“Now what!?” Mary thought.
“Oh, I knew it! I just knew it! It had to be!” Lucille couldn’t contain her excitement, and all of a sudden she looked much younger, an echo from the care free days of her girlhood, when, much like her niece, she was willing to take on the world, no holds barred.
“Do you think we can order the mirror to do things?” Mary asked.
“Probably,” Lucille said thoughtfully, “if we knew how… Did you make any progress with understanding the language?” she turned towards her niece.
“Not really,” the girl confessed.
“No matter, we have time to figure out what we can, later, I’m late for the meeting, we’ll talk when I come back.”
After Lucille left, her niece paced around the attic for a while, to settle her jitters, then started to feel stifled by the stuffy room and decided to get some fresh air and sort out her thoughts. As she walked, deep in thought, her feet carried her to the cave, such is the power of habit, and she only realized it when she was almost at the entrance. The young girl shrugged off her absentmindedness and went inside, figuring that if any place could stir up breakthroughs about the secrets of the old language, the cave was it, with the ancient script carved all over the walls.
The Que’d didn’t get a chance to impress her this time, because in the middle of the room, right under the sky opening, as if miraculously sprouted over night, loomed a much larger mirror, attached to a strange contraption, a table of sorts covered in symbols and lights, some of which she recognized, most of which she didn’t. She poked at the mirror, trying to awaken it, even though there were no playful little symbols in sight, but the surface remained dark, ignoring her touch.
Mary was daring, not foolish, so she circled the contraption first, trying to figure out all of its details, from the strange threads that held it together, like loose warps on a loom, to the plethora of tiny lights and unfamiliar symbols.
Obviously it had been brought there on purpose, and Mary shuddered thinking that there was no way any of its parts could fit through the tunnel, so there were only two possible explanations: it had either been dropped from the sky through the opening above, or, scarier yet, it had been summoned to appear out of thin air inside the space. She spent some time contemplating with dread what power those beings must hold to have mustered such a feat; she got even more disheartened when she realized she’d eventually have to explain all of this to her aunt in a way that would satisfy the Circle, and for the life of her she couldn’t think of one.
Surveying the large mirror took her a couple of hours, during which she tried to figure out what she could about the strange object, especially what was safe to touch and what was not. There was one piece in particular that drew her attention like a magnet, because it was different from the rest of the pictographs under the transparent surface, and if she didn’t know any better she could swear it looked like her hand.
Lucille’s impassioned argument with somebody broke her concentration, but the voices were muffled by the thick wall and she couldn’t get the gist of their conversation.
“In here,” Mary raised her voice, and a moment later her aunt emerged from the tunnel, followed by Mrs. Gentry.
“Oh, my goodness, another one!” the latter gasped. “And this one is bigger! And more complicated! Is that a human hand?” she asked, aghast, making ritual gestures to protect herself from evil and reassuring Mary in the process that what she was seeing was really there.
“I think so,” Mary hesitated, and without thinking, as if attracted by an unseen force, she placed her palm on the hand print. She immediately gasped and winced, and that propelled Lucille to throw her arms around the girl and push her away from the table, placing her own body between Mary and the mirror to protect her.
“I think it stung me,” Mary said, her eyes starting to well up with tears, more from fright than from real pain.
“Let me see,” Lucille said, and as she looked at Mary’s hand the little pin prick on the tip of her finger oozed out a drop of blood. “Please tell me none of it got on the mirror, Mary!” she quizzed the girl, her voice lower with irritation, and in the absence of any validation she crushed a few well thought comments between her lips. “Of all the times this could have happened, it had to be in the presence of the dragon lady, I’ll never hear the end of it!” she thought.
“I think you better watch this,” Mrs. Gentry pointed to the mirror.
“Biometric database search initiated, please wait,” the mirror said, running a sequence of displays, all esoteric and frightening, and then started playing weird but soothing music, to pass the time.
“What’s biometric, aunt?” Mary whispered, terrified.
“I don’t know, but you should have thought about that before you touched the table! What did I tell you? You never listen!” Lucille snapped, too upset to be afraid. The girl was more stubborn than a mule and no amount of good advice had ever made its way inside that fair skull of hers! Blood spells, and in the presence of Mrs. Gentry, no less! The latter didn’t seem phased, however, a very strange thing for her indeed, and refrained from starting one of her famous diatribes, too absorbed in watching the mirror’s antics to pay attention to any of them.
“DNA markers detected, packet code six alpha. Accessing genetic data bank,” the mirror said.
“Let’s just hope and pray that whatever it decides about your blood won’t prompt it to smite us into kingdom come!” Lucille glared at Mary with a deep frown between her eyebrows. The mirror took its sweet time looking for whatever it was looking for, raising the anxiety of the three to epic levels.
Mrs. Gentry acted very much like herself and waited patiently, only her deafening silence betraying her tension. Lucille didn’t know whether to be relieved or worried about the dragon lady’s lack for words, goodness knows it wasn’t something the villagers got to experience very often.
The mirror finally spoke again.
“DNA profile confirmed, class, Coulter, awaiting verbal authentication,” the mirror requested.
“What does that mean, Coulter, as in Abraham Coulter? What do I have to do with Abraham Coulter?” Mary turned to her aunt, wide eyed.
“Long story, dear,” Lucille brushed her off.
“What do you think it wants me to do?” Mary whispered.
“I think it means for you to say yes, girl,” Mrs. Gentry said, and Mary and Lucille were somewhat relieved to notice the lady’s voice had regained its stentorian timber.
“Coulter class confirmed,” the mirror took her words for an answer. “Please wait.”
Mary stood in front of the mirror, petrified with fear, not knowing what was going to happen next, and the mirror reflected her terrified expression reduced to its most defining features, the huge green eyes and the wispy golden curls.
Her reflection disappeared suddenly, replaced by the smiling face of a man who seemed to be speaking directly to her from the other side of the mirror. The man was even fairer than she, and his countenance startled Mary, making her wonder how odd she herself must look to the villagers. She didn’t even know how to respond, other than to start weeping quietly, because in her culture, for a girl to be addressed directly by a man was an disgrace that carried the shame of disavowal, a stigma that closed every door for her in civilized society and eliminated any hope that she would ever fit in.
“Jim, come here quickly!” the man on the other side of the glass looked for an invisible companion somewhere above the mirror frame. “We found ourselves a blonde, and a Coulter, no less!” A disembodied voice from beyond the mirror mumbled morosely something unintelligible.
“I’m dead serious, you think I’d joke about this?” the first man insisted. Another fair head appeared in the mirror, donning an unsociable expression that was a perfect match for the morose voice.
“I’ll be darned, it’s all true! What’s your name, young lady?” he doubled down on the impropriety of addressing a girl directly. Poor Mary was just too shocked to answer.