Portal? Virtual Reality? Imagination Station?

Submitted into Contest #38 in response to: Write a story about someone who finds a magical portal in their home. ... view prompt

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Fantasy Science Fiction Kids

Quarantine was supposed to be a good time to organize your house. I had spent most of my time with my books and siblings instead, and now quarantine was over, but the organizing still needed to be done. 


In that moment I am telling you about, through, all I could think was that I should not have been organizing with such vigour. 


My stack of books tipped forward. I leaned backwards, trying to level out, and suddenly they all decided to follow me. I landed on the floor with shower of paperbacks and hardcovers hailing down on me. I sat still for a moment. My rear was probably going to bruise, as was my shoulder, where the corner of my boxed collection of The Chronicles of Narnia had hammered me. My head must have gotten hit, too, because the wall I was facing looked hazy and wavering. 


I tilted my head. The sun hadn’t risen yet, and I was feeling romantic, so the only light in my room was a candle: I figured that the wall was only playing with the flickering shadows it created. I started picking up the books: Jane Eyre and The Hunger Games off my lap, and A Novel Idea from my right knee. I stood straight and put them on the shelf, stretched and yawned, then reached down for A Flagon of Beauty. The instant that the poetry tome was in my hands, the wall stood flat and solid again. 


I blinked. When it had been wavering, I could explain it away, but now that it was gone… Something had definitely changed. I carefully laid the book down again. Nothing happened. I touched it with my toe, just so that the one corner touched the trim the way it had before. 


The wall rippled. I stared at it, but could see nothing through. I naturally reached my hand out. It disappeared into the wall, and I could feel no resistance. Naturally, I stepped closer till my whole arm was beyond the wall. And since I was following my natural impulses, I took a step and walked through entirely. 


There was a lot of white. A chill wind nipped my face, and I put my arms around myself, only to feel that I was wearing a coat. My legs were cold, so I shuffled my legs closer together and nearly tripped on the ice. Why was I wearing kitten heels instead of sturdy boots, or rather why was I not in just my socks the way I had been? I looked down at my new apparel. The coat looked rather like a suit jacket, only it reached to my knees. A plaid skirt peeked beneath it, ending above my ankles, letting the wind in. 


I looked up. Trees surrounded me, but up ahead was a cottage, and from its windows spilled a warm light. I made my way toward it, ignoring the drifts. 


That her life’s art might not be lost, a lace-maker’s heart was turned to frost.


The voice seemed to come from no definitive place; the wind, perhaps, had created those syllables. It sounded rich and a little old, rather like if a tree had spoken. I remembered this poem. 


I reached the cottage but did not knock on the door. Instead, I went to the window. There was an old woman, sitting in a rocking chair near the fire, her lap full of lace and her fingers twined with thread. Her hands shook. I watched, fascinated, as an intricate snowflake was created by her touch. 


The voice had gone on, whistling around the trees, but now it came clearer, catching my attention again. 


Her fingers seemed slow, when in flesh she dwelt, and would strive to show what her spirit felt.


The old woman dropped her work and flexed her fingers, stretching them, and gazed into the fire. Then she took a deep breath and leaned back in her chair, closing her eyes. The rocking motion slowly came to a stop. Her chest was still.


But she has no hands to hamper her now: what her souls commands will her art allow. And so it seems that she weaves in frost all the earthly dreams that she loved and lost.


The cottage dissolved as the sky darkened around me. My surroundings faded gently into an empty grey. One spot of white light shone, about the size and shape of the door, where I had come from. I walked toward it, and ended up back in my room. I looked around. Everything seemed perfectly normal, even the books scattered on the floor. 


One of my first thoughts was to check how much time had passed. I had read about portals before, and time always got messed up when people stepped through them. The clock read 6:52, with the AM light on, which sounded about right. The sky was brightening outside my window, and when I glanced down at my candle, it was not fully melted across the top. I heaved a sigh of relief. It didn’t appear that I had been gone too long at all. 


A door creaked open at the end of the hall. “Dad!” I ran for him, grabbed his arm, and tugged him back to my room.


“What, Keri?” he asked, disgruntled, probably surprised at my vivacity this early. 


“You’ve got to see this!” I motioned to the wall. 


He looked confused, and I wondered if maybe he couldn’t see it. Then he stuck his hand out, just as I had done, and his jaw dropped when it went through. 


I picked up the book and the portal— I guess that’s what it was— disappeared, then replaced the book and it started up again. “Come in!” I said, pulling him. 


“Keri—“ He stopped, slack jawed as he looked around. I laughed at him, then pointed at his clothes. His beard was rather at odds with the dark grey over coat and wide tan pants. “Oh, Cr—eepers.”


“Dad.”


“Well… what is going on?” 


“Come, look.” 


He jumped when the voice spoke. I explained that it was poetry from the book on the floor, then showed him the old woman. When she leaned back and closed her eyes, then stopped breathing, Dad made for the door and burst through. Just as he reached her, everything faded again. 


“What the—“


“Dad.”


“What? What happened?”


“It’s the end of the poem.”


We stepped back out, and he shook his head, flabbergasted, then set to frowning at the wall. “This is weird.”


“Isn’t it awesome?”


“Does it work with any book?”


“I don’t know.” I picked up A Flagon of Beauty. Let’s try another one.”


“We have leadership meeting this morning, remember? Ask their girls if they want to go with you; I don’t want you in there by yourself. Be careful.” He continued to frown at the wall as he left. 


I put the book back on the shelf, then followed him down the stairs to go get breakfast. Neither one of us said anything about it; I think we were trying to decide if it had been real or not. By nine, the families started showing up, and me and my siblings greeted our friends. Rayaan, an adorable, sweet little girl with red curls, came running to give me a hug. 


“Are we going to play Kingdoms today?” she asked.


“Maybe later,” I said. “I want to talk with Hallie and Audrey for a bit first, so you can go play with Savana and Megan.”


She conceded and ran off. I turned to the girls. “I have to show you something.”


I showed them the poem first, because I knew what was going to happen. They both got super excited, and when we returned to my room, we took turns all talking at once and sitting in perfect, rapturous silence. It was nice to have someone to freak out with.


During one of the silent pauses, I lifted the book and realized that there was a bookmark in page fifteen. “I wonder if that’s why it keeps showing us the same poem.” I stood up and selected Prince Caspian, then slid a bookmark into the page with the illustration of the Telmarine soldier walking through the door. “If there’s already a portal there, they won’t be too alarmed when we show up.” 


The portal appeared again when I placed Prince Caspian on what must have been the sensor. We stepped in, and what a sight was there to greet us! There was a large crowd of what must have been the Telmarines, as they kept eying the large, intelligent looking animals with distrust. The animals were marvellous, but the one that caught my eye was the huge lion facing away from us. He turned just as we were all the way through and looked at us with his deep golden eyes. 


“Aslan,” Audrey whispered. Hallie and I were both silent. 


Aslan nodded his great head, once, and turned away. Four figures stood out from the crowd, wearing stiffer clothing, embracing different creatures, then heading towards us. I recognized them; they did not look quite like the illustrations, nor like the movies, though there were hints of both. They looked exactly the way the book had described them. They said goodbye to Caspian, then to Aslan, and it made tears start to my eyes. Then they approached the door. I wondered for a moment if they could see us, but Peter stopped. 


“Hullo. Where did you come from?”


I glanced at my friends. We were dressed the same way we had been at “Home. That’s where this portal leads.” 


He shared a relieved half-smile with Susan, then looked back at Edmund and Lucy. They all looked back at him. I could see the resolution in their faces. Hallie, Audrey, and I preceded them through the door. Of course, they were going back to their own home, so I was not surprised when it was only us three ended up back in my room.


“Well, it’s nice to know that we can get back even during the story,” Hallie said. 


“Yeah, as long as we are near the portal.” I scan my bookshelves, the excitement over all the possibilities overloading my brain. I grab The Hunger Games and put it in place. 


“Are you sure you want to go there?” Audrey asks. 


For answer, I step through the portal. There was no bookmark in this one. I couldn’t wait to see what happened. 


I coughed. The air was dry and dusty. I looked around. I was in the square that was filling with children. All of them were in reaping clothes. I heard Prim’s name get called. Tired, dull, renewed horror rippled though the crowd in murmurs. Then Katniss comes forward, desperate, volunteering. The emotion of the scene leaves me rooted to the ground. Haymitch makes his appearance. Peeta’s name is called, and they stand together, trying to not show the fear that is trying to claw up their throats. They are led away. 


I wonder what happened next. The story followed Katniss inside. Would they let me? I throw a glance over my shoulder, but neither of my friends is to be seen. I decided that I would look for them later. I march up the stairs, but a peacekeeper stationed there refused to let me pass. 


“Hallie! Audrey!” I holler their names, but they don’t seem to be anywhere in the crowds. Then the big screen lighted up. The reaping from the other districts played, then it went black again. Everyone went back to their own homes. There was a curfew here, I knew, so I hid in an alley, curled up into as tight a ball as I could. Then the real problem hit me: how exactly was I supposed to get home from here? In A Flagon of Beauty, the poem had come to an end. With Prince Caspian, we had been standing next to the portal. I would either have to find the portal or wait till the story ended— and I couldn’t leave my friends, so that didn’t leave very many options. 


When the interviews were broadcasted, I watched intently as each tribute made their appearance. But then District 11 came up. The girl— but there was no way! That was Hallie! She must have volunteered to take Rue’s place. Then the cameras flipped to someone in the crowd. I was surprised again. There, wearing a fantastic blue and orange jumpsuit with her curly hair in a crazy half-updo, was Audrey. She had frozen too, catching the attention of the broadcasters. Then she turned towards the others near her, said something, and gave a dramatic hair toss, covering for her lack of composure. 


Suddenly I felt light-headed, and my mind felt like it was turning over in my skull. I gripped my head, alarmed, but no one around me seemed to notice. Eventually a scream worked its way out of my throat. I shut my eyes. 


Then it stopped.


I opened my eyes, but it was black. I could feel a body on either side of me, and we were crammed like sardines. 


“I’m pretty sure this isn’t in the book,” Hallie said. 


“Ya think?” That was Audrey.


I twisted my head towards one of the voices. "Hallie, what did you think you were doing? Volunteering for Rue? You can't change the story!"


She turned on Audrey. "What were you doing in the capitol? Collecting bets?"


"I was going to steal the money and gift it to you!" she protested. "I figured I could at least keep you alive until Keri got us out."


"Why me?"


"Cause you know how this works, right?"


"Well..." I gave up talking. I tried knocking on the walls around us, but they were all solid. 


A muffled voice came from the other side of one of the walls. “What is that?”


“Alex!” I yelled. It sounded like my brother. 


“What— where are you?”


I took in as deep a breath as I could, considering the sardine factor. “Put the book back! Exactly the way it was!” 


He must have, because in an instant, we tumbled through the wall his voice had come from. He managed to catch me, but both Audrey and Hallie fell to the ground. Zachary was in my room too. He helped them up. 


“What was that?” Zach asked.


Alex picked up the book, knocked on the wall, then put the book back and stuck his hand through. 


I grinned. “Boy, do I have something to show you.”

April 25, 2020 03:38

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3 comments

Hallie Blatz
12:07 Apr 25, 2020

Please keep going! Don’t stop! I want to see what happens when all of us go into hunger games! Or your book!

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Keri Dyck
15:12 Apr 25, 2020

I know! I wanted to too, but there is the word count limit... not to mention that it was almost midnight.

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Hallie Blatz
18:38 Apr 25, 2020

Okay, well you should still write it sometime.

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