside him, inside the ghost of Dajulveed. Does it really matter?’

‘I guess not.’ She took the proffered hand and stood. ‘So what-’

‘The mirror wasn’t at rest. There were remnants of the world inside it, pieces of the lives it helped create. Artefacts,’ Death said, ‘there are always artefacts. Usually they cause no harm, usually they aren’t noticed, but in your case, they needed to be laid to rest. This heart,’ Death said, laying a hand lightly against her chest, ‘is only servicing one life now, not the ghosts of lives already gone.’

Stef ground her foot in small half-circles. ‘I’m- I’m almost afraid of asking what happens next, but you wouldn’t be here, unless-‘

Death held up a hand. ‘I am the gatekeeper,’ she said, a smile on her face, ‘but I’m also the ferryman. Sometimes, people get lost, and need a guide back from places like this.’

‘But- But where is next?’

‘Limbo,’ Death said, ‘and maybe this time, you’ll remember your visit.’

Death reached a hand out to the mirrored wall, and a grey expanse of desert took shape – a barren expanse under a stormy sky. Death walked forward, and she stepped through the looking glass after her.

[table id=15 /]

38 - At The End
40 - The Grey Land

  21 comments for “39 – Through the Looking Glass

  1. Chinthor
    February 7, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    Ok. Very cool. Always liked this scene of Chaos pulverizing the heart and remaking it.

    Though, doesn’t this bit come later? After a few ghosts of Dajulveed have sprung from her and caused a bit of mischief? After Merlin has had a chance to listen to her mirror singing? So he can comment on the lack of music later? It even reads like a direct replacement of that chapter to come later. She already has a mirror heart. She knows it as hers when it leaps from her chest. Or not. She is also shedding pulpy heart-bits like someone new the the whole mirror-for-a-heart gig. I can haz a confuze.

    Sorry if you’re taking this part in another direction. I’ll just have to sit back and enjoy what comes next. You know I will. Cheers!

    Few corrections. By no means complete.

    Seems the baby “elephants” are trialing the elders, rather than trailing. Suppose that could be deliberate.

    Clouds and sharp piece of color could be pieces of color.

    That’s all I got. Love ya, Stormy! Peace out.

    • Stormy
      February 11, 2014 at 9:25 pm

      Though, doesn’t this bit come later?
      It used to, but I’m moving it to this point for a few reasons.

      I can’t, for the life of me, figure out a way to justify the ghosts (green tiger, et al) through any other device other than the Rule of Cool, and that’s not enough for me any more. Thus, no more ghosts.

      It also makes sense for this to happen, pre-resurrection, as sort of the final thing Stef has to pass through on finding her way back.

      Stef found her way back, using the aspects. And now that that’s done, the mirror has also been put in order.

      She knows it as hers when it leaps from her chest. Or not.
      I’ll rewrite that a little, to add more confusion. That’s my bad.

      She is also shedding pulpy heart-bits like someone new the the whole mirror-for-a-heart gig. I can haz a confuze.
      This I wanted to keep, cause I always just liked the logical acknowledgement that maybe it’s not all neat and tidy, and she probably does have little bits of shredded organ in her chest.

      (This is also why I get to keep the post-rez puke scene).

      I’ll just have to sit back and enjoy what comes next.
      You might think you know what comes next, you don’t, not quite. 😀

      Suppose that could be deliberate.
      Nope, me screwing up.

      Peace out.
      Dude. 🙂

  2. TimeKitt
    February 8, 2014 at 3:35 am

    I dont see where stef learns about the mirrorheart. I havent seen this oart yet, but I have to agree with Chinthor, this feels like something later.

    • raven
      February 9, 2014 at 7:35 am

      If your joining use during the re-write TimeKitt you wont have read the bits Chinthor is talking about as it was in the previous version. Oh and at this stage she is new to having mirror as a heart so it can still be scary to lose it even if you know that the mirror is your heart. If i remember the old stuff she screams then as well

      • Stormy
        February 11, 2014 at 9:27 pm

        a heart so it can still be scary to lose
        Hearts are kinda important! 😛

    • Stormy
      February 11, 2014 at 9:26 pm

      I’m going to do a second pass on this.

      In addition to the above – I wanted to have this scene with Stef and Death now, as having it later (in the original) was a bit of a cheap cliffhanger, as Death knows perfectly well where Stef was going, and Stef thought she was dying for real.

  3. MacDitch
    February 10, 2014 at 11:54 pm

    Stef of the Jungle. 😀

    Unfortunately, until we get further context, I have to agree with Chinthor. Stef goes from spinning as an attempt to not contemplate life/death, to debating where she is in terms of life/death, reliving her death and then wondering if she is in the afterlife, to knowing all about the mirrorheart

    – or at least not freaking when her heart jumps out of her chest (literally – I liked the way you did that btw) and was made of mirror.

    As I said at the start, context may be all important here, but as it stands it seems a little screwy.

    On more mundane matters:

    “trialled by three little” – trailed?

    “Her heart hovered in the air in front of her, as she reached for it and it flew into the mirror in front of her.” – Something got a bit jumbled in here! Maybe remove the ‘and’ or replace with a comma?

    • Stormy
      February 11, 2014 at 9:29 pm

      Stef of the Jungle. 😀
      It was stuck in my head all day. -_-

      to knowing all about the mirrorheart
      I’m going to go back and add in some more confusion about seeing it – but to defend it a little (I do agree there needs to be more confusion), she’s just come from seeing it embedded in her own chest, so it’s not entirely an unknown thing.

      literally – I liked the way you did that btw
      >_> I figure it’s magic, so we can ignore things like…skin…getting in the way. 😛

      • Stormy
        February 11, 2014 at 9:33 pm

        Hint: Never use >_< just before formatting...you'll go mad trying to work out where the formatting error is.

  4. the leaking pen
    February 11, 2014 at 1:01 am

    I don’t see her as understanding that her heart is made of mirror, just relived being pierced through by the mirror, it went through her heart, and the mirror/reflection aspect is it’s own powerful dream metaphor. Had her heart NOT been replaced by mirror, but by a heart that just wasnt beating at first, this would imo still be an appropriate dream sequence.

    • Stormy
      February 11, 2014 at 9:34 pm

      Have you ever had a dream, Leaky, that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world?


      • the leaking pen
        February 13, 2014 at 4:50 am

        every fucking day. Part of me still thinks yuo all are just a serial dream I’m having.

        • Stormy
          February 13, 2014 at 6:17 am

          Could you dream me into a bigger house?

        • the leaking pen
          February 17, 2014 at 1:13 am

          ahh, now it feels like the old wish granted game, where a person makes a wish, and you grant it and find a way to corrupt the hell out of it, then make your own wish.

          Wish granted. You now live in a sprawing underground bunker complex, lots of food and supplies, weapons, some state of the art laboratory and research facilities. The downside, you have roomates. This is Adolph and Eva, they don’t take up much room, and will probably keep to themselves, they are having some “issues” with the neighbors.

  5. MacDitch
    February 12, 2014 at 2:48 am

    Don’t >_< before formatting. Duly noted. :-p

  6. Temet Nosce
    February 18, 2014 at 6:48 am

    Ah, might I ask what your update schedule is? Sorry if I missed it elsewhere. Also, while I’m here I wouldn’t mind some advice on whether I should simply continue reading the older content from this point, or if the rewrite is too drastically out of phase with the rest of the material for now.

    Regardless, I appreciate the liveliness of your characters, it lends a certain ambiance to your story.

    • Stormy
      February 18, 2014 at 8:02 am

      Hiiii newbie!

      *digs around Lost and Found; digs up a nuclear-powered coffee cup (there is a small spider sticker on the bottom of it); an envelope of pictures with blackmail material on Taylor; and some every-flavour-chocolate*

      Ah, might I ask what your update schedule is? Sorry if I missed it elsewhere.
      Ideally, it’s Fridays at l33t-o’clock (13:37 Agency Standard Time…er, GMT+10), my hit-and-miss ratio has been a bit off lately, mainly due to IRL things. Part of it, however, is also because I’m working on Mirrorshades (book #3) in parallel.

      It’s my hope to have MS done by the time I get through the MH rewrite – so that the entire thing is edited and scheduled, so that we don’t have a bit of a patchy schedule like we’ve had here.

      Also, while I’m here I wouldn’t mind some advice on whether I should simply continue reading the older content from this point, or if the rewrite is too drastically out of phase with the rest of the material for now.
      Ah, that’s the million-dollar question.

      The plot of book #3 will mostly be staying the same – it’s mostly the character stuff that’s getting updated (because I had the benefit of rewriting, I was able to do more development during the first two books, knowing where I wanted the characters to end up) – so Ryan will be a bit more aloof, Curt will be in full Captain Snarkpants mode, etc).

      I don’t cringe when I go back and read Mirrorshades, so it has that going for it.

      Please skip Grey Edge. That’s about my only caveat to “go ahead and read the old stuff” – I even kept Shade from reading for the longest time, and he’s becoming canon. -_-

      Oubliette is great though – it’s an oversized monster, but there’s some really great stuff in it. 😀

      Regardless, I appreciate the liveliness of your characters, it lends a certain ambiance to your story.
      Except for Stef, when she’s dead. 😛

      • the leaking pen
        February 18, 2014 at 5:38 pm

        and I will say, as I do EVERY time she tells people to skip Grey Edge, that I liked it.

        • Stormy
          February 19, 2014 at 8:12 am

          I just feel like I handled the whole thing poorly – plot issues, character issues, random-if-cute flashbacks, it’s a mess.

          I do really look forward to taking it apart, and making something usable from it.

  7. AvidFan
    May 22, 2015 at 11:54 pm

    Huh. This reminds me of when Dumbo got drunk.
    … Why’d you have to go and do that x_x
    That was something from my childhood that I didn’t need to remember. Although at least this didn’t have sickening colour changes that make you nauseous just from remembering them.

    But I will forgive and forget when she is back in the land of the living… And nomming on a cookie. 😀

    • Stormy
      May 26, 2015 at 8:11 am

      I always try and have one trippy scene per book. 😛

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