“The prism divides humanity into its seven wavelengths,” the angel told me. “Mind, body, shadow, voice, echo, identity, and ghost. Step through the glass, and you shall learn which of these you truly are.”

I thought about what it meant for body and ghost to separate, let alone all of these at once. “Won't that kill me?"

“I can’t answer that question for you,” it replied. “Death is a vague, human expression for things we have other words for. Once you’ve arrived on the other side, you’ll be able to decide for yourself whether or not you’re dead.”

I pressed my hand against the glass, and much to my surprise, it slid right through. As it did, it transformed before my eyes, taking on the appearance of a hungry sea anemone. Thirty-five differently colored fingers wriggled about a vaguely-shaped palm, branching into seven separate stalks at each joint. I made something like a fist and tried to withdraw, but it felt as though it were anchored in cement.

“No. This is wrong.” I pulled as hard as I could, but my arm only seemed to slip further inside with each tug, blooming into a bouquet of self. I looked behind me, searching for the source of the angel’s voice, demanding its attention. “Please, let me go! I’m not ready to do this yet.”

I felt it shake its head. “Then become ready, for the only way out is through.”

“Damnit, no! Not like this!” Without thinking, I slammed my other fist into the prism, and it passed through as a rainbow of blood and bone. By the end of my swing, it congealed back together, but by that point it resembled something more like a coral reef.

At that moment, with my face only inches from the threshold, I knew there was no going back. Though their brambles slid through each other, I brought my alien hands together and uttered a short prayer, begging whatever god might listen for a life on the other side. I remained that way for what felt like hours, weeping, unable to even look at myself.

Then, with eyes still closed, I took my first step inside.

Soon, I was immersed, and I felt myself splitting, unfolding, blossoming. I could sense a trail of feet following me, a trail of eyes watching me, and a trail of hands reaching to pull me back. Part of me wanted them to catch me, but I kept walking forward. I could still hear myself calling out, “not like this,” and I could sense my tongue saying it, though my mouth remained shut. Then it was all gone, and I opened my eyes again-

-And I was on the other side.

“Are you dead?” The voice asked.

“I don’t think so.” I looked down, and every piece of myself that I could remember had returned to its original shape. I had never before been more relieved by the count of my fingers, or the pallor of my flesh.

“Answer me this, then. You have survived being divided into your seven wavelengths. Which among them are you? What aspect is the undeniable true self?”

I thought for a moment on my survival, then answered. “It’s all just a riddle, isn’t it? I am none of these. I am the prism from which all manifestations of self emerge. As long as I exist, so too shall they.”

There’s another world, perhaps, where that was the truth. In that world, I never turned around to see what was still trapped inside the prism, staring back at me with half-dissolved eyes.

Modern science has used kaleidoscopes to perform experiments with similar results.

Certain properties of mirrors call into question the authenticity of any one aspect of self.

Prolonged separation from one's shadow can also prove lethal.