Chapter 34: William

     7:50 P.M.

     Isaac lays in the tent, trying without success to ignore the sinking feeling in his stomach. Something is wrong. The agents are talking quietly, but he can’t make out specifics.

     It’s about me, though. Always about the freak.

     There’s something they haven’t told him. They’re arguing about it now, the same back and forth bickering he’s heard since they woke up this morning. He considers listening in, reading their thoughts, but something holds him back. Something she said to him before…

     …there are some things you can’t un-learn…

     He shifts, turning on his side, restless. What had Mulder said about aliens? Spaceships? Jesus, what a nutcase.

     He feels the same cold chill as if waking up from one of his nightmares, sees a brief flash of the trees with their blackened tops, the strange voices he’d heard when they were searching for Mulder…

     And now they’re going to abandon him, surrender him to the FBI. He doesn’t want to admit to himself the hurt he feels at being left.

     Screw it, he thinks. I need to know.

     His mind opens, searching, listening. Fragments come to him, powerful emotions, sorrow and angst.

     They’re thinking about William again.

     …shouldn’t have given him up…couldn’t keep him safe…

     Isaac listens more intently now, trying to tease apart their thoughts, to focus. Why did they give William up? Was he special, like me?

     “What if I adopted him?”

     Isaac blinks, concentration broken, unsure if she’s speaking or if he’s heard her thoughts, they’re too deeply entwined.

     Adopt me? Why would she adopt me?

     It makes no sense.

     …can’t hide the truth…can’t change the past…

     Hide what truth? Change what past? He’s desperate, grasping at the edges of some greater understanding, so close to the answers, so focused his head aches with the effort.

     He needs to know he’s our son.

     Mulder’s thought is so clear, it’s as though the man is speaking in his ear. Isaac’s eyes snap open, staring wide.

     No, that’s not possible…

     But it begins to make sense. His head spins as the final pieces click neatly into place. How they found him, why they care, how they seem to know so much about him…

     They think I’m William.

     He opens the tent flap a crack, pressing his face to the opening, trying to see them. He catches bits and pieces of their thoughts mixed with spoken conversation.

     “I’m sorry…for giving up our son…”

     She’s distraught, Isaac can feel her panic rising like a high tide, but they’re talking about something else, their thoughts have turned back to each other.

     Blood rushes in his ears, his cheeks flush in anger.

     They lied to me. They’ve been lying to me all along. They don’t care about me. If they did, they wouldn’t give me to the FBI. They wouldn’t leave me. My parents never would have left me. My mom would have told me…

     His mind fumbles. Should he run? Should he confront them? What if they’re trying to kidnap him? What if they’re part of the project?

     As if in answer to some dark, unspoken prayer, his eyes fall upon the gun, which lays on the ground in front of him, not five feet from the tent.

     They must have dropped it…

     Without thinking, he reaches for it. The agents are standing, facing each other, they don’t see him.

     I’ll take the gun and…and what? Shoot them?

     Not like you need a weapon, Isaac, a cold voice answers back. He pictures his mother advancing on him with shadowy persistence, her hands flickering in the dark, reaching out to close around his throat, his own hands reaching back, pulsing with energy…

     Don’t shoot them, the cold voice whispers, throaty and hypnotic. You’re the freak, Isaac. You’re the one they’re after. Remove yourself and remove the problem. No more accidents, no more cares, no more monsters.

     He swallows salt water and phlegm, and realizes he’s crying, the tears rolling silently down his cheeks. Wiping his hands across his face, he clutches the gun to his chest, stifling a sob.

     The former agents are absorbed in their argument. They don’t see Isaac crawl out of the tent and make his way back into the forest.

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