Title: Strange Encounter
Author: Chuck

This is a fragment of a story that ended up not going anywhere. But I have always liked it, and hope to find something to graft it onto one day. The Phantom Stranger is a copyright of DC Comics.

JANUARY 1, 2000

"I'll be right back," Scully said. She made her way, a little unsteadily, out of Mulder's office and to the women's restroom, where she stood in front of the aluminum sink, ran some cold water,
 splashed it on her face, rubbed her eyes. They were sore from fatigue and rubbing them felt good. When she opened them, she saw a dark figure reflected in the mirror above the sink. It was a man. A man in a dark suit and a cloak, with a black, wide-brimmed hat pulled down over his eyes. He had some kind of strange-looking amulet hanging around his neck from a heavy chain.


"Sir," she said wearily, turning to confront the man. "I think you're in the wrong room ..."

He cocked his head slightly, regarding her with eyes that were invisible under the shadow of his hat brim. "Dana Scully," he said. "I need to speak with you." Scully could feel the eyes on her.
This wasn't an ordinary man, she knew immediately. She wasn't afraid; she felt more weary irritation than anything. She was a bit fed up with mysterious strangers and their cryptic pronouncements. Ever since she finally took the plunge, and began giving credence to ideas that she would once have found out of the question, she had learned that the paranormal is generally more annoying than scary.

"Okay," she said with a sigh. "Who are you and what cosmic secret do you want to reveal to me or wipe from my mind?" She glanced at her watch. "I really don't have all day, you know."

The man seemed momentarily taken aback. Then he smiled, just a little. "I am ... a stranger."

"No shit." She looked him up and down. "Well, you're not the strangest stranger I've ever seen, by a long shot. I hope you won't be offended if I don't go all slack-jawed in your presence. I've
 spent most of the past 24 hours shooting zombies in order to prevent the Apocalypse, so you'll understand if my shock threshold is pretty high this morning."

Now the man, if that's what he was, was definitely smiling.

"I've had many reactions from mortals through the centuries," he remarked, "but nothing quite like this. I must admit, I find it ... refreshing."

"I'm thrilled for you," Scully said dryly. "Now, can we please get to the point?"

"Of course. Oh, may I say that the creatures you fought were not proper zombies. A zombie is a creature animated by a very specific Voodoo ritual process. What you fought would more properly be called
 a ghoul, or perhaps a..."
He stopped short, having detected the look in Scully's eyes, a glare that might very well have enough intensity behind it to kill even him. He cleared his throat and began again.

While you and your partner made a valiant effort, I'm afraid you did not 'prevent the Apocalypse,' as you put it. Your necromancer was nothing more than a distraction. The Millennium Group has other plans afoot, as I think you knew in your heart they would."
Scully made a face. It was true, she hadn't been satisfied with their latest bit of work. From what she had learned of the Millennium Group, she found it hard to believe that the plan that she and Mulder and Frank Black had interfered with was the only one the Group had in place.
The Stranger's face and voice became grave. "There are awful times ahead, Dana Scully. You will play a role in the drama that is to unfold. You will survive, but the cost will be terrible. Not more than you can bear, for you are strong, but terrible nonetheless."

Scully rolled her eyes. "I knew it. I knew you were gonna go cryptic on me. I suppose you can't tell me any of the details because there are some things that it is better for mere mortals not to know, or something like that. Am I right?"

"Uh ... well, yes. Though I would not necessarily say 'mere,' although..."

"SO," Scully snapped, and the Stranger decided that if her eyes didn't kill him, her tone would. "the point of this visitation would be ...?"

The Stranger became even more solemn. "To tell you not to give up. You will want to. A moment will come, very soon, when you will be tempted to give in, to cease caring. You will doubt yourself and the future. Please, Dana, do not. Much will depend upon the decision you will make. You have great inner strength, more than you have ever been aware of. When the time comes, use it. Look into your heart and you will find what you need."

Scully nodded slowly. "Yes, okay. Very good. You used to work for Hallmark, right?"

She rubbed her eyes again. "I'll tell you what I'm hoping right now," she said as she rubbed. "I'm really, really hoping you are an hallucination brought on by fatigue, a bit of undigested beef perhaps, and when I open my eyes again, you'll be gone." She stopped rubbing but kept her eyes shut. "Okay, are you gone yet?"

"No," came the Stranger's voice.

"I didn't think so." Scully sighed and opened her eyes. Sure enough, he was still there, very solid and real. She studied his face, tried to get a glimpse of the eyes beneath the hat brim. "I'm not going to ask you what you are," she said, "because I know you'll say something weird and I'll be tempted to shoot you. If I find you have mirrors on your shoes, I will not hesitate."

The Stranger smiled again. "It wouldn't have much of an effect, I'm afraid."

"But it would sure make me feel a lot better."

The Stranger raised his hand in a gesture of farewell. "Remember what I have told you, Dana Scully. Everything you will need is already inside you. I have faith that you will make the right choices."

"Then why did you have to run me down in the ladies' room?"

"Before I answer," said the Stranger, gesturing toward the opposite wall, "tell me why there are no urinals in this restroom."

Scully's head had turned in the direction the Stranger had indicated and she stared blankly at the row of stalls. Her eyebrows went up. She said, "Damn, you really ARE a Stranger." She turned back around and started to speak. "Are you being serious..."

But the Stranger was gone. Just like that. No noise, no puff of smoke, nothing.

Scully shook her head. She resolved that if she ever met this phantom of the lavatory again, he would pay for his little joke. Not the cryptic prophesy. That was par for the course. The thing about the urinals, though, that was too much.

 All that was left for her now was to shrug and sigh and jump back into the meat grinder.

 It was going to be one of THOSE days.

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