The Shock of the Mirror
“I hear bells!” I cried out with joy. For indeed, the bells made my heart pump more fully. The sound of feathery tinkling chimes was followed by rich, weighty gongs, and soon a chorus of harmonic singing that flowed into my ears like the waves on a beach, coming in great force and then receding peacefully. I could hear all of the sounds as though I stood in the midst of them, yet I sensed they were far, far away.
“That is the sound of rejoicing!” Joy exclaimed. Sparkling tears were again streaming down her cheeks. “There is so much rejoicing in the utopias when someone is willing to accept truth and progress! Nothing is so sorrowful as damnation, Fern. It’s like those elevators in Silver Tongue, an endless, numbing cycle of non-progression. When any soul desires something better, to be a little better, to move to a better place, all of existence rejoices!”
“All of existence?” I asked, tears of joy streaming down my own face, from the impact of the bells and music, but also from the intensity and sincerity of Joy’s words. It all crashed against me like a crisp, golden wind, full of fresh warm air. “Isn’t that…quite a lot of people?”
“You’ve no idea how many!” Joy exclaimed, her body pulsing with a vibrant light. It was so bright at times, I had to look away.
“…but only over one person?” my question lingered.
Joy’s eyes opened in surprise, “Only one person? Fern, one person is everything! What would any kingdom, or utopia matter, if one person—alone—didn’t matter?”
“Isn’t more in a utopia, better? I mean, if a utopia has a lot of people, isn’t that the goal, fundamentally…to get as many there as possible living a certain kind of life?” I asked, confused.
Joy looked at me intently. “Fern, it’s not a numbers game. More in one utopia over another isn’t better if the persons in that kingdom don’t belong there. Better is each one person being where they want to be. This is what I have been trying to show you. The progression of every person, every soul, every child, to whatever extent, that is His joy. Yet, to simply have more with Him in The White would not be joyful for Him unless they were like Him. It would lessen The White and torture those individuals who weren’t comfortable there. It would benefit none. Consider, Fern. The kingdoms are not in competition, nor is any one soul in competition with another. It is all about the soul—each soul. Each person finding their joy, or being willing to accept it, really. For a fulness of joy possible, through Him, is offered to all. But it would not be joyful to Him to compel them to accept it. That would be the opposite of the whole plan. The only tragedy is when a little, a part, or even all of the joy He offers is rejected. Would you not have mourned had Manny chosen to embrace the environment of Silver Tongue, or had you found him in Silver Lake trapped in the mists of his own discontent? Would you not have sorrowed had he chosen a lesser door than the one that he chose? Did you not exult when he chose the one that you and I both knew was the best one for him?”
I nodded. I thought I was beginning to understand. “Every person, every soul’s journey, is of foremost importance to Him?”
For a short moment the music and bells dimmed and the prickling persistent pain of my unfinished nature paused, held back by an eternal power for the blink of an eye. Then, it returned. I looked to Joy for an explanation. Her countenance was exultant. She clapped her hands. “Fern, you said His name correctly!”
Her explanation, and the return of the prickling, was followed by a sudden warmth in my chest. It was not a physical warmth. I was not heating up. Or, perhaps it was a feeling of being full. But it was not like being full from eating. Or, perhaps it was a flash of omniscience that was gone as soon as I recognized it—a realization that I had experienced a perfect moment. The aftermath of that flash of the indescribable was a feeling of quiet certainty. I felt more whole, more complete, as if I could see just a tiny bit clearer. I longed for more of it.
“He…He…must really love us,” I said, still a mite overwhelmed by that miniscule moment of rightness.
Joy nodded, fervently, glowing even brighter. I had to look away again. “It is the whole point of the utopias, Fern. To help each one of us, each individual soul, each individual child of His to receive as much truth and light, peace and joy, as they are willing to receive. It’s not about withholding joy. It’s about dispensing it. The barrier to that joy is never created by Him. The rules He gives us are simply that, eternal rules that bring joy that even He cannot bend. Thus, each individual creates their own barriers to their own joy. Manny removed a barrier! It is so amazing!”
I nodded, feeling that I might begin to glow myself, or pass out from exhaustion in the light of Joy’s rejoicing, as well as the sound of bells and distant choirs. I looked around to find the door that we had come through, but it had disappeared, and Joy and I floated in a golden mist that glittered, though it left no residue when I swept my hand through it.
“I thought we could only travel between kingdoms using the orbs?” I said.
Joy laughed. “The orbs are for some travel, but not all. The jump from The White to Silver Lake and Silver Tongue was quite a distance, among other eternal variables which you would not be able to perceive, even should I attempt to describe them. But where we are headed now is not a kingdom at all. Thus, a doorway was sufficient.”
The music faded into peaceful silence at the same moment that Joy said, “Ah! We’re here.”
Her statement halted my internal revelry and I looked around, basking in a silence that was not awkward, but reverent. “What is this place called?” I asked.
“This is the Hall of Mirrors,” Joy said. “It is an intermediate place, similar to the towns in some respects as choices are offered here. Once a soul has decided it is ready to accept truth and progress, there is still the question of how much truth they can stomach. Most cannot accept all truth, all at once, though some do. Some, once open to their own self-deceit crave all that He has to offer. However, not all want all truth, at least not all at once. Here they can choose just how much they can stomach.”
The hall before us looked very similar to the hall in the Peach School in Saxton, where I had burst through one of the doors and found the artifacts to call the rays. Except this hall was far more glorious. It was all gold, except the doors. The doors were mirrors. The doorknobs were also gold. But despite the gold and the mirrors, there was no carving or decoration. Each door looked the same as the next. The sight was glorious but not entertaining. It was welcoming, but not overtly stimulating. It was beautiful, but most certainly an in-between place, a place of choosing, not a place of being.
I was about to ask how people could make a choice if all the doors looked the same, when I noticed Manny, only a few feet in front of us, standing before one of the mirrored doors. The reflection in the mirror was not the Manny standing in front of it with jeans and ragged shoes and an uncertain, haggard expression. The Manny in the mirror had on different clothes. He looked somewhat like a business man, except the reflection wore a quirky, yet stylish purple and red bowtie. The tailored navy suit had a child’s toy poking conspicuously out of one of the side pockets. In the reflection’s right hand was an opened card, with the hint of a lipstick kiss and a sweetly scrawled note—though the signature was blurry. The reflection’s blond hair was styled, but looked as if it had been tousled by a caring hand. The reflection’s shoes were shiny, black dress shoes with a visible crease showing that this version of Manny was not pristine or showy, but practical in some respects. Manny’s muscular build was there, but it was softer, revealing that this reflection likely got to work out quite a bit less. However, the most remarkable difference was not in the clothes at all. It was in the face of the Manny in the mirror. That face was incandescent, kind, soft, and yet unspeakably confident. That face was not hiding behind the stylish clothes, it was, in fact, what made the stylish clothes look so wonderful. The spiffy clothes didn’t really matter. They were simply an accessory that did not distract or detract from the reflection’s peaceful, confident countenance. It was to the face that I was drawn, though I was aware of the clothing.
“What is that expression?” I asked, still captivated by Manny’s reflection.
“Meekness,” Joy answered, quietly. We both kept watching intently.
Manny, himself, somehow protected from perceiving Joy and I, leaned closer into the reflection, touching the mirror as if to test to see if his reflection was only that—a reflection. The moment he touched the mirror, however, there was a large zapping sound. Manny ripped his hand back and yelled, “Ouch! What the…?!”
I turned to Joy, worried. “What happened?”
Joy’s face went thoughtful. “Remember, I said the truth can hurt?” I nodded. “This reflection is a truth of who Manny might become, a path he might choose. But to get through that door he must be willing to countenance the pain of all that he must do to accept that truth and become the reflection that he now sees. It’s a possibility. He must still choose it.”
“But must he be shocked with pain like that?” I asked.
“Would you have him open the door with incorrect expectations?” Joy asked.
I grimaced. “I don’t know. Sometimes ignorance is bliss…it makes diving into something more desirable, I think.”
Joy shrugged. “I cannot argue that sometimes not knowing what will come is best. However, in this case, Manny must understand that he cannot become that reflection without being willing to endure the pain that precedes the change. There is a sacrifice required to open that door. Repentance requires submitting to a cure. In this case, honesty and integrity is the cure. Opening up to truth is often a shock. We are often astonished at what we find. It hurts. Sometimes it is embarrassing or even excruciating as we realize our ridiculous states. We want to cower and run away from it, we want to hide our embarrassment, not face it.”
“But doesn’t the difficulty of the process, the extreme sacrifice of pursuing the right path scare people away? All the results seem to be so delayed, so far away. Doesn’t it discourage them from even beginning the journey? Shouldn’t it rather be easier at the start so that people will begin?”
Joy patted my shoulder, in response, as I watched Manny consider his reflection in the door with frustration. He transitioned from cursing, to sucking his teeth, to pursing his lips. His brows were furrowed. He kept shaking his head, as if he was losing the courage to open that door and go in.
At last joy answered me. “He is perfectly honest, Fern. He cannot deceive. He makes things clear and simple. There are no hidden surprises. If that truth is too frightening for some it is because they do not desire to become that reflection enough. What they truly want is revealed by the truth of the pain and sacrifice they must endure. If the path is too easy and then suddenly turns into a cliff that must be climbed, that serves neither Him nor those who are trying to reach Him. The path of truth, light, peace, and joy is steep. It begins steep and stays steep. But it is doable. And while it may remain steep, those who begin the climb and persevere through pain and soreness gain strength so that it is not the climb that changes, but them. In the process of embracing truth, they become equal to the journey. They become the reflection they saw in the mirror before stepping through that door. I do not think tricking them into the journey would ever work. They would feel betrayed. They would give up, thinking that they would be tricked again further on.”
“I seem to worry too much about comfort. But comfort is not how we become anything…I guess.” I said, still fearing that Manny would choose a lesser reflection. He tried looking in the mirror of a few more doors. Though all of the reflections were pleasant, there was something about the one that seemed to draw Manny back over and over again. He stomped his foot a few times. He reached his hand out several times as well, nearly grabbing the doorknob. Fear covered his face.
“Fear must be overcome, the same as self-deceit.” Joy said. “Faith must win. But, to assuage your concerns, comfort will come in the end—true comfort, that lasts. But it never comes at the beginning of a choice such as this one.”
It seemed that I watched Manny for hours. He paced up and down the hallway, comparing several different reflections. He touched a few of those reflections. The shocks were lesser on most. On some, the shock sent Manny crashing backward, howling. But always he came back to the same door. At one point, I thought for sure he was going to choose a particular door, but at the last moment, he always turned away.
Then, Joy grabbed my arm, her face filled with happy anticipation. I took in her excited gaze and then I turned to look at Manny, again. His stance had changed. He was standing taller, bracing himself for the choice he was about to make. There was still a hint of fear in his eyes, but something more hopeful was squashing that fear. I saw it become less and less until it was contained. Manny stood before the door with the reflection of him with the messy curls, the incandescent smiling face, and the stylish—yet practical—business suit with the child’s toy and the love note from someone he didn’t know yet. I saw a longing in his face that I’d never seen before. He reached out his hand, grimacing through the shock that came, and wrenched the mirrored door open.
The opening of the door triggered my step. I made to follow Manny. But Joy held me back. “That is all I have been permitted to show you. The rest of this journey is between Him and Manny.”
At first, I felt a stab of disappointment. Watching Manny had been captivating.
“It was so fulfilling…I guess,” I said, “to see him make two good choices…I’ve always seen good in Manny. It never occurred to me that he had not been able to see it in himself.”
“A little truth at a time; each one allows us to see a little bit better, until we can see truly, as He does.” Joy said, thoughtfully. “However, it is easy to get caught up in observing other’s journey’s rather than focusing on our own. It is your journey, Fern, that you must focus on.”
“You have been watching me all this time…ever since you were taken, haven’t you?” I asked Joy, realizing that all of her comments throughout this whole experience revealed her involvement in my progression.
“You and Mom,” Joy said. “He has given me the gift of getting to help you. Though I there is still much else He has given me to do.” Joy reached out and squeezed my hand. “Do not be ashamed that I have been watching your mistakes. They do not define you unless you let yourself become them. There is nothing to be ashamed of if you learn from your mistakes.”
Joy’s words made me think of Jack. It seemed like a lifetime since I had left him. I remembered Jack and his willingness to humbly share all his mistakes and weaknesses without any shame. He owned his struggles. He owned his mistakes and consistently testified how they had led him to make better choices. He was not ashamed to have needed to become better. He was grateful that he had learned from those mistakes and had actually chosen to change.
“I miss Jack,” I said. Speaking the words seemed to stoke the love in my heart for him so that it flared up from dimming coals to an active flame. That love dimmed all the pain and discomfort of my unfinished prickling pains. “I miss Dora. I miss…Mom…”
“And I will miss you,” Joy said. She took me into a great hug, suddenly, and then stepped back, tears streaming down her cheeks as she smiled. “It is time, Fern.”
“It’s time for me to go back?” I asked, anxious to return and yet feeling as if I never wanted to leave. But the painful prickling’s were a constant reminder that I was not ready yet.
“Re-establish the link between the towns and the utopias.” Joy said. “Not just with the orbs, but with the knowledge you have gained. The preachers do so much good. But they have forgotten much over the countless ages of time. Fill in what’s missing. Bring Him back into the picture. It’s all about us and Him, really, Fern. Everyone matters to Him. But He has stopped mattering to them. That must be changed. It must be fixed.”
Joy reached behind me and I heard a doorknob click and a door open. I turned, looking into a sea of clouds beyond a mirrored door that I had not noticed behind me. “This is your stop, dear sister. Sharanville awaits…” The prickling pain returned in force and desperate to be free of it I turned and stepped courageously into the clouds, hoping I wouldn’t fall to my death. To my relief, I didn’t fall, but I did begin to float away from Joy and the Hall of Mirrors.
“A true leap of faith, Fern,” Joy said, waving. “Remember Him!” she called out as we grew further and further apart. I swallowed, feeling myself fading away from the Hall of Mirrors, and from Joy. “I’ll try!” I called out, but only the first word made any sound. Then my view of Joy turned to whiteness, and I felt as if I was falling asleep.
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Hi! My name is Angela Tempest. I write fiction that entertains, takes you to another world, and fills your life with truth. I hope you’re enjoying A Search for Utopia. If you love it, there’s more. Check out my author page to read my other stories!