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Buffy the Vampire Slayer
"Through the Looking Glass"

After encountering a magic mirror, Xander is held prisoner by his evil twin.

Buffy was making her third attempt at a birdhouse, and she did not have a good feeling about it. Any self-respecting bird would rather be homeless than live in a dump like this. To make matters worse, Xander was in the class with her, and he was some sort of wood whisperer. His birdhouse looked like it had wi-fi and a pool. He was putting the finishing touches on it, filing down some rough edges.

Frustrated, Buffy applied just a bit too much slayer strength with her hammer, and sawdust flew into her face.

“Easy, slugger,” Xander said. He dropped the file into his jacket pocket and took the hammer from her. “It’s a birdhouse, not a vampire’s skull.”

“I never wanted to make a stupid birdhouse,” she muttered. “I just wanted to learn how to sharpen my own stakes.”

Mr. Newton, the wood shop teacher, came over to inspect their progress. Fortunately the bell rang before he could make any comments about Buffy’s demolition work.

“We’ll talk tomorrow, Miss Summers,” Mr. Newton said. Then he turned to one of the other students. “Ryan, could you stay behind a few minutes? I want your help with something.”

“Sure,” Ryan said.

“Teacher’s pet,” Buffy mumbled as she and Xander shuffled out. Xander glanced back and saw Mr. Newton and Ryan walking toward a large object covered in black cloth at the back of the room. It was rectangular, about ten feet tall. Xander let out a low whistle. “If that’s a birdhouse, I’d hate to see how big the bird is,” he said.

They had study hall that period, so they headed to the library. Willow was waiting for them, and for an hour she helped Xander try to make sense of his chemistry notes. Then the bell rang for lunch. Xander smacked his forehead. “I left my lunch in the wood shop,” he said. “I’ll meet you guys in the courtyard.”

“So cute but so forgetful,” Willow said as Xander left.

Xander poked his head into the wood shop and stopped, shocked into silence. The cloth covering the large rectangular object had been removed, revealing the largest mirror Xander had every seen. It was set in a heavy wooden frame, carved with intricate symbols. But that was not what shocked Xander. In the mirror he could see Ryan, tied to a chair, with strips of duct tape covering his mouth. He was facing the mirror, straining against the ropes. Mr. Newton stood over him, smiling as he watched the teenager struggle.

Xander’s first impulse was to try to rescue Ryan, but he realized that this might be a job for the slayer. Something about the mirror seemed unnatural. Even the light reflected from it seemed darker than it should be. He ran to the courtyard to get Buffy.

“Come quick,” Xander said. “Ryan’s been—”

Xander stopped in mid-sentence, because he saw that Ryan was sitting on the grass between Buffy and Willow.

“I’ve been what?” asked Ryan, grinning up at Xander.

“You’ve been, um, building a really great birdhouse,” Xander said. “I thought Buffy should look at your work again.”

“That’s nice of you to say,” Ryan said. “But I’ve got to go change for baseball practice. Maybe tomorrow.”

As soon as Ryan was out of earshot, Xander told Buffy and Willow what he had seen.

“Something weird is going on,” Xander said. “Some kind of illusion or spell …”

“I’ll go check out the wood shop for myself,” Buffy said. “You keep an eye on Ryan. Or on whatever it is that looks like Ryan.”

Ryan had said he was going to change for baseball practice, so Xander headed to the locker room. Xander tried to sneak in quietly, ducking behind some shelves. He looked out from behind a stack of towels and realized no one was in the room. Now that he thought of it, baseball practice wasn’t until after school. This realization came a few seconds too late, because Ryan was already behind him. He grabbed Xander, with much more strength than a high school student should have, and placed a hand over Xander’s mouth to keep him quiet.

“I have a feeling you’ve seen something you shouldn’t have,” Ryan whispered, as Xander squirmed in his grip. Then he slammed Xander’s head into a locker, and everything went dark.


***


Xander woke up with the sort of headache he was used to by now – the hangover from being knocked out by a bad guy. He was tied to a chair, just as Ryan had been, facing the weird mirror. His mouth was taped shut. Ryan – the real Ryan – was in a corner of the room, still tied to a chair and gagged with tape. But they were no longer in the wood shop. Xander wasn’t sure exactly where they were, but it looked like one of the storage buildings behind the school.

In the other corner of the room, also tied to a chair and gagged with tape, was Mr. Newton. Standing next to him was … Mr. Newton. His wood shop teacher apparently had an evil twin.

Mr. Newton’s double moved behind Xander and looked into the mirror. Strangely enough, he had no reflection.

“Isn’t it beautiful?” the twin said, staring into the mirror. “He bought it at an auction, but he had no idea what it could do.” The real Mr. Newton moaned into his tape gag.

Xander looked into the mirror and realized that his reflection had stopped struggling, even though Xander was still straining against his ropes. Then his reflection snapped the heavy ropes and pulled the tape off his mouth.

“Merciful Zeus,” Xander muttered into his gag. “MMRRFFL ZRRFF” was all that came out.

Then Xander’s mirror twin actually stepped out of the mirror. The surface of the glass rippled like water, then became still again. Xander’s double stood over him, looking down at him with a sneer. Xander looked past him into the mirror and saw that his double did not cast a reflection of his own. This made for a very strange sight when the twin grabbed Xander by the hair and yanked his head backward.

“He’s right, you know,” Mirror-Xander said. “We are better than you. Think of me as Xander 2.0.”

Ryan’s double entered the room. “Stop taunting that dimwit and come on,” he said. “We don’t want ‘Xander’ or ‘Ryan’ to miss their next class.”

Xander 2.0 looked down at the real Xander. “We’ll be back to get rid of all of you after sundown,” he said. “But don’t worry, no one will even know you’re gone.”

They left, with Mr. Newton right behind them. Xander started pulling at the ropes, but it quickly became clear that he was not going anywhere. He only had until sundown to figure out a way to escape. No one would come looking for him, because for all anyone knew he wasn’t missing.

Xander looked up at the mirror. It was the key to all this. And if he had learned one thing from Buffy, it was that the best course of action was usually to smash the weird magic object. But he couldn’t reach it. He managed to work off one of his sneakers and kick it at the mirror, but it bounced off without even making the mirror wobble. The mirror was old-fashioned and solidly built. Every inch of wood had been expertly carved.

Thinking about carving made Xander remember that he still had a filing tool from wood shop in his jacket pocket. That was it! If he could reach it he might be able to saw through the ropes.

Xander begin twisting his body and straining his hands to reach the tool in his pocket. Finally he was able to reach it, but it was difficult to get a good grip on it. He slowly began sawing at the rope around his wrist, aware that sundown was getting closer and closer.

He was finally making some progress when he heard fake Xander and fake Ryan returning. He had one hand almost loose, but otherwise he was still tied tightly to the chair. He tucked the file into his sleeve as his double approached.

“Sorry about this, but there’s only room for one of us,” fake Xander said, raising a hammer above his head, ready to bring it down on Xander’s skull. With a last burst of adrenaline Xander managed to pull his right hand free. He brought his arm up to block the fake Xander’s blow. His double was so surprised by this resistance that Xander was able to snatch the hammer out of his hand. Xander threw it as hard as he could at the mirror, which shattered in a shower of silvery fragments.

The doubles seemed to shimmer for a moment, with expressions of rage and surprise on their faces. Then they simply disappeared, like bubbles popping. Xander finished freeing himself, then went to untie Ryan and Mr. Newton. As soon as Xander pulled the tape from their mouths, they started asking “What happened?” but Xander stopped them.

“Around here, it’s best not to ask too many questions,” he said. “Just hope we don’t all get seven years bad luck for breaking that mirror. I’ve already got all the bad luck I can handle.”


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