Calls in the Dark
Instantly, she froze in place, her heart stopping a moment before beating hard against her chest. No, it couldn’t be. Not yet!
“Pacifica!” her father’s voice rung out for a third time. It sounded like it was coming from off to the left, but she couldn’t tell how far away he was.
But it wasn’t possible. They couldn’t have caught her already? She was sure that they wouldn’t have even woken up if she tried to escape without Murphy’s help.
“Pacifica, darling, please come back home!” another voice called. Her mother.
No. No, it couldn’t be them. They wouldn’t have noticed she was gone by now. And if they had, they wouldn’t be this nice. After tonight, they would still be furious.
“Pacifica!” they both shouted.
Her heart suddenly felt as if it had been hit with a brick of ice. She felt cold and her breath stuck in her throat. It wasn’t them.
Without another thought, she took off running. She ran away from the voices as fast as she could. They weren't her parents. Whatever it was, it wasn't them. Dipper had said that there were dangerous things out at night. And Murphy had said that the forest was dangerous. After tonight she should have known better.
She ran as fast as she could, the voices continuing to shout out her name. They didn't sound as if they were getting any further away. Panicked, she pressed on. The torch in her hand was swinging wildly, making it hard to see.
Suddenly her foot caught on something and she found herself tumbling to the ground, her stomach feeling like it was left behind. She crashed down hard on her knees, sticks and pine needles digging into her. She continued to fall, her hands failing to catch her properly, and felt her chin graze the ground. The torch was thrown from her hand and skittered down the bank. With a small crunch, the light disappeared and she was plunged into darkness.
“No, no, no, no!” she cried, scrambling up and trying to get to where she had last seen the light.
They were so close! Ignoring the light, she got to her feet and started running again. Not used to the darkness, she had no idea where she was going. She stumbled many times and and at first almost ran into a tree. She could tell that she was running downhill, but it seemed like the trees were getting thicker. As the hill started to even out into flat, she was sure that the trees should be getting thinner by now. Instead she was barely missing them as she ran, sometimes getting scratched by stray branches. The voices were still following her. They never seemed to gain on her, but they were always getting closer.
She continued running, searching for anyway out she could. Then she saw it. Light. There was light up ahead. She ran towards it as fast as she could, tripping on yet another tree branch on the way. She burst out of the trees into... a sparkly clearing. All around her, the clearing was dimly lit and glittering. She couldn't tell what was making it glow like that, but it was kind of strange, and very magical. It looked like some kind of fairy glade or-
“Ah!” she cried, as she fell over for the... well, she'd lost count of how many times she'd fallen over.
“Ah!” something cried back.
“Ah!!!” echoed many voices.
She looked down to see that she'd tripped over a pile of... little men? There were a whole lot of little men with beards and pointy hats... What the hell?!
“Eh? Who the hell are you?” asked the only one with a beard that wasn't white. “What are you doing in our forest?”
“I – I – Um-”
“Pacifica!!!” Her head whipped around in fear at the voice, and suddenly every single little man in the area began to scream in panic.
“It's coming!!!” the same one shouted. “Run! Everyone flee!” He stopped and turned back to her. “Welp, it was nice knowing you, pretty lady. Shame you're gonna be eaten, because you would have made a lovely Gnome Queen. But I gotta skedaddle. Bye!” And quickly he dashed up a tree, a bunch of squirrels flocking him and getting him up faster.
Taking the hint, she began to run again, struggling to make her away across the gnome infested ground. There were way more of them than she had thought, all scurrying to find a safe place. One even tried climbing up her leg, but she kicked it off.
It wasn't long till she'd cleared the sparkly part of the forest, and was back in the regular forest. And once again, her sight was lessened because of her recent exposure to the light. She chanced a glance backwards. She couldn't really see anything. The gnome forest was still sparkling lightly, but it seemed quieter now. That was all. There was nothing else to indicate that a creature of unknown horror was-
“Ahhh!!” she cried as she fell yet again. This time a sharp pain shot through her foot, making her wince. She got up again and went to run. Pain lanced through her foot again. “Ah, ow!” She hobbled slightly and almost toppled over as she failed to balance on the foot that wasn't hurting. Crap, she'd hurt it badly. But she still had to flee. Gingerly, she tried to take yet another step, only putting pressure on the foot for a fraction of a second. “Ow!” Okay, limping it was. She could do this. She just had to get out. She just had to find the road and-
“Pacifica! Please, honey, come home!”
“We love you, sweetheart. Come to me!”
Nope. Fuck that.
Ignoring the pain, she began to run again. It was slow and staggering. Each step brought her pain, but in her determination to get out of there she found she was able to ignore it. As she ran, she became aware of two things. One was that the trees were starting to clear slightly, enough that she could be running on what could be classed as a path... a trail at least. The other was a strange chattering, swooshing sound... Water! She was near a river. Oh, that may not be a good thing.
The sound got louder and soon she was running to the bank of a river. She began to panic all over again. What was she going to do? How was she going to get around it?! Looking about wildly, she saw a shadow on the river. With the trees gone from the area, there was just enough moonlight to show that the shadow was a large log lying across the body of water. She was so relieved, but there was no time to celebrate. Quickly she crawled onto the log and carefully moved across. If she fell, she was screwed.
It seemed that the log was used as a bridge often enough that the top layers of bark had been worn down so it was much smoother. It meant that her knees didn't get torn up as much as they already were, but it still hurt. Once at the end, she jumped down, cringing as she jumped on the foot. Tears were streaming down her face, but she only realised they were there because of the cold wind whipping at her. She took a last look back to the other side of the bank, preying that what ever was chasing her couldn't climb a log or swim. Right now there was nothing over there... wait, something moved. She peered closer. She could just make out the silhouette of... a deer or something, but it just leant down to eat some grass.
Not wasting any more time, she turned and started running again. Soon she was back in another forest, but this time it seemed thinner, and she was running on a defined trail. She heard the creature call out again, noticing something that gave her a bit of hope. She listened for the second call carefully... It was quieter. They were getting further away. They were still on the other side of the river! She slowed her pace till she came to a stand still. She was exhausted, ragged breaths being pulled from her lungs. She leant carefully so she was resting on her knees, but also so that she was putting all her weight on one leg. No, that wasn't going to work. She needed to lie down. She needed to sleep.
Desperately she looked about. The trees looked as if they were starting to clear, and she could see... a light! There was a light ahead. That probably meant that she was near a street. Or even better, a house. She could pay whoever it was to let her stay the night. Right now, anything was better than this.
She waited a few more minutes to catch her breath, then took a step forward and gasped, her leg buckling underneath her. The adrenalin was starting to wear off now, and it must have been keeping her from feeling just how bad her ankle was. And then she'd continued to run on it, and probably made it worse. Now that she'd slowed down, she was really starting to feel the pain. She'd probably twisted the ankle. She was covered in aches and sore spots she knew were going to come out in nice dark bruises. And sharp stinging ones where she'd been scratched. Her leg itched, and she had the feeling that she had blood running down it from a cut.
Behind her that thing called out again. It still wasn't getting any closer. She puffed out a sigh of relief and started onwards. Slowly she limped towards the light, her foot aching sharply with every step she took. It was still quite a bit of a walk across the empty stretch of grass that spanned her path to the light. And it was taking even longer because of her pace now.
It was as she passed the looming shadow of a totem pole that she realised where she was. The Mystery Hack... er, Shack. Dipper and Mabel. They were all on better terms now. They'd take her in for the night, right? At any rate they knew what was out there, and they wouldn't want her out in it. Dipper had said so himself, you don't want to be out here at night.
By the time she got to the door, she just wanted to curl up in a ball. She was sore, and tired, and feeling upset and shitty. And quite frankly she felt she had sunken so low that she'd be willing to sleep on their porch if they didn't let her in. She just couldn't go any further.
Raising a grazed hand, she rapped on the door and waited. When no one came after a minute, she knocked again. Still no one. It was as she was about to knock for a third time that she heard footsteps coming towards the door. She wobbled on her foot and clung to the door frame as the handle rattled. The door swung open and she was faced with the oh so pleasant sight of Cheapskate Pines in his boxers and singlet top... Ew.
He looked down at her and raised an eyebrow. “Pacifica?” he said in surprise. She gave a slight nod, unsure of what to say. He took a closer look at her and his eyes widened when he saw the state she was in. “Holy cow, what happened to you?!”
“I, um – I was walking though the forest, and there was some sort of freaky creature out there calling to me. So I started running, and then I fell down a few times. And I really hope I don't look as bad as I feel.”
“Well, what the hell were were you doing out in the woods?”
“Uh... I was coming to see Dipper,” she said, not entirely lying.
He raised a sceptical eyebrow. “At four in the morning?”
She looked about, trying to think of an excuse. She didn't have one. She hadn't realised it had gotten so late. “...Yes.”
He looked her over critically again, his eyes narrowing. “Alright, fine. Come in.” She breathed out a sigh of relief and stepped inside. But she put too much weight on her injured foot and winced in pain. Stan noticed this and frowned slightly. “Here,” he sighed. She looked up at him to see him offering her his arm.
With a hesitant smile she placed her hand in the crook of his arm. “Um, thanks.”
“Yeah, well, don't want you messing that ankle up even more,” he grunted as he led her inside and helped her over to the couch. It was old and grotty, and she didn't really want to sit on it. But there wasn't really a cleaner option. Once she was sitting, he cleared things off the side table and pulled it around in front of her, placed a pillow on top, and suddenly grabbed her leg and propped her foot up on it. The movement was unexpected and she let out a yelp. She almost let out another when she saw that the side table was actually a large scull or something. Some sort of dinosaur by the looks of it.“I'll go get Dipper. Knowing him, he'll probably still be up looking at that blasted journal.”
He left the room muttering something about how he could swear 'that boy' knew the entire thing by heart by now. His voice faded out, replaced by the creaking of the stairs. She pulled the bag off her back and placed it on the couch beside her. Opening it, she took a quick look at her phone. There were only a few messages from Tiffany, telling her to do what she wanted since she would anyway, and that they would talk in the morning. 'Do what you want, you always do anyway'. Yeah, because that made her feel even better right now. Huh, it really was after 4am! She grabbed the other phone that Murphy had given her and quickly sent him a message to tell him she was safe... well, barely, but she had made it somewhere.
Thankfully there were no messages from her parents. Of course, they probably wouldn't realise she was gone till the next night. When she didn't come down for breakfast or lunch they would think she was sulking. It wouldn't be until dinner and they demanded her presence that they would find her gone. It was probably better that way. The longer they took to notice, the longer she wouldn't have to deal with them trying to get a hold of her... that was a daunting thought.
Next she took off her jacket and stuffed it in. It was much warmer in this little room than it had been outside. The TV was still going, so Stan must have been watching something. But it was now playing some black and white period piece old lady boring movie... Something called 'The Duchess Upholds'. It looked seriously boring and weepy, she highly doubted a man as... er... well, a man like the twins great uncle would watch something like that.
It wasn’t long till she heard someone coming back down the steps, distracting her from how gross the couch was. She looked over to the doorway to see Dipper walk into the room. He was wearing his usual redish orange shirt, and a dark blue pair of boxers. His hat was absent, but he was holding something in his hand. He looked a little groggy, but she could tell that, like her, he hadn’t slept at all yet.
He stopped short when he saw her. “Pacifica?”
“Is everyone in your family going to have the same reaction?” she said sarcastically.
“Sorry, Grunkle Stan didn’t actually tell me who was down here. I’d narrowed it down to Wendy, Candy, and Grenda. He said you were a bit scratched up- Oh wow, you are really scratched up! What happened?” He came and knelt next to her, opening the pack in his hand which turned out to be a first aid kit.
“I was walking through the forest, and then something started calling out my name. I kind of got freaked out and started running, and I tripped up a couple of times. I mean, it was dark, I couldn’t see.”
He looked at the bag beside her and quickly came to a conclusion. “You ran away from home.”
“Yep,” she sighed.
“What were you doing in the woods? Where were you heading?”
“I don’t know. I went the back way out of my house, and that leads right into the forest. I was trying to think of where to go when those things started up.”
“What about Tiffany and Aubrey? Couldn't you stay with them? I mean, the road there is much safer.”
“That’s the first place my parents will look. Come tomorrow they’d be around there and dragging me back home. Plus the road to my house is covered in security sensors and cameras.”
“Oh, fair enough, I guess. …Did you hurt your ankle?” He gently picked it up in his hands.
“Ow!” she cried out. “Yes! Yes, I think I twisted it!”
“Sorry,” he said. Being even more careful than before, he lightly felt around it and gently prodded it. It seriously hurt for him to do that, but she knew he was trying to help, so she just held her tongue and winced. “Yeah, it's definitely twisted, at least. Could be strained. I'll get some ice for it, and bandage it up. It's already swollen and bruised, but it will help. And you've also got a lot of bruises and scratches, so I'll put some ointment on them.”
“Right little medic, you are,” she teased. He smiled at that.
“Mabel and I are kind of what you'd call 'accident prone'. I got pretty good at fixing us up over the years.”
“Okay, this is going to hurt, but I'm going to have to take off the shoe.” She bit her lip, not liking the idea, but gave him a firm nod. Carefully as he could, he untied the shoe and pulled the laces out so that it was as loose as possible. Then he slowly slipped it off. It felt like someone was twisting her foot around while it was covered in small knives. She wanted to yelp, but instead she clenched her teeth and gripped onto the arm rests till her fingers where white and stiff. Once the shoe was off, the pain didn't quite recede, but it felt better than when it was being touched. She let a hissing breath escape between her teeth as she relaxed again. “Sorry about that. Are you okay?”
“As much as I can be about now,” she said with a grimace. It was supposed to a smile to cover up how much she was hurting, but she was tired, and her poker-face wasn't what it usually was.
Dipper just rolled his eyes and began to look at her cuts and scratches, assessing how bad they were. He worked his way up, checking over her legs, hands, arms, then moved onto the ones on her face. She had a small graze on her chin, and a decent scratch across her forehead. But what was most concerning, was a bruise that was already pretty dark on her left cheek. At the darkest part, he could just make out a mark or imprint of some kind. It looked like a zig-zag inside a circle. No, hold on... it was a 'Z'. No, to wide. It was an 'N'. A backwards capital 'N', like someone had forgotten to invert the letter on a stamp. His eyes narrowed when the darker option entered his mind. It was like someone had backhanded her while wearing a ring with an 'N' embossed into it. 'N' for Northwest. Her father. Preston Northwest had been wearing a ring like that on the middle finger of his left hand.
“What?” Pacifica demanded, snapping him out of his thoughts.
“What?” Oh, nothing. I'm going to go get that ice. I'll be back in a moment, okay.”
“Yeah, okay. Whatever.” She rolled her eyes, almost looking embarrassed to be there. More than likely though, he had the feeling it was more than just her being superficial.
He gave her a nod, then went into the kitchen to get what he needed. Grunkle Stan was in there, sculling back a glass of water... or at least, he assumed it was water. He couldn't smell alcohol, so that was a good sign. As he went into the draws and grabbed a few tea towels, he steadied his resolve, then turned to face his uncle.
“Ah, Gunkle Stan?”
“Mmm?” he grunted.
“Would it be alright if Pacifica stayed here a while?”
“Doesn't she have anywhere else?”
“Uh, no. Not really.”
“Ugh! Alright, then.”
Dipper was prepared to argue, but was taken aback when he registered Stan's reply. “Wait, that's it? You're not going to argue me on this? Not going to kick her out of the house because she's a Northwest? Or send her home?”
Stan turned to face him. “Dipper. I may not like the Northwests in the slightest, and that includes Pacifica. But I would never send a runaway home, especially when they have their father's ring imprinted into their face.”
“Oh, you noticed that, huh.”
“Only an idiot wouldn't notice that. I mean, saying that she came here to visit you at 4am, a big bag over her shoulder? She can stay here as long as she needs. But I'm not helping her up those bloody stairs. I have trouble enough myself!”
Dipper ginned, knowing that Stan was just trying to maintain his grouchy front. “Thanks, Grunkle Stan.”
“Yeah, whatever. Just don't be too much of a bother! You and you're sister are hard enough to deal with.”
“Aww, come on. You know you love us,” he teased as he grabbed the ice and a glass of water. Stan said nothing in reply as Dipper left the room chuckling.
When he went back into the lounge, Pacifica looked up away from the TV. She had a confused look on her face.
“What even is this movie?”
He just shrugged. “I don’t really know. We just sometimes catch Gunkle Stan watching it. He pretends he doesn’t, though.”
“Seriously?” she said. He had to be joking.
“Yep. He loves it. It's... really weird, actually. Now come on, let’s get you sorted.” He moved down over to her ankle and pulled bandages out of his kit. “This may hurt a bit.” She gave him a firm nod, ready for him to do it, and then again she gritted her teeth as he wrapped the strips of gauze around. It really hurt having it bound up, but somehow it felt a little better being held into that position. Then he placed the ice pack around it. She tensed up, it was so cold! She knew it would help, but holy crap! “There, better?”
“Welp, that’s better than a no. Let’s move onto the cuts and bruises.”
He grabbed a small red tube from his kit, a glass of water, and a cloth. He started by dipping the cloth in the water, and gently dabbing at some of the scratches. Thankfully, she had less than she had thought. But she’d been right about the cut on her leg. Turns out that it was just above her knee, and blood had run all the way down to her ankle.
“Because this isn't embarrassing or anything,” she muttered as he worked.
“Ugh, nothing. Just... I'm sitting here, injured and useless, and you of all people are cleaning me up.”
He smiled grimly. “I know what you mean. But hey, it could have been worse.”
“Really? How?” she said doubtfully.
“Well, that monster out there could have gotten you.”
“Oh... Yeah. I suppose there's that.”
“Do you have any idea what it was?”
“What did it look like? And sound like?”
Instantly Pacifica began to look uncomfortable. “Umm, I didn't see it, but it sounded like... well, it sounded like my parents. Like they were calling out to me. But I knew it couldn't be them, so I ran. Oh, and I ran into these... little guys with pointy hats. They all seemed petrified of it. One of them said it was going to eat me. But, it sounded just like them. I mean, what sort of creature can do that?”
“I don't know. I'd have to check the-”
“Sorry!” He'd started applying the ointment to the bruise on her cheek and must have pressed a bit too hard. “This is a really nasty bruise.”
“Ha,” she chuckled nervously. “Yeah, got hit by a branch.”
“Well, that branch is an asshole,” he said shortly, moving on to the scratch. “Most of these scratches are shallow, but some are going to need a plaster.”
Just then they heard movement from the door way. They both looked up to see a sleepy Mabel rubbing at her eyes. She was wearing an oversized shirt with a floppy disk on the front, and she was dragging a stuffed toy by the leg. That pig of hers was snuffling around at her feet. She blinked when she saw the scene before her.
Pacifica looked at Dipper with a raised eyebrow. He just shrugged in reply. She was only being sarcastic when she'd asked if everyone in his family were going to react like that. “Hi Mabel,” she said.
“What are you doing here? What happened to you?!” the girl cried.
“Pacifica ran away from home. She's staying with us for a while,” Dipper told her.
“Wait, I am?”
“Yep. Grunkle Stan says it's okay.”
“Yay!” Mabel whooped, then a confused look came across her face. “But that doesn't explain why you're all bet up.”
“I was chased by something in the forest. Fell down a few times. Branches are not kind.”
“If all that's from nature, then why does the bruise on your cheek have an 'N' on it?”
“What?!” she cried, bringing up a hand to cover the bruise and winced when it made contact.
Dipper sighed in exasperation. “Subtle, Mabel. Very subtle.”
“What? You noticed too?” she squeaked, stating to sound a little downtrodden. “Is it really that bad?”
“No! No,” he soothed. “Well, the bruise is. You can only really notice the 'N' if you look. It will be gone in no time.”
“So... when you said that the branch was an asshole just before... You knew...” He grimaced and nodded. She hung her head.
“Hey, Mabel,” he said. “We're going to need a special plaster.”
“I'm on it!” she called.
Pacifica looked up at him a little perplexed. “Special plaster?
“Mabel likes her special plasters. “Most of these are shallow enough that I've fixed them up with liquid plaster. But the one on your knee's going to need something better.”
“I got it!” Mabel said, standing triumphantly with a bright looking strip of paper held up in the air. “I got the perfect one.” She took the seal wrapping off it to reveal the brightly coloured plaster, then took off the tabs and put it over the freshly cleaned cut on her knee. “Here you earned this.”
She looked down to see what the plaster was. It reminded her of Mabel's stickers, really. It was bright purple, and had the words 'You're Ext-ROAR-dinary' written across it. It was also decorated with a couple of lion faces.
“H-how did I earn this?”
“Because of last night at the party. You were amazing and brave. Just like a lion.”
“Trust me, I wasn't brave. I mean, maybe for that moment, yeah, but... I nearly had a panic attack on the dance floor when I saw how many people had left.”
“You mean when you were dancing with Dipper,” Mabel said, raising her eyebrows a few times suggestively.
“Shut up, Mabel,” he said. “Look, Pacifica, I get why you don't feel brave. And that is seriously understandable. Your parents aren't nice people, I mean, look at the way they treat you. But you stood up to them. And even even if it was just a little bit, that was something. And it was something to be proud of.”
She gave him a watery smile, but yet again, it faded and she looked at her lap. “I ran away,” she said. “That's not brave. I wrote them a letter telling them I couldn't live their toxic life anymore, and I ran away. I'm not brave. And I don't know what I'm doing.”
“Hey, it's okay,” Dipper told her. “We'll help you figure it out.”
“Hey, you know what this calls for?” Mabel said.
“Hot chocolate?” her brother guessed.
“Hot chocolate. I'll go make some. Ooh! And tomorrow I'll show you the art of using mixed tapes to get over your feelings!” And with that, the quirky girl ran out of the room.
Despite how horrible Pacifica was feeling, a warm sensation began to spread through her and another faint smile lit up her face. She was getting more care here than she ever had at home. Despite their differences, the twins really seemed to care for her. They cared about how she felt and how she was treated... She'd never known anyone like that before. And it was even more meaningful due to the fact that she'd treated them like shit... a lot. And yet still they wanted to help her. They cared.
Perhaps staying with the Pines wasn't such a bad idea after all.