~ a short story / X-Files fan fiction.
Agents Mulder and Scully sauntered through the woods of West Virginia with spooky sparkles in their eyes. Though their attention continually fell upon each other as they haunted the highway forests off the 7, hunting for clues.
He wore a long trench and she wore a thick wool coat. It was deep into fall and the trees were shedding themselves anew. In the sleepy town of Point Pleasant, an annual festival venerating the “Mothman” had begun in the near distance. The Silver Memorial Bridge hummed with the din of everyday Americans in vivacious celebration of a cryptid sometimes referred to as “UFO-Bird,” “Extradimensional Avenger,” or “the dark angel of the east.”
Mulder walked to a tree and placed a hand delicately upon its trunk.
“Isn’t it so easy to leave everything behind when you enter the woods?” he asked his partner.
Scully stood and listened to the faint music from the nearby celebration, where people were gyrating to the sounds of techno beats and clapping to a local band’s latest iteration of the Mothman theme song. She glanced over Mulder’s display of tree-touching sentimentality with a smirking contemplation.
“You mean you find it hard to care about anything but the case in front of you, which often puts you in the woods,” Scully remarked.
“Usually in mortal danger,” Mulder quipped.
His hand left the trunk. The trained tracker crouched and brushed that same hand against the forest floor, where he scanned for tracks. Or residue. Or a face hidden within the fallen leaves.
“These woods are ancient, Scully. Process of evolution gets a chance to really go gangbusters out here.”
Scully laid her own skilled overwatch upon the muddy blanket of dead and buried plant life, sighting no tracks and no evidence of anything beyond the cycles of carbon, water, nitrogen.
“Do you think something from these woods collapsed the Silver Bridge back in ‘67?” Scully asked, in a lovely tone.
“No,” Mulder returned, “but I think forgotten places like this, with low populations and an eager sense of mystic adventurism from the community’s shamans, are prime targets for all kinds of…”
He paused, turning to his partner with hands in his gigantic trench pockets.
“…strange phenomena,” Mulder finished.
“Stranger stories,” Scully said as she looked away, continuing with that tone. A hint of condescension with the fullness of authoritative expertise undergirded it. Mulder listened intently. “The collapse of the Silver Bridge in 1967 was due to consistently heavier loads than the bridge’s infrastructure was built to hold. Coastal wind and rain, maximized activity from daily traffic, the weight of the years upon the steel — ”
“All contributed to its inevitable collapse,” Mulder finished. “And the deaths of 46 people. Entropy, right?”
Scully turned to Mulder with skepticism in her eyes and on her lips.
“What makes Point Pleasant an X-File beyond folklore, Mulder? The Mothman story was created by motivated conmen like Barker and Keel. Used the story to make money, sell t-shirts.” Scully motioned to the wind, and the sound of the synthetic booms subtly shaking the trees around them. “Mothman has just become another reason to party in this part of the world.”
Mulder glided by her, chewing his fingernails and shaking his head. It was all part of his routine with her, to keep him on track and away from the imagery that appeared in his mind whenever she shot down his theories. Scully’s arms were crossed as she stared him down, so Mulder spoke away, into the tree trunks and at the squirrels silently bristling on branches above.
“Fabricated stories can be ordered, and have a purpose beyond greed,” Mulder began anew.
“So you agree the “Mothman” sightings, the handful of independent accounts from Point Pleasant citizens in the months leading up to December 15, 1967, were indeed a fabrication?” Scully interrupted.
Mulder turned around and leaned forward, a small, travel-sized manila folder suddenly in his hand and reaching out to Scully. “Did you know the FBI used to have an active field office here? Founded in 1960.”
Scully looked inside, saw memos with mundane info and an office blueprint of considerable size. “You didn’t answer my question, Mulder.”
Mulder glided away again, suddenly pensive. By his stance, Scully understood he was soon to release it all, yet another theory of everything.
“Scully, I concede many of the accounts were weak. Perhaps the result of a bout of full-on coincidental hysteria touching down upon the quaint, sleepy little town of Point Pleasant. Population of 4,002 gam-eyed folksters.”
He turned around to face her, wielding his own sly grin, as irresistible as the first time she saw it.
“The bridge isn’t the X-File, Scully. It’s everything around it. The woods, the people — “
“The Men in Black,” Scully finished for him, already rolling her eyes.
Mulder smiled and continued.
“The truths of Point Pleasant ’67 are myriad. Stories of strange creature sightings abound: an owl the size of a man, a red-eyed shape stalking schoolkids from the bus, a “bat-man” flying across the moonless sky.”
“West Virginia’s woods have produced as many Bigfoot sightings as anywhere else in the world,” Scully interjected once more. “These are people of the land. Scientists believe “Mothman” was nothing more than an out-of-season heron migration.”
Mulder slumped his shoulders. “Most observers describe the Mothman as being a 5 to 7-feet tall creature with wings and large reflective red eyes, similar to the Garuda of Hindu lore.”
Scully pouted. Mulder continued.
“We both know the mind is a powerful manifestor, Scully. These people are not dumb. They do believe in, and venerate, myths as old as culture gets. Mental projections can have power, real enough to see,” Mulder said. Then paused. “Real enough to kill.”
“What are you suggesting, Mulder?” Scully at-last asked, ignoring the implied drama in her partner’s words. “That the people of Point Pleasant summoned the Mothman?”
Mulder pointed to the file she still held open in her hands. “I’m suggesting several things. First, and obviously, something like the Mothman could exist.”
Mulder’s irresistible smile returned.
“Gangbusters evolution in the West Virginia wood,” Scully spoke drolly, as the grin stayed on.
“Second,” Mulder continued, “A grand experiment, started by our fellow blues out here years in advance of 1967. Social control via guerilla tactics. Formulated in a lab, field-tested on a town. Like all secret operations, I’d imagine it expanded into something that took on a life of its own.”
Scully shook her head, now formulating combative questions at a breakneck pace. Mulder so loved to see her race to thwart him. He went on before she could unleash.
“It started as a benign, and yet still wildly unethical, social experiment,” Mulder explained. “Get some frogmen out here in the trees at night. Give them reflective red night vision goggles and have them move as a beast might. Watching the people, showing themselves only to those who were already paranoiac and searching…”
Scully’s disbelief reached a micro-climax as Mulder’s cool drone trailed away. “To what end, Mulder?” she asked with force.
“What other end does a hegemonic government get up to anything for, Scully? Control. To test the limits of it. See what you can make a person see, see what you can make a town do, or believe. All in a government’s interest to explore. And why not here? Rural America, where no one goes anyway.”
Mulder leaned against a tree, letting his trench flap open in the breezes of dusk. Scully took a step toward him, speaking methodically,
“So… frogmen in the trees. U.S. military personnel trick or treat’ing well into December of 1967 for the sake of… spooking Point Pleasant into submission. This is your theory?”
“Years of planning would’ve gone into this, Scully. They would’ve needed the outcome to be replicable. Real science.”
Scully silently scoffed, arms folded across her chest.
“We are talking acid placed in the water supply,” Mulder kept on. “New strains of synthetic cannabis in the air and on the block, kama sutra on the shelves of your local — ”
“Sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll, Mulder! You cannot be serious.”
“I am serious, Scully. It was the 60s, we were just then developing the technological spoils of World War 2. Fresh cultures could not be waited on, they must be shaped. We cannot discount the fact that something big was being planned here in Point Pleasant by the Bureau.” He pointed to the blueprints in the manila again, which he’d pilfered the week before from the archives with faked clearance. “Fifty agents, ten analysts. Black operators aiding. They had a “Library Card.” It means blank check, Scully. All the resources they could ever want, anything from central they asked for. Given a decade. They were trying to create a domestic formula.”
“A formula for what, Mulder?” Scully asked, though less incredulously and more curious.
“The new American town. A way of having the pieces in place to raise or calm mass hysteria at-will. In every town, all at once. Quite valuable. Domestic ops always come down to sociological tactics drawing on a grand and replicable plan. Expending the people without harming them. More than you have to…”
“Okay,” Scully clapped, hearing enough. “So Mothman was borne of a mass government experiment over a lazy little town. Coming soon to Smallville’s everywhere…” She reached her arms out to her sides, to the trees and beyond them to the country they lived and worked within.
“Did it work?” she asked.
“You tell me,” he returned.
“Let’s go, Mulder,” Scully pleaded. “There’s nothing here connected to that death back in New York.” She began to walk away. With enough distance drawn between them, approaching the highway’s rail where they parked their Acura sedan with hazards going, Scully eventually looked back at Mulder, unmoving among the trees.
He put a hand in his pocket while raising the other to the pleasant woodland air. Mulder spoke with the same icy confidence he held when Scully first appeared in his office bunker of old reports and dusty files, years ago, impassioned yet impenetrable. Until that moment.
“Of course, there’s also the possibility that in all the hoopla of conflicting forces, the Mothman arrived from out of the dark of another universe. Right here in the woods of America’s heart. Eyes glowing and wings flowing. A few nights only, and to warn of an impending bridge collapse they’d seen in futuresight. For better or worse, the Mothman arrived and then disappeared. Never to return again.”
The two FBI agents shared a long look. Fox smiled. So did Dana. ~