You blink against the sudden glare of the fluorescent lights. Your eyes water and sting so you keep them closed tight. A faint whisper can be heard from somewhere. Tentative you open one eye a sliver and then the other and then you slowly open both and wipe the tears away with the back of your hand.
You are startled by someone standing in front of you.
But then, you realize it’s only your reflection. You must have wandered into a hall or mirrors. You smile at yourself and blush a little at how scared you just were.
Walking slowly through the maze, you make faces and laugh a little to see it reflected and distorted on so many visual planes. After turning a corner the lights go down and you find yourself in the dark again. The faint whisper can be heard once again, louder this time.
The lights come back on and you are still in the hall of mirrors, but now, you do not have a reflection. Feathers of panic tickle your throat and you swallow hard to make them go away. You blink and your reflections are back.
You shake your head and think your imagination is getting the better of you.
A lighted red rectangle appears in one of the mirrors and after staring at it, you realize it must be an exit sign. Moving diagonally, you try to chase it down by following the image bouncing off the mirrors. You turn a corner and another and another and think you are going in circles.
Suddenly you find yourself in a long hallway and see the glowing exit sign over an emergency door and you start walking, faster than you want to admit, towards it.
The lights dim again and you groan. It sounds strange, echoing off all the mirrors.
You keep walking, dread and excitement holding hands inside you. The lights come on for the third time. But they are much dimmer. The room is mostly shadows, sliced by thing beams of light. You can see the dust falling in these slants.
You see a small child from the corner of your eye and you turn to face them, to help them. You think if you feel this way, they must be terrified.
But the child seems calm, and as you walk closer, appears familiar, like someone you met years ago and forgot about. You stop and look down and realize the child is you. Words climb and fall and die in your throat. Child-you smiles broadly and says there is no reason to be afraid. Tucked under one arm is your favourite stuffed animal, missing eye and patched belly and all.
You sense movement behind you and turn and see someone shuffling closer. You crack your knuckles even though you haven’t done that in years. Very bad habit, a recognizable voice says. It takes a second, but you understand it is your voice, worn somehow smooth and jagged by the lapping years. Old-you gets close enough to look at closely and gives you a toothless smile, their eyes wet with memories and regrets.
The three of you stand there, silent, breathing in each other in.
Child-you takes Old-you by the hand and they walk toward the exit. They stand next to the door and wave you forward. You follow. When you are abreast, child-you pulls at your sleeve. You bend down and they whisper something in your ear.
You push open the door and run out and you blink against the sudden glare of the fluorescent lights. Your eyes water and sting so you keep them closed tight. A faint whisper can be heard from somewhere.
Prompt courtesy of Tipsy Lit‘s Prompted Challenge.