The Sugar Quill
Author: Jennlee (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: The Truth Is Out There  Chapter: Chapter Two: Investigations
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Chapter 2 - Investigations

In this world truth can wait; she's used to it.

- Douglas Jerrold (1803 - 1857)

Upon arrival in Pugleton, Bea and Mulder headed for the local pub. That would be the best place to gather information. It was an English country pub that looked like it had been pulled from a movie set. They reserved rooms above the pub for the night and had a bit of lunch. The pub’s specials board advertised Toad in the Hole and Pie and Mash. Mulder mumbled something about not missing English food after he left Oxford. Bea ordered their lunch and two pints of ‘best.’

Mulder appraised them the pub locals with an experienced eye as he and Bea drank their ale and ate lunch.

Mulder and Bea finally approached a woman, in her fifties probably, with a weary-looking face. After Mulder bought the woman a pint of the bitter she had been drinking, she was pleased to answer their questions about happenings in the village.

It turned out that Mrs. Grundy had seen strangers in the village recently - quite a lot of them. Neither she nor the locals were sure why they were there. “Not usual,” she shook her head, frowning. “Not at all usual ‘round these parts.” Her neighbor told her it was a hippie cult of some kind. Apparently most of them - there seemed to be thousands with more arriving every day - were staying at a local campsite. She finished off her pint and looked questioningly at her glass.

Mulder signaled the barman and listened to Mrs. Grundy continue on about ‘furiners.’ A few minutes later, the pub door opened and a man walked in. Mrs. Grundy nodded her head at the man who entered. “That’s the camp manager, Mr. Roberts. He knows the most about it all. Although, if you believe what’s going round, he’s been a bit off his rocker his self of late. That’s what comes from mixin’ with a bunch of furiners and crazies.” Mrs. Grundy didn’t seem to worry about insulting the foreigner with whom she was speaking. “I know his wife from the shops, poor thing. She’s a dear - and they have two young ones as well.”

Mulder and Bea thanked the woman and left to talk to this Mr. Roberts. It turned out that Mr. Roberts did indeed own a campground consisting of a few improved spaces but surrounded by large empty fields and woods used for tent camping.

“Funny, the whole lot of them been reserved ahead. And I’ve mowed both fields to make more sites. Lot of people been coming in - more every day - today they’ve been coming in by the hundreds. And none of ‘em got cars or camping vans. Any road, I ‘spect we got thousands now. Sure is a sight to see with the fields filled up with tents. Never seen the like of it, I haven’t.”

Mr. Roberts downed most of the pint he was drinking. “Most years I get a few people here and there in the summertime - on the weekends mostly. Never seen the like of it. Just nipped down to the local here for a quick drink - this is playing hell with my nerves. But I got to get back soon.”

“What’s going on here in Pugleton? Is there some kind of event to bring these people here?” Bea asked.

Mr. Roberts shook his head dourly. “Nah, don’t know. Not really my business, is it?”

“Can you tell us anything about the people in the campground? What are they like?” Bea pressed.

Mr. Roberts got a strange, glassy expression and paused a moment. He murmured, “Just people. Same as you and me. Nothing to tell, really.” He took the last drink from his glass.

A man who had been standing at the bar nearby had been listening to their conversation. He jumped in at Roberts’ words. “Now, that’s not what you said yesterday, Donald.” The man thumped Mr. Roberts on the arm with the newspaper he held. “You went on and on about that lot. Said they were some were foreigners from God knows where and they were all strange - trying to pay in foreign money and dressing in the oddest clothes. Didn’t you say there was a man in a ladies’ housecoat, and someone wearing a kilt and a poncho?”

The man nodded at Mulder, frowning. “He said they looked a right bunch of nutters.”

Mr. Roberts looked surprised and like he was almost remembering something. Nothing more was forthcoming, however. The glassy expression returned to his face. “Well, got to be off. The Missus will want me home.” With that he left the pub, Mulder and Bea staring after him.

They returned to their table to talk alone. “Directed memory loss. That’s got to be it. I’ve seen it before.” Mulder told Bea.

She looked interested, “Where have you seen it before?.

Mulder hesitated a bit, as if he didn’t want to say what he was about to say. “I’ve run across it in some of my investigations. I think it’s something the aliens have used.”

Right, Bea thought, here’s the part where I run screaming. Mulder had said it almost like it was a normal thing to say, and like nobody within earshot would think he was completely barking. Bea looked at him. She knew about his obsession with strange occurrences - that’s why she had called him here after all. She knew he believed his sister had been abducted by extra terrestrial beings. She hadn’t, however, expected him to conclude aliens for her mystery! That’s absolutely crazy, she thought.

“Don’t look at me like that,” Mulder told her. “You were the first to think something’s going on here.”

“Well, something. But I certainly didn’t say I thought it was aliens!” She looked shocked. It’s just his one-track mind, she thought, he must always jump to this conclusion when confronted with the unexplained.

“What do you think it is, then?” Mulder asked.

Bea stammered. “Well, I don’t know, of course. We’ve only just arrived. Could it be some kind of cult? And maybe Roberts was faking that memory thing. Maybe he’s in on it as well. I don’t think we should speculate until we do some further investigation.”

Mulder sighed. “OK, let’s go check it out then.”

They left the pub and headed for the Roberts’ campground. It was now late afternoon. Before the turn-off, Mulder asked Bea to pull over. She was surprised but he explained, “We’re not going to go right up and knock on the door, are we? Let’s get out and walk from here.”

They did so, trying to look inconspicuous and stay near cover as they approached the campground. As the neared the top of a slight hill, they could make out many brightly colored tents pitched in the nearby fields.

Mulder pulled out a pair of small binoculars from his pocket. He looked through them for several minutes. With a slight whistle he handed the glasses to Bea. “Check it out,” he said. “Those may seem like ordinary tents from a distance, but look close.”

Bea looked through the field glasses. At first glance, things seemed normal. Quickly though, her eyes began to pick up on small oddities. First of all, there was a lot of tents, and most did not look like they had been ordered from a camping catalogue. She spotted one that looked like it had a brick chimney on it. Well, that certainly isn’t possible - must be an optical illusion. And that can’t be a weathervane, can it?

There were a few very large tents - bigger than Bea had seen outside of a circus. One was brightly striped in red and white, and was tall with towers and minarets. Bea had never seen a multi-level tent before. Is that even possible? A flash of reflected light caught her eye through the binoculars. A smaller tent with a white picket fence had light reflecting from what looked incredibly like a water fountain.

She handed the glasses shakily back to Mulder. “All right. Either we’re both going completely, stark-raving loony, or … or … well, I don’t know!” She looked at him, “Right. Bloody hell! But don’t think I’m coming round to your alien theory! Why would aliens go camping, anyway? Stressful job? Need a holiday?” She ran her fingers through her hair several times. It was beginning to stand up on end and she knew she must look a bit mad.

“Let’s go in for a closer look,” Mulder suggested.

Bea was just a bit frightened at the prospect. “Do you think we should?”

“Yes, but we’ll wait ‘til dark. It’ll be easier to get in without anyone seeing us.”

They settled in to wait, periodically checking through the binoculars. There were many people about the campground - thousands or possibly even tens of thousands. Maybe more, Bea thought. Where are they all staying? The campground was large, but even so there couldn’t be more than a few hundred tents in all. There were people milling about everywhere. She pointed out to Mulder a steady stream of people emerging from one part of the woods, and walking across the campground and going into another part of the woods.

An hour or so later the sun started to set. Bea nudged Mulder, who had been dozing in the fading heat of the summer sun. It had been a beautiful August summer day - warm but not hot, with spots of fluffy clouds in the sky. “Looks like most of them have gone off into the woods someplace.” She handed him the binoculars.

Mulder grabbed them and saw that indeed, there were far fewer people milling about and there were still people heading into the woods. They waited a little, and within a half hour the campground looked deserted.

“Do you see any people now?” Bea asked.

Mulder took another close look with the field glasses. Among the tents there was nobody having a cook-out and nobody playing volleyball and nobody sitting on lawn chairs. It seemed deserted.

Mulder shook his head. “Let’s go,” he said, walking toward the tents. Bea hurried to catch up, running to keep up with Mulder’s long strides. It was not dark, but the sun had nearly set.

They avoided Mr. Robert’s house, which was near the camp entrance, and went directly toward some of the tents. They stopped in front of a tent which was green. It was in a group of completely green tents. Bea noticed that, strangely, they weren’t green colored canvas or nylon; rather, the tents were completely covered with what looked like plant material. Mulder reached out and touched it. Bea held her breath and looked on. He pulled his hand back and looked at a bit of the plant. “Clover?” He handed it to Bea.

“Looks like it,” Bea answered. “Shamrocks, they call it round these parts and, of course, in Ireland as well.” The tents didn’t seem to be suffering from being covered with a thick carpet of the stuff. Though why anyone would want to cover a tent with shamrocks, Bea didn’t know.

They came across a large group of tents that were bedecked with strange, moving pictures of a scowling man, the caption reading “Krum.”

It looked a little like a flat television screen, but the pictures seemed to be on large pieces of a card-stock, and Mulder could find no projector or electronic equipment of any kind. He touched the picture, which had no effect. It felt like paper under his fingers. He wanted to take one for evidence and wondered if it would cause some kind of alarm or if it would be noticed. He felt around the edges carefully and pulled, but it seemed to be well attached to the tent walls.

Some of the tents were bedecked with flags as well. Bea whispered to Mulder, pointing, “That’s the Bulgarian flag, I think.”

There was an unattended fire outside of a brilliant puce-colored tent. A gigantic black cauldron sat over the fire, a brilliant green substance bubbling slowly. Bea thought absurdly of the Scottish play, Macbeth, and its witches.

A bit of color on the ground caught Bea’s eye as they continued through the campground. As she picked up the strange object, she saw it was a green ribbon rosette. She nearly dropped it as it squealed at her. The words were unfamiliar - they sounded like “Troy! Mullet! Moran!” She examined it closely and could find no battery or speaker. She showed it to Mulder, who examined it and declared he could find no mechanism. The tinny voice stopped when she put the item in her pocket. This, Bea thought, is getting to be like that old American television program, The Twilight Zone.

“Should we have a peek inside?” Bea asked. They were walking past some tents closer to the woods that seemed more normal-looking. With the exception of the one with a wooden doorway and bell pull, they didn’t seem completely out of place in a campground.

Mulder agreed and pointed to a nearby canvas tent. The flap on it was unzipped. Mulder ducked down and went inside. Bea followed. What she saw made her gasp. It was incredible. They suddenly found themselves in what looked like an old fashioned living room parlor. For a moment, Mulder wondered if they had been transported to another place, but looking behind him he could see the tent flap.

This room was far bigger inside than the exterior of the tent led one to believe. Bea muttered in astonishment, “What is this? Something out of Doctor Who?”

“Huh?” Mulder grunted, but Bea didn’t elaborate.

There were a small kitchen and bedroom as well as the sitting room where they were standing. The place smelled. “What’s that smell? Cats?” Mulder asked quietly. Bea was starting to breath very fast and she could only sputter incoherently.

“Breathe, Bea. Slow down - breathe out completely. I think you’re hyperventilating.” After a few moments, she was calmer.

“Sorry, went a bit wonky there for a minute. Mulder, have you ever, in your life, experienced anything like this?” she asked him shakily.

It looked like Mulder was thinking. Bea guessed that he was actually cataloguing his X-Files work, comparing various degrees of oddness he had encountered. He spoke almost carefully, “Well, I have seen some very strange things. And a lot of stuff I couldn’t explain. But no, I definitely don’t recall ever having seen anything like it before.”

“What should we do?” Bea asked.

“I wonder where all these people went off to,” Mulder said. “And how did they get here in the first place? I mean, do they have cars? Buses? I didn’t see any around. Its like they appeared out of nowhere.”

“Let’s get out of this tent.” Bea felt a bit overwhelmed by everything. Mulder nodded and they exited the tent through the flap.

Bea was grateful to be out of the strange tent and back into the open air where things were a bit more normal. It seems that ‘normal’ is beginning to be quite relative, she thought as she noticed another tent nearby that looked like it had three floors.

//
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