But one day I broke the rule, and I'm not entirely certain if I regret it or not.
I remember spinning, laughing, playing with the white and black butterflies. But one of them started going towards the Dead Place. I followed because I knew that it shouldn't go there; there were reasons we didn't go there. My mother always told me stories about what is kept there. The dark is kept there, the bad is there. I didn't even know how to define the word 'bad' or 'dark' other than to point to the dead trees and darkened ruin. I knew nothing beyond the small, naive world I was born in, or created for....I am not certain which.
I remember being...not afraid, for i did not know fear. I felt...curious, since the butterfly kept going through what used to be a grand entryway. I followed. The ruin was big with no top left, only walls. Brown ivy clung to the breaking stone, dead trees shot up from the ground. I kept walking, even though i had long lost the butterfly. Another gaping opening. It led to what looked like a courtyard for there was a dried out fountain in the center and the open top seemed purposeful. There was this...strange plant there. It was certainly living and was as tall as I was. Thick, green vines curled up into an oval, little white flowers blooming off of it. But that was not the strange part. What was odd was the water that seemed suspended in the oval opening, like a mirror almost. I walked to it and gently laid my hand on the surface, little circles coming from my hand like when you skip a stone on water. When the surface smoothed again, I saw a bench facing away from me. A moment later, I saw the bench was under a tree. On green grass. A gray sky overhead. More. People milling about with...things over their heads to protect them from... Water. Water coming from the sky. And there were these tall things with windows in the distance, reaching into the sky. Things zipping pass on something black between the tall things and the grass.
I was amazed, enraptured. I had never seen such a thing, and I wanted to go touch everything. But I knew that Mother would be wanting to see me soon. I left reluctantly, but came back that night. I hadn't asked on the strange mirror, since I had this feeling I shouldn't. I never kept anything from anyone before. it was...strange, and a rush somehow.
This time when I put my hand on the mirror, it was the same scene, only there was a night sky littered with these bright spots up above and no water fell from the sky. I have never seen night before, never known its beauty. But...there was something wrong. No people were wandering, but there was a man on the bench. He was hunched over, shoulders shaking. I had never seen someone act so...oddly. Curious, I pushed my hand through the watery mirror and, once it went through, I smiled brightly and went in fully.
The air smelled funny. Tangy. Sick. And the things zipping on the black stuff sounded loud even from there. And there were poles emitting light that seemed to dull the night's strength. I didn't like it, but the man was so close now. I slipped over tot eh tree and peered around it, biting my lip. He was making these...choking sounds. Why did he sound like that? From where I was, i could see only his back. Short brown hair, black clothes. I puffed my cheeks out and moved to sit next to the man. "Why do you sound so strange?," I asked, reaching out to put a hand on his arm for his attention. The cloth of his clothes was strange. He turned to me, blue eyes wide and red. I could see now that he wore all black, other than a white shirt underneath his upper layer. Why was he wearing more than one layer? And what was that black thing around his neck and under his top layer? He only kept staring at me, so I poked his arm. "Why do you not answer?"
He opened his mouth, closed it, opened it again, but only got up and left then. I was confused, but did not think much of it. Instead, I slipped back to the water mirror that now showed the ruin's courtyard.
A while later I was dancing through the green grass near the bench, just as I would with the butterflies on the other side of the mirror. People stared. I didn't know why. And then i saw the man on the bench again, smiling amusedly. "You're not from here, are you?," he called, patting the spot next to him. I blinked, shook my head, and went to sit. We talked. He apologized for having left so abruptly before. He said he was surprised to see me here again. He said his name was Nick. I told him mine was Feather. He thought I was not serious, but soon believed me. I decided I liked him. He was sad, though. He didn't tell me why.
And then I had to go. I kissed his cheek and skipped off to the mirror.
We met more times, too. He ended up telling me that, the night I found him, his closest friend had died. I did not know what to say, for I did not know what death was. When I asked, he looked at me strangely, but explained. "It's...when people just...stop. Their bodies stay, but...they are gone. Their heart stops beating, and they don't breathe anymore. It happens to everyone sooner or later...but it's never easy to accept." I was horrified. How could one just...stop? I left. I asked my mother. She asked where I heard about death from.
"Will I die? Will you? Everyone dies!" I felt...I don't know. She assured me I wouldn't die, that she wouldn't...that...people where I live don't. She asked again where I heard about death from. I didn't answer.
I went back through the mirror. He was there with roses. He apologized, gave me the flowers. I didn't understand, but I smiled and said it was alright, that I was glad he told me. And i was. But now I was worried, even though I didn't know the word at the time. He could die. We talked more. He asked where I am from. I told him about the mirror.
"Are you only a dream and I've gone insane?," he asked me after I explained. I was confused, but assured him I was real. I left again. or tried. I couldn't go with the flowers, somehow I knew that. So I put them up in the tree, then left.
Months, though I only learned the word later, passed and the leaves in the tree were changing. The air felt colder. But I kept in my not so warm dress. He told me he love me one of those days. I didn't understand, but it felt right to say I felt the same. He kissed me, and I indulged in it. When I left, I couldn't help but run to my mother and tell her about the man I met. I didn't tell her about the mirror.
"Feather. You do not see him again. These...things only serve to weigh you down. And certain things will not allow you to be at your home. You must understand that," she said firmly, seeming not so happy with me. I didn't understand. Love felt...wonderful. I told her as much. She told me a whole list of things that would keep from returning. And one of those things was...something strange... She said that it was how some 'lesser creatures' have children, and that it was a very bad thing. I still didn't understand, but I knew better than to say so.
I couldn't go back in the winter. The water in the mirror froze up on a scene of white snow falling from the sky and on the ground and everywhere. It was pretty, but I wanted to see, to speak to, Nick. The months were long and slow. And now I knew about time.
But spring came and i went through. Nick was there. he too me in his arms and spun me around. I told him the mirror had frozen. He didn't seem to care. He kissed me and took my hand, leading me through the loud noise and choking air to one of those tall things. He called them buildings, apartments. There was this...box that we went into. he pressed something into the wall, it lit up, and the box moved. I was amazed. And when he showed me his apartment, I had to touch everything. He told me what things were called while he made food. Books. Table. Couch. TV. Bed. Remote. Laptop. Clock. Phone. Stove. Microwave. Refrigerator. Everything was so amazing. I even foudn something he called underwear, boxers. He didn't seem to like me trying to figure out what they were for. Especially when i put them in the microwave and pressed the buttons. We ate...chicken. I never had chicken. We talked. I had to leave, though he asked me to stay. I promised to come back for dinner again. I did. But...one night in summer, a year after we had met... A year after, things... It still makes me sad.
I decided to stay with him, sleep in his home one night. I didn't care if my mother were to find out because I was in love. He offered to stay on the couch, wanting me to have his bed. But there was room for us both, so I let him stay with me. I kissed him, in a way to say good night, but, after a moment of him seeming hesitant, he kissed me for a long while. I indulged. He put his hands on my hips and slowly moved so that he was over me, kissing my neck. I didn't know why, but I enjoyed it, so i let him. His kisses moved to where the dip of my dress stopped. he sighed and looked to me, biting his lip, and spoke. Now I wish he hadn't. "I love you...and I feel that, if I don't ask you this, I'll take advantage of you. I...want you, Feather."
I furrowed my brows, trailing my finger tips over his lips. "I love you, too. But...you have me...how can you want me?," I wondered.
He didn't explain so much as utter one word. A word my mother told me would keep me here, keep me from going home. But it wasn't that that had me say what I did. I...realized then that I could only serve to keep him from having certain things, and I did not belong here. If I stayed, it would end as surely as if I left. "Nick..I...have to go," i whispered, feeling this strange stinging in my eyes as I moved out form under him and off the bed. "I love you, but...I don't belong here. You asked if I was a dream once, remember? It seems that is all I can be...I'm sorry." I kissed him softly and quickly left before he could say anything. Something wet was on my cheeks, coming from my eyes. Crying. He told me about this. I...was crying. And I felt so...sad...
I ran back to the mirror.
Mother found me sitting under a tree, the butterflies staying from me as I wove a new daisy chain the next day. I had left my old one in his apartment. "You went to him." I nodded, cheeks still wet with tears. "I told you it would not work, Feather. Now you know."
I nodded. "I know, Mother," I whispered, "Certain things only serve to hurt. I know where I belong." And I know where i want to be. But I never told her that.