Chapter 20

MARCH 31, 2015
11:27 P.M.
MERCY GENERAL HOSPITAL

She’s parked at the unfamiliar hospital, but Scully can’t remember how she got here, doesn’t know how long she’s been sitting in her car, staring into the dark.

…shock, you’re in shock…

She’d felt numb after the escape, but now her jaw aches from where she hit it on the desk, echoing each painful throb at her temples. A glance in the rearview mirror reveals her chin has split open on one side. There’s blood drying on her neck, and a bruise forming on her chin to match the bruises around her throat, from where his fingers held her. When she swallows, it feels like a stone is embedded in her larynx.

I could pass for one of the infected. The thought almost makes her laugh, but when she opens her mouth, it comes out sounding like a sob.

Mercy General appears deserted. There’s no sign of life from within, no lights save for the emergency backups. She exits her car on weak, stumbling legs to check the doors, finding them locked. Looking down, she realizes her cellphone is still clutched in the vise grip of her hand.

Mulder. I called him…I was waiting…

She leans her burning head against the cool glass, an unrecognizable battered woman staring back at her. Her reflection is inside; she needs to get inside.

Pull it together, Dana. You need to find Isaac.

The wind creates a hollow moan through the emergency alcove. In the unnatural stillness, it’s easy to believe the world has passed into a deep, endless sleep, leaving her the only survivor.

…gone they’re all gone it’s just you and the little gray men…

Her fists smack against the glass with hollow, ineffective thuds, and now she’s yelling, screaming at the top of her lungs, but barely a whisper escapes her broken throat. It’s unintelligible nonsense amongst wracking sobs, the shock washing away to reveal a tender core of pain and sorrow.

He’s dead. They’re all dead. We’re all dead.

Her answer appears as a watery face in the glass, like a spirit caught between worlds, and Scully reels back with a strangled cry. But it’s only a nurse, staring at her with wide, intense eyes, and before she can plead her case, the door slides open with a whisper.

“Get in. Now.”

Scully gapes, mouth hung open, wonders if she’s hallucinating the figure before her.

“Now!” the woman snaps, “I don’t want anyone coming in on your heels.”

She swallows, but none of what the woman says makes sense. She manages to choke out, “My son, my son is—“

“He’s here. He’s safe.”

“How do you—“

“Follow me.”

The woman locks the door behind them, casting uneasy glances at the night, before leading them down the hall and into a stairwell. Scully follows, walking as though in a dream. “Who are you? Where are you taking me?”

“You want to see your son, right? Come with me.”

The woman is fierce, impatient, dark hair lose and curling at the nape of her neck. Scully watches her back as she moves on quick, light feet through the hospital’s winding corridors, entering a stairwell in what must be the central building. Much larger than Our Lady of Sorrows, Mercy General is a public, non-secular facility, with the funding to show for it.

“I thought you were one of the bleeders at first. With that,” the nurse gestures to the bruising on Scully’s neck as they climb. Four flights. Five. “You should let me have a look at it.”

Scully flinches, the gash on her chin throbs under the other woman’s scrutiny. “I’m a doctor, it’s fine. Right now I need to see my son.”

The nurse eyes her approvingly. “He didn’t tell me that.”

“He?”

“Your husband.”

Scully frowns. “He’s not my husband, he’s my—”

The nurse arches an eyebrow, cutting her off. “Whatever, it doesn’t matter.”

“Wait, just…just wait a minute. How did you know me? How did you know to let me in?” They’ve stopped outside the door, floor number six.

A sadness passes across the woman’s face, so fleeting she might have imagined it. “He looks like you. He has your eyes.”

Scully swallows the lump in her throat, but the ache around her neck, the sharp pain in her jaw reminds her of Ybarra. “I…I need to see him. He…we may be in danger.”

“He’s this way, but…”

The woman’s hesitation makes Scully’s pulse cold. “But what?”

“He lost consciousness about an hour ago,” she says.

Her heart sinks like an anchor’s weight in her chest. “Is he—”

“He’s weak, but stable. Your…whatever he is. Mr. Mulder. He gave me his cellphone, but I haven’t been able to reach him. I think the towers are out.”

Scully bites back her fear. He didn’t answer…

A heavy pause. “I just thought you should know about your son’s condition, before you see him. So you’re prepared.”

Scully nods, urging the woman on. “I need to see him now. Please.”

The door opens, revealing what looks like a children’s ward, primary colors with cartoons dancing across the walls. At one time they might have been a welcome distraction, but tonight they’re garish, leering, almost sinister. Her footsteps echo in the open space.

Like a tomb.

The room is dark, Isaac is small and frail beneath the blue hospital blanket. Scully’s hand automatically moves to his throat, finding his pulse, slow but strong.

Oh, Isaac. William.

“You said you’re a doctor?”

Scully swallows, her voice rough, her eyes don’t leave the boy’s pale face. “Yes.”

“He’s lucky to have you, then.”

She shakes her head, squeezing her eyes shut as her fingers clamp around the boy’s hand. “How is this lucky?”

The woman shrugs. “He’s still alive.”

Scully snorts, tracing the lines of the boy’s palm with one finger. There’s a moment of cutting irony when she realizes this is the most she’s touched him since he came back.

He wouldn’t let me get this close…

The other woman’s voice softens. “He can probably hear you, if you want to talk.”

Scully knows this from her training, but she can’t think of what she might say that isn’t trite.

I love you. I’m sorry. I wish things were different.

“It would probably help him, you know,” the nurse continues. Her face is drawn, as though she’s somewhere far away, thinking of something else.

Scully swallows hard. “Look, I appreciate what you’ve done for him, but…”

“You said we’re in danger.”

She nods. “There’s a…a man. A very dangerous, very powerful man. He’ll come for us. For Isaac.”

“Why?”

“I can’t tell you.”

“So many secrets…” The nurse takes a deep breath, lets it out in a tired rush. “And I suppose a few locked doors won’t stop him.”

Scully nods again, thinking of her car, the outline of a human hand permanently hollowed in the metal door.

Eileen is thinking, too. “We can barricade ourselves in one of the central rooms. Hide, until your…”

“Partner,” Scully offers.

“…until your partner gets back.”

Scully looks at the other woman carefully, considering her. She’s rough at the edges, but her mind is quick.

Stronger than she looks.

Eileen tips her head forward as if in answer to some unasked question, then turns to leave.

“Where are you going?”

The nurse doesn’t look back. “We’re going to need supplies.”

Scully watches her retreat, then turns back to Isaac. Intuition draws her to the spot at his midriff, above his navel. She places her hand on the blanket, feeling the gentle rise and fall of his breath beneath her fingertips, so painfully slow.

Scully closes her eyes, bracing herself, then pulls back the blanket and unties his gown.

Bruised. Just like the others.

She snaps the gown back, re-tucking the blanket around his slight form, trying to exhale around the rush of her broken mother’s heart.

Oh, Isaac.

She reaches for her cell, dialing his number with unsteady fingers, but a recorded Mulder tells her to leave it at the beep.

Damnit.

“Mulder, it’s me. I don’t know where you are, but you need to come back, and hurry…the body, I did the autopsy, and…,” she pauses for a shaky breath, biting her lip, “Mulder, I found something.”

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