I was out for a walk when I found it. I wasn’t even on duty at the time, although you’re never fully off-duty as a grunt in the Defence Force. But I had some time to myself after a night shift, and had gone for a walk as the sun began to peek over the horizon.
I used to be a bloody teacher, for god’s sake. A teacher. Now I’m a private in the Earth Defence Force, like everyone else is, and 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.
I was drafted, but so many kids these days signed up because they liked the sound of the lifestyle. So many of these grunts have barely said goodbye to puberty, I’m sure of it, and as the Defence Force is an equal opportunities employer of cannon fodder, even us girls can sign up to be butchered.
But it was me who found it. The archway was called the York Gate; I don’t know what the other side called it, but we knew from our limited sources that it definitely existed over there too. Most things did, but we could never be absolutely sure. But the York Gate was there.
HQ had been looking for the seven portals for years; we’d found two so far, but never this one. How was that even possible; it was right on the garrison’s bloody doorstep. The purple-yellow sheen glowed in the darkness, and it was beautiful – and also dangerous. I knew where it led.
I was rooted to the spot, 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.
I could feel the portal’s lure. For a moment, I felt myself move towards it, and I had to resist the urge with every ounce 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 a geography. Hence my interest 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 existed there too 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 at the field hospital. The doctors said he’d been tortured, but they also hadn’t found any marks on him. It was psychological, 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 a deep, low rumble began to sound. I could feel it vibrate though my body. 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 purple-yellow 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 another portal. Only four more to go. Find them. Find them for me. I won’t see you again, but do it in my memory.
I ran for it. I went through. Oh my –