Chapter 38: The Edge of Darkness

     Mulder wakes in a dark place, opening his eyes to black. Slowly the world comes into focus, shadows become more distinct, shades of gray give way to muted color. He feels himself walking as though in a dream, but it’s so vivid, so real…

     Next to him, Scully is also walking. He can sense her in his peripheral vision, the dull glow of her hair in the faint light. They’re in the forest, and the terrain looks strangely familiar.

     So real…

     He tries to turn his head, but can’t. He’s trapped, his body lumbering along against its will. His knee is killing him, twisting at an odd angle with each painful step…but he can’t stop, can’t will himself to turn around. Fear rises within him, clawing at the back of his throat.

     What’s happening to me?

     He tries to look at Scully, catches a brief glimpse of her face, sees the same hazy fear in her eyes. She’s moving with jerky steps, eyelids heavy.

     Dear God let me wake up now…

     He doesn’t like it, doesn’t like it one bit, the sensation of being present in mind but out of control of his body. It takes the sharp pain in his knee growing stronger for him to realize he’s not dreaming at all, this is happening, and in a laughable sort of panic he tries to remember the protocol for an abduction scenario.

     Calm down. Look around. Figure out why.

     Unfortunately his training didn’t teach him how to negotiate an invisible captor with full motor control over its victim.

     Must have missed that course at Quantico.

     He glances around for landmarks, hoping to get a sense of where they’re headed (where we’re being taken) but every craggy tree looks the same, every rock could be familiar if looked at from a certain angle in the right light. He concentrates, trying to force his mouth to form words, but all he can manage is a zombie-like grunt.

     Damnit.

     He stumbles, the knee twisting again, but this time there’s a dull popping sensation, followed by agony, rippling and clawing mercilessly at his leg. He screams soundlessly, lips pulled back from his teeth in a snarl, and the world goes dark again.

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     She wakes to damp cloth against her skin, the sting of sweat on her brow, and bitter, angry cold. She squints against the light, mind fuzzy from sleep.

     Damnit, Mulder, you stole the blanket again…

     But there are no blankets, no cozy bed, no tent. She’s standing in the midst of a great rocky expanse, in nothing but ripped sweats and a t-shirt, freezing, her skin slick with dirt and mud. Her eyes open wider in growing alarm.

     How did we get here? Where’s Isaac?

     Mulder is standing in front of her, staring at her, dazed, but he doesn’t speak.

     Mulder? Mulder!

     She tries to call his name, but finds she can’t speak, either; her lips won’t move. She’s frozen in place, her fingers clutched onto his arm, but she can only manage a tiny squeeze. His arms tremble violently under her hand, his skin as icy as her own. Mulder’s eyes meet hers, lids heavy, his face a deep ashen blue-gray. There’s a pained groan from his lips, barely discernible above the rushing white noise of their surroundings. She registers his growing terror as he comes to, realizing where they are. From the corner of her eye, she can see his leg is grotesque, swollen and bloody, dangling at an odd angle below the knee. Her mind falls back to medicine, rattling off each useless diagnosis even as the rational part of her knows it makes no difference.

     Torn ACL, possible fracture. Hypothermia. Exposure.

     The cold is the least of their problems now.

     Oh God, what’s happening to us?

     Her eyes are wild, seeking the source of power that holds her in its grasp, controlling her, but all she finds are shadows. They dance, merging in and out around them, near and far, an ever-shifting wall of gray against the deep ebony of the forest.

     Shadows, flickering…like black flames…

     Increasing panic overtakes her as she begins to scream, her mind beating itself against the prison of her body like a fledgling bird in its cage. She flashes back to another time, so distant and yet so similar, in a bleak white place where strange faces hover and inflict pain without mercy.

     No! Not again!

     Her head turns upward without assent, eyes registering the underside of some great metallic gray mass; it beckons to them from above, drawing them closer, closer. She feels her feet lifting, rising above the ground, dangling uselessly from her body as she clings to Mulder, who shrinks from the bright light that surrounds them as they rise higher and higher over the clearing.

     Oh God please not again, please no no

     She can’t move, can’t run, can’t do anything but scream inside herself, silence meeting silence.

     Isaac! Where’s Isaac?

     He’s not with them; she can’t see him, can’t turn her head to look around. Maybe he’s already been taken. But maybe…just maybe…

     She can’t control her body, but she can still control her mind. She calls for the boy, directing her thoughts outward, praying he’ll hear her cries for help before it’s too late.

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