Our final story this year is “The Third Portal” by DeAnna Knippling. Ever since she had her daughter (now ten), she’s been hearing that the teenage years Will Be Torture and her daughter will suddenly become a horrible stranger, which she somehow doubts. She’s also been hearing all kinds of political propaganda that strips complex situations of all subtlety and reduces them to black and white, which she also doubts. She lives in Colorado Springs with her magnificent husband and daughter as well as a foul-tempered, dragonish cat while she writes, learns to play mandolin, and does freelance writing, editing, and formatting work. See her personal website at www.DeAnnaKnippling.com and her business website at www.WonderlandPress.com
The Third Portal
By DeAnna Knippling
Snow falls onto pavement, and melts. Half the streetlights are out due to budget cuts, so the streets don’t shine like they used to, but they sound the same, with a soft ripping sound every time a car drives past. It’s not supposed to snow here, not here, not July, but that’s the third portal for you.
Henry looks at me, I look at Henry. “She’s not coming back,” he says.
A car sloughs past.
“She’ll come back.”
“She shouldn’t come back.”
I shake my head. He’s right; she shouldn’t. But she will. You want them to grow up, spread their wings, and fly; you want them to stay with you forever. You want them to somehow, magically, do both.
They’ll damage her, just enough that she’ll be helpless for the rest of her life. And she’ll be back.
I go to work. This is what you do when you’ve sent the brightest and best off to a war they can never win. I back slowly out of the driveway. We live at the exact top of a hill, not a big hill, just enough that you can’t see traffic coming until it’s on top of you. This time nobody pops out of nowhere driving too fast, skids and swerves, and leaves tread marks in our neighbors’ yard across the street. I don’t know who our neighbors are, their names, nothing. They have political signs in their yard every year.
They don’t do the kind with simple messages, like “Vote for so-and-so,” but the “If you vote for so-and-so, you’re an idiot” kind. It’s their property, but I can’t help thinking they’re assholes, the kind of three-year-olds who threw tantrums in the grocery store and were never stopped. Maybe they’re just old. The old people we seem to have around now are so passionate about their ideals. It’d be noble except they’re assholes. Passionately ideal assholes. I don’t know them, don’t want to. Why don’t people get to know their neighbors anymore?
Because we already know they’re assholes.
Now, even though it’s not anywhere near time to vote, the signs in their front yard read, “If you voted for so-and-so, you’re voting against war, you idiot.”
Not in so many words.
I’ve lived across from them for years, and I’ve never seen kids, or extra cars in the driveway, or yard decorations, or anything. Just those damned signs. They don’t have a dog in this fight, and I wish they’d just shut the hell up.
Want more? The anthology is available in print and Kindle versions. For details, see the Parsec Ink Page.
Reviews to date:
DeAnna Knippling’s award-winning “The Third Portal” closes out the anthology. The mother narrator is bitter that her daughter has been permanently taken away from the mother to fight an alien war. In her daughter’s body, an alien comes home to live with the narrator, which fails to please the mother. This one might have been the strongest — in its emotional evocation, its theme, and originality, but the ending wasn’t as strong. – Trent Walters, SF Site.
“The Third Portal” by DeAnna Knippling is about a father whose daughter has been sent through a portal (probably to an alternate world). Her body returns with an alien intelligence and the narrator — a man defined solely by his anger — attempts to cope with the change and the loss. It has him trying to connect with the alien, even though he resents its presence. The idea is interesting, but I was never really engaged by it.
– Chuck Rothman, Tangent Online.
What do you think? This story won the Parsec short story contest, which is cool enough, but we thought it also deserved a place in the anthology. It’s ambitious and well written and a very timely topic. Try it, you’ll like it.