Like the ontological blaze of birth or death, pain forced her back into being. Above her, the fluorescent buzz of heaven. Scully mouthed oily grit, her body hollowed out, a fever gone from her flesh. She lay on a sleeping bag. Her joints were inflamed and her eyes had the electrode stutter of a bad light. The room was small as a cell and the door was open, or rather, ripped off the hinges. She closed her eyes and made herself sit up.
She was alone in the little room, on a slippery sleeping bag on a metal bunk. Beyond the door was a hallway. She wore a long white T-shirt, man-sized, and men's socks, and she was dirty and gritty underneath, but the shirt was fresh out of the package, still creased. A sore needle mark in her arm, restraint bruises on her wrists. She felt her face and head and then she was so intensely thirsty that she pushed up off the bunk and went to the doorway and looked up and down the hallway. The movement instigated diaphoresis, the chilly sweat of shock, and the tremors of asthenia. Each joint in her body felt poisonously swollen, especially her neck.
The Smoking Man had her.
This would be his idea of hell, a long hallway running in both directions, lit overhead with fluorescent bulbs, and rooms all along on both sides, with the doors removed. Nearly opposite Scully was a wide doorway leading into a larger room, an empty space fronted with double doors, like a gymnasium foyer. It was night outside. On the right, she found a small kitchen with a stove and refrigerator.
Scully went to the sink and twisted her head under the faucet and drank, pausing to breathe and look over her shoulder, an animal at a watering hole. Her head pounded and she couldn't seem to suck in enough of the cohesive mineral with the electrical charge necessary to bind her back together.
Shuddering with chill, she found herself back in the hall, wiping her chin on her shoulder. She must scout the place and establish the situation. She passed a small bathroom without a door, just a toilet and sink. The overhead lights were on in every room, and they were all empty rooms like the one she'd awoken in, the size of cells.
She hunched and held herself as she walked, and she could not keep her body from rattling. At the far end of the hall was a door to the outside, with a black window in it. She found herself afraid to call out but forced herself to do so, calling down the stairwell at the end of the hall. She cupped her hands against the door and peered through the chicken wired glass, and saw a high chain link fence lit by some outside light source. She stood and listened. She was not thinking clearly, and forced herself to do the things she would do if she were in her right mind, a shadow mimicking the real Scully. Hugging herself, she went back down the hall, pausing to listen. The building was silent. In fact, the whole place was silent. There were no exterior sounds at all. It was like stumbling into a mansion on a moor, every fireplace alight, and every room empty. Shivering with cold, she went back into the kitchen and opened a few drawers, found them empty, then opened the oven and took out the oven rack, noting dimly that someone had propped it up with half a cement block. She took the oven rack with her back to bed, and set it beside the bunk, close at hand, turned off the lights in her room, and climbed into the sleeping bag on the hard metal shelf. Mulder, where am I? She turned on her side and pulled the flap over her head and fell woozily and deeply asleep.
The worst moment, like the unbalancing moment before you fall, was waking to find no change. Scully opened her eyes in the cell and struggled from her sleeping bag and picked up her oven rack. She tested the bombinating silence of the hall, which was empty in both directions, and crossed the foyer to the row of double doors. It was daylight now, a featureless high-skied daylight. The poisonous stiffness made it excruciating to turn her eyes up and down the desolate yard. All she could see was a stretch of rutted grass and a chain-link fence.
Scully had not allowed herself to develop vices, for just such exigencies, but she craved a cup of coffee, like the stuff she and Mulder used to brew in the lab by the glow of the light boxes, in what now seemed the immensely idyllic days before their office was torched. They had communicated in humorous paleolithic grunts as they settled down to the small office pleasures of reading and writing on a winter's morning. From the very substratum of human entente, and thus the truly intellectual pleasure of being understood without having to express oneself: no talk before coffee.
She went into the kitchen, pulling the neck of the shirt over her chilly shoulder. Whoever had dressed her during her treatment seemed to think that she was destined to pad the tepid corridors of a psych ward. On the shabby kitchen counter was a cardboard box of supplies. The cupboards above were empty, so she drank again directly from the faucet, and went to explore the building, carrying the oven rack. It was a long, narrow dormitory, gutted. She cleared the rooms on the main floor and went down to the basement level, padding in her socks, smelling the air, and stopping frequently to listen. Each small room was like the next, their doors removed. The floor on this level was concrete, with hard trails of glue showing where carpet or linoleum had been ripped up. The lights were on in every single room. The basement bathroom was large, no door, the stalls ripped out and the toilets capped and the row of sinks gone. The only thing left, an anomaly that had escaped the stripping—perhaps because it looked so deceptively useless—was a mirror affixed to the wall, a polished steel mirror like one in a parks service restroom. Deep within its nebulous ply floated a dim face, her own, eyes pale and blind.
The hall on the third floor was the same, tiny room after tiny room with a monotony and a sterility that was like a dream, but it was not a dream, she reminded herself; every second was a real second in the real world progressing outside. Still, it was as if her interior was manifesting outwardly, like a Klein bottle, a topological manifold which showed itself to be brightly lit but empty, as if her inner separateness had found its metaphor here.
Halfway down the top hall was a large bathroom with concrete shower stalls and a sink left intact. Hot water in the taps, a real miracle. Running up the wall was an iron hot water pipe, thick with paint, and she warmed herself against it, sliding down and sitting against it until her back grew itchy. From the upstairs windows she had determined that there were two guard towers, one at each end of the yard, which seemed overkill for one unarmed woman. The high fence tied in with each end of the long building. The Cigarette Smoking Man would come and talk to her soon, once he had made his power over her felt. He would be thinking about her now, gloating at her suffering. Much as she loathed it, she must let him feel that he controlled her. Her surprise at what he had done was wearing off. It was almost an inevitability, because it was a fact that her own curiosity consistently got her into trouble. She could look all the way back to the moment she took Duane Barry's implant, setting in motion a chain of events that were still playing out. She could even blame curiosity for the fact that she had taken the X-Files job in the first place.
All the carpet on the top floor had been removed, but for one room at the far end. In that room, which looked out into the yard at the front, they had neglected to pull out the rough buff carpet. The room with the carpet gave her a different feel for the place. She pulled at an edge until she had a string, and it was not very rotten, which was why she felt the building had only recently been gutted. If it were, indeed, part of some enclave, a mining compound, military barracks, a training camp, there would be a larger system at work around her; roads and other barracks and mess halls and chopper bays, but so far she had heard nothing. A few jostled memories had been written on her neural network as she lay insensate: medical personnel with audible respirators and muffled voices working over her; wrist and ankle restraints. If she had been transported by ambulance and helicopter, as she believed, she could be more than a hundred miles from the freeway near Hagerstown. She tried to draw a radius in her mind.
Past the room with the carpet was a utility closet, and across from that, at the back of the building, opposite the stairwell, was a small, unfinished room unlike any of the rest. It was warm and dusty, with a window that looked to the south across a couple of fences and a slanted scree, forest beyond. A wooden ship ladder was fastened to the wall and above it was a trapdoor to the roof. The trapdoor was padlocked with a rusty padlock, the hatch filled with spider webs. Scully climbed the ladder and touched the padlock, the dusty heat of the roof pulsating against her head, and then climbed down and stood for a while at the window. It was the final room: she was definitively alone in the building.
The supplies were: three soup cans with the labels removed, three plastic jars of peanut butter, no labels. Crunchy, thank God. A great many generic pouches of powdered soup, and almost as many of hot chocolate; and twelve packages of crackers, out of the box. Scully took everything out of the carton and counted it. There was a cube of margarine and an open box of baking soda in the refrigerator. Under the sink she found a small, gummy bottle of dish soap they'd probably overlooked. All the drawers and cupboards were empty. But, astonishingly enough, on one of the soup cans lay a small Army can opener like a little hinge—a P-38. Quickly she opened one of the cans, and, as the name promised, it took thirty-eight punctures with the blade to sever the lid. It was alphabet soup, kid’s food. Carefully, she licked the Campbell's grease from the lid, and rinsed the jagged piece of metal with hot water. She put the can top in her sock, like a soccer shin pad, and used the can opener to slit the tape on the carton. She put the P-38 in her other sock. Now she had two weapons. She flattened the box and put it under her sleeping bag. She noticed another rolled sleeping bag, under the bunk.
After she’d swallowed some of the congealed soup and eaten a cracker, she moved her cardboard and sleeping bags upstairs to the shower room, against the hot water pipe. The room was far superior because it had a window at the end and a rudimentary heat source, unlike the cell she’d started out in, and she felt safer on the top floor. She lay looking at the ceiling. Despite the cardboard and the extra sleeping bag under her, the hardness of the floor returned often to the mind. There were so many people in the world who slept like this, she could tolerate it, too. When her back started aching she turned on her side. It was perfectly heinous to lock someone up without reading material. She wanted to take a shower, but could not bear the vulnerability of being naked and unable to hear, in a room without doors. Anyway, there was no soap, no towel. Outside, total silence. She was lapsing into catatonic schizophrenia. It was funny when she said it to Mulder, but not so funny now. Mulder. She whispered his name, just to feel the solid shape of it in her mouth. That moody mull, the dorky der. She had slept with him, but she must keep that in a compartment for now.
She mentally inventoried the food. By one estimate, they'd given her food for a week. Conservatively, it could go much, much farther, although she didn't know at what point she’d be laid low by scurvy, not to mention gastronomic boredom. They might bring fresh supplies soon, or maybe she'd be released. Maybe she’d escape.
She could already see why people in prison wrote their memoirs or brewed toilet hooch. She put her hands together in prayer and then opened them. ‘'The Lonely Buddha',' she read. 'Chapter One. The Argentinian law, once sufficient to house all the needs of all families under its rule, was fusty. The Aparicio family, not too proud, not too insufficient, was exceeding the bounds of this law, and the first son, an astronomer traveling in Antwerp, had found himself, as an international traveler, up against the bounds of this law, which to some minds was akin to exceeding the very limits of heaven.' Here Scully's memory of her favorite Jose Chung novel ran short in a word-for-word sense, but she could more or less take herself through the first chapter, scene by scene. Her body ached and she needed a pillow.
After a while she got up and took the can opener from her sock and went into the carpet room and pulled up a corner of the carpet, ripping at the glue. She hacked out a long rectangle with her little blade, a laborious job. The piece of carpet was slightly longer than herself. The carpet pad was so thin it was barely worth dealing with, but better than nothing. She improved her pallet and lay in her sleeping bag shivering with ague.
In the afternoon, exploring again, she searched the utility closet. It had a mop bucket drain and a couple of empty shelves. There was no light inside, and Scully checked it over carefully by feel. The shelves were bare, but underneath them, as she knelt and reached into the deepest, spideriest corner, her fingers closed around a spray can. She knelt on the floor, and the closet, the dark, and the spray can brought back a moment of intense fear, one of the worst of her life: Donnie Pfaster. She'd thrown herself against Mulder, her face against his pounding heart; she had never before hugged anyone with such fierce necessity. Later, the incident embarrassed her, displaying her greenness, but the fact remained: Mulder was safety, and he had held her just as tight.
Scully stepped into the light of the hallway, her throat roughened, and shook the can of ant spray to hear the musical slosh of its contents. Slowly, drawing out the moment, she caressed the dust from the label and read the ingredients: 30 percent alcohol. 'Hell yes!' she said hoarsely, the sound of her own voice so out of place that she looked around self-consciously.
She took the ant spray down to the kitchen and hid it in a cupboard and ate a peanut butter cracker. The day was taking forever. The row of doors in the foyer and the door on the south end of the building were chained up tight, but the door on the north end had the panic bar torn out and its hydraulics removed, and she pushed it open and put her head out. There was a guard tower above her, with movement within it. The yard was rough, reclaimed by ryegrass and weeds. It had not been mowed or watered, and there were ruts across it, where heavy vehicles had come and gone. The fence tied into the building here, and went over about twenty feet to an empty corner, which, she judged, pointed north; most buildings were laid out on a north-south axis.
She had to know the limits of her containment. She slipped through the door, into the breezy yard. She stood holding her arms and looking through the back fence. There was another fence beyond this one, topped with razor wire. She could feel the attention of the guard in the north tower. She was not sure if she was allowed outside, but she needed to orient. Downslope beyond the razor wire fence there was torn ground and a forest canopy. The sky was sparkling white and the hidden sun felt like a campfire.
When she turned around she found the guard's laser sight in the middle of her chest.
After a moment, she unfroze. Their instructions would be to guard her, not kill her. She went over to the building's drip line and picked up a few pebbles and carried them to the corner, and then returned for another handful of rocks. She was trembling, but ignored it. She built a pebble circle in the corner, using the pole in the north corner of the fence as her sundial gnomon. Now she had a rudimentary clock. She felt better, even though it was overcast and the clock didn't work. They couldn't take time away from her completely. Every second, as she worked, she felt the laser on her body.
Back inside, she felt autonomous. She grabbed the dish soap and went upstairs, pulled off her T-shirt and socks and took a hot shower, washing with one careful drop of dish soap. She felt considerably better.
After dark, she went out into the yard. The wind immediately chilled her bare legs. There were some high yard lights that hardly cut the gloom. She walked straight across the yard toward the front gate, and the red sniper laser danced across the grass and ran up her body to her chest. She stopped and lifted her face toward the darkness of the tower above her. 'I've been arbitrarily detained!' she called clearly. 'I am an FBI agent, and you are committing a federal crime by holding me here.' Her voice came out with a fluted clarity, a slightly higher timbre, although, in the past few years she had grown into a gruffer, steadier register, born of the job. This was her vulnerable, male-seduction voice. She tried to appear sane, strong and contained, her chin up despite the intimidation of the target light pinpointing her heart.
There was no answer from above, but the sense of his will flowed down through the red light of his scope and she imagined how she looked in the crosshairs. Fucking sniper, she thought, keeping her face pure and hopeful. Who points an assault rifle at an unarmed woman? There were signs wired to the other side of the gate and she wondered what lies they told about her. There was a gap between the two gates, below the chains, that she could probably squeeze through. She walked to the gate and touched it and the ground thumped near her foot and a puff-adder of soil spat up as a high-velocity ripple cracked off the building behind her. She squeaked involuntarily. Her hands were in the air. Her leg stung. She was ten feet away from the gate now, and the reverberation off the building wrapped around her neck and traveled out across the forest in a slow rip of thunder.
Backing away, she moved out into the middle of the grass and lowered her arms because the T-shirt was already short enough, and besides, she wasn't scared, not truly scared. Now she had proof that he had been instructed to detain her but not kill her. She looked up the beam of the red laser sight to the hunched silhouette at the rail of the catwalk. He was a cowardly creep, a toady, a thug, and she could only imagine what he believed about her—that she was contagious or psychotically dangerous, a half-alien monster-woman writhing with infection. The fact that he believed it demonstrated his stupidity, but still, she needed to calmly identify with him. 'I need to speak to the man who brought me here,' she called. 'Tell him I'm ready to talk.'
There was silence in the dark, and Scully turned and hurried inside.
Upstairs in the shower room she put her foot in the sink and rinsed her leg with warm water. A fleck of grit was embedded in her shin, and she scraped it out and rinsed away the blood. It was nothing, extremely minor, but she could not afford the least infection, so she washed it out with dish soap. She must be extremely careful. Any medical condition would be catastrophic - a blood infection, a UTI; toothache; appendicitis. Hell—what if she and Mulder had conceived a child?
She removed her foot from the sink. There was no towel. She put her wet foot on the gritty floor and the wound ran pinkly down her shin. She hadn't brushed her teeth in days. The window in the wall was black, and the carpet and cardboard and sleeping bags by the hot water pipe were a depressing derelict bed. She stood holding the sink, and she thought of the man out there, in the tower. He would be replaying the encounter, wondering if he’d handled it properly. It was simply a warning shot, he had not meant to injure her. Naturally, the encounter was shaking, but she was startled to have also found it profound, simply because, brutal and roundabout as it was, another human being had acknowledged she still existed.
The new prisoner arrived in the morning. It was a warmer day, and Scully was in the hatch room at the end of the upper hall, wood-burning SA Dana Scully MD hostage 1998 on one of the two-by-four slats of the ladder. It was the only visible wood in the building. She had mixed peanut butter and bug spray together in her empty soup can like a grunt humping the boonies. She burned the words into the wood with the hot metal tip of her cross, which she heated in the blue flame. She had wrapped the tiny cross in a piece of sleeping bag and a scrap of carpet, but still, it often grew too hot and she had to set it down and rest, standing at the small dusty window that looked to the south. If she disappeared and Mulder traced her this far, he'd walk into the building and climb straight to this spot with his incredible sixth sense for evidence. She envisioned him pausing, lowering his gun, heart breaking a little as he crossed the room and touched the words, then yelling In here! over his shoulder to whoever he was with.
As she worked, the smell of peanut butter reminded her of her toddler nephew. Matthew had smiled at her with real affection the last time she saw him, and she wondered, with all her problems, if he would grow up to know her. She was surprised to find herself someone’s radical aunt.
There was a vehicle outside. Quickly, Scully held the can against the wall, smothering the flame, although it had been tricky to light with a piece of dry grass on the burner of the stove. She hurtled from the room and into the stairwell and down the main floor hall, slipping cautiously through the opening to the foyer.
A canvas-topped truck was backing up to the doors. Scully went to the nearest door and a man rose up before her with an assault rifle to his eye, aiming at her through the chicken-wire glass. He put her on the wall with a flick of his chin. Scully showed her empty palms and laced her fingers behind her head. His aggression indicated fear. Fear of contagion? Fear that she was not what she seemed? The chains rattled on the middle set of doors, and there was a commotion behind the canvas at the back of the truck. Several men shouted. She looked for the Smoking Man, expecting him to sweep unruffled through the chaos, a little too pleased with the brute power he wielded; but she only saw a soldier falling, arching slowly backwards off the tailgate, and then the doors opened, both doors jerked wide from outside, and an animal was flung into the room. Scully started, dropping her hands. Until this moment, she hadn't remembered the deer in the woods. The infected deer. As it scrabbled across the foyer she called out indignantly, but the doors were already closing. The deer slipped on the hard floor, going down on one hip, then was back up, and with all four hooves bunched beneath it began to spring. The creature did not reconcile with its surroundings, and for a moment the room seemed an abstract forest, like a trompe l'oeil of Indians disappearing in a birch grove. The deer bounced on the diagonal, caroming until it went through the doorway into the hall. Scully turned to the nearest door and shook the panic bar, but now the truck was pulling away, soldiers jogging around it as they crossed the yard to the gate, and the man with the rifle was just one of them now, jumping the fresh-spun ruts.
In a moment the compound was quiet again. The building was quiet. Deer hair sifted in the sunlight of the foyer.
Scully stood there against the wall. 'Um, okay,' she said.
The deer had disappeared, although from time to time she heard it clatter. After some contemplation, Scully re-lit her can of peanut butter and went upstairs and finished her inscription. It was pleasing to write, to feel the wood char under the hot metal, to see the letters form. She considered the deer a message of a sort from the Smoking Man, one of further dismissal. She wasn't sure if they were trying to reinfect her with the deer, or simply quarantining two infected things together. Maybe the deer was no longer infected, but they believed it was. It was a relief that the creature was keeping its distance, acting as a deer should act.
Scully collected her piece of cardboard and went down to the kitchen. She unplugged the stove, took out the broken cement block, dragged the stove away from the wall and worked it back and forth until it was on her piece of cardboard. She discovered a twist tie in the greasy dust. Slowly, she pushed the stove out of the kitchen and into the hall, her socks slipping on the floor. The deer was making a racket in one of the stairwells. Scully climbed onto the stove and unfastened the covering of a light. She removed the long bulbs and laid them across the burners on the stove, and moved the stove and took out more bulbs, until the area around the door of her original room was dimmed. Anyone coming into the building in the night would read this as a sign that she was asleep in that room. She carried the bulbs upstairs to the shower room and tucked them against the wall under her bedding. The fluorescent tubes were fragile, but they were filled with argon gas, and their metallic salt linings were coated with phosphor powder, and if anyone came up the stairs in the night they would get one smashed across their face.
She pushed the stove back into the kitchen, washed her hands and face in hot water and sat on the counter eating a peanut butter cracker. When she stopped moving, she cooled off quick; more than anything she needed another garment. Upstairs, she spread out the second sleeping bag in the carpeted room, where the light was good, and unpicked the fishing line thread along the back of it. It was black nylon. The sleeping bag was filled with a sheet of thin batting, which she would add to her terrible pillow. She slashed the black synthetic material in little strokes with the blade of her can opener until she had a large rectangle. She cut a neck hole, and now she had a serape, or a tunic. She felt better with it on over her t-shirt, a little tougher, like the man with no name in those spaghetti westerns she had watched with her Dad. She went out in the yard to check her sundial. It was around three in the afternoon.
The padlock in the hatch room was nagging at her mind, but having discovered the piece of wire she decided to make a quick compass to see if her clock was oriented properly. The deer was trotting down the main hall as she went in, pausing to freeze and snort at her, flaring its rump hair and stamping its foot. She spoke to it and went into the kitchen and peeled the plastic off the twist tie, broke it in half and straightened it, opened the refrigerator and hacked at the door seal with her can opener until she could pull out a piece of magnet. She magnetized one tip of the twist tie wire and laid it in the plastic lid of a peanut butter jar. The only container she could find was a vegetable crisper drawer sitting on its own in the bottom of the fridge. She half-filled it with water and carried it outside and floated the magnetized compass in the water, and adjusted the circle of her clock a bit so that the shadow would fall from the true north. As she knelt in the grass an airliner passed east-west, just a white line in the sky. She must get a feel for the air traffic. She might be in West Virginia, somewhere fairly close to where she'd been abducted.
Upstairs in the shower room she dismantled the basin's cold water faucet, turning the screw in the top with her can opener. The faucet was cross-handled nickel and brass, nice and heavy. In the afternoon heat of the hatch room she hung on the ladder and put her finger through the U of the padlock's shackle, applied her weight, and hammered the lock's release side, over the pins. Under better circumstances she would have frozen it open with a can of compressed air. Her arm was bent through a splintery rung and the roof above her radiated a heavy black heat. Rust sifted down from the old hasp and collected in the bunting of spider silk around her face.
It had looked easy the time she had watched Mulder do it. He had twice her strength, and the sort of confident dexterity accrued in a youth spent throwing and catching projectiles. They were breaking into a locked impound lot in the middle of the night, and she held the flashlight, and gasped and laughed with the cold. Mulder also had twice her immunity to cold. He picked up a rock and started tapping the lock as they were discussing something else entirely, how much the Potomac had frozen over, and the padlock had popped open sort of coincidentally in his hand like a hatching chick, and he'd frowned critically at the manufacturers of such locks. Although naturally good at everything, he was a humble show-off. Scully had been moved to observe that at the rate he went around busting into places, he would not require the keys to heaven. Mulder, holding the gate for her, had mumbled something about already having the keys of heaven.
She hung there in the hot-tar swelter of the hatchway with her face against her arm. She rubbed her face into her skin as she bore the visceral sting that rolled through her if she let herself think of him. She feared that he was the one in danger now, and that she had put him there by refusing to take the situation seriously enough, even when people warned her, because she believed that her work made her too important to kill. They'd kill Mulder to punish her. In the super-heated logic of the moment, it seemed that if she could bust through the trap and get onto the roof she might have a chance to save him. She put some torque on the padlock, hanging on it, and hammered the side with the brass faucet. When the clasp jumped open she nearly fell off the ladder, and hung by her wrist, in a shower of rust, and thought of Mulder in lemon-flashes of dizziness. She did not so much think of Mulder as live him, live his gnosis in her head.
She did not dare open the hatch. The roof was on the same level as the guard towers, possibly lower, a flat roof that would probably have no cover. Scully went into the shower room and put the faucet back together. She took a shower, rinsing off the dust, and went downstairs. On the main floor she passed the deer with its head in the toilet, sipping away, flanks sinking in and out, tail clamped. Scully padded past and went into the kitchen and made soup and crackers. She had begun heating water on the stove in the empty soup can, so she could have hot powdered soup. She balanced the can on an electric burner where it jumped and spat and got too hot to touch. She had made herself a carpet pot holder.
As she went back upstairs the deer watched her from the far end of the hall, huffing. There was toilet water all over the place. The deer was tiresome, with its idiotic panic. She wasn't sure if deer were nocturnal, because they seemed to fling themselves in front of cars without rhyme or reason, day or night. The Eastern Whitetail was a plague upon the land, and with all the lights on in the building this one's internal clock was probably confused. Scully went to bed and lay irritably for some time. The light from the hall shone in, and the deer was noisy in the basement, and noisy in the stairwell. What exactly were they trying to do—drive her mad with wildlife? What was next, a truckload of squirrels?
Scully got up in the middle of the night. She hated the building at night, when it seemed an aquarium-lit box hurtling through space, its shadows so diffused that it was all one grade of soft illumination, like the light Dr. Banton preferred. It was actually a comfort to see the deer at the far end of the upstairs hall, licking the floor. She kept the light off in the hatch room and climbed the ladder in the dark and pulled the hasp from the staple and pushed on the heavy trapdoor. It did not shift. She climbed higher, and put her shoulder blades against it, head lowered, the oppression of dusty spider webs close around her, and the heavy tarred door shifted in its socket. Scully went down after some deeper strength, and blocked the pain in her feet and hands, and took a deep dusty breath and put all her anger into it, until it became a beast on her back that she must shrug off, and she rose upward with the oppression upon her. The door began to rise, and she quickly grabbed the hasp and tried to lower the thing slowly over onto the roof. The hinges screeled and the roof shook as it dropped open, and she slid down the shaft and landed on the floor with her knees almost giving out, waiting for automatic fire to cut everything to pieces.
After a minute, she opened her eyes, and looked up. Above her was a box of stars. She did not dare put her head through the hole, in case the south tower guard was waiting, finger on the trigger. Through all her turmoil, the stars above, in the square of midnight blue, had not changed. Through this hatchway her existence resumed in the world at large, and looking up and out she expropriated the larger fires in their silent roar, and carried them with her.
She went back to bed, and although she did not sleep well, wondering if they would spot the hole in the roof, the accomplishment exceeded the simple opening of a door. The deer went by in the hall, tapping and snuffing, and did not spook at her scent, but roamed on, endlessly driven to forage in a blank and sterile forest.
In the morning, Scully, possessed by precept, arose from her hard bed and went out in the yard and got some dirt, mixed it in her hand with water, and began finger-painting on the big, blank wall opposite the kitchen. As high as she could reach she sketched out a skeleton structure in its hexagonal chain, the alternating double-bonds giving her a little trouble, the carbon atoms implied; until she had a bond-line structural representation of the substance that lived in the deer. She felt better for articulating her thoughts, and the loose honeycomb on the wall was a message, an indicator of what had passed here. It was the formula for a dangerous contagion; it was both a warning and an indictment. Any normal scientist brought in to interpret would say that it didn't exist.
She had a soup can of warm cocoa and a couple of crackers for breakfast and sat with her back against the opposite wall in the foyer, studying her work. She was not a normal scientist. Sunlight fell through the line of doors. The hexagons she'd drawn, the least wasteful shape in nature, were exactly the form that soap bubbles take, six-sided, or honeycomb, or the compound eyes of an insect, or the back of a sea turtle, or columnar basalt: nature self-perpetuating its forms. The tiles in Mulder’s hallway. In the same sense, she was a perpetuation of some sacred geometry, executing her small life-patterns. Part of her actively observed herself from a distance. Her reactions to this situation were interesting in a scientific sense. How would she come through this? Would her mental health hold up? Would she save herself, or be saved? Would she make some fatal error?
The deer, snuffing and stalking, entered the room. When she held still it did not see her. It must be keyed to movement. It smelled her, of course, but it was used to her smell. The deer licked the asbestos floor tiles, cleft hooves splayed devilishly. It must have been knocked around quite a bit during its capture, and its thin legs were abraded, and there were chunks of hair missing from the red coat.
Scully set a Saltine on the floor and flicked it hard. It shot out across the floor and the deer’s head went up and it quivered, back humped, tasting Scully's scent in its open mouth. Then it lowered its head and tongued the cracker around.
Scully stared at the wall and let her focus soften from the chemistry to the deer in front of it. If the deer was the vessel for a more sinister force, it showed no sign. Are you in there? she thought. If it was in there, seething in the pineal gland, it was quite dormant, laying low, biding its time, and it was not driving the deer.
Her next project was to get the animal out of the building. The deer left droppings that were inoffensive as far as shit went, but Scully was tired of trying to pad around them in her filthy socks; periodically, it tipped its pelvis and squatted, shooting out a stream of sweet estrus urine like a mare in heat. During one of its bad spills on the linoleum Scully saw that the doe had stretched teats as if she had recently nursed a fawn. There was deer hair everywhere, stiff and waffled, in tufts. The doe opened her nostrils and blew snot, put her hoof in the toilet and pawed, and chewed the edge of Scully's carpet-bedding, dragging it out into the hall. The creature was starving.
Scully lugged the halved cement block down the corridor and propped open the door. She did not overtly look up at the north guard tower. It seemed to be OK for her to come and go there in the side yard, checking her sundial or standing at the fence. The fences were prison-high, fifteen feet or something, the guard towers far higher. During the shift changes, morning and evening, there was some activity with a Jeep or two coming up through the forest, glimpsed beyond the gate. From the sounds of the engines there was a bit of a climb. She dropped what she was doing during the shift changes, and hurried upstairs to watch from one of the front windows. The men were dark and distant silhouettes on the tower stairs, a few commands or comments called to each other, only faintly audible, and the Jeep, barely visible beyond the gate, whirling and jolting away. She became aware that the man in the north tower worked the days, but that he also seemed to be the one who had shot at her on the second night. That didn’t make sense, except that maybe they hadn’t worked out their shifts at that point. At any rate, she was developing a sense of him, and she avoided the yard after dark, when he was gone.
Languidly, the sunshine working on her until she yawned, she noticed the laser sight quivering over the chain link to her left. He was missing his mark. She sat down in the grass with her back to him. She needed to write, document her situation, organize her thoughts. She put her hands down on the grass in front of her, in the qwerty finger placement, and felt for the ‘F’ and ‘J’ keys. For a moment she couldn’t remember where the rest of the letters were placed, but as she began to type, eyes closed—'I was abducted in Maryland and am in a compound at a fairly high elevation possibly in West Virginia, and I am fairly certain I was transported by helicopter and truck, so the radius may be far greater'—it all came back.
'The enclave also fits the description of the abandoned missile base in North Dakota where Mulder and I were beset by an assault team. In that case, the nearby Minuteman launch command buildings would be similar to this place, and I might be quartered in an old barracks known as the Hotel-Zero.'
The pleasure of expressing herself in writing, even in such a silly manner, cheered her. The doe had drifted out of the building and was grazing in the grass, famished, and Scully went inside, pleased to have her out of the way, and cleared a swathe through the feculence, sweeping a chunk of carpet back and forth with her foot.
She soon realized she’d made a mistake. She should have brought grass to the deer, rather than let it risk the yard. The deer was one of her assets, with many potential uses, and she wanted to control it and bring it in at night, but to do that now she would need a rope.
Upstairs in the carpet room she sat on the floor pulling on the warp string in the carpet which unraveled in a zigzag, and made a squiggly, glue-crusted pile. The deer was an early-warning system, because it stamped its foot; it was potentially food, if she could get the refrigerator running and freeze the meat; it could be employed as a shield from rifle fire; and, like a vial of smallpox, it was possibly the vessel for a biohazard. It held the potential for companionship. More to the point, it was hers, not theirs. She braided three strands of half-rotten carpet yarn together into a strong twine she could not break by pulling. It was so utterly satisfying and easy to make twine that she soon had several feet of it. The halter was less of a success. She tied a flying bowline as the Man from Snowy River had, and pulled a bight through, but the thing twisted up on itself, and she had no idea how she’d get it on the doe.
The sunny day was so pleasant that she spent as much time as she could in the yard, sitting cross-legged and braiding string. She had hafted herself a weapon, with the plastic handle of a spork and a blade made from the top of a soup can. She lashed it with a bit of carpet warp and hardened it over the burner of the stove. It was not a particularly sturdy weapon. She kept the can opener on the chain at her throat, with her pendant cross. If she had to, in a fight at close quarters, she would tear it away and stab for the carotid. She had stashed the long fluorescent tubes around the building. The mute refrigerator contained freon, which, if she could find a way to control it, was an anesthetic.
In the late afternoon she filled the crisper drawer with water and carried it down the long hall and out into the light. The doe was thirsty, and stood watching her. Scully set the container down, and moved away so that she could drink.
She walked around the corner and considered the length of the yard, which ran past the south end of the building, and around the corner. The towers made her extremely self-conscious. Between the high gates in the fence and the foyer doors at the middle of the building the ground was torn. The three foyer doors were chained shut on the outside, and she looked in and saw her chemistry on the wall. As she approached the far end of the building, the guard in the south tower burst onto his catwalk and sighted his rifle at her. The laser flashed across her eye. His aggression shook the tower, and the disturbing shape of him at the rail, assault rifle to his eye, whirled her in her tracks. She had her hands in the air before she could think.
Scully walked back down the yard, hands pressed to the back of her head, refusing to hurry but so angry inside that she could hardly see. The laser light jarred in flashes on the grass ahead of her as his hands shook with his eagerness to kill her. She was breathless when she reached the corner of the building, the north-east corner, and could step from his sight. The north tower guard made a show of coming to the rail and sighting his rifle at her, but the red spot did not touch her. In her dooryard she felt safe again, and sat on the grass in the shade with her arms around her legs. The doe was laying down near the fence, watching her sleepily and chewing her cud.
The aggression of the south tower guard re-emphasized her sense of vulnerability. If men came in to attack her, she must get to the roof, but then what? The roof was a trap, a three-story drop. She considered what would happen if they cut the power to the building. She went inside and measured the length of the building in steps, and counted the number of steps in the stairwells. She made herself, with eyes closed, go from the kitchen to the hatch room and put her hand carefully around a light tube, all without looking. If there was a blackout she'd slip through the place in her T-shirt gown like a ghostly bride with a knife.
In the morning Scully knelt in the yard near her sundial, sucking nectar from a clover blossom. An airplane droned up the fresh morning sky, its sound following a good distance behind it. It rose out of the woods to the north-east and began to cross overhead. The airliners mostly passed east-west, but some angled north, which might mean Pittsburgh. An idea jumped into her. She hopped to her feet and sauntered inside, then tore to the kitchen and fetched the oven rack, raced down into the basement to the empty bathroom, and tried to pry the mirror from the wall. She had no idea how they fastened these things, but it must be some kind of mastic. One corner had enough gap under it that she could force the edge of the oven rack into it. She pried until something popped. Still, the mirror remained affixed. Scully found another corner and slashed at the painted concrete beneath it with her can opener blade. At last there was a space she could wedge the steel rack into. She pried, and when that did no good, grasped the oven rack by the end and smashed as hard as she could along the mirror’s edges. She pried again, and had to jump back as the mirror and the oven rack fell to the concrete with the musical clangor of a wrench tossed aside in an auto body shop.
Scully snatched up the mirror and ran upstairs. In her panic to reach the hatch room, she diverted on the main floor and ran down the long hall, slowing to listen. She held the mirror before her with the glow of ownership. Reflected behind her was the prolongated hall, and the articulated doorways; a square of blue sky at the vanishing point. The deer stepped suddenly into view, flopping her ears as she followed Scully, who giddy with invention began to jog again, watching the scene behind her in the mirror as the picturesque painters had looked behind themselves with a convex Claude glass. The doe tossed her head and began to trot as if friendship tethered them, and with the airplane overhead and the deer behind Scully was lifted out of her solitude and into the joyful amperage of a crowd of friends all running together. She laughed breathlessly. Idiot deer! No, she’s a doe, doe, an animus doe, anno domini, year of the plague deer; dolorem, dolor: hedons and dolors—Oh Dolores, I live in fear—(formido) hot doe, plague doe, pleasure and pain, so dolorous, vectoring morbidus—Dolores on the dotted line.
In the hatch room, she climbed the ladder and hung within the hatch, hefting the piece of steel on her hip. She found that the year had worn on so that the sun sat rather low in the sky. The plane had passed, but was still visible, crawling along high above. It was hard to hit the sun properly, keeping herself ducked down inside, her arm locked through the ladder and the heavy mirror cutting into her side. She had learned with a flashing mirror which was so much smaller, with a spot to look through from the back. Under her father’s guidance, along with her brothers, she had memorized Morse Code, semaphore code, the International Code of Signals, and the NATO phonetic alphabet. She tried to aim the sun at the plane, and flip it, three short, three long, three short—nine dits and dahs: SOS. She let the mirror down, her arm trembling. Thanks, Dad, she thought, and took a breath, and did it again.
Scully had never made time for contemplation, having pushed herself through high school and college and med school and the FBI academy, then straight into teaching. Often she had studied until her brain flashed white and she fell senseless among battlements of textbooks in library carrels. It was impossible to study hard enough. It was impossible to get enough sleep. She ran, swam, kick-boxed, and lay in the dirt with a submachine gun. Whole fields of knowledge were shunted into her head. She floated in a dissociative fugue of scholarship, battle-scarred in the brain. And then one day, as if to lift her out of theory and into practice, a man leaned over her, endlessly murmuring his secret thoughts. Out of everyone in this vast old world he had inexplicably zeroed in on Scully. His eyes were bright and intense, and absolutely nothing he was saying jived with anything she’d just been taught.
Scully sat on her doorstep in the shade. She’d sought the opportunity for reflection earnestly if unsuccessfully while vacationing in Maine; but when actually granted it, the excess of time was a distressing, maddening burden. In this forced pause for summation she put her face above water and found herself in the middle of a life, thirty-four and cast like jetsam from the moil of a job that could not really be called a career. All the anguish of the events which had destroyed her sister and left her own body damaged and nervy felt akin to the 'soldier's heart' diagnosed in men after the Civil War. She was a conscript after an unthinkably rough campaign, wounded, unquiet.
There was one way to steady excessive thought. She went up to the hatch room and reached up through the trapdoor with her can opener and cut a wad of tar. Down in the kitchen, she melted it in a soup can on the stove. This was her binder. She thinned it with margarine, the solvent, and for pigment added a pinch of fine dust collected along the drip line of the building and mulled in her hands to remove the larger particles. Her hands were mullers, not to be confused with Mulders. Now she had a primitive paint.
The cement blocks of her wall in the foyer were painted white, each roughly the size of a sheet of typing paper. Beneath the wandering honeycomb of the chemistry chain, she covered a half-dozen rectangles, swabbing with a wad of carpet. The thinned tar was amber-brown, and when she took her blade and began to write, she simply scratched through to the white, like the terrible linoleum block art she had been forced to make in high school. She had multiple projects to record: airplanes spotted, their times and trajectories. A calendar and a moon calendar. One section became the inevitable province of prison tally marks, a counting system in use since the upper paleolithic, befitting her cave-woman lifestyle. She began a diary panel tersely chronicling her days, and another that drew out the scientific aspects of the situation, and yet another consisting of oblique notes for Mulder.
Three days in and she was already muttering to herself and scrawling on the walls like a Caltech troll, her hand cramped and tarry and her brain working so much faster than the writing system that she had to repeat the slow phrases aloud to herself as her mind raced a paragraph ahead. There was such a foiling, resistive pleasure in expressing herself that she worked on the wall until the strain in her arms and neck became unbearable. When she was jailed for contempt of Congress she had learned what it meant to be a prisoner of conscience, and now she physically experienced writing as an act of rebellion.
She gathered a handful of clover leaves and blossoms and crushed them in her hands and steeped them in a soup can of hot water. When she came out into the yard Dolores looked at her and gave a low grunt like a gorilla-cough. Scully sat on the doorstep and sipped her grassy tisane, rich in vitamin C. Dolores's cough must be an 'all clear'. The doe was used to a family unit of females: grandmothers and mothers and sisters and daughters; Scully, with her clover-gathering, had been assimilated.
Replete with writing, she leaned against the doorframe and inventoried the plants that grew haphazardly around her. Ryegrass that grows in the prison yard - how oddly unsurprising to have circled back to that. Grass, of course, was full of indigestible cellulose requiring a many-chambered stomach. Dolores, down on her knees, was reaching with waggling tongue for a dandelion beyond the fence, her head twisted against the ground. The fence was loose enough and it would be possible to get under it with a little digging, but Scully didn't dare try.
She folded a dandelion leaf into her mouth, and it wasn’t as bitter as expected, comparable to romaine. Over the next few days she steamed dandelion greens in water, and oiled the leaves with margarine and baked them crisp. She put the oven rack back in the oven and, lacking a baking sheet, piled clover heads on the dandelion leaves and toasted them, giving her diet a sense of variety. She harvested dandelion root, digging with the top of a soup can she'd folded in half, washed the roots and sliced them and arranged them in the sun on a piece of cardboard. The roots, dried in chunks, were bitter and wheaten and chewy, really not that bad, and gave the illusion of solid food. She steeped them in hot water and drank the vital tea.
Each time she thought of something new it was built gratifyingly on the fact that she had started with nothing. When she began digging dandelion roots her mind leapt ahead at the possibility of grinding dried roots into flour, and when she had the brainwave to sprout clover seeds, between a few precious squares of dampened toilet paper and coddled on a piece of cardboard beside the hot water pipe, she felt as if she’d constructed a booster rocket that would slingshot her from exile on a frozen planet, back to a warmer troposphere.
Despite the roughness of the years, she had never failed to write up an X-File, and there was no reason to let this one go unrecorded. On one of the rectangles on her wall, she opened up a case file. ‘This is a battle of wills which feels slippery because there is no one with whom to actively engage. I match wits with the blank wall, with myself and my patience. Despite limited supplies, I must remain the strong one.’
Sitting on her doorstep with her can of tea, watched by the guard above, Scully considered herself in a performance, forming a dichotomy between her life inside the building and her exterior life in the yard. If she dwelt in a panopticon, on this little stage with two performers, it was also reversed: she looked out of the upstairs window as the guard was changed; she watched the men. In those moments she was the mind that studied and they the creatures in her tank.
Dolores had trampled a bed in the grass near the sundial. When she lay down to ruminate, Scully sat in the grass and ate clover blossoms or typed, or braided carpet fibers, or lay thinking, all the while subtly observing aircraft. If a plane began to come up the horizon and cross overhead, Scully would arise, pretending nonchalance, and wander inside. Once inside, she tore up to the top floor and sprinted the top corridor, grabbed the mirror from the closet, and hung on the ladder in the hatch, sending SOS. She lived in fear of the possibility that a light aircraft would swing back and rock its wings at her. Then what would happen? She considered sneaking onto the roof at night and writing a message, but the guard towers were the same level or slightly higher than the roof, and what if the message were visible to them, or what if they saw her moving, caught in the yard lights? What if they brought in supplies with a helicopter and saw what she'd done?
The boldness and thrill and danger of flashing aircraft livened her days. She became so tuned to their passages, small jets, airliners, light aircraft milk runs, that at various times of day an internal alarm alerted her and she would hurry to the hatch room. She documented each SOS attempt with a hash mark. She ran sprints in the staircases, to burn off some of her anxiety, but when she was outside under the eye of the north tower guard, she moved with a moony apathy, drifting around bare-legged in her T-shirt dress, eating flowers.
Scully lay in the grass. Shaken out of heaven, into a prison-yard, deliberation was her great freedom. She lay on her back, swaying her knees, her toes in clover and the sky above as royal as a bucket of paint poured over a body. Dolores lay near, legs folded sweetly; she swallowed her cud and considered Scully with her near eye, large and perceptive, and with the swiveling radio telescope of her ear. In a relative way she was older than Scully, more mature, a mother several times over, with a worldly, humorous gaze and a crimped black smile at the corner of her mouth. She had a pure white half-collar under her chin, like Father McCue. Even when drowsing she held her head proudly, and she would pause and blink her nares, drawing the breeze up through the long turbinates of her olfactory recesses as though imbibing a delectable substance.
Sometimes, as they watched the sunset, Scully and Dolores and the guard above, Dolores fixed Scully’s hair with her pebble-dash tongue, brisk with hierarchical authority. For all her delicacy she was surprisingly rough, like a beautiful Mennonite who is also sort of a coarse farm girl. Scully did not forget for a moment that the doe was a razor-footed beast wired to stomp coyotes and eat placentas, and she did not like being down on the ground with the deer standing over her, but she always sat calmly, and spoke softly, even if Dolores chewed at the shoulder of her t-shirt. It was rational to desensitize her. Scully picked a dandelion, and twirled it, and drew honest pleasure from the fuchsia sky, and, although she would not admit to loneliness, from the doe’s brisk affection.
In the evenings Scully put a dab of peanut butter on her finger and went down the protracted hall, where, beyond the artificial lights, glossy evening massed at the vanishing point. In the doorway she called Dolores, who waited in the golden tumble of insects beneath the yard light. Dolores blatted, with her Joan Baez tremolo, and came quickly, flapping her tail and showing the pink spear of her tongue in her black mouth. She reared slightly, forelegs dangling against her body, and sucked hard at Scully's fingers. Then, with a rowdy plunge she was across the threshold, and as she pranced down the hall on her sharp toes, Scully shifted the cement block and closed the door. On nights that she couldn't get Dolores into the building Scully lay tensely awake, expecting at any second the brassy rattle of automatic fire as the south tower guard succumbed to buck fever.
Ceasing to feel cold, Scully shifted her bed into the carpet room, and put the rectangle of carpet she'd had under her sleeping bag out in the hall for Dolores. Often Dolores bedded there, when she was not roaming the building, tossing dandelion roots on the floor in the kitchen or playing in the toilet with her hoof. She was noisy, and messy, but she was safe, and she had a warning stamp and snort that jerked Scully out of a sound sleep as if cervidae were her mother tongue. Sometimes in the night Scully would open her eyes to find Dolores standing over her, black oil drizzling from jaws and eye sockets, and then Scully would jerk awake a second time to see the dim hallway light across the foot of her sleeping bag, and as she lay back on her carpet pad pillow she'd hear the comforting sound of Dolores on watch outside her door, belching and sighing a long and whistling sigh.
In the yard, Scully dibbled for dandelion root. She'd ventured farther out than she usually did, halfway across to the gate. Above her, the north tower guard’s feet moved quietly around on the catwalk of his tower, and Dolores was nearby, pinning grass between her lower incisors and the cartilage pad in her upper jaw, and wrenching it crisply.
Scully pulled at a dandelion root. The activity was small, grubby, hand-to-mouth. She should be setting the compound on fire or constructing a hang glider out of sleeping bags; tunneling through solid cement to get back to Mulder. Every second that passed, he was tearing himself apart trying to find her. He would be in that rash, heightened state, wrestling with the angels, like when Roche had the little girl.
She shouldn't have acquiesced to a separation from him, even if it was dangerous. They should have faced it together, their unanimity as seated and specific as a geodesic marker on a mountaintop. It wasn't just love, it was an osmotic function; a fury. A condition, a vice.
She bit the yellow heart from a dandelion.
A fluttering sound came through the wind, and Scully looked up and caught the flash of an object falling from the tower. It hit the ground with a smack that brought the doe’s head up. Scully arose, and without looking up, walked over to the fence, crouched as though picking a weed, snatched up the gift and walked back to the safety beyond the end of the building, where she could not be seen from the south. She sat down cross-legged on the ground.
It was a ham and cheese sandwich. The impact had burst the sandwich bag open and embedded one side with dirt. Scully picked out the worst of the dirt and bit into fresh mayonnaise and Dijon mustard and real rye bread and lettuce and ham and cheese. She wanted to examine the sandwich, profile it to learn more about the north tower guard, but she was slavering too hard, eating the evidence. Dolores stood behind her and leaned over Scully's shoulder, smacking and grinding a crust of rye bread in her velvet muzzle. She chewed noisily in Scully's ear, and nibbled Scully's hair. Scully sat zoning out as she chewed, thinking about the man and his vulnerable heart. It had not occurred to her that all her gathering of wild food would be construed as starvation, not supplementation.
The sandwich was a huge development. It told her that he had no expectations of her supplies being refilled, that he disagreed with her treatment, and thus, saw no end to the current situation, no release date approaching. She had to do something.
The prison fence tied into the back of the building, and behind the building was an empty ten-foot strip of land, and then the razor wire fence which engirded the place. If she crawled across the roof and rappelled down the back of the building, she would only have that fence to cross, and then she would be loose in a forested area. It was relatively easy to cross razor wire by throwing a blanket or a mattress over it, but she was a pro at digging now, and she would go under. Behind the building, she would be out of sight from the towers, but she would need to dig quietly, not clink stones or rattle the fence as she slid under it. Getting off the roof would be the difficult, dangerous part, but it was possible she could make enough rope from her carpet.
The excitement of the plan threw her into motion. She examined her moon chart and counted the days she had to prepare. The moon was in its last quarter, setting in the evening. It was already colder at night, and her clothing was poor, her footwear appalling. She must leave while the weather was good, in the dark of the moon.
She ran up to the carpet room and unraveled a great mass of warp string. After she had braided three lengths of twine, she knotted the tops together and hooked them around the sink faucet in the shower room and, keeping the tension, braided the braids together. This was her rope, slender and kinking. She tied it to the top slat of the ladder and wrapped it around her hands and hung on it with her full weight. It seemed strong enough, but the top of it would saw back and forth against the rough concrete as she abseiled, without an anchor bolt, harness or hardware. She needed to get a look at the roof to find the best way to fasten the rope. It might have to be tied around a vent or protrusion on the roof, in which case it would have to be much longer than the thirty feet she’d estimated.
Hanging with her full weight on the rope had burned her palms. She must strengthen her hands, her arms, her core, and her endurance, and make herself a bag that would keep her hands free. If she left fairly early at night, she could be miles away by morning. Her feet would be cut to pieces, but she would be free.
She would paint her feet with tar and wrap them in strips of material and circle through the woods until she found the road. They would not miss her in the morning because she wandered out as the mood took her. From now on, she would go out later and later, appearing to depression-sleep away the formless days.
In the yard she was artless, sitting with her head on her knees. Dolores, ruminating beside her, tolerated petting of a plucking, grooming nature. Her amber-red coat was the same color as Scully’s hair, as Queequeg’s coat. Dolores was her tribe. Scully caressed her withers and considered cutting her throat before she left. Sin dolor, my darling.
She no longer cared about perpetuating the north guard's Snow White fixation, but it was important to appear without construct. As she sat making a dandelion necklace, she draped the serape cloth over her head to keep the sun off her neck. Dolores came over to draw it off, and stood chewing the cloth and flirting it. Scully got to her feet, took the cloth and put it over the doe's face, and Dolores hung her head and went quiet, like a covered parrot. When Scully removed the cloth, Dolores considered things, then nibbled at Scully's dandelion necklace. Her long face was exquisite.
Scully looked up at the guard tower. The dark shape of the north guard was watching her, and something about him went still when she looked up. She had breached their private etiquette. Scully turned away and went inside.
Inside, she stretched and kick-boxed and Masai-jumped and then tore up the stairs and down the hall and down two flights of stairs and along the basement hall and up the stairs again, until she was dizzy and hot and would have killed for a sports bra. She wore her tunic around her waist like a kilt, a knife stuck into it, and she thrust her head under the kitchen faucet and chugged. She held a plank for sixty seconds, ran for an hour, hung by her fingers from the ladder, stood on one foot. Windowsill pushups. She had cobbled together a yoga repertoire from magazines flipped through in checkout lines while Mulder's mild pressure in her lumbar curve guided her forward. He'd open a bottle of water, scanning the supermarket around them. How like a pair of deer they were, one browsing while the other watched.
She lay down by Dolores and looked dreamily at the sky, but she was calculating how she would dig under a chain-link fence with a steel mirror, in the dark, how hard the soil was, how stony, and how much of a hole she and the sleeping bag could squeeze through, and how it must all be done in absolute silence. A piece of carpet would make the mirror easier on her hands.
She kept the rope, with its growing coil, in the hatch room. She was worried about the rope descent. When the Marines fast-roped down a rope they had gloves and boots and pants. They used their thighs and insoles as well as their hands to control their descent. Scully wondered if she could brake as well in bare feet. Her hands would burn up quickly, and cramp. She intended to wrap the rope over her feet in the brake and scoot method, and pause often to rest.
She cut an armload of dandelion stalks and carried them inside. She had slashed out four feet-shaped scraps of sleeping bag. She laid them flat on the kitchen counter, and slitting each dandelion stalk, squeezed the milk onto one of the soles. As the sticky white sap collected, she spread it with her fingers, and when the cloth was covered completely, she capped it with another piece of material. After it cured, she could put the rubber sandwich inside each sock, to help save her feet as she hiked out. She thought about the men who had escaped from Alcatraz, making a raft out of raincoats and glue, and felt differently towards them than she had as a young and forthright student criminologist poring over the details. Every person in prison at that moment, herself included, had a complex history that depended somewhat on the angle you viewed it from.
If she escaped the compound there was no telling what would happen to her in the woods. Exposure could kill her quickly. She had not said I love you enough to the people who mattered, to her sister, to her mother. She had finally said it to Mulder; it had come out compulsively when they were skin to skin, rolling around in the intensity of their excitement, unable to settle on a position or an act, gasping out whatever came to mind.
She dreamt that Dolores was an enchanted creature who reverted to human form. A misty sun rose out of the forest, and crows flew up. The chains fell away from the gates. The doe became Scully and slipped away into the trees.
It was daylight in the carpet room when Scully woke, sweating in the sleeping bag. It was good that she had slept in, because it was the last day of the old moon's quarter and she would be up late reconnoitering the roof. After breakfast and a can of grassy clover tea, she cut the remainder of the black sleeping bag free of its binding and spread it out. It was large enough to cover her completely.
She practiced crawling. The military leopard-crawl, on diagonal elbow and knee, was designed for a low silhouette, but she decided on the commando crawl, hooking along on her forearms. When she made her escape, she would be transporting the coiled rope, her provisions bag, mirror and sleeping bag, all beneath the sheet of sleeping bag material. If she put the mirror inside her intact sleeping bag, and positioned it over her back, it might function as body armor if he opened fire.
In the evening, she hurried into the hatch room, carrying her lit can with its blue flame. The mirror was propped in the window, and by the blue flicker of burning peanut butter, she arrested, struck. A woman, fair of face, looked out, her hair a little longer and feathered with uneven growth. Her vitality was evident, eyes alit. Through all her grim preparations and training, she had forgotten how she looked. Out of loneliness, and thinking of Mulder, and for luck, and because she had dwelt so firmly within herself that she was pleased to discover the outside version of herself again, she leaned down into the dark steel and kissed her reflection, on the lips, naturally, because that was the only point at which their two dimensions met.
Before she went up through the hatch, she made sure Dolores was busy down on the main floor, pushing a lid with some peanut butter in it around in the foyer. She was worried that Dolores would call to her through the hatch, and scrabble on the ladder, making a racket that could be heard by the guards.
The tiny sliver of moon had risen in the morning and set that evening, and there was only the general floating glare of the yard lights. The shiny sleeping bag material was reflective. First she wrapped the cloth around the oven rack and climbed the ladder and hoisted it through the hatch, holding it up a foot above the roof. Nothing happened. She waited an hour, and then returned. She fastened the cloth around the top of her head with a cord, and went up the ladder, and, without hesitation and with her lip in her teeth, drew herself through the hole and lay on her stomach on the roof. The tar was faintly warm. Her eyes were closed tightly; she expected to be shredded by bullets. Slowly she drew up a knee and soldier-crawled, lying flat. She remembered the marines in training at Quantico, how they had seemed like profane thugs to her, with her laboratory refinement and her physics degree; she was trained in delicate work and mental superiority, but now she saw that there was an intelligence to the use of the body, that the skill of the body was foremost, when you got down to the hard things in life. She soldier-crawled with the cloth ghosting over her, and she pressed herself to the roof, and she breathed the smell of tar which was like a California beach parking lot. She counted her knee-shifts across the roof. Her elbows and knees were getting scraped. She would need to wrap them for the crawl tomorrow night. Then she was at the back edge of the roof.
She lay up against the parapet although it gave her no cover from the guard tower, willing her heart to slow, her forehead on her arms. Her heart beat into the roof. She was not dead yet. The night sounds she loved, the nightjars and frogs and owls and crickets came up in her ears like someone had turned up the stereo. She had made it across the roof and she needed to find the spot where she would tie off her climbing rope, and every time she moved the shine rippled along the sleeping bag cloth and she risked drawing his attention. He might be sighting in on her now. She made a bat wing with her arm and peeked from under the cloth, checking for red laser light. The flat roof was a well of blackness. There were several square vents in the roof, like chimneys, but they were out in the middle. Then, crawling along the gutter at the parapet, she discovered a hole meant to drain rainwater, an amazing, perfectly placed perforation in the building's coping. She would tie her climbing rope to it, tie her bundle of things to the end and lower it, and then climb onto the rope herself. Looking through the rectangular hole, she could see the stadium lights glittering on the razorwire of the fence behind the building.
She would not struggle long through the woods but would cautiously circle the compound and find the road and take it out. It would be very dark on the rough forest road. She’d carry water in a peanut butter jar, and the last of her food; the sleeping bag for warmth. If it rained, she'd be miserable, but probably wouldn't die of exposure. When it got light, she'd have to stay under cover, paralleling the road. It might take her more than twenty-four hours to get off the mountain, and by then they'd be hunting for her.
Scully scraped herself silently back across the roof and slithered down the ladder and stumbled over the pile of rope in the dim of the hatch room. She heard a rustle in the hall. ‘Dolores, it’s me,’ she said, before stepping out. Dolores looked up, chewing widely. She had half-dragged Scully’s sleeping bag out into the hall and trampled it into a bed, and Scully had to go down the hall to the shower room and stop up the shower stall and make a pool of cold water for the doe to play in. She stole her bedding back, and when she finally tucked herself into her sleeping bag and lay still, she was still trembling. This was how she would feel when she had reached the bottom of the rope and began to dig under the fence, but she would also be cold from the wind and rope-burned and strained and full of adrenalin from the drop over the edge of the parapet, from that tricky moment of hanging onto the roof while she got her feet wrapped around the rope. She would be thrilled to be on the ground, outside the first fence, digging with the defiant pleasure of putting her plan into practice.
The risks were significant, and this final day in the compound might be the last day of her life. An overview of her life required some summing: it had been surprisingly eventful. She had once believed that sinister pathology was a career requiring no added eccentricity, but was unnerved to look back and see the great jag of the X-Files vastly overshadowing it. That wild proving ground had forged her moral strengths and altered her outlook, but her allegiance with Mulder had given her a touchy dislike for having her motives examined, even by herself, so that it was hard, even now, to quite say why she had allowed it all to happen.
If this was, in fact, the last day of her life, she was lucky to have had one thoroughly romantic entanglement, and luckier still to have drawn it from such a broken and volatile loner. They had earned each other, slowly, brutally, really earned it, won it hard, breaking through each others' shells with a dedication unlike any she had ever felt. When magazine covers exhorted 'Five Things That Say He Really Loves You', Scully would mentally chuff. When he sells his soul, she thought.
She awoke early and drank hot chocolate from a soup can and ate a fingerful of peanut butter and sat in the sunbeam in the foyer. She had lost interest in her wall, but she composed and scratched out a final note for Mulder. 'The last day of the old moon, in September, 1998,' she wrote. 'Unsure of the exact date. I believe the road out of here runs to the east. I have food and water. I am uninjured, and, as ever, I carry you with me and draw on your strength.'
She added his home phone number, 555-0199, in case a wandering hiker or hunter entered the abandoned complex.
She had said enough, and she pulled herself together and washed her cup and went and ran the stairs for a good half hour. She stretched. She stopped up the drain in one of the showers and filled it to the lip of the stall and lolled around like a manatee on the rough concrete floor in a couple inches of tepid water with hot water beating down from above. She washed her hair with a brew of dandelion greens and a drop of dish soap, and conditioned it with dandelion milk, and with her head upside down, combed it out with a spork. She brushed her teeth with baking soda on her finger. She spliced in several feet of rope in the hatch room. She broke off to do some windowsill pushups, and chin ups on the ladder. She was getting stronger. She had the rope tied to the top of the ladder and she practiced hanging on it and wrapping it around one foot and over the other, and ascending and descending. Her hands burned. She would coat her palms with tar before she left.
She went downstairs to the kitchen and inventoried her provender. She had half a jar of peanut butter, and the sandwich bag full of dried dandelion root and the last of the crackers. She stood on one leg in the foyer in a yoga pose she had sort of made up, getting centered, and envisioned herself on the rope.
Down the telescope of the hall she saw Dolores in the picture frame of the doorway, waiting for her in the yard. She could not decide what to do about Dolores. It was easy to calculate what would happen, were the doe abandoned to outraged men armed with assault rifles. But if Scully killed her first, it removed any possibility that some reversal of fate might come about. The obvious lesson in this whole experience was that the destruction or oppression of a guileless being was morally indefensible, and she refused to be party to it.
Scully did not go out into the yard until as late as possible. Then, she paused in the doorway, yawning and frowzy, as if she had slept in. Dolores coughed in welcome, and looked at her appraisingly, and licked her wet black rhinarium. Scully wandered to the sundial, which had been scattered by the deer, and fixed it, although she no longer had any need for it. She might as well have built a M*A*S*H*-style fingerpost.
Then she went and gathered dandelions for a long time, digging for the roots, although the sun was hot and she had no intention of being there to eat them. Scully washed the roots in the kitchen sink and laid them on cardboard in the yard. The day seemed interminable. A plane went over and she did not bother to flash her distress signal, but watched the line of white blurring in the wind. She yawned again, and lay in the grass, her arm over her eyes.
In the early evening, last-minute, she stitched together a tube of sleeping bag satin, a covering for the top of the rope where it would saw against the building as she descended. She stopped at intervals to clench and unclench her hands, limbering them. When she thought about the roof her heart raced with the desire to set herself in motion. As she sat cross-legged in the carpet room, drawing the fishing line through the holes, she heard voices coming through the open trap door in the roof, calling in the sky. She leapt up and hurried across to the hatch room. Enthusiastic voices in the dark sky, that seemed to urge her on: an echelon of geese.
Scully gripped the ladder. Belief in luck was the province of the weak, but this was an undeniably heartening sign. She had seemed to have nothing, but animals and plants and celestial bodies had enriched her days. On her last day in the compound, it was vital to enumerate these megacosmic gifts, which had seeped around the punishing austerity and bedecked and enspirited her, as the world always will.