My reflection presented me to a girl about my age, an angelic brunette, eggshell delicate, all dressed in white, dancing the music as her flowery soprano sang along. She was as pure and graceful a creature as I’d ever seen. I was smitten, besotted – I adored her.
Suddenly, Rashmi and my reflection drew swords: Doof and Tiny had appeared, and were trying to kidnap the girl. My reflection tossed me a cutlass and all three of us began dueling with the would-be kidnappers.
Doofus had a cutlass like the rest of us, wielding it with his free hand, but Tiny was brandishing a broadsword, swinging it as if it were a bat or club. He was charging at me, the sword high over his head, driving me backward, defensive, when my reflection stepped in between us, close to Tiny, past the range of his broadsword’s ability to strike, piercing his solar plexus. Tiny gasped, falling to the floor dead; Rufus ran off.
The girl held my hand as the room disappeared. A lucent Georgian façade with faux Roman columns flew past and we were in the gallery of an eighteenth century law court. My reflection stood in the dock, charged with murder. Stan appeared, wearing one of the powdered wigs lawyers still wear in English courts, representing my reflection, insisting the homicide was justified to protect the life of another, protesting the worst my reflection – or any of us – could be guilty of was dueling.
But the court overruled Stan’s protests and convicted my reflection of murder, sentencing him to be hanged forthwith.
The girl was still holding my hand as the courtroom walls flew off and streets, like ones in the ballet sequence of The Red Shoes, flew by.
She reassuringly draped her arm over my shoulder as she, Stan, Rashmi and I stood in front of a scaffold; drums rolled, and my hapless reflection was led to the trap door of the gallows. They’d just placed the noose around his neck when the Red Shoes wrapped themselves around the girl’s feet and legs. She let go of my hand and ran off. I bolted after her, Rashmi and Stan after me, reaching me just as I caught up with the girl, who had a look of utter terror on her face.
Rashmi tore the spectacles from my eyes, and I saw the reason for the girl’s terror.
Rashmi had unmasked her, revealing her for what she truly was: a wind-up doll, with mechanical limbs, thin hair, scarcely more substantial than corn silk; and a facsimile of a human face that looked as though it had been molded by a child.
“Sorry, mate,” Stan said in as kindly a tone, as his panting allowed, “but s’best y’know now.”
There were chairs alongside a nearby fountain. The doll limped over to one and collapsed, hanging her head. Did I see things, or were tears flowing down her cheek?
“It’s not your fault,” Rashmi said gently to the doll. She turned to me.
“Taking up with a doll who’s actually a girl is one thing, but taking up with a girl who’s actually a doll is inexcusable.”
I ran a finger up the doll’s cheek – the tears were real.
One was on my finger; I showed it to Rashmi.
“And which is she?” I replied softly.
© 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015 G. H. McCallum and Duvanian Press, all rights reserved.
The Bluebottle Boys (Volume One) and Walking Backward for Christmas: A Tale of Woe from Soggyhall are each now available from Amazon Books. The Bluebottle Boys (Volume Two) is expected to be available shortly. The next novel of the series, By Good Angels Tenanted, will be available later in 2018