“Do you think that vampire Alice would be able to go through the looking glass?” asks Jane.
“Why would she want to?”
“Let’s say she’s afraid of getting a migraine,” Jane says, “and her medicine was accidentally made out of left-handed molecules.”
Martin thinks. “I don’t know,” he admits.
“It’d be really important,” Jane says, “because you need medicine when you might get a migraine. There aren’t many choices!”
“You can remove every tenth star,” Martin says. “If you remove every tenth star from a starlit sky, you won’t get a migraine.”
The stars twinkle in the sky above.
“That’s true,” Jane says. She nibbles on the end of a long lock of hair. “But what about stars with inhabited solar systems?”
“You prune first,” Martin says. “Delete a few extra stars, to smooth the transition later. You’re fine, as long as you don’t wind up with ten inhabited stars in a row.”
Jane sighs, looking up at the sky.
“Why is the universe so empty?” she asks.
“It’s not,” Martin says. He waves his hand at the sky. “After picking up old Star Trek and Dr. Who broadcasts, aliens are understandably wary of us. But they’re out there. They have special antennae that can turn things to gold.”
“I think you’re thinking of Midas,” Jane says.
Jane plucks a flower. She begins counting its petals. She does not pull them off. She does not chant. After a moment, she says, “You could find the thousand secret names of Santa Claus, and recite them while standing on the tallest mountain in the world.”
“Won’t that summon him?”
“Well, yes,” she says, “but you won’t get a migraine, and summoning Santa isn’t that bad. It’s not like Mr. Hotep or Tsathoggua. He brings presents!”
“Bah,” Martin says.
Jane raises an eyebrow at him.
“I don’t like saints.”
Jane looks scandalized. “You have to like Santa.”
Martin sits behind the fortress of his cynicism goggles. For a long moment, Jane sulks. Then she beams.
“If you can count every hair in a saint’s beard,” she says, “you won’t get a migraine. He has to actually have a beard. It doesn’t count if it’s zero. But it still proves they’re useful!”
“I didn’t say they weren’t useful,” Martin says. “I just don’t like them. But I have to admit that St. Dunstan’s useful in a pinch. And St. Lucia can see around corners!”
Jane wrinkles her nose.
“On account,” Martin belabors, “of keeping her eyes on a plate.”
“Yes, thank you, Martin,” Jane says. She pokes him.
“You can avoid a migraine by riding an owl’s back,” Martin says, “thrice around the world.”
“You need a special owl,” Martin says.
“Every owl is special!”
Martin sighs. He pulls up two strands of grass and begins to braid them together. “I don’t think you need to worry about it,” he says.
“True,” Jane says.
Martin adds a third strand to the weave.
“It’s just,” Jane says, “that if a vampire Alice could get into the looking glass, then at any moment, couldn’t some strange mirror vampire Alice come out?”
Martin adds a fourth strand to the weave. His dexterity fails. Four pieces of grass flutter down to the ground. He sighs and begins trying again.
After a moment, Martin says, “Would the sudden appearance of looking glass world vampire Alice really be so bad?”
“She’d be all ‘eyes into my look’,” Jane says. “It’d be creepy!”
“Bah,” Martin says. “She’d just grab her left-handed migraine medicine and pop back into the mirror. The real world’s scary, you know, if you’re used to the looking glass.”