Rating: PG-13

Schreck Mansion

Somehow, he had managed to fall asleep. When he woke up again, it was bright daylight, probably around noon if he judged the angle of the light right. Exhausted as he had been after a night of terror, he wasn't actually that surprised that he had fallen asleep again.

Sitting up slowly, he blinked heavily at his surroundings, the previous night clouding his mind like the shadow of a dream. But he knew it had happened. He was tired enough to drop and he still felt the lingering dread that this thing would come back. Scrubbing a hand over his face, he stopped short at the feel of stubble on his cheek. He needed a shave. That thought made him chuckle almost helplessly. A shave? If he wasn't careful, he might end up without his head. Whether or not he was growing a beard right now wasn't relevant. He could always shave it off once he got out of here. "If," he mumbled. "If I get out of here."

Slowly, he pushed himself to his feet, felling oddly numb. Then he glanced around the room. There was no residue left of the terror he had felt the previous night. This was just another ordinary day in a not so ordinary house. But he knew that whatever had tried to get to him in the night would try again.

Apprehensive, he approached the door, but wasn't about to open it. He just wanted to listen more closely to the house around him. Once again pressing an ear against the wood, he heard the faint rushing of his own blood in his ear. Apart from that, there were the general creaking sounds heard in an old house. The wood was giving to the change in temperatures, the amount of moisture or the shift of the soil the house was built on. And that was it. No strange scraping sounds, no bumps, no sniffing. Nothing.

Mildly relieved, he turned his head a little and pressed his brow against the wood, once again wishing himself away, praying to any given deity he could think of that he would make it out of this place with his sanity and body intact. The longer he stayed in this place, the more likely it was that he would lose his mind or be subjected to some kind of bodily harm. The latter he could deal with. The first scared him out of his mind.

The old house settled around him, creaking and groaning like old houses did, but there was something more to this house, something more to the way it creaked and groaned. There were shadows in this house where there should be no shadows, sounds where there should be no sounds. All in all, the house seemed to be alive in a manner of speaking. The idea itself was ridiculous, of course. Those sound-of-mind would never indulge the idea that a building could be alive. Yet when abandoned and empty, the house almost seemed to breathe. When there was nobody around to hear or see, the creaking and groaning of the house seemed more like a murmured complaint by an old man than it sounded like a house settling.

Listening to the sounds, Mulder knew how close he would come to losing his grasp on reality if he didn't get out of this place soon. He had spent two nights here and the ghostly activity seemed to be escalating. Scared of what that meant for the coming night, he suddenly found himself unable to draw a proper breath. Clenching his teeth so hard, his jaw started to hurt, he pressed his brow harder against the carved wood of the door and tried hard not to let go of what little control he had left. Without consciously thinking about it, the previous night had scared him a whole lot more than he was willing to admit even to himself. The thought that the door between him and the corridor beyond actually wasn't an obstacle and that whatever had been out there would come into this room when the sun went down made him clench his teeth so hard together to keep his jaw from trembling. Without a doubt, he was scared like a little kid fearing monsters under his bed. And that even in broad daylight.

And then he heard it. The slamming of a door somewhere. Pushing away, he backed up a step and stared apprehensively at the door. His fears ebbed away the second he heard a voice calling out for him.

"Mr. Mulder?"

It sounded far away, but he thought he recognized the voice.

"Mr. Mulder, are you still here? This is Mrs. Crane."

Struggling with the key, he finally managed to turn it in the lock, eager to get back to the entrance hall to meet the woman who would release him from this nightmare. Ripping the door open, he didn't give his appearance another thought as he raced down the corridor toward salvation.

"Mrs. Crane?" he called back and skittered to a stop on the slick marble floor in the big entrance hall. Looking around, he saw no trace of her. "Mrs. Crane?" he tried again.

A door slammed upstairs and he heard her muffled voice calling for him again. "Mr. Mulder? Can you hear me?"

"Here," he called back and hurried toward the broad flight of stairs. "I'm downstairs, Mrs. Crane," he called, already climbing the stairs. He was halfway up before it struck him as odd that she would go upstairs to look for him.

Stopping short, he listened intently to what was going on upstairs. There were no further sounds. Suddenly feeling very much exposed, his eyes started skipping nervously over the stairs and the upstairs landing while he cautiously took a step down. "Mrs. Crane?" he called in an unsteady tone of voice, already knowing that the caretaker's wife had not come to let him out of here. The house had tricked him out into the open. "Oh shit," he gasped under his breath and cautiously took another step down, holding onto the bannister with one hand. He felt unsteady, uneasy, ready to run at the smallest hint of danger.

When it came down to it, there was no hint. Something slammed into him so suddenly, it caught him utterly by surprise. Hurtling him backward, it slammed him into the wall above the entrance door, a good ten feet up, and held him there for a second. The impact alone had deprived him of what breath he had in his lungs. But the cold force holding him against the wall made it impossible for him to draw breath out of the pure and simple fact that he was unable to process the fact that he was suspended ten feet above a marble floor, which would break both his legs if he were to fall down on it.

And then it let go of him. Whatever it was, it simply disappeared. Thus deprived of his support, he fell to the floor with a yelp. It didn't go as wrong as he had feared it would. He didn't break his legs. But he sure did get bruised when he landed on the polished marble floor on his hands and knees. The jolt this gave his shoulders and wrists made him yelp in pain. Unable to hold himself upright, he dropped down on his stomach and just barely avoided bruising his chin by jerking his head back. The strain that put on his neck made him groan.

Rolling over on his back, he tried to regain his breath. Getting back to his feet was essential. He doubted severely that the entity of this house was done with him. It took him a few attempts, but he finally managed to laboriously climb back to his feet. With hands and arms that tingled from the strain put on them and legs that felt downright wobbly beneath him, he staggered a few steps toward the corridor leading back to his refuge when the second attack struck him yet again unprepared.

He hit the opposite wall before he even knew what was going on, and the impact once again deprived him of his valuable air supply. Grunting in pain when the newly establish bruise on his back was once again fully subjected to the protruding edge of a carving, he sank to the floor, dazed and unable to focus.

But then a sound reached his ears, which instantly restored his mobility, though. Despite the searing pain from a possibly sprained muscle in his back and the fact that his legs would not really cooperate, he struggled back to his feet and lumbered back toward the corridor, hunched over like an old man. The growl of an animal somewhere in the vicinity spurred his need to get up and get moving. Although he severely doubted there actually was an animal in the house, he wasn't about to try and find out. Not in his present condition.

Groaning at the pain from his injuries, he hauled himself along the wall, using one tingling arm for support against the soft velvety wallpaper. He didn't try to turn and look behind him. He didn't want to know if anything was following him, but he felt it nonetheless. It was close behind, goading him on. Limping heavily by the time the open door came into view, he shifted over to the other side of the corridor and chanced a glance behind. There was nothing to be seen, but he could feel it. It was like an invisible wall slowly advancing on him, ready to crush him.

Grabbing the edge of the doorframe, he hauled himself through the opening and slammed the door shut, fumbling with the key until it finally turned. And all the while he could feel the wood growing colder. And then the pounding started again. Wincing, he backed up, the shock of the impact starting to wear off and making him extremely aware of his bruised muscles. But he could not focus on the pain. All he could focus on right there and then was that he was being hunted by this entity. And during the day, too. That gave him little hope of retaining his sanity for the five extra days it would obviously take before the caretaker returned to the house.

The pounding stopped again almost instantly, leaving him with nothing but the rushing sound of silence. For a long moment, he stood still, listening, still hunched over, then he sank down on the couch with an audible groan. Gingerly, he arched his back and winced at the soreness of it. Nothing seemed to be broken, though. Then he rubbed his knees pensively, knowing that he would be sporting big bruises on both in a few hours. This was getting worse by the hour and he was really starting to fear for his immediate future.


After the attack, the remains of that day passed uneventfully, leaving Mulder in two minds about whether he had really experienced it. If it hadn't been for his sore back and bruised knees and the generally weak feeling he had in his arms from the impact with the marble floor, he would have been able to expel the idea and laugh at it. As it were, this was no laughing matter.

To take the strain off his aching back, he stretched out on the couch and watched the door attentively. Although the attack had drained him of energy, he felt wide awake, aware that fear was playing a big part in that. Breathing shallowly to be able to hear any noise, he never took his eyes off the door, never once allowed himself to truly relax. That was when he became the most vulnerable, he knew. When he was relaxed, he became a target.

When twilight set in, he switched on every single light he could find in the room and pulled the heavy drapes in front of the two large windows. Still hurting, he then settled back down on the couch and considered himself lucky that he'd had the presence of mind to get something to eat from the kitchen before this started. Having to live through another night like this on an empty stomach wasn't something he was prepared to do.

Still keeping a nervous eye on the door, he emptied the bottle of water and devoured two thirds of what he had brought to eat before he realized that he was setting himself up for trouble. What if he couldn't get out of the room in the morning? And that brought another, more embarrassing thought to mind. What if he had to go to the bathroom? That was the last thing he had actually considered while looking for a room to sleep in. He had never imagined that it would become this bad or, for that matter, that he would have to stay in the house this long.

The thought triggered a mental response, which instantly told him that if he needed to find a bathroom, he had to do so now. "Shit," he grumbled under his breath. The thought of running into that thing again made him very reluctant to leave the room. But, on the other hand, his bodily needs would not be ignored.

Gingerly, he rose from the couch again and limped over to the door. Listening for a moment, he just stood still, but there were no sounds to be heard outside. Holding his breath to be able to hear every sound, he then carefully turned the key in the lock, heard the bolts slide out of the wall and eased the door open. Carefully, he stuck his head out and glanced in either direction. There was no sign or sense of the entity. He had already made up his mind that this thing was an entity. Whether it was the house as such or a poltergeist or something entirely different he didn't know and he didn't much care, either. All he knew was that it was dangerous and that he would have to be extremely careful.

Content that at least for the time being he had the corridor to himself, he pulled the key out of the lock, pushed the door wider and stepped out into the corridor. He had to admit to himself that he was scared. He was more than scared when it came down to it. He was freaking out and that was as mildly as he could put it. With hands that were clammy cold and feet that almost refused to move, he edged his way sideways along the wall, keeping his back covered at all times, while he constantly sent suspicious looks in either direction.

It didn't feel as if the entity was anywhere near and he didn't have that odd feeling of being watched, either. But that didn't make him feel any braver. He hadn't felt it before when it had lured him out into the open and still it had turned up. Realizing that he was barely breathing, he stopped for a moment to try and talk some sense into himself. He needed to stay focused and he needed to breathe. Those two details were rather important for his continued survival in this monster house.

The only bathroom he was conscious of was located in the center of the house near the entrance hall and all he had to do was just get there, take care of business, and get himself back to the room without running into trouble. Somewhere inside, he didn't believe he could make it, though. And that left him feeling very cold.

Breathing shallowly, he continued to edge his way along the wall, eyes darting to and fro, searching for and not finding the unseen enemy, which was making life precarious for him. After a moment, though, he became conscious of a scraping sound, which seemed to follow him and which stopped when he stopped. His mouth went dry in a second and he pressed his lips together in an attempt to keep any articulations to himself. Glancing first to his right and then to his left, he searched for what it was that made the sound, but could see nothing.

When he started moving again and the sound picked up again, he almost jumped. Closing his eyes, he listened closely for the sound, which had stopped again when he had stopped. Pushing his icy hands behind his back, he stood there for a moment, trying to breathe normally, when he slowly became aware of that his belt was scraping against the wall. He had unbuckled it when he had returned to the room because it was pressing against the sore small of his back and now it was obviously sticking out in the back.

He almost laughed out loud at that realization. "Jesus," he whispered hoarsely. Somehow, realizing that he was making the sound himself didn't calm him down, though. He was driving himself crazy and it slowly started to dawn on him that maybe that wasn't all he had imagined. But still the soreness of his back and knees spoke their own, clear language.

After straightening the belt out, he continued down the corridor, a little more confident than before, but still apprehensive about being out in the open. He made it to the bathroom without incident and after relieving himself, he washed his hands and then finally took a look in the mirror. His countenance shocked him to a certain degree. His complexion was pale, he had dark patches under his eyes and a five o'clock shadow on his cheeks and chin. What shocked him the most where his eyes. He had never thought that he could look so haunted.

Staring at his own reflection, he discovered with renewed force that it was deadly necessary for him to get out of this hell hole soon. And he had somehow given up on a rescue. "Guess I'd better find a way out of here on my own," he told his reflection, then splashed some water on his face and dried it off with some paper towels. This bathroom was for the public when the house was on display.

Still as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs, he made his way slowly back toward the room, on guard every step of the way, his back against the wall. He couldn't remember ever being more scared. Well, maybe he had been as scared in Dallas when he had been locked up with that bomb. That had been a scary scenario. But he had known then that Scully would get him out of there. This time he wasn't so sure. Mainly because Scully didn't seem to know where he was and even if she did find him, this wasn't like defusing a bomb. ‘That didn't happen in Dallas, either', he thought to himself and actually managed to find a spark of humor in that thought. A spark which made him grin wryly. ‘Let's see you trying to defuse a ghost, Scully. That should pose as something of a challenge to your skills,' he thought on.

Oddly enough, he made it back to the room without the slightest incident and that alone made him even more nervous than he was already. To him it felt suspiciously as if the entity was plotting on something. That thought made him snort uneasily. Who the hell said that this thing was aware of him as anything other than a disturbance in its home?

Closing and locking the door, he let out a heartfelt sigh. Wanting nothing other than to get the hell out, he decided that he would make himself as comfortable as he could. And that meant turning the couch around so it had its back to the door. Glancing at his watch, he noted that time had once again flown by without a trace. It was 10.15 p.m. And he was tired from being on guard all day. The room, however, seemed to be something of a safe haven and he would stay here until he was released from this house.

Content in the knowledge that he would probably get at least a few hours of sleep before the shit hit the fan, he eased down on the couch, pulled the big woolen blanket over him which had been hanging over one arm of the couch, and settled in to get some sleep. Somehow, he felt a whole lot safer with the couch's back between him and the door. All the lights were still on, but they didn't bother him. He fell asleep almost at once.


On the road to Charlottesville

It was getting dark by the time Scully reached Charlottesville. Sending a glance up at the overcast sky, she sighed deeply and decided to find a motel first. Once she had a base of operations, she would then try to figure out where the Cranes lived. Calling them might not do her any good at this point, she figured, so instead she decided to get a map, find the fastest way to their house, and pay them a visit.

Finding a motel wasn't a problem. The Tiki Motel at the edge of town had a lot of vacancies and she was given the best room. Getting settled in wasn't a problem either. But she kept having that nagging feeling that she'd forgotten about something. Something important.

With a sigh, she settled down on the bed, spread out the map and studied it based on the information she had obtained. Schreck Mansion was marked on the map. So was the Tiki Motel. Frowning, she regarded the spot for a moment, then decided that she should check in on the Cranes first. Glancing at her watch, she noted that it was already 10.30 p.m. and wondered where the time had gone. It wasn't polite to call on people at half past ten at night, so she decided to postpone until the following morning.

With that decision, she got up to get ready for bed, still feeling as if something was wrong. And it felt as if it was becoming more wrong all the time, if such a thing were possible. She walked into the bathroom and inspected her own reflection in the mirror for a moment, then focused on her eyes. "Where are you, Mulder?" she whispered. She almost found herself hoping that he'd had an accident. That at least she could deal with. That was manageable. Any other thought was uncommonly frightening. And those other thoughts had invoked that feeling of urgency. She was certain of that. They were thoughts she would never have entertained seven years ago. She had never considered whether ghosts were real seven years ago.

Frowning a little, she shook her head lightly. Why was she thinking of ghosts? Mulder had gone missing and that was all she should focus on. It was a natural assumption that the Cranes might know something about where he was. She would have to start where he had last been seen and that was, as far as she could ascertain, in Schreck Mansion.

She needed to get moving at the crack of dawn. There was no time to waste. Through it all she couldn't help wondering if this was how Mulder felt about his missing sister all the time. This nagging, pushy feeling that he had to do something about it. Because that was how Scully felt. Like it was essential in some way that she did something right away.

For a long moment, she kept on staring at her reflection, then continued to get ready for bed. She didn't hope for much sleep, though. Somehow, she knew that Mulder's possible plight would keep her awake. The not knowing was the worst thing. She didn't like not knowing where he was or what had happened to him.


Schreck Mansion

Mulder woke up again because he was cold. That in itself should not have worried him too much. It wasn't the first time in his life that he had woken up freezing. It probably wouldn't be the last time, either. But the first thing apart from being cold that hit him when he opened his eyes was the total darkness around him. All the lights had been on when he had fallen asleep and there wasn't even a faint glimmer now.

With his heart already thumping away in his throat, he sat bolt upright only to realize that he was definitely not on the couch any more. Blinking in the total darkness, he tried to get a feel of where he was and realized that the room was very big, clammy cold and obviously without windows. There was a strange whistling noise in the background. The floor beneath him was some kind of stone. It felt a little like rough concrete, but he wasn't sure.

The one thing that really got him going was that he knew he wasn't in that room anymore and he had no idea how he had gotten to this place. It really freaked him out that he had been moved from one room to another and he hadn't even been aware of it. He, who was a light sleeper already, should have woken up. But he hadn't and now he didn't know where he was.

Rising, he pulled the blanket around his shoulders, completely managing to ignore his sore back and stiff joints. In an attempt to get comfortable, he had taken off his leather jacket and left it on the coffee table. Fortunately, he'd kept his shoes on. But it was still cold and clammy enough for him to long for the protection his jacket would have offered.

He needed to get out of here, where ever here was. Apprehensive about such actions, he carefully stretched out one hand and waved it in front of him. The sensation of the room around him gave him a more or less accurate direction to the nearest wall. It was something in the air pressure and the sound of his feet scraping over the floor which pinpointed the direction he was walking in. The closer he got to the wall, the less hollow his footfalls sounded.

Eventually, his finger tips bumped against the wall and he withdrew his hand with a jerk. "Ouch," he mumbled and shook his hand, then reached out to touch the wall again. The whistling sound in the background was growing stronger he suddenly realized. Frowning, he listened more intently, but couldn't identify the sound apart from that it actually sounded more like a rustling than a whistling.

The wall beneath his palm was cool, on the verge of being moist, which probably meant it was an external wall. There wasn't going to be much chance of finding a staircase on that side, so he figured he'd better try to cross the room and find the opposite wall. It was just damned difficult to make sure he was going in the right direction when he couldn't see.

Shivering, he raised his shoulders a little and pulled the blanket tighter around him, then pushed away from the wall in what he hoped was a fairly straight line across the basement floor. He knew for certain that he was in the basement. He didn't need to see that to be sure. There was something about basements, which identified them even in complete darkness. The slightly musty, clammy smell was a dead giveaway and this room had that smell in abundance. It was almost so strong that it was nauseating. Slowly, he walked forward, feeling his way across the floor with his feet while listening to the rustling sound which kept intensifying.

After having taken several steps into the center of the room, he stopped short when his mind suddenly produced a plausible explanation for the sound he was hearing. Turning his head toward the sound, he listened more intently to it and realized that the inclination he'd had was right. Despite the ludicrousness of the idea, he identified the sound as that of rushing water. A lot of it. And then the first spray of cold water hit his face.

"Oh shit," he gasped and that was all he managed to say before a tidal wave struck him full force, ripping him off his feet and tossing him backward. His backward motion was first stopped when he hit a wall, but that certainly wasn't the end of his misery. The water hammered against him, pinning him against the wall while it rose forcefully around him and deprived him of his ability to draw a decent breath. Whenever his tried, salt water rushed down his throat, making him cough and gag. The rising water and the currents it created in the enclosed space pushed him up the wall until he hit his head against the ceiling.

He raised both hands to push away from the ceiling, but before he could put up enough resistance, another forceful wave hit him, slamming him hard into the wall again. He banged the back of his head against the bricks of the wall and felt the world fading out. He was fainting and there was no air left for him to breathe.


Tiki Motel

Scully woke up with a gasp and sat bolt upright in bed. Blinking rapidly at her surroundings, she tried to figure out what had awoken her and why she was so out of breath. Pushing the sheets aside, she swung her legs over the side and put her feet down on the floor, an unexplainable feeling of dread making her shudder. It wasn't a physical feeling. It was in her mind. Glancing at the bright red display of the alarm clock, she was somewhat surprised to find that it was 6 a.m.

Frowning, she switched on the light and checked her watch, finding that the alarm clock was right. At that, she brushed both hands through her hair and she sighed deeply. It was too early to do anything, but also too late for her to fall asleep again. She decided to go out and find a place where she could get some breakfast and then around 8 a.m. she would drive over to the Cranes' residence and talk to them about being allowed to see the mansion. She just wanted to make sure that Mulder wasn't still there. Then she could start a more rational search for her partner.

With that decided, she got up to get ready and left the motel room half an hour later. The chilly morning air made her shudder despite her heavy overcoat. Hugging herself, she walked briskly over to her car, where she stopped short when she spotted a coffee shop across the road that was open. No sense in going all over town looking for what was right there.

Crossing the street, she glanced either way, noting that traffic was virtually non existent at this time of day. Not that it worried or surprised her. It was merely something she noticed absentmindedly. Finding a seat in the coffee shop was no problem. She was the only one there. She ordered coffee and a croissant after seating herself by the window, then settled back to stare out at the street.

Her mind wandered back to the reason why she had woken up this early. The sensation had been overwhelming, compelling her to shake off the dream and return to the land of the living. She had dreamed she was drowning, that she couldn't breathe. But why? That was the big question.

"Can I get you anything else?"

Turning her head to face the tired looking waitress, Scully smiled. "No, thank you," she said. "Oh, I'd like to ask you a question, if you don't mind," she added.

The girl, she couldn't be a day over sixteen, smiled back at her. "Sure. Ask away," she said.

"Schreck Mansion. Do you know anything about it? About its history?" Scully asked, instantly aware of the somewhat concerned look in the girl's eyes.

"Well..." she began and sent a quick glance over her shoulder to make sure nobody was listening. "That mansion is haunted, you know. Big time. Badly, too."

That made Scully frown. "Badly? What do you mean, badly?" she asked.

"Badly as in really evil, you know? Have you ever been up there?" the girl asked back and Scully shook her head. "You'll know what I mean when you see that wretched house, ma'am. It's evil. You can just feel it."

Nodding in understanding although she did not agree with the girl's theory that a house could be evil, Scully took a sip of her coffee. "Has anything bad happened up there lately?" she asked, aware that the mansion did have a history of violence, but not in recent times.

The girl sat down, a look of conspiracy on her face. "Two years ago, on Halloween night, a kid vanished in that house. My mom said the house ate him. I don't believe that, though. I just think he got scared so bad, he ran away and never came back."

Scully could not help the vague smile on her lips. The term that the house supposedly ate somebody made the whole thing a whole lot more unbelievable. At the same time, she couldn't help thinking that Mulder would have gotten a kick out of this explanation. "Well, Halloween night isn't exactly the best time to visit a supposedly haunted house," she said with that smile still on her lips. "Anyway, thanks for your time," she added, thereby dismissing the girl.

"Sure. Anytime," the girl replied and returned to her duties.

Scully finished her breakfast, paid the girl a handsome tip for the information, and left the coffee shop again to hurry across the street to her car. Early or not, she was going to pay the Cranes a visit and find out what had happened to her partner. Somehow, she couldn't shake the feeling that Mulder was still in that house. And the sooner she got to him, the better. With a slightly ironic smile, she acknowledged that she was going on instinct here, without any rational explanation in sight.