Mirrors on the Wall

When I was younger, I would have dreams almost every night. Some nights, I was an adventurer, gallantly riding off to slay a dragon. Other nights, I was a little girl cast away on the street side and begging for food. In every one of my dreams, I found myself living another life -- imagining myself as someone else entirely.

At least, I thought it was all in my imagination.

One night, I found myself in the body of my neighbor. A girl, roughly 16 years old. My room was an exact replica of hers, with pastel-colored posters and a light-pink vanity, littered with cheap jewelry, resting on the far wall. I was on her bed, scrolling through a random social media website, but something felt off. There was a knot in the pit of my stomach that I couldn't ignore. Throughout the next few hours, I would take a deep breath and put the phone down before quickly picking it back up and mindlessly scrolling yet again.

I knew I was waiting for something, but I didn't know what. Suddenly, there was a message from "Ken," reading, "Hey Rika, can we talk?"

"Sure!" I quickly responded, "About what?"

"About us." Immediately after he sent the text, he called, saying all the normal stuff, "Look. I don't know how to say this, but this isn't working out..."

To be honest, I didn't know what to say. My eyes welled with tears, and most of the conversation was a blur. I ended up crying the entire night, without even a wink of sleep.

As we waited at the bus stop the next morning, I looked towards Rika and noticed her eyes were still puffy and dark. When we walked onto the bus, I thoughtlessly said, "You can do better than him anyway. Don't worry about it."

She then tugged my sleeve a bit and followed me to my seat. We sat there in silence for a few more stops before she whispered to me, "How did you know?"

At that moment, I realized I could not tell her the truth: that I watched her boyfriend break up with her in a dream the night before. Instead I said, "It was just a hunch. Let me know if you ever need to talk."

Throughout the next few weeks, Rika and I began speaking more frequently, eventually becoming lifelong friends, and I continued dreaming every night.

At that stage, I knew there was more to them than I had thought before. Each dream was a window into another world where other, living people lived their lives. Because of this, I found myself excited to sleep every night, hoping that I would live another interesting life.

As more and more evenings passed, I became more conscious of myself in the dreaming world and eventually found myself able to shadow the people I possessed. I don't know how to explain it, exactly. I was still following the main character, but I was also able to walk around freely and touch the world around me... so long as I didn't physically move anything.

One day, I found myself shadowing a CEO in a board meeting with several unimpressed members. He was anxiously explaining why his company had such a poor quarter and trying to lift the mood with equally unimpressive jokes, followed by his own nervous laughter. I found myself apathetic toward presentation and began meandering around the room, stopping at a mirror on the wall.

As I looked through it, I was not particularly surprised to see everyone in the room reflected but myself. In my mind, this made sense. I was essentially a ghost, after all. Somehow, though, the mirror still seemed a little off... Like there was a half-second delay between what was happening in the dream and what the mirror reflected. When I moved my hand closer to feel its surface, I found it had a rather unexpected texture. Instead of cool glass, it felt more like the surface of water.

I tapped it a few more times, feeling it ripple at my touch, and even though the image did not change, I knew something strange was going on. Without much thought, I reached my hand through the surface of the mirror, feeling nothing on the other side. When I pulled my hand back out, everything seemed fine, so I cautiously fed more of my arm into it, followed by my head.

Immediately, the world became dark, and I saw a long, hallway with the floors illuminated by dim lights. As I looked left and right, I saw a series of monitors, each separated by roughly a body-length, all playing a different show.

I returned to the business meeting and saw a bunch of relatively boring numbers flashing on a slideshow. After listening for a few more minutes, I figured it was about time I did something interesting and ran back to the mirror, carefully moving through it and entering the hallway I had seen moments before.

As I began to walk around, I noticed that each monitor reflected another dream... Another universe I had lived in before. I found myself checking in on all of the people I had shadowed, smiling while reminiscing on past adventures. When I stopped by Rika's room, I found I was looking through her vanity towards her bed. More importantly, there was no one in the room.

It was late in the evening, so I could not imagine where she could be... But as I looked closer, I saw a faint amber glow out of her window. I didn't want to pry, but I also found myself drawn back into my own world, so I reached out my hand and jumped through the portal into Rika's old room.

I jogged a bit to the window to see what was going on and saw a house a few doors down engulfed in flame. It was my house. My hair stood on end and my stomach churned as I turned around and rested my back against the wall next to the window.

There was no way I survived.

At the time, I cannot remember a single emotion flowing through me. I simply sat there until the sun rose and Rika entered her room, her face stained with tears. She did not say anything, but laid in her bed and immediately fell asleep.

Not knowing what to do, I stood and walked to her, patting her head slightly. "Thanks for caring." I said, "I'll return every now and again to check on you."

I then moved towards the vanity and plunged myself into it.

I remember laying on the floor next to her room for several long hours. I truly was a ghost. As I haunted the halls of realities I once lived, I found a few worlds scattered about that I had never seen before. Some fantastical, others not.

I knew that each of these mirrors was a camera into another life, and from then on, the only way I could truly live was vicariously though others.

Prompt: All mirrors are cameras.

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