Massa had to fight back a laugh. It wasn’t a normal, that was a funny story or joke kind of laugh. No, this laugh would’ve made her sound insane. Repeatedly she had attempted to tell Dennis, Sam, and everyone else on the research field that the best way to figure out what the rifts were and where they went was to go through one, and repeated, they denied her. Saying it was crazy and impossible.
There was no way this was a dream; even if the events leading up to this exact moment made it seem like one. Crazy, maybe. A dream, not one bit.
The longer she stood in place, the more she felt sick to her stomach. It was like that one time she let Dennis talk her into riding the Kamikaze at the local fairgrounds. Shaped like two large hammers, the seats inside the ride get packed to max capacity- hardly any elbow room -with anyone taller than four feet. Young or old, they were packed in and forced to sit with harnesses strapping everyone into place. Massa felt fine during the ride. A little claustrophobic from being strapped down, but fine. Afterward, she stumbled as she walked. Dennis laughed at her antics and said she looked just his cat whenever he spun the office chair really quickly.
Massa took a deep breath and held it in. Violet eyes closed to the unfamiliar surroundings. If she could just ground herself to this land that felt so different, then she could get her rolling stomach back to normal. So many emotions had gone through her in such a short amount of time, it left a horrid feeling inside of her, and there was still more to come.
The female shifter was startled by the sound of an unfamiliar voice speaking from behind her. She turned quickly on her heels to face this unknown person. Once violet colored eyes changed dramatically to a silvery hue that shined like a highly polished stone. Her pupils were no longer rounded like a human's but were slitted like that of a cat. Her teeth had also lengthened slightly. Not enough to show or to dig into her gums, but enough so that if she was to lift her lips up they would be noticed easily enough. These small changes in her features were automatic and could not be controlled, but the few moments it took to realize that she wasn’t under attack was enough for her to make the shift back.
[#537e9d “If you’re here and this place is closed off like you say it is then you know exactly how I got here,”] she said with a huff. Irritation laced her veins, replacing and comforting everything else like a warm coat in winter. [#537e9d “But I want to know just where exactly [i here] is.”]
[size12 Studying the odd rifts was a job most were afraid to do but someone had to do it. It was a risky job since these things could suck in or spit out just about anything from a fly to whole cities. Although, seeing cities be spit out is pretty much a legend but it’s not totally impossible. Often times worlds are built and formed from the rifts. Odd but true.]
[size12 It was a just another normal day. Toxic was snoring away, happy to finally get some rest after having worked his ass off the past couple weeks. However, it didn’t last long. His communicator started going off, the tone being for that of the Rift Investigation Bureau. The man nearly jolted himself off the couch he was snoozing on. He grabbed the device off the table and tapped on the answer button, putting it on speaker.] [b “Hermando. Dude. I thought I told you I was taking a break for a few days? I’ve been working my ass off for the past two weeks straight.”]
[+red “Sorry, Toxic. But this is important. Another rift just opened up and it seems to be moving.”]
[b “Is it the one from before? The one that appeared like it was seeking something?”]
[+red “It’s possible that it’s the same one. I sent the crew down to check it out. I’m waiting for the details.”]
[b “Then why call me?”]
[size12 The line was quiet for a few moments.] [+red “Sorry about that. Got a notice from the crew that it’s a different one. It moved about 10 yards before it blipped out.”]
[b “Odd. They usually stay around longer than that.”]
[+red “Usually they do but this one seemed odd.”] [size12 The line went quiet for a moment again.] [+red “It appeared again. The same one but it’s in a different starting point. It’s not much bigger than a loaf of bread but it keeps blipping.”]
[b “Hermando. Call the crew back. This one could be a dangerous one. I’ll go and check it out personally. Send the coordinates and I’ll be there.”]
[+red “Right.”] [size12 The sound of key clicks could be heard.] [+red “Done. I sent a return to base notice. Hurry up and get there. The coordinates should arrive to your communicator shortly.”]
[size12 There was no goodbye or anything. They just hung up. It was a common thing between them since they knew each other for so long.] [b “Back to work I guess.”] [size12 Toxic mumbled as he stood up, grabbing his coat from off the back of the couch. He grabbed and tucked his gun into the holster at his back and grabbed his sword from the rack, swinging it over to stick to his back. No scabbard needed. Then out the door he went.]
[size12 The rift was surprisingly small and it kept bliping out and appearing in a different spot within the 15 or 20 yard area. The area was in a wooded park and this was a camping clearing. The crew had already left by the time Toxic got to the site, which was roped off to prevent accidents..] [b “This is by far the oddest one yet. I wonder. Could it be trying to connect with another rift in another world and it keeps failing making it blip?”] [size12 He mumbled to himself as his perched on a nearby boulder, pen and journal poised to gather information.] [b “It doesn’t seem like it’s trying to suck anything in. Maybe the connection thing is true and it’s getting ready to spit something out. To think that someone will get to witness the event would be one for the record books.”]
[size12 For hours all Toxic did was observe the rift and jotted down any new developments, which was next to nothing. It was starting to get frustrating, making his eyes change from their crystal blue to a more white color. Someone came up to him, a woman and fellow researcher, to check on him.] [+red “Hey, Toxic. How’s the research doing?”] [size12 She asked, making the man turn and look at her. She let out a squeak seeing his eyes like they were.] [+red “Jesus Christ! I can never get used to your eyes being like that.”]
[b “Sorry, Mel. Can’t help it. This rift is just behaving very strangely but it’s not doing much more than teleporting around this clearing. It’s a bit frustrating to be honest.”]
[+red “Ah. I’ll let the boss know. Hopefully something happens. It would make for a great report. I’ll check back later.”]
[size12 Mel left and Toxic resumed observing the rift, hoping for something to happen.]
[size12 The damn rift had lasted for 5 days and it did nothing more than blip around. Toxic was so done with this. Every day he would come and observe the same damn thing. On the 6th day, the rift seemed to have stabilized and stuck itself into one place.] [b “It stabilized? Maybe it connected with another rift. For the love of all that’s holy, let something happen.”] [size12 He mumbled as he jotted down the change. This was at like 2 in the morning, by the way.]
[size12 Toxic left for a few hours to rest and eat and have a smoke or two to relax. There was only a small handful of people that had the intelligence, or at least the skill, to perform this kind of field research. One of them was a co-worker in the Hunter’s Bureau and he was a jackass. When they were paired up, it was nothing but a disaster. The job got done but not without the two bickering over one thing or another. It didn’t help that his co-worker was half demon. And yet they both hunted demons. Coincidence? Maybe. Or maybe it was just fate being cruel.]
[size12 Once recharged somewhat, Toxic returned. He had a couple large cups of coffee and a bag full of sugar and creamer that was enough for at least 20 cups of coffee. In the clearing where the rift was, the rift wasn’t. Instead there was someone, a girl, standing in the clearing, looking a bit disheveled. There was no way to tell how long this person was there. A thought popped into his head; maybe this person came out of the rift. Toxic heaved a sigh.] [b “Hey. This area is closed off to the public for research purposes. How did you get in here?”] [size12 Toxic said as he moved to the boulder he has been sitting on and setting the coffees and bag down on it. He turned and leaned against the rock to look at the new arrival. There was look of curiosity on the man’s face. He clearly didn’t mean any harm. He just wanted to know if his hunch was correct.]
If someone had told Massa that the newest rift opening in Winthrop, WA would swallow her and spit her out into a whole other world, she would’ve laughed in their face and called them a bloody fucking liar. To understand how exactly this happened, one must go back in order to go forward. All stories have a beginning, after all, and this one starts earlier that morning with a phone call at 5:36 A.M.
That morning was the same as any other. Massa woke up at 5:00 a.m. She went about her usual morning ritual. Even though she was on vacation at this time, she figured it wouldn’t do to break from the norm.
By 5:05, she was stepping outside of her house dressed in sweatpants and a tank top along with a water bottle in hand. Music pumped through a set of headphones directly into her ears, matching the slap of her feet on cement as she jogged down the road. A road that was almost completely devoid of any cars. Only the occasion headlights would light up the early morning, casting her shadow behind or in front of her.
There was a difference this morning that came not even fifteen minutes into her run. Instead of jogging for half an hour and then turning around to head home, completing her circuit in an hour, she turned back early. There was no particular reason behind this. The woman just turned around early and started home, reaching her front door exactly a minute before her cell phone switched from the music downloaded into the multimedia app to the ringtone reserved specifically for work.
[#537e9d “Hello?”] She gave a cursory response while twisting the lid off of her water bottle.
[+green “Still doing that morning ritual of yours?”] A familiar voice came down the line, making the woman pause in taking a drink, cool liquid just sitting against her lips until she hastily swallowed a mouthful and replaced the lid.
[#537e9d “”It must be really important if they have you calling me. What is it, Dennis?”] She leaned her back against the counter, tucking one arm over her chest while the other held her cell to her ear. There was a bit of static that caused Massa to frown. Usually, that only happened if her ex-husband was in the company helicopter.
[+green “It certainly isn’t a social call,”] Dennis chuckled as if there was a private joke being shared between them. [+green You remember the rift that opened in Washington three years ago?”] His tone shifted from playful almost instantly, and without waiting for Massa to confirm or deny him, he continued on. [+green “It’s back, and it’s moving, just like last time. Apparently, it showed up five days ago.”]
Massa shifted feet, confusion pulling her brows together. [#537e9d “No one called it in before now?”]
[+green “The locals decided to just let it slide by, but its course is taking it right to a playground with little kids. The area has been sectioned off, but the rift just jumped. Winking out of existence only to pop right back up a few feet past the barriers.”]
[+green “Mhm. Shit is right. The county finally called, pleading that we come deal with this thing before someone’s kid gets sucked into it. The Director said he wanted you on this one, and he also said to tell you he’ll give you that raise you wanted since he’s cutting in on the first vacation you’ve ever taken since starting a job with the company.”]
[#537e9d “I’d rather be the one checking this thing's progress anyway, vacation be damned.”]
[+green “I figured as much. Listen, I’m about to start up the helicopter and any conversation will be drowned out. I’ll be at your place in a few minutes. So I suggest taking the fastest shower you’ve ever taken in your life, otherwise, you’ll have to suffer through sweaty clothes and whatever else the whole ride there.”]
[#537e9d “Last time I checked, Dennis, your showers lasted longer than mine ever did.”]
Dennis laughed and they bid each other goodbye before hanging up. Massa stood in the kitchen a moment longer before making her way to the bathroom. Dennis was right, she would have to be quick this time.
Barely ten minutes after their conversation on the phone, the raven-haired woman was climbing skillfully into the co-pilot seat of the helicopter. A man clearly ten years older than her, at least, sat in the other seat. He shot her a smile and waited for his once upon a time wife to place the headset over her ears before taking off.
[+green “Your hair is wet,”] Dennis’s voice was strained in an attempt to be heard over the thumping of the blades above their heads.
Massa gave him a look that clearly meant no shit. Purple eyes rolled dramatically towards the sky as she turned to look out the window on her side of the helicopter. Trees passed quickly below them. The flight wouldn’t take too long. Not from Oregon.
[center ☬[#ffffff ///]☬[#ffffff ///]☬]
[+green “Get those reporters back!”] Dennis shouted at the officers just standing around staring at the equipment being hauled out of the belly of the helicopter. His voice was enough to get the uniformed men moving, snapping them back to reality. There were just a few moments of confusion as bodies moved from one spot to another.
Massa stood as close to the rift as she dared to get. It was sitting in place, unmoving like she had been told it tended to do. Gravel crunched under a boot as someone moved up to her left side.
[#537e9d “It doesn’t look like much,”] Massa turned her head slightly to look at her ex-husband. [#537e9d “I’ve seen larger rifts than this. It’s barely big enough to fit a loaf of bread in.”]
Dennis laid a warm hand on her shoulder. [+green “It’s small, but don’t be fooled. Remember the one in Florida? It was barely the size of a pea, and that one tried to take an entire airplane out of the sky.”]
[#537e9d “I know.”] Her lips pressed tightly together as she eyed the small wrinkle in the air in front of her. [#537e9d “It’s just hard to believe something this small can cause such a large issue.”] With a shake of her head, she turned around and started for the equipment that had been gathered and stacked just inside the yellow tape.
Someone was already digging through the containers and setting up the system needed to take the required measurements. [#537e9d “Sam,”] she tapped a guy with graying hair on the back, causing him to jump and turn around.
[+red “Shit! Massa, why can’t you make noise when you walk up behind me? One of these days you’re going to give this old man a heart attack.”] He had a hand over his chest and was leaning against the stack of equipment. [+red “I thought you were on vacation, what happened?”]
A smile pulled at the woman’s mouth. [#537e9d “Sometimes work just can’t leave me alone.”]
He nodded and turned back to finish setting up. [+red “Dennis always said you were married to your work first and him second.”]
[#537e9d “He knew that before we ever dated.”] She pulled out a baseball-sized chunk of metal and held it up. [#537e9d “What is this? It looks like the things off of Twister.”]
Sam took the ball from her hand. [+red “It’s just a prototype, but you are correct. Dennis said he was watching Twister and got the idea that maybe if we send a probe through the rift we can learn something from it. He decided this would be the perfect time to try it.”] He tossed the ball back into the container that held more of the same in it. [+red “They’ve already been programmed into your computer. So, whenever you feel it is time to release the little guys, we just tip the container and you get to play a little game.”]
Massa hummed and stared at the ball like probes. [#537e9d “I told Dennis before that this wouldn’t work. The best way to get results is to send a live person to the other side.”]
[+red “I agree with you there, but we don’t know what could be waiting on the other side, and who knows what would happen when they are on route. These things are unpredictable at best. This one even more so.”] Sam and Massa looked towards the unmoving rift at the same time. [+red “Dennis called me crazy when I told him this one doesn’t feel right.”]
Massa touched Sam’s arm. [#537e9d “Doesn’t feel right how?] Sam fidgeted under her hand. [#537e9d “Come on, Sam. You know that I trust your judgment more than anyone else. You’ve got amazing instincts and a great head on your shoulders.”]
Sam hesitated a moment before letting out a sigh. [+red “I don’t really understand it myself. Massa, I’ve been here for a while now, this thing has been moving nonstop for days now. Not even five minutes before you and Dennis got here, it stopped. That thing hasn’t moved this whole time you’ve been here. I don’t know what is going on, but it just. Doesn’t. Feel. Right.”] His voice raised up enough to cause Dennis to start walking towards them with a pissed look on his face. [+red “Mark my words, Massa, this thing is waiting for something.”]
Dennis joined the other two by the equipment. He firmly grabbed Sam’s arm. [+green “What are you doing Sam?”]
[#537e9d “Enough Dennis. Let him go.”]
[+green “You talk too much louder and this could be ruined for all of us.”]
Massa growled in her throat. Her words would just be ignored, and from the look in Sam’s eyes, he had already given up without even fighting. She couldn’t see the one friend she had made being treated like a kid.
As she walked away from the two men and towards the helicopter she had come in on, someone started yelling. At first she ignored the sound until she heard her name being shouted out by Sam. If she hadn’t turned as slowly as she had, Massa might’ve been able to avoid the thing everyone had started to shout about, but she turned so slowly that by the time she could see that the rift had moved, it was too late.
The sensation of being inside the rift was like nothing Massa had ever experienced before. The sound of people shouting was suddenly cut off. It was like she had cotton balls shoved in her ears. Even her own breathing seemed muffled. It felt like something was tugging her in multiple directions at once while crushing her at the same time. It was like she was flying, swimming, and falling all at the same time.
There was no up or down, and then, she heard a popping sound in her ears and found herself stumbling forward over unfamiliar ground. She kept to her feet, taking more than one step to keep her balance before turning quickly in hopes of jumping right back through the rift, but it was gone. There was no wrinkle in the air in front of her.
[#537e9d “Shit,”] she muttered while running a hand through her short, black hair. [#537e9d “Something tells me this doesn’t come with a Get out of Jail Free card.”]