R e v e r i e
by Politic X
 
 
12: death sentence

 

I'm lying in bed in what must be a mild state of shock; I'm lucid but I can't move.  Memories of last night flit across my consciousness, but I can't really comprehend them.

"Dana?" Monica stirs beside me.  

I stare at my left arm.

"You okay?"

I shake my head.  No, I'm not okay. 

She sits straight up in bed.  I don't know what awakened her.  It's four a.m. and her alarm hasn't gone off yet. "Everything all right?" 

"No."  The word sounds rusty.  I shake my head again to clarify what I've just croaked.  No.  I have Monica's keys in my hand and everything is not all right.    

She leaps off the bed and is suddenly on the other side, staring at my left arm.  There's a puncture wound just below my shoulder and a clean, even cut reaching from it to my elbow.  Her fingers hover over my arm tentatively and she looks at my face. 

"It's deep, Monica."

"It's not bleeding."  She stares again at my arm, her fingers trembling.

"It will," I say, just as blood spurts up and out, staining her t-shirt. 

Monica yelps in fear and surprise, but recovers quickly, pressing her hand over the wound.  I watch as blood begins seeping between her fingers.

The receiver is off the hook and she's dialing with one hand.  Three numbers.  "I need an ambulance at the Cedar Grove Motel on Highway 98."  And her eyes become huge.  "Oh shit, oh shit."  She grabs her keys from me.  Her keychain holds a Swiss Army knife, silver and heavy, and the large blade is open and bloody.  

Monica's face is ashen, and as I begin to feel the effects of my dropping blood pressure, I'm sure mine becomes sickly white as well.  She tells the 911 dispatcher to hang on, drops the phone, and uses the sheet as a bandage.  She holds it down and grabs the phone again, repeating directions, talking calmly and clearly, her FBI training working well.  But her compassionate eyes grow fearful as she stares at me.  "They're on the way," she says, hanging up.  "What do I need to do?"

I'm so weak I can hardly talk.  "Just keep pressure on it.  It'll be okay if they get here soon."  And after that, she's checking her watch every thirty seconds.  I try to stay awake so she won't worry. 

Some time later, probably just a few minutes, I see her lips move, but I can't hear what she's saying.  "What?"

"I'm tired of you getting hurt," she says again, loudly this time.   

Darkness takes me down. 


Fifty-two stitches and several hours later I'm watching Monica pace the motel room, alternately speaking to Heitt on her cell phone and pulling clothes from the dresser drawer.  Her bag is opened on her bed.  She's leaving Aural.  She thinks I am, too.

She clicks the phone off and looks at me.  "Well, no one's dead yet.  I mean today.  Maybe you...  your attempt 
was...."  She runs a hand through her hair.

"Maybe.  We should stay, see if there's another."

"No.  Absolutely not." 

We discussed this already this morning, over large cups of coffee.  She'd been reserved, staring at me gravely while eating the fattest omelet I've ever seen.  I think she had the cook stuff it with everything in the kitchen, and I teased her about this and about Aural in general and how I thought I'd kill myself out of sheer boredom if I had to stay in the God forsaken town another day, until she silenced me with her quiet voice.  "You need to eat."  I chewed my bagel and drank my juice and stared at the bruise on her neck and waited for her mood to pass.    

She's still harboring the same emotions now, only some of them are bubbling to the surface.  I've never seen her like this.  Angry, yes, but she's also agitated and nervous.  I place a hand on her arm, trying to soothe her with touch the way she soothed me last night.  "I'm staying in Aural a few more days."

"No."  She uses her height to her advantage, towering over me.  Her breath smells like onions and peppers and coffee.

"Monica, if we go home now, it's going to continue.  There will be more victims."

"And if we stay here you could be the next one.  We don't know how to stop this thing, Dana.  We can't remove your implant."

I touch the back of my neck self-consciously.  "Do you think that could be the answer?" 

"We've seen evidence that the implants control people to some extent.  It's the only answer that I can come up with.  All of the victims arrived in this town quite suddenly, dropping everything else to get here.  All of these successful women put knives and razors to their bodies and killed themselves for no apparent reason.  There's no evidence at the crime scenes to even remotely suggest that they weren't alone at the times of their deaths.  That in itself says a lot, Dana."

I agree.  With the technology available to us today, a person can't enter a house without leaving incriminating evidence.  Even if she has gloves on, even if there are no witnesses, even if everything else goes as smoothly as the perp plans, she leaves behind traces of herself.  Hair follicles, for example.  Unless a person shaves herself from head to toe, she sheds constantly.  No black caps or stocking masks are going to prevent that.  "So what's left for us to do?  Who's to say that something similar won't happen when we get back home?  I can't lock away knives and scissors forever.  I can't be a prisoner in my own life, Monica."

"It's the implant," she mutters.  Her face is drawn and tired.  She braces herself on the back of a chair, knuckles white.  "You can't live with it and you can't live without it."

I lace my fingers together too tightly.  My arm hurts like hell and this only aggravates it.  I try to relax.  "Maybe I can.  Maybe I can remove the chip."

She blinks.

"Remission is over."

She had been rocking the chair under her hands.  Now she almost flips it over.  "What?"

"A few years ago I had a nasopharyngeal tumor.  It coincided with the removal of the chip "

"I know," she says sharply.  "I know all about that.  What do you mean, 'remission is over'?"

"I had a nose bleed Saturday evening; my doctor ran a couple of x-rays.  It's back, Monica.  Same location.  The mass is small, but it's there."

She swallows convulsively.  Her hands rub over her face and then push through her hair.  Her fist, when it slams on the table, makes so much noise that I practically jump out of my skin. 

"So maybe I can remove the implant," I tell her.  Monica turns away.  I know that she's crying; I can see her reflection in the mirror.

Not knowing the words to help her cope with this sudden revelation, not understanding the impact, if any, this will have on her life, I leave the room, wandering outside through the parking lot.  There's a couple here, flirting and laughing, so I keep walking, around the side of the building. 

I'm deep in thought, recycling the possible answers to the riddles of this case, to my own dilemma.  Maybe it's the town itself causing the suicides.  Maybe all of the victims had dreams like mine, maybe they were drawn to Aural to kill themselves.  Maybe there's a radio frequency here that's signaling something in my chip.  Maybe.  

It's not as if removing it will trigger the cancer anyway.  It's already there, growing even as we wait.  And death by a tumor is more acceptable to me than death by a dream-induced suicide.

When I look up, I'm standing in a small field at the back of the motel.  Cedar trees loom on the perimeter, their scent pungent.  I've always loved trees, cedars in particular, but they've become associated with fear and violence.  I think I'll opt for a fake fir this Christmas, if I live that long. 

There's a well-worn path cutting through this field, leading into a wooded area.  I walk it slowly, trying to find an answer.

I'm going to die, that much is certain.  Whether it's now or in the future isn't for me to know.  All I can do is prepare for the inevitable, setting my house in order.  I thought I'd done just that when I was being eaten up with cancer before.  But I didn't know Monica then. 

Words, unspoken, are growing like thick vines between us.  They twist, tendrils curling and tangling, growing fatter with time, binding us together but keeping us apart.  No arguments or disagreements could do as much to separate us, I think, as this silence.  There are so many things I want to say to her.  I've never loved a woman like this.  I've never loved anyone like this. 

To prepare for death, I've got to face the wilderness between us and break my silence.  I'm in love with her and I believe she's in love with me.  But our love is unvoiced. 

At the edge of the woods, I stop and look back.  The motel is still close and my cell phone is in my jacket pocket, and this is just a forest.  The path leads me through hardwoods and evergreens, berry bushes and fallen limbs.  It's not a dense forest; I see a clearing not far ahead.  Whippoorwills call and insects buzz about.  From a distance, I can hear a tractor and somewhere closer a gurgling stream.  The familiar sounds comfort me.

I want my death to be a clean, even cut across the lives of people who know me, not some festering, bloody wound that never heals.  It's not fair to Monica for me to disclose what I've been holding inside just because I'm afraid that I'm dying.  But maybe if I say the words, my death will be a clean, even cut that will heal, not some terminal wound.

By the time I reach the clearing, I'm trying to form the words that need to be said.  Several large rocks cluster together and I sit on one, tired.  How do I tell this woman that she's the person I've waited all of my life to meet?  How do I tell her that her smile makes my legs so weak that I have to lean on something the desk, a chair, the door, the wall for support?  How do I tell her that I know she watches me; that I can feel her eyes on my back because my back grows so hot I think it just might catch on fire?  How do I tell her that these aren't just pretty words, that I'm quite certain that no one like her has ever existed, at least not in my world?  How can I tell her all of these things, when they've just materialized?  I didn't know how I felt about her until recently.  Very recently.  The cancer woke me up.  The death sentence made me realize the life I'm wasting.

Cedars form a circle around the little grove.  I spent a lot of time as a child running through forests like this, climbing trees and finding small treasures.  I chuck my boot through the fallen needles in a lazy back and forth manner. 

I've never been good with words, and nothing I can come up with to tell Monica seems adequate.  Maybe I'll keep it simple.  Maybe I'll just tell her that I'm in love with her.  And in the next breath I'll remind her that I'm dying.  Great.

The sound of my shoe scraping across the ground is the only thing I hear.  I freeze for an instant and total silence surrounds me.  Gone are the whippoorwills and the distant tractor.  I glance about, marking the similarities between these woods and those in my dream.  Cedars blend with hardwoods; pine needles scatter with leaves and moss on the forest floor.  A lot of forests are like this.  I continue swinging my foot.  I will not be afraid of a bunch of trees.

My cell phone rings suddenly, the sound foreign and piercing, causing me to jerk out of my reverie.  "Scully," I answer, even though I know it's her.

"If you're staying, I'm staying."

"I don't need your protection."

"Sounds a bit like the conversation we had before we came here, doesn't it?"  Monica sighs into the phone.  "We can't run from this.  I was wrong for wanting to."

I agree; we have to face it head-on.  "I don't want you keeping a suicide watch."  The reception in the forest is poor - Monica's voice is becoming garbled.  I stand up to quickly, becoming dizzy.  And as I look around, trying to determine the direction from which I came, I realize that the forest is denser than I first thought.  "I don't think I'll be sleeping much tonight anyway."

Her voice is emphatic.  "It won't be a suicide watch.  I just want to be close by."

"You're right next door-"

"Closer," she says firmly.

I concentrate on my breathing.  This is just a forest.  "I was sleepwalking last night.  I took your keys, Monica.   Somehow I found your keys while I was sleepwalking, and I opened the knife and cut myself with it."

"You were sleepwalking Friday night, too."

"So what are you planning to do?  Take the chair by my bed and play voyeur?  Because I don't think I can sleep knowing that you're watching me."   I'm becoming somewhat alarmed, still casting glances about, trying to remember where I entered the forest.  

"I thought I'd sleep with you."

"Oh." 

"Like I did last night," she says. 

I start searching for a witty comeback, but it's hard to be lighthearted when the situation is so heavy.  "What if I try to hurt you, Monica?"

"You won't."

"You don't know that."

"You won't hurt me, Dana.  But you might hurt yourself.  I'll put away everything, make the room safe."  Her voice is low.  "I'll keep you safe."

I know she will, and the knowledge makes me ache to touch her, to thank her.   

"Where are you, anyway?  Those painkillers must be kicking in by now."

"I'm behind the motel and I didn't take any painkillers."   

"You know,  it wouldn't hurt you to be human for once.  Take something for the pain.  Your arm must be killing you."

It is.  "It's fine."  I hate for Monica to see me so weak.  And there's no way I'll let her know that I've become lost.  "Besides, the painkillers only exacerbate the...."

"What?" 

Something is moving in the corner of my eye.  Another woman.  Her arms and legs wave in ribbons.  The vision is mesmerizing.  I watch her intently.  She's familiar. 

"Dana?"

The woman begins beckoning to me just as the ground shifts.  The cell phone drops from my hand.  I hear Monica's voice as if from a well:  "Dana?  Dana!" 

I have to leave here.  But the woman is beautiful, and the music is insistent, and the moving ground pulls me down like the sea.

And I am in a forest, lost.

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 Posted 10/31/03