Sally knelt in front of the mirror, inspecting the frame with a baffled frown.
“A mirror? This is what all those warnings were about? What’s so dangerous about a mirror?” She sounded almost indignant. Brynn stood a little way back, watching. Her eyes were narrowed in thought, her brow creased with a frown to echo Sally’s. Her fingers tapped absent-mindedly against her gun. There was something about this she didn’t like, but she couldn’t quite put her finger on what it was. She fixed her eyes on the mirror pane itself, on the reflection copying Sally’s movements.
Brynn’s eyes narrowed further. Had… had the reflection just moved its hand slightly slower than its living counterpart?
With a stab of unease, Brynn ran forwards and pulled Sally to the side, sending the inventor sprawling. Ignoring Sally’s bewildered protests, Brynn faced the mirror, gun in hand. Her reflection did the same.
Just as it should.
Brynn tilted her head, trying to ascertain whether there was anything out of place, but nothing seemed to happen. Sally moved silently up to stand behind her shoulder and spoke- or at least moved her mouth to form words, for there was no sound.
Brynn blinked, glanced behind at Sally with a questioning, irritable expression.
Sally wasn’t there.
She was still out of the way of the mirror, staring at it in disbelief.
Brynn’s frown deepened for an instant as her mind struggled to find a plausible explanation, then her eyes shot wide open and she span back to face the mirror, gun raised and ready to shoot. Reflection Brynn had copied her. Brynn swallowed. This was not right. This was inexplicable and wrong and it shouldn’t be, and she didn’t know what it was or how to deal with it. Her reflection made no move, the only sign something was amiss being Sally behind her, where she most definitely shouldn’t have been.
“Sally,” Brynn grunted. Her voice rough, discomfort making it hoarse. “What is this?”
“I-I have no idea,” Sally admitted. “Some sort of… hologram?” She wandered around the back of the mirror and to the other side, regarding it like nothing more than a frustrating puzzle. Brynn didn’t take her eyes from reflection-Brynn. Nothing seemed to be happening, so as an experiment, she gradually lowered her gun. The reflection’s didn’t move, still pointing directly at her chest through the glass. A shock of fear jolted Brynn, and she hurriedly returned her weapon to mirror the reflection’s.
She muttered a curse.
“Sally. What if I shoot it?”
Sally was quiet a few moments.
“Well,” she replied, “if it’s a mirror, it breaks.”
“And? If it isn’t?” The question was clipped with barely controlled patience.
“If it isn’t a mirror…” Sally said, excruciatingly slowly, “well, if it’s a hologram, it won’t break unless you hit the projector. If it’s some sort of… of… gah!” Sally exclaimed. “I don’t know! What else could it be? Mirror-hologram-screen-deterrent-danger-trap-prison-“ Her verbal mindmap cut off, and she peered more closely at the mirror. “Technically, it’d be possible I think… Difficult though, very difficult-“
“WHAT HAPPENS IF I SHOOT IT?”
“Nothing, maybe. Destruction, perhaps. Or… the release of whatever is trapped inside it.”
Brynn cursed in frustration. The reflection didn’t.
The reflection winked, and its finger tightened on the trigger. Brynn nearly shot it in reflexive response, but caught herself just in time. The reflection’s mouth twitched, just barely. Most wouldn't have registered it, but this was Brynn’s face. Brynn’s expression. And it looked to her very much like a sign of irritation.
So, that was its game, was it? It wanted her to shoot it? Brynn shifted her feet, taking a steadier position. She didn’t lower her gun, but decided to try talking.
“What are you?” she demanded, taking care to enunciate the words since she had no idea if sound could travel into the mirror any better than it could travel out of it. Reflection-Brynn didn’t reply, but faint amusement hovered around the corner of her mouth.
“You want me to shoot you.”
Still no reaction. Reflection-Brynn was now poker-faced. Yet, had she not wanted to be shot, why would she be threatening them?
Brynn deliberated a minute longer, and slowly lowered her gun. The movement was reluctant, but deliberate.
Reflection-Brynn, after a couple of seconds, followed suit. As far as Brynn could read her expression, she seemed annoyed, yet not beaten. Brynn watched her, suspicious.
“Sally,” she said. “We’re leaving.” Sally was no longer in her line of vision. “… Sally?” she repeated, impatient.
Sally’s voice sounded from behind her right shoulder, and she flinched.
“I think we should break it.”
“I really think we should.”
Brynn’s head was suddenly tugged backwards and down by the hair, a knife held to her throat.
“We’re going to break it.”
Brynn recovered from the shock quickly. Mind control? It was the first plausible explanation that came to mind and she had no time to look for others, so she went with it. She grabbed the hand holding the knife with one hand and twisted under it as best she could with her hair caught. Her centre of balance regained, she gave a sharp kick to the inside of Sally’s knee. Sally’s leg crumpled under her and she fell, the knife clattering from her grasp. Brynn grappled the spitting and clawing inventor and quickly pinned her down, but the flare of a firing gun sent her spinning to her feet, shooting in reply before she had time to realise that the first shot had never actually left the mirror.
There was an instant, frozen in dread, before the mirror smashed in a flash of fractal light. An instant to stare in horror, to curse herself- then the world was whirling glass and insubstantial cackling shapes and Brynn was curled over Sally, buffeted by raw magic, covering both their heads as best she could whilst firing blind into the bright whirring chaos, spitting curses that were instantly whisked away as glass shards sliced her skin and sudden ice stabbed into her abdomen. When bullets ran out, Brynn dropped the gun and shot electricity from her hand. It crackled into the air, blue lightning that reflected all around into a blinding cage throughout the room, and the laughter turned to howls of pain. The flurrying gale of opaque light and translucent brown streaks flooded out of the door like muddied water breaking through a dam. Brynn held tight to Sally, gasping as she struggled against the current of power tugging at her very blood…
And it was gone. The air seemed to reel in the still silence of its wake. Brynn lay still at first, panting. A strange cold burning was growing in her side. She dared lift her head after a few moments, straining her eyes to pick anything out in the relative darkness. Sally’s torch lay on its side at the far side of the room, flickering. Gritting her teeth and trying to steady her breathing, Brynn tried to push herself up, but with a barely stifled groan of pain she fell and curled tight, hands pressed to her side. Her fingers found wetness there, and she squinted at her hand. Dark blood was smeared across it. She muttered weak curses as she saw that the knife was lying in Sally’s hand, glistening red. Her voice shook with the effort not to whimper.
“B… Brynn…?” Sally blinked, the world coming suddenly into focus from a haze of fog. Her head… ached. No, her mind ached. Slowly, she brought a hand up to press against her temple, grimacing. Pushing herself upright, she squinted blearily at the smashed mirror, the glass scattered across the floor, the cuts on her body, the blood-stained knife lying loose in her hand…
Her gaze fell upon Brynn, flickering over the blood seeping from her cuts and dripping from between the hands pressed to her side.
“Brynn!” Sally's mind sharpened with alarm, and she jumped into a crouch to lean over her friend. She shook Brynn’s shoulder. “Brynn, I- let me see. Let me see, Brynn!”
Brynn didn’t move, and Sally had to forcibly pull her hands away. Sally examined it a moment, before pushing Brynn onto her back to look closer. Brynn grunted in protest and clenched her teeth tight. Sally could feel her trembling. Her own head span as she pulled her friend’s shirt aside and saw the blood welling to the surface. She hurriedly pressed Brynn’s hands back over the wound.
“H-hold, Brynn. Tight.”
Exhaling a slow, careful breath, Sally climbed to her feet. She strode to fetch her bag and knelt back beside Brynn, fishing in it for first aid equipment.
“It’s ok, Brynn,” she said in a carefully expressionless voice as she drizzled water over the wound to try and wash away some of the blood and see it better. It looked deep, and a glance back at the knife confirmed it was probably a good four inches. Fear for her friend threatened to paralyse her, but she gave her head a sharp shake and concentrated staying calm. With one hand she reached over to stroke sweat-drenched hair back from Brynn’s forehead. Brynn shifted her head just barely to press closer to it as though seeking comfort, her eyes clenched tight and her face pale.
“S-S- Sally-“ Brynn struggled to force the word out. Her voice shuddered, her breath came in rough ragged gasps, too fast, uncontrollable.
With the other hand and her teeth, Sally tore open a packet of greyish powder that would encourage healing, and poured it into the wound. She packed it in with mossing to keep the wound clean and soak up the blood.
“Brynn, I need to sit you up.” She pressed a wad of bandage against the wound to maintain pressure and hold the mossing in place. The other arm she slid beneath Brynn’s shoulders to heave her upright. Brynn swayed and her head lolled back into unconsciousness. Sally shuffled so that she could kneel behind. Cradling Brynn’s head against her shoulder, she began to wrap bandages tight around Brynn’s stomach.
“Brynn, there now, it’s alright, I’ve got you…” she murmured while she worked. Regardless of whether Brynn could hear, it soothed her own nerves. When the bandage had been tied off she laid Brynn back down with the bag as a pillow, and dribbled water between her lips. Her fingers trailed through Brynn’s hair, prickling with little static shocks. She gave a faint, fond smile, although her eyes remained anxious, and settled down cross-legged to keep watch. The smashed mirror and knowledge that she had no idea what had happened whilst she’d been… unconscious?... left her uneasy, but for now she decided it more important to ensure Brynn was safe. She didn’t much like the thought of leaving her here alone to go and investigate. And besides, Brynn would surely know what had happened. How the mirror had broken.
How the glass had scattered so far.
How the knife had ended up in Sally’s hand.
She knew for a fact she’d last seen it safe in her bag, and yet there it had been. Covered in Brynn’s blood.
A sickly sensation stirred in Sally’s chest and she averted her eyes from it, unwilling to acknowledge the suspicion blossoming creeping tendrils into her mind. Lack of memory, strange inexplicable circumstances that made it look very much as though it was by her own hand that Brynn had been stabbed……
Well. It didn’t matter now anyway, did it? There wasn’t anything she could do, other than look after Brynn as best she could, and wait.