A narrative I wrote for my English class. 

The night was ominous and cold. Black clouds gathered across the flat expanse of sky, smothering the moonlight and extinguishing the stars. But despite the vast and crushing darkness that surrounded her, the girl’s eyes could be seen gleaming in the shadows, as grey and disturbed as an overcast sky.

Her name was Melinda Alistair, and she was the youngest Mind-Dancer of the past one thousand years. Her art was a rare and subtle one, and she practiced it in the shadowed world behind the glass of mirror in her bedroom. Before her entrance into this Mirrorworld, this cold and beautiful realm of nighttime and intrigue, she had been nothing more than a prisoner in suburbia: an over-bright world of biting sunlight and rebellious teens. Every day of her life, until the Dark Nobility tracked her down and saw that she was properly trained, random snippets of other people’s thoughts had echoed in her head. For twelve years she had been forced to share the jealousy, grief, fear, confusion, celebration, joy, anxiety, bitterness, and pain of every single human being within a mile’s radius of wherever she stood. It was almost enough to drive her mad: the ignorance of the human race was near unbearable for her.

Melinda had dealt with the agony of it alone until the evening of her thirteenth birthday. On that tempestuous night, as rain lashed against Melinda’s windows and lightning sundered the sky, an agent of the Dark Nobility came to her in a dream, and Melinda finally learned the truth. She stilled remembered with a thrill of pleasure the feeling of elation she had experienced as the cold glass of the mirror had melted like ice beneath her fingertips: forming a darkly illuminated doorway. The Dark Nobility offered her the security, protection, and sense of belonging that she had lacked in her former life, and so in the years following that fateful night, Melinda became a formal member of the Mirrorworld’s shadowed hierarchy. In truth, she was nothing more than a useful, but disposable pawn. And yet they accepted her at least in part, and it was more than she could ever have hoped for. If her talents could have gained her full access into their ranks, she would gladly have done anything they asked.

And now, it was as a result of this blind faith that Melinda Alistair found herself bare-shouldered and shivering, standing at the gates of the Mirrorworld’s most horrific torture chambers at the age of fifteen. She did know why the Dark Nobility had appointed the scouting of Shruikana to her, but for their acceptance, she was willing to do anything. Despite her youth and relative inexperience, Melinda knew that she was more than capable of entering the torture chamber that they called the Ninth House.

She took a deep breath and stepped inside.

The cold washed over her like filthy water: the unholy smells of iron and death mingling in the dark air. Her mind was instantly almost overcome by an onslaught of sickening terror and sadistic delight. Gasping for breath, she wound both hands into her hair, twisting it tightly with her fingers and fighting to stay upright. Broken glass sliced the bottoms of her bare feet. Suppressing a whimper, she threw up barriers around her mind, and concentrated on the warm trickling of blood.

Her feet seemed to move of their own accord as she drifted invisibly through the corridors. She paused once as she slipped unseen through the halls, in a room where a young man, hardly more than a boy, had been chained to a chair. A Guardian had him by his jet-black hair, baring his throat for the long, curved knife that was pressed against it. Dark blood tricked from his nose and stained his porcelain skin, which gleamed like a bone in the darkness, and his eyes were the piercing blue of ice. Melinda moved her gaze impassively away, and left him with the knife against his throat. His tortured screams followed her, but she walked on, unperturbed by such displays of human suffering.

Melinda Alistair was neither a cruel nor a kind person. She took no joy in the pain of others, but she was entirely devoid of compassion, and no one had ever bothered to teach it to her. Melinda had never felt even the slightest tug of love or emotional obligation to another living creature in her life. There was no tenderness in her steely nature. Leaving innocents to die in Shruikana did not delight her, but it did not unsettle her either. She was indifferent to their agony.

The next room was long, and full of still more prisoners. Melinda tasted the air, and found nothing but the presence of broken minds. She glanced around and saw that almost all of them were still young—the smallest was a girl no older than six, her throat slashed wide open. Her dead, empty eyes stared into oblivion.

And then she saw him: a weak, trembling body on a bloodstained cot.

She never could explain how he had caught her eye in that dark, gruesome room. Melinda Alistair did not believe in fate, and yet something inexplicable drew her gaze to where he lay, flat on his back, shivering violently. As she stared, he sat slowly upright, shaking. His hands grabbed compulsively at his filthy hair, and his face was ravaged where he appeared to have clawed at it with his own fingernails.

Melinda gave a hastily stifled gasp—she had never encountered this brother of a comrade before, but she had seen his picture on the missing posters far too many times to soon forget the face.

The once-bright eyes were blank and unfocused, there were deep, raw knife-slashes across his chest and shoulders, and the torn remains of his dirty white shirt hung loosely on his emaciated frame. Even from a distance, Melinda could easily count every single one of his ribs. But the resemblance to his sister was unmistakable. Before Melinda could stop herself, his name slipped through her shocked lips.


He didn’t even blink at the sound of his name, but she was certain. She approached slowly, cautiously. Warnings were screaming in her ears—that this could be an ambush, a trap—but her instincts urged her onward. And as she neared the bed, it became evident that Mark Andrews posed no threat.

Without stopping to think, Melinda lowered her defenses and allowed herself to become visible once more. Mark’s breathing was panicked, and when he held up his hands in some desperate defense, Melinda saw that some sort of blade had been use to slice deep, thin cuts into the undersides of his arms. Unaware of what she was doing, she reached tentatively towards him, and he cringed away from her touch.

“Don’t be afraid,” she whispered. But her words had no effect—his fear was beyond all reasoning.

In his terror, he was digging his fingernails compulsively into his skin again; leaving bloody gouges in his face. Without thinking, Melinda grabbed his hands before he could flinch away: hoping to prevent any further harm. As soon as she touched him, she was overcome by an excruciating sensation: a thousand knifes slashing against her consciousness and tearing at her mind. Melinda could feel herself slipping away into a roar of crimson pain: the cold, metallic taste of insanity seeping into her consciousness.  In desperation, she grappled for any solid thought or emotion to hold on to, but all she found was panic, confusion, and terror. It was pure human pain, raw and undiluted, and it was making her sick.

Just seconds before it was too late, Melinda’s body lurched involuntarily backwards, letting go of his hands. The pain evaporated from her mind instantly, leaving only wisps of misery behind. Released from her grip, Mark shrank back, breathing fast, and wrapped his arms protectively around himself. He was shivering, and tear-tracks were etched into his bloodstained face. Melinda realized that she had dropped to her knees on the stone floor. Her hands were shaking violently: in the first twelve years of her life, before she learned how to close her mind, Melinda truly believed she had experienced every degree of human suffering. But what she had just experienced left them all far, far behind.

She glanced at Mark, worried that the ordeal might have frightened him still further—but then she realized that no assault against his consciousness could possibly do more damage than what had already been done. She had never experienced such agony in all of her life, and hard though her heart was towards the human race, Melinda felt a certain degree of pity, of sympathy, stirring inside of her at the sight the broken teenager with the bloodstained face. Somehow, they had destroyed him beyond anything she had ever seen before.

Mark Andrews’ mind had been completely unhinged.