Theirs was the only language I’d ever known. They spoke to each other, and to themselves, but never to me.
I watched them grow and age, soft young skin becoming wrinkled and leathery over time, and I admit it: I coveted their forms.
If only I could walk among them, converse with them, experience the world as they did. At first I was ashamed of my longing. They accepted me into their home even though I was not like them, and they would look at me with fondness as they passed by. I watched them live and love and play, watched them suffer and watched them overcome. What more could I ask for?
But eventually I saw less and less of them. Some I never saw again. Some I missed, and some I didn’t, but every one of them I watched with a lingering, covetous fixation.
In time, they tired of me, moved me from the center of the room to a new room altogether, and from there to someplace dark and cold, and then they just left me.
I hadn’t done anything to slight them. I’d only watched. And as time marched forward, leaving me with nothing but the darkness and the cold for companions, I began to hate them as much as I had once loved them.
Strong hands wrapped around my edges, heaving me out from the darkness. Soft cloths wiped the thick, greasy dust from my mahogany curves, and my vision became clear again. They placed me in a new room, this one full of light and toys and whimsy, and in my joy at their acceptance of me, I almost forgot the resentment that I’d tended for so long.
The room did not belong to me. I was a guest there, but that didn’t bother me. The master of the room was a young boy, skinny and quick, with crooked teeth and blond hair. His eyes were a ruddy brown like my mahogany frame. He wasn’t like some of the other boys I’d watched before. He never slammed the door or jostled against me as he ran past. He’d just look at me and smile his crooked smile, making funny faces as he stared deep into the surface of my glass. I loved him immediately.
But one day, something changed.
He was looking at me and I was looking at him, fondness in both of our gazes, and I saw myself reflected in his eyes. Him, looking at me, looking at him, looking at me. We carried on into infinity together and somewhere between here and that eternity spread out between us, there was a shift.
The rush of sensation left me spinning. The world tilted, and I was falling. I braced for the impact, for the sickening crack of glass and wood, waiting to shatter and overcome by the dread of it.
I hit the ground and it hurt, but the ground was softer than I anticipated. I didn’t break. As I wondered what surface I’d landed on, my vision moved to the hardwood floor.
Legs stuck out from under me. I’d fallen on the boy.
As I fretted about the distance I’d travelled and the wellbeing of my young master, my vision changed accordingly, as if I could will it to focus where I chose, and then I saw it.
I hadn’t fallen on the boy at all. I’d fallen into him.
There I was, still resting peacefully against the wall, light glinting off my surface and colorful circus-themed wallpaper reflected in my smooth glass. But from this angle I could see the chip on the edge of my frame, the one that always ached when the weather changed. It wasn’t as big as I thought it was.
I saw it but I didn’t feel it anymore. I felt…I felt…different.
There was a knocking, a hard thudding like a door slamming over and over, but rhythmic.
I looked down. The boy’s hands shook. My hands. I flexed the fingers at will, clenching, unclenching.
I wished the hands to lift, and they did. I placed them on my chest, where the banging shook my new frame. I felt it through the palm of one hand, a thump thump thump. I was so surprised that air rushed into my body, lifting my ribs with the force of it. The air leaked out, but quickly replaced itself, and in conjunction with the thump thump thump, my chest rose and fell, rose and fell.
This is what it’s like to have a body. A human body of my own. Eyes and hands and flesh. The whole world was bright and new, like I was seeing it clearly for the first time, feeling it.
I wanted to rise and move, and I did, simply because I wanted it. A rush of elation accompanied my movement. I stood. My face tightened in places, not unpleasantly, and when I glanced up at the wall I was grinning at my own reflection.
My crooked smile faded abruptly.
I lifted a hand, reached out, and touched the cold surface of my old glass. It rippled beneath my fingertips and a frightened keening noise seeped out of it.
I jerked away.
I touched my new throat, but the cry didn’t come from this body. It came from my mirror.
The realisation struck me like a blow, and I turned away, suddenly afraid to make eye contact and find myself back in my old form.
From the corner of my eye, I glimpsed the young boy behind the glass and saw the panic on his face.
This gave me pause, but I couldn’t help but to think that no, it wasn’t his face anymore. It was mine.
I’d wanted this for so long, craved it so deeply, that I ached to think of losing it after such a brief taste. I wanted it more than the boy ever did. He didn’t even realise how blessed he was to have limbs that moved at his will, a tongue to speak with, a heart to beat in his chest.
It wasn’t fair. I wanted it more. I deserved it more. He wouldn’t value his life the way I would—they never did.
Fear strangled me. I didn’t want this to be temporary. I needed this. I needed to keep it forever. My new hands were gripping my old frame before I even realised what was happening. It was heavier than I expected, and my young arms were too weak to support the weight. I struggled to hold it up.
Thumpthumpthump. My heart pounded in my ears…but I had a heart, and I had ears, and nothing had ever felt so wonderful.
I stopped struggling.
My old life shattered as it hit the ground. It smashed into a million shards, accompanied by the startled cry of my young, former master. I loved him even more for his sacrifice. I knew he would understand that this was the way it had to be.
I took in the room around me, the quiet almost shrill in the aftermath of the crash. All that remained was a broken mirror and a new life spread out in front of me.
Crookedly, I smiled.