note: written 2016.
Don Argus O'Callaghan was one of the few left in the building. His assistant, Mike Teller, was also there. Standing behind him with a book in hand.
“See,” Mike said, “I think it's safe to say that no ghosts are coming through tonight.”
“They ain't ghosts.” Don said with a tone indicating he was beyond tired of correcting the assumption.
“Of course they are,” Mike insisted, “People just didn't understand the physics back when the word was coined.”
“You arguing semantics?” Don asked. “The intellectual concept of an apparition is far different from what we're dealing with.”
“But what?” Don cut him off. “Metaphysics this, superstition that. We practice neither, this, what we do, is science. Pure and simple.”
“Fine. But I'll keep calling them ghosts. How else are we supposed to convey an understanding in layman terms?”
Don shook his head. Useful assistants were hard to find as it was. At least this one was still alive. For now.
“The rift seem to originate from here.” Don said and traced it with his finger. He had discovered—back when he first got into the business—that rifts created small tumbles of air, fragments of atmosphere leaking in from the other side, cooling the room. At the crack of rifts it was especially cold, the classical term would be cold spots.
“This would be much easier with a thermal camera.” Mike said. He was sketching the path of Don's finger as he moved it through the room.
“Good thing I have an assistant who packs the instruments then.” Don said with a snarl.
“You know what, I think I did. Still in the car though.”
“Where it's doing a mighty fine job.” He stopped tracing then harshly glared at Mike.
“I'll go get it.”
Don continued to trace the rift with his finger until it overlapped with a wall. He left the room, which was an office room for an IT firm, then entered the next. It was another office. He sighed, then guessed his way to the rift and found it shortly, it traced half across the room.
“An unusually large rift,” Don mumbled to himself. “Something might have gone through here already.”
They had been called in for the job by their contact, Paul Banach, an officer of the local police force. The case had been dismissed as a wackjob hacker guy being overdosed on energy drinks and weed. The hacker guy claimed a large horned devil fell through the air in the middle of the afternoon, trashing the place. After witnessing the creature, he had made an exit accordingly and called the cops. Don didn't like the prospects of the witness, a horned devil could be anything from a fey class to a demon class. If it was fey, this job would already be done as soon as they found it, or even if they didn't. As the fey seldom liked it here in zero realm. Them falling through was more accidental than not, often as an end result of a bad teleportation. The demon class was a different story altogether, their realm and society was not as sophisticated, which made them rare. But each effort of success led to an invasion. They were dumb enough not to know they lack the technological capacity to invade zero realm, yet smart enough to make an effort out of it.
Wood complained from the hallway. Someone was there.
“Mike? I think we might have something here after all, the rift is sizable. Suggesting it's the end result of an explosion rather than teleport accident.”
“It could be one of your so-called ghosts, but if so it's probably long gone. Sleeping in the dike a town out.”
That was the problem with ghosts. They were just regular people, who shifted over through natural rifts. This usually happened if a rift had opened inside their home or workplace. Spend too many hours near a rift, and your mass syncs and aligns with the twin world eventually. These people were easy to identify though, always confused, and swear they somehow ended up miles from their home as if through magic or UFO. Geographically speaking, the second realm was identical to zero realm. Evolutionary too. With the only difference being the planetary tilt having a few hours' difference, hence the insistence of ending up a sizable distance from home. Don had a feeling the same type of occurrence was common in the twin world as well.
Don left the office now, concerned that whoever was out in the corridor wasn't Mike. There, it stood. It was no demon he had seen before, and much too big to be an average fey. It was a dark brown, had a beaked mouth, the body similar to a rhino, with five non-symmetrical horns sticking out of its face. Another set of horns along its rib on each side, and a twinned tail which moved like snakes.
“You're not supposed to be here,” Don said. “Do you need help getting back?”
The beast growled and snarled at him. The first thought running through his mind was that this particular beast was some kind if equivalent to another realm's apex predator which had accidentally fallen through an unusually huge natural rift. His second thought was eloquently simple:
Don ran back into the office, slamming the door behind him. He looked out through the window and saw Mike still bent inside the car. This presented a couple of problems. He had to close the rift lest this rhino-demon-thing had a family eagerly awaiting their turn to pass through, yet he also had to lure it back through this rift. He wouldn't be able to send it back where it belonged if he shut it down now, and creatures like this simply could not be allowed to walk about in zero realm. It would create all kinds of collateral and logistical issues, not to mention religious and political. The problem with sending things through was time, something he felt just wasn't going to be applicable to a large and powerful feral beast like this one.
Don pried the window open.
“Mike! Fresh new entity! Very ferocious! Get me Paul from the cops division!”
Mike stopped his rummaging and went for his smartphone.
Don stuck his upper body out of the window and reached for a rusty old rain gutter. Just as his hand got a firm grip, the beast tore down the door behind him. Don swung his body out the window and latched his legs around the gutter not a second before the beast rammed the window. The force was like a charging rhino, and the wall cement cracked. The rain gutter loosened in response, and started to bend downwards, Don hanging on for his life, but not visibly showing fright. He was too weathered and experienced in situations like these, or so he would tell his assistants whenever he found himself in a complicated situation, and he was right to do so, as Mike was now his ninth assistant in little over three years. They tended to die when things got tense. Better leave them with a warning.
Mike snapped a photo of Don hanging from the rain gutter which had allocated his position above the street. Thankfully it was in the middle of the night so they wouldn't have trouble with traffic.
“How about you get me a ladder instead of material for your blog?” Don bellowed.
“Right. On it.”
Mike ran to the back of their vehicle and procured a ten-step ladder. He pulled it at the hinges, making it roughly five meters long, and firmly placed it beneath Don. While he held the ladder in place, he had his ear pressed against his shoulder, talking to Paul.
“As you can hear, we're in a bit of a pinch, I think Don wants some backup with suppressive gear,” Mike said to the phone.
“We need to barricade the building,” Don said, reaching with his toes for the top of the ladder.
A soon as Don made it to the ground, he was bombarded by questions from Mike.
“What did it look like? Was it from the Fey realm? Demon realm? Elf realm? Ghost realm? Spirit realm? Angelic realm? Witch realm? Giant's realm? Was it advanced technologically? Did it have any unique physiology? Any records in the ancient scriptures?”
Don didn't have an answer. This was something different. New. He was sure. As with all supposedly mythological creatures they often came from one of the common realms mentioned. In fact, Valhalla was close to a description of how it worked in practice, but there were more realms out there. Realms that were either primitive, or didn't generate rifts as frequent as the main known realms. Some might never even have been crossed or identified in the archived past. Though, what bothered Don the most about this situation was the size of the rift. It had the model of a fission explosion, a remnant of a nuke. Wherever this beast came from, it either survived the end times, or someone intelligent was behind the whole thing. If the latter, this was just the beginnings of what could be a catastrophic merge between two realms of space.
Twenty minutes later, a tired off duty cop arrived. He had clearly been asleep twenty five minutes earlier as his police vest was inside out.
“Paul,” Don said. “We need to barricade the whole area. Where are the rest of your people?”
“Hum,” Paul said. “It's not like I can order something like that, especially if I'd start raving about ghosts as an argument for the efforts.”
“It's not ghosts...”
“See, I told you it's how the laymen will deal.”
“Anyway,” Don said. “We need to force this thing over to the other side before we sew the rift shut.”
“How are we going to do that?” Mike asked, excitedly.
“We need to widen the rift, it will probably take the entire floor with it, eventually. But it's the only way I can think of, as without barricades, we don't have time to just wait it out.”
“I brought my riot shield, and borrowed a tranq-rifle. Only found the one needle thought. Think it's a horse tranq. Will that do?”
“The beast up there is like a rhino combined with a demon on steroids. No. I don't think it will do.”
“We don't want to kill it. And if its hide is too thick we might just scare it and piss it off even more.”
“Well what would you have me do then!”
“Uh. Isn't that what Teller is for?”
“You're both bait.”
Don went to the vehicle and grabbed the thermal camera. How Mike couldn't find it... Disciplinary issue, he concluded. He handed it over to Mike, and asked him to draw up the rift more precisely in his book. They could then map the detonation radius to widen the rift.
“Why me?” Mike complained.
“You're nimble enough to take the window route.”
Don went back into the vehicle and grabbed a handful of homemade explosives, a detonator, a rope, and a pair of ear pieces. He gave one ear piece to Paul and the rope to Mike, then pointed towards the windows.
“How is the rope supposed to help me?”
Mike fastened the rope around his hip, walked towards the windows, then turned around with a meek expression suggesting he really, really, didn't want to do this.
“Get on with it,” Don said. “I'm going to need that drawing as soon as the rooms are clear, there won't be any time standing around taking measures.”
Mike gave a half nod with rejection, as if his good and bad consciousness weighed the odds.
“Paul? Ok, do you remember the third floor design?”
“Sure, way too many private offices for an IT firm.”
“Good, assuming it's still trashing the room with an open window and a door turned into a jigsaw puzzle, I should be able to sneak by. You'll make noise, and then immediately make for the staircase, luring it out. But don't let it see you, we don't want it leaving the third floor.”
“You sure you can't call someone? Could've used another pair of hands with this.”
“Not risking my job for a ghost rhino.”
“It's not a gh... Never mind. Oh, and bring the riot shield and a taser. No gun, it'll probably be useless anyway.”
Paul went for his car, grabbed his shield and taser, then put the earpiece on.
Don was slowly walking up the staircase towards the third floor and whispered into the earpiece he kept.
“Making my way up now, I'll take a look at the situation while you get yourself ready. Oh and Paul, your failure is my death. Don't mess it up.”
Paul wearily began making his way up the staircase now. He didn't quite like the prospects of the last words hollered at him. He had known Don for years, and Don often praised him as a great asset, mostly for not getting himself killed. There was a reason for that though, Paul usually went in last, if at all. Which also meant he had little experience with the real deal, despite participation. Kind of like a drone pilot in war times, hand them a real gun and they'll end up shooting themselves before piercing a bullet into the enemy.
The corridor was clear, the beast nowhere to be seen. It was quiet too, which could have any number of implications. Don tip toed through the corridor past the trashed room. It wasn't in there, but he could see Mike's face through the open window. His eyes flicking between the room, thermal scanner and his sketchbook in hand. Good, he was doing his job for once, Don though.
“Paul,” Don whispered. “It's eluding us. I'm going to take cover, on my signal, make a short ruckus.”
He moved to the second room, the door was closed. He carefully opened the door and stepped inside, no beast here either. Well inside, he hid himself behind the computer desk.
“Ok now.” Don whispered into the mic.
Moments later, Paul slammed his shield into the staircase handle. A powerful metallic chime echoed throughout the building.
“Again.” Don said.
The second chime roused. Glass and metal frames made a slight buzzing sound, yet there was no sign of the beast. Don got out of his hiding place and made his way to the corridor.
“Something's not adding up.” He said.
There was scraping from the trashed room, and Don sneaked his way there. Mike had crawled inside, rope still around his waist.
“What are you doing? Get back out, it's dangerous to be in here right now!”
“But the drawing is done,” Mike objected. “Wasn't the plan to draw it out of this room anyway? It's not here. I might as well be inside.”
“You just want to get an eye full of the creature, don't you?”
“Of course,” Mike said as he straightened his back. “Don't want to pass up a chance to witness a ghost that's unknown even to you!”
“It's not... I hate you. Gimme the drawing.”
Mike handed over the drawing. While inspecting it and scratching his chin, Don reluctantly pointed at the far end of the room.
“We should be able to manipulate the rift if we place an explosive at the floor over there, just at the edge of the rift. The fact that it goes through the wall here and into the other office is a bit troublesome. We're going to have to blow a hole in it if we want to widen the rift enough to force the creature back, but then it's going to be wider at the middle and we won't be able to capture a wide enough space to encompass the entire floor as most of the opening will be concentrated at the center.”
“Where is Paul?”
Repeated chimes rang through the building and grew closer. Paul was running up the staircase.
“It noticed me!” Don heard through the earphone. “It's coming up from the second floor! I'm running to you guys, please, please, have a diversion ready!”
“Shit.” Don said. “Uhh...”
Mike snagged the explosives belt from Don, he threw one to the edge of the rift in their room. Placed one at the floor near the wall of where it went through. Then, before Don could stop him, he threw himself out the window and over to the next room. There was the sound of glass shattering, and a few thuds of explosives being distributed across the room.
Dumbfounded, Don made his way to the window, looking for something to hold onto. “Can't believe I'm going out this way again.”
“Explosives up! What do I do with the leftover?!” Mike yelled from the other room.
“Drop them at the wall! Should be enough to make a hole!”
Paul ran through the broken opening of the room, gasping for air.
“It's on this floor!” He yelled.
“Get your ass here! We're taking the fast lane down! Mike!”
“Get back here, we need that rope!”
Right as Don finished the sentence, the beast broke through the broken door, flaring its nostrils and growling.
“Jesus, what a beaut.” Mike said as his head peered from the side of the window.
Don reached for the rope which Mike had conveniently bound around the nearby metal spikes left behind by the now ruined rain gutter. Paul reached his hand for Don, but it was too late. The beast was already in charge towards the window. Before he could get a grip on Don, he had defenestrated himself through the window. A piece of cloth ripped, and Paul was left half way out as the beast crushed against his behind.
Mike had already climbed down to the second floor. Don swung in the rope, letting it burn in his hand as he descended downwards. He looked up at the still, but barely alive Paul bled from the bottom half of his body, blood making its way down the window frame.
“Paul!” Don yelled.
His eyes flared awake, if only for a moment. The beast had backed off from his body, making itself ready for a second impact.
“You'll be fine Paul! Just reach for the rope on my next pass! Reach for the rope! Pull yourself out!”
Paul shook his head, trying to stay awake and ignore the agony of pain. He reached a weak hand for the rope as Don came on a pass near his body.
Another jolt of wakefulness brushed him by, and he managed to snag one of his hands to the rope. It pulled away from him as Don swung back, yet miraculously he had enough strength in his hand to let his body yank out of the window. He did not have enough strength to hold on, however. He plummeted in a near straight line. Mike had made his way to the first floor window, still two meters from the ground. He stretched out a hand and braced himself, gripping as hard as he could with his other hand on the windowsill. As Paul reached him, Mike managed to grab hold of his inside-out-vest, giving him some elasticity from the otherwise dangerous impact.
“I got you bud.” Mike said to Paul, knowing he wouldn't hear him. He was out cold.
“Get down fast and lay Paul to the ground!” Don yelled as he reached into his pocket. He procured the detonator and then let himself slide down the rope further. Bleeding from his hand by the rope burn. “Let's hope it's enough!”
Six pops sounded followed by an explosion. The windows on all floors shattered out from the shockwave, and a riot shield came sailing down to the ground.
Don let himself go, there was still three meters left to the ground, but the shockwave had been too much to continue holding onto the painful rope. He landed next to Paul and Mike, bending his legs as he fell and rolling.
“Think we hurt it?” Mike asked, looking up at the smoke and fire seeping out from the third floor.
“Hope not.” Don whispered. He knew the center of the room would break open into the realm of the beast. Just because one widened a rift more didn't mean nothing else will come through. He held his breath.
Nothing happened. They remained motionless for a good five minutes. Still nothing.
“Keep looking for signs,” Don said. “Don't let your eyes waver.”
“Not for the end of the world.” Mike said.
Don walked over to the riot shield, picked it up, and then carried it over to Mike and Paul. He rolled Paul onto the shield, then pulled him along to the car. He opened the car trunk and brought out an adrenaline syringe. It wasn't much, probably wouldn't do anything good, but it was all he had. He jammed it into Paul and hit the injection.
Paul immediately woke up, delirious.
“Paul! You with me?”
“Eh, ...huh?” His eyelids fought to move, they had no sync.
“Can you move your legs?”
“Haa?” He mumbled, and his face morphed into anguish.
“Shit,” Don said. “I'm going to move you into the back of the car and drive you to the hospital.”
Mike had started to back towards their car yet he kept focused on the third floor. Something should have happened by now, shouldn't it? He wondered.
“Hey Don.” He said.
“We need to get moving. I don't know how much blood Paul has lost, but it ain't good.”
“What about the ghost rhino? What about the rift?”
Don cursed under his breath. He couldn't leave in case something worse happened. Nor could he leave Mike here. He wouldn't be able to handle any of the potential catastrophes that could follow an attempt such as this. Nor would he be able to get Mike to drive away from this, even if Paul's life dependent on it. His obsession was on the silver lining of realization.
They waited. They stared towards the third floor. Paul had even regained enough consciousness to peak a look with an eye half open.
Then it came.
Mike brought up his smartphone and pointed it towards the building. A red light burst from the mid-section of the building as the whole floor was swallowed by the widened rift. Any matter will seep both ways through a rift. Usually there's just air there, but sometimes, there are denser matters. Such as the beast, such as the building. A large rift will have greater potential than one of the natural or smaller ones. A rift large enough to encompass the entire floor of a building would accordingly swallow said building if there was nothing on the other end to block it.
The floor disappeared along with parts of the floor above and below. The building crumbled onto itself for a time, and then there was stillness.
“Good riddance.” Don said.
“That was friggen awesome!” Mike proclaimed.
They carried Paul on his shield into the backseats of their car, took their seats, started the engine, and then drove off to the hospital.
#TheSpectralInvestigators : #scifi #supernatural