• I trail my finger down the mirror, keeping in sync with the beautiful girl on the other side. I stare into her glittering blue eyes. Her hair cascades across her shoulders in waves of smooth black. She stares directly back at me. She sees me, but she’s really just seeing a reflection of herself. I know you might think it’s self-centered of me to say that she is beautiful, since technically we are identical twins living in an alternate universe, but it’s not. Really it’s not. We are not the same person. We are both so vastly different. It’s in the eyes. It’s in the way we talk and the way we smile. It’s the way our hearts beat out of sync when the rest of us moves in perfect unison. And she is beautiful and free, and I am hard and weathered.

    She leans her forehead against the cold surface and lets out a breath, closing her eyes. I do the same but I keep my eyes open, I watch her, I keep her from falling into my world. I watch the way her eyebrows have a small crinkle in the middle, and the way her lips are slightly parted as though she wants to say something. I watch the way she rests her hands so gently. Then she pushes herself back and walks away.

    I stand there for another minute or two. Then I slowly press the button next to the mirror. A shield of metal slides down and clanks into place. I twist the lock tight, sealing away the portal. That’s my job, to protect her from entering our world. Everyone has one, they call them their Shadows. I would call her by her name if I could, but the mirrors are sound proof so I don’t call her anything.

    Some people don’t protect their shadows, they let them enter our world and die. They neglect them. Other peoples shadows died long ago and yet they live on without them. When they look in a mirror they are left staring at a blank space we’re they’re shadow should be. Then there are some, but very few, who can take on another shadow. That can only happen if the other half of that shadow for both parties have passed on. But usually they just live on forever never seeing anything in the mirror ever again.

    Most of us protect the people behind the mirrors because we want to preserve they’re purity and they’re freedom and joy. I think what motivates most of us is the thought that somewhere in an alternate universe a part of us is living in a happier place.

    I grab my sweater and head out the door. I stomp down the long fire escape, my boots rattle the brittle rusted metal. My world is so dark and colorless. Different shades of whites and greys, but mostly black. Shadows envelope everything, and the shadows only grow, they never fade. Sometimes I fear that the only bright things left in the world one day will be the mirrors that shine into the other worlds. The last bit of light to stand by while the rest of our world fades.

    I pass many people on my way. We are all dressed in the same black clothes, most of us are grim faced. A gust of wind billows, stirring a cloud of ashes. I duck into the rubble of an old building.

    I make my way past the broken furniture and crumbling walls, and go into the basement. I see my old friend Mags sitting cross legged staring into her mirror, awash in golden orange light. As I descend the creaky old stairs Mags looks over at me with a huge grin, then waves me over excitedly.

    “Quickly, come look! My boy took his first steps today!” She exclaims, beaming with joy, tears in her eyes. I sit next to her and see a living room, dusk is setting. In the room there is a boy and his mother, she takes his hand and lends him her balance and he wobbles on his unsteady feet, then takes a tentative step forward. Mags gasps and radiates pride. She has been protecting him since he was an infant, she has watched him grow up. He is like her very own son.

    I remember how bleak things were for her. She would sit in front of the mirror for hours but would see nothing but herself. She never talked about her previous shadow and I never asked. She was slipping farther and farther down as the years went by. I would try to support her and be there for her but it’s hard to stay happy in this world. Then she looked at the mirror and saw the reflection of a baby boy. And her life changed. She suddenly had a purpose.

    I look over at her warm happy expression and pat her on the shoulder. I am happy for her. She keeps her eyes on the mirror but puts her hand over mine. Then I quietly slip out of her home and leave her to her boy.

    All kinds of creatures roam on this land. We have portals to all the different worlds, and every alternate universe. You’d think with all that power we could have better life, but we are trapped. The mirror into our universe is one way. Once you’re in you can never leave, and you can never travel through a portal again. Believe me, I have tried so many times. I would throw myself into my mirror, or press my back against it, willing it to swallow me whole so that I could feel the sun on my skin, or hear the sound of music in my ears.

    I decide to go check on my shadow. She is walking past a store. I get so many different angles from all her different reflections, the cars, the storefront, the glasses of a stranger looking her way. She’s safe. I leave the metal door open and just watch in wonder, wishing, craving, yearning to have her life, but knowing that if I where there no one would be protecting her from being here and my resolve stays strong.

    It’s late, but here we really have no concept of time. I only know that it is late because the sky in the mirror is starting to turn black. But it’s not like the black that envelopes this world. Instead of being plunged into utter darkness there is a bright orb in the sky that casts a silver light across the world and the dark sky is scattered with millions of much smaller orbs so even the sky doesn’t seem so terrifying. No matter what, there is nowhere in that world that is completely deprived of light. The darkness is always broken. I lay on my back staring up at the sky through the portal and the window to her apartment and I guard her.

    I hear explosions. It’s not uncommon here. I don’t know who or what, but far off in the distance the sky is lit with bright light followed by a terrifying thunderous roar. It shakes the earth. It terrifies me. I curl up against my mirror, cover my ears with my hands, and tremble in the darkness until the sounds fade and the ground settles.

    She is crying. I don’t know why. I came back and she was curled on her bed. I wish I could curl up next to her and hold her, I want tell her not to cry. But I am here and she is there. I press my hand against the mirror and my heart aches. A man comes in and pulls her onto his lap, her hugs her and strokes her hair. I feel my heart ease a little. Then I go to lock the portal, but then the man stands up, and comes to the mirror. He is staring right at me, but he will only see his shadow, not me. Then he writes four words. ‘I love you Emily.’ He turns and hugs her one last time, then walks away. Emily. Her name is Emily. I try it out on my lips and the sound makes me smile. I look at her with watery eyes. Emily, Emily, Emily, Emily.

    She is falling towards the mirror. I scream. I am too far. She slips and is about to hit the glass. Blood rushes to my ears. Her shoulder is starting to enter my world. I fling my body against it with all my might. I slam into her and she gets flung forward back into her world. She will not enter this hell hole. She wouldn’t last a minute.

    I drop to the ground and try to get my shaking under control. I look up and she is looking at me. Not the reflection, she is looking at me. My heart stutters. She looks confused and then scared. She is yelling but I can’t hear. She is looking at me! She can see me! My heart feels like its rising into my throat and my hands tremble. I need to do something. I write on the mirror.


    She takes a step back, eyes wide. She says more but I still can’t hear. Then she shakes her head.

    ‘You don’t know me..’ my trembling hands skittering the ink. ‘ I’m your guardian.’

    She looks less frightened but still shocked. Not as shell shocked as I am. I feel like I might explode. She can see me! I can’t waste anytime, who knows how long I have.

    She writes ‘guardian?’ in a shaky sprawl.

    ‘I look after you….I make sure you never pass through a portal and end up here, I make sure you can live in peace.’

    ‘You look after me? Portals? I…I don’t understand..who are you?’

    ‘I have been with you your whole life. Protecting you.’

    She presses her hand to the mirror and tilts her head to the side, eyes troubled and confused.

    I press my hand to the mirror at the same time, preventing her from breaking the surface.
    Then she reaches through the mirror. And grabs my arm. She pulls me through. I am too shocked to react. The portal shimmers and waves as my body disturbs it, and then I am standing in her room. I look at her, the room, and the mirror with wide, dumbstruck eyes.

    ‘How?..’ I croak.

    I go to the glass and tap it, to see if it’s a trick. To see if I am going to get sucked back in. But all it is is smooth reflective glass. The portal is gone. And I am in Emilys world.