The cold breeze was tingling her skin while the sun was fighting with his last breath to maintain its power to warm not only her but the entire planet. The autumn season reached its end and winter was fast approaching. The smell of dead leaves still wafted through the air but she didn't seem to be interested in these small details, she was more interested in finding a blanket to cover herself with.
As soon as she found the much sought-after wool blanket, she sat down on a three-legged chair from the terrace. She lit a cigarette and took a sip of the almost cold coffee. She seemed so absorbed in her thoughts that not even the melancholic scenery of bare trees from the forest wasn't able to attract her attention. She loved nature, but not at that moment.
The peaceful scene didn’t last for too long since it was disturbed by her phone ringing like it was a life-or-death situation. It took her a while to pick up the phone and answer because she had to put her mind in order before answering.
“Hey, Sasha! How are you? We haven’t talked in a while and I was wondering if you would like to go out for a coffee or something?” her best friend asked.
“Hey, Aness! I am not entirely sure. My life is a mess right now. I am feeling so overwhelmed. Nothing is going in the right direction.” she said, twisting a lock of hair between her little fingers.
“So? Will you stay and cry about how unfair life is or try to make the best out of it? I don’t want to hear excuses. Get dressed, I'll pick you up in twenty minutes.” said Aness in a calm but firm voice.
“I feel like you've made up your mind before you called me. I know if I say 'No!' I will end up being dragged out of my house in pajamas like the last time.” answered Sasha with a smirk on her face.
“That’s right. I will pull you out in whatever state you are in. Better be ready before I arrive. Kisses.” replied Aness before ending the call.
After the conversation, Sasha got up and went straight to her closet. She pulled a pair of ripped jeans from the top shelf and a black sweater, got dressed and took a glance in the mirror. Everything looked fine except for the dark circles around her eyes. She quickly went to the bathroom and opened her makeup bag. A bit of foundation, mascara and some eyeliner and she was looking like a new person. The tiredness from her face disappeared in just a few seconds.
Sasha was a lovely girl with a round face and black almond-shaped eyes that could melt thousands of hearts with just one look. The sad part of being a humble girl is that she never wanted to acknowledge the fact that many people thought she was beautiful.
She never liked the idea to tie her hair up, but this time she opted for a ponytail. A few minutes later, the doorbell rang, letting Sasha know that her friend was already there. She quickly ran downstairs, put on a pair of black boots, took the coat from the hanger, and got outside.
Aness was waiting in front of her silver SUV. Their encounters always start with friendly hugs before anything else. Aness was a ride or die for Sasha and everyone could see that.
“Look at you! You always look like you stepped out of a magazine cover! Always so skinny and fit!” says Aness checking Sasha up and down.
Aness wasn’t always curvy and she misses the times when she was in her twenties, the times when she was as skinny as Sasha.
“Come on! You always say that but look at yourself! You still look as amazing as ever! I can see you dyed your hair red again! This hair colour fits you the best!” said Sasha smiling.
“Thanks, girl! But let’s go so that we don't have to wait too much outside. I know it is a very busy place. I could barely get a booking at this new café bar. I heard it is really special because it is located in the middle of a big antique bookshop.” explained Aness.
“Let me guess, are we going to a fancy coffee bar where the price of one coffee is half of my paycheck?” asked Sasha giggling.
“As I told you before, if I have something, you have it too. Don’t worry about the money because everything is already paid for. Besides, you are only 23 years old, so it is time to enjoy life.” said Aness while getting inside the car.
The traffic was pretty much non-existent, which was something unexpected for the city that they were in.
After the car was parked, they got out and walked to the main entrance where a tall man was doing all the necessary checks before allowing people to get in.
“Good afternoon ladies! Please tell me the booking number so I can check in the system.” the man said.
“Good afternoon! The number is 696.” Aness answered.
“Brilliant! I’ve found it! Please come in and enjoy. If you have any problems or questions, my colleagues will always be available and happy to assist you.” said the man.
The girls didn’t wait any longer and went inside. The moment the doors were opened, they were blinded for a few seconds by the bright lights. After their eyesight returned to normal, they realized the true beauty of the place they were in. On the current floor was a big luxurious café surrounded by shelves with very old books. Looking above, you could clearly see the other floors that you could easily access using the elevator.. Everything from walls to furniture was designed in a very fine baroque style.
“So this is how the rich live?” asked Sasha astonished by the beauty of the place.
“I would say yes. Now I understand why it was so hard to get a reservation here. Let’s sit there, on the sofa.” said Aness pointing to the couch near the bar.
Once the girls sat down they took the menus from the table and began reading them.
“This menu looks confusing. Why is coffee called ‘Dark History’ and another one called ‘True crimes’ ?” asked Sasha confused.
“That is a hella good question. I have no clue. Let me just buzz for assistance.” replied Aness pressing a golden button from the table.
In a few moments, a nice lady came with a big smile on her face asking how can she help. The girls explained the situation and the waitress replied to them:
“Oh, I understand the confusion! The coffees have the name after the categories of antique books If you are ordering a coffee named 'History', at the end of the session, you will get an antique history book. You can drink up to 3 coffees per person and eat as many cakes as you like. The rarity of the books you will get will be determined by the booking number you received.”
“What do you mean by that?” asked Sasha a bit confused.
“The booking numbers are generated by a special machine and divided into 3 categories: common (from 1-400), medium (from 400-570), rare(570-620), and special which is just one number that no one ever got.” said the waitress.
“So we have 696… What does this one mean?” Aness asked.
When the waitress heard the number she was completely shocked and said:
“Oh my! That is unexpected ! This is the special number! Congratulations!” said the waitress.
“Oh… well those are amazing news, so Sasha, have you decided what you want?” asked Aness happy.
Sasha was a bit skeptical about the whole menu but she finally chose something:
“I would like the coffee named ‘Forbidden’.”
“And I would like the coffee named ‘Knowledge’,” replied Aness.
Once the order has been placed, it didn’t take too long for the coffee to be delivered to the table. The smell of fresh coffee was tingling their noses. The taste was exotic (bitter-sweet and strong). You could feel the intensity of the coffee from only one sip.
When Sasha finished her coffee she took Aness to explore the titles of the books. There were so many old titles that none of the girls knew what were the books about.
“I did not know you liked books so much,” Sasha said.
“I do. I finished the university of foreign languages and literature. I liked reading since little. Also, I think our time is running out, so we have to go.” replied Aness.
Before they left, they went to the waitress to let her know that they were ready to leave and to collect the books. The waitress told them that someone will bring the books to their car. Everything was ready just in a few minutes, but before they went home, Sasha had to satisfy her curiosity and asked one of the men:
“May we know the reason why we couldn’t take the book directly from the café?”
“This is a policy of the café in order to protect its customers. At the end of the day, some of the books are rare artifacts and we don’t want to endanger our customers.” replied one of the men before they all vanished back to the building.
During the drive to Sasha’s house, the girls had an intense conversation about the café.
“You know what I don’t understand? How a place is allowed to give away artifacts so easily without the government getting involved?” Sasha asked, leaning back in the white leather chair trying to make herself more comfortable.
“If you knew the price of one ticket to that coffee bar you would say that I robbed a bank before we went in,” Aness said while paying attention to the traffic.
“Then how on earth did you manage to put your hands on a ticket? Because I don’t know if you saw, but there were only millionaires and billionaires!” asked Sasha.
"Remember the old lady that I was helping before she passed away? Her son was the owner of the café but unfortunately, he died in a car accident a few years ago, so the old lady had no one to rely on. After her death, I got a phone call from her trustee stating that she left me some tickets to a café bar and around 700.000£. From my understanding, she wanted to go with me to that café. Sadly her health was getting worse so she could no longer leave the house. When her trustee called me I was in shock. I had to deal with her funerals as a way of showing my respect which is why we have not been in contact for a while. “ Aness said with a sad voice.
“That is a hell of a story. I am so sorry for the old lady and her son. But look at the bright side, now you can pay the mortgage and relax and enjoy your life without worrying too much.” Sasha replied.
“Well don’t get too comfortable in the car because we reached our destination. Let’s get the books from the boot first.”
When the girls opened the boot, they saw a large metallic box engraved with various shapes and a giant ruby in the middle.
“This thing is heavier than my soul. I can barely handle it. Can you please please give me a hand?” Aness asked.
“Let me just open the door first and I will come and help you out,” Sasha answered while running to the entrance.
The girls managed to get the box inside and put it on the coffee table situated in the open living room. The tension and excitement from the air were rising per second. The atmosphere from the room changed drastically. Intense pressure was felt by both of the girls. The feeling that they were constantly watched began to rise in their intuition.
“This thing is starting to give me weird vibes. It's as if the energy is calling us to open it up. I feel like it's some kind of Pandora's box.” Sasha said taking a seat next to Aness.
“Well, here we are now. Let's open it up and see.” Aness replied, while reaching for the box.
The closer Aness was getting her hand to the box, the tension in the room was constantly rising. She begins to slowly lift the lid and unleash the mystery. Once the lid was opened, both were shocked. In the box was a massive book engraved with a lot of symbols and in the middle was written “Mortiferum”.
“Wow, this is something that I didn't expect. No wonder why it was so hard to carry.” Sasha said while helping Aness to take the book out of the box.
“It is definitely in Latin. So we might have a bit of a hard time translating it. Even though I know Latin, there must also be words that I never encountered before.” Aness stated.
“So the book is basically about death? As much as I remember from my Latin lessons in school that pretty much means 'Death'.” Sasha said, while reaching out to open the first page of the book.
“Not quite. It is more than death it is something among the lines ‘The Gods of Death . And looking at the state of this book, the smell of it , and the fact that the cover is made out of pure gold I would say this book is from around 700 BC.” Aness replied with a serious look on her face.
The moment Sasha hear that she took her hand back in fear. It was like she felt something was off, as if someone was telling her that by opening that book, it was at her own risk. A dead silence settled in the room. The two girls were staring at the book not knowing what to do.
“So this thing is screaming ‘danger’ to me. Now I am not sure what to do, but I won’t open it alone.” Sasha said.
“Understandable. Let’s open it together at 3. One, two, three!” Aness said while both reached out and opened the book.
The pages of the book were made out of some sort of skin and every single word was written in gold. The energy that was in the room shifted again and it was as if they were unlocking something long awaited.