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The Mirror of Truth
Never in my life have I lived in a home, with a roof over my head. Never known the ache of hunger in the pit of my stomach to be satisfied. And rarely do I hear the rewarding clink of coins bouncing against each other in my pocket. If you saw me in the streets, your eyes would slide past, categorizing me as just another homeless kid wrapped in a ratty blanket, forfeiting his pride to beg at the feet of others. Maybe, for a moment, my image would linger in your mind, clouded by your conscience nagging you to reach into your pocket and spare a coin - just one! But then you would keep walking and my blue eyes imploring you to help would fade into the background of your mind. I've gotten used to the troubled looks people give me, and I can almost always see the tug of war going on behind their eyes. Yet most just keep on walking and I am left on the side of the street with one less chance at a coin for my dinner. The world I live in is full of people who perceive themselves to be kind and compassionate, when really they only think of themselves.
Most days, like today, I crash under the awning of an abandoned storefront, surrounded by my meager pile of belongings. From here I can watch the bustling streets of Mador, hear the horns honking, and smell the grease and smog that always seems to hang in the air. I am startled out of my stupor as Jack calls my name. “Hey Matt, I found some leftovers, want a bite?” He holds up what must have once been a sandwich, and my stomach growls.
“You know I do,” I call back and shift so that he can sit beside me.
Jack has been the only constant in my ever changing life. Years ago we met during a fight over some particularly good looking leftovers at a restaurant. At first we were both intent on claiming the food for our own. In the end we decided to share it, and ever since we have been a team. He is more than my brother, best friend and strongest ally: he is my home.
I look over at him and see his troubled eyes staring off into the distance - a tell tale sign that something big is on his mind. I sigh and set my food down. Some days he never says a word. I just hope today isn’t one of them.
“What’s going on, you look like something big is on your mind.” For a moment I get no reply, but slowly he turns to me, brow furrowed.
“You know the Mirror of Truth?”
“Of course!” There isn't a person in the world who doesn’t know about the Mirror of Truth, and who hasn't yearned to one day raise his eyes to his reflection. “What about it?”
“It's only a little ways outside of Mador, maybe a days journey to the cliff face. I wonder if… Nevermind.”
My first instinct is to press the matter, but I settle on waiting - I know him well enough to understand that he will come out of his shell eventually. For a few moments more we sit in silence, both lost in our own thoughts. Then he continues, his low voice soothing to my ears. “Ever since I was a little kid, I've wanted to go see the Mirror of Truth. When you have nothing to lose, you can dream big - even better if your dream is attainable. Lucky for me, even a nobody can hike out and look at their reflection, so I became fixated on the need to see… whatever it is I would see. I guess that has been at the forefront of my mind lately.” I have to think about his unasked request - if I would go with him or not.
When it comes to the Mirror of Truth, many will say ignorance is bliss. Some compare it to knowing exactly when you will die. You see, the Mirror of Truth reveals your heart’s reflection. Only the purest man would see himself, and the most evil man would see a horrific monster staring back. Though your reflection may change over time, many believe that what you see is who you are. And even though those who see monsters are usually humbled by the experience, some argue that if you don't know you can always believe you are perfect.
Even though Jack is clearly ready to see his reflection, no matter the risk, I’m not sure I am. I live a life of stealing, scavenging - doing whatever it takes to keep my head above the water. With that in mind, what I might see isn't all that appealing. Jack senses my unrest, and though visibly disappointed, he says, “If it bothers you that much, we don't have to go. I want to go with you or not at all.” For a second I am relieved, but between the disappointment on his face and the words that come out of his mouth, I start talking too fast to stop myself.
“Whether it bothers me or not, this is the one dream you have that might come true, and I'm not going to take that away from y-oh!” Before I can finish, he has me wrapped in a bear hug, speechless with joy. I pull away and start packing my things. When Jack gives me a puzzled look, I give him a small smile and say, “Why wait?”
It is well into the middle of the night, but we are still miles from the cliff face that the mirror is embedded in. I bury my anxiety and we push on, for different reasons both determined to reach the mirror. Finally, in the early hours of the morning, we reach the trail that will lead us to our destination. When we finally come to a halt beneath the cliff, dawn is already starting to break.
As the sun wakes from its slumber, it graces us with a soft glow of light that allows me and Jack to fully see our surroundings for the first time. We are in a clearing of sorts, and I see that a few people had set up tents for the night. This is not what catches my attention first, however. Towards the far end of the opening, embedded in the cliff face is the mirror. At first I am disappointed. I see an old mirror with hairline fractures from age and the smudges of many people’s fingerprints, all coated in a fine layer of dust. But the disappointment fades, and I realize that I am looking at something that has existed since the dawn of time.
None of my limbs seem to work properly, so I just stand there, mouth open, looking like an idiot. Jack, however, is slowly moving towards the mirror, as if pulled by an invisible rope. His eyes are wide with shock, and I realize what this must be like for him. He is finally watching his lifelong dream come true. I jog to catch up with him, and together we walk towards the worn stone Dais in front of the mirror. I hear Jack's breath quicken, and he turns his back to the mirror and looks at me. “You know what the funny thing is? I spent countless nights imagining what I might see, and now I can’t even turn around without holding someone’s hand.” He shakes his head, but when he meets my eyes, I see how truly terrified he is. “D-d-do you think that we could maybe look together? I’ve never heard of anyone doing that before, though.” On this one I trust Jack; he knows almost everything there is to know about the history of the mirror.
“Well there’s a first time for everything,” I reply. Jack nods, and I am overcome with emotion. It dawns on me that if Jack can live his lifelong dream, who’s to say I can’t, or any other underdog? I admire Jack for daring to want something this much, in a world where people would rather not acknowledge our lowest classes. Where they think nothing of it when they climb into bed, while I am shivering on the side of the street, trying to convince myself that it’s not really that cold. Where they don’t give me, or anyone like me a second thought. Where we are somehow less than human because of the cards life dealt us.
I am about to voice my thoughts when Jack puts his hand on my shoulder and says, “Thank you for everything, Matt. You and me? We’re a team. Always have been and always will be.”
I smile. “That’s right, we’re a team.” He smiles and together we turn.