Summary: Everything dies. Or does it?
Written for the 12th Lyric Wheel, the 'Horrible' Wheel, May 14th, 2003.
Disclaimer: The X-Files isn't mine. Lines from "Apocrypha", "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose" and "Tithonus" used without permission. Don't sue, please.
Author's notes: Thank you to Kashmir for the incredible lyrics and song. Just please don't ask me where this came from, I don't think I want to know. I know it's a weird one, and terrible in more ways than one.
The dead roam the Earth unconcealed, moving with the wind like leaves, dancing in patterns meaningful to them alone. Relieved from their mortal coil and the constant press of sorrow that is the burden of those few still living, they shine; like fallen stars they are, like water glinting under the moon, like the liquid colors staining the sky at sunset. Beautiful, all of them. And as the wind bends and sighs under their un-weight, Dana Scully sighs as well.
She watches them. Not openly, for she is still afraid of the Sight, even after all the years of witnessing; she looks at them from the corner of her eye, their presence around her an oppressive, nearly tangible thing. They are gathering, she knows, waiting for the one who is about to join them.
Scully looks at the woman whose hand she's holding, her heart a chamber of grief. The single torch in the wall flickers, speaking to the dead, and the dying woman opens her eyes for the last time to gaze upon the one she loves.
"You see them, don't you?" Monica Reyes whispers, her voice wispy.
Scully bites back the sob rising in her, a tear rolling down her face. "Yes." The admission costs her a great deal.
"Don't be afraid, Dana. Don't be afraid to look at them." Reyes shudders, pain flaring through her body and flickering behind her eyes. "Don't be afraid to look at me."
An indrawn breath, and then silence.
Scully closes her eyes, refusing to see.
The downfall of mankind was a swift and terrible one. Disease bloomed dark and deadly in cities throughout the globe, and in the space of six months, half the world's population was dead. The survivors, weakened by the disease as well -- for the alien virus had spared none, merely lying dormant in some, its incubation period seemingly different for each individual -- soon found there was to be no reprieve. The second and final wave of the planet's defeat came in the form of fire, vertical rivers of flame flowing down from the heavens. All the rage from all the gods from all the ages unleashed at once, obliterating everything in its path.
Not many were left alive after that rage abated. Fleeing for the wilderness with Reyes, Doggett, and a badly burned Mulder, Scully stood on a rise, glancing down upon the city, and saw only ghosts and smoke rising from the smoldering ruins.
Two hours into their journey they had to stop and make camp. Mulder was too frail to continue.
Scully sat by him, not her first death watch, and not her last. Mulder's eyes remained open, fixed on nothing, the rise and fall of his chest so shallow as to be undetectable.
"It was William." Scully's suddenly uttered statement seemed to hold an untapped well of hurt beneath it. "Did you guess, Mulder? I hoped you would. I hoped you'd understand."
There was no answer from him, no sign that he'd heard her. And so she went on, a deathbed confession in reverse. "He was the trigger. Patient Zero. I found that out during the course of the epidemiological investigation we conducted." Her words were whispered, pitched for Mulder's ears alone, rushing out of her now that her secret burden had been revealed. "I didn't tell anyone. What purpose would it have served? We were all infected by then, all dead and dying already. And he was innocent, Mulder. He died innocent, along with all the children."
Mulder remained as he was, un-speaking, unmoving, un-staring. Offering no comfort and no forgiveness, asking for none for himself. She fell silent as well, watching him, watching. And when his eyes finally focused on a point above her and behind her, his damaged face breaking into an aching, blissful smile, a cold shiver ran through her. The presence behind her shifted, and Mulder's eyes followed. Scully remained rigid, still watching as the ghost knelt beside her, its left hand, impossibly whole, reaching out to stroke Mulder's face with infinite care. And even as Mulder's eyes dimmed, the smile remained, frozen, upon his lips.
They buried him under under the shelter of an old Oak tree, each of them bidding a silent farewell to the man who had dared to believe long before anyone else. The moon hung low in the sky, a red, swollen thing, casting an eerie glow upon them. Lending the night just enough light for the ghosts to be seen, two of them now, swaying silently in each other's arms.
Less than three years later, and they are burying Reyes as well. She whose arms had been Scully's own shelter, reluctantly surrendered to the dank earth and the cold wind.
John's arms are around her now, holding her as they look down at the freshly covered grave.
"My mother named me Dana after the Mother Goddess of the Celts," Scully tells him, almost casually. "The mother of the Tuatha De Danann, the Children of Light." She sighs, pausing. "My children brought only pain and darkness to the world, John," she says at length. "I sentenced them and everyone else to death even as I gave them life." She sighs again, a broken sound. "When did I become Lilith?"
A rhetorical question, that. She expects no answer, and John gives her none. He only tightens his arms around her, offering her what comfort he can.
He releases a pent up breath, and to Scully's ear it sounds almost like the sighing of the wind. "It won't be long now," he tells her, and she feels him shaking against her. "Not long." He shakes harder. "Do you think Monica's still alive, somewhere? That they all are?"
Tears burn in Scully's eyes. "We bury the dead alive," she murmurs, shuddering, echoing the words she told someone a long, long time ago. Rememebering a day when she'd stood mourning by another grave. "The dead speak to us from beyond the grave," she'd also said then.
She raises her eyes to the ghost of the woman before her. Her lips are moving, telling her something. But Scully is still afraid, and the ghost's words make no sound.
Not long, John had told her.
He'd been right. There is another grave by Reyes' now, one Scully dug by herself.
Another grave. The last one.
Not long, she thinks bitterly. How long is forever?
Voices speak inside her mind. Thought, memory, madness. They're all the same.
"All right," she'd asked, curious despite herself. "So how do I die?"
"You don't," Clyde Bruckman had said, smiling.
She isn't smiling now.
"You know, most people want to live forever." Her voice.
"Most people are idiots. Which is one of the reasons I don't," Fellig had told her.
"I think you're wrong. How can you have too much life? There's too much to learn, to experience."
She had her answer now.
"Do you see him?" Fellig had asked as she'd lain bleeding. "Do you see him? Don't look. Close your eyes."
She hadn't looked.
She opens her eyes now, and looks.
As she stands alone, watching the dead dance, her hair long and unbound, red as the blood that started it all, red as the fire that ended it, the wind caresses her, the fingers and hands of those once beloved and warm sliding through its strands. Music, perhaps, to their ears. And a thought comes to her then, rising inside her like the ghosts rising endlessly from the ground; a thought she knows will haunt her for all the days and nights yet to come.
The whole world is a graveyard.
No more good guys - Skindive
I died today, but I'm still breathing,
There's no more good guys
You died today, but you're still breathing