Ink Magic

Stories from the portalverse.

#27days27stories Prompt No. 7

It should've taken longer than eight minutes to decide to stay. That's how long we kissed before he asked me when I'd have to leave him alone again, and I said never.

I lied.

#27days27stories Prompt No. 7

I don't get lost, but I wander. With conscious intention, I open doors no one else notices, step over and under arbitrary barriers, and walk down nameless streets. Wherever magic calls, I follow. I explore.

My wandering sometimes leads to bold and awe-inspiring discoveries, and other times to moments quiet and profound. Today was one of those times. I passed a narrow street lit only by the dim glow of a lamp inside a balcony window, and the pull of magic tingled across my skin. Something bridging the worlds lay in wait. Maybe a portal or an artifact, or maybe one of the tiny apartment residents was a traveler.

Without missing a stride, I turned down the street, and my feet automated my steps over the loose bricks softly clacking beneath my weight. The warmth of the lamplight pulled at me like a breeze tugging a kite string, the tugging of one traveler's magic on another.

I stopped below the balcony and gazed through the window open to the muggy night air, and she looked down with wide, curious eyes. All young travelers discover magic through curiosity, and we never stop following it. We can't.

Watching me from her perch, I saw the familiar glint in her eyes that told me everything. Even though her travels had only just begun, she'd never stop wandering. I smiled and said, “It's a nice night to open a window.”

“This isn't a window.” She said it matter-of-fact, because she knew I felt it, too, the vibrating chords of a portal playing in our veins.

#27days27stories Prompt No. 6

I've been stranded before—in storms, in blackouts, in blizzards, and even in a labyrinthine library. But never in a nobleman's wine cellar during a castle siege. We were chatting about our travels over a dinner of roast duck accompanied by my small entourage when a guard sounded the alarm.

Right on cue.

Still believing us innocent guests, he escorted us to the safest place inside the walls and said we could drink whatever we liked. Maybe in jest, or maybe believing it would be our last communion. I was unconcerned either way, and as soon as he closed the heavy oak door, I began searching the shelves.

If my intel was right, and Sal's word was always worth the price, I'd find a bottle marked in an ancient variation of cuneiform hiding in plain sight. After several rounds of cannon fire and shouted curses muffled by the stone walls, I pushed aside the bottle that revealed my prize. Uncorking it wouldn't relinquish fine wine but instead the worlds' oldest known map of portals.

Now it was mine.

#27days27stories Prompt No. 5

Whenever I feel nostalgic, I visit the Farewell Museum. It's a stone building tucked between glass high rises in the heart of my favorite London and displays curiosities collected by the eccentric explorer and historian Edwin Farewell. I can't say for certain, but I have my suspicions he was a traveler to more worlds than one. Unlike me, he didn't limit his belongings to a poultry two suitcases. No, he filled his entire estate with artifacts, and when he ran out of space there, he filled three more warehouses before he left it all to his uncaring son.

His will required the creation of the museum I'd visited the first time on a rainy Saturday with nothing better to do than sip a latte and gaze into the glass cases filled with surgical saws, strangely shaped glass bottles, and mummified appendages. None of it peaked my curiosity until I reached the case of buttons and broaches claiming to span millenniums.

A golden broach embossed with a lion's head and rubies for eyes caught my attention, and I leaned in, searching the edges for a tell-tale sign my mind wasn't jumping to conclusions. And there it was, a tiny but deep scratch that couldn't be polished away, a scratch carved by the blade of a would-be assassin.

I'd heard the story from an old friend, the princess of Wimbledon, when she'd enamored me with the life story of her grandfather and last king before the revolution. I hadn't realized I missed her stories until today when I climbed the spiral stairs into the gallery, walked up to the case, and my eyes fell to the spot occupied by her broach. Today, red felt took its place.

#27days27stories Prompt No. 4

I don't need providence to tell me when my luck's run out. I've got eyes, and I didn't fail to notice three men in trench coats trickle in as I took my time with a bowl of ramen. I hadn't come for the noodles, but I wasn't eager to meet the muzzle of a .38 revolver, either.

After sipping the last drop of broth as slowly as I could, I purged from my mind any lingering hope that my guy would still show. Then I reached for the individually wrapped fortune cookie a waitress had left beside my sweating glass of water, the ice now melted. Just to buy a few more seconds of calm. It cracked between my fingers, and I slid free the thin strip of paper boldly proclaiming my future.

I couldn't call the single word of advice written in red ink a fortune. It was more like an omen, or like shouting the obvious, and I tried to keep a poker face and not scoff at the three letter word twisting itself around every nerve in my body.


But I didn't. I waited for a handsome man with jet black hair and narrow eyes to make his move. Sliding into the seat across from me, he leaned in and looked me over until he gauged exactly how long it would take me to pull my .45 pistol. Then he spoke in a low, smooth tone anyone else would mistake as friendly.

“Hand over the film nice and quiet, and you won't end up as dead as the man outside.”

#27days27stories Prompt No. 3

I've traveled to a lot of worlds and heard about a lot of gods. Some young, some old, some exceptional, some common. I'd say they were all the same if I believed they all came from the same place.

If I believed they came from deep within the human psyche, I'd call them imaginary gods. If I believed they were remnants from the days when Saturn ruled the sky and Mars fought with his electric might, I'd call them sun gods.

But I don't. I don't believe in gods at all.

I believe in people, and I believe people are malevolent by nature, only sometimes against our own will. We hurt each other when we're not trying and kill each other when we are. We destroy our worlds and then rebuild them so we can dismantle them more slowly, more painfully the next time.

If we need anything, it's not a god. It's a Savior.

#27days27stories Prompt No. 2

Whenever I need perspective, I walk the bridge between two worlds. That's not a metaphor. The bridge at Canyon Creek is one of the few places I know where the worlds on either side of a portal are nearly identical. If I didn't know the beams held two sets of iron tracks, if I couldn't feel my atoms tingle as I crossed, I'd never know I'd left one world and entered another.

At the end of the bridge, before stepping onto solid ground, I paused and listened. Because the worlds weren't the same. Despite the matching vibrancy of the maple leaves in the fall to the shrill chirp of chickadees in the spring, I'd only heard a train whistle on one side of the parallel worlds. The other was eerie silent as if a ghost train haunted the tracks on moonlit nights.

Today I heard nothing but the whisper of water beneath my feet.

#27days27stories Prompt No. 1

Sitting in the corner of the La Petit Cafe patio, I'm not sure what intoxicated me more, the lustful spring breeze jostling the hair around my shoulders or the lines of poetry holding me captive in their bittersweet soliloquy. I'd read line after line, turned page after page lost in another world blissfully unreal, and I'd failed to notice the lunch rush begin to hem me in. Not until someone bumped the corner of my table and the checkout card I used as a bookmark fluttered to the ground.

I looked up as the man who'd disturbed my poetic trance, older but distinguished by a well tailored suit and polished black shoes, bent to pick up the card and hand it back to me. His eyes flicked from the date stamped at the bottom of the list to me, and he smiled.

“A little overdue, I see.”

“Just a little.” I forced a smile in return and reclaimed my bookmark, tapping it against the open page. “But worth it.”

Nodding, he turned away and disappeared into the steady stream of suits and skirts passing by on the brick sidewalk. Had he noticed the year? I'd borrowed the book exactly three years and two days before, from a library I'd never return to in a world I'd never traverse again. I couldn't. Not because I'd forgotten where to find the portal or because anything or anyone unsavory waited on the other side. I couldn't bring myself to revisit what I knew I'd never get back.

Once in a while, on days like today, I took the time to remember what I'd lost, but it was always a passing mirage. The memory of my first home—my only home. The only place I'd ever stayed long enough to send postage with a return address or keep a houseplant or build a bookshelf or faithfully borrow and return a library book. Or find a kindred spirit.

It didn't last.

I can't stay in one place for long. I know that now because I learned the hard way. My only belongings fit in two suitcases, one for books and one for everything else. Despite only keeping what I can carry, I've never had the heart to trade this book for one of more value. Maybe because the poetry wraps its fingers around my neck and doesn't let go ...

Or because I can't shake the memory of him.

My name is Loraine, but you can call me Rain. No one else does, but that's because I never introduce myself. I prefer to live in anonymity, to wait behind corners and listen, to sit at a park bench no one uses and watch. That's how I've learned everything.

Maybe not everything, not all the secrets of the universe, but enough to connect far more dots than most other travelers can see. “Travelers” might not be the right word, but I like it because it avoids the mystic. A lot of travelers call themselves “sensitives” because they can sense the layer of magic that pulled us all through our very first portal and countless more after that.

I don't think it's magic. After all, magic is just science no one has yet explained. While I won't be the one to explain it, I'm beginning to see how it all works—or at least how the portals weave together a network of worlds not unlike the crisscross pattern of a web that might appear random if you only saw a few connections.

I've seen thousands. I've been to worlds many only consider rumor and others many wouldn't believe existed even if I bothered to describe them in painstaking detail. I won't.

I'll keep it all to myself and continue to watch, to see what others miss, and document what I find for my own enlightenment.

I'll continue to travel the portalverse till the day I die.