Chapter 6: The Life I Didn’t Want

    CITY PARK
    RIVERTON, WYOMING
9:07 A.M.

     The park is deserted except for the occasional jogger and a mother with her children, who scamper in and around the slides and tunnels with raucous shouts of glee. Their laughter carries in the unseasonably warm October air, and Scully watches them for a few minutes, marveling at their oblivious merriment, their innocence. 

     Did Isaac ever have that? she wonders sadly.

     Mulder, sensing her disquiet, brushes against her shoulder with a gentle nudge. “See him?”

     She blinks, squints, scanning the park. “No, I was just thinking—wait…yes, there he is.”

     He’s standing at the edge of the playground in the shade of a large oak, fidgeting, eyes downcast. As they approach, Mulder finds it hard to believe he didn’t see the resemblance.

     “Isaac?” Scully is the first to speak. The boy’s head snaps up, eyes wide, tense, and for a moment they’re sure he’s going to run.

     “Umm…hi. You’re, uh, Mrs. Scully, right?”

     She nods, smiling a little. “It’s just Scully. Dana Scully. This is my partner, Fox Mulder.”

     “You wanted to talk to us?” Mulder prods.

     Isaac nods. “I…I needed to ask you something. Yesterday, back there…that man. He…” The boy’s brow furrows, trying to find the words to describe what they’d seen, “…he melted, but you weren’t surprised. Why?”

     Mulder and Scully share a look. “We’ve seen a few things,” she hedges. “Why do you ask?”

     The boy looks down again, shuffling his feet. “I think I know why he came after me,” he says.

     “Why, Isaac?” 

     He hesitates, visibly frightened, so she presses, “We want to help you, but we have to know what happened.”

     He takes a deep breath, eyes shifting. “Promise you won’t freak out?”

     Mulder smiles. “Promise.”

     The boy looks back and forth between the partners, hesitant. They can tell by the shift in his gaze and his guarded stance that he’s unsure if he can trust them, but there’s also a gleam in his eye that gives away his desperation, and desperation wins out.

     He relents. “K. Watch this.” He raises his hand, indicating a point in the distance.

     Scully and Mulder follow his gaze to an empty merry-go-round across the park. They watch as the wheel begins to turn of its own volition, slow at first, then gathering speed, as if pushed by the wind.

     But…there’s no wind.

     Scully’s expression changes from one of skepticism to alarm as the giant metal wheel whirls faster than any breeze could carry it. Across the park, the playing children look up in confusion as the wheel squeaks and groans in protest, rattling angrily against its foundation.

     The memory flashes before her eyes with painful clarity; the mobile above his crib, spinning and spinning, the soft creak of metal on metal, the constant, burning fear that it would all be taken from her.

     And it was.

     As the boy drops his eyes, the wheel slows.

     “Psychokinesis,” Mulder murmurs, still fixated on the merry-go-round. She should be shocked, surprised, but all she can manage is stunned silence, her worst fears confirmed.

     The mobile never stopped spinning.

     Scully is the first to clear her throat, to whisper a question to which she already knows the answer. “How long have you been able to do that?”

     Isaac shrugs. “Since I was little, I guess.”

     Mulder kneels down, eyes burning with an intensity Scully recognizes all too well—this is no longer a simple conversation with a kid in a park. This is a case, and this case just got interesting. “Isaac…what else you can do?”

     The boy narrows his eyes and shies away.

     Scully steps in, barely disguising a tremble in her voice. “You asked us here, Isaac…you said you had reason to believe someone was after you. Because you have this…this power? Or is there something else?”

     The boy’s expression is almost embarrassed. “I can read people’s thoughts. Sometimes. Not very well.”

     Scully’s eyes meet Mulder’s again, this time sharing a thought. Gibson Praise.

     “What am I thinking, Isaac?” Scully asks.

     He squints, thinking. “You love him,” he nods toward Mulder, and Scully’s lips twitch upward in a half smile. “But you’re mad at him, too.”

     Bemused, Mulder glances at Scully, whose cheeks have gone pink. Oh, really?

     “You…have a child?” Isaac continues. “You miss her. Or him? It’s…it’s hard to tell.”

     Scully’s breath catches in her throat, she doesn’t know what to say. She has the uncomfortable feeling of being laid bare, exposed, raw.

     Mulder, seeing the alarm on her face, intervenes. “How about me, Isaac? Can you read my mind, too?”

     Isaac turns to Mulder, eyebrow arched. “Your…favorite baseball team…the Yankees? Really?” The boy wrinkles his nose.

     “Hey, don’t judge,” Mulder grins. “Can you tell me how you do it? Do you see a picture in your mind? Hear voices?”

     “Thoughts are voices, mostly. Sometimes feelings, if they’re strong. Like I said, I’m not very good. It…fades in and out.”

     Scully, still flushed, recovers her voice. “Do your…parents…know about your abilities, Isaac?”

     Something flickers across the boy’s face; he withdraws, biting his lip. “My dad’s dead. My mom…she knows, but she doesn’t want to believe it…so she doesn’t.”

     “Isaac…how do you…I mean, how powerful is it? This ability?”

     He shrugs, “I dunno. I don’t do…that…very often,” he gestures to the merry-go-round. “It used to be a game…making toys move, y’know, baby stuff. But I don’t do it much anymore.”

     “That’s how you escaped yesterday.” Mulder asks, already knowing the answer.

     “Yeah.” The boy lowers his voice. “I…I got scared. It’s stronger when I get scared. I didn’t mean to…I mean, I was defending myself.” He looks up at them, wide-eyed and self-conscious. “Please, don’t tell anyone. Please. My mom’ll kill me.”

     Something nags at the corner of Scully’s consciousness. He’s not telling us everything.

     Mulder can tell, too, but keeps his tone casual. “We won’t say anything; you have our word. But—”

     “—but you need protection, Isaac,” Scully finishes her partner’s thought. “Whoever wants to kidnap you already knows what you can do. You’ll be protected if we can persuade your mother to take you somewhere safe. We have connections to make that happen, but it’s going to require your mom’s cooperation.”

     He shakes his head fervently. “She won’t go for it. She’s…she doesn’t understand.”

     “Maybe your mom will listen to us?”

     Scully shoots her partner a dubious look, thinking of his encounter with the frazzled, angry woman at the police station, just as Isaac raises an eyebrow in equal skepticism. “Maybe, but…I dunno.” He sighs, looking over his shoulder. “I need to go. My teachers’ll be ticked.”

     “You skipped school to meet with us?” Scully tries to sound disapproving, but can’t hide a faint smile.

     Only twelve and he’s already a pro at ignoring the rules. Remind you of anyone, Dana?

     He shrugs. “Yeah, it’s no big deal. I already know most of the stuff, anyway.”

     Mulder gives him a wry smile, tries to sound reassuring. “You go back to school. We’ll find your mom, talk to her. She at home?”

     Isaac nods. “Yeah, she doesn’t work today.”

     “K. Be careful, kid.”

     “I will.”

#

     “He’s smart, Scully. Poor taste in sports teams, though,” Mulder sounds more cavalier than he feels as he climbs into the driver’s seat.

     “Yeah.” But she’s not listening, lost in thought, and Mulder feels a pang of resentment at being brushed off.

     But you’re mad at him, too.

     He tries to keep his tone neutral. “Kid read you like an open book back there. Anything you wanna talk about?”

     She presses her lips together in a thin line. “Not now.”

     “Mmm. Might wanna guard yourself around him…unless you feel like airing your dirty laundry.” He smirks, but there’s no trace of genuine humor in his eyes.

     She tenses, changing the subject. “How are we going to convince his mother to pack up and leave with her son on short notice when we have no proof the kid’s in danger?”

     The distant look in Mulder’s eyes suggests he’s already forming a theory. “The real question is why. The government has had access to him for years, why not abduct him when he was most vulnerable?” He gestures toward the glove compartment, which holds the printout of the boy’s FBI file. “It doesn’t add up.”

     “They tried,” she murmurs. “They tried, which is why I arranged the adoption. I told you before, Spender attacked him because of…because of what he was.”

     He bites his lip, frowning at the memory of darker times.

     “Maybe they were waiting for something. I think he’s only shown us a fraction of what he’s capable of, Scully. Remember? ‘It’s stronger’ when he’s scared…which reminds me…” he reaches across her, unlocking the glove compartment, pulling out the sheaf of papers.

     “What, Mulder?”

     “The kid said his father was dead…” Mulder doesn’t finish his thought, just continues leafing through the stack.

     “Mulder?” No response. She shifts impatiently in her seat, waiting for him to let her in on the secret. She should be accustomed to this, but his train of thought has always seemed miles ahead of hers.

     “Here. John Van de Kamp, died in a car accident, 2005. Isaac would have been about three.”

     “That’s sad, but not unusual, Mulder. People die in car accidents all the time.”

     “Yeah, but not like this. The father’s truck spontaneously combusted. Then it exploded.”

     She rolls her eyes. “Does it actually say ‘spontaneously combusted’?”

     He can’t help but grin at his partner’s dutiful skepticism. “Not in so many words, but stay with me for a sec. Isaac possesses the ability to direct large amounts of energy with his mind. Psychokinesis isn’t much different from pyrokinesis—it’s all energy. Thing is, I don’t think he has control over it…or at least, he didn’t when he was three.”

     “I see where you’re going with this, but why would Isaac kill his own father?”

     “The emotions of a three-year-old are volatile, Scully. Like Isaac said, his power gets stronger when he’s scared. I bet the same goes for anger. Little kids get angry over small stuff all the time. Maybe it wasn’t intentional.”

     “So…you think he got upset, had a pyrokinetic episode, and the result…”

     “Dead ‘Dada’,” Mulder finishes. “Kid must have thrown one hell of a tantrum.”

     “Regardless of how it happened…that’s a horrible thing to live through. And if he was responsible…”

     “That’s if he remembers it,” he murmurs, thinking of his lost sister and the years it took to recover his memories of her abduction; even then, they came back warped, malformed, another layer of lies painted over the truth. He starts the car; they pull away from the park.

     Scully wonders what it might have been like to know Isaac—William, she corrects herself, but it’s too hard to see the adolescent stranger, with his drawn face and quiet demeanor, as a rosy-cheeked baby, an unsteady toddler, a wide-eyed preschooler. So much has happened in the last eleven years.

     She wanted to believe she made the right choice, but this new knowledge of the boy’s history points to a darker, more sinister childhood.

     The life I didn’t want for him.

     So many medical tests and procedures. Followed by government forces. Carrying the burden of his father’s death on his slight young shoulders. A mother who refused to acknowledge her son’s unique gifts. Bearing these secrets with no one to turn to or confide in.

     No wonder he’d come to Mulder and Scully the moment he sensed their acceptance of the unnatural…the boy was lonely.

     Heartbroken, her tears finally come, hot and furious. She turns her head, pretending to be engrossed in a distant point in the rural landscape outside her window, trying in vain to blink them back. Mulder, lost in his own thoughts, doesn’t notice.

     They drive in silence.

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