** Excerpt from House of Mirrors — R. K. Hiller **
The floor was cool and slick under her bare feet. Hardly a joint or seam showed where floor became wall, and wall in turn became ceiling. It was all the same—one continuous, shadow-shrouded dream. There was a circle ahead of her, faintly luminous. Meira could feel the sweat already beginning to bead on her forehead, but refused to let her steps falter. The air was dead around her. Not just quiet, not even silent, but dead. Vacant and lifeless, she wondered if the air was capable of even carrying sound at all. She was almost to the circle now. Only a few steps more. One more step. She stepped onto the circle. Immediately, it began to glow brighter. The ground beneath her feet shuddered, and far off, a distant harmonic tone began humming.
“I have come.” She announced, her voice echoing back into her own ears. “I wish to speak with you.”
“So we see.” It was an odd voice, buzzing and humming as if it were part of the very air itself.
“Where are you?” She turned slowly, scrutinizing the shadows that pressed in on every side.
“We are here. And we are not. We are in your living memories, and we are the cobwebs in your furthest thoughts—we occupy the unclaimed land.
“I have come to reason with you—to plead our case. Will you hear me?”
“We hear you. Whether the noise of your mouth shall sway our position and course is doubtful.”
Meira drew a long deep breath, willing her voice to not tremble. “Long have you oppressed this land. Long have you held it in your power, bending its inhabitants to your will. You have wrought destruction—what once was is gone forever, and can never be regained. We would have you depart, vanish forever, and leave us in peace.”
Shrieking, pulsating harmonics ensued, which could only be translated as sadistic laughter. “Your world is under our control. Why would we simply abandon the greatest prize we have ever gained?”
“Because you’re destroying lives!” Meira shouted in frustration. “You don’t just control our people, you consume their very minds, leaving nothing but an empty and lifeless shell. Why?”
The voices hummed and buzzed among themselves, before lowering to a faint, vibrating whisper.
“So what is the reason?” Meira pressed. “You must have a purpose in this madness.”
One voice rose up, spiraling out of the darkness, circling her head and tickling her ears. “Because we were dying, human child. Our race was perishing.”
“So you would take the lives others in order to prolong your own existence?” She asked.
“Would you not do the same for your own young brothers and sisters? We are dying, human child.” The voice continued.
An older, more broken voice buzzed out in protest. “You will betray us! Do not speak of death and weakness, we know no weakness.”
“But we are weak. They know this. I only wish to explain to them why we have become so.” The younger voice near Meira’s head whined.
“Impudence. You think that in a thousand years you have learned all there is to learn, and that you know better than your elders.” The older voice scolded.
“Peace.” All the voices, or perhaps more accurately one great harmony, replied. “The small human knows that we are weak, perhaps by explaining our weakness we shall gain its sympathy.”
“Yes, yes! Its sympathy! That is their weakness. Hear us, small one. Hear our case.” The young, ringing voice near Meira’s head chimed in.
Meira paused for a moment, considering the sudden and unanticipated reversal of judge and prisoner. “Very well, I am listening. Speak.”