Typical tale of a boy meeting his destiny
|It was the typical chase scene. Thomas running down the busy city sidewalks, Big Bruno and his band of minions hot on his heels. Pursued because he was different. That growth spurt hadn’t hit yet, so he was considered weak and an easy target. His glasses and intellect, hard to hide, just aggravated his bully all the more. So he hid in dark corners, avoided the lunch room and quiet halls, and when Big Bruno managed to catch him outside of school at the wrong time, Thomas ran.|
Bumping into one woman and sending her bags flying out of her grasp, dodging the man engrossed in a phone call, tripping over the dog walking his owner to the park. Big Bruno breathed down his neck until Thomas had a stroke of luck, a moment where Bruno’s raging eyes lost him, and he was able to duck into a small, old shoppe.
The bully and his gang ran past the building, their pounding feet fading into the distance, and Thomas breathed a sigh of relief from his crouched position under the safety of the shoppe windows. And now, he realized with wonder, that he was in an antique store. A myriad of interesting odds and ends, objects of various sizes and shapes, filled the room. And a smell that was just...old. He wrinkled his nose.
Thomas imagined the store was run by a mystical, Little Old Man. A Chinese character, of course, that would impart great wisdom and, perhaps, some trinket that would cause him to grow and be more courageous in the face of his nemesis.
“Hate to disappoint ya, kid, but I ain’t Chinese. Ain’t no man, neither.”
Thomas carefully stood and peeked around an ancient guitar sitting on a dusty old desk. The owner was staring right at him with bright blue eyes. She smiled, touched the brim of her cowboy hat, and continued to read his mind.
“But I do have something for ya. Nobody finds this old shoppe unless they’re meant’ta, ya know?”
Thomas took a step closer, intrigued.
“Some stumble in and leave with a dragon egg or a ring of invisibility,” she rubbed her chin and squinted his direction. “But you? I think yer gonna need a mirror.”
Thomas was feeling skeptical. It was easy to claim a shoppe was full of magic. Put on an interesting persona and read folks’ minds and then take their hard earned lunch money in exchange for a piece of junk. But to actually grant a wish? Psh. What kind of fool did this lady take him for?
“Hey, now,” Cowgirl was frowning. “My stuff ain’t junk. Each piece is intended for a specific purpose and person. And why the heck would I want your lunch money? I already done had my lunch today.” She rolled her eyes. “Now, fool or no fool, I got what you need in that there corner. Just pull off that ole sheet and you’ll see what I mean.”
Thomas glanced at the corner. The mirror, hidden behind a musty cloth, waited. He held his breath and without fanfare, yanked the cloth down. A plume of dust wafted around him like fairy powder. He coughed and his reflection coughed back.
Thomas frowned. Something, he realized, was off. He waved a hand at the mirror and, after a split second, the mirrored image waved a hand. It was a glitch, he thought. Some kind of parlor trick.
“Ain’t no trick,” Cowgirl laughed. “That there’s yer copy. Can ya guess what he wants?”
Thomas knew. It was the same thing he wanted. A new life. A new adventure. Escape from the constant torture of Big Bruno and his idiot underlings. He hesitated for only a moment before allowing himself to touch the mirror. His image reached forward a fraction of a second later and Thomas wasn’t at all surprised to feel the warmth from his other-self’s palm.
“He’s been getting a mite slow,” Cowgirl drawled. “He’s been runnin’ ‘round guarding all the entry points so ya can’t get through fer thirteen years. But if ya agree to switch…” she trailed off, one eyebrow raised, leaving Thomas to conclude the rest on his own.
He nodded and the other Thomas nodded as well, a small smile on each face. Pressing harder on the glass, Thomas could feel a vibration, an opening. Closing his eyes, he stepped forward. Swimming through suffocating jelly, the sticky surface fought his presence. But then he was through, bumping past his image as they switched spots, and he could breath again.
His image waved goodbye and he felt compelled to return the gesture before the other boy tossed the cloth over the mirror and the other world was erased from his sight.
“Yer darn tootin’” Other-Cowgirl grinned, reading his mind before his thoughts were, well, thought.
Thomas allowed himself to process what had just happened. A magical shoppe owner had given him a chance to change his life and he had jumped at the chance, like any hero in a story would. Now Thomas could discover who he was in this new world and if the story line was as cliché as most, he was pretty sure that, here, he would discover he was a Somebody and Big Bruno would have to be a Big Nobody. Because, obviously, this must be a parallel universe.
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