Author's note: First off, I apologize for posting here and not a.x-f.creative, but I can't get that group. It's only 28k, so it shouldn't waste too much bandwidth.
Second, if this bears any resemblence to an episode of the series which I haven't yet seen (to tell you which ep would be a major spoiler, judging by what it said in the promos for the ep.) it's purely coincidental.
Third and last, this is my first X-Files story as well as the first work of fiction I've actually been able to finish writing in five years. I hope you enjoy it.
30 miles north of Prineville, Oregon
"Billy! Oh, Billy!" Mary Worthington screamed into the dark forest for her son. She and her husband Bob had been looking all day, but had found no trace of their eleven year old boy, who had mysteriously disappeared almost two months before while camping with his boy scout troop.
"Shhh!" Her husband hissed.
"Bob, what is it?"
"Did you hear that?"
"I could of sworn I heard something over there." He pointed to another grove of trees, just beyond a small clearing. "Stay here. I'm gonna take a look."
"Don't you think we should stick together?"
"It's only about forty yards. I'll be right back. Don't move."
She watched him walk across the clearing and enter the trees beyond. She shortly heard a branch crack, and thought she could see vague, two-legged shapes just inside the treeline.
"Bob?" she called out.
It's OK, she thought. He's probably too far away to hear me.
He's a grown man, 220 pounds and in fair shape, he can take care of himself. She leaned against the nearest tree, fidgeting.
Five minutes passed.
He should be back by now, she thought. She felt the cold tendrils of fear creep slowly up her back. Where is he? "Bob?" she called out again.
This is ridiculous. He's fine. He just wandered off. If I go looking for him, when he comes back here for me I won't be here and we may never find each other in this God-forsaken forest.
Five more minutes, laced with barely fought-off panic.
WHERE IS HE? Mary couldn't restrain herself any longer. She had to find him. She bolted off into a run across the clearing.
"BOB!!!" she screamed as she passed the first of the trees on the other side. There was no sign of him. She whirled around, looking for any trace of where he might have gone. Off to her right, she saw a tinge of silvery gray. She ran to it.
It was just as she feared. It was her husband's Seattle Seahawks ball cap, lying in the mud. As she dropped to her knees to pick it up, she noticed it was obscuring an impression in the mud. She picked the cap and looked at the mud.
In it was a footprint as long as her thigh.
Mary began to scream.
FBI Headquarters, Washington, DC
Scully walked into Mulder's office to find him throwing jellybeans into the air and trying in vain to catch them in his mouth.
Mulder smiled. "Hey, Scully. I think I'm getting the hang of this. Watch." He threw another jellybean in the air and missed it completely.
"See? I can miss every time."
Scully put her briefcase down on the desk. "Cute, but no cigar. I hear we have another case?"
Mulder straightened up in his chair. "Series of missing persons in Oregon, near Prineville."
Dana sat down. "What makes that an X-file?"
Mulder smiled again. He'd been waiting for this. "Humanoid footprints averaging fifteen inches were found all over the places were the missing people were last sighted."
Dana slumped in her chair. "Bigfoot?"
"What's the matter, Scully, you don't consider the possibility that there might be a previously undiscovered great ape living in the Pacific Northwest?"
"What I consider unlikely is that an animal that big could go undiscovered so long without a shred of physical evidence."
"You underestimate its habitat." Mulder got up and leaned on the corner of his desk. "Since World War II, seventy-three aircraft have crashed in that area and have never been recovered. Hundreds of people have seen a Sasquatch. Two or three substantiated sightings are logged every year, and white men have been locking horns with Sasquatch every since the first recorded sighting in 1780. Each tribe of Native Americans has a name for it in their own language. Sasquatch, Omah, Tsonaqua, Bukwas, Selatiks..."
"OK, OK, assuming it's real, why would it abduct humans? It's supposed to be shy and reclusive, right?"
"Usually, but not always. One of the most famous accounts comes from Albert Ostman, who was abducted by a family of four Sasquatch while he was on a prospecting trip in British Columbia in 1924. They've done it before."
"Assuming this Ostman character wasn't just trying to get publicity." Before he could interject, she picked up her briefcase and added, "Fine. Let's just go out there, and see what we find."
The flight to Oregon was uneventful. Scully sat quietly, trying to catch some much needed rest while Mulder read a copy of John Green's _Encounters_With_Bigfoot_. They landed in Portland and rented a car they drove down Interstate 26 to Prineville.
Prineville was your standard small, northwestern town. Founded due to the mining potential of the nearby mountains, it was a small and unobtrusive, just a few thousand ordinary people trying to squeeze out a living.
The sheriff's office was "downtown", a smallish brick building on the town's main road. Mulder parked the car and the two agents walked inside.
"Can I help you?" The desk sergeant was a pretty brunette in her mid twenties, and she seemed happy enough to get away from her paperwork.
"I'm Agent Mulder, FBI, and this is Agent Scully. We're here about the missing persons. Is Sheriff Tyler in?"
"Yes, he's been waiting to see you. Right back there." She pointed to an office near the rear of the building. Mulder and Scully walked over and Mulder knocked on the door.
"Come on in." called out a gruff voice from behind the door.
The sheriff's office was small and austere, but well-used.
Behind the desk sat Sheriff Jeffrey Tyler, a barrel-chested hulk of a man. He stood as they entered and extended his hand as he smiled through his bushy mustache.
"Agent Mulder, Agent Scully, pleased to meet you at last. I have to say I'm glad you're here. We're about at our wits end. Please, have a seat."
Scully opened her notepad and spoke. "Could you tell us something about your problem?"
"It all started about two months ago. There was a boy scout campout about thirty miles north of here came back missing two of the boys. A search party was formed, but all we found were those damn footprints."
"Footprints?" Scully asked.
"Yeah, human footprints about fifteen inches long."
Mulder spoke up. "What do think made the prints?"
The sheriff sat back in his chair. "Do I believe in Bigfoot, you mean? No, I don't. I don't know what made those prints, but it was no monster."
Mulder pressed on. "What about the townspeople? Do they-"
The sheriff cut him off. "Yeah, some folks around here think it was Bigfoot carried off those boys. That's one of the reasons I wanted you folks out here. I want to solve this before folks get caught up in some kind of hysteria."
Scully asked, "What about the other disappearances?"
"Well, about three weeks after the search parties gave up, Bart Farmer's car broke down about twenty-five miles north-northwest of here. He never made it back to town, but we found footprints about two-hundred yards down the road from his car, just where his own footprints end. And then two days ago, Bob and Mary Worthington, the parents of one of the scouts, went back up into the woods by themselves to look for their son.
Mary says Bob went off to look for something he thought he heard, and told her to wait. After ten minutes, she went to look for him, but all she found was his hat, on top of another footprint."
Mulder sat back in his chair, thinking. Scully pressed on. "Is there anyone who would want to blame Bigfoot for the kidnappings?"
"Not that I know of. There was a group a while back that went into the woods every so often to try to find the creature, but they weren't dangerous."
Mulder got up. "Well, I think we'd better get cracking. Thank
you for your time," he said as he shook the sheriff's hand. "We'll let you know if we find anything."
Mulder and Scully left the station.
In the car, Scully asked, "What was the big hurry getting out of there?"
"There's something he's not telling us. Did you notice that he was real happy to see us until I started asking about Bigfoot?"
"Well you can hardly blame him, Mulder. He probably gets that a lot, and with these disappearances, I'd be sick to death of the word Bigfoot too if I were him."
"Maybe. You want to interview Mary Worthington?"
"Sure, I guess. Where will you be?"
"I've got a source of my own to consult."
Mulder pulled up alone in front of a ramshackle house on the edge of town. There was a Native American man in his fifties sitting on the front porch.
"Good afternoon, 'Spooky' Fox." The man chuckled as Mulder got out of the car.
Mulder had never met John Running Elk personally, but had talked to him on the phone the day before. Mulder got his number from a mutual friend Mulder had met in Montana working on another case. John Running Elk was the local shaman, and the most qualified man in the area to give Mulder the low down on Sasquatch.
Mulder walked onto the porch and took a seat. "Good afternoon, Mister Running Elk."
"Call me John."
"OK, John. How are you today?"
"I ain't disappeared."
"What's your take on these disappearances?"
"It ain't Sasquatch, that's for sure."
"How do you know?"
"Sasquatch is as old as these mountains, and has been here longer than my people or yours. He takes no interest in humans, save to stay away from them and live in peace."
"So what di-"
"What took those folks walked on two legs, but it wasn't Sasquatch."
Mulder thought this over as John sat quietly in his chair, staring off into the distance.
Finally, Mulder spoke. "If it is humans trying to blame this on Sasquatch, where would they be?"
"Can't say. The forests and hills of this land have sheltered and hidden Sasquatch for many centuries. They hide people just as well."
Mulder had heard what he came to hear. He got up to leave.
John spoke up. "Agent Mulder. Some advice."
Mulder turned around. "Yes?"
"Be careful what you believe." John Running Elk got up and went inside.
Mulder looked at the door for a moment, and then got in his car and drove away.
That night, Mulder and Scully met in Mulder's room of the Bed and Breakfast were they were staying to compare notes. Scully started. "Mary Worthington wasn't much help. She's been through so much lately that she's pretty far gone. She and her husband Bob went up there to look for their son. When they couldn't find anything at the original campsite, they started searching the surrounding area in concentric circles. Bob was a ranger in the Army, so he knew how to move in the woods without getting lost.
"They came upon a clearing, and Bob said he heard a noise. He left Mary to check it out, and that's the last time she saw him."
"Did she see anything else?" asked Mulder.
Scully sighed. "She did say she saw 'dark, looming shapes' pass through the trees in her husband's direction, but I think that's more a figment of her imagination than a real clue. It was dark, she was scared, and Bigfoot mania had been sweeping this whole town for quite a while. I think she saw what she expected to see."
"Did she notice anything unusual besides the footprint?"
"No. I think she was too shaken to be an effective witness. What did you learn from your 'source'?"
"Not much. According to the local Shaman, Bigfoot isn't behind this. He said Bigfoot doesn't get involved in the affairs of men."
"That's good to know. It's also what the sheriff said."
"Yeah, it is. One believes and one doesn't, but both say Bigfoot didn't do it, despite evidence to the contrary. Well, at least Bigfoot's got a better case than O.J. Simpson."
Scully got up to go back to her room. "Sheriff Tyler said he'd take us out to where Bob Worthington disappeared tomorrow morning. Don't let your imagination run away with you until we get there and see the evidence for ourselves."
Mulder sat back on the bed, hands clasped behind his head. "Sure thing. G'night, Scully."
"Good night, Mulder."
"Agent Mulder! Agent Scully! Good morning!" Jeff Tyler was in a good mood. Much as it hurt his male ego to lets the feds handle this, if they could crack it, things would finally be back to normal in his town.
If only Agent Mulder didn't have this Bigfoot fixation...
Mulder shook his hand. "Good morning, Sheriff Tyler. Scully tells me you have a little field trip planned for us?"
"I thought you might like to have a look at the spot where Bob Worthington disappeared. It's pretty far into the woods, so we'd better take my jeep." The sheriff grabbed his coat and headed out the door.
Once they were in the jeep and on the road, the sheriff asked, "So, do you have any ideas about what might have happened?"
Mulder piped up from the back seat. "Well, since Bigfoot seems to be in the clear... have you had any problems with crop circles, or cattle mutilations?"
Scully cut her partner off. "No, we don't have any theories yet. We'll see what we can tell from the evidence at the site. In the meantime, have you noticed anything unusual in town?"
"Actually, I did notice one thing. You know that group I told you about, the one that went into the forest every so often looking for Bigfoot? I tried to ask their leader, Paul Simmons, if he'd seen anything, but I can't find him or anybody else that I knew was in that group. Their neighbors haven't seen them in months. It's like they just disappeared."
"You think they might have had something to do with this?"
"I don't see how. I meant what I said yesterday about how they weren't dangerous. They were a little weird, sometimes, but they were all nice folks."
Neither Mulder or Scully said anything, and they made the rest of the drive into the forest in silence.
"Well, here we are."
Mulder was shaken out of his reverie by the suddenness of the sheriff's voice. It seemed like they'd been on the road much longer than half an hour.
They'd moved off the main road quite a ways back, and had taken a poorly maintained dirt road to the camp. The sheriff was right about needing the Jeep; the Ford they rented would never have made the trip.
They were surrounded on all sides by the forest, fifty foot trees standing in mute testimony to the humans who had disappeared here. Even to Mulder it felt a little spooky, and he noticed that Scully seemed downright freaked. The last few times she'd been in the woods hadn't been pleasant.
The sheriff got his shotgun out from under the seat. "The clearing is this way, come on." He started off into the woods.
Mulder and Scully followed, weapons drawn but on safety. The forest was deathly quiet, without a hint of the sounds one normally heard. No bird cries, no sound of small animals scurrying for cover, it was as if the woods were dead. It took them about ten minutes to reach the clearing.
"This is where Mary Worthington was told to wait. Bob ran across this clearing, then she saw something move behind those trees on the other side." The sheriff paused, not quite sure what to do next. He'd searched this area thrice over, and found nothing. He didn't know what the FBI expected to find.
Just then, Mulder started across the clearing at a run.
"Mulder! What're you doing?" Scully started after him, followed by the sheriff.
Mulder stopped just inside the treeline, and spun around. He waited for Scully and Sheriff Tyler to catch up.
"I was hoping to see from Bob Worthington's perspective what he ran into, to see if there were any obvious traps."
"You won't find any, Agent Mulder. My men and I went over this area with a fine-toothed comb. All we found were the footprints and we lost those in the rocks about a half mile northwest of here."
Scully was studying the trees. "So there was no evidence of a struggle?"
"We figure whoever grabbed Bob knocked him out quick, then carried him. He didn't struggle."
Mulder perked up. "Did you hear that?"
Scully looked up sharply, but the sheriff said, "Probably nothing. A squirrel or a rabbit."
"What?" Scully asked.
"Agent Mulder has pretty good ears. There's something rustling in those bushes over there."
"I still want to check it out." Mulder started off in the direction of the noise.
"So cover me." Mulder approached a shoulder high cluster of shrubs and small trees. There was definitely something moving behind them, but he couldn't see what it was, or how big it was. He then heard two muffled thumps behind him.
He spun around to see Scully and the sheriff lying prone on the forest floor, out cold. He had just taken two steps towards them when he saw a large shadow out of the corner of his eye.
He couldn't turn fast enough to see what hit him.
"Wake him up."
Mulder was groggily aware of being pulled to his feet. He was suddenly jarred into full consciousness by a splash of cold water in his face.
"Mulder," Mulder spat. "Not even my parents call me Fox." He looked around. He was in a cave, the sole illumination coming from small camp fires. Unseen hands had tied him to something behind him, forcing him to remain standing with his arms outstretched.
There were three men in from of him, dressed in rags. They had taken his watch and there was no sunlight in the cave, so he had no idea what time it was, or how long he'd been missing. He wondered about Scully.
"You're friends are quite well, Mulder, " the center man said, as if reading his thoughts. "We chose you and you alone to join us in perfection."
"Welcome," the man said, "to the Church of the Holy Reunion. My name is Reverend Paul Simmons, and this is Brother Mike and Brother Tom. They will be helping me educate you in the Truth."
"Can't I just throw a twenty in the collection plate and go home?"
Brother Mike stepped up and struck Mulder hard across the jaw.
"Do not make light of the Truth, Mulder," Simmons continued. "We all believe in the Truth very, very strongly, and will not stand to see it ridiculed by unbelievers. But you won't be an unbeliever for long. I have a feeling about you. You want to believe. Soon you'll be one us, well on your way to perfection and immortality."
Mulder suddenly made a mental connection. "Paul Simmons? Aren't you one of those Bigfoot hunters?"
Simmons laughed. "Hunters? Is that what Sheriff Tyler told you? No, Mulder. We seek the Sasquatch, but not to kill them."
"Then what do you want from them?"
"Why, to join them, of course."
Scully woke with a splitting headache. She was lying on the ground in the forest. The sun was low in the West, so she figured she'd been out for at least seven hours. Sheriff Tyler was lying about ten feet away, motionless.
She picked herself up and went over to the sheriff. She knelt down beside him and began to examine him. He was breathing, and like her, appeared to have been struck from behind. As she felt his head and neck for obvious breaks she looked around for Mulder. There was no sign of him. Dammit, Mulder, why is every time we go into the forest --
Tyler awoke with a start and scrambled to his feet. Scully fell backwards, startled.
"What the hell?" Tyler stammered.
"It's OK," Scully replied, "I'm a doctor. We were both clubbed from behind, and I was examining you to see if you had a concussion."
Tyler looked embarrassed. "Sorry. Let me help you up." He grabbed Scully's hand and pulled her to her feet. "So do I have a concussion?"
Scully took a penlight from her pocket and flashed it in his eye. "No, you're OK."
"Good. Devil of a headache, though. Where's your partner?"
"I was just wondering the same thing. I haven't seen him. I know Mulder wouldn't just wander off. I think we have another disappearance on our hands."
"What do mean, 'join them'?"
"The Church of the Holy Reunion," Simmons spread his arms wide, "is dedicated to rejoining our lost brothers. To let them lead us to perfect immortality.
"What you know as Sasquatch are actually human beings, like you and me, who centuries ago learned to live in perfect harmony with the universe. They are every one of them perfect, tuned into the very pulse of the cosmos, and they can never die."
"And you think you can become Sasquatch?"
"I know it, Mulder, and you will too. All that is required is perfect wanting. When the Church has enough members, the Sasquatch will come down from their mountain paradise and lead us back to it, as brothers. But we must all believe, with our hearts and souls. If there is any dissent, any heathen unbelievers among us, they will not come. "Do you see the Truth I speak?"
Mulder thought for a moment. Zealots hate to be disagreed with.
Maybe he should just play along. "Yes. Yes I do. I was a fool not to see it before."
Simmons and Brother Mike exchanged a look, then Brother Mike struck Mulder hard across the jaw again.
"You are not being sincere with us, Mulder. We do not like being lied to. No matter. You will believe. You want to believe. I will leave you now. A brother of the Church will stay with you to see to it that you ponder the meaning of the Truth, and the effect it will have on your life. I will return and see what you believe." Simmons left, followed by Brother Tom.
Brother Mike sat across from Mulder on the floor. "Reflect on the Truth as Reverend Simmons has told it to you." He stared at Mulder, unblinking.
It was standard brainwashing technique, Mulder thought. Over the next several days or weeks, they would inhibit his sleep, feed him only enough to keep him alive, and give him nothing to do but think about their "Truth". That would lull him into a high state of suggestibility, and then they could make him believe whatever they wanted. The FBI had taught him to handle this.
He had to keep a clear head. He had to resist whatever they told him. He had to play their game, say what they wanted without believing it himself. Most importantly, he had to have faith. He had faith in his own strength to get through this. More importantly, he realized, he had faith in Scully. If Simmons was right and she was safe (he had to believe that) then she would find him. He just had to bide time until she brought the calvary crashing down on these people.
For three days and nights he stood there, splashed with water every time he fell asleep. There was no sunlight, but his guard had been changed eight times. He figured if they were on eight hour shifts, that plus the first guard made three days.
Brother Mike was the only quiet one. All the other guards droned on endlessly about the glorious perfection the Sasquatch would bring them. It made it hard to think. When it became obvious that he was tuning them out, they'd attack. A kick to the groin or a rock to the head were commonly used to regain his rapt attention.
Where the hell was Scully? Seventy-two hours is a lot of time to think, and the lack of sleep was making his brain fuzzy. She should have been here by now. Didn't she care?
No, he cautioned himself. Don't go there. Scully's looking for you. She'll find you. Be patient. If you have to believe in something, believe in Scully.
At that moment Simmons finally re-entered the room. "So Mulder, have you meditated on the Truth?"
"Yes." Mulder croaked through split, cracked and dehydrated lips.
"And have you accepted the glorious Truth of our Church?"
Simmons paused. "Why don't I believe you, Mulder? Your mouth says yes, but your eyes say no. We can't have that." He looked back over his shoulder. "Brother Chris!"
A man Mulder had never seen walked into the room. He was short and thin, but had a hard edge to him that immediately screamed "Danger!" to Mulder.
Simmons continued. "Brother Chris is our disciplinarian. Brother Chris, show Mulder the penalty for faltering in his belief."
Brother Chris gave Mulder a wicked smile, and walked over to the fire. He took two heavy gloves from his back pocket and used them to remove a rod of steel that Mulder hadn't noticed before from the fire.
He walked over to Mulder and with one hand, holding the rod in the other, ripped Mulder's shirt open.
"Brother Chris," Simmons said, "let me know when Mulder is ready to cooperate. Mulder, it doesn't have to be like this. If only you weren't so stubborn, if only you gave up your foolish ways and embraced the Truth with all your heart, we wouldn't have to resort to these measures." Simmons walked from the room.
Mulder looked at the small man before him. He clearly enjoyed his work. Mulder braced himself.
His screams could be heard throughout the camp.
Mulder has passed out from the pain, but it seemed like he had just fallen into the first deep sleep in years when the water came again, yanking him back to wakefulness. The pain of his burns came back too, hitting him like a freight train.
"I don't understand you, Mulder."
Simmons was standing in front of him, alone. "I know you believe in Sasquatch. A member of our church heard you say as much to Sheriff Tyler. Yet you refuse to accept the Truth we preach, even when such disbelief only brings more pain."
Mulder concentrated on his pain, blocking out what he could of the reverend's words.
"Do you want a show of faith? Something to show you we really do have your best interests at heart? Fine. I'll untie you."
As Simmons released his bonds, Mulder collapsed to the ground like a sack of potatoes.
Simmons spoke softly, confidentially. "Mulder, it's so easy to end your pain. A simple leap of faith, really. You already know Sasquatch exists, now you just need to accept them as your saviors, your key to eternal life and happiness."
Simmons' voice dropped into a droning monotone. "It's so easy, Mulder. So easy to end your pain and suffering. Accept the Truth, and you will be free. Accept the Truth. Believe it. You want to believe. I can see it in your eyes. You want to believe. Accept the Truth. End your pain." He paused. "Do you believe?"
Mulder painfully raised his head to look Simmons in the eye. "No."
Simmons stamped his foot in frustration. "Why? Your blasphemy just brings more pain! Can't you see that? Why don't you believe?"
"I already believe in something else." And she's looking for me right now, he added to himself.
Before Simmons could comment, they both turned at the sounds coming from the main camp. Shouts of "He's here!" and "We're saved!" were quickly replaced by screams. Simmons ran from the room, and as soon as he could muster enough strength, Mulder followed.
Once he left the "conversion chamber", Mulder saw that the camp was a large, flat clearing surrounded by mountains. A stream ran through it, exiting in the West, were the sun had just finished setting. On the eastern edge of the camp was all the commotion. The cultists were engaged in hand to hand combat against a huge figure.
Mulder couldn't make out any details in the post-twilight illumination, but the figure was strong enough to hurl cultists a dozen feet through the air. Mulder half-ran, half-staggered to stream and followed it West, out of camp.
The ranger spotted something through the trees, a figure lying on the shore of a small stream. He ran to it.
"Search 13 to Search HQ. I have an unconscious Caucasian male matching Agent Mulder's description. I'll need a Medivac chopper, he's in bad shape." He relayed his coordinates to headquarters, and began first aid on Mulder.
The ranger was glad it was over. The search party, led by a seemingly tireless Agent Scully, had been going non-stop for four days, and they had almost given up. Hundreds of people had searched to woods and foothills and come up empty.
Then earlier tonight, another ranger stumbled onto a man running through the woods, screaming "We are Damned!"
More people were soon found, some of them coherent enough to explain about their cult and where they were before their "god" drove them out. The search was concentrated on this area, and now they had finally found paydirt.
The ranger finished up. Mulder had some bad burns, was malnourished, dehydrated, and in mild shock, but his vitals were good.
He was going to be OK.
It was over.
The creature walked alone in the mountains. Despite his eight foot height and over 600 pound weight, he had no trouble scrambling nimbly over the rocks; he'd done it all his life.
He didn't like attacking the camp of the Hairless Ones and driving them away. Contact with them was not the way of his people. For centuries his people had kept to themselves, living at peace with the forest, fighting the Hairless Ones only to defend themselves.
Since the camp was formed, more and more Hairless Ones came into the forest. In the last few days, more came than ever before. The Hairless Ones had brought violence and death since the dawn of time, and his people were in danger. The Hairless Ones had to be driven away.
His task completed, the creature loped off into the night.The End