This piece of flash fiction won 2nd place on Devin O’Branagan’s writers forum. I’m incredibly thankful people voted for this story. I really enjoyed writing it.
Time flowed differently around the portal. The rain fell slower, shadows lingered for that much longer like they ate up the light. Holli rolled the bottle between her hands. The glass cold against her palms. People didn’t spend much time around the portals. Firstly it was dangerous. If someone stumbled and got caught up in the gravitational pull, they vanished into a different world. A world nobody came back from. A coldness seeped into your bones. Holli came wrapped up, woollen hat and a scarf but that didn’t do much to keep the cold away.
She checked her watch, the move more out of routine than any real need to know the time.
The whole situation was crazy. If her parents knew that she was here, that she’d been travelling to the portal once a month for the last twelve months, they’d have her in a straitjacket so fast that her head would spin. It wasn’t like it was against the law, the local police had even hammered a sign a few feet away from it. The local homeless population was at an all-time low. Holli wouldn’t have been surprised if they threw them in there.
There wasn’t any connected with whatever was on the other side. Messages sent through never got a reply. Technology lost its signal. Nobody wanted to take a one way trip into the unknown.
Holli stood up. The portal had appeared in the centre of a courtyard. A year ago the flats that surrounded it had been filled with people. Now they were derelict. Shattered glass decorated the pavement too low on the floor to be pulled into the portal. Holli made her way down the walkways, getting closer to the portal with every step. It felt like it was tugging at the pit of her stomach. Strands of her dark hair free from her hat drifted up, caught up by an invisible force.
She couldn’t say goodbye. It wasn’t healthy but if there was a chance that he was still alive. Trapped but breathing and safe, she wouldn’t give up that someday they would see each other again.
Holli rolled the bottle between her hands again. A comforting presence. She slipped it inside her jacket and knelt down behind the stone wall and crawled the rest of the way. When she reached the end, a stone pillar large enough to shield her body Holli stopped. She retrieved the bottle, the rolled up piece of paper clearly visible behind the glass and placed it on the ground. It shuddered slightly and flew up into the air, cutting through the air and embraced by the swirling portal. Holli crossed her legs, closed her eyes and rested her head against the pillar.
She made sure that she stayed for about an hour and she wrote that in the letter. Even if time ran differently on the other side, it told him she’d wait. That she’d been there if he sent a letter back. God she wanted him too. Tears trickled down her cheeks and sherubbed them away with the back of her hand.
Thud. Holli snapped her eyes open and turned towards the sound. A bottle rolled across the ground. At first she thought it was hers but the colour of the glass was blue, instead of green. Without a thought for her own safety, she darted for it, snatched it up and scrambled for the cover of the pillar again. A letter, oh god. Her hands shook as she tugged the cork stopper free. She turned the bottle over and the letter slipped free and into her hand. A cry escaped her as she recognized the easy, clean strokes of handwriting.
Holli, I’m sorry I haven’t been able to write sooner. When I tumbled through the portal I got taken away to a makeshift hospital. The trip isn’t easy on the body. I ended up coming back but it was only a month ago that I found the bottles. They’d rolled down into an embankment. I can’t tell you have much it means to me to read your words. It isn’t possible to come back. The portal on this side only takes smaller objects through. Several people have tried to travel back, it ended messily.
You’ve got to move on Holli, I can’t get back to you and it isn’t safe here. I can’t tell you more than that.
Please remember that I love you. I will always love you.
Holli brushed the tears away. He was alive. The knowledge eased the tightness in her chest. Sam, her fiancé was alive. He wanted her to move on. Get on with her life like Sam wanted her to. That wasn’t her only choice but could she risk everything to be with him? Could she tumble into the unknown? Could she live without him? Did she want to?
Filled with resolve, Holli folded up the letter and slipped it into her pocket and stood up. With a final glance around at the derelict building, she closed her eyes and ran into the abyss.