Thanks for taking a look! This is my first story here and of course if you have any thoughts or critiques, I'd love to hear them.
The story takes place approximately in an Industrial Age setting, however this is not particularly important or necessarily true given that it's also another world. Each chapter will detail a new encounter along Arthur's way.
Stepping off the steam train, Arthur pulled the letter out from his coat once more to assure himself that it was indeed still there.
'M. Jacques' the envelope read.
Next he lugged a sizeable leather suitcase from the carriage. He couldn't carry it himself and so dragged it across the marble station to an alcove. The people and guards busied past, and after looking once, twice, Arthur unzipped the case and out rolled a live boy, who smiled.
"You alright? Good."
He zipped the case back up and carried it out of the station, the boy padding behind.
The traffic on the streets raced past and Arthur found the city folk walk at a speed at which one must know exactly where they are headed to match it. He did not, and so frequently found himself bumping into pedestrians.
"I'm sorry. Sorry. Excuse me. Sorry."
The boy stuck close to Arthur but never found himself in the way. Instead he looked at the buildings with his fingers in his mouth while his companion with an oversized case tried to figure out some sort of a route.
Before too long they had moved away from the busy main street and ventured down the winding side streets. It was darker, as the city climbed up towards the sun, like tall trees in an old forest. Wrought iron lamps arched between the closely built walls and shiny cobbles lined the path.
"Monsieur Jacques. Number 818."
Arthur held up the envelope.
"M. Jacques. Monsieur Jacques. Mirror. Ok."
The door was varnished and the windows with painted floral borders showed little inside the shop as no lights were lit within. Arthur was about to knock when he noticed a small bell and lever, which he pulled instead. From within came a clicking and the door opened.
It was a mantis, the size of a horse, which opened the door. He wore a dark necktie and waistcoat. He looked down on the pair and spoke in a deep tone.
"Come in, sirs."
Arthur stepped into the dark store, dimly illuminated by a gas lamp carried by the proprietor, who at once crept away into a far corner. The room appeared cavernous, as the ceiling was concealed in the shadows and rows upon rows of different mirrors stood or hung about the place. Some were draped in velvet while others rested on a dark wood counter. The door shut and when Arthur returned to look at the keeper he found he was being advanced upon by a worried looking… Arthur.
M. Jacques appeared from behind the mirror as he set it down.
"Are you looking for yourself?" he asked, gazing over the top.
"I already have myself I think." Arthur replied, uncertain.
"I've got you too." And the mantis clicked the mirror.
"I'm here on business I'm afraid." Arthur said, for if he changed the conversation entirely he needn't worry about not having a response.
"Don't be afraid, I'm quite used to business."
Arthur began to speak but M. Jacques cut him off.
"-no no, allow me to guess. A man wants a better reflection, no? Let me ask- do you want a better reflection?"
In the dim gaslight Arthur looked at himself. The low light was kind on his skin and made his eyes appear to shine. He had concerns about his appearance which he kept as secret as most people do but in this moment he was content with his peculiar self.
"I'm satisfied with my reflection as it is, thank you."
"You are?" M. Jacques asked, crawling over behind him. "Why- if I looked in the mirror and saw that- I'd be greatly distressed."
"That's rather rude I think."
"Is it or isn't it?"
"Then I've miscommunicated. I apologise. What I mean to say is to see anything other than what you ought to be in the mirror is a cause of concern, no?"
"I suppose you're right."
"I am. Which is why your master will find no comfort in this piece regardless of what he sees. All the same-"
By this point the keeper had disappeared into the gloom of the store, leaving the lamp at the feet of his sole customer. From out the dark came a clicking that suggested the very walls were being climbed in search of the item.
"Say- have a look in the mirror yourself, in the meantime, if you like."
Arthur thought it odd to be invited, having been shown in it all along, but gave a concerted effort to be reflected all the same.
He stood in an oversized coat much as before. He caught the gaze of the boy behind him who after a moment decided to wander out of the mirror's view. It was at that point that Arthur began to change. Or rather, the mirror's interpretation of him. He grew taller and broader, so that his coat might fit him. He gazed back with a defiant look that smacked of accomplishments untold. Alarmingly, although perhaps it should not have been so after the unnatural event preceding it, the Arthur in the mirror folded his arms.
"Who are you?" the real Arthur asked carefully. His counterpart seemed to think such an obvious question was beneath him and pretended to be distracted.
"Are you me in the future?" he ventured. This must have been a better question, as Arthur watched him shrug, before producing a fountain pen from his pocket, which he rolled skilfully between his fingers.
"You're what I want to be, right?" and Arthur won a smile. All at once the mirror Arthur stopped, as though a thought came over him. He reached back into his pocket and pulled out a metal sphere, the size of a fist. He held it out before the mirror triumphantly.
"What… what is that?" Arthur checked his pockets but he possessed no such item. "I don't- if you're what I want… then do I want this?"
At this M. Jacques scuttled over in haste.
"What is it? What do you see?"
He knocked Arthur nearly out of the way. All that was reflected was the scene as it stood.
"Miserable thing." M Jacques said "What were you speaking to it about?"
Arthur could think of no tangible reason not to tell of the orb he'd seen, but given how desperate the keeper seemed to be to discover the secret he suddenly felt it best not to say anything about it.
"I was trying to work out what the mirror does."
"It shows what a person wants for themselves."
"At least, what a person thinks they want."
"Is there a difference?" Arthur asked.
"I suppose it depends on you." And the mantis handed him a small parcel wrapped in black velvet.
Arthur had decided he'd had quite enough of the creature's mysterious talk and began leaving as soon as he took the frame from him.
"What about the boy?" M. Jacques called "Doesn't he want to look in the mirror?"
Arthur considered then looked down at the child.
He went to pick up the boy but while he remained smiling he seemed to be putting all of his effort into being heavy. Too heavy to lift in fact.
This only served to fuel the curiosity within Arthur of what he might see, and was halfway to the mirror dragging the boy across the floor by the foot when the keeper interrupted.
"I think, perhaps the young man is not interested."
Arthur laid the boy's leg back down and caught his breath.
"No? Well, goodbye."
And he strode out of the shop, followed by the boy who returned to his feet and waved once before following after.