Brightness at night, cold in the sunshine.
"Do you really want to do it?" Merle asked. She remembered how reluctant Junipa had been to put her hand in the mirror; how the water had felt ice-cold to her.
"Really, I don't want to, I know that already," Junipa said. "But if you say so, I'll try it for you." She looked at Merle. "Wouldn't you like to know what's back there, where the hand comes from?"
Merle only nodded mutely.
Junipa pushed the mirror up to her face and dipped it in. Her head was smaller than Merle's -- as all of her was more petite, slender, vulnerable -- and so it vanished up to the temples in the water.
Merle waited. She observed Junipa's thin body under the much-too-large nightshirt, the way her shoulders stuck out underneath it and her collarbones protruded over the edge of the neckline, outlined as sharply as if they lay over the skin instead of under it.
The sight was strange, almost a little mad, now that for the first time she was seeing another person working with the mirror. Mad things could be quite normal, so long as you were doing them yourself. Watching someone else doing them, you wrinkled your nose, turned around quickly, and walked away.
But Merle kept on watching, and she wondered what it was that Junipa was seeing at that moment.
Finally she couldn't stand it any longer and asked, "Junipa? Can you hear me?"
Of course she could. Her ears were above the surface of the water. But all the same, she didn't answer.
Merle was uneasy, but she still didn't interfere. Very slowly visions welled up in her, pictures of beasts that were gnawing on her friend's face on the other side. Now, when she pulled her head back, it would just be a hollow shell of bone and hair, like the helmets of the tribes that Professor Burbridge had discovered during his expedition to Hell.
"Junipa?" she asked again, this time a bit more sharply. She grasped her friend's free hand. Her skin was warm. Merle could feel the pulse.
Junipa returned. It was just exactly that: a return. Her face had the expression of a person who has been very far away, in distant, inconceivable lands, which perhaps existed on the other side of the globe or only in her imagination.
"What was there?" Merle asked uneasily. "What did you see?"
She would have given a lot if Junipa at this moment had had the eyes of a human. Eyes in which a person could read something -- sometimes things you might rather not have known, but always the truth.
But Junipa's eyes remained blank and hard and without any feeling.
Can she still cry? ran through Merle's mind, and at the moment the question seemed more important than any other.
However, Junipa was not crying. Only the corners of her mouth twitched. But it didn't look as though she wanted to smile.
Merle bent toward her, took the mirror out of her hand, laid it on the covers, and gently grasped her by the shoulders. "What is in the mirror?"
Junipa was silent for a moment, then silvery glass turned in Merle's direction. "It's dark over there."
I know that, Merle wanted to say, before it became clear to her that Junipa meant a different darkness from the one Merle had seen.
"Tell me about it," she demanded.
Junipa shook her head. "No. You can't ask me about it."
"What?" Merle cried.
Junipa shrugged Merle off and stood up. "Never ask me what I saw there," she said tonelessly. "Never."
"But Junipa -- "
"It can't be anything bad!" cried Merle. Defiance and despair welled up in her. "I've felt the hand. The hand, Junipa!"
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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