Christopher steps out of the mists, finds himself stepping through a Door, a Door in the shape of a frame.
He looks down at the roses, apples, and leaf pattern twisted with the weeping faces of women writhing together in the gold, his booted foot touching marble floor.
Mirrors line the hall, reflecting boy after boy dressed in a long-necked dark tunic, his coppery golden hair curling around his ears, falling down his forehead.
No. The same mists which swallow and take Christopher away envelop each boy, changing him into someone else or something else. A younger boy with brighter hair, brighter eyes, dressed in a white tunic with a green vest. Or a blue vest. A woman very like the boys exploring the rooftop of a cottage with an impish grin. A dragon with rainbow tinted scales curled upon around the top of a black and white tower. A dark sphinx fanning her wings while perched on top of a spinning wheel. A dark-haired young man reaching out a hand with a tiny private smile playing upon his lips as the roses bloom around him.
Iama: You’re a creature of many faces.
Iama the Terrible, mistress of this hall stands at the opposite end of Christopher, gold clinging to her fingers, binding them to the long black billowing sleeve of her gown. She moves, draped in glittering shadow toward her visitor, appearing in every reflected image.
She reaches out to touch each of the boys, the man in the garden, the woman on the rooftop. She stands on the spikes of the tower, her hand descending to pet the dragon. Her sleeve spreads across the sky above the sphinx, one giant finger descending toward the wheel.
Iama: My hall of mirrors reflect the different aspects of a person. You, all of you could keep it occupied for a long time.
The boys shrink away. The man takes a step back. The woman dodges Iama’s fingers. The dragon hisses. The sphinx stands and growls.
All of them do this as Christopher does a half-pirouette, increasing the distance between himself and his host.
Christopher: Such an occupation may be as costly as your touch, my lady.
Iama stops in her tracks, halfway to Christopher. Her reflections halt as if well.
Iama: All I touch turns to gold, becoming precious, yet I am but a character within a story within a story.
Christopher: As am I, but I slip out of solid forms such as gold and stone into shadow.
Iama: Do you think you can slip away from me, your and your reflections? Here in my hall of mirrors?
Christopher: I think you need a victim’s consent before you can touch them or keep them.
Iama: I have no victims. Only companions.
Christopher: If so, you would need my…our…consent.
Boys, man, woman, dragon and sphinx all nod in agreement at the aspect of Iama approaching them.
Iama: (lowering her hand) Ah, well, what am but a creature of Nathalie and Grace’s fairytale? I must abide by their rules and yours.
Christopher: Must you?
The man, the woman, and the sphinx’s smile turns a little wicked, promising fairytale mischief of their own. Boys and dragon cock their heads in interest at this stranger for all they quiver.
Iama nods with a liquid grace. The lips of her reflections twitch in response to the smiles and the curiosity.
Iama: Within reason. I am Iama the Terrible, after all.
Christopher: You’re one of the first characters our scribbler created. Once upon an eleven-year old’s teddy bear notebook.
The boys, the woman, and the dragon perk up at the last. The man raises a delicate black eyebrow. The sphinx presses her lips together, trying not to laugh at the source of the dark hand menacing her.
Iama: Yes. Years before Wind Me Up, One More Time was published. I was the villain in the very first story the scribbler wrote.
Christopher: You were male originally. Weren’t you?
Iama: Both Theodora Bear and I. She…or rather he…was a talking, walking teddy bear who came to Grace out of nowhere, guiding her to my starlit tower. I was a foul-tempered wizard inclined to kidnap princesses, forcing them to scrub my floor.
Iama: (smile twisting) This is something our scribbler never got around to explaining in that first story.
One of the boys looks out of the mirror at Christopher, moving his lips. The Iama facing him looks as well.
Christopher: (smiling at the boy in the mirror) Don’t worry, Danyel. I’ll ask.
Iama: (glancing at the boy in the mirror before looking back at Christopher) Ask whatever you wish.
Christopher: Was it princesses? Or just one princess?
Iama makes another graceful half bow toward Danyel. Her reflection approaching him bows as well. As do all the Iamas.
Iama: Just one. Nathalie. Grace and her teddy bear companion came to rescue her.
Christopher: This sounds like a story in itself.
Iama: Not much of one. (She wrinkles her nose.) The scribbler was a less than precocious eleven-year-old.
Christopher: I wonder if Gryluxx isn’t a bit like the original you.
Boys and dragon nod emphatically. The woman and the sphinx roll their eyes. The man along with all of the Iamas glance down, lips twitching.
Iama: This name is unknown to me.
Christopher: He’s from my world. The world of Tales of the Navel, Tales of Omphalos. He wears black robes and too much jewelry. He used to be part of a raven boy called Paul who detests me. He usually works a boast about how great and powerful he is into any conversation.
Iama: So this Gryluxx claims to be great and powerful rather than showing it. (She lets out a dark chuckle.) Yes, that does sound like the original me. I was, after all, defeated by a girl and a teddy bear.
Christopher: As opposed to in Wind Me Up, One More Time?
Iama: My story along with myself is far more complex.
Christopher: This may be also because of the writing of our scribbler. Both she and it have changed over time.
(To be continued next Monday.)
If you’d like to read more about Iama the Terrible and her hall of mirrors, check out Wind Me Up, One More Time available at…
Mischief Corner Books/Shenanigans Press: https://www.mischiefcornerbooks.com/store/p161/Wind_Me_Up%2C_One_More_Time.html#/
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/wind-me-up-one-more-time-ks-trenten/1134959345