Excerpt from The Water Mirror by Kai Meyer, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Water Mirror

by Kai Meyer

The Water Mirror by Kai Meyer X
The Water Mirror by Kai Meyer
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2005, 256 pages

    Aug 2006, 272 pages


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"Brave girl," murmured Arcimboldo with satisfaction.

Merle broke through the mirror surface with a single step. She felt a cold tickling, like a gentle breeze at midnight, then she was on the other side and looking around.

She had once heard of a mirror labyrinth that was supposed to have been in a palazzo on the Campo Santa Maria Nova. She knew no one who had seen it with his own eyes, but the pictures that the stories had conjured up in her mind bore no comparison with what she now saw before her.

One thing was clear at first glance: The mirror world was a kingdom of deceptions. It was the place under the double bottom of the kaleidoscope, the robbers' cave in the Tales from a Thousand and One Nights, the palace of the gods on Olympus. It was artificial, an illusion, a dream dreamed only by those who believed in it. And yet at this moment it seemed as substantial as Merle herself. Did the figures in a painting also think they were in a real place? Prisoners who were not aware of their imprisonment?

Before them lay a room of mirrors: not like Arcimboldo's storeroom, much more a structure that from top to bottom, from left to right, consisted of mirrors and mirrors alone. Yet the first impression was deceptive. If you took a step forward, you bumped up against an invisible glass wall, while there, where the end of the room appeared to be, was nothing but emptiness, followed by other mirrors, invisible connecting passageways, and fresh deceptions.

It took a moment for Merle to realize what was really troubling about this place: The mirrors reflected only each other, not the two girls who were standing in their middle. So it happened that they could walk straight up to a mirror and bump against it without being warned by their own reflection. On all sides, the mirrors reflected themselves to infinity, a world of silver and crystal.

Merle and Junipa made several attempts to move deeper into the labyrinth, but again and again they bumped against glass.

"This is pointless," Merle protested and stamped her foot in anger. Mirror glass creaked under her foot without splintering.

"They're all around us," Junipa whispered.

"The phantoms?"

Junipa nodded.

Merle looked around. "I can't see any."

"They're afraid. My eyes scare them. They're avoiding us."

Merle turned around. There was a sort of door at the place where they'd entered the mirror world. There she thought she could perceive a movement, but perhaps that was only Arcimboldo, waiting for them in the real world.

Something whisked past her face, a pale flicker. Two arms, two legs, a head. Close up, it no longer looked like a patch of fog but rather like the blur caused by a drop of water in the eye.

Merle raised the glass ball, feeling a little foolish. "Intorabiliuspeteris," she cried, and immediately felt even more foolish.

There was the sound of a soft sigh, then the phantom shot right at her. The ball sucked him to its inside, which soon flickered and grew streaky, as if it were filled with a white, oily fluid.

"It works!" Merle gasped.

Junipa nodded but made no attempt to use her own ball. "Now they're terribly afraid."

"You can really see them all around us?"

"Very clearly."

It must have to do with Junipa's eyes, with the magic of the mirror pieces. Now Merle also saw other blurs at the edge of her vision, but she couldn't make out the phantoms as clearly as Junipa seemed to be able to.

"If they're afraid, that means that they're living beings," she said, thinking aloud.

"Yes," Junipa said. "But it's as if they weren't really here. As if they were only a part of themselves, like a shadow that's separated from its owner."

Copyright 2001 by Kai Meyer.  All rights reserved. No part of this book maybe reproduced without written permission from the publisher.

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