Portico and the Northern Lights
A young Portico sat on top of her bed. Cross-legged and hunched over a book that laid open on her lap. It was an encyclopedia. She had plucked the first volume of the set from her father’s study.
Her long bangs had fallen over her eyes as she read, completely absorbed in the colorful images the text was creating in her thoughts. Without lifting her head, she said: “The aurora borealis.” Her reading pace quickened and her face turned into a study of concentration. Every once in awhile she’d pause for a thought. All these things exist out there…
Paragraphs had been consumed. Words and visions flitted across her mind. Finally, her face lifted. The surroundings were no comparison to the ones she’d been imagining. Walls. Walls everywhere. Not one window to provide even the simplest view. “This is how it has to be,” her father had said to her once.
It was difficult for Portico to understand why the confinement was necessary. Most of the time she felt like the living embodiment of irony. Closed off with the ability to open. Like a bird with clipped wings. Her father feared a threat enough to keep her and the rest of her family hidden away in this… this house with no windows and no doors.
Each room was only accessible by opening. A skill her family possessed. For all she knew, each room within the network that composed her home could be miles, continents apart. She had a feeling each room existed below ground as well. A theory her father wouldn’t confirm or deny.
It was because of this stifling environment that a deep wanderlust often overtook her. In other words, curiosity and a need to rebel led to opening into new, exciting locations.
These explorations usually occurred at night. Fully cloaked in black, she’d pick a place and go. Never with any apprehension, nor fear. The need to see and experience outweighed safety and obedience to her parents. Yet, somehow they always found out. A parent’s intuition, perhaps? Or maybe, upon her return, they could see the glittering remnants of excitement in her eyes.
Portico laid the book down to one side and moved to the edge of her bed. A quick move of her hands later and her bangs had been flung away from her eyes. She stood and quickly zipped up her leather jacket, then pulled its hood over her head. To the nearest wall she made her way and opened.
She called the place she was in now “the gateway.” A dark place, somehow connected directly to her thoughts. The gateway could take her anywhere. It was like a walk-in scry. Whatever she thought of, the gateway could find. Portico had told herself that the gateway was accessible to the rest of her family as well. But… she wasn’t really sure. Her father had never mentioned it to her so… it was best to assume that it was.
The aurora borealis…? Portico asked of the gateway. For a moment, the area around her remained the same pitch black. Then, one by one, little flickers of light appeared in front of her. They had the appearance of stars. Each one represented the locations of the aurora borealis. Some shone brighter than others. Naturally, she started moving toward the brightest flicker. Soon enough, she’s close enough to the light that it stung her eyes. She almost shields them. Instead, she placed her palm in the direction of the light and opened once more.
Once outside, the overwhelming cold bit at her cheeks. Without thinking, her arms wrapped around her chest and she hugged herself. It didn’t help. The chill penetrated her clothes and iced her skin. She thought she could feel frost on her lashes. Her entire body was uncontrollably shivering.
Portico took a step backward, poised to go back home. She hadn’t prepared for this. Then, a sudden swirl of color danced across the sky. Her face snapped upwards, and there it was. That is… brilliant! The thought repeated in her head over and over. With childlike awe, her eyes widened.
Above her, streaks of red, green, and blue moved around a perfect starry night. Bierstadt, Monet, and Van Gogh would fail at capturing the beauty that Portico was currently witnessing. The colors were so bright and vivid that they reflected off the snow at her feet. Her hands and arms reached up toward the sky as she’s bathed in light.
There she remained as long as she could withstand, watching nature’s performance. It wasn’t until her hands went numb that she turned back. Despite the pain of the chill, a wide grin filled her face as she opened her way home.