I’d never run in fear like I ran from the mirror people. As fast as the old wolf ran, I managed to keep up. I don’t know if that was because I was running at superhuman speed or because he was running slowly due to being blind but it felt like a little bit of both.
Despite the horrifying situation though, my brain was strangely clear. I’d heard of being terrified out of your mind, but this was different. I was so scared that I was grounded and present in each fraction of a second in a way I never was otherwise. I didn’t feel afraid, or anything at all really. It was like I was trying to outrun my emotions as much as I was trying to outrun the creatures that were pouring out of the walls at us. I wish I could say I was successful at either of those but we only made it a few hundred feet before I felt a hand wrap around my right ankle and lock on tight. As I hit the ground all the air was knocked from my lungs and all the fear I’d been running from rushed in to fill the void.
I tried to scream. I tried to kick at the mirrored hand. I tried to hit the other mirror people away. Any one of those might have worked but I tried to do them all at once and didn’t manage anything more than spastic flailing and a hoarse, breathless whimper.
Everything was going wrong all at once and I couldn’t think over the certainty that I was dead already. My flailing did nothing except bind me up in their arms as they started to pull me down into the floor, which more or less confirmed my suspicion.
Then September was there.
I didn’t see him land on top of me, or strike out against my attackers. The first thing I saw were his claws, silver coated and glowing like the moon as he lashed out to free me. Bits of the mirror people, their blood I guess, splashed against the mirrored walls, a chrome liquid on a liquid silver surface. Except for how the mirror people howled in pain and rage, it would have been beautiful.
Actually, given what they had in mind for me, maybe it was beautiful anyways.
I was still out of it from shock and terror when I felt a warmer hand grab hold of me and haul me up. Rosie didn’t have use of her legs, but as long as she was on Sweepy she didn’t need them and her upper body strength was excellent.
I shook my head and let out a good and proper scream because holding in that kind of fear was just impossible. By the time I was done, September was back up on Sweepy as well and we were cruising along right beside the Wolf.
“Can’t let them catch you like that,” the Wolf said, a font of helpful wisdom if ever there was one.
“Are there going to be more of them?” Rosie asked.
“Of course,” the Wolf said. “But these had an advantage, they knew we were there. The rest won’t know that we’re coming until we get past them.”
“I don’t want to see anything more like that!” I said. “Can we find someway else to go?”
“You won’t like anything that lurks outside the reflections,” the Wolf said.
“Why are we doing this again?” Rosie asked.
“Because we have a deal,” the Wolf said.
A deal which, if broken, would yield bad luck and involve us having to deal with one very unhappy and very large wolf. I still wanted to cut and run, but my fear of the wolf balanced out my fear of the mirror people just enough that I didn’t voice that desire.
The mirror corridor grew wild and weird the farther down it we ran. At first it looked like we were running through a fish tank, with odd scenes reflected around us. Old reflections from the real world that were jumbled together to form strange tableaus.
In one direction, I saw a windswept hill with single, gnarled tree. Lightning played in the trees branches and around the hill surged a sea of sand in every color of the rainbow. On the other side of us, the sea of sand turned into an upside down starry expanse, and above the great blue/black dome there hung the image of an earth with the oceans replaced by brilliant red lava and the land blasted to a black basalt and riddled with rivers of fire.
“Don’t look at any of them too closely for too long,” the Wolf said.
“Why?” I asked.
“You can get lost in them,” the Wolf said. “If they start to show you things you want to see.”
He guided us along the edges of the vistas, into reflections of real places and out of phantasms of places that could never be, always leading us higher and further upwards, through darker and less hospitable realms.
Try as hard as I could though, it was impossible for me not to look at the places that we ran past. For most of them, the thought of being stuck there was horrifying, but a few looked so nice I couldn’t imagine it would be all that bad to be left behind there.
Those, my instincts told me, were the really dangerous realms.
I clung to the notion that things that looked too good to be true, probably were and forced myself to at least not stare at any one place for too long. I was good about that right up until I saw a scene that looked boring and normal. It was a softball diamond with two teams playing on it. I recognized our schools colors on the batter and then recognized the girl as well.
Rosie was up to bat and she was standing tall and proud on legs that showed no sign ever having been injured.