Chapter 9: Bad Dreams

     FBI SAFE HOUSE

     LEWISTOWN, MONTANA

     3:13 A.M.

     Daylight grazes the edge of morning as they reach the safe house, each of them thoroughly exhausted. Mulder leaves them in the car, muttering something about checking the house first, indicating they should wait for his all clear.

     Scully wants nothing more than a hot shower, then to crawl into bed and sleep, to wake and find this was all a terrible dream. Not likely, she sighs to herself as she leans back in the seat, letting her eyelids flutter shut. Just need a few minutes to rest.

     She sits in a dark room, an interrogation area deep within the bowels of a nameless government building. The Pentagon? Hoover? It’s impossible to say. 

     “Hello?” Her voice falls flat and hollow in the tiny room.

     She squints, letting her eyes adjust to the dim green light. She realizes she can see through the two-way mirror into an identical gray room, in which there sits a man. Or no…the shadow of a man. Like a cardboard cutout, painted black.

     There’s a flicker from the fluorescent lights overhead, they dim, brighten, dim again. She looks up, but the glow hurts her eyes. When she looks back to the mirror, her partner sits where the shadow man had been.

     “Mulder!”

     His lips move in response, but she can’t hear him. She leans forward, reaching for him, fingertips grazing the cold glass barrier.

     “Mulder, I can’t hear you!”

     His eyes look past her, dull and lifeless, his mouth moving. The silence is unnerving, the hair on the back of her neck stands taut.

     There’s flickering again, bright, dark, bright, dark. She looks around wildly, searching for an exit, but the walls are a flat expanse of gray, not so much as an air vent or a seam.

     This isn’t an interrogation room, it’s a prison cell.

     She looks back at the mirror, but Mulder is gone; and now Isaac sits in the small gray room. He’s crying for help, reaching for her, pounding his fists desperately against the glass over and over, and her heart lurches.

     From within the chamber comes a sound, a deep humming buzz, and she thinks of the bee colonies, the corn fields in Texas, the giant glowing half-globes against the night sky.

     As if brought to life by her thoughts, suddenly there are hundreds of bees behind the glass, swarming, lashing at Isaac through his clothes. His silent screams are a mask of terror, and she watches in a helpless panic as he continues to pound fretfully against the glass, his hands bruised and bloody.

     She knows instinctively these are no ordinary bees; they’ll carry a virus, he’ll be infected. Oh, if only she could get to him!

     Mulder raps at the car window, making her gasp, launching her out of the nightmare and back to reality.

     Reality doesn’t look much better on this side of the glass, she thinks, still reeling.

     “It’s clear,” Mulder says; his muted voice through the window nags at the edge of her memory, something about seeing him through the glass makes her heart quicken with unease. She grabs for the door handle, relieved to escape the confines of the vehicle for the first time in hours.

     The house is small, sparse, and livable, if not dusty and damp. It’s obvious the place hasn’t been used in several years. There’s an eat-in kitchen at the back, a living room to their right, stairs to the left.

     “I’ll, uhh…I’ll take that room,” Mulder mutters, nodding toward the living area off the entrance, in which sits a shabby, overstuffed monstrosity of a couch. He walks over to it, tossing his bag down, then stands with his eyes closed, rubbing the bridge of his nose.

     Though unsurprised, Scully can’t help but feel stung at the implicit separation.

     “So, what’s next?” asks Mrs. Van de Kamp, arms crossed, demanding. “You call someone? Perform a voodoo ritual to make the bogeyman go away?” She barks hostile laughter into their solemn circle, but Isaac remains silent.

     “The only thing we’re going to do is sleep,” Scully says, struggling to keep her eyes open even as she speaks. “We’ll talk when everyone’s had a chance to rest.”

     The woman’s lips tighten into a thin line; she turns on her heel, stalking up the stairs, Isaac trudging behind.

     Mulder mumbles something about getting food, walking over to hand the shared weapon to Scully. “Safety’s on, make sure you—”

     “I know how to use a gun, Mulder,” she snaps.

     He blinks at her, swallows. “Right. Fine. Don’t forget to lock up.” He leaves before she can respond, the rusty screen door slamming behind him.

     Mrs. Van de Kamp and Isaac have already retreated to one of the upstairs bedrooms. Scully locks the front door, then checks the windows and draws the blinds before ascending the stairs herself, to the open room at the end of the hall. Like the rest of the house, it’s worn but livable. There’s a bed, a chair, a dresser, and a small attached bathroom.

     With a showeroh, thank God.

     She strips, stepping into the narrow glass enclosure. It’s mildewed, but the water runs hot and welcome over the knotted muscles of her back and shoulders. She stands under the stream until it turns cold, until her fingertips are wrinkled and tender. By the time she steps out of the shower, the bedroom windows are cloudy with steam.

     Wrapping herself in a thin cotton robe, Scully collapses into bed, eyelids closing of their own volition before she can pull up the covers. She falls into a deep, dreamless sleep, cheek pressed into the damp circle of her hair on the pillow.

#

     7:05 A.M.

     While Scully’s sleep is restful, Isaac’s is anything but. He tosses and turns on the narrow mattress in the room he shares with his mother.

     She’s screaming.

     She’s standing not five feet in front of him, her face a mask of terror, calling for him, crying out for help.

     “Mom? I’m here!”

     Her eyes remain unfocused, blinded with fear; she sees beyond him to some dark, unimaginable thing. He turns, searching for an assailant, for the source of her fear, but there is nothing but darkness, a darkness that shifts and consumes, a darkness that burns his retinas in its all-encompassing intensity.

     Her screams become gibbering, high-pitched wails, unintelligible. She’s slipping away, slipping into nothing. He reaches out to grab her, to touch her hand, but his fingers pass through her body as though she were a ghost. She fades, melding with the shadows around them, her outline shimmering against the dark until she’s gone.

     “Mom?! MOM!”

     At once, he feels her wrist solidify under his grip, his hand closing around firm flesh as he pulls her toward him.

     But what comes out of the shadow is no longer his mother. 

     Her face is melting, the skin dripping and falling off, revealing part of her skull, the bones of her jaw fixed in a silent grimace. Her wrist slips out of his hand leaving an oily, pulpy residue (her skin it’s her SKIN), and he gags as the acrid smell of burning hair and flesh overtake him.

     Isaac recoils, the shock propelling him backward, and he stumbles, falling, falling, forever falling as she descends upon him, swooping down to bring him back into the darkness

     He jerks awake, gagging, he can still smell the…

     The what?

     Nothing. It was a dream, and now it’s gone, leaving him shivering and frightened. He can hear his mother breathing softly in the other twin bed, and he moves to her side, touching her hand. She doesn’t wake, but her presence is a rare comfort.

     Solid, he thinks, a fleeting thought that holds no meaning.

     He creeps from the bedroom, making his way carefully down the stairs, surprised to find the man, Mulder, sitting in the dimly lit kitchen, feet propped up on the table, dozing with his chin to his chest. He rouses when Isaac enters.

     “Hey. Figured you’d sleep longer,” Mulder greets him, sits up, rubbing his face with his hands.

     Isaac shrugs in response. “Bad dreams.”

     “Ahh. I’ve had a few of those myself.” Mulder nods toward the fridge. “There’s food if you’re hungry.”

     “Uhhthanks.” He is hungry, actually; his stomach growls at the sight of bread, a jar of peanut butter, a bag of apples. He can feel the man watching him as he grabs a box of cereal from the counter, a bowl from the cupboard, and sits down to the table with his meal.

     “Feeling better? You were out of it for a while there.”

     “Yeah, I guess.” Isaac pauses, wondering if he should ask the question that’s been bothering him since he woke up. “Mr. Mulder?”

     “Yeah?”

     “When we were at the park…she said you’ve seen…things. What did she mean? What things?”

     Mulder nods as though he’d expected this, but from the man’s expression, Isaac understands he won’t get an answer. Not yet.

     “That’s a long story, kid. A past life for another time, maybe.” He sighs, a defeated sound that makes Isaac’s confidence wane. “Eat up, and get some more rest, k?”

     Mulder is out of the room before Isaac can choke down his last bite, leaving the boy to his unanswered questions.

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