Scully sat up and looked around slowly. Off to the right the glittering white sand beach stretched out for miles, curving slightly to form one arm of a broad bay. Off to the left the sand gave way to dull gray rocks that slowly rose in elevation probably sloping towards some hidden cliff. Straight ahead lay the shimmering jewel of the sea. The ocean from the shore to the horizon was unblemished, not a solitary boat to be seen. The sky above was equally blue and equally empty.
It was a stunningly beautiful scene, very tranquil, and altogether wholly unexpected. The last thing she could remember...well, she wasn’t sure exactly what the last thing she remember was, but certainly not this. She stood up and looked around again. The ocean continued to lap lazily against the shore.
That was Mulder’s voice. She looked behind her into the deep jungle, but saw no sign of her partner or anyone else for that matter. Shielding her eyes against the bright sun she caught sight of a set of reflective green eyes.
“Now, don’t overreact...”
A creature like none Scully had ever even imagined stepped from the darkness of the trees onto the open sunny beach. It was like an Egyptian God come to life, a grotesque mixture of human and animal. He (she assumed ‘he’ due to the dark blue loin cloth that it wore) walked upright on muscular oddly jointed legs, like those of a dog standing on it’s hind legs. These strange appendages ended in almost comically oversized paws. The upper body was more human in form except for the shiny fur coat. One arm seemed to be bleeding slightly from what appeared to be a bite mark.
More shocking than the odd body structure was it’s face. The whole head was like that of a jackal. No, Scully thought to herself, not a jackal, more like a fox, with a big bushy tail to prove it. A fox with Mulder’s voic...
Fox grimaced as Scully hit the sand in a dead faint.
Scully woke once again hoping that the beach and it’s strange inhabitants had vanished. The wheeling call of a seagull informed her otherwise. The creature was now in the clear ocean up to his waist. He sifted through the calm water with a net that was stretched between two pieces of bamboo. When he’d captured the school of fish he’d been hunting he flung them up on the beach at Scully’s feet.
“I didn’t think you’d ever get up.” Mulder’s voice came from the canine jaws. “You didn’t have to faint, I only got nipped by the Wolf Brothers.” He held up his arm which was now wrapped in a bit of white cloth. “Certainly nothing to get so worked up over.”
Scully didn’t reply. She just stared down at the myriad of tiny fish that were writhing in the white sand at her feet. Seemingly thousands of black glassy eyes stared back at her. She got up hastily when Fox came out of the water to join her on the beach. He violently shook the water from his red and white coat.
“What...” Scully couldn’t even finish the question.
“Dinner.” Fox answered as he scooped the little fish into a sack. “Although I am getting a little tired of anchovies. But you wouldn’t even *try* the rat I caught yesterday.”
“Anchovies?” Scully repeated unsure of what else to say.
“Right. Come on, the kids will be getting into trouble by now.”
Scully stood still watching the retreating white tipped tail. After a moment she snapped away from it’s hypnotic motion and followed Fox into the jungle. A narrow, but well maintained, trail lead through a lush tropical forest. Rainbow coloured birds took panicked flight in front of the oddly matched pair. Fox had a light bounce in his step as he lead Scully around the pool of water formed by a rushing waterfall.
They came to a glade like area of the humid forest. Putting down the sack of fish Fox barked sharply. Seconds later the leaves of a near by plant started to shake. Two more fox crossbreeds came trundling out of the jungle. They were young, three of four at the most, and a bit more human.
“Daddy!” The furry children cried happily in unison.
Fox laughed and knelt down with his arms open. The children threw their round arms around their father’s thick neck in a bear hug.
“Guess what I caught today, Daddy!” One child said excitedly.
“Something better than anchovies, I hope.”
“Oh yes! Much! I caught a rabbit!”
“That’s wonderful, Andrew!”
“That’s nothing.” The other sneered. “*I* caught a bird!”
“Very impressive, Nick.” Fox said with a mock grave tone. “But where’s your sister?”
“Yeah, she didn’t catch *anything*.”
“Hmmm.” Fox put the boys down, they scampered off taking turns chasing one another.
Scully watched the scene wordlessly. Fox walked over to one of the trees. He sat down at the base and casually looked around. He started to whistle, like someone in an old comedy movie trying to seem casual. It wasn’t long before the sister came slinking out of the brush. Scully caught her breath at the sight of the fox/child. Her fur was a brilliant white. Her blue eyes were bright with tears. She curled up in Fox’s lap.
“I can’t hunt like the boys can.” The little Arctic Fox child sniffled.
“You’re young yet, Little One.” Fox said smoothing her coat with his hand affectionately.
“It’s not that.” She huffed.
“It’s my fur.”
“You’re fur is beautiful, Anna.”
“I hate it.”
“It’s white!” She complained. “All the prey can see me coming!”
“Ah, I see.” Fox rocked the distraught child. “Hmmm. Well, why don’t you come fishing with me?”
“Sure, the fish won’t see you. They’ll think you’re just another cloud in the sky.”
“Really?” She said with sudden enthusiasm.
“I’ll bet you’ll be the best fisher on the whole island!”
Anna squealed in excitement. She hugged her father as the boys had and then ran after them. She was so worked up that she ran right into Scully. Anna looked up with her aqua eyes.
“Sorry, Momma. Didn’t see ya there.” Anna ran off again calling after her brothers. “Hey! Guys, I’m gonna be the best fisher ever!”
Slack jawed Scully watched the little crossbreed run off into the lush jungle after her brothers. Fox watched as well with a semblance of a smile on his long mussel. He was obviously having a good time and didn’t seem to think that anything was wrong with the world. Scully on the other hand couldn’t think of anything that was even remotely right about it.
“Mulder.” She hissed, not wanting to be over heard by the little monsters that had just left.
“What is going on here?”
“I know you didn’t want them hunting till they’re older. But you can’t stop instinct. After all they’re just kids, Deer.”
“Don’t call me ‘Dear’.” Scully snapped. “And that’s not what I’m talking about!”
“I know, I know. You haven’t been Changed yet, but it will surly happen soon. And then you’ll be the fastest runner on the whole island.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about, but this is insanity!”
“We have got to get out of here!”
“Why? Look around you, it’s beautiful here. It’s like a dream!”
“Only it’s a nightmare!”
“What, you want to go back? To the city? Impossible. The humans would never accept us.”
“Mulder, you are human. Or at least you used to be.”
“Exactly, ‘used to be’. There aren’t any humans left here, except you. You’re the last.”
Scully was at a loss for words. She was about to try again when Fox’s whole frame went tense. His triangular ears perked up as he sniffed delicately at the air. When he was convinced that his senses were detecting danger he barked sharply three times.
“What’s going on?”
“The Hunter is coming!” Fox seized Scully’s wrist and dragged her off into the forest.
“Mulder, stop this!”
“We have to hide!”
They came to a large fallen banyon tree which had been hollowed out by time. Fox lead Scully over to an opening in the tree on the far side and they crawled inside. Through some small holes that had rotted out Scully could see into the peaceful jungle. Fox’s body stayed tense as he also surveyed what little of the surrounding area he could see.
“The children will be all right, they know how to hide.” Fox whispered to himself.
He was trying to sound confident, but Scully could hear the strain in his voice. Mulder’s voice had remained unchanged even if the rest of him was unfamiliar, and she knew its every tone. She was about to protest their hiding from nothing when the object of Mulder’s fear stepped into view.
It was a human, dressed for all the world like he was on an Africa safari. As he walked further into the clearing he tugged on a rope he was trailing. Before Scully could identify the animal the Hunter had in tow Fox exploded from their hiding place.
It was little Anna.
It was too late he was already rushing to the aid of his only daughter. The Hunter was not caught totally by surprise. He pulled out a large caliber pistol and pointed it at his attacker’s chest. Fox screeched to a halt. Fur bristling he curled his lip exposing a set of sharp canine teeth.
“Now, now, Fox.” The Hunter said calmly. “Don’t make me kill you. Not like this, I want to wait till I have a Hound before I come after you.”
Fox growled menacingly.
“Have it your way.”
The cracking gun shot was followed by a yelp of surprise and pain. The Hunter stared at his empty hand. He looked around to see who had shot the pistol from his hand. Scully stood by the fallen tree with her own weapon drawn.
“Ah, there you are, my Deer.” The Hunter said in a friendly tone.
“Don’t call me ‘Dear’!” Scully barked.
“Have you come to your senses yet?” The Hunter asked. “Will you take me up on my offer?”
“I don’t know what’s going on here, but it ends right now. Now get out of here before I lose my temper and do something rash!”
The Hunter sighed. He looked down at Fox who was now protectively guarding the young Arctic Anna. “I see you’ve made your decision. I just hope when the time comes your fox here can stave off the wolves.”
Scully watched warily as the Hunter left. Fox untied the rope from Anna’s hands. When she was free she buried herself in her father’s thick fur. He nuzzled her back and whispered soothing words. Scully walked up to the united pair.
“I thought you said there weren’t anymore humans here.”
“That wasn’t a human. That’s a monster.”
After the stressful events the family went back to their den for some much needed rest. Fox curled up in a shallow depression filled with leaves with his children safely by his side. Scully declined the offer to lay down with the pack. She had questions and they simply weren’t getting answered here.
When the foxes were sleeping soundly Scully snuck off into the lush forest. There were still a few hours of daylight left, but the thick overgrowth gave the landscape a permanent twilight appearance. There was no path in sight so Scully simply wandered. She wasn’t sure where she was going or even who she was looking for, but she had to do something.
The noise caused Scully’s heart to skip a few beats. When she looked up she found another strange creature sitting on a low branch in front of her. He had a huge set of multi coloured wings instead of arms and a large black hooked beak where his mouth and nose should have been.
“Hello?” Scully said cautiously.
“Hello?” The winged man replied.
“I’m, uh... I’m looking for help.”
“Squawk! I’m, uh... I’m looking for help.”
Scully sighed, only to have the bird-man sigh as well.
“Never mind. Just go away.”
“Never mind. Just go away.”
Scully stalked off silently in frustration. Of course someone who was half parrot would only repeat her. Not far away was a large apple tree that looked rather inviting. She hadn’t been hungry, but the sight of the apples suddenly made her stomach growl. She walked towards the tree, but at the last moment decided against eating anything in this strange land.
“Hey! Sssstop!” A voice hissed from the tree.
“Yessss.” The upper half of a man suddenly appeared hanging upside down from one of the thick branches. “Want an apple? They’re delicioussss!”
The man produced a bright red apple and offered it to her.
“Why does this seem so familiar?”
“Everyone sayssss that.”
The man offering Scully an apple dropped a little lower out of the tree. Instead of legs the man’s lower half was that of a gigantic snake! Staring at the man’s scaly hide Scully backed away. He still held out the apple.
“Um, no thank you, sorry.” Scully apologized. “Adam wouldn’t approve.”
“Maybe ssssome other time.”
Scully didn’t reply. She was too busy running in the opposite direction. After a while she stopped by the side of a pond. Looking around she realized that she was now thoroughly lost. She was too busy thinking of what to do next to notice the approach of another visitor.
When she did look up Scully stared silently. The newcomer sat in the water and watched Scully just as quietly. It was definitely female, however it was only vaguely human. She had an unnaturally long neck that curved back. Instead of hair she had long white feathers that ran from the top her head all the way down to her shoulders. Her white wings were folded tight against her back. Tears streamed down the creatures face.
“Are you all right?” Scully asked concerned.
The woman opened her mouth to talk, but she produced no sound.
“Don’t bother talking to her.” A braying voice said.
“What?” Scully turned around and found herself face to face with a female centaur.
“She can’t speak, she’s a Mute Swan.” The horse explained and then sneezed violently.
“Bless you.” Scully said automatically.
“Thanks.” The centaur sniffed. “Let’s go, hop on.”
“You obviously don’t belong here, so let’s go.” The centaur sneezed again.
“Are you all right?”
“I’m allergic to horses.”
Scully bid the sneezing centaur good-bye. It had been a very unusual ride to say the least. The centaur had brought her to the gate of a mansion. It was the first sign of human habitation she had seen since this crazy adventure had begun. It was almost certainly the home of the Hunter. However, Scully felt he probably was the only one who could explain what was going on.
As she approached the house an animal-man much like Mulder came rushing up to her. His advance was cut short by a thick chain attached to his collar. Straining against the chain he barked violently and generally made a display of territorial ownership. He was after all a Doberman Pincher. The dog kept barking as Scully made her way to the house. The inside of the mansion was a breathtaking display of wealth.
“Welcome!” The Hunter’s voice rang out from the top of the stairs. “Welcome, my Deer.”
Scully gritted her teeth, but didn’t bother chastising the man.
“I take it you have decided to stop living in the brush like an animal?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I’m talking about you keeping your humanity. I can’t wait for an answer for very much longer. You don’t want to become one of my crossbreeds, do you?”
“Of course not!”
“Wonderful! Then it’s settled.”
“That you’ll become my wife, of course. I can’t allow you to run around human otherwise. I have to keep this place secret. And certainly none of my crossbreeds would dare leave the safety of the island.”
“Wait a minute. Wife?” Scully protested. “No, no there has been some sort of mistake. I don’t even know how I got here.”
The Hunter sighed. “I wish you’d make up your mind. Are you going to marry me or not?”
“No! Of course not! Have you all lost your minds?!”
“No, but apparently you have.” The Hunter growled in sudden anger. “Fine! Go live with the animals, eat anchovies till you turn into a fish yourself. But you’d better run when you see me!”
Scully backed away from the Hunter. When she bumped into something on the wall she looked up to see what it was. A glassy eyed rabbit/woman looked back at her, or at least her head did. Scully gasped. There were human/animal trophies all over the wall behind her. The whole place was like a death trap. It was a whole island ruled by a crazy man, with his own personal Game Preserve. Only the ‘game’ had once been human.
The Hunter had stepped out of the room. He returned with an ornate box that fit easily in his hand. With a grim look he shut his eyes tight and opened the tiny box. Scully shut her own eyes against the searing white light that was emitted from the box.
However it was too late. Once you’ve seen the light...
A rush of cool morning air invaded Scully’s senses. Cautiously she opened her eyes. The jungle canopy loomed above her. She was beginning to lose hope that one of these times she was going to open her eyes and find herself back in the real world. Sighing she struggled to get up.
The first attempt to stand was met with a grievous loss of balance. Deciding to meet gravity half way she settled on sitting up first. Looking down at her legs Scully had to once again struggle to keep from passing out. She did not succeed.
Coming to again she quickly sat up to confirm her condition. It was just as it had been. Her normal legs had now been replaced by oddly jointed appendages covered in soft light brown fur. At the tips of these legs were jet black cloven hooves. The fur coat came all the way up her belly and up over her chest. Quickly getting up on her new hooves Scully found she also now had a small upturned tail. She stumbled about for a moment trying to find her balance.
Scully suddenly realized that they hadn’t been calling her ‘dear’, they’d said ‘deer’. As in the animal! And now she was one of these ill fated crossbreeds. She held up her hands and found that they were still human. Running a shaky hand over her face and through her hair she discovered that those too were human. She slowly remembered the box the Hunter had held and the bright light it held. Perhaps the longer one looked at the light the further from human they became.
“What have we here?”
Scully spun around at the sound of the male voice. About twenty feet away stood three wolves. They had turned so far that they now stood on four legs, although they still had hands.
“Looks like dinner to me.” Another wolf answered his brother.
“Dibbs on the leg meat.” The third chuckled.
When the wolves began to approach some deep hidden instinct triggered Scully’s new form. Suddenly finding her balance she whipped around and took off. The wolves were no more surprised by her speed than Scully herself. Her deer half bounded easily away from the predators.
Not ones to give up on a chase the Wolf Brothers howled in excitement and took chase. Running as fast as she could Scully managed to keep a few steps ahead of the wolves. However she couldn’t run forever. Even if she had the stamina to do so, this was an island and eventually she’d come to the sea.
The terrain began to get steeper and soon the trees thinned out. Scully found herself trapped by the sea, just as she had expected. What she hadn’t been expecting was the fifty foot drop between her and the blue sea. She had come to the cliff she’d seen when she’d first found herself on the beach. Scully screeched to a halt at the edge of the cliff.
The Wolf Bothers padded out of the forest leisurely. They knew the island better than she did and they had herded her to this spot knowing that there was no escape. No escape....unless...
Scully shut her eyes tight, and praying that the water below was deep enough, she leapt off the cliff.
Scully woke with a start. She kicked the blanket that covered her off violently and sat bolt upright. She looked around and was confused to see her own apartment for a change. The only light came from the tv where the nature channel she’d been watching still ran. Snapping on a light she blinked against the brightness and looked down.
Miffed at being so thoroughly fooled by a dream she picked up the pizza box that lay on the floor next to the couch. There was still three-quaters of a pizza left, but she threw it away anyway. She hadn’t ordered the anchovies, but by the time she’d discovered the mistake it was too late to really do anything about it, and she had been awfully hungry.
She looked at her watch, it was just past midnight. Mulder would still be up. The line on the other end of the phone only rang once.
“Mulder.” A somewhat sleepy voice answered.
“Make sure you shave before coming into work tomorrow.”
“Wha... Scully? Are you okay?”
“Just fine, deer.”