Literary Fiction bookworm portals

In a Better Place

By H.L. Fullerton
Feb 22, 2019 · 684 words · 3 minutes

Ice cream

Photo by Dev Benjamin via Unsplash.

From the author: A bookworm searches for a portal...and finds one. Sort of.

Mira slouched at her kitchen table, devouring peanut-butter-covered toast and a YA fantasy novel intended for someone a quarter of her age. Upon reaching the last page, she slammed the book shut, jealous of the protagonist. If only she could step into a new life as easily as she slipped into her favorite characters' heads.

Alice wasn't the only one who could go through the looking glass. If Lucy could climb into a wardrobe and find a fantastic world, well, then, so could Mira Schrank. For years, she'd been escaping into books, why not discover “Mira's Best Reality” on the other side of her own portal? She stood; resolution making her light-headed. Her hand flew out to steady her; her fingertips landed on the book's dust jacket like a mosquito at a picnic. An ordinary-looking door had saved that princess. To save herself, Mira just needed to open one of her own.

She scanned her kitchen. Plenty of doors to choose from: the double-bolted, back door which led to a small weed-stricken patio; the archway to her living room through which she could see her dragon of a sofa; the door to her cellar; her refrigerator door festooned with faded postcards from foreign continents; fourteen cabinet doors and, if she wanted to Sylvia Plath it, her oven door.

Mira had never liked The Bell Jar. So, no oven.

She dismissed the cabinets immediately. She wanted a BIG life. And the archway, she walked through that all the time and nothing ever changed. Besides, she could see what was on the other side and Mira decided, just now, that the secret to life-changing portals was that you mustn't suspect what was waiting for you. She never understood those people who read the last page of a book first. How boring to know how things would end. If you knew, all the delightful mystery disappeared.

She wouldn't choose the cellar door either. It had a dirt floor and whoever heard of something good happening in a basement? Mira didn’t want her brave, new world to be underground. Worlds like that could collapse with one good shake of the earth.

Lips pursed, her eyes wandered from the patio door to the refrigerator door.

“The ordinary becomes the extraordinary,” Mira said and stepped in front of her fridge. She took a half breath and wiped her palms on her jeans. She was going to do it. This was her big moment. But– was this what she wanted to wear for her debut? Maybe she should change first... Her old prom dress did look sort of like a ball gown.

“Oh, just go,” she told herself. Hands up, as if she were waiting for someone to pass her a basketball or steal her wallet, she closed her eyes and took a giant step forward. She tried not to think about concussions. She mumbled, “It's only my impression of a door. It's solid because I make it so.”

Something hugged her shoulders. Her step faltered, but she soldiered on. Then cold air stung her lungs. She opened her eyes, curious what her new reality looked like.

It looked like the inside of a refrigerator. Smooth white walls rose like cliffs on three sides.  She teetered on the edge of a shelf, steadied herself against a jar of mustard. Her hand barely covered the 'M' imprinted on its side, the top of her head level with the striped lip of its lid. She'd shrunk– like Alice on mushrooms. 

She craned her head. There was her butter in its own little castle. The milk and orange juice standing guard above her. Last night's chicken ratatouille securely wrapped in tinfoil, a small mountain range to the south.

“Hello?” she called.

No one answered. She huddled next to the light bulb for warmth and waited for the butter to sing or the milk to cough. She waited and waited... and nothing happened. She got cold and kicked her way out. Feet first, she was reborn into her kitchen.

Lying on the linoleum, Mira wondered if maybe her fantastic was hiding in the living room.

This story originally appeared in Lakeside Circus.