The Fourth Story

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Not a complete story, but I wrote! And if you get the references, then woo!

Caroline discovered the portal in the alley behind the Skyline café. She’d squeezed between the wall and the dumpster, hiding from the patrolling police. They weren’t looking for her exactly, but they’d stop her if they spotted her. And she couldn’t risk being stopped.

As she waited for the coast to clear, trying her best not to touch the coffeehouse wall or the grimy metal side of the dumpster, an unfamiliar sound reached her. It sounded like machines, but not like traffic. She tilted her head and stared hard at the corner behind her.

Something was wrong with the darkness even though that made no sense. She might have left it at that, but the police were coming closer. They were conducting a sweep of the area. She cursed her bad luck and stepped into the black, wishing she’d been smarter than to wear white. Of course, wearing white was expected on holidays like today. It wasn’t mandatory, but it was expected. White was hard to hide in shadows.

But Caroline didn’t find herself against the wall. There was no wall, but a tunnel. The police were too close for her to debate the wisdom of unknown, dark places. She rushed in, with no thought that she might crash into a wall and down a well. And she did so just in time. When the police looked behind the dumpster, they saw no sign anyone had been there.

She ran, perplexed if determined. She knew the streets of her district well. She should have reached the end of the coffeeshop. How far could this tunnel possibly go? In answer to her question, sudden light blinded her and she stumbled to a halt.

Before she could take in her surroundings and the colors she barely recognized, a hand grabbed her by arm and dragged her along. “Hurry,” a boy said. “You’ll be trampled.”

Too confused to disagree and convinced the police had followed, she ran with him. There was so much green. Tons of green and blue in every direction. They reached a line of posts and stopped. But they weren’t posts. She put her hand on one. They were trees. Hundreds of them. Real, actual trees. “How did you get these?” she asked, still catching her breath.

The boy looked at her and laughed. “Get?” He shook his head. “You’re amazed by trees and stand still on the plain like someone looking to be made into minced meat. You must not be from around here.”

She looked over her shoulder from where they’d run. “I’m from right…” Nothing met her gaze but green. “I was…but…”

The ground trembled under them. A thundering noise rolled from over the nearby hills. “You don’t seem to realize it,” the boy said, “but I just rescued you.”
Over the horizon came a line of shadows. It poured over the hills and the trembling earth now shook. The shadows sped closer and became more defined.

Caroline stared wide-eyed.

The boy grinned. “Horses.” He had to shout now to be heard over the stampede. “The great falconing horses of the marauding clans. Biggest horses in twelve systems. They can out run anything. And you’ve never heard of them, have you?”

The massive animals ran by, the beautiful grasses shredded under their hooves. Caroline moved back against the tree even though she and the boy stood far enough away from the stampede. “We don’t have horses of any kind where I’m from,” she shouted back. “Wait. Systems? Where the hell am I?”

The heart of stampede ran by, and neither spoke. They pressed themselves up against the trees to their footing. And for all the time it took for the horses to arrive, it took moments for them to vanish over the next hill. Birds began to twitter again. Caroline looked up sharply. “Birds? You have birds? What kind of place is this?” She pushed back from the tree and stood in the freshly turned up soil and grass. “Is this a trick? Is this a trap?”

The boy laughed. “You must be from a portal world. I didn’t think the stories were true. Just hokey stories my old man liked to tell.”

“Portal world? I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I know.” The boy left the shade of the trees and nodded at the horizon line. “But come with me and I’ll explain.”

Caroline hesitated. She didn’t understand where she was and what to do. Though she had escaped arrest and probable execution. Her world was so far away.
The boy held out his hand. “What are you afraid of?” he asked.

She took his hand. “I guess I’ll find out.”

*

Thanks for reading!

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2 responses to “The Fourth Story

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