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The Crumpled Mirror

Elizabeth Loea

The Estate Press

Copyright © 2021 Elizabeth Loea

All rights reserved

The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.

Cover design by: Elizabeth Loea

Printed in the United States of America

Dedicated to Evelyn Osovitz Peel (August 1918-November 2020), who would have called this book complete mishegoss. Thank you for all your support, Bubbe.


Title Page



The Crumpled Mirror




































About The Author

The Crumpled Mirror

Elizabeth Loea


If you ever get a mysterious note summoning you to a midnight meeting in the forest behind your house, don’t do what it says. Just stay home. If you find yourself halfway up the hill, panting hard, cursing yourself for wearing boots that are a size too small, turn around and go back. If you wander into a circle of burned trees at the top of the hill and if you look up at the stars to find that they are not the ones you are used to seeing from your house—that, perhaps, they are not your stars at all—just leave. Fall asleep with your cat purring on your chest and the TV still airing mundane infomercials in the next room over. You’ll be curious, and maybe you’ll feel a little guilty that you didn’t investigate, but at least you’ll be safe.

Or, if you’re like me, and you’re curious about things you shouldn’t be curious about—if you have a sense that something is not right with the world and that you have a role to play in fixing it—climb that hill. Go into that forest. Find the clearing. Meet the people there, the people who are like you. The people who are like me.

Just don’t come crying to me when it goes sideways.

Vivienne trailed me up the hill, but it wasn’t actually her. She’d been dead for years, and I knew that, but that didn’t stop me from imagining her next to me.

She still looked as though she was eight, outfitted in a pair of overalls and a pair of bright green Crocs, her hair tangled and loose at her shoulders.

The last time I’d seen Vivienne alive, she had turned to dust.

And then, she had blown away on the wind.

I wish we’d left it at that, because being followed up a steep hill by an imagined version of your childhood nemesis is not how anyone wants to spend a night that could be occupied instead by a good book, but I owed to to Vivi, no matter how much we hated each other as kids, to try and find out why she had been killed.

A magician killed Vivienne. I was sure he did. There was no other explanation for how she’d turned to ash in an instant, or for how that ash had moved as though it was alive, even after it settled.

The forest was quiet and impossibly still, as though it was afraid of me making a sudden movement. During the climb, the air had been foggy, mist blowing in across the ocean and flooding the seaside, but the clearing itself was free of fog and of the smell of the ocean. In fact, it was muggy, and I almost expected to hear summer crickets in the trees around me.

There was nothing. Just silence and motionless branches, a nearly empty circle of burned trees stretching like bones into the sky. They were absolutely leafless, a pale ivory until about two feet off the ground, where they faded practically to charcoal.

And above them was the darkest night I had ever seen. There was no pollution, no orange glow of smog over a city or silver glow of moonlight. There was only the deepest, bluest blue I had ever seen. A straight line of five stars stretched overhead, as well. They blazed brighter than any stars I’d ever seen before.

I looked over my shoulder, searching for the beach behind me, and found my home. Far the trees was the ocean. Closer was the thin line of unlit beach houses, and the field of artichokes growing at the base of the hill.

I turned away. I didn’t want to look back at my home. It would break the spell of the place, and I couldn’t bear missing out on whatever this was going to be.

Call me a sucker for adventure. You’d be right.

When I glanced back at the stars, I almost cried. They were different than the constellations of my world. They were huge, scattered across the sky like marbles across a carpet. It was relief that flooded me then, relief that I had finally, finally found magic again.

Next to me, my imagined version of Vivi rolled her eyes.

I still held the note I’d found on my bedside table that morning. Since I’d clutched it on my way up the hill, my sweat had almost seeped through the whole of it, but I could still read the words: Answers. Midnight at the burned trees. Come alone. Tell no one your name.

Something I’ve learned many times over since that day is that magicians don’t seem to like to write in full sentences. Maybe they just enjoy being cryptic.

The quiet boy I would eventually fall in love with was the first one to arrive after me.

“Who the hell are you?” I demanded, my voice too loud. I couldn’t stamp out my anticipation. “Some kind of wizard?”

He said nothing for a long moment. We stared at each other.

Vivi disappeared from my side after an instant, but I didn’t look around for her. I just held the boy’s gaze.

He looked human, at least, with dirty blond hair, freckles, and a brown leather bookbag slung

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