|Waltzing With The Dead
Author: Timesprite PM
X-Force takes on a mission to find some stolen equipment... on Halloween.Rated: Fiction K - English - Words: 3,019 - Reviews: 2 - Published: 02-18-01 - id: 211650
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Waltzing With The Dead
"I really don't like this."
"You're letting the villagers get to you Tab," Bobby replied from the shadows next to her. "And Cable's right. They were probably lead into believing the place was haunted to keep them out of it."
"Bobby, it's Halloween, we're in Eastern Europe, and it's a full moon. Excuse me for being paranoid."
"He's right Tab... you're just letting the stories get to you," Sam broke in.
"I don't know, those people seemed awfully frightened," Theresa commented.
There was rustling in the foliage next to them and Domino stepped into view. "If you kids are done with the gossip, Nate's found us a way in." She jerked her thumb back in the direction she'd come.
This wasn't right. He'd been right behind Terry a moment ago and now...
To be truthful, he hadn't a clue as to where he was. But it was dark, cold, and he was pretty certain he was now alone. Jimmy frowned. There was water dripping someplace in front of him and the air around him was damp... almost cave-like.
"This doesn't make any sense," he muttered to himself as he kept walking.
He decided he didn't even want to think about the fact that when he'd tried
to retrace his steps he'd literally run into a brick wall.
Right now he really wished he had a flashlight.
Cable was waiting for them around the back of the house, near a set of stairs that descended into the basement of the old building.
"Cobwebs, lovely." Domino pushed the offending webs out of her face. "You take me on the nicest vacations, Nate."
"This whole place is empty, sir," Sam noted. "Are you sure-"
"The reports said this is where the stolen technology was taken," Cable replied, sweeping his flashlight in arcs along the basement floor. "The place has been empty for more than fifty years, and the villagers reported seeing lights up here at night."
"They also said it was haunted," Tabitha pointed out.
"It's good cover. Now let's get down to business here."
"Hey... has anyone seen Jimmy?"
"We left him with you."
"I thought he went with you and Domino..."
Cable sighed. "Two minutes into the mission, and we've lost someone
already." His frown deepened in the glow from the flashlight. "I'm not
finding him telepathically either... there's some sort of interference.
Meltdown, Sunspot, go back out and try to find him. Meet us upstairs when
you find him. Siryn, Cannonball, you're with us.
"Ug... this place needs serious dusting." Domino glanced around at the main hall. "Sure doesn't look like anyone's been here recently."
"I saw lights on in the east wing when I was looking for a way in. Sam, you and Theresa check out the west end of the building. See if you can locate some of the stolen equipment. It's not in the basement, which means it's up here someplace. Dom and I will try to find the source of the lights. Stick together... we don't know exactly what could be lurking around in here."
"So you really think there are a bunch of scientists holed up here with stolen equipment?"
"And the fact that we've seen no sign of life thus far is not dissuading you in the slightest?"
"You always were a stubborn bastard."
"That's why you love me."
"The jury is still out on that. You realize this place doesn't even have central power? I haven't seen a light switch anyplace."
"There's got to be one around here someplace. I saw lights on."
"Do you hear that?"
"Shhh... it sounds like... a big fan?"
He frowned. "Some kind of machinery, maybe."
"I think it's coming from there." She pointed to a door across the hall. "Give me the flashlight." Striding over, Domino pushed the heavy door open. What had been a soft whirring now roared like a tornado. The door was sucked inward, wrenched from her grasp, sending her toppling forward into the darkness, flashlight tumbling from her hand and cart wheeling into the abyss. An instant later she was thrown against the wall as Cable pulled her to safety.
"What the hell was that?" She asked, pushing tousled hair from her face.
"I- don't know. I do know the flashlight never hit bottom..."
"Right." She squirmed out from between him and the wall, yelling to be heard over the roar. "Let's go back that way." She pointed in the direction they'd come.
Meltdown surveyed the landscape around the building, lit by the full moon overhead. "Jimmy?! Hellooo!"
"I don't think he can hear you, Tab. He would have answered by now."
"It figures," she muttered. "How the hell do you lose Jimmy? He's sorta hard to miss."
"To tell you the truth, this whole place is giving me the creeps. Where was the last place he was with us?"
"Um... back by the bushes. I swear, if he got lost taking a bathroom break-"
"Please tell me you see that."
"What... you mean those glowing balls of light hanging in mid air... no... I don't think I do."
"Back the other way, then?"
"Yeah... good idea."
"That doesn't sound like Jimmy to you, does it?"
"...unless Jimmy has taken up growling, I don't think so..."
"So we really don't want to know what that is in the bushes, right? We really don't want to find out what has glowing eyes and hides in bushes..."
"Y'know... I feel sort of stupid running like this. We're supposed to be powerful mutants and all that shtick... right?"
"Do you really want to stop running and tell it that?"
"I take it back. Run faster."
"Do ye hear that, Sam?"
"Ah don't hear anything, Terry, but something about this place isn't sitting right with me. Maybe we should try and find the others."
"It sounds like music..." She approached a pair of double doors at the
end of the hallway and pulled them open.
For an instant, the hallway was blasted with bright white light. Sam blinked, trying to clear the spots from his vision. "Theresa?" Before him lay an abandoned ballroom, footprints in the thick dust on the floor leading in two feet before vanishing without a trace.
"There you are! We've been waiting for you, you know." A tall man with
long dark hair tied back with a ribbon approached her. Terry took
a step backward, startled by the sudden appearance of the man. Hadn't this
room been empty a moment before? She cast a furtive glance behind her.
The hallway from which she'd come was filled with the same gaily arrayed figures as they waltzed in the ballroom to the tune of a string quartet. Long mirrors on the wall showed that she was likewise attired in full emerald skirts trimmed in gold, her hair piled in ringlets on her head.
She shook her head, trying to clear her thoughts. That hallway had been empty except for- She frowned. The blond boy... why couldn't she remember his name?
Sam swept the flashlight in long sweeping arcs before him was he walked
into the abandoned room. Light flashed off the grime-streaked mirrors,
casting weird patterns all over the room. "Terry?"
There was, unsurprisingly, no reply. He frowned. People didn't just up and vanish into thin air...
Then again, he'd seen things during his time wearing the 'X' that would have put the best science fiction writers to shame. And he'd seen her walk in here...
He jerked his head around as a he caught a movement out of the corner of his eye. Nothing but his own reflection. But he could have sworn he saw something, and was that...
He froze. Seemingly from nowhere, the thin strain of a string quartet drifted through the air, seeming both distant and at the same time eerily close by.
Theresa swirled effortlessly in time to the music, guided by the same
man who'd met her at the door. It seemed there was nothing outside of this...
just dancing and dancing forever... she froze mid-step as she caught sight
of something in the mirror...
"Where are we now?"
"Underground someplace, I think."
"How did we get here?"
"Your guess is as good as mine. At least that... thing didn't follow us."
"You're not worried that we seem to be locked in here now? There's a brick wall behind us."
"Did you really want to go back out there anyway?"
"Um... good point."
"This is disgusting... there's slime on the walls... and it's glowing. Glowing slime. You realize this is turning into a really bad episode of Scooby Doo. I'm talking 'Scrappy Doo' bad here."
"...do you hear that?"
"Sounds like footsteps."
"There you are! Bobby and I have been searching all over the place for you..."
"No to mention gotten chased by monsters..."
"Never mind... is there any way out of here?"
"I saw a light back this way... I think it leads into the house."
"Is it just me, or is that door... glowing?"
"This is where I saw the lights on earlier. Let's check it out." They crossed the hallway to the fluorescing door, then paused.
"There better not be any bottomless pits behind this one," Domino commented. "One was more than enough for this lifetime."
"There's something strange going on in this place..."
"Well, jinkies Ya think?"
She sighed. "Never mind. Shall we see what's behind door number one?"
Cable pulled the door open, and immediately wished he hadn't as a familiar saccharine-sweet odder wafted from the room. "Oath..."
"Oh God..." Domino stepped away from the door, trying not to gag. "I think we found your scientists Nate... or what's left of them." In truth, the remains that littered the floor of the oddly phosphorescent room were hardly recognizable as human, more a mixture of bones and decaying flesh in a congealing pool of blood.
Cable slammed the door shut again. "We should find the kids."
"Terry?" Sam stared into the mirror, not believing his eyes. Instead
of reflecting back his own image, as it should have, the image in the mirror
showed a ballroom... the same room he stood in now, but at the height of
its glory, filled with people waltzing in brightly colored clothes. Terry
stood opposite him, looking dazed. She was yelling something he couldn't
"Sam? Sam!" She ripped herself away from her dance partner, memories returning in a flood. Beyond the image of Cannonball in the mirror lay the empty ballroom... her stomach twisted in a knot as she realized she was trapped *inside* the mirror. She saw him step back, recoiling in horror and threw a desperate glance behind her and gasped. The once merry revelers had transformed into nothing more than gruesome skeletons dressed in faded, tattered clothes.
"Nathan... are you okay?"
Cable blinked several times, then focused in on Domino's face. "Some sort of psychic backlash... still hazy, but I think it was Sam and Theresa..."
"That way, I think. I've lost them again."
Sam watched in horror as the skeletons in the room advanced on Theresa.
He'd tried pounding on the glass to no avail, and there was nothing in
the room with which to smash it. Besides... he didn't know exactly what
breaking the mirror would do... it could free Siryn, or it could kill her.
Still, if he did nothing, the apparitions in the mirror would probably
get to her first. He was just about to try blasting through it when the
mirror exploded outward under the force of Theresa's own powers. He hit
the floor instinctively as splinters of glass flew through the air, raining
down on him. Errant shards stung as the cut exposed skin. When the shower
of glass ended, he climbed to his feet, shaking the remnants of the mirror
from his uniform.
Siryn pushed herself up on her hands, then climbed to her feet, casting a wary glance behind her at the battered wall, remnants of the shattered mirror clinging to it.
"You two okay?"
The glanced up to see Cable and Domino standing in the doorway. "Yeah, we're fine," Sam replied. "But something odd is going on in this house."
"We've noticed," Dom replied sardonically.
"We're leaving," Cable said. "Let's just hope Tabitha and Roberto have found James."
"Are you sure this is the way out?"
"I didn't get a chance to check. I went to find you guys instead."
"So we could be walking mindlessly to our doom."
"Gee, thanks for the optimism, Tab."
"Bobby, I've seen weird lights, been chased by some sort of wild animal, sealed in a cave with glowing slime, and I don't even want to think about what that was splashing around in that pool back there."
"On the up side, guys, things couldn't get much worse..."
"Or, we could be eaten by giant spiders..."
"Now who's being pessimistic?"
"Anyone else hear that?"
"It sounds like... someone crying." Siryn commented.
Domino nodded. "You two stay here... Nate, let's go check it out."
"This is certainly some mission you've hauled us on," she commented once they'd broken off from Sam and Terry. "The next time you invite me to chase bad guys on Halloween... remind me to say no."
"I think it's coming from in there," he pointed to a door that lay slightly ajar.
"Okay, I'm going in," she pulled her gun from its holster. "But I swear,
if there are more mutilated corpses in there..." She approached the door
quietly, then pushed it open a little further with the toe of her boot,
Unlike the rest of the building, this room was furnished, apparently lived in. There was a large canopy bed against one wall, dressers, end tables, all heavy, covered with ornate carvings. There was a candle lit on a small table, its light flickering off the plaster walls, ceiling, and glowing on the bare wood floor. The bed was piled with pillows and worn looking dolls. The source of the crying was a small child, curled up on a window seat, moonlight spilling down over her.
This was insane, she told herself. Or another weird trick. The whole building was obviously abandoned, so what she was seeing couldn't possibly be-
"Mommy?" The voice was barely a whisper. The girl at the window was looking right at her now, with an intenseness that made the hair on the back of her neck stand on end. "I thought you'd gone away forever!" She sprang up from the window seat and latched herself to Domino's legs.
Domino opened her mouth to speak, but couldn't get the words past
the lump that had formed in her throat. The whole scene was surreal, a
moment outside time. It wasn't real. But it seemed real...
She loosened the girl's death-grip on her legs and got down on one knee. This was received with a pair of arms tossed round her neck, clinging in desperation; a tear streaked face buried in her shoulder. "I thought you forgot me..."
She hesitantly put her arms around the child's shoulders. 'Just play along,' she told herself. "I'd never do that..."
The girl sniffled. "Thank you..." She whispered. The hold on Dom's neck slackened the body in her arms becoming immaterial, leaving only an old, ragged nightgown in Domino's hands. The candles vanished and the room became desolate and unused before her eyes, dust and cobwebs clinging to every surface. She climbed to her feet, folding the nightgown carefully and placing it on the bed, then wiping at her eyes with the back of her hand. She looked up to find Cable standing in the doorway.
"Let's get out of here."
"Finally! I never thought we'd get out of there..." Tabitha looked around the main hall of the building.
"I'm not sure this is much better..." Bobby reached out and ran a finger through the dust piled on the railing of the staircase. "It sure doesn't look like anyone's been living here."
"Well, at least we can see where we're going now. We should find the others and let them know something weird is going on here..."
"We know there is, Jimmy." The trio looked up as the rest of X-Force appeared at the top of the stairs. "That's why we're leaving."
"Leaving? You found the scientists?"
Domino grimaced. "What was left of them, anyway..."
"And the equipment?"
"Not a trace of it," Cable replied.
"In other words, all we accomplished was getting the crap scared out of us by a creepy old house?"
"Next year, let's just go trick-or-treating like normal people."