For the Indie Ink Writing Challenge this week, Lance challenged me with "the long kiss goodnight"; I challenged wintervixen86 (who has an awesome super-sexy man at the top of her page--not that that means anything when it comes to a writing challenge, but just thought you should know...) with "The neighbor needs help hanging up her Christmas lights--you know, the neighbor suspected of murder?"
This may be my last entry on this blog for a few months...
He placed the silver platter gently on the table before her, slowly lifting the ornate lid to reveal it's mirrored surface.
"What's this, then?" she asked, barely glancing up to acknowledge either him or the mirrored tray.
"It's called a... Um... I forget it's technical name, but basically it reveals your worldview through force of will. Sounds neat, yeah?"
"Hmph," was her reply. She gave it an appraising look. "How much was it?"
"Does it matter?" But of course he knew it did. "Anyway, the gist of it is, you gaze on to the surface of the mirror, focusing your will, and it shows the other person your view of the world--as if you were seeing it through their eyes!"
She laughed. "What? Sounds like a lot of hocus pocus. You got ripped off there, Jeremiah." She laughed again and refocused her attention to her knitting on her lap.
"No, no, he showed it to me, see? Watch, it's awesome, wait until you see this." He settled himself more firmly in his chair, the old wood creaking as he shifted. He placed one hand on either side, grasping the silver handles tightly, then focused his gaze on the mirror.
She jumped, losing her knitting needles as a flash of light shot up between them. "What the devil...?" She followed the light down from the ceiling to the surface of the mirror between them, then across at Jeremiah, whose gaze was focused squarely on its center. She looked down again to where it seemed his eyes were focused.
She grimaced as she saw nothing but light, but the longer she gazed, she began to make out shapes and images. A field. The field right outside their cottage, she realized. Small flowers popped up here and there, reaching for the blue sky filled with white clouds. There sat their home, smack-dab in the center--at least, she thought it was supposed to be their cottage. Suddenly a rainbow shot across that same sky, and she placed a hand over her heart as if to keep it within.
Then she laughed. "Jeremiah, you naive fool!" she practically shouted in her ecstasy. "Oh, my. Yeah, we live in rainbow land. Next thing you'll be saying there's a pot of gold just inside the barn doors."
The light went out as he looked across at her quizzically, gaze no longer focused on the mirror between them. "What?"
"When was the last time you saw a rainbow overhead, eh?" She shook her head disapprovingly. "I swear, you see what isn't there and miss what is there with those goddamn rose-tinted goggles of yours."
"Well, then, here--let me see what you see." He pushed the mirror closer to her side of the table.
"Piss off. I have to finish this knitting."
Jeremiah glanced at the half-made item in her lap. "Isn't that the same--"
"Yes, yes. I will finish it one of these days. Darn cheap needles you bought make it hard to do."
"Look, that can wait. Why don't you just--"
"Fine! Fine. If it means you can return this piece of junk and get our money back if I give it a whirl, then fine. Just grab these handles here, yeah?"
"And gaze into it all thoughtful like, yeah?"
"Rubbish." But gaze she did. Jeremiah himself leaped a little as light once more shot from it's surface to the rough-shod straw roof above. He, too, followed the beam of light down from the rafters and onto the glistening surface of the mirror below.
Dead wheat. That was the first thing--yes, definitely dead wheat. She, too, was calling up the field out front. A drabber version of their home sat amongst the dead grasses, and the trees along the fence line, while green with foliage, showed a dead branch here and there, and a rutted, muddy path. The sky was overcast, a shoddy ashen color. No breeze stirred the scene.
"Millie," he cried. "That's not how it is at all!"
"The hell it ain't," she replied, not bothering to look up.
He watched as her scene drifted now, to the fields where they worked. Everyone looked half-dead, pale skin, blood shot eyes.
"Is that--is that supposed to be Floyd?"
"Come on, he isn't that sickly looking. In fact, he never--"
"Hush up, darlin'. You wanted to see the world how I see it? This is how it is. This is our world. Not some puppy-loving, unicorn-humping fairy tale."
"I never--" But he stopped. Then he placed his hands atop of hers as they still gripped the mirror. "No, sweetie. This is how it actually is." And he bent his head.
The light from the surface doubled in its intensity as he imposed his views atop hers.
"What? Oh, no, Jer--I don't think so." And she doubled-down.
And on it went. Scenes and faces flashed across the mirror. There was Floyd, first zombie-like, then a happy grinning fool, then a strange mix of the two, and then he was gone. The cottage, a bit worn looking, now newish looking, then worn looking, back and forth, back and forth.
Sweat began to pour openly from both their brows as they fought, will against will, each one sure that they knew what the world looked like, they knew how it should seem, they knew things the other didn't. Scene after scene, friend after friend, scenario after scenario flashed across the mirror as one thought of something, showed how they saw it, and the other quickly disagreeing, creating a nasty, twisted world. As they fought the once bright white light changed as well, flashing dim, sickly yellow, then an angry red, and bruised eggplant purple.
Neither knew how long they raged. Days passed. Weeks even. People stopped by, but they were lost among the battle, and quietly they would slip away, wondering what had happened to Jeremiah and Millie.
And then, it ended. Jeremiah gasped, released his hold on the handles of the mirror, and slumped back in his chair. He chest heaved, reaching for air, his sweat-drenched clothing sending up a stench. He wiped his forehead and placed his other hand on his chest as if to slow his heart beat.
Millie cackled in victory. "See? I told you how it was, but you couldn't listen, could you?" She, too, finally released her hold on the mirror and the light slammed down to its surface, leaving them both in the dank gloom of what little light could seep through the windows.
"What? No, it wasn't about--"
"Seems I was right, eh? It isn't all roses and kittens, is it? This is the real world, Jeremiah. This is how it is."
"No, look. I realize this is how you view the world, but--"
"You want me to show you again? Do you want to see how it is?"
"I'm just saying, I know that not everyone is nice. I know not everyone will always have something nice to say. I know it's depressing sometimes, but--"
"But nothing. I showed you. It was right there! Proof of what I said was right!"
"That was just a mirror--none of those things actually happened..."
"Whatever." She grabbed a knitting needle from off the floor, grabbed the half-finished scarf, and began once again the endless chore.
"Now go return that piece of junk. We need the money."
Jeremiah lowered his head, shaking it in despair. He walked around to the other side, to Millie's side, and lifted her gaze to his.
"Fine," he said. "You win." And he gave her a kiss. A soft, tender, gentle kiss. Then he let go of her chin. He grabbed the mirror, stuffed it into his sack, and headed for the door.
He stopped, but didn't turn around.
"Jer? What's wrong? Where are you going?"
He turned his head, looking back over his shoulder. "I'm letting you have your world."
"What? No, wait--"
"Good night, my love. And good-bye. Please remember that I did love you." And he closed the door and walked out into the sunlight. Behind him, he could hear her screams, her wails, her angry taunts. His heart broke, but not his spirit. Never his spirit.
As he sauntered down the path toward the village, he heard her yank open the door and scream that she could change.
But he kept walking.
Previous Challenges I have answered:
- [Week 1: All of Me]
- [Week 2: Child's End]
- [Week 3: Seeking Bonds]
- [Week 4: Just So You Know]
- [Week 5: Justice & Mercy]
- [Week 6: Tale of a Fateful Flick]
- [Week 7: Hell or High Water]
- [Week 8: Streaming Summer]
- [Week 9: Piss & Vinegar]
- [Week 10: Set It Free]
- [Week 11: Four Horsemen, Three Gods, a Transgendered Devil, and Lazarus Under a Pear Tree...]
- [Week 12: Worth a Thousand Words...]
- [Week 13: On the Down...]
- [Week 14: Hey Mister, Can You Spare Some Love?]
- [Week 15: Forever Is...]
- [Week 16: Death of a Betsy...]
- [Week 17: Big Bad]
- [Week 18: Coffee: Hot, Black, & Strong]
- [Week 19: The Queen's Confession]
- [Week 20: The Witch of Picassoid]
- [Week 21: Me, Mouse-self and I...]
- [Week 22: "O, Great Genie..."]
- [Week 23: A Funeral for Sven]
- [Week 24: Priceless]
- [Week 25: Empty]
- [Week 26: Armageddon It]