For the first time, I open a book and I find a mirror inside. I’ve heard that you can find mirrors in books, sometimes; most of my friends have had it happen at least twice, and Angelina from across the street has it happen so often she probably doesn’t know that books are actually made of paper.
But this is my first time, and it’s spectacular. I see a face I know inside the book: a round face, the freckles Mom always called constellations, my inquisitive eyes (which I have always thought are my best feature), and hair that looks like it belongs to a street dog.
I don’t look like a street dog in the reflection. Somehow, in this context, I look like an unruly adventurer. The impish smile that gets me into so much trouble belongs to someone exciting! Someone, perhaps, with a pirate’s hat and a sword—or maybe a wizard hat and staff, or—
My reflection moves even though I do not. From the mirror extends a hand that is just like mine. The fingernails are chewed down to the quick. Of course I take it; I’ve never had the chance before, and I won’t miss it now.
When I fall through the mirror, I find myself wearing a familiar costume: shining armor that matches the bright-silver fur of the horse beside me. I’ve always read about knights in shining armor. But never have I fallen straight into those clankity-boots to find my face reflected back in the polished shield mounted to my horse’s hip. I look good as a knight in shining armor. I wouldn’t have expected that.
The horse lets me mount, because I’m good with horses—who knew I could be good with horses?—and skillfully do I ride up the mountain, urging her onward.
“Let’s go, Streakfire!” I say. “Let’s go!”
We fly together, like I never knew I could fly, and the whole world of the story falls out below me. There are villages below filled with people who need to be saved, and I’m the only one who can do it—me! In the forests await adventures I’ve seen others survive. Hardship awaits in the darkest caverns and deepest tunnels, but it’s only the kind of hardship which proves I can handle anything.
My horse and I arrive at the mouth of a dragon’s cave, and this part, I dread. I know how others have done this. I know I should kill the dragon. But oh! He’s beautiful! He rears above me with multifaceted scales that catch the sunlight as surely as my armor.
The dragon asks, “What do you want?”
“I came to see if you need anything,” I say.
“You don’t want to hurt me?”
“Never.” And I’m shocked that I can say that, because the story shouldn’t progress that way. I never thought it should. I didn’t like it. I wanted the heroes to be nice—like I’m nice—but so often the books just don’t do that.
This is my mirror in my book, my life in my book, and I never draw my sword against the dragon.
The chapter ends with a long talk between the two of us. Streakfire eats grass at the mouth of the cave and I make my favorite pie for the dragon to eat. I love every minute, every word, every turn of the page. To think that someone like me would make friends with a dragon!
When it’s time to close the book, I slip out of the mirror, and I hug this beautiful thing to my heart. I disappeared for hours. At last, I found myself in a story. At last I could go into the mirror, like so many others do, and at last I can see myself as something else. It won’t be the last time, either. The dragon still waits in chapter two.