I spin around waiting for the bright white light to fade away, but it doesn't. As I come full circle, I'm met with my reflection, who wears a gauzy white dress. I lift my hand and meet my reflection's palm, expecting to feel frosty glass, but it is warm, soft, flesh. Snatching my hand back, I step to the side and the other me copies my movements. With a couple more paces, I realize the reflective surface is endless.
"Is this it; did I reach the...end?" I ask myself and she asks me. With my hands on my hips, I release a puff of air that rattles my lips and stare at the beautiful jeweled sandals on my feet.
"It just is."
I whip my head up at the strange sound of my voice. "What?" I ask my reflection.
"It just is."
My hands shake as I move forward and try to touch...me? But again, we move in sync.
"Where am I?"
I roll my eyes at my reflection's cryptic answers. "Why?"
"Aww, that is the only question that deserves an answer," she says with a smile. "Because you proved yourself."
"By living a good life," I state.
"Life is nothing but preparation for the moments in which you prove the condition of your heart."
I open my mouth, close it, and start again. "The time-traveling was a test."
My reflection gives me a good-natured laugh. "Time is a concept of the living. You see it as running horizontally; one event followed by another when really everything occurs almost simultaneously." She snaps her fingers to demonstrate. "But yes, it was a test."
My brain is overwhelmed by this alternative way of thinking; it challenges everything I ever thought I knew. "So that's how Sage ended up time-traveling...or whatever you want to call it...before me? Because he..." I draw a sharp breath, "...died a second earlier?"
"You have always been the studious type, Rylan."
It's true; I've always wanted to dig deeper, to understand the minutiae of every part of life. "I was placed in what seemed like specific situations. Why?"
"Cause and effect. Each event was designed to bring out the best or worst attributes in you. You could have turned your back on Kyle and focused on your own confusing predicament, but you showed him kindness. You only had one object with you to remind you of your family, and you gave it up for the life of a boy you didn't even know. The images of the World Trade Center have been burned in your memory since you were a child; still, you showed courage, saving as many as you could. You sacrificed your freedom to choose your husband for the hungry people of a territory. And you showed self-control when you refused to take the lifeboat despite your fear of drowning."
I think of everything she has just described and lift an eyebrow. "But I gave into my lust at Woodstock."
She blinks and bows her head. "That you did, but there was a certain purity in your need for physical contact."
It makes me blush to know Sage and I were observed by...something while we had sex. But I don't linger on the thought for long. "Where is Sage?"
"He faces his own judgment."
My heart sinks, and it feels like it's beating in my stomach. "I didn't get to tell him I forgive him," I whisper.
"You forgave him for a grave injustice. Most would not have been so merciful."
YOU ARE READING
[ONC SHORTLIST - ONC AMBASSADOR PICK 2020] When Rylan Walker wakes up almost 25 years in the past, the only explanation she has is that it's a vivid dream. But when her eyes open the next morning and she's transported back into the American Civil W...