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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2171844-The-Copper-Portal
Rated: E · Fiction · Action/Adventure · #2171844
Teenage girl explores grandma's attic and discovers a portal in time and space.
         “Mia, be a dear and go up to the attic, I think there’s an old ball up there for the twins.”
         The teenager cringed inside, but smiled. “Okay, Gram.” She wasn’t particularly fond of dusty dirty places. Mia always fretted when Mom asked her to clean out the closet in her bedroom. Once, a little gray mouse scampered out from behind a shoe box and she screamed so loudly that her father came running up from the basement. I am fourteen years old and about to be a sophomore, isn’t it time for me to push those old fears aside? Maybe, but just the thought of that mouse, ooh! Come on, shake it off.
         However, basements were definitely off limits to Mia. There were too many cobwebs and creepy crawlers especially near the widow which looked out toward the back yard and the swing set she had loved as a five year old. Then, remembering the wasp which landed on her leg as she swung on her swing and seemingly looked into her eyes before buzzing away on his own mission. Bugs, yuck!
         Grandpa and Grandma lived out in the country and Mia was never anxious to visit because there were more occasions to meet with flying and crawling insects. However, here she was in an attic surrounded by old furniture and discarded lamps which looked older than her parents and, that was old. Dad was at least forty; Mom was a bit younger.
         Mia looked around quickly and finding no ball, Mia moved to the window to look outside. Her younger brother and sister were running around the bushes and trees. They were twins, five years old; somehow she had escaped their game of tag. About to surrender to her usual taboos about dust and dirt, Mia decided to go downstairs when she noticed a roll of coins on top of an old dresser. Curiosity got the better of her when noticed that the roll of pennies had no dust on it. In fact, the entire dresser top was free of attic dust.
         She reached out with her index finger cautiously. As she got within a fraction of an inch, a static spark snapped across the short distance and a tingle went up her arm. Mia jumped back, but curiosity overcame fear again and she reached out a second time. This time, she now felt a more gentle sensation, more like a caress. Fighting the urge to go back downstairs, she quickly picked up the roll of coins and looked into the crimped end.
         Mia saw the obverse side of a “Wheat Penny”; she knew that because her father collected old coins and he had a few of these pennies in his display. They were President Lincoln’s 100th birthday celebration coins and the mint stopped producing them in 1958. Now, in 2018, some were considered very valuable. Mia looked at the other end and noticed that the roll was only loosely closed.
         She opened it and looked at President Lincoln’s profile. This coin looked new, but the date was 1959. That was wrong; Mia wasn’t an expert, but her dad had shown her his coin collectors’ guide. She tapped the roll against her palm and the top coin came out face down. She shook her head and saw an odd thing on the obverse side as well. She moved over to the better light near the window.
         Instead of United States of America, the small “s” was missing. Mia popped another coin out of the wrapper and it was exactly the same. In fact, the whole roll contained the same errors, but showed no sign of circulation. Uncirculated coins with errors were very valuable to collectors. A chill ran from her neck down her spine; she wanted to show her father, but he was at work.
         Mom had decided to drive out to visit her mother on the farm; they wouldn’t return home until late that night, but she didn’t want to take the coins without asking Gram. What should she do? Then, Mia noticed that dresser’s mirror had no dust on its glass; she could see her reflection clearly. She smiled and her reflection smiled back.
         On the right side at the bottom of the mirror, she noticed a slot about the size of one of the pennies she held in her hand. Without thinking any further, she placed a penny on the lip of the slot and suddenly, the mirror frame acted like a vacuum cleaner and sucked the coin inside.
         The mirror reflection shimmered, her reflection disappeared and a large expanse of green grass appeared as though she were looking out a window at a pasture. There was something familiar about the scenery, too; it looked like Shenandoah State Park in Virginia. Several years ago, her father had rented an RV and took the family, Mom, herself and two one year old twins, there on a camping trip.
         As Mia leaned forward across the top of the dresser to look to either side, her whole body tingled as she literally fell through the mirror and found herself standing in the middle of a grassy field. It looked exactly like that camping spot from their trip. A warm breeze tousled her dark brown hair as she looked around; she was standing alone in the middle of a grass covered field.
         The attic was no longer there; she had apparently moved through a portal to another place and time? Mia had read some of her father’s sci-fi books and two were about time travel, but this was different. There no machines or visible gateways, just the mirror frame and the penny slot. There were no campers or hookups for campers; in her hand, she still held the roll of pennies.
         Mia looked around again; she had no idea how to get back to the attic. The sun was high in the western sky; it was mid-afternoon and the weather felt like early summer. Trying not to panic, Mia noticed a picnic table and benches in the shade about fifty yards to her right. With nowhere else to go, she walked in that direction.
         Mia was remarkably calm as she looked down and realized that she was wearing moccasins and her blue jeans were replaced by animal skin leggings, Her favorite red shirt, with the turned up cuffs, was now a rough gray material with several tears along one side. When she got to the picnic area she looked at the table and benches; they weren’t new, but they didn’t show the wear that wood furniture usually does when exposed to the elements. Two years ago, her father had bought a table and benches for the back yard. Soon, the rain and the cold weather turned the light colored wood to a dirty brown with several wasp nests under the table, Yuck!
          Hesitant to even touch the wood, Mia moved behind the table and looked back to the spot where she had arrived. There was a slight shimmer right about where she had arrived after falling through the mirror. And, there was another neatly carved coin slot in the middle of the table. Could it be? Another coin slot, but where would this coin take me?
         Looking up again, the shimmer in the field seemed to pulse. Before she could think it over Mia took a second penny, and held the coin near the slot. As before, an unseen power whisked the penny into the table, but nothing else happened. The shimmer above the grass pulsed again and Mia didn’t hesitate; she ran as fast as she could back to the spot.
         Her heart was pumping, the adrenaline coursing through her veins. Would the window close before she got there? Was it another portal at all? Would she be stranded there forever?
         These unanswered questions thundered through her mind as she seemed to run slower and slower, as in a dream. Finally, she reached the middle of this grassy meadow and the shimmer started to fade. Without a second thought, Mia launched her body at the wavering air.
         She quickly recalled her long jump at her first freshman track meet. She had put all her strength and mind into that jump; this time was no different. A millisecond, then another passed as she landed feet first, bent knees, just like in her long jump. However, this time there was no deep soft sand; the wooden planks of a floor stopped Mia cold as she flexed her legs and nailed the landing.
         Mia was back in the attic at her grandparent’s house. When she looked down, the roll of pennies was still in her hand. Her outfit was back as it was. For the first time since she deposited the first penny, traveled to the meadow, the picnic area and back here, Mia finally asked. “What just happened?”
         But, the attic could not answer. She replaced the roll of coins where she had found them and hurried downstairs to find her mother and the twins. Mom and Gram were sitting under the umbrella on the deck with the twins who were drinking a purple colored drink. They were sweaty and panting from there game of tag. Apparently, I wasn’t gone that long.
         “Mia, where were you?” Her mother asked.
         Mia wasn’t sure how to answer. Did her mother know about her journey through the mirror? But, how could she? “I was just hanging out in the attic.” She replied.
         “The attic?” Her mother sounded incredulous. “With all that dust and dirt, what were you doing in the attic?”
I found this roll of coins and teleported to Shenandoah State Park. She remembered that her grandmother had sent her to the attic for a ball for the twins. “Gram sent me there, but I didn’t see any balls up there, just a lot of dusty old furniture.” She felt herself shudder, but it wasn’t from the dust.
         “Okay, Dear.” Gram replied. “Sit down; have something to drink.”
         Mia waved off the purple drink and went inside, took a pitcher of lemonade out of the refrigerator and placed three glasses and the lemonade on a tray and went back outside. She placed the tray on the table and served Mom and Gram each a glass and poured a third one for herself.
         All she could think about was the attic, the mirror and the portal? She was frightened and curious at the same time. How did the portal know where to go; how did it know to get me back to the attic? Why were the pennies misdated? One part of her wanted to find out; the other part felt as though she was covered in spider webs and bugs. Yuck!
         Two weeks went by and on Saturday they made another trip to Gram’s house. School had started and the pressures of studies and sharing stories with her classmates about the summer break kept her from thinking about the coins and the mirror in the attic. Every time she thought about her adventure, she’d shut down the thought. This morning, on the way to the country, there was nothing else to think about.          They were going to spend the night, attend church in the morning and then drive home late Sunday. Thankfully, Mia had finished all her homework except for writing a short story about a personal adventure. The portal? No way!
         She knew she would revisit the attic, if for no other reason, but to see if the roll of pennies were still there. Mia decided to wait until everyone was asleep that night before taking a flashlight, sneaking up to the attic. And, Gram was a light sleeper since Grandpa passed. However, she would not move from the farm.
         In her room, Mia lay on the bed in the dark recalling her excursion to the meadow. Was she in the future or the past? If the future, Mia wondered if people still went camping. Everyone settled in by nine o’clock; Mia waited to hear the sounds of Mom and, hopefully, Gram sleeping.
         The twins were already unconscious by eight and Mom yawned right after that and went to her room carrying a book. She opened her door; the hallway was dark except for the nightlight in the twins’ room which cast a ribbon of light across the floor. For the last time, she checked the flashlight and sneaked past Gram’s room. Mia heard faint snoring; Gram was getting needed rest.
         She ascended the attic steps. At the top, Mia turned on the flashlight and quickly moved across the wood planks to the dresser.          When she stepped on a loose board, Mia stopped cold and perked up her ears. Seconds ticked by in silence as she waited for Gram to come to the base of the steps and discover her granddaughter in the attic. However, a full minute passed and no one appeared.
         The roll of pennies was exactly where she had left it. Hesitating slightly, Mia picked up the coins; this time she felt just a hint of a tingle. Putting the flashlight on the dresser with the beam shining toward the roof, she tapped another two coins out of the wrapper. Mia reasoned that she risked losing the roll on the other side and not be able to complete future excursions. She put the roll down and looked into the mirror.
         Her face looked eerily lit from below her chin, very sinister; Mia shivered. Was this really a good idea? Before she could answer her own thought, she deposited the penny into the slot and the flashlight flickered twice and she lost sight of it as she spiraled through a tunnel of light. It seemed to take a while this time and when she arrived at her destination, she was standing in an alcove lined with large vertical glass windows ten feet tall.
         Across the street a large stone building faced her. She stepped out a short distance and looked up at skyscrapers which stretched up and down a modern city avenue. It reminded her of New York City. There were people dressed in dull silver slacks and tops walking past in front of her; they didn’t seem to notice Mia. She felt the shape of the remaining penny in her hand then searched for a pocket. Her clothing was similar to that worn by the passersby. In the wall of windows behind her, she noticed her reflection. And, there was another slot barely noticeable at the base of the middle window. I can end this trip right here or I can explore for a while but, how long before the portal closes?”
         Mia remembered that last time the timing was very short, only minutes. Could she go further? Well, here goes. Stepping carefully into the flow, Mia walked along the sidewalk keeping up with those around her. After a couple of blocks and crossing two streets where sleek silver vehicles waited patiently for the crowds to pass, she noticed her face and hair as she passed the windows.
         Her hair was still dark brown, but her face looked different as did her hair style. The hair was swept back off the forehead ending in the spiral lace braid; the other females looked very similar. But, she had to look closely to recognize the young woman who looked back at her. Her face was accented with makeup around her high cheekbones and her arched eyebrows curled up at the ends. Like Mr. Spock without the pointed ears.
         Along the way, several people, male or female, would peel off into the structures as the crowd thinned out. Mia kept track of the crossings; she had crossed four since she began and decided that was enough; it was time to return to her entry point. She moved out of the flow of people and stopped on a corner. Looking down the avenue, she noticed green trees in the distance. The sun was over in that direction and the buildings seem to diminish in number. She found herself strongly drawn to see what was there, but she was afraid to delay.
         Mia crossed the street and walked back on the other side. She had noted that crowds on the other side walked in the opposite direction. There were fewer people on both sides now. In a few minutes she was across the street from her portal. How did she know? The glass in the alcove shimmered slightly. How to get across was not that apparent; there was a steady stream of vehicles now skimming down the avenue. They were floating not rolling and each made a low humming sound as it passed.
         Mia decided to cross; she went to the nearest corner beyond the portal. She could see the glass pulsing from where she stood. She was about to panic when the vehicles suddenly came to a halt. Mia crossed to the other side and the vehicles immediately started up again. She moved quickly to the alcove and felt along the side of her two piece dull silver outfit. Through the material she felt a disk about the size of a penny. Her finger tips found the coin; the window was definitely pulsing faster; there was no one close by.
         Mia inserted the coin and reversed her trip through the light tunnel and walked into the attic tipping over the flashlight. It clattered noisily to the floor and rolled around throwing its beam all around the attic walls. Mia literally dove on top of the errant flashlight and quickly turned it off.
         The silence was deafening for an excruciating two minutes as Mia waited for someone to react to all the racket. When no one came, she tiptoed gently down the stairs in her sneakers, shorts and top. All was back to normal as she kept her hand over the flashlight lens, only letting a sliver of light pierce the darkness.
         Back in her room, she checked the analog wristwatch; her trip lasted a little over an hour. Before she forgot, she made notes in her diary. On Sunday morning, in church, as the priest gave a stirring homily on loving one’s neighbor, Mia pondered her two trips from the attic.
         “Love your neighbor as yourself!” boomed the preacher in his exhorting baritone voice. I wonder who my neighbors were during my trip.
         Mia hadn’t slept well; she realized that was very short because she was anxious. When she had gotten to the picnic area, her emotional anxiety increased. She had to run back to the portal and barely got through. However, the second trip was somewhat more leisurely. On the way back to the farm from church, Gram noticed Mia’s being quiet. “Mia, are you okay, child? Why are you so quiet?”
         Mom chimed in. “You’ve been moody all morning, Mia.”
         “I’m sorry, I didn’t sleep well. I have a science test Monday.” She lied. And, I’m not sure of my Biology. When I get home tonight, I’ll have to go over my notes.”
         Another two weeks passed and Mia spent most of her down time from schoolwork reliving her adventures on the “other side” as she wrote in her diary. I hope no one else ever reads this. She would have to work on her emotions now that she had made two successful trips. The wardrobe change on her way to the city and the style of dress intrigued her. Also, she could only access the portal from Gram’s attic; that didn’t help her experiments. While her friends were busy discussing boys and dates, Mia studiously avoided those conversations. Was she being anti-social? Yes!
         Her third visit to the attic was extremely enlightening. Mia decided to look around during the daytime when the twins and Gram took an afternoon nap. Dad and Mom had driven into town to buy groceries for supper and Mia offered to stay back and help watch her sister and brother. She was looking around the dresser for anything remarkable. Actually, she was hoping to find another roll of pennies.
         Mia stepped on another loose board near the wall and lifted the opposite end. Taking an old rusty screw driver, she pried up the board to look beneath it. There was an old bath towel with a black notebook wrapped in it. Mia gently carried the book to the window and opened the cover. Someone had taken notes in beautiful cursive handwriting. Mia started to peruse the notes until the word “portal” suddenly jumped out of the text on page six.
         She flipped through the other pages, stopping only when she saw that word. There were more than fifty written pages in the notebook. She did not know who wrote the notes, but decided to read as much as possible before attempting another journey. Her schoolwork might suffer, but Mia was on a secret mission.
         During the next several weeks, Mia had to really scramble to get her schoolwork done on time or prepare for her classroom tests. Her grades suffered and two teachers actually gave her failing grades during the marking period. Her mom and dad attended two disappointed teachers’ conferences. “Ms. Johnson, Mia is a very intelligent young woman. She’s just not applying herself.”
         Mom looked at her. “Mia, what’s going on? You’ve always been a good student. What can we do to help?”
         “Sorry, Mom, I‘ll do better.” Mia turned to Ms. Albright. “Please give me another chance. I’ll do better in in Math. I promise.”
         Ms. Albright sighed. “I will give two make-up tests during the week. If I see improvement, I will reconsider my recommendation to Principal Jones.” Mia nodded agreement and she and her parents moved on to the next teacher’s conference which ended with a similar agreement. For a solid month, Mia buckled down and reestablished her grades; she had to abandon her study of the notebook and schedule her time more efficiently. Her personal friendships continued to suffer, but Mia was making progress.
         She found that it was her grandpa’s notebook and he had made more than ten sorties through the portal. Gramps found other portals; there was a network. He had starting to put together a map of sorts; however, he died before he could finish the work. Her grandfather discovered that only trips into the future were possible.
         Traveling into the past, he had reasoned, would risk conundrums. For instance, one could travel into the past and conceivably have killed Mia’s mother or father and Mia would never have been born? Suddenly, her “grandpa” assumed a more prestigious position in her mind. She loved him because he was her mother’s father, but now she realized he had led a secret life.
         Where had he been? What had he done on his trips? She had been correct in her assumption that her emotional state determined the length of the trip. However, the notes were incomplete. Why did her clothing change while travelling through the portal? How did it know? Mia intended to fill in those gaps.
         The next time she travelled into Promise City, Mia carried a small digital camera and worked her way outside of the city. There she discovered the Shenandoah State Park but could not find her original entry point. All the camping sites were gone; apparently, no one cared to go out of the cities. And, she hadn’t seen any animals during her first trip.
         Mia literally had to argue with the vehicle’s computer all the way to the park; mostly they rolled and not floated, over grass covered paved roads. On the return trip, the auto car chastised her for daring to endanger the vehicle outside the city. However, while searching around the area, she found a large herd of white tail deer grazing in a meadow. Mia saw grass cropped very close to the ground and tree bark stripped up to six feet above the ground. Could these be signs of animal overgrazing?
         Mia didn’t see any predators, but she didn’t stay long enough in the area. She took more photos and when the auto car actually repeated plaintive requests to return to the city, Mia agreed to go back to the city. Back in the attic she looked at her pictures before she went downstairs; Grams wanted to know about her hike in the woods. From memory, Mia described the hills which stretched more than three miles to a river that flowed back toward Mia’s home in the city. Her grandmother seemed satisfied.
         Soon, the school year was over and Mia persuaded her mom to let her stay in the country for several weeks. “Mia, you hate bugs and other crawly things.” Mom was surprised. “Why do you want to go to Grams’ house?”
         “I’ll be fine. I’m learning to fight the fears; besides, Gram can use the help.”
         “Okay.” Mom wasn’t convinced.
         The first couple of days were torture; Gram had a cold and she didn’t rest at night. She slept during the day and Mia felt guilty leaving if she left her alone. Finally on the third night, Mia got her chance as Gram was sleeping soundly, catching up on her lost rest. Mia picked up the roll of coins; it felt a bit lighter. Having counted them after her last trip she had only fourteen round trips left.
         She cleared her mind and thought about the wooded area west of the city. Grandpa’s notes couldn’t explain how, but the device read thought patterns. Her most recent thoughts would affect her destination. While Mia’s initial trip to the grassy meadow was due to her watching the twins run around the grassy back yard at Gram’s, she could not explain how she had traveled to Promise City that first time.
         Concentrating on the trees in Gram’s back yard, Mia put a penny in her pocket and slipped another into the slot at the bottom of the mirror. Her trip through the tunnel was about the same until the end when there were flashes of bright green. She arrived among a stand of tall trees. The odor of decaying wood and pine leaves mingled with forest flowers wafted all around her. Mia recognized the similarity to the woods surrounding Gram’s house.
         She looked down at her clothes; they were tattered by wear. Her top was part animal skin and coarse material; she was wearing animal fur knee high leggings and she was wearing moccasins of beaten hide. Instinctively, she reached for the coin; there were no pockets.          She tried to stay calm and felt around her shirt; she found her little spy camera and, there was the coin tucked into a slit in the hide shirt.
         She heard shouting in the distance and it was coming her way. Through the trees, along a well-worn path, young people dressed in outfits like hers, ran toward her. “Run!” A girl at the head of the pack screamed. “The drones are coming!” The girl waved her arm at Mia. Without questioning why, Mia turned and ran away from the group in the direction they seemed to be heading.
         After fifty yards, Mia felt the strain of running and looked back. The lead girl ran past her. “Keep going!” She panted again as she ran by. “Pass the holly tree.” Mia followed her; there was a zooming noise behind them, then a crackling sound filled the air, followed by a loud explosion. Mia had to look; twenty yards behind her there was cloud of smoke as the odor of burnt electrical circuits and roasted flesh drifted around her. The rest of the group had disappeared.
         Mia caught the glint of sunlight off a hovering machine, and then raced for the holly tree beyond a small clearing. Behind it, she spied a fence and a ditch dug under it large enough to crawl through. Without hesitating she scrambled under it, felt static electric tingle, got to her feet on the other side and ran into a denser thicket. A hand came out from behind a bush and threw her to the ground. Mia turned face-up ready to fight, but she was looking up at the girl who had told her to run. The girl held her hand to Mia’s lips and shook her head.
         A humming noise filtered through the hedges; the girls remained silent on the ground fifty feet from the fence. Mia heard what sounded like a backhoe moving dirt, but the girls didn’t move until the humming moved away. Mia looked at the other girl; she was still shaking her head. A full five minutes passed before the girl cautiously got up and peered around the bush in the direction of the fence. Mia got up and joined her. “I’m Jackie.” She held out her hand. Mia shook it.
         “Who are you? Are you from the north?”
         Mia was confused. “Jackie, what’s going on? Why are the drones after you?”
         Jackie frowned. “You don’t know?”
         Mia shook her head. “Where is this place? And, why aren’t you in the city?”
         Without answering, Jackie motioned for Mia to follow and they went to the fence. The gap under it was filled with dirt and rocks. Jackie picked up a twig and tossed it; the stick touched the material of the fence and immediately burst into flame. Jackie nodded her head toward the bushes and without waiting, ran that way; Mia, still confused, followed her.
         They ran at a trot for about half a mile to a stand of rocks beyond a small meadow. Jackie led her through a tunnel; Mia saw light ahead. As they got closer, she could see others moving about in a large cave. The cavern felt warmer than she would have expected. There was an opening above and a piece of blue sky.
         In the middle of the large space, a pool of bubbling water, the source of the heat, came up from deep below. Two boys, a little older than Mia, came over to Jackie as she dipped a cloth into the bubbling pool and wiped her legs to remove the grime of the woods. She washed her arms and legs to remove the forest grime and, lastly, dipped the cloth again, waved it around to cool it and wiped off her face.
         One of the boys asked Mia. “Who are you?” The other chimed in, “where are you from?”
         Jackie ran her fingers through her long blonde hair and tied it with a band into a ponytail. “Later!” She shook her head at the two boys. “Give her a chance.”
         “My name is Mia.”
         “Let her settle in.” Jackie continued; the boys stood staring.
         Mia asked. “Why are you living here and not in the city?”
         Jackie looked at the boys again. “Guys, leave her alone; there’ll be plenty of time to ask questions later. Let her rest.”
         “Are there more people out here?” Mia probed. The boys drifted away and Jackie motioned Mia over to the pool. When the two girls were alone, Jackie handed Mia a triangular piece of a mirror and pointed to her face. One glance told Mia that her light skin and dark brown hair were caked with mud and grime. Jackie offered her the wash cloth. Without hesitating Mia went to the pool and performed the same cleaning tasks as Jackie had.
         Mia had stumbled onto a group who lived in the wild. Jackie had moved closer to the shaft of daylight and sat against the wall on a blanket. Mia sat down next to her. “I’ll bet you’re wondering what’s happening.” Jackie stated flatly.
         Mia narrowed her eyes, but she said nothing.
         Jackie continued. “We are outcasts from Promise City. Our brain patterns would not allow programming and we were banished. Now, we live off the land, but if we get too close to the city, they attack us.”
         Mia was suddenly frightened. Brain patterns? “They will kill you on sight?”
         Jackie thought for a minute and instead of answering Mia’s question. “There was strange ager here several cold seasons ago. Do you know anything about him?”
         Mia shook her head. “Ager?”
         “We are all young here. There are no agers.”
         Suddenly, Mia knew what Jackie meant. “You don’t have any old people?”
         Jackie nodded smiling. “When I had seen eleven cold seasons, an ager came here. He returned several times; asked me many questions. But, then he did not come back.”
         Mia thought about Jackie’s story; she had called him, ager, came back, attic, pennies, portal. Grandpa? Pieces of a puzzle were starting to fit. Mia must have missed references to a girl named Jackie in the notebook. When I get back, I will look in the book; if I get back.          Obviously, she wasn’t the first person to travel to this dimension. “Jackie, can you describe this ager?”
Jackie described her grandfather. Did city people have any “agers”? “Why are there only young people here?” Mia asked.
         “The law dictates that agers move to the sanctuary after thirty cold seasons.”
          “The law sends them to the sanctuary after they pass thirty years of age?”
         Jackie leaned her head to the side and narrowed her eyes. Then, she understood and nodded her head. “They leave and no one ever comes back.”
         Mom and Dad could not live here. “How did your ager avoid the law?”
         “He was with us and they ignore us. But when he had to leave, we always brought him to the city.” She shrugged. “Three cold seasons ago, he left again, but never returned.”
         The portal in town is the only way back. Where is that grassy field portal? “Why was the drone chasing you?”
“We are declared outcasts by the Founders, but we needed supplies and found a warehouse open, but before we could take the food, the drone chased us.”
          “Who are the Founders?”
         Jackie shrugged again. “The Founders determine what we say; what we do; what we think. When we could not comply, they banished us. There are others further north and west. In order to survive we keep our groups small. Yesterday, we lost many. It is time for us to join with others; we will probably go west.”
         Mia snapped several photos of the small tribe and their living quarters. The group didn’t seem bothered by her actions. She wondered what would become of these young people and, more importantly, how was she going to get back to the attic. Her arrival in the woods surely had a return portal, but how would she find it without encountering the drones? And, there was that electrified fence. “Jackie, how can I get into the city?” Mia looked down at her outfit.
         Jackie understood. “Come with me.” She led Mia deeper into the cave where there were two tunnels branching off the main cave. They took the one to the right and Jackie picked up an electric lantern and turned a knob at the base; the light lit the tunnel walls in a bluish glow as they continued further into the underground hideout. After a while, Jackie stopped and held the lantern higher. Against one of the cavern walls, there was a stack silvery outfits similar to that which Mia had worn in the city. “We won’t need these anymore.” Jackie said. “Pick one that fits. I know that you must return to your world. We can get you to the city border, but no further”
         An hour later, Jackie and two others guided Mia to the opposite side of the city bypassing the fence. Jackie pointed out the avenue where they had brought her grandpa. However, before she could say thank you and good luck, the trio melted into the forest again. Mia was stranded and had nowhere else to go, but to the portal, if it was still there.
         She boldly stepped onto the nearest sidewalk going into the city and blended into the crowd; no one seemed to notice. Mia was only two blocks closer to the portal, when a police cruiser slid to a stop ahead. A large soldier carrying what looked like a weapon stepped onto the curb and blocked the crowd about fifty feet ahead of her. She felt her heart beat faster as the soldier moved toward her scanning faces through is helmet visor. As he drew closer, Mia almost panicked, afraid he would sense her discomfort. Then, she remembered the camera. If they found it they would surely arrest her, but she also needed proof of her trip.
         Mia deftly ejected the SD card and slipped it in the jacket of the person next to her and shoved the same person out into the avenue. The soldier immediately responded by lowering his weapon. The startled girl showed surprise as the soldier moved toward her, scanned her body and held out his gloved hand. The look of surprise on her face was genuine she found the camera and handed it over.
         Mia used the distraction to slide to the edge of the crowd nearer the building and slip unnoticed in the direction of the portal. Were they looking for me? Two blocks down the avenue she was alone and recognized the alcove from her first visit to the city. Then, all hell broke loose as sirens blared and several drones descended from the surrounding buildings. A loudspeaker blasted a command. “Citizens, hold where you are! We have an intruder among us. Stand by for inspection!”
         Across the avenue, people stood in formation like an army platoon. The only one moving was Mia and she dared not stop. A soldier appeared behind her. “Hold, right there!” Mia ignored him and ran. The soldier shouted again and discharged his weapon. The electric bolt crackled through the air like the one in the woods. Mia’s staggered and covered her ears just as the bolt exploded in a flash which did no damage to the stone; it was meant to shock.
         People across the avenue dropped to the ground as Mia covered the last twenty five yards at a dead run struggling to get the penny out of the strange pocket woven into her jacket. Sirens wailed louder as she reached the alcove, hoping that the slot would still be there. Another soldier appeared in front of her; he was moving faster than she. He stepped into her path lowering his weapon.
         Mia did the only thing she could; she dodged left and the soldier followed the feint. Lowering her shoulder, she crashed into the much larger soldier knocking the weapon from his grasp; the weapon discharged, sending a bolt of energy across the avenue which obliterated a huge glass window on the second floor of a tall stone building. The shock wave knocked many to their knees, but push Mia into the alcove where she quickly deposited the coin just as two more soldiers grabbed for her shoulder.
         One second later, the portal whisked her away. The tunnel of light reached out ahead as she travelled through time and space into the welcomed darkness of Gram’s attic. This time Mia tumbled onto the floor, tucked her right shoulder under her body and rolled to a stop. She was lying down on her side panting as the attic light came on.
         Sitting on an old chair, Gram laughed. “Finally!” Gram laughed again. “I was wondering when you’d come back!
         Mia did a double take. “Gram, you knew?”
         “Who do you think transcribed Grandpa’s notes?”

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