by Lynda Collins
I walked through the shattered glass, the shards crunching under my feet like crystals; they cut my newly-formed skin like a hundred tiny daggers, leaving a trail of scarlet footsteps behind me. The trail leads back through the woods, back beyond the veil of trees branches, under the dark leafy canopy where it halts at the edge of an empty frame. A frame that had once held a mirror. A mirror that had once held me.
Did all of this glass come from my mirror?
Did all of that blood come from me?
Amazing how quickly uncertainty kicks is, but then that is what it is to be human; to question oneself. I remember that.
I shiver, and look down, realising firstly that I am naked, my body so pale it looks almost blue in the thin light of a dawning sun and secondly, that it has been a long time since I have experienced coldness. And hunger. I feel emptiness in the pit of my stomach that clenches my guts like a fist.
There’s a farmhouse not far from here. If I keep walking in this direction I’ll reach it within the hour. I know that for certain at the moment. An old man lives there with his wife and his son. I know their faces. I know that they are kind, that when I arrive at their door, cold shivering, with all of my certainties fleeing from my mind they shall welcome me in and clothe me, feed me, grow to care for me, whilst I live with them. I know all that, but I do not know their names.
I was always better at faces than names.
I hear the whisper in the air. I spin, startled, in the direction of the voice, but there is no one there. No one to compel me, to command me to tell them things that I do not wish to tell them and they don’t wish to hear, those days are gone now. They’re gone now.
Three hundred years, she had me for. Three hundred years.
She found me, long ago weeping by the river. Weeping for the love that I already knew I would not have.
“Why are you crying?” she asked, as she stepped from the edge of the forest, the deep, dark forest where the deepest, darkest tales are born. I knew who she was, but I did not care. Stupid fly that I was, I did not fear the spider.
“My love and I will not marry,” I said. “I have foreseen it.”
“Foreseen it?” she asked. “You have this power?”
I nodded, stupidly. “A small amount. I’ve foreseen that I will not marry him, but I cannot tell why.”
“I can help,” she said, moving around me in a slow, sinuous circle. “I can give you what you want.”
“And what is that?” I asked. My tears had stopped. I was nervous of her, but I was curious.
“Knowledge,” she said, beautiful and deadly as a panther. “I have the power to increase your sight, to let you see everything that you would ever wish to see.”
I shivered, but held my head high, too proud to acknowledge the fear that wanted to spin me around and turn me back, running, in the direction of home. She had me, and she knew she did. “I can give you all knowledge,” she said. “Everything. All things that are, that have been, and that will be. Would you like that?”
My heart was broken, my head addled; it must have been. Why else would I nod and say yes?
She smiled, and I should have known to run. “There is a price to pay.”
“There always is.” I said, taking her hand.
The magic and the pain started at the same time, burning me to unconsciousness.
When I awoke, I knew all, like she’d said. Everything that I’d ever wished to know was now in my head. I knew the names of every creature, the size of every stone, who was the fairest in the land. I knew it all, but I was trapped.
She had me. I stared out at her from behind my glass prison, knowing that she had been waiting for me to become what I was; a magic mirror. Knowing that I couldn’t escape her. Knowing that I was her slave until the moment that she died, and that would not be for many years.
“Mirror mirror,” she said, “who is the fairest in the land?” And I had no choice but to answer her. I had all of the answers to all of the questions, but I had no will of my own. “You,” I said, the words dragged from my lips, though I knew that each of them was true. “You are.”
And so it went.
Three centuries she lived. Three centuries of murder and torture and lies. Three hundred years I guided her actions, helped her become rich, become a queen. I had no choice at first, answering her every question truthfully, without hesitation. As the years went by I managed to pull free by a hairsbreadth, assert myself enough that when the girl was born I could protect her enough to let her grow to womanhood.
And when the witch died, and the girl was released from her glass coffin, it was not long until I was released from my own prison.
And so I am free and human again, and my knowledge is seeping from my head. And it feels good, but most importantly, it feels.
It is the old woman who sees me first, thank goodness. She comes running to me, covering my nakedness, bringing me in to her house to sit in front of the fire.
“What are we going to do with you,” she asks, face full of concern.
I look up at her and smile. “I have no idea.” And it feels fabulous.
Lynda Collins was born in 1986. She has been writing since the tender age of five and even has the school reports to prove it, though she would like to hope that she has improved a little since then.
In 2012 she decided that her writing wasn’t too terrible and starting submitting some short stories to various publishers. Since then she has a number of her short stories published in various anthologies, including ‘Undead Tales 2’ and ‘Grimm and Grimmer,’ where her story was selected as the lead story. Lynda has also contributed to and edited an anthology of supernatural stories with the Belfast Writers Group, called ‘The Ghosts in the Glass’ to raise money for the charity, Action Cancer. Recently, her story ‘Alice and the Ace of Spades’ has been accepted for the anthology ‘Down the Rabbit hole’ and she was commissioned to write for an upcoming anthology entitled ‘Her Dark Voice,’which will include two of her works.
Whilst she had until recently focused on writing short stories, she has now decided to knuckle down and write something longer. She is currently working on the first of a series of four fantasy books, each inspired by one of the four classical elements; Earth, Water, Air and Fire. You can contact her at her website: (www.lyndacollinsblog.wordpress.com), which she really needs to start using properly.
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