That Other Place

By Tom Foster

 

 

 

Saturday, July 25th, 1998

 

            She was a smart kid, others had told her so often enough that she’d finally believed it, but damned if she could figure out what it was she saw just now.  Brandi had flown in from Idaho only yesterday to spend time with her grandparents.  They’d had to come out to PDX in Portland, Oregon to pick her up, but they’d been cheery and more than glad to see her when they’d met at the airport.  Her father would have picked up her up save for the fact that he was down in Arizona on an important painting job, a project that could easily set him up so that he didn’t have to bust his hump for the entire winter doing small odd jobs and offices to keep his small business afloat.  Brandi loved her father but damn if he didn’t just work too hard for his age.  It would have been nice to see him back at the coast where he’d grown up, but the man had made his own decisions since he’d moved out at the age of seventeen.  He’d gotten her mother pregnant when he’d been eighteen and had been dealing with the woman since then.

            It was a love, hate, love relationship with Brandi being stuck in the middle more often than not.  Her mother had several other children, but only she and her older brother Nathan were the woman’s natural kids.  Being part of a Mormon family was rough at times since the religion tended to lean towards having more than a few children.  Brandi had already spoken with her mother about converting over to another religion when she was older.  Her ears had stung for days after the harsh words that had flown between them.  Even at her young age Brandi Ferris, her last name had thankfully not changed from her father’s, didn’t bow down to anyone. 

            The situation between her mother and father had been a nightmare since before she could remember, leaving her to spend much of her time in airports waiting to leave for one state or another.  Her father had apologized so many times for the treatment that she’d already grown tired of hearing the words.  Brandi knew her father loved her, she knew that she had an entire family spread across the west coast that loved and adored her, but sometimes she couldn’t help but feel a little alone, as though she were stuck on an island all by herself in the midst of an ocean of uncertainty.  Her mother had been fully confident that her father would want to get married after their daughter had been born, but when Garrett Ferris hadn’t followed through with such an act her mother, Kathryn Tulis, had gone a bit over the top. 

            Brandi couldn’t really see how the two of them had hooked up long enough to conceive her, they could hardly stand one another.  She couldn’t blame either her dad or her mom though, each one of them had their obvious faults.  She loved them both dearly but at times wished she could just live with her grandparents and uncle.  Brandi liked coming to the coast, it was more fun to hang around her uncle and Kera than it was with her own siblings.  Nathan was a bit of a meanie when it came to being an older brother and her other siblings were far more involved with each other than they would be with her.  When she got the chance to see her uncle, Kera, and her cousin Analyn it was a treat indeed.  That she would get to see her cousin for at least a handful of days was great, but for the moment the entire family except for her grandfather were off doing their own thing. 

            Analyn had gone with uncle Tyler and Kera, it was still too weird to call her aunt, to the beach to watch them work out.  Brandi would have gone but she had woken up too late and had decided to wait for them to get back.  Her grandmother had gone to work for a few hours, filling in on a shift for someone who’d called in sick.  She would be back sometime in the afternoon, while her grandfather was sleeping off the effects of a graveyard shift, a shift that he had also taken over for a sick co-worker.  Her grandparents were good people, which was why the vision she saw in the mirror above the couch just now confused her so much.

            Her grandparents’ living room was set up to offer a wide walkway through the middle, leading into the kitchen to the west end and creating a corridor with the back of the large blue sectional couch.  Brandi and her uncle loved this couch, worn out as it was.  The large piece of furniture had been around for many years now and had provided a place to rest for each member of the family that had and still did live here as well as others.  Brandi could remember falling asleep on either end of the couch with the recliner extended out, the comfy blue material lulling her to sleep at times.  It was a warm house that her grandparents kept, it had a lived-in feel to it that her own home didn’t seem to have.

            Above the south end of the couch, on the wall just above it, was a large rectangular mirror that her grandfather had hung upon the completion of the home.  The mirror stretched a good six feet or more along the wall and was about two and a half feet tall, which was huge by her standards.  The mirror offered a perfect view of the wall that separated the living room from the deck that wrapped around two sides of the house, showing the deck, the lawn, the front door off to the left and everything else that lay within the house. 

            Brandi had risen from the couch after nodding off for a few minutes, stretching as she had then turned to look in the mirror.  What she had seen had almost caused her to call out for her grandfather to wake up, but fear and the immediate confusion that had come after had stilled her tongue.  Her heart had kept pounding much as it was now, but the sheer confusion that ran rampant through her mind was such that she could just barely keep looking without making some sort of peep.  As she watched two young men that were perhaps her uncle’s age moved quietly in through the front door, the strange darkness from outside the reflection in the mirror contrasting greatly with the light she could see coming in from the actual world she stood in.  Brandi looked back at the large window just to make sure that she wasn’t going completely crazy, but the view she saw once she turned back to the mirror still didn’t make her feel any better.

            The two young men had made their way into the main hallway, their footsteps silent as they made their way towards the edge of the mirror, where she would no longer be able to see them after a certain point.  The reflection would only last as far as the corner of the hallway that was hidden behind the wall against which the couch sat.  Gulping loudly Brandi covered her mouth, thinking that the two men might hear her. 

            Each one of them were huge in her estimation, standing easily a foot or two taller than her and possessing a bulk that would have dwarfed her.  Both young men were fat in other words, but they moved with a strange grace that she knew shouldn’t have been possible.  What were they doing here?  What they did want?  The questions rattled within her mind along with many others as Brandi felt her body shaking slightly, unable to fully comprehend what was going on and why.  They were moving back towards her uncle and grandparent’s rooms though, that much she could see.  Brandi didn’t know what to do, finding that she was rooted to the spot in that moment as she could only watch the two young men move out of sight.  As they exited the reflection she turned her gaze back to the view that could be seen in reflection, frowning as she noticed the darkness beyond the mirror’s window.  It was daylight, there was no good explanation of how such a thing could be possible, but there it was. 

            Brandi was an avid lover of ghost stories and science fiction, but even at her age she knew very well that such things shouldn’t have been capable of happening quite like this.  As she turned from the mirror to glance outside she saw that it was still morning, the sunlight washing down upon the white siding of the garage across from the house.   The green of the grass and the multi-colored hues of the rock garden her grandfather had devoted so much time to defied the shadowed version of the same view that lay within the mirror, as though arguing their case that the night had already been relinquished, that they were no longer forced to hide their colors.  Turning back to the mirror Brandi jumped as she saw the two young men return, only this time they were carrying the limp forms of two others that she soon saw were her grandmother and grandfather, their bodies beaten and bloodied as they were hauled roughly into the living room where they were dropped unceremoniously to the floor.

            She was about to open her mouth when she remembered that her grandmother was supposed to be at work.  Brandi knew this was true, that what she was seeing couldn’t be real, but she couldn’t ignore as one of the young men, the shorter of the two, reached down with a clubbing blow to hit one of her grandparents.  From her vantage point she couldn’t see the floor of the living room, but from the way the young man was swinging she had no doubt that he was hitting with considerable force.  This was not unlike a horror movie the way it was shaping up, but Brandi couldn’t think of any film that would have been more terrifying than what she was watching right now.  She watched as the two men kicked and beat her grandparents, stopping only briefly when Kera suddenly entered the scene, kicking one of them hard in the crotch before being clubbed from behind by the other one.

            Brandi knew that her uncle and Kera were well-versed in martial arts, but even that didn’t prove to be enough as Kera was subdued and held by her arms.  She couldn’t understand where her uncle was, why he wasn’t trying to do anything.  Surely so much noise would have woken him up no matter how heavily he slept.  Brandi felt a flash of anger towards Tyler just then, but it was gone in the next moment as she saw another young man, this one in much better shape and somewhat shorter than the first two, enter through the front door.

            The newcomer didn’t waste any time as he went straight down the hallway toward the bedrooms, an object held in one hand that Brandi could easily recognize. She’d watched her uncle and grandfather perform enough yard work around the house to recognize the machete in the boy’s hand, but she couldn’t for the life of her think of why the young man would be carrying such a tool.  A part of her mind whispered that she knew exactly why he was holding it and what he meant to do, but Brandi didn’t want to listen.  Turning back to the other two young men she saw as they watched the other boy walk down the hall, cruel smiles on their faces as they watched him go.

            Brandi wanted to shout out for her grandfather, she even wanted to shout out for her uncle despite the fact that she knew he was not home.  It was far too difficult in this moment to know what was real and what was not as she felt somehow affixed to the spot she stood upon, as though her feet had been glued to the floor.  She stood helpless and silent as the two young men brutalized her grandparents, taking turns holding the struggling form of Kera as she tried to get free. Whether she was groggy from sleep or simply not as strong as Brandi had once thought was unsure, but she could see that Kera’s eyes were barely open as tears rolled down her cheeks, her teeth bared in hatred as she continued to struggle.  Brandi wanted to jump through the mirror to help her, to kick the shins of the evil boys or something, but she couldn’t move.

            There was little sound to be heard, only the soft whimpering that came from Kera, dampened as though the mirror were a television were a large, futuristic television and the volume had been dialed almost completely down.  Brandi couldn’t help but think that she wanted to change the channel, that she would gladly break the mirror and incur her grandfather’s anger if only it would erase this image.  Somehow she figured that her grandparents would not see this as she did, that they would see only their reflection, innocent and without any overly terrifying qualities.  That seemed to be the difference between children and adults sometimes, but a creeping sensation in the back of Brandi’s mind told her that this hellish show was meant for her alone.

            A sudden noise cut into the scene, a metallic ring followed closely by the tearing, ripping sound of something wet and perhaps far too terrible to be imagined.  Brandi flinched as she detected motion from the back of the hallway, only shadows moving amongst shadows really but still something that could not be ignored.  She wasn’t even aware she’d been holding her breath until she expelled it suddenly upon seeing her uncle.  There was no sight of the other young man, but as Tyler raised the machete in his right hand Brandi opened her mouth wide, her jaw dropping as she realized just what must have happened in the back of the hallway, why she had seen such frantic movement.  Her mind didn’t want to believe it, she didn’t want to believe it, Tyler wasn’t capable of something like that.

            Her uncle was a good person, he was someone that didn’t do things like murder, he didn’t kill people even though he knew how to.  Brandi knew her uncle had been in martial arts since before she was born, but never once had she seen him do anything but practice.  She’d heard stories of how Tyler had defended himself and of how he had somehow managed to get in trouble while doing it, but never would she have believed that he was capable of taking a life.  She still didn’t believe it even as she watched the two men converse with her uncle, saying something she couldn’t hear.  Her uncle responded, but as with the first two she couldn’t hear a single word. 

            Before she could even register that he’d moved Tyler was around the couch and engaging the two young men, the machete rising quickly as Brandi felt her heart leap into her throat.  Even as the three men surged towards one another however the reflection became distorted, fading out with such rapidity that Brandi actually gasped as she felt a cold chill of fear rush down her spine, freezing her in place even further as she felt herself shake slightly. 

            The mirror seemed to warp and twist within its boundaries, the colors of the reflection bending and altering in such ways that Brandi quickly began to grow dizzy.  Just as quickly though the mirror snapped back into focus, the difficult terrain within its borders resolving into something she could not identify at that moment until she looked closer.  Tyler and Kera had taken her into the woods more than once when she had visited, telling her that a few of the areas they’d gone into were considered restricted since they were not county employees or landowners.  Brandi had enjoyed spending time with her uncle and Kera, finding that the two older kids never looked down on her, always keeping her entertained and well kept at all times.  They never made her feel like a little kid.

            The area that resolved within the mirror was known to her, but the chaotic scene that played out in front of her eyes was new.  She could make out Tyler and Kera, but the four men that she saw facing them were no one she could even vaguely recall.  Each stranger that faced the two down were obviously older, and what was worse was that each of them carried weapons that looked mean enough to do some major damage.  She’d played fighting games with her uncle before and could recognize at least a few of the weapons, but she had no doubt that this would be far more dangerous than any video game ever conceived. 

            As though reading her thoughts the four men attacked, diving towards the pair without any further ado.  Brandi jumped again as the men surged forward, their weapons swinging as they confronted Tyler first.  Both her uncle and Kera were armed as well, bearing the swords that each of them had bought only a year or so before.  She could remember that grandpa Gary had warned each of them that the blades were not to be used in anything but practice, anything else and he would take them away and sell them.  To this date neither Tyler nor Kera had attempted to test that word. 

            Brandi watched her uncle draw his blades now, the short sword and long sword moving in perfect harmony as he deflected one attack and then another, pushing them away easily as though his opponents were not even there.  She knew just how skilled her uncle was, she’d watched him practice on the beach as well as in the classroom in Astoria more than once.  Her uncle Tyler was a born fighter some had said, a young man who was so adept in the martial arts that it was as though he was born with the knowledge.  Brandi couldn’t disagree as she watched him, thinking that if anyone else were to attempt taking on so many they might very well find themselves on the ground after only seconds.  Tyler though moved through the men like the wind, his weapons flashing and dancing easily with each movement as though they were just another part of his body.

            Just as Brandi was about to become enraptured with the elegant and forceful moves of her uncle the vision distorted again, warping just as Tyler began to bring one weapon down upon an adversary, causing Brandi’s heartbeat to race even faster as she could guess the intent.  She didn’t want to see her uncle kill anyone, but at that moment her heart raced as well to see what might happen, as though it were imperative for her to know exactly what was about to befall the four men that had dared to challenge her uncle.  The shock of this realization set in just as the mirror began to resolve into another image, this one of a very familiar sight. 

            She’d been taken to the high school in Ilwaco to visit before.  Tyler and Kera had taken her to see where they went to school and had even taken her on the trail behind the school, the one that ringed Black Lake.  Brandi recognized the main football field and the massive stadium that sat off to the right, but in this vision she found that she couldn’t equate the scene with what she remembered.  She could feel her breathing quicken at what she saw as her eyes took in the scene that now played out in front of her. 

            The stadium fence had been reinforced with extra-high chain link fencing and razor wire all along the top, the deadly edges gleaming in the stadium lights that now played over the landscape.  Within the fencing she could see that the grass of the football field had grown to nearly shin height, uncared and untended for it would seem in some time.  As impossible as the scene seemed Brandi could see depressions in the grass where something, or perhaps someone, might have lain, or still laid.  Her young mind still attempted to deny what she was seeing, refusing to believe such atrocities could be real.  This was like a bad horror movie, something that was so ridiculous that someone even her age would find it lame.  Unfortunately her senses were telling her that this was all to real, no matter how improbable it seemed. 

            In the midst of the football field stood her uncle, his clothing tattered and his hair in disarray, yet he seemed calm.  Looking closer, as much as she could, Brandi was hardly amazed as the vision pulled in closer, showing her the state of her uncle in all his disheveled glory.  On the track that ran around the field, just opposite from Tyler, were six others, three men, two women and a small boy.  The boy couldn’t have been more than seven or eight years old, still a child, but from the hooting and jeering crowd that stood in the stadium seats above the track and grassy field Brandi could only guess that something bad was about to happen. She had to assume the noises being made by the crowd since she still couldn’t hear a damned thing.

            As she watched two young men, one of them a hulking brute, walked to the blue painted railing that ran along the front and sides of the stadium.  The bigger boy threw something over the side, two somethings in fact that soon resolved into weapons in her view.  One of them was Tyler’s long blade, while the other was little more than a blackened hunk of iron shaped like a sword.  As the unknown people went to retrieve the weapons Tyler started forward, the look in his eyes enough to cause another chill to run down Brandi’s spine.  Her uncle looked as though he were about hurt somebody in a way that would not allow for easy healing, nor did he look as though he were going to stop.

            Brandi couldn’t even clasp her hands to her mouth as she stood frozen to the spot, watching as her uncle attacked the first woman, an old lady, reaching his hands around the woman’s head as he then twisted savagely.  Brandi couldn’t hear from where she was standing a single sound that was undoubtedly happening on the field, but in her mind she could easily imagine the sickening crunch of vertebrae as the woman’s spine was snapped from the rapid motion.  She’d watched enough violence on television and played enough video games that such a sound was not hard to hear after such a violent and obvious motion.  Unfortunately Tyler didn’t stop there.

            Bile rose in her throat as she saw Tyler easily catch and disarm the younger woman, who had somehow managed to find his short blade.  Brandi didn’t even try to figure out how she had missed the weapon being tossed over the rail as Tyler ruthlessly chopped at the back of her neck before relieving her of the weapon.  The next to attack was a young man not much older than her uncle, his foot lashing out at Tyler’s hands in an attempt to kick Tyler’s weapon away.  Tyler moved so fluidly that the young man had no chance whatsoever, his foot finding only empty air as the blade rose and fell, cleaving hard into clothing and flesh as the young man fell like a stone to the ground. 

            Tyler wasted no time as he chopped down again, this time separating the front half of the boy’s skull without even blinking.  She wanted to look away, to find something, anything else to fixate on, but her eyes were glued to the carnage as the blood from the slain boy flowed readily and even spurted a few times before he fell.  Then Tyler was moving again, striding forward as another man attacked him, this time with his own long blade.  Tyler barely twitched as he moved past the man, his short blade laying the man open across his belly in a flash.  Brandi gasped as she felt close to retching, watching as the unknown man’s guts began to spill out of the wide slash that her uncle had placed in his abdomen. 

            She couldn’t help but watch in muted horror as her uncle killed the older man and then finished off the mortally wounded male with so little effort that he might have done it as an afterthought.  That left only the child, a prospect that Brandi found was even more horrifying than the most terrifying film she’d ever seen.  This seemed too real, it seemed as though it had actually happened, or perhaps could happen.  This was her uncle, the same person she had grown up around and had adored for so long.  He couldn’t possibly do such atrocious things, it was not in his character, he was nice even to people who didn’t like him.  As Tyler approached the young child with murder in his eyes however Brandi realized at that moment that despite wearing her uncle’s form, the thing in the mirror, that horrid monster in that other place that was somehow the same but different than this one, was someone she didn’t know at all.

            The mirror distorted again as her uncle raised his blades to strike, unmindful that the young boy was cowering against the stadium as though trying to melt into the concrete.  There was nowhere to go, no way to escape and no way to fight back.  Brandi wanted to close her eyes, to shut away this horrid display, but she kept them open, forcing herself to watch, to remember just what she was seeing. She wanted answers as to why her uncle would do such a thing.  It was no matter that such a thing had not happened and could not happen, but she wanted to know just why she would imagine seeing such a thing, or dream it for that matter.  This had to be a dream, nothing else would make sense.

            As the images faded away, swept up in the strange storm of blurred lines and edges within the mirror, Brandi breathed a sigh of relief.  Surely her uncle wouldn’t have done what she was thinking he’d been about to do.  Tyler wasn’t like that, he didn’t kill people, he didn’t even like hurting others even though he’d done it before.  He was the type to protect others, to keep them safe, not to harm them just for the hell of it.  But her mind would not let her forget what she’d just seen.

            As the mirror began to take on focus again Brandi discovered that she was breathing heavily, almost enough so that she would pass out in several moments unless she regulated herself.  Attempting to calm down her breathing however only made it worse for several seconds as she felt the feeling of lightheadedness wash over her in a pall that threatened to bring her to the floor.  Closing her eyes Brandi concentrated as much as she could, not understanding why but still not desiring to miss whatever might come next.  It was a morbid fascination with death and the macabre that all humans seemed to possess that was keeping her going, nothing more.  Even as young as she was she could understand this in a way, no matter how much she wanted to stop looking.

            Her vision swam briefly before she focused again upon the mirror, seeing as it had already developed upon a new image, one that she recognized for its scenery if not the two individuals that were shown within the gently rolling waves.  The image was that of the coastline, right in the breakers that were only a few hundred yards away from the rolling dunes that separated the community of Longbeach from the gray sands just beyond it.  Brandi had been out to this area many times and could recognize the familiar sights easily, but what she saw in the water disturbed her in such a way that her young mind threatened to close down once again, denying the scene that was playing out. 

            There was nothing horrifying about what she witnessed, nothing grotesque or disturbing that would cause nightmares, yet she could still tell that there was something in the way that her uncle knelt in the surf that things were not right.  The mere incline of his chin as he bowed his head, the pained expression upon his face and of course the young woman held gently in his arms all attested to the fact that this was not a pleasant moment.  Brandi could not recognize the young woman, she had never really met any of Tyler and Kera’s friends, but from the way the girl was draped across her uncle’s powerful arms she could tell that the dark-haired girl was not well.

            As the image moved in just a bit closer she could see the bright red stain that coursed down her uncle’s left arm, its color almost like an accusation as it ran down his arm into the ocean.  She could see that her uncle’s shoulders were trembling, perhaps with sorrow, perhaps with rage she couldn’t tell.  Looking upon his face again she could only imagine the sorrow that her uncle was going through at that moment, washing away any doubts she might have had about his character only moments before.  The young man was in pain as he cradled the girl in his arms, pain that Brandi couldn’t even conceive of but could easily see. 

            Just as she was about to look away her uncle raised his face to the sky, venting his sorrow in what must have been a roar of such proportions that he might well have strained his vocal chords in the effort.  What happened shortly after though was so unexpected that Brandi couldn’t help but lean back, her feet still rooted to the spot.  The waters surrounding Tyler and the unknown girl suddenly rose dozens of feet in height it seemed, creating a circular wall around her uncle as the tides around them were drained away to create the shimmering barrier of water.  Brandi’s breathing became erratic as Tyler looked up to the barrier, his roar dying away as he glared fiercely at the wall, his eyes hardening as though in defiance.

            What he was thinking she could only guess, but it couldn’t have been anything good or cheerful.  For some reason Brandi got the feeling that her uncle was at the end of his rope as he would say just then.  The thought that he would give up for any reason was just as ridiculous as the notion that he would kill anyone, but as the mirror had shown her uncle was obviously capable of such things.  That he would give up now though was simply too much to be believed. Wait, why would now matter any more than any other time?  Brandi’s thoughts collided with one another deep within her mind as she attempted to make sense of what she was seeing and her own personal feelings for her uncle. 

            This scene, each one of them that she had been subjected to, could not be real.  That it was a dream was still her most fervent hope, but to think that she might be seeing a future that her uncle, Kera and obviously many others would participate in was not only disheartening, it was disorienting in a way that she could not describe.  It was as though she were being alerted to a future that she could not understand and could not therefore convey.  But then why would she be shown such horrible images? 

            Brandi gasped as the mirror distorted again, its lines and edges growing fuzzy and then washing out completely as the wall of water still surrounded her uncle and the girl.  She wanted to cry out, to say that she wanted to see what happened, but she remained silent, more from the shock of what she was seeing than from anything else.  Her jaw would not work save to allow her to draw breath and gasp it seemed, anything else was obviously not as important. 

            As the mirror took on focus once more Brandi had to blink several times before she recognized what she was looking at.  It was the presence of the Space Needle that allowed to recognize Seattle Center, though the surroundings were far more tattered and torn than she remembered.  Brandi had visited her aunt Sareena, her cousin Analyn and Sareena’s boyfriend Samuel many times and had been to Seattle more than once, but this did not look like the same place.  In fact it looked almost like a post-apocalyptic, nightmare version of the Emerald City, something she could not hope to understand or even grasp.  Buildings appeared torn, glass was shattered and stone was pulverized in every direction she could see. 

            This was not the Seattle Center she remembered. 

            Even as the image took on greater definition Brandi could see that a storm was brewing on the southern horizon, highlighting the movement of a vast army of things that she could not define. Some of them were human while others were things straight of the most hellish nightmares she could think of, beasts and other things that looked like movie monsters on a serious dose of steroids. 

            Brandi wanted to cry out as she saw a group of people standing near the Space Needle’s base, a rather large group of people in fact.  As she saw her uncle and Kera along with many others near the front she couldn’t help but gasp in horror as she saw the looks upon their faces.  They meant to stand up to the horde that was even now descending upon them, their weapons drawn and their eyes hard.  Brandi wanted to yell at them to get away, to run for their lives, to survive instead of doing something that would only hasten their demise.  She wanted to yell at them to not be stupid, to run now and stay alive.

            Of course she didn’t do this, standing as still as possible even as her body continued to shake maddeningly with the urge to flee, to break the mirror, to do something.  She couldn’t budge, she couldn’t move a single muscle except to clench her jaw.  Brandi watched, helpless, as the dark horde descended upon her uncle and the others that stood with him, washing forward like a foul tide as teeth gnashed, claws flexed and weapons were raised.  And just at that moment the mirror image dissolved once more, fading away just as the battle as about to ensue. 

            Brandi wasn’t sure how much more of this she could take, her young nerves were about ready to snap from the impossibility of a magical mirror alone.  If this wasn’t a dream then it meant that reality had suddenly been turned on its ear, that the laws of her physical world no longer applied.  She’d always been fascinated by the goings on of fantasy and the imaginative ways that others viewed the world.  The methods by which fantasy was brought into this world were amusing at times and awe-inspiring at others, but Brandi could find nothing pleasing about the scenes she had already borne witness to.  She wondered briefly if the images had shown someone else, someone she didn’t know, if she would have been affected quite as much.  It was a question she didn’t truthfully wish to answer, but one that would undoubtedly haunt her for a time to come, not unlike what she had already seen.

            The image that came next was far more peaceful than anything she’d seen yet, though the urgency that seemed to come along with the lines and edges of the landscape and those that traveled upon the long road she now saw was no less.  Brandi swallowed hard as she looked upon the hardened folks she saw now, seeing Tyler and Kera at the head of a long procession that included many faces she did not recognize, and strangely enough several she did. 

            Brandi’s jaw dropped as she saw her aunt Sareena, her father and a feline creature that bore a strange resemblance to her cousin.  As her eyes widened even further she saw a young woman, many years older than herself it would seem, but still recognizable enough as her own face.  Brandi shook her head, not bothering to stop and marvel at the freedom of such a small motion. 

            Her hair was longer but still the honey blonde she was used to, tied back in a large braid that she would have never allowed.  She didn’t even really care for ponytails even when her uncle told her she looked cute in them.  Brandi was still at the age where boys were friends and nothing more, she didn’t feel the need to look cute, especially since all the fripperies and doo-dahs that other girls wore came out too easily when she went about her business of being what was called a tomboy by so many.  She wasn’t a girly-girl like her cousin Analyn and never had been.  Looking upon the figure that was her but couldn’t possibly be her Brandi saw that she hadn’t changed, that she was still very much the hard-bitten tomboy she’d always been, but with a definite change in her body and face.  She was pretty, that was undeniable, but she’d also grown curves where her younger self was still flat, swells that almost embarrassed her to even think about.

            The surroundings that she and the others were currently in were recognizable as the hills and wooded areas around the small community of Svenson, a small area that was on the way between Astoria and Knappa.  She’d taken the route so many times she could almost recite the towns along the way by heart.

            At least this image was peaceful, showing nothing more than a large number of horses, herself and the many others that she now seemingly traveled with.  As she watched the procession continue Brandi could feel a sense of purpose, a camaraderie of sorts that she couldn’t fully describe at the sight of so many staying close together.  The horses, many of them at least, were colored so brightly and so strangely that she couldn’t take them all in at once, finding that their different colors and patterns drew her eyes over and over again as though demanding her attention one by one.  She gulped as she looked upon their beauty, finding it magnificent in a way as she attempted to take in the full scope of this image. 

            Brandi could sense many things in that moment about the group she now witnessed, among them the unfettered honor and dedication the people in the mirror had towards one another, the absolute loyalty that they showed each other.  There was a definite and very strong sense of family here, a feeling of being home that could not be denied.  As the image focused upon her uncle once more Brandi stiffened as she saw a young man standing next to him, a young man with dark blonde hair that looked so much like Tyler that it could scarcely be believed.  The young man had one blue eye and one brown, the mismatched colors giving him a rather unique look that gave him a sort of exotic feel as she could feel her cheeks flush just a bit. 

            Something deep within told her that this young man was not just anybody, he was important to Tyler in a way.  How she could know this was impossible, but as Tyler laid one hand upon the young man’s left shoulder, a gesture the young man repeated, she could see that there was a bond between the two of them that couldn’t be mistaken.  Tyler still looked far too young to have a son, despite the beard and moustache he’d grown in this image.  Brandi couldn’t bring herself to believe that her uncle would be a father when he still looked so young, especially the father of a boy that looked for all intents and purposes as though he were a teenager.  No one aged that gracefully, no matter how well they lived their lives. 

            She was still looking at each of them when in the next instant the two men stiffened slightly as though struck.  Brandi waited patiently as they settled themselves, her heart still racing as the image now showed each one of the travelers, herself included.  It was a confusing experience to see herself in such a light, to know that eventually she might travel with her family, or what was left of them at any rate.  The thoughts that entered her mind confused her for several seconds as she blinked rapidly, wondering where each one of the itinerant ruminations were even coming from.  She was only a young girl dammit, she wasn’t supposed to be made to think of things like this, especially when her world was not the place in the mirror.

            This image, that other place, it wasn’t real, it couldn’t be real.  As she looked back to the mirror though she was given another shock as she noted that Tyler and the younger man were now both looking at her.  Brandi tried to tell herself that this wasn’t so, that they weren’t looking at her, that they were looking at something on the other side of this strange reality that she couldn’t see.  But even as the thought crossed her mind she knew that it wasn’t true, they were looking directly at her.  As she tore her gaze away to the others in the group she saw as they too were staring at her, their silent regard more disturbing by far than any image she’d seen to this point. 

            Every last eye, even those of the horses and three wolf-like creatures she could now see gathered around Tyler and the young man, was on her.  Not a single person or creature within the group was looking anywhere else as they regarded her with their stony silence, not moving an inch.  The winds upon that other place danced playfully around them all, plucking at clothing, hair and rippling fur and manes gently as the breezes drifted past.  Brandi didn’t know what to do or even what to say as she continued to stare at the assembled group, her mouth working despite no sound coming forth.  It was only when the world shattered around her that she cried out suddenly, her arms and legs moving spastically for a few seconds as she came to.

            Her eyes opened suddenly as she looked towards the source of the noise, the creaking of the front door.  Analyn, Kera and Tyler came walking through in the next moment, each of them slipping out of their shoes before entering the house as per her grandparent’s rules.  Sand was notorious for getting into anything and everything, so it was that the rule had been made that there were no shoes on in the house.  Blinking rapidly Brandi leaned forward as Analyn suddenly came into her line of vision, seating herself on the other section of the couch that ran in the same direction as the hallway.

            “Hey.  Did you just wake up?” 

            Brandi only mumbled a reply as she placed the heels of her hands to her eyes, rubbing gently before leaning back again.

            “You should have come with us Dee, we found a whole bunch of jellyfish on the beach and a few sand dollars.  Only a few of ‘em made it home in one piece though.  You can thank uncle Tyler for that one.” 

            There was a snort that could only be their uncle before he spoke, “Well excuse me, if someone hadn’t tried to snag them from me we’d have five instead of three.”  Analyn rolled her eyes as Tyler strode down the hallway, holding in one hand a sock that no doubt had the remaining sand dollars.  Stretching her arms up Brandi suddenly lost hold of the memory she’d been trying to keep upon waking, something about a really disturbing dream that had frightened her badly enough that she’d almost wet herself.  Opening her eyes she checked her pants, grateful to see no stain upon her jeans. 

            “So were you sleeping the whole time we were gone?” 

            Brandi lowered her arms, “Yeah, pretty much.”

            “Any good dreams?”  Analyn smiled as she asked this, leaning forward to grasp the remote control from the small end table that sat only a few feet from the couch.  Brandi didn’t know how to react to the question at first, feeling as though she were forgetting something that she should have by all rights remembered.  It was a frustrating feeling to lose something that seemed like it should have been important, but then she thought that if it were really that important that she wouldn’t have forgotten it.  As she leaned back against the couch she looked up towards the mirror, feeling as a cold shudder worked its way through her body.  Stretching once more she shook her head in response, yawning deeply before replying.

            “Nothing worth remembering I guess.” 

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