I closed the door behind me and stepped off the porch. Stopped.
Turned back to my home, glanced at the sky, its colour more off-putting than yesterday. Violet haze infiltrated now by sickly yellow-green; oil crayons melted gracelessly together into incoherent brown.
The air smelled of vegetation and fetid cheese.
Tried the doorknob. It held fast. Of course; I’d flipped the lock when I left.
Rapped my fist on the door. Waited. Again, louder, determined. Listened, ear pressed to the wood; shuffling steps from within.
My wife fiddled with the lock, opened the door, peered out confusedly.
“What... I thought you were here...?”
“I am here,” I replied, swung the door wide, stepped around her stooped frame. “Leaving now, just forgot... my...”
Fetched my keys off the Davenport. Turned again to my wife; she stared blankly.
“The conference?” I prodded her. “I’m off to the conference? Back tonight.”
Dawning in her eyes. “Ah! Of course,” she began; I stopped her with a quick kiss on the cheek. Dutifully swiped the greenish pollen from the corner of her eye.
Patted my pocket, the comforting weight of my keys, left the house a second time. Fourteen steps from porch to car. Quickly glanced toward the end of the lane.
A new Portal stood there. It had the same swirling form as the others, but less opaque; the constellation within twinkled, almost cheerily.
I didn’t recall any nonindigenous sound at the previous locations. Yet here, a low metallic muttering, like electric current; unintelligible chitterings over a distant phone line, everywhere and nowhere. My ankle throbbed where the bone had set incorrectly many years ago. My fillings ached.
I unlocked the car door, paused.
All this for naught if I showed up at the conference without my work. Oh, how the Society would deride at this amateur blunder, and after I had laboured so just to gain their attention!
Vexed, I strode back to the house, noting the mantis-coloured crystals already forming on the car. Glanced at my fingers, the residue of mossy pollen there; wiped my hand absently on my pants leg.
Unlocked the door, entered a third time. My wife, surprised to see me.
“...Is the conference over so soon?”
“Nothing, nothing-” I pushed past her impatiently, “-just forgot... there...”
My laptop on the desk. I scooped it up and pivoted to leave, blew a kiss in my wife’s general direction. Noted more pollen around her eyes, and mantis-green trichomes already crystallizing at the edges of the doorframe. Strands of moss crept lazily along the floor of the egress. I swiped them away with my foot and opened the door.
There was no porch. There was no car. There was only a Portal, newborn and vast, a swirling maw. I gazed at the soaring stars before me. The metallic chorus staggering, chanting in unison, beckoning. Somewhere I heard a shriek; then, a chorus of them.
In moments, the pollen had obscured my vision entirely.