Chapter 26: Save Them

     8:20 A.M.

     He’s running through trees, hair catching on branches that scratch and cut his face and arms as he blindly stumbles past, breathing hard. There’s a scream, a woman’s voice yelling…

     Mom?

     He runs faster, crashing through the thick underbrush. His feet are wet, his sneakers soaked through. The ground is soggy with leaves and black, foul-smelling muck; his foot catches in a thick, putrid pool, and the suction pulls the shoe off. He stumbles, almost falls, pushing at the muddy earth with hands as numb and useless as blocks of wood.

     The yelling is clearer, ringing out against the dark, and now there’s a man’s voice, too. His father’s voice. Isaac’s heart leaps at the sound; he’s alive! But he needs to find them. Where are they?

     Up ahead, closer, they’re calling his name. He tries to cry out, to tell them he’s here, but the air is thin, he’s out of breath, and he needs to conserve energy. He can’t stop running. Their cries for help grow more panicked, more desperate with each passing second.

     There’s a break in the trees ahead, a clearing, a crop of rocks too thick for life to grow. That’s where they are, he’s certain of it. So close.

     Dad! Mom! I’m here!

     He bursts into the clearing, skittering to a stop at an outcropping of jagged rocks.

     The sky is dark, but there’s no rain; only a dry, hot wind and the tang of burnt ozone.

     His parents stand a few yards ahead, they’ve gone quiet. His father looks exactly as he remembers him from photos—tall, handsome, with gentle eyes. His arms are wrapped around his mother’s shoulders in a stiff embrace. They’re staring up at something in the sky, looks of stunned dread on their faces.

     Mom! Dad!

     They don’t respond, don’t give any indication they’ve heard him. His eyes travel upward, tracing the line of his mother’s gaze, and his jaw goes slack.

     What he thought were storm clouds is a gray-black metallic mass. It hovers above them, above the clearing…

     …no, not just above us. Everywhere. It’s massive, he realizes with dread and wonder, heart caught in his throat. The darkness extends for miles in all directions, blocking the soft light of the October moon.

     With great effort, he tears his gaze away from the thing in the sky, ready to call to his parents again, to tell them to run; they all need to run, to get far away, but the words die on his tongue.

     It’s not his parents standing in the clearing at all…it’s the agents. The woman’s hair is red, a deep fiery red, not brown and curly like his mother’s. The man has a full head of hair, graying at the temples, and what his mother would have called a ‘distinguished profile.’

     The agents cling to each other, from this distance he can see she’s gripping his arm, her knuckles white…there’s blood on his sleeve. Mulder’s eyes meet Isaac’s, wide and fearful, but also resigned.

     Isaac has time to read the man’s one last, clear thought, spoken oddly in his father’s voice, before a blinding, angry light envelops them, obliterating the world.

    Save them.

     #

     He wakes with a start, gasping for breath, trying to recall what it was the man, Mulder, or was it his father? What had he said?

     But he blinks once, twice, and the nightmare fades back into the recesses of his subconscious, leaving him cold, with a hollow ache beneath his breastbone.

     He misses his mom and dad terribly, the images of their upturned faces linger at the back of his mind, but his sorrow is short-lived; there are angry voices outside the tent…the agents are arguing.

     “Maybe, if we’re lucky, I’ll still be here when that time comes.”

     “Mulder…”

     There’s the crunch of leaves and rocks as someone, it sounds like Mulder, walks away.

     Then heavy silence.

     Isaac reaches out with his mind, tentative, and finds himself overwhelmed by Scully’s sadness, a deep, aching despair. He stops after a moment, closing the connection, feeling vaguely ashamed at the intrusion, as though he’d peeked behind a curtain to find her undressing.

     He has a vague recollection of her from the nightmare, something about her hands—what had she been doing?

     White, blood red.

     Useless fragments come to him, but they carry no weight, no meaning without context. He grits his teeth, fists balled in frustration. Mulder told him to write the dreams down, but there’s nothing to write; nothing concrete, nothing he can hold on to.

     What use are these stupid dreams if I can’t remember them?

     Suddenly the tent is too small, closed in, suffocating. Craving solitude, yet afraid to be alone with his thoughts, he hesitates, listening. There’s nothing except the muffled sounds of Scully moving about. He’ll suffer her company if it means a distraction from the dreams.

     He tosses off his sleeping bag, ignoring the cold, and steps out of the tent.

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