"Wait a second. Your reflection kidnapped Janet's reflection?"
"Sort of," explained Wuju. "You see, when a window's closed, like that one..." He bounced a wadded-up cocktail napkin off the mirror behind the bar. "...what you see in it is a reflection. When it's open, what you see is not a reflection, but an entirely different person living in another dimension."
I thought about it. "So when Janet was abducted, the window was open, but by the time you got there, it was closed again."
Wuju nodded and took another swig from his glass.
"Why would your reflection kidnap Janet's reflection? Was he jealous?"
Wuju gagged on his drink and enjoyed a good laugh. "No. Not hardly," he finally said shaking his head and wiping his eyes.
He took a moment to regain his composure. "Remember when I came in and I asked you where your reflection goes when you're not standing in front of the mirror?"
Wuju smiled and raised his glass. "I'm here to tell you tonight that your reflection -- that person on the other side of the window who looks like you -- could be leading a life very different from your own."
Wuju shrugged. "For all we know, he could be a lion tamer or a cop or an accountant or a superhero," he said. "On the other hand, he might be a bartender working the night shift in an airport cocktail lounge. There's no telling."
I thought back. "That's right. Art had said Janet's reflection might have a different personality."
Wuju smiled at me as if I was a slow pupil finally grasping the concept. "Actually, in most cases, the personalities I encountered weren't too drastically different from one side of the looking glass to the other," he said. "Sure, there are bound to be some differences what with living in different worlds and all, but for the most part, nice folks on this side of the window are nice folks on that side of the window. If someone's a jerk on this side, his counterpart over there is probably also a jerk."
"I take it your counterpart was an exception to this rule."
Wuju laughed again. "You're telling me. That bastard was as many kinds of bad news as there are plus a few you've never even heard of."`
"So what did you do?"
Art grabbed me by the wrists just as I was about to start pounding on the glass. "Settle down, Wuju," he said gently. "We've got trouble."
"No sheepdip, Sherlock! We've got to get her back!"
"Come here." He led me back behind the counter and reached underneath for a leather-bound book the size of a library atlas. It was a huge book, at least two feet by three. There was no way it could have lain on the small shelf underneath the counter, but, as I've already mentioned, the laws of physics were strictly matters of convenience inside Art's shop. I also noticed that the terrarium with the bullfrog no longer contained any frogs and that in the neighboring tank, the tarantula sat bloated to about the size of a softball. Or a very unfortunate bullfrog.
Art noticed me staring at the tank and rapped on the glass. "Knock it off," he warned. For a moment, I thought he had been talking to me, but the tarantula spat out the frog -- whole and unharmed -- and scuttled to one corner of its tank to sulk. The frog climbed back into its own tank looking a little dazed.
"Bring that book," Art told me, pointing to a large volume sitting on a shelf within my reach. The book was entitled simply The Big Book Of Mirrors & Gateways. Seeing how the thing was easily as thick as five or six phone books, big was something of an understatement.
We set our books down on an oak round table large enough to accommodate both tomes. I hadn't noticed any large empty tables in the shop before, but at this point I didn't think much of it.
Art sat down and started speed-reading through the book I'd carried.
"We've got big trouble," he said.
"What do we do?" I was pacing frantically around the table while making sure to keep one eye on the mirror.
"You know the only way to get there
To the other side of life tonight."
The Moody Blues, "The Other Side of Life"
He didn't answer me, but instead opened the other book, entitled Zaren's Guide to Magickal Troubleshooting. He began reading the headings aloud: "Lycanthropy... Medusae... Minotaurs... Mirrors. Here we go. Let's see: Mirrors, Breaking of... Mirrors, Casting Spells through... Mirrors, Dispelling Evil, Use in... Mirrors, Divining Fortunes with... Ah! Mirrors, Doppelgangers and the Summoning and Dispelling thereof...!" He skimmed the page some more.
"We've got big trouble," he repeated. "Because you stepped in front of the mirror while we were summoning a duplicate, you inadvertently summoned your own double to the doorway. I don't know why he chose to make off with Janet, but he couldn't have picked a worse time. We were at a critical phase in the spell. She's linked to both this world and the one on the other side of the mirror. If we don't get her stabilized in one world or the other, there could be a serious backlash."
I got a cold twisty feeling in my gut. "How serious?"
"Imagine a piece of mystic elastic connecting the two Janets," said Art grimly. "Right now it's being stretched across the dimensional gulf. When it reaches its limit, it could break, instantly killing both women. Or it could snap back, slamming them into each other with enough force to destroy this city and its counterpart on the other side of the window."
"You said your spell was absolutely fail-safe!" I accused more than ready to throttle the old wizard.
"I also told you not to get in front of the mirror."
"You could have..." I started, and then something suddenly dawned on me: "You've never done this before, have you? You've just been bluffing your way through!"
Art studied the tabletop for a few seconds, and then I realized he was crying. On top of everything else, now I had made an old man cry. Yessiree, I was certainly batting a thousand that morning.
"I'm sorry, Wuju," he sobbed laying his glasses on the table. "You're right. My late wife was the real sorceress. For forty years, I was her bookkeeper. I've been trying to keep her memory -- what she believed in -- alive by being a wizard, but I'll never be as good as she was. Now look at the mess I've made!"
I patted him on the shoulder. "It's okay, Art. It's not all your fault. I went along with it. I was the one who got in front of the mirror. You were doing it for me," I told him. "It wasn't even for me and Janet, it was just me being selfish and not facing up to reality."
Art wiped his eyes and smiled a little. "You weren't the only one being selfish," he confessed. "I cast the spell for you, but I also did it because you and Janet reminded me so much of Serena and me when we first met. I couldn't resist the idea of using her magic to help a love like the one we had. I thought it would be like..." He searched for a way to express what he was feeling. "...Like being able to touch her one more time."
I nodded. "Lonely men do dumb things. I ought to know," I said. "How do we fix this mess?"
He consulted Zaren's Guide to Magickal Troubleshooting. "You're going to have to go through the mirror and rescue Janet from your double," he said. "Bring her back here so I can either complete or cancel the spell. I figure you've got about an eighteen-hour margin of safety before the Janets are in any real danger. After that, the magic could fail at any time."
I shuddered, but then a practical thought came to mind, one that made me smile: "What if something happens to my reflection when I catch up with him?" I felt my teeth grinding together. "What if, say, he has a terrible accident?"
"You'll be okay," Art assured me. "You have to remember, on the other side of the window, he's not your reflection. He's another person who just happens to look like you. The only reason there's a link between the two Janets is because I was using one to help anchor the other in this dimension."
"Oh. What if something happens to Janet?"
"Don't let anything happen to Janet."
"Yeah. Just morbid curiosity. What do I need to do?"
"We'll get you properly equipped and send you on through," said Art leaving the table to rummage through an old chest.
I noticed a short sword hanging on the wall near the mirror. "Can I take the sword?" As I asked, I thought I saw the blade quiver slightly.
"You know how to use one?"
"Well," I shrugged, "cut and stab. How hard can it be?"
"In other words, no," replied Art, his head still in the chest. "Going into a strange situation armed is generally not a good idea. Especially if you're armed with something you don't know how to use. Trust me on this, if not as a wizard, then as a former soldier: Being unarmed makes you very careful. And Janet -- both of 'em -- need you to be careful. Aha!"
He handed me a silver mirror about four inches in diameter. "I'll be able to keep in touch with you through this," he said. "It's metal, so you won't have to worry about it breaking. We don't need any more bad luck."
I was still looking at the sword. Art's argument made perfect sense, of course, but I was still a little disappointed. Somehow charging to the rescue without a sword in hand didn't seem quite right.
"How will I find her?" I asked.
"If your love for her is genuine," said Art, "and it is or we wouldn't be in this mess -- that alone should provide enough of a link between you to lead you to her."
"Love will find a way?" I said a little doubtfully.
"Ninety-nine point nine percent of magic is believing it will work. The same is true of love," said Art getting the brazier ready again. This time he had me stand so that it was between the mirror and me. He jotted my full name and birthdate on a sheet of parchment and torched it in the brazier along with a lock of my hair. I saw the smoke being sucked into the glass again, but this time, I also felt it soaking its way into me. It felt more like mist than smoke and the smell reminded me of steel and lightning.
For a second, as the smoke cleared, I was looking at my reflection in the mirror, and then the image rippled and I was looking over my own shoulder looking into the mirror looking over my own shoulder looking into the mirror ad infinitum.
"Go!" cried Art.
I ran toward the mirror as the image in front of me ran toward his mirror in which an image was running toward his mirror and so on.
"And be careful!" finished the wizard.
I went right through the mirror. It was like being swallowed by the world's biggest kaleidoscope. For an instant, I was in-between universes and, in that instant, I saw a million different Wujus on their ways to rescue a million different Janets. There were big Wujus, little Wujus, young Wujus, old Wujus, tall Wujus and short Wujus. I saw animal, vegetable and mineral Wujus. Some were geometrical shapes, others were blobs of energy. I saw clockwork Wujus and teenage mutant ninja Wujus. If all of them were passing through this interdimensional void for the same reason I was, then perhaps love would find the way. I'd barely had time to ponder that thought when I suddenly found myself standing on a city street in the Mirrorverse.
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