"Taylor" Her mother's voice and the accompanying knock on the bedroom door startled her. The mountain dragon too was surprised, opening its eyes wide in shock and spreading its wings to fly across the room to hang from the curtains again. "Do you want some ice cream" Her mother's tone was friendly and conciliatory, tinged with hope.
"No," Taylor called back hurriedly. She wavered between watching the dragon and running across the room to barricade the door. The mountain dragon used its claws to pull itself a few inches further up the curtain, like a cicada clinging to the trunk of an oak tree. "I'm fine. Goodnight."
"Ok, if you're sure." Taylor could sense her mother standing outside her door for several minutes after, waiting and listening, before she heard her heavy sigh. "Goodnight, dear." Finally, Taylor heard her mother's footsteps as she walked back up the hallway.
The burn on Taylor's hand throbbed and ached. She reached across to her dresser for the red tube of pawpaw ointment, taking off the lid to squeeze a small amount of salve onto her finger to smear across the wound. The burn felt a little better under the soft, gentle rub of her fingertip and the pain eased a little. Taylor replaced the lid and as she dropped the tube onto the top of the dresser, the dragon made a happy chirruping noise from where it still clung lopsidedly to the curtain.
Taylor smiled and walked over to the curtains, mistakenly imagining that the dragon was growing used to her. Before she could reach it, the creature relaxed its grip on the fabric and once again flew into the centre of the room, skittering past her in a rush of scales and wings to return to its previous position on the mirror. It hung from the string of beads on the wardrobe door and chirruped again. Taylor turned around and trudged back to the wardrobe. "Keep still," she grumbled.
The mountain dragon now had its back to her. As it swung gently on the beaded necklace, it faced inwards towards the mirror. Taylor could see its green eyes watching her in the mirrored reflection as she walked slowly up to stand a small distance away, unwilling to frighten it again. "It's okay," she said softly, "I won't hurt you." The dragon's eyes blinked slowly at Taylor in the mirror and again, she caught a glimpse of movement in the reflection of the glass. She turned her gaze fully towards her own reflection and jumped back in shock.
Instead of the image of herself that she had expected to see, dressed in her jeans and an old Sponge Bob sweatshirt with her hair hanging loose over her shoulders, the Taylor in the mirror was wearing a pale blue fitted dress made of some kind of rough, woven fabric. The dress shaped in over her breasts, nipped in at the waist, and fell to just below her knee. Leather sandals encased her feet, the long straps wrapped up her legs in a criss-cross pattern. A jewel-topped sword hung from the leather belt around her middle, its long blade reaching down almost to her calves. Several thick strands of her long blonde hair were twisted into a complicated plaited braid, done much more expertly than she could ever manage herself, and wound around her head. Taylor ran her hands over her sweat top and jeans to check they were real. Her reflected image stayed the same – the same blue dress, the same sandals, the same braided hair. She swallowed hard, somehow certain that this time it wasn't just her stupid eyes playing a trick on her. "What is happening to me" she whispered hoarsely.
The dragon continued to watch her silently in the reflection of the mirror. Its green eyes did not blink as it whipped its tail around, its scales undulating with the movement and its tiny fins trembling gently. It flexed its claws around the pink beads and made a low sound in its throat.
Taylor ran her hands over her sweatshirt and jeans again, monitoring her image in the mirror carefully. The Taylor in the mirror ran her hands over her blue dress, one hand catching on the hilt of the sword, then down over her skirt to the hem. Once again, Taylor saw something move in the background behind her reflected self and she looked past her reflection and into the mirror to the scene beyond.
Taylor blinked and rubbed at her eyes while she counted to three. Slowly, cautiously, she opened her eyes again. The scene had not changed. The reflection in the mirror was not the reflection of her bedroom, with its untidy bed and drawn curtains lit up by the bright light of her ceiling lamp. Instead, the Taylor in the mirror was standing in a green field, while tawny-coloured hills and a wide blue sky stretched off into the distance. As she stared in disbelief, lazy white clouds scudded across the azure sky and an eagle, its body a tiny dark speck against the impossibly deep blue, soared high above.
The dragon chirruped and fixed its eyes on the real Taylor. She met its brilliant green gaze in confusion as she struggled to make sense of what lay in front of her. In one quick movement, the dragon let go of the string of beads and melted into the glass of the mirror. As Taylor watched, the little creature flew up onto the shoulder of the reflected Taylor and perched there, its tiny talons snagging the blue fabric of her dress into a puckered ridge across her collarbone. It stared fiercely out of the mirror and chirruped again.
Taylor opened her mouth and watched as her reflected image did the same. She shut her mouth, lifted one leg, waved her hand, and shook her head. She put her hand up to touch the empty space on her shoulder and the dragon in the mirror squawked indignantly as the mirror-Taylor's hand brushed against it. Except for the dragon, all the movements and actions of mirror-Taylor were an exact replica of all that Taylor did as she stood there in her bedroom in front of her wardrobe. However, the girl in the mirror was not quite Taylor. She looked far too brave and adventurous to be Taylor, a major character rather than an unobtrusive member of a story's support crew. The dragon ruffled its scales and settled down again, at complete ease on the shoulder of Taylor's reflection.
The burn on Taylor's palm pulsed and stung. She spun on her heel and gazed around her room, her glance flickering over the comfortable mess and ordinariness and familiarity of it all. She could hear the faint sound of the television from the living room and she could see the gentle movement of the pixels on her computer screen from where her laptop rested on her bed. She made up her mind.
Taylor stepped into the mirror.