(From the Writer’s Digest Writing Prompt Portal Games)
“You know how this goes, Banks. Give me your badge and gun. Until the internal investigation is complete, you’re on administrative leave.”
My captain looks solemn and regretful as he says the words to me. My hands are trembling and my palms are sweaty. I take a deep breath the steady myself, then slowly hand over my hardware. I struggle to swallow the knot in my throat. “Anything else, sir?” I manage to say in a hoarse voice.
I see the corners of his eyes soften. “No. You’re dismissed.”
I nearly bolt for the door, walking to my car as quickly as I can without running. The day couldn’t get any worse. When I went through the police academy, I always thought I was prepared to do what I had to in order to survive if a call got hairy, but I never realized how hard it would be once the trigger got pulled. And as with every officer involved shooting, there would be an internal investigation. In the meanwhile, I get to try to pull my soul back together while the head shed does their Monday morning quarterbacking.
I put my car in park, realizing that I’ve arrived to my house, though I don’t remember the drive. I grip the steering wheel tightly, feeling hot tears making their tracks down my cheeks. I may well have saved my partners life, but that couldn’t take away the guilt I felt for ending someone else’s. I lean forward, my forehead resting on my hands as the day’s events play over and over in my mind.
The sound of rain pattering against the roof and windshield of the vehicle brings me out of my thoughts and back to myself. At that moment I want nothing more than to change into my fluffy bathrobe and eat a pint of Ben & Jerry’s while binge watching my latest Netflix addiction. Anything to get my mind off of my current situation. With a sigh, I gather my work bag and keys before jumping out of my car and darting to the front door.
I slip the key into the deadbolt, unlock it, then swing the door open. The sight before me makes me blink in confusion. My living room isn’t there, but rather an open desert valley, broken up by cacti and mesquite. A fire blazes under a large cauldron, around which half a dozen creatures—minotaurs?—stand, chanting in a harsh sounding language.
“You have got to be kidding me,” I mutter. I shake my head to clear the images, but the huge creatures remain. The chanting stops as they notice me, and with a snort out of its bull-like nose, the closest one charges toward me. I jump back, yanking the door shut and stumble back from the entryway. I hardly take notice of the rain on my head, dripping down my back, as I wait for the angry minotaur to burst through the door at any moment.
When nothing happens after a minute, I step back up to the door, taking my keys from where they still dangle in the lock. I clench my car key in my hand, ready to use as a weapon should the need arise, and tentatively reach for the door handle. As the door opens on silent hinges, I squint at the brightness before me. A clear blue sky above bright snowy slopes greet me, a frigid breeze adding extra chill to my soaked body.
Ahead of me, I see two bundled figures on skis, making parallel tracks through the pristine snow. One glances my way and lifts a hand in greeting. Stunned, I wave back. Just what is going on here? Is this for real? I reach down and touch the snow, gather a handful up into a ball. It chills my fingers, slowly melting in my palm.
I close the door on the winter landscape, half expecting the snowball in my hand to disappear as the portal vanishes, but it doesn’t. I look back up to my home’s front door, my mind struggling to accept what my eyes had seen. I reach for the door again, wondering if my living room would greet me this time.
It was not to be.
The view before me took my breath away: a lush meadow, filled with knee-high grass and wildflowers and edged by forest. Snow capped mountain peaks are every direction, and the air smells fresh and clean, as if never impacted by humanity’s pollution. It’s everything I would imagine paradise to be.
I step inside the doorway, feeling the grasses brush against my legs. My hand grips the doorknob tightly as my mind spins. I always wished to live in a place as this, and now it has been presented to me, delivered my very doorstep.
The events of today rush back through my mind, and I wonder what the investigation would decide. Ever since the riots in Missouri and Baltimore, everyone in my department has been on edge. Even if the results would be in my favor, there’s no telling what the public would decide to do. Would they riot from this incident too? Would they condemn me even if I’m cleared?
I glance back over my shoulder, to my front walkway where the rain still pours down. My mind made up, I gradually close the door. I hear it close with a soft click, then it’s gone. My hand feels nothing but air as I reach for where it just was, and a combination of panic and excitement rush through me.
I take a deep breath of the fresh air while a smile tugs at the corners of my lips, pick a direction, and set off through the meadow to find my new life.