torch, flambeau@strangeplaces.net
July 1999 - July 2001 (August 2001)

Disclaimer: Don't know if you believe me, but CC used to come up with some pretty good stuff. This was begun in Tate Gallery. Remember Anasazi? Editing by elynross. Do not archive this story without permission.

Down among the dead men

It was like standing naked in a swarm of frightened butterflies. A strange notion for a man who had just been given his heart's desire and stood surrounded by hard evidence of the conspiracy to cover up the existence of extraterrestrial visitors. But he could feel their presence, the brittle whispers of panic, more clearly than he could feel his own angry delight at this discovery. It was exhilarating and terrifying, and for a moment he didn't hear Scully's voice on the phone, or the clang as the sunshine was suddenly shut out.

The phone fell from his hand, the sound lost, swallowed as he had been swallowed by this hidden grave. He couldn't breathe. They were all around him, the skittery rustling of years of suppressed movement, decades of death breaking free with a sound like flower petals tearing. The pulse in his throat beat hard and fast, and he closed his eyes in the dark, seeing so much more clearly then. Hearing the screams. He tried to imagine what had been done here, only to find he did not have to; it rose inside his mind, entering his body as he breathed in the dusty air. The past touched him everywhere, clinging to him inside and out. He could feel the softest of caresses on his hair, his face, his hands. The back of his neck.

Mulder staggered sideways, attempting to reclaim control of his own body. He didn't know what was happening, why he had been shut in here. To die, the not-quite-whispers said, to die, the way they had died, to be locked away forever in steel under stone. Far from the stars and the open sky.

The touches that had ghosted over his skin grew more persistent, catching at him, and he knew a moment's fear that he would be the one to pay, to bear the accumulation of guilt for what had been done here. What was happening outside this small encapsulation of darkness seemed light-years distant. He was pulled down, pulled under, dust and death in his face. Sinking without a trace.

There was nothing he could hold. He was blinded; the darkness was absolute. Dust crept into his nose and his ears and his eyes and his mouth. Dry-boned fingers tugged him along, their touch reaching right through his clothes to chill his skin. Taking him somewhere. Grains of sand ran like shivers over his skin. Yes, he said quietly, letting himself fall into their embrace. Take me.

Closer and closer, inside him now, eating at his dreams with silenced mouths. To live, the whispers carried him away and away, to live, ghosts and stone sliding through his brain, neurons striking sparks against the rock, nerve endings sizzling, and it seemed wholly natural to have everything burst into fire.

To live, as they kissed him goodbye.

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