Embraced by the Light

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Mark’s heart somersaults. He’s close now, only fourth in line. Soon he’ll be moving on.

Every now and then he steals nervous glances at the underground cavern surrounding the terminal. Inscribed on the rough stone walls are symbols whose meanings modern scholars still haven’t deciphered. Above, incandescent bulbs provide a dim illumination.

There’s a bright indigo burst as the portal gate slides open. He squints, watches with a sinking feeling while the person at the head of the line steps forward. For a moment the glow intensifies. Then the gate closes and once more the only source of light is the bulbs overhead.

Nobody knows where the portals come from. They predate history. Perhaps they were built by a race more powerful than their own. Perhaps they’re only a natural phenomenon. All people know for sure is that they form bridges to other worlds. They know this because off-world pilgrims come through every day in search of a new life.

But the portals only travel in one direction, and the trip is always one-way. It’s a blind jump. A chance to start over.


A middle aged woman with salt-and-pepper hair steps forward, a stony, unreadable look on her face. The light swallows her whole.

Mark used to play it safe. There were too many uncertainties, he reasoned, too many unseen variables to warrant excessive risk. So all his life he took the road most traveled. He graduated from college with a degree in accounting, because there was always demand for accountants. He got a comfortable desk job. He married. Bought a house. Had two children. Planned for retirement. He did everything by the book.

Then his wife and two children burned to death in an arson fire.


A young man, hardly older than eighteen, steps forward. Light. Flash. Gone.

Mark planned for all the contingencies, and the universe compensated him with an absurd and senseless act of evil. He quit his job. Sold his house. Wandered the world in search of answers until his savings ran out.

Now, all that’s left for him is to press forward into the unknown.


Another man, this time well into his seventies. Another burst of indigo light and the man is gone.

Now Mark is at the head of the line. This is it, he thinks. He’s spent the last of his money on his ticket. Will life on the other side be better, or worse?


The portal gate slides open. Mark steps forward and is embraced by the light.

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2 thoughts on “Embraced by the Light”

  1. Terrific story and it makes me want to know more about these people and what brought them to this fate, the 18 yr old, the stony faced woman too- what happened that they took this drastic step? This would be an amazing novella. I loved it!

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