Title: Day of the Dead
Summary: Mulder takes shelter in a mysterious church on thewrong night of the year...
Author's notes: The readings used are Tobit 3:6; Psalm 22 1-6, 8-9; Revelation 8:6-13, and Mark 11:12-14, 20. This story is based loosely on a ghost story which, I believe, can be found in one of the "Scary Stories for Sleep-Overs" volumes (I don't do much research for these things, if you hadn't already guessed). The service at Mary, Queen of Angels Church is laid out by memory, according to services at St. Norbert Catholic Church (where I go). I'm not meaning to defame anyone's religion here, I'm just using what I know. I'm aware that I left out some stuff, but I honestly do not pay much attention in church.
November 2, 1999
Mulder plodded along the street in the rain. His back was wet. So were his shoes. He was contemplative.
Skinner had once again flatly refused more proof of the conspiracy. He and Scully had once again come within a hairsbreadth of death. And it was ten after seven on a Tuesday night, and he had nothing to do but think. He didn't really want to think, thought.
A building with a tall cruciform spire loomed up ahead. A sign on the door read "Mary, Queen of Angels Church." The sound of a hymn came from inside. Mulder ducked into the lobby to dry off his trenchcoat.
Scully would love to see this, he thought. Me, in a church. He didn't know why Mass was being held on a Tuesday, but there were no chairs in the lobby and his feet hurt. So Mulder slid into a back pew just after the skeletal priest finished the opening prayers. The rest of the congregation was seating itself as well, and no one noticed.
A middle-aged man with a hank of light brown hair came up to the ambo. "A reading," he said clearly, "from the Book of Tobit." Mulder blinked. This guy sounded almost exactly like...but he couldn't...Pusher was dead...
"So now deal with me as you please,
It is better for me to die than to live,
Lord, command me to be delivered from such anguish,
The man who wasn't Robert Modell raised the big Bible up. "The Word of the Lord."
"Thanks be to God," the congregation responded. Mulder found himself mumbling the words with them.
A dark-haired woman stepped up to the ambo, holding a red one-inch binder that looked out of place in the subdued church. She looked to the back, where a heavyset red-haired man was seated at an organ. They nodded and mournful music filled the church. The woman sang in a sweet alto, "My God, My God, oh why have you abandoned me?" She raised one slender hand and the congregation sang it back to her. She continued with the melancholy responsorial psalm.
"Lord, I call by day and night,
"All who see me laugh at me,
It was only after she had finished and gathered up her binder than Mulder realized who she was or, rather, who she looked like. But Kristen Kilar was dead, too...
A third reader approached the ambo. He was gangly and had a high hairline and looked overwhelmingly familiar. Mulder finally placed the nervous tic with a name: Jason Ludwig, deceased. Death by flare gun. "A reading from the book of Revelation," he said loudly.
"When the first angel blew his trumpet, there
"When the second angel blew his trumpet,
"When the third angel blew his trumpet, a large
"When the fourth angel blew his trumpet, a third
"Then I looked again and heard an eagle flying
Woe to the inhabitants of the earth from the rest
"The Word of the Lord." Pseudo-Ludwig again raised the book, and again the congregation responded. He carried the book with him when he sat down.
The red-haired organist gestured to a choir of largely-elderly men and women with red binders in their wrinkled hands. He hammered out an angry Alleluia in a minor key that made Mulder think twice about staying for the rest of the service. But something kept him still, transfixed by the entire affair.
The skeletal-looking priest stood, and laid his hands on a tall black deacon. The deacon went to the ambo, carrying the leather-bound black Gospel. "A reading from the Gospel according to Mark," the deacon said, and Mulder realized it was none other than Augustus Cole wearing the vestments. And he was certainly dead.
"Glory to you, O Lord," the congregation said, and Mulder found himself saying it with them.
"The next day as they were leaving Bethany Jesus
And he said to it in reply, 'May no one ever eat
Early in the morning, as they were walking along,
"The Gospel of the Lord."
"Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ."
Cole (or the deacon that looked like Cole, a part of Mulder's brain which somehow remained rational argued,) sat, and the skeletal priest stood up.
And he proceeded on the longest, most horrifying sermon Mulder could imagine. He extolled the foolishness of life, glorified death and the dead; told the congregation that we laugh at birth and cry at funerals because we aren't the ones involved in either. He called suicide the "penultimate virtue" and championed sainthood for those who performed euthanasia. Mulder knew that a lot of this was wrong, both doctrinally and fundamentally, but found his path to the exit blocked by the heavyset organist. His head started to swim; the man paying rapt attention to the homily was none other than Special Agent Sean Pendrell, and he was very obviously alive when he shouldn't be.
"Pendrell?" At least his nerves weren't rattled to the point where he couldn't keep his voice down.
The erstwhile agent looked at Mulder with little interest, a condition which was quickly rectified. "What are you doing here?" Pendrell hissed under his breath.
"I just wandered in to get out of the rain and-"
"Never mind. Uh, uh..." Pendrell looked at the priest, who seemed to be wrapping up his homily. "Listen, you have to get out, before the Preparation of the Gifts. Leave as soon as the handshakes start. You got that? No dawdling." Then the priest was leaving the ambo and Pendrell was scurrying back to the organ again.
Mulder stood and held his neighbor's clammy hand, resolutely looking anywhere but to his right. He didn't care to know whom was reciting the Nicene Creed next to him. Still, his attention was grabbed by a decided change in text from the one he'd head Scully recite before:
"For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
"Let us offer one another the sign of peace," the priest announced with his death's-head grin. The grip on Mulder's right hand reversed and became a firm handshake, and he couldn't avoid turning around and looking into Clyde Bruckman's eyes. "Peace be with you," Bruckman said solemnly, and then the skinny guy with the ponytail in front of him turned around and it was Max Fenig, and next to him was Kenneth Soona, and Luther Lee Boggs, and Melissa Scully and Deep Throat and...
Pendrell fired up the organ again, big brassy notes than harmonized darkly with the choir. "Agnus Dei, qui tolis pecata mundi, miserere nobis..." Mulder excused himself to the aisle and collided with a candle-bearer, Emily. The entire congregation was on its feet, moving towards the back, moving towards Mulder. Emily and an Eve held their candles across the door like bars. The press of dead faces, dead hands, now horribly, terribly animated, pressed closer and closer and closer...
Mulder knocked Eve down, shoved the candles away and forced the doors open. He ran out into the driving rain, heedless of the lighting, and didn't slow down until he was in his own apartment. Dripping wet, Mulder sat on his couch and cradled his head until the phone rang.
"It's Scully. Are you all right? You sound out of breath."
"I'm...I'm fine. I think. Maybe not."
"Scully, what's the date?"
"November second, why?"
"Is that anything special? Like, in religion?"
Scully sounded more and more uneasy. "It's All Souls Day, Mulder. I just got back from six-thirty Mass at Sacred Heart myself. Why?"
All Soul's. Day of the Dead. "Never mind, Scully. I'll see you tomorrow."