I woke up to the sound of slamming against my bedroom wall. My heart raced as a blinding flash of light next to the house set fear in my bones. They were raining fire upon our precious neighborhood. Somehow I pulled myself away from the war outside my window, walking the hallway to my parents’ room two doors away. Horror coalesced with fear at the sight of them engulfed in flames. Vomiting on the floor outside their bedroom is the only moment of grief I can allow. If I don’t get out of this house, I’m going to die. My only solace was that they were holding each other in their last moments. Quickly, I returned to my room to put on some shoes, and stuff some items into a drawstring bag. An extra pair of jeans and a t-shirt. The money I hid in the wall of my closet and a picture of my parents from their wedding. Apocalyptic fire illuminates the night. Like the sun shone through pits in the ground instead of hanging in the sky. Shadows were my cover as I ducked behind cars and hid behind buildings. Lines of raiding parties were marching down every block from here to Westminster street. It was like someone opened a portal and summoned demons from hell. Torches burned and chains clanged in their fists as they moved in unison. Burning all the hard work of our community. Our churches, businesses, banks and schools. They didn’t come here to intimidate us. They came to erase us. Horror-struck me from my hiding place under a delivery truck. A pair of riders on horseback ran down a woman and her two small children. The mother, decapitated by a machete and the horses trampled her children. A deep well of emotion left me momentarily dazed. It was the sound of the chains that broke my trance. Their approach pressed upon me like the humidity of southern summer heat. If I moved too suddenly, I would give myself away and my fists were all I had to defend myself with. An explosion in the distance provided a distraction as I rolled from underneath the truck. When they passed me, I bolted to the nearest building and was spotted as I entered the shadows. Frantically, I searched for an exit. Panic reached out to me in my desperation and I had to bite my hand to make it go away.
I hissed under my breath. The cool earth became my grounding force as I took a knee and a deep breath. Looking around, my gaze rested on the sign above the back door of the building I was behind. My father’s favorite antique shop. A swift kick opened the door. Once I was safe inside, curiosity calmed my nerves as I explored my sanctuary. Hand painted dolls from a bygone era occupied a shelf. Their blank eyes all staring at the wall of clocks behind me. Copper pendulums swung in unison, echoing the march of the militia outside. This store brought back so many memories and yet I knew I’d never been in this version. As that thought crossed my mind, my mother’s laugh sounded from somewhere in the store. Deep, ragged breaths sent electric blood through my veins as the creeps turned my skin into goosebumps. Strange pressure formed a pit in my stomach. My father’s laugh joined that of my mother, pulling me deeper into the west side of the store. The pressure in my stomach became a fluttering. As if a million butterflies were trying to lift me off the ground. A sensation that gave me pause. I’m fixated on a spot in the dark. It feels like someone is standing in the pitch black waiting for me to notice them. Now I can see a mirror made of black glass wrapped in hand carved wood with strange symbols. For a moment, it’s all I can see. Awareness of the absence of my reflection, called it out from its hiding place. It was so clear that I couldn’t help but to reach out. When my fingers touched the surface of the black glass, it pulled inside and to a carnival. It was daytime, summer, judging by the temperature outside. Young couples and families with children strolled about the fairgrounds holding hands or toting oversized stuffed animals. Cotton candy, funnel cakes, and hot dogs scented the air, making my stomach grumble. Entranced, I didn’t watch where I was going and bumped right into my parents. There they stood, alive, and looking down at me with faces full of concern.
I reach out and as soon as my fingers reach my mother’s hand, I’m transported again. This time to the front porch of my parents’ house. It’s still daytime, and it’s still summer. Walking around the porch, I see my parents in the kitchen. Before I can duck out of sight, my dad sees me and calls me into the house for dinner. I can’t eat a bite. I just keep looking from one parent to the other.
“What’s going on Yuri? You haven’t touched your dinner. Your mother put a lot of love into this food, son.”
“Who are you? You’re not my parents. I saw you die. ” I blurted out.
“Yuriel, you’re upset. That’s okay, it’s normal. Tell your father and I what happened.”
How can they be so calm? I pushback from the table to flee the house. My father is standing in the doorway to the kitchen, blocking my path. I never saw him get up from the table.
“Yuriel, look at me.” He says.
“What you experienced is called a memory jump. You’re safe, you’re okay. Tell your mother and I what happened. What did you see?”
My father’s eyes seem to pour sedation into me. Like magic, my panic is gone and I’m telling my parents what happened.
“I woke up to bombs exploding outside the house. I ran to your room, and you were on fire.”
“Tell us exactly what happened, Yuri. From the beginning.” My father says
His eyes hold a vulnerability I’ve never seen in him before.
“I thought a car hit the house. When I woke up, bombs were going off outside. The clan was out marching the streets and burning everything. They’re the ones that bombed the house and killed you. I didn’t know where to run and I ended up in the antique shop. That place was like a whole other world. It made me feel safe, calmed me right down. And then I got sick to my stomach and was looking for the bathroom. That’s when I saw this strange mirror made from black glass and wrapped in hand carved wood. My reflection was so clear that I had to touch it, and that’s when I ended up at this carnival. I got distracted by the smell of the food and bumped into you two. When I touched mom’s hand, I ended up back here. What’s happening to me?”
“You’ve had a memory jump. What you saw was the worst night of my life. When I was about your age, I woke up to our house on fire. When I went to my parents’ bedroom, they were dead. The klan decimated our neighborhood that night. Over the lie that a little boy from our town had stolen a candy bar in a white neighborhood.” he says.
“The mirror you saw was once the sacred oracle of our kind. We used the fullness of its power to bring you into this world. It now lives inside you. The carnival where you bumped into us. That was a premonition I had before your father and I got married. I saw you. I’d touched you and I knew you were real.” Mother says.
“That’s why you were relentless about the pregnancies. I could never figure it out.” My father says.
“Now, you know.”
“What? You’re not making any sense!”
My parents’ explanation wasn’t making me feel better. They’d kept all of this from me and now I was questioning the other dreams I’d had.
“I know this must be upsetting, Yuri. But I promise we weren’t keeping anything from you.”
My mother says as if she read my thoughts.
“We wanted to wait until you were old enough to understand what we are.” Dad adds on.
“What are we?”
“We are the mirror keepers. And you are the last of our kind.”