((There isn't much to say about this one. It was written mostly in my sleep and turned out so strange that I wasn't really sure what to do with it, but it did all right in the contest so I thought I'd post it anyway.))

The Mirror Room

Christine Persephone

Oh, Angel, I'm so sorry! I know you told me to leave the door alone, that there was nothing at all of interest behind it, but I had to see. I know you told me not to touch the Little Bag of Life and Death, but after you told me that I just had to see what was inside it. Really, why must you make everything sound so interesting? It was just keys, Angel!

Two keys. I . . . I'm sorry, Angel. I should have put them back right away, but it occurred to me that the bigger one just might fit in the lock of that door in my room I wasn't supposed to open. I just wanted to see . . . I didn't mean to turn it, but it turned . . .

What is this little room you built here, next to mine? What is it for? Why was it locked? It has six walls, very smooth and all alike . . . at least I think there are six. The door closed on me and now I'm not sure where it is, and it's so dark . . . you know I'm afraid of the dark, Angel! I cried for what seemed like an hour, but I don't think you heard. Surely you must have come home by now, and surely you must have heard me . . . unless sound can't go through these smooth, cold walls.

Did you build soundless walls, Angel?

I have tried so hard to be good. I've been the perfect houseguest while you let me stay here in your marvellous house underground. I'm very quiet, and I know not to disturb you when you're working. This morning I made the bed in the room you gave me and tidied everything because I know you like tidiness. You'd never know I was here at all!

Oh! The light has just gone on. The walls are mirrors, how clever! And there are six of them, I think. I can't really tell now. Six walls, and me, and a tree . . . a great cunning tree made of iron. What is it for, I wonder? And oh, Angel, where is the door? I heard it lock behind me so I should be able to unlock it again but I don't know where it is!

My reflection goes on forever. There are a thousand Christines in a forest of iron trees, stretching on into eternity, moving when I move and speaking when I speak, though their voices are silent. Why did you never let me see this little room before? I think I would have found it amusing if I weren't locked up in it . . .

I think it's getting warmer in here . . . There's a strange sort of humming and clicking in the walls. I wonder if it's something electric.

It is getting warmer. The light reflects off all the mirrors, hot and bright like a white star . . . but it's just a light. It hurts my eyes, and it's getting hotter every minute. What kind of device is this? What is it for? It's so simple and yet so cunning . . . why did you build it? The walls are too hot to touch now . . .

Oh, Angel! Can't you hear me? Please open the door, I've forgotten where it is! Put out the light! I know I told you I hated the dark but I think . . . I think it is better than this! Let me out! Please, let me out, and I promise to be good! I'll do anything you ask, and no more questions, I promise!

All right. You always wanted me to be patient, so I shall be patient. But I think I shall lie down for a little while because the heat is making me feel faint. I suppose I'm just not used to the climate here. It is a tropical forest, I can tell by the trees.

No! It isn't really a forest – it's just a trick of the mirrors!

But it's funny that the trees don't offer any shade. I'll lie here for a little while and sing to pass the time while I wait for you to come back. I hope you haven't gotten lost in the forest, too.

God, it's hot. The sun is positively blazing overhead and the trees don't give any shade. Might we go home soon? The sun is getting to me, I think . . . the air is so hot and close, it's stifling . . . I don't feel well, I'm sick and dizzy and I can't breathe and I think . . .

It's gotten dark. The sun must have set, but it hasn't gotten any cooler. The air shifts in waves of black heat in strange patterns and rustles the leaves of the trees, and the ground is turning slowly with the turning of the earth. There are voices in the trees, they hum and click to each other, now louder, now softer.

I am not alone in this forest. There are ghosts of beautiful girls flitting through the trees. I can hear them singing. Oh, Angel! There are monsters here! Great hulking, hunched-over shapes . . . they're shuffling among the trees, calling to each other in their humming, clicking voices and swinging their long, heavy arms . . . they look like they were once men, but now their skin is gnarled and their faces warped like knots on trees . . . they're coming closer . . .

I ran. I ran through the forest, away from the men with faces like tree knots. The forest opened into a garden, a lovely little garden, with elegant trees bearing pretty apples and pears far up in their branches, and beds of serene white lilies, and rosebushes of all colours. I fell down amid the lilies and lay there for a long time, worn out from running. Their fragrance surrounded me, soft and gentle, like a lullaby. I think I must have slept.

I awoke to the sound of singing. A beautiful lady, dressed all in white, as though she were to be married, came out of the twilight, singing in some language I don't remember now. She carried herself like a queen, gliding stately as a swan through the flowers, until she came to me. She smiled.

Her face looked so much like mine, but the lips smiling down at me were red as blood, the smile sharp, and there was no warmth in her sapphire eyes. I was weak, faint, powerless as she knelt beside me and gathered me into her arms. She cradled me like a child, running her long, red fingernails down my cheek, over my throat, too hard – her nails scored my skin. I couldn't pull away; her perfume, something dark and enchanting like red roses, held me like a drug.

"Hush," she whispered to me in my voice, only it was smoother, richer, like silk, "my little love. Don't fight. There is nothing you can do. You have come here to my garden beyond the mirrors and now you can never leave it. This place is your forever. And even if you ever found the lock, you don't have the key!"

And then she laughed and kissed me, and was gone.

I can't tell if it is a garden anymore. There are six walls, and me, and a tree, in a dim grey twilight. It's gotten cold, or at least I think it has. The walls are still burning with heat like starfire, but I'm cold. Curse my curiosity! I wish I hadn't wanted to see. There really is nothing of interest behind that door in my room . . . only six walls, and me, and a tree, and the beautiful lady in white.

She told me they were mirrors, Angel! You come and go as you please through the mirrors, they are your doors, they are liquid, air, ether at your touch . . . so where are you? I have been here for a season of days and nights and seen the sun and the stars in their cradle rock across the sky a hundred times.

She told me they were mirrors. I beat my fists against them until they bled, the mirrors bled! I screamed until my throat tore and I nearly choked on it. Now the lady in white is watching me cry. The walls are bleeding and the lady in white is laughing because the door is locked and I was so good. I made the bed and tidied the house. I even put the keys back, Angel, I put the Little Bag of Life and Death back in its place, before the door closed on me. You'd never know I was here.

You'd never know I was here!