Title: Worship No False Idols
Disclaimer: This story is based entirely upon the short story and series of movies created by Stephen King. The premise of "Children of the Corn" is his and not my own. All characters of the X-Files are property of Chris Carter, Mulder, and 1013. No infringement intended. This is rated R for violence and some language. BTW, this is an X- File.
This story is now revised and (hopefully) better. I found some inconsistencies and they are now fixed, so here it is.
Wheatley County, Nebraska
Alex Crauss was no Barry Manilow fan. Not at all. But because it was the only song his radio could pick up, Crauss was forced to listen. His Chevy pickup truck was old and rusted-out, but he had gotten a good deal on it. Not that it mattered. As soon as he turned eighteen, him and Angie were leaving Nebraska for California. Then he would sell it.
Angie Sommers, Alex's girlfriend, smiled over at him. She didn't seem to mind the song, the truck, or the sweltering summer night. They just enjoyed being together.
"So where are you taking me?" she asked. Crauss glanced over at her and marveled at how the moonlight cast a glow around her blond hair. He winked at her. "Somewhere special, I promise."
Angie pulled out a cigarette and lit up. She looked out the window and saw only rows and rows of corn. "I can't wait to leave Wheatley. I'm sick of all this damn corn, and people who refuse to talk about the past."
Crauss agreed. "Whatever happened in Gatlin must've been bad."
"Bad enough to leave the town permanently desolate? Bad enough to make people afraid to come within ten miles of it? Nothing is *that* bad, Alex!" Angie exclaimed. She stared out the window thoughtfully. "Do you know where it's at?"
Crauss hesitated, and concentrated on the road. "No, I don't. Why?"
"We should try and find it. I want to know what happened," Angie replied. "It's not like we'll ever have a chance once we leave home."
"That's true," he answered. His curiosity was beginning to get the better of him. Suddenly, the engine sputtered and died. Alex swore loudly and opened the door. "Stay here. I'll be right back."
Alex popped the hood and checked around to see if the battery was dead.
He didn't have time to turn around. He didn't have time get out. The hood slammed down and Crauss was caught underneath it. Angie screamed and jumped out of the truck.
"Alex, Alex, Alex," she sobbed. She stumbled over to where his body hung and held it in her arms. Splattered across the headlights was blood. It spilled down and dripped onto the ground. Angie ignored it. She cried and repeated his name.
"God, no! Noooo!" she wailed. Even though there was no breeze, the corn swayed soundlessly. "Alex, no! Don't you dare die on me!" She buried her head in his shoulder, not realizing that her hair was stained crimson. Although she was still shaking, she managed to calm down a little.
"Come out and play with me!" a voice whispered. Angie spun around, but saw nothing. It had come from somewhere in the corn. A child's laughter broke the silence. It was light and unconcerned, innocent and joyous.
"Help!" Angie screamed. "Help me!" The giggling continued and it was getting louder. She called for help once more, but only the laughter followed. "Come and play in the corn."
Angie stood up, her mind in a fog, and looked down at her blouse. It was covered in blood. The reality of Alex's death struck her like a blow across the face.
Angie felt something at her throat and tried to pull it off. It closed in around her tighter and she gasped for breath. "Oh...God...what's...happening?" She clawed at her throat and felt a warmth trickle down her fingers. Then, whatever was choking her cut a thin line across her throat. Blood gushed faster and she felt dizzy. She heard the laughter again.
A gentle breeze passed through the corn, which parted slightly and revealed a sign on a wooden post. The paint on it was peeling, but the letters were still legible. It read:
Omaha, Nebraska Aug. 15
"Was there a reason Skinner booked us on the early flight?" Dana Scully said as she rubbed her eyes. One of her least favorite things was Mulder calling her at 5 A.M. on her day off to tell her that they had to be in Nebraska by noon.
"He said the sheriff contacted the Omaha field office at two in the morning when the bodies were found." Mulder explained. "They thought of us immediately."
"I guess we have quite a reputation," Scully observed. "Are we the only agents on the case?"
"Yeah, apparently no one in Nebraska wants to touch this case. So they call Spooky Mulder and shove it on us, assuming that we'll take it," Mulder complained.
"Where were the bodies found?" Scully asked. She was leafing through her purse to find a map.
"About ten miles outside of a town called Wheatley in Wheatley County. I think that's about forty miles from Grand Island."
"And a long way from here," Scully added as she studied the map.
Hamburg, Nebraska Aug. 15
Mulder got off the turnpike at Hamburg, tired of breathing in exhaust fumes from the large Mac truck in front of them. Scully was studying the case file and looking over the pictures the medical examiner had taken at the crime scene.
"Did they perform an autopsy yet?" she asked.
"Not yet. They're waiting for us to arrive." Mulder said. He was now driving on a road called Route 17. It was deserted, unlike the turnpike, and they seemed to be the only ones on the road.
"How is this an X-File?" Scully asked. "It looks like a case for VCS."
Mulder replied, "There's a lot of local folklore around here. People are convinced it's something supernatural and.. ."
"Skinner only said that it sounded like an X-File and he told me to call you immediately." Scully picked up the map and unfolded it. "Where are we?"
"Hamburg, Nebraska - about twenty miles from Grand Island. Now we're on Route 17 heading into Wheatley," Mulder told her.
Scully checked the map. "Gatlin should be coming up in about twenty miles and after that is Hemingford. Gatlin...that sounds familiar."
"I think they had a baseball team in the National League," Mulder said with a smile.
"You're right though, it does sound familiar. Sheriff Wilder said it's a ghost town now."
"You talked to sheriff?" she asked. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"Because I called him, after I called you, to get directions. Don't worry, I didn't question him."
Mulder flipped on the radio and looked for a good station. "No WROK? I'm going to miss Rick and Erin!" he griped. "I think you'll live," Scully responded. But she too was getting bored with the stations of farm reports and static. Grand Island was just out of their frequency. Mulder was almost at the end of the dial when he got something.
"FORSAKEN!" the radio evangelist shouted. The microphone protested the shouting with a whine of feedback. Scully and Mulder exchanged glances, both wondering what they had come across.
"DEFILERS OF THY GOD SHALL BE FORSAKEN! FORNICATORS, BLASPHEMERS, ALIKE!" In the background, voices replied amen. "THERE ARE FIELDS OF BLOOD!" The voice dropped down to almost a whisper. "Blood shall not be shed in vain! He Who Walks Behind the Rows is pleased with this sacrifice! But there must be more, continuous and constant, brothers 'n' sisters. Believe in that if you believe in anything!"
"Who is this nutcase?" Mulder asked to no one in particular. "This guy isn't making sense."
Scully was in a state of shock, she hadn't heard preaching like that since when her mother and father had taken her to church. But it hadn't been quite that bad. "I don't know, Mulder, but shut it off. I can't stand to listen to crap like that."
So he did.
Wheatley, Nebraska Aug. 15
Floyd Singing Crow was sitting in Casey's Diner eating his lunch and minding his own business. Floyd was studying anthropology at the local university, just like his grandfather had wished. His grandfather had lived in Hemingford long ago, back when the trouble started. But that trouble had long since passed.
Casey, the grumpy old short-order cook, was standing behind a counter chopping onions and yelling at Stacey, the waitress. He was not a big fan of Women's Liberation.
"Hey Stacey, move it!" he yelled. Stacey, a blond from-a-bottle, rolled her eyes and purposely poured the coffee slowly. She ambled back to the counter and grabbed the plate Casey was waving around. Floyd chuckled under his breath.
The door opened and the bells rang. All the customers (and there weren't that many) turned to stare at the man and woman by the door. "MIB," Floyd heard George McMann mutter. Singing Crow silently agreed with George's evaluation. The woman walked over to the counter and took a seat on the barstool next to Floyd. He pretended not to notice them.
"Can I help you?" Stacey asked, a touch of worry in her voice.
The man replied, "I'll have a burger with everything on it, except onions." Stacey nodded slightly and said nothing.
"You're going to clog your arteries," the woman warned. He grinned at her, "That's why I left the onion off."
She groaned. Stacey didn't crack a smile. The woman placed her order, "I'll have a salad with Italian." The waitress nodded again and moved closer to Casey who was holding the knife mid-chop in the air.
The female MIB turned and saw all the staring people, who hurriedly went back to their food. Floyd drank his coffee and pretended to read the newspaper. He hoped they didn't start to question him.
"Excuse me, sir?" the man asked. Floyd silently cursed his bad luck. He looked at them. Just as everyone expected, the MIBs pulled out badges. "I'm Agent Mulder. This is Agent Scully. We're with the FBI."
"Hot damn! The feds!" someone whispered.
Scully asked, "What do you mean by that?" She turned back to Floyd, "Can I ask a few questions about a murder that occurred near here?"
"Murder?" Stacey gasped. "Here in Wheatley?"
"Yes," Agent Mulder confirmed. "Two kids were killed last night off Route 17. Do you know anything about it?" Stacey shook her head.
"Who was killed?" George McMann asked. Conversations stopped and the patrons looked expectantly at the agents. Mulder and Scully looked around at the six people staring at them.
McMann walked over to where Floyd was and stared at the picture the agents had brought out.
"Oh my God!" he cried out.
"Did you know them?" Scully questioned. "Their names were Alex Crauss and Angela Sommers."
George pulled off his hat and sank down on a chair. "Angie," he whispered. "She was my niece." McMann, although only in his mid-forties, looked much older than his years. Right then, he seemed even older.
The customers watched silently as a solemn George McMann and Floyd Singing Crow followed the agents outside.
"So no one told you?" Mulder asked.
George shook his head. "My sister-Angie's mother and I haven't spoken in years. She wanted nothing to do with me and I was forbidden to ever see my niece. Several years ago I made a mistake. That mistake put a rift between us."
"What did you do?" Mulder asked.
McMann looked up at them. "Her husband and I were hunting up in Montana and we had shot a deer and a rabbit. We were sitting by the supplies and I was reloading my rifle when it discharged. Jack, my brother--n-law, was shot in the chest. My sister is still convinced it was deliberate."
"Why didn't she believe you?"
"I was opposed to her marriage to Jack. That trip was supposed to patch up our differences, but it didn't." He suddenly changed the subject, "How did she die?"
Scully replied, "Someone strangled her."
Floyd stepped forward. "Can you take us to the crime scene?"
"Depends," Mulder said. "How are you involved?" Floyd and George looked at each other.
Cautious, Floyd replied, "I'm Floyd Singing Crow, and I've lived here all my life. I need to see the crime scene because I might have some information on the killer." They seemed to accept this answer.
Crime Scene-just outside of Gatlin Aug. 15
The crime scene was swarmed with sheriff's deputies. Two chalk outlines were at the center of all the commotion. Some were dusting for prints and others were searching through the corn for evidence.
"Sheriff?" Mulder asked.
The sheriff turned around at the mention of his name. He was tall and in his mid-fifties, slightly overweight with a receding hairline. "Yes?" he asked.
Mulder and Scully pulled out their badges. "I'm Agent Mulder. We spoke earlier on the phone. This is my partner, Agent Scully."
"I'm glad you're here," he said. "The whole town is very shaken by this incident."
Scully responded, "Actually no one seems to know about it. I can understand wanting to keep it under wraps, but why didn't you tell their families?"
Floyd interrupted, "If the whole town finds out about this, which is inevitable at this point, it would create a panic."
The sheriff agreed, "Yes, we haven't had a murder near here since. . ." He glanced at Floyd, who was staring at him tight-lipped.
"Since what?" Mulder prompted. "What happened here?"
"It was a long time ago," Sheriff Wilder said quickly. "It's probably over for good. Now would you like to inspect the crime scene for yourselves?"
Scully made a mental note to check out the date of the last murder.
"This is where the bodies were found," Wilder told them. "The boy was found decapitated. It looks like the hood slammed down while he was working on the engine."
"Did you have someone examine the engine?" Mulder asked.
"It was in fine working order. Fresh battery, good shocks, okay fan belt. Except for the car being older than Jimmy Carter, it was fine."
"What about Angie Sommers?" Scully inquired. "Is it possible she killed him?"
The sheriff pointed to another chalk outline. Mulder noticed dark bloodstains on the ground. "She was found over here by the side of the road. Blood caked her hair and stained her clothes. Some of it was probably his. There was a slash mark across her throat and we suspect someone cut it."
"Have you found a knife anywhere?" Mulder questioned.
"We've been searching since late last night and have found nothing." The sheriff replied.
Scully asked, "Did you check the corn? There's so much of it that a weapon could disappear in the rows." Sheriff Wilder and Floyd Singing Crow exchanged uneasy glances. "Did I say something?" Scully asked.
"What's going on?" Mulder demanded. When he received no answer, he began to push back the stalks of corn. As he searched, Floyd watched him carefully.
"What was the date of the last murder?" Scully asked.
"1986," Wilder answered. "I was a deputy over in Hemingford. A church caught on fire and about twenty people burned to death. We suspected arson, but I never got a chance to investigate because I was transferred to Wheatley."
"How far is Hemingford from here?"
He shrugged, "About thirty miles, but it's deserted. The town went downhill after the fire." Something in his voice made Scully question his explanation.
"Hey, Sheriff!" Mulder shouted. "I found something!" He was back several rows into the corn. Scully, Wilder, and Floyd ran to the spot where he was. Mulder was crouched down on the ground, examining a rag doll that was covered in dirt and dried blood.
"Get this to the lab," he ordered as he stood up and showed them the doll. Scully looked at it questioning, but the sheriff and Floyd paled considerably.
The doll had yarn hair and button eyes. It seemed normal enough, except for the clothing. They seemed to have been sloppily sewn with uneven stitches, possibly by a child who was just learning the craft. The dress was made from scraps of brown wool and it covered the doll from neck to ankles. A sun bonnet from the same material was tied under the chin. In one hand it held an ear of baby corn.
Floyd took it from Mulder and looked it over, not wanting to touch it. He said to the sheriff, "The children are at it again."
"The children are at it again," Floyd repeated. The sheriff took the rag doll and put it in a plastic bag. Then he ordered a deputy sheriff to have it taken to the lab. A technician would analyze the blood there.
Scully inquired, "What do you mean by 'the children are at it again?" What are they doing?" Mulder had been wondering the same thing.
Floyd walked farther into the corn and he motioned for them to follow. He shoved stalks away from him forcefully, almost angrily. Scully and Mulder followed him, with Sheriff Wilder bringing up the rear. The corn stood tall and majestic, swaying to a beat no one else could hear.
Floyd halted suddenly, and Mulder turned and looked back to where they had come from. Whatever space he had led them through was now closed up again. In the distance Mulder heard the voices of the deputies on the road. It was barely audible.
Meanwhile, Scully asked, "Why did you stop?" Floyd put a finger to his lips. Mulder turned around to ask the sheriff what was going on, and immediately noticed the expression on his face. His eyes darted around warily and his hand rested on the stock of his Smith and Wesson.
"Do you hear that?" Floyd whispered in Scully's ear. Indeed, she did hear it. Very soft, very tinny, came the sound of a child laughing. She nodded. "There is a clearing about thirty yards ahead of us," Floyd murmured. "The children have always gone there to do their work."
The sheriff stepped forward, hand still on his holster. "Floyd, where are they?" Mulder and Scully exchanged puzzled glances.
"Don't worry, Jack, they're ahead of us," he assured.
"What is going on?" Mulder whispered. "Why are you so afraid of a group of kids?"
"They're not ordinary kids," the sheriff answered softly.
Scully sighed, she was very exasperated with them. She started to say something when Floyd and Wilder shushed her. Scully heard another noise. It sounded like chanting.
"We are waiting. We are waiting. We are waiting." They restated it continuously as a male voice began speaking. "The corn is our salvation. The Lord of our brothers 'n' sisters is the Lord who will save us. He plants the corn for our salvation. Give blood to the corn and you give life. The time of testing shall come upon all those above the age given to us by He Who Walks Behind the Rows."
"Mulder, that's the voice we heard on the radio!" Scully whispered.
"We are waiting-
"Sheriff, should we leave?" Floyd asked. His reply
was, "In a minute, I want to see what they'll do
next." "We are waiting-
"Mulder, what's going on here?"
"I wish I knew."
"We are waiting-"
When the voices suddenly stopped, Floyd and the sheriff commuted only with worried looks. Jack Wilder pulled out his gun, which prompted Mulder and Scully to do the same. "Let's go, Floyd! Let's get out of here!" he urged.
As they walked back through the corn, Floyd erased the evidence of their presence. When they stepped onto the road, Mulder felt like he was being hit by a blast furnace. The heat was unbearable compared to the cool solace of the corn. Mulder looked to where they had been standing minutes before. It was much dimmer and colder than the street. It was colder in the sense of temperature, yes, but also it seemed very menacing
That sunlight, however, wasn't going to last long. Dark thunderheads were piling on the horizon, and sky was becoming increasingly grayer. Topping the dark masses, were puffy anvils. Floyd regarded these with a grim, knowing stare.
"It will storm soon," he predicted. "The sun will be covered with a blanket of clouds, dark and swirling, before sunset. The children won't be out tonight."
Before Mulder and Scully could ask again about the children (they already had an idea of what went on in the corn) Floyd climbed into the sheriff's car and waited. The deputies were packing up their equipment and Wilder had just left the scene.
"Well, I guess it's useless for us to stick around here," Mulder said. "Do you want to go back to the hotel for awhile?" Scully agreed, the flight had worn her out.
While Mulder drove, Scully watched the storm brew to the southwest. She wondered briefly if it would spawn a funnel cloud, after all it was the season and she was in Tornado Alley. That thought wasn't too comforting.
Her mind traveled back to the prayer she had heard the boy shout. Singing Crow and Wilder had obviously afraid of the children. Why, was the question she was now asking herself. Why would they be afraid of children praying?
He took a deep breath and collected his thoughts. He had come to one conclusion. "Did you notice how isolated Wheatley is from the rest of Nebraska? There are only two other towns near it, Gatlin and Hemingford. We don't know much, Scully, but what we do know is that Gatlin is abandoned. Did you hear the radio stations? Nothing except static and farm reports."
"And that kid preaching," Scully added.
"That too, bothers me," Mulder said. "What I think is that the separation from the rest of the world is starting to get to this town. Maybe it's claustrophobia from all the corn around. Maybe the separation from the rest of the world has made the children delusional."
"Or maybe," Scully continued. "Someone passed through town and brainwashed those kids."
"Are you saying Wheatley is under the influence of a religious cult?"
"Not the entire community, just the children," Scully corrected. "What if another teenager came into Wheatley and convinced them that the corn was this...holy being that demanded worship and sacrifice. There are rows and rows of corn out here, Mulder. What if they perceived it to be a way out of this town. If Wheatley and the surrounding townships are as isolated as you say, then most of the citizens probably haven't been outside of the county."
"That's a lot of ifs, Scully, but I see what you're saying," Mulder replied. "But how many secluded farming communities are there in the Midwest? Hundreds? Thousands? If what you're suggesting is the truth, then there must be dozens of teenage cults across the country. Did you ever think of how this connects to the murders?"
Scully shrugged. "Is it possible the children killed Crauss and Sommers? After what we just witnessed, Mulder, I'd say it is very likely."
"Have you established a motive?" he asked.
She replied, "Not yet, we don't have enough proof to link them with the murder."
Mulder agreed, "We'll get the proof. Why don't you go over to the town hall and see if you can dig up any information?"
"What are you going to do?"
"The sheriff and I are going sight-seeing in Gatlin," he said.
Gerald R. Ford Public Library Aug. 15
Scully followed the librarian into a room. Piled on shelves were stacks of newspapers dated as far back as 1920. The room itself was large with a table and several chairs. Two windows at the far end looked dirty and dusty.
The librarian told her, "We can't afford a microfilm machine, so we pile them up back here."
The librarian then left her to search through the bundles. Scully pulled out a paper from 1981. Inside she found articles about the Iranian hostage crisis. She skimmed those quickly, and then returned the paper to the shelf.
When she reached 1986, Scully found something interesting. It was in a July 3 issue of the Omaha Tribune. The article read:
DEATH TOLL RISES AS MORE BODIES ARE FOUND
Temporarily, they have been placed in foster homes in nearby Hemingford. . .
Scully reread the article in disbelief. It proved her theory about a cult and an outsider. She quickly scanned the rest of the paper and replaced it. A paper from the next day held an update on the body count (now 740.) Finally she checked a Hemingford Herald from June 25, 1986.
BODIES OF GATLIN CITIZENS FOUND IN CELLAR
"The children killed the adults for the corn," she whispered. Scully searched a few more papers and found nothing new. She took her cellular phone out of her purse and dialed Mulder's number.
Gatlin, Nebraska Aug. 15
"I don't understand why you want to go out to Gatlin, Agent Mulder," the sheriff remarked.
"I want the answers that you refuse to give me," Mulder retorted. "Ever since we've been here, you and your buddy have dodged my questions. Now, why did you call the Bureau?"
Wilder answered, "I probably shouldn't have called them, Mulder, but the childen frighten me."
"You're afraid of a group of ultra-religious kids?" Mulder asked with a trace of scorn.
"Not the kids, exactly," he began.
Mulder prompted, "Then what are you afraid of?"
"A long time ago, before I was even a police officer, the children fell into a cult. More like, they started a cult that worshipped the corn. Why, you ask? I don't know. They did some horrible things, Agent Mulder."
"They killed people, innocent people. I've always had a conjecture that during their prayers, they called something up from the dead," Jack Wilder explained.
Mulder asked, "You mean the God they honored struck down their persecutors?"
"What I'm about to tell you may seem. . . odd, but I believe it may be true," Wilder said.
"Go on," he persisted.
"I think the corn was responsible for some of the murders." Sheriff Wilder said quickly. He expected the FBI agent to laugh, ridicule, or scoff at his idea. He did not expect Mulder to consider it.
"Do you have proof?"
"I don't, but Gatlin does." He added, "Also, the children might go there regularly. They might see us."
"If they do, then we tell them a lie. If they attack like you suggest they might. . ." He patted the holster. "We're armed."
"I have another question for you, Sheriff. What role does Floyd Singing Crow play?"
"Floyd is an old friend of mine. His grandfather was an anthropologist who helped a reporter and his son expose the cult. Ever since his grandfather's death, Floyd has been obsessed with the events surrounding it."
Just then Mulder's phone rang. "Mulder."
"It's me. I found something very interesting," Scully said. "Back in 1986 the bodies of over a thousand people were discovered in a underground storage facility. The police found evidence suggesting a cult of children had murdered their parents for sacrifice. The autopsy reports showed that the bodies had been buried there for twenty- two years."
"Damn," he muttered.
"It also solves a missing-persons case from 1976," she added. "In that year, an estranged couple, Burt and Vicky Robeson, left their home for California to try and patch up their marriage. Someone murdered them when they drove through Gatlin."
"The children," Mulder guessed.
"Yes, the children," she replied. "Here's an interesting fact, Mulder. The deputy in charge of the case in '86 was transferred to the Wheatley sheriff's department."
"I can guess who that deputy was," Mulder stated. "Let me call you back, Scully. I'm going to ask him right now." When they hung up, Mulder demanded angrily, "All right, no more lies! I know you were the deputy in Hemingford and you were sent here! What happened in Gatlin?"
Wilder answered, "Okay, I'll tell you what I know. In 1964 the children of Gatlin got religion from a kid named Isaac Croner. They kidnapped all of the adults and sacrificed them in the corn. Sometime around '76, a couple passed through Gatlin. They, too, were murdered for the corn. When we found the bodies ten years later. . " His voice trailed off. He was near tears. "It was the sickest thing I've ever seen, and I served in Vietnam. Some of the bodies were mutilated horribly. Gatlin, the sister town to Hemingford, had been transformed into a pagan altar. It was sick."
He took a deep breath. "In 1986 the children did the same thing to Hemingford. Luckily, people suspected it early on so very few were left in town when the church caught on fire. It was during a town meeting so everyone, except for the children, was inside it. The kids knew and they burned it."
"They burned the church?" Mulder questioned incredulously.
He sighed, "Yes, they did, about one hundred fifty people died in the blaze. When that happened I had been a deputy in Hemingford for about a month. I assumed that the children had died also, but I found out later that wasn't the case."
"What do you mean?"
"A reporter, I can't remember his name, published an article in Newsweek. His son, the kid's name was Danny, co-wrote it. He almost joined the cult."
"How did the children die?" Mulder asked.
Jack shook his head sadly. "I wish I knew the answer, Agent Mulder. I've always thought the children turned on one another and either slaughtered each other or committed suicide."
"Could one of them escaped?"
"It is very easy to get lost in the corn, especially at night. By then I'm sure they knew their way around, though, so I guess one or two could have escaped it," he said.
Their conversation was cut short when the sheriff's phone rang. He picked it up and talked for a minute. His face grew solemn and his eyes became darker. When he hung up, Mulder asked him what was wrong.
Wilder replied, "There's been another murder."
Wheatley County, just outside of Gatlin.
When Mulder and Wilder arrived on the scene, this time an old barn about a half-mile from the spot where the two kids had died, Scully was sitting on the bumper of a deputy's car drinking a cup of coffee. She looked extremely pale. Her beige suit jacket had been flung across the hood of the car and her blouse was untucked.
Dusk had fallen in central Nebraska, but it wasn't the sort of sunset they were used to. The sky was dark and the clouds looked like they were going to burst. The sun looked like a big orange ball of fire and the moon already promised to be full. It was only a matter of time before the rain began to fall.
"Scully, how bad is it?" Mulder asked as he ran up to her.
"Bad enough," she answered, then she grabbed his hand and pulled him to the corn. She led him to an abandoned barn with peeling paint that had turned brown long ago.
At first Mulder didn't see what she was leading him to, but as they neared the barn he saw what had her so upset. The man had been tied to the door with his arms stretched out at either side. Puncture wounds poured blood from his palms and ankles. His eyes had been gouged out and the remaining holes were stuffed with corn silk. Corn husks filled his mouth and the stalks tying his hands had caused his wrists to bled. Mulder thought for a minute.
"Mulder, look at this!" Written all over the walls, in what appeared to be the man's blood, were the letters YHWH. "It means Yahweh in some religions."
"This definitely is a homicidal cult we're dealing with," he replied. "Scully, I think tomorrow we should go to Gatlin. He then told her the story the sheriff had told him. She agreed.
"Oh my God!" another voice said. Floyd and the sheriff had come back to the scene of the crime. "It's George!"
"Mulder, I'm going to do an autopsy on Angela Sommers and Alex Crauss. I might find something out from that," Scully told him.
Wheatley, Nebraska Aug. 16
"The victim is a Caucasian female named Angela Lynn Sommers, age 17, 105 lbs. Cause and time of death unknown." Scully placed the cassette recorder on a table nearby and began the autopsy.
Halfway through, she examined the gash across Angie's throat. "There seems to be something in the wound, perhaps a strand of fabric or a fiber of rope." She pulled it out carefully and held it up in the light. It couldn't be what it looked like.
While Scully was performing the autopsy, Mulder drove to Floyd's house on the outside of town. Singing Crow was kneeling on the ground and pulling weeds from a garden.
"Agent Mulder," he greeted. He stood and brushed off his hands. "Can I help you with something?"
"Yes, you can if you know anything about the children."
Floyd walked over to a row of carrots and pulled a few more weeds. "No more than you know, I'm sure."
"The sheriff told me the story, but I figured you could tell me more considering your grandfather lived in Hemingford."
"Jack told you about that, did he?"
"Yes. Now why don't you?" Mulder suggested.
"My grandfather told me once that he had been in Gatlin the day before the murders. It had been your typical Small Town USA. Everyone knew everyone else and it wasn't unusual or dangerous to leave your doors unlocked, unlike today. The next day the town was dead. He said Gatlin died and no one knew it. Connections to it just stopped suddenly. At that time both towns, Gatlin and Hemingford, were in a very serious recession. Most of the corn was dead due to a severe drought. It was the only means of support back then. You farmed or you starved."
"How do the children fit in?"
"I can't remember the exact date, but there was a party in the town square. I think it was the fiftieth anniversary of the church. The children sang in the choir and that night they killed their parents."
"How could they get away with this?"
"Come here, let me show you something." Floyd took Mulder through his property to a river hidden in the woods. They came to a rock wall which had drawings all over it.
"My grandfather raised me with the beliefs of his people," Floyd began. "There is a very delicate balance in nature. If man becomes too powerful, the earth will fight back."
Mulder asked, "Fight back how?"
Floyd answered, "Nature has a power that few realize. It lives and breathes, and yet we enslave it instead of working with it. The earth will take something vital to man's existence."
"Like, for instance, blood?"
"Yes, and also the one thing that continues on with the human race," Floyd answered.
"Children," Mulder said. He was beginning to understand.
"What about sacrificing? Could this be a cult?" Mulder questioned. Floyd pointed to a set of markings on the rocks, "These lines represent the corn which was a sign of life for my people. This symbol means blood, a source of life. These stick figures are children. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the crow is death. In order for something to live, something else must die."
He moved to another grouping that showed three sets of corn. "The corn over here is dying and the children are crying. Over here blood is being spilled for the corn and it is resurrected. The third set shows the balance of nature back in order."
Floyd became solemn, "Agent Mulder, my grandfather believed that the balance of nature was off in 1964 and again in 1986. The corn stole the children away and will continue to do so until it is reestablished. The people who died were offered up to the corn as sacrifice. Until it has had its fill, the death will continue."
"Sheriff Wilder said he had a theory that those kids had an accomplice."
"He's right. The balance of nature is off again and the corn is angry."
Mulder's phone rang and he answered it.
"Mulder, it's me." Scully said.
"Did you find something?" he asked.
"Yes I did. There were fibers imbedded in the wound on the girl's throat. It looks like. . .Mulder it looks like it could be from a stalk of corn. I think the children somehow strangled her with it."
"Actually, Scully, I don't think the children are responsible for those murders."
"Then who is responsible? Did you find evidence of another suspect?"
"Sort of," Mulder responded. "Floyd's grandfather had a interesting explanation for the events which occurred in Gatlin and Hemingford. I think it is very possible at this point."
"Oh no," she said suspiciously. "Why do I get the feeling this is going to be completely absurd."
"His grandfather's hypothesis is based on an old Indian belief about the forces of nature. Let us suppose for one minute that man became too tyrannical over nature, and the earth rebelled. Let's say the earth became so angry, it wanted something back from man. Man could keep his power in return for blood, and the children's souls."
She tried to interrupt, "Mulder--
"What if the corn received this power and used it to manipulate the town? What if the children were given a series of revelations ordering them to murder the adults and convert all of the children? What I'm saying is, what if the corn is the slayer and not the children, as we previously thought?"
"Fine, Mulder, but you can be the one to tell Skinner our prime suspect is a vegetable," she replied acerbically.
"Scully, as an agent you should know we have to consider all possible suspects."
"Okay, then we should start interviewing witnesses. You interrogate the carrots and I'll question the wheat," she kidded.
Wheatley, Nebraska Aug. 16
Jack Wilder was sitting in Hennesey's Pub drinking a bottle of Jack Daniels and watching college football broadcast over an Omaha television station. The T.V. was an old black-and-white Sony that was full of loud static and whined whenever someone changed the channel to 14. It reminded Jack of his ex-wife.
He finished the bottle and ordered another from a waitress named Terry. He admired the long legs that peeked out from under the black miniskirt. Then he turned back to the game.
Gatlin was haunting him again. In 1964 Jack had been serving in the Good Ole U.S. of A. Marine Corps. That was something to be proud of. Those were stories you told to wide-eyed grandkids over Thanksgiving dinner. He had been a grunt in Vietnam while a smaller war was going on near his hometown.
Tired of football, Wilder left the table and paid for the liquor. He spent the next thirty minutes sitting and thinking in his cruiser. People waved as they walked by, none of them knowing the trouble was beginning again. And now the Feds were part of it. Wonderful.
He had a little secret, and he wasn't happy with it. He had sincerely believed that the corn was responsible for the recent deaths, no matter how off-the-wall it may sound. Jack, however, had conveniently left out another possibility. Maybe it was time the death stopped, Jack knew he had the power to do so. He had to tell Mulder.
Just as he was about to call Mulder, a voice came over the police radio. "Sheriff?"
"Yes, this is he."
"We have a report of a domestic dispute over at the Deckers. I'm going to send Deputy Thorne over, all right?"
"Don't bother. I'm nearby. I'll take care of it," Jack replied.
The Deckers lived a few miles up from Hennesey's. While he drove, Jack called Mulder. "Agent Mulder, it's Sheriff Wilder."
He inquired, "Did you find anything new?"
"No," Jack replied. He hesitated, wondering if he should continue. "Could you meet me in my office in an hour? There is something I remembered from Hemingford that might help your case."
"Great. I'll be over at one."
Jack sighed. It would be such a relief to tell someone. He rolled down the window and let the heat circulate. Black thunderheads were building again and that did not make Jack any happier. He hated summer storms.
Halfway to the Deckers, Jack's car sputtered and died. He pounded his fist and the horn blared loudly. Wilder left the car to check under the hood. A shadow fell across him and Jack ignored it.
He heard a snapping sound, like popcorn when it has just started to pop. A breeze rustling through the corn, brushing the leaves together. Then the whispering began.
"You betrayed the corn. . ."
"There is no room for the fornicator, the sinner, the defiler of the corn. . ."
"The Lord is my shepherd. . ."
Jack spun around in horror, suddenly understanding what was happening. The corn seemed to close in around him. He looked to where his car had been, but it was gone. All he saw was fields of corn. The sky grew dark and lightning flashed. Thunder rumbled angrily. In his panic, Jack could discern words. *Bow. . .down. . .before. . .the. . .one. . you. . .serve.* The whispers surrounded him.
"The corn! The corn! The corn!"
"No room for Adam, Eve, the devil. . ."
"I shall not want. He leadth me to green pastures. . ."
Something hit him on the shoulder and Jack fell to the ground. He rolled around, mumbling, wincing as panic and pain overwhelmed him. The whispers became shouts and they filled his ears and attacked his brain. He stopped hearing them through his ears and now only heard it in his mind. Wilder felt like he was being violated, like someone was scanning his mind telepathically and taking it apart piece by piece
"Your blood is for the corn!"
"No room for the pagan, the prostitute, the serpent. . ."
"And lets me drink from quiet pools of fresh water."
They blended together into a babble that made no sense.
Sacrifice bloodsucking even if I go through the deepest darkness defiler of the I will fear no age of favor innocence evil because you are with lover he who walks among the Babylon me your Sheppard's rod and rows don't forget to worship thy God the evil is present do you believe in the Lord and staff protects me you prepare a banquet for do you believe in the message declare if thou hast understanding corn corn must have some more of that blessed corn he's given to me will you kill sacrificed among the rows served in the good ole U.S. of A. Marine Lord save us from the sins and the distractions of the flesh!
Jack opened his eyes and looked up toward where he thought the heavens might be. Flashbacks of sitting beside his mother in church and wearing his Sunday Best ran through his mind. Instead of holding a Bible (the Good Book must believe in the corn prepare a your house will be my home sacrifice among the rows) the priest held a cob of corn.
He saw clouds, heavy and black above him. He saw the stalks towering over him. They bent over him and wrapped around his wrists and ankles. A figure loomed over him, and Jack, for the first time since 'Nam, felt extremely afraid. Lightning struck again, this time it reached the ground and hit the corn.
The heat intensified before Jack realized what was happening. The corn around him was burning and in minutes he would be consumed.
No one heard his screams.
Their patience was wearing thin. Wilder was thirty minutes late and they couldn't afford to lose time. Scully checked her watch again and sighed. Meanwhile Mulder was pacing around the office looking at the photographs on the walls.
Scully walked to the desk and stared absently at the papers scattered around. She picked one up and read through it. "Mulder, look at this. These are order forms dated all the way back to 1986."
"What are they for?"
She replied, "Fertilizer and pesticides used on farms around here. The company is based in Grand Island." Scully picked up a plain white sheet of paper. "This is a letter to the sheriff. It says that reported incidents of delusions caused by the chemicals are false."
"Wait a second! Did you say delusions?" Mulder asked, suddenly interested.
"Yes, the company has allegedly been surpassing the usual testing and marketing the pesticide," she answered. "It gives the address of the doctor in charge. I'm going to go check this out."
"All right," Mulder agreed. "I'm going to wait for Wilder a little while longer and then I'll head out to Gatlin." "I'll meet you out there."
Hamburg, Nebraska Aug. 16
When Scully arrived at the address in the letter, the first few drops of rain had begun to fall. The sky seemed like it was going to burst. The clouds passing in front of the sun cast dancing shadows along the ground.
A man in his fifties was crouched down pulling weeds from a rose garden along the side of the house. He didn't hear her car and continued to pull the unwanted plants. The roses looked like the most cheerful part of the land. The paint on the house was peeling and bugs flew through tears in the screened-in porch. Other than the roses, the corn was the only thing that seemed healthy. It was taller than Scully and there was not a wilted leaf among the rows.
"Are you Dr. Cossack?" she called out. He stood and brushed the dirt off his hands.
"I am he," he replied in soft, cultured tones. They shook hands. "How can I help you, young lady?"
She pulled out her badge. "I'm Agent Dana Scully, with the FBI. I have some questions about your research."
"About the pesticides, no doubt," he responded. "I do not go a day without regretting what I did."
"What *did* you do?" she prompted.
"You know about the incidents in Gatlin and Hemingford, I assume?" She nodded and he continued, "Did you notice my corn?"
"Yes, it's perfect."
"Indeed, it is. The pesticides I invented caused it to be this way. The corn that rotted was packed into barns and sheds across the county. Anyway, some of the chemicals were rather harsh."
"What do you mean by harsh?"
"The company I've since retired from pulled a few strings and got the product approved by the federal government."
"What about the charges of hallucinations?"
Cossack hesitated. "Well. . . it's possible. The label warned of possible side effects from breathing it in. It was known to alter the mind, especially in children."
"Could that have caused the tragedies in Gatlin and Hemingford?" Scully asked.
"Now wait a minute, Ms. Scully! Those children caused the massacre, not the pesticide."
"But couldn't the pesticide make the children hallucinate?" she pressed.
"Yes, it is possible. . ." he said reluctantly. "But I don't see why you're asking. It happened a long time ago."
"And now we need to know the cause so it doesn't happen again."
The doctor shook his head. "You won't be able to stop it because too many people are greedy and want the profits, but too many people know what is happening. For every person that dies because they know the truth, there is always someone living who is willing to tell it."
"Do you think the children committed the crimes?" she asked.
"You know the answer to that, Miss Scully. The government allowed the pesticide to be used in Gatlin and also in Hemingford. Maybe the government is just as guilty as the children. But then again, who are we to judge?"
"Who are we to judge?" she repeated in disbelief. "Dr. Cossack, if they allowed you to bypass all the testing and red tape then our government released a deadly chemical substance on an unsuspecting populace!"
Dr. Cossack raised an eyebrow. "I thought federal agents were expected to defend the government who employs them."
"Let's just say I've been disillusioned by certain government policies."
Cossack nodded. "Agent Scully, I wish you the best of luck in trying to stop this. You will need it, I'll guarantee that."
Gatlin, Nebraska Aug. 16
Mulder was ten minutes outside of a town he had never been in and never wanted to be in. He rolled down the window of his rental car, thinking about nothing in particular. The heat inside was almost suffocating even though the car had air-conditioning. Mulder thought he could see the humidity in the air.
The corn guarded Route 17 like a line of sentries. It was unsettling. The road was deserted
". . . my persecutors will stumble and not prevail! Do you believe that, brothers 'n' sisters? Do you believe that when the Time of Testing comes the children shall be taken into paradise? The Bible says that your mind must be pure like a child's to receive His kingdom."
It was the same evangelist Mulder had heard before. It was also the same kid they had heard leading the chanting in the corn. He turned up the volume and listened as he continually drove closer to Gatlin. He passed a sign that said: GATLIN 5 MI. DRIVE CAREFULLY TO PROTECT OUR CHILDREN. It had been pierced and twisted from the bullets of a .22. Lovely.
"Who must we believe, children, the Evil Ones or our Lord Jesus Christ. He Who Walks Behind the Rows shall provide and protect if we hold him in our hearts. We must sacrifice and walk among the rows to heaven and our salvation. Believe, and you will be saved."
That drivel was beginning to annoy him. The atmosphere and the corn was making him feel claustrophobic. Soon after the corn fields gave way to a widened road and several farmhouses.
At thirty-feet intervals came white signs on white washed sticks. BE. . .THOU. . .FAITHFUL. . .UNTO. . DEATH. Another set read: A. . .CLOUD. . .BY. . .DAY. . A . . .PILLAR. . .OF. . .FIRE. . .BY. . .NIGHT. Mulder shivered even though he was nowhere near cold.
TAKE. . .THIS. . .AND. . .EAT. . .SAITH. . .THE . . LORD. . .GOD. Mulder watched those go by with interest.
Over a hill and the three blocks called Gatlin was spread before him. It was dreary and depressing. The windows on Main Street were boarded up and the paint was peeling off. A rusted-out tractor with no wheels sat on the front lawn of the school, John F. Kennedy Elementary.
He stopped at a Texaco and gawked at the prices. A cardboard sign advertised 35.9 for regular and 38.9 for high octane. Prices hadn't been that low since the late sixties or early seventies.
He stopped the car at a cafeteria called the Gatlin Bar and Grill. The menu on the wall bragged about having "the best darn rhubarb pie this side of the Mississippi!" A calendar on the wall confirmed that the town had been dead for twenty-two years. It said August, 1964. There was nothing else that would provide evidence for the massacre.
Mulder left the grill, having found nothing else important. He drove past the Gatlin Municipal Center and Town Hall. Beyond that was the proverbial diamond in the rough. The diamond was called the Grace Baptist Church.
A newly painted building with a neatly trimmed lawn, the Grace Baptist Church was immaculate. The sunlight seemed to shine down on this portion of the town and illuminate it. The church was one floor with a small steeple. There was no sign of the beautiful mosaic windows as in most churches. As Mulder walked inside he noted that it did not have the musty smell like other town buildings. In fact, it smelled faintly of lemon Pledge.
There were two rows with ten pews and raised altar up front. On the wall behind it was a mural of the crucified Christ dying on the cross. His eyes reflected pools of fire in which the forsaken sinners drowned. Their faces were twisted in expressions of agony.
One strange and uneasy difference about this grinning Christ was the green hair. Mulder reached out and touched it, soon realizing in was an entwined mass of summer corn. The mural looked like it had been painted by kid.
He was also willing to bet that this wasn't Grace Baptist Church anymore. Scattered letters in the corner confirmed this theory. If it wasn't a Baptist church, then what was it? Mulder was fairly sure that no religion had a Christ with green corn hair. Unless someone had sent a memo around that he had never received.
The pipe organ in the corner was the next focal point. Something was wrong with it and Mulder figured out what. The keys had been ripped out and stops pulled. Cornhusks, now dry and dead, filled the pipes. A plaque, made out of construction paper and cardboard said, MAKE NO MUSIC EXCEPT WITH HUMAN TONGUE SAITH THE LORD GOD.
Mulder climbed the four steps to the pulpit and stared uneasily at the painting. It was really bothering him. Mulder spun around, hand on his Sig, positive that he was being watched. He pulled out his gun and released the safety.
The organ, the painting, the letters were pieces to a very sick puzzle that he had to fit together. Mulder walked to the lectern and saw a Bible open to the book of Job. He read aloud, his voice echoing throughout the empty church and breaking the silence.
"Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said, Who is this that the darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?. . . Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if thou hast understanding."
Mulder leafed through the rest of the Bible, discovering quickly that while the Old Testament was untouched, the New Testament had been chopped up. Entire chapters had been cut out in certain books.
He reached down under the podium onto a shelf. A large book with a verse stamped onto the cover, rested on the shelf. The verse said: THUS LET THE INIQUITOUS BE CUT DOWN SO THE GROUND MAY BE FERTILE AGAIN SAITH THE LORD GOD OF HOSTS.
Lord God of Hosts. Wasn't that a phrase written on the signs on Route 17 entering Gatlin? Mulder thought it was familiar. He opened the book.
On each wide sheet were two columns. The letters had been carefully formed by a child of about seven or eight. They were large and evenly spaced and in some places an eraser had smudged the ink.
Amos Deigan (Richard), b. Sept. 4, 1945 Sept. 4, 1964
Mulder picked up his phone and dialed Scully's number. She answered on the first ring. "Scully, it's me. Where are you?"
"I'm at the house of the doctor who performed the tests on the pesticides. You won't believe what I found out, Mulder. Our government allowed the company to bypass all testing in order to get it on the market. I think they released the pesticide on the crops in 1964 or earlier, using Gatlin as a test subject."
"Who told you this?" Mulder asked.
"Dr. Cossack, the scientist in charge. The allegations about hallucinations were correct, Mulder. I did some research on the chemicals used. They cause hallucinations and/or psychotic delusions in people, especially children."
"Shit," Mulder whispered. "Anything else?"
"Hold on one second," she said. Mulder heard a man's voice in the background. "Dr. Cossack just told me that the sheriff was informed in 1964 and in 1986. He knew what was happening."
"Sheriff Wilder probably knew too, Scully. He was transferred to Wheatley because of it."
"Right. I'm going to see Floyd Singing Crow. I think I need to talk to the good sheriff," she said.
"Oh, Scully, wait! I did find something here."
"Where are you, Mulder?" she asked.
"I'm in the Grace Baptist Church in Gatlin, or at least it used to be Grace Baptist Church. It's unbelievable, Scully. This town has been dead for over twenty years. The church itself has been transformed into this altar for a pagan god, or so it seems."
"What does it look like?"
Mulder looked around, "Small, about twenty pews. Recently cleaned, it smells like disinfectant. There's a painting on the wall of a crucified Jesus Christ with green hair, black eyes--
"Wait! Did you say green hair?" she interrupted. He could sense the disbelief in her voice.
"Yeah, made out of corn."
"Yeah. Anyway it shows sinners drowning in pools of fire." He went on to explain the organ and the sign.
"Mulder, I'm coming up there as soon as I can. This does not sound good."
"It gets better, Scully. I found a book containing a list of names." He read off the names and dates to her. "If this is correct, and I think it is, these children were nineteen when they died."
"Mulder, you're saying these kids committed suicide on their nineteenth birthday?"
"Not, suicide." He corrected. "I think they were sacrificed in the corn and for the corn."
"Do you still think the corn is the killer?"
"Scully, if you were here right now I think you'd be willing to entertain that possibility," Mulder told her.
"I'm going to get Floyd. If everything is as weird as you say, I think we'll need his help."
"I think you're right. I'll call you as soon as I find anything else," Mulder said. Then they hung up. Mulder continued reading down the names until the something made him stop.
Rachel Stigman (Donna), b. June 21, 1957 June 21, 1976
The book ended with Ruth Clawson (Sandra), b. April 30, 1961. She had died in 1979 at, of course, eighteen. Mulder was pleased to discover that there were two more books on the same shelf. He brought out the one on top (which had the same gold stamp as the first) and opened it up.
The second wasn't too different from the first- it kept up the records of births and deaths. Mulder did pick up on one curious thing. An entry read: Eve Tobin, b. June 16, 1965 June 16, 1983. Mulder was now assuming
Another entry said Job Gilman (Clayton), b. Sept. 5, 1964. The next baby to be born was Eve Tobin. Tobin, Tobin, hadn't there been a Tobin earlier in the book? That second name in parenthesis indicated that it was the birth name. For Little Eve Tobin, there was no second name, no original name.
Mulder went back to the first three pages. There had been another Tobin on one of these pages. Judith Tobin (Catherine), b. Nov. 15, 1950 - Nov. 15, 1968. Judith Tobin, at fifteen, had gotten pregnant and had a baby. The first baby to be born by a child of the corn. Eve was the first woman. Eve Tobin had died in 1983.
Adam Greenlaw, b. July 11, 1965 July 11, 1983
Adam, now they had the first man. The pieces of the puzzle had long since come together.
Mulder shut the book, now feeling slightly sick due to the heat. He fanned himself with his hand and cursed himself for wearing a suit. He slowly stumbled down the pulpit steps and sat down in the pew. The grinning face of the green-haired Christ laughed at him, mocking him.
Mulder closed his eyes, thinking he could just sit down and catch his breath. He needed to sort through his thoughts and figure out who they had to arrest for the murders of Alex Crauss, Angela Sommers, and George McMann. He was too weary and too weak to stand up. He fell asleep without realizing it.
Behind him, there was the tinkling laughter of children.
Wheatley, Nebraska Aug. 16
Scully dialed Mulder's cell phone, but received no answer. This worried her. Mulder never turned off his phone or left it anywhere when they were on a case. It was the one policy he *did* follow.
Right now, though, she had to find Floyd. When she arrived, a deputy's patrol car was sitting in the driveway. Two deputies were talking with him on his porch, and even from a distance Scully could see the serious expressions on their faces. She took this as a definite bad sign.
"Mr. Singing Crow, what's going on?" Scully called out as she walked up the driveway, gravel crunching under her feet. Floyd and the deputies net her halfway.
"Agent Scully, have you seen the sheriff?" Floyd asked. His skin looked darker and more sun-baked than ever. His voice had an edge of concern.
"No, I haven't. Agent Mulder and I were supposed to meet with him earlier, but he never showed. What's going on?" she repeated the question. The deputies shuffled their feet and exchanged glances. "What's going on?"
A deputy replied, "Agent Scully, Sheriff Wilder is missing. He was called to report to the Decker place at noon and he never came."
"Well go out and search," she instructed, "and call me as soon as he's found."
When the deputies had left, Floyd said to Scully, "You *do* know that he won't be found alive, right?"
"How do you know?"
"Last night's moon was a full red-orange harvest moon. It signals blood and death ahead," Floyd said gravely. "If Jack hasn't returned by now, he has most likely gone to join his ancestors."
Scully cleared her throat. "What kind of pesticides are used around here?" she asked casually. "You must need a lot for all this corn."
Floyd nodded, "You've heard about the hallucinations, haven't you? I wouldn't believe everything they tell you, Agent Scully, because it still doesn't account for *everything* that happened."
He changed the subject, "Where's Agent Mulder?"
"That's the reason I came here. He's in Gatlin checking around. He told me to come get you and then drive out there."
"He's in Gatlin?" the Indian's face twisted into a mask of fear and worry. "Agent Scully, we have to get to Gatlin! Now!"
"Why? What is it?" she asked.
He was already walking to her car. "The corn is becoming more desperate for sacrifice. If the children want to survive, they have to get him into the corn." Floyd jumped in the car.
"What do you mean by 'get him into the corn?" she asked as she strapped the seat belt on.
"They'll kill him."
Gatlin, Nebraska Aug. 16
Mulder shifted in his seat, breathing in the sweet aroma of corn. He was sitting in the church, but in Mulder's mind he was running out to a car. A T-Bird, he saw. There was a woman inside, pounding frantically on the horn. He thought she was beautiful.
"Vicky!" he heard himself cry with a voice that was not his own. He heard laughter, childish laughter and he spun around. Surrounding him was a group of kids, the oldest about seventeen. They held knives, ropes, hammers, and rocks. Makeshift weapons that could really hurt if used properly. He saw a girl with blond hair holding a jackhandle. He had an urge to throw up all over his loafers.
Vicky screamed, "Burt, help meeeeee!" Mulder turned around, hoping that Burt was around to help. Then he realized with a sudden horror that she was talking to him, that *he* was Burt.
The children came, walking slowly, nudging each other and pointing. They smiled at her and at him. Innocent smiles. Mulder felt frozen with shock. They advanced on the car trying to pull Vicky out.
Mulder got over the shock and ran to a boy of about sixteen with red hair spilling out of a hat. He saw a glint of metal and a sharp pain stabbed through his arm. He looked down at a jackknife sticking out of his arm. The polo shirt
The scene cut to the corn and Mulder was running, tripping through rows and rows of neatly planted corn.
He could hear them yelling far behind them. Speed was now his advantage. Night soon fell and Mulder
Mulder walked slowly into the clearing, his eyes wide and sweat pouring off his face. "Oh, Vicky, my God. . ." he whispered in that voice that was not his. She was tied to a crossbar by barbed wire. Her eyes had been gouged out and her mouth filled with cornhusks,
She wasn't alone. The body of the Grace Baptist Church minister, now a skeleton, was lying on the ground. Also the man who had once been the Chief of Police. Mulder heard a rustling and he spun around.
The scent of dried corn filled the air, and what rose up before him looked like the monster he had been frightened of as a kid. The monster that inhabited the area underneath his bed. Mulder screamed.
He woke up, bathed in a cool sweat, and looked down. He was wearing suit again and his arm showed no trace of a stab wound. A sigh of relief escaped him. It had been a horrible dream, nothing more
YOU ARE NOW ENTERING GATLIN. THE NICEST LITTLE TOWN IN NEBRASKA - OR ANYWHERE ELSE!
Floyd exhaled when he read the sign. "If this is the nicest little town in Nebraska, I'm damned for sure." Scully nodded and continued to stare and the masses of corn outside. She was scared to death (no pun intended) of what they might find.
"Don't worry," Floyd assured her. "He'll be all right. I think we made it in time."
Ten minutes later they were searching Gatlin. Scully was shocked as she witnessed everything Mulder had seen before. "Oh my God," she whispered as she fingered the calendar page.
Floyd broke her thoughts. "We have to get over to the church! It's the last place he would be!" She nodded and followed him out the door.
Meanwhile, Mulder had a slight problem. No, that was an exaggeration. He had a very large, very bad problem. He was hearing children's laughter close by. The dream had taught him the significance of the giggling. Mulder was now standing on the front steps, hidden in the shadows. The cool metal of the gun rested in his hands.
Scully had her gun in hand, and Floyd was wishing he had brought his shotgun. She kept them in the shadows. They continued slowly to the church. Scully glanced at Floyd. His face was tight and expressionless. She knew he, like her, was gauging the distance between them and the building. The laughter was grating on his nerves, and she was barely managing to keep her control in check.
"The laughter. Where do you think it's coming from?" she whispered.
"Hopefully not enough to be able to overpower us," Floyd answered. They inched closer to the building ahead.
"Do you see that?" Scully whispered. "On the steps in the shadows."
"Yeah, I do. Are you ready?" She nodded in response. Her gun was pointed at the figure. They ran to the church.
Mulder was about to yell for them to stop right there, when he saw a familiar flash of red hair. "Scully!" he whispered.
Mulder was about to explain the dream, when Floyd put a finger to his lips and told them to be quiet. "I just saw something move," he said. Mulder and Scully were poised to spring, but they saw nothing.
"What was it?" Mulder asked.
"One of the children, I think." Scully looked at Mulder, she was sensing the nervousness in his body. Mulder glanced down at her and smiled. He held up two crossed fingers and she smiled back.
"There it is again!" Floyd said.
Mulder whispered, "I saw it this time. Floyd, do you know the layout of the town?"
"Yes, well enough," he answered. "Right now let's go around the back of the church."
They walked around the building, careful not to make any sound. Scully noticed how neatly the lawn had been manicured. They swung around the corner, guns held in front. Nothing.
Mulder drew in a sharp breath. Sitting on flat tires was a rusty T-Bird, the one in the dream.
"What's wrong?" Scully asked. Mulder shook his head, telling her it was nothing. The laughter again. They turned and Floyd grimaced.
"Surrender your soul to He Who Walks Behind the Rows." Ten children stood in front of them. A boy of about thirteen with dark hair and a hat like Lincoln's had spoken. A few kids giggled, the others stared with expressions of hunger and malice.
Scully pulled out her badge. "I'm Agent Dana Scully, with the FBI. This is my partner, Agent Mulder. We need to ask you a few questions. Starting with, where are your parents?"
The boy cocked his head slightly. "Their blood was for the corn."
"What do you-
The kid interrupted her. "You want more answers," he said. He grinned teasingly, "Then you'll have to catch us!" They turned and took off at a run.
"Hey!" Mulder shouted. "Stop right there!" The children paid no attention and continued to run.
Scully replied, "Then we'll have to take that chance! Come on, Mulder, let's go!" They soon found out, however, that Floyd was right. They were being led into the corn.
"Floyd!" Mulder yelled. He tossed the man his cell phone. "Call the sheriff! Tell him we need backup!"
Scully and Mulder, with Floyd several feet behind, now left the hard asphalt for the cool soft grass of the cornfields. The children were faster than they expected, but then they had probably been running through the cornfields their entire lives.
The grass underneath their feet was soft and soundless. It made no print. Scully suddenly stopped Mulder. "I don't think we'll be able to catch them. They know these fields and we don't."
Mulder nodded in agreement. "We should split up. There's a clearing down towards the highway, it's hard to miss."
"How do you know that?" Floyd asked.
Mulder replied, "If I told you, you'd think I was just as crazy as those kids." He pulled the gun out of his ankle holster and handed it to Floyd. "Take this. Do you know how to use a gun?" Floyd said he did.
They split up and Mulder went right so that the highway, when it came would be on his right. He held the gun in one hand, and shoved the corn away with the other. The dream was coming back to him and with a dawning awareness, he became sure that the dream wasn't quite a dream. The incident he had witnessed had actually happened.
He heard the laughter to his left and he cut through the rows towards it. Mulder did not want to end up like Burt and Vicky. No way. His feet pounded through the field. There were no weeds to step on, no crows to watch him. Other than the corn, there was nothing.
In the corn, the sunlight strained to reach the ground. It was dark and shady and cooler than the street. Mulder ducked down to keep from being seen. They could not lose the element of surprise.
"Betcha can't catch me!" a voice shouted to him. A little girl, up ahead, was waving at him and smiling. He was almost won over by her obvious charm. Almost. She ran down the rows and giggled. Mulder was about to follow her when a notion crossed his mind. He was being manipulated. They had somehow known where he was, and they knew where Scully was. They were leading them into the clearing.
Mulder wondered where Scully and Floyd were. They should've been there by now. The children stepped closer.
Scully almost fell and twisted her ankle from the damn heels she was wearing. But she continued to push her way through the stalks, heading for the clearing Mulder had said would be there.
She wasn't hearing any more laughter, just the corn rustling in the wind. Scully paused and looked around, trying to get her bearings. Route 17 was now to her right, of that she was sure. Scully looked up into the dark sky. Her father used to take her on weekend camping trips and he would teach her all about the stars. She found the North Star and pushed northeast, where the clearing should be.
Row after row, she only found more corn. She was moving so fast she almost tripped. Scully looked down to see what had caused her to stumble. It was Floyd and he was lying on the ground. Blood trickled down his forehead. Scully crouched down beside him.
"Floyd, what happened?" she asked.
He opened his eyes. "It's okay. I'm fine. The corn tried to slash my throat and I ran. It cut my forehead."
"The corn?" she questioned. Scully wondered if he hit his head, too. She grabbed his hand after he insisted that she help him up.
"No, I haven't. I'm still looking for that clearing he said was here," she said softly.
Floyd took a handkerchief out of the pocket of his jeans and held it to his bleeding forehead. Scully watched as it turned red. "We have to get you to a doctor." He nodded weakly.
He picked up Mulder's gun and tucked it into the waistband of his jeans. "Agent Scully, did you notice anything about the corn?" His voice was strained, as if he was exhausted from pushing the pain away.
Scully scanned the corn and she did notice something. "There's no weeds, or crows, or flowers. Just. . ." she trailed off.
"Corn," Floyd finished. He was about to add something when the laughter began again.
Scully grabbed his arm and pulled him forward. "Come on! We have to find that clearing." They continued to search.
Meanwhile Mulder was having the time of his life. The children just stood, staring at him. Something snapped and the corn rustled. Mulder hoped it was Scully and Floyd, but he also wished they would be a little quieter.
The crackling got louder and the kids exchanged fearful glances. Apparently they knew what it *could* be and what they didn't *want* it to be. Mulder realized for the first time that they were standing around a campfire.
"He Who Walks Behind the Rows," the preacher whispered. "We have failed him again." The other children huddled together and one of them began to sob.
"Would one of you tell me what is going on?" Mulder asked. By now he was figuring that it was Scully and Floyd Singing Crow. Or maybe hoping was still a more appropriate word.
They ignored him and began to pray softly. The preacher was muttering something about the Blue Man and the Age of Favor. Mulder lowered the gun cautiously, not willing to let down his guard or alert them. He was well aware it could be a set-up.
The fire, which had been burning brightly on plenty of kindling, suddenly died. A baby screamed at the unanticipated blackness. Mulder kicked at the logs and ashes. No glowing embers, no sparks. He touched the wood. It was cool and dry.
His eyes searched the corn, occasionally glancing back towards the children, who now didn't seem as formidable. They looked frightened.
There was a crash as lightning struck the ground at their feet. The children screamed. Mordecai was shouting through tears, "Oh my God! Oh my God! He's coming! We're all going to die!"
The strike had knocked Mulder off his feet and onto the ground. He wondered through a haze if he had been struck by it. Mulder opened his eyes and looked around for his gun. It wasn't where he had dropped it. Somehow the kid Mordecai had managed to run over and get it. He stood over Mulder, pointing the weapon at his head.
"It's not too late," he whispered, more to himself than to Mulder. "The children of the corn can be saved, but you cannot. The corn needs more blood. This time, it will be yours, FBI man."
Mulder was the one who saw it first. It (and that pronoun was the only way he could describe it) rose up from the stalks behind the children. He flashed back to the monster he had seen in his dream. This monster was different. The one Burt had seen had been like a boogeyman that lived in the closet. To Mulder, this was much more horrifying.
The thing was translucent. It was a gray, swirling mist that cold be mistaken for a tornado. Mulder knew, even in his dazed state, that this was no tornado. There was no funnel shape, but there seemed to be a center. He could discern two black impressions that could have passed for eyes. It pushed through the rows towards the children and towards Mordecai. The lightning had come from this. . . force. Electricity crackled throughout it, blue bolts of electrocution.
They reacted fast. The kid fired the gun, but Mulder moved just in time to avoid a bullet in the head. Mordecai swore loudly. Mulder prayed to his lucky stars that the kid didn't try to fire again, or this time he not be quick enough. Mordecai tried to shoot again, but the gun jammed.
He threw it on the ground and fell. The kid looked scrawny but he was strong. He wrapped his hands around Mulder's neck, intended on breaking it. Mulder's mind was foggy so he was having trouble fighting the kid off. They were paying no attention to what was happening behind them.
Mulder somehow managed to gain the upper hand. He twisted the kid's wrist and the hands fell away. He gave the kid one hard kick in the stomach, and Mordecai now on the ground groaning. He clutched his wrist and screamed something about it being broken.
Mulder stood up and felt his knees start to buckle. He leaned over as a sudden wave of dizziness and nausea overcame him. He passed out.
If he had remained awake, Mulder would've seen the thing sweep over the children blowing their hair. The corn cut their throats and wrists and ankles. The blue bolts of electricity struck them down. Mulder stayed unconscious.
Scully sighed. They had been running for the past half hour and had completed a full circle.
"I don't think we can get there," he said. Scully kicked off her shoe and rubbed her sore foot.
"Mulder's already there," Floyd murmured. He was watching the swirling cloud make its descent.
"Floyd," Scully said impatiently. "We have to get over there. Do you hear those screams? Those kids might be dying."
When he turned to her, she could almost see the light bulb over his head. "I think I know a way to stop this."
"Does this have anything to do with your crazy theory that the corn is our killer? I know you gave Mulder that idea."
"It has everything to do with that theory," he said. "When I was four my grandfather taught me a prayer to banish demons. It was more voodoo than anything. It didn't follow the beliefs of my people, but I still remember it."
Scully, of course, was skeptical, but at this point she was willing to try anything. "What do you need?"
"To find that clearing."
Mulder was Burt again. He was in the same clearing only it was different. The crucified Vicky was behind him. He couldn't look at her. Not yet. The skeletons of the police chief and minister were still there. A thought, almost hysterical, passed through his mind. Mulder was not the type to become hysterical, this was a Burt thought.
Panic ripped through his body. Something was coming through the corn. It was that thing that had swirled over the children. It was coming for him. A shadow fell across the corn on one side. It was a large shadow. The shadow of He Who Walks Behind the Rows. Mulder/Burt turned to flee but he had no chance. The corn had closed up. It had created a barrier to keep intruders out
The thing Mulder saw now had glowing red eyes the size of footballs. It smelled of dried corn. A good smell. A smell he would usually associate with summer and dinner and peeling the husks away from the corn and pulling off the corn silk. . . not so bad. The image flickered and reality came crashing down. He saw the swirling thing combined with the vision. It was killing the kids and the ground was absorbing the blood.
He heard another rustling and then saw through the thin haze over his eyes, two figures. One tall and tan, the other short and strong. He heard the voices of the children, not laughing but screaming.
The tall figure stared in awe at the swirling thing. He began to say a prayer. Mulder could hear only syllables. It wasn't Navajo or he would've recognized it. Albert Hosteen had taught him some. The prayer was then said in English and Mulder managed to catch some phrases.
"Drive out the evil. . .no more blood. . .like our fathers before us. . ." It continued on and on. The prayer was repeated over and over again as the thing began to lose some steam. Mulder tried to sit up but when he saw the crucified body of Vicky Robeson he fell back down, caught back in Burt's memory.
He saw something else then. Mulder was in another field, no clearing. The corn surrounded him, suffocating him. He had more strength, he was taller and heavier. The corn wrapped around his wrists and ankles, restraining him on the ground.
The heat washed over him and he smelled popcorn. Another vision came. He was sitting in a church next to an older woman. A priest was screaming and shouting. He held a cob of corn. Mulder felt an urge to scream. This panic was not his own. This panic was not even Burt's.
"Sacrifice in the corn will you die for me my Lord my God please pass the corn declare if thou hast understanding beyond the Age of Favor nineteen eighteen their blood was for the corn. . ."
It screamed in his ears and blinded his eyes. Colors had sounds, words had texture- it was like a bad acid trip. Mulder tried to call for help, but he was reduced to shriveling up in terror. He heard crackling, he felt his flesh burn.
"Fire!" he choked out. The two people turned.
Floyd recited the prayer and watched helplessly as the children were being killed off one by one. As soon as it had begun, it died. The kids had been crucified in some crude way, the corn tying the hands and feet. They were all bleeding. Floyd thanked God he was alive.
Off in the distance, sirens wailed.
Two Days Later. . .
Mulder woke up to see the smiling face of his partner. "Hey, Scully. How long have I been asleep? And what am I in here for?"
Scully sighed. "Two days for second-degree burns. The doctors say you're going to be just fine, but you were lucky."
"Fine?" he asked with a small smile. "I feel like someone threw me in the oven." The door opened and Floyd walked in. Mulder smiled at him. "Did you stop that thing?"
Floyd shook his head. "It got all the blood it wanted, so it died."
"Thank God it's over," Scully said.
"It isn't over, Scully," Mulder said. "It will be back." Not knowing what else to say, Scully left the room to go get Mulder water. Floyd stayed.
"You had visions," Floyd said.
"Yeah, bad ones. A guy named Burt and a woman named Vicky. I tried to save her but. . .They both died." Mulder looked at him, silently asking how he knew.
Floyd replied grimly, "They passed through Gatlin in 1976. You must have somehow had a connection to Burt. You probably retraced his steps right down to the place he died in."
"They were real?" he asked.
"Oh yes they were. They were on their way to California from Boston. Their car was found with a body in the trunk. It's a long story, but they were found crucified in the same clearing we were in."
"I had another vision, except this time I actually experienced it. A man was tied down with the corn and he burned to death," Mulder said wearily.
Floyd looked shocked. "Agent Mulder, yesterday they found Jack Wilder's body. He had been tied down with corn and set on fire."
Mulder sat up a little. "Wilder's dead?" When Floyd nodded, Mulder asked, "What happened to the children?"
"All dead. The coroner arrived that night to take the bodies. They were buried yesterday afternoon in the same cemetery as Jack." Those last few words had a note of bitter disgust. He stood up to leave. "Agent Mulder, in twelve years or so you'll be back here investigating the same case."
Mulder smiled a little sadly. "I'll see you then."
Floyd shook his head. "No, I'm getting out of here." With a small smile he added, "Maybe I'll become an FBI agent." Mulder laughed.
The Nicest Little Town in Nebraska was once again deserted. The balance had been off, but now it was back on track. One day, things would again become uneven. That was okay, because there was another group of children who would rise up. Of course, that group was about ten years off in the future. The corn rustled softly in the breeze. It could wait. It had all the time in the world.
End of Story