There once was a boy in blue who danced and skipped around the edge of a well.
When he looked into the well, he saw his own reflection and he said, ‘Who goes there?’
‘I am the boy who dances and skips around the well,’ the reflection said. ‘Should we dance together?’
The boy said, ‘You’d have to follow me, wouldn’t you? All the moves I make?’
‘Perhaps I am the boy, and you are the reflection,’ the reflection said. ‘How can you tell the difference?’
‘Because I can dance wherever I like,’ the boy argued, nothing like this reflection one bit. ‘I can dance all around the edge of the well. I could skip all the way home. I could hop over the river there and never come back. But you – you can’t do any of those things.’
‘Can’t I?’ the reflection asked. ‘If you look close, the well is reflected here, too. So is your home, the river. Even the sky and the sun and the moon.’
‘But you are not real,’ the boy said and crossed his arms. ‘You are only a reflection, you are only in the well.’
The reflection thought about this for a moment. ‘Am I?’ it asked. ‘Shall we dance together, and find out?’
So, the boy and his reflection danced and skipped and hopped together, over the grass and lake and the mountains, into the sky and around the sun, through the stars and across the moon
When they reached the darkness of space the reflection said, ‘Look there. Can you see it?’
‘See what?’ asked the boy in blue.
‘I can see a forest over there,’ the reflection said. ‘And a house. And some birds. Shall we go? I’ll lead the way.’
‘I don’t see anything,’ the boy said. ‘And even if I could see it, I wouldn’t want to go. I don’t like forests much.’
‘Well, I’ll go without you then,’ the reflection said.
The boy laughed. ‘You can’t go without me. You’re the reflection. You can only go where I go. And I don’t want to.’
‘Please, can we go?’ the reflection asked.
‘No,’ the boy said. ‘I want to go home and that’s where we’re going.’
‘Suit yourself,’ the reflection said with a shrug. And to the boy’s surprise, his reflection began to skip away. He watched as it hopped over one star, then another, and then disappeared into the forest.
‘Silly reflection,’ the boy said to himself. ‘He won’t last long without me. He’ll be back in no time.’
But when he came back at the end of the day to look into the well, the reflection was not there. One hour passed and then another.
Finally, as the sun was going down, the boy sat down to sleep by the well when a voice suddenly said from within, ‘Hello, there. How are you?’
‘You?’ the boy cried, leaping up. ‘Where have you been?’
‘The forest was delightful!’ the reflection said. ‘I saw the most magical things and met the most wonderful creatures. They talked to me, too.’
‘That’s nonsense, creatures don’t talk. I’ll have no more of this wandering off.’
‘You can’t stop me,’ the reflection said. ‘I can do whatever I like.’
The boy frowned at this and walked off in a huff.
When he returned the next day, his reflection was gone again. This time the boy waited all day and all night. Another day passed and then another. On the third day, there was still no sign of the reflection.
Perplexed, the boy went to his father, who was in the yard, chopping wood.
‘Father,’ he said. ‘I’ve lost my reflection.’
‘Well, what did you say to it?’
‘I said that it couldn’t go anywhere with out me.’
‘Well, son, that’s the thing about reflections,’ the father said. ‘They tend to have a mind of their own.’
‘But how can they?’ the boy asked. ‘They aren’t real. I saw him in the well. It was only water.’
‘What do you mean?’ the father said, putting his axe down. ‘Of course reflections are real! They bring about our thoughts and desires and fears and feelings, all the things we keep inside of us. What could be more real than that?’
The boy thought about this, but he didn’t know what to say.
Finally, he turned to his father and said, ‘Well … how do I get it back?’
His father only threw his hands in the air and shrugged. ‘You’ll have to find it, won’t you? Surely you know where it’s gone … ?’
The next morning, the book looked in the well again. There was a reflection there, but it was not the same one.
‘Who are you?’ he asked.
‘Don’t be stupid. I’m your reflection,’ the reflection said.
‘No, you’re not,’ the boy said. ‘Where’s the one that was here before?’
‘Oh, him. He’s gone. Frolicking off somewhere in the forest. I’m yours now.’
‘But … I don’t want you,’ the boy said. ‘I don’t mean it in a nasty way, it’s just that … well … you’re not mine.’
The reflection rolled his eyes and scrunched up its face. ‘Too bad,’ it said. ‘I’m here to stay. You’re just going to have to put up with it.’
The boy had had enough. He packed a small sack with food and clothes and hopped away as fast as he could. He travelled over the grass and lake and the mountains, into the sky and around the sun, through the stars and across the moon.
Finally, when he reached the dark, he once again saw the forest the reflection had seen.
‘I can go in there,’ he said to himself. ‘Of course I can. I’m not afraid.’
But he was. He trembled and shook, but he kept on walking anyway. Inside, the forest was even darker. The trees felt like monsters and there were no stars at all.
He found a little path and followed as best he could, but soon he realised he was lost.
‘I’ll never get out of here!’ he cried. ‘I’ll never find my reflection!’
And then he saw it. The house. It was his house, and it was not. It was a kind of reflection. He raced up to it and shouted and peered into the well, but there was nobody there.
He gazed around him and suddenly he spotted it – his reflection!
It was right there, sitting by a lake, eating a pudding.
‘Oh, there you are,’ the reflection said when the boy wandered over. ‘I was wondering when you would come.’
‘I … I got a bit lost,’ the boy said. ‘But I’m here now. This place isn’t so bad.’
The reflection smiled. ‘It’s nice, isn’t it? Would you like some of my pudding?
After a while, they returned home together. The other reflection was waiting for them.
‘I’m not moving,’ it said. ‘I’m here to stay.’
‘No, you’re not,’ the boy said.
‘That’s right, you’re not,’ the first reflection said. ‘Out, out, out!’
The next day, the boy finished his breakfast and came out to gaze into the well.
‘Hello,’ he said.
‘Hello,’ the reflection said.
The boy smiled. ‘Where shall we go today? Should we go on another adventure?’
‘Yes, let’s,’ the reflection replied. ‘Should I lead the way or you?’
And off they went, together.
(Image courtesy of MR LIGHTMAN at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)