Through A Glass, Face To Face

by Rin Willis in Issue Fifteen, May 2024

The first time, I'm watching cat videos on my laptop when my chest starts to ache, and a long line of pain from my forehead down past my navel splits me into two.

And then, the sensation of fingernails, scratching under my skin.

When it's over, she stands naked in the moonlight, her body a mirror of my own. Same slightly upturned nose, same mouse-brown hair, same curves. But her eyes are filled with different histories, and her mouth is twisted in a smile that I have never been able to accomplish. In her right hand is a knife the color of old bone.

She stretches, popping her spine, then walks over to my closet, pulls on a loose-fitting black sweatshirt and a pair of leopard print bike shorts.

"Who are you?" I croak.

"Don't be dull." She flops down onto the bed. Makes a snow angel in the comforter. "Hmm, just right," she says, like she's goldilocks.

"What are you?" I amend, crawling towards the bathroom, bile rising up the back of my throat.

She smiles that same unsettling, half-correct smile. "An avenging angel."

I don't make it to the toilet. I trip over to the tub, barely managing to push the shower curtain aside before I'm heaving. The curtain snags under my knees, comes crashing down around my ears, the cheap plastic rod smacking me in the shoulders.

Some indeterminate amount of time later, when I'm done losing my dinner and am resting my forehead against cold porcelain, knees tucked beneath me, I hear the jingling of car keys, the sound of the front door opening and closing.


She comes back just before dawn. I've made it back to bed, but I'm woozy and weak. She grabs my face, fingertips cold against my jaw, and leans down, as if for a kiss.

Instead we reverse the process from earlier: splitting pain, hands in my chest, a ripping sensation. One foot, and then the other, like my body is a portal to another world. A wardrobe door.

When it's over, I'm alone.

It might have been a dream, if not for the bloody fingerprints she left on my face.


She comes back the next night, and the next. After that first time, it gets easier, less painful. Most nights she goes out, comes back before dawn, blood splatter on her clothes and caked under her fingernails. I don't ask and don't ask and don't ask.

I don't want to know.

Then one night she stays in. Turns the tv on. Makes microwave popcorn.

We watch cartoons until the sun rises.

After that she goes out less. Plays videogames or watches films. Makes conversation about the news or offers commentary on my college thesis. Texts all my friends funny one-liners and silly dad jokes when I'm not looking.

"What's it like," I ask one night.

She doesn't look up from the book she's reading. "Hmm?"

"The place you're from?"

She doesn't answer immediately, and after a while I go back to my laptop, sure she isn't going to. But then she sighs and lets the book flop shut, not bothering to mark her page. "Well," she starts, "the sky is pink instead of blue, and the clouds look like cotton-candy. Everyone lives in mansions, and the streets are paved in gold. We ride unicorns instead of horses. Otherwise it's not that different. Oh, except there's no such thing as regret."

"Sounds pretty cushy."

She shrugs. "It's not bad."

"So why'd you leave, then?"

She smiles. "Some people need killing in every universe."

"Like who?"

She gives me a look. "You know who."

And I do. I know exactly who she is referring to, even though I wish I didn't.

"Will you go back when you're done?"

She reopens the book. "No. There's no one there to step through."


On the last night, she comes home long before morning, her hair falling out of its loose ponytail, her eyes wild. There's blood on her cheek, on her shirt, on her sneakers; she crosses the room quickly to where I'm sitting on the bed, leaving a trail of red footprints behind her on the ugly beige carpet.

In the distance: the sound of sirens.

"Hurry," she says, and holds out the knife.

I hesitate. "I'll come back," I say.

She wraps my hands around the hilt. Presses the tip to the center of her chest. Draws a single, shimmering line down to her navel. She tugs me forward, until her cheek rests against my own, and presses a quick kiss to my temple. "Do it now," she whispers.

I hook my fingers in her ribs and pull.

It's not until I'm standing in an unfamiliar room, staring down at a different me, that I realize what she plans to do. And by then it's too late.


The multiverse is a maze of mirrors: an endless, eternal expanse of the same face, over and over.

Time passes, and I lose track of the cuts, the kills. Then one night I stumble into a small, studio apartment with a tiny fridge and a secondhand table, an unmade bed piled with pillows pushed up against a stencil of a mandala on the wall, and watch, dispassionately, as another me crawls her way towards the bathroom, the tub. It might be identical, if not for the shower curtain: a deep navy blue with little yellow rubber ducks.

Mine was purple.

And suddenly I know why she chose me. Why she gave me the knife. Once, I'd thought it was mercy, maybe even affection. My lips twist in a self-mocking smile.

I grab a sweatshirt from the closet, pull on a pair of leopard print bike shorts. Fall backwards onto the bed.

© 2024 Rin Willis

Rin Willis

Rin Willis (she/they) is a writer and artist living in sunny Southern California with her husband and goofy cat. She has been nominated for a Pushcart, and her poetry and short stories have appeared in Strange Horizons, The Molotov Cocktail, and Corvid Queen. She loves dark chocolate and coffee, and if a genie offered her one wish, she'd ask for a personal chef. Come say hi to her on twitter @Indigo_Summers.

Fiction by Rin Willis
  • Through A Glass, Face To Face