Summary: The daughter of Helena is transported into her mother's creation after the White Queen dies and Helena is taken captive by Anti-Helena, the new Dark Queen. Along with a few old friends, and some new ones, Hermia must not only find a way to save her mother, but she also struggles to reconcile with her mother's unfinished business.
Disclaimer: Bloody hell, man. I don't own MirrorMask. I only own Hermia, Barnaby, and the very nice plot I created here. (winks)
Walking On Air:
It smelled like cotton candy.
Not the kind you buy in those pastel-colored plastic bags at the corner market; the homespun, carnival kind that feels like sweet clouds melting on your tongue. The kind Carl made especially for opening nights. He spun the best cotton candy.
At first I was afraid as the irritating clicking of the clocks sped like the pounding of my heart, and those dolls slowly immerged from their boxes. But then the most beautiful music began. It felt like a lullaby; sweet and gentle like the hands that stroked my face and arms and hair. My fears were stripped away like bags of sand that were weighing me down. Every thought, from my dying mother, to the MirrorMask, to Valentine…
Valentine, you spineless, cake-hogging coward…
Warmth blossomed in my body, spreading to the tips of my fingers and toes. I floated in the embrace that clothed me in black silk and gossamer. The haunting voices carried me away to a grey, desolate land where I felt nothing but absolute, undiscriminating calm.
An angel's wing brushed my lips and eyes. My face was beginning to feel numb, constricting, like the muscles were becoming useless, less flexible. But I didn't worry. With those heavenly songs, what ever did I have to worry about? My bones felt like liquid gold, and with every breath I took I tasted Carl's cotton candy. My mind swirled in an enchanted dance, slow and mesmerizing.
And then it stopped. I opened my eyes. Everything was brighter, sharper, and more real-looking. I felt solid. I felt at home.
A slow, lazy smile lightly pulled my lips upward.
I rolled over on my stomach with a grunt as my fist landed on the "snooze button". I always forgot to turn it off on weekends. Sighing, I snuggled deeper under my quilt, trying to catch whatever remnant of the clock room that remained in that place between sleeping and waking. But it was too late, I couldn't go back to sleep; I couldn't go back to my strange, lovely dreams.
Dragging myself out of bed, I blearily walked to the tiny kitchen. My parents were still sleeping. Some people might have been uncomfortable with living with their parents until they were nineteen and five months old, but I didn't mind. It was too expensive to get another trailer, and I didn't want to be anywhere but my family's circus. Now that Gran was dead, my grandfather had handed over his beloved circus to his daughter and her husband.
Dad always told me that the circus ran in my blood, so it was only natural that I would follow in Mum's footsteps and stay even after I turned 18. However, for some reason I could never get the hold of juggling. I'm alright at it, I suppose, but my true calling is high above the center ring. Ever since I was a little girl, I was fascinated watching the lithe rope-walkers confidently strolling across a thin strip of wire nearly two stories above the ground. After years of practice, I still had that fantastic thrill as I stepped onto that same wire, my arms spread for balance as I walked on air. Unlike my mother, I loved being the center of attention. I am hard-headedly independent, even after I outgrew my rebellious teenage years.
I opened the fridge and took out a Tupperware container of leftover lasagna. A note with Mum's quirky handwriting told the reader, "Hermia: Remember what your mother told you." I rolled my eyes with a smile. She was always telling me not to eat leftovers for breakfast. Ignoring the note, I took it off the plastic container and stuck it in the microwave. As I sat down at the little table under the window of our trailer, I watched the pretty crescent moon clock that hung over the oven. It was already eight-thirty. Mum was usually already up and moving by this time, Saturdays included, doing some thing or another. Usually sketching or absentmindedly juggling oranges as she got water boiling for tea.
My mind drifted back to the dream I had. It was a very odd dream. I was in it, but somehow I knew it wasn't me who was thinking the thoughts and feeling the feelings. I knew it was someone else.
I love dreams like that, I thought as I ate my slightly rubbery lasagna. So uncompromising.
I often had strange dreams like those nowadays; dreams that weren't quite dreams. They were something different, but something just as intangible. Sometimes they were about the circus, sometimes about Gran with her white hair before she died, and, more often than not, they were about a strange and wonderful world that resembled my mum's drawings.
I'll ask Mum about them when she gets up. She always has some interesting explanation for dreams.
I put my dishes away in the sink and went to the den to watch TV. After an hour, however, I began to wonder where Mum was. Getting up, I headed toward my parents bedroom. I raised my hand to knock on the door.
Almost simultaneously, the door was thrown open by my father, alarming me. His eyes were wild, panicky. He grabbed me by my shoulders.
"Hermia, have you seen your mother?" he asked, shaking me a little. His tone of voice frightened me.
"N-no, Dad," I stuttered, eyes wide. "Why are you like this? Maybe she went to the store or something."
"No….no, no, no," he said through gritted teeth, his eyes screwed shut for a few agonizing seconds.
"Dad, what the bloody hell happened?" I said, my voice becoming panicked.
"Helena…she—she j-just disappeared into thin air," he blurted, running his hand through his hair. I was struck dumb for a moment
"She what?" I asked, astonished.
"Disappeared! Vanished! She was right there, beside her little wall of drawings, and the next thing I knew, I turned around and she was gone!"
"Alright, Dad, calm down. She can't've just disappeared," I said. "Go call some friends, see if she might have gone to see them." He looked like he was about to argue, but turned and headed to the kitchen, muttering hysterically. I closed my eyes and leaned against the wall, trying to calm my racing heart. I then turned to my parents' room. Walking inside, I immediately looked at the window. It was locked, that's for sure. But why the hell would Mum try to get out the window in the first place, anyway?
She probably just had some crazy whim to impromptu visit the Alsworthys or something. It happens.
She was right there, beside her little wall of drawings…
My eyes were slowly drawn to my mum's wall of art. She was an amazing artist. When I was a little girl I loved to sit on the ground and just stare at her pictures. I even tried to copy her style when I was older. But, I was no artist. I was an actress. Nevertheless, I still loved staring at her drawings. My personal favorites were the ones with the flying books and the infinite assortment of buildings. There was always one that stood out, though; an old, faded one of a masked man Mum named Valentine. His mask looked childishly drawn, the face itself like a spiked block, and the eyes only pinpricks. But it was his smirk, and the way he held his hands as he crouched against a wall, that intrigued me. Every time I looked at it, I couldn't help but to allow my own smirk to pull up and mirror his.
I scanned the rest of the wall, looking for something, but not knowing what. I had this uncomfortable tugging feeling in the pit of my stomach, like the time my dad tricked me into eating haggis. My eyes suddenly landed on a drawing in the shadowed corner. I looked closer. It was a drawing of a window, or a mirror, allowing the viewer to see the asymmetrical street within, or without. Or something…
Something moved within the room. My arms froze, and my breath caught in my throat. After blinking furiously, I looked harder, my eyes straining to make sure I wasn't going mad.
There! In the corner, there was a movement of cloth, barely perceptible. I moved closer.
"Hey!" I said, not really thinking about what I was doing. "Is someone in there?!"
The movement stopped. Right about convinced that I was just seeing things, I sighed and began to move away. Just then, however, a face appeared in the window. It was colored, unlike the black and white sketch. I stumbled back. The mouth on the face moved. I didn't hear, so I moved closer. The person in the window was wearing a mask.
"What?" I asked, my shocked voice barely above a whisper. The man said something, but his voice was muted. I shrugged uncomprehendingly. He then pointed urgently to what looked like my parents' bed. I stared at the bed behind me, and then back at the little man in confusion. He raised a finger and exited the frame for a moment. After a few seconds (during which I caught myself looking over my shoulder, just waiting for my dad to come in), he came back with a large piece of paper. The tiny writing said "Find the mask." My mind reeled for a second. The mask? There were a good twenty masks in my parents' room alone, let alone the whole house!
What mask? I mouthed, over exaggerating the movements. The man ducked down again and came back up.
Oh. That mask. Mum used to tell me stories about the MirrorMask. But…they were just—
I stopped in the middle of my thought. I was talking to some bloke in my mum's sketch. This isn't just a story anymore. I gritted my teeth and nodded at said bloke before I turned away and surveyed the room. If I was Mum, where would I hide a mask?
I started off looking in the closet, moving cluttered shoes and old costumes. I found a few masks, but nothing that would be a "MirrorMask". I scoured the room, looking through bins and drawers and cabinets in the bathroom. Nothing.
But then…then something drew me to the small vanity in the other corner of the room. I sat on the worn, rickety chair and looked at myself in the mirror. I looked a bit like Mum, but everyone told me I resembled my angular-featured grandfather best. Light brown hair and hazel eyes. In my musings, however, the dawning of realization came upon me.
Where better to hide a MirrorMask…than a mirror?
I lightly touched the mirror. A queer little hum rumbled under my fingers. I drew my hand back, eyebrows rising in surprise. Hesitating for a second more, I touched the mirror again, pushing. The humming was still there, but nothing else happened. I let out a breath. Thinking for a second, and looking into my own eyes, I could swear I saw the outline of another face in the mirror, the eyeholes encircling the reflection of my eyes. Almost out of instinct, I slowly moved forward. As my nose touched the glass, something enveloped it. Resisting the urge to jerk away, I closed my eyes and pushed my face forward, into the mirror. I felt a mask, humming with energy, attach itself to my face. I pulled back quickly, astonished with what I just did. I looked in the mirror. Two blue eyes stared at me from behind a glimmering, silvery mask
I took of the mask with shaking hands and went back to the drawing. The little man was still there, but he looked even more urgent than before.
"What do you want me to do now?" I asked him, forgetting that he probably couldn't hear me. Either way, he understood me somehow and made a motion like he was putting something on his face. Slowly, I understood his intent and placed the MirrorMask on my face. "Now what?"
He beckoned with his hand.
He beckoned me again. I took a step back.
"You've got to be kidding me," I muttered in disbelief. Come on, the man urged. I looked over my shoulder to make sure my dad wasn't coming in. I turned back to the drawing of window. "Alright…" I took a tentative step forward. And then another. My face was an inch away from the drawing now. The Mask seemed to vibrate more intensely.
I took a breath, as if about to jump off a very high cliff into the churning water below, closed my eyes, and allowed gravity to pull myself forward.
I kept going.
You know that feeling you get when you're going down a dark staircase, and there is one more step then you thought there was, and when you step down, there's this sickening feeling of falling until your foot hits solid ground? That's exactly how it felt.
As soon as my feet hit solid ground, and then my legs buckled, I still couldn't open my eyes even as the Mask dropped from my face. I had to keep myself from retching until the nausea left me. Faintly, I heard footsteps approach.
"Are you alright, milady?" an unknown voice asked. I took a few more deep breaths.
"Ask me again in a minute," I rasped. Another set of footsteps approached, and stopped.
"What's this, Barnaby? Found yourself another friend falling from the sky?" a startling familiar voice chuckled above her. "Remember what happened to the last one…"
"I do believe this one is a little more substantial than he was, Valentine," the first voice retorted as my head jerked up.
"Prettier, too," Valentine replied rakishly, winking at me. I was too much in shock to reply.
I wasn't imagining things. There he was. The masked man on the wall. Mischievous smirk, childish mask, white ratty rope; the whole package.
And he sounds exactly like Dad.
Author's Note: I totally need to buy this movie.