The Portal Plague

I have a short story out, in the World SF blog. It’s called “The Portal Plague

The portals were invisible and borderless flattened orbs. They appeared and disappeared in highly unpredictable ways. Some were small, the size of coins, and others were large enough to swallow buses. The portals could be in the middle of roads, in cafes and on walls. So far the only way to detect a portal’s presence was a faint sulphurous smell in the air, but it was usually too late because by the time you noticed it you were already through. Normal city life had become impossible. One might be heading to an appointment at the bank and end up on the outskirts of the city in a coffee plantation. People stepping out of their houses ended up plastered in the middle of a traffic jam. There was no way to know when or where the next portal would turn up. The death rate started climbing. The government decided to tackle this by training an ad hoc army with sniffer dogs to detect the telltale portal stink. The army wandered the city looking for portals, and once one was detected they would stand in front of it waving a red rag. The portaleros, as they were called, were given red t-shirts, a convenient way for the government to advertise its party colours ahead of next year’s election. It was very much a local low tech way of dealing with the crisis, and the politicians knew that the mere appearance of doing something would be enough to keep the people from rebelling. When the portal appearances finally stabilized, the smaller ones became less frequent and, on any given day, there would be as few as twenty portals scattered all around Xalapa. Life went on, but Xalapa still felt like a city under siege.

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