Men make houses. Women build homes.
Come come, come out tonight. Come come, come out tonight.
–Sherry, The Four Seasons
Oh, Halloween. How it coaxes all from their shells, a come-hither seduction of ghouls and their admirers. Whether one chooses to be a witch or a princess, a criminal or a cowboy – to paint their face and knock on doors, to drink until they are but pumpkins, mouths filled with their pumpkin guts – it is all done under the otherworldly spell of the undead, the souls that ascend from their place in the basement to play marionette games with the dolls who inhabit the first floor.
Fox Mulder has, over the years, made an exceptional doll. Spock, then Captain Kirk, then Spock again. Several years of him doing nothing but sitting alone and staring out the window, ignoring the pull of a fairy costume resting in a trunk in the attic. Even then he had been a prime target; Halloween souls feed on elation, but will take misery in a pinch. His misery tasted sweet like a tootsie pop. The saints love tootsie pops, all the waiting and the work. The sinners prefer Reeses.
There were others when the memories began to fade. Han Solo. Han Solo. Paul Stanley from KISS, though his first girlfriend ended up wearing most of the makeup. Han Solo. Doctor John Watson, although years later he would grit his teeth and mutter I should have been Holmes. Serpico at a Hoover party, the last one he went to. No one got it. Then Han Solo every year he chose to celebrate after, and by then he finally had Princess Leia at his side.
The halloween of 2016, he slips into his finest costume yet.
Fox Mulder. Hopeless romantic.
On one arm, he carries a bag that is filled with good wine, cheap wine glasses, and assorted fruits, cheeses, and fancy chocolate. He has convinced his partner that the actual contents are a P.K.E. meter (a psychokinetic energy meter, for those who have not seen the documentary Ghostbusters), a thermographic camera, an audio recorder, sage, a lighter, his gun.
On the other arm, or underneath it, is his partner. Who is unsure about such open gestures of affection while they are technically on the clock, even after all the years of steaming up their steakouts, but is not stopping him, and is possibly even snuggling back as the October chill descends.
“This is not a love story, Scully,” he warns, pulling her closer as they follow the long, winding pathway up their destination. Her body heat is his favorite temperature, even when it’s ice cold. “It is a story of lies, obsession, betrayal, and murder.”
“I think I’ve heard this one.” She bumps his arm with her shoulder and smiles up at him, her lips wine deep under the bright moon.
Their shoes are silent on the stone and disappear under the layers of fog that curl and cozy around them like amorous smoke. He tugs her closer still, filling his nose with the woodsy scent of her shampoo.
“The early 1960s, Scully. Free love was just a storm a’brewin in the air, and sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll were waiting on the doorsteps of American counterculture, waiting to be invited in. Doo-wop was still a prominent feature on family radio stations. The Beatles had yet to write their own songs, and Paul McCartney wouldn’t smoke his first joint until 1964. It was a wholesome time, Scully. You would’ve loved it.”
“I loved Rubber Soul,” she argues.
He rubs her shoulder. “But it wasn’t all sock hops and sweet Jackie Kennedy. We were fighting a war with Russia, a war of discovery, and losing to the success of Sputnik. The U.S. invaded Cuba, got their asses kicked, and were the laughing stock of the world. In the veins of America, in the buses and lunch counters, the streets and in the schools, thrummed the blood of a movement. The Civil Rights movement. The early 1960s was a time of immense change.”
They were getting closer and closer to the scene where it all took place: a sprawling, overly-windowed ranch style home, its angular roof sloping into flatlands. In the quiet darkness, the cars and the rest of the world all celebrating miles behind them, the house appears white, almost bleached. But when the sun comes out it will reveal its truth: baby pink painted wood.
“And situated in all of this madness, this time between tumult and revolution, hatred and love, was a woman named Sherry Battersea.” She hmm’s. That means Mulder, I love your stories. Keep going.
They arrive at the front door – solid mahogany, undistressed. The steps leading up to the porch are made from brick, unhassled by the years of disuse. With the moon hanging overhead, vines creeping onto the roof, and the glare of (assumed) white bathed in midnight blue and the shadows of trees rustling above, it looks absolutely–
“Isn’t she beautiful?” Mulder whispers, moving his hand to Scully’s waist.
It’s all a bunch of phooey, if you ask him.
Didn’t expect that, did you?
He spent weeks finding the right place. The runner ups were all either too far away, too haunted, or not haunted enough. He wanted something with history, something still alive in the hearts of believers – but nothing verifiable, and nothing with a real reputation.
He wanted a pretty lie. Most ghost stories, he will begrudgingly admit, are indeed pretty lies.
He found the Battersea house on a subreddit dedicated to paranormal encounters, and this one hadn’t even managed to get twenty upvotes. He was number twenty. The Battersea home is in Virginia, which heavily swayed his opinion in its favor, and from the pictures posted the years of abandonment had not left it dangerous, which put it above two other options off his list. Making love to Scully while the roof collapses over their heads is a fantasy he put to rest many moons ago, about the time he realized they could just do it on a bed.
They roam the house with their flashlights, Mulder’s low voice playing in her ear as he finishes his story. “Sherry’s husband returned from war, but he never returned to her. She made this home for him and he wouldn’t even grant her the decency of staying the night.”
The biggest draw of the place had been its pristine condition. No graffiti stains the wood-paneled walls; the rooms were all intact. The interior design is a certified blast from the past, from the richly carpeted floors and textured rugs to the lucite furniture, pops of neon that splash under their flashlights. It is colorfully but rather tastefully decorated. It reminds him a bit of a movie set, which is another place he has been thoroughly laid by this woman.
As they move through the house, however, he realizes with mild disappointment the utter lack of haunting thrill. Nothing shifts in the night to give them pause. No dirt or dust to brush away, no holes in the walls or rot in the furniture. It doesn’t even smell old. It all feels more like a vacation home, some sort of themed romantic getaway, and they’re wading behind the scenes with the power turned off.
It’s not what he planned, but he’ll take it.
“Miss Battersea was a fashionable lady, keeping up with the times faster than they could come to her. She had a leopard skin pill-box hat before Jackie O had a leopard skin pill-box hat, and was dead by the time Bob Dylan could think to write a song about it.” Oh, that long, mid-century sectional couch. It might be white or a gawdy turquoise color. Whatever it is, he’s going to have her there. “She was a smart woman, too. The head of all of her many bookclubs. All of the books you see in here are hers.” His runs his beam over behind the couch, where the entire back wall is lined with books, and they move along. “And there are more in the den.
“She did everything she could to make her husband love her. She danced to his favorite records. She cooked for him and did his laundry. She cut her skirt an inch shorter with each passing trend.” They stand side by side, halted in the kitchen doorway. He turns his head and lets his eyes dip into her blouse. “I’ve been very appreciative of your new work wardrobe, by the the way.”
“Mulder,” she chastises, pulling her shirt down for better access. He laughs loudly at that, places his hand on the small of her back and leads her through the kitchen.
“She was driving herself crazy, trying to make him love her the way she loved him. And oh, did she love him, her sweet Maximus Battersea.” More wood paneling, and modular, pastel appliances that appear as if they haven’t aged a day since their prime. In the middle is a solid island with a geometric vase of dead flowers. This is where he’ll lay out all the food. Should’ve gotten flowers, he mopes to himself, but remembers that Scully doesn’t have a lot of patience for them. “They were high school sweethearts, and when he was 18 he was drafted off in the Korean War.
“Something was wrong when he came back. He got a job at some juicing plant working the machines, but showed a savvy for bossing people around that made itself known to the owners. He moved up quickly to supervisor and then warden. He and his little wife then bought this house, and Sherry made it her life’s work to take good care of it. Not a speck of dirt to be found.” Even to this day. They both marvel at the cleanliness. “Dishes were done as soon as they were used. Food was on the table for when he got home, still hot enough to serve. But he never got home to her at night. He would spend his nights at the bar, and then he became a favored customer at the Grand Major Hotel.”
“Oooooh. I would’ve killed the bastard,” Scully whistles, opening up a cabinet and standing on her tiptoes to peer in. He steps in behind her and lifts her up, chuckling when she screams and elbows him in the chest.
“Hmm, I know you would,” he mumbles in her ear, smacking a little kiss underneath it. All the glassware in the cabinet, chipless and clean as a whistle, clinks and jingles while she moves her hand through it. “You’re a jealous monster. So was Sherry Battersea.”
He’s making some of this shit up. He doesn’t know if she liked to read or if she was all that beautiful a woman, but the details make the story. “I’m not jealous,” Scully snorts, and he bites her neck as punishment for her blatant lie while dropping her back on her feet.
He wonders, as he pins her against the counter, if she’s caught on to his plans. He sets the flashlight down in front of her and snakes his arms around her from behind. “One night, he did come back to this big old house. But he was with someone else.”
“Oh, I would’ve killed him,” she repeats, tilting her head to get his lips on her neck. His nose brushes her cheek and he grins; she definitely knows. “I would’ve killed her.”
“And that’s what she did,” he says, kneading her hips. “They were on the couch, still mostly in their clothes. She snuck up from behind, and with all the power of her rage, she pushed one of her many bookcases right on top of them, crushing them to death.”
“I would’ve waited until they were naked. More humiliating.”
“Jealous. Monster.” Mulder says fondly, breaking away to grab her arm. “Now they say that Sherry Battersea remains in this house, long after she was convicted and put to death. She gave her life to building a home. It’s fitting that she give it her death as well.”
“And that’s what we’re here to investigate?” She says, narrowing her eyes.
“We’re here to say hi to old Sherry,” Mulder lies, urging her along. Neither of them are scared, despite of their previous history with ghosts. He’s not sure if Scully even remembers. That house had not been a pretty lie. It had only been filled with ugly truths.
On their way up the stairs, pausing at each creak even though the foundation is craftful and sturdy, a tune plays in his head. “Sherry… Sherry baby…” he sings, letting his voice go comically high. It’s too loud in the quiet house surrounded by nothing, and Scully turns around to slap a palm over his mouth.
“That’s a bad Frankie Valli impression,” she says, arching her eyebrow. “Want me to make it better?”
He kisses her palm. She takes it away and continues her charge up the stairs. When she’s far away enough, he finishes the line in his ghastly falsetto, voice cracking.
“Sherry, won’t you come out tonight?”
Come come, come out tonight. Come come. Come out tonight.
In the den on the other side of the house, a lightbulb flickers. The glow it casts under the lampshade is a soft, pinky red, the color of a deep blush. The winds caress the house with the sigh of a new lover. There is a soft scritching noise, a click of a record sliding into place. Static, and then…
Sherry, Sherry baby!
Sherry, Sherry baby!
“I was listening to particle physicist Brian Cox on the radio the other day, talking with Neil deGrasse Tyson,” Scully says, sipping coffee from her thermos. She shivers a little in her suede jacket and Mulder regrets not finding somewhere a little warmer. Temperatures are at an all time high this fall in Virginia, but it’s still uncomfortable. He plans on warming her up anyway. “He’s a Professor at the University of Manchester and works on the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. You’ve probably listened to him before on a podcast. He tackles a lot of different concepts in science fiction. Frankenstein, for instance.”
“Corpse reanimation is my favorite,” Mulder says. “I know a lot about it.” She pets his hair and hands him her mug. He drinks from it gratefully. Another thing to regret. He hadn’t brought his own mug.
“Specifically, he was saying that ghosts could not exist because of what the collider tells us. You know what it does. It essentially uses a network of very complex, high-powered magnets – the largest, most expensive machine in the world – that are continuously switched on and off to send particles flying at almost the speed of light. The purpose of it is to find out what everything is made if. The particles collide and emit smaller particles, which we can observe, along with their interactions with other particles.”
“We used it to discover the Higgs Boson particle, which tells us how particles get their mass. The God Particle. It was a discovery over half a century in the making.”
“Mostly, yes. The argument was that if ghosts were real, they would emit particles that should be detectable in the Large Hadron Collider, and those particles would be able interact with the particles that make us up.”
Mulder’s silent for a moment, thinking. “What if the LHC isn’t powerful enough to detect those particles?”
“Mulder.” She licks her lips and angles her body towards him on the couch, looking into his eyes. Incredulity is still her best look. “This machine has been able to reconstruct temperatures and states of matter that only existed a microsecond after the birth of the universe, before it changed states. It is a very powerful machine.”
“But it still hasn’t answered everything,” he points out, shrugging his shoulders. “I mean, we still know nothing about dark matter. And dark matter is called dark matter because we know nothing about dark matter, only that it could explain why galaxies might contain less mass than what we’ve calculated.” He nods at her, taking another sip. “Maybe all that extra mass is a bunch of ghosts. Bet you never thought of that.”
“Mmm. Your souls in the starlight.” He scoots closer to her, slowly sliding his arm behind her on the back of the couch. When he leans forward, she says, “Mulder, maybe we should split up.”
“What?” He says, not pulling back. There’s enough light coming in from the windows that he can see her clearly, her noble profile shadowed and unshadowed as he moves towards her. He smells her perfume… and pine sol. “Now why would we do that? Last time we split up during a case like this you shot me.”
“I didn’t shoot you. You shot me.” So she does remember. She’s still talking when his lips are close enough to brush hers. “But how are we gonna catch this ghost sitting down?”
“Well, we don’t have to be sitting down.” He kisses her, a chaste, sweet little thing. He pulls back an inch and kisses her again. And again. And again. “We can.” Kiss. “Stop sitting.” Kiss. “Anytime you want.”
“Mulder.” Kiss. “Where’s the ghost?” Kiss. “Where’s Sherry?” Kiss. She’s folding under his body weight, falling back into the remarkably undusty cushions. She cups his jaw in her small hands and kisses him for real, chasing the flicker of his tongue with her own. She stretches one leg behind him, lets the other fall off the couch.
He groans and shifts so that he’s nestled between her thighs. There is – so much he loves about kissing Scully. In a lot of ways he’s learning her all over again after the time they’ve spent apart. Her face is thinner, he can trace her bones with his fingers, but not that sickly thin it had been the day she walked out. Her hair got its shine back. She tastes like a day at the office, her coffee and Cliff bars and the Burt’s Bees lipstick she wears during the cold weather.
But. Kiss. Her hands are bunched up in his shirt, very much like she’s prepared to rip it off of him. But this is is going too fast. Kiss. He forces himself to break away, taking his hand out from under her blouse.
Trying to control her breathing, pupils dilated, she lifts her chin and licks his lips. “So you want me to shoot you this time around?”
He laughs and moves off of her, giving her space her to sit back up and fix her wrinkled clothing. He winces and struggles to rearrange his wayward dick. Men’s pants are so tight now. He misses the freedom of the 90s.
“I uh. So here’s,” he pauses, rubbing a hand over his jaw. “Here’s the thing. There is no ghost.”
She blinks slowly. He wants to move a lock of silky red hair out of her eye, but keeps his hands to himself as she thinks things through. “You brought me to an abandoned house to… what? Make out with me?”
“Well, no. I mean yes. But I have…” All these years and this stuff still makes him tongue tied. “Libations. And… mood music.”
She raises her eyebrows, but her eyes are softer. “The Monster Mash?”
“The Prince version, yeah.” He leers at her. “It was a graveyard smash.”
“Oh my god,” she groans, letting her head fall back on the cushions.
“Think about it. The way I see it, Halloween is our holiday, right? Mr. and Mrs. Spooky.”
“No one ever called me Mrs. Spooky.”
“I did. All the time.”
She smiles. “I guess it beats the time you set me on fire for Valentine’s Day.”
“I don’t want to kill the adrenaline here,” he says, partially damning himself for ruining it so early. He lost a good amount of blood to that kiss. “There could absolutely be a ghost here. I’m just saying this isn’t my most reliably sourced case.”
“Are any of them?” She sighs, but she reaches out to pat his shoulder. “Go grab us some libations and make me forget this conversation.”
He ducks down to kiss her cheek. “Yes ma’am.”
Taking his bag of goodies to the kitchen, he pulls out the wooden cutting board he brought along to serve everything and all of the bags of pre-cut cheese, crackers, fruit and meat. He hums while he works. Hm. Hm hm. Hm hm. Hm hm. Hm. And it starts over, the notes twanging loudly in his mind. It is almost as if he could hear it being played through the walls – he feels it from the outside, rather than in his head. He blames it on his massive erection. He takes out the wine glasses and fills them up high enough to placate Scully and make his mother roll in her grave. Vineyard folk are serious about their wine.
He gets a good look at the kitchen as he works, transported back into a time he doesn’t know very well. The cottages on the Vineyard never kept up with any particular trend, opting instead for the timelessness of colonial whitewash and brown trim. They changed out maids and nannies like they’d change the air filters, and neither Teena nor Bill put effort into upkeep. Neither cared much for fidelity either he grimaces, and immediately feels bad for doing so.
If there is any truth to the tale, he aches for people like Sherry who gave their all and never knew when to take it back. He gets it. Sometimes you fixate on people. He had been a victim of it more than once, and now he’s the one waiting for the one he loves most to come back home.
He grabs the cutting board and the wine glasses, balancing them carefully, anchoring the stopped bottle in his armpit. The second bottle of wine and the dessert he’ll save for later are left on the counter. He hums his way back to the living room, his woman still sprawled out on the couch, waiting for him, and he forgets about Sherry.
Behind him, in the kitchen, there’s a flutter in the cabinets, sounds of gently moving ceramic. A pleasant, almost feminine noise, like tinkering laughter. Then there’s the pop of a cork.
The bottle moves, sliding to the end of the island. Then it rises into the air, bobbing up and down as if being carried by invisible hands.
Over the sink, the bottle upends. The glug-glug-glug of sweet red flows into the pipes. Just one glass’s worth.
The air is warmer, somehow.
Like a full body flush.
He sweeps her over the creaking floorboards, her cheek pressed to his chest. The cold has left them. His phone sits on the sleek, white coffee table, and his Elvis tunes play, his Dylan, some acoustic hits. She nuzzles in closer and hums along to Roberta Flack, Sinatra, that Cher song they both like so much.
“Why don’t you believe in the ghost, Mulder?” She murmurs, a little sad.
“I don’t know that I’m against the idea of her existing,” he says into her hair, closing his eyes. They turn. Sometimes he dips her, sometimes he spins her, but they spend most of the time just like this: as close as possible, eyes closed, careful not to bump into any of the furniture. “I just need more proof these days.”
“Well,” she says. “I’ll believe for the both of us then.”
He lifts his chin from her head, surprised. He pushes her away to search her face. “You believe in Sherry?”
“You had me with that dark matter point,” she shrugs. “If souls… did exist, they would most likely exist as a form of matter we haven’t discovered yet.”
“Dana Scully, but you are tipsy,” he chuckles, pulling her back to him. “If you believe, I believe. Sherry Battersea is alive and with us.”
“Why’d you bring us here if you didn’t think it was haunted?”
He thinks about this, rubbing his hands up and down her back. “We’ve got a long way to go, don’t we Scully?” She looks up at him, cocking her head. “You haven’t…. Moved back yet.” His thumbs caress her waist. “Into our home.”
Her face falls. “Mulder–” she tries to step away, but he holds onto her, shaking his head.
“It’s okay, Scully. Scully, I’m not mad. I’m not asking you to do anything before you’re ready.” He presses a kiss to the center of her forehead, smoothing his hand down the length of her hair. She closes her eyes. “But I thought maybe… if I could recreate… not an exact replica of the good old days, because we were always getting our asses kicked, but something tonally similar, it might help. Show you that I appreciate you and that… I miss you, and that I’m so fucking grateful that…”
She saves him by wrapping her arms around his neck and bringing him in for a slow, mind-melting kiss.
There are none of the cobwebs that decorated all those places in their youth, not like he’d been hoping. The shadows that float across the room are all accounted for. There is no fear. It is not quite like the old days, but he remembers this: holding her hips as they move above him in the dark, the rise and fall of her upturned breasts, the underside of her chin when she tosses her head back and gasps. She rides him into the couch, the sweltering sheath of her body spreading warmth from his cock to the tips of his fingers and toes. He watches her face in the shadows again, how her expressions undulate in the moonlight. She still keeps her apartment, but she’s come back to him in every way that matters.
In the kitchen, a bottle breaks. A tray of dark chocolates hits the wall at full speed.
“Did you hear that?” Scully breathes, furrowing her brow but not stopping, refusing to stop their decades-old rhythm. His hands slip around to grip her rear and he shakes his head. Wind rattles the windows, a howling, devastated screech that neither Mulder nor Scully can relate to.
“…Mulder,” Scully frowns, her nude form wrapped up in a fleece blanket he’d brought in from the car. She sits on the floor in front of the middle bookcase, running her fingers over the titles. “You said this place was abandoned, right?”
He’s dozing on the couch, KO’d from sex and the little bit of wine they’d had. “Mmm,” he rubs his cheek and yawns. “Yep. No one lives here.”
“I just find it odd that a place that’s been abandoned for so long shows so few signs of disrepair. In fact…” she runs her hand over the books again. “This place is cleaner than my own. You’re absolutely sure no one lives here?”
“It’s condemned,” he says. “Government says it’s no longer fit to live in.”
“That’s… weird.” She pulls out an old pulp romance novel and flips through the pages. “It seems perfectly habitable.”
“It might have something to do with the plumbing. There are all sorts of strange, outdated Virginia laws that classify a place as livable –” he’s cut off by a sharp yelp and a thud. He sits straight up and peers over the couch. “Scully?”
“I’m okay,” she groans, massaging the back of her head. “A book fell and hit me from the top shelf. But it hit me hard. Jesus, it feels like I got pelted with it.”
He climbs over the back of the couch to join her on the floor, and she laughs when he pecks and pats the top of her head.
“I have just the thing to make it better,” he says, standing back up.
“Again? So fast?” She sounds impressed. Excited. He shoots her a look.
“I was offering more wine, Scully. But ouch.” Her cackling follows him into the kitchen.
The sight that greets him freezes him cold. That extra wine bottle rests in a million shiny pieces, and what was once a glaringly yellow wall bleeds dark red with the wine streaking down to the sideboards. “Scully?” he calls out hoarsely, approaching the scene with caution.
“Shit!” she screams. His stomach drops with fear and he darts back out into the living room to find her huddled under hundreds of fallen books. “What the hell?”
“Scully!” He drops to his knees beside her, throwing book after book off to the side and clutching her face in his hands. “Are you okay? Are you hurt?”
“Not bad, but I’m beginning to see why this place might be condemned. The bookshelf just rattled and all the books fell off. Maybe there’s something wrong with the foundation.” He helps her out of the pile and they both move away, far back from the shelf.
“Rattled?” he asks, alarmed. “Like it was being shaken?”
“I thought it might be coming from the walls,” she posits, but that doesn’t sit right with him. Anxiety begins to gnaw his stomach into pits.
“You don’t think,” he starts and stops, biting his lip. He wants to put his clothes back on. The chill is coming back. “You don’t think that…”
“Think what, Mulder?”
“That… something was trying to push the bookshelf? On purpose?”
She looks at him, startled. “What? Like a ghost?” He nods his head, shrugging, and she angrily clutches the blanket around herself, turning her back to him to pick up her clothes. “You just told me you didn’t believe there were any ghosts here.”
“You just told me you did,” he argues, following his own garment trail.
“Mulder,” she whines, pulling on her bra. “I don’t actually – I was just…”
“You were lying?” He asks, pausing with his shirt over his head. The hurt catches him off guard.
“I wasn’t lying, I just… I’m so…” she sighs, doing up her fly and buttoning up her shirt. “I never know how you’re feeling these days, and…” she doesn’t finish. He nods slowly, a hot wave of dejection flooding his cheeks. There are traces of ancient anger he wants to pull from, that’s the easier path, but he can’t bring himself to do it.
“I never needed you to lie to me, Scully, and I certainly never asked you to,” he says roughly. He turns away from her to pull on his underwear, jeans, and jacket. He ignores her attempts at apologies and walks in long strides to the kitchen. “Come look at this,” he calls to her flatly.
Just when he thinks he’s pushed past the resentment of her leaving and the guilt at having made her leave, all of the other feelings are brought to the forefront. The shame. The fragility. He’s spent the last several months trying to prove to her that he can make it on his own – that his need for her doesn’t stem from an inability to function without her, but the irrefutable fact that they work so much better together – and the whole time she’s been… what?
Seeing him as a fucking child? Wearing kid-gloves in all of her interactions with him, holding back her opinions in fear of setting him off? Oh, Jesus. Is this why she won’t move back? She thinks he’s not ready?
“Here.” Side by side, they stand in front of the stain on the wall, mindful of the smushed chocolates and shards of glass.
“Maybe they fell?” Scully guesses weakly, at least having the decency to look contrite.
“They fell? At fifty miles an hour?” Maybe there is some anger he can pull from. “Unlikely. Didn’t you tell me you felt like that book had been pelted at you?”
“Yes but Mulder that could be anything. You said yourself the house was condemned.”
“Yeah, but–” he bends down to inspect the chocolate on the floor, picking one crushed morsel up to show her. “This looks… this looks like it’s been stepped on, crushed by something. What kind of foundational issue would cause that?”
She looks at it and sighs, pinching the bridge of her nose.
“Let’s split up,” Mulder says. “Take the top floor. I’ll take the bottom. It’s what we came here for anyway, right?” And he leaves her alone in the kitchen.
The den drastically departs from the design ideal of the rest of the house. Under his flashlight he spots leather rock chairs, worn and overstuffed, plain walnut bookshelves and orange shag carpets. He looks through the books and the desk drawers, searching for anything personal. Photos, journals, receipts kept, anything that might give him any insight into Sherry Battersea and the lonely, lonely house she kept. No luck.
There is a large stack of records sitting next to a hefty Champion record player, dressed in supple red leatherette. He flips through them. The Big Bopper. Fats Domino. The Lennon Sisters. More and more of the same ilk – an Elvis Christmas LP he’s pretty sure is the real deal, and which he shamefully considers sliding under his coat. He then inspects the player itself, lifts the arm to see the stack of singles underneath it. He lets the arm fall back into place.
It begins to play.
He yelps, stumbling backwards and collapsing onto the rock chair as the music plays loudly enough to fill the house.
Sherry! Sherry baby!
Sherry! Sherry baby!
Mulder clutches for the back of the chair and watches in terrified fascination as the entire den comes to life. The lamp flicks on and casts the room in its soft pink light, turning brown into different shades of red. Warmth trickles in from the air vent and all in his body he feels the electric hum of a machine coming to life. He knows instantly that means every other room in the house must be waking up in the same way. Scully he thinks, attempting to jump to his feet.
He’s knocked back on his ass.
“What the–” he tries again, and the shag rug slithers out from underneath the desk, coming at him like a cautious snake.
Sherry! Sherry baby!
Sherry, can you come out tonight?
“Scullllllaaaay!” He shouts, but he’s no match against The Four Seasons bleating from the – not from the record machine, but from – everywhere, what –
Why - don’t - you - come out? Come out!
To my twist party! Where the bright moon shines!
The rug does just that, rises up, twists back and forth like wringing water out from a cloth. Still moving slowly it comes up to his feet, and he brings his legs up and hugs his knees close to his body, expelling an embarrassing squeak that would give Frankie Valli a run for his money. The rug continues its ascent, sliding up his legs, like – like a caress - gentle – warm – not like a rug, but like –
Like a human.
Mulder kicks his legs out with as much force as he can muster and the rug drops to the floor with a muffled poof. Then he’s leaping out of the chair and throwing open the door, giggling crazily when – he swears he feels it – something invisible tugs at his shirt, at his pant legs and hands.
He runs out out of the den into the open hallway like a scene straight out A Hard Day’s Night, and it’s just as he suspected. All the lights are on, and the Battersea house is thrown into full technicolor, much more vivid than he could have imagined. The lucite chairs are the brightest reds and blues he’s ever seen on furniture in his life, the sofa and the tables and the cleanest, starkest white. The light from the bulbous chandelier sparkles and spins. That pine sol scent – and then something else – Shalimar? – the alien-looking Philco television set on its tall thin stand, some old Gunsmoke episode. Then the channels flip and flip and it’s the Twilight Zone, and he’s being shoved by the air over to the couch.
“Scully!” He yells again, laughing, merrily going along with the phantom guide. How is this for proof of a spirit world? This has got to be the single strongest case for the existence of poltergeists ever experienced. “Scully! Come here!”
“Mulder!” Scully screeches, straight from the gut.
Three gunshots go off.
His laughter corks in his throat, his heart drops to his stomach. Mulder races into the kitchen, faster than the grip that vies for him. The wine has been scrubbed from the walls, the glass swept from the floor. Something delicious simmers on the stove, and as he darts past the island he notices a bottle of vodka and a carton of orange juice pouring into a metal mixer. No body performs the action. They float in the air and the liquid comes out in steady, even streams.
That’s his drink. He shudders and hops up the stairs, taking two at a time. Scully’s voice has died out but he can still hear it pounding in his head, along with the never ceasing with your red dress on! Mmm you look so fine! and his ragged breath. “Scully!” He yells again, throwing open every door as he comes to it. The towels in the bathroom, the shower curtain, all rip themselves from their places and slither and slide after him, licking at his ankles and tripping him up. Gold and copper tubes of lipstick chase behind him, leaving behind perfect lip imprints on the walls.
When he gets to the bedroom, he finds Scully bound and gagged to the four poster bed, screaming into the pillowcase stuffed in mouth. “Scully,” he hisses, falling to his knees in front of her, pulling out the gag and deftly untying the knots around her ankles and wrists.
“That crazy–” she coughs and struggles underneath him, making it impossible to get her unbound. “That crazy bitch –”
“Stop moving–” but she won’t, she’s writhing and wrestling until he has to cover her with his weight, yelling at her all the way. “Crazy fucking bitch!” She screams. When she’s free from her ties she shoves Mulder off of her and hops to her feet, tearing through the bedroom like a hurricane. “Where the fuck did she put my gun–”
“She took your gun?” Mulder panics, ripping through the room with her. “Scully, did you–” he sees it, three bullet holes in the corner of the ceiling. “Did you shoot the house, Scully?”
“You bet I fucking shot the house!” She screams. “Aha!” She pulls out the gun from the nightstand, cocks it, and tries to run out of the room.
“Scully,” Mulder grabs her by the shoulders and pulls her to him, ignoring her struggling. “Scully, I’m thinking this is an extremely malevolent, extremely powerful poltergeist. You cannot shootpoltergeists–”
She whips around, turning on him and backing him into the wall. “Malevolent? Did she drag you by your hair into the bedroom and tie you to a bed, Mulder? You look suspiciously unharassed.”
He licks his lips and stutters. “Uh, no. That has not been – that has not been my experience.” She raises both eyebrows and crosses her arm, waiting for him to continue. He rushes on. “I think Sherry’s still here, trying to take care of her husband.”
Scully steps back, eyes widening in shock. Her mouth opens and closes. Slowly, quietly, she asks, “Are you saying… the… poltergeist… is trying to seduce you?”
“And kill my mistress? Yeah,” he huffs a laugh and wraps his arms around her stunned and silent frame, letting his body relax against hers for just a minute. He’s getting too old for this kind of exertion. “Oh, god. You scared the shit out of me, Scully.”
“Sorry to cause so much stress, Mr. Battersea,” she grumbles, burying her nose in his neck. He nuzzles her hair and she lifts her head, slotting their lips together in a sweet, relief-filled kiss. If she’ll forgive him his affair with the carpet, he’ll forgive her everything. She pulls back, shaking her hair out of her face and straightening out her shoulders. “Now how do we get rid of this thing? What’s all in that bag you brought?”
He freezes. Shit.
“Mulder, no,” she says, horrified.
They slink down the stairs, Scully first, gun first, just in case. The breath of the house is soft, deceivingly calm. The music has been shut off. No objects float in the kitchen, the stove is turned off. Nothing tries to pull Mulder out of his clothes, or Scully into a closet.
“I think our little display back there pissed her off,” Mulder says grimly, staying close behind Scully.
“You’re my husband,” she bites out, straightening her shooter’s stance. “I kiss you whenever I want.”
They pause before entering the living room, looking at each other.
“That’s where it all happened,” Mulder whispers, nodding his head at the door. “If we go out there…”
“Should we just make a run for it then?” Scully asks, biting her lip. He bites his lip, too, and they meet each other’s eyes. He nods slowly.
They take off, pounding their feet against the hardwood and running as fast as they can, Mulder’s hands barely grazing Scully’s shoulders, but they never stood a chance. Floorboards are snatched almost from under their feet; chairs and tables go hurtling through the air. They drop down, Mulder curling his body over hers and shielding his head when bronze ornaments chuck themselves off of their stands, decorative mirrors drop to the floor, sending their shards flying.
From every molecule of the house, Frankie Valli’s falsetto warps into a deep, unsettling baritone.
Come come. Come out tonight.
Come come. Come out tonight.
Come come. Come out tonight.
“Say a prayer, Scully,” Mulder groans, wincing when a piece of glass whizzes past his head and scrapes up the back of his hands. She begins to frantically mutter one under her breath, but it’s useless. The storm doesn’t stop.
“Sherry,” Mulder tries. “Sherry!” He says louder. The music ends, but the the violence doesn’t. “Sherry, I know you were hurt!”
A woosh of a sigh is expelled from all the air vents. Objectiles drop straight to the floor. Mulder takes a deep breath and rolls off of Scully, who chokes and coughs into her arm.
He keeps going, not exactly sure what he’s saying. “Your husband was a selfish man who didn’t treat you the way you deserved. You loved him. You gave him everything. You cleaned up every mess, you paid every bill, you did everything he asked of you and it still wasn’t enough.” He swallows, pressing his bleeding hand to his stomach. “He still wouldn’t come home to you.
“It wasn’t your fault, Sherry. People who love you don’t do that to you. People who love you know that you aren’t perfect and come home to you anyway.”
The house is so quiet it is almost as if his soft, soothing voice has lulled it to sleep, and for a moment he thinks it has. Water drips from the air vents, from the windows, single, silent tears of condensation.
Crumpled next to him, Scully is sniffing. He glances at her, worried, but she’s smiling through her tears, sliding her hand through debri and dust to wrap around his. He smiles back, surprised to discover that he’s crying, too.
But she’s suddenly yanked away, screaming as those invisible hands drag her by her ankles and toss her onto the couch. “Scully!” Mulder yells, getting up to run toward her.
He’s tripped by an orange shag carpet.
“It’s not you, Sherry, it’s me,” he whimpers, frantically wriggling as the carpet begins to roll up with him inside of it. He groans and drags himself across the floor with his hands, carpet and all. The Philco set buzzes past him in the air and he shouts. “Watch out, Scully!”
He doesn’t see where it lands, but it the sound it make is a sickening smack, a bludgeoning soundtrack. “Scully?” No response. “Scully?”
He groans, dragging himself with agonizing slowness until he’s at the couch. Propping himself up his arms, his legs still wrapped in the rug, his mouth waters in fear and his stomach tightens at the sight of her, pale and silent, with one patch of bloody red hair staining her temple.
He checks her pulse, is relieved to find it faint, but still there. He kicks and pounds inside his trap until it’s beaten slack and stupid, and lifts himself onto the couch.
“Scully?” He lightly touches the spot where she’s hurt and she jerks her head and groans. “Oh, thank god.”
“Take me to dinner next time,” she winces, feeling the wound for herself and hissing out when she brushes the most tender part. She sits up, he pulls her hair away to give her better access. “I probably need to go to the hospital for this.”
“Well let’s try and get you there, partner.” One hand on her back, the other on her shoulder, he tries to help her up, but is interrupted with the sound of… “Scully. Scully, shit.”
“Scully, the bookca–” SLAM.
She hauls him out of the dead and empty house, panting with the exertion and the throbbing pain in her head.
“I think–I think she went back to sleep,” Mulder yaps manically. “I think that put her to sleep. Reenacting the – the crime.”
“We’re not dead, Mulder,” she grunts. Another foot down the driveway. “I just wish we were dead.”
“I think we better call an ambulance, Scully,” he says, resigned. “I don’t think either of us can drive.”
They call the ambulance and wait. Scully plops down beside him, wincing as the morning sun reflects off the ugly pink wood and cuts into her blurry vision. “This sucks, Mulder,” she sighs, squeezing her fists into her eyes.
“God, I know. This was a terrible idea. I don’t know what I was thinking.”
“How are you going to help me move with two broken ankles?” She sighs again, shaking her head. “I’ll have to hire somebody now.”
He beams at her.
All the spirits rejoice and return to their graves for their year long sleep.
Girl, you make me lose my mind!