Title: Ring the Bells
(c) 1996 (first posted February 2002)
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Ring ring the bells
Notes by agent Fox Mulder
Coming back from a wasted trip to Boston, Scully and I both were too tired to think about the tirade Skinner would give us once we got back. I should have listened to him, I admit, but I trusted the claims of Tommy Lando that he was abducted. In fact, I even thought I had the case of my life. Unfortunately, nothing was less true. He was a fraud, and I was utterly disappointed. Okay, so call me gullible. It doesn't matter.
Scully drove. She sat next to me, and listened quietly to music from James 'Ring the Bells'. She was humming the tune, singing some of the words. She wasn't even that upset that we had wasted a trip. In fact, she was in quite a good mood.
Night was falling. We would arrive at the Boston airport in an hour.
Unfortunately enough Lando lived in some small village about 50 miles out of Boston, near the Cape. But at least now I had a long time to think things over. We were about 20 miles before the Cape when the car broke down.
Suddenly the engine was killed: it had some kind of a breakdown, and I muttered, "What the hell?"
She glared at me, muttered back, "I don't know" and stared outside where it had started to rain. I stepped reluctantly out of the car and checked under the hood, but being everything but a mechanic, I could make heads or tales of the problem. And I got wet. Scully stayed in the car, opened the window, and asked,' Can you find it?"
"Of course not," I practically cursed and looked around. There was hardly anyone here at this time of night. We were practically in the middle of nowhere, but then I saw lights not so far from here - a small town. It seemed to be about a mile or so to walk over there.
"Come on," I insisted. "We'll have to get someone there."
"I don't have an umbrella, Mulder. Can't we just wait here?"
"For what? No one ever seems to come here. We could be here all night. We can dry up on the plane."
We pushed the car aside. Scully closed up, and looked at me with rain ruining her hair and clothes. She buttoned up her coat, and I comforted her.
"Come on. It won't take that long." For some reason I did not insist on her waiting inside the car.
We walked through the cold and rainy night towards the lights. As we approached, we saw a small village, with no more than fifteen houses. It was one of those pass-through little towns, with a diner or two, and a gas station and some shops. Everything was closed. But a gas station usually meant they also had to have a mechanic. At least, that's what I hoped for.
Due to the late hour, the gas station naturally was closed up, but I saw lights in the house behind. And other houses also had their lights still burning. And somewhere behind the garage, next to the station, there was a large building where we heard a lot of noise and laughter.
I rang the doorbell, and after a few seconds the door opened. A man, dressed rather old-fashioned looked at us. "Yes? Can I help you?" he asked surprised.
"I'm sorry to bother you this late, sir," I explained. "We're Federal Agents. Our car broke down a mile down the road. Are you a mechanic?"
"I certainly am."But I can't help you folks right now. You see, the annual feasts of Ranley are just about to start, and I'm waited for."
Scully and I looked at each other, and seeing her tired face, I asked. "Then perhaps we can call a tow truck here. We would not want to hold you up."
"I'm afraid the storm as knocked out all our telephone lines," the man reasoned. "But if you like you are more than welcome to stay and watch the play we're about to perform. It's not often that we get outsiders time of the year. And you could stay at my place for the night. I don't know where you're going to, but I'm sure it can wait till the morning. By the way, my name is Mike. My wife Rachel is already at the barn, but you'll meet her soon."
After the disappointments of that day, I wished for nothing more than a warm bed, and a cup of coffee. I turned towards my partner. "Scully, what do you think? To tell you the truth, I really am tired."
"So am I," she admitted. "Your offer is very kind, sir. We gladly accept."
"Good." He looked us over, noticed our wet clothes and said, "you need to change first. Let me get you upstairs. You can take a hot shower. Your car stands fine where it is. No one ever comes there. Do you have any clothes with you?"
"Yes, our bags are in the trunk."
"Good, I'll get them to you. After you have changed, you can join us at the barn."
"Thank you," Scully smiled.
As we were brought upstairs, I couldn't help but notice the strange, old-fashioned way of life these people had. They weren't like the Amish, or the Kindred we had encountered before. They had a television and radio, and hot water, and yet it seemed that time stood still here. It made me feel uncomfortable, and yet at ease. It was hard to explain. It seemed that nothing - not even the broken-down car at the edge of town - mattered anymore.
We received two guest rooms. Scully took a shower first, and changed into a warm robe, probably coming from Rachel. I went into the bathroom after her, and enjoyed the hot shower like I never did before. When I got out, tucked up in Mike's robe, our bags were already brought to the rooms. When we walked downstairs after changing into warm clothes, refreshed and less tired, the house was empty.
"Mulder, I hate to say this," Scully whispered as if the walls had ears, "but there's something wrong here. I can feel it."
"Why Scully," I grinned. "Are you having paranormal ideas here? This is probably the first time we won't get caught up in strange events. I'm looking forward to a nice, restful evening." The moment I said it, I knew I did not believe my own words, but I wanted to comfort my partner somehow.
She smiled awkwardly, knowing that I only said it to deal with the strange foreboding we both sensed. "Come on, Scully, let's party." I held her by the arm and to my surprise she did not back away. Instead she grinned and looked quite attractive in her borrowed outfit.
We left the empty house and walked up to the barn where we had heard the voices before. Above the sound of the music and the voices was a constant ringing of the bell, as if to warn everyone that the party had begun. There was laughter, music, and several townsfolk, all dressed up as if they came right out of the sixties. The music we heard didn't came from a cd-player, but from a band playing as if their lives depended on it. We saw a small stage and chairs were put in front of them.
The folks turned around and looked at us, and we really didn't fit in here, dressed in our normal FBI-clothes. Mike came over to us. "Good to see you again. I don't even know your names."
"Fox Mulder. And this is Dana Scully."
"Mike Lawrence. Well, let me introduce you to the rest of the town." He pulled us closer to the stage, crawled on and gained everyone's attention.
"Folks, it seems that for the first time we have guests in our midst. These are FBI-agents, Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. Let's give them a night they won't forget, everyone!"
We heard laughter again, and the next minute we were both caught in the middle of the festivities. I saw Scully end up in a group of men and women who took up her to meet some more people. I smiled as I watched her turn around and look at me helplessly as she was brought to yet another couple waiting to meet her. I experienced the same. Somehow the atmosphere here made us forget everything - the trouble we were about to have with Skinner the disappointment of the wasted trip. It just didn't concern us anymore not here, not tonight.
Then, when I forgot time, they asked us to sit down. Scully and I were placed on two chairs next to each other, surrounded by the kind habitants of Ranley. Some of them left the crowd. We would see them again on stage. A few minutes later the play started. I felt sleepy by then. The combination of the eggnog with the tired feeling I had all night, made me want to lay my head down right there, and just sleep. As I looked aside, I noticed Scully felt the same, but we both stayed on our seats. We didn't want to spoil the evening.
I took off my jacket and saw that Scully took off her shawl. It was really hot in here. Afterwards I would hardly remember the play or what had been said or done. I do remember how Mike stood up, came to me, grabbed me by the shoulder and spoke in the strangest voice, "You should go now."
"Where to?" I asked.
"You'll see. There is not much time. Just go."
I didn't understand what he was saying. I felt my body slipping away into darkness, and as he touched my shoulder, his touch was electric. Then the faces of the others danced in front of me, as if I was drunk. I blinked, feeling that strange foreboding again. "You're right," I muttered dazed. "We should go now."
I looked aside, and saw Scully lie on the floor. Her eyes were closed. I reached out my hand to touch her, but I wasn't able to get to her. As I felt my legs give away, I heard Mike's gentle voice, "It's all right, Agent Mulder. You will join her soon. We'll take care of you."
Then his voice was gone, and I fell into deep darkness, lying next to my partner on the cold barn floor.
"Sir. Sir, can you hear me?"
I had trouble opening my eyes, but something bright woke me. And I heard a voice. I looked up, and felt how stiff my body was due to my uncomfortable position.
"Sir, do you hear me?"
"Yes ..." I replied while I opened my eyes, and saw into the sunlight.
My voice stopped speaking as I saw that we were lying in the car. Scully was next to me. She lay behind the steering wheel, her face resting on it, and her hands rested in her lap. She slept. Or she was unconscious.
"Scully," I heard my voice from a far distance. "Scully -?"
"Hmm ..." She had trouble opening her eyes, just as I had experienced, but then she looked up, and asked with a hoarse voice, "What is going on ?"
The man standing next to the car was a police officer. The sun shone bright on the metal of his ID. As he saw that I tried to move, he stopped me. "Be careful. You might be hurt."
I touched my head. I felt a splitting headache. Then I remembered the feast at the barn, Mike, Rachel, the townsfolk. The sudden urge to sleep.
"Where are we?" I asked.
"Just outside Ranley. What happened? Did you have an accident? Or did you fall asleep behind the wheel?"
"I think so - No, I ... We were in Ranley, and - I don't know, there was a feast. Mike said we could sleep at his place."
I moved out of the car and swayed on my feet. I felt like I had the worst hangover ever.
The cop now looked at me as if I was crazy. I took out my ID and showed it to him. "We're Federal Agents. Our car broke down here. We walked to Ranley, but frankly I don't remember what happened afterwards."
"Sir, pardon me for asking, but how much did you have to drink?" the cop asked.
"What?" Scully's voice made me turn back. She stood next to the car. Then I noticed she was wearing the suit she wore yesterday, the one that had gotten soaked during our walk to the town.. I looked down, and stared at my gray suit. I walked around the car, opened the trunk and saw the bags. They were unopened.
The cop followed me, and asked concerned," Sir, is everything alright?"
I looked in front of me, towards the spot where we had seen the town. In broad daylight it was easy to see what was left of it. There was nothing but a few burned out ruins. There were some abandoned houses. There was a ruin of a barn. There was nothing left. And it had been that day for quite some time. It was a ghost town.
"What the hell is going on here, Mulder?" Scully asked who had noticed exactly the same. "We were in a barn last night, weren't we? There was a party. A feast. You dreamt it too didn't you?"
"It wasn't a dream," I whispered. "I was there too."
I turned towards the cop and pointed at the ruins. "That is Ranley, isn't it?"
"It sure is."
"What happened there?"
He now seemed to understand that something strange was going on, because he said carefully, as if not to shock us, "The entire village burnt down 30 years ago, in a fire which started at the barn. They were having a celebration. None of them survived. The fire spread faster than anything you'd ever seen. They all died - all thirty-three of them."
"That's impossible," Scully spoke with a high-pitched voice, "we saw them!
We were there."
"Yesterday night was the 30th anniversary of that fire," the cop muttered.
Scully started walking towards the village, but as I tried the car, it started. It seemed as if it had never broken down. We drove up to the ruins, and once there, we saw nothing but burnt down houses, and in the middle of them, the ruins of a barn. Even after 30 years, the stage was still standing there.
"No one felt like rebuilding this place," the cop continued to explain, "It's a ghost town, and it will stay that way till the end of time. Folk say that there is a strange atmosphere here. It's a mass grave and none are interested in rebuilding it."
As I walked to the barn, I saw something on the ground. I picked it up. It was a blue jacket, almost new. It had not been there for thirty years. I knew that jacket. I could even still scent my aftershave on it. I had worn it the night before. to it, lay Scully's shawl.
We looked at each other. Scully walked back to the car. I heard her humming, "Ring. Ring the bells."