Ruby Red and Gentilberry Green: A Fantastical Romance - Part XXVI

in #fiction6 years ago (edited)

This is the twenty-sixth part of an ongoing serial. Here are Parts One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten, Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen, Fourteen, Fifteen, Sixteen, Seventeen, Eighteen, Nineteen, Twenty, Twenty-One, Twenty-Two, Twenty-Three, Twenty-Four and Twenty-Five. Updates every two days, barring minor mishaps.

"This is..."

Anne stared at herself, trying to control her eyebrows. Beside her, Uncle Matt placed the day's earnings on the bed, tied the drawstring twice, and dusted his hands off. It was a quick and workmanlike movement, with no sense of satisfaction at all.

"A mirror, yes. You've seen one before, I suppose."

"I have," said Anne. "You're telling me that this is a planesgate, Uncle Matt?"

The gaunt man folded his arms and pursed his lips, as if trying to distill a very complicated explanation to its barest essence.

"What were you expecting, then?" he asked at last.

"I don't know!" ejaculated Anne. "Something like a... portal? A stone arch? Anything not a mirror?"

"Before I learnt that I was a gatefinder, I had the same idea as you. It was how I made my first leap, in fact. Paying the priests in the All-Shrine."

Anne frowned and considered this for a few moments.

"So the only reason we came here to Heltria in the first place..."

"Was to sell the berries," said Uncle Matt. "And to give you an excuse for disappearing. Time doesn't exactly work the same way in between planes, so I thought I'd give you as much of a buffer as possible."

"Oh," said Anne.

"No-one's actually sure how the planes operate, but there are cycles and epicycles. A gatefinder's job is to catch the precise moment when the worlds intersect, part the silk curtain, and slip through before they come apart again."

He sounded terribly serious, even more so than usual.

"So what happens if you miss?"

"You die," said Uncle Matt. "Or worse, you split. Imagine being torn between two different planes, your eyes on one world and your feet on another. You'd go mad in hours, only you wouldn't be fully mad, either. Just half-insane."

Anne shuddered.

"I hope you won't miss, then."

"No guarantees," said Uncle Matt. "I haven't done this since before you were born. And it’s been a long time since I went to Necristo’s world."

"I don't suppose there's a foolproof method out there?"

“I’m not hiding anything from you, if that’s what you mean. Do you think I want to see my niece dead?”

“No, it’s just…”

She paused, looking at him. Five years he’d spent wandering the planes, in search of his cousin. Why had he done it?

If she never came back, did it mean she wouldn’t have to see the look on his face when he found out that his Mattie wasn’t there anymore?

“The planar cycles. What do they feel like?”

If he was surprised at her use of the term, he didn’t show it.

“A heart in the shape of a lock,” he said. “If you reach out, you can feel it all around you, beating. Like you’re inside it, and everything around you is connected to another everything. Another realm.”

“And the mirror?” asked Anne, reaching out with her fingers. She sent out Necristo’s sorcery like tendrils, latching on to fragments of memory.

The smell of her bedroom. Aunt Mattie’s frown. His smile, his red eyes, his hair…

“We use it to focus. Everything in this world - it’s nothing but the reflection of another. If you look at it that way, it’s-”

He stopped short, eyes wide. Anne felt a click, like a sudden snap of bone. She gasped.

The room was swimming before her, like there were two rooms jumbled together, or like someone had struck her on the head. There was an impossible shimmer in the air, like the heat of summer on a frozen lake.

In the mirror, smirking at her, was her own reflection. Her hands were stretched out in welcome, so horribly opposite to her own. Inviting…

“Don’t do it, girl,” said Uncle Matt. There was a quaver in his voice, another breaking hint of the overwhelming emotion that had flooded him at the mention of Aunt Mattie. “Step back. I don’t know how you did that, but it’s too dangerous. You have no idea where that gate leads…”

The other her beckoned. The world rolled underneath her like a carpet. She stumbled forwards, groping blindly at the air, falling towards herself, towards -

“Anne!”

There was an anguished scream behind her, and then she was in the mirror, tumbling through herself, down through the eternal abyss, reflected endlessly in her own mocking eyes.

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