Title: "St. James Infirmary Blues: A Nightmare"
Author: Janet F. Caires-Lesgold
Feedback: Please, to the above address!
Archive: By permission only, please
Rating: PG-13 for disturbing occurrences
Category: VA, MSR
Keywords: implied character death (yes, it's me...)
Spoilers: anything through most of season 6 is game
Timeframe: after "Two Fathers/One Son"
Summary: A different kind of ghost story.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Happy Halloween!
DISCLAIMER: These characters belong to Chris Carter, 1013 Productions, and the whole X-Files gang, not to me. This story is just for the entertainment of my online friends and myself, not for any profit.
COPYRIGHT: (C) October 22, 1999, Janet F. Caires-Lesgold, firstname.lastname@example.org
Please don't redistribute or alter this story in any way without the express permission of the author. Thank you very much.
"I went down to St. James' Infirmary,
To see my baby there.
She was lying on a long, white table,
So pale, so cold, so fair..."
(This song is in the public domain, but you may imagine either the Cab Calloway version, or the recent recording by Snakefarm...)
I must have been sound asleep when the phone rang. All I could make out from the voice on the other end was that a woman matching Scully's description had been brought in to the hospital after a car accident. As I raced across town, my heart thumped in my throat. Who had called? Why had they called me if they weren't sure it was she? But mostly I wondered, was she all right?
I circled the parking lot endlessly. No spaces in the middle of the night? Before long I left my car in an illegal spot, and ran to the doors. Had the sign pointed me to the wrong set of doors? The automatic opener was not working, or some other technical glitch kept them shut as I smacked into them the first time. I slammed the palm of my hand against the metal frame, hollering at the top of my lungs for someone on the other side of the glass to hear me. I could see them, walking back and forth inside the reception area, writing on pads, talking quietly to one another: why couldn't I get their attention? My fingers, often described as slender, could not force themselves between the shut doors to pry my way in. At last someone came to the inner set of doors opposite me, pushing his way out. As he shoved past me, I tried to ask him why no one would let me in, but he was in too much of a hurry and bustled by me before he could hear me. At least I was able to catch the doors and finally get into the hospital.
I skidded to a stop before the reception desk and tried to regain my composure when asking the duty nurse for Scully's whereabouts. She gave me a long, detailed reply, entirely in Spanish. I'm sure I muttered vulgar words to myself as I spun on my heel and looked around the room for someone who could help me, or at least translate. The headache that pounded in my right temple felt like a cliche' come to life.
There, down the corridor, I spotted a gurney with a patient aboard, lying still and covered up to the chin with a sheet, leaving a blaze of red hair exposed to the light. I was sure it was Scully, and scurried to investigate. Just then, an orderly appeared from a side room and rolled the cart away, with its red-haired burden intact. I began to run after them, but a group of shuffling patients in robes and slippers suddenly blocked my way. I thought I spied the orderly pushing the patient around the corner of a perpendicular hallway. When I reached the spot where the gurney had turned, there was no sign of the red-headed patient or her chauffeur. The glaring light of the empty hospital hallway reflected off of the polished tiles and the burnished metal surfaces, and I swear I could hear distant laughter.
An elevator door opened before me at the intersection, and I waited to see if anyone who looked helpful might get off of it. Instead, I was nudged into the car, whose door closed behind me. No buttons were pushed on the panel, but as soon as the door had shut, the elevator began going up. I was alone, so I stood right by the door so I could get off the moment it stopped.
The doors opened onto another ward of the hospital, similarly full of nurses and aides bustling about, and the sounds of machines and suffering never quite silent. I moved to the information desk and was about to ask again where I might find Scully when a short black blur moved through my peripheral vision.
"Frohike?" I called, spinning to go after him. I don't know how, but his little legs kept him a full five paces ahead of me the entire time I followed him down the corridor. Had he not heard me? I yelled again, a little louder this time, thought not so loud as to attract a shushing from the nurses. Perhaps something was *really* wrong, and he was too overcome to notice me. The little troll got to the exit door and vanished down the stairs before I could catch up to him. I stood at the door looking down the empty stairwell for several heartbeats, half wondering what had put him in such a fog and half afraid to find out.
Letting the door shut, I studied the figures in the hall again, looking for anyone who might help me, but somehow unwilling to disturb the people who looked genuinely busy. A whiff of expensive, nauseatingly floral cologne floated to my nose, and I looked up to see Diana Fowley several doors away. I was sure she looked me dead in the eyes before she turned into a room along the hall and shut the door behind her. Dodging a man with a mop and wheeled bucket, I ran to the closed door and tried to turn the knob. Not only was the door locked, but there was no window in it, as I would have expected. I knocked urgently, calling out to Diana, but there was no reply, and the door remained locked.
I had to know: where was Scully? Why couldn't I find her? And why wasn't anybody answering me or, for the most part, noticing me? I slumped into a chair in a row along the wall and caught my breath for a moment. Burying my face in my hands, I steadied my jaw, which kept threatening to quiver in frustration.
A cleared throat attracted my attention. I looked up, but there was no one before me or nearby. Then I saw him: Walter Skinner, sitting in the bank of chairs just down from mine. Quickly I slipped into a seat near his, and looked at his face. He did not turn to me, but I could see that his eyes were wet, and his skin pale with grief. "Sir?" I began, reaching out to grasp his shoulder. "Sir, where is she? Couldn't they save her? Please tell me." He didn't so much ignore my touch and my questions as fail to perceive them at all. His hand pushed his glasses up his forehead, covering his eyes as he bent to bring his elbow to his knee.
It was more than I could bear to sit beside him and watch him cry, so I squeezed his shoulder once more, then went off to find anyone who could fill me in on my partner's condition, no matter what it might be. I tried very hard not to let myself be overcome with fear, but I knew that I was balanced on a very narrow edge of sanity, less able to keep from slipping over with every passing second.
Striding blindly down the corridor, I almost ran right into a small family group who were headed in the opposite direction. I didn't recognize the man and woman, but their young daughter smiled at me as if she knew me. Names flipped through my head like a spun rolodex, but before I could think of where I had seen the girl before, she said, "It's good to see you here. She was waiting."
Coming to an abrupt halt, I replayed that voice in my head as the child's parents tugged her out of earshot. It *couldn't* have been Emily. Or could it? I turned to look at her again, but the group was already gone. My fingertips rose to my neck, where I identified the fluttering I felt under my ear as my racing pulse. Swallowing hard, I resumed my search for Scully or some information about her with renewed determination.
I found myself at another intersection of corridors, and picked a path at random. A few feet from the mouth of the hallway, swinging doors marked the limits of a new ward. When an orderly pushed his way out through the doors, I sneaked my way through as the door swung back in. Up ahead I again spotted the familiar silhouette on a gurney, and made my way toward it. However, before I reached her side, a door near me opened, and a familiar, cancerous figure emerged, hands and mouth for once free of burning cylinders of paper and dried weeds. I didn't want to know what treachery had brought him to this place, and understood that any information he gave me would be tainted, so I ducked into a side waiting room rather than have him catch sight of me.
The sound of men's voices laughing distracted me from watching the hall for my nemesis, so I turned to see who had taken refuge here before me. The sight that met my eyes was so unexpected, I suddenly felt a chair under my ass, instead of having consciously sat in it.
There, clustered on sofas around a corner table, were my two dearly departed informants and my father. Their conversation interrupted, they looked up to find me there, and immediately broke again into gales of friendly laughter.
My older snitch addressed me first. "Agent Mulder," he intoned, his voice still sounding like a trombone wrapped in cheesecloth, "you look like a man who is searching for something."
"So it's obvious?" I replied.
"Moreso than usual," answered my other source, still nattily dressed as he'd always been when he was alive.
"You won't find any answers here, son." That was my dad, who actually sounded pleased to see me.
"What are you doing here?" I asked, including them all with a glance.
A huge smile broke across the black man's face, the likes of which I'd never seen before. "Ah, Mr. Mulder. The question is, what are *you* doing here?"
Dad turned his head to look at the clock on the wall behind my head. I had noticed it earlier, but for some reason couldn't recall the time it showed. When I glanced up at it again, it apparently had no hands. "Yes, Fox. You're early. Someone else is going to have to finish your work for you now."
The old man grinned broadly. "As if he'd have known when it was finished in the first place!" With that, all three of them cracked up once again, and I finally found my feet and backed out of the room when I realized that these dead men would not be able to help me.
My eyes searched the hallway for the inert figure covered in a sheet, but there were no traces of anyone having walked that way in some time. I looked back out the swinging doors and was amazed to spy a prone redhead down the opposite hall. Throwing my shoulder against the push panel of the door, I moved out into the intersection once again, a little relieved that I had been able to open the door on my own. Before I lost sight of my quarry again, I started running after her table as it was pushed by another faceless orderly away from me down the linoleum tiles.
Once again I found myself unable to lessen the distance between me and the shape that I only assumed was my partner, but this time I was at least able to keep pace with her "driver". I felt as if I were flying, with the speed at which I was passing the doors that lined the corridor, but I still could not catch up to the man pushing the gurney. We turned so many corners that I realized that I had entirely no idea which way I had come or what direction I would turn had I wanted to retrace my steps.
At last I saw the table pushed into a private room, which for some reason I assumed had only the one door. My stamina gave out at that moment, and I bent double in the middle of the hall, bracing my hands on my knees, trying to catch my breath while never taking my eyes off of the door where the gurney had been taken. My head throbbed from the effort of my exertion.
"I see you made it," said a sweet voice beside my ear. I turned my head to find myself looking straight into the smiling face of... a dog. Not just any dog, but one of those fuzzy orange-tan terriers like the one Scully had dragged along to the lake and which had ended up as an hors d'oeuvre for a huge alligator.
"Yip!" said the dog, almost as if he recognized me.
"Queequeg?" I hazarded, earning me another happy yip.
"Good dog," cooed the voice I'd heard before. Unless dead Queequeg spoke more languages than he let on, he was not alone. Sure enough, I spotted a pair of knees under him, wrapped in floral-printed silk. My eye followed the slender hip up to the pale arm that stretched from the silk sleeve and reached up to brush a strand of hair from Melissa's face.
"I didn't expect to see you here," I said, amazing myself with my own understatement.
"That's all right. I know she'll be glad you're here." She offered no more explanation for her presence above ground than had any of the other ghosts I'd met tonight.
"Is she going to be okay? Have you seen her? Was that her?" I blithered, pointing stupidly at the door of the room where the redhead had been placed.
"Go to her," she commanded calmly, her pointing finger paralleling mine. "It's where you belong."
Without another thought, I jogged ahead to the door where I'd seen someone who matched Scully's description being wheeled. As I approached, I could hear a man's voice, singing:
"Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see..."
Effectively blocking both my passage and my view into the room, a thin man with close-cropped curly hair stood just inside the room in question, his back to me, fervently intoning the hymn to whomever lay within.
I was no longer surprised at anything I discovered in this confusing place, so I began simply, "Should I give my regards to your father the next time I see him, Jeffrey?"
He turned to face me, almost as if his feet had been stapled to a lazy Susan. "Mulder. You're here. Welcome." Young Spender practically slid out of my way, presenting to me the hospital bed spotlighted in the dark room before me with a grand and theatrical gesture. The body that lay propped on the pillows was covered completely with a heavily starched sheet. "She hasn't stopped asking after you since she arrived. See how excited she is!"
I brushed past him, unable to swallow the heart that seemed to be in my throat as I moved to the bedside. Only barely aware that I'd been left alone with this lifeless form, I gently lifted the sheet from her face. There she was: my Dana Scully, my partner, my true love, my reason for living, looking as if she were sound asleep, though her chest no longer rose and fell rhythmically. Hot tears crawled down my cheeks as I looked at her beauty, etching it in my mind for future reference. I reached out tentatively with my fingers to touch her cheek once more.
Her porcelain skin was even whiter now, and so cold! My hand curled around the back of her delicate neck, and I raised her head to my lips to kiss her for the first and last time. The vertebrae under her skin felt all wrong, crushed in pieces and floppy instead of firm and strong. My tears moistened her lips like dew before I pressed her mouth with mine in all the passion I'd denied us both all these years.
When I felt that the kiss was done, I pulled away and laid her head back on the crisp pillow, drawing my hand back to my side. Suddenly, Scully's sapphire eyes snapped open, and her body jerked into alertness! I jumped back, horrified. She fixed me with pupils that glowed like L.E.D.s, and an evil grin spread across her face.
"I was wondering when you'd get here, Mulder! It seems like it took you forever!" Her voice, while still distinctly her own, held echoes of sepulchres and of all those who had died before her.
I stuttered in terror. "Sc-Scully! How? You... you're dead, aren't you?"
"Yup," she nodded, a little more loosely than she ever had before. "Damn car took me right out. Serves me right for trying to cross in front of your house where there wasn't a crosswalk! Oh, well. It can't be helped now."
"But, how... how can you talk to me?" I'm sure my mouth was hanging open, not unlike that of Marley's ghost.
She rolled her eyes, the little red lights flickering as she glanced at the ceiling, then back at me. "Get a clue, Mulder! Have you noticed anything funny about the people who can talk to you around here?"
I ran through my quest in my head, trying to detect a pattern. "Well, some people didn't seem to notice me, but others did..."
"Good, good," she congratulated me as one would a child. "Who ignored you? Do you remember?"
"Frohike walked right past me. Skinner acted like I wasn't there."
"Which people noticed you? Did they have anything in common?"
It struck me at once. "Wait a minute. They're all dead."
"Bingo! There you have it!"
"Have what, Scully? What do you mean?"
"There's a reason that the only ones who spoke to you are people who are dead. You're dead, too."
A nervous laugh welled up in my chest. "Yeah, right. *I'm* dead. Since when?"
"Since you blew your brains out this morning after you saw that speeder kill me in front of your house, silly!" An exasperated look crossed her deathly white face. "There's a mirror over there, Sherlock. Check it out for yourself!"
The darkness of the room made me have to squint to find the mirrorside switch to the light over the sink. The bulb was fluorescent, casting an unearthly pall to my skin. I turned my head slightly, and felt my heart fall to my feet as I beheld the bloody, ragged hole decorating my right temple. All that I could think to say was, "So that explains the headache..."
I heard Scully hop out of bed behind me and walk slowly to my side. "So, you need anymore proof, Mulder? I mean the truth *is* in the mirror there... Mulder? Mulder, say something. Mulder?"
I couldn't answer her. My eyes were transfixed by the sight of my mangled grey matter peeking out of the gap in my hair. I certainly didn't *feel* dead. It couldn't be true. Maybe I was just asleep, and this was just a dream...
I blinked once, twice, and the light in the room suddenly changed. Scully was still saying my name over and over, and my head still hurt, but somehow I was now lying in the bed, with my partner's earnest face, minus the scary red pupils, looking at me intently from her position in a chair by my side.
"Scully?" I searched her eyes, which immediately softened, then brightened happily.
"Welcome back to the realm of the living," she began.
"You got shot."
"Scul-ly!" I chided. "Am I just a hapless target for your itchy trigger finger?"
"No!" she barked, swatting me lightly on the arm. "Don't you remember the case? Well, when we went back for the arrest, the suspect started shooting, and he grazed your temple. I knew you were going to be fine, but you had me worried when you didn't wake up for so long. Were you dreaming?"
I stretched my legs under the starchy hospital sheets. It was kind of a relief to feel the pins and needles of restored circulation after they'd fallen asleep from resting too long in one position. "Yeah, as a matter of fact I was. I dreamed I was dead."
"Dead? Is that so?"
"Uh-huh. And Emily was there, and Melissa, and Queequeg, and my dad..."
"Really," she pondered. "That's, um, interesting. Anything else you remember?" Her expression made me think that she was expecting me to describe flying monkeys.
"Well, nobody who was still alive would talk to me. The only people who could see me were dead, too, except for Diana. I can't explain it. She looked right at me! Or do you think that was just a coincidence?"
"It could be, although I've always sort of suspected that she walks both sides of the fence, if you know what I mean..."
"No, Scully, I don't, but it would explain a lot..."
"How was I taking the fact that you were dead?"
"Oh, that's the great part: you were dead, too!"
Her eyebrow arched in a way that could *only* indicate that she was still alive. "I see... Now just *how* is that the great part?"
I had to think about that one. "We could be together forever?" I suggested.
She smiled, blushing slightly and lowering her eyes prettily. "Good answer, Mulder." Shaking herself a little, she pushed back her chair and stood up. "Well, now that you're awake, I'd better find a nurse to take a look at you. You think you can manage okay on your own for a moment?"
"Yeah." My mind raced for a way to reach out to her before she wandered off, mostly to make up for the awkward position in which I'd apparently put her when I'd let my feelings slip out when I'd returned from Bermuda. I waved her casually back to my bedside. "Scully? C'mere a minute..."
Her heels clacked slowly on the linoleum as she returned, seeming almost hesitant to put herself within reach again. "What is it?"
I curled my index finger at her, making her bend down close to me as if to listen to a secret. Once I could reach her chin, I tenderly pulled her face close to mine and gave her a real, solid, warm, moist, loving kiss. Rather than just accepting it stiffly, her lips responded upon mine, moving sweetly to kiss me back. I released her, then leaned back to watch her reaction.
"Oh," she breathed, "oh, my..." It was certainly a better comeback than "Oh, brother!", that's for sure. Quickly she straightened up and looked at me suspiciously. "What was that for?"
"Just wanted to see if it was better when we were alive."
"Oh!" She processed this for a few seconds. "Uh, I'd better find that nurse..." Gradually she moved to the door, then looked back at me. "So, was it?"
"Was it better, you mean?"
Nodding almost imperceptibly, she said, "Yeah."
I grinned at her, delighting in her discomfiture and her obvious enjoyment of my affection for her. "What do you think?"
She didn't answer, but the light in her eyes, anything *but* red this time, told me everything I needed to know. I lay back on my pillows with a satisfied sigh and watched her head out to summon a nurse. It was pretty great to be alive after all.
P.S. Any resemblances between this and the feature film "The Sixth Sense" are probably entirely coincidental, but tell that to the guy looking over my right shoulder...
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