“I’ve set up a meeting with some people that you were interested in meeting. We’ve it all set up so you should be fine, mirrors so you can look at them, that sort of thing.”
“Yeah, we’re just a bit worried if you look at them directly something might happen. Don’t worry though, they’ve assured us that the mirrors will help with that and mitigate any factors.”
“What’ll happen if I don’t use a mirror? Will I turn to stone or something?”
“Well, we don’t really know. It can be difficult for us to look at them, end up with headaches after a short while, that kind of thing, a human that hasn’t changed hasn’t looked at them as far as we know, so you’ll be the first, even if it is just through mirrors.”
Doug felt a thrill of fear go up his spine, “What if something goes wrong?”
“We’ll have a…doctor there in case anything happens. You’ll be fine.”
“So what should I call them?”
“Well, they don’t really have a name, not that we know of and they haven’t given us one to use, We sometimes refer to them as the others, but that’s in the council and mostly tongue in cheek. Like the others want to meet with us next week. That kind of thing. It’s hard to name them, you’ll see why. Besides that they’re like the council for their own races. There are a few but they keep to themselves mostly.”
“Is there anything I should avoid talking about or avoid doing?”
“No, just the looking thing. We have some headphones set up to muffle them a bit if needed. We don’t know how the voice thing will go down.”
“What about the mirrors? Whose idea was that?”
“Theirs. They’re sure it’ll work, though they explained it to me, I didn’t understand any of it really.”
The car stopped outside a sky scraper, they dashed from the car and into the lobby of the building, the rain soaking through their clothes despite the short distance they had run.
“Hang on a sec.”
Doug stood shivering slightly in his wet clothes, “Is the rain always that bad?”
“No, maybe once every few months. It’ll stop after a good hour or so.”
Doug felt a surge of heat through his body, he looked down to find that his clothes had dried, he looked at Max curiously, “One of the perks of living in this city.”
Max turned and walked to a bank of elevators, pressing the call button.
They didn’t speak to each other as the lift rose, Doug felt the fear bubbling in his chest, what if it didn’t go as well as they predicated? What if he was left brain damaged or sick? The lift slid to a stop smoothly and the doors opened, together they stepped out into a large room, surprising Doug, the entire floor was one single room, with large concrete pillars dotted about the place. Despite the lights on the ceiling the room held a bit of gloom to it. To their right was an almost tent like set up, with sheets that appeared to be hastily attached to the ceiling draping down to the floor. In front of the tents was a chair, desk and a large mirror. Doug looked at the mirror nervously, but it held nothing but the reflection of the cloth.
“Have a seat over there when you’re ready, do you want anything? Water or coffee?”
“Water would be great.”
Max nodded and called out, “Hey, Lidia, can we get some water on the table?”
A woman stepped out from behind the curtain carrying a bottle of water and a glass. Her skin was pale and her hair a dark black, she wore a grey skirt and suit jacket, she placed the bottle and glass onto the table and smiled at them both, “They’re all set up and ready when you are.”
Doug let out a breath and moved to the desk, he sat down at the chair and without looking in the mirror, poured himself a glass of water. From the corner of his vision he could see movement in the mirror, he didn’t look to see what it was. Finally the glass was full and it was time to look up, but he didn’t. He felt a deep pit of dread in his stomach. He started to sweat, he could feel a bead began to roll down his back. He looked up, closing his eyes as he did so and before he could rethink, he opened them. His eyes unfocused as he tried to look at the thing in the mirror, nausea hit him a second later, whatever it was seemed to be in constant movement, somehow twisting and undulating, everything curves and angles simultaneously. He took a sip of water, trying to calm his stomach.
“I will not be offended if you need to look away.”
His ears started to burn, he couldn’t think, he didn’t feel well, he should do something but he didn’t know what. Hands grabbed his arm as something was shoved onto his head, his body was turned away from the mirror, he found himself looking out the rain spattered window. He felt dizzy and as though he was about to pass out. A hand placed itself on the back of his head and slowly, he lowered it to between his knees. After a moment he felt better. Someone was wiping at his face with a cool cloth. Carefully Doug sat up again and felt along his ears, they felt like ear protectors. He looked at Max and Lidia, both were talking but he couldn’t hear them. He squinted at their lips, then nodded when he realised if they were asking if he was ok. He took off the ear protectors.
“Are you sure you’re ok?”
“Yes, I want to continue.”
“I’m really sorry, they were sure that would work.”
“I felt a bit sick while looking, but I was ok until he spoke.”
“She. She’s sorry about that as well.”
“Will the ear protectors work?”
“Yes, we’ve tested them out ourselves, we can hear them, it’s a little difficult, but there shouldn’t’ be any problems. I think we’ll avoid the mirror if you want to try talk to them.”
Doug nodded once, then he took a sip of water.
“Ok, let’s do this.”
He sat facing the cloth this time, he could see shadows constantly shifting behind it.
“I am sorry, we did not realise that would happen. We believed the mirror would be enough, though obviously we were mistaken.”
“I’m ok and accidents happen.”
“What are your questions?”
“Well, what do you do in the city?”
“We are separate. We remain separate. Occasionally there is something that we need and so we approach the council and we try to reach a mutually beneficial conclusion.”
“So when did you change?”
“All of us were among the first to change, within the first few days. We were spread out amongst the city and we gathered together. We have our own area which we live so we do not cause interruption to the day to day lives with the rest of the city.”
“What kind of difficulties do you face, by keeping yourselves separated?
“We don’t face any real difficulties from it. The council have been extremely helpful, it works out best for everyone.”
After a short while, Doug thanked the woman, and together he and Max left, he still felt sick and without realising it hadn’t even acknowledged Lidia. Despite continuing he hadn’t asked much else, feeling to sick to concentrate properly. When they were back in the car, he remembered Lidia, “could you please thank her for me and apologise? I’m still a little off.”
“Sure, though I’m surprised you continued after that.”
Doug shrugged. The car started to move and he didn’t want to talk for fear of throwing up.
“Do you want to eat?”
Doug shook his head.
“Ok, I think we’ll drop you home for now, you have my number if you’re feeling better and there’s food in the apartment. You can relax a little, have some sleep. If I don’t hear from you tonight we’ll resume in the morning. We won’t bother you until you give us a call to collect you.”
Doug nodded, “Thanks.”
“rest up, you’ll feel better tomorrow.”
Max offered to walk him to the apartment, but Doug wanted to go up himself. He stood for a moment outside the entrance, watching as the car pulled away. He took a few deep breaths, starting to feel better. As he entered the building he already decided that he’d leave the balcony doors open for a while, let in some fresh air.
He entered the hall and went to his door, hoping the nausea would wear off soon. He ignored the sound of someone walking down the hallway, all he wanted was to sit down for a bit, close his eyes and relax. Pain at the back of his head, sudden sharp, followed by nothing but darkness.
The man looked down at Doug’s limp body, then bent over and picked him up.