Man in the Mirror
By all other means, today is beautiful. Every now and again there moments where the air is just right, the sun is warm and not too bright. The insects keep to themselves while chirping and buzzing at a distance, it’s not too hot or cold. One can smell the sweet fragrance of the pine trees from the forest close by; a deep and crisp smell instinctively reminding us of Christmas. The breeze is a soft kiss from the clouds and brushes by our skin enough to cool us down and feel at peace.
By those accounts, the day itself is wonderful. For Tyler, his day and his life are consequently coming to an end. He is tied to one of the crosses the Legion carry with them. His arms are wrapped around the horizontal, wooden bar making his shoulders have to arch backwards and causing his chest to protrude. His head hangs downward as his unconscious mind tries to come to clarity.
The T-shaped cross is leaning forward at a forty-five degree angle from the ground. If he could notice, he would see the cross is planted into the field just below the Coughing Rock, an area outside of the town he grew up. The grass is thick and green, showing off the signs of Spring and before the Summer heat crisps it all to brown tendrils. Below him, bending the grass to the ground is a large mirror facing up at him.
The mirror was taken from his house and used to belong to his grandparents. A large deep oak frame surrounded the glass and the edging held intricate carvings with large swooping patterns. The craftsmanship and time spent on the mirror is reflective of elder craftsmanship and was apparent even back then, the large furnishing would have cost quite a lot.
As the sun hit the beveled edge of the mirror, a beam shot up and into Tyler’s face. The blinding spire began to rouse him from unconsciousness and as he opened his mouth, thick strings of blood slowly started to leak out. His shaggy hair hung down in large, wet chunks. Some of it caked with blood and the other locks with sweat. As he gained his bearings, he could at first taste the coppery bitterness inside his cheek, like he had been sucking on a penny for the last hour. Most of his right side around his jawbone felt numb and puffy. Then as he came to even more, the throbbing pulse of pain started to branch out like a quick-growing weed whose roots have burrowed in. It traveled in zigzag branches through his face and landed in a clump towards the side of his head where one of the guards had struck him.
The pain gave way to anxiety as he felt his arms restrained. He had been caught. He can recall the chase as he had leapt through the looking glass at his apartment and they were all waiting there for him. He had only enough time to swallow his rapidly beating heart and start diving through his fire escape. He ran up, not down, hoping he still had a plank draped across to the other roof as he had planned and positioned it many months ago. He remembered scaling to the top at lightning speed and began sprinting over the tarred rooftop. He was nearly to the edge when the guard appeared behind the rooftop exist and thrown his baton, cleanly hitting Tyler right by his temple and dropping him instantly.
Now Tyler began to open his eyes to the blinding afternoon to see what was to come. As he looked down, he noticed the mirror from his apartment below him. It was set for an execution.
From behind him, he could hear the grass being swayed by footsteps. The swooshing noise reminded him of when his brother and him would play tag out in the pasture off their grandparents’ farm. It felt most unfortunate to have to associate that noise with this moment from now on.
“Tyler Rothechild. You have been captured and are now in an executable venture as deemed through the Department of Defense. We are set to carry out these orders at 3:00 in the afternoon on this day in April. We are also giving you the option to reduce the count to life in prison for information leading to the whereabouts of your brother, Aiden Rothechild. Do you understand the charges and repercussions as I have stated?”
Tyler made no sound and simply hung there in the air, waiting. “Clerk, make note the subject declined the auditory answer and nodded instead.”
“Clerk, that is all. You may choose to wait in the vehicle until the sentence is carried out or the subject confesses.”
A small woman of about 40 years old, shut down the tablet recording the speech and proceeded with one of the two guards toward the Legion’s transport vehicle in the distance behind Tyler. The speaker made his way closer to him and simply began whistling a little tune. From what could be picked up, it sounded like Happy Birthday.
“Tyler, I hope I can call you that, I always find the formal jargon a little impersonal. And truth be told, beyond sex, this is truly the closest two people will ever get; a dying man and his executioner.”
“What is this?” Even though Tyler had heard of executions for Shifters, he had never seen let alone been partied to one.
The speaker simply smiled; an ear to ear grin reminiscent of the Cheshire cat. The smile raised the mustache nearly to the corners of his eyes. Tyler noticed he had an old-style handlebar, the kind men used to wax into curls. That, along with his grin, gave Tyler a shiver.
“This? This is the moment where you realize there are one of two basic options. A and B. A, you play big Billy bad ass and try to clam up. This will momentarily save your brother from being found. This option also leaves you with a bloody smile which starts across your throat. Option B, you tell me where he is at, where he might go, where he’s been and we shorten this little chase and both you and your brother become incarcerated at San Joaquin, a nice little hole in the dirt made just for people like yourself. Granted, there is no parole for your kind, you basically stay locked up forever, and you and I know that can mean a hell of a long time for you two.”
Tyler tried feeling out the methods to how he was held in place, they weren’t ropes, they were straps and they were tightly in place, so no wiggle room allowed. His feet were held similarly. There was only two means of escape, A or B.
“And, might I add, Option A, if you don’t already know, will permanently kill you. You see, we found out a while ago that just shooting you here, you eventually just pop back up somewhere else. A guard once, shot a Shifter as he ran for a looking glass. His blood sprayed out and as he made contact, nothing. No going through, no other contact. So we learned in order for your kind to truly be killed, we had to do it in front of a mirror. Hence, below.” He stretched out his arm and did a ta-da number with his fingers.
“You see, as we can describe it, you shift between this world and the others and can transport yourself to anywhere in our world. Shit, you can even come back from death itself… unless your reflection see’s you dying.” The man peered up at Tyler, trying to invoke a response. Spit in the eye, a plea, a curse word or two, but he just hung up there and looked down at his reflection.
“So, A or B? I won’t ask again and there won’t be a second chance.”
Tyler took only a moment to think, knowing his brother was far more important than what his life had to offer. He had the plan and the means to fix things in this world. So for him, the answer was simple, “A.”
The speaker sighed a little, but his grin simply grew wider. He raised one finger in the air and gave a clockwise spinning motion to the guard near the base. There was a crank that the guard began turning and the cross slowly started to lower towards the mirror. The speaker walked towards the base and Tyler could feel his throat slowly close and his heart pound. Then there was a jarring as the cross stopped followed by another one from the speaker jumping onto it and slowly walking up towards his body. The mirror was a short three feet away, if only he could only get a finger on it, the rest could help pull him through. The footsteps felt heavier and closer as he approached. And as Tyler looked down, he could see his reflection squirming trying to find a way to get free and the panicked look suffocating its eyes. Tyler could offer no comfort, but still tried, “I’m sorry. Everything will work out as it is supposed to.”
His reflection tried to embrace the inevitability, but tears formed in its eyes and flew upwards, colliding with the pane. Tyler’s eyes were dry and waiting. As he looked into his reflection, the speaker appeared over him and began to kneel down until he straddled the cross, making it look like Tyler was the horse and he, the rider.
As he twisted Tyler’s hair into his fist and pulled up he whispered, “I’m so glad you went with A. Your kind needs to be put down, and I am just the bastard to help. My name is Christian Del Rey and I hope you find me in Hell when I get there.”
The knife drew across from the left jugular all the way to the right. Tyler felt a long sting, but not much pain. The worst part was feeling the rush of air enter his throat and the wet slicing sound the blade reverberated through him. His head grew lighter and his hands and feet were cold. His reflection writhed and tried hard to escape its death as he accepted his. Finally, both he and his reflection slowly faded like the light from a sun going over the horizon.
Blood pooled around the mirror’s edge until the entire surface was covered. Tyler’s body had one last surge trying to escape the clutches of death, but after a few jerks he went still. The slightly different reflection beneath Tyler could barely be seen through the bloody haze. The reflection wore a different hairstyle and clothing altogether. Once Tyler’s life slipped away on the cross, the reflection changed back to the man strapped above it.
Very few Shifters know what happens when their host body dies. Hosts are considered to be the soul carriers. They can travel in and amongst different realities through mirrors or looking glass as the Legion refers. Once they shift through a mirror, they enter the body on the other side where they want to go. When they shift back, they can exit through any mirror large enough for their body.
This is why the King of America has deemed that all looking glasses throughout the regulated kingdoms cannot be larger than a fist and no two looking glasses should be brought together at one time. In total, there are seven realms. Six rotate around the Prime, where all of the Shifters come in and out.
Shifting helps share knowledge from where they go. Their abilities are increased as well as their intelligence. For some, they also learn greed and become power hungry. This is why the King wants to banish the practice of Shifting and seal off the ability to move between realms. The eldest Prince of America had the ability to Shift and it drove him mad after he returned from the 3rd Realm.
Each realm holds differences within them, some are technology based, others spiritual. The 3rd Realm has the most possibilities because it is enriched with emotions, but it also has the most to lose. Emotions become saturated and without the right guidance can be corrupting.
The Prime Realm feeds off the other six and therefore has a combination of science, magic and spirituality from all of them. Tyler Rothechild came from a family who served as an advisor to the King. When the King learned his Royal Advisor’s sons had the ability to Shift, it was thought to use their talents and have them work as the King’s spies. They would go and find other Shifters and make certain to alert the King of any conspiracies.
Aiden, the oldest Rothechild boy found more truths out between the six realms than he did from the King. He saw the beauty, the tragedy and the natural order of life while he Shifted in and out of his other bodies. It was because of this he realized the Prime Realm would eventually take all of the life from the others if something wasn’t done to stop it.
Pleading with the King got Aiden and his family nowhere. In fact, it nearly got them all detained and killed. Aiden and Tyler lost their parents that day and escaped through a mirror they brought along. Aiden even tried to drag the King through the mirror with him. All he succeeded in doing is making the King go headfirst into his reflection, breaking the mirror and scarring his face in long jagged lines.
From that moment on, the King has placed bounties on every Shifter. Aiden was now alone with his brother gone. He would have to find a way to stop the King and save the other six realms before they all started converging into the Prime and be lost forever.