Chapter 4: Phantoms
Have you ever looked into it?" Junipa asked next morning, after they'd
awakened to the sound of Eft's ringing the gong in the hallway.
Merle rubbed the sleep from her eyes with the knuckle of her index finger. "Into what?"
"Into your water mirror."
"Oh, sure. All the time."
Junipa swung her legs over the edge of the bed and looked at Merle. Her mirror fragments flared golden from the sunrise behind the roofs.
"I don't mean just looked in."
"Behind the water surface?"
Junipa nodded. "Have you?"
"Two or three times," Merle said. "I've pushed my face in as far as possible. The frame is pretty narrow, but it worked. My eyes were underwater."
"Nothing. Just darkness."
"You couldn't see anything at all?"
"I just said that."
Thoughtfully Junipa ran her fingers through her hair. "If you want, I'll try it."
Merle, who was just about to yawn, snapped her mouth shut again. "You?"
"With the mirror eyes I can see in the dark."
Merle raised her eyebrows. "You didn't tell me about that at all." She hastily considered whether she'd done anything at night to be ashamed of.
"It just began three days ago. But now it's getting stronger from night to night. I see the same as by daylight. Sometimes I can't sleep because the brightness even penetrates my eyelids. Then everything gets red, as if you were looking at the bright sun with your eyes closed."
"You have to talk with Arcimboldo about that."
Junipa looked unhappy. "And what if he takes the mirrors away from me?"
"He would never do that." Concerned, Merle tried to imagine what it would be like to be surrounded by light day and night. What if it got worse? Could Junipa sleep at all then?
"So," Junipa quickly changed the subject, "how about it? Shall I try it?"
Merle pulled the hand mirror out from under the covers, weighed it in her hand for a moment, then shrugged her shoulders. "Why not?"
Junipa climbed up beside her on the bed. They sat opposite each other, cross-legged. Their nightshirts stretched across their knees and both were still tousle-headed from sleep.
"Let me try it first," Merle said.
Junipa watched as Merle brought the mirror right up to her eyes. Carefully she dipped her nose in, then -- as far as possible -- the rest of her face. Soon the frame was pressed against her cheekbones. She could go no deeper.
Merle opened her eyes underwater. She knew what to expect, so she wasn't disappointed. It was the same as always. Nothing but darkness.
She removed the mirror from her face. The water remained trapped in the frame, not the finest trace of dampness gleaming on her skin.
"And?" Junipa asked excitedly.
"Nothing at all." Merle handed her the mirror. "As usual."
Junipa gripped the handle in her narrow hand. She looked at the reflecting surface and studied her new eyes. "Do you really think they're pretty?" she asked suddenly.
Merle hesitated. "Unusual."
"That's no answer to my question."
"I'm sorry." Merle wished that Junipa had spared herself the truth. "Sometimes I get goose bumps when I look at you. Not because your eyes are ugly," she added quickly. "They are just so...so..."
"They feel cold," said Junipa softly, as if she were deep in thought. "Sometimes I feel cold, even when the sun is shining."
Copyright 2001 by Kai Meyer. All rights reserved. No part of this book maybe reproduced without written permission from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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