Title: An Orwellian Death
Summary: Mulder and Scully investigate a plague that only seems to affect those living in poverty or sorrow. (It'll make sense when you read it.)
Warning: This is very depressing piece, having written it after watching "The Killing Fields." It also deals with some very contraversial issue, one of them being poverty. Very few people have actually been able to discuss poverty without sounding self righteous and I'm not one of them. The way I handled that issue and a couple of others may be offensive to some people.
Author's Note: This version is revised but not by much. If yo had read the first few parts before, you don't have to read this again. Just bear in mind that I changed the native tongue of the girl in the beginning from Choujong to Mandarin and the events of the first part of the story happened three years *earlier* than the events in the second section. I should also add I don't know much about bombs and medical procedures.
Feedback: PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE!!!! I'll accept flames!! (Of course, I'll argue with you back but that could be fun too!)
October 31st, 1999, was the coldest Hallowe'en night in all of Ontario's history. The wind was bitter, nipping against the bare cheeks of the children who walked down the street like the cold tips of steel needles. The children were bundled up, even though it was only mid fall and five thirty in the evening, with their costumes pulled over their snow suits. They wore gloves or mittens which their held their candy bags with. People who answered the door wore sweaters or jackets, and answered the children quickly before shutting the door firmly against the wind that was threatening to rob their house of its warmth and comfort.
It was so cold that Hallowe'en night that trick-or-treat ended at seven that evening and eight people in the city of Ottawa died that night from the cold. One of them was a fourteen-year-old Oriental girl with waist long black hair. She had been waiting for her younger sister to come home with their two-year-old nephew. It was already seven ten, and they had been out for longer than an hour.
Her mother was furious. "I told her not to go out longer than fifteen minutes, " she said in a high-pitched tone that told her daughter she was truly upset. It also irritated her daughter to death. Her mother, as far as the girl was concerned, had the most annoying voice in the world. "It's cold out there, " her mother continued, her irritating voice continuing to pull her daughter nearer to the brink of suicide. "And Didi cannot go out for long. It's cold, and he's only two years old. He'll freeze."
"The flowers are turning into ice, " her daughter noted. She spoke the same Mandarin her mother had voiced her anxiety earlier, only hers were broken. She didn't know how to say "frost" in Chinese. "He's going to get really sick." She was also worried, a tight kind of worry that seemed to grip her heart and make the room around her hard to breathe in. It was cold outside, and her sister had been out with her friends and their nephew for a long time. Everyone else was already at home.
"Can you go out and find them?" her mother asked. "She could stay out longer, but Didi needs to be home now."
The girl normally would have whined and told her mother to shut the hell up because she was worrying too much, but the girl herself was really worried as well. Hallowe'en was fun, but she also knew about the added danger that came that night. Really, opening doors to strangers and taking time get the candies was an invitation for a psycho to pull out their gun and kill you on the porch. And children and young teens such as her sister could be easily grabbed off the streets, raped, and killed.
She shuddered at the thought and donned on her blue breaker over her Vampire Princess Miyu costume. She loved her costume. It was a beautiful white dress with a red sash tied at the waist. Her mother had made it for Anime North that summer. She also had tied her up in the same style that Vampire Princess Miyu wore on TV with the red ribbon wound around her ponytail. It was a stunning costume, and wearing it, she felt beautiful. She had once told her sister she had wanted to die in that dress and be buried in it.
The wind came in a startlingly cold gush of air when she opened the door. She shuddered and took a quick step out, closing the door quickly behind her. Her mother watched her from the window on their door. She looked worried, probably reconsidering sending her remaining daughter out in the cold night.
The wind was strong, and there was also something else in that air that made the night colder, but she couldn't put her finger on it. Something that made her blood freeze when she walked down the stone veranda. She pulled the windbreaker tighter around her. The trees were bare, the leaves fell off their branches earlier this year, and there wasn't a star in the sky. She looked at the moon through the wisp of clouds and prayed that nothing was wrong with her sister and her nephew.
I'm going to kill that kid when she gets home, she thought to herself. She doesn't have a clue what she's putting me through.
And yet, the girl couldn't help but admire how beautiful it was outside. She was usually imprisoned in her house, doing chores, homework, watching anime; she didn't go out often and was surprised how pretty it could get after dark. If only it wasn't so cold. She clenched her jaw and shuddered against when another gush of wind passed by her legs. Her stomach suddenly knotted in cramps which caused a shudder to pulse through her entire body. Her fingers were numb and she was sure she was going to be unable to type the next day. She suddenly wondered if freezing to death was as painless as it sounded.
It was strange she thought about death at that moment because she had no idea how close to it she really was. Or maybe she did. She suddenly thought of herself in her Vampire Princess Miyu attire, standing there in the cold with her favorite dress on, the moonlight softly touching the white silk. She loved that dress, and remembered what she said about wanting to be buried in it.
And her wishes, sadly enough, always came true.
She wasn't surprised when she saw them right then, dressed in ugly monster masks and brandishing their smooth, polished baseball bats at her. But she was scared, more scared than she had ever been in her life. The fear, the panic, she felt the last few minutes of her life cannot be described adequately on paper. She turned to run, hoping that fate was busy with someone else and she might be able to elude her, but the heavy blow to the back of her frail shoulders brought her down to her knees and then rolling into a crumped ball in the middle of the streets. The only thoughts that went through her mind as her attackers began to pick her up off the streets was, "This isn't happening to me!" And yet, she had known it was her fate to die that night in that fashion a long time ago.
A neighbor opened their door then and yelled that he had a gun. Luckily for the girl, it was the first time her attackers had kidnapped someone and in their fear, they dropped her on the ground where she slammed her head against the pavement. Pain radiated in waves from the top of the head down to her gut, but she managed to crawled away from her would-be kidnappers. They got in their car and rode off.
It was dark however, and all the Hallowe'en lights had been turned off. The neighbor didn't see the body of the young girl had been dropped. He thought her attackers had driven off with her so he went back inside to call the police. The girl managed to stumble to the end of the block.
There was a 7-11 store and a school there that she used to walk between as a shortcut to her house. However, half way through the alley, the intense pain on her back and shoulders and the dizziness in her head caused her to collapse on the ground. The hot rush of blood that had been pounding in her cheeks while she was being attack was slowly dissipating and she suddenly realized just how cold it was. The cramps and nausea returned, and her bloody teeth began to shudder from the cold. She was bleeding, gasping out blood onto the white satin of her dress. The blood only came then, strange enough, and that was a shame because a trail of blood on the sidewalk could have lead the police who were arriving at the scene at that very minute to her and they could have saved her. Broken bones could be mended, but once the body temperature drops below freezing, nothing short of a miracle could save someone.
But she had to die that night. Someone else besides Fate had taken his precious time to make sure all the circumstances worked out, clumsy and coincidental as they were. Destiny had to go as planned.
She really shouldn't have made that deal with the devil.
Three Years Earlier
There was one month left before the arrival of the New Year. Mulder decided to act out the stereotype of his paranoia to its full extent as he dropped the latest case file on Scully's desk. "The End of the World has arrived three years earlier than planned, Scully, " Mulder announced as the file made a nice plopping noise on his - their- desk.
His partner looked up at him. "Excuse me?"
"Eleven people are dead, " he informed her, opening the file as he did so. His voice was dry and monotonous, notifying his partner that it was grim case. "Six in Canada and five here in America. Out of the five, three happened in New York City. The other two were from Chicago." He flipped over the pictures of the victims as he talked, and Scully saw black-and-white pictures of what looked like a regurgitated hamburger. "I thought we had to wait until year 2000 for the apocalypse, but it looks God decided that December, 1996 was going to be his year of holy reign of terror and righteousness on this Earth."
Scully wasn't paying attention. She was sifting through the photographs, looking at every line and shade in the picture. "Oh my God, Mulder, " she said, disbelief clearly evident in her tone of voice, but her expression, as usual, was deceptively neutral. "It looked like they were experimental labrats of a hydrogen bomb test."
"I was thinking the same thing, " said Mulder, "but look at the surrounding area of the victims."
Scully did, searching for typical signs of fallen rubbles, burned houses, broken windows, and other people who was harmed during the explosion. She saw what Mulder was getting at.
They were none.
"Mulder, it's not that uncommon for someone to explode and only effect themselves and not those around them, " Scully protested, obviously not buying into the paranoia of the case so far. "Chances are explosives weren't involved in this case. There have been instances where people have had compressed air hose inserted down their throats or up their rectum and the air pressure cause their body to blow apart. In those cases, it takes the authorities several days to find every body part of the victim."
"There were no air pumps involved with these cases, either, " Mulder said. "And while I'm not well informed about air pump explosions, I'm pretty damn sure the bodies of the victims in those situations aren't incinerated to the point of ashes."
"No, Mulder, you're wrong there, " Scully said. "I'm not too familiar with the effects of a death by compressed air hoses, but from what I've been told, it's like an atom bomb detonation. And we know that atom bombs /can/ incinerate the point of ashes."
"Nevertheless, " Mulder said, undaunted, "the point remains there definitely were no air pumps or anything other instruments to add pressure to these victims. Forensic physicians can't find the cause of these any of the deaths. These victims were simply sitting the on streets, panning for money, in one case, digging through the garbage looking for food and minding his own business, and they all suddenly exploded with a warning. No air pressure, no explosives, nothing. They simply blew apart."
The paranoia aspect of the case slowly dawned onto Scully. "But, " she said, and stopped. She stared at Mulder. Four years of aliens, abductions, monsters, and man eating toilet inhabited parasites did nothing to make Scully less insidious of the paranormal. "It's impossible for somebody to explode without there being a cause for the explosion. Something had to set these people off."
"Couldn't the bomb be planted inside of them to begin with?" offered Mulder.
Scully shook her head lightly. Running a finger over the glossy surface of the photos, she explained, "it's virtually impossible to plant a bomb inside somebody. That's just an invention of Holly Wood spy movies. The closest thing you can get to that is appendicitis and a malfunctioning pace maker."
Mulder shrugged. "I guess that's why they handed the case to us."
Scully tilted her hair to one side so that her fine strand of red-gold hair brushed against her shoulders and gave him a hard look. "Don't tell you me you think this is the work of that oil thing we found at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean."
"I'm not ruling out any possibilities, " he told her seriously. "But it could be a possible explanation to what made these people explode since nothing else does. Both cases are pretty similar to one another."
"Are you kidding?" Scully exclaimed. She picked up one of the pictures in the file and shoved it in Mulder's face. "Do these look like radiation burns to you?"
A clear grimace crossed Mulder's face as he stared at the tiny, chewed up remains of a human being. "The explosion was so intense it probably erased the signs of a radiation burn."
Scully relunctantly admitted it was possible. "But about the two cases being similar, " she added, "the victims of that oil weren't exploded into a million pieces."
"Maybe the oil substance could be mutating. Either way, this is an unexplainable phenomenon, and I think it falls in our jurisdiction."
Scully nodded, and then close the file. "So exactly what are we going to investigate?"
"They have the body - or what's left of it - of a homeless man in a New York City morgue. And they have some eye witnesses who were present when the man exploded."
Scully blinked. "You mean people actually saw the man explode?"
"Four of them actually. None of them were physical harmed, although they're all supposedly traumatized for life. Looks like the psychiatrist business will be blooming now. Our plane leaves tomorrow afternoon, if that okay with you?"
A quick smile from Scully. "I got nothing planned, " she admitted.
She liked it when Mulder was this considerate.
The killer sat in her homeroom class, drawing pictures for her family history project. Her teacher came up to her. "My God, " she said, staring at the picture. She was completely taken back by the student's ability to draw. Everyone in the school knew the girl was a talented artist but each picture she drew never failed to take the teacher's breath away. "It's extremely powerful."
The killer nodded shyly, but with obvious pride. She was in grade seven, but drew better than everyone else did in grade eight. Her newest piece was a disturbing one, and a brilliant one at that. There were seven skeletons half buried in dirt, their bony hand reaching toward a fading sun. The sun was red, the only bright color in the picture, even if was fading. Everything else was brown, grey, or black. The sky was grey, the wispy dirt the skeletons were sinng into was brown, and the skeletons themselves were black. Around the picture, in the border, were twisted vines of dying leaves and dried up fruit, all painted black.
The killer was a genius. There was an obvious hunger in the picture, an abject pain. The teacher looked at the picture and felt shivers crawling down her spine. The skeletons seemed to be calling out to her. She cleared her throat and tried to summon up moisture to her mouth.
"Is this for your family history project?" she asked.
As it was in her nature, the girl didn't nod or shake her head in confirmation. She merely said, "they're my dead brothers and sisters. They died in the killing fields before I was born. I couldn't make my family history project without mentioning them." Her voice was oddly unisex and emotionless. She could have been talking about what fine weather they were having outside.
The teacher felt a pinch in the back of her neck, the one feels when they realize they said something they didn't want to say. "I'm sorry."
The killer looked up and smiled sadly at her. "It doesn't matter, " she assured the teacher. "I didn't know them."
"Still, " her teacher added, "it must be hard on you and your family."
"It is, " she murmured and looked intently at her artwork. For a moment, the skeletons seem to stare at her, accusing her of something she was unable to do and hating for it. At least, it looked like that to the killer.
It was then the teacher noticed two other pictures the killer was working. They were beneath her poster paper that they were to glue their family history pictures and stories onto. One of them wasn't as powerful as the other one, but it was just as chilling. They were faceless people with bony bodies and large bellies picking food out of garbage cans, being beaten by soldiers, and drinking water that was black in color. Polluted water, the picture so clearly portrayed.
Poverty. The girl was barely twelve; it was an age where she was suppose to be thinking about boys, sleep overs, and horror of developing breasts. But these pictures were a clear part of her mind, and she saw the girl draw them often enough. They were literally the junk in her mind.
/Which kind of a twelve year old girl thinks about poverty all the time?/
She glanced at her student, who was deepening the black border with a fat marker. The killer sense her looking at her and her bloodless lips twitched into a contemptuous grimace, as if she knew what the teacher was thinking of her and she was ashamed of it.
The teacher looked at the next picture. This wasn't as chilling, but it was far more violent. The picture was done entirely in red, yellow, and orange. An explosion. It was a charcoal picture of the same faceless people being bombed to death. The bright red, yellow, and orange splashes of color filled the paper to the corner. It was done in an abstract manner, yet there was something real about it. The teacher felt the force and pressure of the bomb while she looked at the picture. For a moment, she felt that she was witnessing a bloody, violent death of someone on the streets.
That picture unnerved her for the rest of the day. She didn't understand why that picture had such a powerful and frightening effect on her. And she didn't understand why that night, when she turned on the news and heard the story of brutal bomb death of two homeless people in Ontario, she thought about that one picture.
"Well, here is it."
The pathologist pulled the body out of the refrigerator. Scully's eyes widened when she saw the garbled up remains and Mulder's usually pacifistic face twisted into an expression that he usually reserved for squirming maggots.
"Was it Jezebel who was thrown off the tower and had her body devoured by dogs until there was nothing left except for her skull and the palms of her hand?" Apparently, Dr. Timm had a sense of humour. He was a short man of nondescript appearance, the uncle that you saw once at a family reunion.
"I always wondered exactly what evil she had committed that had coined her the most degenerated woman in the whole Bible, " said Scully. She was always amused when anything related to the Christianity was mentioned. The amusement was evident in her eyes, even behind the plastic goggles. She wore her scrubs and hairnet. So did Mulder. They didn't want any hair or fingerprint or even the smallest skin particle to fall onto the dead bodies.
"I think being a ne'er-do-well and homeless had something to do with it, " Mulder quipped. He looked at a charred, broken finger, ripped off from the socket. "You think God had something against them?"
"So now you think this is the work of God, " Scully said. "What happened to your theory involving that oil substance?"
"What oil substance?" Dr. Timm interrupted.
"It's nothing, " Mulder told him quickly.
Dr. Timm shrugged and said no more. They worked for the government and that was enough of an explanation for any weirdness that came from them.
"Has there been an autopsy?" Scully asked, walking to the body.
"Several, " admitted the doctor. "We're positive the man died of an explosion, but we can't determine what caused the explosion."
Scully leaned over the body and prodded at it with an instrument that reminded Mulder of that rod his dentist used to tap his teeth with. She rapped at a protruding white bone and moved some charred skin tissue away. Then she said something that Mulder had heard her say a lot of in the last four years: "I have never seen anything like this before."
She continued: "Definitely, the explosion was an internal one, if you see how the organs and the inner layer of skin were incinerated, but if there was a bomb inside the person, then there had to be an epicenter from where the body exploded from. But I can't find which part of the body it exploded from. It's more like the body crumbled than exploded."
"But he definitely exploded, " Dr. Timm told her. "The witnesses were sure of that."
"Can we interview the witnesses?" Mulder asked.
"I don't see why not, but I should warn you, they're very traumatized by the experience. I don't blame them. Seeing someone die isn't as glamourous as TV makes it. It's not even glamourous. It's just disgusting and sad, and the explosion had a devastating effect on the bystanders, specially an older man who was a veteran of the Vietnam war."
"We've interrogated witnesses before, " Scully assured him, "and we know how sensitive the situation can get and how far we can push them."
Relief crossed the pathologist's face. "I'll give you a list of their names and you can go see them whenever it's convenient for you."
"Thank you, " said Mulder. He started to leave the morgue. Scully decided to stay behind. She wanted to review the samples that arrived from the toxicology lab earlier that morning and take another look at the body. "What do you hope to find, Scully?" he asked, his hands on the door.
Her eyes never left the cadaver. "I don't know, " she murmured. "But I don't think I'll find it."
Mulder felt the same way as he went to interrogate the witness. He had a feeling this was going to be one case they wouldn't be able to solve.
The killer's mother asked if she wanted to put a Christmas tree that year. When she had been a small child, before she had understood what it really meant to have seven dead brothers and sisters, she had always loved putting up the Christmas tree.
"No, " the killer said. "It's too much trouble to put up a tree. We're Chinese. It's ridiculous for us to try to act so Canadian."
Her mother was relieved in one sense. They didn't have a put a tree that year and it would save everyone the hell and hassle that came with it. On the other hand, she didn't enjoy seeing her daughter so empty of emotions. Ever since the seizure, the girl had been distant and cold. There were no more talks about being a missionary, no more walks to enjoy the fresh air against her pale cheeks, no getting up early to fix breakfast for her parents; she even stopped reading her Bible. That scared her mother the most. Before the seizure, she had been devoutly religious.
The girl had been prone to depression, and religion was the crutch that helped through the hard times. Now that she ceased to be religious, her mother feared that the girl would be depressed and forlorn the rest of her life.
"Are you sure you're okay?" her mother asked, concerned. "Go get some sleep."
"I just got back from school."
Her tone was so harsh and cold. Before, even during the lowest times of her depression, her voice had been soft and gentle. Her tone of voice made her mother angry. "Don't talk to me like that."
Her daughter swung to look at her. "Don't treat me like glass, " she snapped. "It was only a seizure! I'm fine!" She felt a perverse sense of satisfaction when she saw the anger deepen in her mother's face and fear begin to show in her black eyes. Her moment of satisfaction was spoiled when she saw another faceless person lying on the side of the road, bleeding.
"Excuse me, Ma, I got homework, " she said crisply. She slid off her chair and ran up the stairs.
The vision faded and didn't appear again until she was in the safety of her room. She went over to her desk and sat down. Over her desk was a large window where she could see her backyard. It was winter, and a light blanket of covered the ground. She stared out the window but she didn't see the snow or the sky or the trees. She only saw a faceless person, dressed in rags, bleeding on the side of a road. Whether or not this person was dying, she couldn't tell. She only knew he was in pain.
Then again, every faceless person that visited her mind was in pain.
/I'm doing them a favor. I'm putting them out of their misery. I'm just shooting the wounded puppy on the street that no one wants to look at./
She closed her eyes slowly and saw the man more clearly. He was bleeding from a wound in his chest. He had been stabbed there and from the way his body was curled up and his his hands were pressed against his chest in an effort to stop the blood from flowing, it was obvious he was in more agony than he could bear. The killer was glad she couldn't see his face.
/You're not going to be in much pain for long./
She watched him explode, the red and yellow and orange splashes of color filling her vision for a moment. When she opened her eyes, the vision was gone. She was alone.
For now anyways. Another one always visited her mind soon after the last one died.
Her eyes never left the window, but her hands moved under her desk and pulled some paper out of the shelves. Methodically, she reached for some markers and charcoal and without realizing what she doing, without looking at the paper, she started to draw. It wasn't long before a hideous smear of red and orange and yellow covered the page.
This was the way the people she killed were remembered after death. The pictures she drew were their tombstone, and the three solid Chinese characters she scrawled on the top was the engravement.
Mulder found Scully in her hotel room that night. She was sitting in front of the desk and the table lamp was turned on. She held a stack of papers in front of her which she was reading carefully. Her shoes had been removed, but other than that, she looked as professional and pristine as she did every morning at work.
Mulder walked up to her and leaned over her shoulders. He placed on hand on top of the chair and another spread out on the table beside her. He looked at the documents she was reading As he had suspected, she was looking over the toxicology reports. "Did you find anything?" he asked.
Scully shook her head and laid down the paper. "Nothing, " she replied, looking at him. Her voice was slightly awed which was unusual for her. "I checked everything, the pictures the forensic team took, the sample of the dirt they collected off the ground where the victim exploded. I couldn't find a single thing that could even hint to what did this. The dirt was bloodied, but other than that, it showed no chemical tampering. I even went to the site to see if there was a gas station nearby. There was none. The man literally exploded by himself."
Scully was as shock as Mulder had seen her. This was one those rare moments where not only had science and logic failed her, it did nothing to help point her in the right direction.
"What about you, Mulder? Did you find anything?"
"I had the same luck as you did, " Mulder responded. "The witnesses I question all claim they don't know what happened to the man. He simply blew apart and they don't know what to make out of it. I asked them if they saw anything unusual and they said no."
Concern crossed Scully's face. "How are they taking it?"
Mulder grimaced. The Vietnam veteran was so shell shocked he decided not to talk to the man. The man probably spent years trying to overcome flashbacks and nightmares from the war and this had to happen. "They're still in shock. It was hard for them to speak. One of them thought it was a bomb and she thought she had died along with the man. Sadly, I think the shock that she survived it only shook her up more. Another one thought it was Spontaneous Human Combustion."
"There hasn't been much explanation for Spontaneous Human Combustion, " Scully admitted. "Maybe this is about the same thing. They haven't found a reason for the human body suddenly exploding into flames. In this case, they just haven't found a reason for the human body suddenly exploding period."
It sounded very probable to Mulder, but there was something about the victims selected that made him uneasy.
/Were they selected?/
"Mulder?" Scully had turned around on her chair so that her knees were touching his thighs, and looked up at him. He had been in thought for a while. "Is everything all right?"
Mulder snapped himself of the trance he was in and looked down at her. "I'm fine, " he said. His "I'm fine" was never as resolute was Scully's though.
He let go of the chair and walked over to the TV in her room. With a flick of a hand, he turned it on.
Intrigued, Scully turned her attention to the TV. She rested both hands on the top of the chair. "What are you watching?" she asked.
"I want to see what the news has to say about this, " Mulder said. He found the eleven o'clock news and sat on the bed, facing it. Scully watched him. "You know, Scully, if this is really Spontaneous Human Explosion, it's going to send quite a scare in the public."
"Spontaneous Human Combustion is rare, though, " Scully pointed out. And then realized what Mulder was getting at. "Oh my God, " she said.
He looked at her.
Scully tightened her grip on the chair. "Eleven people died of it in less than one week. Jesus, Mulder, if this continues, then we practically have an epidemic in our hands."
Mulder opened his mouth to reply when something on the TV screen caught his attention. He turned his head abruptly and leaned forward a bit, his eyes glued to the monitor. Scully quickly got up and walked over to the bed. She looked at the TV. The words, "spontaneous explosion" flashed across left shoulder of the anchorman. "Already, " the man said, "there has been thirteen reported case of this bizarre phenonmenon."
"Thirteen?" Scully repeated.
"Six cases have happened in Canada, " the anchor man continued. "Two in Mexico, and five right here in the States."
"Mexico, " Mulder muttered. "I'm sure there's other places in the world we don't know about."
"And we have another case in Hong Kong. A beggar exploded only an hour ago this evening. We warn you that the pictures you will see are disturbing and not recommended for young children."
Hardened from years of dealing with grisly detective work and forensic details, neither of the agents winced visibly when they saw the remains of the beggar. He had exploded on the corner of a busy intersection. It was also a bus stop. Bus riders were going to have a devil of time trying to see what time the bus came through the smear of the blood.
"Witnesses say the man often begs for money and scraps of the food at the same place every day. Today, however, a man stopped the beggar, stole his money, stabbed him in the chest when the beggar tried to protest. The Hong Kong police have him in custody. The beggar, however, exploded in the same manner the homeless had exploded in North America. The witnesses are shocked."
Mulder reached for the remote and turned off the TV. He looked at Scully.
"Hong Kong, " she was mumbling. "It's spreading overseas. Mulder, this is far worse than an epidemic. It's virtually a plague."
"Like I said, " her partner said dryly. "God's holy reign of righteousness and terror has come three years earlier than planned."
The killer had gone to a friend's house once. Her friend was Caucasian, and they had very different tables from the Chinese. Looking at her family push their chopstick ungracefully into the peas and shrimps and spring rolls, the killer wondered what her friend would have thought sitting at this table. No one ever asked, "May you please pass the butter?" When you're Chinese, you simply reach over table and grab the plate.
"You haven't touched your food, " her mother complained.
"I'm not hungry."
"She's going to see the doctor tomorrow, " her father said, as if blaming her lack of hunger on her seizure.
"I hope it's not epilepsy." Her mother feared epilepsy a great deal. But for that matter, her mother freaked out if the killer ever came down with so much as a common cold
"I'm sure the CAT Scan will show that it's nothing, " the killer said. She said CAT Scan in English so her younger sister ended up having to explain what it was to their parents. The sister was creative, and went as far as saying they stuck needles in her brains. Her mother demanded to know if the doctors here were crazy.
"You should eat your food, " her father insisted.
"I'm not hungry, " the killer repeated.
"She should be sent to a concentration camp, " said her older sister. "That'll teach her." Her older sister was the only child of the family to survive the killing fields. She was married now and expecting her first child. "She'll starve there so much that she'll wish she had all the food that's lying on the table right now."
The killer cringed visibly. Any talk about Cambodia made her flinch. with guilt. She didn't suffer through it. Everyone else did. And now there were seven siblings that would never watch a thunderstorm from the porch, experience the cosiness that came with burrowing under six blankets on a cold winter morning, decorate the Christmas tree with Crystal Gale singing "White Christmas" in the back, hear their mother say she loved them one more time. They would never experience the luxuries she had now, and she would never know the suffering they endured before they died.
"They have no idea what it's really like to know sorrow, " her mother agreed. When she said "They, " she meant the killer and her younger sister who were born after they arrived to Canada. Her younger sister never suffered the guilt though. She was completely Canadian, and had inherited the inability to be guilty as while she was at it.
The killer thought about what her mother just said and then remembered what her name was. Ironic, she thought.
"You remember how skinny we use to get, " her mother said to her older sister. "How our stomach would bloat out and her limbs were like sticks. And remember when you brother stole potatoes off a neighboring garden? I didn't expect for him to be beaten so severely. I don't know if the beating killed him, or the hunger did. He was even younger than she" her mother pointed to the killer, "was."
The tears were a hot surprise to the killer. She wanted her family to stop talking. For her, it was a cruel kind of mental torture. But another part of her wanted them to continue. She wanted to feel the guilt and worthlessness that came with each time her family told about the horrors of the killing fields. She wanted to be punished for not living through it.
"Here, eat your dinner, " ordered her father. He used his chopsticks, ones he had inserted in his mouth and licked off of, to put a tofu on her bowl of rice. The fact that he used his own chopsticks probably would have grossed out most of the killer's peers, but her family didn't seem to care that much about table manners. After all, back in Cambodia, they ate dirt and grass to stay alive.
Out of guilt, the killer slowly lifted the tofu to her mouth. She held her breath as she gulped it down, resisting the urge to throw up when she felt it slither down her throat. God.
She hated tofu.
The plane left for Washington at seven thirty in the morning. Scully woke up at six forty five and started to panic when Mulder entered into her room with breakfast.
"I hope you don't mind cold cereal, " he said, putting a pitcher of milk on the nightstand. He sat down on the bed beside her, a bowl of cornflakes in his hand. Mulder had already showered, shaved, and had on his trousers and work shirt. No tie, though, and the top buttons of his shirt were undone.
"I hope you're not this stingy at dinner with your date, " Scully mumbled. But she smiled briefly at him to show her gratitude and propped herself up on one elbow. She looked at the bowl in his hands. "Mulder, I haven't even showered yet."
"It doesn't matter, " he said. "I called the airport and changed the reservations. Our plane leaves at noon."
She sat up, surprised. "Did something come up?"
He chuckled. "No, not yet. I came in here an hour ago to tell you to get ready but you were sleeping so soundly that I felt it would be a shame to wake you. I simply called the airport and they agreed to change the reservations. Cost a small fee to do so but the bureau is paying for it."
Scully gave a small nod. She looked at him, wondering why he was so close to being ready to leave after their flight was postponed. "Why don't you get some rest too? You only got as much sleep as I did."
"I couldn't sleep last night, " Mulder said.
"Were you thinking about the case?"
He nodded. "It's weird, " he started. He reached over to the put the bowl on the nightstand, his arm brushing by Scully's in the process. " I think it selects its victims, like that oil substance did. But this new phenomenon is different somehow. It doesn't share the same intelligence."
Scully listened intently. Mulder knew he had her full attention when she shifted her position on the bed so she was facing him and crossed her legs under the covers.
"I know how it sounds, " Mulder added ruefully.
His partner shook her head. There was a kind of hesitation in her voice. "It doesn't sound as crazy as you think it does."
Mulder stared at her.
She sighed. "In medical school, I learned diseases and viruses have no bias. Anyone can develop a lung infection, contract AIDS, become the victim of cancer. How much money or power you have doesn't provide 100 percent assurance against the ailment. But this . . . "
"It only seems to affect those living in poverty, " Mulder said lightly.
She nodded. "Have there been any other cases so far?"
"I haven't checked the news."
"America AM should be on soon. We'll find out then." She uncrossed her legs, the covers rustling as she did so. Mulder took it as an indication that she wanted to get out of bed. He stood up. "I'm going to take a shower first. I'll be done in fifteen minutes."
"Mind if I use your television?"
"Go right ahead." She retrieved a robe and her undergarments from her suitcase on the floor. "There's a miniature fridge to your left. You can put the milk there." She disappeared into the washroom.
Mulder found the remote control on the nightstand beside the cereal and turned on the TV. He could hear water running from the washroom. America AM was on and he watched it half consciously as he waited for Scully to finish with her shower. At the current moment, America AM was discussing the anxieties that came with shopping for Christmas presents. They were interviewing people in malls across the country.
Bored, Mulder flipped the channel and saw reruns of Care Bears, Sailor Moon, and several step aerobic programs. He went back to America AM.
He dropped the remote when he returned.
Scully came out of the bathroom later, dressed in a robe, her red hair damp against the terry cloth. She saw Mulder sitting in front of the TV, his face fixed on the screen, his expression grave and disbelieving at the same time.
Scully didn't walk up to him; didn't ask him what was wrong. She knew it had something to do with the news. She looked at the TV and felt her stomach drop to her knees.
"Oh my God, " she said slowly.
The news about the Refugee camp in Rwanda was the talk of the day at GreenHill Middle School. The students were clearly shaken up by the news.
"A whole camp, " a boy was saying. "All fifty-eight people exploded. Just like those homeless here in Ontario blew up."
"The reverend at our church said it was the beginning of the apocalypse and that Jesus Christ was coming soon, " a girl announced. "He said God was laying out his punishment for the evil of our world and we should be prepared for when he comes again."
This comment caused the student who sat at the next table to snicker. There was little mirth in her laugh though. She had stayed up all night drawing fifty eight pictures of red, yellow, and orange splashes.
The other students gave her a wary look, and then continued their conversation.
A third girl was shuddering. "What if we're next?" she asked. She opened her silver pencil case and took a mechanical pencil and without realizing what she was doing, inserted it into a plastic pencil sharpener. "This thing is far deadlier than Spontaneous Human Combustion. More people are dying from it and it spreading so fast. It's everywhere. It's here in Ottawa. Maybe we're next and we're going to die soon."
There was a moment of panic, of fear for her two companions before the girl at the next table stopped sniggering and turned around. There was a bitterness to her voice when she said. "Don't worry, you're not going to die from it."
They stared at her. She had always been the strange girl in the school.
"It can't affect you, " she added. "You're safe from this kind of death."
"How do you know?" the third girl demanded. "How can you fucking tell?"
The killer favoured them with a grim smile. "Trust me, " she said, annoyed, "you have nothing to worry about."
"You called us, sir?"
Skinner looked at the two agents from his desk as they began to sit down. "Yes, I did." He folded his hands together in front of him on the desk. "I got a call from the adminitrator's office this morning"
By reflex, Mulder opened his mouth to protest.
"Don't say anything, Agent Mulder, " his assistant director ordered, "we're not reprimanding you here. The call I received this morning was a request to remove you and Agent Scully of the recent case you're working on."
"Sir, we were following protocol" Mulder began.
"Agent Mulder, I already told you you're not here to be reprimanded, " Skinner said sharply.
"Then why are they pulling us off the case?" the agent persisted.
Skinner gave something of a sigh. "After what happened in that refugee camp in Rwanda, the top officials of the United Nation declared it was a global emergency. They want the case handed over the scientists and investigators of the UN."
"They're not going to find anything, " Mulder protested.
Skinner shot him a weary look.
"I know this sounds crazy sir, but I believe this plague has a mind of its own."
"I'm afraid he's right, sir." It was Scully who spoke, which surprised both men. She looked at Mulder quickly, searching for reassurance. He met her gaze, relief and gratitude showing in his eyes, and nodded his head. That was all she needed to lift her head and look at her supervisor. Her face was pale and calm, respectful, but resolute. "As you may have noticed, sir, whatever this plague is, it only happens to those living in one sort of impoverishment or another."
"You're saying this plague chooses its victims." Skinner failed to sound as disbelieving and condescending as he had desired.
Mulder could see that Skinner didn't think he was completely full of bullshit. That, and the fact that Scully backed him up, gave him a tremendous sense of well being. Maybe not everyone thought it he was spooky. He nodded. "Yes, sir, I am. Luckily for us, we seem to have a perfect immunity from it."
Skinner turned his face away from them.
Scully cleared her throat. "With all due respect, sir, " she started, hoping that in being extraordinarily respectful and polite, she would get what she was asking for, "I was wondering if you could contact those who are in charge of the investigation at the UN and make a request to include us in the investigation."
"Agent Scully, I can guarantee you right now that they're not going to agree to that."
Scully knew he was right. She looked away, feeling slightly embarrassed. She was surprised when she felt a hand on her arm. She turned to see Mulder looking at her with an expression that said, "it's alright, Scully. We can't get everything want and that's okay with me."
It was strange how Scully didn't even have to nod her head or smile at him to convey a response. She simply looked at him, and that was all it took for Mulder to know what she wanted to say to him.
/Then it's fine with me too./
She looked back at her supervisor. "I understand sir, " she said sincerely. There a moment of silence before she added, "may I be dismissed?"
Scully stood up walked out of the room briskly. Mulder gave Skinner a brief nod and followed her out of the door.
The killer watched the Christmas lights blink on and off through her bedroom window. Her neighbor was one of those festive freaks that went insane with decoration whenever the holidays arrived. They had tombstones in the front yard when it was Halloween, scarecrows dressed up as pilgrims when it was Thanksgiving, and cute little wooden bunny rabbits on the lawn when it was Easter. Currently, the house was flooded with Christmas light so it looked like a beacon for spaceships.
The killer wondered how they could be so joyous this Christmas. It was a gloomy Christmas for many people, especially with the Orwellian Death still hanging around. The authorities were now arresting any homeless hanging around the mall. There was a fear that they might explode and scare the people shopping for Christmas presents around them. The volunteers who worked at the food banks and emergency shelters had long, weary faces. The people involved in cleaning up the mess that Orwellian Death left behind went home with haunted faces.
Yeah, it was a /very/ depressing Christmas.
/Happy Birthday, Jesus Christ. Did you like the present I sent you?/
The killer picked up the bottle of pills beside her. There were several bottles on her table. She wasn't sure which one of them was lethal but she was sure that if she overdosed on all of them, her death certificate would be filled out by tomorrow morning.
She looked at the bottle carefully, tilting it so she could hear the crisp noise the pills made when they piled on one another. She swallowed hard, knowing that she had to do this. It was the only way to stop any more innocent people from dying.
The strange thing was, ever since the seizure, she thought life was an evil, awful thing, full of pain and blood and hardship. Now that she was so close to taking her own life, she realized that she loved life. It was painful and horrible, but there was something beautiful in how people persisted through another day.
And she took that beauty away from so many people.
Her guilt was enormous, crushing her from the outside in, staining her from the inside out. She wondered how Hitler and Pol Pot could commit the atrocities they did without apparently feeling any guilt. She was no better than them. No better than Pol Pot. No better than the man who was responsible for the death of seven of her older brothers and sisters.
She carefully undid the cap of the bottle and pour the pills into her hands. A spasm tore through her body and she dropped both the bottle and the pills. They scattered on the floor, hitting the ground at different times and bouncing up and down for a moment before rolling away.
/Don't think you're getting off that easily, darling./
Oh God. She had forgotten about Him. Her hands shook so violent that she was no longer able to hold the bottle anymore. It fell on the floor, pushing a few of the pills aside.
She should have never made that deal with Him. She could hear Him laughing in her ears, His hot breath tickling against her ear lobes. He seemed to be everywhere. She turned around and saw nothing. But she knew He was there. She set her teeth.
/This isn't for me. Yes, I hate those images and I hate killing those people and I hate that damn fucking curse you gave me, but this isn't to end my pain. I'm not killing any more people./
/I don't care less if you don't kill another person. But you're not going to die that easily. That painlessly. And you're not going to die immediately, either. No, you'll going to have to live with what you did to those innocent people - /
/They're going to haunt you for some time, you know. But I'm not going to torture you for too long. You're going to die soon enough. It won't be at your hands though. It's going to be a long, agonizing death. I know what you hate the most./
/Stop it, I said! Get the hell out of my mind!/
/But wasn't this how this happened in the first place? I got into your mind. And saw all those faceless people in it. Dying. Being raped. Starving. You wanted them out of your mind. You asked me to kill them - /
/Yes, you did and you know that. You wanted every poor, imprisoned, tortured, hungry, diseased people in the world to be gathered to one place on this world - /
/No! God, stop this!!!/
/And you wanted to bomb them all to tiny little pieces./
She was crying now, crying so hard that her chest hurt and her eyes itched. She placed her hands over her face and felt the tears come streaming out of her body. She didn't know where tears came from, but these tears felt like they were being ripped out of that black, pathetic heart of hers.
/I didn't want this! I wanted them gone at all once! They weren't uppose to keep coming to visit my mind! I allowed you to kill them so that I wouldn't have to see their faceless, tormented little images again!/
He laughed. It was a horrible little laugh, so full of irony and delight and love of seeing others in pain.
/Didn't you know, darling? I'm the father of lies./
He was gone then and the killer sat by her desk, the back of her hands pressed against her mouth, crying. Her sobs were pitiful, loud, causing her body to convulse in small spasm and shudders.
Her younger sister found her like, guilt and sorrow incarnate. Her mother had named her inappropriately. The sister walked up to her and put her arms around her. "Don't cry, " she begged desperately.
The killer hugged her back, crying harder.
Her sister's eyes began to water. "Stop crying." She bit her lips and stroked her older sister's hair. "I hate seeing you like this, " she said, her voice cracking. She suddenly saw the bottles. "Oh God." Her tears started to fall then, trickling down her cheeks and falling onto the soft hair of the killer beneath her. She pulled away. "Stupid!" she cried. "Don't ever try to kill yourself again! Don't you ever try to leave me here!"
The killer looked at her sister, her face tear stained. She was crying so hard it was difficult for her to breath.
Her younger sister was sobbing with her, but she also very angry. And very frightened. "I'll hate you forever if you do!"
There was few moments where neither one said anything. The only noises that could be heard the heavy breathing, the choking, and the hiccuping that came with the two girls crying.
Finally, the killer stood up and one sweep of her arms, dumped all the bottles off the table.
/He was right. I am not going to die by my own hands. And He sent the most important person in my life to insure that./
Her sister walked up to her. She was a full year younger, and a whole inch taller. She was trembling, her shoulders heaving up and down, but her face was defiant. "Promise me you'll never do that again, " she said through her tears.
The killer looked down at her feet.
Her sister slapped her. "Promise me!"
Her sister tried to smile, but the tears on her now soft red face only made her look like she was wincing in pain. She took the killer's arm and waited until she was able to breathe properly before she suggested, "Let's watch some videos I borrowed. We haven't anything together recently." She silently berated herself for that. Ever since the killer had her seizure, her younger sister had been avoiding her. And now her older sister was suicidal. God, she couldn't leave the kid out of her sight for a minute.
The killer wiped her nose with her sleeve. "What videos do you have?"
"Ranma , " her sister replied. She wiped her face with the inside of her T- shirt and smiled again. "It's really funny." She hugged the killer. "It'll make you feel better."
The strange thing was, it really did. The killer sat on the living room couch with her sister, sharing a blanket, and laughed throughout the show. Her tears were dried by the time the first episode. By the tenth, her face was no longer itchy and irritated, although the skin around her eyes and mouth was puffy and tender. She didn't care. All that mattered was that once during the next few hours did she see another faceless image.
A week before Christmas, Mulder went to see Scully. Scully was in her room, packing her clothes. As usual, she was going to visit her mother for Christmas. Christmas music was playing softly in the background.
"You might be right about the Orwellian Death ending soon, Scully, " Mulder said from the doorway. "In the last twenty six hours, there has been no reported cases of the death from anywhere in the world. It stopped just in time for Christmas."
"I couldn't think of a better Christmas present, " Scully said, still bent over her neatly laid out suitcase.
Mulder walked up to her and saw that her eyes were moist. "Christmas has been a hard time for you and your family, hasn't it?" he asked.
She tucked a sweater in the suitcase. "Last year was difficult, " she admitted. "Without Melissa and my father."
"I'm sorry, " he said.
"It'll get easier." She looked away and remained silent for a moment. The only noise that could be heard was someone singing "Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas". Mulder felt a strange nostalgic emptiness when he heard it. "Christmas just hasn't been my favourite season lately."
"Was it ever?"
She looked at him and smiled softly. "When I was a child, it was. Melissa used to wake up early and we'd catch Dad trying to be Santa coming down the chimney." Her smile faded. "What about you? Are you doing anything this Christmas?"
"I was thinking of visiting my mother."
"You should, " Scully told him. "She's probably very lonely."
Mulder didn't reply. He listened to one of the phrases of the song:
"Through the years, we all will be together If the fates allow"
Fate hadn't been too kind to Scully lately. Mulder noticed some flowers on her dresser. "Are those, are they for Melissa?" he asked quietly.
"I just wanted to stop by her grave before I headed off to Mom's house." Her voice was so soft and so low he could barely hear it.
Mulder touched her hair and she looked at him. "Would you want some company?" he offered.
She was touched. It showed her eyes. But she shook her head. "No. This is something I want to do by myself."
He understood. He helped her pack and turned off the CD player before they got ready to leave. They left the building together, saying nothing on the elevator ride. Outside, the air was cold. They could see their breath in the air whenever they breathed. Christmas lights twinkled from various houses and trees. It felt like Christmas. The Orwellian Death seemed a life time away.
Scully stopped him at the door of her car, putting a hand on his forearm and holding lightly onto the sleeve of his coat. "Merry Christmas Mulder, " she said.
"Take care of yourself, " he replied seriously.
She nodded, her face impassive, and got into the car. Mulder headed towards his own vehicle, watching the lights flicker on and off, wondering if which shades of grey he saw was really red and which were really green.
Like the names, "AIDS", "Ebola", and "Spontaneous Human Combustion", few people knew the true origin of the name, "Orwellian Death." Rumours had it that it was a Canadian student at the University of Carleton came up with the name when it was discovered that the plague only attacked those living in poverty.
It was called "The Orwellian Death" because the rumoured student had read an essay called "How the Poor Die" by George Orwell shortly before the connection was made.
The killer liked the name. It sounded a lot more mystical and romantic than "Ebola" and "Spontaneous Human Combustion." She wondered how George Orwell felt about having such a violent, vicious death named after him.
She had stopped at the university's library after school one day to look up, "How the Poor Die" by George Orwell. She also borrowed "1984", written by the same author.
"You're interested in the Orwellian Death as well?" the student librarian asked her, surprised. The killer was twelve, but she looked about seven or eight, especially with the two long braids and the cardigan sweater that matched her pleaded skirt.
"Isn't everybody?" the killer said in an offhand manner.
"I think the whole globe is talking about it, " the librarian said. She ran the books through the computers and stamped them.
The killer hid a smile.
She hated the visions that came haunted her every hour of the day. She hated feeling the people's pain and feeling that she was responsible because she wasn't experiencing it with them. She hated killing them.
She felt that if she had to write "Sorry" on the top corner of another red-orange-yellow artwork again, she was going to explode herself and blow up the whole world while she was at it.
Strange enough, though, she felt a curious pride at the commotion the Orwellian Death had started. Here she was, twelve years old, plain, dull, modest, as ordinary as you can get, an unknown girl living in the (in her opinion) nondescript city of Ottawa. And she had more than two hundred murders to her name. She started a plague that was talked about everywhere, was studied in universities all over the world, was the current top priority of the United Nations.
All at the expense of the lives of innocent people.
/I'm not being mean to them! I'm doing them a favour! The people in the Rwanda camps were dying of starvation! The prisoners in China were being tortured! That child I just killed was being raped by that tourist! I'm helping them!/
Still, she was committing murder. And merciful murder or not, she knew she didn't have the right to feel proud about herself.
She couldn't help herself though. "Nothing like this has ever happened in history, has it?"
"Not that we know of, " the librarian replied.
"Do you know what caused it?" the killer asked.
"No one has a single clue, " the librarian answered. "It just started with that man right here in Ottawa and has been spreading since. No one knows what's causing it and how to stop it."
/Don't feel so proud of yourself. It's a sick thing you started./
"It's awful, " the librarian added softly.
The killer felt the pride fade away like melting snow on a warm March morning. "Do you suppose, " she asked thoughtfully, "that maybe dying is the best thing to happen to those people? Their lives weren't that great to begin with."
"There has been a lot of talk about that, " the librarian mused. "But it's their life. It's up to them to decide how horrible life is. If they thought it was so bad, they would have committed suicide a long time ago. No one else has the right to decide what constitute a good life and make the decision that those not living it should die."
Guilt flooded the killer in waves. She felt so low, so despicable and unworthy. The librarian was right. The killer knew she was right a long time ago, but she only wanted those images out of her head. Her mantra that she was helping those people was just an excuse to stop them from visiting her mind.
/Selfish little bitch./
She looked around her, at the tall shelves of books and the carpeted floor. There was so much books. The place seem to have a mind of its own; it was full of knowledge. "I like it here, " the killer stated simply.
"You like libraries in general?"
She nodded. "They're quiet. I hate noise but the world's so full of noise these days. I like it here."
The librarian smiled at her and handed her the books. The killer took them carefully and walked out of the library. It was sunny but cold outside. The snow had started to fall a week ago and the air was bitterly frigid. The killer shudder, her fingers becoming numb almost immediately. She loved Canada as a country, but she hated the cold with a passion. To her, the worst way to die was to freeze to death. The killer shambled into the glasshouse of the bus stop and took out the book of essays. With trembling fingers, she checked the table of content, found "How the Poor Die" and started to read it.
The latest death was a grim one.
An European business man reported that the prostitute boy he had been fucking in Thailand exploded right in the middle of sex. There was one guy who was never going to try paedophilia ever again.
It was also one bystander neither Scully or Mulder felt much sympathy for.
"There really ought to be a law against child prostitution, " Scully told Mulder as they read over the case in the newspaper. Her voice was disgusted, disturbed.
"There are laws, it just depends on what country you live in, " Mulder muttered. He leaned back on his chair and put a hand over his eyes.
They were in their office, supposedly finishing up some paper work on the case they worked on before the Orwellian. Mulder had the newspaper out on the table and read the article to Scully.
The Orwellian Death was spreading at an alarming rate, averaging a frightening sixteen point two deaths a day. It was random, and other than knowing that the ensuing victim was going to be a desolate one, it was hard to tell who was next. The only protection the United Nations was able to provide for the potential victims were food and water and shelter, hoping that by giving the people a good life, they would elude the plague. Food banks were opening their doors wide, and donations of clothes, food, and emergency materials were being given away as fast as the UN workers and other volunteers could deliver them.
But no matter how hard or how fast they worked, they always missed someone. This was plainly obvious by the headlines that glared across the front cover of the newspaper.
"People who abuse children sexually ought to be castrated, " Scully said.
"But those kids in Thailand help the economy, " Mulder retorted, and the sarcasm and the disgust was plain in his voice. "They good for tourism."
"Fuck them, " Scully said. "No child should be treated in that fashion." She sighed and set her coffee on the desk. "I can't believe this is happening. Nothing like this has ever happened before in history as far as we know."
His partner looked at her thoughtfully. "Remember what you said about this being the act of God?" he asked.
"I derived from the statement you made about God having something against ne-er-do-wells, " Scully said dryly. "Why, do you think this is an act of God?"
"You're the one who's Catholic, " Mulder said.
"I was brought up Catholic, Mulder. I'm not necessarily Catholic."
"Do you believe in God?"
She thought about Kevin Kryder. "I believe it's possible He exists."
"Do you think this could be the hand of God?"
She shook her head. "It's probably the most plausible explanation for what's happening, but no, I don't think it's the hand of God. God is supposed to be good, and what good can come out this? If you want my opinion, I think it's more likely the hand of the devil."
Scully had no idea how close she was to the truth.
Mulder raised an eyebrow. "I never thought about that, " he said slowly.
"I wasn't being serious."
"And what does the devil have against poor people?"
"Maybe he doesn't have anything against them." His face suddenly grew pensive. "Maybe he thinks he's doing them a favour."
"We're talking about the devil here, Mulder."
"No, " Mulder said, deep in thought. "Not the devil. The plague itself."
Scully looked him. "Mulder, you're profiling a /plague/, " she said.
He grinned, which caused Scully to give a small smile at the absurdity of the idea.
Mulder continued, "Think about it though, Scully. What if the plague thinks it is doing a favour for these people. Let's face it, most of the people who died were going to die soon anyway from starvation, disease, beatings, the cold, whatever. What if the plague was killing them so they would have a quicker, more painless death?"
Scully lost her smile. "Are you saying that the plague has a conscience?"
"I not saying anything definite."
"Mulder, you do understand that plagues can't have consciences."
"If the plague has a bias against poor people, why can't it have its own conscience?"
"Even if it did have a conscience, " Scully started, "killing people because they're poor or abused or desolate is wrong. That's saying that human beings cannot overcome their difficulties and deal with it so they should be killed off. They're worth nothing then. It's cruel and inhumane and above all, wrong."
It was a paradox in its self. Mulder, the psychiatrist, was the one who was awed by the paranoia and the science of the case they worked on. Scully, the scientist, was the moralistic one.
"Do you think it will stop soon?" It was Mulder who asked the question. He was looking down at his hands folded at the table.
Scully was looking at them, admiring them without knowing. He had beautiful hands.
To his surprised, Scully nodded. "I do. Plagues, such as these ones, don't last long. It'll be gone in a year at the most. After all, when it finish killing all the people living in poverty, what will it have left to do?"
Mulder looked at her. "I guess that how we get rid of it then, " he said. "When it runs out of unfortunate people to kill, it'll starve itself and then disappear."
Scully looked away, but Mulder could see the disgust and exasperation in her eyes. She swallowed, hard, and continued to stare straight ahead. Mulder look down at his hands again.
It was going to be one very gloomy Christmas.
Three Years Later
The former killer was stopped by the bus driver when she got onto the bus with her best friend Ida Fong one cold Fall morning. They were on their way to school. The bus driver didn't nod his head when the girl showed him her buspass. "Your buspass is overdue, " he said.
The killer stared at him, surprised.
/He has to be kidding. It can't be October already. It was September 30th yesterday.... wait. Thirty days has September - Christ! It's the first one in the goddamn poem!/
She pulled out her money and with a weary sigh dumped it into the coin dispensor. She walked over to Ida. "There goes my lunch money, " she muttered. She slumped into the seat beside her friend and pulled her knapsack off her back and onto her lap.
"Why don't you eat the lunch your father made you?" Ida asked.
"God, are you warped or something? Like I'll eat cold English muffin with cheese melted on it. Disgusting. Besides, I have to feed that homeless at the intersection something."
"Sure. You give him the food you don't want so you can go and buy poutine for yourself. That's charity."
"Better than what most people are doing, " the girl retorted. She shuddered. It was freezing and the blue windbreaker she was wearing didn't do much to keep the heat in. Maybe she should get the winter coat out. "Jesus, why is it so cold now? It's barely fall. We'll be wearing snowpants before it's Rememberance Day."
"It's only going to get worse, " Ida told her dryly. "Mr. Erikson's heater broke down last night during the Student Council meeting."
"English Writing is going to be one cold class."
"I'm skipping it then."
"I think you're overreacting, " Ida told her. She knew her friend hated the cold with a passion, but still, skipping class because the heater was broken was going a little extreme.
The girl didn't answer for a moment. She played with the zipper of her knapsack. Ida looked at the bag. Unlike every other student, the girl didn't put her text books and binders in the knapsack. She did her homework and studying after school in the library and left her books in her locker. No one knew what was inside the knapsack. Ida wondered a lot of course, and she hounded her friend day and night about the content, but she knew how to respect other people's privacy.
The girl looked away. "Well, there's also another reason, " the girl added. Ida raised her eyebrow. The girl sighed, pulled a pen out of the front pocket of her bag and wrote on her expired buspass. She passed it to Ida, her expression pained and wary.
She had written: Don't say it out loud. I had an erotic dream last night about Mr. Erikson.
Ida hooted. "You didn't!" she said between fits of laughter.
"Keep your voice down!" the girl hissed.
"Tell me about it!"
"Do you mind?"
"We'll talk about it later." Ida looked at the girl, who was suddenly shaking her head and smiling. She wasn't one to get mad easily, although Ida suspected she was more complicated than the quiet goody two shoes everyone else thought she was.
The girl turned to Ida. "I'll get the English notes from you tonight then."
Ida snorted. "In your dreams."
"With friends like you, I don't need any enemies."
The girl looked at her friend and smiled. She felt a remarkable sense of love and belonging at that moment. Strangely, she also felt empty and sad at the same time. There was a touch of melancholy to her smile. She looked down at her hands, which always looked like they had been dipped in blood. At least, they looked like that to her. Ida and her sister couldn't see it, but the girl knew her hands would always be tainted with the blood of those she killed three years earlier.
"What's wrong?" Ida sounded concerned.
The girl looked up at her friend, slightly out of it. "Nothing, " she said quickly, hiding her soiled hands behind her back, as if she was afraid that Ida would see them and know her darkest secret. She looked at the bus driver who had stopped another person for having a September bus pass and suddenly smiled. "No. Nothing's wrong at all."
Scully wondered when explaining an inpending case became painful for Mulder. He avoided giving her the casefile until the last minute, as he did in this case. He simply handed her the folder, saying nothing as she opened it.
She looked at him, surprised. "The Orwellian Death is back?"
"That's what they're saying in Oregon, " Mulder told her. "But I have my doubts."
Scully scanned the report. "So do I."
"They asked us to fly down there. We're going tomorrow morning."
Anger flared in Scully's eyes for moment, but died so quickly that Mulder didn't see it. She looked away, wondering why she felt so angry at Mulder for making plans without telling her. He had done that before and she didn't mind it. It wasn't like she had a life outside of work that was being put off.
"I see, " was all she said.
Mulder sensed the tension in her voice. Then again, their relationship had been tense in the last year or so. He felt his guard go up. "Our flights leaves at nine thirty."
She looked at him. "Why don't you tell me about the case?" she asked, her tone of voice arched and testing.
/You're the one with an MD. Aren't you supposed to be able to read and analyse files?/
He was surprised at how close he was to saying that. He had to bite his tongue before lauching into the details. "One man was found bombed to death in Oregon. He was an immigrant fresh off the boat from Singapore who was sponsored over by his family. He had been involved in some gang trafficking and was arrested four years ago. And we all know that Singapore's prisons are more grim than the prisons here. Anyways, no one know what caused the explosion. The hospital has his body in the morgue and they want us to check on it."
"It's not Orwellian, " Scully said, reading the man's files. "He may have been living in destitution back in Singapore but he wasn't as fresh of the boat and you made him seem. He's been living here in America for over three months with his family. They're a well to do family and he was getting an education. Doesn't sound like the type of horrible death the Orwellian wanted to spare someone from."
"I told them that but, they want us to check and make sure it isn't Orwellian."
"And Kersh is allowing us to investigate this? It's a complete waste of two plane tickets."
"It's his call, Scully, " Mulder told her. "His calls the shots and we simply comply."
"So you're actually going to follow his orders, " she said.
The exasperation in his tone surprised her. "Isn't that what you were trying to get me to do since day one, Scully?"
Her expression harden. "Don't treat me like the enemy, Mulder."
He opened his mouth to say something, then closed it. Looked down at his hands that was playing with the folder. No, she wasn't the enemy. She was the only person insane enough to stick by him. Stupid might have been the word. God only knows why she remained with him as long as she had. Since Samantha's death, Mulder had been, as Spender once said to Fowley, emotionally unstable.
"You can't be allies without trust, Scully, " Mulder told her. "And you certainly haven't been putting your trust in me lately."
Scully knew he was talking about her not backing him up in their session with Kersh. For that matter, Scully had been contradicting everything he said whenever they were interviewed. As far as Mulder was concerned, she was trying to make him look paranoid and unreasonable and discrediable. She wondered why Mulder was still putting up with her.
"I can't help it if what you say is going against science, " she said.
"And what does Science have to say about the Orwellian Deaths?"
She felt trapped. To that day, no one knew what caused the Orwellian Death. Had it not been so selective, they could have just passed it off as "Spontaneous Human Explosion". She opted to using her resort phrase, "I'm sure there is a reasonable explanation for it" but then realized that recently, whenever she said that, she had little scientific proof to back it up. It was almost as if she was saying to spite Mulder. She finally gave a sigh of resignation.
"I'll see you tomorrow morning then, " she said. Mulder hated himself for the smugness he was feeling. He didn't say anything as Scully stood up and walked out of the room. She avoided spending time in their new cubicles, which was the opposite of what Mulder was doing. It was strange that he was living there now. He never did get used to it. It wasn't the same without the "I Want to Believe" poster.
**The former killer didn't want to go see her dying grandmother. She argued in vain about it with her parents.
"But I haven't even met her before!" she whined.
"More reason for you to see her, " her mother said firmly. "She's dying and you're her granddaughter. She should see you once in her life."
"But she's probably so close to death that she won't know I'm there, " the killer protested.
"Hey, watch what you say or I'll beat the living shit out of you, " her father snarled. But the girl knew he was feeling guilty. She felt people's guilt where ever she went. It felt like eletric vibes pulsing through her body, and if the person was holding an astonishing amount of remorse, she got migraines. Once, she passed someone who accidently ran his car over a dog on the street and she blacked out there on the bus. She knew what he had done because she saw it. The images of faceless disimpovished disappeared, and they were replaced with those of guilt.
But it wasn't as bad. It wasn't her guilt, and she only suffered physically, not mentally from it. She didn't mind it as much. She looked at her father. He was feeling remorseful for not seeing his mother earlier when she had written to him and asked him to visither.
Now she probably wouldn't recognize him when he came to her hospital bed.
"Okay, fine, I'll go, " the girl said. "Just let me pack some stuff up first."
Her mother sighed wearily. "Go get your anime tapes, " she said in exasperation. Her parents disapproved of her anime obsession. If only they knew how that obsession stopped one of the deadliest plagues in the history of the world.
The girl ran up the stairs and was pleased to find out her younger sister had already packed all the videos. "Did you pack Vision of Escaflowne?"
"We're going to see our grandmother kick the pail. I figured we needed something more comical. I packed Dragon Half and Dirty Pair Flash." They grinned at each other. They loved saying "Dirty Pair Flash" because it sounded so perverted and pornographic. The truth was it was a relatively innocent anime. They went down the stairs together.
"Hurry up, your grandmother is waiting for you, " her father snapped.
"Not half as eagerly as God is waiting for her, " the former killer said coolly. Her father smacked her on the head as hard as he could.
After Scully left the room, Mulder reached into his desk and pulled out a framed picture of Samantha. She was swinging from the jungle gyms, her long brown hair tied in pigtails. She was smiling at the camera, proud that she had reached the top. She looked so innocent and happy and carefree.
His little sister. He wished she had never been born.
If Samantha had never existed, they wouldn't have taken her. He wouldn't have to feel that it wrong to be happy. That he only deserved bad things to happen to him to make up for Samantha's suffering.
He wouldn't feel so goddamn worthless all the time.
He was ashamed of those feelings, but he couldn't help it. She had disapeared too long ago for him to think of her as someone he loved.
He had lost so much looking for her and she turned up dead. The thought made him cringe with pentience. It wasn't Samantha's fault any more than it was his fault. He had no right to blame her.
He ran a finger lightly over her face and then stared at the picture for a long time, silently telling her how sorry he was. Finally, he put it back in his drawer, underneath old files and unfinished reports.
He had long since thrown out the videos and magazines from that drawer.
As Mulder an Scully had suspected, the bomb victims in Oregon were not the victims of the Orwellian Death. The man had died as a result of having a compressed air pump inserted up his rectum. Scully had determined that when she did the autopsy.
"But the forensic team didn't find a compressed air pump in his house, " Dr. Richter replied. She was an ER doctor, a blond woman in her early thirties and so attractive that Scully felt that the two plane tickets weren't wasted after all. The hospital left the body in her care until the FBI arrived. The actual forensic pathologist was having his appendix removed.
"The man was used to be involved in a series of gang trafficking, " Mulder said from one end of the table. "I got a hold of the police report and apparently he ratted out on the members in the gang. I'm going to assume that probably this gang from Singapore came to visit him in his home here in Oregon when his family was out, sedated him, and then inserted the compressed air hope into his rectum and had him exploded to make it look like an Orwellian."
"The toxicology report did show traces of rohipnal in his blood, " Dr. Richter admitted.
Scully walked over to the sink or peel her gloves off.
Mulder suggested they call the police to investigate all the hotels and transportation stations in the area too see if anybody checked in a couple of days before the death and then left the city a couple days afterwards. He suspected that since they man had been dead for almost three days, the culprits had already left the country.
Dr. Richter thanked them for their time and shook their hands, apologizing for dragging them all the way here. "Orwellian has never struck here in Oregon and we weren't sure if this was it."
"I understand, " Scully told her. "It was wise of you to have it verified before you went public with it."
"I thought you felt the trip was a waste of two plane tickets, " Mulder muttered his under breath, but not soft enough that Scully couldn't hear him.
Scully didn't look at him, but she pulled her lips tightly together and swallowed. Her jawline was rigid. "You did a very good job of keeping it under wraps, " she told Dr. Richter, her voice flat and even. A little too even. It actually sounded like it was very close to shaking. "The receptionist didn't know what we were talking about when we told her we were here about the Orwellian case."
"Anyone with any shred of common sense would have verified it first. It would have been embarrassing if they didn't, " Dr. Richter stated.
"Humiliating, " Mulder quipped. His partner shot him a look.
"What was that for?" Scully asked when they were out of the morgue.
He gave one of those looks that told her he was amused as well as irritated. "Doesn't it surprise you, Scully how everyone regards the Orwellian Death as the most tragic epidemic to strike the planet since AIDS?"
Scully was surprised. "You don't believe it's tragic?"
He stopped by the elevators and pressed the button. "How much more tragic is it than homelessness and starvation and war?"
"No one had ever said that homelessness or starvation or war wasn't tragic."
"But you don't see the world going into a panic about it like they did with the Orwellian Death. Why were we even trying to stop it, anyway?"
There was a loud ping and the elevator's doors opened for them. They both stepped in, marvelling at the size of the elevator before remembering that doctors wheeled beds in there.
"For the same reason we're trying to stop cancer, AIDS, and Parkinson Disease, " Scully told as she pressed G for ground floor. "Because despite what you think, Mulder, this world does consist of good people who want to do good to others. There are people who trying to make this a better world to live in for everyone."
"It's such a shame they don't equal the bad people who want to destroy it."
He knew how to press her buttons. "Dammit, Mulder, " she snapped. "You might as well say we should stop trying to stop murderers, child molesters, people who beats their spouses. God, what is wrong you with you? Your sister dies and you suddenly gain the right to conclude that the whole world is evil and no one should try to stop it? That's worst justification for amorality I have ever heard. Oh God."
She looked at him, cringing at the pain in his face when she mentioned his sister. She felt her mouth go dry. "Mulder... I didn't mean to..."
The elevator door opened.
He smiled bitterly at her. "It's okay, Scully, " he said. "You're right." He stepped out of the elevator.
Scully closed her eyes briefly, her long silken lashes touching her cheekbones. She should have kept her big mouth shut.
But, Christ, he could be such a pain in the ass sometimes.
"Miss?" She opened her eyes to see a doctor with a boy in a wheelchair. "Are you getting off?"
She nodded unsteadily. "Yes, " she said softly. "Sorry about that."
The girl and her sister got out of the car together. Their older sister had stayed home with her new baby so it was just the four of them visiting their grandmother from Ottawa. They drove all the way to Oregon and arrived at their aunt's place yesterday. Together, the family headed to the hospital.
"Do you think Grandmother will look gross?" the younger sister asked the girl. They walked to the hospital side by side. Their parents and relatives lingered behind them.
"I don't know, " said the girl. She put a hand on the back of her head in an attempt to keep the bright sun off her dark hair. She believed that too much sun made her hair brown and she didn't want that. "I hope not. If she has tubes and stuff coming out of her, I'm going to throw up."
"Don't blame you. I hope she doesn't die when we're there." The younger sister shuddered. "I've never seen anyone die and I don't want to just yet. Have you seen anyone die before?"
The girl thought about the faceless people. It was so long ago; she didn't feel like they exist anymore. The only thing that remained from that incident was her guilt and the pictures she drew back then. Those were kept in the knapsack that she carried everywhere. The pictures never stayed far from her. She carried them the same way the parents carried pictures of their children in their wallets. "No, " she said, her voice hoarse. "Not unless TV counts."
Her sister nodded. "Yeah, same here. Hey, we better stop and wait for everyone else. They're slow, but they know where they're going. We don't."
The girl didn't say anything as she stopped and turned around. She had to squint her eyes at the brightness in order to see her family. Her parents were three cars down, walking very slowly. Her mother had arthritic feet. They were all dressed in dark, like the grandmother had already died. It was strange. She squinted her eyes and stared at her family so more. The blackness in their clothes seemed to be alive, as though the colour was bleeding off the materials. Running from the collars and dripping down to the hems.
They ran off the clothing, filling the air and the girl's peripheral view with darkness. They seemed to be swirling really, leaking off various parts of the clothes and moving out in circles until they collided in one another, until all she could see was a thick, dull ink. Even her sister disappeared.
She was alone in the darkness until another girl appeared.
This girl wasn't standing up like she was though. She was lying on a table, tubes coming out of her, pale, limp, exhausted. She was also crying as someone continued to poke her with instrument that made the former killer flinch.
When the flinch was over, the girl in her image was gone, and the darkness had disappeared. The former killer blinked at the light, her eyes adjusting to seeing colour again.
Her sister put a hand on her shoulder. "Are you okay? You were spaced out for a moment and then you jerked your shoulders."
The girl drew a shuddering sigh.
/Someone is feeling guilty again, but this kind of guilt feels familiar./
"I'm okay, " she said, aware that her voice was uneven. That she was shaking. She had images of guilt before, but this one had effected her in a way the others didn't. The vision was less than three seconds long, but that was all it took to change the world for the former killer. Nothing seemed familiar anymore. Her surrounding felt translucent, not real. The ground was tilting, and her sister faded in and out of her vision.
Something wasn't right, but she couldn't put her finger on it. She had this weird feeling in her chest that the world was going to end for her soon.
She pushed the thought out of her mind and walked on.
Mulder walked quickly towards the parking lot. He could hear Scully trying to catch up behind him, the quick clicking of her heels against the pavement. He didn't bother to stop or slow down for her. She was feeling bad about what she said to him about his sister in the elevator and he knew that. Still, he couldn't shrug off what she just said, mainly because what she said was right.
The sun was bright in the parking lot. He wished he brought his sunglasses with him. The brightness took his mind off what Scully said in the elevator for a moment. When she had mentioned Samantha, he felt like someone had shot an electric current through him. He avoided pursuing the conversation any further. People who wallow in their guilt seldomly want to talk about it. No one wants to feel worthless and remorseful, even if they do deserve it.
He looked away from the glare of the sun as he made his way to his car. There was a family a few cars down, two girls about ten or eleven in the front. One of them was dressed like an ordinary teenager, jeans, airwalks, and a sleeveless top with "Hole" printed over her chest. The other one, who looked younger, was dressed conservatively, a cardigan over her white blouse that was tucked into a pleated skirt. Her hair was pulled into two tight braids that fell all the way down her back and unlike her companion, she wore no make-up or jewellery.
Mulder didn't know why he took every detail of the second girl. He couldn't help but feel like that girl held some answer to a problem he had been working on for a very long time. She seemed different and /necessary/ for some reason. He couldn't explain it. God, he knew why people called him Spooky now.
He looked at her. She was about three metres away from him, looking through him at the hospital where her grandmother laid dying. The girl sensed his presence, lift her chin up and looked at his face.
Their eyes never met. Something flashed between them quickly, something that made Mulder gasp out loud. He looked away and turned his attention back to the girl.
And hell broke loose.
He didn't knew exactly what happened, or how it happened, but the girl was suddenly on the parking lot floor, unconscious. Her back was arched, her arms and legs flailing in jerky, rigid movements. A thin line of blood trickled out of her mouth and down her chin, turning the froth around her mouth red. She was shaking violently.
Her family was screaming, her parents and aunts and uncles trying to hold her limbs down, the other girl wearing the "Hole" shirt shrieking to them to let go of her.
Scully, thank God, was only a few steps behind Mulder and took control of the situation. "Everyone get away from her!" she ordered, breaking into the family circle. "I'm a doctor! Get the hell away from her!"
The girl wearing the "Hole" shirt screamed at her mother and pulled the hysterical woman off the unconscious child. Everyone else let go of the girl.
Mulder ran to the hospital to get help while Scully put undid the first few button of the girl's blouse and skirt. She took off her heavy jacket and placed it under the girl's head as a form of soft padding. The girl was still convulsing and Scully switched between making sure the girl didn't hurt herself too much as she continued to spasm on the hard ground floor and yelling at the family to not come any closer.
The doctors arrived less than half a minute from when it happened. The family was going clearly shaken up, particularly the mother. Only the girl in the "Hole" shirt was collected and composed. Mulder heard her say to a doctor, "It has happened before, " as they took who Mulder assumed was her sister into the hospital.
The family followed the doctors into hospital and the parking lot was quiet again. The sun was shining brightly.
Scully sighed and got back into the car.
Mulder looked at her briefly. Scully looked just like she did before the girl had her seizure: calm, cool, unaffected. There was a touch of annoyance in her face when she looked back at Mulder. The expression on her face clearly said, "Come on, Mulder. I want to go now."
He ignored her and looked back at where the girl had convulsed. Scully had unsnapped the straps to the girl's knapsack and it laid forgotten on the parking lot ground. It was full, bulging with something that was roughly the shape of loose leaf paper. Mulder wondered what the contents were, but he decided against invading her privacy.
He turned to see the girl wearing the "Hole" shirt. "Can you thank that woman in the car for helping out with my sister?" she asked.
Mulder nodded. The girl smiled and picked up her sister's bag. "Thanks. Tell her I'm sorry about my family. They're not the smartest bunch when it comes to these kind of things. Sheesh, the last time this happen, an old man at my church grabbed her head and started to slam it against the floor in an attempt to wake her up. Aren't they off their nut or what? And I keep telling to not hold her down if it happens."
"Is she epileptic?"
"The last time we checked, she wasn't. But after this, I can't be sure anymore. I hope she isn't." She took two small steps backwards, cradled the bag to her chest and turned around.
Mulder cleared his throat and she looked back. He stammered out the first few words. "I- I don't mean to pry, " he started.
She waited for him to continued. She was actually very pretty, much more so than her sister, with eyes that were rounder and larger than the average Chinese girl. She also appeared older than he had first suspected, probably thirteen or fourteen.
"What your sister's name?" Mulder asked.
Her expression changed, but the transformation was subtle. "Muchou, " the girl said softly. "It means sorrow free. It's a cursed name." Then, as if she said too much, she looked away and ran towards the hospital.
Mulder got into the car with Scully.
"Who was that?" his partner asked.
Mulder looked out the window. Scully was pulling the car out of their parking space. "The sister. She wanted me to thank you for helping out with the seizure."
"It must have been the first time. The family didn't know what to do."
"Actually, according to her sister, it happened before. I'm curious when though. Do you think we can get a hold of her medical files?"
Scully eyed him dubiously and paid for the parking fee at the same time. "Why would you want her files for?" she queried.
"Thank you ma'am." The parking lot attendant handed Scully her change.
"Keep the change."
She drove out of the hospital parking lot. Mulder continued to look out the window, his expression pensive. Scully tried to get his attention again. "Mulder, " she said, louder and sharper, "what do you want the girl's medical files for?"
Mulder didn't answer. He was still shaking from the experience. He could sworn that after the girl had looked at him, before she had her seizure, he saw Samantha.
The fingers of the approaching person were completely dark, like she had dipped them in Chinese ink. She wore a torn rag over her small frame, ragged around her rounded belly. The child wasn't pregnant or overfeed; on the contrary, she was malnourished, the bones above her abundant stomach protruding through the thin transparent skin. She smelled of neglect and decay, like vomit and garbage. Her hair was thin and tangled, crawling with lice and dirt. She walked like an old woman, her feet slipping in the crevice of the muddied and polluted streets of her home.
If she had eyes, they would have been listless, dull, or empty.
But she didn't have eyes. She didn't even have a face. Like all those who visited Muchou's mind, she was faceless. A rag doll no one wanted and threw away.
Muchou shook her head, trying to make her go away, but she stayed in her mind, the wind blowing her rags and hair around her. She was so thin, emaciated, that one would think she would vanish in the breeze.
"Get away from me, " Muchou pleaded with the silent figure. "If you don't, you'll die."
But she stood there, her body emitting sorrow and poverty. A victim of disease, violence, hunger. She knew what pain was. She had experienced it most of her life. Perhaps all of it.
"Go away, " Muchou begged, her voice rising. "I don't want to kill you."
The girl took a step towards Muchou, but her knees were so weak, she fell onto the ground and laid there, struggling for air. Breathing was labourious for her.
"No, " Muchou cried, lifting her feet so she could run away from the girl, perhaps far enough that the girl disappeared from her peripheral view and was out of her mind. But her legs wouldn't budge. She couldn't move from her position. She was trapped. "Get up!" she yelled, panic rising in her chest. "Get up and ran away from me! Get out of my mind and save yourself!"
The girl attempted to stand up, one bony hand against the hard ground trying to push the weight of her wasted body up. The bones of her arms shook as she raised her upper body off the ground. She moved her knees underneath her chest for balance and slowly picked herself up.
And she exploded.
Muchou felt the force of the explosion against her body, causing her to stagger backwards and fall on her bottom. Red, yellow, and orange filled her vision for a moment, and something sticky began to trickle down her hair and face. She lifted a shaking a hand and touched her wet cheek. When she brought her hand back, she saw it was covered with blood.
Muchou woke up screaming.
Scully felt slightly annoyed as she packed her clothes that afternoon. Her cynical, almost misanthropic (did she just call herself misanthropic?) attitude of the late surprised her a bit. She wondered if she was tired of working with Mulder. Maybe all those years of following his impossible quests and keeping him in line were finally catching up to her. It would explain why she was so quick to refute everything he said now.
She snapped the suitcase closed and walked over to Mulder's hotel room.
In the car, he had mentioned something about obtaining the girl's medical files. Scully wondered what he meant by that. She had managed to get his attention by touching his arm but when she asked why he wanted those files, he told her to forget about it. But she knew he was thinking about the girl. She couldn't tell why though.
"Have you packed yet?" she asked when Mulder opened the door.
"I'm going to stay a few extra days, Scully. Tell Kersh I'll pay for the hotel bills."
Scully looked at him. "What will you be doing to do here?"
"There's something I want to check out, that's all."
"Do you want to talk about it?"
"This is something I need to do on my own, " Mulder told her.
Irritation was starting to show in Scully's expression. "What do you want me to tell Kersh? He wants us back in Washington tomorrow morning. Don't forget we have that Evion case in New York to work on."
Mulder sighed. "The Evion Case can wait."
Scully's irritation turned into exasperation. "It's a kidnapping case, Mulder. The first relevant case Kersh has given us since we started working with him. He's finally giving us a chance to prove that we can work in cases more explicit than sifting through piles of manure and you're blowing it off so you can get the medical records of a girl who just suffered a common seizure in a parking lot. What the hell is so important about her?"
"It's nothing, " Mulder insisted, his tone of tone clearly aggravated. "Look, Scully, I just need you to stall Kersh on my behalf for a couple of days."
"A couple of days may be too late for the boy and his family, " Scully pointed out, referring to the Evion kidnapping case.
"Kersh already has two other agents working on it."
"They're not getting anywhere, " Scully snapped. "They need our help. If we're not in Washington by tomorrow morning, Kersh is going to assign someone else." Mulder looked away as Scully continued to speak. "And you know how hard I had to worked in order to convince Kersh to give us this case if this Orwellian Death scare turned out to be false. I'm not willing to risk it."
Mulder turned to face her. "I remember a time where you once said you were willing to put your job on the line for me."
Scully's anger and shock was clear, as was Mulder's surprise and regret.
Scully's voice shook when she spoke. "I'm not willing to put my job on the line for some asinine quest that you won't tell me about."
Perhaps it was the guilt he was feeling for turning an intimate moment they shared against her or the evident pain on Scully's face, maybe even a combination of the two, that made Mulder close his eyes and mutter, "you're right, Scully. I'll start packing right now."
Scully nodded mutely, her face hard as stone, and turned to go to her own hotel room.
Mulder shut the door softly after she left and started to pack.
Muchou Liang's scream startled everyone in the hospital room. Her mother, sister, and the doctor dropped what they were doing and rushed over to her bedside. The girl stopped screaming and opened her eyes when her mother reached down to hug her. "Oh God, " she whispered.
Her mother pulled away, her face drawn and frightened. "Shemmasze?" she demanded, her hands gripping her daughter's shoulders.
Muchou took a couple of deep breaths and said, in a shaky voice, "Mown."
Her sister translated the short dialogue to the doctor .
/What's the matter?/
Muchou looked at her sister. "Ying-ying, what happened?" she said quietly in English, for they spoke English together. She didn't ask her mother because that would only make the woman become more hysterical. The death of seven children made the woman easily agitated when something like this happened to her remaining children.
"You had another seizure."
"Shit, " Muchou whispered. Her eyes widen. "Christ, no."
"It must have been some nightmare, " Ying-ying said.
"It was horrible, " Muchou replied. She was still breathing hard. "Was I mumbling in my sleep?"
Ying-ying shook her head. "You were sleeping like a log."
Muchou seemed to find peace in that. She gave a faint smile. "Good." Her eyes widened again. "There was a man in the parking lot-"
"The one with the big nose?"
"Yes." Muchou seemed anxious. "Do you know who he was?"
"No, but his wife was a doctor and helped you while you were in the parking lot having your seizure."
Muchou nodded, clearly disappointed that she couldn't get more information about the man. She turned back to her confused mother and touched her hair. "Meiyosze."
/There is no problem now. It's over./
Her mother relaxed and looked at Ying-ying. Ying-ying shrugged. The doctor spoke to them, asking them to leave the room because he wanted to check on Muchou.
"Doctor?" Muchou asked.
Muchou looked so innocent. Ying-ying was younger than she was, but she looked smaller. Childish, even. "Can I have a TV in my room?"
"Sure, but after I finish examining you."
"I would like to have it now."
The doctor was amused. "Is there's something on you can't miss?"
Muchou shook her head lightly because her head throb with pain. Her tongue and check hurt like hell so she suspected she had bitten them during the seizure. "I would like to watch the news."
"The news? That's unusual for a girl your age."
She smiled grimly. "I just want to know if that was really a dream or not."
Mulder didn't get to his apartment until it was past midnight. He didn't bother turning on the lights as he made his way to the couch. The darkness was comforting. He stretched himself on the couch and stared at the ceiling, thinking about what happened so far today.
He saw Samantha. He was certain of that. She was being experimented on. The vision lasted for less than a second, but it was burned in his memory. She looked like she was in a great deal lot of pain.
He wondered if that was a vision of the past or the present. It had to be the past. Samantha was dead. She'd been dead for a long, long time.
Then why the hell did that girl call up that image? That puzzled Mulder the most. The girl in the hospital was born after Samantha died. Maybe she was born on the same day Samantha died. He had investigated cases like that before, where that connection somehow opened a door to the dead person's past. Who knows? Mulder was horribly confused about the events of the day.
The ring of the phone caused him to jump and he picked it after rolling his eyes at himself. "Mulder."
"It's me. I hope it isn't too late."
"Scully, I used to wake you up at three o'clock in the morning. What is it?"
"They found the Evion child."
"Was he alright?"
There was a pause. "No."
"I'm sorry to hear that."
"Kersh is letting us off the case." Scully's disappointment was heavy. She was upset over the fact they missed out on a relevant project and that the child didn't make it out alright. Scully was both a doctor and a FBI agent, two occupations that required the ability to detach oneself from those they were trying to save, but she had always been first and foremost a human being.
Mentally, Mulder started to make plans for Oregon the next day but the pause on the other line told him Scully wasn't done yet. He waited.
"He also wants to see us tomorrow morning, " his partner continued. "To go over the Oregon case."
"Scully, we already know the man didn't die of Orwellian."
"I know, but with what happened in Haiti-"
Mulder sat up. "What happened in Haiti"
"It's real this time, Mulder. I saw the footage on the news. The UN is allowed to investigate the case this time." Mulder knew the last sentence was a reference to an mass explosion in Tunguska in mid 1997 that killed about forty prisoner. The UN had not been allowed access to the site. "A little girl exploded to pieces in Haiti, " Scully continued. "The Orwellian Death is back."
"You can't be serious."
"I know it's ironic, especially after after we just finished investigating a false claim..."
She sighed. "Anyways, Kersh wants us there to explain what we saw in Oregon. He wants to be sure it wasn't the Orwellian."
There was a moment of silence. Mulder was trying to pocess everything that happened that day. A mistaken cause of death, a vision of his sister, the girl's seizure in the hospital, and a bona fide Orwellian Death.
The whole world was dancing mad.
Mulder turned on the lamp light. "Thanks for letting me know, Scully."
She sounded tired. "Good night."
/About what I said in the hotel, I'm sorry./
"Nothing. I'll see you in the morning."
She was silent for a moment and then hung up the phone.
It took Mulder a while to put the phone down. He still couldn't believe the Orwellian was back. On the same day that he sees Samantha and some girl suffers a seizure in his presence as well.
Remembering the girl, he made a phone call to the hospital Scully and himself had visited earlier that day. After he gave the receptionist his name and badge number, he said, "there was a girl brought in today after she suffered a seizure in the parking lot. It was in the afternoon."
"What's her name?"
Shit! Mulder was not familiar with Chinese names and he forgot how to pronounce this one. It started with an M and meant "Sorrow free" and that was all he could remember. "I don't know, but she was admitted in today. Her first name started with M, if that's any help."
He heard the flicking of papers and then the woman said, "Would it be Muchou Liang?"
Mulder was positive her name was Muchou. "That would be her. Would you be able to put me through to her or her doctor?"
"I'm afraid she was discharged an hour ago."
"Damn, " Mulder said softly.
"Please wait a minute, " said the receptionist. And Mulder heard someone, man's voice, talking to her in the background.
Then the man picked up the phone. "Is this Agent Mulder?"
"Yes, it is, " Mulder replied, a little taken back.
"This is Dr. Aimes. I was treating Muchou. She asked for you."
That really surprised Mulder. "Really?"
"What a coincidence you were looking for her as well. She didn't know your name, but she wanted to know who was the man she saw in the parking lot. I got your names off Dr. Richter. I guess she wants to thank you and Agent Scully for helping out with her seizure."
Mulder had his doubts but he said, "Maybe she did."
"Mind you, she thinks Agent Scully is your wife."
"A lot of people do. Listen, I was wondering if I could get Muchou's medical files. Would that be possible?"
"I'm afraid not. She doesn't live in the states. Her grandmother's dying and she was visiting the old woman when she had the seizure. She's from Canada."
"Damn, " Mulder said again.
"But she did leave her aunt's address and told you to told me to give it you as soon as possible. I don't know how long she's staying in Oregon."
Mulder wrote down the address and filed it in his wallet. Then he thanked the doctor and hung up.
He hoped like hell Scully forgave him for what he was about to do the next day.
Mulder phoned Scully while she was sitting on the couch outside of Kersh's office. His secretary stopped what she was doing and looked at Scully. Scully ignored her.
Mulder didn't even bother with the /it's me./ "Do you have the report we made yesterday about that man in Oregon with you?"
"Yes. We're going to have to show it to Assistant Director Kersh. Mulder, where are you?"
"On a plane heading to Oregon."
For a moment, Scully was so shocked, she could not speak. She stood up slowly, made a motion to Kersh's secretary with her hand to say she'd be a minute, and then left the room. She fought to keep her voice even. "Mulder, you know Kersh is expecting both of us."
"It only takes one of us to explain the facts to him." For a guy who carried his guilt like a cross, he sounded exceptionally unrepentant about what he was doing.
"Goddamn you, Mulder, " Scully hissed, "he's expecting both of us! You're already on thin ice with him. Push him any further and you'll be out of the bureau."
"That's why I need you to cover for me, " Mulder told her.
Scully couldn't believe what she was hearing. "Exactly what do you want me to say to him?"
"Tell him I'm doing background checks."
Scully felt the temperature rise between her temples. "And who are you doing the background check on?"
"A girl named Muchou Liang."
"The one who had the seizure."
Mulder sounded reluctant. "Yes."
Scully swallowed, the bones in the throat showing as she did. "Can you tell me what's so important about her?"
"I'll explain it the next time I see you. I just need you to take the heat off me when you go in the see Kersh."
"I don't see how I can, Mulder. He expects to see you in his office in a few minutes and he's not going to accept background check as an excuse, especially if it's unauthorized, which this is."
Mulder must have missed the freedom and flexibility that came with working with the X Files. Scully had to admit, she missed it too. They had reported to Skinner in the past, but they were allowed to decide which cases had priority and how they were to go about those that did. It had been easier to take "unauthorized" trips to suspected alien beacon stations and hidden missiles silos then.
"You've done this before with both Skinner and Kersh."
"And you think I like doing it?" Scully demanded. "You're not there, Mulder. Of course you're not there. You're never there. You have no idea how hard it is to have your superior tell you let them down. Or how much it strains your self esteem to be told how irresponsible you're acting." Scully didn't mean blurt out all this, but once she got started, she couldn't help herself. After all, she prided herself on her precision and efficiency when it come to her work. She worked hard to gain approval from her superior. "I'm sick of covering up for you all the time. I'm sick of being your glorified servant. And it's harder to play the role when you won't tell me what the hell is going on."
"Why do you really want to know what's the hell is going on? So you can disprove everything I say and make me sound like a jackass?"
She couldn't believe him. "Mulder, I never - "
"You do that all the time, Scully. Do you have any idea how many times I put my faith in you to back me up when we approach Skinner or Kersh or someone on the sub committee? And how many times I only had it thrown in face as a joke when you refute every goddamn thing I say? Maybe I would stop treating you like the glorified servant as you so colourfully put it if you stop trying to make me look like a lunatic so you could look so fucking in control and sensible all the time!"
Scully stood perfectly still for a moment, waiting for the thunderclap of shock to pass her. She was surprised at the tightness of her throat. She blinked. "Do you really think that's what I'm trying to do?" she murmured.
Mulder must have heard the shock and disbelief in her voice. The silence on his end of the phone was heavy.
Scully was equally overwhelmed. She jerked when she felt a tap on her shoulders.
"Agent Scully." It was Kersh's secretary. "Assistant Director Kersh is ready to see you, " she said. Scully nodded mutely at the blond. The secretary disappeared.
Without a word, Scully reached up to the cell phone with her free hand and pressed the off button. She held the phone in front of her for a moment, her expression completely blank, and then walked into Kersh's room.
The drive back to Ottawa was a long and cold one. Muchou spent most of her time in the car looking mangas, anime magazines, and sharing her walkman with her sister. They listened to Sarah MacLachlan, Hole, Our Lady Peace, and a variety of anime soundtrack and theme songs.
The indulgence in her anime obsession kept the leper from reappearing in Muchou's mind. He had appeared shortly after her family had started their drive home that morning. Her grandmother died a few hours before that and her parents felt it was time to head home.
Muchou didn't know which country the leper came from. His limbs looked like they were being eaten from inside out, his overall physique so repulsive she almost exploded him the moment he entered her mind. Instead, she opened a Tokyo Babylon manga and studied pictures in it.
It would flabbergasted some people, as well outraged others, that 2D people maybe have been all Muchou needed to control the Orwellian plague.
The leper appeared every time she put the manga down to look out the window, with less clarity and vividness. By the time she exhausted all her mangas and magazines, the boy had disappeared.
But he was still out there somewhere in the world. She wondered if by pushing him out of her mind and ignoring him, she committed a crime that was equal to what the Orwellian would have done to him three years ago. The concept bothered her conscience, and she looked at her hands again. As usual, she saw the blood of the three hundred and eleven people she killed.
Three hundred and eleven, not three hundred and twelve. She had tried to save that girl in Haiti; she didn't kill her. As much as her guilt ridden half wanted to, she couldn't blame herself for that particular death, even if it was her powers that made it possible. But that wasn't going to stop her from drawing a picture for her. Another hideous red, yellow, orange orgy of colours.
It baffled her that the curse had returned. She knew it had to do with that guy she saw at the hospital. She got his name from the doctor: Agent Fox Mulder. Beside wondering what kind of a name was Fox, she was curious about the girl she saw in her vision. She knew he saw it too. The girl was probably related to him, a daughter, maybe. She must have been dead, Muchou figured. And he was feeling guilty for that. She didn't know why. She was hoping to talk to him.
She suddenly had the urge to look through at the earlier artwork in her bag. Count all the sheets. She waited until they were safely in Ottawa to do so. The pictures were spread out like a fan on her bedroom floor. Wearing an extra sweater because the Ottawa was currently ridiculously cold, she counted them in Chinese, and then counted them again. And again.
She couldn't believe it. One was missing.
"Impossible, " she whispered, and started to organize the pictures in piles of tens. Although she carried the knapsack where ever she went, she never opened it up to remove anything. But no matter how many times she counted them, she ended up with only three hundred and ten pictures.
After counting it about thirty times, she shoved all the pictures back in the bag, and then started on one for that girl in Haiti. Her anger and frustration returned as she slashed the paper with her charcoals. She wrote "Sorry" with hard, desperate strokes, and then dated the picture on the back. She put a hand to her eyes and silently told the girl she was sorry over and over again. When she was finished, she looked at her hands again. They were stained with blood, and she wondered how she would atone for her sins. Maybe she should join the Peace Corps or UNICEF or something with a dopey name after she finished university. She hoped that would be enough to at least partially cleanse her hands.
For now, though, she was going to have to be satisfied with giving her lunch to that homeless man at the corner of her school.
It was funny how the phone conversation replayed itself over and over again in Mulder's head as he drove over to the Wong's residence. The more he replayed it, the more pitiful it sounded and the worse he felt.
He didn't know why he was torturing himself with it so much.
/Do you really think that's what I'm trying to do?/
The disbelief in her voice was hard to take. It wasn't that it sounded shocked as much as it sounded like she didn't want to believe it but had no choice.
The real sad thing was, Mulder really believed that at times it was exactly what she was trying to do. It stunned him that she didn't see it herself. Then again, he hadn't realized how hard it must have been for her to cover up for him, to chase after him without knowing what she would find when she caught up. He had been treating her like his secretary.
The thought made him want to kick himself.
/Then why don't you fix it, you bastard?/
But all he could think about was his worthlessness and his selfishness.
They really should have taken him instead.
Muchou Liang's aunt, Li Wong was a hospitable lady, like all Chinese woman were. She offered Mulder water and sweet and sour pork buns which he declined politely. Her son Kelvin, Muchou's cousin, sat beside her, translating.
"How well do you know Muchou?" Mulder asked.
"Not too well, " Kelvin told him. "Yesterday was the first time we met her."
Mulder could already see he wasn't going to get very far. "So you wouldn't know if she was epileptic?"
Kelvin asked his mother who said something in Chinese. "We don't know."
"She had a seizure once before. You wouldn't know when, would you?"
Again, Kelvin turned to his mother. Mrs. Wong shook her head. "We don't communicate on a regular basis, " he explained.
Mulder nodded. "I understand." When the was the last time he talked to his mother? He had forgotten her birthday eight years in a row and she his in the last three. "You wouldn't have her address would you?"
Mrs. Wong looked clearly agitated after Kelvin had asked her. She looked at Mulder suspiciously and said something he couldn't understand. Kelvin translated: "She wants to see your badge again."
Mulder understood. With all the reports about people pretending to be authorities and raping woman and breaking in houses, who would be? And being an immigrant who found the country highly immoral and full of hidden dangers which a lenient justice system had no power over, Mulder knew taking out his badge and telling her that the information was needed would only scare her even more. She was even sure why he wanted to find Muchou. Child predator, she was probably thinking. It wouldn't surprise Mulder if she wished she had never invited him in.
"Tell her I don't mind, " Mulder said to Kelvin, taking out his badge again, "and that it's better for her to remain cautious than trustworthy."
One of these days, he was going to learn how to take his own advice. For a guy who's motto was "Trust No One", he spent an awful lot of time trusting the wrong people: Alex Krycek, John Roach, Diana Fowley. No wonder the X Files were constantly being taken out of his hands.
Mrs. Wong told her son to tell Mulder to wait a minute while she went up the stairs to get, what Mulder assumed, was Muchou's address.
She returned with an envelope and bright sheet of red-orange paper. She handed Mulder the envelope first. His name was written in big block letters on the front. There was a single sheet inside, and written on it, in a very neat, blockish, no nonsense handwriting, was the message:
"Mr. Mulder, I'd knew you come because that girl means a lot to you. I'm dying of curiosity here. Who is she? Muchou"
Beneath Muchou's name was her Canadian address and phone number. Mulder folded the message and put it in his pocket.
Mrs. Wong then presented the second sheet of paper to him, looking extremely embarrassed as she did.
Kelvin explained, "she wants you to return something to Muchou. She was curious about what was in Muchou's knapsack - we Chinese had absolutely no respect for other people's privacy so you'll have to excuse her - and she looked inside and took out a picture. Muchou's suddenly entered the room so my mother had to zipper up the bag and stuff the picture out of sight. She never got a chance to return it."
Mulder looked at the picture. It was amazing. It was of an explosion and staring at it, Mulder felt like he was at the epicentre. He was surprised at the power the artist put in it. "God, " he said, marvelling at Muchou's talents. He noticed the three characters at the top, written in black. "Do you know what that means?"
"Doi bu chi, " Kelvin read. "Sorry."
Mulder nodded and turned it over. It was dated on the back. December 2nd, 1996. He wished he brought his briefcase. He wasn't sure how he was going to take it back with him to his hotel room without wrinkling it.
He didn't know why the date on the back was bothering him so much.
"Were there any more of this pictures?" he asked.
Kelvin asked his mother and looked at her in disbelief when she gave a reply. "Really?" he said in English. He turned to Mulder. "She said there was probably about six or seven hundred of them."
"Thank you, " Mulder said to Mrs. Wong. "I'll be sure to return it to her."
Scully was sitting in on his couch in his apartment when Mulder arrived from Oregon. She had her side to him, facing straight ahead, her hands resting loosely at her sides; she hadn't bothered to take off her trenchcoat. There was a thin file lying on her lap which she seemed oblivious to.
"What's that you got there?" Mulder asked, closing the door behind him. He was surprised to see her, but doesn't show it.
Scully tilted her head down a little and played with the edge of the folder. "It's Muchou Liang's medical files, " she replied.
He should have felt pleasantly surprised. "Scully-"
She turned to look at him, her face completely impassive.
"I - " He stopped and looked at her. Her expression was imperturbable, except the tight, rigid line of her mouth. "I don't want to treat you like you like my glorified servant."
Her expression should have softened, the apathetic indifference in her eyes dissipitating into something warm and open. But she remained aloof. "Do you really think that was what I was trying to do?" she persisted.
He could lie. Tell her no, he didn't. That she never did that and he couldn't see how he thought she did. He could have lied, but he had a feeling that lying only encouraged history to repeat itself. "Sometimes, " he admitted. "Scully, if you're going to tell our superiors something different from what I'm going to say to them, can't you tell me that first so I don't look like an utter fool?"
His honesty surprised her. She looked thoughtful.
"I don't mean to treat you like a secretary, " Mulder repeated.
"Will you tell me what's so important about the girl?" she queried.
Mulder yielded, feeling foolish and exhausted for not doing it earlier. "I saw Samantha, " he told her.
Scully raised an eyebrow.
"She was being experimented on. There were tubes coming out of her chest and she was crying. Muchou saw her at the exact time. It was right before she had her seizure."
"You don't know she saw Samantha, " Scully told him.
"She did. Her body flinched at the same time I saw Samantha, as if she was having a vision as well. And there was something else. I can't explain it, but I felt that we were connected somehow. In our guilt. I don't know who that girl was, but she feels the same guilt that I feel when I think about Samantha."
"Why would she feel the same guilt?" Scully asked.
"I don't know."
Scully didn't say anything. Finally, she stood up and handed Mulder the folder.
"How did you get it?" he asked.
"I had a friend in medical school who moved to Canada after she got her degree. We write to each other occasionally." Scully stood up as Mulder flipped through the records. "Muchou was born in Ottawa, November 16th, 1984. She had never been checked into a hospital since her birth until November 3rd, 1996, when she had a seizure. It was during her Sunday School class. The CAT scan concluded that it wasn't epilepsy. It was just a one time event."
"Do they know what caused it?"
"I'm not sure, although she had a car accident before it. She got hit by a car but was not badly injured. She was well enough to refuse a medical check-up."
"Idiot, " Mulder muttered.
Scully continued. "I looked up her family medical files as well. Her family were treated for trauma when they arrived to Canada in 1981." She took a small breath. "They were refugees from the Cambodian Killing Fields."
Mulder was confused. "I thought she was Chinese."
"She is, " Scully told him. "But there were apparently a lot of Chinese residing in Cambodia before the war. That's where many of them ran for refuge during the Japanese Invasion."
Mulder nodded. "So she was born after the war."
"She and her younger sister, Ying-Ying."
"I remember her, " Mulder said. "Did she have other brothers and sisters?"
"Do you want the names of the dead ones as well?"
He stared at her. "What?"
Scully sighed. "Seven of her older brothers and sisters died during the killing fields. Only one sister survived."
"God, " said Mulder softly. Comprehension flickered in his hazel eyes. "Muchou's guilt, " he muttered.
Scully looked at him.
"She's suffering from survival guilt because she never went through the war." He talked slowly, his voice uncertain. "That's why she saw Samantha when we passed each other. We share that link."
"Survivor's guilt?" She sounded skeptical.
His shoulder's began to sag. "Sounds a little far-fetched, doesn't it?" he asked. Scully nodded her head. Mulder thought about it. "I wondered if her seizure had anyting to do with it?"
Scully at the medical files. "According to this, her father had slapped her on the head before they left for Oregon. Her mother said he smacked her pretty hard. The doctors believe that that could have triggered the seizure." She put the file down on the couch. "You're really interested in her, aren't you?"
"She saw Samantha, " Mulder told her.
"Mulder, Samantha's dead, " Scully said pointedly, but her voice was lower than usual, her way of conveying compassion. Mulder didn't flinch or show any emotions. "Whatever this girl knows, it's not going to bring your sister back."
"Still, I can't help but think she's part of a bigger puzzle, " Mulder mused. "There's something uncanny and significant about her." He thought about the picture he carried in his briefcase. "Wait."
Scully watched him dig into his briefcase and pulled out the artwork. "Look at this, Scully."
She did, and was immediately taken back by how much power the artist put in the picture. "Oh my God, " she said, gingerly resting a fingertip on the surface. The chalk caught onto her fingernail. "This is amazing. Did she draw this?"
Mulder nodded. "Look at the date, " he added, turning the picture.
"That's about month after she had her first seizure."
Scully shook her head. "I don't understand what you're trying to say."
"I can't put my finger on it either. But there's something about that girl and this picture and the date on the back. I can't explain it. It's like pieces of the past that I'm trying to piece together. The picture reminds me of something but I don't know what."
Scully's eyes were like blue glass as she scruntinized the explosion the artwork was protraying. She spoke so softly that Mulder barely heard her. "The Orwellian Death, " she whispered.
As soon as she said it, Mulder knew it was true. The picture had a distinct Orwellian feel to it. It marked that plague that same way the swatiska marked the Nazis. "Christ, " he said.
"The first reported Orwellian Death was in early December, 1996, " Scully noted.
"There were other pictures, " Mulder said, and proceeded to tell Scully about his trip to Oregon. "Maybe each picture symbolized the death of a victim. I talked to her aunt. She said there were were six or seven hundred of them."
Scully shook her head. "There were only three hundred and fifty cases reported."
"I don't think her aunt sat down and actually count them, " Mulder protested. "She probably just looked at the pile of the paper and thought there was this ridiculouly huge number. It's a known fact that correctly estimating the number of objects in a container or just in pile becomes more difficult when the numbers of objects increase. Three hundred and fifty paper can pretty much look like six or seven hundred to some people."
"Or maybe there were reported cases we didn't know about. The Orwellian Death is a random death. It could have happen to someone living alone on a deserted island. To some people, that's poverty. We woudn't have known if that person died or not."
Scully manage to cut in. "You're saying that a fourteen-year-old - no, I'm sorry, she was twelve at the time, was responsible for one of the deadliest and most bizarre plague ever to grace the history of civilization."
"It's a theory, " he admitted.
"How?" she demanded. "Why?"
"The how I'm not sure of." Mulder picked up the medical file. "The why I may have an explanation. If she is suffering from Survivor's Guilt about what happened to her family, wouldn't it make sense that she was trying to hit out at the ugly bits of her family's lifestory and the shame she feels by destroying what she sees as the cause of it all?"
"If that's true, then why not destoy war or starvation or the things that cause poverty? I don't see what killing the people suffering from those afflictions will solve."
"But you can't destroy war, " Mulder told her. "It's human nature to hurt one another . You can't destroy starvation. We have enough food to feed everyone in the world but a lot of children still go to bed hungry. The most logical method to get rid of poverty is to make enough resources to go around - which we have - and to share it with everybody, which we can't. She probably thinks the only way to get rid of poverty and war is to kill everyone who's suffering from it."
"That still isn't going to solve anything. Even we if get rid of all the poor people in society, more will come eventually. Like you said, it's human nature. Unless we shift human nature so everyone lives in a society like "Brave New World", greed and bad luck will eventually rule everything and poverty will commence once again." She paused to think, her eyebrows knitted in though. "And who's even to say what is poverty? So someone is lacking a house and some nice clothes. Does that mean they're living in destitude? What if they don't need it? What about those people who are beaten up and raped and tortured but live in a mansion with servants and bulters and valors? Are they considered part of the happy and rich?"
"Prisoners were killed in jailed, " Mulder pointed out. "They had food and water and clothes. I think what she is trying to do is kill all those living in some state of sorrow."
/Her names means Free of Sorrow. It's a cursed name./
"As if they'll be living in sorrow for the rest of their days. As if they're incapable of being happy." Scully thought about what she said. "Does she think these people are only capable of being poor? That they can't help themselves? Jesus, that's even more self righteous than you are."
The last remark made Mulder smile. "Happy to know you think so kindly of me, Scully."
Her own smile was grim and forced. "Always, Mulder." She stopped herself. "But everyone I just said only applies to the situation if the girl really is responsible for the Orwellian Death."
There was that expression on Mulder's face that clearly said, "wait a minute." Scully knew it well. He turned back to the medical records. "The girl woke up at 4:56 PM after she had her seizure. What time did that other girl in Haiti explode?"
Scully went to check her files while Mulder found an atlas in his bookshelf. They compared the time Muchou woke up in Oregon from her seizure and the time the girl in Haiti exploded. They were roughtly fifteen minutes within each other.
"It's just a coincidence, " Scully insisted.
Mulder shook his head. "I think the seizure triggered her ability to kill those people." He thought about Samantha. "I think she has visions."
"Those pictures she drew. Remember Gerald Shnauz? The photograph he left behind showed a piece of his mind. I think Muchou's pictures work the same way."
"Mulder, wait, " Scully said, holding her hand up to slow him down. "You have no hard evidence to prove your theory. All you have are a series of disconnection coincidence. It's impossible for a human being to control a plague. God, if that was possible..." She shuddered, thinking about how diastrous it would be if Mulder's theory prove to be correct and the girl fell into the wrong hands. "Christ, she would be even more efficient than any biowarfare any government can come up with."
Mulder was staring to feel sick.
Scully stopped herself again. "But like I said, that's only if she was the cause of the Orwellian and that's impossible. It's pure science fiction, " Scully added carefully, "I'm not saying that to spite you or make you look like a fool."
"I know that, " Mulder said honestly, a little embarrassed. "You don't have to tell me that again."
There was a moment of silence where Scully played with the ends of her sleeves and Mulder tucked the picture into his drawers.
The trill of the phone made them both start. They smiled tightly at each and Mulder picked up his cell phone. The phonecall was long distance, a call collect and Mulder accepted it. "Mulder."
"Uh, hi, " The voice on the end was uncertain and unfamiliar. It was a female voice, thick and accented, and very low and harsh. It sounded like it belong to someone who was about thirty or so. "This is Muchou."
Mulder nearly dropped the phone in his excitement. He motioned for Scully to stand next to him as he held the phone between their ears. "Really? We were just talking about you." Scully gaped at him.
"I guess the /we/ would be you and your partner, " Muchou replied. "I got your message on the answering machine. Sorry for taking so long to get back. The drive from Oregon to Ottawa was long."
"I understand, " Mulder said.
"Um, " the girl sounded very comfortable from the other end. "Sorry for inarticulation. I'm starting to feel dizzy."
/The Survivor's Guilt./
Mulder made a face in his disappointment. Scully took over the situation by taking the phone from him and indicating to him with her hands to sit on the couch while she moved to the other end of e room. "Are you feeling better?" Scully asked.
Scully made arrangements with her over the phone to see her in person. The next day was a Sunday so Muchou agreed to seem them in the afternoon. Scully hung up the phone.
"So we're going to Canada, " Mulder said when Scully handed his cell phone to him.
"You can come along if you want, " Scully told him, "but you're not coming with me to see Muchou."
Scully was serious. "I'm not. I can't risk her having another seizure if you're there."
Mulder knew she was right.
She touched his hair, feeling his disappointment. "I'll tell you what she said about Samantha."
He looked at her and asked, "do you believe I saw Samantha?"
She nodded her head. "I do."
"I forgot to ask, " Mulder went on. "What happened with Kersh?"
Scully's expression harden a little. She brought her hand back to her sides. "He want to see you in his office first thing Monday morning. I don't think it's going to be serious, but nevertheless, he wants to know what's going on." She clenched one hand. "I didn't even bother taking the heat off you."
He didn't blame her. "I deserved it."
Her next remark surprised him. "I don't want your guilt, Mulder."
He remained silent.
Scully's eyes were sad. "I wish you told me what happened."
Next time, he promised to himself. He watched Scully walk to the door and turn the door handle. She stopped halfway and looked at him. "Despite everything that happened to her, " she said, "Samantha was very lucky to have you as an older brother."
Doris Li ran up to the chubby two-year-boy and scooped him up, pulling into a tight embrace. "Oh, he's so cute!" she gushed, hugging him harder. "He's such a cute widdle baby and I just want to squeeze him until bones crack and his heads pops off and blood gushes everywhere and He's so CUUUTE!!"
Muchou looked at Ida who looked at Ying-ying who was staring at Doris with wide eyed amazement.
"He's only pint size!" Doris gushed. "How cute! He's even shorter than I am!"
"And we don't see that everyday, now do we?" asked Muchou archly.
Ying-ying and Ida snickered. Doris was the shortest of them all. She made a face at them. "Shut up!" she snapped. "Hey, why isn't he talking? He was babbling a lot before."
"He can't breathe, " Ying-ying replied dryly.
Doris let go of the toddler, who immediately started to gasp for air and scream. He ran out of the room screaming "Mommy!"
The girls cracked up. "Jiejie is going to kill us!" Ying-ying laughed. Jiejie meant older sister. The boy was their nephew.
"Who cares?" Muchou asked. She little affection for her older sister and her nephew.
"You certainly like babies, " Ying-ying said to Doris. They were having a sleep over in Muchou's place, which was a rarity. Her parents didn't allow their daughters many social activities.
"They're so cute!" Doris gushed. Cute was her favourite word.
"Planning on having any?" Ida asked.
"I want a dozen, " Doris admitted.
"I thought you said sex was disgusting, " Ida pointed out.
Doris cringed. She cringed whenever anyone said "sex." "It is."
"How do you think how babies are made?"
"Ever heard of adoption?" Doris countered. "And I don't want to go near boys! They're revolting. Remember what happened in the boy's washroom?"
They girls looked at each and made a face. They all went to the same high school, and in the past week, the boy's washroom had been seriously vandalized.
"How hard it is to shit in the toilet?" Ida demanded. "I can't believe they got shit all over the place. As if stuffing socks in the toilet wasn't bad enough."
"I didn't think spraying a hose could be so difficult, " Muchou remarked, which of course caused Doris to turn a bright shade of tomato red.
"Does a guy have an erection when they're peeing?" Ying-ying suddenly asked. She was always curious about that.
Muchou stared at her sister. "Of course not!" she said. "They have to hold it with their hands."
"Is that considered masturbation?"
"Will you guys shut up!?" Doris snapped. Her face was turning from green to red.
Ida grinned. "I'm going to make it the mission of my life, " she announced, "to get Doris to say `sex' without blushing."
Doris buried her face her in knee, pressing her hands closer to her ears.
"On the count of three everyone, " Ying-ying sang. "One two three-"
Doris visibly tried to disappear through the floor beneath them.
Ying-ying laughed rolled off the bed. "Let's play with the Ouija board!" she suggested.
Ida and Doris were enthusiastic about the idea. Muchou stopped laughing and stared at her sister. Ying-ying didn't understand it. There was a real fear in her sister's eyes. "Let's not, " Muchou said quietly. "It's not good to fool around with the spirits. That's what the Bible said."
"But you stopped being a Christian three years ago, " Ying-ying protested. "And it's not like we're going to call the devil or anything."
Ida looked interested. "Why don't we?"
Muchou laughed nervously. "That's not a good idea, " she said, certain that her voice was an octave higher than it was a minute ago. "Why don't we watch some anime?"
"Ida and Doris already saw all our anime tapes, " Ying-ying replied. "Except for Escaflowne and that's hard for non otakus to watch. It's too philosophical."
"It's my favourite, " Muchou pointed out, swallowing thickly. "And we threw our old Ouija board out."
"I can make a new one, " Doris volunteered. She walked over the table and pulled out a sheet of paper. "Somebody make a pointer."
"I'll do it!" Ida offered. The Cantonese girl went off to rip another scrap piece of paper.
Muchou's chest felt like it full of water. Heavy. Her head felt heavy as well. It also felt light, like it was going to float off her neck. She didn't want to do this. She licked her lips. "I - I don't think this is a good idea, " she said quietly.
Ying-ying sensed her sister's uneasiness. "You can leave if you want, " she said, concerned.
Muchou was shaking. Ying-ying could have sworn she was staring to perspire. "Sure, " Muchou said weakly. "I'll leave."
"You really don't like the Ouija Board, do you?" Doris asked from the table. She had finished the board, having written letters and numbers on a sheet of paper with "Yes" and "No" on the bottom.
"I heard a lot of horror stories about them, " Muchou explained, forcing a high pitched giggle that made her nerves go on edge.
"They're bullshit, " Ida said boldly. But she was the first to cry out when the planchette flew out of her hand and headed for the homemade board.
Muchou felt the world collapse from under her, sending her flailing down a bottomless abyss. She wanted to turn back and run out of the door, screaming. But her feet move forward without her acquiescence and she found herself at the edge of the desk, watching in disbelief as the planchette moved along the paper by an invisible hand. She could feel her friends' and sister's horror as the pointer spelled out its message.
/M/ /U/ /C/
Muchou grabbed the makeshift Ouija board and turned it on its front. Her hands twitched when they come in contact with the paper. She felt life force in paper; it was throbbing against her palms. "Ying-ying, " she ordered, her voice so flat it was almost toneless. Mad. It made her friends tremble and her sister shudder. "I want you to take Doris and Ida downstairs to the living room. Put on Escaflowne for them to watch. Now."
Ying-ying nodded, and Doris and Ida followed her out of the room. They were all clearly frightened.
Muchou waited until she heard Ying-ying turn the TV on. Then she turned the sheet over. "Okay you bastard, " she whispered. "Tell me what is it that you want."
She watched the planchette move, every letter causing her stomach to lurch and her mouth to go dry. Muchou was never more afraid in her life than she was then. She could feel Him next to her, asking to be invited into her body. It made her flesh break out in goose bumps.
She read his message.
/YOU ARE OF NO USE TO ME ANYMORE./
The pointer stopped moving and the life force left the room. Muchou stood there for a moment, alone, scared, horribly frightened. She was afraid to move, as if the slightest flinch might make the monster return Finally, she reached forward and grabbed the Ouija board, tore in half, and then half again and again and again, until the floor was covered with tiny little bits of paper.
Tiny tiny bits, like the remains of the victims of the Orwellian Death.
Her hand were shaking when she was done. Shaking so hard she had trouble turning the doorknob. Her legs felt like they were locked in position. Lifting them to walk was an ordeal and when she sat her foot back down on the floor, she was afraid that the thumping noise would bring Him back.
She wanted to run outside and scream out her frustrations and fear. She wanted to run to her mother and sob in her arms. But she took a deep breath and made her way downstairs to join her friends and sister. She thought she heard the devil laughing the entire way down.
"Where do you want me to start?"
The room they were sitting in was very cold. The heat was turned up, the window securely closed. The wan autumn sunlight infiltrated the windows in pale yellow rays but its presence only made the room colder, not warmer. Scully kept her trenchcoat and gloves on. Muchou wore a heavy cardigan sweater over her crisp white blouse. They were sitting by Muchou's table, facing each other.
Scully handed Muchou her picture back. The girl looked at it with fascination, as if she wasn't the artist and had never saw it before.
"Mulder thinks you're responsible for the Orwellian Death, " Scully told her.
Muchou put the picture down. "Mulder, " she repeated. Her voice was too low and too old for someone who had a face of an eight years old. "Your partner."
"Why isn't he here?"
Scully explained the problem of bringing two guilt complexes together. Mulder was probably in the hotel room touching up on some background checks.
"I understand, " Muchou said. "So you know about the girl we saw?"
Scully nodded. "Yes."
"Do you know who she is?"
One ice maiden to another: "It was his sister. She was abducted when he was eleven. We found her body a couple months ago."
Muchou felt a weird sense of closure. "That explains why I felt his survival guilt when I approached him in the parking lot. Tell him I'm sorry."
What she really wanted to say, though, was, I want you to thank that bozo partner of yours and his vexatious guilt complex for causing me to have a seizure and suffer through this Orwellian hell again.
"Her death must have been hard on him, " the girl added.
Scully's expression softened. "I'm sorry about your family, " she said.
The response was purely a knee-jerk reflex. "It happened a long time ago. I wasn't born then."
"But you suffered the guilt."
It was a subject that the girl didn't want to dwell on. "Which lead to the Orwellian Death."
It was more horror than awe that showed in Scully's eyes. "Did you really start it?"
Muchou broke her glance off Scully's face and shifted it to her collar bone. "That cross, " she said. "Are you Christian?"
The cross now had an added weight on Scully's skin. She felt the coolness of the metal. She touched it, feeling the sharp ninety degree angles piece her fingertips. "It was a gift from my mother, " Scully replied.
"They usually are, " the former killer stated. "I guess that means you don't go to church."
Scully stared at her. "Do you?"
Muchou nodded. "Yeah, that's where it started."
"I saw the faceless people after that."
Starving, being beaten, eating garbage, being raped, begging for food." The voice was oddly toneless. She shrugged. Paused for a bit. "I thought God gave the images to me. As a test. It said in the Bible that God will test you. I thought he was testing me. But the Bible said he wouldn't give you more than you could handle. I couldn't handle that."
The killer showed emotion. "It drove me crazy. Every day, I saw them. Even when I was asleep, they were in my dreams. Whenever I ate, I'd see children, thin as skeleton, eating dirt and grass because they were so hungry. Whenever I watched TV, I'd see prisoners being tortured and beaten. I'd be on the bus and I'll suddenly see people killing each other in wars and air raids." Her voice dropped and trailed. "I used to think of them as my brothers and sisters. The ones who didn't survive the killing field."
Scully could barely hear the last two words.
Scully was horrified by how deep the scars of that war penetrated through the family. Muchou's parents and older sister would have obviously been traumatized since they lived through it, but Muchou had not even been born at the time. Nevertheless, the war marked her so severely that anything she encounter in life she immediately associated with her dead siblings.
"How-" Scully licked her lips, allowing her composure to slip a little. "How did you -"
"I made a deal with the devil, " Muchou said calmly. "After seeing those faceless people for a month, I started to go insane. I kept praying to God to get rid of them, but He didn't. So I had this thought about taking all those people in my mind, all the destitute and impoverished people in the world into one spot and bombing them with a nuclear weapon or something." She gave a wan smile at the suggestion. It vanished a second later. "The devil heard me. And we made this deal that he would kill all those people in my mind if I would give him my soul."
Scully shook her head. "That's not what I meant, " she said. She looked at the girl, surprised at how someone with the round, fresh face of an eight-year-old could have been responsible for such an atrocity. "How could you do such a thing and not feel any guilt or compassion for these people? For their families, the people around them..."
Muchou looked at Scully with new respect. "You're a very moralistic person, " she remarked. "You don't care how I killed those people, do you?"
"It doesn't make much of a difference to me, " Scully said.
/I know the truth, Mulder. Now what I want are the answers./
Muchou looked away. "It's easier to kill them when they're faceless, " she said.
"But they had faces, " Scully told her. "They had personalities and habits and routines and families."
The young girl's voice was nonchalant. "I only saw them as sufferers."
The urge to slap her was immense, but not as immense as the sadness Scully felt at how blind the girl was. "They're more than just sufferers, " Scully said, her tone of voice low and firm. "They were human beings with their own opinions and their own thoughts and ideas. They may have been in desperate situation that we would call unbearable but you can't underestimate their ability to endure and live through it.
"A suffering person has at least the same chance to be happy, sad or suicidal on a given day as a rich person does. They deserve a chance to have a turnover in their situation. Maybe all those homeless people you killed would have found a job a later and be living fairly well off by now. No one knows what the future holds and it's unfair to take that future away from those people."
"Like my brothers and sisters, " Mochou said softly.
Scully waited her out.
Muchou looked at Scully again and the agent suddenly felt a twinge of guilt for the harsh manner she had been speaking in. The girl looked barely old enough to cross the street on her own. Scully felt like she just committed verbal child abuse.
"If only they hung on a little longer, " Muchou added slowly, and Scully noticed for the first time, the white strands of hair in her braids, the lines around her mouth and the crowfeet beside her eyes.
Scully looked at her, her expression hard and compassionate at the same time. "You already knew that were you're wrong, didn't you?"
Muchou shrugged. Today's way of saying yes among the teenagers. "I guess I always knew."
"Then how could you-"
"I didn't kill them out of pity, " Muchou told her, her voice, expression and eyes lacking of any emotions.
Scully stared and then remembered.
/She is a killer./
She wore a prim pleaded skirt and pulled her hair back in two perfect tight braids. She was small and modest, her hands clasped neatly in her
lap. A child with bright dark eyes and a wide mouth that often twisted into a rueful grin.
She was a killer. A monster in disguise.
"I convinced myself that I killed them out of pity, that I was sparing them from a life of pain and suffering and hunger." She held Scully's eyes. "But I really killing them to get them out of my head. To stop them from visiting my mind all the time. From reminding me of my dead brothers and sisters and making me guilty. I killed them out of guilt, not pity. I killed them so I wouldn't have to feel bad about living a life they were deprived off."
The guilt settled in them. It was fascinating to watch it sink through her facial features in waves. Scully marvelled at the transformation.
Muchou looked away again, this time looking at her hands. She saw a scab and started to pick at it.
"You shouldn't do that, " Scully advised weakly.
"I did it three hundred and eleven times three years ago, " Muchou told her.
Scully felt sick. That was what the victims of the Orwellian Death were to her three years ago. "You killed three hundred and eleven people."
"Three and twelve if you include that girl in Haiti, " Muchou corrected. She succeeded in pulling the scab off She was surprised when the blood from the wound spilled all over her hand, drenching it in the sticky red liquid.
She panicked, and held her up hand up for Scully to see. "My hand, " she said in amazement. "It's bleeding."
Scully peered at it. "It's nothing a band-aid can't handled, " she insisted, unnerved by the fear and astonishment in Muchou's eyes.
Muchou looked at her hand. The blood was running down the length of her arm, staining the sleeves of her blouse. She smiled at the Scully, who handed her a Kleenex. "I'm sure you're right, " she said. "Sorry for bothering you."
Scully was unconvinced. "Are you sure you're alright?"
Muchou put her hands down, clasping them together. They both felt dry and clean. But when she looked down again, she saw blood. It was leaking through the Kleenex she pressed to the back of her hands and was running off the tips of her fingertips and staining the fabric of her blue-green skirt.
"I'm fine, " Muchou told her, and it her turn to be startled when she saw the agent react to the comment. It was strange for Scully to have someone else say her keyline in the exact manner and tone she had said it so many times in the past.
Scully picked up from where she left off. "You killed three hundred and twelve people."
Scully was confused. "There were three hundred and fifty reported cases."
"The prisoners in Tunguska did not die by the Orwellian Death, " Muchou explained. "I don't know who killed them, maybe it was the warden or the government or somebody else, but the Death provided those people with the perfect scapegoat. The last person died in December of 1996."
"Jesus, " Scully whispered, realizing how evil the death was. She remembering Mulder saying that they were experimenting on people in Tunguska. Did the Consortium use the Orwellian Death as a way to hide the experiments?
These people didn't even need Muchou to carry out their plans for them. Scully thought about ethnic cleansing, peacekeeping scandals, apartheid; the possibilities to use the Orwellian Death as a scapegoat was endless. Those United Nations only had so much power. They couldn't force a country to let them investigate the massacres. The Orwellian Death could be an efficient tool for wiping out whole nations.
"Oh my god." Scully was mortified. "What did you start?"
Muchou bowed her head and remained silent.
"And you killed those people because they were inconvenient to you?"
"Pretty much, " Muchou answered. "The world back then as I saw it was filled with pain and suffering or wealth and opportunities and the two never met. I had some pretty demeaning ideals of the world back then. I used to get mad at the rich people for not helping out with the poor and I would get mad at the poor for reproducing because I never saw the point of having kids if they were going to die of starvation before they were five."
/Who would have guess those hunger statistic could have backfired?/
Scully swallowed her disgust.
"I was screwed up back then, " Muchou admitted. She paused to think about it. "I guess I haven't changed much. I don't see why people who abuse child would have children. My aunt in Toronto keeps telling me I'll have a dozen kids when I'm older and I told her that if I have one, I would starve it and strangle it and crucify it to her kitchen door."
"Christ, " Scully said, clearly repulsed.
"Why does everyone think that the moment you have a child, you turn into this selfless, child centre, loving person? Are they so blind that they can't see all those reports about abused children? Anyway, I figured the best thing an abusive person could do their children is to not have them, which is what I'm doing."
She tucked a loose moist strand of black hair behind one ear. When she spoke, she sounded distant, like she was talking to herself.
"There was this family who lived next to us when we lived in one of those government housing program. They had a two year boy who they kept beating the shit out every night. I would lie in bed and hear him scream. It was awful. He sounded like a pig going to the slaughter house. I heard them hitting him with whatever they hit him with and every time I heard the whack, my heart would leap into my throat and would stay there until they stopped beating him and he stopped screaming. And that would go on for hours. As long as he kept screaming, they kept hitting him, so I figured they stopped hitting him when he black out because that's the only time he would be able to stop screaming."
She spoke faster with every word, the pitch varying in her voice as the memory became more vivid.
"I used to listen to him scream and wished I could somehow go through the wall and kill him myself. I guess my anger was misdirected and I should have wanted to kill the parents, but he was doing the screaming. I used to wish I could explode him. Have him blow up into a million pieces when his parents were in the middle of beating him so he would stop screaming and give me some rest and his parents would have nightmares about beating him and him exploding. After that, I start mentally exploding every abused and homeless and starving person I saw, especially those on those world vision commercials." She shrugged. "I was only six or seven years old. I guess that's where my fantasy about exploding people came from."
Scully could only listen mutely as the Oriental girl laid out a fraction of her autobiography. There was something about the way she spoke that made Scully believe she had practised it in her mind a million times before. It was almost as if she had dreamed of having this conversation with a psychiatrist or a news reporter after being forced to keep her awful secret locked inside for three years.
"I can understand abusive parents though, " Muchou continued. She asked Scully, "have you ever held a child's throat in her your hands before? Or lock them in dark closet with your back to the door and you can feel them banging on the wood begging to be let out? It gives you such a rush of power, it's amazing. Especially when you got your hands on the child's neck. You can feel his pulse under the skin of your hands and it's a strong pulse." Her voice was low, fascinated and almost aroused. "And you know that by moving your fingers together a couple of inches, you can stop that pulse from running and just like that, the child is dead. The first few times I killed people, when I saw the explosion, I felt that way. I remembering marvelling at how fragile life was and how easy it was to wipe it off the planet." Her voice trailed away and she stopped talking.
There was a moment of silence at which Scully looked at her watch and Muchou looked at her hands. The blood was gone, except for some red spots on the tissue surface.
Scully spoke first. "How did it stop?"
A grim smile appeared on Muchou's face. Scully probably thought she was a nutcase, a killer, and a monster. But the worst evil had yet to be unfolded.
"I got into Japanese animation, " Muchou said, slightly embarrassed.
The shock was evident on the agent's face. Scully couldn't have looked even more shock if her mother had offered her some potatoes to go with her meat and then slapped her. She pulled her lips together for a moment before saying, "I don't see the connection."
Muchou laughed, and it sounded like someone had put dug their nails in a chalkboard and yank them down. "When I was small, I used to watch a lot of cartoons whenever I was scared or frightened or anger or hurt. It was a way to tuning out the screams of the boy next door or hearing my parents fight or listening to my sister tell me that I should have suffered with the rest of the family in Cambodia. Ironically, the morning cartoons would be on at the same time as those save the children world vision commercials showing scenes of poverty. But if I ever crossed those channels, I'd just flip the remote control and watch cartoons.
"I guess that's how anime works. Those images I used to see were like TV channels and by pressing the remote control and putting on some anime, I was able to change the channel and put them out of my mind."
Scully had seen a lot of ridiculous things in her life, from a man being able to control weather with his thoughts to devils trying to spawn a normal child, but few had been as ludicrous and impossible as 2D people being the remedy for a international plague.
But when she thought about it, it wasn't that unheard off. She had read "Watchers" by Dean Koontz and remembered how the outsider cradled the Mickey Mouse video in his arms before asking Travis Cornell to kill him. His vicious, violent urge to kill Einstein, the genetically altered dog, waned after remembering the only happy times he spent at the laboratory: watching the Mickey Mouse movies.
Why did it come back?" Scully asked.
"After the images of faceless people vanished, I started getting images of guilt, but obviously, that wasn't as bad as the faceless people. That's why I saw your partner's sister. And when I feel people's guilt for some reason, it gives me a headache or makes me dizzy or, in the case of your partner, trigger a seizure." She pulled her knees to her chest and rested her feet on the edge of the chair, wrapping her arms around her legs. She looked harmless then, vulnerable. "The seizure was what initiated the first batch of Orwellian deaths. I guess the second seizure did the same thing."
There a moment of hesitation before Scully asked the more pressing question: "will it come back?"
Muchou didn't even have to think about it. "No, " she said with resolution. "It won't."
/You are of no use to me./
"Even if I wanted to destroy those people again, I wouldn't be able to." She took the Kleenex off her hand. The bleeding had stopped. She tossed the soiled tissue into the garbage can and straightened her legs out, resting her feet on the floor. "What's going to happen to me now?" she asked.
The question left Scully speechless. She thought about all the possible scenarios. Morally, Scully knew the answer. No one with any sense of integrity would want to see the girl exonerated for the mass murders she was responsible for. It would have like allowing Hitler and Pol Pot to get away with the atrocities they committed all over again.
Legally, however, that was going to be difficult. The girl was twelve when she committed the crime. She wasn't even old enough to be treated as an adult, at least not under the Canadian Young Defender's Act.
And then there was the issue of whether or she was even responsible for the Orwellian Death. Mulder and Scully had been there in court when a "paranormal" culprit was being tried. They never did get very far. Claiming that a twelve-year-old girl created a plague would only be laughed out of court before they even reached the preliminary hearing. Even if Muchou confessed she did it, people would only assume she was some nutcase trying to take immortalize herself as the one who started the Orwellian Death.
Scully suddenly realized, with a start, that she hadn't considered that idea. Muchou could have been a severely deranged child who was only trying to make a name for herself. It was more logical than the concept that she actually started the plague. It was very Scully thing to think of.
But as she stared at the girl, Scully came to revelation that she truly believed this girl was responsible for the deaths.
"God, " Scully said in amazement. "You really did start the plague."
"You believe me?"
Scully nodded her head, overwhelmed by the depth of her beliefs. She felt light headed, a little dizzy. "What do you think should happen to you?" she asked feebly.
Muchou looked outside into the backyard. The sun was dying, the sky turning purple. She lived in a beautiful neighborhood. The grass was green, the ground covered with dried up brown leaves that the wind tossed about carelessly. The leaves on the trees that had survived the ice storm were orange and red and yellow. They reminded her of the explosions she used to witness three years ago on a daily basis.
"I don't want to think about it today, " she said, placing a hand on the window. She pulled it back, surprised at how cold the glass was. It was beautiful outside, but deathly cold as well. "Today's Hallowe'en, " Muchou announced airily.
Scully remembered that it was. She could see her neighbor's backyard from the window as well. Her neighbor was some decoration freak. There was skeletons and tombstones and pumpkins and scarecrows on every spare inch of the yard.
"I'll think about what to do next tomorrow, " Muchou continued. "I just want to take my nephew out tonight for candies and enjoy it." She turned to Scully and gave a soft smile. "I'm going as Vampire Prinss Miyu. My mother made the dress for me this sumer for Anime North."
She stood up, walking over to her closet. Scully was taken back by how light Muchou's mood suddenly was.
Muchou pulled out the white satin dress and held it to her neck, allowing the skirt to fall to her knees. "Isn't it pretty?" she asked. "I used to tell Ying-ying that I wanted to be buried in this dress."
Her face suddenly changed. Scully didn't understand it. She looked sad and old. Miserable wasn't the right word. Sorrowful, however, might have been it. She looked like she lost something of importance to her.
/You are of no use to me anymore./
Muchou clutched the dress to her chest, her eyes blank and unseeing.
Scully cleared her throat to break her trance. "Isn't it a little cold to wear that tonight?" she asked, uneasy at the way that Muchou changed her temperaments.
Muchou blinked and shrugged. "I'll wear a turtleneck underneath and three or four white stockings, " Muchou said, her voice returning to normal. "Although it's ridiculous to think of Vampire Princess Miyu wearing stockings. We won't go out for long, only for maybe for fifteen minutes. It's freezing out there. Everyone says it's the coldest Hallowe'en Ottawa had in fifty years. And people die in Ottawa every year from the cold." She shuddered, holding the dress tighter to her. "It would be horrible to freeze to death, " she said softly.
Scully watched as the girl put the dress back in the closet. She walked up to Scully and shook her hand. Scully could have sworn her hand was shaking itself. "Thank you for coming, " she said.
Scully nodded. "I best get going." She was eager to leave, but at the same, she wanted to stay in the room with the killer and talk some more about her family past, her guilt, the Orwellian Death.
Muchou put her hand down. "Your partner's sister, " she said, "she must have meant a lot to him."
Scully nodded. "He spent most of his life looking for her."
Muchou was touched. "You two must encounter a lot of kidnapping cases that remind him of his sister."
"How does he go about them?"
"He tries to save the girls."
"That's good. His sister probably would have liked that."
"He loved his sister, " Scully said.
"I can tell." Muchou picked up the picture on the table . "Tell him not to let guilt run his life, " she said. "I let it run mine, and it destroyed the lives of so many perfectly innocent people. It's only going to destroy him and those he loves."
Scully told her she would.
"He was a good brother, wasn't he?"
"I believe he was, " Scully said. "He's a good partner, a very good friend."
"You care about him a lot don't you?"
Scully nodded. "He's my partner."
Muchou smiled sadly. She looked at her picture again. "My first victim lived here in Ottawa. He was a homeless who I used to pass on my way to school. If I haven't kill him, do you suppose he would have been If I hadn't killed him, do you suppose he would have been sitting his apartment today, watching the weather channel complaining about how cold it today sipping his coffee?" She sounded distant, like she was talking to herself. "Or maybe he enjoyed being homeless. Maybe he choose to live the life he did. There are people who choose to live in poverty because they don't want to follow their rich parent's lifestyle. I don't think so, since my plague only killed those in sorrow, but I guess I'll never know."
"Your name means Free of Sorrow, " Scully said.
Muchou nodded. "My mother called me that because I was born after the killing fields. She had suffered so much sorrow there. I can't imagine the pain she went through watching seven children die of starvation. She buried each one of them herself. She called me Free of Sorrow because she was sure she leaving all her sorrows behind in Cambodia. She wanted me to live a life of free of sorrow. It's a cursed name."
The only way to be truly free of sorrow was to be dead.
"Do you want me to show you out?" Muchou asked.
Scully shook her head. "I can do it myself."
"Take care of yourself, " Muchou said.
Scully made her way out of the house. She gasped at how cold it was outside. From Muchou's room, it didn't look that cold. The wind didn't look so fierce. She was surprised to see her breath in the air which the wind tore into pieces.
She pulled her trenchcoat tighter around her and sucked in an breath of the cool autumn air and made her way to her car.
Mulder looked up from the table as Scully walked into the hotel room. Muchou's medical files were spread out in front of him, as well as some reports from their last case. Mulder put his glasses down on the table and turned to look at her. "How did he go?" he asked.
Scully put her handbag on the bed and sat down beside it. Her expression was unreadable. "I looked into the face of evil, Mulder, " she mumbled, "and I saw the face of a child."
Mulder spoke carefully. "So she did cause the Orwellian Death?"
Scully replayed her conversation with Muchou to Mulder, vertabam, clipped without emotion. In this case, her phlegmatic expression and tone of voice conveyed her repulsion and horror at Muchou's action more loudly than if she went into a hysterical fit of rage and disbelief.
Mulder didn't try to conceal his amazement or his disgust, particularly when Scully mentioned the deaths in Tunguska. "Oh my God, " Mulder said.
"There never was an investigation in that case, now was there?" Scully asked.
Mulder had always suspected it wasn't the Orwellian simply because the UN was not allowed to photograph or investigate any of the deaths. "An autopsy probably would have shown that it wasn't the Orwellian Death, " Mulder said.
"Which is why they didn't allow anyone near the bodies."
"Nevertheless, " Mulder continued, "if someone were to come up with an explosion that couldn't be differentiated from the Orwellian..."
Scully shook her head. "It doesn't matter, " She said. "Muchou knows whose deaths she's responsible for."
"No one is going to believe a death wasn't the Orwellian because a fifteen-year-old said it wasn't."
"But we'll know. And somehow, we'll find a way to prove it."
Mulder wasn't convinced. "She could lie."
"She wouldn't, " Scully replied. "I've talked to her. She may be a murderer, Mulder, but she's no liar. As much as I don't want to say it, I can see there is something good about her. She wouldn't lie to us."
Scully scarcely put faith in anything as strongly as she put her faith in Muchou, but when she did, she was seldomly wrong.
Mulder made a notion with his head that said, "if you said it to be true, than I'll believe it."
"What are we going to do about her?" Scully asked. "She's just a child." She didn't mean to say that. She had said the same thing about her daughter, Emily. Emily was just a child as well, but she was very well capable of killing people with the venom in her small body. But Emily had no choice; she never had a say when they fused her body with that of something poisonous and extraterrestrial.
Muchou did, however. She choose to kill those people. Whether or not she was a child when she unleashed the Orwellian Death did not matter; she was still responsible in every way for the death of three hundred and eleven people.
But... she was still a child.
"We can't punish her, " Mulder admitted. "We'll never convince anyone that she created the plague."
"But at the same time, " Scully added, "it'll be like exonerating Hitler or Pol Pot."
"It doesn't matter, " Mulder concluded. "The four purposes of sentencing are deterrence, punishment, restitution, and rehabilitation. There won't be a problem with deterrence because no one other than us will know she was one who murdered those people. They'll simply pass it off as a very selective and bizarre plague so no one will get the impression in this case that they could get away with murder.
"Rehabilitation is not an issue here because from what you say and believe, she knows she wrong and even given the chance, she wouldn't choose to kill again.
"Restitution if you look at it at in a direct manner is impossible because these people are already dead and she can't bring them back. However, she can make amends by helping those in needs but that's up to her. As for punishment, she's almost fifteen. She has already spent three years living in guilt and paranoia and I have a feeling that she'll be living the rest of her life with that. I doubt she'll forget what she has done to those people."
Scully wasn't convinced. "What about segregation?" she asked softly. "Keeping her away from the public for their safety?"
"You told me she said that even if she wanted to, she wouldn't be able to call the Orwellian Death up again."
"She did say that, " Scully said. "But what about that girl in Haiti?"
"I believe she didn't want to kill her, " Mulder said. "I think that it was her seizure that triggered that death and she had no control over it."
Scully was both baffled and shaken by how neutral Mulder appeared at that realization. "That's even worst, " she insisted. "If she can't control the Orwellian - "
"It doesn't matter, " said Mulder.
Scully stared at him, confused at the pensive lines on his face. "Mulder..."
Mulder was confused as well. "She is the plague and if she does, so does the Orwellian Death. She isn't going to live long, " he said slowly.
"I don't understand, " Scully said.
Mulder shook his head. "I just got a weird feeling, Scully."
He looked like just realized he lost something. Scully was surprised to see that he looked exactly like Muchou did after she said she wanted to be buried in her Vampire Princess Miyu outfit.
"The connection?" she assumed, remembering that they felt each other's guilt. Maybe they could feel each other sorrow's as well.
Mulder shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe."
Scully walked up to Mulder and put a hand on his shoulder. "She said you were a good brother."
Mulder looked up at her. "How would she know?"
"By the way you still remember Samantha."
Mulder's face aged considerably. "I've only associated Samantha with guilt, " he objected.
Scully spoke gently. "Why did you want to find Samantha for so long?"
"I wanted to know the truth, " Mulder replied. He thought about it. "And because it was lonely without her."
"You guys must had had a lot of fun together as kids."
"She used to annoy the hell out of me." He smiled. "We were crazy about each other. I would push her on the swing in the yard when she was five or six. Once I pushed her so hard she fell off the swing and broke her collar bone." His smile became rueful. "That idiot. After her collar bone healed, she still made me push her on that blasted swing. I have a feeling that I could have broken every bone in the body and she would be asking me to push her."
Scully played with his hair. "I think it was her way of telling you she knew you would never do anything to hurt her."
"Maybe." Mulder was having a hard time letting go of his guilt. Scully didn't mind. They had all the time in the world. He regarded Scully with concern. "It must have been hard on you, losing Melissa like that."
"I actually think it was easier for me, " she said thoughtfully, taking her hand off his hair. "Melissa and I had known each other long enough to know that no matter what happened, we were always be sisters. I know that where ever she is, she doesn't hold any grudges against me."
Mulder nodded. He turned around and stared at Muchou's medical files. "I've been letting my guilt run our relationship lately, haven't I?"
"Yes, but I'm not entirely blameless, either, " said Scully. "I wasn't there for you when we found Samantha." She paused, remembering that she did try. "Not as much as I could have been."
"I wouldn't let you in, " Mulder pointed out.
"With the way I've been treating your ideas and quests lately, I don't blame you for not wanting to let me in."
Mulder's mouth stretched into an ironic grin. "I merely thought you were reciprocating to my ditching you and withholding information from you."
Scully was serious. "I don't need you to protect me, Mulder."
"Good, because with the inefficient way I protected Samantha, I'm the last person you want protecting you."
Scully sighed. "Everything boils down to you and your sister, doesn't it?" she asked.
Shit, thought Mulder passively. And they were finally getting communicating with each other like civil human beings again. He tried to try make amends. "Not everything is about me, Scully, " he said.
She shook her head. "You're wrong, Mulder. Everything is about you." She didn't sound angry or tired. She simply stated it like a fact that couldn't be disproved. "So you better be worth my time."
Mulder let out a laugh, a low, yielding chuckle that melted the barriers that had been between them for the last few months. Scully smiled and held out her hand for him. He took it and squeezed it lightly for a moment before letting go, their fingers slowly running along each other's palms. Scully's smile faded and she turned around and left the room.
Muchou shivered in her Vampire Princess Miyu outfit. The turtleneck and stockings beneath the silk provided little insulation. She felt like heat was flowing out of her body in waves, leaving a cold, ice laden body behind. No doubt the last time Ottawa was this cold was during the ice age. She wondered how Agent Scully and her partner found Ottawa.
She had thought a lot about Scully since their affable little talk. The agent fascinated her, and she wasn't sure why. Serial killer, child abusers, and mass murderers were what teenagers were supposed to be fascinated with, not good, selfless, hard working citizen. Of course, with Muchou, it was the other way around. People capable of great evil bored her. She never understood why all the kids in her school always wanted to play the villain in a school play or why they crowded around when two boys were kickng the shit out each other. She wondered if maybe playing the role of the villain for too long and finding it to be less glamourous than what Hollywood made it out to be was what made her weary of evil. Whatever the reason was, she was more captivated by good than by malevolence
She wondered if Agent Mulder shared his partner's decency and integrity. He must have for Agent Scully to care so much about him.
Muchou looked out of the window, watching the bitter wind claw at the trees. Just looking at the cold made her fingers numb. She wondered how her sister and nephew were surviving outside.
"Can you go out and find them?" her mother asked. "She could stay out longer, but Didi needs to be home now."
As much as Muchou resented her mother, she obeyed the woman, mainly because she was worried. Ying-ying was the most important person in her life. If anything were to happen to her, Muchou knew she wouldn't be able to survive it.
Muchou went to the coat closest and pulled out her blue breaker. She pulled it over her head and then glanced outside through the window of the door. It looked very very cold. Shuddering, she put her hand on the doorknob, turn it, and then stepped out of the front door.
Author's Note: First of all, I want to apologize and thank all the people who answered that inane question I posted on ATXCfor not flaming me, especially to Maureen O'Brien whose reponse proved to be invaluable in chapter eight, ten, and eleven.
I would also like to express my gratitude to Drax for an incredibly thoughtful and useful email sent to me regarding poverty. The suggestions and criticism also proved to be invaluable in the last few chapters. The story was a lot worst before I received the email and if you still found it horrible, it's because I didn't take all the suggestions or/and I applied the ones I took the wrong way.
Last, I want to give a BIG cyber hug to Heather Stone, who was brave enough to beta read for this thin skinned rabbit. She was undaunted by my long list of demands and requirements when she answered my plea for a beta reader and never complained once when the story went from a seven parter to a twelve parter. Had it been me, I would have thrown the writer out of a window. Patience is a virtue this talented person isn't lacking. Heather, I owe you one. :)