Title: The Confession of Sirius: part one
Author:Bast Black
Disclaimer: (c)1999-2000 by Bast Black. No infringement on copyrights intended.
Feedback: Adored and answered BastBlack@aol.com Spoilers: Fresh Bones, Alpha
Episode Dialogue: Chris Carter, Vince Gilligan
Archive: Please contact me first. Thanks.
Rating: PG (some profanity and violence)
Category: X, H, S, A. Mulder first person.
Keywords: Gothic. Suspense. some AU.
Timeline: This tale begins immediately after Quagmire.

Summary: What if you awoke one day to find yourself in another place and in another time, yet where everything seemed strangely familiar? Would you believe someone was playing a trick on you, or would you believe dreams are the answers to questions unasked? Well, if your name happens to be Fox Mulder you would. And Truth is on his side.

Comments: My heartfelt gratitude to Suzanne, aka Cavale, for her tireless advice, impeccable taste and unfaltering encouragement. I would also like to thank the following people: Mary Greten from the Beta Readers Circle, who's not only a fabulous dedicated editor, but someone who respects a good dog pun. Many thanks to all the wonderful people who gave encouraging words: Alexa, Alice, Angel, BeeJ, Beth, Carl, Carol, Catherine, Cathy, Dahlak, Debbie, Deej, Don, Emily, Foxmom, Gertie, Janene, Janet, Jen, Joana, Joanie, Jody, Joy, Julie, Karen, Kathy, Kim, Kirsten, Kris, Lauren, Laurie, Lore, Lynn, Mark, Michelle, Mike, Mo, Nacy, Ophelia, Pat, Peter, Punk, Rana, reeT, Renee, Roni, Rosen, Sabrina, Shelba, Sniper, Spock, Sunrazor, Tam, Terisa, Texx, Theresa, Tina, Verletz, Victor, Vyper and Watcher. Many thanks to Chris Carter, David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Darin Morgan, Vince Gilligan, the Wongs, and all the talented people behind the X-Files. You guys not only entertain, you inspire.

For the interactive version of Sirius, or a complete text file: http://www.geocities.com/The_Confession_Of_Sirius

The Confession of Sirius, a year and half in the making. Enjoy!

 

 


"The truth will set you free." -Ancient Egyptian proverb


X1 Sleepwalk

FBI Headquarters, Washington D.C. 12 pm, May 9. 1996

Mulder's attached note on X-File 3X22/5 The DREAM JOURNAL

Dear Scully,

If the truth can be found and lost somewhere between reality and dreams, then maybe I should quit my day job and dream my way onto the New York Times' worst sellers list. As unsettling as it was to wake up in the hospital and not know how I got there, it was even more disturbing to discover this journal tucked below my chin, the pen still in my hand, and have no recollection of writing it. I don't know how to explain it. This defies the logic of automatic writing. Perhaps I am suffering from a rare sleep disorder, or Alien Hand Syndrome. I even considered that this journal is part of a conspiracy determined to confuse me, and whomever is responsible did a damn fine job at that. But one thing I am certain of, Scully, is that my hand ached as if I had been writing tirelessly through the night. Scratched on the cover of this "dream journal" was the title, 'The Confession of Sirius,' and below it were several hieroglyphic symbols. An Egyptologist over at the Smithsonian translated it as: 'Amk Sab henu Anpu Sekhem-empet tena' i.e. 'Decomposing Fox praises Puppy The Power In The Heavens?'

I think 'Puppy The Power In The Heavens' is a merely cartouche title for Sirius, the Dog Star, and it shouldn't be taken literally, no more than one should interpret my name to mean 'Decomposing Fox.'

I took the journal to the FBI's Forensic Graphology division and had the drawings on the cover compared to the writing contained within it. The handwriting was a positive match. I provided a sample of my own handwriting for comparison and it was also a positive match.

That doesn't prove anything other than, yes, I wrote in my sleep (or I forgot penning this nocturnal tale) and I can make nonsensical Hieroglyphic sentences with my eyes closed.

No matter how the journal was created, this tale began on an investigation that had a special significance for me, not because of the crime, but because of its implications. Finally, here was my chance to solve a personal mystery - the original inspiration that delivered me to my cause, the X-Files.

What I found is more than I could have imagined and more than I could admit to you.

So here I am, at the conclusion of this tale, locked in a cycle with no beginning and no end, searching for the elusive evidence to prove that I'm not deluded, that my memories (and in this case, dreams) are real, that Fae's story is real and that greater forces are at work behind the scenes.

One of the most promising leads I have so far is a note added to the back cover, almost like an after thought, 'She talks in her sleep.'

Assuming 'she' means you, Scully, I asked the Gunmen bug both our apartments, run wire taps and record all of our cell phone conversations.

I knew you would be furious, that you would tell me I'm acting crazy and that I'm suffering from brain damage due to the accident.

And maybe I am crazy which is the reason I need to know the truth.

I hope you can forgive me.


X2 Dream A Little Dream Of Me

A dream on Route One, Louisiana 5:30 am. May 6, 1996

Manu, Kemet Predawn, 3rd month of Shemu, Day 6, 3010 B.C.

A dry wind suddenly blasted down the mountain. Salt and sand chaffed my skin, and my hair whipped wildly about my skull. The sky had began to pale and I looked out across the shrouded valley for signs of life.

There were no snorts of oxen or shouting of men. The only sound I heard was that of the wind whistling in the entrance to the cavern behind me. None of the farmers had taken advantage of the cooler night air. The fields were barren. The canals were dry and the land had withered from hunger and thirst.

Although I had never seen it, I imagined what it must have been like when the Black Land was plentiful. Men would not collapse from exhaustion. Children would not die of starvation, and the nights would not be filled with haunting wails of women.

Another dry blast whipped past me, and I looked up anxiously toward the heavens. Most stars had now faded, and only the brightest among them remained.

And then it transpired: the miracle for which I had been waiting. Sirius, the brightest of the evening stars, shone brilliantly, stubbornly refusing to be obliterated by Ra, even as the sun climbed past the horizon.

Inundation. A new year begins.

This was the reason I had selected this day, for its symbolic meaning was clear. It was only once every spring, just before the breaking dawn that Sirius' radiance would appear. It was an occurrence that served as a warning of the coming flood, and it would be in those silt-rich waters that the golden valley of the Nile would be resurrected in an ageless cycle of birth from death.

The reality of the task ahead suddenly sunk in stomach. I clung to the edge of the cliff paralyzed by self doubt. I had prepared for this moment my entire life, and now that the time was at hand, all I could think was, "Who am I to play God?"

Swallowing the lump in my throat, I whispered, "Sheu," and my prayer and the words were carried away like grains of sand on the parched wind.

Whatever trepidation I had, it quickly fell away as I began a mental check list of ointments, spells, amulets, and tools. I quickly grabbed a torch and descended into Manu, my mountain abode, to gather the ingredients of my dreams.

The torch light flickered into the cavern, casting eerie shadows over hieroglyphic-carved limestone. A bat screeched in protest, and I proceeded forward cautiously, my eyes on constant alert for any venomous creature which might have slithered inside, seeking shelter from the oppressive heat.

"Anpu, stop," a female voice commanded from the gloom.

"Ma'at?"

What was she doing here? She knows?

When I turned around to face her, I was dazzled with a vision of Ma'at in red and glinting golds. She wore her finest gown, a long exacting tunic, which was normally reserved for important state functions. I wondered if this visual feast was meant for my eyes to see.

"I need to talk to you," she whispered in a rare moment of nervousness, as if I were guilty of being her illicit lover.

I grinned playfully. "Are you afraid to be seen with me, Ma'at?" I purposefully moved to tower over her, and could immediately sense her discomfort. "What would your husband think if he were to catch us together at such an early hour? Would he stab me in the heart?" I motioned dramatically. "Or would he geld me for poking mysteries not meant for my exploration?"

Ma'at stood her ground. She shot me an stern look, warning this was no time for my misguided flirtations.

Obviously, she was not in a jovial mood, nor was she here to bid me well. I backed down, respectful to her wishes.

Her frigid glare was an expression I knew well. I had elicited it enough times, standing by her side day after day in the Great Hall of Judgment.

"I am not your corrupter, Ma'at," I said softly. "I am your complement, possessing qualities you lack."

She refused to respond, her expression set in stone.

I allowed my gaze to shift from her to the dusty sunlight filtering through the entrance of the cave. "The Pharaoh is waiting."

"You cannot undo the evil that has been done."

My gaze drifted back to her, gauging the depth of her conviction. Normally, I enjoy our impassioned debates, but today the stakes were different.

"I can. And I will." I turned away from her.

"Anpu," she urged, grabbing my arm. "He was not your father."

Heat rushed to my face at her brusque words before I could stop it. After a few tense seconds, I managed to respond. "How?"

"I was worried. I spoke your mother last night. She told me everything."

My heart sunk and I looked away. Ma'at was the woman I held in highest esteem, and yet she now knew a terrible truth about me. I would never again be able to gaze upon her in my disgrace.

"Your secret is safe, if you wish it."

I nodded, and silently fumbled forward once more.

But Ma'at was not finished. She quickly swung in front of me, laid a hand on my face, and gently guided it towards hers. "You are nothing like *him.*"

I knew who she meant by, "him." Him who we both despise. Him who we both curse when no one can overhear us. It was treason to do so; even worse, it was blasphemy. But Ma'at and I were patriots loyal to our great nation, and not to the inhuman devil who ruled it.

"Seth murdered Osirus, Anpu, not you. He was conspiring to steal the throne long before you were born. Come, forget this tragic business. Let us haste down to the river. Seth expecting you to marshal the Festival of Inundation. Your absence will be noted."

I shook my head no.

Of course, Ma'at did not understand depth of my guilt. If she had, she would have told me I was absurd to believe my birth was the harbinger of famine and despair.

And perhaps she would be right, but no persuasive argument could erase these sentiments so deeply ingrained in my psyche. My birth was the excuse Seth needed to exact his revenge. No one dared to questioned his right to slay the man who laid down with his wife, even if the adulterer was mighty Osirus, - the Lord of the Two Lands.

Adding to my despair was a fact that became apparent as I grew to manhood; Osirus was not my father. Even his death was meaningless.

"Anpu, I too wish this tragedy was erased, but madness is the true reward for those who court immortality. Osirus has been dead for twenty-four seasons. What is it which you would awaken into the world? It is unnatural. I am frightened for you. I am frightened for me. I am frightened for us all. I know your intentions are noble, but what will happen if you succeed in this grisly task? Men will kill for it. These words are cruel, Anpu, but I speak only the truth."

"No," my voice crackled with emotion. "You speak only of what your mind can perceive, not what your heart is telling you. I was born to do this. It is my reason for being."

"Please, Anpu," she slipped her hand into mine. "There are others ways. Together we can bring Seth to justice for his crimes. We will make the people see Pharaoh is not above the God's law."

I laughed bitterly. "The people think Pharaoh is God. We are nothing."

"*I* am nothing," she corrected me. "*You* are the heir to the throne."

What she was insinuating, I refused to hear. "No, only when the true Pharaoh, Osirus, is restored will the land be purged of tyranny and famine. I know it."

She raised an eyebrow. "How do you know it?"

I glanced back to the entrance of the cave. Golden rays of sunlight were now flooding into the corridor, brilliantly illuminating the painted murals.

"Anpu, did you hear me?"

"I must go." I brushed past her. The echo of her footsteps followed me, and I quickened my pace in response.

"Anpu, how do you know?"

I broke into a full run. "I have foreseen it!"

"You have foreseen it? You went to the serapea?" her stunned voice momentarily dropped behind me, "No, Anpu, no! Dreams are meaningless -- they are not messages from God! Are you mad?"

"Jealous?" I tossed over my shoulder, and quickly darted around a corner. "How else would I know how to do it?"

"Anpu, wait! Even if the dreams *are* messages, how do you know they come from benevolent, and not malevolent, sources? How do you know you interpret these visions correctly?"

I stopped abruptly to continue arguing with her and she crashed into me. Her soft figure pressed against me in an improper manner which should have compelled me to retreat, but I resisted the thought. I pulled her closer as if she were mine to hold and mine alone to love.

Her cheeks were flushed from the pursuit. Her breasts rose and fell against me, and if I was not mistaken, she was trembling in my arms. Suddenly, she seemed not to be a tower of granite, but a wonderfully complex and fragile woman.

I leaned down to her and breathed into her ear the words most sacred to me: "Ma'at -- Xeru." Her confused blue eyes looked back at me, full of hesitation and something else I could not identify. I breathed a sigh of regret. Any other time I would have been tempted to forget my purpose and linger here to explore her emotions further. But not today.

I released her and hurried down the chamber. "Shenu ankh exists! I will prove it and Osiris will rise from the dead!"

She chased after me. "Idealistic fool!"

"The only fool here," I shouted back, "is the one who betrays her heart!"

"What am I to do with you!" she huffed in outrage.

I stopped in front of the doorway to my lair and hoped fortune would visit me twice this day. "You can kiss me for luck." I closed my eyes and leaned down to her. Did she know my conviction would falter without her consent?

"Be careful, Anpu," she whispered to me, and placed the jackal headdress over my head.

"Selqet, Ma'at."


She suddenly yelled and shook me violently. "Mulder. Wake up!"

I felt the sensation of flying through the air, a loud splash, and water bubbling up around me.

"What?" I asked in a daze. "Wake up, Sleeping Beauty!"

I peeked out of an eyelid to see not the torn Ma'at, but an amused Scully framed against a blue sky in the car window, the steady hum of tires filling my ears.

I cracked a crooked grin. "Not until I get a kiss, Princess Charming." She shot me a scornful glance.

My legs knocked into hers as I yawned and stretched. "Sorry. I didn't mean to fall asleep on you." I untangled myself from the seat belt, and rubbed the soreness in my neck. "Hey, uh, how long was I out?" "Long enough for me to learn that you talk in your sleep."

Uh-oh. "Hey, Scully," I squirmed. "I didn't say anything that would make you, er, uncomfortable, did I?" She smiled like the cat who caught the mouse, but then her professional mask was again quickly put in place. Her gaze flitted back to the road. "What is it about a rape case that appeals to you so much that you have to drag me on short notice to the remote swamps of Louisiana?"

I snuck a quick glance out the window before answering. A sign reading "Houma 100" passed by us. We were 135 miles away from Houma last night. I turned around to read a sign heading north: "New Orleans 45"

I smiled to myself. Unless Scully drove in circles throughout the night, she too must have fallen asleep and pulled off the road. I gave her my own cat who caught the mouse grin. "That's for me to know and you to find out."


X3 Let's Call The Whole Thing Off

Canopus, Louisiana 5 pm, May 6, 1996

I can think of no better place to hide a secret than the forboding Bayou Lafourche, which teems with fish, alligators, wildlife, and sludge. Lots and lots of sludge. It's a hell of a hideout for "Wookie," the resident Bayou Bigfoot. No one has photographed it, recorded it, found hair samples, or cemented it's footprints.

Tempting to check into, I know, but after last week's Big Blue bust, I'm steering clear of that one.

Besides, the Cajuns (Acadians, driven out of Nova Scotia in the seventeenth century) are notoriously insular. There's a band of them living so deep in the delta they've never seen a TV. Maybe they've never seen a razor either and they get a kick out of scaring the pants off the locals every now and then.

The Canopus denizens prefer to live off the land. Most of them don't own cars. They use boats; the bayou is their highway, which explains the condition of their roads.

Scully and I stood out in our tailored FBI clownsuits. More natural to the habitat were barefoot children in soiled clothes, and the hangdog looks of destitution.

There were long stretches of poverty on drive into town, mostly Cajuns living in abandoned trailers, or sleeping on rotten sofas under makeshift shelters among the cypresses. Louisiana is the poor state in the union.

It's also murder capital of the world.

But it wasn't the state's impressive homicide numbers that brought us here to beautiful downtown Swampsville, it was the impressive rape numbers which also had the distiction of being 114% percent higher than the national average.

To what should go the credit for this stunning achievement: illegal drugs, poverty, and unemployment? Or were there imperceptible forces at work behind the scenes?

Sounds like a routine X-File to me. So if one dismisses being mistaken for mail carrier by a cranky dog, things seemed pretty normal for a day on the *para*normal beat.

"Mulder, I can't believe I let you talk me into this investigation! And that girl... that girl belongs in a psychiatric hospital!"

Scully burst out of the crumbling Canopus police station in a whirlwind of fury.

I made a hasty apology to the victim and asked the bewildered sheriff to drive Dr. Broussand back to Houma. As soon as he agreed, I quickly excused myself and joined Scully outside with a thinly concealed smile written across my lips.

I admit to being a bit of a brat. I'm like the naughty boy who pulls the pigtails of the prettiest girl in school. I delight in provoking Scully. It amuses me, but I mostly do it to get her attention.

Time for the old Mulder charm. It worked most of the time: reel Scully in close, a little too close for a professional relationship, and talk to her in a hushed tone that most people reserve for a lover.

"You don't think anything *odd* happened to her?" "Something 'odd' happened to her alright," she replied, "but this isn't a case of 'The Entity,' Mulder -- more like incest. It's not uncommon for a victim of sexual molestation to disassociate or invent an elaborate story to explain away their trauma, especially if the attacker is someone they know, someone they have to deal with daily, like a family member. Alien abduction stories are a common fabrication. You wouldn't know anything about that, would you?" "What are you implying, Agent Scully?"

"That the hypnotist was leading her, and that you are encouraging this confused young woman's delusion. She has no credibility, Mulder. She changes her testimony each time we interrogate her. I'm not going to ask for the arrest warrant of a..." she flipped open her notepad, "a dark cloud with red glowing eyes and," she cleared her throat "...another distinguishing feature."

I grinned playfully at Scully. "I believe her exact words were, and correct me if I'm wrong, 'a whale of a penis'. "

She snapped her notepad shut in contempt before grilling me further. "What that girl needs is counseling. And do me a favor, make yourself an appointment too while you're at it, Mr. Pull-Over Quick-Scully-I-Just-Saw-Big-Blue-Oh-No-Look Out-Boom-Crash."

This wasn't the normal Home-team verses Away-team spat. No, this was getting personal. "If the brother attacked her than why does he have an alibi? Ms. All-I-Saw-Was-A-Really Really-Really-Big-Wave." "It's a lie, Mulder," her gaze briefly shifted from me. "Kids lie, especially frightened ones." "I know the girl's brother is lying, but for what reason is he lying?"

"No, not the brother. It's his friend who's lying, trying to protect him by providing an alibi." I shook my head no.

"Mulder!" She threw her arms up in the air. "It's clear enough what's going on here. The boy raped his sister and she made up this incubus story because she couldn't deal with it. We have the boy's confession. Can we go now?"

"We have the brother's confession, yes, but not a *full* confession. Everyone passed the polygraph except for him. His friend isn't lying. Neither is Lupie. She's not deluded, she just doesn't know what really happened to her. How could she? She was asleep." I did a little dance for Scully. "I have a theory..." I paused for effect, "about the Incubi."

"By all means. Stun me with your amazing insight." She folded her arms across her chest.

"I believe the Incubi are a race descended from an ancient people who had unusual gifts, and for those distinctions they were demonized and slaughtered over a period of thousands of years. Perhaps there are a few still out there, struggling to survive. I believe that boy is one of them, acting on the desperate instinct to continue the species. That's why we should take him to the MAYO and conduct some tests at the sleep clinic there. Just think about the possibilities, Scully. A race of people with the ability to see into the subconscious mind."

"Subconscious, my ass." She rolled her eyes. "The incubus was a scapegoat created in a repressed age to rationalize the nature of wet dreams." "I love it when you talk dirty."

"Even if what you are saying is remotely possible, which I sincerely doubt, the lack of diversity in a genetic pool as small as one family virtually guarantees extinction. If you want to run some tests --just to be sure-- okay, fine, whatever. But Mulder, you're going to be disappointed. You know as well as I do that polygraphs are unreliable and inadmissible in court. That girl was lying to you. She was telling you exactly what you wanted to hear." Scully paused, as if what I had just said earlier was only now registering. "Lupie? You're calling her Lupie? What is that, some kind of pet name?" "Hey," I shrugged. "Whatever makes her comfortable." "Comfortable? Mulder! She was flirting with you!"

Scully marched toward our dark green Ford Crown Victoria. I chased after her, stopping her retreat with a hand to her shoulder. She noticed the keys were missing from her coat, and she turned to favor me with a cold glare.

This case wasn't any more or less controversial than our other cases, but crimes against women are a sensitive area for her. I should have been more careful, but she was overreacting and it made me push harder.

"Come on, Scully, it's not like we haven't seen this before. Remember Hal Arden? Excelsius Dei Convalescent Home?"

"Yes, as I recall, you said that it was a huge waste of time to investigate an X-File on entity rape. You called it 'unsubstantiated phenomena.' Why the sudden change of heart?"

Suddenly, I found the dust on my shoes incredibly interesting. I couldn't tell Scully my real reason for wanting this case.

"This is different. The attack happened during a dream."

She raised an eyebrow.

"Then you explain to me how a 140 pound, five foot nine teenager got into a windowless room? All doors locked from the inside. Not a trace of finger prints. Not even a hair." "Keys," she demanded with her hand held out. "I need to interrogate the boy one more time."

"I'm getting tired of 'one more time', Mulder. Why do you want to believe in the Incubi so badly that you'll overlook the fact that there isn't a shred of proof?" Her eyes narrowed, growing suspicious. "Is there something you're not telling me?"

"Okay, okay. Forget about my theory. Let's just pretend this is a new X-File and let's start over. At the very least we may be able to turn up some evidence that could get the District Attorney to evaluate the case. Spooky theory or not, this girl needs justice."

The crime was over 36 hours old. Chances were slim that any evidence was still left on the victim. Or should I say, in the victim? Scully was listening, so I figured now was the time to hit her up with a favor. "I want you perform a forensic examination on the girl."

"Sheriff Loman already had one done." Scully handed me test results from inside the car. "There's nothing here, Mulder."

"Yeah, but Slick Willy didn't know what to tell them to look for." I gave her my best sad puppy dog eyes. "Scully, you're not indulging me. You're looking for sufficient evidence for prosecution."

"No. I'm looking for the car keys that mysteriously disappeared." She opened the glove box. I quickly slammed it shut. "I want you to look for any signs of...."

"Your lack of sensitivity is appalling." She stood up and pointed back to the sheriff's office. "These are real people, Mulder! Not fuel for jokes. Not sign posts on the roadside of your quest." She sighed in frustration. Her gaze flitted from me briefly to reflect on our surroundings.

My grin grew larger. She was beginning to cave-in.

"L'aissez les bons temps rouler, ma chere!" I winked before taking my own survey in the warm light of the setting sun. "I've always wanted to rough it in the bayou."

To the left was a decaying wooden cottage on the edge of an alligator-infested swamp, a "FOR RENT" sign painted in crude letters on a well-worn shutter. To the right was a shabby makeshift police station that also doubled as the local fish market. It appeared that these were the most luxurious accommodations for miles.

"I'll go rent us that plush riverside condo while you setup for the exam. Hey, maybe we can catch crawfish off the back porch for dinner." I paused and then lowered my voice. "It looks like a single. I'll sleep on the floor, unless you're feeling generous and want to share the bed with me. I have to warn you, though; I've been known to act out my dreams on hot sticky nights."

I tried not to smile at her. I knew she already hated me enough for stealing the keys to the only available car in town.

She swatted a mosquito on her arm, anger leaking into her voice. "Mulder, this isn't even our jurisdiction! Why am I listening to you?"

"Because I'm right." I nonchalantly reached around her, grabbed my duffle bag, and strolled toward the police station as if there was nothing at all suspicious about my behavior.

Scully had no idea of the priceless treasure I was carrying and I planned to keep it that way for a little while longer. I felt sorry for her. She was so passionate about her science. My policy has always been to feed her information a little bit at a time until she's comes around. I would hope she would do the same for me. Not that I'm ever wrong 98.9% of the time, it's just that I wouldn't like it if someone shattered my entire belief system less time than it takes to order a pizza.

"Fox!" a girl's voice shouted. Lupie bounced out of the police station and ran in my direction. I couldn't help a slight smile as she beamed at me. She was a cute uninhibited teenager who, judging by her fashion sense, had seen too many Gothic movies.

"You're so fucking cool!" She jumped up, threw her arms around me, and kissed me. "None of those dickwads would listen to me, but not you. You're no dickwad." I discreetly removed her arms. I didn't need to look over at Scully to feel her condemnations burning into me. "Lupie, I need for you to have another examination." "No one touches me!" she cried, shrinking away. "I know what I'm asking for is difficult, but I need proof to back up your story. Special Agent Scully will..."

"I don't like her. She's a fucking bitch." "She is not a bitch!" I snapped back, before realizing that I shouldn't have raised my voice. I hope Scully didn't hear that. I gave Lupie a stern look. "Agent Scully is the best forensic pathologist I know. If there's proof, she'll find it, despite what she does or doesn't believe. You can trust her." "I heard what she said," she sneered. "Why do you let her talk to you like that? I'd punch her fucking lights out!"

I coughed loudly and shuffled Lupie out of Scully's earshot. "Will you let her examine you?" Lupie kicked the dirt. "Do I have to?" "If you want to prosecute your brother, you should." She looked over at Scully, who was leaning against the car tapping her foot.

"She's pretty," Lupie sighed unexpectedly. For a tough kid, Lupie possessed a certain vulnerability. "I used to think I was pretty, but after, you know, after..." She looked back at the ground, her long silky black hair falling into her face.

Her posture suddenly stiffened. She grabbed a couple of rocks at her feet and started to hurl them at the window of the police station where her brother was in custody. "You fucking prick! I hate you! You're lucky you're locked up in there!"

I grabbed her wrists, stopping her from throwing any more rocks. "Settle down, Lupie."

She struggled against me, trying to free herself before the fight worked its way out of her. Her eyes welled up as she gave in. "You think I'm beautiful, don't you, Agent Mulder?"

I looked at her in sympathy, not having the right words. She was indeed a very pretty girl underneath all that make-up, attitude and bad fashion. "I'm scared. During the last examination, when they brought out that thing... and it was cold and, and... all I could think about were those evil glowing eyes and... I..." Her voice trailed off.

I knelt down to the ground beside her and straightened out her hair. "Lupie, I know this is painful. I want to help you, but you have to help me first." She reached for my hand and squeezed it. "Okay, but on one condition." "Anything." I could feel her trembling. "You have to hold my hand." I gently lifted her head up. "Scully and I will take good care of you, Lupie."


X4 The Hot and Sticky Blues

The Canopus Motel 5:50 pm, May 6

With my carefully guarded duffle bag in tow, I purposely burst into the dark dusty closet we're about to call home for the night, making as much noise as possible. Despite my efforts, I couldn't provoke the slightest acknowledgement from Scully. She was sitting on the edge of the bed like an abandoned rag doll, staring blankly at the cheap plastic wood paneling on the walls.

"How are the accommodations here at De Nulle Part L'auberge?"

She ignored my feeble attempt to cheer her up.

A large cockroach scampered away from the light flooding into the room. I dropped my bag loudly on top of it, and looked around.

This room was too small for both of us. Hell, it was too small for one person. Even the bed was wedged in tightly between the walls. There was no way to reach the other side without going over the bed.

Goodie. This should be fun.

"Look what I got, Scully!" I held up a hideous wire contraption for her approval. "Willy loaned me a trap!"

I happily bounced on top of the mattress, and crawled over her with all the grace of a bulldozer on ice.

Scully continued to ignore me.

The backyard of our little love nest consisted of twelves inches of porch which stopped abruptly above a floating mat of duckweed. "Looks like we can catch crawfish off the porch after all."

She finally stirred. "Fox? You let her call you Fox?" She looked towards me and stared as if I had turned into a goofy-looking alien wearing nothing but a T-shirt saying, "E.T. went to Earth, and all I got was his phone bill."

I suppressed a grin, flopped down next to her, and played with the crawfish trap.

She suddenly grabbed my arm. "Mulder! What happened to your wrist?"

I jerked my arm free and yanked down my sleeve. "It's nothing -- just a scratch."

Actually, calling it a scratch was an understatement. I had gotten the horror film-worthy wound earlier in the day complements of Lupie's cranky dog while we were surveying the crime scene. Luckily for me, Scully couldn't tell how bad it was, I had the wound bandaged up pretty well. Only a few dark stains indicted it was worse than I was letting on.

"Let me take a look at it."

I shrugged her off. "Scully, I'm fine. I took care of it. You set up for the test while I catch us dinner. Willy's brewing us up some gumbo."

She was silent for a moment before she spoke again. "That bite needs to be looked at."

I rattled the trap. "You know how to work this thing?"

She shook her head no, and rethought her strategy. "Mulder, you said this would be a quick trip. You said we would be here one day. Skinner doesn't know we're out here and we have to be back in DC tomorrow. If we hurry, there might be enough time to stop at the hospital to get you a tetanus shot on the way to the airport."

I gave up on the trap and tossed it aside. "You're right. Who needs fish?" I laid down on the bed in front of her. The mattress wheezed as the air rushed out.

She coughed and waved away the dust. "Mulder, did you hear a word I just said?"

I stretched, spreading my limbs across the entire length of the bed until my legs and arms dangled over its edges.

"Just smell that sultry night air, Scully." I closed my eyes and deeply inhaled. "There's an undefinable quality to it, a mixture of all things primal, lush, and mysterious." I held my breath, savoring the rich aroma. "Makes you feel good, doesn't it? Makes you feel all warm and tingly." I rolled over with a sly grin and struck a subtly seductive pose. A spring popped out of the mattress and I quickly moved a leg over it, hoping she didn't see.

She took one look at me and whimpered. "Mulder, please don't say you rebooked our flight without consulting me first."

"Uh, sure, okay," I grinned. "Don't worry, Scully. If you get scared, I could sleep right here next to you," I jabbed a finger deep into the lumpy mattress. "You'll be perfectly safe with me, but I not making any promises about nocturnal snuggling or hogging the sheets."

"Dream on, Spooky," she grumbled, then shifted her attention away. "If you want to catch something, you'll need a lure."

"I'm not alluring?"

She sighed, and wearily nodded her head towards my discarded toy. "The trap, Mulder. You need a lure for the trap."

"Oh," I shifted uneasily. "Hey, uh, let me know when you're done setting up for the examination." I kicked off my shoes and loosened my tie. "You'll need my expertise on this one, Scully."

Apparently, that statement struck her interest.

"And what exactly *is* your expertise, Mulder? Ectoplasm? Let's suppose for a moment that your Freddy Krueger theory is correct, and that the attack happened *during* a dream. How then are you planning to prove an alleged crime which leaves no empirical evidence?"

I opened my mouth to protest, but she cut me off.

"And who are you profiling, the monster under the bed, or the boogie man? What are we doing here, Mulder? Someone had a bad dream so they called in the FBI? It makes no sense. Your theory makes no sense. *You* make no sense. According to your own supposition, there's nothing here to investigate. Nada. Zip. Zero. Mulder, let the social workers take over, and let's go home."

"No! This case is *not* a waste of time! This town is being tormented by an imperceptible evil, working under the guise of nightmares and I intend to find it before it finds someone new to terrorize. I don't have all the answers, Scully, but we can solve this case. The forensic test is the key."

"How so?"

"Because it doesn't matter what we do or don't find, only that we make a big show of it."

"Excuse me?"

"It's a ruse, Scully."

Her jaw dropped. "You want me falsify my report? Are you crazy! When were you planning to tell me this?"

I shrugged, and looked away.

"Mulder! I will not implicate the person of your choosing for a crime that, frankly, I'm having a hard time believing is even legitimate."

"We don't have to implicate anyone. We don't even have to state our findings. We just say we found something, and make it look good. It'll flush out the guilty party. My reputation will work in our favor. Trust me, Scully. It'll work."

"Trust you? I don't even believe you! Theft? Subterfuge? Willfully hiding information? Mulder, I don't know what to think about this. You're behaving very strangely. Why?"

"Are you finished?"

"For now."

"Good." I rolled over, putting my back to her, and grabbed a stiff pillow to rest my now throbbing headache against.

"Mulder.... Are you pouting?"

"No." I snatched an extra pillow and shoved it under my arm. "I'm investigating the backside of my eyelids. Wake me up when you're ready to do the examination."

"Mulder, I hope you realize how little sleep *I've* had in past 24 hours."

"No, Scully, I don't, but I'm betting you had as much sleep as I did last night. That, or you drove at the breakneck speed of five miles an hour to get here."

That shut her up for awhile. A little while, anyway.

"So you're just going to lay there while I do all the work, is that right?"

I rolled over, and glowered at her. "I'm working too." I flopped back over, and grunted.

"You know, Mulder, they say sleep is a little death."

"I'll be sure to give your regards to oblivion. You mind keeping it down?"

"Okay, Mulder. You win. I'll do the test if you answer one question for me. In our three years of working together, I've never known you to make such a monumental leap in logic without having something, no matter how obscure, to back it up. Why are you not telling me what it is?"

If she was expecting an answer, I didn't give her one. I was hoping she would get the hint, and drop the matter.

"Mulder?"

I ignored her.

"Mulder!"

I pretended to snore.

"That's it. I've had it!" She suddenly jumped on me and shoved her hands deep into my trouser pockets. I squirmed as she fished around, tickling me in delightful ways.

"Ooooo... Be gentle with me," I cooed. It didn't register what she doing until she mumbled, "Call me a bitch," under her breath and withdrew the car keys.

"Scully, what the hell are you doing?"

She spun around on her heels and marched out the door like a soldier.

I laid there in a stunned silence. She had never refused a case before, no matter how bizarre. I didn't expect this. It took a few seconds for it to sink in.

"Scully, wait!" I fumbled after her in my socks. "You have to do the test!"

She quickened her pace, her tiny feet a blur.

"Come on, Scully! This is important! Something happened to that girl! Something strange! Maybe it was in her head, or maybe it wasn't. Don't you want to find out which?"

She lunged into the car, and I grabbed the door to prevent her escape. I knew she wouldn't close it on my hand.

"If this case is so open and shut," I pleaded, "then this could be your lucky chance to prove me wrong!"

I barely got my hand out in time before the door slammed shut. The Victoria peeled out of the driveway, spewing a cloud of dust, and making me gag its wake.


X5 Baby Please Don't Go

Route One, Louisiana 6:30 pm, May 6 My socks provided no protection from the rocks and sand spurs that cut into my feet as I ran after the car. There was no way I could catch Scully. I hoped she would be satisfied with my suffering on this brutal chase, and come back. She wouldn't leave me, would she? Not now. Not like this. Not on the verge of an important discovery. I stopped the middle of the weed-covered road to catch my breath, and watched as the car tail lights faded in the distance.

The sky had deepened to a morose purple. There were no street lights in the swamp, and my flashlight was in the car with Scully. Mosquitoes swarmed around me. I pulled out my cell phone and prayed it could reach her. "Scully!" I panted. She hung up. I tried again. "Scully, will you please talk to me?"

Click. I redialed. "Scully. Come on. You have to do the examination!" "You don't know when to stop, do you, Dr. Frankenstein?" She hung up. I called back. "Scully, what the hell is wrong with you?"

"Me? What the hell is wrong with *you*?"

"There's nothing wrong with me."

She was quiet for a minute. "Why is it always about what you want, Mulder? Why can't I choose a case worth investigating? A case as mundane as... *fraud*?" I resented the way she said "fraud."

"I think you just look for things to support your megalomaniacal delusions, taking only cases that prove your theories. Anything that doesn't fit, you conveniently ignore," she ranted. Megalomaniacal delusions? I didn't care about what other people thought, but Scully was different. She knew me. I respected her opinion, which was why her bitter words stung. She had gotten too close. I had given her too much power over me. "You want reassignment? Fine. I'll call Skinner right now."

It was deadly quiet. I couldn't even hear her breathing, only car-related static. "Did you hear me? I said if you want off the X-Files..."

"You know, I just realized something," she interrupted. "I think you're interested in this case because it appeals to you, turns you on. An evil spirit sexually manipulating a woman while she's helpless. It's the ultimate safe sex, isn't it? Never having to get your hands dirty. Toying with the emotions of others like it's some kind of game, while keeping yourself closed off at a safe distance. I think you were an imp in another lifetime!" Then she corrected herself, "An incubus." "If I was an incubus," I snapped, "you worked for the Inquisition. You get off on inflicting pain on others, burning people at the stake you can't neatly define, classify, or categorize, never questioning what's dictated to you, because if you did, then you would have to make a choice. So if the church says it's okay to murder witches and werewolves, then you'll just to stand back and pretend it isn't happening." She screamed and the line went dead. I dialed back, but her line was busy. "Damn it!" I threw the phone down and kicked it in a fury before realizing my error.

Oh shit, what have I done? I sunk down in the dirt and gravel and began to frantically search for my phone as the last glimmer of daylight vanished from the sky.

This was not the way it was supposed to be, I thought as I felt my way around, but it was hopeless. I sat there with my head in my hands and admitted my defeat.


X6 People Are Strange

Canopus, Louisiana 9:56 pm, May 6

No matter how perfect the silence of a swamp, there is always that feeling you are not alone. It was eerily quite at times, quivering with unseen life in the shadows; the tranquility broken every now and then by a screeching owl.

A dispiriting fog had rolled into town, giving Canopus an appropriately creepy effect. At any second, I expected a B-movie horror monster to spring up and do me in.�

An old Muddy Waters' song crackled in the heavy night air.

Got a black cat bone, got a mojo, too got a High John The Conqueror, gon' mess with you. I was gripped by the sensation of being watched. I spun around to catch two old men rocking lazily on a rotted porch swing, chuckling as they shared a joke. I cautiously approached them. "What are you fellas doing out here in the dark?" "Weez watchin' ya, Fed. Placin' bets." "Oh? Betting on me, are you?" "Old Bernie here thinks ya's a smart boy, dat ya figures things out. I thinks different." "Figure out what?"

"Now, I ain't fixin' ta tell ya, or I'd lose dis here bet," he laughed. "Now or later. It's only a question of time," I informed him flatly. "Question a' time is right," Old Bernie agreed, bobbing his head up and down with stiff upper lip.

A sickening feeling punched me in the gut. Why do I suddenly feel like a rat trapped in a maze? "If you guys know anything about the crime..." Old Bernie eyed me with a long quizzical gaze, then he motioned for me to come closer with his old whithered hand.

"The boy's innocent," he whispered gravely, and refused to say anything more.

His companion began to laugh, his cackles like fingernails on chalkboard to my ears. After doing the standard, "Here's my card, call me if you think of something more," I put as much distance between me and that hideous old men's laugh as I could. I thought about what they said as I continued my journey back to the police station. I was nearly there when I was treated to a bizarre sight. Parked in the middle of the road was a very large man in a very small lawn chair. He had a lantern and a rusted tin tub full of ice and beers by his feet. He looked like he had nothing better to do than block the road for the occasional car, if any passed by at all.

"Catch anythin'?" he snickered.

"Street party?" I tossed back.

He regarded me up and down, noting my black suit, black tie, white shirt, and missing shoes as if I were an escapee from a honky nuthouse.

"Someone die?" he chuckled.

"No. I'm investigating a crime. Special Agent Fox Mulder, FBI." I produced my ID.

"Da spooky girl's caca-meme story? Waste o' time." He twisted open a curious looking beer bottle labeled "La Mer's Voodoo Brew," and offered me a fresh one from the tub.

"No thanks."

"Ya missin' out, Fed. La Mer makes da best damn brew in Louisiana. Folks say it's da *special* ingredients, if ya know what I mean." He wiggled his eyebrows. "But don't listen ta dem none. Only thing ya needa know is it tastes damn fine." He greedily milked the bottle for the last drop. "Ahhhhh!"

"Why is it a waste of time to investigate? You think the boy is innocent?"

"Don't I know it."

"Why would he confess to a crime he didn't commit?"

"Cause." He twisted open another bottle. "Da boy thinks da whole town don't know about 'em." He bobbed his head up and down. "But we do."

"Don't know what?"

"Now I ain't spreadin' gossip see, but dat boy is as gay as dey come."

"Rape is act of violence, not sex. Tell me, did he fight with his sister?" He shuttered. "Like cats and dogs... uh, nervous tick?"

"Nervous tick?" He copied my absent-minded gesture by reaching his hand into an imaginary coat pocket as if he were answering a phone. "Oh. My cell phone. I'm expecting a call." Too bad I lost it.

"Da 90s." He shook his head. "Peoples got strange addictions in da 90s. Back in my day, folks just smoked cigarettes." He greedily gobbled down a third beer. I thanked him for the information and made my way on down the road.

"Aww!" I stepped on a sharp rock and I stopped to nurse my foot.

Assuming the scenario the Beer Guzzling Man suggested was accurate, that would explain the polygraph results. The boy's alibi was a lover. The two were spending the night together, something which they thought was a secret. The boy confessed to avoid what he considered a more embarrassing situation. However, his lover disagreed and provided a witness to his whereabouts the night of the attack which produced their conflicting testimony.

Perhaps there was no crime.

Perhaps there was no incubus.

But there were two things of which I was certain. There was a lonely girl starved for attention and a bitter agent who just ruined a stellar partnership.

There was one way to find the truth about the other two, but first a quick trip was needed to retrieve some badly needed footwear.


X7 I Shot The Sheriff

Canopus Sheriff's Office 10:56 pm, May 6

Swinging from the police station porch was a blackened cow tongue impaled on a large hook in the ceiling, -- Voodoo. I've heard tales of things like this, but I've never seen it up close. In Miami, the courthouse had to hire a guy just to clean the steps each morning because people were leaving slaughtered chickens there overnight, hoping to win a favorable verdict the next day.

I can't speak for Florida judges, but having a dead animal left on my doorstep sure makes me want to do something nice for it's sender.

As I shoved opened the door, the fish stench of the police station assaulted my nostrils.

"Evenin', Agent Mulda. Catch anythin'?" Sheriff Loman grinned with gap-toothed contentment as he leaned back in his decaying vinyl chair, a mindless imbecile with a badge.

I favored him with an indulgent smirk. "No. I didn't catch anything."

"Too bad, uh?" He poured a bucket of shelled crawfish in an electric-heated pot perched precariously on the police report inbox.

"What's with the cow tongue?" I nodded towards the door.

"Uh?" Willy looked up and gawked.

"There's a cow tongue hanging outside, or didn't you notice?"

"Oh, dat. Dat's a warning for peoples with big mouths."

"Really?" I stalked towards him. "So what aren't you supposed to tell me, and who do you think sent the message?"

"Could've been anybody," he shrugged. "Folks around here don't like FBI. Dey think da FBI's bad, dat da FBI's da ones dat shot Dr. King."

I disliked Willy, and it puzzled me. I decided the root of my hostility toward him was his gapped-teeth: big, crooked, dumb looking. They whistled whenever he said a word with an "s." He couldn't talk without me staring at his gappped-teeth, angrily.

I shifted my gaze away, and the bulletin board over his shoulder caught my attention.

"That's a lot of missing people for a town as small as this. Thirteen people over a ten year period."

"Uh?" He blinked.

I motioned for him to look up at the bulletin board. "All these people disappeared from Canopus?"

"Oh yeh." He brushed me off. "Binlookin f'dem a long time." The noble town Sheriff appeared to be more concerned about his late night snack than these unsolved cases. I began to scan the missing person's descriptions, looking for any similarities that could point to the modus operandi of a serial killer.

Six housewives, a retired elderly man, a traveling salesman, the deputy, and a missing cat named "Fluffy."

Interesting.

"I'd like to see your missing persons' file."

"File?" Willy poured into the stew a thick red pepper sauce, identified on the label as "La Mer's Voodoo Hellfire." Then he began chopping peppers, tomatoes, onions, and okra with a dull knife too large for the task, completely forgetting it takes two to have a conversation.

Since he was so fixated on gumbo, I took the opportunity to snoop around, looking for anything else suspicious. The police radio dispatch crackled in the next room.

"...a possible thunderstorm and flash flood watch to be issued for southern Louisiana in the next twelve hours. Evacuations expected in the low laying areas of Lafourche, Terrebonne, St. Charles, Plaquenilles, Jefferson, Assumption and St. Mary parishes. All units..."

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the jail cell was empty. "Willy! Where's Lupie's brother?" "'em?" Willy casually glanced up from his bubbling concoction. "Gone."

"You let him go? Lupie's alone out there! Shit! Why did you do that?" "Ya mean let 'em leave, uh?" He inhaled the spicy aroma and not finding it to his liking, he stirred in a few more drops of Voodoo Hellfire. "Yes," I hissed, with my fist clenched, barely containing my anger. "Why did you let him go?" "Well, da men who picked 'em up said I couldn't hold him on da account that der was no arrest warrant." "What men?" "Don't know who dey were, but dey had nice suits." He sampled his sauce and flashed me a triumphant jack-o-lantern grin.

I was getting a bad feeling about this. I noticed a Morley cigarette butt on the floor, camouflaged among a pile of discarded fish scales.

My paranoia surfaced. "Do you smoke?" "No'suh." He smacked his ugly liver lips. "Willy! Listen to me." I yanked the electric pot's plug out of the wall and demanded his undivided attention. "I'm a Federal Agent and you're going to help me on this investigation. Do what I say and not what anyone else tells you. Understand?" "Yes'suh." "Good. You are going to drive me to the Lupies'."

He looked at his dinner, then at me. "But dis good eatin' gumbo, Agent Mulda. You not hungry? I made it for you."

I glared at him in contempt.

He sighed, grabbed his coat and went for the door.

I snapped up an old dial phone on the way out, and called Scully. Busy signal. I scribbled a quick note for her instead, just in case.

Scully,

Sorry. We should talk. Willy and I are taking Lupie to Houma for the forensic test.

Mulder p.s. Lost my cell phone.


X8 How Soon Is Now?

The Oak Island Plantation 11:35pm, May 6

I stood in the wavering beams of the rusted squad car headlights and observed the crumbling antebellum mansion for any signs of life. Scully and I had been here earlier today, but one needed to be here at night to appreciate the haunting dread of this place.

Clumps of swaying Spanish moss shrouded two gigantic live oaks. Judging by the trees' enormous gnarled branches, they must have been over 150 years old; titans slowly dying as their roots became waterlogged by the sinking salt dome island upon which Lupie's home was built.

This place was a relic of pre-Civil War Southern splendor made possible by human slavery, an injustice which ultimately became a rallying cry in the War Between The States. More American lives were lost in this one war than all other wars combined. And this testament to a cruel bygone era would soon disappear into the encroaching swamp. The murky water was already lapping the outer most Doric column of the lower gallery.

The house looked deserted.

I turned back to Willy. "You sure she's here? Doesn't look like anyone's home."

"Dats cause da house got no electricity."

"Never wired for electricity?" How can anyone live like that?

"Yes'suh. Canopus and all da area around it used to be part of da Oak Island Plantation in da days, but after la querre des Confederes, carpet bagguhs, and de risin' marsh well..., dis here house is all dat's left."

I looked back at the mansion and tried to picture the grand estate it must have been.

Curiosity got the better of me. "What's that for?" I pointed past a toppled garden statuary to a large dark object that appeared to be a monstrous black cauldron. "Boilin' sugarcane." Willy nodded his head toward the river winding around the back of the property. "Dey'd ship it right down da Bayou Lafourche to da Gulf."

"Got a flashlight?"

"Yes'suh." He handed me a plastic dime-store flashlight with a beam so weak, it winked whenever I moved it.

"Stay here and keep the headlights on. I'll go get her."

Keeping an eye out for the mutt who mistook me for a chew toy, I carefully navigating the saturated ground leading up to the front porch.

The door was unlocked.

"Lupie?"

Headlights leaked through the shutters in dusty rays as I entered. I could almost picture the ghost of a Confederate soldier in the corner of the ancient parlour, rocking slowly back and forth in a squeaky wooden chair.

I had a hunch this place had secrets only visible at night.

Sweeping the blinking flashlight around me, I conducted a quick survey of the interior. There were gapping holes in the plaster, and debris littered the floor. In the darkest corner, pigeon dropping had made a thick Pollock painting of a weathered bookcase. Something moved behind me. I spun around to discover a large rat staring at me, its beady eyes reflecting in the beam.

"Scram!" I shouted, and aimed a swift kick in its direction.

It scurried a few feet away and then continued to watch me placidly. Guess it didn't consider me much of a threat.

I resumed my search.

Several things had been bugging me about this case.

What kind of parents would leave their children alone for a week while they took an extended fishing expedition? And who would raise kids in these terrible living conditions? Why had the authorities not caught up with the parents? It didn't make sense. Willy couldn't possibly be that inept, could he?

"Lupie? It's Agent Mulder. You here?"

The old wooden staircase creaked below me as I went upstairs. To my left was the windowless room where Lupie was attacked; hanging police tape still barred the entrance.

I imagined the terror Lupie would face each night, knowing that no room and no lock could provide safety from her incorporeal attacker, not as long as she continued to live here. And I wasn't going allow that.

Even if I couldn't prove her story, there were enough signs of abuse and neglect for me to alert the Child Protection Agency. They would find her a new home in foster care.

A room cluttered with candles opened before me. For a moment, the contrast between the illuminated room and the darkened hallway smarted my eyes. The air was warmer here, rich with the scent of melting wax. Eerie shadows danced across the walls. And partially hidden in the ornate paneling, a thin shadow fluttered in and out of existence where there should have been no shadow.

Jackpot. A sly smirk spread across my face.

"Lupie?"

When there was no reply, I rushed across the room, grabbed a thick section of the carved paneling and heaved. The concealed door groaned in protest, then slowly gave way.

To my astonishment, I had discovered a tiny library painted entirely a vivid cobalt blue. A tale-tall trace of indigo tickled my nose.

Interesting.

Blue is more than a color in Voodoo country, -- it repels evil spirits. It's an ancient belief, dating back to the time of the Pharaohs. Terrified slaves abducted from their native Africa brought this belief with them to the plantations. They took indigo from the fields, mixed it with white paint, and lacquered their shabby shacks in the hue. At night, the slaves would huddle together in their blue sanctuaries and pray to the Gods of Africa to deliver them from the evil of the New World.

The color is called "Haint Blue" (haint meaning haunt) and it can still be found painted around windows, door frames, and porch ceilings of many homes across the Southeastern United States. Louisiana being Voodoo headquaters, is no exception. Which is interesting, because I've never seen "Haint Blue" used this way.

I shoved the door wider and stepped inside.

The library was stocked full of books on Egyptian Mythology. One of them was pulled out from the others and book-marked. I flipped it open and landed on a drawing from the Book of the Dead. It depicted a man with the head of a black jackal kneeling at the midpoint of a giant scale. I recognized him: Anubis, Guardian of the Dead.

The inscription below the picture was highlighted.

I quickly shut the door behind me and read the passage.


The Hall of Ma'at From the Papyrus of Ani (c.3010 B.C.) The British Museum London

PICTURED ABOVE: Anubis presiding over the weighing of the heart ceremony. Anubis appeared on behalf of the deceased in the Hall of Ma'at, where final judgment took place. This was done by weighing one's heart (conscience) against the Feather of Ma'at (truth). It was Anubis's duty to place the heart on the scales and adjust them fairly, based on how much the deceased had suffered during life. If the heart was "light as a feather," the owner would be worthy of an afterlife. If the heart was burdened with sin and guilt, the heart would be consumed by the crocodile- faced demon, Ammut, the Devourer of Souls, and the owner would die a "second death," passing into oblivion.

 

Finding this, after the dream I had this morning, was far too coincidental to be an accident.

I looked up Anpu in the index. It said, "See Anubis, page 42."

 

ANUBIS (the Greek corruption of the Egyptian "Anpu") Anubis's symbol was that of a dark Egyptian hunting hound, wolf, dog, or most commonly a jackal. It is hypothesized that Anubis had the form of a jackal because jackals were often seen roaming the tombs and cemeteries of Egypt. As such, he represented all those who had a foot in two worlds. Anubis was a diplomat with a dark and sardonic nature, but he was also known to bestow compassion upon the unfortunate. He was a guide to the spirits of the deceased, patron of orphans and lost souls, God of magic, and the Egyptian personification of time. Anubis could see into the myriad possible futures and pasts. He was also credited for creating the world's first mummy.

As a haunter of dark and lonely places, a wanderer through the shadow-realm between life and death, Anubis bears witness to the darker side of mortality. He seeks out those lost souls who find themselves without guidance after their demise, and he helps them navigate the trials of Duat until their final destination is reached, the Hall of Ma'at.

 

I slammed the book shut.

Something was toying with me. Something that knew Scully and I were on the way.

A strange bejeweled black box decorated with a skeleton caught my eye. I grabbed it and popped it open. Nestled within the purple velvet-lined interior was an overstuffed file with the familiar blue and gold markings of the FBI. I snatched the folder and a photograph tumbled to the floor.

When I bent down to recover it, I was startled to see my own image staring back at me.

What the hell? The file was an extensive report on Scully, myself and the X-Files. It contained both our current FBI personnel records, and psychological profiles as well as several newspaper clippings of our cases.

"Look's like the local incubus is on the Syndicate payroll," I grumbled bitterly.

I didn't like being toyed with, and my anger grew as I considered the situation. None of this made sense. If an Incubi working for Old Smokey had access to my psych report, why would it not use my worse fears against me, and instead giving me narcissistic visions of being an Ancient Egyptian Deity? Was this some kind of a joke?

I spotted an oil painting in the corner carefully wrapped in a protective cloth. I started to pull it out when I heard the car horn blast outside.

"Say podna," I sneered, mocking Willy's thick New Orleans drawl. "Ya think it'd be a good idea ta blast da car horn and announce to da world ya'r snoopin' around?" Asshole.

I grudgingly replaced the file, and slipped out of the hidden room, vowing to return later for a more thorough search.

I found Lupie a short time later. She was outside in the moonlight at the end of the dock. Her long ethereal black dress wafted in the breeze like a black bird skirting the edge of a storm.

"Lupie. It's Agent Mulder." I tried to conceal my agitation as I joined her. She seemed oblivious to my sharp gaze. She was more fascinated with the silvery reflection of the moon in the inky black depths.

"It's so peaceful out here, isn't it, Fox?" she sighed.

I couldn't help but notice she was wearing an ankh necklace. And that heavy eye make-up, it wasn't Gothic; it was Egyptian.

I thought better of directly confronting her. I had a ruse to protect.

"Time to go, Lupie. Sheriff Loman is waiting out front." "Shhh. Listen to the crickets and the frogs." She closed her eyes, and breathed deeply. "It's like a lullaby."

She's stalling. Suspicion leaked into my voice. "Your brother is missing."

She groaned and hid her face. "You don't care about me at all, do you?"

What was she doing, playing me for a sap? She was *definitely* hiding something, and if I wanted answers, I'd have to play her game and she knew it!

I shifted on my feet. "I want to help you, Lupie, but there's no way I can if I don't get solid proof to back up your story. That's why we need to go, before it disappears completely."

"No! What am I to you, a mystery to be solved? That woman was right! You're just using me to prove some crazy fucking theory!" Lupie turned and fled to the house, wailing loudly.

I stood there for long while, watching her go, feeling miserable, and generally hating life. Lupie did have a point. And her extreme shifting behavior was bothersome. Was it an act or a mental condition? I needed to observe her for a longer period of time before I could be certain, but I was leaning towards a diagnoses of Reactive Attachment Disorder. It's common among orphans, and while Lupie didn't literally figure into that category, she does comes close enough. Maybe I had been too hard on her. Maybe she had been framed.

I found her hiding upstairs in the secret room, clutching the book I had looked at earlier tightly against her breast. She looked very much like a frightened child clinging to a security blanket. Black rivers of tears stained her pale cheeks. "Don't let them touch me, Fox," she whimpered in a small uncertain voice.

My heart went out to her. There was no mistaking the signs of lifelong abuse. I understood then the purpose of the secret room. It must have been Lupie's idea of protection from the demons that haunt her, whether they were real or imaginary. I didn't know how she got my FBI file, but maybe she was studying me because she thought I was only person who could help her.

"I'm sorry, Lupie," I fished out a handkerchief and gave it to her. "If there were any other way..."

"Someone hurt you once too, didn't they?" She sniffled and wiped her nose. "That's why you want to help me."

"What makes you think that?"

"Don't bullshit me!" she barked. Then, just as quickly, her tone softened. "Or maybe you don't want to remember." "What?" I needed to get this conversation back on track. I needed to gain her trust, and maybe then she would be straight with me.

I sat next to her and she began to relax. "Tell me about your book. It's a special book, isn't it? Will you share it with me?"

Willy suddenly poked his head in the door. I discreetly motioned for him to leave me alone with Lupie, but he just stared at me with his small dull eyes.

"Wait in the car, Willy."

"Da car, uh?"

I bit back less appropriate responses through gritted teeth. "Just wait in the car."

He looked at me, then at Lupie before hesitantly leaving.

Despite Willy's stomping and the creaking floor boards, I wasn't convinced he had left. I leaned over to Lupie and whispered, "Willy isn't exactly right in the head, is he? Why does this town have him as the sheriff? I don't think I would issue him a weapon." "It's a small town," she shrugged, and stared at the floor as if dust bunnies were terribly interesting. "Someone has to do it. He wasn't always that way."

"Why? What happened?"

"The town ostracized him after the accident. I feel sorry for him." She began to fidget with the corners of her book. "Everyone deserves forgiveness." Her large blue eyes suddenly fluttered up, and quietly studied me with the same type of intensity as I was studying her. "No matter what happens, thank you. I really mean that."

"I haven't done anything."

"Yes, you have." She deliberately inched a little closer to me, paused, and when I didn't back away, she opened her mouth to speak again, but the words died on her lips.

We both watched each other in a strange fascination, each of us trying to figure the other out. I was about to ask her about the file when she looked behind me and blurted, "Where's your lady friend? I thought she was going to do the test?"

I didn't want to talk about Scully, but I ventured a small smile. "She ran away in fear that her purity would be vulnerable to the evil Spooky lurking about."

"No, she didn't. She didn't believe me, but you do. Why aren't *you* afraid for your purity?"

"Because," I grinned and jumped on all fours, "if that evil spook comes near me, I'll turn myself into a crazy wolf and chase it away." I pounced around the room, barking and growling until Lupie laughed at my ridiculousness.

"I'll howl if he comes near me!" Lupie demonstrated and I howled along with her.

"You're pretty cool for a Fed," she chuckled, and lowered the book to show me a picture.

It was a different page from the one I had looked at. This drawing showed the jackal man with a lady who wore a feather in her hair.

"The Lady Ma'at," I pointed to the page. "The personification of Truth and Cosmic Order. She was the wife of Thoth, God of Logic and Reason."

"You know stuff about Egypt? Awesome! Hey, I know something I bet you don't know! The Egyptian men used to dip their balls in hot water as a form of birth control. Do you think that shit really works?" She dropped her voice. "I mean, would you do it?"

I coughed, trying not to laugh at her uncouthness. "How the hell do you know that?"

Her pale cheeks flamed a bright red. "I, uh, read about it."

I pointed to Lupie's ankh necklace. "You know what this represents, don't you?"

"Life," she beamed, proudly showing off her knowledge.

No, I smirked, its the sign of sexual union, -- not that I was going to tell her that.

She pointed to the jackal man. "Anubis was a protector. He made sure no one cheated the dead of a fair trial." She paused, her head tilted in thought. "I think you two have a lot in common. You make sure the dead get justice too. That's what an X-File is, right? Investigating bizarre deaths no one else cares about."

"Not all X-Files are murders. For instance, there's a recent case about a bright young girl who knows more than she's telling."

"I can trust you, can't I?"

"Yes." I hoped my answer would yield a confession.

"Okay. I'll do the test in the city, but only tomorrow and only if you stay with me tonight. I don't feel safe here. Not anymore. Not after what happened."

"I'll get you a nice room in town. Willy and I will keep watch over you there."

"No!"

I sighed. Two difficult women in one day. Someone shoot me now.

"Okay. We'll stay." If she felt safe in her blue room, I guess I shouldn't force her to leave it.

"Thanks, Agent Mulder." She smiled and yawned. "I'm dead dog tired, aren't you?"

"Get some sleep, Lupie."

She suddenly wrapped her arms around me, and snuggled me as if I were her favorite teddy bear.

I winced.

"I like your cologne," she cooed, then quickly drifted into a deep sleep.

I wasn't wearing cologne and I wasn't comfortable with her clinging to me. It made me sad to think that one person shows her kindness and she immediately attaches to them. She had obviously adopted me into a father figure-type role.

Whatever lies Lupie was weaving, my intuition was persistent in telling me she was a basically good kid, -- albeit a mentally unstable one.

Willy poked his head in the doorway. Funny, I didn't hear him creak up the stairs.

"I'm going to stay with her to make sure she's okay. Be back by five."

He glanced at Lupie, as if he needed her permission to leave. "She'll be fine."

After a little hesitation, he nodded and left.

I leaned against the wall, shifting Lupie's weight to a more comfort position, and listened to the confusion of sounds from the swamp. The monotonous drone of frogs, crickets, and other nocturnal creatures I could not identify all conspired to creep me out. Flickering shadows on the wall began to take the shapes of monsters and demons.

What the hell had I gotten myself into?

Sweat beaded on my brow. It was getting hard to breathe. The room began to spin. I reached for my cell phone. Then like a TV being turned off, my consciousness condensed to a small pindot and winked out.

The last thing I remember was the dull thump of my head hitting the floor.


X9 Love Potion No. 9

Duat 12 am, May 7

"Mulder!"

I bolted upright. What happened? Where's Lupie? I can't see anything.

Blindly, I groped around me. The floor had changed. It was made of stone, and damp to the touch. The sound of dripping water echoed around me. The air was dense with moisture. Where am I? A cave? How did I get here?

I heard Scully's voice again. It was strange, muffled and distorted as if it were filtered through moving water.

"Mulder? Can you hear me?"

In a flash, I had a ghostlike vision of the Victoria spinning wildly out of control. There was a loud splash. Scully screamed.

"Scully!"

I bolt forward, fumbling in the dark. My body crashed against the damp stonewall where I had expected the car to be.

"Scully, where are you?!" I felt my way around, my fingers trailing across the rough surface.

There was no reply.

The wall was chiseled with hieroglyphics shapes. I followed it, hoping that it led to something, to anything. The wall seemed to extend for an undeterminable distance.

"Scully!"

A draft welled up, and my hand soon fell into emptiness. There was a room here. The hairs raised on the back of my neck, warning me that I was not alone; someone was watching me.

I slowly backed out of the room. "Scully?" I whispered, "Are you in here?"

"Anpu? Anpu Ka?"

"Scully? Is that you?"

I continued to back out slowly until I bumped into something hard. The thing grabbed my wrists, spun me around, pinning my arms tightly behind me. I was shoved forward.

There was another flash of lightning and torches all around me burst into flames, revealing a long hall in full Egyptian splendor. Gold gleamed everywhere in the amber light, and a giant imposing scale stood at the head of the chamber. I was overwhelmed.

Before me was a beautiful Egyptian woman with an ostrich plume tucked into the red ribbon that fastened her shoulder- length black plaited hair. The elegant lines of her red tunic stopped just below her breast with two wide straps snugly secured across her shoulders. Her attire would not be considered proper by Western standards, but it would be a mistake to judge her by them. Her femininity was perfectly balanced against her imposing authority. Besides, I liked her symmetry, both of them. "Ma'at?" I asked.

She made a motion with her hand to have me released, and the thing that held me obeyed. I turned to face my captor, and the long muzzle of the black jackal headdress poked me in the face. "Your reputation precedes you, Anpu." A playful smile curled upon his lips.

I shuttered, realizing it wasn't a mask.

He wore a white pleaded loincloth, a gold pectoral collar inlaid with gemstones, and tight gold bands around his biceps with matching bracelets and finger rings.

He moved quickly behind Ma'at and assumed a protective stance. He studied me with as much curiosity as I was studying him.

I was intrigued with their nonverbal communication, a small gesture here, a quick glance there. It reminded me of the type of language twins develop that no one else understands. I wondered if they were lovers.

Ma'at smiled at me warmly. I was completely smitten with her. The air between us seemed electrified. She was incredibly sexy.

What's she doing hanging around a freak like him? She needs a real man, not a half breed.

Her smile grew warmer as if she knew what my thoughts were. She whispered over her shoulder knowingly: "Anpu Ka."

The jackal man mumbled a response into her ear.

She rolled her eyes.

He looked at me and bared his fangs.

I mistook it as a sign of aggression, seeing those long threatening canines, but then I realized it was supposed to be a grin, a rather goofy-looking grin. His toothy smile grew larger, knowing I had been afraid. My attention wandered back to his more attractive partner. Her unwavering gaze remained locked on me. The intensity of her stare made my pulse quicken.

"Ma'at?" Anpu looked at me, then her, then back to me once more. His tall ears began to droop.

The humor drained from his voice. "Ma'at?" He nudged her shoulder, but she ignored him.

His ears suddenly flicked back, he wrapped his arms around her and snarled at me. A long tongue flicked out of his mouth and he licked her cheek in a long sensuous sweeping motion as if to say, "mine."

If his intention was to make me jealous, it worked.

She slapped him hard on the snout and scowled at him. "Mmmmm.... Dua sekhmet Ma'at." He chuckled softly, under his breath, rubbing his nose. He winked at me, then grabbed a torch and exited the hall.

She glared at him disapprovingly and motioned for me to follow him, but I didn't. I couldn't take my eyes off of her.

She seemed surprised I didn't leave.

Without thinking, I pulled her to me, observing her more closely. She stiffened against me, shocked by my aggressive curiosity.

Under that black wig and heavy eye makeup, she reminded me of a certain lady I know. I caressed the subtle skin of her cheek to see if she was real.

"Scully," I breathed heavily.

She softened in my embrace. Her eyes told me secrets that words could not express in such a loving manner.

"That isn't you, is it?"

She nodded.

"Does that mean yes it is you, or no it's not?"

She offered me no further clues to satisfy my escalating curiosity.

"Pedjet!" Anpu barked behind me.

The next thing I saw was the ground rushing up to greet me as I collided with rough stone floor.

Anpu yanked me up to his strange face, his hot breath steaming over me, but he didn't strike. He was scrutinizing me in a combination of outrage and wonder.

I glared back at him defiantly. "Touch me again and I'll teach you how to play dead."

"Sebek Anpu! Sebek Anpu Ka!" Ma'at yelled.

We both looked at her, forgetting about our rivalry as she chastised us both and stormed out of the hall. I couldn't help but snicker like a naughty boy. Anpu snickered too. Maybe he wasn't so bad after all.

Anpu leaned close to me and whispered so she wouldn't hear him, "Sebek Ma'at," and steered me to the exit.

As soon as we are out of hall, he pulled me to the side, and double checked to see if we are out of her line of sight. He whispered to me "Anpu dua nefer Ma'at, sa Ma'at." He smiled like a love sick puppy and showed me a tattoo on his left hip. It was of a loop of rope with no beginning and no end. "Ma'at Anpu shenu."

I drew a circle in the air. "Shenu. Ouroboras. Yin yang."

"Anpu," he pointed to himself. "Anpu Ka ren?" He pointed to me.

"Fox Mulder."

He pointed back to himself. "Fox ba Anpu?"

"It's Mulder to you, An-pooch. The real Scully is in trouble. Do you know where she is?"

"Sculla?"

"Scully," I pointed to the room, "Ma'at." I pointed to a bright amber jewel on his collar. "Scully." He didn't get it so I pointed to an red jewel on his collar and ran a hand through my hair. "Scully."

He looked confused. I repeated my question.

He still looked confused. "Ma'at, only with red hair."

He growled under his breath, and then pointed to an orange jewel. "Ma'at fa tesher," he declared, and messed up my hair.

"Yes. Scully is Ma'at with red hair."

He shook his head no. "Ma'at."

"Ma'at has red hair too?"

"Sculla Ma'at Ka?"

We didn't say anything for awhile, resuming our stroll down the corridor. I guess he understood.

"Hey uh, Anpu. You two.. ever, uh..."

He stopped and turned around.

"You know... Anpu and Ma'at." I made a profane gesture with my hands.

He was shocked by my crudeness and quickly pulled my hands apart.

"I'll take that as a no."

He placed a hand on my crotch. "Mol-dar Minu."

I slapped his dirty paw off me. "So Dog Boy, which do you prefer, Alpo or Purina?"

"Alpo?" His brow furrowed, not understanding me.

I grinned smugly.

He spread his arms out as far as he could and then flicked my nose. "Umt-i fent-i."

"Hypocrite."

"Kha sab." He took me to a room that appeared to be a laboratory. It was a clutter of pots, dried herbs, sand, scrolls, and linens. Spicy, exotic scents tickled my nose. I picked up one of clay containers and sniffed it, trying to figure out what it was. Anpu snatched it from me.

"What's your problem?"

He made a choking sound, grabbed his throat, and rolled his eyes back. He dropped to his knees gagging and collapsing to the floor in a deathlike pose. Then his legs kicked out and twitched before he gagged one last time.

I laughed. "You won't get an Oscar for that performance."

He laughed with me and rolled over on an elbow. "Mol-dar henu Anpu?"

"This your stuff?" I pointed around the room.

He nodded.

I mimicked mixing a bowl of ingredients. "Let me guess, you worked alone in the dark, night after night, toiling in this lab, foregoing any kind of a normal life as you mixed ingredients and experimented with exotic potions in search of the secret to...."

"Shenu ankh!" He brightened up instantly, jumping to his feet.

"No." I smirked. "Viagra B.C.! Super Fly! Love Potion Number 9! How ironic."

Anpu didn't get my little translation joke.

He uncovered a granite case cleverly hidden within a heavy stone work bench. As he opened the lid, a strange blue glow peeked out from within. I leaned around him trying to see what it was. He suddenly withdrew the case, as if he thought I would steal it from him. "Seth!" he snarled.

I knew who Seth was. He was the Egyptian god of Chaos, War, and Storms, and obviously Anpu's enemy.

"You can trust me," I reassured him. "Believe me, I'm not him, not even close."

Anpu gestured for me to continue.

"The only way I can control the weather is if I wash the car."

He wasn't impressed. He wanted more information.

"Okay, in your case, say you just washed the chariot."

Anpu shook his head no. "Seth," he repeated, and again gestured beseechingly. Oh. He wanted to know how much I knew.

"Seth was the earliest incarnation of Satan, the red-eyed embodiment of outright evil. The story goes that Seth was evil even before birth, because he ripped himself from his mother's womb by tearing through her side. He murdered his brother, Osiris, because he was jealous. He wanted to rule Egypt and he was angry that his consort, Nephthys, seduced Osirus."

I pointed to Anpu. "This is where you come into the story. It's not clear who your real father is, Osirus or Seth, but I think it was...."

Anpu raised his eyebrows anxiously.

"Er... Anyway, Horus, Osiris's *other* son, eventually caught Seth and put him on trial. Oddly enough, they couldn't kill him. They banished him to the desert instead."

Anpu relaxed, convinced of my trustworthiness.

"Suh heka."

He made sure no one else was around, looking left and right before he proudly displayed before me a blue glowing bottle in the shape of an ankh.

"Ma'at -- Xeru," he whispered, mesmerized by the glow.

"Very impressive. May I?" I reached for it.

He shook his head no, but he was overjoyed that I was interested and wanted to show me more.

He accidentally dropped several papyrus sheets in his excitement. I helped him pick them up. One sheet portrayed a woman with a feather in her hair and wings on her arms like an Egyptian angel.

"Ma'at?"

He looked over and nodded, and then continued to dig through the papers.

A second papyrus showed him balancing a scale and Ma'at standing next to him, placing a feather on it.

"Ma'at and Anpu?"

He looked over at the drawing. He nodded before resuming his search for whatever he meant to show me.

"Aah!" He held up a drawing with a stylized version of himself wrapping the Pharaoh for mummification.

"You used the glowing ankh to raise Osiris from the dead, right? Immortality in a bottle."

"Shenu ankh!" He was very excited.

I took the sheet from him. "So you're the one responsible the whole mummification craze. I've been accused of something similar in my time with little green men."

"Gren min?"

"Yeah." I made a whirly bird sound and pointed to the sky.

"Eh?"

"Aliens."

"Gren min alin?"

"Gray, actually." I shrugged. "So what went wrong?" I pointed at the bottle.

"Eh?"

"Why aren't there a lot of dead Egyptians roaming the world?"

He frowned. "Mol-dar," he pointed to me, "ba Anpu," to himself, he pretended to drink from the ankh bottle and drew a circle in the air, "shenu ankh."

I started to feel a little woozy. Sweat dripped down my back.

"It's been fun, Dog Boy. Maybe we can play charades some other day."

"AAAGGHH!" He grabbed his ears, yanking on them and growling in frustration.

"No, no. I do get it, but I'm on a mission here. I need to find Scully. She's in trouble. Are you going to help me or not?"

"Mol-dar Minu," he grumbled and replaced the ankh bottle, covering the case, and hiding it once more. He grabbed a torch and departed from the lab and I followed him into the darkness.

We walked for what felt like an eternity. "Where are we?" I pantomimed out the question.

He gave me a sideways glance, watching me closely for my reaction. "Duat."

"Duat?" I worded my question with my hands. "You're guiding me through Duat?"

He shook his head no. "Are you trying to tell me Scully is here?" I asked nervously.

He abruptly stopped in his tracks, his tall ears perked upwards.

"What is it, Lassie?"

"Sokar!" He waved me off and listened.

I saw a doorway in the direction he was looking.

"Seth." He pointed his nose at the door like a hunting hound spotting prey.

"Is Scully in there?" I started towards the entrance, but he grabbed my arm.

"Anpu sa Mol-dar tiet."

"Oh, uh... thanks for helping me out, Anpu."

I moved for the door but he jumped in front of me, blocking my path.

"Akh-rek? Sa ka Mol-dar!"

This game was getting old.

"Parting is such sweet sorrow. I think I'm going to miss that breath of yours the most." I walked around him but he slid over, blocking my path once more.

"You're paranoid. Why should I listen to you?" He sighed and surveyed our surroundings to see if anyone was watching. "Shhh," he whispered, pressing a finger to the tip of his muzzle. Then he shocked the hell out of me by taking the jackal head off.

"Meet the man behind the curtain," I said softly

Anpu could have passed for my brother, with long thick black hair. A deep sorrow filled his kohl-lined incandescent eyes which glowed in the same shade of blue as that of the ankh bottle.

Anpu placed a hand over his heart and moaned. "Ta au metu en shakaika an Ma'at-i."

He was not all the silly puppy I thought he was. He was grave and vulnerable. He was no deity, that's for sure.

I took the mask from him and looked inside.

"Guess you're not really stonefaced afterall." I tilted the black mask to catch some light inside.

"Hey, how did you do that tongue thing, anyway?" I raised the jackal head above me to try on, but he snatched it away before I could.

"You have a territorial problem, you know that?"

His dark mood abruptly changed, and he spoke as if proclaiming a dire warning.

"Ab en Anpu," he pointed to his heart. "Bu ua bu aquer," his pointed to my chest. "Ar Ammut rekhyt ab en Anpu," he pretended to pull his heart out and eat it then he pointed to us both, "Ammut sqem un." I didn't follow.

"Khet." He held the torch up pointing to the flame, then he motioned towards the door. "Khet. Seth unnit Khet."

"I'll be sure to give Old Forked Tail your regards if I see him."

Anpu sighed, dropping his hands to his side and shaking his head in in frustration. "Ar Mol-dar kheni, Lupa Sekhem-empet."

"Don't worry. I'll be fine." I patted him on the arm and moved quickly into the darkness before he could stop me.

"Goodnight, Dr. Frankenstein," I mumbled under my breath.


X10 Terrible Lie

The Oak Island Plantation 5:35 am, May 7

"Fox! Wake up!" I felt hands lift my head up and wipe the sweat from my forehead.

There was a loud clap of thunder.

"Dere's a storm blowin' in, Agent Mulda. Da roads won't be safe f'long," Willy drawled.

I jumped with a start at the sight of Lupie and Sheriff Loman staring down at me in the flicker of distant lightning.

I was back in Lupie's home. I looked down at my watch. 5:35 am. "It was a dream?"

"You okay, Fox? Your eyes..." Lupie's voice trailed off, like the doctor who avoids telling a terminally ill patient his condition.

Willy looked at me, bewildered. "Agent Mulda, you illin'?" He forced open my eye lids and frowned.

He must not have liked what he saw. He turned to Lupie. "We take em to da docta too. I'll get da car."

Thunder rumbled in the distance.

"Uh... uh, Fox?" Lupie stammered. "It's a long ride to the city. Maybe you can tell me about your dream on the way." She held out a hand to help me up. "You said something like, 'Heh shuit. Ma'at -- Xeru.' Why did you say that?"

As I stood up, the sharp soreness in my back from sleeping on the hard wood floor began to clear my head. "I didn't say anything."

"Yeah." She rolled her eyes. "At least someone got some fucking sleep. I thought you were going to start singing an opera next."

"I don't talk in my sleep."

"Sure you don't. And I wasn't here all night not hearing you chatter on and on. It must have been the spook that said, 'Selqet Ma'at. Ta au metu en shakaika an Ma'at-i. Ab en Anpu. Bu ua bu aquer. Ar Ammut rekhyt ab en Anpu. Ammut sqem un. Seth unnit Khet. Khet, her Mut-t-enth-hehtt Am. Ar Mol-dar kheni, Lupa Sekhem-empet.' What the hell does that mean?"

I chill ran down my spine. That was a mouthful of Egyptian to spew.

Her tone softened. "I can help you interpret your dream, if you want. I'm really good at that stuff," she smiled enthusiastically. "You know, dreams are the answers to questions we haven't yet figured out how to ask."

"How convenient," I grumbled under my breath.

"What?"

"You do dream analysis?"

"Seeking wisdom in dreams," she beamed.

"Really? That's interesting, because the practice of seeking wisdom in dreams, or 'Dream Incubating,' dates back to Ancient Egypt. Bet you didn't know that."

She listened eagerly, oblivious to my condescension.

"In fact," I continued, as I purposefully moved to tower over her. "The Egyptians believed their Gods communicated to them through dreams. But only the chosen, the Incubi, could understand them. The dream clergy claimed they could enter the sleeper's dreams, interpret the signs, and offer prophecies and advice."

Lupie backed away, intimidated by my sudden malice.

I bent down and looked her in eye, daring her to lie to me again. "Imagine the fun one could have with an unsuspecting sleeper."

"Enter a person's dream?" she laughed nervously. "You don't really believe that shit, do you?"

I glared at her in contempt.

Willy poked his head in the doorway. "Feelin' better, uh?"

"Change of plans, Willy. We're not going to the city. We're going to search Route One."

"Route One? What's on Route One?"

"Something I lost." I brushed past Lupie coldly.

She shuffled behind me.

"No. You stay here." I told her firmly, pushing her back into the room.

Lupie's face turned red. She spoke in a wounded tone. "You're not going to test me anymore?"

"Why? There's nothing to find." I walked toward the door. "But... but... you said you would help me if I helped you first."

I pulled her aside and scolded her in a rigid tone. "I don't help naughty manipulative little girls."

"But.. but..." Her lower lip quivered.

"When you're ready to give me the truth, then we'll talk."

Willy hesitated by the door, shocked by my behavior.

"Come on. She'll be fine." I roughly grabbed his coat and dragged him behind me.

Willy looked back at the room. "Now I don't mean ta tell ya what ta do, podna, but ya shouldn'a done dat." "Lupie needs to learn right from wrong. Something that her parents obviously have not taught her." Willy was shaking. "What are you afraid of, Willy?" "I jus think ya shouldn'a have done dat, dats all."


X11 Nowhere Man

Route One 6:35 am, May 7

Rain fell in sheets from thick, ominous looking black-purple clouds as lightning blazed across the heavens.

I strained to see out the window through the downpour as we crawled our way up Route One. The decayed car's wiper blades swished by rapidly, and for a single second the view was clear, before the large droplets once more made it impossible to scan the flooding road.

Driving out here in bad weather is never a good idea. Whole sections of highway are built on concrete pilings sunk deep into the mucky wetlands. You couldn't walk two feet off the road without being waist deep in water, duckweed, water hyacinth, or who knows what creeping unseen past your legs, -- and that's on a dry day.

Even if I had wanted to go to Houma, we never would have made it, not in these road conditions.

A sudden gust rocked the car, and Willy shivered underneath his brown Sheriff's coat. "Gettin' cold out dere, uh?"

"Actually, I'm burning up."

Willy shot me a wide-eyed glance. It was the first time I hadn't seen him with heavily hooded eyes. I was beginning to think he permanently walked through life in a daze.

Scanning the road once more, I quietly reevaluated how the talents of the Incubi could be put to use.

If the Incubi could tap into the subconscious as I suspected, then they were also capable of much more than the mere erotic escapades of legend or simple dream interpretation and advice.

The potential for reconnaissance was very real, as was the threat posed for inflicting psychological damage through nightmares.

What if your dreams may not even be your own, but engineered by someone else?

My thoughts wandered to Anpu and Ma'at, and then turned to Samantha. Could my recovered memories of her abduction also be implanted? I quickly put that thought out of my mind and concentrated on the matter at hand.

I envisioned a nightmare world where even the most private thoughts were vulnerable to prying eyes, the deepest secrets of the heart exposed to one's enemies. Paranoia gripped me. There would be nowhere to hide in such a world. I remembered the cigarette butt at the police station. It didn't take much imagination to understand the value the Cigarette Smoking Man would have for a genuine incubus.

The car suddenly bulked as it plowed through a large puddle, sending a spray of water fanning out across the road. I curiously watched the lethargic Sheriff as he struggled to control the car.

"You didn't sleep much last night did you, Willy? Are you afraid to sleep? Do you have frequent nightmares?"

His eyes darted off the road and stared at me in astonishment. "Yes'suh. How'd ya know dat?"

The car hit another puddle and began to veer off the road.

I quickly reached the steering wheel to help, but Willy shooed me off. "Were you asleep when Lupie's brother disappeared?"

"I don't rightly recall fallin' asleep, Agent Mulda," he grumbled under his breath, still trying to steer the car.

I offered to help once more, but he refused. "Tell me about the missing people, Willy."

"What ya wanta know?"

"Were the victims connected in anyway to Lupie?"

"No'suh!"

"Think Willy, even the tiniest detail."

He remained adamant, denying any connection.

"Did Lupie ask you to specifically contact me about her case, or was it your own idea?"

He looked at me and blinked. He was avoiding my questions.

"Eyes on the road."

He frowned and concentrated on driving once more.

"What we lookin' f'Agent Mulda, anyways?"

"You'll know when you see it," I answered cryptically. I didn't want spend the next several hours explaining myself, especially abouta wild hunch. "How well do you know Lupie?"

"She was real nice ta me when I lost ma family."

He reached into his pocket and proudly showed me a picture. He was obviously a different man back then. The photo displayed a smiling Willy with his arms wrapped around a woman. A round cheeked little girl stood before them holding up a fishing rod, happily displaying her pathetically small catch.

"I'm sorry to hear that. What happened to them?"

"F'da longest time, I don't rightly recall." His knuckles grew white as he gripped the steering wheel. "It was a boatin' accident."

"That's what your nightmares are about, aren't they?" "Da night dey died," he choked. "Ya see, it was ma fault. I rememba dat now. I shoulda seen da otha boat. Dey said it was an accident, coulda happen to anyone. But I know I coulda reacted sooner weren't f'all dose brews." He began to loudly sob and the car again veered off the road.

I grabbed the wheel. "Pull over. I'll drive."

He brought the car to a halt, and put it in park.

"Willy. I'm going to ask you a strange question, and I want you to think really hard before answering. Understand?"

He sniffled and agreed.

I lowered my voice to a grave tone, so he would understand this was not a joke. "Does Lupie control you?"

He looked down.

I waited patiently for him to think it over.

"Do you need her permission to come and go?" A reply never came. I gave up on him after a while and jumped out of the car into the downpour.

The water was up to my ankles. It was too risky to continue further. The car was already in danger of being swept away. Not seeing much use in sitting around with the sullen Willy, I took the opportunity to scan ahead. There was a dark half- submerged shape roughly a mile up the road. Figuring it was another waylaid traveler, I splashed my way over to it to offer assistance. A sickening feeling of dread grew as I got closer.

The car was a green Ford Crown Victoria.


X12 Sinking

The Canopus Swamp 11 am, May 7

Scully's motionless body hung limply in my arms. Vengeful vows, self damnations and a host of angry thoughts roared in my mind. I was in danger of drowning in self hatred and regret when an unexpected thing happened.

Willy had been untieing his flat-bottomed boat from the police station dock when a deafening blast struck a water elm less than fifty feet away. He jumped with a start and almost fell into the hazy water. But I didn't flinch. I was completely numb. I didn't care about the storm. I didn't care if my condition was deteriorating. I didn't care about anything. I only cared about Scully.

Holding back my tears, I cradled her wilted frame closer to me and anxiously waited. I hoped I was the only one to hear the rapidly beating fear in my heart.

For the hundredth time, I rechecked the plastic yellow raincoat I had wrapped her in to make sure she was safely shielded from the frigid rain.

I hoped that her condition wasn't as bad as it appeared to be. The angry bruise on her forehead suggested a concussion, and she had signs of hypothermia.

"Are you sure this La Mer person is a doctor?"

"We cut off. Dis da only docta and dis de only way ta reach her."

Willy motioned for me to climb aboard the small wooden boat and I hastily jumped inside. I was startled by its remarkable instability: it tipped at a dangerous angle as I maneuvered Scully and myself inside.

"Explain to me again why we can't call in a helicopter."

"I done told ya, da storm's wrecked havoc on everything." Willy fumbled in after me and almost tipped us over.

It sounded like a conspiracy to me: one to keep us trapped here, cut off from the outside world. What are the chances of the ham radio, the radio dispatch, the phone lines, the roads and the electricity all going out at once because of a little storm?

Willy calmly put the outboard engine in low gear. I growled as I lost the last of my patience, reaching around Quick Willy and angrily throttling the engine into high speed.

The boat lurched forward, swinging wildly left and right before Willy regained control. We barely dodged a perilous cypress knee in time before we jetted off once more, mowing down any floating vegetation in our path.

Goose bumps traveled up my spine as I recalled the argument between Scully and me. I had made a tragic mistake and I cursed myself for my stupidity. Scully's scream just before the line went dead was not in outrage. Her cry had been a cry for help, and I had been too caught up in our disagreement to recognize it.

I wouldn't know how the accident really occurred until she woke up. But there was little doubt in my mind that she was forced off the road. As soon as the weather cleared, I'd get a crane to pull the car out of the swamp, lift any residual paint and immediately begin a search for her attacker.

God help the idiot who did this to her.

The water pump worked furiously to drain the boat as we sped deeper into the swamp, but I knew it was a losing battle. The sheer volume of rain would soon overpower it. This was a race against time.

"We not gonna make it!" Willy cried.

The boat was already half-full.

"Keep going!" I commanded, reaching down to scoop the water out with my hands, but there was too much rain coming down for me to make any significant progress.

"We gotta go back, now!" He steered the boat around for Canopus.

"Keep going!" I knocked him out of the way and maneuvered the wobbling boat back around. "Which way?"

"Around dis bend," he whimpered.

The engine sputtered.

We both looked at it and held our breath. The boat was now three-fourths full.

The engine made a loud clanking sound.

"Dear God," I thought. "If you get me through this, I promise to never ever argue with Scully again."

Suddenly, a large cloud of smoke exploded from the engine and it grinded to an ungraceful halt, spewing motor oil everywhere.

"We gonna sink!" Willy screeched.

I desperately tried to restart it.

Nothing.

I tried again, yanking the cord back hard.

Nothing.

"Willy, start the fucking engine! Now!"

He tried, but had no better luck than I did.

I cursed him under my breath and lifted Scully's wilted frame up over my shoulders.

He didn't even have life preservers. I wanted to choke the life out of his nitwit existence.

"Which way, Willy?!"

"Dere's gators and water moccasins everywhere!"

"Which way, damn it!"

He looked at me like I was insane and pointed straight ahead. "It'a long way. We not even close."

I jumped into the warm green carpet of slime and my feet sunk deep into the sludge. Noxious gases bubbled up around me, making me gag as I impatiently waited for Willy to follow. "Come on!"

He refused.

"Now Willy!"

He still refused.

I didn't have time for his bullshit. He would have to fend for himself. I waded forward in the slippery goo.

"You not gonna make it!" Willy called out behind me, but I didn't pay any attention to him. I couldn't. My eyes were locked forward, concentrating on the task at hand.

I felt something slither past my leg below the murky greenish-brown surface.

One foot in front of the other, I told myself, one foot in front of the other.

I tripped on a submerged root, and Scully and I fell in over our heads. I quickly recovered and pulled her up, making sure she hadn't sucked in any water.

"I'm sorry," I murmured, and frantically brushed the wet hair and duckweed off her face.

It was deeper here. I could swim the rest of the way, but first I needed to free up my arms. I took off my jacket, placed it behind her and wove the sleeves underneath her arms. Then I tied the sleeves around my neck, creating a makeshift sling.

There was a good joke in this situation with her being tied to me like a broken limb, but now was not the time. A pair of alligator eyes poked out from under the mat of duckweed, its eyes slowly following me.

Don't look, I told myself.

Left stroke, right stroke.

A loud splash sounded behind me.

I swam faster. I didn't care if I was getting tired. "I'll rest when I'm dead," I said out loud.

The splashing sounds grew closer.

I needed to reduce the drag Scully created. I quickly loosened the sling, swung her around my back, resecured her, held my breath, plunged my face into the foul water and stretched into my fastest stroke.

Left, right, left, right, left, right, left, right, left, right. Breathe!

In between each of my gulps for air, I heard a mechanical sound becoming more distinct.

An engine? I stopped and strained to see through the gray curtain of rain.

"Hey!" I yelled. "Hey! Over here!" The dark outline of a covered pontoon boat became visible. "Hey!"

"Good God Almightly!" a man's voice exclaimed.

"Over here!" I splashed my arms in the water.

The man on the deck of the boat pointed a shotgun at us.

"Shit!" I dove to the right just as the gun went off.

Water splashed violently behind us. I caught a glimpse of an enormous alligator slipping below the surface, a pool of blood bubbling up in its wake.

"Here!" The man threw a rope to me. I pulled Scully and I up onto the boat in world record time.

"What the hell are you doing way out here in the swamp!" he demanded. "You're damn lucky I found you!"

"My partner," I gasped, as I gently laid her on the deck. "She needs a doctor." I pulled out my soggy FBI badge. "Special Agent Fox Mulder. Can you take us to La Mer?"

He placed a hand on her forehead, checked her pulse and looked at me gravely.

That look alone made me die a thousand deaths.

"You need a real doctor," he said softly, putting a sympathetic hand on my arm.

"Can we reach one?" I asked desperately. I felt so helpless. It made me furious.

He disappeared into the cabin and returned with an armful of towels and blankets. "Not until the storm clears up." He frowned. "All the roads are washed out."

I began to dry Scully off with the towels. The Boatman gave me a curious glance over his shoulder as he put the boat in gear, turned it around, and took us deeper into the forboding swamp.


X13 Dead Man's Party

The Ju-Ju Juke Joint 2 pm, May 7

Blaring music floated above the incessant downpour as we neared the island. A sign nailed to the boat dock read, "Welcome to the Ju-Ju Juke Joint." Stapled below it was a flyer reading, "La Mer's Storm Party. B.Y.O.L.."

"Bring your own lantern," the Boatman declared. He leapt out of the boat before it had safely pulled up along side the dock. "These people will celebrate anything," he mumbled, as he quickly tied the line.

Judging by the overcrowded dock, it appeared as if the entire town of Canopus had descended on La Mer's place to ride out the storm.

The Boatman steadied his aluminum boat for me. I jumped out onto the dock as delicately as possible with Scully's blanket-wrapped body held firmly in my grasp.

I recognized the tune the band was playing. It was a sorrowful rendition of "In the Sweet Bye and Bye."

"Sounds more like a funeral than a party."

"You ain't in Kansas anymore, Agent Mulder," the Boatman misquoted with a sardonic smile, popping open an umbrella and motioning me over.

I darted down the dock instead, leaving him in my dust, not caring about the rain. I had to get Scully to La Mer.

His rapid footsteps squeaked on the wooden planks behind me.

"It's a mock funeral," he called out, as if I was interested. "Music here is as much a part of death as it is of life. These people were already impoverished and now the flood has ruined what's left of their crops. Despite their hardships, they know how to live. Why should they die any differently?''

I didn't respond. If I were paying more attention I might have asked him what he meant by that, but my thoughts were focused on Scully. I turned onto the main strip of the dock and sprinted past an old fashioned gas pump mounted directly to the dock. Normally I might have been fascinated with it, but not today.

"It's sad," he shouted behind me, "but sometimes death is the only thing that brings a family together."

A blinding flash of lightning struck the antenna of a boat close by. I yelped and almost dropped Scully as my world turned to hot blues and whites. A powerful throbbing ache burned behind my eyes, as if I had just walked outside from dark interiors into glaring sunlight. "You okay?" the Boatman asked when he caught up with me. He pried my tightly-locked eyelids open. "Your pupils are dilated. You on some kind of drug?"

"No."

"Wait here."

"Do I have a choice?"

Being blinded produced irrational fear in me. I imagined invisible monsters attacking us on all sides. Clutching Scully closer to me, I waited for the angry white pulsing spots to disappear.

The Boatman returned and placed a pair of dark sunglasses on me. "Stay away from bright lights for awhile."

I waited impatiently for my vision to clear. As soon as it did, I jumped onto the muddy bank, only to be impeded once more as I sunk down to mid-calf.

The Boatman offered to take Scully off my hands.

"No!" I twisted out of his reach in a fury. I wasn't about to hand a defenseless Scully to a stranger while I was trapped.

It was extremely difficult to work free without having something to pull myself out with, and when I finally did break lose, I was rewarded for my stubbornness with a rude slurping sound and the loss of both my shoes. Cold mud oozed down my legs.

The Boatman chuckled at my foolishness. "Stay away from the muddy areas next time."

"Everything's muddy!"

"Follow me." He lifted the umbrella to cover Scully. I was forced to follow him as we carefully picked our way along.

He threw a sideways glance at me. "People used to say rain at a funeral washes away sin. When there's lots of rain, there's lots to wash away."

I continued to ignore him.

A new song floated above the downpour. It was an old sad Cajun song about Evangeline and Gabriel, two lovers torn apart on their wedding day. They spent the rest of their lives searching for each other only to be reunited years later with Gabriel on his deathbed. He died as they embraced, and she followed soon after.

These weren't the hope-filled lyrics I needed right now.

I angrily kicked open the door to the Ju-Ju Juke Joint and it fell off its rusted hinges.

"How about you fellas play something a little upbeat ... like Taps?" I barked.

The music stopped. A darkened room packed full of solemn people holding umbrellas, candles and flashlights stared at me in disbelief. Rain trickled from the ceiling onto the misshaped wooden floor, which sloped at a steep angle towards the swamp. On the stage overlooking the crowd stood an upright black coffin with its lid open, displaying a skeleton wearing a tuxedo and a top hat.

Food dropped out of one man's mouth. I must have been a frightful sight, covered in mud and green slime, and wearing a black suit with sunglasses despite the oppressive darkness.

"Can anyone tell me where to find La Mer?"

The band leader with washboard swinging from his around neck, spoke up. "Are ya blue and do ya bleed?"

A loud wail rose out of the crowd and all eyes locked to the stage.

"I need to see La Mer!" I yelled.

"Is da wolf at da door and ya'r loved ones in jeopardy?"

"Oh YEH!" the crowd roared. The woman next to me tore at her hair.

I pushed my way forward through the sea of bodies. "La Mer!" I shouted.

"Den ya better listens ta me...."

"Can someone *please* tell me where to find La Mer!" I repeated, as people continued to wail all around me. Some raised their hats, and others extended their arms, palms or fingertips, touching Scully and I as we passed.

"Den remember da words of Da Baron Samedi, 'How about you fellas play something a little upbeat?'"

The crowd went hysterical and the band kicked into a swinging rendition of "When the Saints Go Marching In." Umbrellas bobbed and waved in the air above the wildly gyrating crowd.

"Baron Samedi!" A round pleasant-looking Haitian woman called to me as she scrambled over the frenzied mass of people. She wore a white turban and a long white dress with a gris-gris bag hanging around her neck.

"It's my distinct impression that they're poking fun at you," the Boatman said.

"That or it's a hell of a send-off for Old Skinny up there," I nodded towards the skeleton on the stage.

"Baron Samedi!" The woman panted before me in excitement.

"No." I clumsily fished my badge out. "Baron FBI. And you must be La Mer, the local Voodoo Mambo."

"Vodoun," she politely corrected me. She looked at Scully and felt her forehead. "Manman Brigitte ill?" "We're not married. She's my partner, Special Agent Dana Scully. She's in a coma. Can you help her?"

"Manman Brigitte not in coma." She removed her hand and looked at me gravely. "Manman Brigitte in a curse."

"You're full of shit."

"Baron ill too, uh?" She took out a brightly beaded gourd rattle and shook it around me. "La Mer take care of Manman Brigitte, offer food sacrifice for da Baron." She pointed towards the bar and tried to take Scully away from me.

I wouldn't let her.

She raised an eyebrow. "Baron," she began respectfully. "She a grown woman, not a teddy bear."

I made a quick excuse. "She's cold. I'm keeping her warm." "No. Da Baron afraid ta let go, lest da hand o'death snatch her away." Her gaze shifted to the view outside. Lightning flashed in the windows. "She not da one dats in danger." "If you can help her, please do it." She observed me in deep thought for a while. "Dis happened before. Someone took Manman Brigitte away from da Baron."

I was amazed. "Are you clairvoyant?"

"Da Baron blames himself?"

I looked away in shame.

"Manman Brigitte not ill. Da physical is fine, it's da spiritual dat lost."

I gripped Scully tighter. That wasn't what I wanted to hear.

"She stuck deep in dere."

"Nightmares?" I asked anxiously. A clump of mud slid off of me to the floor.

"Nasty ones." La Mer bent over Scully and placed an ear to her lips. "She say 'Confess sinner' over and over again."

My jaw dropped.

"She wanta help da Baron, but ta help da Baron is ta hurt da Baron. It her worst nightmare. She no come back."

"We, we got in a fight...." I stammered. "I said some things...."

"No, Baron," she interrupted. "We gots a spooks on da loose. It messin' with you. La Mer can tell dees things."

"Lupie, I know."

La Mer's eyes grew wide. "Shhh! Da evil one's spys are everywhere!"

Lightning flashed and I caught a glimpse of Willy looking in the window from outside, watching us.

"Da Baron knows about da evil child?"

"Can we go somewhere more private?"

La Mer urgently ushered Scully and I upstairs and into an eerie bedroom. African, Voodoo and Victorian styles melded in an uneasy blend.

I thought La Mer should get a refund from her interior decorator. Low budget-earthy-romantic-primitive- creepiness went out of style last year.

La Mer was busy lighting candles, so I took the opportunity to look around a bit.

The continuous rain falling on the tin roof overhead created loud hollow metallic sounds. The tinny echoes intermingled with the muffled noise of people and music downstairs, creating an strange surreal atmosphere.

Of course, the candle-covered alter showcasing grotesque demon sculptures didn't help much either.

Above the alter hung a large wooden cross, and below that was a framed picture of Marie Laveau surrounded by twelve smaller pictures of Catholic saints. A human skull wearing a top hat rested below, and on opposite sides of the alter were two dolls made from Spanish moss. To the left was a bride in a gown of white. Her hand extended the length of the table and grasped the hand of her groom dressed in black.

The finishing touch for the room's "look" were the two veves, or Voodoo symbols, painted above each entrance.

La Mar noticed where my gaze had fallen. She pointed up to the markings. "We safe here."

I nodded and laid Scully's limp body on the plush bed. I placed several layers of quilts on top of her. "Tell me what you know, La Mer."

"Dose who know, ends up dead, dats what."

I remembered the posting of thirteen missing people at the police station. "You think Lupie's a murderer, that she's responsible for all the disappearances over the last decade?"

La Mer nodded.

"Do you have any proof to back up that claim?"

"La Mer seen da evil child kill Fluffy." She sniffled and fetched a framed photo of a white-long haired cat playing blissfully with a ball of pink yarn. "Fluffy," she sobbed, and then her face twisted in hatred. "Dat child an evil baka spirit! A Loup Garou!"

"Werewolf?" I was intrigued by the accusation. "Why do you think that?"

"I seen da Loup Garou kill Fluffy with her bare teeth! Blood smeared on her evil face." La Mer nodded her head, as if that was proof enough.

I looked pleadingly at Scully for help. I knew she would have both guns blazing right now, shooting holes in La Mer's seductive theories. I decided to step up to the plate in her "absence."

"If you saw Fluffy killed, why did you file a missing feline report? And how do you know it wasn't a stray dog you saw?" I scratched my wrist absent-mindedly.

"She drank da blood! Da Loup Garou drink da blood of da living!"

"You think she's dead too?"

"La Mer knows da stench of death! It a smell dat clings." She pointed at Scully. "Manman Brigitte reeks of it."

"She's a forensic pathologist!" I blurted out.

What the hell was I thinking? Bringing Scully here was a mistake. This woman was a nut.

"La Mer sorry. La Mer not mean to insult da Baron. La Mer make clothes sacrifice. Burn des." She turned her nose up. "Burn away da stink."

"No thanks. Tell me about the Sheriff. Is he connected to Lupie? Who's errand boy is he?"

She looked around anxiously. "Baron protect faithful La Mer?" She looked at Scully, then at me. "Of course."

She hesitantly looked back at Scully and frowned. "Da Loup Garou into da Petro. She a bokor practicing da black magic. Da Loup Garou poisoned da Sheriff. He die in a boatin' accident. Da Loup Garou bring him back as zombie slave."

I was enthralled by her interpretation of events.

"Here." La Mer took off her gris-gris bag necklace and slipped it over Scully's head. "Protection. Mojo hand. Baron look after himself now? Da Baron very ill. Let your servant La Mer help you."

"May I?" I took the small pouch, and the oppressive heat in my body seemed to dissipate. I smiled and replaced the bag around Scully's neck. "Make me one, La Mer." "After da Baron clean up." I reluctantly agreed. I still had my doubts, but a curious calm had settled over me. Scully would be safe here until the storm cleared.

I allowed La Mer to lead me to the washroom. She handed me the hurricane lamp while she cleared the tub of her makeshift moonshine rig. This must be where she made the Voodoo Hellfire and Voodoo Brew, both of which deserved the attention of the FDA for their addictive qualities.

"So what's the *special* ingredient?"

"Dey no *special* ingredient."

"You wouldn't lie to the Baron, would you?"

"Dey no Vodoun in the brew!"

"Mmmm..." I picked up a grimy jar. "I wonder how many health violations you're racking up. I have a friend over in...."

"No, Baron!" La Mer snatched the jar from me. "La Mer swear dey no *special* ingredient. People believe what dey wanta believe. La Mer gotta earn a livin."

She didn't look like she was lying. "Okay, but clean this -- it's disgusting."

She waited outside until I handed her my suit.

"Wash. Don't burn," I commanded.

"La Mer take care of dat. Take care of Mamman too. Clean her up nice and warm."

"Thank you."

"Merci, Baron." She paused, and then whispered, "It mango."

"You use mango in your beer?" I blurted at her obvious embarrassment. She scurried away, mumbling Haitian curses under her breath. As soon she as she was gone, I snooped around her bathroom while the shower warmed up. Her toilet-side reading materials were very interesting.

"150 Protective Charms Against Magic" "Marketing Through Suggestion and Fear" "Love Spells" "Marie Laveau on Healing, Advice and Fortune Telling" "The Idiots Guide to Voodoo" "How to Make Beer in Three Easy Steps" "Voodoo Fatalism: The tragic history of slavery that created a religion of despair"

"Hmm." I flipped through the love spell book before picking up the bright orange Idiots Guide to Voodoo and scanning for the Baron Samedi.

 

BARON SAMEDI (member of the Guede)

Baron Samedi is the chic trickster Guede of the Americas. He is the spirit of resurrection, sexuality, history and buffoonery.

Samedi is a clown, turning death into satire. He laughs on the outside and cries on the inside. He bites with sarcasm, mocks authority, and pokes fun at life's means of continuation because it necessitates death.

His color is black, and he struts in sunglasses. He needs them when he moves beyond the gloom of the grave.

Baron Samedi is the guardian of children. He does not like to see them die. Thus he is the Loa to go to when seeking help for a sick child.

The Baron teaches that humor can pull one through dire circumstances.

MANMAN BRIGITTE (member of the Guede)

She is a powerful Loa, judge, and lawyer of high regard. Her masculine counterpart is Baron Samedi. The Baron and Manman Brigitte are seen as married.

Manman Brigitte teaches that if we reach great heights in our lives, we do so on the shoulders of others and those who came before us.

GUEDE

The Guede are the Loa of the dead. They hold the knowledge of the ancestors.

The Guede's primary mission is to expose and reveal secrets, and they use their mediums for that purpose. When possessed by Guede, the mediums accurately see the past and future. The Guede's revelations are often both accurate and cruel. The Guede teach that one must first accept sorrow and know its boundaries before achieving transcendence.

GUINEE The world of the dead, said to be underwater.

The CROSSROADS A central image in Voodoo. This is the place where the two worlds (earth and spirit) meet, the mirror in which one must confront one's true self.

 

Odd.

My eyes must be extremely dilated. I had no difficulty reading the passage with the dark glasses on. I took them off and wiped the condensation off the mirror.

My reflection stared back at me in disbelief. My eyes were, in fact, dilated.

They were also an iridescent blue.


X14 Everyday is Halloween

Upstairs at the Ju-Ju Juke Joint 4 pm, May 7

"Da Baron bel ga'con." La Mer stepped back, tilted her head and admired me. A bit too much, I might add.

"If there's a funeral procession at the Oscars, I'll know exactly what to wear," I commented dryly, looking down at the dusty black tuxedo that now hung on me. "I hope I don't end up like the last guy who wore this." I cringed with disgust, knowing where she had gotten it from. Perhaps my soiled clothing wasn't as unappealing as I first thought.

La Mer laughed and brushed a cob web off my shoulder. "Don't be silly, Baron. Dis a good suit." She popped the top hat to place on my head. "No thanks," I grumbled. "I've donned enough hats already." Allies, I reminded myself, biting down my frustration. I need allies.

I shouldn't have griped about her Baron fantasy; it provided a convenient means of disguising my strange affliction. I hoped that La Mer could cure me, with or without the proper knowledge. Judging by her reaction to Lupie, my worries were more than justified. "Are you going to do the protection charm?" I queried, as I fidgeted with the quilt around Scully.

"Manman Brigitte bel femme."

La Mer was enjoying this too much. She had dressed us up in the roles of spooky groom and bride. Scully was wearing a long white turn of the century era gown. It wasn't the type of thing she would be caught dead in... er....

"Baron pale, need ta eat."

"I'm fine. Get on with it."

La Mer turned her back to me and walked to the voodoo alter. It sounded like she was making something -- I heard a bag being ripped open and liquids being poured -- but I couldn't ascertain exactly what concoction she was creating. I leaned to the side to see around her as my child's mind began to race. "So what do you..."

"Ssssh," she motioned me to be quiet as she lit a white candle. "Da Loa in dis place now." She closed her eyes and chanted something in French. Grotesque shadows cast across her face in the glow of the candle. Then her eyes snapped open and she handed me a sleek silver pen while opening a drawer hidden below the alter.

I watched in fascination as she slowly withdrew a sheet of handmade paper seeded with dried flowers and herbs. I wondered if the flowers were from some type of magical occult plant and if they had been collected from some creepy place like a cemetery.

She cocked her head, her black eyes bright with mischief. "Da Baron want Papa Gede to protect?"

I nodded eagerly.

She handed me the sheet of the floral paper as her grin widened. "Write on dis a statement da Baron feel strongly about, defend with his life. Fold it eight times and give ta La Mer."

The pen scratched the surface leaving a dark red stain.

"I don't sign anything in blood," I half-joked, worried that the "ink" had been drained from some poor creature.

"Baron want protection from da Zombie? Gotta make Zombie sacrifice."

I frowned and wrote, "The truth will set me free." I folded it and handed it to her.

La Mer unfolded the paper and read it.

"Hey! You aren't supposed to read it!"

"No? How else da Mambo know what ta do?" she chuckled. "La Mer offer heat and light to Zombie." She held the paper over the flame of the candle and hummed along with the tune the band was playing downstairs.

She then sprinkled the burnt remains into the bowl. It appeared to be filled with a flour and water mixture. La Mer then stirred in a five drops of red food coloring.

"Food coloring?"

"La Mer don't believe in using blood," she smiled. "La Mer favorite color red, use da red ta see da marking." She dipped a paintbrush into the damp doughy mixture. "Protection from da Zombie Sheriff."

She took my hand and turned it over. "Mon Dieu!" she exclaimed, seeing the welt on my wrist.

"It's nothing," I insisted.

She eyed me suspiciously and drew a Veve over the top of the wound. It was symbolic representation of a coffin and a cross, with crisscrossing "X"s woven within the pattern. "Da Truth more powerful den da Zombie!" she shouted ritualistically.

I admired her handwork. "Will this get me into Club Voodoo without getting carded?"

"Zombie not try ta kill da Baron no more."

"Now Scully."

Scully would never have approved, but I did. I leaned down to reassure her, as if she had been arguing with me. "You can never have too much protection, Scully."

A sudden loud crash on the upper gallery outside startled us. From the corner of my eye, I saw a fleeting shadow move quickly across the window.

I pulled my gun and charged out into the storm after it.


X15 The Shock of Miss Louise

The Ju-Ju Juke Joint 5:38 pm, May 7

"Stop! Federal Agent!" I chased the shadow behind the Ju-Ju, but when I emerged on the other side of the building, there was nothing there. The only movement came from the continuous rain and the moss flapping from windblown trees.

There were tracks in the mud.

I placed a muddy foot next to it experimentally. The rain quickly washed my imprint away.

I sighed and replaced my 9mm in its halter.

Someone had definitely been snooping around back here recently. Very recently.

I made my way back into the Ju-Ju. Drunken people were passed out all around the room, some hanging off tables, others asleep on the bar and one man face down on the floor in a pool of vomit. A large flashlight was shoved into the mouth of a stuffed alligator head mounted on the wall. Candle wax dripped from shelves full of Voodoo nicknacks, creating strange sculptures of waxen waterfalls.

"Looks like I missed a hell of a party," I muttered, and kicked a disgarded umbrella out of the way.

The sharply slanted floor was more visible now that the room had somewhat thinned out. The slope of it made me feel the sickness squeezing at my throat more keenly.

A study of the room provided even more evidence that Canopus seemed to be frozen in time, the late 1960's to be exact. There were no modern appliances and even the local fashion was retro. It reminded me of the deserted boom towns dotting dusty forgotten highways across America.

A shapely woman in a tight red dress stumbled into me in her drunken stupor. I caught her just before she fell face forward. The severity of her drunkenness might have been an act, however; she looked like the type of woman who knew how to light up a seedy joint like this.

"Baron, ma ami." She smiled wickedly, slurring her words in a sensuous tone. "I want da last dance, da banba." She reached around and squeezed my ass.

I jumped and slapped her hand away. "Did someone come in here just now?"

She started to reply, but her face suddenly contorted and she lurched forward.

I quickly steered her over to a trash can before she could puke on me.

As I steadied her, my gaze shifted to the floor, where I had tracked in mud from outside. I followed the messy trail across the room back to the entrance. Mine were the only set of footprints. Whoever was snooping around outside hadn't come in here.

I turned back to my vomiting friend. "You okay?" I asked, handing her a napkin.

She groaned and nodded. I helped her sit down at a table and showed her my ID. "May I ask you a few questions?"

She squinted to read the name off my badge. "Not da Baron?" Her eyes wandered from my face to take in the rest of my appearance.

I kept my expression neutral as I purposely ignored her shamelessly roaming gaze. "What can you tell me about the girl named Lupie?"

"Da brooding femme?" She hiccuped unexpectedly and quickly covered her mouth in embarrassment. "Not much FBI. She has no friends. I hear only gossip, bad gossip. Gossip silly old men make up to scare deir grandbebes. It is sad for one to be so lonely," she sighed. "Ever since dose men brought her here, she hides up in dat..."

I cut her off, "Someone brought her here? Who?"

"Government people, I think. Both her parents were murdered when she was a little bebe. Da poor thing."

Of course! That explains it.

"Thanks, uh.." I paused, waiting for her name.

"Miss Louise." She smiled warmly.

"Miss Louise." I grinned. "You should lay off the Voodoo Brew, I hear it has *special* ingredients."

I pulled her out of the chair and twirled her around in a clumsy dance before dipping her as she fought to contain her nausea with a perplexed look written across her dark features. "Not da Baron?"

"No. But I am wearing his underwear." I pulled her back to her feet.

"FBI," she giggled, "you make me laugh." She stood up on her toes and kissed me on the cheek. Which was very sweet if one forgot that she puked only moments before.

"Agent Mulder!" a voice yelled from behind me. I turned to see the Boatman scrambling towards me, holding the two duffle bags I had left at the shack by the police station.

He froze in his tracks and stared at me, amused by my appearance. "Or should I say Baron Samedi? I figured you might need these after that story you told me."

I quickly shrugged off the damp tuxedo jacket and unzipped my bag, looking for a T-shirt and spare set of shoes. "Scully and I both thank you for saving us from La Mer's twisted fantasy." I quickly checked to see if my precious cargo was intact. I found the journal perfectly dry and undamaged. I breathed a sigh of relief.

"How is she?" he inquired.

"She's okay, she's just sleeping."

"Sleeping? If that was sleeping, I've never seen anything like it. She was completely unresponsive. I don't know, maybe it is possible to have a severe form of sleep paralysis, but..."

Hmmmm.... My thoughts wandered as the Boatman launched into yet another one of his long-winded speeches. Sleep paralysis was an interesting counter to La Mer's creepy theory.

"...and why do you think she's asleep? You aren't actually listening to La Mer, are you?"

Should I tell him? Oh hell, why not? "She's under attack by an incubus."

"I see you have," he laughed. Then he frowned when he realized I was serious. "What's a fed like you doing believing in that crap? Voodoo is nonsense. It's all about mind control through suggestion and fear."

"And how do you know so much, Einstein?"

"By catering to the American public's taste for sensationalism."

"What?"

"I'm a freelance journalist, currently on assignment for a cultural magazine." He showed me an old-fashioned Nikon camera he had hidden under his arm. "And I thought coming to this cooky town would be a boring assignment. I think I just stumbled onto a story worth reporting on."

"The X-Files aren't public domain, not yet, anyway."

"X-File? What's that?"

"Tell me what you know about sleep paralysis and maybe I'll give you the scoop of the century."

The Boatman's eye's grew large and he whipped out a notepad. "Shoot."

"There's a covert branch of the government that's been working with aliens for the last fifty years. They've been abducting people out of their homes at night to experiment on them in preparation for colonization."

"Good one," he laughed and flipped his notepad shut. "I guess I deserved that. What should I call the story? 'Skirt-Wearing Hoover in Bed with Space Aliens?'"

"How about 'The Truth Is Out There?,'" I smirked and started to turn away, "Hey, give me an alias in your story, how does 'Special Agent Chicken Little' grab ya?"

He smirked back at me and shrugged. "Hey, who says the feds don't have a sense of humor?" A confused look suddenly clouded his face. "That's odd."

"What is?"

"These nutty alien abduction stories people have been spreading are very similar to those of people experiencing sleep paralysis."

"Really?" Now I was intrigued. "What makes you think that?"

"Well, for starters, I know that sleep paralysis is also the basis of the incubus and Old Hag legends.

"People with SP describe waking up and being unable to move, accompanied by the sensation of a strong pressure pushing down on the chest or back. The dreamers often believe an evil presence is responsible for their paralysis, be it spiritual, religious, psychological, mythological...," he paused, peering at me like a disapproving school teacher, "or apparently the more modern version of little green men."

"How could they not know it's a dream?"

"Because these visions seem so real, it's often hard for the sleeper to dismiss them as mere hypnogogic hallucinations."

I thought about what he said. There were so many relevant points to his theory, beyond the strange events Scully and I were currently caught up in.

"When Agent Scully recovers, I would like for you to meet her. You two would have some interesting topics to discuss."

He smiled, "You're in love with her, aren't you?"

I didn't let my surprise register. "She's my partner. I'm only doing what any good federal agent would do." "Like swimming through an alligator-infested swamp?" he raised an eyebrow. "How long has your *partner* been out?"

"Twenty hours."

"Twenty hours?" He mouthed the words incredulously. "Couldn't be sleep paralysis then."

"Why not? It's a sound theory."

"No. Paralysis occurs when the mechanism responsible for inhibiting body movement during REM sleep doesn't immediately shut off once the dreamer awakens. They *momentarily* experience the sensation of being paralyzed."

"How do you know this stuff? Do you have credible sources for your information?"

"Listen G-man, it's my business to gather and report the facts, even if they are for freak news events. Last year, some guy murdered his wife in his sleep. He actually thought she was a phantom monster. That's how I know about this stuff. Research," he grinned, "sweetens a story."

"He was sleepwalking?"

"Yep. Sleepwalking and sleeptalking are the opposite of SP. The brain forgets to induce paralysis and the sleeper acts out the dream."

I closed my eyes and imagined the man's horror when he awoke to find what he had done.

When I was a child, sleepwalking was a problem. One summer, while vacationing at the cottage in Quonochontaug, I had a nightmare that an evil squid monster was attacking me. When I awoke in the morning, I found myself in the surf tangled up in seaweed. After that, I was locked in my room each night to prevent me from wandering out into the ocean and drowning.

A realization hit me without much satisfaction: Scully and I were, yet again, on opposites ends of the scale.

Then a darker thought arose, causing the hairs to rise on the back of my neck.

Maybe Scully wasn't the only one trapped in a nightmare.

"How are you doing?" The Boatman reached to remove the dark glasses.

I blocked his hand. "Don't. They're very sensitive to light."

For an awkward moment, he stood quietly scrutinizing me. I was worried he wasn't going to buy my excuse. Then he startled me by picking up a napkin and wiping the edges of my mouth.

"Are you having difficulty swallowing?"

I raised my hand to my mouth, wondering how he had known to ask. "My throat feels tight."

"Are you running a fever?"

"Since yesterday."

"Do you have a headache and malaise?"

"Yes."

"You experiencing a loss of appetite and vomiting?"

"No vomiting, but I have felt nauseous."

"Have you, er, been feeling a bit aroused?"

"What kind of question is that?"

"You know," he shifted on his feet uncomfortably, "horny?"

"That's not something a guy admits to."

He moved on. "Are you agitated, disoriented, hallucinating or experiencing a bout of paralysis?"

"No more than usual."

"Good. Then it's not too late. Do you recall having any other aversions other than to light, such as water, smells or mirrors?"

"Just to people who know more than they're telling. What is it?" I wondered what 'freak event' he had reported on in the past to allow him to diagnose me like this.

"Has an animal bitten you in the last twenty-four hours? Does the wound itch, tingle or is it completely numb?"

Uh oh. I showed him the wound on my wrist. He groaned at the sight.

"Voodoo is not medicine, Agent Mulder! You are seriously ill. Stay here." He snapped open an umbrella and rushed to the door.

He stopped, hovering at the exit as he stared at the huge volume of rain pouring down outside, then before turning back to me, "If you need to evacuate before I get back, go to Old Bernie's. He'll take care of you." He paused. "How long since you've been bitten?"

I did some quick math in my head. "Twenty-eight hours."

"Good God! Why didn't you mention this before?"

I shrugged. "It didn't look serious. Why? What do you think it is?"

"Trouble," he shook his head and then he dashed outside into the storm before I could get a chance to question him further.

I looked at the wound and I thought about what La Mer said about Lupie.


X16 Moonlight Sonata

Upstairs at the Ju-Ju Juke Joint 6:16 pm, May 7

When I returned to the upstairs bedroom, stacks of books were scattered about and Scully was laying peacefully on the bed like Sleeping Beauty waiting for her Prince. She was surrounded by nettles and small rocks, no doubt part of some Voodoo cure.

La Mer slammed a large book shut. She was obviously upset with me.

"Whoever it was is gone now." I said a bit awkwardly, not knowing how to read her.

"La Mer know da Zombie gone."

"I didn't mean to run out on you, I was...."

La Mer cut me off, pointing an accusing finger at me. "You like da hound chasing anything dat move."

I ignored her and sat on the bed next to Scully, carefully avoiding the stinging nettles.

Scully looked like a sleeping angel. "Any luck?"

"No." La Mer said folding her arms, watching me intensely.

"Scully could be listening to our every word," I mused. "She could be screaming in there, buried alive inside her own body, and we wouldn't even hear a whimper." I glanced over at the suspiciously quiet La Mer. "Have you tried everything?"

La Mer glared at me coldly, as if I had just insulted her. I turned my attention back to my unresponsive partner. There was one idea I had -- one I knew La Mer wouldn't have tried. I could almost taste a happy ending, and I didn't care what La Mer thought as I leaned down and whispered, "Don't worry, Scully. I'm going to get you out of there."

I closed my eyes, taking a deep breath, hovering over her expressionless face for a moment in self doubt.

Was I crazy to think this would work?

What if it didn't, would I read something into it?

And if it did work, would Scully kick my butt?

The very idea of her restored to her fietsy nature was all the encouragement I needed. I slowly leaned in, giving Scully plently of time to wake up and push me away. Then I kissed those lips that were as soft as I had always imagined they would be.

"Wake up, Scully," I uttered without a sound, moving my lips delicately across hers.

No response.

An unexpected tear of frustration fell down my cheek. I quickly wiped it away.

"What a stupid fucking idea," I grumbled. What the hell was I thinking?

I didn't want to look over and see what La Mer's reaction was, and it was only after a long uneasy silence that she spoke.

"Manman Brigitte wanta know why da Baron bring her ta Canopus. La Mer wanta know too."

"To investigate a crime," I lied.

"No Baron," La Mer walked over to the alter and retrieved a flickering hurricane lamp. "Baron confess, maybe Manman come back."

"I don't know what you're talking about," I lied again.

"No?" She angrily reached over and smacked the sunglasses off my face. "You like dat evil child," she hissed and shoved the lamp in my face, making me cringe.

"I am not! I'm just sick, that's all. I didn't want to frighten you about it."

The tension was as thick as the dense moisture in the air. I refused to blink in the face of the blinding light, even as it caused hot tears to fall from my eyes.

La Mer stood her ground without giving me the slightest indication of mercy. I began to feel my own panic mounting, but I refused to let her intimidate me.

"Da Baron not an animal," she slowly lowered the lamp to my relief. "Here," she reached down and threw the sunglasses at me. "La Mer love you, boy, but La Mer sleep somewheres else tonight."


X17 Temptation

La Mer's Bedroom 10 pm, May 7

Three hours ago, the fais-dodos had ended, or so I thought. There were no more muffled sounds of the Cajun band playing downstairs or the tapping of heels. Only the rain beating against the tin roof and rumbles of the distant thunder were my companions now, for although Scully was here in body, in spirit she was a million miles away.

I didn't have much to occupy myself with doing, and to make matters worse, I was completely exhausted. But I forced myself to stay awake. It was the prudent thing to do given the potential threat Lupie posed.

I investigated every inch of La Mer's bedroom and she did not disappoint. Strange things were found in even stranger places.

My personal favorite oddity was an intricately carved walking cane. Judging by the condom rolled down the thick end of it's shaft, the phallic symbolism of the "Baron's Baton" was not lost on the quick-witted La Mer. After all, she can't have the Baron practicing unsafe sex and death, can she?

Combing through her occult book collection proved to be an enormous delight. Most of her books I was already familiar with, but there were a few rare Voodoo gems that she had stashed away, and I was more than happy to extort them to expand my eclectic knowledge.

The most interesting one, however, wasn't a book at all. It was a black journal with lots of dire warnings scribbled on the cover for any would-be thief. La Mer had documented her own incantations inside. She would probably be upset if she knew I performed several of her spells, but seeing how no demons from hell rose up to steal my soul, I considered my little experiment a success. I had added "Turning a Trick," "Uncrossing a Trick" and "Protection from a Trick" to Scully's already potent gris-gris bag. After all, you can never have too much protection. All very noble of me, right?

No. Not if you knew about the one extra spell I performed that didn't serve as protection from Black Magic. I cast a spell over Scully and myself called, "Ensure A Couples' Unity." My excuse was that it would be good for our working relationship, but that's not why I did it.

Roughly fifteen minutes later, I was feeling a little anxious. To pass the time, I put on a play with La Mer's bride and groom voodoo dolls for Scully's amusement. I hid just below the top mattress, keeping my head out of view and moving the dolls like in those old Punch and Judy shows you don't see anymore, where the puppets mostly argue and clobber each other with clubs. I was pretty good at making up a funny story on the fly. But Scully didn't laugh. She was still oblivious and perhaps that was good thing, because I would have be ashamed if she saw how I ended the play on the couples' honeymoon. I left them bonded together too, and I could swear the little guy had a shit-eating grin on his face.

But it wasn't all fun and games in Voodoo Land. I was already well past being stir-crazy, bordering on the edge of claustrophobia. I was burning a trail pacing back and forth across the room. I began to worry as each symptom the Reporter had spelled out came to pass, one after the other.

My latest affliction involved the wound to my wrist; it itched like crazy. It was easy to ignore it at first, but after an hour and a half of proving my manhood, I was searching through Scully's duffle bag and praying that she came prepared for the local weather, or in this case, the local scourge: mosquitoes.

I was in luck. After I informed Scully how much I loved her and promised to never gripe about her excessive luggage again, I doused myself in the wonderfully soothing goo.

So what if I'm a pink polka-dotted Special Agent Man now. At least it didn't itch as much.

My other pressing problem wasn't as easily solved. Scully and I were completely alone and every nerve in my body was painfully aware of that fact. All thoughts of Voodoo, this case, past lives, and the Incubi began melting into the background. The sole focus of my attention lay mutely on the bed.

Humans aren't supposed to have pheromone receptors, and yet with every breath I took, I was smothered with a powerful reminder of Scully's femininity. Primal yearnings were intoxicating me into a drooling, panting, idiot. I felt like a dog driven mad by the scent of a bitch in heat.

I ripped off my sticky t-shirt and tried to hold my breath as long as possible. When that didn't work, I plugged my nose. Nothing was helping. I needed a distraction, so I quickly set out to confirm what I had already suspected.

I began to fumble around the room, systematically blowing out candles until I arrived at the last one on the dresser. My gaze then shifted to the fogged antique mirror.

In a mist of slowly spiraling smoke, a sweaty predator stared back at me with eerie luminescent eyes that were not his own. He had a panicked look about him that reminded me of a desperate fugitive... and he smelled like one too. But this was not the reflection of a criminal it was of a hunter, whose keen perception was essential in order to sniff out the out the truth and track down felons. How could he not be curious about these new endowments?

Time for the final test.

I quickly blew out the last candle and inadvertently inhaled a wisp of smoke in the process. My lungs protested as I coughed and waved a hand. Then I squinted through the stinging haze at my reflection.

The lucent quality my eyes had exhibited only moments ago slowly dimmed until it too was extinguished. I scanned the room and found that I could see far better in the pitch-black than any human should be allowed.

Just what I thought.

Evolution had blessed nocturnal creatures with the ability to see in low-level lighting. These animals have a reflective layer behind the retina which acts as a mirror, giving the eye a second chance to absorb incoming light. That's why when headlights shine on a racoon's eyes, they shine back.

So what was I doing with enhanced peepers and what does it mean? That Scully can forget about giving me a flashlight for Christmas?

I nervously scratched my wrist.

Perhaps somethings were meant to be shrouded in shadow. My mother often said, "Let sleeping dogs lie, Fox.' Or was it, "Don't play with strange dogs, Fox?" I don't know. I wasn't paying attention. Maybe if I had, I wouldn't be feeling like shit right now and Scully wouldn't be in a coma.

The sound of Scully's steady breathing beckoned me to her. I scurried to her side like a clumsy puppy and quickly relit the candle closest to her. The flame spurted, gagged, and then slowly grew until it bathed my strickened partner with its soft amber glow.

Sure, I didn't need the light to see, but I liked how radiant she looked by candlelight. It wasn't like the harsh buzzing florescents of the morgue -- it was warm and inviting. It brought memories back of our first case together when she came to me with her guard down. Her vulnerability brings out the protectiveness in me, and I had a powerful case of it right now. Unfortunately, I also had something else less than chivalrous mingled within that sentiment.

Keeping my eyes nailed to her, I slowly withdrew, creaking backwards into the darkest corner of the room.

Where I belonged. "Scully is my partner and co-worker," I hastily reminded myself. "She's not a woman; she's a Federal Agent."

My heart leapt at the sound of "woman." Less and less of my tainted blood was going to support what little higher functions I had left. Instead, it was being redirected to the last place it should go.

I chose my words more carefully this time. "She's a licensed gun-totin' Federal Agent with a short temper."

But I was deaf to my own warnings. Each beat of my heart seemed to repeat the word: wo-man wo-man wo-man wo-man wo-man wo-man.

Shit! I gotta get out of here!

I jumped up and staggered around the room. ""She is *not* a woman! She's a gun-totin', cadaver slashin' forensic pathologist, and soon to be ex-partner who would break every bone in my body if she knew what I thinking right now!"

But I kept on thinking it. I had a wicked appetite for squirrel.

Without making a conscious decision to do it, I found myself stopping at the foot of the bed, mesmerized by the sound of her breathing, and hypnotized by the rhythmic rising and falling of her chest. The fire building in my groin required some dampening, some water or maybe...

"Ice," I blurted, and then started to babble.

"Ice Capades, Scully. I'm thinking about going to the Ice Capades. Sitting on a cold bench, watching two hours of exciting entertainment. Who can resist that?"

I just needed to hold out a little while longer until the Reporter returned with a cure. Easy enough, right?

Colors seemed to bleed from the walls all around me. Vivid noises bombarded me in all directions, even the sound of the clock ticking downstairs seemed to roar in my ears. It was too much. I couldn't handle it.

A crazed cackle began slowly building in the back of my throat, rising up higher and higher until it pierced the empty halls of the Ju-Ju with a sharp sinister edge. Scully, what have I done?

The determination to fight my dangerous compulsions continued to wane within me. I was trembling with a desperate need.

I paced around the room once more, tension growing within me as each second passed. "There are limits to my self-control, Scully."

I briefly considered an easy way to relieve my frustrations, but it was too humiliating to do in front of her.

"And I'm not about to find out where those limits are." I lunged for the bed and snatched the gris-gris bag from her neck before slinging it around my own.

"I'm sorry, Scully, but your protection needs to be redirected now."

Without having a better plan to deal with my illness, I resorted to a familiar remedy. I laid down on the bed next to her and rolled into a tight fetal position. "Sleep," I whimpered, "just for a moment."

And without a second thought, I closed my eyes and surrendered to a ghastly mistake.


X18 Little Red Riding Hood

A dream in Mulder's id 11 pm. May 7

I had no sooner succumbed to a self-induced hypnosis, when a primal screech erupted from me, announcing to the world that I was ready to mate.

Scully snapped her eyes open and bolted high off the bed, hands groping for her gun. "What is it! What's wrong!"

Her eyes darted around room, taking in our situation. She was animated, alert, and breathtakingly beautiful to watch.

After she confirmed we were out of danger, her troubled baby blues fixed on me and waited for an explanation.

"Welcome to Wonderland, Alice. Let the games begin."

Her gaze briefly flitted downward, and when she realized I was completely naked, her gaze snapped back up and locked to mine as if any straying from the path would lead to eternal damnation.

"Where are we? How did we get here?"

"You're in my dream. I tapped into your subconscious."

"Excuse me?"

A mischievous grin spread across my face. "You're right, I could be completely deluded, but shared lucid dreaming is possible for a loup garou. Lupie proved it to me." I wiggled my eyebrows at her, "Wanna wrestle?"

"Wanna have your ass kicked?"

"Oooo... You know what I like!" I pounced on top of her, pinning her below me as I held her down firmly with a hand on each of her shoulders. "Dreams, Scully, are temples of the subconscious. Which means for people trapped by fate like us, this may be the only sanctuary of true freedom we will ever know. Indulge yourself. Walk on the wild side." I lapped at her nose.

"Get off me!"

I giggled and shook my head no. "The name of the game is Quid Pro Quo. I give prizes for each answered question, but since I'm feeling generous, I'll reward you just for playing. What a deal. Me first. What's the last thing you remember?"

"Let go!" She kicked me hard in the chest and somehow managed toss me off of her.

I quickly recovered and flipped back onto my hands and knees. She's so sexy when she's mad! I hunched down low to the bed and readied myself to strike.

"Don't you dare," she threatened, and shot me a look so cold and so fierce that any other man would have run the other way.

My grin grew larger.

She grunted in protest before whining, "Mulder... it's late. I'm tired and I have a headache. Go away." She shoved her feet at me and covered her head with a pillow.

I snatched the pillow away and popped her in the face with it. "Quid pro quo, Scully. What's the last thing you remember?"

"You won't let me have any peace, will you?" She yanked the quilt over her head.

"Never." I smiled and chomped down on the corner of the quilt, tugging on it playfully, trying to pull it away from her.

She attempted to yank it out of my mouth.

I growled at her, and clamped down harder.

Before I knew what hit me, she had delivered a swift kick to my chest with a strength one wouldn't expect from someone so small. She knocked the wind right out of me and I tumbled from the bed, head over heels in a flurry of sheets, crashing down onto the floor with a loud thud.

That's my girl. I laughed. I was seeing stars.

After several minutes of mapping the heavens, I shook myself out of the daze and crawled under the bed with a devious plan.

"Mulder?" She leaned over the mattress, her luscious fiery hair sweeping across the floor. "What the hell has gotten into you?"

She looked deliciously vulnerable hanging upside-down like that.

"The correct question, is, 'Mulder, what the hell would you like to get into?' Come closer and I'll give you a hint."

"The only hint I'm interested in," she squinted, looking left and right, "is the one that gives me a reason not to beat some manners into you."

"Meeeeep!" I buzzed. "I refuse to answer any more illegal questions, not unless you have an incentive program."

"Incentive? How's this: you tell me where I am, how I got here and what the hell is wrong with you, and I'll let you keep your balls?"

My cock twitched. "I'm afraid I can't answer that. You see, you have to answer my questions first. Scully? Do you believe in reincarnation?"

"Mulder, I'm not playing games!" Her lips quivered. Her nostrils flared. Her eyes burned with rage. She was the essence of repressed passion. All she needed now was a push in the right direction.

As soon as she had leaned out so far that her balance was in jeopardy, I lunged for her cheek and licked it. She jumped with a start and I caught her fall from the precarious position with my hands holding her shoulders securely up in midair.

Lust crept into my voice and I purposely allowed my heavy lips to graze the soft warm flesh of her neck. "What if you came back as an animal? What would you have been?"

Something primal briefly flashed in her eyes, but it disappeared as quickly as she did when she scrambled beyond my reach above the mattress.

I did a little victory dance and sprung up behind her.

However, my celebration was premature. Scully had done anything *but* succumb to my charms.

She slowly backed away, her eyes as round as flying saucers. "Mulder, if you're into cynophilia, I don't want to know about it."

I laughed. Only Scully would say something like that.

"Can't help it, Scully. Bitches turn me on. The bitchier, the better." I hunched down again and prowled towards her. "Canids aren't all bad. They have their admirable qualities. For instance, foxes, jackals, wolves, feral dogs... they're all monogamous. One life. One mate. Until death do them part."

She shied away. "Mulder, your eyes."

"The better to see you with, my dear. It's all starting to make sense to me now. Apparently, I have some interesting skeletons in my closet."

"Mulder, you're drooling."

"Scully, you're ravishing."

She grabbed a heavy book off the dresser and waved it at me threateningly. "Stay back!"

I gave her a toothy smile. "Did you know there's a long-held belief that Canids have a second sight, that they see things beyond human perception, invisibles like spirits and ghosts? How many ghosts have I seen Scully, and how many have you not?"

She snatched my gun from my discarded pile of clothes and turned it on me. "Mulder, why don't you tell me about the dog that bit you. Was it wild or domestic? Was the attack provoked? Did it look sick in any way? Does the wound itch or tingle?"

I pounced at her and she fired a warning shot across my path.

I stopped, my pulse racing.

So this is it. After three years of working together, it all comes to this: I can't control myself, and she's going to have to put me down.

"Mulder, I know this isn't you and I want to understand. Please help me understand."

Her voice was wavering, her hands shaking. She had no intention of shooting me. Not even in unreality, could she do it.

I sunk down on the edge of bed and pouted. "Whatever bit me, it didn't take too kindly to a certain Fed wielding a stick and yelling 'Fetch!'"

"Why did you lie to me?"

"Because I didn't want to raise a stink. I felt sorry for Lupie. She was living in squalor, had just been raped, and she didn't have a friend in the world. Who am I to impound her pet over a little bite?"

"Does it itch?"

"Like hell."

"Mulder, you have rabies."

"Do not."

"Do to."

She slipped the safety back on the gun. "If you promise to be a good boy, I'll check you for fleas."

"What?"

She smirked.

Oh. She's yanking my chain. "I do not have rabies! That dog was no an ordinary dog, Scully! It was huge! It was ferocious! It had evil beady red eyes!"

"Are you going to behave yourself?"

I grudgingly shrugged and looked away. She's not sexy. She's not sexy at all.

I heard my gun tap lightly down on the dresser and her bare feet pad over to me.

"I'm not making it up. It was either a Loup Garou or a Baka. I'm not sure which. It's easy to get them confused."

I tried to ignore the salty feminine musk clinging to her skin. I tried even harder to ignore the soothing hands smoothing back my sopping hair in an oh-so-sensuous sort of way.

Her hands felt like ice against my skin.

"You're running a high fever." She gently turned over my wrist, stroking it, caressing it, making love to...

"Mulder, what the hell is this?" She pointed the red Veve with crusty pink flakes plastered on top of the wound.

"Protection from evil," I huffed, and then added, "with a dash of Calamine lotion."

Yep. She doesn't do anything for me. She doesn't even know basic Voodoo.

I could literally hear her shaking her head as she busied herself tending to my wound. The tips of her fingers whispered over my raw flesh with the delicate precision of a surgeon, mindful not to cause me any further pain.

"You're going to need stitches. And Mulder," she slapped my paw, "stop scratching it! You're making it worse!"

...gentle and assertive, efficient and practical, attentive and organized, caring and faithful. All this and she smelled really wonderful too. Maybe I had been too quick to judge. After all, she is very attractive when she's fawning over me. And her touch... so titillating, so...

"So what's the difference? Mulder, are you listening to me?"

"Mmm?"

"Between the Loup Garou and the Baka."

"The Baka, my occult-challenged seductress, is an evil spirit or practicer of black magic voodoo, who can transform into an animal and roam nocturnally looking for victims to devour. The Loup Garou, on the other hand, is a dead werewolf that drinks the blood of the living, often during sleep."

"Like a vampire?"

"Or an incubus."

"Mulder, I hate to be the one to break the bad news, but weren't you bitten during the day?"

Good point.

"Scully," I turned to face her and took both her hands into mine. "I don't understand what's happening to me, but you have to believe me when I tell you that all my senses have grown immeasurably sharp. I wish you could see what I see. I wish you could feel what I feel."

I paused and tapped the place just above her heart. "I can hear your heartbeat, you know. It's beating a little faster right now and it's as clear to me as if I were using a stethoscope. You see, I'm my own lie detector, just like Anpu."

"And who, is Anpu?"

"The original sleuthhound of the ancient world. According to legend, he had a critical nose that could sniff out criminals and cheats from a mile away. Oh Scully," I sighed, "imagine the possibilities. If I could harnass these skills, I could..."

"No."

"No?"

"No Mulder, whatever you think you are experiencing, it's a hallucination. We have to get you to a hospital immediately, before it's too late."

I frowned and dropped her hands. "Well then, I guess you could say I'm up the proverbial Shit Creek without a paddle, because there's a 150 miles of raging flood between us and the nearest hospital."

As if on cue, lightning flashed in the room, followed immediately by a loud clap of thunder. Pain exploded instantly in my head. I yelped and covered my eyes.

"Mulder, what is it!" she removed my hands.

"Nothing. Just startled." More like just blinded.

After an uncomfortable silence passed, the bed squeaked and I heard the familiar gait of tiny feet crossing the room.

"Oh my God! This is worse than I imagined!"

"You can say that again. Got any aspirin?"

"Mulder! Have you looked outside? We're in the middle of a goddamn swamp!"

"Scully?" I blinked, trying to focus through the flashing Day Glo tie-dye patterns seared into my retinas.

"Yes?"

"Theoretically, if I did have rabies would that explain why my eyes are dilated?"

Somewhere between hot pink and lime green, I saw wrinkles begin to spoil the perfectly smooth surface of her forehead. She hovered at the window for a second, then she rushed towards me, snatched a candle and knelt down between my legs.

Hello!

"Follow my finger," she commanded. "Did you radio for help?"

"Do Greys preform anal probes?"

She shifted the candle, left, then right. "Strange."

"Strange?"

She frowned and returned the candle to the dresser with a hollow thud.

"Mulder, both your pupils are blown. You've must be drugged, but I've never seen anything like it. Even people doped to the gills with anticholinergics or hallucinogenic drugs have reaction, albeit a sluggish one. But you... you..." her voice trailed off and her focus blurred.

I shifted on the bed. "Uh, Scully?"

She didn't reply.

"Scully?" I poked her in the arm.

"Scully!"

Her eyes slowly drifted towards mine, deep in thought.

"So, uh, what do you think? My eyes, they're not really glowing, are they?"

"No, of course not, they're just unusually reflective."

"Ha! I knew it! Just like a wolf!"

She snorted. "Mulder, have you suffered any concussions in last 24 hours?"

"No."

She raised an eyebrow.

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, I don't remember hitting my head."

She jumped up and began to furiously part my hair, combing it left, then right, then forward, then back again. Then just as suddenly as she began, she slumped down next to me on the bed and sighed.

"I don't know how else to explain it."

"Explain what?"

"This is going to sound crazy."

"Mmmm, crazy," I wiggled closer to her. "I love crazy. Try me."

"Mulder, there's only one type of people who have pupils dilated to larger-than-normal size which don't respond to stimuli."

"Scully, if you say victims of the Loup Garou, I'll have us booked for a flight to Vegas with a reservation for two at Elvis Chapel of Love before you can say 'Elope'."

She smiled, obviously humoring me. "No, Mulder. The symptoms you are manifesting are synonymous with total and complete brain death. The correct answer is coma victims."

My Scully, I smiled to myself. Just like old times. Her denial is kinda cute, in a way. I snuggled against her, nuzzling my head on her shoulder as I fidgeted with a string of ribbon which had fallen between her breasts. "Do I look like a vegetable to you?"

"No, you look like someone who could use a cold shower."

I chuckled softy. "Scully?"

"Mmm?"

"I'm not going to live to see daylight, am I?"

She silently slipped her arms past my shoulders and began to rock me gently. "I don't know."

A lump caught in my throat.

"Don't worry, Scully. Everything will turn out fine. Being a were-mutt may not be so bad. I mean, how many guys do you know who can honestly say they're their own best friend? Seriously, I do have a friend. You'd like him. He looks at me the same way you do. He said he'd come back with a cure."

"Mulder..."

"Shhh..." I placed a finger to her lips and swiveled around in front of her. I couldn't let her ask that question. It was better that she didn't know why I had to depend on someone else to help me and not her. I wanted to tell her the truth, but then I wanted to tell her so many things; I was sorry, I was wrong, and please don't ever leave me again. But my voice failed as her watery blue eyes looked at me, full of worry and unspoken questions. Words are not enough to express what I was feeling. I gently took her face between my hands and used my tongue in more loving way, tenderly lapping her lips.

"Mulder!" She yanked me back, "you're sick!"

A forced smile barely materialized on my lips. "Scully, it's a dream. I'm not gonna give you cooties."

Suddenly, a jarring sound caught my attention. My gaze snapped to the window and an all too familiar feeling of dread fell over me.

"Mulder, what's wrong?"

I held my hand out, signaling her to be quiet as I listened.

She became immediately alarmed and snapped up my gun. "Mulder, I don't hear anything," she whispered anxiously. "What is it?"

A dull buzzing electrical whine began to resonate in my head. "Whatever it is," I answered gravely, "it's definitely not swamp gas."

The bed, the walls, and everything around us began to vibrate. Bottles and jars fell over, shattering on the floor. The door knob began to rattle.

We both spun around just as a blaze of light exploded through the door, igniting the room with an intense heat. The force of the blast was so violent that I was thrown backwards, crashing down onto the bed with arms and legs sprayed wildly apart. I was blinded.

Multiple cracks of bullets fired overhead, then Scully let out a terrible shriek.

"Scully!" The bed springs creaked as if a weight was being lifted from them. "Scully!"

I tried with all my strength to rise, but I was growing progressively heavier and heavier, sinking deeper and deeper into the cushions as if an incredible weight had been placed on my chest. Can't breathe! Can't breathe!

"Scully!" I screamed over and over again, but all that came out were breathless wisps of air. The unmistakable presence of pure evil snaked into the room. Every hair on my body stood up on end. Something was coming closer and closer to me until it whispered directly in my ear. My skin crawled beneath it's rancid breath. It spoke to me in garbled language but somehow I understood it was intent on stealing my soul.

"No! You're not real! Go away!"

The demon chuckled softly, feeding on my terror. Then it proceeded to swell and wrap itself around me like an incorporeal blanket composed of a thousand probing fingers.

I was powerless to defend myself. "No, please don't...," I begged, pleaded. "Please, go away."

Undeterred, the black energy force invaded my body, both physically and mentally, scorching me from the inside out. A scream began to build in my throat, getting louder and more urgent until it was like the wail of a thousand screeching banshees. I thought I was going to burst from it.

Something wet splattered on my cheek. In my delirium, I thought the thing had ejaculated on me. The sensation was so vivid that it snapped me out of my paralysis and I came face to face with two red eyes burning in the dark like hot coals suspended in a cloud of soot.

And then just as quickly as it appeared, it was gone.

I wheezed, coughed, and sluggishly rolled over to check on Scully. She was fine, thank God, still sound asleep, and neatly tucked under the quilt, just as she had been before I nodded off. I quickly scanned the room and found no evidence of the traumatic ordeal I had just endured.

I flopped back over on my back, exhausted, and tried to catch my breath. All I could do was lay there and shake. It took a long time before I could sum up the courage to check and see if there was anything wet on my face.

And there was.

I brought the moisture on my fingertips up closer to my eyes for inspection. It was clear like water, felt like water, smelt like water.

I was about to taste it when something splashed on top of my head. I looked up and saw a drip had formed on the ceiling directly above me.

I let out a nervous laugh. It was a dream? But it had all seemed so real.

 

The End
 


Archivist's note: This story ends with a promise of continuing in a second story, but if it exists I haven't found it. If you have, please let me know!

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