I meandered through the streets looking for a sports shop, trying to find Willow. I couldn’t see anywhere that looked promising amongst the various jewellers’ and clothes shops.
I went into the kitsch shop again, thinking wryly that the place was perfect for someone like Amber. This time I read the sign over the door which announced the name of the shop as simply: “Treasures”. Walking in, I noticed that there was nobody behind the counter. Thinking back, I realised that there hadn’t been anyone there the last time I was in the shop either.
I browsed the deserted aisles absent-mindedly until I reached the crystals section where I had met Meena the last time. It was as empty as the rest of the shop.
Suddenly, as though my thoughts had conjured her up, I heard her voice echoing as though from a distance.
Without quite knowing why, I hid behind a display of rainbow umbrellas. I saw Meena’s reflection in the giant mirror framed in ebony wood that dominated the back wall of the shop from floor to ceiling, approaching my hiding place, although I couldn’t hear her movement in the adjacent aisle. Then, to my amazement, the surface of the mirror rippled like water, and for an instant it flashed silver as Meena, who should have been face to face with the mirror by now, stepped right out of it onto the floor of the shop.
She was followed by a man in a crisp tailored grey suit; he was lean with a mess of shaggy dark hair; and behind him, the unmistakeable figure of Willow came through the mirror as though it wasn‘t there.
I couldn’t disguise the gasp that escaped. All three heard, and all three turned to face the place where I hid, frozen with bewildered consternation, cursing inwardly as inside my numb thoughts a hidden consciousness raced to formulate an explanation for this extraordinary occurrence that I could accept as rational. None came.
My gaze was drawn to the new figure, and I was sure had seen him somewhere before, maybe in a dream. He had completed the turn to face me, which seemed to have taken an age although my heart was beating twice as fast. Even through my shield, his angry yellow eyes, irises ringed with black, stared straight into my terrified viridian ones. There was a dangerous air about him and his friend, indiscernible as fury or insanity or evil.
In the split second it took for him to open his mouth, I had closed my eyes tightly and screamed Get me away from here! inside my head.
And without warning, I felt the very air shift around me. I could feel it brushing past on all sides, the backs of my hands, my face, as if I was gliding through the wind; as if time itself was moving past me. Then it stopped. I opened my eyes.
I was stood, inexplicably, in front of the mirror. Before I could register what had happened, the three were closing in on me.
On Meena’s face, delight; on Willow’s open curiosity; on the man’s, a hostility broken only by a glint of interest in those ochre animal eyes.
The words to ask what was going on seemed to have gotten lost on the way from brain to tongue; in any case, a bubbling mixture of confusion with a dash of fear seemed to be flooding me and silencing my voice. I began to back away hopelessly, knowing that any second I would feel the cold glass of the mirror against my back.
There was a united cry of, “No!”, a gasp, a scream and a growl, as instead of bumping into the surface I walked backwards straight through it, feeling something wash over my skin. It was cool, a mix of water and breeze that wasn’t quite real. And then…