Heather opened the trunk for Julie and watched her bike away while she waited for the secretary. The woman brought her a set of keys and some papers, which she tossed in the passenger seat before turning back to the woman.
“Leave him alone, no funny business.” She gave the secretary a stern look and the woman feigned offence.
“You have our word, no harm will come to Mr. Esler.”
Heather exhaled loudly through her nose and got in the car without another word. The drive wasn’t very far to the apartments and she was there well before Julie, who biked up to her about fifteen minutes later, breathing heavily. She gave Heather a black duffel bag and stuffed her bike back in the trunk, leaning on it to catch her breath.
“We need to be quick, so drink this now.” Heather handed her the other bottle of coffee and she chugged it quickly. The keys opened the front door and Julie led the way up to the correct floor. The hallways were peaceful, with only the sound of a television breaking the silence. They entered the missing woman’s apartment to discover a mess of papers dangling from the ceiling by hairs.
“This is gross.” Julie batted away a few pages and cringed as a length of blonde hair tried to wrap around her fingers.
“It’s just hair, nothing that gross.” Heather peered up at the ceiling, which was covered in the long blonde hairs. There was a sound like fabric stretching and she could see hairs stretch down and envelop a pen that had been sitting on the desk. From the looks of it the hairs had slowly torn apart the contents of the desk, including an address book and some sort of journal, “The desk is the focal point. I’ll anchor to the far wall.” She pulled a couple spools of fishing line out of the duffel bag and tied one to each of them, muttering a few quiet words as she secured the other end to a light fixture on the far wall. The lines glowed a soft blue and she turned her attention to the desk. Julie swatted a patch of hair away as it reached for her arm and Heather cast her a warning glance as it sizzled with blue flame.
“Just a warning shot.”
“Please try not to burn the building down. Mr. Esler’s body is still next door.” Heather pulled some chalk out of the bag and started to draw on the desk, but the hair grasped it and pulled it away before she could react, “Okay, so new tactic. Any suggestions?” She turned to Julie, who dug in the bag a bit and pulled out a roll of blue painter tape. Heather quickly scribbled some symbols along the tape, kneeling close to the floor to avoid the hair. She tore off a strip and flattened it on the desk, then repeated the process until she had a reasonable circle on the desk. The hair tried to grasp the tape but couldn’t and finally settled down. “That should hold, let’s see where we’re going.”
Julie peered over her shoulder as she put her hand on the edge of the circle and it turned transparent, showing a strange orange landscape beneath them. Rivers of what looked like Lava flowed far below around small islands that connected by thin bridges of rock. Heather frowned at the scene and stepped back to take a breath.
“That looked bad.” Julie said.
“I’d recommend you don’t use your fire stuff at least.” She paused and picked up the duffel bag, “I’ll buy us some time but we better hurry.” As she spoke the room seemed to stiffen and the hair slowly tried to reach for them. Heather pulled a small hammer out of the bag and smashed the window in the circle. Hot air swelled out of the new opening, singeing nearby hairs and making both sisters take a step back. Heather put up a hand to shield her face instinctively and felt Julie grip her other hand tightly. A rush of cold air surrounded them and she sighed with relief.
“Not often I have a use for frostbite.” Julie remarked, climbing onto the desk and lowering herself through the hole. She let go of Heather’s hand and fell through. Heather followed and was surprised to find herself falling upwards. She landed on her back on the ceiling next to Julie, her hair dangling straight down towards the floor as she stood up.
“I don’t… I don’t understand the gravity of this place.”
“At least we didn’t land in lava.” Julie said, surveying the nearby ceiling. Stalactites surrounded them, dripping liquid that quickly evaporated into steam. She gestured off into the distance, to a set of ruins on the ground at the far end of a long row of islands. “Maybe start there?” She looked to Heather.
“It’s the only thing around here…” Heather pulled out the papers the secretary had handed her and plucked out a driver’s license for the missing woman. She put everything else away again and tucked the license into her pocket, “If we can get somewhere not above lava I’ll try and locate her more precisely at least.”