Chapter 1: It sucks to be me

Have you ever had one of those days where you get transported to another dimension, wacky hijinks ensue, but you’re safely home before bedtime?

 

Yeah, me neither.

 

It started about a year ago. An enormous, swirling, dark blue portal suddenly appeared at an international soccer game, swallowing all of the players, the supporters and whoever else was present, leaving everything else intact. The live camera footage showed the ball, coasting on its remaining momentum, roll into the goal uncontested.

 

Technically, it could be considered a win for Belgium, but nobody cared. Well, except for the Belgians maybe.

 

After that, it happened every month or so. The locations seemingly random, all over the world, except that there were always many people present. A protest rally against big oil, a shopping mall on Black Friday, a ceremony to honour the fallen from World War II, even a high school’s sports festival...

 

The United Nations started an investigation of course, but so far, they found nothing. Supposedly. Either way, none of those who disappeared have been heard from since.

 

People started avoiding large events after a while, but not enough that they were cancelled. After all, what are the odds that exactly your event would be hit?

 

Guess I forgot life generally has it out for me.

 

My name's Emma, and if you're reading this, please send help, because I am royally f—

 

 

Pain.

 

That’s my first impression of this place after landing roughly on my hands and knees, on a field of knives. Knives that a pre-schooler might mistake for grass.

 

One side silver, the other bluish green—or ‘cyan’, I guess—the sharp blades prick the skin of my palms, drawing blood. At least the knives grow densely, so my weight is divided over many blades and the cuts are shallow. It still friggin’ hurts though.

 

Nausea comes second.

 

Dry-heaving on my hands and knees, I discover I’m no longer inside the packed conference hall, but instead outside, on a packed field of alien knifegrass.

 

I get up with difficulty and brush back stray locks of auburn hair that managed to sneak out of my ponytail with shaking fingers. My body feels unusually heavy; I really should’ve given that third hotdog a miss...

 

Agh, no, focus Emma. You have to figure out what’s happening, stay on your toes.

 

Not literally, because that would probably hurt like shit on this sadistic excuse for grass.

 

I look up, only to be greeted by two suns—TWO!—one orange-red and one bluish-white, shining down from a purple sky. It takes a moment to sink in before I realise something I find almost weirder than the fact that there are two suns: I’m looking straight at them, and while they are quite bright, it doesn’t hurt my eyes. They just feel kinda warm.

 

Though, apparently, I'm the only one concerned with these astronomical and biological anomalies right now.

 

It seems like the entire comic con got transported over. I don’t mean the stalls or merchandise by the way; nothing but the people. Well, that and everything we were wearing, thankfully.

 

The uniform from the hotdog stand isn’t even the worst I’ve worn. College is expensive, all right? We weren’t all born with a silver spoon up our ass.

 

Anyway, considering most of the crowd is dressed like their favourite characters from their favourite Japanese cartoons, it’s hard to really feel embarrassed about it.

 

It’s not that I don’t like them, the con-goers. I mean, some of them can be kinda cringey, but they’re also passionate about stuff, and generally nice, happy and optimistic people, albeit in unfortunate costumes. Also, they’re not drunk, which makes working Comic-Con infinitely better than working concerts.

 

However, right now, I could shoot them, because most of them are screaming, hugging and crying... in joy.

 

Yelling things like ‘Finally!’ ‘Dimensional Transfer,’ and ‘Power Uuuuuuup!’

 

I mean, seriously?!... At least I understand now why the con remained so popular, with what was going on in the world.

 

“Are you okay?”

 

Behind me, I find Josh, my fellow expert hotdog distributor, his dark locks messy and a worried light in his pale blue eyes.

 

Ah, Josh, that’s what I like about you. Sensible and considerate.

 

“Not really,” I answer. “This... it’s really happened, hasn’t it?”

 

“I’m afraid so,” Josh says, squeezing my shoulder in what's meant to be a comforting gesture, I'm sure. I feel sick.

 

“What even is this place? An alien planet? Another alternate universe? Russia’s secret underground experimentation facilities?” The media had been spouting off theories like crazy for the past year, judging from what I see around me, these appear most likely. All right, maybe not that last one. Can’t blame me for being paranoid right now.

 

“I don’t know,” Josh says, standing up a little straighter to look over the crowd with his brows drawn together. You’ll get wrinkles like that, Joshy... though I admit that should be a low priority right now.

 

Because of the mass of people around us, I attempt to get on my tiptoes to look around.

 

And now there are tips in my toes, because I am an idiot, and already forgot that this was supposed to be a bad idea. Grass blade tips, poking through the nose of my shoe, to be precise.

 

Wincing, I carefully rock back down onto my heels and settle for craning my neck; I’m relatively tall, standing at 5’9’’, so it’s enough for me to get a glimpse over the crowd.

 

My stomach sinks when I see it: a giant grey wall. And worse, as I turn, wall meets my eyes from every direction. Six walls, to be precise; it’s a hexagon. We’re like cattle in a giant pen.

 

Swallowing down the bile rising in my throat, I turn to look at Josh. He seems to have drawn the same conclusion as I, but as he opens his mouth to speak... a cough comes out. A deep, rattling cough. Impressive almost. He frowns, looking around. Only now do I notice the silence. The absence of cheering.

 

The mood of the crowd shifts noticeably. People start coughing one after the other. My lungs feel itchy.

 

“Shit, it’s...” Josh manages to bring out between coughs. He never gets to finish the sentence.

 

A girl in a kimono coughs blood into Ron Weasley’s face next to us.

 

I freeze up as people start to panic around me. Not my best move. I clumsily dodge Super Saiyan Goku who nearly bodyslams me as he tries to get away from, well... the air around us, I suppose. Perfect.

 

I cough. It feels like ants have crawled into my lungs only to bite it from the inside.

 

People are milling about, frantically gasping and clutching their throats. The press of bodies around me is stifling, the smell of sweat and blood thick in the air. Most seem to be in worse shape than I. Probably because I wasn’t screaming my head off just now. Josh tries to shield me, but he’s coughing into his fist as hard as anyone.

 

There’s blood seeping through his fingers. Oh god.

 

My breath is coming deeper and faster; that’s another mistake. My cough is getting worse and I am starting to feel woozy.

 

I have to calm down, I cannot start hyperventilating toxic air! I hold my breath and let myself be pushed along by the throng of people, moving around yet going nowhere.

 

Well, not breathing obviously isn’t the answer either.

 

The pink power ranger whose elbow is hurting my ribs starts convulsing and slams into me. I gasp and trip over my own feet.

 

Josh manages to catch me by the arm and keeps me upright. I cling to him for support, when in front of me, Yoda is run over by a heavyset woman, who is frantically clawing at her throat. Yoda goes down, and the woman accidentally steps on his elbow for good measure. He shrieks as several blades of grass penetrate the soft, unprotected flesh of his lower arm.

 

I turn away and tell myself it was just a wrinkly old alien, not a kid in a mask.

 

Someone slams into Josh, and our tenuous connection is broken again. A wet feeling alerts me to the bloody handprint he left on my arm.

 

This isn’t happening... There are so many things I still want to do... Also, if I die here, wouldn’t that mean I’ve been working my ass off on shitty jobs like this for nothing?!

 

I grit my teeth, and try to keep moving with the flow, going along with the push and pull of the crowd without tripping over any bodies on the ground.

 

Even if that means stepping on them, once or twice. Some of them react when I do, some don’t, I’m not sure which is worse.

 

People are collapsing left and right now, and not just from the pressure of the crowd, which is quickly thinning. In fact, before I know it, I’m one of very few people still standing.

 

Oh man, I’ve got a major headache, though. And I feel so weak and sleepy... Maybe I’ll just, lie down here...

 

At least I won’t have to worry about getting trampled anymore... haha... ha...

 

I’m sure suffocating on toxic air is a much better death.

 

The knifegrass cuts my hands and uniform, but I hardly feel it. All I can hear is the blood rushing through my ears.

 

My breath is coming in big, raspy gasps. The fire in my lungs is spreading to my skin.

 

With difficulty, I cross my hands over my chest. My eyes fall shut. If I’m to die, might as well die with a little dignity.

 

Perhaps I should’ve screamed with them. At least these idiots on the ground around me got some enjoyment out of this whole ordeal. I’ve hardly ever screamed. In fact, I’ve hardly ever done anything crazy. I just worked, studied, kept my nose clean...

 

Thoughts come unbidden as the world fades to black; regret for a life lived half-assedly. A short, short life spent struggling upstream, trying my hardest to resist temptations and detours. I was going to break the cycle, not wind up like my mom, or worse, my dad.

 

Guess I succeeded there. Go me.

 

But, frankly, most of my thoughts go: I am going to die in this weird dimension.

 

 

Author's note: 

 

Hello and welcome to my webnovel!

 

My name is H.C. Mills, and I hope to eventually become a full-time author. In order to achieve that, what I need most of all—as any creator does—is an audience.

 

If you'd like to keep me working on this webnovel—and other stories—you can help me by sharing this first chapter on Facebook or voting for me on topwebfiction.com (there are buttons directly below this post expressly for this purpose!) ​

 

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©2018 by H.C. Mills