Let me tell you, my friend, of a town I visited long ago.
A town located somewhere on this earth, its exact location unknown, its name given by those fortunate enough, or perhaps unfortunate enough, to have been there.
The name’s origin lies in the way one finds the town for you see, this is no ordinary village.
When an individual, such as you or I, ventures into great forests or vast, open plains either for recreation or exploration there is always the chance of losing the way, of getting lost in the great unknown.
When this happens usually the people are saved by their fellow man, the many rescue workers or the knowledgeable locals, from the harsh outdoors and prowling threats but for the rather unlucky, two faiths remain.
Death by one of many causes, dehydration, starvation, animal attack, etc, etc.
There are simply more ways to die in such a dire situation than any one man could count and therefore it is the most likely of the two remaining options but for only a handful people throughout known human history there awaits a whole ‘nother destiny.
On the brink of death, my body and soul broken, I lay on the ground, looking up at the sky in wait for the end.
I closed my eyes and waited for longer than I care to recall, life slowly seeping into the cold, hard ground below yet I didn’t die.
Instead I heard a faint noise far, far away.
Everything else became dulled, the pain, the hunger, the cold, as the sound grew ever stronger.
Slowly I begun to recognize it, the bells, church bells toiling in the distance.
I opened my eyes to see a faint light coming from the same direction as the sound.
I stood up, all pain, hunger and thirst having vanished , banished by the bells.
After walking towards the light source for some time I found myself on a town square, the bells now silent.
Looking around everything seemed perfectly normal.
A large, round, cobblestone plaza surrounded by houses that could be dated back as far as the 16th century by studying its architecture and details, yet none of them seemed aged in any way.
No rot, no cracks in the walls nor slants, no collapsing roofs, as if it were all very well maintained or only built recently.
A few stores stood in between the homes such as a butcher, a florist, even a small candy store.
There was one house, however, that was different.
Where are all others were dark, their inhabitants having long ventured off into the land of dreams, that one house still had a light burning behind its windows.
Having nowhere else to go I decided to see if anyone were home, a person kind enough to help a stranger in need.
I approached the large, oak door and knocked as loudly as I could.
Doubt started to seep into my mind, fear of who might open the door and if he, or she would even help me.
Slowly it opened, the warmth and light banishing the cold and the darkness outside that had engulfed me for far too long.
The fear disappeared like snow for the sun and I saw an elderly man standing in the doorway.
“Yes?” He asked.
I told him my name and what happened, how I got lost, how I thought I was going to die, alone, and how I found the small town.
“I see, that must have been quite the experience.”
“Please, do come in, I’ll get you some warm soup.”
I entered the house, through the hall and was led into the living room.
A fireplace spread a pleasant warmth into the chamber and seemed to be the source of the light I saw earlier.
The warm glow made my skin tingle and I begun feeling better already.
The old man entered the room holding two cups, steam emanating from the top.
“Here you go, a hot cup of chicken soup. You’re lucky I only just had dinner otherwise I might not have had any food for you.”
I thanked him for the meal and ate the soup.
“So, tell me, what were you doing out there all alone in this little patch of nowhere in the middle of the night?”
I gave the man my reasons, thanking him again for his hospitality.
“No, no, please, no need to thank me so often, I would have to be a horrible person to ignore any in need of help.”
I finished my soup, making doubly sure the cup was completely empty.
“Here, let me take that for you. I’ll drive you to the nearest town tomorrow so you can get some much needed rest. There is a bed in the room down the hall for you to spend the night in. If you don’t mind I’ll finish my soup in my workshop for I have quite a bit of work waiting for me.”
I again thanked the man as he left the room.
Looking around I noticed how small it really was, only two chairs, a table and the fireplace filled its interior and it already looked very crowded.
This being so it was now clear that the architecture was indeed 16th century at the very least, perhaps even older, and in impeccable condition.
Quite amazing, I thought at the time.
I sat and stared into the fire a while longer, the mantle seeming to be of white marble with many figures in widely varying styles inscribed into it, a fascinating sight.
After sitting there for some time, regaining the warmth and strength I had lost, I decided to follow the man’s advice and go to bed, tired as I was.
I walked down the hallway towards the room the man had designated as my bedroom.
As I walked I heard a sound coming from one of the chambers in that long, narrow hallway.
A faint music, a music box, my favourite song.
I followed the sound to one of the doors, one very different from the others both in look and feel with wood as dark as the night and cold to the touch.
Hesitant, I stood in front of the monolith and, after contemplating whether or not I should enter, I slowly turned the knob and opened the door.
It was surprisingly light for a door that looked as large and massive as it did.
A faint, blue glow seeped out of the room, into the hall and over myself, cold soon followed.
Carefully, gently, I pushed my head through the opening to take a look inside.
The first thing I noticed were the walls lined with shelves from top to bottom as far as I could see and on them, music boxes, each with a very detailed human character inside.
The characters, strangely enough, sat and seemingly wept very softly.
As I studied these strange objects I noticed something moving at the far end of the room at the very edge of my view.
Upon closer inspection it seemed to be the old man working on what I assumed to be another one of his musical contraptions.
I still don’t know why but for whatever reason I decided to enter the room and approach the man.
How drawn I was to him, to his creation on the desk, like a moth to a flame, like Icarus to the sun.
As I walked in between the many rows of music boxes I noticed the characters inside of them had changed.
No longer did they sit on the ground, weeping to themselves, but instead they stood upright following my every move, watching me with their eerily human eyes.
Fear began to creep its way into my heart yet I remained undeterred, I had to know what the old man was building.
I was but a few steps away, the man too caught up in his work to have noticed me come in and approach him.
Step by step I moved towards him, the feeling of fear increasing with every step, fear of the old man, fear of what he’d do if he saw me, fear of his newest creation.
I stood right behind him and could hear him muttering to himself.
“Another one lost, what a shame, what a shame…”
I stood on my toes, raised myself just high enough to look over him and at the music box laying on his desk.
It was done, my favourite song emanating from it, a character huddled, not moving, sitting in the center.
I looked into its eyes, exactly like my own.
Its face, its composition, every little detail perfectly matched my own.
I looked at the character for what seemed like an eternity, attempting to process what lay there before me, when the old man grabbed my arm.
Hundreds of soft, shaky voices from all around me suddenly spoke.
I jumped back, the man lost his grasp, and I ran.
I ran and ran, faster than I had ever done before, past the characters who now looked upon me with pity in their eyes, through the big black door, along the hallway and out the front door into the freezing cold outside.
The square, the homes, everything.
Like it had never even been there.
I kept running like a mad man, like my life depended on it with no regard for where I was going, not important I thought.
The bells again rang far away, far behind me, but I kept running further.
The sound became duller and duller while I became more tired, dehydrated, hungry.
Fatigued and in pain I collapsed to the ground below, life draining from my body.
I turned on my back, looked up at the star filled sky one last time and closed my eyes.
The next thing I remember was awakening in the hospital.
The doctors told me I were very lucky to have survived.
Lucky they were able to save me.
Lucky I was found.
I tried telling the doctors of what had happened to me but they wrote it off as a near death experience, a delusion, nothing more.
After a few days of recovering I was fired from the hospital.
I never bothered to ask who it was that found me.
It might sound strange but I simply don’t want know out of fear for the answer.
Fear of that man and his music boxes, those ungodly devices…
Oh, my apologies, friend, I was drifting off there.
I hope you found what you were looking for, though, if I may, let me give you one advice.
Whatever I saw there, whether it be real or not, be careful, there is something very wrong with that man and his ‘Bell Town.’