Virtual Season Two
  • Blood and Thoughtstalking
  • Psychodiagnostiks
  • 360 Maple Grove
  • Oestrus
  • Game Over
  • The Loyal Ones
  • Hypnagogia
  • Electioneering
  • Dreamscape
  • Callipso
  • Teporingo
  • The Jade Monkey Project
  • Bitter Revenge
  • Red Tide
  • Chi
  • Human Nature
  • Asthenopia
  • Ley of the Land
  • Everything To Live For
  • Warden
  • Grimm
  • A Piori

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    • Writers: Alien Girl & Riva Lawson
    • E-Mail: and
    • Original Post Date: 6/23/2000



    Randy Shores flicked off the lights in the hall, leaving only the dim bathroom light on. Before heading into the bedroom, however, he decided to take a little detour...he headed towards the end of the hall to check in the kid's room.

    He smiled as he observed his eight-year-old daughter and six-year-old son fast asleep on their respective sides of the room. Joey had built himself a fort out of blankets, and in contrast his sister Stephanie had turned her bed into her own fort of blankets and pillows, guarded by her stuffed dog. He could never get enough of those two kids.

    Closing their bedroom door softly behind him, he headed back down the hall to where he knew Elisa was waiting for him. As he entered the bedroom, she looked up from the magazine she had been reading. "Took your time, didn't you?"

    "Any particular reason why you wanted me to hurry up?" He asked with a grin.

    "Wellllll......" His wife trailed off, grinning devishly and shifting her legs beneath the thick comforters.

    Randy got the message. Mirroring her grin, he climbed into his place on the bed, grabbing up the remote and switching off the TV that had been on as he did so. He could already feel his senses beginning to spark with Elisa's body heat next to his.

    When suddenly the moment was shattered by a sound downstairs.

    Elisa instantly became alert. "What was that?"

    Randy was not the sort of husband who went around reassuring his wife that it was nothing, that it was just the wind, that she shouldn't worry about it. Even though they lived in a fairly safe community, he never took chances. If there was something down there, it was better to go down and face it now then let it come up and find him. And if there wasn't anything down there after all...well, better to be safe than sorry.

    Without saying a word, he got up from the bed and reached into his drawer for his small handgun. After retrieving the gun, he went to the bedroom closet to get the clip for it...he had taken precautions with his gun, especially with two young children in the house. "Stay here," He intructed Elisa, and started downstairs.

    The noise came again. It sounded like footsteps, heavy footsteps on tile, with broken glass mixed somewhere inbetween. Keeping his steps soft and sure, Randy ventured down the stairs, keeping his gun close at hand.

    Peering around the top of the stairs, he saw them...three men, dressed in all black pants, shirts and hats, as well as dark glasses. One of them had a large, metal pipe. He couldn't tell if the others had weapons or not.

    He felt his heart rate jump to exhausting speeds out of complete fear. He had never thought that this could happen to him and his family...not with where they lived, and the precautions they took against robbers. But here they were, standing in his own kitchen, kicking aside broken glass and beginning to glance around the kitchen for fine silver or other goods.

    Normally, Randy would have run upstairs and dialed 911 right away. He would have done something to quietly dispose of these robbers. But for some reason, he did the exact opposite of his instincts and his common sense... He went down and confronted them.

    "Hold it right there!!" He yelled in a shaky-and-commanding voice, coming out from his hiding place and thrusting his handgun at the three men in black.


    Before anyone had a chance to say anything, the tallest robber reached behind his belt, pulled out his own gun and fired.

    The leader robber cursed loudly, landing the tall one a swift punch in the jaw as the lifeless body of Randy Shores tumbled to the kitchen floor without protest. "You idiot!!" The leader growled. "Now everyone in the house will hear!"

    "Not if they're dead, they won't," The tall one snapped back. Knowing what he had to do, he instantly stepped over Randy's body and headed up the staircase. The leader didn't bother to stop him.

    A while later, there was a second gunshot. And then two more, one right after the other.

    Andrew Shores awoke in a cold sweat, his face plastered with prespiration, his hands shaking. As his eyes grew adjusted to the darkness of his bedroom, his heartbeat settled down, reminding him that it was just a dream.

    Just a dream.

    Andrew reached over beside his bed and grabbed up a small blue pill and glass of water and gulped the two down. He let his thoughts mellow out as he tasted the bitter aftertaste of the pill in the back of his throat. He hated not being able to sleep. He hated constantly waking up in the middle of the night from a nightmare and then being unable to go back to sleep again. He had tried to get treatment for these problems, but so far they had been of little help.

    He had had dreams about his brother, Randy, and his brother's family being killed before, so this was nothing new. He told himself that it was just because his brother was his only living family, and therefore he was constantly worried about Randy's safety. It was just that this one seemed so.....


    Andrew stared at his phone for a minute before answering it. Strange...who would be calling at this hour?


    "Is this Mr. Andrew Shores?"


    "Sir, I'm afraid I have terrible news."

    There was a pause. "Who is this?"

    "This is Sheriff Corno from the Austin County Police Department."

    Another pause.

    "There was a home robbery this evening...I regret to tell you that...your brother, Randy, and his wife and two children were all killed."

    8:45 AM
    JUNE 19th, 2000

    Fox Mulder backed into his office, pushing the half-open door aside with his hip as he carefully balanced the two over-full coffee cups in his hands. Turning, he smiled as he noticed his partner sitting at her desk.

    "Hey Scully! You're early this morning,"

    "Good morning to you too, Mulder. You may not be early, but you're certainly cheerful enough to make up for it." A smile tugged at Dana Scully's lips for a moment as she glanced up at him, and then quickly hid itself away as she turned her attention back to her computer screen.

    "I would have been down here a half-hour ago if I hadn't had to fight my way through a half a dozen caffeine-starved FBI Agents just to get my order at the new Starbucks across the street." He gave a triumphant, self-congratulatory smile as he deposited one of the coffee cups on the desk beside Scully.

    "One double mocha latte, extra steamed and made with *dark* chocolate." He waited for a moment, not getting his expected reaction from Scully. She continued to type away at her computer.

    "Your favorite," He prompted.

    "Oh, Mulder," Scully turned to look at the coffee cup as though noticing it for the first time. "Thank you...but you really shouldn't have."

    "No problem, really Scully. I wanted to." He assured her.

    "No. I mean you really shouldn't have." Scully pushed the coffee cup away. "I'm trying to quit, Mulder."

    "Quit?" Mulder looked confused.

    "Caffeine." Scully said simply. She reached to the other side of the desk and began to shuffle through the small paper bag that sat there as she talked. "Caffeine is a powerful addictive stimulant, Mulder. In essence, it's a drug - albeit a perfectly legal one. But that doesn't make it any healthier for you. I just quit last week." As she finished her sentence her right hand found its intended target inside the paper bag and she pulled out a small plastic container of orange juice. "I decided I just wasn't doing my body any favors by making it dependant on anything- even something as innocent as caffeine."

    Mulder looked at her as though he couldn't believe what he was hearing.

    Scully eyed the coffee cup in Mulder's hand that she knew contained his customary double black. "You should think about it, too." She commented as she popped the top off her orange juice and took a large sip.

    Mulder's hand curled protectively around his coffee cup as he looked in disgust at the offending orange juice container. "You know, Scully, I think you're taking this health thing to an extreme."

    Scully laughed. "Yeah, like you never take anything to an extreme."

    "Touché." Mulder picked up the rejected mocha double as he retreated to his desk. He sighed. "Oh well. The best laid plans..."

    "I appreciate the thought, Mulder." Scully smiled wryly.

    His eyes met hers for a moment to acknowledge her thanks silently. "Skinner handed me a file last night awhile after you left."


    He nodded, pulling the file from the drawer he had stuffed it in the night before. "It's being set up and prosecuted like simple homicide, but evidently there are parties at the DCPD who think there's more to it than that." He waggled his eyebrows. "They say it has something to do with dreams..."

    "Is that so."

    Mulder nodded. "So, Scully...The game is afoot. You ready to rumble?"

    Scully sighed. "Don't mix your clichés Mulder."

    10:30 am

    "So tell me again why the FBI is needed if this is just a murder case? Can't the local authorities handle it themselves?" Scully asked.

    "Normally, they would..." Mulder said in a mysterious tone of voice. "Except that they really can't bring any evidence against him. And his alibi is more than a little strange."

    Scully didn't bother to inquire any further, deciding that she would just find out what Mulder was talking about when they met the prisoner. They walked down the blank, concrete prison halls in step, taking care to avoid anything or anyone that might distract them. They finally arrived at a small interrogation room, built with gray concrete blocks and poor lighting for the purpose of intimidating the interviewee.

    The person presently occupying the interrogation room was a short, blond-haired man with a thin complexion and a frightened expression. He sat in his hard wooden chair uncomfortably, wringing his hands like an old nervous woman. By all outward appearances, he certainly didn't seem capable of murdering his wife in their own bed.

    An officer stood guard outside the interrogation room. He handed a stack of folders and papers to Mulder, nodded and let them in. The short blond man looked up at the two entering agents with an expression of mixed expectancy and fear. "Who are you?"

    "I'm Agent Mulder, this is Agent Scully. We're from the FBI," Mulder introduced them. "We're here to ask you some questions about how your wife died."

    "Look, I didn't do it!" The man sputtered in a choking voice. "I don't know what happened, I just know that it happened!"

    "Just settle down, don't worry about it," Mulder reassured the man as he sat down in the other wooden chair. "Can you tell me your name?"

    "Ch-Chad Chandler."

    "What was your wife's name?"


    "Now," Mulder made sure to keep his voice even and calm. "Can you tell me what happened the night that your wife died?"

    Chad stuttered momentarily before answering. "We just went to bed like any other night, you know? There wasn't anything wrong. And then sometime during the night I had this weird dream that Claire was choking on something, suffocating to death, but I couldn't help her! I woke up, and at first I was relieved that it was just a dream. But then I looked over and I realized that she was dead!" Chad began to break down into a pile of emotional rubble. "And now they're saying that I killed her...and I would never think of hurting Claire..."

    Scully soaked in the information, her hypothesis already coming into form. She turned to Mulder. "Have they done an autopsy on the victim?"

    "Yeah, I have the report right here," Mulder said, pulling a folder out of the stack of papers that had been handed to him, and giving it to her.

    Scully quickly flipped through the autopsy report...Mrs. Chandler had died as a result of blockage of the esophagus, preventing her from breathing. Most likely choking or suffocation. I think it's pretty obvious what happened here...

    "I take it you were the one who called 911."

    "Of course!"

    "But when the police arrived and saw your wife dead, they instantly assumed that you had done it."

    "Yeah...but I don't know why they did..."

    "Because there was no other way to explain her sudden death."

    "I had a dream about it..." Chad reminded Mulder.

    Scully tapped Mulder on the shoulder, indicating for him to speak to her privately. He got up and followed her to a corner of the interrogation room.

    "Mulder, it's most likely that this man strangled his wife without even knowing it. If he had dreamed that he was trying to stop her from choking, he might have been strangling her in his sleep; acting out his dream."

    "Well, does that autopsy report you're holding show evidence of strangulation?"

    Scully hadn't remembered to check for that. She did a quick scan through the papers, frowning. "There's no evidence of hand imprints or rope or anything else used on her neck. No marks of any kind in fact."

    "So, in other words, she died from strangling or choking, but we don't know how."

    "Am I still considered guilty?" Chad asked quietly from the other side of the room.

    "We're not sure yet, Mr. Chandler," Scully answered. "We don't have any evidence to support that you did kill her, but we also don't have any evidence to support that you didn't kill her."

    "I don't know what else to say..." The grief-stricken man was beginning to crumble yet again. "I just want to go home..."

    Scully looked at the concrete floor, not knowing what else to say. "Thank you for your time, sir. We're not exactly sure yet what we are going to do, but we will do our best to see that you get home soon."

    "Th-thank you," The whimpering blonde nodded.

    Mulder and Scully both exited the interrogation room quickly, eager to get out of its confining dimness. They could hear the guard going in to get Chad and take him back to his cell.

    "I don't think he did it, Scully," Mulder voiced his thoughts.

    "Neither do I," Scully replied. "It just doesn't seem to fit for me. But I'm still puzzled as to how the woman died at all."

    "And I'm still wondering about how his dream was so closely related to what actually happened..."

    "What? You think that her sudden death prompted his dream?"

    "Other way around," Mulder corrected. "I think his dream prompted her sudden death."

    Here we go again... Scully told herself mentally. " on earth could a dream about someone else become that person's reality? Other than a bizarre coincidence?"

    "Well, it would have to be an even more bizarre coincidence," Mulder added, "Because the same thing happened to another person across town."

    Scully was clearly surprised. "What do you mean?"

    "The file that I was reading this morning...a few weeks ago, a man named Michael Shores had a dream in which his brother and family were killed by robbers. Just a few minutes after he woke up, he received a call from a sheriff in Austin, Texas, telling him that his brother and family had been killed in a botched robbery...just as it had happened in his dream."

    Scully didn't say anything. The instance Mulder had mentioned and the story of the prisoner were too large a coincidence to be realistic. "So what do you have to connect these two things together?"

    "Nothing really, except that they occurred in such a small vicinity of each other. I have yet to figure out what exactly caused them...whether it's something in town specifically or something else."

    "So...what do you suggest we do in the meantime?"

    "Find something or someone to prove the man's innocence?"

    "And how do you plan on doing that?"

    "I'll tell you when I figure it out myself."

    JUNE 21, 2000

    "Hey, freakface!"

    Skylar didn't turn around. As far as he was concerned, Ilan didn't exist. He had listened to Ilan's tormenting so much that he had become used to it, and finally shut himself off from it. He didn't care what Ilan said...Skylar had always felt good about himself, and no 6th-grade bully was going to change that.

    "Hey! I'm talking to you, fag!" Ilan shouted up at him again. "Whatcha doin' up there? Thinkin' about making out with your boyfriend?"

    Skylar had heard this before...Skylar himself was not gay, but his uncle was, and Skylar loved his uncle...he was like a second father to him. And if there was one thing he couldn't stand, it was someone insulting someone he loved, even if it was indirectly.

    "Do you honestly have nothing better to call me than other types of people? What're you gonna call me next? A nigger? A Jap? You're racist!!"

    Ilan's face was beginning to turn an angry color. Like all elementary school bullies, he could dish it out, but he couldn't take it. "I'm gonna go up there and teach you a lesson about races...and by the time I'm through with you, you will be a nigger 'cause you'll be black and blue!"

    Skylar didn't move from his seat on top of the jungle gym. He just watched Ilan begin to climb up the jungle gym bars towards him, while several other kids gathered below to watch.

    Finally, Ilan reached the top of the jungle gym, glaring at the 4th grader that dared to shoot insults back at him. "Anything you wanna say to my face now, punk?"

    "Other than how ugly it is? Not really."

    Ilan had had quite enough of this. He grabbed Skylar roughly by the collar and pulled him in close to his face. "What'd you just say?!"

    Skylar was completely shocked at how steady and influential he was able to keep his voice. "I said you have an ugly face, Ilan."

    "Then you won't have to look at it anymore!" Ilan roared, slamming his fist into Skylar's nose.

    Skylar made no noise as he lost his balance and toppled backwards. At first he slid down the first two bars before falling through the jungle gym, his body slamming against several more bars on the way down. Finally, he landed in the sand, his leg twisted in a weird position. The other kids stared in horrified silence at how still Skylar lay.

    Mrs. Rose jerked awake, feeling her hand smack against the vacuum cleaner as she did so. After a few seconds of panicked confusion, she realized that it had all been just a dream.

    Man...can't even take a nap for 15 minutes without worrying about something...

    Mrs. Rose forced herself to get up off the couch, stretching to get the kinks out of her muscles. She groaned, gazing around at the messy house, and then remembered why she had stopped to take a nap in the first place.

    It's not easy caring for a house occupied by four kids...especially when three of them are teenagers.

    She decided to begin vacuuming again, just to get her mind off of that strange dream she had just had. Skylar was the youngest of her four children, and the one she was most anxious about. Her three teenage daughters felt fine sharing everything about their life with her (which she found odd, but appreciated anyway.) However, Skylar was very withdrawn, and almost never talked about his life...which led her to suspect that there were problems at school.

    With her vigorous vacuuming she almost didn't hear the phone ringing. Surprised, she switched off the vacuum cleaner and grabbed up the phone on the last ring. "Hello?"

    "Is this Mrs. Rose, Skylar Rose's mother?"

    "Yes. Who is speaking?"

    "This is Principal Winkelman, at Adams Elementary. I have some news concerning your son, Skylar."

    Mrs. Rose felt a large lump form in her throat. "What about Skylar? Is he alright?"

    There was a pause. "I'm afraid not, ma'am...he and another boy got into a fight on top of the jungle gym during recess, and Skylar fell and broke his leg. We've called an ambulance and he's on his way to the hospital right now. We felt that it would be best if we called you immediately."

    Mrs. Rose grasped at her stomach, trying to quell the dark feeling of horror that spread inside it. "I'll...I'll be there as soon as I can."


    Mrs. Rose opened the door as soon as she heard the car doors slam outside her home. She watched as a man and a woman walk purposefully from their car to her house, a bit apprehensively.

    She had called the DC Police Department not too long ago, requesting an interview, but these people didn't look like police.

    "Are you the police agents I asked to come?" She said in a confused tone as Mulder and Scully arrived at her front porch.

    "We're from the FBI," Mulder said. "We were down at the PD doing some research on a case, and heard about the call you had made to the station, so we decided to investigate it ourselves."

    Mrs. Rose stuttered momentarily. "W-well...I don't think there's any need to bother the FBI with this sort of thing..."

    "Oh, don't worry, it's no trouble at all," Mulder said, leading Scully and himself into the house. Mrs. Rose just half-shrugged.

    "And you are..."

    "Agents Mulder, Scully," Mulder said as he invited himself to sit down on the couch. "So...Ms...."

    "Mrs. Rose."

    "Mrs. Rose, what happened today to make you feel you needed to contact the authorities?"

    "My son got into a fight with another kid at school. He fell off the jungle gym and broke his leg."

    "And..." Scully prompted her. "Is that all?"

    "No..." Mrs. Rose went on. "It's like I told the police officer I talked to over the phone...although I don't think he believed me. This afternoon I stopped to take a nap and I dreamed that the exact same thing happened. When I woke up, I got a call that my son Skylar had broken his leg at school." Her face dropped with anxiety. "It just seemed like too much of a coincidence to me."

    Mulder was about to ask something when Scully stepped in. "Mrs. Rose, how long were you asleep before you started to have your dream?"

    "Oh, not very long. I think I only slept for about 20 minutes altogether."

    Mulder seemed very interested by this information. "Why did you feel that the dream was 'too much of a coincidence'? Is there anything that makes you believe the two instances are somehow related?"

    "Well..." Mrs. Rose hesitated, smoothing out her skirt even though there were no wrinkles in it. "I had been having some strange dreams for awhile. Very troubling to my sleep patterns."

    "Were any of them about your son?"

    "Only a few. Anyway, about a month ago a friend of mine recommended I start seeing a dream therapist. I found one here in DC, and we talked about a few things. His ideas were a little strange. It seemed to help at first, but now this..."

    "Who was this 'dream therapist' you were seeing?" Mulder asked.

    Mrs. Rose displayed an embarrassed shrug. "Actually...I don't know his real name. He calls himself 'The Sandman'."

    Scully suppressed a smirk at the odd title. Mulder leaned forward a bit on the couch. "What kinds of 'methods' does he use?" He asked.

    "Ohh...Dream discussion, interpretation, meditation. I really couldn't explain it to you. You would have to talk to him yourself."

    "Do you have the address of his office?"

    "Yes, It's just in my address book here." The woman reached over to scoop up that gray book next to the telephone and handed Mulder a small scrap of paper. "You know, this is probably all just silly. Thinking my son breaking his leg is somehow connected to a dream therapist...I don't see how there could be a connection. He's just a harmless old man...and a connection like that is just not possible. I certainly don't want to bother the FBI."

    "No, it's very helpful to us." Mulder assured her.


    "We are investigation several cases similar to yours occurring in the area."

    "It just bothered me too much to let it go, that's all," Mrs. Rose sighed. "It frightened me. Even if you don't find anything on it, I just felt like I needed to tell someone of authority. To make sure nothing else happens to my son."

    "We'll make sure of that," Mulder said, standing. "I don't think you should have any more problems. There has never been repeat incidences in any of the other cases."

    "Should I continue to see my dream therapist?" Mrs. Rose asked as they turned to leave.

    Mulder hesitated. "I don't know yet. Let us have a talk with him first, and then we'll inform you on whether or not you should keep seeing him."

    "Oh. Well...thank you," She called after the two agents.

    "This is it, Scully," Mulder turned to her as soon as they exited the house. "This dream therapist, this 'Sandman'. I'll bet you that he's connected to this, and I'll bet you that the other two victims have this same 'therapist'."

    "Mulder, that's a pretty big assumption to make," She answered. "What makes you so sure that this dream therapist is behind all this?"

    "Because there are even stranger things here than just the similarities between dreams and reality. Mrs. Rose just said she had had her dream while taking a 20-minute nap. REM sleep, -the sleep period when we have the ability to dream- only begins after a person has been asleep for at least an hour and a half. Something must have happened to that woman to make her go into REM sleep regardless of how long she had been asleep."

    Scully stopped, thinking about what Mulder had said. "So...?"

    "So as soon as we confirm that the other victims had this same dream therapist, we're going to visit 'The Sandman', Scully."

    4:40 PM
    JUNE 22, 2000

    "This is the place," Mulder said, staring up at the foreboding building that loomed before them. It was plain, but taller than the other buildings surrounding it, and painted a very dark blue. It was stuck in between the restaurants and liquor stores on the busy street like an encyclopedia accidentally stuck between the magazines.

    Mulder and Scully silently read the sign on the door, painted in fading gold letters:

    (442) - 555 - 7699

    "The Sandman?" Scully said incredulously. "Who'd want to give themselves that sort of nickname?"

    "Someone who isn't interested in impressing people with who he is. Come on, let's go find out for ourselves."

    Mulder led her inside, and was greeted instantly with a steep staircase that wound upwards. They headed up the staircase until they reached another hallway and another door. Mulder and Scully exchanged glances before Mulder came up and knocked on the door.

    "Enter," an old, hazy voice came from within.

    Mulder eased the door open, feeling the hairs on his arms take on an alert stance. Inside the small office there were a few plush sofas, one table in the center of the room, and a large desk in one corner. There was only one window in the entire office, which permitted a single ray of light that illuminated the dust hovering in midair. At the desk sat an aged man, with just a small amount of white hairs clinging faithfully to his scalp, and startling silver blue eyes that seemed to burst out of their sunken-in appearance. He stared at the two agents as if they were the last two people on earth.

    For a moment, Mulder was lost for words. "Are you 'The Sandman'?" He finally asked.

    "I am," The Sandman answered again in that strange hazy voice. "You are having troubles with your dreams? I can help you with that."

    "No...we're not here for that," Mulder continued, wondering how he should go about this. "We came here because we needed to ask you some questions."

    "I am the only one who asks questions here," He answered. "Who are you?"

    "I'm Agent Mulder, this is Agent Scully, from the FBI."

    "I haven't broken the law."

    "We know that. But there have been instances in this town where people have been having dreams that are coming true. The first person dreamed that robbers killed his brother and family, the second dreamed that his wife was strangled to death, and the third dreamed that her son broke his leg at school. The only connection these three people have is that they have all come to you for therapy sometime within the past few weeks."

    The Sandman was still looking at them intently with the face of one who was born to analyze. "I have many clients who come in here frequently. I'm expecting one very soon, in fact. Do you expect me to remember them all, especially in my old age?"

    "No...we were just wondering what methods you use to treat your patients," Scully replied.

    "They tell me their dreams. I interpret them based on my knowledge of dreams and symbols. Then I tell them how to solve whatever problems they are having because of these dreams. Do my methods seem outrageous or unconventional to you?"

    "No. But it seems that some of your patients have not had their problems solved, and are still having reoccurring dreams or nightmares."

    The Sandman let out a sound like a grunt. "People are foolish when it comes to dreams. They think that just by talking about their dreams they will make them go away. A dream just won't 'go away' until it is resolved, and resolved in the physical world."

    Mulder and Scully exchanged glances. "We don't exactly know what you mean..."

    "I don't expect you to," He replied curtly. "People seem to believe that dreams are connected to your subconscious, your hidden fears and desires. But dreams are just reality in alternate forms, the mind's reinterpretation of what it has already experienced."

    It was apparent that both Mulder and Scully were confused and slightly apprehensive of this strange man and his strange ideas. "Well, I had a dream once that I was being chased by an invisible Nazi weasel, and I escaped by boarding 'The Minnow' from "Gilligan's Island" and sailing to Cher's beach house," Mulder said. "How do you--"

    "Symbolism," The Sandman interrupted. "Most dreams reinterpret reality into complex forms of symbolism. This is what makes them so interesting to analyze."

    "So, what you're saying is that dreams are just different versions of what we've already experienced."

    "Or will experience," He replied cryptically. "And I didn't say different versions. Sometimes it is very difficult to distinguish dreams from reality."

    "So you consider it your job to 'distinguish dreams from reality' as you say."

    "Not that. I consider it my job to make people's dreams become useful in their lives."

    "I don't think it was very 'useful' to some of your other patients who lost friends or family members."

    "It was what was meant to happen," The Sandman said, shutting his eyes briefly. "All things in dreams must eventually come to pass. In some form or another."

    Mulder raised his eyebrows at the odd comment. "Excuse me for asking, but..."

    "Why must they come to pass?" The Sandman finished for him. "Because dreams not only contain reality, but what exists beyond reality. Fate. Destiny. Whatever you like to call it."

    "But sometimes something could happen in a dream that never comes true," Mulder continued along with the Sandman's mode of thinking.

    "Falseness," The Sandman nodded. "Sometimes dreams are acted upon by unconscious desires or fears. This is where people get the idea that they are the dreams themselves, but they are not. They can only influence what happens if that fear or desire is strong. I have noticed that in those cases, it is the opposite that happens in reality."

    "And you think you're able to tell the difference between a true dream and a false dream."

    "It is just as difficult to tell those apart as it is to tell dreams themselves from reality."

    The two agents paused for a minute, both not knowing what to say next. Finally, Scully said, "We still need something that can help us determine how exactly your patients' dreams mysteriously become reality."

    "All I can say is that whatever happens is meant to happen. I only ensure that whatever happens turns out for the best for that person."

    "Well, thank you for your time," Mulder stood, and Scully did the same. "We need to be going now."

    "You'll think about what I said," The Sandman told them. "I look forward to seeing you two again."

    They just nodded, and quickly exited the dim, musty office. They did not speak again until they were back out on the street. Mulder breathed in the outside air gratefully. "I'm glad to be out of there..." He told Scully. "There's something about that man that I don't like."

    "I know," Scully agreed with her partner. "I couldn't tell what it was...he wasn't just odd, he was sort of menacing. Like a fortune teller who takes pleasure in telling bad fortunes."

    Mulder was not quite surprised to hear talk of hunches and fortune telling coming from Scully...he noticed that lately Scully had been more building up on the theories he created instead of providing a substance for him to bounce them off of. He didn't know whether to like it or not like it. "There's something else I noticed," Mulder said, continuing where Scully had left off. "The Sandman said 'I am the only one who asks questions here'. And he was right...neither one of us asked him a single question. He just asked us questions."

    "All that talking really got us nowhere," Scully sighed. "We still don't have anything to show how these people's dreams and realities are connected; if they even are connected. Everything he said was downright circular."

    "I'm certain that 'Sandman' is connected to it somehow," Mulder said. "And sooner or later, he'll give something away and we'll find out how."


    The man known only as 'The Sandman' left his office by the usual route that evening. The June night was unusually chilly, blowing scraps of newspaper and other litter across the sidewalk. He walked briskly, pushing his horn-rimmed glasses farther up on his nose and pulling the tweed jacket tighter around his lean form.

    Three blocks he walked until he arrived at his destination; the city subway. He pulled a crisp five-dollar bill out of his pocket as he waited at the station, clenching and unclenching his grip on his battered leather briefcase.

    The visit from the FBI agents did not concern him. He looked upon both the man and his partner with utter contempt. They were so naive. They knew nothing of dreams. Knew nothing of the concept of what was meant to be.

    The teller at the booth took his money, and never gave him a single glance, although the Sandman studied her intently. Was she a chosen one perhaps? She had an air about her...but no. She was not.

    The Sandman gripped his briefcase tighter and headed into the melee that was the Washington DC subway.

    The girl he sat next to clutched her laptop case tightly to her chest, her posture defensive. She was young, her strawberry blonde hair streaked with maroon and purple; the style that had become so popular with the younger culture. The Sandman watched her intently, his gaze seeming to travel past her face and delve into her mind, drawing out the deep secrets she held within.

    The girl must have felt something because she suddenly turned and gave him a cold glare. The Sandman looked away, but inside he was quivering.

    The girl was one of them. The chosen ones. Her subconscious was bright to him, echoing the terror and pain he knew was harbored there...and must be released. Fate decreed it.

    And he was the one who must make this release possible. It was his mission. His destiny.

    Slowly, so as not to attract her attention again, the Sandman brought his hand up and lightly touched the girl on the side of her neck.

    She jerked away, swearing at him. Clutching her laptop even tighter she scooted as far away from him as was possible on the crowded bench. The girl brought her hand out from under her jacket's oversized sleeves to reveal the small can of mace she held. She faced him this time, glaring and threatening, the can of mace held visible to discourage further harassment.

    But it wasn't necessary. The Sandman did not intend to bother her anymore. What needed to be done was done, and now what must happen would happen.

    Fate decreed it.

    Lancer007 closed his laptop and unplugged it; content with the e-mail he had sent to CyberAngel81. Strange how we still don't know each other's real names, He thought with a smirk. But he didn't added to the mystery, the romantic intrigue of this new kind of relationship.

    He started to walk away, then stopped for a minute. Then he came back to the laptop, plugged it in, and switched it on. He didn't feel like going to sleep right now...and perhaps CyberAngel81 was still online. They could meet in their usual chatroom and then have a more personal conversation on the instant messenger...

    The laptop finished booting up and he quickly logged on and went to their chatroom. Damn, she's away. It was pretty late at night...he'd have to tease her later about having to leave for bedtime. At least her DSL at her home computer allowed her to keep her instant messenger running. He'd just IM her, knowing she would read it when she next sat at the computer.

    He began to type out his usual stream of jokes and comments laced with love sap, knowing that CyberAngel81 would respond with twice as many comments. And he loved that.

    A sudden, muffled braying from outside startled him and made him turn around.

    Realizing that it was just one of the many horses that surrounded his family's ranch, he went back to his typing. Lancer007 had already told CyberAngel81 plenty about how he lived and worked on the ranch in Montana, and she had already fallen in love with the place. He had promised to take her horseback riding if they were ever able to meet.

    The neighing sounded again, louder this time...more insistent. Panicked even.

    There it was again! Now confused and slightly anxious, he quickly typed out the message, "HOLD ON, I THINK THERE'S SOMETHING WRONG WITH THE HORSES. I'LL BE RIGHT BACK."

    Sending the last part of the IM and leaving the laptop open, he stepped out of the warmth of his house and into the crisp night air. Now he could hear a definite commotion going on in the horse stables...all the horses within were neighing and snorting as though possessed. Perhaps there was some kind of dog or wolf sniffing around the stables and agitating the horses. Perhaps even a cougar.

    Keeping his steps cautious, Lancer007 went around to the front of the stables. He took out a small handgun that he always kept in the back of his belt. If it was some sort of predator that was bothering the horses, he would have to make sure that the thing didn't attack him, too. He reached out his hand towards the stable doors, hearing the neighing and pounding becoming more and more frantic.

    Before his hand even touched the wood, the two stable doors flew open with a crash. He leaped back in surprise as one of the biggest horses, Hannibal, stood before him kicking his front legs in the air. The horse had a wild, panicked look in its eyes, a look that instantly chilled the young ranch worker to the core. He raised his hands to halt the horse in its mad rampage. "Hannibal! Don--"

    The horse's hoof instantly collided with the man's forehead, sending him down onto the ground with little more than a grunt. Hannibal neighed again and trampled right over him, speeding away into the night.

    The other 15 horses lodged in the stable followed Hannibal outside, kicking up a storm of dust and bellows...heedless of the fallen Lancer007 who's broken body was trampled beneath their stampeding hooves.

    The sixteen horses galloped away from their invisible enemy, not bothering to pay any respects to their victim.

    Kayla was as awake as could be, snapping from deep sleep to wakefulness like a bullet train leaving the station. She gulped down air to refuel her pounding heart, terribly frightened of the dream that had just visited her. She tried to shake it off. She had had some strange dreams before, but this one was definitely the worst.

    She had never even seen the man in her dream, but she had somehow instinctively known who it was. Lancer007. It had to be.

    Just a dream. Don't worry. Calm down.

    But there was something that was bothered her, tugging chords of discontent. She got out of her bed and went over to her computer. This is dumb, She kept telling herself. It was just a dream.

    But she turned on the computer anyway, and went to see if anyone had sent her a recent IM. She wasn't expecting anything...yet, to her surprise, there was a recent message...from Lancer007.

    She opened the message, her heart rate climbing. The message started out with the usual jokes, comments and talking...nothing too unusual.

    Kayla put her hands over her mouth at the last thing the message said, an attempt to stop herself from screaming aloud.



    Twisting, turning, a muffled groan. She was lost in a bittersweet world of passionate lies. It was a strange feeling; like tasting salt when you expected sweetness. Like tasting water when you were expecting the sweetest wine.

    But waiting was so trying on the body. So she immersed herself in a substitute, willingly presenting her flesh to a stranger in return for a little appreciation, nothing more.

    The man's blonde hair fell around his eyes as he smoothed his fingers through her hair, soiling her auburn strands with his impure hands. She coiled tighter around him in response, clinging to him as if begging him to save her from the inner guilt that was as thick as the heat that engulfed them. She cringed at his harsh movement, initiating pain and pleasure in the same moment. She hated it and she craved it.

    Then, their lips met in a clash of fire and ice. The fire melted the ice instantly. He surrounded her, a low sound reverberating from the back of his throat. The heat electrified her body, causing every nerve and cell to jump in surprise. Surprise at the intensity of this passion, mostly; but also surprise at herself. This person, with their hands against her skin, was smothering her with himself, and she decided that she didn't care. She had never thought that wrong could feel so wonderful.

    He sighed and kissed her again.

    Mulder awoke with a start, gasping for breath, gripping the couch with iron fingers. It took awhile for him to adjust to the darkness, and even longer for him to calm his breathing. It was just a dream...nothing more...just a dream...

    But for some reason, his heart continued to pound in hollow pain, echoing doubt.

    After all, everyone else's dreams had been coming true...true, he didn't know how yet, but there was no telling what he or Scully could have interacted with that could trigger the clairvoyant dreams.

    Mulder got up from his couch suddenly; he felt hot and restless just lying there. He began to pace for no reason whatsoever, just some kind of nervous energy that was directing his thoughts in the wrong places. He stared out the window absently, his emotions tumbling. Then, feeling a strange heat building up in his throat, he slipped on a pair of shoes and put back on the shirt he had thrown over his chair, making a sudden decision.

    Besides, it wasn't like he'd never driven over to Scully's in the dead of night before. Just to check on things. But the heat in his throat was beginning to rise to his face, betraying that he was more than just concerned. Snatching up his car keys, he headed for his door.

    The more he walked, the more his thoughts careened out of his control. His fingers grew tighter together until they bunched into fists, as if he were ready to punch someone. And in his mind, he was ready to punch someone...that stranger he had seen in his dream, the unworthy man who even dared to think about inviting himself into places he didn't belong.

    His car peeled out of the apartment parking lot and was gone.


    Mulder announced his presence after knocking loudly on the door. Seeing that it was unlocked, his rushed inside, not bothering to wait for anyone to let him in. "Scully!" His eyes scanned her darkened house, searching for what he didn't want to find. He headed to her bedroom, and opened the door.

    He saw her...scrambling across her bed to turn on the light on her desk. She shut her eyes tight against the light and groaned. Mulder could see clearly that there was no one in her bed except her.

    "Mulder...wha...what's the matter?!"

    Mulder felt the heat energy drain out of him as he finally realized that she was alone, and was quickly replaced by a deep feeling of shame and confusion. "You're alone?" He stuttered.

    "Of course I'm alone, Mulder," Scully said with a yawn. "Why wouldn't I be?"

    "Well, I..." Mulder let his shoulders slump. Scully was looking at him expectantly, waiting to find out what reason Mulder could possibly have this time for waking her up at three in the morning. Mulder looked away nervously, placing his hand behind his neck. "It's nothing, really. I just had a bad dream."

    "I've never known you to come running over to my house every time you have a nightmare, Mulder."

    Mulder hesitated, wishing that he could just sink into the floor. He had been so affected by the possibility of the dream being reality that he hadn't even stopped to think about what he would do if it was true. "I just...I had a dream about you."

    "That something happened to me?"

    "Well, in a sense..."

    Scully sat up in her bed, her arms crossed, her eyes seeming to sigh at him. "Come on, Mulder. I'm waiting for you to tell me what's bothering you. I would like to get some sleep, you know."

    "I had a dream and this stranger were..."

    Scully didn't make Mulder finish his sentence...she already knew what he was going to say. Her face took on an expression of slight shock and confusion. "Mulder, WHAT on earth would make you think that I would do something like that? Have you ever known me to be like that in the past?"


    "So why would I be like that now? You of all people should know that. I mean, the thought never even entered my mind. Don't you think that if something had been going on you would have noticed a significant change? If I were you, I would have. I don't understand why you got so upset if you say it was just a dream."

    Mulder was beginning to wonder why he had gotten so upset, too. After all, he sometimes had dreams involving himself, Scully and a bed (usually after watching one of those videos that weren't his.) He sighed heavily, and shuffled his feet towards the door. "Well, I guess, then...I guess I should go back to my place, then."

    "Oh, stay awhile," Scully beckoned him into her room. "There's no way I'm getting back to sleep right away. You might as well."

    Mulder turned around to face her again, feeling slightly relieved, and then went over and sat down on the edge of her bed. She yawned again, indicating that just because she wanted him to stay didn't mean she wanted to make it an all-nighter. "Let me guess, Mulder. You had that dream, and because of the case we're on, you thought that perhaps it had come true, and you came over here to see for yourself."

    "Man, Scully, you should try profiling sometime. You'd probably do better than me."

    "No, it's just because you're so easy to see through," She put her finger against his forehead to demonstrate.

    Mulder raised his eyebrows at her. "You're lying."

    Scully put down her finger and groaned. "Okay, so maybe you're not so easy to see through. But there are times when you're pretty predictable."

    "Such as thinking that whatever happens to somebody else on a case we have will eventually happen to us as well?"

    "That better not be true..." Scully said. "If it were, we'd be dead by now, or worse."

    "And considering all that we've had to go through...I'd say we're pretty darn lucky. Compared to most people in this country it seems, anyway."

    "Yeah, Mulder," Scully's voice had a tinge of sorrow in it. "We're really lucky."

    Mulder could see that Scully wanted to get back to sleep, even if she said that she didn't mind his midnight interruptions. She might not, but it wasn't good for her. "I think I'll go now, Scully," He said, getting up from her bed. "Good night."

    "Same to you," She said after him. However, they both knew that their good wishes were in vain...neither of them were going to get much more sleep that night.

    1:16 P.M.
    JUNE 23, 2000

    "Let me see that address again," Scully asked.

    Mulder leaned over in his seat to let Scully read the little scrap of paper he held. She nodded and continued driving. After a pause, she added, "Well, you're the one who suggested going here in the first place...where did you get this address, and how does it relate to the case?"

    "The DCPD gave me this address," Mulder explained. "This is supposed to be where another "dream victim" lives. I put in a request to the station to send us any more phone calls they received involving people complaining about disturbing dreams. And they just got a call from a young woman living here."

    "The police actually did that for you?"

    "Well, they definitely weren't happy about doing it...the officer who gave me the address was talking to me as though her were speaking to his teenage daughter's punk boyfriend."

    Scully smiled at Mulder's comment. "Some things never change."

    "Hey, this is it," Mulder said, pointing at the specific apartment complex they needed to go to. Scully stopped the car in front of the apartment, and they got out and headed for the door.

    "How are we going to play this?" Scully asked Mulder as they walked.

    "Same as the other people we've talked to...the only thing we have to link the cases at this point are the victim's dreams, and the Sandman. If we're lucky, this girl is another one of his patients, and she can tell us something that the Sandman and his other patients couldn't."

    Mulder knocked on the apartment door, stepping back to stand beside Scully as they waited. Within moments the door opened to reveal a young woman, with strawberry blonde hair streaked bright colors. "Yeah?" She asked with a worried expression.

    "We're Agents Mulder and Scully with the FBI. We were given information on your report to the station. Your experience happens to have similarities to a case we're working on." Mulder opened the door a little ways so that he and Scully could come in.

    "So, you reported to the police that you had had a dream that frightened you, and you thought that perhaps it had come true. What's your name?"

    "Kayla," The young woman paced nervously through the hall. "And yes, I did call the police."

    "What gave you the idea that the dream you had had happened in reality? Did someone you know get hurt, and then you received a phone call on it?"

    She shook her head. "No...the person in my dream is someone I've never seen before. But I still knew who it was."

    "Who was it?"

    " online boyfriend. He told me that he works on a ranch in Montana. I dreamed that he was writing me when he thought that something was wrong with the horses in the stables, so he went out to see what it was and he got..." She cut herself off, tearing up and choking on her words. "So when I woke up, I checked my mail...the last thing he wrote me was that there was something wrong with the horses, and he'd be back. And he hasn't been back. Ever." The girl looked as though her world had fallen to pieces.

    "Kayla, have you been seeing a dream therapist recently? And in particular, a certain dream therapist who calls himself 'The Sandman'?"

    Kayla raised her eyebrows. "Dream therapist? Noooo...."

    Mulder was taken aback. "Has anything happened to you recently that might make you think that this dream is more than a coincidence?"

    "I..." Kayla thought for awhile. " Not really. But something like that couldn't have just happened!"

    "Anything. Just anything out of the ordinary," Mulder urged.

    "Well..." It looked as though something was finally starting to come to Kayla's mind. "There was this one little thing I found just before I went to bed last night, when I had the dream..." Kayla held her hair back, turning so that Mulder and Scully could see the back of her head. She pointed to a small scar just behind her ear. "I just noticed it last night, probably because it was so prominent. Red and raised off the skin, but it didn't hurt. I don't know where it came from."

    Mulder and Scully looked closer at the tiny mark on the girl's looked like a five-pointed star, dull pink in color, inscribed into her neck. It was definitely not a bug was something unusual, something important. Both agents were subconsciously certain of it.

    "It looks a little faded now," Mulder remarked.

    Kayla put her hair back into place. "When I first saw it, it was a lot brighter," She let out a shuddering breath. "But since I had the dream it seems to be fading away."

    "Is there anything that might have happened to you that might have given you that scar? Again, anything that made you feel uneasy or that you just found unusual."

    "The only thing I can think of is when I was on the subway yesterday...there was this really weird guy sitting next to me. He kept looking at me funny, and then he reached over and touched me on the back of my neck. I don't know what it was, but there was just something about him that I didn't like. He really freaked me out."

    Mulder and Scully exchanged glances. Mulder reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a picture of the Sandman that he had obtained from police offices records. It was a photo taken from the DMV- the Sandman's driver's license. He handed the picture to Kayla. "Is this the man you saw, the one that touched you on the subway?"

    Kayla observed the picture, and her face scrunched in disgust. "Yeah, that's the guy. Real old, creepy guy."

    Mulder could feel his theory springing to life again. This girl once again had a connection to the other victims in this case. "Is there anything else you can think of to tell us? This man is connected to a case we're working on currently."

    "Not really. If that guy did something wrong, it wouldn't surprise me...I didn't like him at all. Was just about ready to use my mace on him."

    "Alright then. Thank you very much Kayla, this has helped us enormously." Mulder said, turning himself and Scully towards the door.

    "Yeah, sure," Kayla said, closing the door after them.

    "So what do you think, Scully," Mulder's expression was bordering on excitement as he turned to Scully. "The woman came into contact with the Sandman, and then a star-shaped scar mysteriously appears behind her ear. She wasn't a patient of his, but she is still connected to the Sandman. It seems like everyone who comes in contact with him has their dreams come true."

    "But Mulder, we both came into contact with him when we talked to him at his office, and none of us have found any scars or had any dreams that came true."

    Thankfully... Mulder thought to himself, remembering the intense anger he had felt just last night. "But I just wonder what the mark does. Is it some kind of mystical symbol; something that can mark a person to have dreams come true? Like a hex, maybe?"

    "Mulder, the man is obviously not a magician or anything like that. He never mentioned anything involving magic during his conversation with us. He just kept going on about destiny and fate, and that sort of idea is not limited to mysticism."

    "Then what do you think that scar was for? Things like those don't just appear out of nowhere."

    Scully had to think for a moment. "It could be an implant of some sort. A kind of sub-epidermal device that stimulates the neural system, that makes people go into REM sleep sooner than usual, and that links subconscious fears with the dreams they have."

    "An implant?" Mulder looked at Scully as if she were crazy. "Scully, how on earth would the Sandman be able to get an implant into a person's neck? Unless he drugged his patients and that girl, took them to a secret lab of his and then put in the device. And I don't know about you, but he doesn't seem capable of that sort of thing. And then how would this device trigger reality to be the same as the person's dream?"

    "I don't know, Mulder..." Scully sighed. "I just think that your theory seems extremely unlikely."

    "So does yours."

    There was silence for a moment.

    Mulder's face set. "Then I suggest that we go see the Sandman again and straighten this out once and for all."

    5:19 P.M. JUNE 26th, 2000

    The interview was not going well.

    For the fourth time Mulder ran his hand distractedly through his dark hair. The Sandman sat impassively across from him, not seeming to acknowledge the FBI agents' apparent agitation.

    "Do you deny accosting Kayla Friedman on the subway four days ago?" Scully was saying insistently, leaning forward in her seat.

    "Yes I most certainly do." The Sandman said in his calm, even voice. "I have never "accosted" anyone, Agent Scully."

    "But you do admit to being on the subway with her, and having interaction with her."


    "Why?" Scully jumped on his admission like a tiger.

    "Because fate decreed it."

    "Fate my arse." Mulder suddenly launched out of his chair. "You did something to those people! You somehow manipulated their dreams, caused them to come true! I know you did, I just don't know how yet."

    The Sandman's demeanor was unflappable. "Then you have no legal right to detain me in this fashion. You have been here nearly an hour already. This conversation is going nowhere."

    "Only because you're leading it in circles." Mulder said heatedly, starting toward the Sandman as though to accost *him* until Scully stopped him by placing her hand on his sleeve.

    "Let me ask you this question," Scully queried. "Do you deny that these people's dreams came true?"

    "I do not doubt that these people's dreams may have become reality."

    "Do you, -as their dream therapist- deny having anything to do with this sudden progression?"

    "I am not the cause. I am but a messenger."

    "So then you admit to having some part in it?"

    "Why do you ask me these questions, Agent Scully? You do not believe in the power of dreams. You do not believe that that which is not yet conceived can be seen."

    Scully looked at the man incredulously. "You don't know anything about me or what I do or do not believe."

    "Don't I?" The Sandman looked at Scully oddly.

    Standing next to her, Mulder narrowed his eyes at the man. "Fate or not, you're the catalyst for these dreams. People are dying, and I don’t care if the entire cosmos decrees it- I won't stand by and let it keep happening."

    "Then you are a fool." The Sandman said in an expressionless voice, never taking his eyes from Scully.

    Mulder suddenly decided he did *not* like the way the man was looking at her. "Scully, we're leaving." He announced. "This isn't getting us anywhere." He sneered at the older man and stalked toward the door, holding it open.

    Scully nodded at him, and rose from her chair. "If you ever do decide give us any information on these occurrences, please call this number." She held a small card across the desk.

    The Sandman stood and reached to take the card from her. As he did so, his fingers brushed lightly against the inside of her wrist, sending a sudden shiver up Scully's arm. She jerked her hand away. The Sandman's eyes bored into hers, never wavering.

    Mulder cleared his throat by the doorway. Scully quickly turned and followed her partner outside.

    "Are you okay, Scully?" Mulder asked as he opened the door to their car for her. He looked at her tense features. "He didn't touch you, did he?"

    "I'm fine, Mulder." Scully insisted. "It was nothing." But even as she said the words, she doubted them.

    9:00 PM

    As soon as the door had snicked shut behind her, Scully let the slim briefcase drop to the floor with a thud.

    Flexing her hands, she reached up to massage her aching shoulders. Her entire body seemed to be crying out for a nice long shower and then sleep....Ah yes, sleep. A long, peaceful, dreamless sleep.

    Scully made a face. This entire case was starting to wear on her nerves. It seemed to be going nowhere but in circles. And it made no sense! Not only unscientific, it was bordering the downright absurd! And Mulder's constantly vague disagreement wasn't helping matters any. Through muffled through the walls, Scully could still hear her new neighbor's yelling at each other. It made her head hurt. Although she and Mulder rarely resorted to shouts and petty insults, she still sometimes felt as though they were on opposite teams.

    Scully moved into her bathroom, turning on the hot water and allowing the rushing cascade of water to block out the sounds of her neighbors' argument. Grabbing a hairband, she wound her copper strands into a high ponytail, exposing her neck to the cool air. She shucked off her jacket quickly and took hold of the edge of her blouse, preparing to lift it over her head.

    When she stopped.

    Scully's heart froze in her chest as her eyes caught her reflection in the mirror. But the freezing only lasted for a moment before it lurched into overdrive as she rushed closer to the mirror, holding her hair out of the way and twisting her head to confirm what she had already seen.

    There, behind her left ear was an angry pink star-shaped abrasion on her cool white skin. The Sandman's mark on her own body.

    And very suddenly, sleep didn't seem like such a good idea.


    Mulder and Scully burst into the tiny darkened office without a moment's hesitation, both their eyes sweeping the room for signs of the Sandman.

    There was nothing here; the place was completely empty.

    "Damn," Scully hissed angrily under her breath, exhaling heavily. "I was hoping he'd be here. Now we don't know where he is."

    Mulder headed deeper into the office. "Well, maybe we can find out." He leaned over the Sandman's desk and began ruffling through the neatly stacked papers he found. "Perhaps there's a home address in here or something."

    Scully let her shoulders slump. "I need to find him...I can't go to sleep until I do. I mean, after what these other people have dreamed, there's no telling what might happen if I fell asleep..."

    Mulder let out a small grin. "Well, it has been awhile since you've come to my house in the middle of the night in a panic," He said.

    "I just can't sleep..." Scully repeated. She came over to help Mulder. She dug frantically through books and forgotten records. Mulder opened a desk drawer and found an old address book full of telephone numbers. His eyes widened as he read a small message written in the corner of the back cover: "If found, please return to:

    3378 Zahn Blvd.
    Southwest Corner
    Washington D.C."

    "Here, I have it!" Mulder said loudly. Scully quickly came over to Mulder and saw the address he had obtained, her face spelling instant relief. Mulder grinned at her. "Now let's go see how we can get that thing off of your neck."

    Mulder and Scully's small car pulled up outside the small, homely house in the middle of the Southwest Corner the Sandman's office, it seemed out of place next to the other houses in the neighborhood, small and strange.

    "This doesn't look good," Mulder said. "I don't see any lights on inside."

    Mulder saw Scully's face drop into a worried frown. "Let's go see..." She paused, and then added; "Why didn't we call for any backup?"

    "You think the DCPD or the FBI's going to back us up on something like this?" Mulder rolled his eyes and got out of the car. Scully followed.

    They found the front door slightly if someone had not bothered to make sure it was locked when they left. Inside, the house was just like the office...dark, and completely empty. "Please don't tell me he skipped town," Scully moaned.

    Mulder was already heading upstairs. Scully stayed below, too upset at her situation to do anything. A few minutes later, Mulder came back down, his expression telling her that he was just as worried as she. "He's gone, Scully."

    Scully groaned, and slowly sank onto a nearby couch. "I should've known..."

    "We'll think of something, Scully," Mulder's voice became hard. "I'm not going to let him get away with this."

    "What is there to do?" She asked, her head in her hands. "If we can't ever find him, I'll eventually have to go to sleep..."

    Mulder knew exactly what Scully was worried about happening. He looked at the floor, trying to decide what they could do. "Maybe he left some sort of clue as to where he went..." Mulder offered.

    "Maybe." Scully sounded almost completely hopeless. Leaving Scully on the couch, Mulder wandered into the kitchen, turning on lights as he did so. It seemed as if the entire house was coated with piles of papers, papers full of notes and statements and pictures that Mulder didn't understand. He dug through the mess, hopefully looking for something that could help them. As he lifted up a small scrap of paper buried under some folders, he thought he found it...

    "Scully!" Scully looked up at Mulder's voice. "This could be something."

    Coming into the kitchen, she saw the scrap of paper he presented to her. The only thing written on it was: "Move 11: (229)-555-1019". "Maybe he went to whatever place has this number."

    "Can we find that out right now?" Scully's voice was desperate.

    "I'll call Danny," Mulder said, taking out his cell phone. "He should be able to match an address with the number in just a few minutes."

    While Mulder made the call, Scully wandered out of the kitchen, gazing around at the shadowed living space of the Sandman. His entire life seemed to revolve around dreams...all of his furniture was buried under notes and symbolic pictures and ideas, crowding the place until there was little room left to breathe. What if the Sandman had notes on her dreams somewhere? Was he planning to give her that mark all along, having somewhere in his twisted mind decided that her dreams should also be her reality?

    Suddenly, a horrible thought sprang to her mind. What if there is no way to get rid of this scar, to reverse whatever he's done to me? What if I'm forced to go to sleep no matter what? Scully quickly pushed the idea out of her mind...right now they just needed to concentrate on finding the Sandman.

    Mulder came back out of the kitchen, his face displaying triumph and anxiety. "There's good news and there's bad news."

    "Bad news first," Scully cringed.

    "No, good news first," Mulder corrected. "I got the address...Danny says that the phone number matches with what was last used as a home-office apartment. It hasn't been used for awhile now. But I bet that that was a previous residence of the Sandman, and that he's gone back to it. The office-apartment is in a town called Hazeltree."

    "So what's the bad news?"

    "Hazeltree is in northern New'll take us at least 18 hours driving to get there."

    Scully was beginning to feel faint...she had been looking forward to sleeping that night, having already been up for at least 20 hours. And now she was going to be up for at least another 20. She didn't know if her body could take it.

    However, she hid her feelings of dread and put on a brave face. "Well then...we'd better get out there right away. We don't have any time to lose."

    6:12 A.M.
    JUNE 27th, 2000

    Let me be the one you call...If you jump I'll break your fall...Lift you up and fly away with you into the night...

    The waitress hummed along with the radio as she walked toward Mulder and Scully's table. "Can I take your order?" She asked politely as she waited for them to respond.

    Mulder looked up from the map he had stretched across the table in front of him. He sighed and looked across the table at Scully- whose head was down on the table resting on her crossed arms.

    "I'll have the Grand Slam breakfast." Mulder nudged Scully. "Hey Scully? Don't go to sleep on me yet."

    "Mm' not." Scully insisted, grumbling.

    Mulder cracked a grin, but even the grin seemed a bit strained. "She'll have the same, but with the eggs scrambled and a side of yogurt instead of sausage." He looked back at the map on the table and sighed. "And we'll have two cups of your strongest coffee."

    "Okay, then." The waitress smiled cheerily at them and walked away.

    "Mulder, did you just order me a cup of coffee?" Scully asked, bringing her head up to look him in the eye.


    "Mulder! I'm trying to stop drinking coffee, remember?"

    "Sheez, Scully, you can't be serious!" He looked at her incredulously. "Look at you! How are you going to stay awake?"

    "Willpower." Scully said through gritted teeth.

    Mulder's surprise softened. "Look, Scully. If anyone could do it you could. But wouldn't it be a lot easier with some caffeine in your system?"

    "No, Mulder I'm not backing out on this."

    The waitress chose that moment to return with two cups and a pot of coffee. Scully smiled at her. "I'm sorry, I have to change the order. No coffee for me, thanks, I'll take orange juice."

    Across the table Mulder made a face and mouthed the word "Again?"

    "Sure thing." The waitress quickly left the table again.

    "Don't say anything, Mulder." Scully held up and hand to stall his incoming comment. He shut his mouth.

    "So..." Mulder started after a moment. "What do you think all this means, Scully?"

    "All what Mulder?" Scully sighed, not in the mood for small talk.

    "This. The Sandman. That mark behind your ear. The dreams."

    "I don't know, Mulder. I wish I did." She sighed. "But I guess I'm forced to admit that he didn't put implants in there." She gingerly touched her neck. "He couldn't have possibly given one to were right there." She inhaled deeply as if to awaken herself with the scent of Mulder's coffee alone. "What's your theory?"

    "I honestly don't have one." Mulder shrugged. "Many cultures consider dreams to be sacred. Folktales and legends are littered with tales of witches and sorcerers that put hexes on peoples dreams."

    "I don't think the Sandman is a sorcerer, Mulder." Scully said ruefully.

    "There are also many ancient as well as modern accounts of prophetic dreams." Mulder added. "But most of those seem to be without catalysts, dictated by circumstance. Many such dreams are a crucial part of the Hero's Quest...leading them to his destiny."

    "Mulder, if you say "fate decrees them" I'll shoot you."

    He grinned. "Don't worry. I don't think that these dreams have much to do with the Hero's Quest. I think they have much more to do with a demented old man who has a highly unusual power...power that has gone to his head. He seems himself as the messenger of fate. It fits the classic profile of several types of serial offenders."

    "You're totally convinced the old man really causes this by touch and will alone?" Scully asked, eyeing Mulder warily.

    "Yes. How else can you explain that?" He pointed to her ear.

    Scully sighed. "I think I've given up explaining anything awhile ago. I just want to get rid of it."

    "We'll find him, Scully." Mulder said determinedly as the waitress returned with their platters of food. "You won't have to stay awake forever,"

    12:20 P.M.
    JUNE 27th, 2000

    "Mulder let me drive for awhile."

    Mulder looked over at Scully's sad form in the passenger seat. She was forming dark circles under her eyes from her lack of sleep, and her hair was a complete wreck. She was looking at him through slightly glazed eyes. Her entire body looked as if it were begging her to sleep, pleading with her to let herself rest and reenergize. Scully would have liked nothing better than to obey it. But her mind fiercely refused to let her comply, lest she slip into a dreamland that would result in Mulder's misfortune.

    Mulder shook his head. "I can't let you drive, Scully," He insisted. "You might fall asleep at the wheel."

    "I might fall asleep right now," She countered. "If I was driving at least I'll have something to do. Something to keep me awake."

    "We just can't risk that, Scully."

    "Then do something to keep me awake."

    There was a pause. "Like what?"

    "I don't know. Just anything. Sing a song...tell a story...whatever. I don't care."

    An even longer pause. "I can't sing."

    "Then tell me a story...just as long as it's not a bedtime story."

    "I don't know any stories, either."

    "Make one up."

    That's like asking Skinner to dance ballet, Mulder thought. But he decided to try anyway. Anything for Scully's sanity...or lack thereof...

    "Once upon a time, there was a very ugly toad who always hid from the other forest creatures because he was so ugly. Since he spent a lot of time by himself, he was always going exploring. One day, he decided to go to the deep, dark, mysterious lake in the center of the forest. Along the way he met a beautiful young dove that was so enthralling that she dazzled the toad with her radiant beauty. He told her about his journey to the lake in the center of the forest, and she agreed to come along with him. Along the way they had many adventures and got to know each other very well. Finally, they reached the lake in the center of the forest. When they looked down into the lake, they saw a great lake monster with scales made of gold swimming back and forth beneath the waves. Seeing them, the lake monster swam to the surface immediately. "What do you want?" Asked the lake monster. "Oh, great creature of the lake," The toad inquired, "Can you tell the dove and I the meaning of life, the universe and everything?" "I will tell you," The lake monster replied, "But only if you do one simple thing for me...""

    "Mulder," Scully interrupted, "Is this like one of those stories that you tell and it ends up being your own life story in symbolic terms?"

    Mulder appeared confused for a minute. "Well, I guess so...but I was really just trying to combine 'The Three Stooges' and 'If You Give A Mouse a Cookie'."

    Despite her desperate need-for-sleep state, Scully laughed. Mulder may not have been much of a storyteller, but he certainly knew how to keep her awake and interested. "By the way, I know the answer to the lake monster's question."

    "You do?" Mulder asked with raised eyebrows.

    "Sure. The answer to life, the universe and everything is forty-two. Everybody knows that."

    "Hold up a minute," Mulder suddenly became focused on the road. "I think I see the black civic up ahead."

    Scully became much more awake now. If the car ahead was indeed the car that the Sandman was last seen driving in, then they could catch up with him and find out how to get rid of the scar on the back of her ear. I can finally sleep peacefully, Scully thought with relief.

    Mulder picked up speed, intent on catching up with Scully's dream cure. It didn't appear as if the black car was intending to slow down or speed up...perhaps it wasn't the Sandman after all.

    But as they got closer and closer, they could both see the familiar white hair that laced the man's face, but not the top of his head. "That's him," Mulder said with contempt in his voice. He was especially angry at this Sandman for daring to touch Scully, cursing her with truthful dreams and therefore a lack of sleep. He himself didn't care if he lost sleep or not...this was perfectly normal to him.

    "He's slowing down," Scully observed. "I think he's going to stop."

    Indeed, the small black civic finally did stop, along the side of the road next to a large, wooden sign that read "Welcome to Hazeltree."

    As soon as the car stopped, Mulder stopped as well, storming out of their car. I'm about to become the Sandman's worst nightmare.

    1:03 A.M.

    Scully slipped the hotel key into the lock and opened the door as Mulder roughly escorted the Sandman into the tiny room.

    "Sit down." He ordered none to gently, in a tone that proclaimed he would accept no argument. The Sandman sat quietly, adjusting his wire-rimmed spectacles, as unflappable now as he had been when they arrested him on the roadside.

    Scully entered the room after them, clicking the lock into place behind her and setting the keys on the table before sinking wearily into one of the chairs.

    "I protest this gross mistreatment." The old man sat stiffly in his tweed jacket. "You do not have a warrant for my arrest."

    "Oh, I think the scar on the back of Scully's neck is warrant enough." Mulder hissed at the man. "Don't look so surprised. You knew you were cursing her with this back at your office yesterday."

    "No, I honestly did not, Mr. Mulder." The Sandman seemed genuinely surprised. "Contrary to what you may think, not everyone I come in contact with has truth-telling dreams. Only those destined for it. I am simply the one who unlock their potential."

    "Their potential to kill??" Mulder said angrily. "So far everyone of these "truth-telling" dreamers as you call them has dreamed of death or injury."

    "If fate decrees it." The Sandman calmly repeated his much-used phrase as one though it were a familiar gospel. "The destiny always works with issues of life- the end of life, the beginning of life. It is the way of it."

    "Yeah, and have you heard the one about what the Dali Llama ordered at the Hot Dog stand? He said, "Make me one with everything."" Mulder suddenly shoved the Sandman's chair up against the wall. "But funny thing is; I'm not laughing. So let's cut the crap, shall we? I want to know how to free Scully from this...whatever it is. I want you to get rid of it. Get rid of it so she can sleep and not fear killing someone. Look at her!" Mulder turned the man's head toward where Scully sat with her head in her hands. "She needs to sleep." His voice took on an oddly pleaded tinge to it.

    The Sandman shook his head. "I cannot Mr. Mulder. I have told you before, I do not make the decrees...I am but a messenger. I cannot stop what will happen. You are right, she must sleep soon...but she must dream as well."

    "Why you stubborn son of a..." Mulder grabbed the man by his tweed jacket and prepared to haul him to his feet.

    "Mulder- STOP!" Scully yelled suddenly. Mulder froze, and the Sandman jerked away from him, slumping back in his seat again.

    "He's right. I can't fight this anymore. And I don't think he can do anything either." Scully eyelids drooped momentarily, but she yanked them back open on reflex. "I'm sorry, I can't..."

    "It's okay, Scully." Mulder lept to her side and helped her up from her chair. "It's okay. You can sleep. We tried our best." He pulled the ratty comforter and sheets from the motel bed and allowed her to climb in. "Just sleep. I'll be okay."

    "Don't...go anywhere...Muld..."

    "I won't." Mulder turned back to glare at the Sandman momentarily and then pulled up a chair to sit by the bed, leaning back. "I won't."

    It was deep into the night when the dream finally invaded her sleep...

    He watched her, unable to sleep, his intense eyes taking in her features as she slept. Suddenly, his breath seemed to hitch inside him. As he sucked in a deeper breath, a roiling pain suddenly flared, spreading. He groaned, putting both hands to his aching chest. There was a terrible burning sensation inside him, spreading throughout his entire body like parasitic worms. He kicked off the blanket and stood up from the couch, feeling as if he had just escaped an incubator.

    The burning sensation within his chest and throat didn't go away. If anything, it was becoming stronger, more intense with every passing moment. He struggled forward a few unsteady steps, black spots appearing before his eyes. Feeling his leg bump into a chair, he stumbled forward and landed on his knees. He tried to cry out for help, but no one could hear him. They were asleep. Besides...he doubted the man would help him anyway.

    Breathing was becoming increasingly difficult as a horrible realization dawned on him. He was having a heart attack. He could feel his throat closing...burning, burning. His chest tightened as if someone was tying his muscles into tight knots. How could this happen? He stayed fit...he was too young to die. Each breath became a gasp for air, a desperate plead for life to remain with him. But even now, he could feel it slipping away from him, could feel the shadows beginning to gather around him.

    (Why isn't there anyone here to help me? How could this be happening to me?! I can't go yet; It's not my time, it can't be!) His mind screamed silent questions as he fell onto his back, unable to support his own weight anymore. An unbelievably heavy sense of panic and terror smothered him, terror that he was dying now and there was no one here to be with him.

    He felt the back of his skull hit the carpet, and his hands fell limp to his sides. He could feel his blood beginning to slow, slow, until he could hardly feel it at all. His mind was beginning to shut down, so that the only thing he could comprehend was the pain in his chest that was finally beginning to dull. His last thoughts before darkness clouded his vision forever were a lonely plea...ever lonely...

    Scully was trapped within a strange state of waking sleep. She was trying, trying so hard to wake up, but it was as if her entire body was paralyzed. She couldn't move; she couldn't even open her eyes. Yet her mind was ringing with the loud demand..."Get up! You know what you just dreamed! Get up now!!" The moment of horrible frozenness passed, and Scully sat up straight in her hotel bed, her throat parched and dry as she yelled..."MULDER!"

    "What is it?" Scully's mind began racing as she heard Mulder's voice in the darkness, scrambling to come awake. Her mind was filled with confusion and her heart with relief...she had been so certain, so afraid that the man in her dream had been Mulder...

    She saw Mulder come over to her bed, his face filled with worry. He switched on the bedside light so she could see. "Scully, are you okay?!" He said worriedly.

    Scully pushed her hair out of her face, feeling her heart pounding loudly beneath her skin. She looked into Mulder's concerned face, and felt her entire body go slack. "Uh, I...had a dream..."

    "I'm not surprised," Mulder said, putting his hand on her shoulder to comfort her. "But you seem alright, and so do I."

    "I know..." Scully's face was etched over with concern, and worry. If she hadn't dreamed about Mulder having a heart attack, then who had she...?

    Scully felt a lump form in her throat. She sat up from the bed suddenly, slapping on the other lamp and flooding the dark room with light. Beside her she heard Mulder gasp.

    The Sandman was lying on his back on the floor, motionless. Scully could already see the dark mist that covered his eyes. She knelt beside the fallen old man, and placed her fingers against his neck. She couldn't feel a pulse.

    Mulder knelt down beside her, and instantly understood what had happened. He saw Scully slouch down on the carpet next to the dead Sandman, her sleepy form filled with sadness. "I...I killed him, Mulder..."

    "He killed himself," Mulder corrected. He couldn't help but feel contempt for the Sandman, even after he had just died such an unpleasant death. "It was just as he himself was saying...fate decreed it. His obsession was his own undoing."

    Scully sighed heavily, and got up, heading for the hotel telephone. Mulder remained next to the Sandman, and pushed his eyes closed. His mind was crowded with all kinds of thoughts as he heard Scully's tried voice behind him..."Yes, Hazeltree P.D.? This is Special Agent Dana Scully, and I have a heart attack victim...yes, he's dead. Hazeltree Maingate Saga Inn..."

    6:48 A.M.

    "Yes, thank you officer." Mulder nodded at the man, his eyes squinting against the bright morning sunlight. He waved to the retreating Hazeltree police as he slowly shut the door to the motel room.

    Groaning, he turned back towards Scully, rubbing his eyes against the spots that appeared in his vision. "Just shoot me please."

    "After I've stayed up this long to make sure you weren't hurt?" Scully's voice echoed out of the bathroom where she was washing her face with a warm washcloth. "No way."

    "A tranquilizer then," Mulder said, coming around the corner to look at her.

    "I would think you would have no problem getting to sleep." Scully said. "I know I won't."

    "Skinner is going to yell at us when we don't show up for work tomorrow."

    "I don't care Mulder." Scully brushed past him as she exited the bathroom. "I've been up for almost 49 hours now. We've already paid for this hotel room, and have approximately 6 hours until check out time. And I for one intend to make good use of that time," She yanked back the comforter and collapsed onto the bed. "Sleeping."

    Mulder stood in the middle of the room, bleary-eyed and uncertain. "Um...well, I'll..."

    "Oh good lord..." Scully rolled over and looked over at him with an incredibly irritated expression. "Mulder, you and I can share the bed. It's a matter of practicality, nothing more. I'm too tired to argue with you, or analyze this. Neither of us is capable of invading the other's personal space, even if we tried."

    Mulder smiled slightly. "True."

    "So goodnight, Mulder." Scully flipped back over and burrowed into her pillow. "And don't talk to me again until noon."

    11:40 AM

    "Gerrem away!! Help me, Scully!!"

    "Mulder! Mulder, wake up!" Scully grabbed Mulder's shoulder and shook hard, finally succeeding in waking him.

    "I...were....what?" Mulder slowly came into consciousness, looking more disoriented than Scully had ever seen him.

    "You had a nightmare." Scully said breathlessly, fear and adrenaline racing through her veins. Had the Sandman touched him, too? What horrible thing could happen next? She knew it was ridiculous to feel this way, but she couldn't help it, being only half-awake herself.

    Mulder collapsed against the headboard and blew out a sigh.

    "What did you dream about?" Scully's heart was still racing; worry bleeding into her tone.

    Mulder looked suddenly embarrassed.

    "What?!" Scully's voice was more annoyance and curiosity now than fear. His reaction surprised her.

    "I dreamed that giant cups of coffee and orange juice were attacking the Hover Building while I was stuck inside, drowning in one of my X-Files cabinets." He admitted sheepishly.

    Scully looked at him in shock for a moment...then threw back her head and laughed.

    Mulder looked at her in amazement. He could count on one hand the number of time he had seen Scully laugh like that. Of all her possible reactions this was NOT one he expected.

    Slowly, Scully's laugh subsided into giggles and hiccups. "Well..." She gasped out. "I think even you can safely conclude that's one dream that won't be happening..." She sobered suddenly. "Do you think he really was what he said he was?"

    "Who?" Mulder asked.

    "Really a messenger of fate. The Sandman."

    Mulder rolled his neck back and forth and then extricated himself from the lumpy mattress, stretching. "I don't think fate needs a messenger, Scully. I think it does just fine on it's own."

    "So you think he actually caused those things to happen to those people?"

    "I don't know, Scully. I honestly don't know." Mulder's tone was one of sad resignation. "Maybe, in the end, it had more to do with the Hero's Quest than we ever thought. Except he was the tragic hero. His answer from the fateful dream was not riches, power or vindication...but his own final defeat."

    Scully sighed and slid back down under the covers. "I still have a half-hour of sleep left, Mulder. Wake me at 12:00."

    "I'm going to go see if I can find some breakfast, okay?" Mulder extricated himself from the lumpy mattress.

    "Sounds good to me." Scully's voice was again hazy with sleep. She yawned, slurring her words. "Oh, and Mulder?"


    "Get me a latte, would ya?"

    Mulder grinned. "Gladly."