by Penumbra (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Category: S/R UST
Here is an organic-looking carcass in New Mexico gypsum, sucked dry by ants,
shipwrecked and scorched. 1947. Here is the CIA's SR-71 Blackbird drone,
65,000 pounds of thrust, a ramjet like a bullet off the firing pin,
shatterer of windows. Here are sacrificed souls, mindfucked, probed, their
bovines mutilated, their lives a wreck. Here are air bursts, bombheads, ten
miles of runway, and six kinds of rattlesnake. Thought Police. Project
Grudge, asshole stealthie joystickers, Plutonium 36, Black Yak, Teal Rain.
Underground explosions through acoustical bedrock. The robotic Aurora
spyplane, photographed over Australia, with its escort of F-111 Aardvarks.
Here we have fallout, and verdant magnesium flares. Heat-seekers. Hangar 18.
MIG Ferrets. Rotundums, mandalas, and the Eye in the Sky.
Ha, Scully would like this - Project 'Moby Dick' - military spy balloons
surfing as weather watchers.
Home Base, Paradise Ranch, Groom Lake, Watertown.
Whatever you call it, God, I want to go.
Nope, Scully would definitely NOT like this. In fact, Scully would have a
mutilated bovine were I to mention it. Her Moby Dick mentality - trapped for
years on the seas with a madman at the helm - that's me, I guess. Psycho
killer, qu'est que c'est? That awful little cannibalistic dog. Wonder if she
slept with it. Naw, Scully's too clean. Did they lie around naked and watch
TV? Scully's never lain around naked in her life. Not that I do much either,
with spyholes, spooks, wiretaps and laser surveillance hemming me in. Not to
mention Scully and that damned key. She'll barge in here one day and catch
me whacking it off.
My little Nefertiti with her nose in the air, moon-skinned, hidebound and
contrary. Aphoristic. She's right, I'm right, we're both right and the other
is wrong. It's sibling rivalry in the sickest and safest possible way.
Venus on the half-shell.
Eve, red-delicious and python-entwined.
don't you know that I love you?
There's a noise in the hall, taptap, and I glance around for my piece, even
though I doubt if They were finally coming to hose me They'd be polite
enough to knock. But it's the littlest billygoat gruff, and she triptraps in
when I yell that it's open.
Every particle has an anti-particle, and mine is about as opposite of me as
you can get.
She stands in the living room doorway, weary as a soldier in her black coat,
her marmalade hair a bronzy glint in the depths of the room.
She smells like rain. She smells better than anyone I've ever known in my
life, and sometimes I wonder if that's what makes me like her so much, a
sort of olfactory bias, but that theory's for crap because I've been stuffed
up with head colds and still loving her madly.
Scully always goes after a cold of mine with Gurkha intent, making me choke
down echinacea and garlic capsules. Like a racehorse with a hay cough, I
stand while she prods the glands in my neck and pries open my mouth to ogle
"So what's the predicament of the day?" she asks. Nice of her not to inquire
why she has found me sitting here in the dark like a bleedin' nosferatu so
many times. Scully pries the least of any woman I've ever been involved
with, and not through lack of curiosity. I'm beginning to grasp what a
rarity this level of mutual respect is.
"I got a call from an inside informant in Area 51," I say calmly, as though
my blood isn't astir with excitement. "We're meeting him tomorrow night."
"Yeah, Scully, the Shangri-La of UFOlogy! Level 5. Black aircraft. Roswell
technology. 4 million acres of bomb range. You're gonna love it."
Scully looks unconvinced.
"Remember that little black and white movie I showed you once?" I ask. "The
saucer the military was trying to fly back in the '50's. It was spinning
around on the ground. Remember that? That was in Dreamland."
"You've been running," she remarks, eyeing my sweaty hair. She lets my
flimflam slide and crosses to knock back a shot from my glass of water. She
doesn't mind my germs. I don't mind hers. It's very intimate. It didn't
happen overnight, but the first time we started trading a can of soda back
and forth through a graveyard shift in an unmarked car, I knew the
infrastructure of our partnership was something durable and fine.
Scully's eyeing the open files on the coffee table and I move over on the
couch so she'll sit down. I pull a manila folder over the glossies of
abductees and their implant scars; not seeing any need to dredge that up.
"Have you booked a flight?" she asks, as I flick on a lamp.
"Already called the airline." She's still cranky about my Bermuda Triangle
foray, she and Byers giving me CPR on a cabin cruiser in the Sargasso Sea.
I'm supposed to be keeping a low profile, which is hard for someone with a
nose like mine. That's partially why I'm not heading to Nevada solo, even
though this isn't a case, and Kersh will have me boiled in lead if he finds
Other reasons include Scully's feelings, and semi-sincere promises I made
while still tranked to the gills in the hospital. There's also the fact that
I enjoy her company. She shoots sharp, and there's no match for a good
blaster at your side, or at least a pathologist packing a 1056. Anyway,
she's my story and I'm sticking to her.
When the nuclear bomb goes off you can see everything around you in the neon
powderflash of elements dividing; see right through your closed eyelids,
through the x-rayed radius and ulna in your upflung forearm. You see clear
and pure and later you don't speak of it. Scully and I are like that, eyes
closed, but still we see. We catalogue, but never mention it. We are
weathering the explosion together, and it's one hell of a ride.
"I hear they tie down animals around the test sites, to see how many
neutrons they can take." Scully challenges.
I arise and stand at the window.
"You realize you're on your own with this, don't you?" she asks, gesturing
with a grainy picture of a manta-shaped craft.
"Aw, come on, don't bail on me, Scully," I whine. "This is one of the most
crystalline moments of all our work on the X Files. This is the mother of
all cover-ups, this is the answer to the ultimate conspiracy, this is
paradigm shifts and Tesla coils and crop circles in the desert. This is even
better than the South Carolina Lizard Man!"
"And I didn't realize anything would ever top the South Carolina Lizard
Man," she says rather saucily.
I sink into myself, crossing my arms, exuding misery like noxious radio
"Mulder - after the Bermuda Triangle, after Crump, after the Antarctic, you
know we've got to try and straighten up. Here's Kersh in with the Smoking
Man, and Skinner risking his job to help me find you. We just can't afford
any more trouble right now. Look - " She holds out her hand, empty, but
somehow offering more things than I could ever name. "Look. If you go, I
don't want to know about it. Go, and come back, and be safe about it. If I'm
not implicated, it won't draw so much attention."
I sit down and look at her, and we replay the same argument silently,
staring at each other. Her Mediterranean gaze strafes me at a molecular
level. I suppose she is right, so I sigh in concession, and shiver, chilled
by my sweat.
"You're hungry," she says. There's that evening feeling of suspension,
deadlocked silver twilight sieved through trees and smog and glass. There's
the groundswell sense of approaching a mirage, of crusaders in the breach,
the inkling that all this blood and sand and frankincense has been for some
purpose, to some end of knowledge. There's Scully saying something about a
sandwich, and the pewter light subaqueous in her eyes.
I want to get out of these sweatpants and this sweaty jock and rub heat into
one of my knees but I go with her because she's not through talking and I'll
never be through listening to her, even though her words strike irksome
chords that make me itch to take some kind of unmeditated action.
We mooch into the elevator and eye each other from the tilting corners of
"It's this elevation of a military test site to consecrated proportions that
I don't understand, Mulder. The fact that people believe the government is
flying UFOs around a dry lake bed in Nevada doesn't particularly surprise
me, but the fact that this compound is regarded as the world's Mecca for
extra-terrestrial technology is too preposterous to contemplate. This
misplaced Cold War mentality, this premillennial tension, is simply a
mis-apportioning of blame. People have to blame someone else for the state
of the world so that they don't have to take responsibility themselves. I
mean, these are people who believe that fluoride is put in the water as a
poison, that the earth is, indeed, flat, that the AIDS virus is being
developed as a means of warfare. Really, if you think about it, it's no
wonder that all this neuroticism would find its zenith just two hours from
There's that tic that she gets in her left eye when she's lying or speaking
very earnestly, when the events of her world defy her rationalizations, when
she attempts to drive them back with her logic.
"I mean, Mulder, this place has attained its mythological status through
hearsay, through convoluted systems of misinformation, through the
unbalanced prophecies of doomsayers. These beliefs are the intellectual
cul-de-sacs of our times. It's 'crisis sociology'. A cultural blindspot. And
you, Mulder, are the standard-bearer. You're the water boy for saucerheads,
the keeper of the faith. You're the Fisher King."
I close my eyes and groan deeply, stop dead on the sidewalk. I try not to
get pissed. "Scully, don't get Arthurian on me when my blood sugar's down."
But she persists, looking up at me sharply. "What is it with these people,
with you Mulder? What are you looking for? Why is this a way of life?"
"Maybe it's just something to love, Scully," I snap, hungry, wound-up, and
irritable. This shuts her up the rest of the way to the corner.
Out of gloaming Alexandria we tramp into the deli like a couple of
pistoleros into a watering hole, jangling the bell. There's something about
a woman with a concealed weapon, all the obvious penis connotations aside,
it adds an alertness to her aplomb. She cases the joint so quickly you'd
miss it if you blinked. I lean against the counter and order a sub with
turkey, pastrami, pepperoni, dijon, extra sprouts, tomatoes, cucumbers,
three kinds of cheese, olives, onions, pickles and roasted peppers. Scully
stands there demurely, she's heard it all before, and probably wasn't
impressed the first time. She presses a five dollar bill onto the counter.
We get a couple of liters of mineral water since I suspect that she still
doesn't trust the water in my building, despite the intervention of the
Board of Health. She probably goes down and checks the filters every time
I'm actin' funny and she don't know why.
We navigate Hegal Street's effulgent sidewalks, bugs scrumming in the
streetlights. The river, off somewhere, reeks of the sea.
"You think that I don't love anything, that I don't have any true passions
in my life," she says, her voice small beside me.
"That is not at all what I think. I know that you love trying to prove me
"You don't think it's our prerogative to alert them to a security leak?"
"Scully, we have a chance to find out the truth! Do you know how hard it is
to get into Groom Lake?"
"You know what I love?" she asks suddenly.
"What I love...is the fact that every atom that makes up our beings has
existed since the creation of the universe, and that for this tiny flash of
our lifetimes they are us, they comprise us, they walk around this planet in
our guise, and then we die and disintegrate and they move on and become part
of something else. So, essentially we go on, in a jillion different
directions, and become as many new things, and how can you really die, if
that's what happens?"
"You can't," I say quietly, in the elevator. I look into her eyes. Atoms of
Scully, atoms of me. My stomach growls and something flickers inside her,
oxytocin, the maternal flame; she seems to restrain herself from patting my
belly. I unlock my door with my mouth full of filched pastrami, my soul a
little too large for its vessel.
We put our feet on the coffee table and chow down on the sandwich, watch the
end of M*A*S*H. My life feels almost normal, if I don't glance down at the
files between my running shoes. Scully shucks off her coat and keeps me
company for a little while. I'm still on the epinephrine headrush from my
Dreamland phone call, and even though four pavement miles with a headwind
took the edge off, my brain is askirl like the Mandelbrot Set.
"You won't be able to sleep," Scully notes calmly when I start to jiggle my
foot. "Mulder, look at you; you'd think it was Christmas." She herself looks
sleepy, and I half-hope she'll conk out here on the couch, like a leprechaun
after a productively obnoxious day.
"It IS Christmas," I say, my voice cracking like an 8th-grader. I pick
alfalfa sprouts off the front of my T-shirt and start to lecture her. "This
is like being granted an interview with the Majestic 12!It's anti-mass
fields and Transient Luminous Objects! It's titanium-alloy remotes and
hypersonic flight and stargates. Don't you see, Scully, the prodigious leaps
in technology we've made since the Roswell debris was recovered - fiber
optics, night vision, and the silicon microchip, cloaking technology, all
these huge technological forward jolts in the second half of the twentieth
century, when our great-grandparents were still riding horses forty years
before. Doesn't it make you curious, doesn't it make you wonder?"
"What I wonder is why it can't be attributed to human ingenuity."
"Isn't that an oxymoron?"
She bares her little fangs and turns the channel. We watch part of 'Nova',
something about volcanoes on Venus, comfortable in our oddly cross-purpose
kinship. We're united by our misfit status, our minds trothed in a Celtic
knot of cerebral pursuit, no beginning and never an end.
This happens sometimes. The stern and rigid Agent Scully comes over after a
long day and you get a little food in her and all of a sudden she's in this
drowsy female tangle on the sofa. It would be dangerous, if I let myself
think about it for more than a microsecond. She's leaning back against a
cushion, her knees pulled up, her bare feet having wandered into the no
man's land in the middle of the couch, and the koi crowd into the corner of
their tank to gaze down at the seductive lure of her hair.
Even my fish are enchanted with her. I graze her toes with a pencil, the way
you draw your finger up a keyboard. "This little pig went to Dreamland."
She smiles faintly in the direction of the TV, shaking her head, her frosty
black lashes drooping.
"Well, good hunting," she says, as she leaves, quoting Kipling in the foyer
while I hover, watching her button her coat, trying to absorb enough of her
to tide me over in the interim. "I'll be back before you miss me," I say
reassuringly. I open the door and she looks up at me slowly and blinks like
a sphinx with a riddle.
This may be one of those evenings when I sit at the table and scratch out a
few rusty lines of poetry, an ode, a sentiment that fails to reveal my
depths, unfinished scraps of verse on the back of an envelope. And I'll
watch the gray weight of light in the glass turn to a shiny black embossment
of my own image as the sky is sucked free of light.
I start to pick up the mess on the coffee table and find her keys under a
furling of sandwich wrapper. I weigh them in my hand. They're as Scully as
any opinions she wears, as her clothing, as her moods. They're the
ingot-weight of entrance, the clicking sealers of secrets.
I battle the water-swollen sash on the window and the panes shudder as the
frame slowly yields. Scully in the long fall twilight, her shadow limned
Halloween-black behind her on the pavement.
"Scully, your keys!"
She stands back so I can toss them down. She stands way back. Scully may
face death on a regular basis, but she's not about to die getting beaned by
a key chain commemorating the first moonwalk. She was five at the time and
doesn't really remember. She doesn't buy into the theory, however, that the
whole thing was staged here on Earth. There are some things Scully takes on
The keys chink onto the narrow strip of grass between the building and the
sidewalk, metallurgic elements returning to earth. She retrieves them and
waves up at me.
I watch her small form drift away down the sidewalk, black coat flapping.
She turns suddenly and catches me looking. I twitch sheepishly, still
feeling the imprint of her keys in my hand. They are now in hers,
gravity-patched between us. Perhaps they were still warm from my touch. We
didn't touch each other once this evening.
She tips her head back, baring her throat; I recognize by her posture that
she is opening herself to me. The wind comes up behind her and rattles her
"Okay, I'll go!" she yells, spreading her hands.
I grin, then, and nod. "Atta girl!" I yell.
She smiles and turns around in a circle, looks up at me again, then stuffs
her hands in her pockets and walks backwards. I can barely see her skyward
face. She shakes her head and turns to confront the wind.
She is more than just atoms, she has been to the stars; she is everything I
seek. Macropterous, unearthly, alar, she travels in a dark and recondite
margin, weighted by conundrum and bosh. She strides straight-shouldered at
death, at life. And into the labyrinthian realms of mystery, she walks with
Filches/homages*: Iron Butterfly, The Talking Heads, Jimi Hendrix,
Botticelli, The Brothers Grimm, Star Wars.
*Lashings of apologies all round.
Editing suggestions from: Lynda Vanden Elzen, Tracy Estabrook, and Khyber.
Thanks also to everyone who pointed out that a Pomeranian can't be naked.
That's why I love youse!