Title: Torment
Author: Piper Sargasso
Written: October 2003
Rating: R (violence)

Feedback: Sloppy kisses to the first ten customers! PiperSargasso@aol.com

Archive: It's all yours. Please just let me know where.

Summary: Mulder and Scully investigate a home haunted by malevolent spirits.

Disclaimer: Mulder, Scully and the Gunmen are the property of CC, 1013, etc. No infringement intended.

A/N: HUGE thanks to Char for the supersonic beta! Chocolate showers with cherries on top to you, Sweetie.

~ Prologue ~

 Camden Pennsylvania
 October 27, 1997

At first glance, the two-story, red brick house was almost the exact replica of Scully's dream home. The location was ideal, settled on the outskirts of a small town where the nearest neighbor could be seen, yet not heard. Perfect, quaint little place to raise a family. Ivy crept up the masonry, stretching over the cream-colored shutters. It made the outside of the huge house look cozy and inviting. The landscaping was immaculate; little blooming clusters of color dotting the lawn at intervals, creating a harmonic lushness with the pruned bushes and weeping willows. The cream- colored, wraparound porch was a new addition, which complimented the structure's early 1800's design. Adirondack rocking chairs, stand-alone hammocks and a small child's table cluttered with coloring books and crayons adorned the porch, speaking of the laid back easiness of the family that lived there.

The place was so tranquil, so picture perfect. Mulder and Scully let themselves inside using the key they'd acquired from the local PD. The inside was just as tasteful and comfortable as the outside, with spacious rooms and cheerful decor. The colors were warm, the antique furniture mingling with contemporary; rugs lay out atop the polished wooden floors. The overall effect was one of well lived-in warmth, as if the house itself were a living, breathing thing, welcoming the agents with open arms.

This all changed the moment they stepped inside the kitchen. "Oh my God."

 ~ Chapter One ~

At the Academy, they train you to deal with violent crime scenes. You are taught to cope with the psychological aspects of a case and focus on the investigation with a rational, detached mind.

There are, however, certain cases that are so appalling they remain in your memory forever. Donnie Pfaster would never leave her, nor would the faces -- or hands -- of his victims. The Peacock family, their mother with her filthy rolling cart beneath the bed, existing solely to propagate. Scully was sure this would be no different from any of those.

They took care walking into the kitchen, a brick affair original to the structure. Marks drawn on the floor indicated where the bodies had lain, unusual, organic shapes necessary to encase the large pools of blood surrounding the victims. These same pools lay dried and brown on the floor.

"Why hasn't the cleaning crew been out here?" Scully asked.

"They were here two days ago."

She cocked her head at him and gestured at the blood-splattered cabinets, table and chairs. It looked like a slasher film was in progress. "Why hasn't this all been cleaned then?" "They, uh, didn't stay. It seems that whatever presence is in this house didn't make them feel exactly welcome."

She rolled her eyes. "Whatever you say, Mulder. I still think there's nothing supernatural about this crime. People *do* murder other people every day, you know, and there's nothing paranormal about that."

He grimaced at the scene. "I don't think a person could be capable of this, Scully. Not alone and not without leaving some trace of themselves behind. The family didn't just sit and wait their turn while they watched the others die."

"Well," she said after a moment, "There's not much we can do in here since the bodies and evidence have already been removed. I say we just shut the door on this room and get on with our...investigation."

The investigation, as it were, was unconventional to say the least. The special circumstances of the case, namely the lack of evidence and the brutal manner in which the family was dispatched, not to mention the anomalies found within the bodies themselves, had caught Mulder's attention as soon as he heard about it. Mulder unloaded several black cases of video and audio equipment, along with machines that measured temperature changes, infrared heat and electromagnetic fields. All were on loan from an acquaintance of Mulder's, a professor of parapsychology who followed their work and offered assistance any time it was needed. The Gunmen supplemented the video and audio equipment. Mulder set the seven camcorders up in seven different places: the kitchen, the living room, dining room, poolroom, upstairs hallway, sitting room and at the mouth of the corridor leading to the kitchen. In the meantime, Scully chose the spare bedroom at the end of the hall upstairs and settled herself into the bureau and adjoining bathroom. With any luck, Mulder would figure out they were wasting their time there and decide to leave before the weekend. She wasn't holding her breath.

The bedroom had a very cottage-y feel to it, with Waverley-esque wallpaper and sage bedding with throw pillows. An antique nightstand sat to the left of the bed with a pitcher and basin that looked older than she was. The curtains were light and airy, with tones of rose and sage intermingling in the tasteful print. Rugs on the polished wood floor lent the room even more comfort. It was as perfect as the rest of the house. She was inspecting a wardrobe standing in the corner when she heard it -- the whispering. She couldn't make out any words, but it sounded like two people in a heated argument. <Don't be ridiculous,> she told herself. <No one's in the house but Mulder and me.> She checked the hallway to see if Mulder was messing around. It was empty, so she went to the window to see of a tree branch was scraping against the side of the house. The nearest tree branch was several feet away. Finally, she decided it had to be the pipes. Of *course* it was the pipes. In a house that old, one was bound to hear strange noises.

She wrapped her arms around herself, shivering from the cold draft coming through the room and stepped out to find her partner. ~*~

Mulder, as it happened, just reached the top of the stairs when she left her bedroom. She tried not to laugh at the ridiculously large camera around his neck (<Compensating for something, Mulder?> her mind supplied. She fought back a grin) and the new toy attached to his hand.

"Staked out a room already?" he called out to her, barely taking his eyes off the apparatus. "What on Earth is *that*?" "This one is called a Gaussmeter. It measures electromagnetic fields. And this one," he pulled another instrument out of his pocket, "is an IR thermometer. It measures infrared heat and locates cool spots."

She raised an eyebrow. "Mulder, you do realize there are electromagnetic fields everywhere, right? Not to mention the fact that there are going to be cool spots all over the house, since it's October and the place is almost 200 years old."



"So, which one is my room?"

"I guess it's up to you. I took the only guest room, but that still leaves the two girl's bedrooms and the master suite."

He pulled a face. "Never was one for lavender. Or unicorns, for that matter. Looks like I'm taking the master."

She followed him around for a few minutes while he did a walk-through of the house with the two monitors, commenting on the slightest changes and writing them all down in a tiny notebook in his other pocket. It didn't take long before she lost interest and went to explore the rest of the house on her own.

It truly was an amazing house, and it couldn't have been more 'her' than if she'd chosen and decorated it herself. <Sabrina Talbot and I could've been kindred spirits,> she mused. On the other hand, she could see where one's imagination could get away from them in this place. They hadn't been there for more than two hours before the creaks and groans of house settling began to sound more like voices and whispers. Couple this with the age of the house, the murders and the fact that the nearest neighbor was hundreds of yards away, and it was easy to see where stories of a haunting could run rampant.

Scully herself wondered if she could stand to live here alone, knowing what had happened here. Could she cook, entertain, make tea in the same space three-fourths of a family was brutally murdered? Shivering at the thought, she admonished herself for her irrational, yet all too human uneasiness.

~ Chapter Two ~

Scully tossed in her unfamiliar bed. Scenes unfolded all around her, red and terrible and teeming with screams: Jonathan, Sabrina and Clarissa Talbot all standing in the kitchen. The smell of burning sage fills the air. Their mouths move, but no sound can be heard over the rushing noise in Scully's ears. The three figures clasp hands, forming a circle. Rosaries dangle from each joint pair; one made of rose petals, one made of sandalwood. The newest one is white, its young owner possessing it since First Communion. They are precious little protection for what they have unwittingly invoked.

Swirling, swirling. There's more anger in this room than Scully thought possible, more concentrated malevolence than could be imagined. So much the room seems to pulse red with it.

But no, it isn't the house. It is the house, but the red...the hot, screaming red...

It's blood. And they're dying.

She woke with a scream strangling in her throat, so desperate to escape it felt like her heart was going to explode. Sweating and panicked as she was, she almost didn't see the misty figure at the foot of the bed, fading into the darkness of the room.

Almost. "It's nothing," she told herself. "It was just a bad dream."

Unbeknownst to her, three doors down, her partner was having the exact same nightmare.

By 5:28 in the morning, it was obvious that Scully wasn't going to be getting back to sleep. She groaned in frustration and sat up, deciding a dip in the heated pool downstairs would be just the thing to clear her muzzy head. Mulder should have still been asleep, so there was little chance of him walking into the poolroom to see her swimming in a makeshift bikini of bra and panties. She wrapped herself in a bath robe and headed downstairs.

Scully looked up at the glass ceiling making up the recent enclosure, noting the faintest light coming through. The effect was like being in a greenhouse -- an exceptionally nice greenhouse, with the clearest jewel of a swimming pool situated in the middle and wicker furniture surrounding it.

Ignoring the video camera set up in one corner of the room, she disrobed and made a clean dive into the pool. The water was invigorating. She thought about the dream, wondered what it meant, then chided herself for being silly. It didn't have to *mean* anything -- it was a dream; a product of investigating this case, seeing the crime photos, familiarizing herself with the facts relating to the family and their deaths.

Just one more lap to go. She was almost finished, contemplating the coroner's notes she'd read on the way up from DC as she swam when something from beneath her pulled at her waist. Startled, she made an instinctive gasp before being pulled under.

Blackness. That's all she could comprehend. And the tight, suffocating pain in her air-deprived lungs as she twisted and flipped beneath the surface. It still had her, holding her under. The pain in her chest became so great, she thought it would explode from the force of it. She tried to keep her head (how long can a person live without air? How long before their lungs collapse?), but the longer she went without air, the longer she felt the invisible force tugging at her with unbelievable strength, the more panicked she became.

And then, for no reason at all, it let her go.

She struggled to the edge of the pool and pulled herself up with trembling arms. <Oh my God, oh my God,> she thought. <What the hell *was* that?> She pulled her legs out of the water like it burned her and grabbed her robe. Scully left the room backwards, never letting her eyes leave the pool. Not even a ripple betrayed its calm now. It was as if the thing had turned to glass. Shivering, she rushed out into the hall. Was someone in there with her and she just didn't know it? It was possible -- her thoughts were all over the place and maybe she just wasn't as observant as she could've been. But who could be in the house besides Mulder? Mulder. No, she wouldn't even think about it. It was crazy! Mulder would never hurt her.

Regardless of her thoughts, or perhaps because of them, she yelped when she came in contact with a solid form in the hallway.

"Scully? What's wrong?"

She backed away from her partner. "What?"

He stepped closer, a concerned look on his face. "I asked what's wrong? What happened?" He looked over her shoulder in the direction she just came from. She didn't answer, just stood there shaking. <He's dry,> she thought. <It couldn't have been him because he's dry.> Mulder's eyes narrowed. "Did you just come from the pool?"

She nodded.

"Was something in there with you?"

She shivered involuntarily. It was nothing, she told herself. Lack of sleep and an imagination fueled by ghost stories. She'd lost her orientation, that's all. Nothing more. "No," she answered in a cracking voice. Clearing her throat, she forced her voice to sound normal. "I was just swimming and got disoriented."

He looked dubious. "Scully, it's okay. You can tell me--"

"Look, Mulder, I really need to take a shower and get to the coroner's office."

He said nothing more, letting her pass without comment. As soon as she was out of sight, he made his way toward the poolroom. ~ Chapter Three ~

Scully pulled the surgical gloves off and sat on the stool beside the last corpse, frowning. Before, she'd hoped the ME on the case had made a mistake. It just wasn't likely that three healthy people of varying ages could die of heart failure on the same night at about the same time. The odds of it happening were astronomical.

And yet, that's exactly what it appeared happened. Jonathan Talbot, aged 46, Sabrina Talbot, aged 42 and Clarissa Talbot, aged sixteen -- all showed signs of massive heart failure. It was astounding. Scully was grateful the youngest of the Talbot family, the six year-old named Megan, hadn't been present at the time of the murders.

She stood, head reeling from her discoveries, and covered Clarissa's mangled remains.

~*~ Mulder greeted her at the door later that night, eyes flashing and hair in disarray. "Scully, you have to see this."

*Bang, bang, bang*

"How long has that been going on?" she asked. He shook his head. "It started as soon as you pulled into the driveway. Everything was quiet while you were gone."

He led her into the living room and instructed her to sit down on the couch. "Watch this," he said, and his words were punctuated by the sound of someone running upstairs. Mulder looked up at the ceiling, then back at Scully. "I got this out of the camcorder in the poolroom after you left. Thought you might want to see for yourself."

He pressed play. The first few seconds of lead were nothing but the room itself. When she saw herself enter the room, take off her robe and dive in, she still saw nothing out of the ordinary. Half- expecting some flirty comment about her choice of swimwear, she glanced over at him. His face was grave.

After about three minutes of watching herself swim, Scully started to wonder what it was she was supposed to see. The tape didn't disappoint; suddenly, there were tiny orbs of light flitting lazily around the poolroom. She swam on, oblivious to her visitors. "That can't be what it looks like," she breathed out. "It's impossible. A trick of the light."

The number of orbs increased, moved around as if agitated. Then, she watched herself go under. She stayed below the surface for what seemed like forever, but it was a short time compared to how it felt to experience it.

"It's real, Scully," he said in answer to her denial. "I went in to take the tape out and replace it with a new one. While I was there, I took some readings. They were off the chart. Didn't you notice the room was freezing? The foul odor?"

She shook her head. "It's impossible." She didn't sound so convinced this time.

They were silent a moment. "What did you find out?" he asked.

She sighed. "They were a mess, Mulder. I'm more inclined to think they died of blood loss from the numerous gashes in their bodies, but I can't deny the ME's original findings were accurate."

"Their hearts?"

She nodded. "I've never seen anything like it. I'm not even sure *what* to think. There has to be some sort of rational explan---" She was cut off by the sound of banging on the walls, followed by furious whispers coming from nowhere. A family picture flew off the wall, the glass scattering across the wood floor.


He crossed the room and stood next to her, eyes narrowed. "Just be still," he whispered to her. "Daaay-naaa," a voice in an obscene imitation of her sister's wailed above them. "Helllp meee." This was followed by an evil cackling, still in a disgusting parody of Melissa's sweet voice.

Scully shook hard, tears welling in her eyes. How could it know about Missy? "What the hell *is* this thing, Mulder?"

He wrapped his arms around her possessively, glaring up at the ceiling. "Get your stuff, Scully," he ground out. "We're getting out of here."

Another cackle. Scully trembled uncontrollably; Mulder guided her up the stairs as fast as they could climb. The air seemed to thin and grow colder with each step. When they reached the top, Mulder turned to face his shaken partner. "You go on and pack. I'll meet you in five minutes."

"Mulder don't!"

"It'll be faster. I have all that equipment--"

"No," she said flatly. He searched her face; saw her wide, haunted eyes. He'd never seen her so terrified. "Okay. But we need to hurry." She gave him a half-hearted snort as if to say, "Are you kidding me?"

They started down the hall, trying to ignore the chill in the air settling itself deep inside their bones. With no other warning, doors began slamming shut up and down the corridor, one at a time. It knew they were leaving.

"Mulder?" Scully gripped his arm. "Just keep going, Scully," he said. She wasn't comforted by the uncertainty in his voice. They reached the darkened doorway to her room, the sweet guest room with its floral wallpaper and sage- colored sheets. She liked it so much just yesterday. The fact that this was the only door left standing open was not lost on either of them. They looked at the open room, then at each other. Something wasn't right.

Before anyone could comment, she felt strong arms wrench her away from Mulder, the same strong invisible force that had pulled her under the water this morning. It threw her into the room and slammed the door behind her.

"Scully!" Mulder yanked at the door, pounding into it, doing anything to try to get it open. "No. *No!*" he heard her shout. And then, there was nothing but the sound of her screams. It was worse than a nightmare. He bellowed her name again, throwing all of his weight against the door.

Inside, it swirled around her, striking at her from all sides. She was powerless against it; all she could do was guard her face from the attack as best she could. Wet trails chilling on her cheeks and forehead told her she wasn't doing such a great job. Slicing, ripping, scratching. It seemed the torment would never end. And then just as suddenly as it began, it stopped. She rolled into a ball on the floor, breath hitching in pain and terror. How could any of this happen? Tears streaked down her face, mingling with fresh blood. Two days ago, she'd laughed at Mulder's crazy ghost theory. Then again, two days ago this sort of thing was a scientific impossibility in her world. Her body shook with the force of her tears. Somewhere in the back of her mind she realized she was even more vulnerable in this position. "Oh my God. Scully." Mulder's voice sounded a thousand miles away. She was vaguely aware of him pulling her into his arms, warm arms, safe arms, rocking her in the cold darkness. How could they be warm? She wondered if she herself would ever be warm again.

"It'll never let us leave," she mumbled in a shaky voice that sounded foreign to her ears. "It'll never let us go."

"Shh," he said, still rocking her. He stretched up to the nightstand and flipped on the lamp, upsetting their position for a moment. The room was bathed in golden light. He twisted back to their original arrangement and brushed her hair away from her face. "Look at me for a minute."

She did. And her bottom lip trembled seeing the look on his face. "That bad?" she asked.

Fury flashed in his eyes. "I've read about cases like this, but I never thought... Jesus, Scully." Cuts and scratches littered her face and arms. Her clothes were ripped in places, blood from the shallow abrasions coloring the fabric. He gathered her into a tight embrace. All was silent. They wondered how long it would last.

It was Mulder who moved first. "Hey," he probed gently. "Go ahead and grab your stuff. We can't stay here."

She nodded and stood on shaky legs. He watched as she threw clothes and toiletries into the suitcase in a haphazard fashion, even leaving some things behind in her wake. He picked up those items and tossed them in. "That's the last of it," she announced and shut the case. "Good. Let's go."

She followed him down the hall, noting that he passed by his own room. "What about your--"

"Forget it. There's nothing in that room that matters to me." He was already wearing his favorite Knicks t-shirt, but would gladly have left it behind if it were still in his bag. Clothes could be bought again. There was no way he was subjecting either of them to this house of horrors for another moment -- not after it almost killed Scully. Investigation be damned.

"We'll still have to gather the equipment, Mulder. You might as well go back and get your things."

The EM meter, such a constant companion to him now, felt heavy in his pocket. It was to be all he would take with him. "To hell with the equipment," he growled. "I'll replace it."

But when they reached the door, it was locked shut. From the inside. They yanked and wriggled the handle, but nothing budged. Mulder threw a chair against the windowpanes lining the front door. The chair's leg broke off; the windows remained intact. Desperately, they attempted to smash every window in the front of the house. Scully rammed a statuette against the last window they hadn't tried. It wasn't working. She pummeled the window, each blow weaker than the last. All the emotions she'd been holding inside, all the desperate need to deny what was really going on, all the failure, failing Mulder, failing herself -- they broke inside her. Melissa. It knew about Melissa. She stopped. Then she hit the ground hard, dropping the statuette to the ground as she went. It didn't exist anymore. "It won't let us leave," she said in a broken whisper. He turned around so she couldn't see his face. "No," he said. "Do they do this, Mulder?" "I don't know. I've never heard of anything like...this."

What else was there to say?

~ * ~

"I think I know why there's so much concentrated, psychic activity in the kitchen," he said, idly flipping a small, leather book back and forth in his hands. Scully sat up on the floor. "Why?"

"It's all the blood. It's attracted to it. I think it's drawing strength from it."

The thought made her stomach flip. "Do you think it's a coincidence that the family was murdered in the kitchen?"

He thought about it a moment. "I wish I could say it was, but I don't think so."

"What's that in your hand?"

"Not sure. I haven't had a chance to look at it."

"Where'd it come from?"

"I tracked some energy from the kitchen to the dining room just before you got back. Once I got there, the energy just seemed to -- hover -- over a small chest in there. I looked inside and found this, but all that noise started up again and I was distracted, so I put it in my pocket." He scowled. "I don't like that this thing acts up around you. It's like it's attaching itself to you or something."

"Mulder, I think maybe we've both overreacted here--"

"Are you *kidding*? Do you think you almost drowned yourself? Do you think all these disturbances the neighbors have reported --these murders -- are imagined? Everything was fine until you got back, Scully. It's like your presence provokes the damn thing."

She pinched the bridge of her nose. "Look, I don't know any more than you do, okay? I just want to go home."

He reached out to touch her hand. "I know." After a few moments of silence, save for the distant rattles and bangs in the house, he spoke again. "It's a journal." He held the book up for her inspection, opened to the first page. Written in a clear, tight hand were the words, 'Journal of Sabrina Talbot'.

He turned the page and read aloud.


~ Chapter Four ~

~July 16, 1997 (3:21 PM)~

I've never kept a journal before, not even as a teenager. Jonathan seems to think it'll calm my nerves and help put things in perspective. I don't think he believes that these things are happening. How could he? He's off at work all day while I'm at home dealing with -- whatever this is. I have no doubt by "putting things in perspective," he means that I'll look back on what I've written on these pages and feel ridiculous. Overreacting.

I wonder what he'll say when he sees the plates in the kitchen, standing on end by themselves on the countertops.

 ~July 24th (7:43 AM)~

Restless night last night. Whispers in my ears the entire evening, ceasing only when I got out of bed. Jonathan slept like a log, unaffected. ~(11:36 AM)~

Cleaning upstairs bathroom when whispers and giggling began again, this time sounding further away. I decided to follow the sound. Led me to the spare bedroom at the end of the hall, which hasn't been touched other than the occasional airing since Aunt Chloe stayed two summers ago. Door stuck, but several loud voices carrying on behind it. It sounded like a party was going on -- I could even swear I heard the tinkling of glasses.

Writing this in the cafe in town. Won't go back into the house until after I pick Clarie up from school. ~July 30th (5:08 PM)~

Things have become quiet. Perhaps whatever this thing is has moved on, or become dormant. Either way, I'm determined to find out whatever I can about this house. We've lived here for eight years -- this is the only home Meg has ever known. Why the sudden disturbances after eight years of peace? More importantly, why has it stopped now?

I can't shake the feeling that it's only waiting, crouching in the shadows. Watching us. I doubt we've seen the last of it.

 ~August 13th (2:43 AM)~

Nearly two weeks of silence, and now this! I don't care what Jonathan says; there is something in this house. Meg only just went back to sleep, and it was no easy task. I would've moved her into our bedroom, but Jonathan wouldn't have it. The door is open -- hers is too. It's the best I can do. I woke up hearing her screams coming from her room and ran down the hall. Her window was pulled all the way open -- something I would never allow, not during a storm like this -- and the curtains were whipping in and out of the room. She was hysterical, talking about a lady in her room. She said the lady tickled her awake, then ripped her covers off and laughed at her. When I asked her where the lady was now, she just sobbed.

Jonathan, in his infinite wisdom, declared that it was just a dream when I told him about it and rolled back over to sleep. I wish *I* could sleep.

 ~August 23rd (3:54 PM)~

Banging and chatter worse than ever, especially in the kitchen. I've done some research on the house and found out some interesting things. The house was originally built in 1806. An older man built it and brought his new wife to live there. It was passed down within the family until most of it burned down in 1923. Only the kitchen, the room above it and the servant's staircase remained. The property was sold and the new owners brought it back to its original state with the addition of the porch.

I'm not sure what this means, but it seems odd that the kitchen is the coldest room in the house, and the place where most of the disturbances started and occur. The spare room where I heard the 'party' is above the kitchen.

(8:21 PM)

Decided to eat out when knife kept flying out of my hand while trying to cut chicken. ~September 4th (8:01 AM)~

No one in this house has rested well in over three weeks. Meg has been crying every night about the lady. She's taken to tucking her in after I leave the room then yanking her covers off and tickling her again. I never catch her, but Meg is terrified to sleep in her room. We let her sleep with us the past few nights, but she fights sleep as long as possible. Jonathan claims something brushed against him in the shower yesterday -- several times. He said it was like someone was in there with him, touching him. He thought it was me at first, then opened his eyes and no one was there. I was in town, at the grocery store.

Clarie hears the voices all the time now, and says she's missing things in her room. She blamed Meg at first and began locking her door, until she started losing things the moment she put them down and turned her back. The girls are doing poorly in school. Meg's teacher called me in day before yesterday to tell me she falls asleep in class. Clarie is scatterbrained; three of her teachers also let me know her grades are slipping and she's falling asleep in class. The banging and chattering noise in this house is unbelievable. I've called Father LeCompt in to bless the house. ~September 6th (7:48 PM)

Things were remarkably quiet while Father LeCompt was here. It was twice as bad after he left. Smell of roses filled the air for the first hour or so after the blessing, then a foul odor I can't even describe. ~September 20th (2:10 PM)~

This thing seems to be focusing on Clarie now. She can't sleep for all the activity going on in her room. Things are moving in front of our very eyes now. Today, her glass was knocked out of her hand at breakfast. This is a common occurrence now. Whatever it is, I think it's tired of being subtle. Yes, that was sarcasm. I've found it rather comforting lately.


The girls are becoming even more withdrawn, grades slipping further. Meg now wets the bed every night.

 ~September 22nd (9:32 PM)~

Just left Clarie's room. We were nearly finished with her homecoming preparations when something slapped her hard across the face. The bright red mark still hasn't faded. She's so upset that she has decided not to go to the dance after all. Jonathan told her date she wasn't feeling well, said the boy looked dejected, but understood. I could swear the house was laughing at us. It wasn't anything I could hear, but I felt it. Why is it trying to hurt my baby? What the hell does it want from us?

(11:00 PM)

Have spent the last hour arguing with Jonathan about what to do. The shouting seemed to rile this -- spirit, for lack of a better term -- up. Banging and voices increased -- it seemed to be happy.

 ~September 24th (10:24 AM)~

Clarie was tripped and took a tumble down the stairs on her way to school this morning. Thankfully wasn't hurt, just very rattled. It's clear the malicious intent is entirely focused on her now. I took her to Jackie's house to rest and called in her absence at the school. Jackie called within minutes of my getting in the door at suspiciously quiet home to tell me about a racket like the house was falling to pieces that started ever since I left. It must've followed Clarie there. Poor little Meg is scared for her sister, but has told me that the lady in her room now visits her when her father and I are asleep. Very concerned about this malevolence directed toward Clarie. I checked out some books at the library and did some research on the Internet on poltergeists and other real-life disturbances. I refuse -- *refuse* -- to even think for a moment that she's doing this to herself through some sort of psychokinetic, teenage angst. It's ridiculous in the extreme, not to mention a flawed theory considering the fact that this thing made itself known to me long before bothering the rest of my family.

~October 10th (3:30 PM)~

Noise almost constant now and attacks on Clarie and now Jonathan becoming frequently more violent. Request for exorcism from the church laughed at. "It just isn't done anymore," Father LeCompt says. "This isn't the Dark Ages, Mrs. Talbot."

He suddenly has quite the busy schedule, and no longer has time to counsel my family or come in for another blessing. I'm afraid we'll have to do this on our own.

 ~October 21st (12:37 PM)~ Studied as much on the subject of exorcism as could get my hands on. Many sources suggest that Clarie, as a subject of spirit's attentions, should be present. She insists on being there anyway -- wants to be a part of banishing this thing. I sent Meg away to Jackie's house until we're sure it's gone for good.

After a simple house blessing, we'll gather in the kitchen for the ritual. I'm scared as hell, but it must be done. Just hope to God involving Clarie in this isn't a dangerous mistake.

There were no entries after that.
~ Chapter Five ~

"My God," Scully croaked out. Mulder's face looked drained. "She must've been pretty desperate. Exorcisms are nothing to play around with." He shook his head. "She should've known the consequences."

"What consequences?"

"More often than not, they do nothing but anger the spirits they're meant to drive out. Telling them to leave because 'Christ compels them' pisses them off royally."

Something in Scully's mind clicked. "You know, I had a strange dream last night about the Talbots."

Mulder straightened up. "You did?"

She nodded, looking at the window. "Yeah. It was, uh...pretty gruesome, actually. They were standing in the kitchen with rosaries in their hands when this tremendous hatred filled the room. I've never sensed anything so angry before in my life."

Mulder uttered a curse. "It's the house."


"It's the house! It's the house, Scully! It's -- I don't know -- *communicating* with us somehow. I had the same dream last night. It ended with all of them sliced to ribbons on the stone floor, right? It was so vivid. I couldn't sleep afterwards, so I got up to check on the equipment. I was on my way to the poolroom when I ran into you." He ran both hands through his hair and laughed. "How else would I find this journal? How else would I know to be in that corridor just when you needed me? I was *led* by it!"

"Are you trying to suggest that there is something in this house that's trying to *help* us, Mulder? Because forgive me, but I don't see anything benevolent here." She gestured at her scratched arm.

"No," he replied, face grave. "I don't think there's anything good here. But I do think it likes to play with people. That it does nothing that doesn't benefit itself."

The entire foundation seemed to groan beneath them. Scully clutched Mulder's arm. "Should we try the doors and windows again?"

He nodded and they both got up. Working their way from the sitting room to the living room, they tried every window again, but to no avail. Mulder stood before the front door, hand poised over the handle. He looked at Scully.

"What do you want to bet this is still locked?" He turned the knob. "Scully! It's open!" She ran to join him, smiling with relief. "Oh, thank God."

But her relief was short lived. As soon as she got near the door, it slammed with enough force to rattle the walls, taking Mulder with it. "No," she said, stunned. "No! Let us *go*!" she pounded on the door, screaming now. "Let us go!"

The house responded with a series of creaks and groans. "Scully," Mulder said quietly, eyes on the staircase opposite the door. "Scully, you have to calm down." She sobbed, still pounding and demanding the door to open. He pulled her into a tight embrace. "Scully, you have to calm down!"

Her hysterics subsided, but her eyes grew wide as she listened to the house. Somewhere deep within, came the sound of breaking glass. From where they stood, pools of light could be seen from several different rooms. One by one, each of these pools were extinguished with the *pop* of blown light bulbs. The sounds of creaking increased, but they were nothing, *nothing* compared to the terrible wailing that now filled the air.

Both agents stepped away from the door, standing back-to-back in the instinctive pose they'd been taught at the Academy. Objects flew from the tables, from the shelves to break against the opposite walls. Footsteps pounded to and fro above them as if someone were running across the floorboards. The air became chilly and smelled of sulfur with an undertone of something much worse, something dead and rotting and evil. They were defenseless. The door banged open, taking some plaster from the wall with it. Mulder and Scully turned quickly to see what was happening, then turned to each other in disbelief. Was it letting them go? Or was this another one of its tricks? Deciding to take their chances, they both started toward the door when a strong force pushed one of them from behind, then another, sending them tumbling over the porch and down the stairs.

The door slammed shut again. The house was quiet. As they retreated, Scully thought she understood what Sabrina Talbot meant when she said she sensed the house was laughing at her family. She sensed the very same.


~ Epilogue ~

...Furthermore, there is no scientific explanation for the events that took place on the days of October 27th - 28th, 1997, nor for the sudden means of escape. Agent Mulder returned the following week to fulfill his obligations to the case without my direct assistance, as he felt my safety was at risk. Despite my protestations, a small team of paranormal investigative researchers accompanied him instead. All attempts to recover the data left behind proved futile, as all evidence had been tampered with, erased and otherwise compromised. Further investigation was unsuccessful due to the investigative team's extreme discomfort and equipment failure. Agent Mulder felt a responsibility to the safety of future inhabitants to request the property be destroyed. The house has since been declared an historical landmark by the Camden Historical Preservation Society, and therefore exempt from any petitions to tear it down. The house is now up for sale.

There have been no more reports of noises coming from the Talbot's estate. Agent Mulder asserts that it's merely lying dormant, waiting for its next occupants.

Case # X-816973 remains unsolved.

 ~ The End ~


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