Title: The Seamy Side of Fairytales
Summary: Our dead do not rest, Scully.
Notes: This was written for the first ever X-OK challenge and due to time and motherhood duties, is still a WIP. I sent it to Lisby offlist to show her I was indeed working on something. She requsted posting it on the IOHO page, so I post here to obey her wish.
The challenge included:
Like I said, I'm working on it.
You want my advice? It's simple: listen closely to the screaming when it comes for it *will* come. It's only a matter of time.
When you hear it, force the wails to linger in your mind. Find intimacies in the sounds of those who suffer, who weep for days that will not return. Savor the insight as you would savor the first sniff of an expensive bottle of cognac, back in better times, back when the world thought itself safe.
If you do this, if you force yourself to face the facts now before they are upon you, you can prepare for the lay of these new lands where tears flow and hearts are empty, where the quality of life and light and love are irrevocably changed. If you do this, when the time comes you will not be surprised that what remains is empty husks, the shells of what was once alive and vital.
And maybe, if you're lucky, you will not forget humanity after it is reduced to ashes.
In Latin: benedicta tu et in mulieriubus. In Spanish: bendita tu eres entre todas las mujeres. In English: blessed are thou among women. Which must mean blessed am I among men. Therefore, blessed is he among children. If this is the case why not blessed is Krycek among villains? Or blessed is Skinner among bureaucrats? And blessed are the Gunmen for they shall know the pin number of God?
Too many are dead already. Too many, too soon. I've seen them, talked to them. Our dead do not rest, Scully. They come back to warn me, to keep me company on the nights where you are far away across the bed from me.
Once, I was a million miles away from you in space. I feel farther than that now, spinning further and further away in concentric rings away from you, away from myself. You're moving. I'm moving.
We move together but not as one.
Come back, Scully. Don't leave me alone with the dead.
Come back. Listen. I'll tell you a story.
April 14th, 2003
Interstate 35 was a winding snake that led from the heartland, through the Midwest, slithering down through Texas until it spit the dusty cars that traveled on its asphalt surface into Mexico. As if someone had thrown a switch, the landscape seemed bleaker than before. The dirtier, poorer stereotype held about the impoverished country sitting on its richer neighbor's southern doorstep in reality's light proved to be true.
Next to signs that told those driving they were leaving the land of the free, a border guard with a rifle watched over the line. His skin was cracked from exposure and heat; his mirrored sunglasses reflected the mid-morning sun. After the standard questions, he stepped out of his air-conditioned booth to get a better look into the blue jeep with Iowa plates, at the man with the beard and the dark-haired woman in the passenger seat.
"What did you say the purpose of your visit was?"
The man with the beard glanced up towards the glaring sun then back out towards the horizon. "Tourism."
"Where ya headed?"
"Real de Catorce."
"That's a ghost town, y'know."
The bearded man nodded. "We're hoping to see some spooks after we check in to the hotel."
The guard was not amused by the man's attempt at humor. He wiped a bead of sweat off the side of his face. "It's also a hell of a drive. Is the tank full?"
"We stopped in Laredo. We've got spare water for us and for the car and a couple of bags of groceries. I think we're good to go."
The border guard leaned in and looked at the woman in the passenger seat. Her eyes were closed.
"She all right?"
The bearded man nodded. "She's out. She drew the early shift down from Austin this morning. We were visiting friends for a few days before heading on down to Mexico."
The guard stepped back from the window. Something about the couple raised more than a sliver of question in his mind but it was blistering hot already outside the booth. Let them go, he thought; let them go to their damned ghost town, take some American dollars down there, buy some serapes to hang on the walls of their condo and get loaded on scratch weed and tequila.
Without another word, he stepped back and waved them through, watching as the blue jeep sped southward, away from the booth, away from the land of prosperity into a vista littered with dirt farms and abject poverty.
Once upon a time, in a land where sanity still had form and function, there lived a maiden who wanted a child. Every night she prayed to her gods to bring her a baby to love and nurture but to no avail.
Years passed and her home and heart stayed empty.
One day, she heard about a witch that lived deep in the neighboring forest, a witch who knew spells that could give even the most barren a child. So great was her desire to have a child, without hesitation the maiden started off that very day to find the witch. She journeyed deep into the woods, so deep many time she feared she might have lost her way. During her travels, she met many people and had many adventures. Several times she nearly found happiness. At these times, she thought she might stop and stay where she was; forget her quest and be content with what she already had. Always, at the last minute, she packed her meager bags and continued forwards.
The seasons changed and still the woman pressed forward. After many months of travel, one winter's day she wandered into a clearing where a wretched hut stood. Feral eyes filled with hunger and resentment peered out at her from under the porch. The air in the clearing smelled sour with decay and waste.
The maiden was frightened. In her heart, she knew she had reached her destination. This had to be the home of the famous witch.
After a moment, she took a deep breath and went up the creaking, rotten steps towards the door. Her courage never faltered, even as she heard strange rustling noises from beneath her feet. After what seemed an eternity, she faced the front door and raised her hand to knock. Before she could do so, the door swung open of its own volition. The smell of rot radiated out from the hut's darkened interior. The urge to flee came over the maiden like a wave from the far-away sea but instead, she cleared her throat and called into the warm, rotten darkness.
"Hello? Is anyone there?"
"Come in," gurgled a voice in return. The sound of it sent shivers racing up the maiden's spine. "I've been expecting you."
Little boys in malls, little boys at the playground, little boys at school, little boys at home, little boys who play in yards, little boys that play hide and seek, who own Tonka trucks and baseball bats and fall back into piles of tall grass in meadows to gaze up at cloud formations floating past, that one's a dragon, that one's a man running, that one's a spaceship--
The hand shakes Dana Scully awake, taking her away from children everywhere she looks. She pushes the light of day away. There, in her mind's eye, a sea of boys wait for her. They smile in greeting. They wear striped shirts, sweat shirts, sweat pants, sneakers. They carry teddy bears and baseball gloves.
"Hello," she says. "It's good to see you."
"Come on, Scully. Time to go."
The waking hand is not as gentle now and shakes her harder, forcing her to say goodbye to all those children. Her eyes flutter open to see peeling paint and a water-stained ceiling. Mulder is staring down at her, his face covered in beard. He scratches absently at his cheek and then runs a hand over his lips.
"We've got to go, Scully. We've been here too long."
Her eyes close and she turns back towards the mattress. The smell of stale linens and ancient cigarette smoke is enough to make her roll back over. She must have been exhausted to have been able to sleep on this bed at all.
Mulder is still sitting next to her on the bed. He reaches out and gently touches her face. "You were talking in your sleep."
She puts a hand over her eyes, feels his hand pull away. Old habits die hard and her guard slips up without notice.
"I was dreaming, Mulder. It happens."
"I don't remember," she lies. She opens her eyes, sees the way the light turns pink through the flesh of her hand.
The bed bounces as Mulder stands up. The sound of the overnight bag unzipping is jarring in the silence.
"Do you want to shower first?"
His voice sounds normal. Nothing's normal, Scully thinks.
"You go first. I need to dye my hair again," she mutters. Her hand falls away from her face and there again is the dirty ceiling. With a sudden burst of effort, she sits up.
Mulder stands there, staring at her, inscrutable behind the beard, eyes dark like a prophet.
"Are you going to tell me what's going on?"
She looks down at her lap. "I can't."
From where she sits, she can see Mulder's hands start to clench then stop before they make it into fists. She looks up at him and he shrugs, a sideways smile playing around the corners of his mouth. In that moment, he is the Mulder she remembers from before, leaning back in his desk chair, bouncing pencils off the ceiling.
"I'm going to get cleaned up then," he says and disappears into the bathroom.
In a few minutes, she hears the sound of the shower. She goes to the door and turns the knob, telling herself that she's just going to remind him not to swallow any of the water.
The door is locked. "Mulder," she calls. "Mulder?"
There's no answer.
Scully goes over to the window, pulls back the blinds far enough to let her peek out at the world outside. The land is brown. Dust whirls across the parking lot, blown by warm gusts of wind. Low brush clings to the side of the hotel like a needy relative.
Gazing at the barren landscape, longing for the past bites into her like a rabid dog. It rips at her heart, tears it to shreds. The blinds fall back as she goes and sits on the edge of the bed, face buried in her hands.
Mulder was right. They have been here too long.