1 - The Mirror

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Usually Amber avoided this alley. Every time she walked past it, there was a gnawing feeling in her stomach, making her look the other way immediately. Still this was the fastest way home – and she was late. 

Knowing her father would throw tantrums when she was late, she didn't want to take the risk of finding him in the middle of one of his rages. She saw him only once a week and even though it was never a nice visit, it was something that Amber wanted to keep doing. He couldn't help it he was sick and that he was slowly losing his mind. 

Actually she had planned to take the car, but the thing had refused to start again. Vehicles and Amber... they just didn't go along very well; for some reason they always decided to give her the finger when she needed them. 

She started to walk a little faster. Her footsteps echoed between the high walls while she was plagued by a disgusting smell. As she rounded a corner, she saw a large dumpster. Turning her head away from it, she looked right through the gate of a poorly maintained garden. Three man were standing there, one of them looking straight into her eyes. 

He seemed to feel caught. For a moment she caught a glimpse of some bricks of white stuff in their hands – was it drugs? 

"Oh god," she whispered in panic and she quickened her pace. Suddenly hysteria squeezed her throat. 

And with good reason. 

There was a loud blast. Before it could startle her, there was an overwhelming pain in her head. 

Then there was nothing. 

. . .

Amber heard a tapping sound, as if someone was tapping his foot on the ground. With difficulty she raised herself. Her limbs felt heavy – far away, as if they were no longer attached to her body. She looked down and shrieked when she could see right through herself. 

"Please, think about your volume, child," a bored voice sounded. "I appreciate the quiet."

Child! She'd passed the 30 a long time ago! She couldn't even remember the last time someone had called her 'child'. 

She squinted her eyes. Was it really a throne she was looking at? The gold it was made of was shining so brightly she could barely look at it. So she turned her head away. The rest of the round room was made of gold as well. It was suffocating, it gave her the jitters. It felt like some golden prison. 

"What am I doing here?"

"That's what I was asking myself as well. I guess you're another one who isn't too fond of leaving Earth."

Amber frowned, then she decided to ignore his answer. That guy was definitely nuts. She walked around the circular golden room, looking for a door. There wasn't one. 

"Where am I?"

"You're in the Tower of Second Chances. Doesn't it sound fantastic?" The figure got up and slid off his golden throne. It was a tall, skinny man with sunken eyes and a sleazy robe contrasting with all the gold around them. 

"Who are you?"

"Your tiny human brain wouldn't be able to handle the truth." He came closer, looking down at her. He folded his hands in front of his waist, his bony fingers drumming on the back of his left hand. "You're dead," he told her. "My sister leads the Commission Against Gratuitous Earthly Violence. Yes, it's a stupid name. Apparently she has decided that you will get another chance to live."

Amber's glance slid down again. This was bullshit. Carefully she touched her half transparant stomach; her finger went right through it. She shivered. 

"Okay," she said. The better she cooperated, the sooner this freak would show her the magical door by which she could leave this strange, strange place that was probably the result of way too much alcohol. "Lemme guess... I'll have to so something to earn that chance?"

The man nodded slowly. His bright, red hair slithered down his shoulders. "In an attempt to do something about the abundance of violence on Earth, my sister started an experiment. Some Earthlings are allowed to go back, conditioned that they commit themselves to her cause."

"Okay. Sounds noble. So what does that mean for me?"

"Let me show you." He waved his hand through the air; then the floor split and a silver substation glided across the solidified gold. It formed a mirror showing a park. Frowning, she looked at two Hispanic guys who were talking and hugging each other. Suddenly the hotdog man behind them stepped forward, slamming a knife in the back of the youngest. Shrieking, Amber stepped back, covering her mouth with her hand. 

"What - what..."

"You wouldn't know it to look at him but this man is called Happy," the man told her. "It's your job to warm his cold heart. If you succeed in letting love sprout in his heart, convincing him to share it with you, you will stay alive."

Disgusted she looked at the skinny creep. "Are you out of your mind?!"

"Some would say yes. Otherwise they wouldn't have banished me to this boring tower." He showed her a wicked smile. 

"This is your deal? I stay alive if I succeed in making this sick bastard fall in love with me? What are you, some failing Cupid?"

"According to my sister, this is the best way to change humanity. With love." He laughed. "Well, I have to admit that I think it's ridiculous too. I would cheer if you all would just kill each other."

Amber shook her head, she was so overwhelmed that she didn't know what to say. 

"And what if I refuse?" she asked with a raised chin. "If you send me back and I just give you the finger?"

He shrugged his shoulders. "Then you'll disappear. Your body will slowly fade until you're gone forever. The only thing slowing down the process, is the love of our Tacoma Killer." He laughed briefly. "Well, you don't get a new life for nothing sweetheart. Take it or leave it."

Questioning, he looked at her. 

Amber bit the inside of her cheek. As if he was really giving her a choice. 

She didn't want to die, not anytime soon. It was simple as that.

"Fine," she grumbled. 

Mockingly, he clapped his hands. "Well done. Your first smart choice."

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