My fingers brush the ledge, the tips of my boots barely touching the cavern floor, the rest of me teetering over an open pit.
I wobble and throw myself backwards onto my pack. Any other expedition, and I’d have gone home already. But returning empty-handed isn’t a mere academic failure this time. This time, the fate of humanity is at stake.
I know. It sounded stupid in the proposal, too. But this isn’t just any artifact.
Muscles shaking, I get to my feet and glare at the gap. I’m so close I can see its light reflected on the ceiling of the chamber above—I just have to get up there.
Only one thing left to try.
I shed everything with weight, and before I can talk myself out of it, I’m running as hard as I can, flinging myself through the air, arms outstretched—all in. My hands smack solidly on stone. I scrabble up, dragging myself to safety against a large boulder.
On top of which rests a glowing silver mirror.
Breath ragged and hands shaking, I grip the frame and raise it to my face. “Show me my true worth,” I whisper.
I wait for the image to change, to reveal my soul’s hidden value, to transform me into someone beautiful or rich or successful.
But nothing happens.
I wait longer. Still no change.
Eventually, it dawns on me that it won’t, no matter how long I look.
That’s when I start to cry. Not because the mirror is a fake, but because it works. Humanity isn’t ready for this. What will happen to society when people learn that true worth can’t be earned or bought—that they already have it?
This story is part of No Novel November, a daily microfiction challenge. If you'd like to know more and/or join in, click here.