Author's Notes that no one cares about: I'm aware that writing a first person self insert fanfic is about the most indulgent and horrible kind of fanfic you can write. I'm trying to challenge myself to make a self insert that isn't an unlikable Mary Sue.
Trade Days smelled like body odor and sadness.
Trade Days was a large communal yard sale. It happened two times a year and in theory it was supposed to be regular local people selling their shit to other regular local people. In practice, it was a bunch of career "yard salers" selling old bottles of shampoo and aspirin they bought in auctions. When I was a kid, it had been much more interesting and filled with people selling illegal exotic animals like some degenerate hillbilly bazaar. Irresponsible people could have gotten themselves a freakin tiger. Then the law decided to stop ignoring them (or the new sheriff didn't want a tiger) and that all disappeared.
Now, it was just crappy stuff no one wanted with the occasional local trying to sell their old coffee cups and ceramics. And my mother was determined to buy some of those coffee cups. She already had 45,000 coffee cups as far as I could tell, but she wanted more.
I had allowed myself to be dragged along. Partly because it was easier than arguing and also partly because I just needed to get out of the house. After I'd been laid off of my job and dumped in quick succession, I'd started to live a vampire life style. And not the cool vampire lifestyle where you wear shades indoors and leather pants, but more the kind where you're living with your parents and your hobby is crying and waking up covered in little snack cake wrappers.
"Isn't this adorable?" my mother shoved a Precious Moments figurine in my face. It was of a little girl hugging a cat. She and the cat looked like they were genetically part potato.
"That's nice mom…"
"Wouldn't it be cute in a little girls room? Eh?"
Lately, my mother had started to not so subtly nag me about not having any spawn of my own. I was never going to have children. I'm not dating anyone but even if I was I didn't want to have kids. Ever. I think at 30 I knew my own mind by now. That didn't deter her.
"So you're going through with that plan to adopt a pregnant teenager?"
My mother scowled and I felt zero guilt. It's not my fault she couldn't have any more kids. If she wants to play with a baby, she could be a foster mom or something. "No thanks. What do you think of this?"
It was Jesus dying on the cross for our sins.
As a lamp.
"For the house I don't have?"
"Hey, cheer up. It can't be that bad right?" She picked up a plastic plate with an American flag printed on it and turned it over. "It wasn't your fault you were laid off. You'll get another job. It's only been a few months. I don't care if you live with me forever."
"It'll work out." Mom wandered away to another table of nick-knacks.
I shrugged and poked through a box of crap. I remember going here used to be fun. Was it always lame and I'm just now seeing it?
"Hey…" I felt my mother poke me in the side with a one-armed lawn gnome. She had now had an arm full of three coffee cups, a lawn gnome, a commemorative plate, a precious moments figurine, and what looked like a small picture of a native American riding a giant eagle holding an American flag. "You hungry?"
"I'm always hungry."
My mom squinted at me in the bright sun and then reached into her pocket and held out a ten dollar bill. "Get yourself a funnel cake on me."
I scowled. "I have my own money."
Not a lot of it mind you, but enough for a funnel cake.
"Don't worry about it. My treat." She reached over and shoved the ten dollar bill in my pocket.
"Hey!" I reached in my pocket to hand the bill back to her. I'm nearly 30. I can pay for my own snacks. I can't save up for my own place, or keep a long term relationship, or even notice the signs that I'm about to be dumped from a long term relationship, but I can buy my own goddamned funnel cake.
"Don't make a scene." My mother turned around and was looking at some Bible scripture coffee cup with one hand while carrying her bag of random crap with the other.
I stared at her back and felt the money practically burning in my hand. An elderly woman had begun to openly stare at me so I put the money back in my pocket and began to walk over to the funnel cake truck. I know my mother means well, but she can really make me feel so small sometimes.
Ten minutes later, I was covered in a fine sheen of powdered sugar and carrying half a funnel cake. My mother had wandered off... somewhere. The fairgrounds weren't that large. She'd find me eventually.
After wandering aimlessly through an area full of clothes, several towers of dusty diaper boxes, and another with random rusty tools, I'd found a semi-interesting area where a man was selling antique furniture. Maybe I should look for items for a house/apartment I don't have yet. It's like the power of positive thinking or whatever.
A lot of it was obvious junk. There was a hideous green camouflage couch. A pink lamp shaped like a giant tulip. A few wobbly tables. Some of it was quite nice though. There was an art deco table that, even if it was a knock-off, could look great if someone polished the legs and cleaned the glass top. There was an tarnished brash hand mirror with initials carved on the back. There were a few end tables that felt quite solid. He had a lot of old wooden trunks that weren't my style, but were nice in a rustic way. However, the most interesting piece by far was the full length swivel mirror.
The frame was solid bronze with intricate birds carved along the side. The birds looked a bit like peacocks, but... spikier? Phoenixes maybe? Every feather was intricately carved and spread out like the birds were ready to leap into flight. Filigree around the birds made them look like they were on fire. The frame was chipped in several places, but it was still beautiful. The only thing marring it was the black glass. It didn't look like someone had painted it or anything, it was just black. Maybe it was crazy dirty. Weird... It was still an amazing badass phoenix mirror that I'm sure I could never afford.
It can't hurt to ask though.
I walked up to the man sitting behind the fold out table. He was in his late forties, with a long grizzled beard streaked with gray. He smelled faintly of bourbon, but his button down shirt was nicer and better well-kept than many of the sellers here.
He looked up and seemed a bit startled to see me. Had he been sleeping with his eyes open or something?
"Um, I was just wondering how much the mirror was?" I pointed towards it. "I didn't see a price tag."
The mans gray eyes widened. "You can see it then?"
"Well I can't see into it, the glass needs cleaned."
That caused the man to break out into a weezy wet laugh.
"Has it already been sold?" It seemed like the sort of thing that would be snapped up quick.
"Sold? Ha! No it hasn't been sold." His laughter was dying down, but he was still looking at me with a strange wild-eyed fascination. "How much do you want to pay?"
That's a weird way to say it. "Well I only have $40 in my purse... I'm sure its more than that. Sorry, I was mostly curious?"
I blinked. "Seriously?"
The man grinned and I noticed he had one gold tooth. "Yes. Here's a rag to wipe off the glass!" He tossed me a piece of cloth and then leaned forward eagerly.
I stared at him for several moments until I realized he was waiting for me to clean the mirror. I walked back to the mirror. On closer inspection, the black glass didn't look like dirt it just looked... black. And also there was this odd sound coming from the glass. Whispering voices? Must be a radio in the distance or something. I hesitated with my hand poised above the glass and turned.
"I don't think the rag will-"
The man was standing a foot from me grinning maliciously.
"What the hel-"
He then shoved me hard.
I fell back THROUGH the glass and plummeted into darkness.
I landed hard on something unforgiving and metal, knocking the breath out of me. It took several minutes for me to catch my breath and for my body to stop radiating pain. I tentatively tried to sit up and felt relief flood me that nothing felt broken. I'd be bruised up to all hell, but no permanent damage. Miraculously, my purse was at my side and my glasses were still on my face.
Wherever this was, it was pitch black. The air was cool and stale. I think I'm inside something? A shipping container? A cave?
I stood up and almost lost my balance as the ground shifted underneath me.
Light flared up all around me.
I was in a treasure vault.
A GIGANTIC treasure vault.
Torches embedded onto the rock walls lit up the room and made it glitter dazzlingly. It was the size of a high school gymnasium and filled with gold coins. There wasn't a section of the floor that was bare and several mounds rose far above my head. Fist-sized jewels were scattered about. I saw several honest to god pirate treasure trunks painted with faded skull and cross bones. In a far corner, I think I glimpsed what looked like a gold throne. There was a standing weapons rack precariously leaning against a wall with all manner of swords, shields, and various other medieval weapons.
Finally, standing a few feet from me was the mirror from the yard sale.
And most importantly... there wasn't a door.
Panic warred with the elation that I was finally (FINALLY!) going to have an adventure that I had always wanted since I was a small child. That spark of hope hadn't been fully crushed by reality, heartache, and even the mundanity of adulthood. It had stubbornly sat dormant in my heart and it was finally allowed to flare. I felt my eyes water.
Then the thought that I might die in a locked treasure room before my adventure had ever even started clashed with that small spark, so that I ended up so wracked with indecision that I just stared dumbly at the glittering room for what must have been about five minutes straight. I probably drooled a little.
Eventually, adventure finally won over my heart (adventure!) and I decided to take stock of the room.
I glanced over at the mirror… I should probably see if I was trapped here forever.
I reached down and picked up my bag and walked over to the mirror. Carefully, I poked it with my finger.
It was solid.
Okay, so I'm trapped here in this dimension, never to see my family again. Assuming I am in another dimension and not still in my regular old Earth. I feel like if you fall through a mirror you're not just in some underground gold vault. It's a dimension thing right? God, I have to remake my entire life. That is if I don't die from dehydration in about three days in a locked treasure vault... no... NO. None of that brain. Keeping thinking about adventure!
"Hello there! Hello?" I heard a voice call from somewhere behind the biggest pile of coins in the right corner.
"Hello?" I trotted over to where I heard the voice and found a life-sized painting.
A talking life-sized painting.
"Ah, there you are." The painted woman exclaimed. She was dressed in a navy blue Victorian dress with a high collar and silver embellishments. She was probably in her fifties and a bit thick in a shot putter kind of way. She was squinting at me and tapping a small stick to her temples. "I supposed I shall have a new skeleton to gaze upon now!"
I stared. The painting is talking. The painting is magical. It's a magical talking painting.
"You're not daft are you child? Hellooo? Hellooo? Centuries without anyone to talk to and it's a mute." She sniffed melodramatically.
"...hi?" I managed to squeak out. It's magic! REAL MAGIC! Well okay the mirror was probably magical too but this is even more amazing. Adventure ahoy!
"Pleasure to meet you soon to be dead child. My name is Alice Viatorium. I do hope you haunt the room. It's been centuries since I had anyone else to talk to. Charlie doesn't talk much these days." She dabbed her eyes with a lacy handkerchief even though I couldn't see any tears.
"You're nearly stepping on him." She gestured to my feet.
There was a human skeleton sticking out of the gold pile. It had bits of moth eaten cloth still clinging to its bones.
I carefully stepped around the skeleton.
Alice shifted impatiently. "Are you going to introduce yourself or not?"
Oh! Skeletons are distracting. "I'm sorry. My name is Kasey Thompson."
"I would shake your hand dear, but I don't really exist." Alice laughed. "Are you a muggleborn then? It would explain the rudeness and the strange clothing. Do muggleborn women dress like men now?"
Wait. Muggleborn. Muggle.
"I'm in the Harry Potter world…" I reached down and picked up one of the gold coins. One side featured a dragon and when I turned it over the other had a bearded wizard with the words 'Gringotts Bank' stamped upon it.
"Harry who?" Alice glanced at the skeleton. "Charlie, I think she might be a bit mad. Poor dear."
I half expected the skeleton to reply, but it thankfully did not.
"I'm in a Gringotts vault aren't I?" The coin was solid and surprisingly heavy.
"That would explain the piles of gold. Your powers of deductive reasoning are beyond the pale."
"Thanks... Do you know how I got in here?" Well other than via the mirror. God, just watching the painting move was so amazing! I want to poke it.
"Well let's see... If you take into account the phase of the moon and the magical properties of the number 23 and the alchemic process that is used to create the Gringotts coins... I would have to deduce…" She seemed to pause for dramatic effect.
I leaned forward.
"That I'm a painting leaning against a wall for the last century or so and you are a dull-whited lubberwort if you thought I would know!" Alice began laugh uproariously. "A strange little girl ghost in trousers... yes yes, it shall liven up the place!"
"I'm not a little girl!" Can paintings be near sighted? Or for that matter crazy?
"Feel all grown up do you? I bet you haven't even been to Hogwarts yet." Alice paused and seemed to be listening. "Good idea Charlie! Kasey dear, you should call for help."
"Would anyone hear me?"
"Oh I bet the goblins would…" That grin was definitely not kind.
"So I can be a ghost even faster eh? No thank you. I can see why whoever owns this vault wanted you locked away in here forever." I paused. "Who does own this vault?"
"Why should I tell you?" She sniffled.
"Alright, ignoring you now." There has to be a way out. You don't just get thrown into another dimension to die in some random vault.
"Oh I shall have ever so much fun once you are a ghost!"
"I'm not becoming a ghost!" I turned around and starting walking away from the painting and the skeleton.
There has to be some way in and out of this place. The gold was shoved in here from somewhere. The owner had to have a way to access the gold. Maybe the door doesn't appear unless summoned by magic? Or doors never appear from the inside? I remember the goblins had keys in the books. Unless the goblins apparated here? Ugh, so many ways I can be screwed here.
I walked the perimeter of the vault holding my hand along the rough-hewn walls trying to find a hint of a door outline. It took me ten minutes to walk all the way back around to the painting. I hadn't felt anything resembling a door. It was possible that the door was hidden underneath the mounds of gold. I hadn't seen even a hint of floor on my trek around. There was no way of knowing how big the room actually was. I picked up a jeweled short sword and poked at the treasure chests as I passed. None of them sprouted teeth or legs.
It was my tenth go around that I really started to feel concerned.
There was no way I had missed the doorway. It just wasn't there. No hint of hinges. There was no shoot in the ceiling. It wasn't a vault so much as a goddamned treasure tomb.
In desperation, I went to get an axe from the weapon stand to open up one of the chests. I'd have preferred to try to pick it but there wasn't anything shaped like a lock pick. The ax was way heavier than I anticipated. I didn't strike the lock so much as drop the ax down and try to not cleave my toes off. I hacked at it until my arms went numb, rested, and then hacked at it again. Just at the point I was about to give up, the lock fell off and clunked against the coins.
I sat down and opened the box.
It was full of skeletons. Dozens of them. More than it should have been able to hold.
What. the. fuck.
I stomped back over to the painting. "Why the hell is there a truck full of skeletons in here?!"
Alice looked up. She was fanning herself with a lace fan I hadn't seen before. "Hello Miss Kasey. Still alive?"
"Why is there a trunk full of skeletons?!"
Alice raised an eyebrow. "What do you have against skeletons?"
"Oh forget it." I walked over to the throne and sat down. I was starting to get thirsty. I'll take just a short break and try opening a few more of the trunks.
Seven more trunks of skeletons later, I was starting to get VERY thirsty. And tired. And hungry. I'm sure the urge to pee is going to come soon too. My aching arms can't hold up the axe anymore. The other boxes were probably just full of skeletons anyways.
An idea occurred to me and I squatted down and started shoving galleons into my purse. Luckily, my purse was a gigantic 'old lady sneak snacks into the movie theater' kind of purse. After the purse was filled, I also filled all of my pants pockets. Then I took off my jacket, laid it on the ground, piled gold upon it, and tied it up in a makeshift hobo sack. Adventure was going to cost money I'm sure. I don't think it counts as stealing if you're taking from some super evil skeleton collecting witch or wizard who is (hopefully) long dead.
I WASN'T going to die. Someone who is about to die doesn't prep. I could be randomly zapped out of here or even back home. Who knows?
I just have to search some more. It has to be here somewhere.
Hours later, I was pretty sure the door wasn't anywhere.
I lay on top of the gold pile staring at the black void that was my own inevitable mortality like all brave adventurers facing their first crisis (i.e., I was freaking out).
I'm exhausted. A break might clear my head.
I fell asleep without even realizing it. And woke up to what felt like a ... breeze? That was definitely a breeze on my hand. I crawled on my hands and knees and peered down. There was a slight breeze coming from the edge of the wall. The coins had settled so that there was a small hole that reached down a dozen feet. There must be a way out somewhere down below! There must be some way to dig-
My foot started to sink.
I tried to pull it away just as the other foot began to sink. Instinctively, I tried to yank my foot.
I heard a woosh and a clatter as my entire body slipped through the hole.
I panicked, desperately thrashing about as the gold pile rushed to fill the hole, tightening around my body, squeezing my ribs. Pain wracked my entire body as if a giant held me in his hand and was squeezing tighter... and tighter...
I couldn't breathe.
I don't want to die!
The weight had settled so that I couldn't even struggle anymore. My lungs were burning.
I don't want to die!
I felt like my ribs were about to crack. My vision grayed.
I saw my mother pushing me on a swing. My dad sitting with me on the couch eating saltines with peanut butter. I saw my childhood dog Fuzzy catching snowballs in the snow. I saw myself too afraid to climb my neighbors swing set. I saw my elementary school best friend jumping off her roof into her pool. God she'd been crazy and brave. I saw the junior high bully taunting me to hit him. I buried my dog. I was marching in high school band in the heat. I was skipping school with my best friends. I was graduating college.
I was filing papers at my first job staring at the off white walls. I was filing papers again at my second job, staring at the off white walls. I was at my third job, filling out paper work and staring at the off white walls.
I was sitting on my ex's couch as he broke my heart.
God, I've wasted my life.
I don't want to die here!
I WON'T DIE HERE!
Something shifted inside of me. Like a cork popping out of a bottle or a shaken soda exploding and expanding outward. My veins felt they were filled with electricity and then I was falling and hitting a rock floor hard. I gasped as the breath was knocked out of me. A wind whipped my hair about and then suddenly died down as if it never existed.
I blinked dazedly. Spots were floating in my vision and my head was pounding like crazy. My back ached. It took me several minutes to catch my breath and feel like I could sit up and look around. Nothing felt like it was broken.
The gold was evenly separated into two piles down the middle. Somehow, beside me was my purse and jacket. The painting and mirror appeared to be buried.
Most importantly there was now a four foot hole in the side of the stone wall exposing a tunnel.