Something New

A piece of something I am working on. Thought it might be interesting to put it out for critique/comment.

Mandy found herself on the steps of a building with tall columns. Since she was curious, she only thought it right to see what was inside. Once she stepped through the doorway she found that the wall was decorated with figures carved in bas-relief on the stone. At first she had no idea what the pictures were about. They were full of people and landscapes and symbols which she didn’t recognize. Gradually she realized that each relief told a story. One told an old story that she had read in school about Helen whose beauty had launched a thousand ships and started a great war. In another she recognized the Egyptian queen Cleopatra who conquered in love Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony. Another told the more familiar story of Queen Guinevere. She and Lancelot loved each other more than Guinevere loved King Arthur. Through their love the court of Arthur was broken. Lastly she saw Queen Elizabeth, who alone had commanded a great empire by the force of her will.

Now this temple was circular and Mandy had been walking around the outer wall of the building. She came to a place on the wall where the pictures were replaced by a mirror. This mirror was like none she had ever seen. It was clear like polished crystal. What she saw in the mirror looked not like a reflection but herself. Several times Mandy wondered if she was the reflection and the image in front of her was the real Mandy. She gazed long deeply into the mirror’s surface.

It came to her mind that she was not as beautiful as the women she had seen in the pictures on the wall. As deep as she gazed in the mirror so the knowledge of this dove deeply into her soul and as deep as it dove it made a hollow space inside of her, a space she felt she must fill. And Mandy felt ashamed of this lack. At this moment she was very glad that Jack wasn’t there to see her.

Rather sadly Mandy moved from the mirror. The pictures begun again. These seemed familiar to her, yet somehow unfamiliar. A face appeared in all of the pictures which she couldn’t recognize. Then, with a flash of recognition, she knew it. The face was hers.

There was Mandy looking from the walls of Troy as Greeks and Trojans fought for her beauty. There she was beguiling Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, and commanding the love of Lancelot. More than this Mandy observed the people in the pictures around her. Women looked at her beauty and despaired of ever being her equal, while men ruined themselves pursuing her love. Somehow this all made her feel very glad. Her beauty gave her power, power to command the love of all.

“And why shouldn’t they feel this way,” thought Mandy, “For I really am the fairest of them all.”

The moment the thought passed through her mind, the foundations of the whole temple trembled. It shook so violently that Mandy thought the building would fall down on top of her. She ran outside terrified.

Mandy didn’t stop running until she collapsed in the tall grass, crying. She had cried for some time when she became aware of a noble woman standing nearby, watching her.

“What did I do wrong?” sobbed Mandy.
“You entered the temple the wrong way,” replied the woman.
“How was I supposed to know which was the right way?” said Mandy, defending herself.
“Come, I will show you the right way.”

She led Mandy to the back of the temple she had first entered. Going through this door, Mandy found herself in a mirror-image of the other temple. Here too were pictures carved in bas-relief on the wall. This woman walked with Mandy and explained to her the pictures.

On one Mandy saw an Italian woman. Everyone who was with her was made more beautiful by her presence. Another she learned was of Lunette, Sir Gawain’s love. Lunette faithfully served her lady. By her wisdom she saved the life of the knight Sir Ivain and worked forgiveness for him.

Mandy also saw a picture in which was a simple room. Inside it was a peerless woman who was saying, “See, I am the servant of my Master.” When Mandy saw this she trembled a little.

They came together at last to a mirror. Mandy saw the mirror and was terrified. She would in nowise look at it.
“You must look at it,” said the woman.
“No, no,” replied Mandy, nearly crying, “I can’t, I won’t.”
“Mandy,” said the woman, sternly, “You must look at the mirror.”
“No, I can’t.”
“Here, I am with you. Look on the mirror.”

Mandy stood and looked up at the mirror. Behind her stood the great woman. And Mandy saw that she indeed was beautiful, but whether it was her own beauty or the beauty of the woman shining through her she couldn’t tell. They moved on.

Mandy saw other woman in other pictures and she rejoiced in their unique beauty. Somehow Mandy and the noble woman came away from the pictures. The woman then turned Mandy, who saw all the pictures in one sweeping vision. Captured in that vision was a beauty not found in each of them individually.
The woman led Mandy out to the steps of the temple. When she looked to her again, the woman was gone and Mandy was alone.

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