Ghosts, Ghoulies, and Gunmen

Title: GHOSTS, GHOULIES & GUNMEN

Authors: Foxglove and AnubisKV5

Summary: Frightening things happen on All Hallow’s Eve

Rating: for everyone

Category: V

Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended.

Written for the Virtual Season 14 Halloween Special Event

Archive: Exclusive VS 14 two weeks, then with permission

comments: pstanford@vtown.com.au and AnubisKV5@cs.com

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**********

Halloween wraps fear in innocence,

As though it were a slightly sour sweet.

Let terror, then, be turned into a treat,

Lest it undermine our commonsense.

Our nightmares are the founts of fancy whence

We wander through the fields of our conceit,

Eluding the true horror we must meet

Embodied in the play of our pretence,

Now ranged across the night in our defence.

~ Nicholas Gordon

**********

October 31st

7:30 p.m.

“It’s a conspiracy.”

“Perpetrated by whom?” Dana Scully’s answer to Fox Mulder’s declaration held a

slightly amused tone.

His nose almost pressed against the front window and his face colored an odd shade

of orange by the flashing pumpkin-shaped fairy lights that he had hung up earlier in

the day, Mulder turned and glared at his partner. “I don’t know, but it has to be.”

“Because it’s raining?”

Mulder turned back to his vigil. The heavy rain had been coming down in sheets for

some time now, pelting against the large front window.

With the tip of his finger, he traced one of the numerous drops on its path down the

glass, ending by drawing an alien head in the condensation. “It’s not just raining,

Scully.” Mulder hesitated, and then said. “It’s Noah weather.”

“Noah weather?”

“Yeah, you know, lots and lots of rain, cubits and cubits of ark, animals, two by two,

flood, etc.”

“I know what you’re referring to Mulder, but it’s not that bad.” Scully tucked her feet

under herself and snuggled into the corner of the couch. “Besides, we could really do

with the rain.”

“Yeah, I know, but did it have to be tonight? Of all nights? All Hallows Eve, the only

time of the year when people are encouraged to dress up and challenge, mock,

tease, torture and appease the dread forces of the night, of the soul, and of the

otherworld that becomes our world on this night of reversible possibilities?”

Mulder heaved a frustrated sigh and took a final glance out at the deserted street;

seeing no masses of little costumed ghoulies and ghosties, he twitched the curtains

back into place.

Scully cast a fond glance at her partner. “You know, I think that you’re more

disappointed than the kids.”

His hands pressed against his hips, Mulder threw a wistful glance at the table by the

front door that held a huge bowl of assorted candies and the pumpkin that had taken

him several painstaking hours and an assortment of Scully’s scalpels to carve into an

evil, maliciously grinning Jack O’Lantern.

“I still think we could have managed, Tara didn’t have to cancel you know.” He

sighed. “We could have used umbrellas and I know the kids have raincoats.”

“Sloshing through ankle-deep water is not everybody’s idea of fun, Mulder.” Scully

broke in. “And, it wouldn’t have been half as much fun because Matthew and Claire

couldn’t show off their costumes.”

“Yeah, I suppose you’re right.” Mulder strode across the room and dropped

lethargically onto the couch next to his partner, crossing one leg over the other. He

reached out and flicked his fingers at one of the furry spiders that bounced back and

forth atop the deely-bopper headband that Scully was wearing, her only concession

to a costume for the evening.

“So, now that trick or treating is out, what do you wanna do?” He asked.

“There’s probably a really bad horror movie on TV that you haven’t watched since

last Halloween.” Scully smiled.

Mulder shrugged his shoulders and reached for the remote control. The TV flared into

life and he began rapidly flipping channels, looking for something to take his interest.

Unable to follow the ever-changing picture on the screen, Scully reached for the

magazine she’d abandoned earlier that evening. She picked up where she had left off

on a rather interesting article and left Mulder to his own devices.

**********

9:00 p.m.

Mulder was thoroughly entranced by the old black and white version of Hitchcock’s

classic movie ‘The Birds’ that he had finally settled on.

He’d never admit it to Scully, but he found the bleached blonde, Tippi Hedren,

extremely annoying, reminding him of Marita Covarrubias. Mulder secretly enjoyed

watching her get pecked nearly to death when she was stupid enough to go into the

attic of that house.

Any student of horror movies knew that was a really, really moronic and ultimately

deadly thing to do.

Hell, he learned that himself VERY early on when he first got into the X-Files.

However, it never stopped him from walking right into the next horroresque X-File

situation.

Mulder slouched on the sofa, one hand following a steady path between his mouth

and the large bowl of heavily-buttered popcorn propped by his leg; the other hand

was preoccupied stroking Scully’s sock encased feet, which were comfortably

ensconced upon his lap.

The sudden, loud and insistent thumping on the front door took both agents by

surprise.

Mulder jumped up, just managing to save the bowl of popcorn from hitting the floor

as he gained his feet.

Hurrying to the door, he pulled it open and stared in bemusement at the trio of

unlikely ghostly visitors on their doorstep.

“Trick or treat!” Ringo Langly and Melvin Frohike raucously chorused while John

Byers stood at the rear of the small group, his usual placid expression firmly in place.

Langly pushed past Mulder and stood just inside the doorway dripping on the floor.

Shaking his rain-drenched hair, he removed his glasses and attempted to wipe them

on his thoroughly soaked t-shirt.

Frohike shouldered his way out of a dilapidated orange and brown raincoat and

wiped a hand across his face. “Man alive, it’s coming down out there!”

Joining them at the door, Scully grabbed at the raincoat before Frohike could drape it

across the nearest piece of furniture.

“What are the three of you doing out on a night like this?” She asked in total

amazement as Byers carefully shook his umbrella free of raindrops and propped it in

the entryway.

“We were doing the tour of the Halloween light displays.” Langly answered.

“Were doing the tour?” Mulder grinned. “What happened, did you get thrown off the

bus for inappropriate comments?”

Byers did an uncanny impression of Scully raising her eyebrows. “We didn’t do the

official tour.”

“Huh?” Mulder questioned.

Langly glowered at the shortest Gunman. “Scrooge here, decided that we could save

the fifteen bucks each and instead follow the tour bus ourselves.”

“Hey jerkwad, it saved us forty-five dollars.” Frohike griped.

“Unfortunately,” Byers broke in before the squabble escalated. “Some of the roads

were flooded and impassable, so we had to turn back.”

“A bust huh?” Mulder returned from a quick trip to the linen closet, where he had

grabbed a handful of towels; he passed one to each man and used another to mop

up the puddles on the floor.

Frohike stood in the middle of the room, towel dangling from one hand and looked

around him at all the Halloween touches; wispy cobwebs adorned the banisters on

the stairs, on the mantle above the fireplace a pumpkin vine garland was looped

around an assortment of candles.

However, the ornament that really attracted his attention was situated on a low table

near the large front window.

A small tree, bare black branches all gnarled and bent was decorated with little white

balls.

Frohike stepped closer to the little tree. “Aren’t you guys a bit early for Christmas?”

He asked glancing back at the two agents.

Scully hid a smile behind her hand. “It’s not a Christmas tree, Melvin.”

“It’s not?” He said in surprise. “Sure looks like one, bit bare of course.” He bent

down and his eyes widened.

“Eww, gross, they’re eyeballs!” He exclaimed.

Mulder looked up from his chore and grinned, “Yeah, aren’t they great?”

“Not especially, no,” Frohike backed away from the tree and handed Mulder his

towel.

Langly and Byers moved to look at the tree as well.

“Well, for once I can truly say it’s gnarly,” Langly commented.

Byers only bent closer. “What’s the thick … goo … that’s dripping off them? It looks

real.”

“Oh, it’s just a little something left over that Scully brought home from the autopsy

bay,” Mulder commented, his mind still on mopping up water.

Byers stepped quickly away, “WHAT?!!”

Scully grinned. “He was joking, John. It’s just a nice little conglomeration Mulder

made up of Caro Syrup, mayonnaise and a touch of food coloring,” she turned to

look at her partner, “which Mulder WILL clean up.”

“Yes, Mother,” Mulder, stated, grinning and looking up at her from under his lashes.

Scully grinned back and watched happily as Mulder continued to clean up after the

Gunmen. It had taken her a long time, but she had finally trained Mulder to clean up

after himself–mostly. The recriminations if he didn’t just weren’t worth it.

Those recriminations usually carried over into the bedroom, so Mulder was always

very eager to make sure water, mud, green ooze, ectoplasm and any other “stuff” he

usually tracked in didn’t stay long.

Langly had his towel over his head and was vigorously rubbing his hair. “Well, it was

a bust to a degree; actually, the van broke down just a couple blocks away from

here. I think something got wet.”

“A bit like you?” Scully questioned. “Do you want to borrow one of Mulder’s shirts? I

can put yours in the dryer.”

Frohike snorted. “Put any of his clothes within spitting distance of a clothes dryer and

they’ll disintegrate.”

Langly peered myopically out from under the towel. “Uh no, it’s okay.” He pulled the

saturated piece of clothing away from his body. “Can’t put this in a dryer, it’s got

that printing stuff on it.”

Scully narrowed her eyes and stared at the words written across the thin man’s

chest.

Langly stretched the wrinkles out of his shirt and watched as Scully read the words.

“Langly!” She exclaimed and put a hand to her mouth, hiding the smile that curved

her lips.

Mulder looked across from where he was diligently rubbing the towel back and forth

across the floor with his foot. “Scully? What’s up?” His eyes travelled over to where

the blond Gunman was holding his shirt out away from his body.

Mulder read the words out loud. “All grown up and still fascinated by nipples.” A

devilish look crossed his face and he smirked at his partner. “Hey Scully, I want a

shirt like Langly’s.”

“Forget it Mulder.” Scully lifted one eyebrow. “It’s not going to happen.”

“What are you complaining about, man?” Frohike asked without thinking, still drying

himself off. “You’ve got the best nipples around!”

Everyone stopped dead and Scully turned to glare at Frohike, who, noticing the

sudden silence, looked up and around at everyone. Then he looked at Scully, realized

his major faux paus.

“I m-meant your OWN nip-nipples, Mulder.” Frohike corrected himself, stuttering

helplessly, never taking his eyes off Scully’s deadly raised eyebrow.

Scully gave him a death stare. “I’m SO relieved you find Mulder’s nipples

fascinating.”

Langly, Byers and Mulder laughed out loud as Frohike’s face turned scarlet.

With one final glare, Scully turned back to the blond Gunman.

“Give me your shirt and I’ll hang it up, it won’t dry completely but it’ll be better than

sitting around in wet clothes.” Scully made to leave the room but turned back.

“Um…your jeans? Are they wet too? You can use a pair of Mulder’s if you like.”

Mulder’s head snapped up, a dismayed expression on his face. “Scully!”

Throwing a glance in Mulder’s direction, Langly blushed and stammered. “N…no! Uh,

no really, I’m fine, just the shirt, thanks Scully.”

Scully nodded and walked into the bedroom, returning a moment later with a plain

gray t-shirt.

Langly peeled off the saturated item and handed it across before pulling the dry shirt

over his head. “Thanks.” Replacing his now dry glasses, his eyes widened at the

sight of Scully’s Halloween adornment. “Hey, cool deely-bopper, where’d you get it?”

“At the costume shop downtown.” Mulder answered, joining the group. “I couldn’t

find one with alien heads on it.” He stated in a disappointed tone. “So, instead I

settled for this shirt.” He pulled his shoulders back as three pairs of eyes scrutinized

the design on his button-down shirt.

The material was patterned with miniature grinning skulls, empty eye-sockets

dripping blood. The hem of the pale gray-tinted shirt was colored a deep red,

suggesting that the blood dripping from the skulls had pooled around the edges.

“I gotta admit Mulder,” Frohike shook his head. “It’s not something I woulda

chosen.” He turned away and his eyes lit up when he discovered the contents of the

bowl nearby.

“Dude, it’s righteous!” Langly exclaimed with satisfaction.

“Yeah, aliens aren’t quite in keeping with the theme of Halloween are they?” Frohike

asked as he dug through the candy.

“I don’t know, lots of kids used to dress up as ET.” Mulder said.

“ET was cute though.” Scully admitted as she attempted to herd Frohike away from

the candy and into the kitchen. “Anyone for coffee?”

“Some cocoa would be nice.” Byers handed Mulder his barely damp towel and

insinuated his body between the rapidly emptying bowl and his shorter cohort.

Frohike snorted judgmentally under his breath at Byers’ choice.

“Actually, that sounds really good.” Scully agreed. “Anyone else?”

Langly and Mulder both requested coffee.

“I’ll join you in a cup, Agent Scully.” Frohike ran his tongue over his lips and moved

to stand next to her. “Can I give you some assistance?”

Scully agreed, studiously ignoring his trademark leer, and suggested they all adjourn

to the kitchen.

As Scully bustled around filling cups, Mulder filled a plate with some cookies and

placed it on the table.

“Here you go guys, try one of these.”

Each man took one of the delicious-looking treats and bit into it, their first taste was

followed by a chorus of appreciation. Scully turned from the counter and looked

pleased with the reaction.

“Okay, Mulder, dude, where did you buy these? I gotta get some.” Langly asked.

“We didn’t buy them.” Mulder grinned as he set two cups down on the table.

“Scully’s Mom made them.”

Langly lifted another cookie from the plate and eyed the petite agent. “You reckon

your Mom would consider making us some?”

“I’m sure I could ask her for you.” She said as she placed steaming cups of cocoa in

front of Byers and Frohike. She returned to the counter for her cup just as the lights

suddenly dimmed and then brightened.

Everyone in the room looked up at the ceiling and then at each other. “Close.”

Mulder stated.

“With the current government’s attitude towards maintenance on the power grid as

well as the pittance that is spent on any infrastructure, it’s a wonder that the power

hasn’t gone out before now.” Frohike grumbled around a mouthful of cookie.

Scully reached up to an overhead cupboard and pulled out a box of candles. “Mulder,

will you go and get the candle holders? I think we’d better be prepared.”

Almost as if Scully’s words had been a signal, the lights flickered off again and then

on.

“Cool, a blackout on Halloween!” Langly grinned. “Can’t get much spookier than

that.”

“Scully, where are they?” Mulder’s voice carried in from the other room.

“On top of the bookcase, Mulder.”

“Where? Oh, never mind I see them.” Just as he called out, the lights flickered again,

but this time they stayed out.

The darkness was complete, unable to see her hand in front of her face, Scully

blindly felt through the kitchen drawer designated for bits and pieces until she felt

the shape of the box of matches under her fingers.

Never one to miss a beat, Langly broke out into an off-key but recognizable whistling

rendition of the “Twilight Zone” theme song.

“Weirdness!” Frohike muttered and grabbed for another cookie as Byers quite

accurately slapped his hand away in the total darkness. Frohike just glared in his

direction and reached for the cookie again. “Who do you think you are, my mother?”

“Agent Mulder offered us each ONE cookie,” Byers reminded him. “Don’t be greedy.”

“Oh, shut up you narc!” Langly snapped at him.

“Boys,” Scully started, “Don’t fight or the Halloween cookie fairy will…”

A thumping noise sounded suddenly from the living room followed by a crash and a

loud voice. “Damnit, I can’t see a thing!”

“Mulder, are you all right?” A match flared into life followed by the weak flickering of

candlelight.

“Yeah, I’m fine, just tripped over something.” He limped into the kitchen rubbing one

hand over his left knee, his glow-in-the-dark skeletons on his shirt gleaming a

weirdish green color.

“Next time, put your shoes away.” He was admonished.

“How’d you know it was my shoes?” He asked.

“Because you dumped them right by the bookcase earlier after Tara called.”

“Oh.”

The Gunmen snickered at the exchange.

The kitchen brightened slightly as Scully lit more candles. Placing one of the holders

in the center of the table, she sat back down and picked up her mug of cocoa.

“Where’s your Official FBI Issued Halogen Flashlight, Agent Mulder?” Frohike asked

sarcastically.

Mulder opened his mouth, but Scully answered instead. “Mulder has lost so many,

along with his weapon, that A.D. Skinner makes him check them out and back in

every day. He gets fined twenty-five dollars a day for every day he forgets to turn

them in.”

The Gunmen laughed, including Byers, at Mulder’s expense.

Mulder glared at the love of his life with a huge frown. “What is this? ‘Pick on Mulder

Night?'” He was still rubbing his knee.

‘Trust Mulder,’ Scully thought, ‘to get hurt IN the house on Halloween night.’

Scully smirked at him. “Just ignore him, boys. He’s just pissed off that he couldn’t go

out trick-or-treating.” She sipped her cocoa, watching Mulder in the candlelight.

She was certain she saw a bit of revenge brewing in his dark hazel glint, and hoped

it would wait until the Gunmen were gone.

Mulder had busied himself lighting kindling to start a fire he had laid in the fireplace

earlier in the evening. It would provide both heat and light, dismal, as that would be.

“That’s … an interesting pumpkin carving,” Byers observed from the table, staring

over at the Jack O’Lantern by the door.

“Did you carve it, Scully?” Langly asked.

“No,” Scully sipped her cocoa, “That’s all Mulder’s doing.”

“Yep,” Mulder smiled, jumped up from the hearth, hobbled over to the door and

brought the Jack O’Lantern back to the table.

The candle inside was still burning brightly, nicely illuminating the carving in a

weirdly flickering way.

Frohike leaned closer to get a better look at it. “Well, it’s really, really butt-ugly,

Mulder.” He looked up at his friend, “What is it?”

Mulder glanced at Scully who couldn’t contain her smile. “Well, it’s THE most hideous

and heinously evil thing Scully and I have ever experienced in all our years on the X-

Files.”

All three Gunmen leaned forward to peer at it inquisitively.

“Well, hell yeah, it’s ugly,” Langly agreed, “but what IS it, man?”

Scully really was trying hard not to laugh, but failing miserably, causing her deely-

boppered spiders to swing madly above her head, and receiving grins from her

partner.

“I figured if you really wanted to scare anyone, you needed to use, as a model,

something that you knew really well and that scared the piss out of you,” Mulder told

them. “It’s dear ol’ ex-FBI Assistant Director Alvin Kersh.”

Frohike nearly spit out his drink, Langly almost dropped his cup and Byers just

blinked, then all of them broke into peals of laughter.

“Looks just like the old tight-assed fart!” Frohike grinned.

“Yeah, that’d scare the crap out of anyone.” Langly observed.

“It IS a remarkable likeness,” Byers agreed, leaning forward again to get a better

look.

“Whatever the hell happened to old fart-face anyway?” Frohike asked.

“We don’t really know,” Scully told him. “He was booted out of the FBI…”

“Something he’d been trying to do to ME,” Mulder reminded them all, with a smile at

the irony.

“But, we really haven’t heard anything one way or the other; he just seems to have

dropped off the radar.” Scully said with a shrug, not really liking to talk about him,

and returned to her cocoa.

Langly was still staring at the Jack O’Lantern and asked, “How’d you do this,

Mulder?”

“Well, I…” but Mulder was cut off when all the candles in the place went out at the

same time, with the exception of the flickering candle in the Jack O’Lantern, Kersh’s

ugly mug staring at them all.

Everyone froze and looked around. “Just a breeze.” Scully commented serenely,

taking a sip of her cocoa again.

“Scully,” Mulder looked at her, “the power’s out; no air is moving in here, no

windows are open. How could they all go out at the same time?”

Scully looked at him, the shadows from the orangish glow on his face casting weird

shadows across his visage and making him look positively evil. “Oh no, Mulder!” she

told him. “Uh uh! No. No X-Files on All Hallow’s Eve!”

“Why not?” he grinned evilly, grabbing the box of matches and lighting the candles

on the table again. “It’s the perfect night for ghost stories, you know.”

Mulder had just finished lighting the candles when they all flickered out again, except

for the hideously carved Kersh Jack O’Lantern.

“Um…” Frohike looked around nervously. “I, um, I think we need to be going…”

“Oh, don’t be silly, Melvin,” Scully told him. “It’s just a coincidence. Besides,” she

looked at the windows and no light was leaking in from outside the curtains, “It looks

as if all the streetlights are out, too. It would be dangerous for you guys to get back

out in that van, even if you can get it started.”

This time, Scully grabbed the matches and relit the candles … only to have them go

out again almost immediately.

No one commented when she nervously scooted her chair closer to Mulder’s.

“Well, this is not how I’d planned to spend Halloween.” Mulder stated glumly, despite

the weird problems with keeping the candles lit.

“We can’t let a perfectly good October 31st go to waste.” Langly declared. “So, back

to what Mulder suggested; does anyone know any good ghost stories?”

Two of the occupants at the table expressed their doubts, Mulder on the other hand

brightened considerably.

“Yeah, I’m in. Scully?”

“I don’t believe in ghosts, Mulder.” She announced primly.

“You’ve had a ghostly encounter Scully; remember Maurice and Lyda?”

“Mulder, we agreed that never happened.”

“Uh, we agreed?” He replied disbelievingly. “I thought you decided that it was all in

our heads and I just went along with you.”

“Be that as it may, it still doesn’t negate the fact that I don’t believe in ghosts.”

Scully crossed her arms over her chest in defiance.

“Besides, Scully,” Mulder grinned at her, “Remember? Maurice and Lyda showed you

their ‘holes.’ And they didn’t show their ‘holes’ to just anyone.”

At the comment “Maurice and Lyda showed you their ‘holes,'” all three Gunmen

looked at each other — Frohike with a leer — and then back at Mulder and Scully,

expecting an explanation, which they didn’t receive.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Mulder.” Scully’s expression was grim and

her face was typical ‘Scully-angry.’

Mulder propped his chin in his hand and sighed. “I have never figured out why you

find it so difficult to believe in things that break the rules of science as you know it,

even when you see those things with your own eyes.”

Frohike and Langly had grins plastered on their faces as they listened to the Agents’

differences of opinion.

“What’s your point Mulder?”

“My point is, that you don’t have to believe in ghosts, to tell ghost stories, Scully.”

Mulder put forth.

“What’s the purpose then?”

“Entertainment, amusement, distraction, every person’s God-given right to have the

beejesus scared out of them.” Mulder motioned to the ornament that Scully still

wore.

Scully rolled her eyes and sighed, making her deely-bopper spiders wiggle. “We get

enough of the real beejesus scared out of us at work, Mulder. Why would we want to

do it to ourselves at home?”

“You don’t necessarily believe in witches and goblins either, but you get involved in

Halloween.” Mulder pointed out to her.

“That’s different.”

“How?”

Scully opened her mouth, fully prepared to launch into a detailed explanation as to

how she had come to that decision, however the words just wouldn’t come. Instead

she crossed her arms again and glared at her partner. “It just is.” She declared.

Mulder stared at her in anticipation, waiting for clarification, when nothing more was

forthcoming, his eyes crinkled at the corners.

“‘It just is’?” He teased with a wide smile. “Dr. Dana Scully, M.D., Board Certified

Pathologist, purveyor of dead bodies and hard science everywhere and constant

proclaimer of ‘Mulder, that’s insane!’ And that’s the thrust of your argument, ‘It just

is’?”

Scully shot her partner a look that would have lesser men immediately running for

the hills. “Mulder, don’t make me hurt you.”

The others around the table burst into laughter causing a smile to creep across

Scully’s face.

Mulder grabbed one of Scully’s hands and pressed it to his lips. “All right, how about

us guys tell really bad ghost stories and you can tell us how illogical, irrational,

unscientific, unreasonable, how scary…”

“I get it Mulder.” She pursed her lips and tried to pull her hand away.

Mulder tightened his grip and grinned at his partner. “All right, who wants to go

first?”

Silence reigned around the table, until Frohike nervously cleared his throat. “Okay,

I’m game.”

He leaned his elbows on the table and clasped his hands, while he marshalled his

thoughts. Then with the bright flame from the Jack O’Lantern reflecting Kersh’s face

in his glasses, he began.

“They say that there once was a prospector wandering through the Yukon with his

two dogs, searching for gold. One evening as it neared dusk, he found himself mired

down in the muskeg – boggy country with water just underneath the surface of the

semi-frozen ground and just above the permafrost.

“It was a treacherous place, and would be very easy to sink beneath the surface and

be engulfed. The more the prospector and his dogs tried to free themselves from its

clutches, the more lost they became.

“Finally, the prospector found a firm spot on a small hill. There were a few scraggly

trees on the elevation, and he made a small fire and cooked up a bit of soup for

himself and his canine companions.

“As the stars came out overhead, the man tried to find a comfortable place to sleep,

knowing that in the morning, he and the dogs would once again face the quagmire.

“At last, the prospector fell into an uneasy sleep. As he slept, he dreamt that a fierce

native warrior was standing over him, threatening him with a spear.

Frohike deepened his voice. “‘Why have you invaded this sacred ground?’ the warrior

demanded. ‘Leave at once or I will kill you!’

“‘I am lost in the muskeg,’ the prospector said in his dream. ‘Show me the way out,

and I will gladly leave.’

“The warrior frowned down at him. ‘I am the protector of this place, and cannot

forsake it. But I will summon a guide for you.’

“The warrior raised his arms toward the sky and called something in a tongue the

prospector could not understand. Then he vanished.

“The sudden growling of his dogs awakened the prospector. Sitting up, he beheld the

glowing figure of a beautiful Native American woman standing at the bottom of the

hill. He blinked in amazement, and felt chills run all over his body.

“The woman beckoned to him, and to his surprise, his dogs ceased their growling

and ran up to her. They pranced around her like pups, and he felt his fear fade away.

“Packing up his gear, the prospector made his way down the darkened hillock to the

treacherous muskeg that surrounded it.

“The glowing woman smiled at him. She raised her arms in the same gesture used

by the warrior in his dream, and transformed into a beautiful snow-white hare. The

glowing hare hopped slowly ahead of the prospector, leading him eastward.

“The prospector followed it closely, deviating neither left nor right from its path. The

dogs followed him eagerly and showed no interest in chasing the hare.

“For several hours, the prospector and his dogs followed the glowing animal through

the treacherous twists and turns of the quagmire.

“Just before dawn, they reached solid ground. The prospector looked around and

knew where he was.

Ahead of him, the white hare became once more the beautiful, glowing figure of a

woman.

“The dogs danced up to her, and she patted them on the head. Then she offered the

prospector a sweet smile and vanished as the first rays of the sun pierced the

horizon.”

Frohike fell silent and looked around the table in interest.

Scully was staring deeply into the mesmerising flame inside the pumpkin. Mulder had

an intrigued expression upon his face, Byers was leaning back in his chair, his face

obscured by the darkness; Langly however was staring at him open-mouthed.

“What?” Frohike exclaimed.

“You call that a ghost story?” The blond Gunman’s voice dripped with disgust.

“It fitted the criteria, it was a story and it involved ghosts…so yeah.” Frohike shot

back.

“Man, you don’t know anything about how to tell a really scary story.”

“Like you could do better.” Frohike muttered.

“With my eyes closed. My Kung-Fu is the best!” Langly announced, leaning towards

the shortest Gunman.

“Hey guys.” Mulder butted in.

“See what you started Mulder?” Scully glared as the two Gunmen began to hurl

insults at each other.

Byers leaned forward and laid his hand gently on Scully’s. “It’s okay, Agent Scully.”

He spoke in his normal, quiet tone. “They’re always like this.”

“You’re sure, John?” Scully questioned.

“Positive.” Byers let his friends continue their verbal attacks for a few more seconds

before clearing his throat.

Almost immediately, Langly and Frohike fell silent. Byers looked from one man to the

other, his mild gaze quelling their antagonism with more success than any words.

“I believe you were next.” He nodded at Langly.

“All right!” Langly exclaimed enthusiastically. Tossing a glance of contempt in

Frohike’s direction, he continued. “This is how you tell a ghost story.”

“This is supposed to be a true story. Somewhere in Pennsylvania there’s an

abandoned property with a monstrous, decrepit Victorian house that was supposed

to be haunted.

“It should have been a good resting place for the local deer hunters, but they won’t

go near it. A few that have tried have come away before midnight with tales of

ghostly thumping noises, gasps, moans, and a terrible wet bloodstain that appeared

on the floor of the front porch and could not be wiped away.” Langly widened his

eyes and continued, his voice almost a whisper, cadenced purposefully to make the

others lean towards him.

“Aubrey Phelps was an Englishman dude who, in the early 1800’s, had purchased

land and built a huge, fancy Victorian house all covered with gingerbread trimmings

and surrounded by lovely gardens.

“When everything was arranged to this dude’s liking, he sent out party invitations to

everyone within messenger range. It was the biggest social event of the year, with

music and dancing and huge amounts of food. Sawhorse tables were set up with

refreshments, and drinks were set out on the front porch.

“People came from miles around. The only one missing was the son-in-law of an old

man named McInturf. They had had a terrible fight that afternoon, and the boy had

stalked off in a rage, threatening to get even with the old man.

“Around midnight, the musicians took a recess and old man McInturf went out on the

front porch with some friends to enjoy snifters of brandy and smoke their cigars.

“Suddenly there came the thunder of hooves rushing up the lane. A cloaked figure

rode towards the lantern-lit porch. McInturf put down his drink. “That will be my son-

in-law,” he told his friends as he went down the steps.

“The cloaked figure stopped his horse just outside the pool of lantern-light. There

was a sharp movement and two loud shots cracked from a gun.

“Old man McInturf staggered backwards, shot in the throat and the chest. The

cloaked man wheeled his horse and fled down the lane as friends ran to the

assistance of the old man.

“McInturf was laid down on the porch. He was bleeding heavily and they were afraid

to move him much. There was some talk of fetching the doctor, but everyone knew it

was too late.

“So much blood was pouring from the old man’s wounds that it formed a pool

underneath his head. McInturf coughed, once, twice; a hideous, gurgling, strangling

sound that wrenched at the hearts of all who heard it. Then he died.

“McInturf’s body was laid out on the sofa, and the once-merry guests left in stricken

silence. The servants came and wiped the red-brown bloodstain off the floorboards.

“The next day, a wagon was brought to the front of the house and McInturf’s body

was carried out onto the porch.

“As the men stepped across the place where McInturf had died, blood began to pool

around their boots, forming a wet stain in exactly the pattern that had been wiped

up by the servants the night before.

“The men gasped in fear. One of them staggered and almost dropped the body. They

hurriedly laid McInturf in the back of the wagon, and a pale Phelps ordered the

servants to clean up the fresh bloodstain.

“From that day forward, the Phelps could not keep that part of the porch clean.

Every few weeks, the damp bloodstain would reappear. They tried repainting the

porch a few times, but the bloodstain would always leak through.

“In the county jail, McInturf’s son-in-law died of a blood clot in the brain.

“A few months later, one of the Phelps’ servants went mad after seeing a ‘terrible

sight’ that made his head feel like it was going to explode.

“Folks started saying the house was being haunted by the ghost of McInturf, seeking

revenge.

“The property was resold several times but each resident was driven out by the

terrible, gasping ghost of the old dead dude McInturf reliving his last moments and

by the bloodstain that could not be removed from the porch. The house was

eventually abandoned.”

Langly sat back in his chair and nodded at the others around the table. “Now that’s

a ghost story!

There was a pregnant pause as everyone looked at each other in the orange glow of

the Jack O’Lantern.

Scully was the first to comment. “The blood stain mustn’t have been properly

removed in the first place.”

Three of the men at the table turned and cast varying levels of incredulous looks at

her.

“Is that your official scientific opinion, Doctor Scully?” Mulder asked, blinking

owlishly at her.

“Blood just doesn’t reappear after it’s been correctly cleaned up.” She stated. “And

this supposedly happened back in the early 1800’s. They would have only had soap

and water, no doubt that’s exactly what happened.”

Narrowing her eyes, Scully stared at Langly through the flickering light. “If, of

course, this was, as you said, a true story, somehow I have my reservations.”

“Scully.” Mulder straightened from his slouched position and leaned towards her.

“Don’t ever change.”

“I beg your pardon, Mulder?” She enquired.

“I don’t want you to ever change from being yourself, your skeptical, disbelieving,

unconvinced, dubious, doubting-Thomas self.” He finished off with a flourish and

wrapped his arm about her shoulders. Pressing a kiss into her hair, he murmured.

“Because it’s those qualities that make you MY Scully.”

Scully smiled, then turned and kissed him on the cheek. Mulder’s other arm went

around her and their lips were about to meet when Frohike piped up and asked,

“Um, do you two want to be alone, or can we watch?”

Scully pulled away from her partner, and even in the light of the Kersh O’Lantern,

everyone could see her blush. Mulder looked from Scully to Frohike and grinned.

It wasn’t often that Scully let her defences slip in front of anyone, but it was certainly

a sign of how much she trusted the Gunmen to actually forget herself in their

presence.

She pushed her chair back and stood up. “You okay Scully?” Mulder enquired,

turning to catch her hand.

“Yes, I…ah, how about we go sit in the living room, it’ll be more comfortable than

these kitchen chairs.”

Trailing after Scully, like ducklings, the Gunmen made their way into the living room

and arranged themselves onto various pieces of furniture, leaving the love seat

couch for the agents.

Mulder brought up the rear cradling the Kersh O’Lantern. He placed it on the low

coffee table in the middle of the room before lowering himself onto the couch next to

his partner and slinging an arm along the back of the couch.

The weak light cast from the single candle inside the lantern sent eerie shadows

around the room, the light from the fire not really helping, and Scully couldn’t help

the involuntary shiver that raced down her spine.

Mulder felt the shudder that coursed through his partner, he moved closer so that his

body was touching hers and slung his arm around her shoulders.

“So,” Langly said, flexing his shoulders and grinning at the other occupants of the

room. “Who’s next?”

Frohike eyed Mulder. “Come on G-man, betcha you’ve got a real life ghost tale

haven’t you?”

Mulder tipped his head to one side and regarded the small man with raised

eyebrows. “Maybe.” He twirled his fingers through the hair at the back of Scully’s

neck. “But I think Scully and Byers should go before me.”

“Mulder!” Scully exclaimed, pulling out of his loose embrace. “I told you I don’t

believe in this stuff.”

“I know.” He placated her. “But didn’t you ever hear a spooky story when you were

growing up, something you were told by someone else in the family, or when you

were at school.” He gave her a leering grin. “You know, a ghostly sailor haunting one

of your Dad’s ships?”

“I don’t know, Mulder…” Scully hesitated.

Mulder had a ‘harrumph’ look on his face and turned to stare at Scully. “Well, if YOU

are so positive about your negativity, why don’t YOU tell us YOUR favorite ghost

story, Scully? Put up or shut up!”

Scully stared right back at him and folded her arms over her chest. “All right, Mulder.

I will.”

Scully pursed her lips, folding and unfolding her hands several times before finally

sliding each one underneath her thighs. “Well, there was a tale my Dad used to tell

us sometimes.” She straightened up and looked Mulder in the eye. “But, it doesn’t

mean that I believe it.”

Mulder grinned. “Sure, strictly for amusement purposes only.”

“And.” She pulled one hand free and waved a warning finger in Mulder’s face. “I

don’t want to see you opening an X-File about it anywhere down the track.”

“Cross my heart.” Mulder intoned solemnly, drawing the imaginary lines across his

chest.

“You guys heard that?” Scully asked. “You’re my witnesses.”

Three heads nodded like bobble-head dolls, along with varying sounds of agreement.

“All right then.” Scully made herself comfortable and closed her eyes as she gathered

her thoughts.

“My Dad told us this story after being at sea for a six month stretch. I was only little,

I think Bill might have been about ten or twelve.” Her breath caught and Mulder

quickly took her hand in his, holding it firmly.

Scully took the support her partner offered and began her tale.

“Many, many years ago, when the Spanish commanded the oceans, there was a

Captain Don Sandovate, his ship the Fortunato voyaged from Spain to the New World

in search of treasure.

“They found gold in abundance, enough for many men, many lifetimes over. But

among his crew there were a few sailors who did not wish to share their newfound

wealth with the monarchs of Spain.

“On their journey up the Atlantic Coast, the sailors mutinied and imprisoned their

captain, tying him to the main mast and refusing to give him food or drink.

“Day after day, the captain lay exposed to the hot sun of summer, his body drying

up as the treacherous sailors worked around him. Finally, his pride broken, Don

Sandovate begged: ‘Water. Please. Give me just one sip of water.’

“The mutineers found this amusing, and started carrying water up to the main mast

and holding it just out of reach of their former captain.

In the terrible heat of a dry summer, the captain did not survive long without water.

“A few days after the mutiny, the captain succumbed to heat and thirst. The new

captain, a greedy man with no compassion at all in his heart, left Don Sandovate tied

to the mast, his body withering away, while the ship turned pirate and plundered its

way up the coast.

“But Providence was watching the ruthless men, and a terrible storm arose and

drove the ship deep into the Atlantic, where it sank with all hands; the body of Don

Sandovate still tied to the broken mast.

“Shortly after the death of the mutineers-turned-pirates, an eerie ghost ship began

appearing along the coast, usually in the calm just before a storm. It had the

appearance of a Spanish treasure ship, but its mast was broken, its sails torn, and

the corpse of a noble-looking Spaniard was tied to the mast.

“The ship was crewed by skeletons in ragged clothing. As it passed other ships or

houses near the shore, the skeletons would stretch out bony hands and cry: ‘Water!

Please! Give us just one sip of water!'” Scully curled her fingers and reached out.

“But none could help them, for they are eternally doomed to roam the Atlantic,

suffering from thirst in payment for their terrible deeds against their captain and the

good people living along the Atlantic coast.”

Scully fell silent and risked a glance at Mulder. He was staring at her in disbelief.

“What?” She asked worriedly. “Do you know that one? I probably told it wrong, it’s

been a long, long time since my Dad told it to us kids.”

Mulder hurried to reassure her. “No!” He replied fervently. “I was…I’m wordless.” He

finally admitted. “I’ve never heard that story before.”

A thoroughly delighted grin lit up his face. “That was really good.” He looked at the

Gunmen. “Wouldn’t you guys agree?”

Frohike shifted in his seat. “I’ve got this image of some Spanish guy with a neat little

goatee beard, all dried up and desiccated, stuck in my head.” He grimaced. “Jeez,”

He moaned. “I’m gonna think of that every time I have to look at Byers.”

“I can’t believe YOU would tell a ghost story, Scully! In fact, I can’t believe you

DID!” Mulder told her, then leaned over and gave her a brief kiss. “I’m so proud of

you!”

Scully smiled back at him in the glow of the Kersh O’Lantern. “Just because I don’t

believe in ghosts doesn’t mean I can’t tell a good tale, Mulder.”

An extremely loud crack of thunder and a spike of lightning made everyone jump.

Everyone squirmed in their seats — even Scully, who did try to hide it but was

unsuccessful. None of the men commented on her unease, however, preferring to

keep their reproductive organs intact.

During one of his frequent trips to the window to look out at the storm, Mulder had

left the curtains open. It was not only pouring rain harder than before the Gunmen

arrived but was also lightning as well, with huge cracks of thunder booming

overhead every few minutes.

In short, it made for a particularly creepy Halloween night.

“You guys are SO full of crap,” Mulder said, turning from the window, and all four

faces turned to glare at him. “You wouldn’t know a scary story if it walked up and bit

you in the butt.” A crack of thunder and another lightning strike from outside the

window lit him up from behind, giving him a momentary strangely eerie blue aura.

“Well, if you think ours is ‘crap,’ G-man,” Frohike told him, arms folded over his

chest, “then why don’t YOU regale us with one of your own, oh Master of the Sacred

X-Files?”

“Yeah, dude!” Langly agreed. “Toss one out there for us, if you’re that much better

at story-telling.”

Mulder glanced at Byers who nodded, backing up his friends, then at Scully.

“Don’t look at me, buddy,” Scully held up her hands, palms facing him. “You got

yourself into this; you get yourself out. And by the way, I don’t know you.”

Scully sat unusually close to Mulder and he looked over at her and smiled a

particularly evil smile.

Mulder sat back, his face both shrouded in shadows and highlighted by the menacing

orange glow of the Kersh O’Lantern. He was quiet for a moment before he began

speaking in a low voice, forcing everyone to lean closer to hear him.

“Janette was a fifteen year old, very simple, small town girl, who just happened to

be very, very superstitious,” he began.

“She had started out life as a very sickly baby since birth and had continued to be

that way all her life. Her birth had been VERY difficult and nearly deadly event for

her Mother. Out of seven children, Janette was the youngest, but the only one who

ever suffered sicknesses. Her parents had blithely commented, all her life, that

‘Janette was jinxed.’

“As a result, poor Janette grew up believing these things, believing she was jinxed

and that she unintentionally jinxed others, and was terribly, terribly superstitious,

and by her own beliefs, she became an emotional cripple.” Mulder leaned forward,

his fingers interlaced as he looked at the carved pumpkin, as if his mind was a

thousand miles away.

“Janette never stepped on a crack, for fear of breaking her Mother’s back,” he

continued. “She never stepped on a line, for fear of breaking her Mother’s spine.

“Janette carried several rabbits’ feet with her, always rubbing one for good luck.

“She was DEATHLY afraid of mirrors, of getting too close to them for fear of

accidentally shattering one and, thereby, giving herself seven long, horrible years of

overwhelming bad luck.

“Janette knew that bad luck came in 3s, so if she had even the smallest bouts of bad

luck two times in a row, such as dropping her peas on the kitchen floor, or scuffing

her shoes, she’d pretend to be ill and stay in bed to avoid the third and, she thought,

the deadly third bout of bad luck.

“Janette, like her brothers and sisters, walked to school each morning. Her siblings,

however, also thought she was strange and didn’t want to be seen with her, so they

walked faster than she, leaving her behind.

“On the way to school — a lonely journey; she, fearful of seeing ravens, the

harbingers of death — and counted the magpies she saw on her way for luck.

“If she saw a penny, she picked it up, because, as everyone knew, if you didn’t you’d

have bad luck.

“Whenever anyone spoke around her of someone’s death, Janette would, at all costs,

knock on wood to keep the bad spirits of death away from herself.

“Janette was very withdrawn and quiet; she never liked calling attention to herself

for fear of drawing others’ ire and spite. If that happened, she knew, without a

doubt, that serious accidents and illnesses would befall her.” Mulder glanced around.

“And accidents DID befall her now and then.

“When she was forced to go to into town with her family, there was a walk she hated

because an overhead sign covered it and there was no way around it. Of course, it

was a given that walking under a large sign was VERY bad luck and she hated

walking under that sign. So, no matter what she had in her hands, she managed,

somehow, to arrange it so that she could cross the fingers of both hands as she

walked under the sign.

“Whenever a Friday the 13th rolled around, Janette always became mysteriously ill

and always managed to be far too sick to go to school that day. All she wanted was

to stay in bed, where she lay, shivering all day, scared nearly out of her mind, never

wanting to give the evil spirits reasons to come after her, as she knew they wanted –

– and were waiting — to do.”

Mulder shifted slightly and reached up to rub his chin for a moment, and everyone in

the room again squirmed in their seats. Then he continued with his story, his voice

still very low, intentionally causing chills to run up the spines of everyone in the

room.

“At one point, Janette’s neighbor’s oldest son, knowing her fears — as did all her

schoolmates — intentionally cursed her, and, in the traditions of old, late one night,

she sneaked out of the house, drew the boy’s pet dog to her with a piece of meat,

then pierced the dog’s skin with a pin to draw a small amount of blood to reverse the

curse. The dog howled in pain and ran away from her with its tail tucked between his

legs and would never come close to her again.”

Frohike glanced at Langly who looked at Byers who looked at Scully who hadn’t

taken her wide eyes off her partner.

“She knew that to cure a cough,” Mulder continued, “you should take a piece of hair

from the hacking person’s head, put it between two slices of bread and feed it to a

dog saying ‘eat well, you hound, may you be sick and I be sound’. However, because

of her last incidence with the next-door neighbor boy’s dog, the dog wouldn’t come

near her and her father’s cough became so bad he was hospitalized and nearly died

of pneumonia.

“Janette knew this was ALL her fault and she went to school crying the next day,

rubbing her rabbits’ feet and praying hard that her father would survive.

“However, at her school, the popular girls had always picked on Janette mercilessly,

and had made public jokes at her expense.

“Normally,” Mulder told them, “Janette was very quiet in school and had no friends at

all. For the most part, she outwardly ignored the taunts, but inwardly she was torn

up and seething.

“Most students and teachers thought she was weird, others thought she was strange,

and, for some, her superstitious habits were just downright scary.

“Janette was always upset if she found an apple in her school lunch with the stem

still in, because she knew she’d have to twist it out, counting from A-Z and knowing

that whatever letter the stem broke on, that was the letter of the first name of the

boy she’d marry. And she didn’t like ANY of the boys at her school.”

The smile that appeared on Mulder’s face was almost malicious at this point.

“One day at lunch, Janette was sitting alone in the far corner of the lunch room, as

usual, opening her lunch sack, and she was sitting staring at the apple with the stem

inside the sack.

“Just then the ‘popular girls,’ all thirteen of them — an obviously unlucky number —

with large amounts of make-up, tight, short clothes, and bad attitudes came

strutting over to taunt her.

“‘Hey, look it’s Miss Stupid Superstition!’ their leader shouted, causing all eyes in the

lunch room to turn to her. Janette couldn’t help but notice the laughter that followed

and turned scarlet in embarrassment.

“The girl pulled out a mirror, held it up in front of Janette and intentionally cracked it

right in front of Janette’s face, sharp splinters going everywhere.

“Janette held in a scream and ran out, leaving everything behind.

“The lunch room erupted in laughter.”

Mulder looked around at everyone again then continued. “Mortally embarrassed and

truly angry for the first time in her life, Janette held a grudge for everyone after that

day.

“The next day, Janette was absent from school. In fact, she didn’t return for over

two weeks.

“Teachers, students and even the girls who taunted her were worried — well, only a

little.” Mulder smiled.

“Then one night, on the very next Friday the 13th, the girl who broke the mirror

received an unexpected phone call.

“‘Come to my house tonight,’ Janette’s voice rang out. ‘You MUST be there at 8:00

o’clock sharp!’

“The girl was uncomfortable but eventually said she’d be there, hung up and

immediately called her friends, deciding to pull a huge joke on Janette.

“When they arrived at her house, the front door was open slightly, blown back and

forth by the small breeze, its hinges creaking unnaturally.

“The girls, who were a little creeped out now, slowly opened the door and walked in

to the candle lit room, only to see the horrible sight of … Janette, hanging by her

neck from a rope, her body slowly swinging back and forth.”

Mulder glanced at Scully, whose breath had hitched at his words, but only he had

heard it. He turned back to look at the Gunmen and kept talking.

“All the girls screamed at the sight. Her wrists were cut and clothes were bloody and

dripping.

“The blood was dripping down onto a VERY large mirror supported by four cinder

blocks at each corner, over which Janette was hanging.

“Before the girls could turn and run, the rope suspending Janette snapped with a

sound like a loud shot, and Janette’s dead body crashed down into the mirror!”

Mulder clapped his hands quickly together, the sound making everyone jump.

“The mirror shattered into a million pieces — larger pieces flying everywhere, hitting

other mirrors the girls hadn’t noticed and shattering them, too.

“Glass flew everywhere, embedding into the eyes, mouths, faces and bodies of the

girls who could do nothing but scream and fall onto even more large glass shards!”

Mulder’s voice rose.

“The girls, writhing and dying on the floor had never noticed the message written on

the wall in blood:

“‘NOW DO YOU BELIEVE IN SUPERSTITION?'”

The room was deathly quiet, except for a boom of thunder, the crackle of the fire

and rain on the windows.

“Well?” Mulder asked.

“It…” Scully cleared her throat, “It was an interesting story, Mulder.”

“Yeah, it was,” Frohike agreed, his voice a little high, and the other two Gunmen

nodded in agreement.

“It WASN’T a story, boys,” Mulder grinned at them evilly.

“What do you mean, Mulder?” Scully asked suspiciously.

Mulder grinned evilly again. “It was an X-File; one of the first I ever read. It

happened; and it was never solved.”

“Oh, come ON, Mulder! You expect me to believe that?” Scully demanded.

“No, I don’t expect YOU to believe anything Scully, because you never do!” He

leaned over and kissed her. “But that’s what I like about you, you know.”

Scully reached up and kissed him, their arms surrounding each other, their kiss

becoming deeper.

“Guys,” Frohike interrupted. “This is touching that you’re ‘growing’ together and all,

but I’m getting really creeped out here. We still don’t have lights, it’s raining harder

than anything out there and somehow we have to get home.”

“Oh nonsense,” Scully told him as she moved slightly away from her partner. “You

guys will stay here for the night. We have an extra room, the couch and even

bedrolls for camping trips. Besides, it will be nice and warm in here in front of the

fireplace.” Scully indicated the roaring fire that Mulder had kept stoking all night.

“However,” Scully smiled and looked at the quiet Gunman. “John hasn’t told a story

yet.”

Byers’ eyes went wide and he looked around as all eyes turned to stare at him.

“He wouldn’t know any ghost stories or how to even tell one,” Langly laughed.

“No kidding,” Frohike agreed. “Unless you consider stories of computer downtime at

the FCC as ghostly.”

Mulder tried not to laugh at Byers’ expense and Scully patently refused to do so.

“Actually,” Byers said quietly, “I DO know of … something, but it’s not a ghost story.

Well, not exactly, that is.”

“Oh, come on,” Frohike rolled his eyes, “I really do not want to hear about it,

whatever it is. If it’s coming from YOU, Byers, we all know it’ll be lame.”

“No kidding, dude…” Langly started, but Scully stopped them both.

“We listened to YOUR stories, boys,” she said. “If John has a story, I want to hear

it.”

Byers looked around, and then looked down at his hands twisting in his lap. “Well,

you see … what I’m going to tell you … it’s real and it happened to me, when I was

younger.”

He looked up and at each one of them. The expressions on their faces were ones of

intrigue. “And, the truth is — I’ve never told anyone about this. Well, okay, I did

when I was in college, but everyone laughed at me, so I learned to never tell anyone

… ever again.”

Scully leaned forward. “John, don’t worry; none of us will laugh at you. Will we,

boys?” She turned her ‘Raised Eyebrow Death Stare,’ as Mulder privately called it, at

each man and all of them muttered ‘no’ or variations thereof.

“Go on, John,” Scully told him, then sat back and linked her arm through Mulder’s.

Byers looked around at everyone one more time and once again, everyone jumped

when another booming crack of thunder and bolt of lightning peeled through the

house.

“Well,” Byers started, “when I was in college, a lady friend from some of my classes

invited me over for dinner one evening.

“You see, we had been taking an English course concerning ‘Literature of the Occult,’

and she claimed her husband could contact the dead.

“Of course, I didn’t believe her, so she offered me the chance to experience her

husband’s ‘talents’ in person, and invited me over to dinner one Saturday night.”

Byers shifted uneasily and worried with his hands some more.

“Her name was Liz and her husband’s name was Keith. After dinner, we all went into

their den, and then Keith explained to me what it was all about.

“Apparently, he had taken a number of courses in ‘The Silva Method’ of mind control,

you might say.”

Frohike snorted derisively but one look from Scully stopped it.

“I’ve heard of this,” Mulder said. “Isn’t it based on Jose Silva’s belief that most

people function using their left brain more than their right? And that by using the

‘alpha waves’ in your right brain, you can raise your I.Q. Silva got off into

parapsychology … and … didn’t Silva come to believe that one of his daughters, who

he taught using his method, was clairvoyant?”

“Yes, that’s right,” Byers, replied. “Keith took the course under Jose Silva himself,

some years before Silva passed away, and Keith continued with his studies on his

own.

“Some people — doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists and religious leaders —

believed Silva’s work to be very dangerous, anti-Christian and, in fact, satanic. But

Keith and Liz claimed it wasn’t,” Byers said.

“However…” Byers hesitated for a moment and looked up at them. “Keith claimed he

could, at the alpha level, talk to the dead.”

Langly laughed outright. “Oh come on! A lot of people claim they can talk to the

dead! This isn’t scary at all! MY story was better than this!”

“Langly,” Scully told him, “we listened to YOUR story, and now I want to hear

John’s. So be quiet!”

Langly sank back against the overstuffed chair, looking chastised. Frohike only

smirked at him.

Byers cleared his throat, twisting the ring on his left hand and continued. “I don’t

blame anyone for not believing; I didn’t believe it myself, and that’s why Liz invited

me over … so Keith could demonstrate his abilities to me.

“As I said, after dinner, we went into their den and Keith got comfortable in his

recliner. Liz explained that Keith had to do this in the dark, so he wouldn’t be

distracted by anyone, so except for a candle burning in the dining room, which

connected to the den, we were in the dark. I couldn’t see Keith’s face at all.

“I really didn’t know WHAT to think. I sat there and waited and waited and I didn’t

know what I was waiting for. Until…

“Keith suddenly spoke in a voice that was somehow different from the voice I’d

heard all night. He said, ‘Keith is ready.'”

Mulder leaned forward, “He wasn’t speaking as himself?”

“I don’t really know,” Byers told him. “I didn’t ask; I was told to not speak until Liz

told me it was okay to do so. And then she did tell me it was okay.

“Liz said, ‘ask Keith about someone you know who has passed away and Keith will

interpret for him or her.'” Byers swallowed nervously.

“The first person I thought of was my Grandfather, who passed away when I was

fourteen. So, that’s whom I asked to ‘speak to.'”

Byers looked around at everyone. “You have to understand, I really didn’t know

these people very well, and I’ve always been a very private person, not to mention

that I was, at that point, twenty-one years old, off to college and I hadn’t thought of

my Grandfather in a long time. He was not a kind man and so we weren’t close.

“In any event, there was no way either of them could have known anything about

my Grandfather, so I felt confident that this would prove Keith to be a charlatan.”

Byers stopped for a moment and interlaced his fingers, then began twisting his

hands nervously again.

“John? Are you okay?” Scully asked leaning forward.

Byers looked up, startled, “Oh yes, I’m fine Agent Scully. I was just remembering…”

Scully sat back and glanced over at Mulder who shrugged slightly, then turned back

to look at Byers. Both Langly and Frohike were watching him closely, too, appearing

concerned.

“Anyway,” Byers continued, talking quietly, “Things got really … bizarre at that

point.

“It was dark in there, to be certain, but once my eyes had adjusted to the dark, I

could see some things, including Keith’s figure, outlined in the slight light of the

candle.

“Suddenly, he sat up, thrust his hands out as if pushing someone away and said,

‘NO! GO BACK!’ several times loudly.

“I started to say something to Liz, who was sitting next to me, but she physically put

her hand over my mouth and kept her eyes on her husband.”

Byers looked down at his hands again. “And then … and then … well, Keith said,

‘How’s my little JFK?’ When I heard that, in my Grandfather’s voice, I nearly

jumped out of my skin because that was the name my Grandfather had called me.

“I’d literally forgotten about that until Keith said it.” Byers swallowed convulsively.

“But it quickly became even more … intense…”

Byers glanced up again, noting that he had everyone’s complete attention and

squirmed slightly where he sat. “Um, then Liz indicated I could talk to ‘my

Grandfather,’ so I asked, ‘who are you? What is your name?’

“Keith — or my Grandfather — replied, ‘don’t you know me, little JFK? I’m your

Grandpa, Aiden Southworth Byers.'”

Byers’ breath hitched and he looked up at everyone, his eyes wide. “You see, my

Grandfather’s name WAS Aiden Southworth Byers — and there was simply NO way

that either Liz or Keith could’ve known that. To say I was … upset is an

understatement. I wanted to leave … THEN. But, Liz held onto my arm and I

couldn’t move. She encouraged me to talk to him.

“Against my better judgment, among other things, he mentioned how hot it was

where he was, and out of the blue, that he had, in fact, killed my Father’s next oldest

brother, who had died mysteriously at age four, two years before my Father was

born…”

“John,” Scully said, “You don’t have to finish this. It’s obviously painful for you to talk

about.”

“No, it’s okay, Agent Scully,” Byers smiled faintly at her, and then looked down at his

hands again. “My Grandfather — or Keith — just kept talking and he talked about SO

many things that no one, except family members would know, such as my Mother’s

propensity for chocolate mint ice cream, with caramel sauce, my Father’s desire for

me to become a lawyer … just so many things that it was truly … spooky.”

Byers looked up at Mulder and, even in the light of the Kersh O’Lantern and the

subtle light from the flames of the fireplace, it was clear Byers was blushing. “Sorry,

Mulder.”

“Hey, no problem,” Mulder smiled.

“Well, I’m officially creeped out,” Frohike admitted. “I didn’t think you had it in you,

Byers.”

“Me either,” Langly added.

After a beat, Byers said, “But I’m not finished.”

At that moment the candle in the pumpkin flickered so wildly they thought it would

go out, but it flared back into life, causing everyone in the room to shudder.

Byers took their attention away from the pumpkin again by clearing his throat once

again. “Um … after it was over, it took Keith a few minutes for Keith to bring himself

out of the ‘alpha wave level’ he’d been in while talking with or for my Grandfather.

“Then Liz turned some lamps in the room to a low setting, saying it took a lot out of

Keith to do this thing.

“Once Keith finally opened his eyes, he DID look worn out and haggard, and then I

asked him how he knew all that he knew.

“Keith claimed that going to the alpha level made him open to talking to the dead.

“Then I remembered what he’d done at the beginning of the session — throwing his

hands out and saying ‘No! Go back!’ I asked him what THAT was about.”

Byers hesitated; his voice lowered even more, and said, “Keith said that my

Grandfather was trying to come into the room with most of his head missing.

“And he asked me what that meant. I couldn’t say a word. I just got up and RAN out

of there, got in my car and sped all the way back to my dorm room, locked myself in

and didn’t sleep for days. It was the first time I’d ever missed a class in my college

career.”

Frohike was feeling definite goose-bumps and Langly, Mulder and even Scully

weren’t far behind. Scully was leaning so close to Mulder she was almost in his lap.

“You see,” Byers looked up at each one of them, then back down to his fingers,

which were almost raw by now with his twisting them constantly. “My Grandfather

committed suicide when I was fourteen.

“And he did it by using his hunting rifle in the bathroom of the master bedroom. He

actually missed the first time and it just went through his jaw.

“He was determined, though; the second shot took off a good portion of his head. My

Grandmother had heard the first shot, came running and walked into the bathroom

when he pulled the trigger the second time.

“She was never the same afterwards and had to be put in a psychiatric hospital for a

long, long time.”

There was dead silence in the room, and all that could be heard was the crackle of

the fire and the rain beating continuously on the window.

“I’d never told anyone about that since it happened, and hadn’t again until tonight,”

Byers said quietly. “He truly was not a nice man, he hated his grandchildren and

great-grandchildren. It’s a given he hated his own children, and it had been rumored

that he HAD killed my Father’s brother, but there had never been any proof.”

Scully started to say something, but when she opened her mouth, instead, there was

a high, moaning shriek and everyone in the room jumped to their feet, turning

toward the sound which was coming from the hall.

Melvin Frohike might have denied it later, but he screamed a “girly scream” at what

he thought he saw.

Byers paled and muttered, “Oh my God!”

Langly just fell back into his chair and Mulder’s arms tightened around Scully, whose

eyes were huge.

For a few seconds, a hazy, watery apparition appeared to float towards them, and it

was a very thin, tall man with part of his head missing.

The apparition seemed to fixate on Byers, shrieked again and then literally popped

out of existence, causing everyone’s eardrums to ache momentarily.

“What the HELL was that?” Frohike asked.

“I want OUT of here!” Langly insisted.

“It was a ghost!” Mulder added in a stage voice.

“It was my Grandfather,” Byers pronounced.

All eyes turned to him, everyone staring, until Scully finally spoke. “No offence to

you, Byers, but there are no such things as ghosts.”

“Then what the hell was THAT thing?” Frohike asked again.

Scully nudged Mulder towards the hall. “Go look.”

“Me?” Mulder asked, refusing to be moved. “Why me?”

“Since when did a little ghost ever bother the great Fox Mulder?” Scully asked with

only a hint of a smile.

“Since NOW,” he answered.

Scully sighed and grabbed his arm, dragging him behind her. “All right. We’ll go

together. As always.”

The Gunmen all looked at each other, not knowing what to say or do, and simply

waited until Mulder and Scully returned.

“It was nothing, boys,” Scully said.

“Nothing?” Mulder demanded.

“The window just blew open, that’s all,” Scully said giving Mulder the eye.

“Scully,” Mulder asked, “how the hell can a window that slides up and down blow

open?”

“I don’t know; it just did,” Scully replied haughtily, “and that ‘apparition’ was nothing

but fog from the cold and rain blowing in through the window and down the hall.”

“Yeah. Right.” Mulder folded his arms and sat down.

Scully tapped her foot nervously and looked towards the window. “Boys, it’s still

raining, the streets are probably flooded and you don’t know whether or not your

van will start. I suggest that you bunk down here for the night.”

“After seeing that THING?” Langly nearly shrieked, his voice up almost a full scale.

“Shut up, Langly,” Byers told him. “You know she’s right.” He turned to Scully.

“Thank you, Agent Scully. We’ll take you up on that, however, I insist on helping you

clean up.” He stood and began collecting cups and saucers.

“Thank you, John,” Scully grabbed the plate of cookies, gave Mulder one last burning

glance, and headed to the kitchen, followed by Byers. “You guys help Mulder get the

bedding and bedrolls.”

“Geez, she’s bossy,” Frohike muttered.

“You don’t know the half of it,” Mulder retorted.

“I HEARD THAT!” Scully shot back over her shoulder.

The three men in the living room went about their Scully-appointed duties quietly

after that.

In the kitchen, Scully and Byers went about cleaning up, until Byers turned to look at

Scully, who was openly laughing, as quietly as possible.

“It was BRILLIANT, John!” Scully turned to him. “That last bit about your grandfather

— and the ghost — it was absolutely brilliant!”

“Agent Scully…” Byers tried to interrupt her, but she continued.

“I haven’t seen Mulder that scared since … well, I can’t remember when. And I

thought Melvin and Langly were going to pee themselves!”

Byers put a hand on her forearm to stop her. “Agent Scully, I KNOW what you and I

had planned — to scare them all, but the truth is, earlier today, when I was

supposed to come over while you and Mulder were gone, and set up the projector,

sound equipment and everything else … well, I wasn’t able to make it.”

Scully looked at him and laughed. “Good one, John! You almost had me believing

you there for a moment.”

“Scully,” Byers’ grip on her forearm tightened. “I’m not making this up. I did NOT

come over here this morning — there is no hidden equipment of ANY kind … and the

story about my Grandfather and Liz and Keith is true!”

Dana Scully blinked. “John, you can cut the crap now,” she said, becoming

somewhat nervous by his intense expression.

“Scully, I am NOT making this up.” Byers insisted stringently. “It really happened to

me, at age fourteen — my Grandfather committed suicide and everything I told

about what happened with Liz and Keith that night is absolutely TRUE. Whatever

that was in the hallway, it didn’t come from a projector and I didn’t rig the window to

open, either.”

Byers’ expression was intense and almost overwhelming. Scully shivered but covered

it quickly.

“You can stop trying to scare me, John,” Scully told him nervously. “It’s not working.

Oh, and the power failure was a great touch.” Scully had finished rinsing the dishes

and stacking them in the drainer to dry. Then she turned and walked out of the

kitchen to find the rest of the men.

John Byers stood in the kitchen tightly holding onto the counter’s edge and closed his

eyes.

It was only the second time he’d ever told anyone about that horrific event in his life,

and no one believed him anymore now than they had the first time.

It was a time and event he would never forget and he still had nightmares over the

events at Liz and Keith’s that night, no matter how much he tried to forget it AND

his truly horrible Grandfather.

A scream pulled him instantly out of his introspection and he rushed to the living

room to find Scully tightly hugging herself, turned away, in front of the window.

Frohike and Langly were standing near her, looking concerned.

“What happened?” Byers asked, concerned.

“Good goin’, Byers,” Frohike nudged him. “You scared the crap out of Scully.”

“No he didn’t,” Langly said. “She saw something outside the window.”

Scully’s breath was hitching and her eyes were tightly closed.

**********

On the steps outside their place, Mulder stood with his service weapon ready and

looked closely around in the moonlight subdued by heavy clouds.

All he saw was rain, rain and more rain. The only movement was the branches in the

trees as the wind and rain hit them.

Looking at the window, he also saw nothing but rain and a dim orange glow.

Mulder backed away and into the house, flipping the safety on his weapon and

tucking it in the back of his pants.

Inside, he carefully closed and locked the door and went to find Scully.

She jumped when he put his arms around her, then she threw her arms around him

and buried her face in his neck. “Did you see him, Mulder?”

Mulder patted her back with one hand and smoothed her hair lovingly with the other.

“There was nothing out there, Scully. Nothing but rain and more rain. Not a soul

around.”

“What did she see?” Byers asked quietly.

“It was Kersh,” Scully turned and told him. “It was Kersh’s face in the window. He

was right there,” she turned and pointed at the window. “I swear, it was him!”

“Scully,” Mulder began, “I can’t believe I’m the one telling you this, but what you

probably saw was the reflection of the pumpkin in the window. And with all these

stories we’ve been telling tonight, they got to you.” Scully looked up at him

skeptically. “Just a little.” He added.

“Look, Scully,” Mulder turned her to the window and pointed at it, “All those little

alien heads I drew just sorta combined — and it looks like a face.”

Scully tilted her head and looked but she wasn’t convinced, even though she wanted

to be.

“I guess,” Scully agreed, pulling slightly away from him. “I don’t know about

everyone else, but I’m ready for some sleep.”

A chorus of agreements came from all four men.

Mulder had given them all sets of his sweats to wear as pajamas and they began to

take turns changing in the second bathroom.

Finally, seeing that the Gunmen were all settled in for the night, all in the living room

to benefit from the heat of the fireplace, which was fuelled with more wood and

stoked, Mulder took Scully’s arm and started for the stairs to their bedroom.

“Goodnight everyone,” Scully shakily told them all, trying to hide her disquiet,

following her partner’s lead.

“Good night, boys!” Mulder told them.

“Yeah, right. YOU’LL be having a ‘good night,’ Mulder; WE’LL be sleeping out here!”

Frohike mumbled.

The Gunmen were settling in, as much as they could be under the circumstances,

when they heard an intentionally over-loud comment from Mulder at the top of the

stairs.

“Hey, Scully! Wanna see my Halloweenie?”

“Shut up, Mulder!” The bedroom door slammed behind them as the Gunmen

laughed.

**********

Outside in the chilled darkness, sometime later, an indistinguishable form

underneath the window uncurled itself and slowly stood.

The figure leaned forward to look into the window again.

It had been close; he hadn’t expected the woman to be looking out at the moment

he had looked in.

Then again, he hadn’t expected them to have company, which changed his plans

dramatically.

He’d also been lucky when the door opened and the man came out brandishing a

gun.

Fortunately, however, the “power failure” which he had caused had hidden him quite

nicely in the bushes in front of the window. All he had to do was wait until the man

went back inside.

And he had, after a few minutes.

Now all he could see was the orange sparks of the fireplace and the vague forms of

people lying on furniture and bedrolls.

His eyes stopped on the Jack O’Lantern and he laughed maniacally to himself as he

turned and made his way out of the bushes.

The exact same expression on the pumpkin was clear on former FBI Assistant

Director Alvin Kersh’s shadowy face when the lightning bolt pierced the skies.

Condensation on the window where Kersh had pressed his face imitated the Jack

O’Lantern’s expression.

Unfortunately, no one saw it.

Alvin Kersh, now completely, irreversibly, criminally insane, ran down the street,

disappearing into the rainy, black Halloween night.

**********

Many, many thanks, Violet Crumbles and Crikeys! to Foxglove for asking me to

write this “short story” <heh> with her! It was an international blast! Those last few

hours before the deadline we were flat out like a lizard drinkin’! (I miss Steve Irwin.)

~ Anubis

~ ~ ~

I’m not sure what it is with deadlines, but we always manage to scrape in by the skin

of our teeth.

Once again, I desperately appreciated Nubie’s invaluable assistance.

Halloween and fireplaces are not commonplace in my neck of the woods, and quite

frankly I would have been lost without her.

Late night chats and madly sending emails back and forth kept this fic growing.

~ Foxglove

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