Ensnared Page 19

Loading...

I thought he was so normal. Yet he’d had an extraordinary life ahead of him, before he was lost in Wonderland.

Dad helps me up the stairs behind him. Inside, we face innumerable images of ourselves amid black-and-white checks reflected off the floor. Mirrors upon mirrors slant along the round interior, covering the walls and domed ceiling and forming reflections that cast other reflections until there’s no end and no beginning. The illusion of infinity.

Carousel horses—in vivid colors and wild poses—appear to rise from the checked floor, captured in the reflections, yet none exist where we stand.

“The carousel . . . is it painted on the mirrors?” No sooner do I ask then I realize it’s similar to the moth spirits in the mirrored hall at Morpheus’s manor in Wonderland, except the horses aren’t trapped inside the reflection. They’re behind it somehow.

“You see the carousel?” Dad asks. He and Uncle Bernie exchange surprised glances.

“It would seem your girl is more Skeffington than merely her sense of humor,” Uncle Bernie teases, patting the top of my head as he scoots around us in the tight corridor.

Dad takes my hand and leads me through the circular surroundings. “What you’re seeing is the other side of the portal, Allie. None of the females in our family have ever had that ability.”

Uncle Bernie nods. “Could also be Alison’s lineage.”

As if sensing my quiver at the mention of Mom, Dad squeezes my hand. “The reflected reflections . . .” He motions around us. “The unending loop of images . . . they’re like an optical code. Only those with the gene can make out the two-way mirror effect. The carousel is outside the entrance to the looking-glass world. The Knighthood put it in place decades ago, piece by piece, because the area surrounding the gate is barren. We needed something to aim for on the other side. Now, once we discern which horses are real and not just reflections, we jump astride them through the portal.”

“Okay,” I say cautiously. “But why can’t you use a room of mirrors for the starting point? Why a Gravitron?”

“Well, this isn’t how we’ve always done things,” Uncle Bernie answers as he opens a metal breaker box and flips a few switches. “In the earlier years, before such motorized amusements were perfected, our ancestors used to go to carnivals in search of mirrored funhouses. It was risky. They chanced being seen by other thrill seekers. So they began to build their own infinity-mirror rooms. But it’s hard to get enough thrust to leap through the portal. Sometime in the 1950s, we started seeing the Rotor rides. They gave us a way to use centripetal force to our advantage.”

“I thought it was centrifugal.” I’m feeling woozy, and the ride hasn’t even started.

“Centrifugal force is reactionary,” my uncle says. “It only exists because of centripetal. If you spin around and stretch your arm while holding a hammer, you’re exerting centripetal force to make the object follow a curved path. But you’ll feel the hammer pulling your hand from your body. That is centrifugal—a coercion in the opposite direction. Our ride has been adjusted to use both forces against one another so that when the floor drops, your body will lurch forward, like what would happen to the hammer were you to let it go while spinning. It makes entry simpler.”

I huff. “Yeah, that sounds . . . anything but simple.” I don’t stop to consider how we’re supposed to land on top of carousel horses without damaging important body parts. The laws of nature are different on the other side, and that has to play a role somehow. Still, I’m taunted by the memory of the mirror I crashed into on prom night. How the glass shattered and sliced my skin. “If you misjudge, that could be painful.”

“Painful, but tolerable.” Uncle Bernie closes the ride’s door. Orangey sparkles seep through spaces in the panels from outside the ride. “That’s how one acquires wisdom. By getting a bonk on the noggin, or a bloody nose. We learn through our mistakes, don’t we?”

I tap the diary at my neck. Unless, like Red, you choose to forget your mistakes, in which case you never learn.

“There’s a trick to it,” Dad adds. “If you look closely, some of the horses have shadows cast by the carousel’s lights. Others don’t. The ones with shadows are real.”

I focus on the carousel, shocked by how quickly I pick out the real ones. The thought of being thrust toward a plane of glass at high speed makes my pulse kick so fast, I can feel my blood shuttling through my veins. I might’ve leapt off a butterfly into a stormy sky earlier, but this isn’t like flying. I’ll have no wind to coast on. I’ll have no control at all.

Now I know how Morpheus felt when he was afraid of riding in a car, and it’s not so funny from this side.

The Gravitron’s motor hums under my feet.

Dad tightens his fingers through mine. “This is the only way to get in and save your mom and Jeb. Just hold on to me and leap when I leap. It’s my turn to sprout wings.”

A nervous smile lifts one corner of my mouth.

“Speaking of wings.” Uncle Bernie gestures to my back. “You should lose yours for now. The portal is small. We don’t want you getting stuck.”

I frown. I’ve grown used to my wings being out—to their promise of power. Reabsorbing them is second nature after all my practice at the asylum, although I miss their weight the instant they’re gone.

I clench Dad’s hand and don’t let go as we press ourselves into position against the mirrored wall. Uncle Bernie holds the duffel bag since Dad and I are the newbies. Or, rather, Dad’s adult body is new to it all.

The whir of the motor grows as we spin, around and around until our backs plaster to the mirror behind us, pinning us in place like the bugs I used to collect. My lungs squeeze, as if they’re shrinking. I’m so disoriented I can’t make out anything but a blur in the reflections. I gulp against the bile climbing into my esophagus.

Just when I think I’m going to lose my eggs Benedict, Dad yells, “Now!”

There’s the sound of a lever being thrown. The floor drops and we’re thrust forward, Dad and I linked by a chain of hands and fingers, just like that moment in Wonderland when Jeb and I sailed across the chasm on tea-cart trays.

The glass races toward us. I scream as the mirror bends like a bubble, stretches around us, then bursts so we break through and soar into the other realm.

Prev Next