by Soramimi Hanarejima
In the cozy diner, breakfast with you is its customary languid affair of savory omelets and occasional quiet conversation—until coffee has coaxed me into greater wakefulness. Then I notice a lavender filament extending from you towards the tech district—a direction none of your strands has ever gone in. I know the splay of them, and this one is definitely new. Maybe it’s your latest crush—the new attraction you’ve just barely hinted at.
Curiosity gets the better of me, and once we’ve finished our coffee refills and you’re heading to work, I trace this strand—even though one of the first things Mom said about the web was not to do this.
The very first thing she said was, “You can see it, can’t you?”
She must have noticed how I had been staring ahead, too intently to be seeing only the train car’s empty seats and vacant standing area. That’s all there should have been, but the space before me was crisscrossed with purple lines, countless coming and going as the train clattered down its tracks. Mesmerized by this mesh, I scarcely heard Mom’s words.
When I hadn’t answered for what was probably a half minute or so, Mom said—louder this time, “I started seeing the Purple Web around your age. It’s the connections between people.”
Instantly, the entrancing lattice transformed from a visual riddle to the vast middle of human relationships—as though Mom had broken the spell I was under by casting another. I turned to her, eager to learn more. Leaning back in the seat next to mine, she was looking at me with a bittersweet smile, lavender strands reaching out from her every which way, like magnetic field lines diagrammed in my science textbook but more haphazard. My gaze settled on one running straight from her to me.
“It is fascinating, but don’t follow the connections,” she said. “They can go far off into the distance and won’t take you where you think they will.”
Now, as your newest strand takes me by the shopping arcade, those words echo in my mind—like they did the last time I disregarded them. That evening when I studied all of Mom’s strands while she took a nap on the sofa, because I wanted to find the one that linked her to Dad but instead found out that every strand went through the walls of our little house, except the one between Mom and me. The discovery left me unsure of how much my parents cared about each other, until I later understood that the strand connecting them must be tied to some special place in the city where they met—the way the strand that connects you and me runs through Ms. Winterstone’s classroom.
And it’s becoming increasingly likely that this one I’m tracing leads to not your new crush but a place related to her. Whenever the strand shifts, the change in its angle always comes from your end, so the other is probably anchored.
Regardless, I go through parking lots, past a community garden and across train tracks, steadily moving from one city block to the next. Until, as it of course had to at some point, the strand brings me to an impasse. A building’s concrete wall. I was bound to come up against this sort of obstacle, though I was hoping that I’d be lucky enough not to.
Having come this far, I might as well see what’s inside the building thwarting my sleuthing. Around the corner, the large windows of its main entrance reveal a reception area and a prototype gallery—an open area showcasing upcoming product offerings. Curious what this company’s designers have created, I enter the building and head for the gallery.
Among the objects that seem like eclectic artifacts from a possible future, one draws particular attention to itself: a floor-to-ceiling “mirror” that spans much of the gallery’s back wall, reflecting me in a palace full of crystal—chandeliers running along the ceiling of a lengthy hallway lined with vases like giant diamonds on marble pedestals flanking numerous doorways. The shimmering scene of prismatic glass is dazzling, a baroque infinity emphasizing and adorning my plainness. I imagine you in this vitreous corridor, your eyes outshining all its sparkle.
Could this be what the strand I’ve followed is connected to? If so, who does this mirror link you to—someone who worked on it or someone who also marveled at it?
As though in answer to my questions, a woman in a gray blazer and matching skirt enters the palace hallway from the left, seemingly from an adjoining ballroom. She stops to stand behind my reflection, and for a moment, I think this is just how the mirror works—with a feature that adds people to the scene. Then I realize someone is actually behind me.
“Fascinating, isn’t it?” asks the woman.
“Context really changes how we see ourselves,” I answer still staring ahead, as though we can only speak to each other’s reflections.
“Oh? I was going to say the opposite,” she replies. “We are who we are, no matter the surroundings.”
She takes a couple steps forward, and a filament running alongside me jostles, one that goes from her past me to the mirror—right into my reflection, as though we are already connected. If she is your new crush, then I’d rather be linked to her through you.
Standing next to me now, she snaps her fingers, and the crystalline decor around our reflections vanishes, everything replaced by a forest with trees of such height that only their thick trunks are visible.
“So, how about now?” she asks.
“Looks like me and someone else,” I answer.
“Isn’t that what the human experience is supposed to be, a mixture of self and other?”
“Yes, but in what proportions?”
And she smiles so wide that I have to turn away from her reflection, toward her to see the real thing up close.
Soramimi Hanarejima is the neuropunk author of Literary Devices for Coping and whose current work can be found in Lunch Ticket, Cotton Xenomorph and Cheat River Review.
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