Through a Mirror, Transcendently
by Mark Joseph Kevlock
The dimensional abyss yawned wide and my other self stepped through. She was a crime-fighter, a philanthropist, a woman. We sat down to dinner, across the table from one another.
“Do you want to fight afterwards?” she said. “A test of wills in combat?”
“We’ll see,” I said.
She looked incredibly strong for one possessing such a supple form. Of course I was attracted to her. My vanity demanded nothing less. As if sensing this, she raised an eyebrow.
“It would be interesting,” she said. “But unproductive. My time here is short and we have so much to discuss.”
The way her auburn hair fell across her naked shoulders made my mind wander.
“So how did you do it?” I said. “How was it accomplished?”
Reyes, my manservant and most trusted friend, entered with the first course. He was a gourmet. And a busybody.
“I think compassion was the key,” she said. “They were used to a fist on the jaw. They weren’t used to a question about their feelings.”
“So you coddled them,” I said.
Reyes scowled at me for that one.
“You make it sound like weakness to care about people. It worked, didn’t it?”
“Super-villains aren’t people,” I said. “They’re psychotics.”
“They aren’t killing anymore,” she said. “I’ve turned their energies to profitable pursuits.”
I held the spoon motionless, halfway to my mouth. I rose from the table and went to the window.
“If I wanted to implement a similar plan,” I said, “how would I go about it? You and I may be the same being on our respective worlds, but we’re obviously very different people.”
The entire wall was glass. The city held a million lights and a million shadows. I shunned the former, embraced the latter.
“We do the same work,” she said. “We were born of the same tragedy. That ties us together beyond all untieing.”
Kathy had far more courtesy than I. She finished her soup. Mine got cold. I sat back down at the table.
“You don’t have to begin all at once,” Kathy said. “You can choose a single individual and make it work a person at a time.”
“Whatever’s best for this city,” I said. “I’m not so caught up in my own self-importance that I won’t at least try to make a change.”
Kathy thought for a moment.
“Colorblind,” she said. “Start with him. He’s an especially sensitive soul –”
” — who burns a permanent film onto people’s retinas so that they can only distinguish black and white. I don’t see myself asking him what color his mood is today.”
If she grew frustrated, it didn’t show. She remained patient, calm, graceful, articulate, and supremely confident. And her bangs kept falling across her eyes, begging me to smooth them back.
“On my world Colorblind became overwhelmed by all the myriad emotions we associate with particular shades and hues. Brilliant as a painter, he needed vast amounts of encouragement to continue his work.”
“And you gave it to him,” I said.
“I bought him a loft, eventually a studio. Feeling the love and support of others, as he does now, he’ll never harm another soul for the rest of his life.”
“And all of the people whom he’s already harmed, well, that’s just too bad, isn’t it?”
Reyes was back, scowling at full intensity.
“I’m working to help them too,” Kathy said. “You know better than to fall into that trap, that way of thinking. What’s done is done. We can’t control what happened even one second ago; we have to make the best of right now.”
As if on cue the chandelier exploded above us. Another dimensional portal was opening, near the ceiling, disrupting all matter it came into contact with. A figure dropped down through the carnival of light and alighted upon the dinner table between us. It was Rainy Daze, a villain with the ability to enervate those in his immediate surroundings by using an array of soothing sounds which he produced using his third vocal cords.
Kathy’s hand went immediately to her purse, no doubt reaching for her emergency earplugs, but it was too late. I took a more active approach, back-flipping out of my chair then propelling it with my legs toward his midsection. He half-dodged and caught only a glancing blow, crashing backward off the table, gouging his palm as he landed on the upturned tines of my salad fork.
I landed on my toes and flipped again farther away from him. Twenty feet was his optimum range in my world; but this Rainy Daze wasn’t from my world.
“You could hardly get out of bed this morning,” he said. “The sheets were so cool, and that gentle tapping all upon the glass, mesmerizing, wasn’t it?”
Kathy unbuttoned the top button of her dress. She stifled a yawn and seemed to believe herself preparing for bed. Suddenly she lifted her wine glass and began tapping it with her butter knife, as if calling for a toast. The countering aural stimulation negated some of Rainy Daze’s hypnotic effect. But more was needed.
Just then Reyes entered, carrying the main course on a giant silver serving tray. I yanked the tray from him and, quickly removing my shoe, began to bang it hard against the makeshift gong. I felt sluggish suddenly, eyelids heavy, legs unsteady. Then Kathy was there beside me, with her own heel pounding out a rhythm that brought me back from sleep’s frontier.
Rainy Daze was on his feet, on the far side of the table, shouting something we couldn’t for the life of us hear. But we could lip-read.
“All I wanted was for it to be the way it was before,” he said to Kathy. “All I wanted was for you to love me.”
Tears were streaming down his sunken pale face. His skin could not bear the touch of natural light. Kathy moved toward him as the both of us felt his enervating effect on the wane.
Unless she’d been holding out on me, she had never loved him, but his delusion matched that of my own Rainy Daze, who was female — the sense that life was an unending string of afternoons spent cozying up on the sofa with classic black and white romance films and a box of Kleenex at the ready. His every line of dialogue was lifted from some overwrought love scene.
“I want us to be together,” Kathy said, walking lopsided on one heel. “I remember you now; the amnesia has passed.”
Perhaps he could’ve been regarded as merely a charming, if somewhat disturbed, rogue — if not for the fact that he often molested his victims once they were under his power. Were I in Kathy’s place I would have beaten him senseless, unable to control my rage over the visions this knowledge of him conjured. But she merely took him to her breast and led him over to Reyes, who would see to it that he was placed in one of the soundproof holding cells below, until we could get him back to where he belonged.
With the room in disarray and our adrenalin maxxing out like some caged animal’s, Kathy and I adjourned to the terrace. We had less than twenty minutes before the dimensions would shift again into proper alignment for the last time this year.
“I’ll miss you at Christmas,” I said. “I wish we could spend it together like this — well, you know what I mean.”
She was turned away at the rail, her back stiff. Her shoulders began to shake. It was not laughter.
“I let him down,” she said. “I failed.”
She didn’t want my hand on her arm.
“I was so proud of myself,” she said. “Coming here, able to brag that I’d eliminated all of the super-villains within my purview, using only compassion and wisdom as my guides.”
She didn’t want me turning her from the rail to face me.
“Well, one of them slipped through,” she said. “One of them
listened to everything I had to say, smiled and nodded, and then probably turned around and made himself a private bordello out of the nearest school for girls.”
She certainly didn’t want me returning her gaze, with my hands holding gently the sides of her face.
“Maybe if I’d broken his jaw,” she said. “Kicked in his privates, as you would have done….”
Those last words rang sour in my ears. I held her against me and we both began to cry. I spoke without any foreknowledge of what I was saying, except to know that it felt right to do so:
“Kathy, these people, most of them are insane. To expect to be able to cure each and every one, to place that high a value on helping your fellow man…”
Our noses were touching; tears mingled upon our chins.
“… is the most courageous and noble sentiment it has ever been my honor to witness.”
What occurred next between us is not for me to speak of; nor, had I the inclination, would I even try.
The night was calm and exuded a peculiar quality unfamiliar to me, as we stood upon my rooftop and watched the dimensional passage form. I suppose I would call it caring.
“‘What can we know of Heaven, save that which we create in our own hearts?'”
Kathy raised her eyebrow at me.
“My father used to say that,” she said. “I never knew if the quote was borrowed or one of his own.”
“My father said it too,” I said. “And I never knew either.”
She put her arm around my waist, as blue shafts of razored lightning tore outward in all directions around the aperture.
“He said it the night he and my mother died,” I said, “as if impressing it upon me, as if he knew what was to come, and didn’t want me to spend my days suffering in a hell of my own making.”
“I have the same recollection,” Kathy said. “And after they were murdered by that mugger outside the playground I did the same thing you did: blamed myself, closeted up my innocence because I believed that that was what got them killed.”
I tensed as if struck a mortal blow.
“If I hadn’t been such a child,” I said, “if I hadn’t insisted that they take me into the playground…”
“It was the carousel,” she said. “That tiny rusted spinning wonder of chipped paint and overdone colors. I just had to ride–”
“– the lion,” I said.
At the same time she said, “The pony.”
We paused to draw in breath. The portal stood nearly formed.
“Whether our fathers had some flash of prescience,” Kathy said, “or just a feeling of foreboding, I took those words to heart. Even through long years of training, as I hardened my body to match my spirit, I still remembered to preserve some whisper of the happy, carefree child I had been, to leave some small piece of myself untarnished by events, preparing for these times I have recently known, when my heart would open again to know its heaven and to share it with all.”
I broke from her embrace, just as Reyes appeared behind us with his prisoner.
“I guess I’m just now getting the message,” I said. “And I have you to thank for delivering it.”
Without a word, only a warm smile, Reyes handed off Rainy Daze — his vocal cords properly restrained — to Kathy. She pushed him ahead of her through the rift, and turned to say goodbye.
“”I’ll see you next year,” I said. “In the meantime I have some work to do, some people to help.”
“You’ll help them,” she said, “just like you helped me.”
And then reality repaired itself, with a cough and a wheeze and a thunder of light and a sear across the sky, each star a stitch in the firmament.
Reyes stood by my side, as he always did, regarding me with a newfound pride, and a hopefulness in his voice:
“You love her, don’t you, sir?”
We gazed together upon the city, and for once I would stay to see the coming of the light. I would keep watch until each and every one of those million shadows was banished, never to return.
“I guess, old friend, that I do love her,” I said. “But more importantly, for the first time in my life, I’m beginning to love… myself.”
* * * * THE END * * * *
Copyright Mark Joseph Kevlock 2018
IMAGE SOURCE: Autumn Skye Morrison http://www.autumnskyemorrison.com/