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The Tinkered Mind
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January 12th, 2020
The little boy knelt to his sandal, too big for him and the leather now old, cracked, long baked beneath his feet from the hot sand. He pulled some young reeds and wrapped the broken sandal and his foot, tying the two together. The boy no longer had a name, since he’d been taken from the rich wet lands to the west. He could only remember moments, his mother screaming, his siblings as confused as himself, and then the long journey. Now he only knew himself by the sound his master yelled at him.
It would be many years before Lucilius would name himself.
The little boy stood, wagged and stamped his foot to make sure the leather sole would stay and then continued on his way. He arrived back at the merchant tent where his master was rapidly pressing a dried and pointed reed into a tablet of soft clay. But when the man saw Lucilius, he yelled, making the boy startle and cower. The man took a stiff leather stock and struck the boy’s bare back, then he pointed at the copper mirrors and threw a wollen clump at the boy. Lucilius took soft bunch and went to the copper mirrors his master had pointed at. He looked up from the clump of wool and saw his own big eyes, rounded down by the feeling of tears held back. He saw his own little mouth in the mirror quiver, and then he squeezed his eyes shut to keep himself from seeing it. He looked away, down the busy market street that lead to the giant blocked building, radiant in the sun, the ramps cutting such long straight lines against the smooth wall of the building. Lucilius had never seen anything like it before he’d been brought to this place. He squinted at the brilliant reflection of sun on the gold ornaments atop the temple, and seeing their shine he remembered his task.
He turned back to the copper mirrors to find a calm face and a steady gaze. He bobbed his head at the boy in the metal, tinted like old sun, as though they both understood what should be done.
Dust kicked up from the main thoroughfare had coated the copper mirrors and Lucilius gently began to polish the shining plates back to their full luster. He worked diligently, clearing each one and on the last he found a blemish, some blood or spit, he could not tell, but he rubbed harder with the crude wool, smearing and then slowly clearing the mess, and as he worked his tired arm against the mirror he leaned in closer. The blemish cleared and before Lucilius sat back he looked again at himself in the mirror sheen. He watched his eyes twitch as he looked at different parts of his own face. Then he slowly turned his head away, straining his eyes to see as he did, and when he could see himself no more, he whipped his head back as though he might catch the sight before it shifted. But alas there he was again, looking at himself. He leaned in closer, seeing his eyes grow and then he started looking off into the mirror as though he might see around the edge, but only the blocky temple came into view. He got closer, wondering if the mirror world in there went on forever. He pressed his face against the copper, as though he might be able to push into that world and get away from this one. He wanted to know, what was in it. Surely it wasn’t what was behind this plate of copper. There was something else in there, and he might be able to get at it if only he could somehow get past that image of himself pushing back with his cheek.
His master yelled his new name again and Lucilius jolted, trying to turn to see where the man was as the leather stock landed again on his sore back. The man hit the boy, over and over, as the boy held on to the plate of copper, terrified of letting go, knowing the mirror would get dirty again if it fell.