New York, New York. 4:17 am, May 15th.
“That’s it! I can’t sleep, this is insane.” Jeff threw back the covers. “He must sleep all day so he can clomp around all night. What is he doing up there, anyway?”
“I’m sure we don’t want to know.” Andrea said sleepily. “Just come back to bed. Talk to the landlord in the morning, Hon.”
“No, I’ve had it! I’m going up there.”
“Whatever.” Andrea rolled over and snuggled down into the covers.
Jeff didn’t even change out of his plaid pajamas. He went out into the poorly lit hallway. Talking to the landlord was pointless, he’d been complaining about the burnt out hallway lights for months. Jeff climbed the stairs to an equally dark hall, and knocked on the door to the apartment above his. The persistent sounds from inside stopped instantly. A few minutes later the door opened a crack hesitantly with the chain still in place.
“Yessss?” A harsh voice answered from inside.
“What is going on up here?!” Jeff was furious, and confronting the cause of his irritation felt great. “Look, pal, I’m sure that you’ve heard that this is the ‘City that Never Sleeps’, but that’s just promotional shit for the tourist trade. Some of us need to get to work in the morning. Don’t you ever sleep?”
“Yeah, you know when you close your eyes at night and dream?” Jeff was getting more brazen. “What’s the matter with you, anyway?”
The door closed and Jeff heard the chain slide off. When the door opened fully Jeff jerked back in surprise. A tall lanky man stood in the doorway, naked from the waste up and drenched in feverish sweat. Jeff didn’t even notice all the lab equipment in the dark room behind the stranger. His attention was focused on the dark soulless eyes that were staring at him with a vexed look. Where the man’s irises should have been was just a black space outlined in a circle of bright blue.
“Uh, listen,” Jeff stuttered “I didn’t mean anything, really.”
The man stepped out into the hallway, blinking in the low light. He grabbed Jeff by the arm and drew him closer. “Day Ssssleeper!” He hissed violently.
Jeff was stunned into silence, the stranger’s touch was like an electrical shock. When he was finally released Jeff scrambled back down to his own apartment. Andrea was woken by the door slamming behind the rattled Jeff.
“Well?” She asked sarcastically, she could still hear the guy banging around upstairs.
“I, uh, he, um...”
“Never mind, Hon. Just come back to bed, it’s still dark outside.”
“No, no. I, I’m not tired anymore. In fact, I may never sleep again.”
“Well, look what the cat dragged in. Late night?”
Mulder grinned sardonically at Scully’s greeting. “It’s just a new neighbor. He never seems to sleep.”
“Call your landlord.”
“Ha! Scully, you’ve been to my place. I’m surprised that it is still standing. Trust me the landlord can do nothing.”
“What’s on today’s agenda?”
“Mulder, you know what today is.”
“It can’t be. I don’t believe it.”
Mulder groaned in pain.
“Now, now, Mulder, we can’t chase aliens everyday.”
“Yes, but, paperwork is so painful.”
“I know, but if we don’t get the year end reports in, they’ll fire us both.”
“Hmmm, then I wouldn’t be able to pay the rent and I could move to a nice quiet refrigerator box on the street.”
“The street might be an upgrade for you, but personally I’d like to keep my job. So get writing.”
If Mulder looked at one more expense report he was going to pull his gun out and shoot himself. All the glory went right out of the job at the end of the year. However, Scully was right -not having the two hundred page report was grounds for dismissal.
Mulder stepped off the elevator into a dark hallway. The single light had finally given up. It had probably died of shame from having to light such a decrepit building. He sighed and made his way by feel towards his apartment.
“Maybe it is time to move out of this effrontery to good construction.” Mulder muttered to himself.
When he came to his new neighbors door he was not expecting it to fly open. The neighbor was in such a hurry that he plunged into the dark hall and knocked into Mulder. Being quite a bit larger Mulder easily stood his ground, but the poor neighbor was sent to the floor.
“I’m sorry.” Mulder apologized. He reached down blindly to help the man up.
“No! Don’t touch me!” The man hissed.
It was too late. When Mulder’s hand brushed the fallen man it felt like an electrical shock. Mulder yelped and drew back. The stranger was cursing in his odd lisp as he got up and retreated back into his room.
Mulder was left confused in the dark. He thought about knocking, but decided that the guy probably wished to be left alone. Turning on the lights in his apartment Mulder blinked rapidly trying to get used to the new light. He had been exhausted when he’d come home, but now he felt wide awake. The banging around from next door started up again. Mulder sighed.
It was going to be a long night.
Mulder was late again. Scully chalked it up to him trying to avoid the paperwork. It had been a week since they started and they didn’t seem to be any closer to finishing. Now on top of that they had been given a case.
When Mulder did arrive he looked like he’d been ridden hard and put away wet, so to speak. His hair was ruffled and it looked liked he’d dressed in the dark. Near black sunglasses hid what Scully assumed were bloodshot eyes.
“Mulder, it’s two o’clock in the afternoon.”
Mulder didn’t reply. He sat at his desk and switched off the desk light.
“We’ve got a new case.” Scully handed over the file. “There was a murder last night. Near your apartment in fact.”
Mulder took the file gingerly, but he didn’t open it.
“Have you been drinking, Mulder?”
“No, why do you ask?”
“Well, you haven’t come to work before noon for almost a week for one thing. And for another most people don’t wear sunglasses when they work in basement offices.”
“I’ve just been having trouble sleeping, not that that’s anything new, and in the morning time just seems to get away from me. As for the glasses, my eyes have just been really sensitive to bright light lately.”
“Bright light?” Scully glanced around the dim room.
Scully walked over to Mulder, who had started to pretend to read the case file. She leaned over and pulled the glasses off his face.
“Hey!” Mulder jerked back and welded his eyes shut.
“Open your eyes, Mulder.”
“I can’t. Scully, please, give those back.”
Scully ignored the request. She pocketed the glasses and went over to the light switch. She turned off the florescent light above Mulder’s desk. Now the only light coming in was from the hallway through the open door. Scully came back to her blinded partner and touched his shoulder so he’d know where she was.
“It’s okay, Mulder, I turned off the light. I just want to see your eyes. Something is obviously wrong.”
Mulder sighed. He faced her voice and slowly opened his sore eyes. Scully’s breath hissed across her teeth as she drew a sharp breath. Mulder’s pupils were dilated so wide that they looked like deep black holes, each outlined in a thin bright green ring.
“My God, Mulder. How long have you been like this?”
“Almost a week.” Mulder shut his eyes again and held out his hand. “Can I have my glasses back, now?”
“I’ve got the test results. If you want to step into my office we can go over them.”
Scully followed the young doctor into a spartan office. She looked around wistfully at the general organization, a stark contrast to her daily office life. The doctor sat behind his desk and spread out several thick file folders. Just seeing the amount of information they had gathered on her partner told Scully that the doctors didn’t have a clue what was wrong with him.
“First of all I’d like to assure you that Agent Mulder is resting comfortably.”
“That line may work on your average ‘friends and family’, but I have to say it makes me nervous.”
“Yes, of course, I’m sorry. The reason I said that is that I’ve put your partner under suicide watch.”
“Agent Mulder isn’t suicidal.” Scully said defensively, being on suicide watch would hurt Mulder’s already ailing career.
“No, he isn’t. Not yet at any rate. But I’m afraid he might quickly turn that way.”
“There’s been some sort of mistake, Agent Mulder came here with eye trouble.”
“Yes, his eyes are extraordinary, and I want to talk to you about that. But it is the blood work that I’m troubled over.”
Scully snatched the offered folder and flipped through it. She turned the pages back and forth for a second . The seemingly random numbers painted a picture of chemical Mulder’s health. And from that chemical profile the health of his various systems.
“These can’t be right.”
“As you can see we’ve done the tests several times.”
“I don’t see how he can possibly have melatonin levels this high, and serotonin levels this low without serious dementia.” Scully saw now why the doctor felt the need for a suicide watch.
“Something is messing with his circadian rhythm to the point where it is causing the hormones associated with it to go completely haywire. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how delicate brain chemistry is. An imbalance this far off the norm could lead to some sever mental problems. Serotonin levels half as low as these lead to depression, suicidal tendencies, over eating, aggression, sleeplessness, etc...”
“I hate to mention this, but erratic hormones usually points to a pineal gland tumor.”
“I thought of that. The CAT came back negative. No I think we’re dealing with something else.”
“I don’t know, but it almost seems like he’s simply not getting enough dark.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Well, melatonin and serotonin are both controlled by exposure to light, dark inhibits melatonin production and induces serotonin build up. Now since melatonin is produced from serotonin if nothing is there to inhibit it it will run rampant. There in lies the problem.”
“He is synthesizing all of his serotonin into melatonin.”
“I don’t know, but I think it has something to do with his eyes. Agent Mulder’s eyes have become so sensitive to light that there isn’t anything to inhibit melatonin production. The muscles in his irises have completely relaxed, almost to the point of failure. That’s what is causing the unusually large pupils and along with them a heightened sensitivity to light. What is really strange is the fact that it hasn’t blinded him. The normal human lens is not capable of focusing properly when the pupil isn’t dilated correctly. The world should be a blur to him.”
“But it isn’t?”
“Far from it. The cilliary body, the muscle attached to the lens, is having the opposite problem that the iris is having. The cilliary body has contracted so hard that it had stretched out the lens. Which in this case had actually fixed the focus problem.”
“How is that possible, the lens can only change so much.”
“I’m not sure, but I tried a little test a whim and I found something extraordinary. I can hardly believe it myself.”
“Agent Mulder can see in the dark.”
Just get a hold of yourself. That’s right, calm down. See? It just takes a certain level of mental control. And pills, yes, pills, they help. Although we’re running out of them again. Damn. If only that little pharmacist hadn’t decided to work so late none of the horrible blood would have been split. She just caught me at an aggressive phase.
Honestly. I’m a reasonable man. Or at least I used to be, I mean would a reasonable man talk to himself like this? Probably not. The stress is getting to me. I used to be brilliant as well, but lately my scientific prowess has eluded me along with an answer to my problem. Not just my problem anymore. I wish I was warm hearted enough to feel guilty over what I did to that pesky New York neighbor. But if I’m going to pretend to be honest I need to accept the fact that I don’t care about that one. He’s probably dead by now anyway or on the brink of suicide.
Agent Mulder, however, is a different story. Of all the bad luck. What are we going to do know? Eh, John? What now? We came here for his help, we figured he’d understand, even if he just listened to our sad story he’d be doing more than anyone else has done. But I’ve done a excellent job of burning that bridge right down to cinders. I mean really? What am I supposed to do now? Knock on the door:
“Hi, I’m the source of all problems. Will you help me?”
Scully stepped into the basement office. Seeing as she still didn’t have a desk of her own she slumped down in Mulder’s vacant chair. Scully leaned back and closed her blurry eyes. It had been a long night. She brought Mulder back from the hospital early in the evening and tried to get him to rest. However, that was an exercise in futility. Mulder had finally fallen asleep around dawn. There was definitely something unbalanced about him, not that he’d ever been truly sailing with a straight keel.
However, this was different than the usual quirky Mulder. The depression hadn’t started to quite take its toll yet, but it was only a matter of time. The doctor did prescribe a heavy dose of both tranquilizers and anti depressants. Before Scully even knew what happened Mulder had taken enough of the tranquilizes to fell a horse, but to no effect. Scully feared that the anti depressants were going to be just as useless.
Scully put Mulder out of her mind for the time being. There was still lots of work to be done. Not only was the year end report still looming, but also the case they had been given which she would now have to work on alone. The body was still down at Quantico waiting, the paperwork was still lurking on the desk. Scully spent a moment in tired indecision. In the end a gruesome autopsy actually seemed favorable to the tedium of paper work.
Down at the Quantico morgue everything seemed normal, in fact too normal. A quick glance at the corpse in question showed that she had definitely been strangled with someone’s bare hands. Reading the file Scully found nothing special that would warrant an FBI Agent’s attention. Just a pharmacist that got in the way of some drugy. A tragedy? Yes. A crime? Most certainly. But surely a case the local police could handle on their own.
All ready frustrated about her ill partner and somewhat furious that her time was being wasted Scully pulled out her cell phone. She peevishly dialed the police station that had fostered the case onto her. After a few moments an entirely too perky receptionist picked up.
“I need to speak to Captain Blackwood.”
Scully waited while tapping her foot sharply against the tile floor.
“Yes?” A husky voice answered.
“Why are you wasting the FBI’s time?” Scully snapped.
“Whoa, wait a minute, who is this?”
“Special Agent Dana Scully.”
“Oh right, you must be talking about the pharmacy case. I figured that you guys would want that body. I guess I could have called the CDC, but...”
“CDC? Why would they want this case?”
“Well,” the Captain hesitated “because of the weird condition of the body. We’re supposed to send strange corpses to you.”
“Agent Mulder’s reputation precedes him, I see.”
“Who? No, I just mean the FBI morgue in general.”
“I haven’t found anything strange besides the strangle marks.”
“Well, what about the eyes?”
“Yeah, they were all black. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“Can you hold a moment?”
“Sure. Something wrong?”
Scully opened the locker drawer that contained the corpse in question. Forgetting to bother with gloves Scully pulled back the dead woman’s closed eyelid. The once hazel eye was slightly rolled back but Scully could still see that the pupil was dilated to point where the iris was just a thin circle of brown.
“Do you know what drugs were taken?”
“Um, let me see, that report was just handed in to me earlier today. Ah! Here it is. Looks like Zoloft, Prosac, Paxil...”
“Those are all anti depressants.”
“If you say so. Do you want us to take the cases back?”
“No, we’ll handle it. Thank you for your time.”
“No problem, Agent.”
Scully hung up and thought about what she had just learnt. The facts were so similar to Mulder’s problems that she struggled to make some sort of a connection.
Maybe this case was an X-file after all.
It was late when Scully finally made her way back to Mulder’s apartment. Before entering the building she looked up to see how much longer the sun would be out. There was still a little bit of daylight left due to the summer season. Absent mindedly looking at the building one set of windows caught her eye. At first they had just looked vacant, but on second look Scully found that they had been hastily painted over with streaky black paint.
Scully knit her eyebrows. Why would someone paint over their windows? Unless they had something to hide, or perhaps to hide from. Scully was about to pass off the incident to Mulder’s paranoia rubbing off on her when she noted that the apartment in question belonged to the new neighbor Mulder had been complaining about. Perhaps a quick stop there on the way to Mulder’s wouldn’t hurt.
The elevator doors opened to a pitch black hall. The light had been working earlier, but she figured it must have since blown. Not surprising really. Scully picked her way carefully down the dark path. Any thoughts of stopping at the neighbors had vanished in the darkness. Although when she passed by Scully got the impression that the door was open despite the fact that she couldn’t be sure in the premature midnight.
Mulder’s apartment wasn’t much better than the hall. Scully had drawn all the shade before she’d left in case he’d woken. Walking through the dimness Scully kicked a small vial. She reached down to pick it up only to discover that it was a prescription bottle that at one point had held a months worth of anti depressants. Scully hoped that the rest were scattered on the floor somewhere and that Mulder hadn’t taken them all today.
“They just make me sick.” Mulder’s voice came from the couch where he had been left.
“Yeah, they help for a little while, but then if I don’t take more I get dizzy and nauseous. I ate through the bottle pretty quickly.”
“How are you feeling now?” Scully sat on the couch where Mulder was stretched out.
“Now? I’d kill myself. If I had the energy.”
“Don’t talk like that, Mulder. We’ll get through this.” Scully reached out towards Mulder’s voice and brushed his cheek, only to find it slippery with tears.
“What’s wrong with me, Scully?”
Scully cringed at the desperate tone in Mulder’s voice. “I don’t know.” She whispered. “But I’m going to find out.”
“You’ve never let me down before.” Mulder shifted uneasily. “Has the sun set?”
“A few minutes ago.”
Scully had assumed that Mulder already had his eyes open, even with the sun up the amount of light in the apartment had been negligible. When he did open his eyes Scully jerked back instinctively. Suddenly there was two pale green spots staring at her from out of the gloom like cat eyes. Scully quickly realized that it was just Mulder’s now highly exposed retinas reflecting what little light was available. Still the effect was unnerving.
“What’s the matter?”
“Nothing, Mulder. I’m just a bit on edge.”
“You look exhausted.”
“It doesn’t take night vision to figure that one out.” Scully admitted.
“Stay here tonight, please.”
Scully hesitated for a moment. “Okay, but under one condition.”
“Whatever you want.”
“That we get something to eat. I haven’t eaten all day and I know you haven’t.”
“There’s some Chinese in the fridge.”
“That’s okay, I’d rather order fresh.”
“Probably a wise move.”
Scully left Mulder in the bedroom so that she could turn on some lights for the delivery boy. She opened the front door to serve as a beacon. As the light flooded into the hallway there was an ungodly screech. Then the neighbor's door shut violently. Despite the fact that she’d left her gun at home Scully marched down the hall and knocked on the door.
“Yesss?” The door opened only as far as the chain would allow.
Scully peered cautiously into the dark gap in the door (didn’t anyone believe in lights anymore?). She couldn’t see anything but there was a pungent chemical smell. “Are you all right?”
“What do you mean?” The voice in the darkness asked suspiciously.
“I heard a noise...”
“I’m fiiine, Agent.”
It was Scully’s turn to be suspicious. “How did you know that I’m an Agent?”
“Wha...” Scully stopped and reached up to her lapel, where she found her Federal id badge still clipped. “Why don’t you have any lights on?”
“Sssaves money.” The voice said in an odd lisp. “Nothing to see in here anyway.”
He seemed to have an answer for everything. Scully was debating on whether or not to push her luck and ask about the painted windows when the elevator opened. Dinner had arrived. At the sound of the elevator the door slammed shut.
Scully sighed and beckoned the delivery boy down to Mulder’s still open door. She paid for the meal and kept the door open long enough for the guy to find his way back to the elevator. With her mind still on the conversation with the neighbor Scully opened the bedroom door to let Mulder know dinner was ready.
The lights she’d left on filled the bedroom like water. Mulder cried out like the neighbor had done and tried to shield his overly sensitive eyes. Scully was quick to see her mistake and shut the door. After turning out all the lights she carefully picked her way through the dark to the bedroom.
“Are you trying to kill me?!” Mulder snarled.
“I’m sorry, Mulder. I didn’t mean...”
Scully trailed off. The green glow of Mulder’s eyes looked luminous with rage. As the burning orbs came closer a flash of icy cold ran through Scully’s veins. Loyalty was whispering to her to stay. Instinct was screaming at her to run. Scully backed out of the room and shut the door just as Mulder lunged. Scully’s heart pounded against her rib cage in much the same way that her partner repetitively slammed against the door. Mulder beat against the barrier for a minute before thinking to open it. Scully could only see vague outlines in the dim light, but she could feel the aggressive energy that followed Mulder into the room.
“You’re scaring me, Mulder. Please, don’t come closer.” Scully backed away slowly.
Mulder growled and dashed a table lamp to the floor as he approached. Moving away quicker Scully bumped into the desk. She knew there was a lamp on it, but she wasn’t exactly sure where. Risking turning her back on Mulder Scully turned and desperately groped around for the switch. Mulder’s hand snaked onto her shoulder with a painful grip. Before being torn away Scully found what she was looking for. A protective halo of light snapped into existence. Mulder screeched in sudden pain.
Had he been in his right mind Mulder would have simply smashed the delicate bulb. Instead he made his way blindly back to the bedroom and slammed the door tight. Scully cowered in circle of light shaking with adrenaline. She looked back at the bulb that had just saved her life and wondered how old the filament in it was.
Exhausted Scully sat on the floor and listened to the sounds of Mulder tearing up the next room with sheer animal furry. For a full fifteen minutes, which bordered on an eternity, he stormed and bayed like a wild caged wolf with rabies. After that the dimly lit apartment fell into a death like silence.
The abrupt quiet lasted long enough to become eerie. It took Scully nearly half an hour to gather enough courage to go over to the bedroom door. In the end it was only the thought that Mulder might have seriously injured himself that brought Scully out from under the light. After the sleeplessness of the past few days and the recent shock Scully found her knees to weak to stand on. So she cautiously crawled over to the bedroom.
This time Scully’s heart got caught in her throat. Through the door she could clearly hear Mulder weeping bitterly. The wolf’s rampage had been reduced to a soul rendering howl of despair. The disease, or whatever was affecting him, had caused all this. These were mood swings of tremendous proportions, caused by the sever hormonal imbalance. Somehow this realization didn’t make Scully feel any safer.
Scully softly put her hand on the door. She desperately wanted to go in and comfort him, yet she was still terrified of his strength. There would be nothing she could do if his mood shifted and he turned on her again. After a long debate she decided that wasn’t a risk she was willing to take. He’d already tried to kill her once tonight. Scully crawled back over to the light. She curled up on the floor and prayed that the bulb would make it until till dawn could take over and protect her.
It was going to be a long night. Again.
God! He’s going to kill her! He’s going to kill her, and when he finds out he’ll kill himself!
This is your fault, John.
Me? Touching Mulder was a mistake, we’ve been over that. How could I know he’d turn aggressive so soon?
Don’t try to fool yourself, you’re to blame.
No! What did I do?
It’s what your not doing.
What? You mean go over there?! I’d have to be crazy!
Crazy? That’s a given, you’re arguing with yourself. It’s pathetic.
John shook his head to try and clear out the voice. He’d spent so much time alone he’d made a habit of taking to himself, and now he even talked back. The noise from next door continued with hurricane furry. He’d thought that the scream he’d heard earlier was going to be the end of it. He had mistaken Mulder’s reaction to the light for Scully’s last breath.
Usually once he killed John snapped out of his aggressive swing and plunged into the paranoia of being caught. If the same held true for Mulder then he must still be torturing his unlucky partner. All John knew was that the crashing and yelling coming though the wall was becoming more than he could bare.
Slumping to the floor John held his head in his thin hands and rocked back and forth. He tried to shut out the sounds and visions he had of the maelstrom in the next room. For the first time he felt true remorse. Even if she had knocked on the door full of suspicion she’d been the only person who asked him if he was all right in over five years. Large tears fell from his luminous eyes. The thump of something heavy being thrown against the wall that separated Mulder’s bedroom from John’s living room sent a stab of pain through John’s heart.
“Stop! Please!” He wailed.
The silence that followed was almost as hard on John’s nerves as the violent cacophony. His outcry and the cession of the noise made John wonder if Mulder had heard him and snapped out of his rage. If so Mulder was probably leaning over the once beautiful woman now broken and bloody, wondering what had happened. It always took John a few minutes to piece together the memories of a kill right after they’d happened.
In the stillness that followed John’s imagination kicked into overdrive. Was Mulder still pawing at his dead partner like a bear cub who doesn’t understand that a hunter has shot his mother? Or had he passed that phase and was now casting about for a razor blade to open his wrists, all the while cursing the fact that he used an electric shaver? On the other hand he was an Agent, he’d have a gun.
John waited with baited breath for the resonating sound of the fatal shot. He started to think that he should be next. After all it had been five years since the accident and he still hadn’t found a cure for himself, nor an explanation for his ‘Touch’. Why he should be a vector and not the people he turned still mystified him. Still the human will to survive is a powerful force and no matter how low his mood swung he could never bring himself to open a vein. Imagine what he could bring to the world if he succeeded! Nobel Prize winning discovery! With a few side effects.
John was so wrapped up in thoughts of glory and scientific prestige that he didn’t even notice the hour that passed by. Noting the time John realized that he still hadn’t heard the death knell. Did Mulder own an open edge razor blade after all? Morbid curiosity alone was not enough to send John running over to Mulder’s to see the blood on the walls. However an idea suddenly struck him. He’d never autopsied one of his touch victims before. Perhaps the key was there!
Why hadn’t I thought of that before?!
Because your a chemist and not a medical doctor. You’re medical partner is dead. Remember?
Oh hush. How hard could it be. Jefferson should count himself lucky that the blast killed him.
With the quick internal struggle over John slowly opened his door. There was a light coming from down the hall. Blinking painfully John stepped back inside and retrieved his dark glasses. He couldn’t face the sun with them, but he could tolerate indoor lighting for a little while. Cautiously stepping out into the hall John found a stroke of luck. Mulder’s front door was still wide open. Scully had never closed it after the delivery boy, she’d had other things on her mind.
John shook his head sadly at the light jutting into the hall. She’d probably tried to blind him to save her skin. The pain probably just made Mulder angrier. John stopped just shy of the entrance and steeled his nerves for what he feared he was about to encounter. The shock of finding the place in relative non disarray was almost as off setting as if he’d found a pool of blood. Creeping over towards where the desk lamp shone John was surprised to find Scully curled up on the floor, sleeping like a kitten.
Standing over the sleeping Agent John just stared for a moment. He could hardly believe that she’d survived. Had she killed Mulder? No. Impossible. She didn’t have a scratch. The light must have been more effective than John thought it should have been. This changed everything. She could be the key to getting Mulder on his side. There was only one major problem:
How was he going to catch such a creature, without touching her?
Scully woke with a start to the bright warm light of the morning sun. She sat up and for a moment tried to recall why she was sleeping on Mulder’s floor. When the previous evening came back to her she looked around nervously. Three things came to her immediate attention: the bedroom door was still closed, the front door was still open, and the light she’d been sleeping under had indeed burned out.
A faint whimpering from the next room arrested Scully’s attention. Instinctively she walked over to the door, however she stopped with her hand on the door knob. She hesitated for several reasons. If she did open the door the light from the living room would flood in and last time that set Mulder on a violent rampage. On the other hand she didn’t fell safe making the apartment dark. On the other side of the door Mulder had started to swear quietly to himself.
“Scully?” Mulder sounded genuinely surprised. “What are you doing here? Are you all right? Someone tore this place apart.”
Scully knit her brows. “You don’t remember?” She asked the door.
“No.” Mulder swore again.
“Close your eyes, Mulder. I’m opening the door and it’s bright out here.”
“Yeah, I know.”
Scully didn’t understand the response till she opened the door. Mulder was right ‘someone’ had torn the place apart, and that included the blinds. The sun shone in on the destruction like it had a right to be there. Mulder was backed into the far corner doing his best to keep the light at bay. Scully rushed over to the broken blinds, but they were beyond quick repair. Failing there she went over to the closet and retrieved a dark coloured tie.
“I’m right here, Mulder.” She knelt in front of him and pulled his arm away from his face. She secured the tie over his eyes to act as a blinder. Back in the darkness Mulder relaxed visibly.
“Kinky.” Mulder smiled.
Scully couldn’t help smiling as well. She stood and held out her hand to Mulder to help him up, but of course he couldn’t see the gesture. Scully shock her head at her own forgetfulness and reached down to take Mulder’s hand. She lead him out into the living room where the shade could be drawn.
“I might as well paint over them.” Mulder said half jokingly.
“The windows, I might as well just pa...”
“No, no I heard you. It’s just...” Scully didn’t finish her thoughts about the neighbor's window.
“It’s nothing, never mind.” Scully went to draw the blind by the desk and found a handwritten note waiting for her with all the patients of the inanimate. She looked around quickly as if expecting the author to jump out at her. Scully ripped the note off the pad that it had been written on.
Sleep well, Agent Scully?
1013 Houston Drive, room G3-602.
Sunset. Come alone, and unarmed.
Scully sat in her car watching the ruddy sky of sunset. Outside was the Heartford Medical Laboratory, long since abandoned. The For Sale sign was standing faithfully, pleading to anyone to restore the facility to its previous glory. The empty building looked foreboding, but if the note’s author wanted her dead he could have easily accomplished that last night.
When the sun finally dipped below the horizon Scully got out of her car and walked up to the front door. She half expected it to be lock, however the glass door swung open easily. The dusty halls were surprisingly well lit. She’d spent so much time in the dark lately, both physically and mentally, that the lights were almost unnerving. Scully looked at the note again to get the room number. G3-602. Looking up at the tag on the nearest door it read L1-13. Scully thought about the numbering system and concluded that there must be underground levels, hence the ‘G’.
The place was set up like a labyrinth and it took her time to even locate an elevator. Not sure that she could find her way back anyway Scully decided that pressing on couldn’t hurt. G3 was the deepest level the building had to offer and the elevator happily took her there. Once again she was greeted by cheerily lit halls. Only the empty way her heels clicked against the hard floor reminded her of the buildings condemned nature.
Scully looked at the numbering on the doors again to get a bearing. The elevator was near the 700’s, which really didn’t help her locate the assigned room. Bent on the goal of finding the note’s author Scully wandered down numerous halls that twisted and turned in the underground facility. She figured if worse came to worse she could always follow the prints her shoes were making on the dusty floor. It wasn’t until she found room G3-602 and stepped inside that she saw the folly in her Hanzel and Grettel like plan.
Having found the room the buildings power suddenly failed. Leaving Scully lost and blind, three stories underground.
“I’m getting a little tired of this.” Scully muttered to the darkness.
She rummaged around for her flashlight and was about to turn it on when it was aggressively snatched away. Jerking back she pulled out Mulder’s gun, which she had taken for several reasons. Now on her guard Scully griped the weapon tight enough that it wouldn’t be taken away as easily as the flashlight had.
“Hey!” Hissed a hollow voice. “I sssaid to come unarmed!”
“I don’t even take a shower without a weapon these days.”
“Hmmm.” The darkness mused. “No matter. Stay here.”
“What?” Scully heard retreating footsteps. “No, wait! Where are you going? You asked me to come here, remember? Why?”
“Hostage? To what?”
A sound of frustration filled the dark void. “He’ll help me, he’ll help me now that I have you.”
“You don’t have anyone. Try and leave me here and I will shoot you.”
“Where will you aim?”
Scully spun around, the voice had somehow gotten behind her. “All right, all right. Just please tell me what you’re talking about.”
“You’re partner. I need his help.”
“This isn’t the best way to go about getting it. You’re his neighbor, aren’t you.”
“And you suffer the same light aversion.”
“More than you know.”
“And you think Mulder can help you?”
“I’ve read lotsss about hisss work. He can help me.”
“I hate to be the one to point this out, but Mulder can’t even help himself. What makes you think he can do any better for you?”
There was a long pause.
“Together...” The voice started.
“Together you’ll accomplish nothing. If you tell Mulder you’ve trapped me somewhere he will kill you, even if he was in his right mind, which he isn’t. You must have heard what was happening last night. What makes you think you’d be safe with him even with me as a hostage.”
There was another pause.
“What then?” He pleaded.
“Let me help.”
“I’m a doctor. If you’re the vector of this disorder I might have a better chance of figuring out what is going on if you let me look at you. But there’s a catch.”
“You’ll have to turn the lights on.”
“No! Too dangerous.”
“Dangerous? Believe me you are far safer staying with me blinded then you will be if you go to Mulder. If you want help, you’re going to have to trust me. You don’t have to turn the lights on right away. We can just talk for now, how about we start with a name.”
“John, good. Does this mean you’ll stay?”
“Do you know how it spreads?”
“Just skin contact? I don’t understand, if contact is all it takes I should be affected as well.”
“No, just my touch.”
“That makes even less sense. How can a disease...”
“It’s not a disease.”
“Then what is it?”
“A curse.” The voice sighed. “Five years ago, while I was working in this building, there was an accident, an explosion. A colleague and I were working on a cure, I’m a chemist and when I mixed our formula there was a violent reaction and it exploded. My colleague was killed, and I, I became this. The formula was supposed to be spread on the skin, but the blast sent shards of glass dripping with the stuff into my flesh and from there into my blood.”
“What was the cure for?”
“Fear. We were working on a cure for fear.”
“Fear?” Scully repeated.
“Yesss, that’ss right. We were working for the military.”
“My partner and I. He was the medical side, I was chemical.”
“What happened to him?”
“He was killed in the explosion. I probably wouldn’t be in this messs if he’d sssurvived. He understood much better what we were doing. It was hiss project, hiss baby. At times he wouldn’t even share new break throughs with me. He was afraid that sssomeone else was going to steal the credit. Isn’t that always the way with scientistsss?”
“What was your part if he didn’t fully bring you into his trust?”
“He would bring me chemical formulas and structures and I would construct them more or less. Then together we’d test the rats. There were so many failures. At the best nothing would happen, the rats would continue to groom as if nothing had happened. At the worst, well...”
“We had one rat chew right through his metal cage.” John continued. “He attacked and injured three people before he was finally killed. This test excited my partner more than any of the others. He said we were close. And I have to admit that rat showed no fear.”
“But you were creating psychotic killers.”
“Exactly!” John shouted in the darkness. “What do you think the government wanted? Fearless young men who would not only die for their country but go on a berserk rampage for it.”
“I wish I could say that our government wouldn’t do that to people.” Scully sighed.
“But I’m sssure you know from experience that that isn’t true.”
“I never meant to hurt anyone, but just as your partner never meant to hurt you -it happens.”
“The pharmacist.” Scully muttered to herself.
“And many others.”
“Come with me, I’ll make sure you get the medical care you need.”
“You’ll make sure I end up behind bars!” John snarled.
“Calm down, John, I want to help you.” Scully could feel the aggressive tension suddenly spike. “I didn’t say anything about the authorities.”
“You are the authorities!”
“I’m also an Agent with a partner in trouble, if you’re the key and you help us I’ll do everything I can for you.”
“Thanksss, I’ll end up in a mental institution instead of a prison.” John’s eyes flashed, he had turned leave.
John growled animalistic. “I’d let me go if I were you, I can feel it coming. There won’t be any lights to sssave you from the wrath this time. Make me stay and I’ll kill you, I might just enjoy it.”
Before she could respond John dashed out the door and down the twisting hallway. Cautiously stepping to the door Scully heard his feet retreating off to the left. After a moments consideration she blindly followed the sound. If he was the vector his physiognomy would be different. Capturing and examining him might be the only way to save Mulder.
The soft pattering sound of John’s feet was easily drowned out by the resounding click of Scully’s heels. Seeing that her shoes put her at a disadvantage she took them off and left them behind. John made no attempt at stealth as he continued to run down the corridors. Scully followed as quickly as she dared. With only auditory clues pursuit was near impossible.
Suddenly the noise Scully was homing in on ceased. She stopped and stared sightlessly into the velvet. She strained her ears, but nothing disturbed the delicate mecanoreceptors deep in her inner ear. Either he had found the stairs and escaped or he was silently doubling back.
In the case of the ladder Scully brought out Mulder’s gun and clicked off the safety. Turning her full attention to any subtle vibration in the air a faint clicking came to her. It was the sound of footfalls far off and coming closer. However the sound was behind her, so he had doubled back.
Scully felt around quickly for a side passage and ducked just inside. She raised her weapon to chest height, preparing to fire at John when he ran past. The steps drew closer quickly. Soon he’d be at the side passage and he’d be a relatively easy target even in the dark. Scully settled herself into a firm stance. She didn’t enjoy killing, but she was always prepared to do so.
The footsteps were now in the hall she’d just occupied. Very soon, closer. He wasn’t slowing down, he was falling for the trap. Just a few more seconds and another life would be lost. The ring of a heavy footstep rang out right in front of her.
Now! Scully thought. But something stayed her hand as the sound rushed past. Something wasn’t right. The tread, the sound, too heavy to be her prey, too familiar to be her enemy.
“Mulder?” Scully called softly from her hiding place.
The footsteps halted immediately. There was a long pause that caused Scully’s blood to slowly crystallize in fear that she’d made a mistake and had now given her position away. Finally the steps drew closer again.
“Scully?” Mulder replied half sure of having heard his own name called.
“Mulder, here.” Scully stepped back into the main hall.
Mulder smiled at the way she stared blindly in his general direction. “Scully, what are you doing here?”
“Me? Mulder, what are you doing here? I almost shot you.”
“Please, not again, my shoulder still aches when it rains. As for what I’m doing here, I found the address imprinted on the notepad on my desk. Scully, you of all people should know not to go anywhere alone, but I’m please to see you didn’t follow all of his directions. Speaking of which would you mind not pointing that at my heart.”
“Sorry.” Scully went to lower the gun and froze. Slowly she raised it again. “12 o’clock, down!” Scully cried suddenly.
She only waited a few seconds before firing the full clip.
Scully walked through the green park in the bright sunshine. It felt good to spend sometime in the warm glow of the sun after the recent events in the abyss. This had always been one of Mulder’s favourite places. It seemed a little odd however to be coming here now.
Continuing at a leisurely pace she made her way down towards the small lake that lay in the center of the park. She came up to an occupied bench and had a seat.
“Hey there stranger.” Scully greeted.
“Right back at cha.” Mulder chimed.
“How are you feeling?”
Mulder turned to face her with his dark sunglasses. Slowly he pulled them off. He blinked painfully a few times and then brought his partner into full focus. Scully smiled at the bright green irises that stared back at her. Mulder flashed her a boyish grin in return.
“Never better.” He finally answered.
“Never?” Scully asked sarcastically.
“Well...there was this one time, but it was a long time ago.” Mulder looked at the sliver shine on the surface of the lake. “All tests came out negative today. It would seem that the surgery worked. I can hardly believe it.”
“Neither can I.”
“What exactly did they do to me?”
“The surgery? Partial adrenosectomy.”
“In layman’s terms, please. I’ve all ready heard that from the hospital quacks.”
“Well, it would seem that the cure they were working on for fear worked directly on the adrenal glands, which produce adrenaline. Whatever got into John’s system kicked his adrenal glands into overdrive. He was producing, through adreno tumors, a variation of adrenaline that was highly potent. One affect of adrenaline is eye dilation, which his system took to the extreme. I don’t know why this super adrenaline didn’t cause heart attack as well, but there is still more testing to be done. In any case the photosensitivity then led to the hormone problems in the pituitary throwing things further out of balance.”
“And the same was happening to me?”
“On a slightly reduced scale, but yes. John was producing so much of this super adrenaline that it was oozing out of his pores. That’s how he spread it by touch, it got into the system and hit the adrenal glands causing tumors to grow in the victim. So when those tumors were removed your system began to stabilize.”
“Amazing.” Mulder looked around the lawns and flowers. “I knew you’d find a cure, you’re practically a professional at saving my ass.”
“Don’t remind me, you can be more trouble than your worth, Mulder.”
“Thanks. There’s just one thing...”
“Now I realize that you heard John behind me in the dark, but how did you know I was out of the way?”
“Honestly? I didn’t.”