This is a Young Adult story tackling issues of self-harm and suicide. It is intended for teen readers or older. If you want to read from the beginning, click over to chapter 1.
Kassandra stood in a circular room ringed by even more mirrors. The one right behind showed the reflected door, but it was swinging shut. The nightingale flittered through just before it closed.
The rest of the mirrors displayed scenes like the ones in the hall, but Kassandra didn’t recognize any of them. One showed a series of wagons hitched together in a grass field. They looked old fashioned as if straight from the pioneer days. People milled about, but they were all dressed in bizarre clothes, like rejects from a Renaissance fair. Then a young girl collapsed onto the grass in the foreground, face ashen as blood dribbled out her mouth.
Kassandra glanced at the man hanging upside down. His eyes were squeezed shut. Mirrors ran all around the room, but he didn’t look at a single one. The mirrors only reflected events from the past. Hurtful things best forgotten.
Cracks ran through the base of a mirror on the far side of the room, almost as if someone had kicked it. The only thing visible was an old man wearing more of those medieval clothes. White bushy eyebrows exploded from his face, almost obscuring the squinty eyes. He had a squished up mouth old people got when they lost all their teeth.
Kassandra glanced at another mirror and Luke Rykell stared back. Raw panic bubbled up her throat. She stumbled backward, attempting to escape. One shoulder struck an easel propped against the wall and it clattered to the ground.
“Are you real or imagined?” That wasn’t Luke speaking.
Kassandra twirled and saw Gabriel had opened his eyes. A glance back at the mirror showed Luke yelling. At least it looked like he was. There was no sound. Instead he held up some scraps of paper, crumpling them in his fist.
Luke wasn’t really here. Only another reflection of the past.
She turned to Gabriel, not sure how to start. “Uh hi. I’m Kassandra.”
The nightingale fluttered to the slick marble, pecking at the floor. He eyed it suspiciously. “The bird. Where did it come from?”
Kassandra shrugged. “Just along for the ride, I guess.”
“No.” Gabriel shook his head. “It is part of you. Protect it.”
A twinge flitted through her chest. This guy was a little on the wacky side. “Sure, I will.” She scanned the mirrors. Every one showed a different scene, but there was no way out of this room except the mirror door she’d come through.
“Look, I’m kind of stuck here.” Kassandra glanced up at the rope. “Not as bad as you are though.”
“I see you have endured your own torture,” he said eyeing the scars along her arms.
The gloves. Kassandra had ditched them in the hallway. She thrust her arms behind her back. “You’re Gabriel Rykell, right?”
“You know my name? Are you some conjurment sent by my brother to torment me?” He waved a hand at the mirrors, yet refused to look at them. “I have enough here to make my soul weep for centuries.”
“Look, I don’t know what your deal is. All I want is a way to stop Luke.”
“Cut my bonds and I shall help you,” Gabriel said, staring back. The image was strange because he was upside down, causing his long hair to dangle nearly to the floor.
“Yeah right? Cut loose some crazy dangling guy?” She hooked a blonde curl behind her ear. “How do I know I can trust you? I mean you did betray your brother, right? It’s how you ended up in this place.”
Gabriel looked at the ceiling where the rope attached to a metal ring. “This is my prison.”
“Yeah, I kind of figured that part.”
“I am condemned to be surrounded by my sins for eternity.” Tears ran along his forehead, trickling down his hair.
“Look, I get it. The mirrors show all your mistakes. But crying isn’t going to solve anything.” Why was she being such a bitch? She couldn’t stand being in the hall of mirrors for five minutes. What would it be like to stay there for years?
“I need your help, okay. Luke’s got…” Kassandra glanced away. “He has all the cards except for The Magician. He plans to fill them up and then do something with the Tower.”
“The Tower.” Gabriel blinked away the tears. “There is no hope. We shall all die.”
“Whoa. Wait a minute there Mr. Emo. What do you mean die?”
He sighed. “My soul was locked in here to give this card power. Luke must capture more souls, one for each card of the Major Arcana.”
A shiver passes through her. There were souls stuck in here?
Gabriel rotated slightly as he spoke. “Once every card is filled, the Tower will fall.”
“And…?” Kassandra was sick of all these people assuming she knew the first thing about the Tarot.
“The Tower is ruination. The deck shall be destroyed and all the souls along with it.”
“Why would he want that?”
“It was Luke’s end of the bargain. Should he fill the cards with souls, he would get Ezabell back. You can view her there.” Gabriel pointed toward one of the mirrors, but refused to look himself.
Kassandra turned toward the mirror showing the young girl lying on the grass. Blood ran from the nose and mouth, matting her long black hair. The girl was still alive, but gasping.
“How did she die?”
“The plague.” Another tear wound along his forehead toward the ground.
Kassandra chewed on a fingernail. Watching the girl die, over and over, would do a real number to anybody.
“I’m going to cut you down.” She looked around for something to sever the rope.
“Save it. Just…how do I get out of here.”
“The Tarot deck serves as a prison of the most fiendish design. Each card gains power by locking up a soul. This place, the mirrors, they have grown strong because of my continual presence.”
“There has to be a way to escape.” Kassandra examined the easel. A bottle of ink lay on the floor along with several quill pens. None of those would cut rope. She scanned the room and the cracked mirror caught her eye. “I created a door out of the Death card that lead me here.”
“Yes, there is a path through the cards. While illustrating, I linked the deck using the suits.”
She knelt in front of the mirror. Several long shards looked good to use, but they needed to be knocked loose.
“Stay away from there!” Gabriel shot a hand out.
Instinctively she glanced up and locked eyes with Old Man Creepy. His eyebrows crawled along his forehead, twitching as if alive. A black tower loomed in the distance. Clouds flashed in the sky as a bolt of lightning struck the top, dislodging a stone.
Mr. Creepy’s mouth widened into a smile filled with yellowed teeth. The scent of sour milk filled the air. Her gut squinched up. When he spoke, she could feel his hot breath.
“Welcome Kassandra Troy.”