Shattered Reflections

Beauty from the Broken

 

girlwindyhair.bordersThe edge of the world. That was the only name I could think to call it. I looked to my left and right where in both directions stretched a barely perceptible wall that separated the brink of this mountaintop from the sky beyond and the valley below. What gave away its presence was nothing more than the light that cut between the ever-shifting dark clouds from the opposite side shimmering against its surface and the faint hum it produced, like an electrical current. I guessed that anyone without the heightened senses I was born with wouldn’t even be able to hear it.

As I stood looking down at the densely wooded valley under the churning sky, the wind behind me pushed my long hair forward so that it slapped against the see-through barrier. I didn’t realize that the borders which contained my known existence were so literal. But surely, if Elias’ latest experiment had taken me here, this had to be what we were searching for. Never before had my brother’s brews transported me anywhere beyond his lab. At least not like this; every other scenario had felt much more dreamlike and I’d woken up in the same spot where the concoction had knocked me out. I reached out my right hand and tentatively touched the wall before me. It rippled against my flesh at contact, but my fingers sensed nothing but warmer air. I breathed a sigh of relief that the convergence didn’t send electricity through my heart.

I took a deep breath as the cool wind behind me spread over my back. I scooted my feet inches forward so that they nearly hung over the edge. I gasped as my stomach rolled and my pulse climbed to an unnatural rate. If this was the barrier that separated our current existence from that of the past, as I assumed, I had to step beyond. We’d been waiting for this moment too long. But how could I take a step when there appeared to be no solid ground on the other side unless one toppled into the deep valley? Could I take such a leap of faith? I had nothing to go on but Elias’ unmatched intelligence.

Time travel sounded ridiculous to most—an overused fantasy. Nothing more than a good theme for entertaining films. But most people didn’t have my brother’s brain or the drive that possessed both of us to prove its probability. I needed to call on that drive now to step beyond the borders of my reality. My heart picked up more speed and my stomach leapt to my throat as I closed my eyes and prepared for what could be the finality of my life. If what I saw with my two eyes transmitted the truth, I’d be dead in no time. If, however, there was something that even my keen eyes couldn’t see, this step could trigger the resurrection of our miscarried sibling.

Holding that hope in my heart, I consciously inflated my lungs and took one measured step with my right foot. The world slowed while my pulse reached its zenith. I let my chest deflate when my foot contacted solid ground; then—without opening my eyes—I moved the other foot forward. Warm air engulfed my face and pushed my hair back away from it. My lips spread into an involuntary smile. A giggle escaped my mouth and I finally opened my eyes.

The vista was a vast deviation from what I had perceived before stepping through. I was not in a forested valley, and neither did the sky above me retain its stormy demeanor. Instead, a flat landscape of sand stretched for what seemed like miles in every direction. The sky was clear blue without a spot of cloud. I narrowed my eyes at the horizon as the warm draft stroked my cheeks.

Nothing but sand and sky. If this was the past, where exactly was I?

“Hello, Jael.”

I gasped at the child’s voice coming from behind me and turned around. A petite girl, maybe ten, faced me. Her hair was dark, long and straight, her skin bronze and her eyes sea green. Nearly an image of my younger self except for the slight disparities in her nose and lips.

Ten years old—that’s how old he or she would be now. I lifted a hand to cover my mouth as my eyes grew misty.

“You don’t have to cry,” the girl said.

I didn’t know how to respond, what to say. But this had to be our sister. As I looked at her wide, innocent eyes, it dawned on me that I hadn’t heard or seen her approach, which was strange considering my gift of heightened senses. I slowly lowered my hand and let a few tears slide down my face.

“What is your name?” So many questions, but I had to start somewhere. I felt that our roles were reversed—she twenty and I, ten. The same age I was when she died.

“Corina,” she said. “Do you know where we are? This is the first time it’s worked, but he always said it would look something like…” She looked around. “…this.”

“He?” I swallowed, resisting the urge to engulf her small frame in my arms.

“Yes. Noah. He said I could meet the others in the realm between stories. He told me about you.”

Noah. How could it be? Noah was our father. “I don’t understand. What stories?”

Corina held her arms by her sides, palms out. “The stories that we’re written into. Noah—he’s writing mine.”

I thought about how Dad was constantly stowed away in his office working on something that he was unwilling to show us. It’s just because he’s an artist, Mom always said.

“So Elias’ time travel tonic didn’t work as he planned. Then…how am I here?”

My sister smiled. “Because I finally figured it out!” She giggled and twirled around, the plain black dress she wore flaring out around her knees. I couldn’t help but smile too, despite my bewilderment. “Noah wrote me with the ability to story travel. I’ve reached the first step.”

“Story travel?” I asked with a furrowed brow. “What’s…the next step?”

Corina paused for a minute, losing her smile. Then, finally: “To enter your story.”

“Can I take you back now?”

Corina shook her head. Then she stepped closer and grasped my left hand, stretching her neck to look up into my face. I squatted a little so she wouldn’t have to. “Things can change, Jael. Ask your author.”

“Are you saying there’s a way?”

“I don’t really know. I don’t think I’ve gotten even to the middle of my story yet. But Elias…he needs to change his methods.”

“Who is my author?”

Before she answered the wind began to pick up the sand around my feet. It swirled faster and faster, and the scene before me blinked in and out. I reached my hand forward, sensing my sister fading from me. “No!”

“Jael, you know him,” she called to me through the tornado surrounding me.

The world went black. I opened my eyes and scampered away from my brother’s face that was two inches from mine.

“What did you find? Did it work?” he asked, wide-eyed.

The revelation smacked me then like a slap to the face. How could I not have known until now? That’s why I had a “superpower.” That’s why he used me as his test subject. I moaned as my world came crashing down around me.

Elias’s face slackened and he averted his eyes. “Holy crap. We’re so close, Dad,” he breathed as he pushed a button somewhere beside me.

The laboratory faded to a thin line then blinked out.

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