Of Bells left Un-rung
By Nathan R. Petrie
Coins jingled in Lindsay’s pocket as she rushed for the museum. The night was clear, and would normally have been peaceful and calm, giving her a most welcome sleep. But of course, she had to be ‘popular’. Lindsay Reinhardt was determined to ‘move up the social ladder’, but would this do the trick?
In the museum there was a certain bell that had hung there silently for two centuries. Now, this bell had been sounded during the Revolutionary War to warn American troops of Britain’s arrival. It had not been rung since the war, but rather hung in the museum as a memory of the past, and of the glories of the war.
At lunch earlier that day some kid who thought he was ‘all that’ decided that he’d be real mature and dare Lindsay to go into the museum and ring the bell. Ring it. How dumb was that? And yet, here she was, at the back door of the museum about to break in. This idea is stupid, she thought to herself. How on Earth was she to break open the glass container that held the bell so she could ring it? Not only that, but ring it so many times that her friends were satisfied.
Many cars were parked in the lot that night for the museum’s annual party. None of her friends seemed to know why the party took place and none of them really cared. Lindsay shook her head.
How do I even get inside the museum? she wondered. She kicked a fence barring the way to where the museum’s garbage was stored, and then gathered her courage to try the gate. Surprisingly, it opened just before she made contact. She lost her balance and fell to the ground.
“Very funny guys,” she said, but no one answered. No one was there.
Standing up, she dusted off her bare knees and straightened her skirt. “That wasn’t funny,” she repeated.
Only the breeze responded, the cold, eerie air.
Lindsay shook her head in disgust and walked, hurrying in unconscious fear, to the back door. She reached for the knob. Surely it’s locked, she thought, but the handle turned easily when she touched it. The girl pushed it open and went inside.
As the door closed behind her, she thought she heard whispers from the darkness. She was gripped by fear, a feeling she immediately chastened herself for, telling herself that it was only the breeze. But deep inside she knew; she knew they were voices.
The door had led her into a dark and damp room. Lindsay took a step forward, her sneakers noisily banging on the metallic floor.
“Shhhhh,” she said to herself, then slapped her head at her immaturity. Why did you do that Lindsay? She gave thanks that none of her friends had seen her silence herself. What an embarrassment that would have been, she thought. Lindsay let her hand slide along the wall in search of a light switch. She found it and flipped it on, the light quickly illuminating the small storage room.
There was a door was just to her right, and stairs in front of her.
“Ugh,” she said to herself as she slapped her knees. Which way was she to go?
Perhaps it was fate, or maybe sheer luck, but her eyes happened to fall upon a map on the wall by the door. Lindsay went to it and found where she was. The room that she now stood in was clearly marked. She needed to take the stairs.
Reluctantly she began to climb. The room in which the bell was stored sat on the third and highest level. The creaky steps added to the eerie atmosphere, as did the rushing wind of the outside world swirling against the wall.
Finally she reached the top floor. With a sigh, Lindsay opened the door and entered the museum.
The recently waxed floors shone brightly in the light of the closest bulb. Lindsay crept forward, her shoes squeaking noisily on the floor.
She remembered the room well, as her mother had forced Lindsay to come there against her will many a time. She had always hated it before, but today it would pay off. She knew that just around the next corner the glass box would be waiting.
She turned the corner. Lightning flashed outside, scaring her so that she jumped. For half a second she thought she saw a person, a cat burglar perhaps, but she quickly killed that thought.
She proceeded forward without fear, knowing that the security system would be disabled on account of the party. The glass box was in a dim spotlight, the bell glowing with anticipation.
Again the lightning flashed, and Lindsay shook her head when a bit of movement caught her eye. It was absurd to think that anyone would be sneaking around in the museum at night, with the partiers and all.
But then again, she was here wasn’t she? What would keep a burglar out?
Even so, Lindsay didn’t give it a second thought, and gently rubbed her hand over the cool glass. It felt thin and supple, like it was moving. Almost…almost like it wanted…
Stop it, Lindsay told herself, ghosts, zombies, Big Foots, they don’t exist. But just like all children, her protests were of little use, and deep inside a fear of something, something unnatural, was slowly filling her soul.
She patted the box and clicked her tongue. Well that’s that, looks like I can’t ring the bell, she said. Then the box shattered. It was unnaturally silent, with no loud cracking sounds or clattering of pieces on the floor. Had she done that, tapping the box?
Lindsay’s sole thought was one of fear. It was an unreasonable fear, one with no cause, she thought, but still it lingered inside of her. She took another look at the bell.
It was bronze and appeared to be polished. That was strange, since no one had ever removed the glass that she knew of, and it had been dull only yesterday. But now the bright bronze bell was shining.
An inscription had been placed on the bell at its making and the words reflected the dim spotlight. In all capital letters the carved text read;
TO RING IN HOPE
IS TO BANISH A TERROR
TO RING IN FEAR
IS TO PERISH IN THE NIGHT
BUT TO RING IN DESTRUCTION
IS TO BE DESTROYED
The words confused the girl. What could they mean? Did she ring in hope? Fear? Destruction? Not only these questions but others rattled in Lindsay’s mind as she placed her hand on the bell; had it really hung there silent for so long? And how did it grow into such a legend? What was that eerie glow that seemed to encircle it?
She walked up to the window and looked outside. A small crowd of teenagers stood around waiting to hear the ringing of the bell.
Lindsay sighed. She had been hoping they would get bored and leave, but of course there they were, perfectly content.
Thunder rolled and lightning answered his call as the girl reached for the bell. In one last futile attempt she raised the window and stuck her head out.
Then, seeing her friends, she took hold of the knotted rope underneath and threw it onto the bell’s insides.
Thunder and lightning, that seemed to be all there was as the bell sounded. It was not a joyous sound, nor was it an evil one, but whether good or evil the ringing of the bell terrified Lindsay and she turned to flee.
But her eyes caught something else. The room was unlike it had been only seconds before. Now, a flower garden had replaced the tile floors, and homes had taken the place of the display cases.
And to replace the darkness, was darkness in its purest form.
Men wearing bright red suits, with guns strapped on their shoulders, stood in single file by the garden. Another man was yelling at them in a military-like fashion.
Lindsay knew who they were; she knew what had happened—to some degree.
The men were soldiers in the British army, and they clearly were preparing for something important. The blood red uniforms turned and their captain stepped forward.
His face crinkled, and with a smile smeared with blood, he opened his mouth to speak.
“Who awakens the dead?” he demanded.
Lindsay cringed as she listened to the cold, dreadful voice of the soldier. The man’s long nose appeared to be broken, and there was a hole in his right temple. At the sight of this Lindsay noticed the deformities of the other ghostly Brits.
One man was missing an arm, another his head. . . and none seemed to notice. Every man’s coat was smeared with blood and dirt— as if they had been taken straight from the scene of battle.
“My name is Lindsay Reinhardt. I a…a.” She swallowed, finding her throat to be dry. “Who are you?”
The man laughed a deep, long, eerie laugh.
“We are the dead, Miss Reinhardt,” he said, pointing to the bell. “In our lives we lived as a terror to a new land, trying to hold on to a country destined to separate.” He nodded and stuck his finger into his fatal wound. “The bell was rung in hope and, as the inscription reads, a terror was banished. Us.”
He took a step forward and thrust his finger into Lindsay’s face. “The terror fell, trapped now in this bloody museum. On the other side of life peace awaits us, but here only torture.” The captain paused, “Upon entering this accursed state we were told that death must be served for death to be righted.”
The man turned around and spun his hand above his head. He laughed and let his accent fill his voice, “And in case your little mind could not comprehend what I said,” he stepped back and lifted his gun above his shoulder, “you must die. For it was you who awakened us, you who brought us out from the closest thing to rest we had. You ended it, and now we have the chance to free ourselves.”
Lindsay turned to run then dove to the ground at the sound of a gunshot. “You will die.”
The teenager hopped up and tried to flee, slipping on the waxed floor. Another shot erupted from behind her. Luckily, the centuries had taken their toll on the men’s aim; she just might have a chance.
The grass faded, the sun disappeared, and again the museum took form. She made for the door she had come from, only to be blocked by a tall man in a red suit. Without thinking she turned to the window, the men blocked that escape as well.
With no other option Lindsay twisted around to face the captain. He chuckled in an evil tone and lifted his rifle.
The girl dove in between the man’s legs and sprinted for the elevator. She banged on the button, but finding it not on her floor made for the steps.
Lindsay let her hand fall on the railing, partly out of habit and partly for balance. She flew down the steps faster than she’d ever run before as she tried to cheat death. If she could make it to the first floor she would have a better chance of survival. The door was right in front of her.
Her hand grasped the doorknob and she rattled it around.
Come on, she thought desperately. But the door was locked.
Footsteps echoed off the walls and Lindsay turned her attention to the door. The girl pulled with all her might.
“Let me show you…” a muffled voice cried from the other side. The door flew open.
“Excuse me,” she said. Her voice was shaky, and she didn’t think to warn them in fear for her own life.
As the door shut behind her she heard the gunshots of the dead soldiers. A scream covered all sound, and would haunt Lindsay’s nightmares for years to come.
The partiers stopped what they were doing and turned to the door.
“Run!” Lindsay cried but the people seemed to not care. “Fire! There’s a fire!”
Now everyone ran; who would have believed that an army of ghosts had inhabited the third floor of the local museum for centuries? But they certainly feared a fire.
A howl could be heard above the commotion of the crowd, and a voice, a deep voice, that said, “Fare thee well, Lindsay of the Reinhardts. Death has been served and the blood be on your hands.”
With that the captain left this world for good, and the bell rang again; ringing in response to the destruction taking place around them all.
Screams filled the air as transparent bodies flooded the halls and exhibits of the museum. The men were being collected, the ringer destroyed.
Lindsay never quite understood what had taken place that night, nor did she wish to. But from that moment forward she thought twice about dares and how to be ‘cool’. One thing she did learn:
Some bells, are better left un-rung.