Complete this thought: “Someone really needs to design a better…”
“Oh no, I am NOT going through that thing,” Desi cried, her dark eyes widening in realization as she caught sight of the shimmering archway. Even at this distance, it was unmistakable.
“We don’t have a choice!” Lance shouted over his shoulder as he ran full tilt toward the base of the hill, his heavy pack bouncing on his back with every step.
Her own pack slapped hers as she followed him a few paces behind. The woods were behind them, hiding snarling beasts with gnashing teeth in the shadows. Their howls urged her on, and she wished they had never taken the shortcut through the trees.
He was right, of course; there had been no other choice. Lance was always right. That was why they had made him the leader. He understood things the other kids didn’t, knew things about their world no one else knew.
When the archways appeared and the grown-ups started disappearing, Lance had been the one to gather the neighborhood kids and lead them to safety in the cave on the outskirts of town. It had served as a base of operations in their pretend games growing up, as it had for their parents before them, and their parent’s parents before that.
The others were waiting there for them. Raja and Howie and Jules and Ollie. Desi swallowed her fear and pounded her feet against the ground, propelling herself ever closer to the mysterious dark stone arch. Her friends were counting on her and Lance to bring back supplies. “What if it doesn’t take us home?” She couldn’t help voicing her fears. They were as much for her friends as for herself.
Lance stopped at the crest of the hill and extended his hand to her. “We’ll make it,” he announced. He had his back to the ghostly shimmer filling the uneven doorway. Desi wasn’t sure if that was wise, but the snaps of branches breaking behind her certainly didn’t seem any safer.
She made herself look from his hand to his eyes. The lack of fear in them filled her with confidence and she grasped his hand tightly in hers. “Trust me,” he said, turning back to face the archway. Desi smiled. Two years she had placed her trust in him. She wasn’t about to stop now. “This might feel a little weird. On the count of three, ready?”
She squeezed his hand for comfort and nodded. “Let’s go home.”
“One. Two. Three!” Lance jumped into the doorway, pulling Desi alongside him.
The portal was like stepping through a waterfall. A waterfall made of thick pudding. Time slowed down as she pushed her way through. She kept her eyes closed, not wanting to get whatever substance the door was made of into them, but she could feel a brightness all around her. Desi was sure if she could open her eyes, everything would be white in every direction.
Where was she going? Where had she come from? This place was nowhere. How was she going to get home from nowhere?
She didn’t like this nowhere place. She couldn’t tell which way was out. Her throat tightened. She wanted to scream but found her voice was also nowhere. Warmth on her cheeks told her she was crying.
There was warmth in her hand. A gentle pressure pulling her along. It was taking her home. She knew this, and let it pull her. Out of the light. Through the thick waterfall that was not a waterfall.
Desi fell to the ground next to Lance. They were both panting to catch their breath. He grinned at her. “See? That wasn’t so bad.”
She shook her head in disbelief. She wanted to be angry with him, but he had pulled them through. She took in their surroundings. “Where are we?” She didn’t recognize the hills. They hadn’t made it home after all.
Lance stood and helped her to her feet. “Home is just on the other side of those hills,” he pointed to the unfamiliar hills in the distance. “We would have come out closer, but you almost didn’t come out.”
“I didn’t?” Her stomach did a somersault when she thought of what that might have meant. Was that what had happened to all the grown-ups? Had they not known how to get out?
“It’s alright,” Lance assured her. “I wasn’t gonna let you go. I had home pictured clearly in my mind, but it’s really disorienting in there. It’s easy to forget where you’re going. Once we get the hang of it, we’ll be able to go anywhere in the world!”
Desi shivered. She didn’t think she wanted to go through another portal ever again. She changed the subject. “We’re really not far from the others?”
“Nope,” he replied. “It’ll be a couple hours walk, but we’ll be home for dinner.” He shifted his pack and grinned wide. “I can’t wait to show the others what a haul we got!”
His smile infected Desi. Her pack weighed heavy on her back, but she was too excited to bring their spoils home to care about the weight.
Notes: Portals are always fun. This wasn’t so much “design it better” as It was “man we really need to figure out how these things work” but whatever. They don’t all have to be literal. The key is that they spark something and get the words going, lure the muse.
My cat decided he wanted to be in my lap the whole time I was working on this. He doesn’t like being held, and he won’t sit in my lap unless there’s a blanket or pillow as a buffer, but he also very much wants to be as close as possible to me. It’s past his bedtime really, and he likes a nest to sleep in, and he’s a little devil if he can’t curl up in a nest and sleep. So I grabbed a blanket off the guest bed and settled him into my lap while I sat at my desk to write. Means I had to sit funny and now my leg is asleep. Ah well.
This is a cool prompt, though. All the tools we use on a daily basis were, at one point, inferior or nonexistent. Someone at some point in the past asked this question about something that frustrated them and someone answered it by designing the thing they were looking for. When you get right down to it, that’s what the whole Industrial Revolution boiled down to.
Is there something in you use or encounter in your everyday life that you wish was designed better? What sorts of things would you improve if you could? What sorts of things have already been designed to be better than others? Use that as a basis for a historical piece!
Have a great day! See you again tomorrow!