I was out for a walk when I found it. It’s not like I was even on duty at the time. I was just enjoying the pre-dawn solitude, a break from the monotony of the day. I used to be a bloody teacher, and now my days are taken up with drills and training and bastard patrols. My nights are more often taken up with intelligence updates, the occasional combat situation, and discussions on military tactics. If I’m lucky, I’ll get a couple of hours sleep thrown in as well.
Like I said, I’ve not always been in the army, of course. Not like a lot of the grunts these days, who had joined up so young, their voices had barely broken. These guys are institutionalised. The powers-that-be never used to allow women to join and, even when they did, I’d never felt the urge to join up. It was only when conscription started was I dragged kicking and screaming into the army’s ranks. Depressingly, I developed a natural aptitude for it. I even got promoted a couple of times, ending up a slightly senior grunt to all the other grunts.
It was an archway; an ancient, stone archway that we called the York Gate. The other side called it the same thing, hence us knowing they had one as well. Most things were duplicated in their world, and this definitely would be. It was, after all, a portal in to their realm.
HQ had been looking for the portals for years, and I couldn’t honestly believe that they’d never discovered this one before. It was right on the local garrison’s doorstep. We’d passed this way many times before when out on patrol; just never at the right moment, obviously.
I was rooted to the spot, stood at the top of the t-junction. I was in the middle of the road, but that didn’t matter. Even if a vehicle did come by at this time of the morning, I could just wield my silver badge at them. Silver badges gave their owners a lot of kudos. We were, after all, the last line of defence against these cruel, evil invaders that poured into our realm.
Each portal was different, that much we knew, and now I’d found one. Me! The street was tight, with buildings on each side, and sloped down towards the sea. There was a full moon out tonight, and the sea – just visible in the distance – was glittering in the moonlight.
The portal, however, didn’t glitter. It absorbed light, looking like a type of black hole with an event horizon absorbing everything around it. I could feel its pull. For a moment, I felt myself move towards it, and I had to resist the urge with every portion of my willpower.
How had they done that? How had cruel beings managed to convert those ordinary, everyday objects that existed in both our worlds into transportation devices? I wasn’t a scientist or an engineer, I was an ordinary teacher. Geography, if you’re particularly interested. Hence me being incredibly interested in what the “other side” looked like. Was it like our world? Did it share borders with the same countries as ours did?
We only found out that the York Gate was known as the same thing in both worlds because one of our soldiers managed to come back from that other world. He was the only one who ever managed it. He escaped from their concentration camp and lasted six hours over here before dying, screaming in agony in the hospital. The doctors said he’d been tortured, but they also hadn’t found any marks on him. It was psychological torture, they said, and he’d kept referring to the York Gate. We’d staked the gate out for weeks before deciding that he was clearly mad. Turns out he’d been right all along.
I almost jumped high into the air when the air pressure changed, and the tension surrounding the portal vanished – as did the black void. A dark green light appeared in its place, and a deep, low rumble began to sound. I could feel it vibrate though my body, and I began to panic. My combat experience against these bastards, who thought they could just take our land and our minerals and our people without asking and without a fight, kicked in.
I crouched down and pressed my body up against a stone wall behind me, hiding myself in the shadows. From there, it was easy to watch the green light flicker and cycle through different shades of light and dark. The deep, pulsing rhythm continued to vibrate through me, and it was so intense that, for a moment, I thought I was going to pass out. But I managed to stay conscious. I saw a shimmer pass through it.
They hadn’t sent any battalions or exploratory parties for over six months now, ever since we routed them in the capital, but they were clearly ready to try again. Both sides suffered heavy losses, but we had just managed to drive the enemy back.
There was no time for backup. They were about to come through now. I couldn’t stand alone against all these beings, but there was something I could do. It was dangerous, risky and downright stupid, but there was a slim chance I could do some good.
I could cross through the portal and see what was on the other side for myself. I could try and slow down the enemy. If it was even for a microsecond, it was a microsecond that they remained in their own world rather than in ours.
I would do anything to protect my world and my species from extinction. That was the word we were all too terrified to say out loud, but it was the word on everyone’s lips. We were being driven to extinction by these savage, barbaric humans, who kept coming here in search of a better world than the polluted, smog-riddled planet of their own making.
No more. No more. I’ll take the fight to them, and damn the consequences. I’ve found one portal. Only five more to go. Find them. Find them for me. I won’t see you again, but do it in my memory.
I put my hand through. I could feel heat against my skin; the world was dry. That was something at least. I stepped through.