At length I awoke, shocked to discover that I was alive. Beside me where I lay on the floor was a little book. Taking it up and opening it, I found myself looking into a small mirror attached to the inside of the front cover.
How strange was the image I saw reflected there! In one sense it seemed plain and ordinary enough – easily recognizable as myself. But in another way it was not like me at all. It was marked by a beauty, a depth, and a radiance which I found nothing short of astonishing. At the same time, it was laced with an ugliness I cannot describe except to say that it left me with a feeling of foreboding.
I turned away from the book and looked to the window. Outside all was dark. Gone were the moon and the star. There on the sill sat the small gray bird with still blue eyes. I stared at it dully for a moment, then caught my breath at a sudden new discovery: where I had expected to see shards of broken glass, I found instead bars of iron across my window.
I spun around to face the opposite wall. It also held a large mirror in which I discerned the same disturbing reflection of myself. It was the image of a princess, a beautiful princess whose loveliness had been marred in some way – precisely how, I could not tell. I think it was in her eyes that I saw it.
Again I turned away, but it was no use. All of the walls were hung with mirrors. They had, in fact, become large mirrors themselves, as had the ceiling and the floor. Above, below, and on every hand I was surrounded by disturbing images of myself. Even the window offered no relief. When I looked in that direction, I found that it, too, had become a sheet of bright reflective glass.
Alone with these awful reflections, I again became aware of the little book. Picking it up, I began to turn its pages and to read what was written there.
This led to a new discovery. I had quite forgotten about the deadly wound I had received from the Firebird, but now it came rushing back into my consciousness. For as I read, a burning sensation began to grow within my chest, low and smoldering at first, but increasing by the moment. I noticed that as I pondered certain passages in the book this burning became a mellow glow that filled my heart with warmth and comfort; but as I read others, it turned instead to a hot stinging pain, so that I could not help but cry out because of it. In spite of this, the words of the book so held me that I read on and on.
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