The Third Memory
We know the truth, not only by reason, but also by the heart.
Melissa Scully slipped out of a deep sleep between one breath and the next. She lay still for a moment, her eyes wandering over the familiar contours of her room, dim and unreal with the night. Something was wrong.
Dana, she thought. But not Dana. The trouble seemed to reach her through her sister's distant mind. It was nothing here, or now, but as Melissa lay there the sensation of wrongness only grew. She closed her eyes, and let her other senses flow from her body, reaching out with her mind for understanding. Inside of herself, the world existed as a great dark sea, shimmering with personalities, ideas, emotions. Melissa drifted on the tide of other people's thoughts. It was something she'd always been able to do, to let herself float here, among the lives she had touched in the past, almost becoming them. In this otherworld, she could know their hearts, look into them, and see the problems that lurked there. This faculty of mind worked best with Dana, even after all these years. Even though Dana tried to close her mind away with science.
Far away, Melissa could sense someone's pulse fluttering as fast as a hummingbird's wing beats--a man's. She itched with his sweat. She thirsted with his fever, felt his achy uneasiness. His eyes were dry and gritty, and anger like a thunderstorm raged through him, only barely in check. Who was it?
Melissa concentrated on each muscle in her body, willing herself to relax, and easing herself back down into the pillow's softness. She couldn't force the feelings; they came when they would, most often on the edge of sleep. Most people, Melissa knew, dismissed such visions as dreams, and forgot them before their feet hit the floor in the morning. Yet these dreams pushed against the barriers of her conscious mind, asking to be seen, if only someone listened. As if only she could. Melissa breathed deeply, letting the images fall into place. In her mind's eye, she saw him.
A tall man, standing next to her. His eyes were shadowed with sleeplessness, and she felt the swirling darkness of his aura, flooded with guilt and pain. His forearm, dusted with golden-brown hair, was extended beside hers, his fingers splayed above a woman's body.
Melissa gasped. This was far more than a dream vision. It was cold here. She smelled the acrid sickness of antiseptic and vomit, heard the insistent beeps and shushing of life support equipment. She knew it was Dana's mind that touched hers, and she felt herself sliding down into her sister's memory. She tensed and called out, "Dana!" In her bedroom, alone, there was no answer. She was falling, falling into Dana's thoughts, into her sister's past.
White light flashed around her, and the sensation of falling ended. They sat in the front seat of a parked car, the man behind the wheel. It was night here. The white light was only the passing glare of headlights. Melissa saw the strange man not as she had seen him once, but as Dana saw him, a memory within a memory. He stared at the label of a bottle of root beer he held in his hand, running his fingers over its unopened cap. A rush of emotion coursed through Melissa: not her own, but her sister's feelings. It was Dana who sat beside him in the car, Dana who felt a quick hot stab of affection for him. Trust, and confidence, and concern mingled in Dana's mind, a confused whirl of thoughts.
"Don't call him Fox," Dana said, and her voice was wistful and full of something that was almost longing. He's my friend.
Melissa's eyes opened. Mulder. The man Dana worked with. She sighed, and sat up in bed, her hands covering her face. Somewhere far off he was hurting, and Dana was hurting because of it. A shiver ran through her. The vision was the most powerful thing she'd ever seen, and she wanted to push it away, to deny it...but she couldn't. Dana would. She would dismiss it with her cold rational mind that saw only what science deemed possible, and laugh at Melissa's misgivings. But there was a promise hidden in the vision. Melissa could taste it, like musty old clothes and rock dust, like heat and worry and grief.
When she got up, her left shoulder ached with the phantom pain of someone else's wound, and she knew that what the vision promised was death.
Margaret opened the door and looked up. "Dana," she said, her eyes widening at the sight of her daughter barefoot on the front step.
Dana couldn't look directly at her, and when she spoke, her voice was unsteady, caught on the verge of tears. "Hi, Mom."
For a moment Margaret could only stand staring at Dana. So many questions filled her that the first thing she blurted out was, "What are you doing with your shoes?"
Dana glanced down at the pumps she held in her hand as though she'd only just remembered that she was carrying them. The leather was scuffed and wet, and mud coated the soles. Still staring at them, she said, "They, uh...they started to give me blisters, so--"
Surprise gave way to concern. "You walked here at this time of night?"
The question seemed to dissolve the last of Dana's control. "Oh, Mom..." She stepped forward into her mother's arms, and Margaret returned her fierce hug.
"What is it, Dana?" she whispered, feeling Dana's shoulders trembling in her arms.
"I've made a terrible mistake," Dana said, her tears spilling over. "Dad would be so ashamed of me..."
Margaret led her inside, keeping one arm around her shoulder, letting Dana's tears flow. "Mulder...he was given some documents, and I think...he's dead, they've killed him for what he saw...he...I've been censured at work..." The words poured out, disjointed, uncontrollable, until the story was told, and the tears petered out, until Dana was silent in her embrace. Margaret thought of Fox Mulder, of his hand, warm on hers, when she told him the story of Dana and the snake. His comforting presence in the funeral parlour, when her sons were away at sea and Melissa--before Melissa returned. That poor boy, she thought. His poor mother.
"Here, honey," she said. "Just wash your face, and you'll feel better, and then we'll talk."
Dana sniffled, and took the cool cloth Margaret offered. When she had calmed down, Margaret took her into the living room, seating her on the couch and settling next to her, keeping one reassuring hand on her knee. Dana sat silently, as though awaiting her mother's judgement.
Margaret said, "I don't see how you can fault yourself. You had to make a choice. You did what you thought was right--"
"No." Dana was contained again. "I did what I thought was right for my partner."
It was just like when she was a girl, Margaret thought, when every scraped knee and bruise had to be stoically ignored, so that she could keep up with Billy and Charles. Determined, controlled--denying herself the comfort of inevitability.
Softly, Margaret said, "Wouldn't Mulder have done the same for you?"
"Yes, but that's exactly it, Mom. I behaved exactly how Mulder would have behaved, I lied and I countermanded my superiors because I thought that the pursuit of the truth was more important."
"And wasn't it?" Margaret asked, surprised that Dana would make such a distinction. But she was so like her father, holding herself accountable for an impossible morality. The Navy, the FBI; both bound their members up in so many regulations that the correct choice could never be equated with what was right.
"I don't know what the truth is," Dana said quietly. Tears crept into her voice as she continued, "but as far as the FBI is concerned, the truth is that if all of their agents behaved this way, they wouldn't be able to do their jobs." She paused, then added, as if her mother needed to be convinced, "And they're right!"
Defeat seemed to envelop Dana then, and Margaret once again felt William's absence keenly, like those first days after he'd passed on. Grieving, and wanting to comfort her family as well, and holding their grief with her own. "Dana, if you're really worried about what your father would think of you--I think he'd see that there was no right choice, and no wrong one." Dana looked away, and Margaret reached out, lifting her chin with a finger, forcing her to look her mother in the eye. "He would have been very proud and very supportive of his daughter."
But Dana only shook her head. "Mom, there was a right choice to make. And I didn't make it. I went with Mulder to New Mexico."
The front door opened and Melissa entered. Margaret looked up, but Dana only stared at her hands, and whispered, "I never should have let him go off by himself. He was in no condition--"
Melissa came quickly into the living room. Dana spoke so softly that she didn't catch her words, but that was unnecessary. The feelings she'd been having all afternoon were roiling in the air, almost visible. Guilt and anger and grief. And far off, like a distant storm, the stink of death--not now, not yet, but soon. Melissa had promised herself that she would go softly around Dana, respecting her faith in science, but her sister's aura was so dark, so needful of hope, that she spoke without thinking. "Something's happened to the man you work with, hasn't it?" she asked. The dream--the ache in her shoulder--it all matched what she sensed in Dana's mind, here, now.
Her mother looked up at her. "Melissa, please." This was no time for visions, or psychic readings, she thought, and Melissa saw that thought in her face.
"No." Melissa lifted a hand, brushing her mother's warning aside. This feeling, this worry inside her, had to be expressed. "No, I've been feeling it for the last couple of days. He's become ill or something." She looked at Dana, but her sister turned away.
Margaret glanced from one to the other. This was no time to get involved in arguments over faith and science. "I'm going to go make some coffee," she said, and left the room.
Melissa shrugged her shoulder bag to the floor and draped her coat over the arm of a chair. She sat down across from Dana, who stayed on the couch, silent. "I'm right, aren't I?" she asked, leaning forward. I need confirmation as much as any scientist. I need to know this knowledge, inside me, is real. That I'm not going crazy, feeling a ghost's pain. Fearing death.
Dana raised a hand to her mouth and sighed, reaching for control. "Melissa, Mulder is very likely dead."
Shock stabbed her like an icy knife, the words crashing against the knowledge, the emotions she felt. There was no loss, no true grief in Dana's mind...but apprehension burned in her like acid. She feared his death, yes, but to acknowledge it as real--it was impossible. "No, you don't believe that," she said.
"No, I do believe that." Each word was precise, controlled, angry.
She's trying to convince herself as much as me, Melissa thought. But to tell Dana that would only make her angrier. She sighed. For comfort's sake, for hope, she had to try. "I'm getting very strong feelings otherwise," she said, trying to explain.
Dana blinked, astounded that her pronouncement of death could be met, and disregarded, so lightly. "I wish it weren't true..."
"No--" Melissa ignored the bitter words and left her chair to kneel at Dana's side, looking up into her eyes. "No, honey, it's more than that." The feeling only grew stronger when she placed a hand on Dana's arm, took her sister's hand and enfolded it in hers. "You're radiating, Dana. You have a connection with him that's still strong and powerful." Melissa could feel it like a thing alive, writhing; reaching out, away, met by Mulder's answering life force. It felt like a tether of energy, or light, holding them together. She felt it as she could feel belongingness, a sense of a person's self extended to that which was theirs. Dana held Mulder's life like a piece of herself apart.
Yet in her face, Melissa could see no awareness of it, but only rejection. "Melissa, don't do this," she said.
Melissa hesitated, then murmured, "Well, I know what I feel."
"Fine. We'll leave it at that." Dana pushed away from Melissa and walked across the room. "Because you have absolutely no sensitivity to my feelings."
"Oh, Dana." Melissa stood, too, and followed her. "I wouldn't say it if I didn't feel so sure." She stopped, but there was still no change in Dana's face. She looked like she was only waiting for a chance to escape. Melissa wanted to offer her a healing, a way to see into herself, but she acted as though Melissa were purposefully trying to hurt her with hope. "You need a second opinion," she said.
"This isn't a medical condition, Melissa," Dana said, a disbelieving anger raising her voice. "It is a statement of fact. It's either true or it isn't, and based on the empirical evidence--which I happen to have gathered--it's a pretty damn sure bet that you're whistling in the wind!"
"I'm sorry." She goes on about the empirical evidence of death, but if she could feel what I feel she'd just know...it's faith; if you don't have it, you can't understand it; if you do, no explanations are necessary. "Look," she said, "I know that you're feeling a lot of things right now. You may even be feeling responsible. But if you could just try and see through your--your guilt, and your anger, then maybe you could look past this Western empiricism."
"I'll make sure to consult my Tarot cards when I'm out looking for a new job, thank you." Bitter sarcasm edged Dana's voice like a sword, and Melissa felt a sudden anger at the dismissal. Dana began to walk away, then spun back. "Melissa, I have lost somebody," she said.
Melissa opened her mouth to object--he's not dead!--but it would be useless, and worse than useless. She said nothing.
Dana finished, "I would like to deal with it in my own way," and turned her back on her sister.
Melissa lifted a hand to her forehead, feeling the press of words and thoughts and emotions within. A nameless pain, like fever ache deep in her bones, and strange thirst invaded her. It was Mulder, she was certain, and it became clearer the longer she spent with Dana. The bridge between them let her sense his suffering through her...and yet Dana felt nothing. She would rather imagine his death than face the disappointment of hoping for his life. There was guilt there, yes, but more, there was denial. And each day, Mulder felt weaker...
Finally, Melissa went after Dana, into the kitchen. She and Mom were sipping at mugs of coffee, silently. Melissa wanted to try again, to offer Dana the same comfort she had found, with Doctor Pomerantz. But now was not the time. She, too, sat, but the itch of premonition would not let her rest easy. The warning of death hung over them like the rumbling threat of a gathering storm.
The red of morning was veiled with mist when Eric slipped out the front door. His swollen eye ached with each heartbeat, and he hissed softly and raised a hand to feel the stickiness of blood. He'd had worse, one day when he'd been fooling around on his bike out in the loose gravel of the arroyos without his helmet, but this injury cut deeper because of how he'd received it. The cool air drifting past the cabins was like a healing. He shivered and crossed his arms against the chill, walking towards his motorbike. The only sound was of dirt crunching beneath his boots, and the wind. Eric ran a finger over the condensed beads of water on the gas tank, and gripped the throttle. The roar of the machine would break the quiet, and his head hurt too much for the jolting ride up to the mesas. But to escape...
Eric spun around. "Grandfather. I was just..."
The old man, wrapped in a cloak of hand-woven blankets, stepped down from the porch, holding up his hand to wave away the explanation. "I do not wish to stop you, Eric. I only ask you to consider silence."
Eric ducked his head, turning back to the motorcycle. He didn't want to listen to another of Grandfather's stories, another legend of Pollen Boy and the Gila monster. There was nothing for him there--the magic of boyhood stories was lost in their over-telling. The motorcycle was the only thing that made sense to him any more, and the land of his ancestors made sense only when it was blurred beneath the footpegs, when he travelled faster than pain.
But Grandfather beckoned, and Eric left his machine behind to join him on the porch. "Do you hear, Eric?"
Eric squinted up at Grandfather through the blur of his black eye. "Hear what?"
"There is not much." The old man nodded, and a light like a smile gleamed deep in his dark eyes. "The wind. The burrowing animals, returning home. The birds, waking. The Earth turning, turning. It is my favourite time."
Eric shifted, uncomfortable with Grandfather's words, and the look on his face that suggested that he could hear all those things.
Grandfather closed his eyes. "I would tell you a story, Eric."
"No, no, hear me. This is not a legend, because your young ears have grown impatient with old ways. This is a story of becoming, and of silence. It is my story."
Grandfather's face tightened, pulling against the bandage covering the gash where the soldier had struck him with the gun butt. All at once, Grandfather seemed ancient, as though the lines of his face and the white hair were not an elder's strength but an old man's weakness, and Eric looked away.
"This is a story of when I was a young man." Grandfather's voice took on the cadence of the storyteller, and Eric closed his eyes, as he had since he was a toddler sitting in Grandfather's lap, entranced despite himself.
"I was called, with others from this village, to serve in the country during the war. My brother was with me, and your mother's father, and two others. We were taken away from the calmness of the village, and thrown among the men who believe an hour does not pass unless it is measured. Always there was noise. Always there were men, rushing, shouting, ordering. I felt alone and apart from our people. I flew to the islands of the Pacific, and talked codes for the navy. There, the noises were of shells screaming and grenades exploding and the whimpers of the dying men. For three years I was gone, and never once was I allowed to listen to a sunrise. When I returned, my brother was with me, in my arms, wounded still and dying. They did not want me to bring him home; but the hospital was no good for him, I saw that. I brought him here, and my great uncle took him into the hogan, and we chanted for him, the Blessing Way. The ancient ones did not answer. On the morning of the second day, my brother whispered for me, and asked me to carry him outside. Together, we listened to the sunrise, and he said: 'I have been waiting to hear the Earth. I am ready now.' And he left us to join our ancestors."
Eric opened his eyes, and squinted into the hot red light piercing from the east. The sun was burning away the night mists, promising the heat of day. Grandfather's eyes were closed still, but he had lifted his face to the sunrise, as though he was a plant seeking life, and the light gleamed off the tears running down the deep grooves at the sides of his mouth.
"It was that day that I told my great uncle that I would follow him, and learn the chants and stories of our people," Grandfather said softly. "He told me that I must first forgive the people who had stolen my brother from me, and learn to avoid hate. It is hard, when men come seeking to end our knowledge. Remember, Eric. Something lives only as long as the last person who remembers it. I am old. It will soon be the time of someone new, whose memory is stronger than hate, to carry on the Blessing Way."
Eric hunched into himself, away from Grandfather's words. Across the yard, the motorcycle's red paint glared at him under the sun's fire. Eric leaned back on his elbows, closed his eyes, and tried to hear the Earth turning. His head was filled with the roar of engines, the blare of helicopter props, the crackle of fire--the noiseless explosion of a soldier's fist in his face.
"Grandfather, I can't hear what you hear," he said. "I can't learn all the legends. Don't ask me."
Grandfather smiled, still seeking the sun. "The Earth will offer us a gift this day. I feel it. There will be time for you yet, Eric. First and always, learn patience."
Eric stood up, extending his arms into the day's new heat, stretching. "But breakfast first, eh, Grandfather?"
"Yes." Grandfather stood, leaning heavily on Eric's proffered hand, and they returned inside.
But no sooner than they sat down to eat, the cries began. "Come quickly! The buzzards! The buzzards have found something!" And they left to uncover the Earth's gift.
The office was on the fourth floor of a large professional building, listed on the directory in the lobby with the same matter-of-fact letters that advertised dentists, podiatrists, and massage therapists. Scully stood in front of the glass-covered index, and did something very unlike herself: she hesitated.
The argument with Missy was still fresh in her mind, her sister's repeated words given new significance by the tiny chip of metal enclosed in the vial in her pocket. Scully bit her lip, slipped her hand into her pocket, and felt the smooth plastic cylinder. It held all the answers, and all the mysteries, and all her doubt.
Dana, there are four months missing from your life. Four months, a gaping hole, a void in her memory. Except for a flash of light--Duane Barry's face--and the sound of her own nightmare screams, she had nothing left of that time. Her hand crept next to the spot on the back of her neck, just below her collar. The anasthetic had worn off and her skin was tender, like a soon-fading bruise. That spot held all her terror of the unknown.
"Miss? Going up?"
Scully looked up. A young man in a suit was holding the elevator door open for her. "Oh--yes. Thank you." She stepped forward, awkwardly, hesitating even here on the threshold of the elevator. "Four, please," she said in answer to his look. You don't have to do this. You can go home, her mind suggested, but the man was still watching her when the doors dinged open at the fourth floor. Scully smiled faintly and escaped into the hall.
Here, the name was emblazoned on a bronze panel attached to the wall: Dr. Mark Pomerantz, Hypnotherapist. Scully felt a twinge of unease at the appellation 'Doctor', though Melissa had told her he was a certified M.D. She entered the office, relaxing despite herself upon seeing the tasteful, sedate furniture. The secretary looked up, and Scully said, "I'm--Dana Scully. I have an appointment."
"Yes, of course, Dr. Pomerantz will see you now." The secretary escorted Scully into the inner office. Pomerantz stood when they walked in, smiling, directing her to a chair. Scully tried to focus on his words, but fear slipped through her like a stranger in the night, intent on the unspeakable. She closed her eyes at Pomerantz' insistence--and she listened to his voice--and she fell, she will fall, she is falling--
--falling into the white light.
it is bright here and at first she is blinded.
helicopter search lights? duane barry disappears. shadow-men grip her arms. in the tilt of their heads she reads curiosity, cold and empty and oh, there is fear here, and she opens her mouth to scream--
light, and men in surgeons' gowns lean over her. a scalpel's blade shines above her. sharp, rattling words that she does not understand pass between the men. the doctor's face, tight with concentration, is a memory she catches hold of and keeps, even here, even in the cold place where they leave her.
now she sees her own body, her abdomen swollen and huge with awful life, her arms and legs like lead and motionless but her belly reaching and writhing and oh my god i'm pregnant, what have they put in me, what have they done--
"--it's time, let's get it out."
the muscles of her stomach rippling with massive contractions, hands pressing down, gloves wet with blood and mucous, the thin squall of an infant. my baby it's mine--
in the corner stands a man. does he see her?
is he really here? does she see him?
"--they want her back--"
"--not successful yet but soon--"
"--it's poison, a carcinogen eventually, unless--"
"--what about the partner--"
"--taken care of him--"
he stands naked, wrapped in blankets woven with bright patterns. he is marked above the eyes with two lines of black paint. there is a bullet wound in his shoulder. why is he here?
does he see me?
she feels the impact of landing and then the sharp pain of a needle in the back of her neck. she is falling again.
dad? i'm coming with you, can you hear me? it's fall, do you remember the woods where billy and charles taught me to shoot, the lake where we used to swim? it's dark under storm clouds. do you see me? in a boat tethered to shore. take me home, daddy--
the rope snaps. she imagines letting go but it's not your time to go, dana and with all her heart she screams--
and when she awakens, she remembers listening to the sound of his voice.
Scully's eyes shot open. Her heart pounded in her wrists, at her neck, and her breath rasped in her chest. Slowly, Dr. Pomerantz' office came into focus around her. "I'm sorry, I can't do this," she said, grabbing at reality, wanting only to escape. Still shaking, she ran for the door. She rushed past the secretary without a word. She collapsed into her car, not daring to turn the key in the ignition. And she choked back her tears, because once more, she couldn't remember a thing...except now she knew what was missing.
THE END...OR IS IT?
...No. It totally is.
Back to WIP stories
Back to The Written Realm