Time had lost its meaning since all clocks and watches within the house had stopped. That applied to their wristwatches as well. Mulder estimated that it was close to midnight, but it was hard to tell. The room, the one that Scully had originally chosen, was pitch dark. The connecting door to the other room was closed and locked and so was the door to the corridor. He was sitting on the edge of the bed, his feet planted squarely on the floor, and he was listening to their surroundings. He could sense Scully's discomfort as she sat on the bed behind him, her left knee touching his back. They couldn't see each other and the only way they could know where they had each other without talking was by touching in some way.

"This is silly," Scully mumbled after a while. "This can't be happening."

He reached behind him, patting her leg. "We'll get through this," he assured her, not at all certain that they would. After the almost mind-shattering event in the attic the previous morning, he wasn't sure of anything any more. Not when it came to this house. This wasn't a haunting in the general sense. Not like any haunting he had ever heard of. This wasn't a poltergeist event either. Although he had been aroused by heavy pounding on his door and had been thrown around a bit, he applied that to the room he had stayed in that first night. Wondering briefly, he turned a little, his hand still on her leg. "Did you experience anything odd in the other room?" he wanted to know.

Scully was silent for a while, then sighed. "Yes," she finally said. "I woke up in a pool of blood. I thought..." She shook her head, not knowing what to think any more. "I don't know what I thought. I got up and ran to the bathroom, only to find that the blood which had stained my pyjamas and my hand was gone. When I went back into the room, the stain in the center of the bed was gone, too." Reaching down, she grabbed his hand and squeezed it hard. "And I'm certain that I saw the blood. One hundred percent certain."

He nodded, knowing full well that she couldn't see him. "I think that this room next door is the center of events. In some way. Maybe somebody got killed in there. Probably due to an affair or something."

"Strong feelings," Scully said, frowning into the darkness. She kept holding his hand, afraid to let go. Afraid he might not be there anymore when she reached for him again. "What are we going to do?" She felt intimidated in the light of this new knowledge she was acquiring. That not everything was as easily explained as she had always thought.

"We'll get through this," he countered in a low tone of voice.

Scully suddenly became very aware of his tone of voice, the underlying fear and his continued insistence that they would be fine and it hit her full force that he didn't believe it. For the first time since she had known him, he didn't believe they would make it. And that, in a sense, scared her a lot more than what this house had to hide. Staring at a spot in the darkness where she knew he was, she tried desperately to hide her own fears from him. It was odd in a way, but she knew that she would have to be the strong one this time. That she would have to be the one to care about his mental stability and not him worrying about hers. She squeezed his hand hard, forcing herself to smile despite the fact that he couldn't see it. "Of course we will," she said after a moment, in full control of herself.

And then the grandfather clock down in the hall started striking, the tones sounding hollow and eerie in the otherwise silent house. They both automatically held their breathes, silently counting along.

At the strike of twelve, all hell broke loose. The house was suddenly an inferno of noise. Screams of pure terror, voices begging for release of the eternal pain that hell was bestowing on their souls, hateful laughter, inarticulate, animal-like screams, and to top it off, a thundering, eardrum-splitting banging had started from that end of the corridor, where the staircase up to the attic was. It came closer and closer, each impact making the already heavy doors shudder in their frames.

Mulder pulled back at the same time that Scully jerked forward, each seeking the other's presence for protection and comfort. She no longer just held his hand, but had wrapped her arms around him, her breath coming in shallow gasps of pure fear. Her, being the strong one? She almost laughed. Knew she would have if she hadn't been so scared. His left hand was squeezing hers so hard it hurt, but she had no sense for the pain. All she had sense for was the mind-shattering banging which came closer and closer, making the door to the corridor rattle.

The fingers of Scully's right hand clawed into his chest and he was leaning back against her, wishing by God they were somewhere else. A good, old-fashioned surveillance case. Anything was better than whatever was approaching the room. Using his superior strength, he started pushing her back over the bed. "Get down behind the bed," he told her, having to raise his voice to let her know what he wanted her to do. She slipped smoothly off the bed and onto the floor, not once letting go of him. "Lie down," he added. She did and he stretched out beside her, pushing her as close to the bed as he could. The general idea was the same as when he had been a kid and had been scared of the dark. Hide and it can't find you. He knew the reasoning of that idea was way off, but right now it didn't matter. Closing his eyes hard, he barely prevented himself from covering his ears against the noise. And then the hammering stopped. So did every other sound. The silence was breathtaking and somehow more threatening than the noise. After a moment's worth of it, they both slowly sat up, listening intently into the darkness surrounding them.

So suddenly that Scully was unable to contain a scream of shock, something powerful and highly aggressive started hammering on the door from the corridor, the noise accompanied by the sound of something sniffing the door. Scully had never in her life been afraid of ghosts because she had never believed they existed. Now she thought differently and that knowledge made her curl up against her partner, hiding her face against his broad chest. He pushed them both down behind the bed again, his arms wrapped tightly around her, his fear as touchable as hers.

The wood of the door shrieked and started splintering, the hammering and sniffing now accompanied by the sound of what Mulder could only identify as claws ripping the wood apart from the other side. It was with the greatest effort that he suppressed the whimper which might otherwise have escaped him. And he was only able to do so because he had Scully in his arms and knew she was as scared of this as he was. If not more.

And then it stopped. As suddenly as it had begun, the hammering, the sniffing, the scratching stopped. Almost not daring to breath in case it started again, they both lay curled up against each other, not moving for a very long time.

Scully hated herself for her weakness, but nevertheless she cried. They were silent tears, not accompanied by any sound and all she could do was to cling to Mulder, keep her eyes closed and wish them both away from this place.

Mulder in turn was glad that she couldn't see his face right now. Treacherous tears had soaked into the carpet where he had laid his head and it was only due to the fact that he was hardly breathing at all that she didn't notice how scared he really was. He held her hard enough to almost hurt her, but she made no move or sound to pull away.

After what seemed like forever, Mulder finally opened his eyes, slowly relaxing from the cramped up position he had been in. Blinking, he became aware of the faint light in the room, which came from the curtain-covered windows behind them. Raising his head, he turned it and looked up at the gray flicker of light seeping into the room and he almost started crying again. This time from pure relief, though. "Scully," he said, turning his head back to look down at her. "It's getting light outside. We made it."

She slowly raised her head, her eyes bloodshot and puffy, and looked up at him for a moment. Then she glanced at the window and smiled. "No ghosts in the daylight," she almost whispered.


February 18
06.53 a.m.

After they had taken some time to recuperate from the night's events, Scully started feeling restless. She wanted to know what had happened. After the sounds and the fear had abated, she felt more than ever that this had to be a joke. A cruel one, but a joke nonetheless. She left Mulder sitting on the bed and slowly approached the door. Reaching for the door handle, she pushed it down and pulled the door open after turning the key in the lock. The fact that the door was basically ripped to shreds on the outside did little for her already unsteady belief in the sanity of the world and made her hesitantly take a step back, her eyes glued to the ripped-up, wooden surface. Perhaps this wasn't a joke after all, she thought. After getting over the initial shock at seeing that whatever had scared the life out of her during this night had not just been a figment of her's and Mulder's imagination, but a real, tangible thing, she took a step forward again, glancing out into the corridor. There was nothing out there. Except definite signs of the destruction which had taken place during the night. Pictures lay shattered and mauled on the floor. The wall paper all the way down to the stairs leading up to the attic had been shredded in a long, narrow, horizontal line.

After a glance back at her partner, who was sitting on the bed, head in hands, his elbows resting on his knees, she took a step out into the corridor. They both needed time to get over this one. That was for certain. And to think that she would be sharing his nightmares this time around made her shiver involuntarily. She glanced down the corridor toward the main stairs and saw no sign of destruction that way. Whatever it had been, it had come from the attic and it had been after them. Slowly, she turned, inspecting the destruction of the wall. Her eyes followed the trail all the way to the open door to the attic staircase, trying to figure out what had done this. As she focused on the doorway, her expression froze and her eyes widened in shock. Finding herself unable to move, her complexion turned white as her breath got stuck in her throat. "MULDER," she managed to scream before an unseen force slammed the door to the room she had just left shut.

Mulder was up and running for the door before she had finished screaming his name, but he couldn't get the door open. Hammering on it, ripping frantically at the door handle, he felt so utterly helpless as the pounding out there picked up again. "SCULLY!" He kept hammering on the door, frustrated. "RUN!"

Outside in the corridor, that single word released her from her paralysis. She turned and raced toward the main stairs, took two steps down and lost her footing. Using her training, she managed to arrive at the foot of the stairs with minimal bruising and although the fall had knocked the air out of her, she still found the strength to get up and run. Because that thing was after her and it was gaining.

Mulder kept tearing and pulling at the door with all his might, hoping that it would somehow open. What did happen, though, was that the door, weakened severely by the nightly attack, suddenly cracked in two, breaking down the middle. He lost his balance and sat down hard on the floor, the impact sending a jolt of pain through his still sore back. Before he had a chance to prevent it, that part of the door that wasn't attached to the frame fell forward and slammed down on top of him, the wood heavy enough to nearly knock him out. Dazed, he shoved the half door aside and scrambled back to his feet, his only thoughts concerning Scully and whatever it was that had made her scream like that. With a hand pressed against his forehead, he pushed through the opening and out into the corridor, cursing silently when he realized he was bleeding from a head wound the door had obviously given him. But he didn't have time to concentrate on it. "SCULLY!" he yelled, hoping that somehow he would distract the thing hunting her. At the same time he winced at the pain this caused his already thudding head. He started toward the main stairs. "SCULLY!" There was no reply and no sounds indicating that she had heard him. He reached the banister of the wide staircase going down and stopped to stare down into the main hall. No sign of anything out of the ordinary. Keeping a firm grip on the bannister, he more or less stumbled down the stairs, slowly becoming aware that he probably had a concussion. His vision was a little blurry and his head hurt ferociously. At the foot of the stairs he paused, covering his eyes with both hands to just take a moment to compose himself. His lower back hurt again and his head was killing him. "SCULLY!" he yelled again.

A crashing sound made him look around, uncertain what could have caused it and where it came from. There wasn't anything to be seen, though. With a determination which had previously gotten him through weird situations like this, he moved through the downstairs rooms, looking for Scully and finding nothing. He was at the end of his wits when it suddenly hit him that there was one place he hadn't checked. One place they hadn't even thought of looking for Jezek in, either. He was certain that Scully had run downstairs. As she wasn't in any of the rooms, there was only one other option. The basement. He remembered the staircase leading down from the kitchen and walked as fast as his already crippled condition allowed into the kitchen. Stopping briefly, he grabbed a dishtowel and pressed it against the gash on his forehead. He wasn't too sure that he would be conscious for much longer if the dizziness kept increasing as it did and he wanted to find Scully before he passed out. After stanching the flow of blood from his head, he grabbed the door handle and pulled the heavy oak door open. Hesitating for a moment, he looked down into the darkness below, then took the first step down the stairs. He didn't quite remember where this apprehension toward basements came from, but he wasn't too keen on walking around in dark, dank-smelling cellars with an aching back and a bleeding head wound. "Scully?" he called, somehow unable to convince himself that he might have to shout to make her hear him. There was a creepy feeling about this staircase and the darkness beyond.

Every step down into the darkness gave him the creeps. Every inch he came closer to the bottom made him feel colder. "Scully?" he called again, trying to see something. He finally reached the last step and stopped, his left hand pressed against the chalked wall, his right holding the dish towel almost forcefully against his forehead. "Scully? Where are you?" Blinking, he tried to force his eyes to adjust to the semi-darkness and wished again that his head didn't hurt so badly.

Slowly, he walked on down the corridor with no other light than what seeped down here from the kitchen above. Breathing deeply, he stopped briefly and closed his eyes, trying to force himself beyond the pain. "Scully," he tried again and pushed on. There was something down here with him. He could virtually feel the presence. And it wasn't Scully. That much he knew.

The corridor widened into what seemed like an oversized basement room. He had passed the door to the wine cellar a few moments before and frowned into the darkness, causing himself unnecessary pain. Hissing, he cursed under his breath and fumbled along the wall. There had to be a light switch somewhere. He found it and flipped it up and found that he was more relieved than he would have thought when the lights came on. The room was big and the corridor continued across from where he stood. At one end of the room, a workbench with everything ever needed on and around a workbench took up almost the entire length of the end wall. The other side was shelves with lots of what Mulder considered to be cellar-things, such as buckets of old paint, crates with books and other kinds of belongings. There was a whole life down here, he mused. And then some. The space was pretty open and easy to overview and gave no indication of having been used in a long time. Only the dust on the floor had been disturbed.

Crouching down, Mulder took a closer look at the faint foot prints he could see there. One set belonged to Scully. There was no doubt about that. The second pair made his blood run cold. This thing, this ghost, was more material than any ghost he had ever heard of in his life. This ghost left foot prints and they were definitely not human.

Briefly distracting himself, he lowered the now bloodied dish towel and gingerly touched the sore cut. It had stopped bleeding and he decided that it wasn't so bad. The impact had given him the headache, the concussion. But he doubted he was in any danger of passing out any more. Gingerly, he got back to his feet, easing into the stretch with care. His back was aching badly again and he could almost hear Jezek's words: You're moving like an old man, my friend. "Hell of a friend I am," he grumbled under his breath, thinking that he was putting a hell of a lot more effort into finding Scully than he had put into finding Jezek. "SCULLY!" he then yelled. Only silence answered him.

For a brief, scary moment, the light flickered, then steadied again. He unconsciously sighed in relief, then started through the room toward the opposite corridor. The further he advanced into this basement, the more he felt at risk. He constantly had the feeling that somebody or something was watching him and that anything he did to find his partner would be in vain.

After rounding a corner of the corridor which he couldn't really fit into the above floor plan, he stopped short. There was something... someone lying on the floor further down this corridor. "Scully?" he almost whispered and hurried his steps toward the figure. The light was faint here, playing havoc with his senses and he couldn't really make out if it was her or not. Going down on one knee, he reached out to touch the human-sized bundle on the floor and all he felt was squishy flesh. No resistance. No bones. With an inhuman effort, he pressed the back of his left hand against his mouth, trying hard to keep a grip on reality, as he dug his fingers into the slippery material and hauled the bundle around. For a long moment, he stared, unable to react, then he closed his eyes and rocked back a little. Not squishy flesh. Damp and half-rotten canvas and whatever this oversized doll was stuffed with. Pressing both hands over his mouth and nose, he almost laughed. "Jesus," he mumbled and got back to his feet. "It's a damned doll."

A moaning sound made him jerk and stare down toward the end of the corridor. The end was pitch dark and the moan had definitely come from there. "Scully?" he called, stepped over the doll and started down toward the complete darkness. "Scully. Where are you?" His pace slowed the closer he got to the mouth of the corridor, not certain he wanted to know what was beyond that blanket of darkness down there. It didn't look natural. He pushed past crates stocked along the walls, hindering his passage a little. "Scully," he called again. He was just about to pass another crate when something grabbed his ankle. With a yelp of pure fear, he ripped free and collided with the wall opposite the crate, staring at the shadow moving among shadows. He hardly breathed for the moment it took the shadow to move forward into the faint light. Then he sighed with relief once more. "Scully." Dropping down on his knees in front of her, he couldn't help noticing the frantic, panicky look in her eyes. The fact that she was in shock. He grabbed her arms and pulled her to him, wrapping his arms around her shivering, cold body. "It's okay. It's okay," he hushed her despite the fact that she uttered no sound.

With an effort, he got them both back to their feet and quickly retreated back the way they'd come. He didn't know what was waiting down there at the end of the corridor, but once he glanced back over his shoulder before rounding the corner again, he thought, just for a second, that he saw glowing eyes down there. Inhuman eyes.

The greenhouse-like room seemed to be the only place which felt reasonably normal and that was where Mulder had taken Scully after getting her out of the basement. On the way up, he had grabbed a hammer, a box of nails and two boards standing in the corner of the first room with the intention of nailing the door to the basement shut. He wasn't sure, though, that this thing was down there and if it was, he wasn't at all sure it couldn't get out anyway. He just had to think about the deep gashes in the wood of the upstairs bedroom door. He had put it off, though, because he still thought that Jezek may be down there somewhere. And he definitely didn't want to lock her in with that thing.

Scully was sitting on the couch, wrapped in a blanket, knees pulled up to her chest, staring numbly ahead of herself. He hadn't managed to get a word out of her yet, but he figured that she would come around soon enough. Until then, he would stay with her. He was sitting next to her, his right hand resting on her knee, his mind working frantically at getting them out of this place. He just couldn't see how. With his thundering headache and aching back, he couldn't really concentrate on anything they hadn't tried yet. Instead the omnipresent guilt settled in. "I'm sorry, Scully. I shouldn't have dragged you and Tess into this."

Scully finally focused on him. "It's not your fault," she countered in a low tone of voice.

Mulder looked at her, a little surprised that she was this much together. "Are you okay?" he wanted to know.

"No, Mulder. I'm not okay. I just saw something I can find no words for. I don't know if I'll ever be able to sleep again." She shook her head, her movements a little sluggish. "I don't think I've ever been this scared in my life. Except..." She trailed off, the look in her eyes becoming distant.

Mulder eyed her thoughtfully, trying not to give in to his need to frown. It would only hurt if he did. "Except what?" he wanted to know.

Her eyes flicked to his face for a second, then she looked down and wrapped her arms around her legs. "I remember," she mumbled.

Now he did frown and he even managed to ignore the stinging pain from the gash in his forehead. "You remember what?" he asked.

"My abduction, Mulder," she said, raising her head to meet his eyes. "Something about being this scared pulled the plug out of that cesspool. It's actually strange, you know. I was more scared of my memories than of this thing chasing me around the house." With a shivering sigh, she pressed her hands over her face. "The foundation of my life has been pulled away beneath my feet. Don't expect me to be happy about it."

Reaching out, he grabbed her wrists and pulled her hands away from her face. "I don't expect you to be happy about it, Scully. It makes for a whole lot more trouble that you do remember. We have to talk about this at some point. We have to... " he paused and closed his eyes for a brief moment, overcome with dizziness, "... you have to find a way to deal with this. I'm here if you need me."

Staring at him, she wondered silently about him, about his life, about her feelings for him, and felt tears rising in her eyes. Whimpering, she reached both arms out to him and slipped smoothly into his arms. She knew he was hurt but she couldn't see beyond her own fears right now. Once she had a grip on herself, she would find out how she dealt best with what she remembered. It had shaken her world more severely than anything they had seen during their five years together. Because she now knew that he was right. This wasn't just a government conspiracy any more. This wasn't just him being paranoid. Right now all she needed was to be held and that was what he did. With a cynical, little smile, she figured she would tell her brother one day what it was that she and Mulder could do for each other. That it wasn't a question of him being responsible for all the things that happened to her. No, it was a question of being there for each other when it really counted. And for a brief moment she bemoaned the fact that they could be no more than that. But she wouldn't trade his friendship for anything in the world and she had learned from bitter experience that nothing killed a friendship faster than taking it one step further.


Washington D.C.
J. Edgar Hoover building
01.15 p.m.

Annoyed, Assistant Director Skinner glanced at his watch, then at the phone. "When is that man ever going to learn to keep an appointment?" he growled, then thumbed the intercom on. "Kimberly, try to get in touch with Agent Mulder or Agent Scully again. I want to know what is going on."

"Yes, sir," she replied immediately.

Pursing his lips, he leaned back on his chair and folded his arms over his chest. One of the reasons he had allowed them to go on that crazy case was because he had made it clear to Mulder that he wanted them to report in every day. He hadn't heard anything from any of them since they had called and let him know they had arrived safely.

The door to his office opened a moment later and Kimberly peeked in. "Sir?" she said and stepped inside. "All I get is static."

Frowning, the AD leaned forward again. "What do you mean, all you get is static?" he wanted to know.

"I've tried dialing all of them, both Agent Mulder, Agent Scully and Agent Jezek's mobile and all of them give me static. It's like the connection to them is broken off."

That didn't sound so good. "Have you tried calling the Wilson Estate?"

"Yes, sir. And I get nothing but static there, too. To make sure that the lines to Bemis aren't down, I called the local police station there, but there's no problem," Kimberly replied.

"Call them again and have them find out if the lines between Bemis and the Wilson Estate are down." His frown deepened when something occurred to him. "That shouldn't affect the cell-phones, though," he added thoughtfully. "And I refuse to believe that all three of them are on the blink. Call the police station back and ask them go out to the Wilson Estate and check that everything is in order."

Kimberly nodded and retreated back to the front office again. Skinner got off his chair and looked out the window up at a clear blue sky, wondering what the hell was going on out there. This was beginning to look like one of these creepy cases Mulder sometimes brought back with him. Where the hell he found them was beyond Skinner. With a heavy sigh, he had to admit that he was worried about them. Mostly about Mulder because the man had a habit of getting in over his head. He was only glad that Scully and Jezek were there with him. Hopefully, that meant they would keep an eye on Mulder.


Bemis Police Station
02.30 p.m.

Officer Pete Jackson came back into the station after having been out at the Wilson Estate. He went straight to the sherif's office. "Sir, there's nothing going on out there. Nobody's home. I knocked several times. The door bell didn't work, so I used a little force. But nobody came around to answer."

Sherif Michaelson frowned at the younger man, noting the distinct paleness of his complexion. "Did you go around the house? Check the garden doors?" he wanted to know, already knowing the answer.

"Uhm..." Jackson answered, nervously turning his hat in his hands. "I... kinda... you know... figured that by the way I was banging on the door, they ought to have heard me and... well... I didn't think there was much..." he began explaining, but Michaelson interrupted him.

"What's wrong, Pete? You look like you've seen a ghost or something." He knew his men well enough to know if something was up. And this wasn't how Pete Jackson normally behaved. The man was a model in up keeping the law and would never ignore an important procedure like this.

Jackson focused on his boss, then swallowed hard before speaking, afraid he might sound like a cook. "That house is creepy, sir. I've thought so before, but it has never bothered me before. But today... man, I swear that house wanted me to leave. I know how that sounds. And I'm a little afraid for my sanity here, but that's the impression I got. There was nothing when I arrived, but when I banged on that door, I got the feeling that I was not wanted there. I've never..." Trailing off, Jackson dropped down on a chair in front of Michaelson's desk, shaking his head. "I feel like a god-damned fool, sir."

Michaelson leaned back on his chair, his expression thoughtful. "You know, that house has always had a reputation of being spooky. They say it's haunted. I'm not sure I believe that, but... you know what they say. Just because we don't' believe doesn't mean it ain't so. Did you see any sign of anybody around there, Pete, or did that old mansion just have you spooked?"

Almost shivering, Jackson glanced out the window. "For a moment there, I thought I saw a face in one of the basement windows. All white and scared, but it vanished when I blinked, so I figure I just let the atmosphere get to me. I'd say I was just spooked is all."

Michaelson sighed. "I don't think the Bureau is gonna be too happy about it, but what can we do? If there's nobody home, there's nobody home. If they don't believe it, they can come out here and check for themselves." With that, he picked up the phone and dialed the number he had been asked to call back on. "Yeah, this is Sherif Michaelson from Bemis, ma'am. My deputy just got back from the Wilson Estate and there was nobody out there."

Kimberly sighed at the other end. "Just one minute, Sherif. I'll transfer you to Assistant Director Skinner." There was a click and then the gruff voice of a man took over.

"Sherif Michaelson? Assistant Director Walter Skinner here. What's this about nobody being home?"

Michaelson made a face. "Well, sir, one of my deputies went out there to check and he says nobody answered when he knocked. He tried repeatedly, but there was no reply. The phone lines between here and the house are fine, too. Where all that static comes from is anybody's guess." He could hear Skinner grumble under his breath.

"Would you do me the favor of going out there again and double-check? I've got three agents out there and I'm not too thrilled about being told that there's nobody out there when that's where they're supposed to be. Call me back when you know more." With that, Skinner hung up.

Michaelson glared at the phone for a moment, then hung up again. "Okay, we're taking another trip out there. This time, I'm coming along. You feel up to it, Pete?"

Jackson shrugged, not looking too happy about it. "I guess," he countered.