First Call, Last Call
She fiddled with the phone in her hands, biting her lip constantly. Her nerves were the worst they had ever been, but not because of the situation; although she did fear what she had been searching, her fear to talk through the phone was worse. But not because she had to call someone and speak; oh no, it was much more than that.
It was who she was calling that made her the most afraid.
She looked once more to her phone, scrolling through her contacts, trying to release the ever-increasing nervousness. She closed her eyes, taking a deep breath. This is stupid, she thought to herself, pushing away the thoughts that made her heart rate increase a thousand beats per minute. She was not gonna die. It was just a phone call over a trivial matter. Yes, a trivial matter that could potentially lead to the apocalypse if she was right. She opened her eyes once again and looked for the number.
It laid there in front of her eyes, making her sigh once more before she clicked the number, placing her phone to her ear. She heard it rang two times before it was picked up. She held her breath for the first minute, the other line staying silent as well.
This was... awkward.
"Uh..." he cleared his voice, letting a few silent seconds pass. ”Ain? Is everything all right?"
Not really. Her heart was about to explode, probably.
“Uh, yes, hi,” she said awkwardly, blushing completely, embarrassed even if she was alone in her apartment. “Um, Jor?”
“Can we meet up right now? There is something I need you to see,” she said, letting the breath she was holding go away.
"Is it really important?" He asked, clearly uncomfortable. ”Right now I’m with... someone else."
“It’s okay, no big deal,” she laughed nervously. “You know what? I’m sorry I called, it’s not really important.”
He started to reply, but she ended the call as soon as possible. How dumb to be afraid to talk to the only person that could understand you, but how dumber to be sad over the other’s actions. Stupid, really.
Ain groaned loudly, passing a hand through her face, breathing heavily. Well, this was a bummer. This night was only getting worse and worse. After all, researching legends and myths whispered by people on the streets was the worst job she could ever do, and it became worse if she couldn’t share it with anyone.
Placing her phone on the table, she sat on the floor, where she picked up her laptop to keep working. She an endless string of tabs open, but what she was looking for was on her computer itself. A downloaded book that Lus had sent her when she first started researching conspiracies and demonic aspects of society. Ain had told her that the book was a bluff, bait for beginners just like Lus and that it was a waste of time to read it and learned things from it.
But this time, Ain was certain that the book wasn’t really full of lies. After researching a string of mysterious disappearances from the local news and digging more and more, these disappearances seemed to be linked to something more sinister than just a serial killer or coincidental situations.
When she found the book, she opened it, waiting for it to charge. The index divided the contents based on popular opinions and main topics in the paranormal community (of course the human one), which were usually censored by government institutions, the main one being YPIS.
The Youth Paranormal Investigation Society, or YPIS, was established around 1960, when paranormal phenomena became popular, such as psychics, mediums, possessions and ouija boards. It was first started by a scientist that wanted to debunk people that claimed themselves to have a deeper connection with the other world, or that they could speak with entities that weren’t in our realm.
He decided to investigate and prove that it was all nonsense, a scheme from these people to get money from naive souls. After all, there was no scientific way to prove such things, therefore, they must be lies.
However, he found that the paranormal originated from the ancient cultures; he hired more people to research these myths and fables. After only two years of research, the founder became deeply engrossed into this life and knowledge, allowing those interested in it as well to see his research. It became quite the talk for years, an institution made to debunk something that suddenly turned into what it was supposed to eradicate.
And that’s how demonic entities starting to manifest more freely. What this founder had thought to be lies turned into reality when he normalized paranormal entities to some point. Suddenly, the fantastical creatures you could only find in books made contact with this scientist, agreeing to share their knowledge and experience in this kind of realm. Soon, this institution would consolidate its power by creating a contract with the most ancient legend in the world.
The legend of Mistress Ranto wasn’t very known among humans. Nevertheless, there were some that knew her well, just as the researcher. Mistress Ranto was known to be the first demon to place her feet on the human realm; nobody knew why or how, but she was ancient, and had seen the world grow and develop to this day. In the stories Ain had heard, Mistress Ranto fought for not only her kind but all creatures against human pursuit; she was known to be fair for everyone, humans and creatures alike.
To this day, Mistress Ranto’s name was sacred and most of the creatures respected and devoted their lives to her command, just like Ain’s family had. She still had the black marks running through her arms, the mark her tribe wore as the ancient protectors of Mistress Ranto. However, Ain was the last pureblood descendant from this demonic tribe, the last person to swear her life and devotion to Mistress Ranto, ready to fight and give her life for her.
Curiously though, she wasn’t the only one to have sworn their names to Mistress Ranto. The researcher had done so as well. There were no details of how the contract went, but soon after, YPIS was turned into a school where young descendants of the creatures under Mistress Ranto’s care could learn about their history, their abilities and society’s norms. And they weren’t the only ones who could do that; young people curious enough or with the gift of learning magic or different abilities were accepted as well.
It was a safe space for different races to interact, under the supervision of people that knew and understood different realms. And Ain had to emphasize that it was. After many years from being established, YPIS became mandatory to those born between humans and demons, or vampires, or werewolves, or other creatures. It was around that time, where the government decided to restrict their access to knowledge and their own abilities that Ain decided to leave YPIS.
That’s why she was working on petty jobs like this one, researching whatever came to her hands and using her knowledge for tasks that could barely pay her rent (if she took multiple ones at the same time). She missed those years where working was actually interesting and she could have some action herself, but now all she could do was research the disappearance of a mother.
She scrolled to the page that she was looking for, skipping most of the nonsense written in it until she found it. The pentagrams laid in front of her eyes, most of them just dumb runes that didn’t fit together and couldn’t conjure a fly. However, it was exactly what made her look for the book in the first place. Because of her stubbornness when she took this case, she decided that researching wasn't all she would do.
She decided to visit one of the parks were the police had allegedly found the body of a disappeared person. Unfortunately, it was the mother of the girl who had contacted her. However, Ain was still curious as to why they weren’t disclosing this to the public (which she later found out to be a means of precaution, because it wasn’t the only body found there). So when she visited the park, she was surprised by what she found. Pentagrams all over the trees and the ground, but with runes that didn’t lead anywhere, or at least that’s what she thought then.
Now, reading the keys under the pentagrams in the book made her realize why. It was a kind of code, usually used by cults when they wanted to gather new recruits. However, Ain didn’t know what the pentagrams meant or what they were for. She got up, searching through the papers laying at her feet. She had written it already, but she didn’t know where. Rummaging around for a few minutes, she found the small piece of paper with the runes she found on the pentagrams.
She ran to her computer, writing in a different piece of paper for every pentagram, scribbling fast, and suddenly it all made sense. She stopped writing, the pencil falling to the floor as she froze. Her eyes wandered through the computer, a small breath leaving her mouth. She ran a hand through her short hair, getting stuck in a few tangles. She felt the blood on her face drain away, the hairs on her neck prickling upward. This could not be possible.
Darting up, she ran toward the phone that she had left in the round table hours ago, but right then, the lights in her apartment went out. She stopped, taking a deep breath. The temperature dropped abruptly, tension rising as silence felt deeply embedded in every corner of her apartment. She turned around slowly, maintaining her steady pace.
A screech cut the silence, making Ain drop to the floor from the pain. She placed her hands on her ears, closing her eyes. It didn’t take her long to realize that the screech was not something external. It was in her own head. She screamed, stumbling to get up. She had to get to her phone as fast as she could.
She tripped a few times, her hands plastered over her ears, feeling something wet and warm spill through her fingers. Her vision was blurred with red spots appearing here and there, the dizziness taking over her, stumbling around against the chairs, the papers and the books at her feet. She finally extended her hand, taking the phone before collapsing. She laid on her back, tears, or more exactly blood, rolling through her temples, sipping through her ears, their warm touch lingering in her skin. She looked at the phone one last time, unblocking it and shuffling through it.
She dialed the last number on her feed, the room spinning relentlessly around her. She faced forward, watching herself as if the ceiling was a mirror. Everything remained exactly the same, but it wasn't. Her eyes threatened to close, the pain becoming unbearable. She looked at herself one last time; her eyes were struck with fear after she noticed the dark figure near her head. It was facing upward as well, its face covered in a mask with a twisted expression, its mouth opened wide. Her eyes rolled back to her head, fainting.
On the floor, her phone rang and rang with a name on it.