Through the Looking Glass. Short Story.

“Is the line secure?”
“Ok, are you ready?”
“Yeah. I think so.”
“Ok, take a deep breath.”

John felt as though the air was being ripped from his lungs, a horrible cold fell over him and then it was over. He stood where he was, he felt warm but he was shivering uncontrollably. A second later Tom appeared beside him, “It’s bracing, isn’t it?”
John nodded, his teeth were chattering.
“It fades quickly, the first time is the worst, after that it gets a little easier each time.”
Already Johns shivering was fading, Tom studied their surroundings. They were in what appeared to be a meadow, green grass stretched off into the distance, the sky was a light blue, the sun shone down on them and a few trees were dotted about the place. Despite the beauty and colour of the area everything seemed off, flat. The colours weren’t bright enough and it looked as though you could reach out and touch anything, from one of the trees to the very sun itself. John squinted up at it, despite the brightness of it there wasn’t much heat. “Why isn’t it hot here?”
Tom shrugged, “We don’t know. It’s only ever warm or cool. Never hot or cold.”
John tried not to wince, words sounded strange here, fragile and sharp.
“We’re not going to do anything too crazy because it’s your first time here, I want you to do a bit of exploring, then come back.”

John nodded and started walking, the grass underneath his shoes felt strange, it yielded easily as he walked, but there were faint crunching sounds, like he was stepping on glass. He squinted his eyes, trying to get a better idea of distances. A second later he walked into a tree. The tree shook, its leaves jingling faintly, John rubbed at his forehead while Tom chuckled. John continued moving, keeping his arms out in front of his this time. The more he explored the easier it became to discern distance until he was able to walk freely. He returned to Tom, “Ok, you seem to have depth perception down, I want you to tell me what you see here.”
John looked around, “some trees, grass, a few flowers, the sky.”
“Anything else?”
John looked again, feeling like he was missing something obvious.
“Where are the birds? The insects?”
John realised he was right. The silence was all encompassing, even their words didn’t seem to travel far. “There’s nothing living in this meadow. Not the grass or the trees. They’ll grow and shift and change, but there is no rain here, nothing to fertilise the trees, the leaves will never fall, no insects to pollinate.”

“So how does it keep going?”
“We don’t know. We can’t bring equipment across to do any proper tests. I want you to take some samples though. What ever you want.”
John turned back and plucked a few leaves from the tree, he took out a knife to take a sample of bark when Tom called out behind him, “I wouldn’t do that. It won’t end well.” John put the knife away and plucked a flower instead, “How so?”
“Taking something small like a leaf or flower or blade of grass is fine, but there is a limit to how much damage is caused. Once that limit is reached something alerts the people here to our presence and then they attack.”
“People? People live here?”
“Of course, why wouldn’t they?”
“How could they live here, like this?”
Already the sound of speaking was starting to hurt John’s ears.
“They would ask the same thing of us. It’s difficult, they’re hostile and speak a language that we haven’t been able to decipher. It sounds like a mixture of speaking and the sounds of glass breaking.”

“But if they speak they must be intelligent, they could be reasoned with.”
“We look similar on the surface but beneath that we are nothing alike, we are completely alien to them as they are to us. It’s not just language, it’s movement, social queues, clothing and an overall sense of wrongness. You’ll understand if you ever meet one of them.”

“Will that happen?”
“I hope not. We try our best to avoid them, sometimes it happens despite our precautions. Have you taken enough samples?”
“Ok, then we will return, after you.”
John looked down at the box on his hip then carefully pressed three buttons, twice on the first, once on the second and twice more on the third. The world seem to turn upside down for a moment, then he was back in the room they had started in. Already he was shivering, but Tom was right, it wasn’t as nearly as bad as last time. He reached into his small pouch to take out the sample, “Ow!” Tom appeared beside him as he was putting his finger to his mouth, there was a small cut.
“I probably should have warned you. Those samples you took are razor sharp here. Hang on, I’ll get some gloves.”
Tom grabbed two pairs from a shelf and passed one to John, “Ok, take them out very carefully and put them on the desk.”
John donned the gloves and reached into his pouch again, muttering to himself as he did, he removed the flower first, then stared at it in wonder. It was completely clear, as though made of glass, it was as though someone had made a perfect replica of a flower. The leaves were the same. “The edges are razor sharp and they are all exceedingly delicate. I’m surprised you didn’t break one.”
“What happens if they break?”
“Well, when they break they kind of disintegrate and just fall through your hands like dust, but each mote of dust is sharp. It won’t cut you too badly, but you’d be grazed.”
John shook his head, “thanks for the warning.”
“I thought you’d wait until I got back before taking anything out.”

Tom approached and picked up a leaf, he held it above the table and snapped it in two, it broke cleanly and a ringing tone filled the room for a brief second, the leaves crumbled, the glass landing on the table with a musical tinkling.
“What are they made of?”
“All our tests just come back with glass, ordinary glass. We still don’t know why it falls apart like that.”
“Why is the stuff we bring over ok?”
“We don’t know that either. People from their side stay the same when they come here, but any kind of injury and they can shatter. Sometimes it can be a small nick, other times nothing will happen.”
“How do you know that?”
“The people before us, the ones who discovered it didn’t think they were real people, and so felt no compunction in examining and testing them.”
“Have you considered that is why they’re hostile?”
“Yes, I have thought of that before. We try to be friendly in all our encounters and we make sure to disengage as soon as possible. Most of the time we immediately leave.”

John turned and looked at the large piece of glass on the wall, “All that though, inside there?”
“I know, it’s very strange, isn’t it?”
“Who would have thought an entire world could find inside a mirror?”


About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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