Seven year old Becky was bored. Her mom and dad had finished unpacking almost two hours ago, and the former had gone grocery shopping while her dad was setting up his computer so he could have access to his work as quickly as possible—Dr. Brightly took great pride in his work.
“Basically, I study what the world is made of,” he once told her. “The more we know about it, the more we can accomplish. Knowledge helps us grow and advance.”
Being a child prodigy, she was able to understand some of what her dad did, though he did use less complex words when he explained it to her. He did suggest she consider the same field when she grew up, but she wasn’t sure that she wanted to do ‘smarty pants grown up stuff.’
Smart as she was, she was a kid at heart.
Deciding to explore the new house, she eventually found a hatchway in the ceiling of what her parents had decided was the guest room. Luckily, standing on one of the beds gave her enough of a boost to reach the cord used to open it, and doing so released a ladder. She climbed up, and found herself in an attic.
From the looks of things, the last family to live in this house hadn’t taken everything with them—there were still several toys and other things lying around. What caught her attention, however, was a large mirror attached to the wall opposite the window, its frame painted in blue, red, and yellow stripes. Something about that mirror made it impossible to ignore.
Approaching it, she was surprised to see the mirror did not show her reflection. Instead, a boy about her age looked back. The boy had the same dark brown hair and the same clothes she did, although he wore pants instead of a skirt. Even more strangely, he didn’t move when she did.
Raising a hand and placing it on the mirror’s surface, she looked at the boy curiously.
The boy didn’t say anything, so she tried again.
“I’m Becky Brightly.”
This time, he did respond, looking surprised.
“My name’s Ben Brightly.”
Her curiosity was heightened further.
“You look kind of like me...except you’re a boy.” Becky ran her fingers over the mirror’s edge. “I don’t think this is a normal mirror.”
“Neither do I,” Ben replied. “And it’s not like a funhouse mirror, either. If it was, you’d move when I do, and you don’t.”
“Becky!“ her mother’s voice called. “I’m back, and I brought dinner!”
Becky looked over at Ben. “I’ll be back.”
As she descended the ladder, she failed to notice Ben hadn’t moved out of sight. Only a minute later, however, he glanced over to the side, as if hearing someone’s voice, before walking out of view.
In the days following, Becky made sure to visit the attic so she could talk to Ben. She liked talking to him, and was pleasantly surprised when she discovered that she could talk to him with regular mirrors as well. What was strange, however, was just how similar his life was to hers, minus a few differences. For example, it was his mother, not his father, who studied physics.
One night after dinner, she asked her father if someone could have another version of him or herself. Intrigued, he told her about parallel universes—worlds where things were in some way different from the one she knew.
“Like a world where I‘m a boy?” she asked.
“That’s certainly one possibility,” he laughed. “As a matter of fact, the idea of parallel universes tends to come up a lot in my work.”
“Oh, speaking of which, did you tell her yet?” her mom piped up.
Becky’s father shook his head. “I don’t know if I’m taking it yet.”
“Taking what?” Becky asked.
“A lab in Washington offered me a job working for them,” he explained. “I read about it, and it looks like I could do a lot.”
“Washington?” Becky looked horrified. “You promised we wouldn’t have to move again!”
“I know, but this is a really good opportunity,” her father said. “Besides, the new house is much better. You might like it there.”
“No!” she shrieked. “I’m not moving again! And you can’t make me!”
She ran to the attic, tears trickling down her cheeks. Once she had slammed the door closed, she fell to her knees, burying her face in her hands as she cried.
“Becky? What’s wrong?”
Hearing Ben’s voice, she looked over. “Dad says we might have to move again. I’m sick of moving. Why can’t we stay?”
“It’s not fair,” Ben agreed. “My mom says we might be moving soon, too.” A worried look crossed his face. “Do you think we might stop being able to talk?”
Hearing this, Becky felt herself start to tear up again.
“You’re always there, even when I can’t see you,” she managed to say, trying not to cry again. “I don’t have a lot of friends besides you—we move around too much.”
Reaching out, she put a hand on the mirror’s surface. “You’re like my brother, and if I never got to see you again...I wish we had some place we could go, somewhere just for us where we didn’t have to be separated.”
Beneath her fingers, the mirror rippled like water, making her pull her hand back. She looked at it, a look of surprise crossing her face. With some hesitation, she placed her hand on the mirror again, and her hand passed into it. On the other side, an equally curious Ben did the same thing.
“Sweetheart? Please, come down.”
Hearing her father’s voice and the knocking on the attic door, Becky shook her head. She didn’t know what lay on the other side, but at that moment, it seemed better than staying there.
With that thought in mind, she plunged into the mirror.