The World Beyond the Mirror

It all started on an ordinary day in my then-ordinary life. I'm Ocean, and I am currently almost 15. I woke up that morning to the blaring of my alarm clock, and quickly shut it off. Dragging myself out of bed, I just threw on whatever was handy (in that case my purple t-shirt and favourite capris) and bumped my way down the stairs to the kitchen for breakfast. Everyone else had already eaten and left for work, which I was used to. No one was ever really around when I got up, even on Sundays, so I was pretty much alone every morning.

I grabbed some milk from the fridge, a box of cereal and a bowl from the cupboard, and my breakfast at the table. After dumping the dishes in the sink, I walked over to the bathroom, just like any other morning and I just stared at my blonde-haired, blue eyed reflection.

Up until I entered the bathroom, it was just like any other morning for. Once I was in the bathroom, though, everything turned upside-down pretty quickly. To this day, I don't know why I put my hand up to the surface of the mirror. All I know is that one minute all I felt was the cold glass of the mirror beneath my hand, the next my hand sank through the glass and I could feel the heat of another person's hand resting against mine.

As my hand sank through, I was thrown off balance and my body plunged forward. Instead of hitting the sink, though, I just kept going, stumbling right through the mirror itself. I tumbled through as the mirror grew larger, and I ended up in a heap on the other side. I quickly pushed myself to my feet and dusted myself off, and then it hit me: what the heck just happened? Looking around, I saw nothing out of the ordinary, at least not at first. That's when I noticed her.

At the time, I didn't know what the heck was going on, but I did know that there shouldn't be another me. She looked exactly like me, right down to the freckles on her bare arms. It was like looking at my own clone, or should I say, twin? Amazement shone on her face, mirroring my own expression.

"What the heck?" she said in puzzled amazement, "Who are you?"

"Um . . . Ocean. Could you tell me what the heck just happened?" I said nervously. I couldn't help being nervous; it's not every day that you pass through a mirror, I knew that much, even then.

The girl quickly regained her composure. "I don't know. You tell me. You're the one who just passed through the mirror, uh . . . Ocean."

"I know that!" I almost yelled, "I don't know what happened myself, okay? I mean, one minute I'm standing in my bathroom, and the next I put my hand against the mirror and POW! Through the mirror I come. Who the heck are you, anyway?"

"My name is River," the girl said with forced calmness. It wasn't hard to tell that she was trying not to freak out, because frankly, that's exactly how I was feeling too.

River?! I thought to myself. It can't be!

"You're River?" I asked incredulously.

"That's what I just said, isn't it?" she said, "Anyway, what's it to you?"

"A lot. Did anyone ever tell you anything about having a twin at all?" I asked quietly.

"Nope," she said automatically, but it was easy from the look in her eyes to tell that there was something she wasn't telling me.

"Well, apparently, when I was a baby, I had an identical twin sister named River, but she died before my first birthday, or so I was told. I'm starting to think otherwise, though.

"What on earth are you talking about?"

"Oh, come on. You still haven't figured it out? The name, the age, the physical likeness between us?"

"Are you saying that I could be you r twin sister?" River asked unbelievingly.

"Not 'could be.' You are my sister. I can feel it in my bones, for crying out loud."

"Maybe your legs are just sore," River tried to reason.

"Maybe, but what other proof do you need? Okay, when's your next birthday?" I almost yelled at her.

"June 23rd. I'll be 15."

"Same here. How many more 'coincidences' do you need to be convinced of the truth?"

River bit her lip nervously, as if she were trying to think of another reason to explain away all of the 'coincidences' thus far. That's when her expression changed from thoughtful nervousness to looking as if she'd just recalled a memory long buried. "Wait," she said, "just wait a minute. I remember now. My parents told me when I was really young that they had adopted me when I was just around a year old. Nothing unusual about that, I know, but they had said that I had come from 'another world' or something like that. Back then, I thought it meant just another country, but maybe it really meant that I came literally from another world. Your world."

"So you finally agree with me that you could be my twin sister?"

"Yes," she said finally, "I do believe that." That's when it seemed to really hit her. "I have a sister," she whispered.

"I have a sister!" she said again, more loudly and almost ecstatically this time.

"Okay," I said finally, "Now that we know the truth, can you at least tell me about this world?"

River looked hurt when I said that. "Don't you care about the fact that you just found your twin sister that had been reported dead?" she asked quietly.

"Sorry. It's just . . . well, when I was growing up, Mom and Dad always told me to sort out my problems myself when I came to them for advice. Eventually, I stopped going to them all together, and my emotions just kind of withered up after that. Now it's hard for me to show anything but really strong emotions, even if I want to."

"Oh, well in that case," she replied, "And to answer your question, I sure can show you around."

We stepped out of the bathroom together, and that is how I first got introduced to the world beyond the mirror. The kitchen we stepped into looked almost exactly like the one I had left behind in my world, right down to the unwashed dishes in the sink. However, I should probably say that there was one major difference: a miniature dragon the size of my hand was camped out on the kitchen table, puffing out smoke with every breath as it slept.

I gave a little squeak of fear. If that thing was dangerous, I wasn't going to be the one to wake it up. River just stared at me as I started inching backwards, and then she turned her head to look at the dragon napping in her kitchen. It must have dawned on her just then, because she was quick to assure me that the mini-dragon was harmless.

"Her name is Nori. She's my hinalan," River said, as if that explained everything.

"A hee-nawl-what?" I asked confusedly.

"My hinalan. Don't tell me you don't have them in your world?" she said incredulously.

"If we do have them, then I've never heard of them. So what's the deal with these hee-nawl-ans? I said as I struggled to pronounce the word.

River explained to me that whenever someone new appears in this world, be it by birth or other means, a hinalan is born as well. The hinalans basically are a physical representation of the personality of the person who 'created' them. They can be anything, from insects to bears to flying centaurs, but they never come any bigger than the size of your hand. Despite being 'attached' to their 'creator,' hinalans did have their own minds and personalities.

"So does that about cover it?" I asked.

"Yeah," she said, "but one thing you should know about my hinalan. From what Mom and Dad told me, when I came here, two hinalans were born and attached themselves to me instead of one-"

"Whoa! Attached themselves? What do you mean?" I interrupted.

"Knew I forgot something," River cursed silently, "Well, to explain it, when a hinalan attaches to their creator, it means they touch the forehead of their . . . oh, what's do you call it . . . the person that is the creator of a hinalan . . . oh, hitani, that's it. Anyway, the hinalan touches it hitani on the forehead and an instant mental connection is formed . . . You absorbing all of this?"

"Yeah, I got it. You were saying before . . . something about two hinalans instead of one?"

"Yeah. Anyway, like I was saying, 2 hinalans appeared when I came here and attached themselves to me. The thing is that, from what I've been told, the one hinalan just disappeared without a trace afterwards. The only one who stayed was Nori over there. Apparently the one that disappeared was supposed to be another one of the three legends."

"So why does your hinalan look like a dragon?"

River went on to explain that depending on the personality of the hitani, the hinalans' appearances could differ. Out of all the forms that a hinalan can take, though, there are three that are almost legendary because they are so rare: the gryphon, the dragon, and the phoenix. Each represented a different personality, but what type of personality needed for your hinalan to take each form was lost in history.

So why did River end up with a dragon hinalan anyway? I thought to myself.

Even I don't know the answer to that one. River answered, except her voice seemed to echo in my head.

Is River reading my mind? I wondered. Can you hear me, River?

"Yes," she said without thinking. We both stared at each other in shock and amazement at our discovery. It would seem that the hinalans weren't the only ones who could form a telepathic bond with others.

"Well, just one more thing to add to my list of strange things that I've discovered today," I finally sighed. That's when the air in front of me started to ripple and distort, like heat waves coming off of hot pavement.

"What the heck is going on now?" I asked.

"I think," River replied, "I think that your hinalan might have finally decided to make its grand entrance. When she said that, my head jerked around to look at her, but she just continued to stare in astonishment at the ripple as something started to emerge. I turned to look at the hinalan that was coming through, and was surprised to find that it had already freed itself from the distortion.

That's when the true identity of my hinalan struck both River and me. A phoenix. My hinalan was one of the legendary three, just like River's. River and I just stared at each other in amazement, when suddenly, with a great downbeat of its wings, my hinalan flew up to me and, leaning its flaming head forward, touched me lightly on the forehead with its beak.

My name is Rarity, echoed a feminine voice within my head, there is danger coming this way. You must get away before the Ring of Seven comes and captures you. Go now! Take your sister and Nori and get away from here.

What about you? I answered.

Don't worry. I can fly. I will follow you.

I turned to my sister and said, "The Ring of Seven is coming this way."

River spun around to face me. Her eyes widened with fear at the mention of the Ring of Seven. "How do you know about the Ring?"

Rarity told me. I thought to her.

She didn't tell you anything else?

No. Just to get away from here before they capture us.

River's eyes widened even more when she heard that. "We must go, now," she said, "Follow me."

River turned on her heel and ran down the hall towards the kitchen. Rarity and I followed after her. Nori was still on the kitchen table, but she was no longer asleep. Her violet eyes were open, and she was watching River pull back the rug in front of the kitchen door. River felt along the seams of the tiles until she seemed to find what she was looking for. Pressing down lightly, I heard a light click and, with the creak of worn-out hinges, a hidden trapdoor revealed itself.

"Nori, Ocean, Rarity, down you go!" River ordered. Nori leapt off of the table and soared down the tunnel that had been revealed underneath the trapdoor. Rarity followed close behind. I quickly walked over and grabbed hold of the ladder that led down into the darkness. I glanced at my sister and said, "What about you?"

"I'll follow. Now get going!"

That was all the incentive I needed as I scrambled down the ladder. The light grew dimmer as I climbed farther down. I stopped once about halfway down to glance up at my sister, only to see that she was on the ladder herself and about to shut the trapdoor. I continued the downward climb as the tunnel became pitch-black. I soon reached the bottom, and River joined me just seconds later.

"Rarity? Nori? Where are you?" we called out. We heard the answering cry from just down the tunnel, so we started walking blindly towards it. Suddenly we were bathed in the flaming light from Rarity's feathers, and we could see once again.

We have found the exit. Rarity said.

Good. Lead the way.

Rarity and Nori lead the way down the underground tunnel, and soon we were above ground once again after they had led us to another ladder that we then climbed up. We came out in a thick forest, and the sun was high overhead, signalling the fact that it was noon. Was the day already halfway over already?

"Quick question," I said once we were out, "Why do you have a tunnel beneath your house?"

"Precaution. The Seven have been known to come around this area and cause trouble, so Mom and Dad wanted me to have a way to escape if the need ever arose."

"Okay. So now that we're safe, could someone please tell me who or what the Ring of Seven is?" I asked.

"Not so loud, Ocean, please. And don't say that name out loud."

"What, the Ring thing? Why?"

"Because there's an enchantment on that name so that if ever it's spoken aloud or written, they will know and the person who said or wrote that name can be tracked down and punished," River shivered as she said it.

"Who is 'they'? And what do you mean by punished?"

Think it, please. There's nothing in the wording of the enchantment against telepathic communication, which works in our favour.

Oh, sorry. I apologized.

No problem. Now, to put it simply, the Ring of Seven is. . River went on to explain that the Ring was a group of vicious mercenaries formerly under the employ of the government. When the government had cut off their payments, the Ring of Seven retaliated by going rogue and robbing everyone they could that had anything to do with anyone in the government. When that failed, they started terrorizing the populace, and the government merely sat back and watched it happen.

So what does the Ring want with us? I asked.

Everything. When anyone comes into this world, Ocean, the Ring knows automatically, and they hunt down that person to try and convince them to join their band of outlaws. If the person refuses, the Ring of Seven will kill your hinalan, and that causes the person to become a zombie. If you kill a person's hinalan in this world, then you kill the personality of the person it's attached to and they basically become mindless drones.

That's horrible! Is there any way to reverse it?

The only way to reverse it is to bring together the entire Ring of Seven and defeat them in battle.

Sounds easy enough.

It's not! The Ring has powers well beyond that of any normal human, and their hinalans are so evil that they are not easily beaten either,

Is there anyone willing to help us to beat these guys? I finally ask once I've thought to myself for a few minutes.

No one that I know of is willing to risk it.

Guess we're on our own, then?

On our own?!

If no one else is going to help us, then we're going to have to do this job ourselves.

"So we are agreed on what we have to do?" I asked sometime later.

"Yes. And Nori agrees too." River said to me.

I am prepared. Rarity's voice echoed in my thoughts.

"Well then, let's get moving," I said with conviction, "Let's put Operation Ring of Seven into action!"

We ran from the cover of the forest into the outskirts of the town that River had lived in for so long. We continued running, heading for the one place where we were guaranteed to get the Seven's attention. When we finally reached the square, we quickly placed ourselves on the raised dais in the center of the cemented town square.

Let's do this. I thought grimly to myself.

"People of this town," River and I shouted together, "We are here to say that we are sick and tired of the way that the Ring of Seven has treated us for so many years!" We managed to get the attention of several passing people, and they just stood at the base of the dais, possibly to see what would happen next. They obviously knew of the enchantment on the name of the Seven, and they wanted to see what the Seven would do to us if we continued to speak.

River fell silent as I continued to speak, "We curse the day that the government ever found the Ring of Seven. If they had never received all that money from the government, the Ring would have never gotten off the ground! We curse the Ring of Seven for taking away the lives of so many people, and we damn them to the heavens for ruining our lives!" As I continued to speak, the sky above where River and I were standing darkened and the air started to distort, just like when Rarity appeared. The crowd that had gathered started to edge away in fear, but still I spoke on, and River joined mine in cursing the Ring of Seven for all of the pain that they had caused the people.

Seven pairs of arms started to extend from the distortion, and still we spoke on. Finally, the Ring of Seven had fully extricated themselves from the ripple, and they had us fully encircled. Each member of the Ring was dressed fully in black, and wore black masks over their faces so that you could hardly tell one from the other. All were of differing heights and weights, and all were menacingly close to us, but still River and I spoke out against them.

For a few moments, they just stood and listened to our rants, and then suddenly, as one, they and their evil-looking hinalans ran at us. We were not really expecting this, so they had an easy time capturing Nori and Rarity. River and I just glanced at each other, and we started fighting back against them. They outnumbered us 7-2, but that didn't matter to us. Moving like a well-oiled machine, River and I fought. Elbows to the face, punches to the stomach, anything we could do to keep them back. The fight went on for several minutes that seemed to last for hours. Soon, though, River got slammed across the back of her head by a club that the fattest one was carrying.

"River!" I screamed. Taking advantage of my distracted state, several of the Seven jumped me and knocked my head against the pavement. The last thing that I remember seeing was their faces leering over me, and then everything went black.

When I woke up, I was still in the square, still in the dais in the center. One thing though: I was tied up tighter than a calf at a rodeo, and as I rotated my head, I could see that River was trussed up in much the same manner. The Seven had tied us up so that we were back to back, with no real way to break free. Even our hinalans were tied, so there was no one to help us. Sure, there was a crowd gathered nearby, but it was clear that we were on our own; they weren't going to risk helping us. Just then, I noticed that River was starting to regain consciousness.

River, you awake?

Yep. came the groggy reply.

Any idea of how to get out of this one?

Nope. Maybe we should have planned past the 'insult the Seven' stage.

Maybe. Well, no helping that now. What's done is done.

Just then the entire Ring of Seven stepped out of a nearby building and started towards us. It was pretty clear from the expressions in their eyes that whatever they were about to do to us, it wouldn't be good. The smallest one, who was just slightly taller than me, stepped forward after they had stopped at the base of the dais. Silently he walked over and picked up one of our hinalans. That's when it hit me: they were going to kill us, albeit in a very round-about manner. As little Nori struggled against the man's grasp, one of the others pulled out a sharp-edged dagger from underneath his jacket.

As the sunlight glinted on the evil blade, River screamed her protests. All I could do was stare in horror as the man raised the dagger. Only then did it occur to me, just as the dagger began its downward path towards the shrieking Nori, that if Nori died, I would lose not only Nori, but by extension, River, since when one died, the other's personality died with it. Horror turned to complete outrage. Fright turned to anger. Just as the dagger was about to finish its evil task, I turned my head skyward and screamed in such rage and anger that the very air around us seemed to shatter.

The dagger halted just above its target and it suddenly clattered to the ground as the sky above the square darkened. Clouds roiled in anger that matched my own rage, and thunder grated across sky. Lightning answered the call of the primal scream that was echoing from my throat, and the ropes tying me snapped like liquorice as my anger took hold. I don't know how I knew what to do, but as I stood, I pointed my right hand heavenward and the lightning answered to my calling. As if my hand were a lightning rod, the electric bolts streaked down from the sky and pooled themselves in the palm of my hand. Lowering my hand, I looked at the massive ball of electrical energy swirling upon my palm.

River later told me that when I looked back at her, I looked like something straight from the old legends you sometimes hear of a person who controls the elements; my hair danced around my head on some invisible breeze, and my eyes seemed to burn right through to the center of her being, so she told me. I don't know about any of that, but what I do know was that at the time, all I wanted was for the Ring of Seven to suffer for what they had done to the country. It was with that sole purpose in mind that I pointed my palm at the man who had been about to kill Nori, and it was only with that thought running circles around my brain that I fired the lightning sphere at him.

Immediately, the electric orb struck him with the force of all my anger and rage, and his scream echoed for minutes after all that was left of him was ash. The rest of the Ring of Seven slowly backed away from the dais. The short one released Nori, but I don't think retreating ever crossed their minds. They immediately grouped themselves into one big huddle, as if to plan their next strategy. Looking over at my twin, I noticed that she was still tied, but that's about as far as it went before suddenly a knife came hurtling through the air towards me.

Now I think it was River's turn to be angered at the thought of anyone doing her twin sister harm. Her blonde hair began to whip around her head, and her ropes snapped as easily as straw. The storm answered to her call, and as she pointed her own arm skyward, flaming hail shot down and melded itself in her palm. She pointed the fiery thing at the approaching knife, and it melted before it could ever reach me.

Turning as one, River and I looked upon the now-cowering Ring of Seven. The rising wind mirrored our rage towards the group of criminals for all they had done, and we both closed our eyes as we pointed our arms skyward. The fierce storm heeded our cry, for lightning and fire streaked down from the dark clouds and pooled in our up-stretched palms. We lowered our hands as one, and with a primal scream that echoed across the land, shot our eyes open and launched a combined attack against the evil that had threatened to wipe us out.

I don't know what powers of Ring of Seven was supposed to possess, but whatever those powers were, they failed to protect the Seven from the combined fury of our attack. Soon all that was left of the Ring of Seven were seven small scattered piles of ash. Just then, the rage that had been fuelling us died away, and both River and I collapsed. As my mind faded into the blackness yet again, it pleased me to know that we had at least