Wuju looked at me expectantly, awaiting some reaction.
"Let me get this straight," I said. "Art's mirror had the power to instantaneously bring Janet to you from her room?"
"No," corrected Wuju. "The mirror had the power to summon her image here from what Lewis Carroll called Looking Glass Land."
I felt my brow furrowing and my eyes narrowing. "Looking Glass Land," I repeated.
"Mirrors," Wuju said, "have two aspects: A physical one and a metaphysical one."
He waited for me to signify my understanding. I didn't.
"Look," he went on, "you have light reflecting off a polished surface; angle of incidence equals angle of return. That's simple physics. But mirrors are also windows into parallel dimensions -- Kilgore Trout used to refer to them as leaks. That's simple metaphysics."
Now I was sure he was putting me on.
"Of course, the main difference between a mirror and what we normally think of as a window is that you usually can't open a mirror. Art's mirror happened to be a window -- a leak -- through which people and things could pass in either direction," said Wuju as if such a thing were perfectly normal.
"Whatever you say."
Wuju looked hurt for a moment and then laughed. "You don't believe me."
"It is a little far-fetched."
"It's going to get a lot more far-fetched," he promised. "Anyway, I did bet you that I could tell you something you'd never heard before."
"We didn't say whether it had to be true or not," I admitted, mentally kissing the fifty farewell.
"Ah, but it is true," Wuju assured me. "Every single word."
I nodded and smiled. "Okay," I said. "What happened then?"
"You're kidding," I said.
"I never, ever kid about Magic," said Art indignantly. "I can make that image a real person in this room. In this world."
I stared at Art, then I stared back at Janet's image in the mirror. She was blissfully trying on the cloak, turning around, taking it off, hanging it up, and then starting the cycle over again.
"Of course, there're no guarantees," said Art. "She'll be Janet's mirror image, but her personality could be different. What we're looking at could, in effect, be her evil twin."
"On the other hand, she could come out exactly like the Janet we know," said Art. "Right down to being in love with Phil."
"That would be about par for the course."
"The nice thing about this particular effect is that it takes awhile for it to become permanent. If our duplicate turns out to be, say, a pale reflection of the real thing..." He chuckled at his own pun. "...we can always cancel the spell and send her back."
I mulled the concept over. "If we bring the reflection here, what'll happen to the real Janet?"
"First of all," said Art, "that Janet will be every bit as real as the one you spent this past evening with. The only difference is that this one won't have a reflection in this dimension. As for the original Janet, she'll be fine."
"What happens if the two of them meet?" I wanted to know. The pessimist in me was picturing a huge matter/anti-matter explosion decimating the entire city.
"Nothing," said Art. "The spell is absolutely fail-safe."
I watched Janet's reflection some more. The way her fingers moved as she fastened and unfastened the brooch; the color of her lips; the curve of her cheek when she smiled; the way the soft luminous cloak captured and intensified the warmth in her blue eyes. She had me entranced. I would have done anything for her at that moment.
Art's voice brought me out of my romantic whimsy. "Well, what do you say? There's no harm in trying."
I looked up at him. There was a sparkle in his gray eyes. He was like a kid waiting for Santa Claus. Even if I hadn't already been willing, I don't think there was any way I could have told that sweet old man no without breaking his heart.
"What do I have to do?"
Art beamed. "Write down her name and birthdate on a piece of that parchment. I'll get the rest of the stuff we need."
There was a huge clatter from different dark corners of the shop as Art rummaged for the right components for our spell. He'd disappear into a closet on one end of the store, only to re-emerge from one at the opposite end. At one point, I thought I heard the unmistakable trumpet of an elephant from beneath a trapdoor. Believe it or not, I think I was already starting to get used to the variable physics of Art's shop. That acceptance would serve me well over the next forty-eight hours.
Anyway, when he was finished, Art had assembled a big iron brazier on the floor in front of the mirror. Some luminous liquid or combination of liquids sloshed around inside. It smelled like wildflowers.
Art grabbed me by the shoulders and spun me around.
"What are you doing?"
"I was hoping you'd have another hair on you. No such luck," he said. "We can make due with something that she's touched recently." He looked hesitantly at where the white cloak was hanging. "Maybe I can clip a few threads out of the inside lining without damaging it."
"Wait a second," I said going over to the cloak. I searched the hood and came up with three strands of golden hair.
"Perfect!" He set the parchment and the hair in the brazier and then emptied a zip-lock bag full of shining silver powder on top of them. He tossed me a box of long fireplace matches. "Care to do the honors?"
"Word of warning," advised Art as I lit one of the matches. "Stay well back from the brazier. It's also not a good idea for your reflection to be visible in the mirror at any time while the spell is being cast."
Art shrugged. "That's just what it said in the book."
I had other things on my mind, so I simply accepted the explanation and advice without further question.
When I touched the lit match to the contents of the brazier, I got a purple jet of flame that lasted for what seemed like several minutes. Then a blanket of sweet-smelling smoke enshrouded the mirror and the brazier both. This time it wasn't an image in the mirror that rippled, but reality itself.
"We've got it!" cried Art excitedly from somewhere on the other side of the smoke screen. "The window's open!"
"There's a rose
in a fisted glove
And if you can't be
with the one you love,
Stephen Stills, "Love the One You're With"
The smoke began to churn and swirl around a point halfway between the brazier and the mirror. It was like a white tornado spinning round and round. Tongues of blue lightning arced back and forth across it, and slowly, the roiling cloud began to take on a familiar form.
I felt her presence before she actually solidified. Excuse me for using a New Age Garbage term now, but I imagined I actually felt my aura reaching out and harmonizing with hers, and not just near-perfectly this time either. My first thought when the smoke cleared -- that is, it was absorbed into the figure standing in front of me -- was that it wasn't completely done because she was ghostly white. Then I realized she was wearing the cloak with the hood up.
"Janet?" I ventured. Opposite her, Art was looking almost as surprised -- make that shocked -- as I felt.
"She has no reflection," Art noted in a whisper.
It was true. A glance at the mirror showed a view of the still-sputtering brazier unobstructed by the woman standing between them.
"Janet?" I repeated.
She turned toward me and pulled back her hood. It was her, down to the finest detail. There was no doubt about it. I wanted to laugh and sing; I wanted to wrap my arms around her and never let her go.
Janet looked dazed, and then she got a good look at me. "No! Don't hurt me! I haven't done anything!" she cried backing away.
Not exactly the reaction I had hoped for.
"Janet, it's me," I said, baffled by her apparent terror of me, "Wuju."
Our eyes met for an instant and she froze. She was like an amnesia patient in a bad soap opera suddenly remembering everything. Then her eyes lit up and her smile got my heart doing the Watusi all over again. "Wuju!" she cried throwing herself at me and kissing me all over my face.
Now that was more like it! Except...
Except, now I was completely off-guard and off-balance. We went down in a tangle of arms and legs, narrowly missing a clothes rack. We landed, both laughing, with her on top. The look she gave me this time wasn't just the warm toasty look, it was the neutron look; it instantly burned away everything bad in the universe while leaving everything wonderful and magical untouched. Her long soft hair hid our faces from the rest of the world as our lips met and I felt her heart racing with mine. Even if that moment had lasted forever, it still would've ended too soon.
"Thank you," she whispered finally.
"For getting me out of there," she replied. "For loving me."
"You two will have a chance to get reacquainted later." I looked over Janet's shoulder and saw Art smiling down at us from his position on the other side of the brazier. Understandably, I had forgotten that the man even existed. For that matter, I would have been hard-pressed to come up with my own name.
"Right now," he continued, "we have to fix it so Janet can stay permanently." He looked at us archly. "I am right in assuming that you both want her to stay?"
"Yes!!" We'd both said it together.
Art just laughed. "Then get up off the floor and let's get back to work."
Janet got off me and stood in front of the mirror. It reflected the shop behind her.
"You're a vampire," I teased sitting up.
"Wait'll you see where I'm planning to bite you," she smiled and then waved her hand in front of the polished glass. "This is weird. It's like standing in front of a doorway."
"For you it is a doorway," said Art. "A door back into the Mirrorverse."
Janet shuddered and took a couple of steps back from the mirror. "What do I have to do?" she asked.
"One thing that'll help stabilize the spell is to alter your physical appearance so that you're no longer the mirror image of this dimension's Janet Blake," said Art.
"How do we do that?" I asked not too crazy about the idea of changing Janet's looks.
"Nothing complicated," said Art. "If she were to dye her hair, that would be plenty."
The idea seemed to intrigue her. She looked in the mirror and, still seeing no reflection, rolled her eyes. "How do you think I'd look as a redhead, Wooj?" she asked turning to me.
I got up. "I'd be crazy about you even if your hair were spinach green."
She favored me with the warm toasty look again and my heart ran a quick steeplechase around my ribcage. "Sweet talker," she said.
"Let's avoid green," suggested Art. "People might mistake you for a salad."
"Well, we wouldn't want that." Janet and I had said it together.
This is when I made my big mistake.
We were still laughing when I went over to hug her.
"Wuju!" warned Art desperately. "Get out from in front of the mirror!"
Janet had her back to the mirror and I saw a reflection of myself standing there embracing nothing. It was pretty funny looking, but I didn't see anything to be overly concerned about. Except....
Except, my reflection wasn't doing exactly what I was doing. He looked up at me with a cold glare. Before my mind could register what was happening, the surface of the mirror rippled and my reflection lunged out at Janet and me. He caught Janet in a chokehold and, before I could stop him, yanked her back through the looking glass.
I tried to charge after them, but was stopped by the now-solid surface of the mirror. My reflection had returned, but now he looked as shocked and helpless as I felt. "What have you done with her?!" I demanded.
My reflection mouthed the words back at me as I spoke them.
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