The Bells

Having moved to town only recently and with nothing on her schedule one fine Sunday morning Ellen decided over breakfast to take a walk in the beautiful park adjacent to the town square. Parking was plentiful in the garage downtown so she left the car there and did some window-shopping on her way to the park.

Arriving at her destination she set out along the path greeting the dog walkers and parents with little ones in strollers. Everyone seemed to be in high spirits. The flowerbeds were vibrant with tulips of every shade imaginable along with foxglove, bright yellow jonquils, dahlias and columbine.

Further on she came to some glorious rose bushes planted in such a way that people could walk among them and take in the wonderful smells. She walked into the midst of them and was admiring some outstanding Sterling Silvers when she noticed a man crouching down and looking about in a furtive manner. He spotted her and straightened up but glanced about as though he expected to be attacked at any moment.

She decided it might be best to leave but as she turned to go he moved alongside her and studied her in a way that made her quite nervous.

“They’ll start ringing any minute now you know.”

“Um, who?”

He shook his head. “Not who, what. The bells.” He pointed to a church tower in the distance. “Then there will be an answer from the other side.”

“Okay…I really must be going, I –“

He touched her arm and then withdrew his hand. “I’m sorry, I mean you no harm, its just that I…” He trailed off as he began looking all around himself again. “Please,” he implored, “I have to tell someone. I just know they’re coming for me, just like they did the woman who was here last week.”

Something about his earnest expression gained him her sympathy. “What is it you want to tell me?”

He hesitated and then began moving toward a bench nearby, beckoning her to join him. “The bells. That’s how they communicate. Always on Sunday you see. That way people don’t suspect. You’re safe as long as they don’t know you’re aware of what the bells are really for. My name is Edward, by the way.”

Great, Ellen thought, he’s certifiable. She decided it would be best to humour him. “I see. Who is that uses the bells to communicate?”

“I don’t know. That’s what I’ve been trying to find out.”

Just then the bells he had pointed to began to chime. Edward jumped up and swung his head in the other direction and as the last peal sounded the church bells on the other side of the square began to ring. He became very agitated and Ellen looked in the direction he was staring and saw a black van pull up just outside the park. Two men got out and began moving quickly in their direction.

Edward began running as fast as he could and the two men from the van, both dressed like hospital orderlies gave pursuit. They caught up with him and began walking him toward the van. He called out to Ellen but she turned away in embarrassment. Both of the men from the van turned and studied her as they put Edward in the van and closed the door.

Ellen watched them drive away. Apparently she had been right, the man was certifiable. He must have escaped from the local mental hospital. She got up and continued her exploration of the park as the church bells continued to ring. It did seem as though they were answering each other she thought. If one was paranoid at any rate.

It was going on noon and she decided to have some lunch and do some shopping. She could always come back to the park next weekend. By the time she got home she had decided to put the incident out of her mind. The new week kept her quite busy, her new job was very demanding, but a small disquiet at the back of her mind began to grow.

When the weekend came she spent Saturday working in the yard and then as Sunday dawned as bright and beautiful as the previous weekend she decided she needed to get out and about. She thought about the park. Why not?

As she started across the lawn to have a look at some beautiful azaleas on the other side she was startled to find Edward approaching from her left.

“Hello Ellen. So good to see you again.”

“Edward! But…you were taken away…” He seemed calm, but in a flat sort of way that was wholly unnatural.

“Oh, that,” he intoned. “A little misunderstanding.”

She was about to ask him why he seemed so different when she felt hands grip each of her arms.

“What the…what are you doing? Let go of me!” It was the two men from the previous Sunday. Edward stood by looking sheepish.

The taller of the two spoke to her in a soothing voice. “There, there now Ellen, just come along, everything will be fine if you just cooperate.”

She struggled against them to no avail. “What is this? Who are you? Edward, what’s going on?”

“They won’t harm you Ellen. It’s for your own good.”

As they dragged her toward the waiting van she looked over her shoulder at Edward who was now standing with a woman who stared off into the distance as though unaware of her surroundings. Ellen gave him an imploring look. He mouthed the words ‘I’m sorry’ and began walking away.

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