This was my entry for the May-June '06 Writing Challenge, and I end up referring to it so often I thought it would be best to put it somewhere everyone can find it easily.
Property of User:Estantia
"Now Miss. Mil," the voice floated comfortingly through her mind, a ordered set of sounds through the mess her mind was drifting through dreamily, "Are you paying attention to my voice?"
"Yes sir," her voice reverberated through her mind like a breeze she followed, fascinated by it, a light transparent white-blue. His was more like warm water that ebbed and flowed gently.
"I am going to perform a mind-meld, I will be walking with you among your memories, I need you to find the right place to start, can you do that?"
"Yes sir." She didn't particularly try and find one, just knew that the right one would be found by instinct, she trusted her subconscious, it knew more about what was going on than she did. So she floated in her pretty oblivion of black with coloured shapes, unconcerned, as he spoke again, she barely even flinched at the contact on points of her physical head, though she had almost forgotten where her physical body was, it seemed far away.
"My mind to your mind. My thoughts to your thoughts." The voice reverberated through the place where Cara floated in a series of transparent ripples until he appeared next to her.
"This is somewhat strange," he commented on looking round.
The 18-year-old sparkled as she laughed, "It's pretty."
"Please concentrate Miss Mil, I need to see your memories. Which one do we need?" The Vulcan looked mildly perturbed by this place where she felt so at home.
"I haven't decided anything, I don't know what to do, but it's coming of its own accord," she said, "Look, it's there, see?"
A window of warm orange sunlight drifted towards and over them as the oblivion blurred.
Cara shut the door quietly on the evening light attempting to slide in through the door and turned to face the rest of the flat, she was the first one home again as usual. The girl smiled and stood still, appreciating the silence and the golden light stealing across the room, off the large mirror there and through the open door to the corridor. Cara was silhouetted then lit for a moment as she slipped through the door and padded along to her room in the twilight, the light only being that reflected off the cream walls, a cool dusty light, a comforting one out of the direct glare.
Cara's room faced east though, so the sun wasn't filtering directly into her room, just reflecting off the windows of the other sets of flats on the road from the gaps between buildings. On an impulse Cara put down her stuff and pushed the window open, hearing the rush of traffic and feeling the wind catch her hair as it sped past.
Cara could see most of the way down the street from here, however it also meant she could hear and smell the street, car fumes mixed with geraniums from two floors below, a row from the next flat along and someone singing.
The teenager sighed and pulled back, knowing she ought to do some work. As she moved backwards the sounds and smells cut off to be replaced by the still pressure of air inside a building. Cara sent a last longing glance towards the open window and sighed, deciding to let it remain open until the fluttering curtains distracted her too much with their play of light and shadow.
Instead she bent to her work to the slight sounds of the distant city until the front door opened and shut quietly. That was her mother, which meant that in a little while...
The door slammed shut and a fluent curse was growled. Cara's heart sank, her father was drunk, again. She hoped it wouldn't be too loud, she did need to write her formal evaluation of the High Windows poem. She remained quietly in he room until a melodious voice called that dinner was ready.
Cara shut her books and stood and softly emerged into the main room and started to set the table, where Anton Mil was lazing in his chair. "So I do have a daughter after all, at the rate I see you I was starting to wonder," he said in a semi slur.
"I have exams coming up father, I need to revise," she said quietly, avoiding his gaze and wishing that he would stop talking, and drinking.
"Revision? Hah!" Her father's arm only waved slightly as he pointed at her, not that drunk then, "What you need is lessons in social intercourse! I'd like to see you revise them!" He brayed in laughter and Cara's eyes remained fixed on the table as she placed the last knife carefully and vanished towards the kitchen to collect the food.
Maria Mil-Alenaas looked pityingly at her daughter in silence, eyes saying everything that needed to be said. Cara understood her perfectly and picked up the plates in silence, eyes flicking to the clock once, just once.
"How come you're all so silent today?" he joked, "Come, you must have a story for your old dad to hear eh? Found someone you like?" his jovial voice countered the growing pool of silence in Cara's body language as she lowered her eyes in shame.
"Reply to your old dad eh?" The voice was more menacing now,
"Yes father," Her voice was at a normal pitch, she didn't need to look to see the air around her father morph from yellow to orange.
"Yes father," he mocked, " So formal! You're talking to your dad, but you never call me that, it's always father isn't it little echo? With about as much spine as a piece of glass, about as much personality as a mirror! What do you say to that?"
Cara swallowed and felt words rise like a bubble up her throat and onto her tongue, quiet as a mouse, and knowing she couldn't say anything else.
She felt a swell of heat before another voice interrupted, "Anton please stop, can't you see she's uncomfortable, she doesn't like being quest... Anton!" she shouted quietly Cara's eyes shot up as something flew across the room, missing her mother by a very small distance indeed to smash into the mirror, cracks spreading like spider-webs across its surface as the light shattered.
The 15-year-old watched the impact, saw the shards of glass break off and spread out twinkling in the evening sunlight, moving slowly as if they were flying through water, eyes focussed in and watching a cameraman's masterpiece as glass fell away to reveal the plain backboard beneath it.
"That's what she'll do! Spineless wimp! She'll shatter you hear me? She'll shatter just like that mirror unless she faces up to the world! Mark my words she'll be as broken as that mirror!" her father roared before he left the room, stomping hard on the floor, "I'm going out, I can't stand the sight of her! How could I father such a coward!" The door slammed as Cara found herself buried in her mother's arms, more for her mother's feelings than Cara's.
At that moment Cara didn't feel anything, empty as the mirror's frame. She kept seeing the incident over and over again as the window itself remained whole, sun streaming through it as if nothing had happened while the mirror's window lay shattered, dull and lifeless with only a hint of sunshine to remind of what it had been.
"Go to bed sweetheart," her mother said comfortingly, "I'll clean this up, you go and rest, you need to recover from the shock." Cara nodded unthinkingly and returned to her room and shut the window carefully, hesitant and shaking as if it would also shatter in her hands. The curtains were shut with infinite care, protecting one from the other before she slid into bed and closed her eyes.
The image came to a gentle stop as the Vulcan counsellor with her moved forwards. "Interesting," he said, "Why have you chosen this instant?"
"I don't know," she replied, "I didn't choose anything, it chose."
"Of course, I forgot." The Vulcan didn't question the logic of this statement and sounded ever so slightly sarcastic as he spoke before he held up his hand, "Back please."
The memory rewound to the mirror shattering, held in mid flight. "Yes, that's it." Cara said, certain, "That's what it wanted us to see."
"I think you also know why," he replied, "It shattered."
"Yes, it did." Cara drifted forwards and knelt in front of it. "It's the window isn't it?" She didn't get a reply, she didn't need one. "They say the eyes are the windows to the soul," The Vulcan was silent and let her work it through, "Illusion and reality, the window's the crossing point. No, I didn't mean that, I meant... I meant... inside and outside, but reality has something to do with it."
She thought aloud, "The window inside the mirror shattered, the one outside remained whole. That's what happened isn't it? When... that... happened? My everyday me was fine but the inside me shattered."
She paled, "I can't believe it... He was right..."
She shook herself slightly and continued steadily, "Then I shut the window and closed the curtains... I sealed myself off and protected the window from me... and me from the window. How simple, it let me ride through chaos." Cara's oddly clear eyes regarded the mirror.
"I need to put myself back together."
She was greeted by silence.
"This may take some time. Some of the pieces are lost in the carpet, I can't possibly pick up all of them."
"Then big up the big ones," the counsellor finally said, voice as neutral as a conscience, "The mirror will heal over the smaller holes if the main pieces are together."
"Only I can do this can't I?" She paused,
"You don't need to answer that. How long have I got?"
"All the time in the world that's left to you."
There was a longer pause.
"This is going to hurt isn't it?"
Cara plucked a piece out of the air and put back in the mirror's frame, then lifted another piece, feeling the edges bite into her as she watched non-existent blood trickle down her hands. She ignored it and placed the piece before she picked up another.
The window still isn't complete.