[ D day – 3 ] [ 60 H :59 M :30 S ] [ State capital ]

The portal in the town – A vanished, and it was reported to the upper brass almost immediately.

However, what they did not expect is another dark portal in town B, the nearest municipality to town A vanished at the same time.

Unknowingly, Vikram has saved a few hundred thousand lives that day. The portal in nearest municipality with least number of people disappeared, and then it appeared in his home town A.

A commotion began within the news circles to cover the incident.

Reporters flooded to Town B, rather than Town A, for the portal vanished in Town B, whereas the portal vanished but reformed in Town A.

Vikram, who did not know the commotion he caused, is happily killing away foxes in the Town As portal.

After all, unlike the people outside, he knew the portals increase in strength when a person leaves without clearing them out.

At the same time, in the state capital, a commotion began.

Given theres a reserve military training grounds in the state capital, a group of reserves entered the portal. They killed a few animals, and returned to report the same to their higher ups.

In another place, a black and skinny figure darted into the portal with their entire group.

They were local gangs in the area, and their fire power was not low.

The arms in their hands are illegal, and the stolen goods need a secret place to be stored.

When they first entered the portal, the surroundings were empty.

Thus, they proceeded inwards, ignoring the unsettling feeling they were being observed every inch of the way.

The attack began when they reached the lowest part of the plain valley. The mounds of dirt were not high, they were flat and only the height of a man.

However, they still obstructed the groups view of the entire terrain, and their maze-like arrangement gave the creatures of the portal, a cougar, a lot of hiding places.

The hunt began with a whisper.

In a moment that no one expected, the man at the tail end of the procession vanished.

The cougars operating style is bite and twist.

Before the man could so much as scream, his neck was snapped.

The group in front hadn realized till they crossed fifty feet more into the center.

At that point, all of a sudden, four cougars rushed to the group, dragging away four men, regardless of who watched.

The remaining men realized the danger only then.

They arranged themselves back to back, firearms in hand.

Only, the cougars are in a natural environment, when one of the daring animals bit at the leg of a man and pulled him, rather than helping the guy, the remaining men pulled away his rifle and threw him to the animal.

The mans screams echoed tragically in the ever so empty area.

”Don break the formation. Stay with your backs to each other, and shoot at the blasted cat bastards. ” The man ordered.

At this point of time, all the flaws of the group came into play.

The bunch of men were not good eggs in the first place. They are the kind who bullied the weak, and bowed to the strong.

They had no loyalty to each other save money, and were not hesitant to turn on each other.

The man with the most sense readied his rifle.

Any moment now, they would be besieged by the animals.

He needs to just throw his comrades to the animals, and he could run away from the siege of cougars with his life intact.

As expected, the cougars surrounded them.

The man shot a shot into the animal crowd indiscriminately.

The comrade beside him was aiming carefully.

When he realized all the attention of the other party was on the cougars, he lifted his rifle and shot his comrades in the shoulders point blank.

No bullet was wasted, and all of them stumbled.

The moment his comrades stumbled, he kicked one in the side, jumped into the air using the man as leverage. That way, he jumped over the crowd of cougars rushing for the group.

He ran forward extremely fast for a human. Alas! It was not to be.

While the strong cougars went for the party, the weak ones knew, the man is probably the only meat they would get.

So, they ran at full speed and jumped on him.

The man was able to escape most, until a lucky and cunning cougar caught him just feet to spare from the portal exit.

It triumphantly dragged away its prize, growling at the other beasts eyeing its hunt.

Elsewhere, a man rushed out of the portal, with the skin of a baby lion in his hands.

The military arrived at the portal and set up a barricade just as the man slipped away into alleyways.

At the masjid in the old town full of airy mansions, a man stood on a makeshift stage, and spoke passionately.

” Brothers and comrades ! This is the sign sent from our gods. He sent us a way to reach heaven, a bridge that connects this world to heaven. All we need is faith and courage to step on the bridge, reach the other end waiting for us. Brothers! We, the children of god, could not ignore the sacrifices the son of god has made in our name.

We must prove to the world his grace ! We must prove to the world his divinity. Come, Brothers ! lets bask in the divine halo of the son of god, rise once more, free of sin.

Come ! Enter heaven, and forever embellish our names as angels..

The eternal glory, eternal salvation is right in front of us. Who is with me ? ” The man questioned passionately.

The crowd roared in response.

”Let us tread the path to heaven. Onwards ! Onwards ! ” The man screamed, inciting the crowd more and more.

At that moment, a directive came from the upper brass to military protecting the portal.

”Withdraw! ” The order said, making the stalwart soldiers to stand aside.

As men and women rushed into the portal, they were surprised to note the forest is full of green leaves and fresh dew. The air couldn be more clear if it tried.

”To paradise!!! ” an excited man screamed from the crowd.

The crowd went bonkers over the shout, as they rushed forward even more crazily.

No one noticed the twisting black serpents on the trees, nor did they notice the well built giant nests hidden by boulders.

Needless to say, none of the people returned.

Following people, a man entered, holding a camera on a drone.

He kept taking pictures, doing nothing as the men and women kept dying all over the place. He only raised his eyebrows curiously, when the dead bodies of men and women desiccated in an impossibly short time, disappearing without even skeletons remaining to count for evidence.

After recording for almost twelve hours, the man left the portal, along with his darling drone.

Vinod completed all the instructions given by his brother. As his brother had predicted, by the time he finished his grain and food purchase, religious leaders came forward.

In the late noon, just a few hours after his brother called him, the government gave permission for the people to enter the mysterious portals, only, they had to sign a waiver, that they are doing so of their own volition.

Only one portal opened within the military zone, it is surveyed strictly by military, while the rest allowed all sorts of people inside, save for reporters.

Three expeditions began their religious journey into the lands beyond, as someone started calling them. Military only scanned IDs of the people when they entered to make a record.

Almost all news stations reported scenery inside the portals in the evening news.

Government seemed to have released this information deliberately, to reduce panic buying and sudden shortages of food.

However, Vinod felt uneasy. Its unfolding exactly like his brother said.

None of those who entered the portal returned, save for the reporters who only explored the periphery to make the quick analysis, and few of the drone shots.

Any who ventured past ten feet did not return as of now.

The next door neighbor knocked on their doors early in the morning.

” Auntie ! We are going to go for a pilgrim journey through the doors to heaven besides Birla temple. Do you want to join us ? ” The aunt asked them eagerly.

His mother looked sad enough to cry.

However, she had to stay. For one, there are words of their brother, whose word holds the highest weight, and then, theres the youngest, Virat, whos exams were nearing. Thus, his mother had to stay home to look after them, and make sure Virat keeps to his study schedule.

” Ah! I am sorry. Their father and brother are not home, so I must stay. No matter, we would join the next trip. Since there is a first, there would definitely be a second. ” His mother said optimistically.

The aunt chatted for some more time, and left after that.

Right on the cue, a text arrived from Vikram, along with one more deposit of ten lakhs.

Vinod frowned at the message from his brother.

His brother ordered him to go to the only armor shop in the city, and buy weapons for all the money he has given .

Sure, they are composite bows and arrows, but he was informed to have them modified to lethal capacity if the shop takes a bribe and does it.

By now, Vinod felt uneasy. The city did feel like a powder keg, and all predictions by his brother are coming true far too fast.

All the same, he went to execute his brothers demands as fast as possible. He needs to be fast, because the trends of his brothers predictions only seem to have hours to come true.

He must not get caught in the rush to buy weapons. He couldn even imagine what an angry crowd could do with those weapons. With that thought, Vinod rushed to the car, intending to do a stakeout at the weapons shop.

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