Most of the time, Father Samuel Borge enjoyed helping his parishioners with the day to day problems that often plagued their lives. However, as the minutes ticked past into an hour, he grew tired of listening to the woman’s complaints. It was a weakness he knew, but he could not help but worry instead over his brother. Something had to be done he knew, and it was all he could do not to rush the woman from his office so that he might check on David.
Thankfully, she did finally leave nearly an hour after daily mass had finished. His secretary had already gone home for the day, and with the night already upon them, the only thing left to do was to make sure that nothing had been left out unattended.
Samuel had ignored his brother’s request not to ring the bell during mass. In fact, it struck him that if his brother did not want it rung, then it out to be rung, and loudly so!
He wished the woman well as she offered her final thanks to him before leaving by the main entrance. Samuel watched her go for a moment, breathing a long sigh. He should have been more attentive to her he knew. He resolved to make up for his distraction later. Surely she would understand in hindsight how his concern for his brother had occupied his mind.
However, pulling his stole close as he stood feeling the cold air that had rushed in through the doors wrap about him, he pondered just what it was that he thought he could do to help his brother. Although, Samuel knew that it was not entirely impossible for a woman to have come into David’s life and completely wind him about her finger, he doubted that this was the case. There was simply one fact that kept returning to his mind, that he found wholly unnatural: her dislike of bells, and how it seemed neither she nor David could apparently hear them when they should.
Was it possible that this situation was not natural at all?
A cold chill ran along his spine then, as if some skeletal finger were tracing curls in his flesh. He pulled his arms more tightly over his chest and turned towards the sanctuary. He always found a sense of warmth and comfort there in the presence of the altar and crucifix.
Being an older church laid down more than a century ago, the floor, though now covered by a warm burgundy carpet, was fashioned from stone. So too were the walls, though set in these were stained glass windows. During the daytime, the sun would angle into the windows, casting a warm profusion of colour upon the pews and generally in the morning when mass was held on Sundays, the light would fall onto the altar. At night, they were empty, dark eyes peering in on a small bit of warmth.
The steeple of the church was set at the farthest end of the sanctuary, and so behind the organ manual was a small door that led to the belltower. It was normally left unused except for cleaning four times a year. It took Samuel a few minutes inspecting the sanctuary before he realized with a growing sense of alarm that the door was standing open, with a faint light flickering from within.
Uncertainly, his heart whispering a hope that he dared not speak aloud, the priest walked to the door, stepping around the organ bench carefully. He could hear the sound of footsteps beyond the door, though they were muffled as if whoever was there was trying to be silent. Samuel waited a moment at the edge of the doorway, not daring to step through. His fingers gripped the edge of the door, knuckles white. The person inside was coming back down the steps.
Samuel trembled and took a step back from the doorway. The light that was flickering was clearly that of a flashlight. The end of the beam came to rest on the inside of the door, and then as the man stepped from the wooden steps to the stone floor, it flashed out, just past Samuel’s face.
“Samuel?” the voice he had hoped most of all not to hear rang out. “Get out of my way!” The voice, at first curious, was suddenly aggressive, and almost unrecognizable.
“What are you doing here, David?” the priest asked his younger brother. He could not help but realize that it was the first time in five years that David had even been within these hallowed walls.
“Just get out of my way!” And then David swung the flashlight. Samuel let out a gasp of surprise, but was too late to move. He felt a sharp stab of pain at the side of his head, and then the world around him twisted. His knees buckled and he fell to the carpeting, marvelling at its soft texture after all its years of use.
Dimly, he was aware of somebody grabbing him by the arms and dragging him around. And then he was dropped once more on the ground and he heard somebody running he thought. Samuel tried to make his eyes work, but there was a pounding in his mind which kept him from thinking clearly.
It persisted for several minutes, before it began to fade into a dull throbbing. Samuel managed to shift himself into a sitting position, though his arms were trembling. He reached up and felt where his brother had struck him. There was some blood. Head wounds bled more, he remembered. He’d have to get a bandage. For the moment, Samuel took the stole and pressed it to the side of his head. He hated to soil it so, but there was nothing else.
After a long breath, Samuel scrambled to his feet. And then he fell from his feet once more when a thunderous crunching sound came from the belltower door. An agonized metallic screech ensued, and only stopped when a great cloud of dust burst from the doorway. Samuel stared in horror before climbing back to his feet and rushing to the cloud filling the aperture.
Though there was not much light within, it was just enough that he could see what was before him. The bell. It lay in a heap of splintered wood. The stairs above were thoroughly destroyed. The bolts at the bell’s apex were all corroded and melted. Somehow, David had destroyed the bell.
Samuel stumbled, his mind unable to grasp even a single thought. All that he felt was misery.
When he finally stopped coughing and trembling he was huddling behind the altar. Samuel could not quite remember crawling there, but he knew that he must have. The dust was settling already, but it would be a very long time before they could ring the steeple bell again.
David had done this. Why had David done this?
Because the bells upset Alice.
The answer was the first clear thing that had come to his mind in many hours. For some reason, Alice detested the bells. That was the answer. He had to go to his brother’s home and confront them. This was not a mere infatuation. This was something unnatural and evil. His heart tightened at the iciness even the thought of it imbued.
Thankfully, his head had stopped bleeding, but the stole was thoroughly stained. Samuel laid it over the arm of the lectern and then went to the liturgical closet where the bells used in Eucharist were kept. To his surprise, they were all missing. He searched the closet for a minute, making sure that they had not been misplaced, but he found no evidence of them. They were simply gone.
He took a deep breath. David must have stolen them before sabotaging the steeple bell. Very well, he had more in the rectory. He would have to use one of them.
Samuel’s lips were set in a grim line as he stepped out into the cold air. The night was dark and heavy, clouds rolling deep and low over the tree tops. These were not the comforting blankets that lay across the sky, but an oppressive menacing force that suffocated the warmth from them. Samuel hurried across the street to the rectory and slipped inside.
He did not even think to treat his own wound, but went straight for the cabinet in his study where he kept his bells. A cold chill raced up his arm as he opened the cabinet door. There was nothing within. All of the bells that he kept were gone. Not even their carrying cases remained behind.
Weariness buckled him and he collapsed on his rear, robes bunching under him. David had already been here and stolen these bells too. He tried to think of where he might find a bell, but his mind was a complete blank. Aimless, his eyes wandered around the room, seeking out the crucifix he kept on the wall behind his desk. “Lord, please! Help your servant save him. Please, Lord!”
He was not sure why then, but his eyes case down at his desk. A sudden spark kindled inside of him, and with it, a surge of energy. Samuel nearly leapt to his feet then, and a moment later he was bending over his desk pulling open the bottom drawer. There, right where he’d left it that afternoon was the bell that Noah had been playing with. A laugh escaped Samuel’s throat, ragged, but true.
Slowly, Samuel lifted the bell free from the drawer. It was warm to the touch, and it thrummed softly as it lifted off the phone book beneath it. And for one moment, his head bowed in prayer, he felt as if the whole world sang the pure D note with the bell.
David felt a warm thrill race through his flesh as he stripped his clothes free. He was sitting in his car, staring through the windshield at the soft glow that was emanating from within the living room window. Soft drops of white lace were gently settling upon the glass, melting quietly and trickling down to collect at the wiper blades. The snow had begun.
His shoes he tossed into the passenger seat, and they were quickly followed by his socks, and then his pants. He left his underwear on for a moment longer, stopping to take off his coat and then his shirt. There was no sense in folding them, as they did feel unclean after having been in the church. David understood that now.
When he had at last slipped free of his underwear and dropped them atop the pile of clothes, he began to feel a slight nippiness to the air. The gossamer petals of snow continued their downward descent, gracing the earth softly and with care. The blades of grass in his front yard appeared to be wearing pearls along their edges, and the windshield before him was beginning to turn into a slippery smear.
David smiled to himself and climbed out, letting the snow dance around his flesh. It was cold, but he felt invigorated by it. Tonight, he remembered with freakish delight, was the Winter Solstice. Many a folktale and ancient religions had seen power in this night. He laughed, spinning on his toes, crackling the grass with each step. His voice carried into the sky, but softened, as the snowy blanket muffled all sounds.
David laughed again and then almost skipped on his way to the front door. It was not locked, and he swept inside. The chill outside barely touched him, but the warmth that was waiting for him suffused him immediately. He drew a deep breath, the pleasant fragrances of myrrh and holly carrying his elation even higher. Tonight was a night of magic ritual, incantation, and celebration. Tonight was the longest night of the world. Tonight, the night need never end.
It was time for all the things that went bump in the night to come out and play. And David had already done so.
He laughed again, looking around the room. Alice was waiting for him, wearing her elaborate wedding gown, a veil drawn over her face. David grinned at her and felt his heart pound heavily in his chest. “All is done, my Alice. All is done as you asked.”
Alice smiled back to him, and held out her hand. “All is ready for us, my David. Come, and know thyself true.”
David clasped her hand, feeling an energy he could not ever remember feeling course through him. The bell at her neck trembled, and seemed to slide back and forth between her breasts, even though she was not moving. It chimed soft and pure, and the world began to dissolve around it.
Alice’s flesh drew back in the wake of that chime, green and brilliant to his eyes. Her hands were long, fingers stretched out into tapering claws. And around her head, the veil was now supported by a crown of green flesh. Sparkling verdant eyes met his for a moment, and her thin lips parted into a smile. A darkness filled the recess between her lips, but from it came a harmonious song.
And then, it all disappeared when the bell stopped its chime. David blinked, feeling flush with excitement. His hands were sweaty, and he felt the hair atop his head was slick.
“Yes, my David. That is what I am. A creature of folklore, forgotten in this day and age. Come, learn more.”
She guided him back to the bedroom. David stayed at her side, wishing only to hold her closer, to see that face once again. Something about it assaulted his mind, breaking at every sinew that had fashioned it. He had to know more.
The bedroom had been transformed. His bed had been disassembled, with the headboard and footboard leaning against the wall. The mattresses were sticking out of the closet door. His dresser was against the wall next to the headboard, while his side table flanked it. The large rug had been rolled up and shoved in the closet as well, leaving the floor bare.
But Alice had obviously been at work, for the chalk he’d bought had been drawn upon the ground in a pentagram, in which lay Noah, staring serenely up at them as they entered. At each point of the pentagram the candlesticks were placed and lit with green candles. Beyond the pentagram another diagram had been drawn, with two lines that curved outwards in a bell-shape from one corner of the star. Into the far wall where the edges of the bell met the floor an ornate door had been drawn. David stared at it all in awe.
“What is this?”
“We are going home, my David,” Alice assured him, her smile alluring even behind the veil. “And there we will be for the rest of our lives, husband and wife as we were meant to be.”
“But,” David asked, feeling for the first time like he was looking into the light of the sun, “you are something else.”
She smiled and nodded her head. “Do you remember the tales the early settlers used to tell? Of creatures that would steal children from their cradles and leave their own progeny in its place?”
David nodded slowly, running one hand up along the ruffles of her arm. “Yes, I know of it. Are you one of them?”
“We both are, David.” She said, her voice singing to him again. He felt all the songs that he had learned in his youth being systematically erased, replaced instead by that beautiful voice. “You were born in our world, and placed in the Borge cradle in exchange for a human child. Your appearance was made to look like the human child so that none but we would know. The human child was taken to our world and made to serve us. Feel him. He knows you.”
Alice took David’s fingers in her hand and let them lay upon the bell that rested in her bodice. David’s flesh twitched, the metal beneath them simmering and shivering at the same time. A doleful tone echoed in his ears, and once more the air began to swim. Alice’s flesh was green in places before resuming a human appearance.
“I’m...” David could not help but feel the very air sucked out of him. “I’m folklore?”
“Of course. Why do you think you studied it so? You were looking for your past, David. Not their past, but yours. And you’ve found it. Found it at last.” She cupped his face in her hands. But he could not describe how he felt. His feet were no longer touching the ground it seemed.
“I did kill my parents,” he stuttered, staring down at the child. “And my wife.” He looked back at Alice. “They weren’t really mine.”
“And you knew that too,” Alice assured him, taking his hand again and drawing him closer to the pentagram. “We were betrothed at birth, you and I. You married the other Alice because she looked like the one who in your heart you knew was yours.” Her hand met his chest and her fingers spread through the smattering of hair that adorned his flesh. “But you knew she was wrong. And so did he.”
David followed her other hand and saw that it was pointing towards Noah. He stared at his son as the child looked back up at him with wide eyes. The child was still unclothed, and his hands were holding something dark. He narrowed his gaze and saw that it was some piece of black metal, but he could not quite picture what.
“Yes, my David. Noah knew. He is like us after all. But he is special too. He is very special. And he will help you step through, just as,” Alice put her hand to the bell at her neck, “the one whose place you took helped me.”
He looked to the boy and then back to Alice, and then at the bell at her neck. He lifted his fingers again and brushed the rim of it with his nail. It trembled beneath him, cool and remote.
“My Noah will become a bell?”
“Not just any bell, my love,” Alice assured him. “He is special. All children we have with humans are special. His life will mean many more bells for our kind. We need them. Now come, my love. There will be time to answer all of your questions when we go to the other side.”
David nodded, and she led him to one side of the bell-shaped diagram that stood before the door. “Now, carefully, step over and stand before the door. Do not smudge the lines. It is very important that you do not.”
He did as instructed, and stood facing the wall. The wallpaper was rustling against itself, and flakes were falling from the wall in slow profusion. It was as if the entire wall were rubbing against itself. His flesh trembled, his body warming with some inner energy that he could not comprehend. Alice was right though. He was one of the others, it all made sense now. And he was going home. With her.
Dimly, he realized that he could feel around him. The air in the room was charged with static or something even stranger. He could feel his boy holding that empty bell in his hands. Those hands rubbed the incunabulum and held it close, all thought of moving gone from his damaged mind. Alice was setting down the last of the candles, completing the conjuration, while the bell in her bodice rocked back and forth, ringing exuberantly. No longer did David see the human, but only the verdant other.
And then the opening of the bedroom door shattered it all.
David turned his head, and saw Samuel standing there, a red line along the side of his head from where he’d been struck with the flashlight. His eyes were wild and frightened, and snow littered his shoulders and hair. Impossibly, he held a single brass bell within his right hand. A rosary dangled from his left. “Stop this now!” He cried, and he rang the bell forcefully.
Though no sound echoed, David felt the tolling of that bell hammer against his bones. Alice shrieked, throwing her hands over her ears, even as her human form dissolved once more. The black bell at her neck throbbed, bobbing up and down frenetically. Samuel looked at the floor, his eyes widening in horror, and then looked back up at the green woman.
“No, he’s mine!” she cried, and grabbed at the priest’s arm, biting down into the flesh. Samuel let out a cry and fell backwards, trying to lift the rosary that he clutched in his left hand up to meet her.
Alice pushed him back against the wall of the bedroom, and the rosary fell from his grasp. David stared, dumbfounded as the two of them struggled. Where had that bell been? He thought that he’d claimed them all. Well, it was clear there was still one more to go.
“Stop, Samuel. Leave her be and leave us.” He called out. “She is mine and I am leaving with her tonight. Stop what you are doing.”
Samuel looked at him, his face ashen. “David, no!” Alice bit down harder on his arm in that moment of distraction, and the bell fell from his grasp. David stepped out from the lines, careful not to disturb any of them. He kicked the bell into the corner of the room and then grabbed Samuel’s other arm.
“Leave us both. Alice, please, you don’t need to do that any more. He will leave.”
Alice straightened up, still gripping the priest’s right arm while David struggled with his left. “This is madness, David! You’ve been tricked! She’s a demon come to destroy you and Noah!”
“She is no demon, Samuel. She is the one I am to marry.”
“She just looks like your wife. Oh David, please! Don’t listen to her!”
David shook his head, staring sadly into the eyes of the man who he had once thought of as his brother. “I am like her, Samuel. And tonight I go home with her.”
“And Noah?” There was a frantic edge to Samuel’s voice. Both Alice and David stared intently at him, eyes piercing.
“Noah’s life will make it possible for David to come back with me, foolish man.” Alice laughed lightly then, her own gaze eager and wild. “And he will make many more bells for us. His voice will sing through them as it was meant to.”
Samuel looked to David pleadingly. “No, don’t let her do it. She’s talking about killing your son, David! She wants to kill your son!”
David snarled and tightened his grip on the priest’s arm, pushing him back further against the wall. “No more lies!”
Alice’s smile was one of triumph, but it lasted only a moment. Her eyes trailed down to the ground, and filled with horror. “Noah! No!”
David turned and was stunned by what he saw. Where Noah should have been was the black bell. It sat quietly and unremarkable in the centre of the pentagram. Standing outside it, holding the brass bell in his hands, was the child. His eyes were simple and for one moment, clear. He lifted his arm, even as David lurched to stop him, and rang the bell.
The cries in his ears were at first of Alice shrieking in agony. There was no sound from the bell itself, but there was a commanding presence in that empty air. Some forceful motion that made him fall to his knees and tremble. It was a compulsion, one that turned his mind about, cleared it of the incense and song, and put it onto one single thing.
That was all. Just one overriding thought that he could not ignore. David stared, realizing that he was looking down at the pentagram, the bell, and the door drawn into his wall. Wrong. He gasped, hands suddenly deathly cold. Stumbling backwards was the green creature that had taken on his wife’s countenance. A look of rage and loathing filled her eyes, smouldering like ashes before bursting into new found flame.
“They are mine!” she snarled, launching herself forward in fury. David leapt up, and met her, pushing her backwards until she fell against the drawn door. He grabbed the bell at her neck, suffered as it burned his flesh, and rang it hard.
The lines of chalk burst into brilliant flame, and the last thing he saw before the darkness of night claimed him was Alice’s face, green but shocked with betrayal.
David did not finally wake until the next morning, but Noah and I were there waiting for him. I prepared him some tea and as his mind cleared he began to tell me all of the things that had happened to him in the last few days. At this time I learned his side of the story, and I was able to piece together the events that had culminated in our confrontation on the night of December the 22nd.
It was at this time that David told me what Alice had said, about him being one of their kind, a creature of folklore. He explained how Alice had told him he was put in the cradle in exchange for the real David Borge. Needless to say I was shocked anew at this revelation. What was worse was that my brother clearly believed this to still be true.
I waited until he explained that he had in fact killed our parents that night because he knew they were not his own parents. How Noah, recognizing that his wife had not been the same kind as David, had killed her from the womb. And why all his life he had spent in the study of folklore, not as a scholarly pursuit, but in search of his own origin.
It was all quite fanciful, and if I had not seen Alice change before my own eyes into a monster, and then vanish so suddenly as she did, then I would have probably thought it the words of one in need of psychiatric help. As it is, David will likely need to seek a therapist in the days ahead.
But there was one important fact that I felt I should point out to David. There were after all many explanations for this faux Alice’s behaviour. David was an easy target because of his withdrawal from the church. Neither of us could deny the effect that the bells had upon her after all. Nor would I deny that something supernatural had occurred that night. Nor can I be completely sure that she will never return, but I will remain vigilant.
What has convinced me that Alice’s tale was a lie is that when the bells were rung, Alice herself changed, but neither David nor Noah demonstrated any monstrous qualities. If indeed he had been of the same race as Alice had been, why then did he not change when either myself or Noah rang the sanctified bell? David said that he had been made to look this way, but he could offer no better defence of Alice’s lies than that.
After David had recovered significantly, we both cleaned the bedroom, wiping away all of the chalk marks – I had wiped away the pentagram prior to leaving the room the night before. The candles had all been extinguished when Alice had disappeared, but I threw them away even so. I sprinkled some holy water and blessed the room just to be sure. We then reassembled his bed, but David did not seem eager to sleep there. I invited them both to stay at the rectory for a few days, and I am still enjoying their company. This morning David openly pondered whether he shouldn’t sell the house, but that is a concern for later.
The only thing that remained after all the chalk was cleaned was the small black bell that Noah had been clutching before. I have examined it myself, but confess to being stumped by its design. It lacks a knocker, and therefore can not make any sound. I have struck it with a mallet and still it produces no noise. The first time I did this I fear that David was with me and he was quite distraught at what he claimed he could hear. I have not done so again.
Regardless, this small black bell-shaped piece of metal is all the remains to show that this monstrous Alice was even here. I have already sent it ahead to Bishop Levi for his inspection. I am told that when they have uncovered its secrets, they will tell me.
In the meantime, I do my best to tend to my flock, and to look after my brother and nephew. Noah does not appear to have been affected by the encounter in the slightest. I have often put bells in his hands for him to ring since then, but if they ever did any more in his possession, all they can do now is ring warmly.
David has been with me to Mass every day since then, I am pleased to say. He sits by himself, and though he has yet to go to confessional, I feel it is only a matter of time. I could see that his spirit hungered when I presented the Eucharist yesterday.
In closing, I would like to make clear that my brother was not mentally stable at the time that he ruined the church bell or when he struck me. Therefore, he should not be held personally responsible for those events. My parish has already taken up a fund to restore the bell and tower, and I’m sure in a few weeks time it will ring loudly once again.
For now, I merely enjoy the sound of the smaller bells as they ring during the Eucharistic sacrifice. May they always ring.
End of Silent Bells!
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