A long corridor, white ceiling lights, a row of pure white doors on one side, a line of blank wall on the other.
I embraced five of my favorite books closer to my chest. Where as this place? It was as if walking into a cave, with the walls echoing my every step.
How did I get here?
The books in my arms told me I’d just come out from the library, but…
I came to a halt. Without realizing it, I’d come to the end of the corridor. To my right was the first door, with a golden doorknob. Nervous, I twisted a strand of my auburn hair around my left index finger. Then I turned the doorknob.
Directly behind the door was a single bed, with light blue sheets and a yellow pillow. Next to the bed, against the wall was a simple desk with an old-fashioned desktop computer. In the middle of the room were three girls, chasing each other and laughing.
“Um, excuse me…” I mumbled.
All at once, the girls stopped running after one another and turned to me.
“Hi, Luell!” one of them called cheerfully. She was chubby, with a pair of big brown eyes, straight light brown hair resting evenly on her shoulders. “Ah, look at you.” She pouted a little, reaching out to untie my ponytail. “How many times have I told you not to tie up your pretty hair?”
“Who are you?” I asked blankly.
“Don’t you remember me? I’m Candide!” the same girl introduced herself enthusiastically.
My memory hit a blank wall when I tried to recall the name. Candide?
I let my eyes wander across the room. I didn’t recognize the other two girls either.
The second girl was about Candide’s height. She wore her soft, wavy dark brown hair in a low ponytail. Freckles dotted her otherwise fair skin, and her eyes were a darker shade of brown than Candide’s. She had her arms crossed, her lips drawn to a thin line.
“I’m Anica,” she said coldly. Then, she glanced at Candide. “Now Luell’s hair is imperfect. All thanks to you.” Anica padded forward and smoothed my ebony-black, straight hair. She gave my bangs couple of light pats as well.
“Hi, Anica,” I whispered. There was an odd sensation in this room. No, it was the girls.
My gaze shifted to the remaining girl. She seemed to be about five years old. She had the fairest skin of all, looking up at me with her smiling blue eyes, her blonde curls bouncing up and down.
“My name is Glorea! Luell, play with me!” With that, the small girl named Glorea leaped at me. To catch her, I let my books drop. “Such big, gray eyes you have, Luell,” Glorea praised. At that moment, her eyes appeared a lot larger.
But when I took a closer look, there was no reflection of anything in those eyes.
Horrified, I yelped and dropped her. Glorea wailed on the floor. “Lhell dropped me! Luell never drops me!”
“Why did you drop her?” Candide asked. She helped Glorea up and looked at me.
Candide’s eyes reflected no more than Glorea’s had.
Anica hadn’t moved. She kept her eyes fixed upon me. I gasped but didn’t dare look into her eyes. I bent to gather my books, then stood up again and pretended they didn’t exist. It felt kike a stupid idea, even at the time, but I childishly hoped that if I acted like I couldn’t see them, they wouldn’t see me.
Which, as it turned out, was exactly what happened.
Anica, Glorea, and Candide went back to chasing one another and laughing.
“It turns out Luell has recovered from us after all,” Anica said.
I flipped a page in one of the books and pretended not to hear her, taking a seat on the bed.
“But then why did she talk to us just now?” Candide asked.
“The wall!” Glorea screamed. “She was talking to the wall!”
I heard Anica snicker. Involuntarily, I glanced at her.
And immediately realized my mistake.
“Luell,” Anica said in an even tone. “So you haven’t recovered after all.” One corner of her lips curled up and she moved towards me. The other two followed suit.
I knew she was looking at me–she had to be looking at something, at any rate–but there was no shadow, no image in her eyes, just a mass of endless brown.
As Anica stretched an arm out as if to catch me, I yanked the door open and bolted out. Her slender fingers curled around the doorknob and she began to step out.
Having no other choice, I barged in through the second door.