Pulling my face into a taut smile and closing my eyes just so to conceal the small rings under them, I recited my sales pitch, waving my hands to and fro just like I had practiced doing many times in front of myself, reflected in my primary color mirror, the mirror highlighting in marker what I had done wrong and tallying the points docked off. Except this time, the points docked off were real, the red mirror’s comments magnified times three. The words fell like shards of paper from my mouth, blowing in the breeze back to me of what I should be doing, acting as ice crystals seeping the warmth from my body. Funny. Red symbolized warmth, yet my vermillion class sucked it straight from me. Empty applause followed by a loud grating noise signaled the next victim to go up. My spiked seat was hardly better than the front, equipped with a computer connected to the comments in my fellow prisoners’ heads. Useless. Garbage. Can’t even answer questions without thinking for too long. Fuel for the red mirror, who no doubt relished it. It would be a good example for the next owner of the mirror, after all. It was all for the next owner, the one that would bring the red mirror another victory, fame and fortune as the coach that molded her to make her what she would be; I was a lost cause anyway. The experiment that had gone wrong, so let’s try to make the best out of a failed one. Try out everything risky so that the next one would turn out better.
Get up, “children.” Move to the next station.
Blue mirror. Keys dancing before my eyes, fingers flying over the only keys I am allowed to play, the ones that clack with almost the same note where only a highly trained machine could tell the difference between each. No red, only blue and white and black. Assemble the pieces to keep everything in place and move to the next line. Each line a series of meaningless white and black dots somehow forming a blue serpent above, winding down and up in the water, now hissing and ejecting clear venom, after flicking its tongue out to sample the water all around. A gleam of scales and it disappeared beneath another layer of water, blurring its shape but still making it recognizable from the point of the viewer. More dots causing it to wriggle then fiercely leap up out of the water and “shatter” the glass of the monitor, spurting green where the glass cut it, rendering it immobile. Five stars. Ten out of ten. Best death ever.
Stand up. Sorry, ‘teacher’ I need water. I have completed my test. Gasp. Twenty minutes in and the imbecile of the class is done. Must have given up. Bows twirling and suns shining for them, but my serpent glared at me accusingly through the monitor, cursing me like I cursed myself through the
Broken green mirror. No station for that one, for me at least. Just led back to my room because it would be “useless for you.” Fire and ice are all I need, the tools to freeze and burn without knowing how to bind them together to create specific compounds. Of course. Of course I am the one chained to my needles burning and freezing my flesh to reveal the plating underneath made of the hardest tears. The only compound I have succeeded in synthesizing. One place, though, lacked a metallic plating. The place most vulnerable without having any organs to protect. The one place that I could use to get out of here.
Red, green, blue. Cut glass digging into my feet, but instead of British troops, instead of royal ice, vines crawled out of the cuts, reaching out toward the centerfold mirror to discover that the glass had been shattered, only an empty husk where red and blue battled for dominance. The vine curled back into my body, carefully stepping over the broken glass, back toward its alienated home. Tendrils of fragile, pale strands attempted to worm their way into the floor beneath my feet, but the fresh concrete only provided shallow holes, not the solid paths that wound deep when the green mirror still existed. When the skylight was not crosshatched with live wire and when all mirrors could smile without fracturing. At least, the mirrors could pull the tips of their lips taut upwards.
I at least learned that from them. Pull my lips upward so they won’t notice that my eyes have dimmed. Like extinguished stars.
Lights out. Lockdown. All inmates in their “homes” until everyone is calm. Everyone home? Good. No rebellions here, no sir. Everyone happy because everyone loves everything about it, the concrete floors, the lovely beds of needle, the fantastic sliver of sunlight shining one hour each day, only when the sun is directly overhead, the live, always live wire spinning web after web on the walls to make sure that everyone stayed complacent with its deadly pattern. Everyone loves it here.
Everyone except me.
Cut feet standing with my flashlight in my mouth, nothing but a tight wad of flesh going to stop this madness. No more fire. No more ice. Don’t want to destroy the world, only want to stop it from destroying itself. Cold. Arctic Circle cold at the thought of what I was going to do. Destroying “home” property results in at most expulsion, at least a mark on the record. Like I care.
Blue mirror first. My own reflection stared back at me, the snake wrapping nicely around the vulnerable place, squeezing it hard enough to cause royal ice to spike around the body, highlighting every crack where the plates joined together. Stop it.
I didn’t want this!
Never asked for a plate of hardened tears to protect me. Never asked for the skills to freeze, the skills to murder in cold blood for the sake of saving a little bit. Crack.
Me, shocked me, stares back through the blue mirror. You…You hurt me. I-I didn’t want to. You HURT me! Why? Why why why why why? I…It was needed. It was necessary. You said, you always said to do the thing that provided the best outcome, to do the thing that provided the best result. This was the best result for me.
NO! Not the best outcome! You HURT ME! That was not the best outcome! Yes, it was. Please understand. I need this. No, you don’t! Stay with blue! Stay with blue! Blue will make sure that there is always enough water! Enough water for everyone! Because water is needed for life!
Yes, but water is not everything.
Red next. Hahahahahaha!!! She loved red most, red always knew that she loved red most! Because red is always right! Always right! Red knew that she thought placing red on the left was wrong! Because red is always right! Always right! Always right! CRACK. Wh-What? Why did you hurt red? Why hurt red? I thought you cared…
It was never about me, all about the next one. The perfect one. So why do you care about little old me? Because you HIT me! Bend down, new glass on the floor. Glowing blue, glowing red, but not as strong as the glass still attached. HEY! You hurt me! You are such a-
A poop-making machine, a good-for-nothing, a half-baked excuse for a person, someone not fit for your company, I know. I know. Picked up the glass. I’m not good, I’m not perfect, I don’t deserve your “love” and attention, so I’m going away. Away? Why away? A few punishments and you’ll be good to go!
Stagger stack the red and blue, more blue than red, then more red than blue, sticking the clear glass within the cracks when both don’t stick. Kaleidoscope of red and blue, the energy and the water needed for green. Green. My green. I don’t want punishments, lashings, abuse, none of that. Not anymore.
But when you were little, you-
TO HELL WITH WHEN I WAS LITTLE! I am me, not anyone else. I need my green. Why won’t the green come back? Old pieces, red pieces, blue pieces, nothing works…Shard of clear still unused. Clear. Because green died. Listen when we’re talking to you! No…Slice it open, just like feet earlier today. Vines curl up in the air, but worm their way in through a small hole in the glass, still unfilled. Glass shards meld together, not red, not blue, not clear, but green. Flashlight out of batteries, but green lights up. Light up, accept the energy and the water to live. Vines snaking over the cracks, connecting everything together, vines thickening in the middle of the mirror, spreading like a line- No. NOOO!!! Green, stay dead! Stay dead! Green can’t be alive! We killed her! We killed her good!
Blue and red cracks on the glass now. Red and blue refusing to be used in this way. Only used for dominance, for destruction. Burn the vines. Freeze the vines. Burn. Freeze. Burn Freeze.
Everything cracks, glass and vines of the dead green fall. Fall like marbles that never would have fit together anyway because the glue was stolen and spheres cannot fit together to make a flat surface. Always curved. Wrist still bleeding but vines curling around to form a bracelet, blooming with flowers. Black, only blackness in front of me now, no mirror. But…beneath the blackness, right where the rim of the mirror should be, is pure white. Fingers explore the edge, are bathed in full color for once as well. No vermillion, no indigo, only…skin. The real color of skin, where the red should be, where the yellow should be, where the blue should not. Then the yellow, yellow curve of the knob. When was the last time I saw that combination of green and red? Reach up to touch it, turn it. Locked, but the whiteness spread to the side of the blackness as well…a door? Locked door, so there must be a key. On my wrist, a green key, the key with flowers.
NO! Don’t go! Key in the hole. We’ll hate you.
Turn the knob. Like I care.