I stepped through the mirror and out into the night. The sky was now spattered with stars that cast a cold but friendly light upon the ground. Not the slightest sliver of a moon did I see, but the star I had seen earlier soon reappeared, its glory surpassing the brightness of all the others.
As I watched, this star seemed to grow larger or draw nearer. At length I could see that it was trailing a streamer of flame like the tail of a fiery kite. Bright plumes and red flares shot straight out from its sides as it came closer. At last I realized that it was not a star at all. It was the flaming bird that had given me my wound.
Once again my heart was shot through with a searing pain as the Firebird descended upon me and its hot breath enveloped me. Frozen with fear in spite of the heat, I was on the verge of fainting dead away when a small voice at my ear said, “Be not afraid.”
Looking quickly to the right, I saw the small gray bird sitting perched upon my shoulder. His eyes burned a steady blue, penetrating my body with their light and kindling the glow within. The Firebird was nowhere to be seen.
“It is time we were going,” said the bird.
“Going where?” I asked in amazement.
“To find him. To follow him, of course. I have brought you out at last, and he awaits you not far from here.”
“But I don’t know the way,” I protested.
“Take first one step, and then another,” whispered the bird. “Go straight on ahead. I will not let your steps go wrong.” And he fluttered off.
Burdened as I was with the weight of the body I carried, I took a step forward. Above me and a short distance ahead the Firebird reappeared, gliding aloft on blazing wings, splashing a red-gold light over the earth. The stars humbly faded in its presence. Every tree and every blade of grass cowered and cast wildly flickering shadows. I followed the Firebird for I had no other guide, nor had I anywhere else to go.
Across the yard and into the street I followed the terrible Bird. The night was cold, I think, but I hardly noticed it at the time. Through dark and sleepy streets I carried my other self until my arms ached so that I felt I could not go on. Then I stumbled and fell, scraping my knees on the pavement, but never releasing my hold on the cold figure I was clutching. I found myself looking into its face, and it was as if I looked again into that awful mirror. Numb and tired, I wept.
“Don’t cry,” whispered the small gray bird at my ear. “You may get up if you want to. Only take one step and then another. The place is not far now.”
I raised my eyes. Against a sky like black marble speckled with silver, in a canyon between two rows of tall gray houses, was a spot of red light. The inner glow returned. Something or Someone lifted me up and set me on my feet.
“Go,” said the voice at my ear. “Christmas Eve is passing swiftly.”
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