Akane looked ruefully at her reflection in the mirror. Her eyes were red and puffy from crying, her shoes scuffed and dirty from the rocks she'd kicked as she walked. Sniffling, she let her gaze shift from her reflection to the crack in the lower left corner of the mirror. One of the rocks she'd kicked had hit it, shattering the glass. The shop proprietor was sure to come out soon, demanding she pay for the damages. The mirror was huge, wider than she could reach with both arms, and set in a heavy gold-toned frame. It looked like a gaijin antique, an odd thing to be sitting outside a junk shop in Tokyo, and something that was likely to be too expensive for her to repair or purchase.
"Ranma no baka!" she thought. It was his fault, after all. Why, just once, couldn't he do something she asked? ...because I'm not going to be seen in public, on a date, with an uncute, unsexy, uncoordinated tomboy like you! Ranma's earlier words answered her as they replayed through her mind.
Uncute? Unsexy? Akane let her gaze shift once more to her reflection, and this time she let it rest there to study her appearance. It didn't really look like her at all, she realized. For one thing, the Akane reflected back no longer appeared to have a tear-stained face or tear-swollen eyes. Instead, her face was clear and her eyes bright. The difference didn't stop there, however. The reflection reminded her of the those seen in joke mirrors at amusement parks, although the glass in this mirror was perfectly flat. The reflected Akane was a little thinner, a little taller, maybe a little better-built.
It's the way you want to look, something whispered in the back of her mind.
Akane closed her eyes and shook her head, and then opened them to study the mirror again. It was then that she noticed the silvery dust piled at the foot of it, just below the place were the glass had fractured. As she watched, she realized that the pile was growing, although there was already more accumulated than the crack in the mirror could have generated. The fracture in the mirror was spreading too, stretching diagonally upwards towards the center of the mirror. Curious, she knelt to examine the crack, reaching towards the mirror surface with her right hand, while resting the left on the ground for balance. Just before her fingers made contact, she glanced at her reflection again. The reflected Akane was kneeling too, but the girl in the mirror had continued to change. She now had long, thick, waist-length hair, and was wearing a black catsuit instead of a school uniform. Startled, part of her frightened, Akane refrained from touching the glass, halting her fingertips scant centimeters away. Another part of her, entranced by the vision in the mirror, urged her to touch her reflection. Something whispered to her again, telling her that she could become the image if she but touched the silver surface.
Akane remained frozen in place, eyes locked on her counterpart. The dust continued to pile up at the base of the mirror, covering the hand she had placed on the ground to steady herself. The glass fragments felt cold, like snow. As soon as she thought it, the image in the mirror shifted. Now, the reflected Akane stood beside a frozen lake, knee deep in snow, wrapped in red velvet, her hair a long braid draped over one shoulder and falling to her waist. A perky red beret rested above her laughing, red-cheeked face. Her red-gloved hands were busy making a snowball. In the background, indistinct figures ran and played; throwing snowballs and making angels in the fluffy snow.
"Christmas...", Akane sighed. Christmas was her favorite time of year, and she'd always dreamed of going on an old-fashioned sledding party, the kind she'd seen depicted in old American movies. The kind her reflected self appeared to be prepared to embark upon. The reflected Akane smiled, as if she had heard the real Akane's thought, and reached out a hand in invitation.
Slowly, almost reluctantly, Akane put her hand in motion again, moving it the small distance necessary to bring it in contact with the red-gloved fingertips of her reflection, her own in perfect alignment. While the dust had seemed cold, the mirror itself felt warm, its surface oily. Her hand sank into it as if into water. She tried to withdraw it, but felt it firmly clasped in the hand of another. Shifting her eyes from the place her hand had disappeared to her reflection, she saw it had once again changed. The girl in the mirror stood in a black void, her hand outstretched to clasp the one Akane had passed through the mirror. Smiling, the reflection stepped back and pulled. Akane opened her mouth and screamed as her body sank into the glass.
A moment later the proprietor of the junk shop stepped out into the alley. He was certain he had heard someone scream. He glanced around but the alley was empty. Puzzled, he turned to re-enter the shop, and in doing so caught a glimpse of his reflection in the mirror. Only it wasn't his reflection; instead of a balding middle-aged man, the mirror image was that of a young Japanese girl. As he watched, her image began to fade, his own reflection slowly taking its place.
NO! Quickly inspecting the mirror for cracks, he found it unbroken. Only a small pile of dust, testament to the earlier damage, remained on the ground at its base. Cautiously, he touched the surface of the mirror, and found it to be smooth, cold glass. The mirror was solidifying. He would have to hurry if he were to help the girl.
"Akane! Akane!" A young man appeared at the end of the alley, calling for someone both insistently and somewhat frightenedly. With a sinking feeling, the proprietor realized the young man was probably calling for the girl in the mirror.
The young man glanced down the alley, and then continued down the street, still calling for "Akane" - whoever she might be. "Wait!" the proprietor called, "Wait! I think I've seen your friend!" The young man's shouting stopped, and a moment later he reappeared in the alley way.
"You've seen Akane?" he asked.
"A young girl, very cute, with short black hair and dark brown eyes, wearing a school uniform?" the proprietor responded.
The young man hesitated a moment, glancing suspiciously side to side, before responding, "Yeah, that's her."
"I'm afraid I have seen her then," the proprietor sighed, "she's in-"
"-side? Afraid you've seen her? Did she break something? Where is she?" the young man interrupted, moving farther into the alley as he walked toward the proprietor.
"No, she's not inside, she's..." the proprietor paused, and then finished in a rush, "she's in the mirror."
The young man stared blankly back. "In the MIRROR?"
Index of Japanese Terms:
Rough Draft: Fall, 1993
Posted: September 16, 1999
(I told you it was the 1st thing I wrote!)