Weather: Clear skies, cold winds, all day the sky had a slightly purple tinge.
Encounters: One very strange old woman.
We cleared Senelala’s shell in the morning to prepare for another box. Senelala had to know what was in store. Every time we dismantled my shelter it meant heavy lifting. I worried he would resent me for the hard work. I hadn’t noticed a change in his attitude as we wandered through the woods toward a place unknown to me.
I had asked repeatedly where we were headed but my probing was met with the vague answer of, “A place of curiosities and wonderment.” Each time the Healer waved his hands in front of his face as if to convey the depth of the mystery.
“Wonderment?” I asked once more as we trekked. The Healer’s brother walked silently beside us, a lithe shadow among the trees.
“Can’t you just wait?” The Healer laughed. Plants covered the ground that sprouted thick glossy leaves. I could hear the calls of the birds in the trees overhead.
We walked a few miles inland, over a couple hills. The trees in this area looked different from the ones in my village, all knots and cracking bark. “These are some of the oldest trees on this moon, I believe.” The Healer mentioned.
Ahead of us, as if carved into the forest, stood a large building with mismatched doors, windows, metal panels, and framing. It looked as if it had been constructed from the remains of other structures. Smoke poured from the chimney. It shone brilliant white.
A woman stood outside of the open front door, smoking from a knotted piece of wood that twisted and turned to let smoke creep out of the end. She couldn’t see us.
The Healer turned to his brother and Senelala. “I need you two to wait here until I call, got it?”
The Healer’s brother nodded his serene nod and gently leaned on Senelala’s shell. The Healer pointed at me this time, “You’re with me.”
We approached the strange shanty. The old woman inhaled too quickly at the sight of us and hacked and wheezed.
“Oh, look! Oh, look. Look who needs somethin’ from me!” she managed to croak out. She was an interesting sight, a dozen pocket watch chains spilled from her clothes. Her hair was held back with pins, skewers, and other assorted metallic things.
“Rogue Healer Alpha, needed ol’ me.” she coughed out. I was fascinated by the sight of her.
“It’s good to see ya.” The Healer said and looked up at the building. “It’s getting bigger.”
“Every. Single. Day.” The woman hit the metal railing on the building with each word for emphasis. We followed her inward and I was appalled at the sight. I had never seen so many things. One wall was covered in pots and pans, some rusted and some gleaming. Glass orbs, lanterns, lights, and other ornaments hung from the latticed ceiling. There was a glass case containing the stuffed remains of birds and forest creatures. Every inch of the place was covered in unique items, so unlike any living unit I had been in. We normally got rid of things.
“What is this place?” I asked.
“I told you! A place of curiosities and wonderment!” The Healer said and picked up a glass eye from a case. The woman smacked his hand, and muttered you don’t want to touch that.
My spine prickled when I heard the old woman ask, “How is that brother of yours? He’s always up to trouble.” I pretended to be interested in a digital clock that was changing time too fast. An hour had already passed. Another hour.
“He’s fine. Thank you for asking.” The Healer let the darkness pass over him quickly. “Let’s talk business.” Those words were my cue to explore a little further. I wanted to start with the exterior. I walked back outside and surveyed the walls.
My eye caught something interesting: a door inlaid with multiple pieces of colored glass. It reflected the sunlight into colorful fragments on the ground.
I slid the door back slightly and peered into the dark hallway. Nothing stirred, so I opened the door completely. Senelala had crept up behind me. He could only fit his head in the doorway to peek around, so I left him standing there.
Inside the hallway stood dozens of mirrors, lining the walls and propped up against each other. They ranged from ornate to simple, small to gigantic. My reflection followed me down the path. It was cast all around me. I felt drawn to the mirror at the end of the hall.
The mirror stood as large as a wall and was framed in dark wood. The glass drew me closer. It had been shattered and pieced back together with...gold? It looked like liquid gold poured down through the cracks.
I leaned in and traced the spider web of design with my finger. I couldn’t help but look at myself in the fractured surface. I was surprised by the person looking back at me. I could see her changes through the broken pieces.
My hair had grown a startling amount. I didn’t try to keep it as neat as before. My arms were covered in bruises from hard work. I looked more like the Healer, slightly ragged… but also, wiser? This wasn’t the girl who left her village in search of something. This was a girl who led expeditions. A girl who wasn’t afraid to explore. When did I become her?
I felt like the knotted trees outside, sturdy and knowing.
“Senelala!” The Healer called out and broke me from my reflection. “I need you!”
Senelala backed out of the doorway and moved toward the voice of the Healer. I stole one last glance in the fragmented and repaired mirror. I tapped the glass lightly as a thank you.
We loaded up a sole box, whose contents were a mystery to me (The Healer refuses to tell me). I could see a faint glow through the wooden slats. The old woman smoked and watched us struggle.
“After we load this” I panted, “I have to show you something.” I turned slightly to get a look at the door, but it was gone. Completely gone.
The old woman sighed once we strapped down the box, "That’s everything, then.”
I kept looking for the door, but it seemed to have vanished from the mismatched building.
“What did you want to show me?” The Healer leaned on Senelala’s shell, clearly worn down from the box. He wiped the sweat from his eyes.
“Nevermind.” I smiled and let my eyes wander one last time. No door.
We said our goodbyes to the old woman (who gave me the shivers). We collected the Healer’s brother and made our way back to the boat. It was like nothing had happened, but I felt something within me. Something had happened.