There was something eerie about watching a whole group of my schoolmates being lead away like a pack of sheep. Penny wasn’t the most social of creatures, so I didn’t know many of them well, but the stiff uniformity of their movements had me questioning whether they were really young teenagers or if they might possibly be very well constructed cardboard duplicates.
It might seem like a strange idea, but as a living piece of mirror, I didn’t find the “Cardboard Theory” that unlikely. My entire day had involved meeting stranger things than that. This wasn’t strange though. Strange felt normal somehow. Watching the kids march away felt creepy, and not the good kind of creepy. At my side, a low growl gave me the sense that Akemi had similar feelings.
“We can’t let them get to that portal,” she said and vanished.
“She’s nuts,” Betty said. “That is exactly the kind of thing that Grandma Apples was warning us about.”
I felt like gravity had increased a thousand times. Part of me wanted to go help Diedra’s Seeming but my feet weighed ten tons each.
“Where did she go?” I asked.
“She’s stalking them,” Betty said.
“Can she handle..,whatever those things are?” I asked.
“I have no idea,” Betty said. “And if I know Akemi, neither does she.”
“We should do something,” I said trying to lift my legs to take even a single step.
“Yeah, like sic a real witch on them,” Betty said.
“I don’t think Penny could handle those guys,” I said, shivering at the image of my witch walking in lockstep with the rest of the kids.
“You’re kind of a baby witch still,” Betty said. “We need someone who knows what they’re doing.”
“I know, so where are they?” I asked.
“Out saving the world I guess,” Betty said.
“Then who’s going to save those kids?” I asked.
“Akemi? Maybe?” Betty said.
“And who’s going to save her?” I asked.
“I know the answer you want to hear, but if we just charge in there we’re going to get eaten or something,” Betty said.
Getting eaten by giant frogs was not on my “To Do” list for the day.
And it hadn’t been on Penny’s! The last vision that she’d shared slammed back into my mind and tore my feet off of the ground.
“You’re charging towards the mind controlling kidnappers?” Betty asked, sprinting as fast as her legs would carry her to keep up with me.
“Yes,” I said, conserving my breath.
“Why?” Betty asked.
“Penny,” I said. “She was eaten by a giant toad.”
We were lucky that the parade to the portal was focused on getting there. Neither the man leading the kids, nor the frogs behind them turned to look in our direction as we raced across the parking lot.
“That looked fun to you?” Betty asked.
“No, but this can’t be unrelated,” I said. “They’ve got to know where she is.”
“You can’t rescue her alone,” Betty said.
“I’m not alone,” I said. “I’ve got you, and Akemi and all those kids right?”
“I don’t think the zombied kids are going to help us,” Betty said. “We need a plan.”
“Can you come up with one in the next ten seconds?” I asked.
“Maybe,” Betty said.
“I’ll go with whatever you can come up with then,” I said.
“You can’t be that desperate,” Betty said.
“Not desperate, just willing to trust you,” I said.
“What?” Betty asked.
“You’ve been nice to me,” I said. “You didn’t have to.”
“You are so going to get eaten someday,” Betty said, shaking her head as we ran.
“Maybe,” I said “But not today.”
“Fine,” she said. “Then I’ve got a plan. Stop here.”
She pulled me a to a halt beside the last car in the parking lot. The parade had almost reached the portal and I still couldn’t see where Akemi was.
“Let’s hope this works,” Betty said. She grabbed my hand and placed it against the car’s driver side mirror.
Contact with the mirror felt like I was completing a circuit. A charge ran up my arm, into the base of my neck, down my spine and then filled every nook and cranny of me.
When the jolt passed, I was standing in the mirror world version of the parking lot. Betty was standing beside me with her hands clutched onto my arm. I felt wonderful but, from the looks of it, my goblin friend had been hit with enough vertigo in the transition that she could barely manage to stand on her feet.
“Ok,” she said and swallowed a gulp to force her stomach back where it belonged. “That wasn’t a great plan.”
“You did it though!” I said. “We can follow them here without them seeing us! They can lead us back to Penny!”
I looked around in the mirror world. Pools and patches and empty clouds showed the featureless silver sheen of areas unformed by reflections. Those were dangerous to many creatures but not to me. I was at home here. The mirror world couldn’t throw anything at me that wasn’t already a part of me and I could match anything that anyone did in here. That was tremendously liberating but also somewhat useless as the quarry I needed to pursue wasn’t in the mirror world. Fortunately, there were enough reflective surfaces nearby that the area around me was pretty solid from where we stood to where the kidnapping parade was marching.
The portal was visible too, but from the mirror world it looked flat out wrong. Mirrors always distort the images they reflect. They’re never a perfect replica. In the case of the portal though, making it look any more distorted than it really was revealed a hidden truth about it, as mirrors sometimes do.
Whatever force opened that rent in space, it wasn’t something that should ever have access to the world Penny knew. I don’t know how I recognized the shuddering words that made up the gate, but seeing them without the haze of the obfuscation spell left their meaning clear.
They spoke of The Lord of the Bleak Harvest and that name called to mind whispers of destruction and the world consumed in flames.