I felt light…as if I was floating. Maybe I was. Where was I?
I opened my eyes to a green blob, which, as I gained more focus, slowly turned into a beautiful garden. I saw a white fountain to my left with the pouring water simmering in the light of the sun. I sat up where I was laying on the ground and saw the land from the fountain to as far as I could, covered in varied shades of green, with flowers stretching wildly as if no human had ever set foot on them.
‘Where am I?’ I thought as I stood up to the delightful view. The colours were never so bright and alive in any place I had ever been to. The wind was cool and moist, reminding me of rain, but with no evidence of it. The sunlight pleasantly touched my skin. The sun and wind had never worked with such coordination for someone’s pleasure as mine.
“Do you like it? It is all for you,” said a voice. I turned, startled. It was a middle-aged woman, with a quiet voice and a welcoming smile.
“It’s beautiful. What do you mean it is for me?” I asked.
“You will know when the time is right,” she said.
“When will it be the right time?”
“When you know.”
That strange conversation made my already dizzy head spin a little more. It was quite frustrating the way she avoided answering me.
I followed her like some lost puppy, half walking, half lost in the trance of the wonderland I was in. We reached a wooden house with green vines covering its roof, making it look a little shorter than it was. We went inside.
“Is this your house?” I asked.
“No, it’s yours.”
Okay. Could she be more confusing! I was embarrassed to ask more questions! My mind was racing…
“You don’t have to be embarrassed,” I heard her voice snapping me out of my thoughts.
“I’m sorry, why did you say that?” I asked as suspicion started swelling up in my mind.
“Will you believe me if I told you?”
‘She is so annoying.’ I thought to myself.
“Am I what?”
“I’m sorry if I’m annoying you.”
My eyes grew wide. I knew I had no control over my expressions. The women could hear my thoughts!
While walking toward me she said, “Yes I can. But it won’t be a problem-”
I did not hear the rest of her sentence. She was around 5 meters away, smiling at me like it was taped to her face. It turned creepier to me as seconds passed. She was a freak. Everything about this place was abnormal. All this did not seem real. No place is so perfect. No place like this exists.
Before I could even realize, I was already running out of the house. When I looked back, I saw her running behind me, saying something that could not register. She called out my name, but I kept running, increasing the gap between us.
I ran away from the house, through the wide meadow, crushing the flowers under my feet, into the woods, but she did not stop! She was still chasing me, before finally coming to a halt. Looking back a few moments later, I saw her standing far away with the last row of green trees visible, overlapped by some trees with orange leaves. It was then I noticed that the place that surrounded me now was different. There were no leaves. The trees looked close to the dead but not quite; something kept them aflame and alive.
The woman stood at her place. It was hard to read her expressions, but the smile was gone. She looked at me without moving. Then, I was interrupted by someone.
“Who…are…you?” I heard a faint voice.
I looked to my right and saw a young girl, standing a little bent, looking at the ground rather than me. Her long hair hid most of her face. She wore a dark red dress, which seemed to have burnt towards the lower end. Parts of her body also seemed to have burnt at some point in time. I could not help but flinch at the look of her condition.
“Who are you?” I asked her instead.
“No one,” she replied in a timid voice while nodding her head to say no.
Taken a little aback by her answer, I said, “I’m Kaelie. Can you tell me where I am?”
“I don’t know.”
“Are you new here?” I said, being as polite as I could.
“No, I…was born here, I…think.”
“And you don’t know what this place is?”
“I…know this place…but…I don’t know…where you are.” She answered hesitantly.
“Okay, is there anyone else I can talk to?” I asked, feeling she did not seem stable.
“There is…no one…else,” she replied, nodding her head again.
“You live here alone?”
She nodded to say yes. It did not seem like a nice place to live alone in.
I kept quiet for a while and scanned the place. It was not anything like the one I ran from. Probably the opposite. The girl in front of me looked like she could use some help. I felt pity. She looked helpless, scared, lonely…she was at a terrible place, in a terrible state. But when I stepped closer to her, she just moved away, so I stopped trying.
I saw an old shelter right behind me. It must have been white at some point, but it had turned yellowish and black at places. The design was still attractive enough to catch my eye. I started moving toward it and the girl watched me do so. She followed me without uttering a word.
I was about to touch a pillar when she stopped me.
“It is fragile,” she said
“Fragile? It looks quite strong and sturdy to me. Don’t worry.”
I touched one of the pillars wanting to feel the texture and the moment I put my finger on it, the whole shelter crumbled into grains, like sand. I watched the grains slowly dispersing in the hot air. I, petrified by the incident, turned my head slowly to look at her. She stayed where she stood, without saying a thing, just looking at the grains as they moved in front of us.
She raised her left hand and moved it in the air as the grains swirled. And the breeze that carried the grains also blew off her long hair off her face. Through the sand, I saw what she looked like and then whatever I had felt throughout this weird day was replaced by a void. A void where nothing could be filled. As if time stopped and I stopped with it.
As her hair blew off her face, I stood there in disbelief. The heat from the air prickled her face and scorched my brain. It was I. Her face was mine…or was it me who looked like her. I don’t know.
I was not shocked. No. I froze while I saw myself peeking at me nervously. The fire blazed around me, the trees burned, and I burned with them. I felt bare. Like I had been ripped right to my bones. My heart and soul exposed. Nothing to protect me. But I was not shocked.
When you look at yourself in the mirror, what do you see?
And…what does the mirror see in you?
I don’t think we even feel that the mirror looks at us. It is just there.
She was there. Burning right in front of me. And I was the one who thought of helping her. But could I? was I capable of aiding her? Of saving her? Or myself?
She stood there stealing glances at me with her eyes glistening with water, mirroring me. She gave me her hand and I took it. I walked behind her, holding her hand as she walked me back to the same way I came.
I knew what she was doing. And it hurt as she did so. She took me right back to the edge of the forest, wanting me to go back to the place where I ran from. She led me to stand between the two rows of giant trees that divided the realms. The women still stood there waiting for me on my right and while the girl stood to my left. She did what she felt was right for me. But I didn’t.
As I looked at them on each side, I decided to stay where I was. The beautiful lie was just a lie to me, and the truth was willing to be denied. My vision stayed blurred as I sat against a tree. And there I stayed.