If you haven’t read “One Way: Part 1,” I would highly recommend you do that before proceeding. Otherwise, here is Part 2!
“. . . have a portal creature.”
Another high voice. Why do these huge serpents have such squeaky voices?
Eirikur swims to the other side of the house, the place farthest from the door, and starts poking something with his nose. More light streams in––he’s uncovering the windows. Enormous windows, big enough for a sea serpent to fit through. Goodness, you could fit a whole family through that window.
The door stone keeps shifting. “You know . . . against our code . . . house them,” the squeaky voice continues. “. . . abominations . . . must be executed.”
Brynhildur pushes the bubble toward the window. Her voice is softer than normal but just loud enough for me to hear without the hearing aid. “You mean ‘eaten.’”
“Eaten?” I shriek. Just as I thought when I first saw Eirikur and Brynhildur––I’ll end up in a huge reptilian stomach.
She lifts the bubble onto her nose and balances me there. “Kalfr uses some parts of the code and ignores others, such as the fact that portal creatures must be either exiled or executed. Not eaten.” Then she tosses me through the window.
My stomach lurches, and this time, my dentures do fall out. I let out an undignified scream before thumping against the pebbles. I lay on the floor of the bubble for a moment, breathing heavily, trying to find my dentures. There. I stick them back in my mouth and swallow hard. Never again.
Brynhildur and Eirikur swim through the window, and then Eirikur wraps me in his coils like he did when I first arrived. This time, I welcome it.
“Next time,” I gasp, “give me a warning before you toss me.”
“You’re welcome for saving your life.” Brynhildur aggressively swims upward.
Eirikur follows more slowly, still keeping part of his scaled body wrapped around me. It must be difficult to live without arms or hands. I never realized how much I appreciate these old things, even though mine are so brittle they could break anytime.
A high-pitched scream splits the air. Oh, that must be Kalfr. He seems like such a temperamental young serpent.
The city looks nice from up here, much nicer than when I first got here. It seems at some point I became attached to it. “Are we going toward the portal?” I say.
“Yes, of course.” Brynhildur’s body wriggles as violently as the force of her words.
“There’s no need to get your panties in a wad!” I glare at her even though she can’t see me because she’s facing upward. “I would have my glasses if not for that horrid fall.”
“Please stop arguing,” Eirikur says. “We don’t have time.”
Then there’s a great rumbling sound. I stare down at the world beneath me through the bubble. The house we just came from is falling, the stone cracking, hitting the pebbles and disturbing sand.
I gasp. “Did he just––?”
Brynhildur shrieks, confirming my fear.
“He destroyed your house.” My stomach is hollow. Here I am fighting for the rights to my house, and they lost theirs because of me. I should apologize, say something, but all I can do is stare at the remains of the life that they used to have. Their home taken away because of another. Maybe the sea serpents and I aren’t so different after all.
“. . . can’t hide . . . ,” presumably-Kalfr shouts. Now another sea serpent is swimming toward us. Even from far away, I can tell he is enormous, dwarfing the two serpents with me.
I suppose Eirikur and Brynhildur will have to worry about their house later. I wish there was something I could do to help.
“. . . your fault,” Brynhildur hisses.
“It’s not my fault! I didn’t ask to come here!” I cry.
“Not you. I was talking to my mate.” Her voice is sharp enough to slice through scales. “You left the portal open!”
I stare up at the swimming serpent. “What did you say?”
She ignores me. “She’s not supposed to be here, but now she is, all because you forgot––”
“. . . sorry!” Eirikur strains to keep up with his wife. “. . . just looking, and––”
“You’re the reason I fell?” My mouth gapes. “You opened a door between our worlds to trap helpless, unsuspecting people?” If not for him, I would still be in my world. I would be defending my home.
“No!” he says, loud enough for me to hear all his words “I mean––it wasn’t random. The portal was already there. I just opened it.”
“You still––” I huff. “But you said no one can go through the portal. If you can’t go through, why did you open it?”
“. . . trying to see . . . your world was like.” Eirikur at least has the sense to sound sheepish. “I’m sorry . . . didn’t think . . . what would happen if––”
“If some helpless person accidentally fell in? Well, think about it next time,” I snap. To think I actually felt sorry for them because I was the reason their house was destroyed. Well, if he hadn’t done this in the first place, their house would be fine.
“I think it’s high time for you to be quiet, young serpent.” We’re almost there. I can see the portal, a shimmering blue oval that looks suspiciously like a puddle.
Then I look down. Kalfr is much, much closer and still blurry. His yellow eyes gleam up at me.
“So there is the portal creature.” I wouldn’t mind it if he spoke softer so I wouldn’t have to hear his squeaky voice. “Much less appetizing than I thought it would be.”
I let out a huff. “I know I’m old. Trust me. Don’t you know it’s not politically correct to say anything about it?”
“If this works,” Eirikur murmurs, “goodbye, Adelaide, and I’m sorry.” Then he hurls himself at the portal. We slam against it so hard my teeth rattle before bouncing back.
I’m still here. They were right––it’s impossible to escape. Scraping my dentures off the floor of the bubble, I stare at the seemingly-flimsy circle trapping me in this world. “It didn’t work,” I whisper.
Eirikur’s yellow eyes are closed, and I can almost see pain etched into his facial scales.
“Of course it didn’t work.” Kalfr is swimming so close to us that each of his sharp teeth look about the size of my body. I don’t want to be caught between those sharp teeth, no thank you. “You’re trapped here now, you disgusting creature. You’re going to die.”
I can hear him just fine thanks to his squeaky yells, but that doesn’t mean I can’t have a little fun. “What was that?” I say, rubbing my ear. “Speak up, young serpent.”
His eyes are like blurry beacons. “I said, you’re going to die––”
“I’m going to fly? Goodness me, this has been quite a strange day!” I have to keep myself from grinning. Now is not the time.
His scales ripple, giving him an even more menacing appearance. “You ridiculous creature! You will die. It’s over for you.”
At least I had some fun in my last moments.
“No, it’s not.” Brynhildur’s scales flare to match his. Is she actually standing up for me? Against this hideous and powerful creature, nonetheless?
“Come now, Brynhildur. You know the portal won’t open,” Kalfr says. “It’s one way. Just give the creature to me, Eirikur, and I won’t tell the Code Enforcers about what you did.”
I suddenly feel very small in my bubble, even smaller than I had felt before––small and fragile. Easily crushed. Easily dropped.
Why should they save me? I snapped at them, insisted on having my own way, and even got their house destroyed. Yes, it’s Eirikur’s fault I’m here in the first place, but what if he decides that I’m not worth it?
I’m just an old lady that no one loves anymore, waiting to die.
Eirikur is silent. He’s going to hand me over any moment.
I clench my jaw. I will not go out like this. “You won’t have me without a fight,” I say, shaking my bony fists at Kalfr. “And you had better pay for destroying their house. That was a terrible thing to do, young serpent. Absolutely horrible. Where are your manners?”
“How dare you talk back to me!” Kalfr squeaks. “You insolent creature! I could take your oxygen with a touch. You must know that. Your precious bubble? Eirikur gave it to you, but I can take it away.”
I inhale sharply. “How dare you do such a thing! This is my personal bubble––”
Kalfr leans toward us so that his nose nearly brushes the bubble. Brynhildur lets out a cry and dives toward him, slamming into him with her body and knocking him away from Eirikur and me. Kalfr screeches, and then they begin to wrestle. I can barely make out their biting each other’s scales and contorting their serpentine bodies, though I’d really rather not see it at all. But Kalfr clearly doesn’t want to be there. He’s working his way toward us, toward the portal.
I gaze up at Eirikur but can only see the blurred profile of his scaly jaw, not his eyes. He must be awfully angry at me. “There’s no way to get through?”
“Not that I know of.”
“I could try anyway,” I say. “Maybe it’s you serpents are the problem. I’m aged and wise, you know.” But we both know that’s a lie. I’m not wise; I’m just an old fool.
“No,” he says. “. . . repels any creatures. Other humans . . . tried.”
This can’t be the end. Kalfr and Brynhildur continue to wrestle. I don’t know wrestling very well––such a strange sport, lots of grunting and sweating and getting in people’s personal space––but I can tell Brynhildur’s losing.
“. . . one possibility.” Eirikur gazes at the portal. “My scales might . . . hard enough . . . make a temporary gateway . . . to break through.”
“Really?” My voice cracks. Goodness, now I sound like a little girl. Maybe I ought to start wearing pigtails again.
Brynhildur cries out. My heart seizes. Kalfr is swimming toward us with murder in his yellow eyes.
“Only one way to find out,” Eirikur says. Then he presses his tail against the portal.
At first there’s nothing. There’s only the sound of Kalfr swimming, the vibrations against my bubble, the cold fear in my throat. Then there’s a cracking sound, a scream, the scents of fire and burning flesh. Eirikur’s body convulses, shaking me with it, and he almost drops me. And there––a crack in the portal. A glimpse of gray sky.
“No!” cries Kalfr.
“I’m sorry,” Eirikur grunts before he flings me upward.
“I––” The bubble shatters as I soar through the portal and flop onto wet concrete.
Smoke in the weeping sky. The sounds of footsteps and car horns thrumming against my ears. The taste of regret bitter in my mouth.
Was it real? It had to have been real. It was so vivid. So––
My glasses. They’re not here. I touch my ear––no hearing aid either. My walker is nowhere to be found. And I’m drenched from head to toe. That’s not just from the rain.
It’s real. It must’ve been real. But now I have to go shopping. There goes my Social Security money for the month.
Just to make sure, I poke the puddle. My hand meets solid concrete. They must have closed the portal.
I was trying to say I was sorry. But I couldn’t. I didn’t have time––or maybe I did have time, but I didn’t use it well. Now they’ll never know.
A pedestrian is leaning over me, a young man in his thirties with rain-splattered glasses. “Ma’am, are you okay?” He reaches out a blurry hand.
No. I’m not okay. I will never be okay, not without knowing if Eirikur and Brynhildur are all right. How did I come to care about them so deeply in such a short period of time?
I let the young man pull me to my feet and almost fall over. No walker. This will make things quite difficult. Perhaps I should go to the store before I make sure my house is still mine.
Eirikur and Brynhildur lost their house while I’m over here saving mine. I swallow hard. I don’t deserve their kindness.
Tears slip down my wrinkled cheeks.
“. . . need assistance, ma’am?” The man is still standing next to me. I forgot that I was still holding onto his hand. Quickly, I let go, then totter.
“. . . help you,” he says. “Where . . . going? . . . lean on me.”
I almost snap that I don’t need anyone’s help before realizing that I do. I needed it from those two sea serpents, and I need it from this stranger. “Thank you, young man. That would be lovely.”
He leads me down the street. I hardly even care that I’ll look like such a wrinkled old mess when I reach Greg’s apartment. All I can think about is Greg, my selfish, unhappy son.
He doesn’t deserve kindness either. But maybe that’s the point.
What would happen if I loved Greg again?
“Are you okay, ma’am?” the man says, loud enough for me to catch all the words.
I stare at Greg’s apartment building and smile. “Yes,” I say. “I think I am.”
Older protagonists tend to be rare, especially in fantasy stories, and I wanted to change that, so fesity Adelaide Firth was born. I really enjoyed exploring her story, and I hope you did too!
Here is a collage I made for “One Way.”
I don’t plan on ever continuing Adelaide’s story, but I might write a story featuring Eirikur, Brynhildur, and Kalfr, explaining what happened after Adelaide came. That would be fun.
If you want to see a different interpretation of this prompt, check out my friend Laura’s “Through the Puddle”! It’s about someone who fell through a puddle and was never the same.
So, what about you? Can you come up with a story, five sentences or less, based on this prompt? Leave it in the comments!