The Bennington Triangle

cover

TITLE: THE BENNINGTON TRIANGLE

AUTHOR: CindyET

E-MAIL ADDRESS: cindyet@tdstelme.net

DISTRIBUTION: Anywhere is fine — I write ’em for you to read

’em.

SPOILERS: Several MOTW eps through Season 7

RATING: R (Graphic Violence)

CLASSIFICATION: X

SUMMARY: A team of wildlife researchers disappears on

Glastenbury Mountain in Bennington, Vermont. Abducted by

aliens? Eaten by a mythical beast? Drawn into a gravitational

vortex? Mulder and Scully travel to Vermont to investigate

the “Bennington Triangle.” “I’m thinking this might be a case

of *un*natural selection, Scully.” –- Fox Mulder in “The

Bennington Triangle”

Disclaimer: Do these characters really belong to Chris Carter,

FOX and 1013 Productions? If so, no copyright infringement

intended. Entertainment, yes. Profit, no.

Author’s notes: This story was written for I Made This!

Productions Virtual Season 9.

Special thanks to betas Brandon and Marybeth. You two are

marvelous!

THE BENNINGTON TRIANGLE

By CindyET

-x-x-x-x-x-x-

GLASTENBURY MOUNTAIN, VERMONT

11:53 AM

“Jesus, Harvey. Not again. You just went.”

“What can I say?” The older man ducked into the trees. The

woods were thick here — pine and cedar loomed overhead;

blowdowns crisscrossed the forest floor; saplings choked the

understory. Twenty feet off the trail, Harvey could no longer

see Ted or Danielle.

“That’ll teach you to eat burritos for breakfast,” Ted called

to him. “Catch up when you’re through, huh? We’re gonna keep

climbing.”

Harvey was grateful for the privacy. Christ, his stomach was

killing him –- he’d been suffering for the last half mile. What

a time to get a bout of the runs.

He unbuckled his belt. Mosquitoes buzzed in his ears and a

persistent deerfly circled his head, looking for an opportunity

to land.

Too damn buggy to be baring my ass out here, he thought,

dropping his pants.

A few minutes later, Harvey returned to the trail feeling

considerably better. He’d killed the deerfly and his queasiness

had all but disappeared. He quickened his pace in an effort to

catch up with his companions.

The trail grew steeper as he climbed, zigzagging up the

mountain between ghostly birches and giant evergreens,

following a channel carved by decades of spring runoff. Loose

stones lined the path. Easy to miss your footing if you weren’t

careful.

Harvey was working up a sweat. At fifty-eight, he was in no

shape to be sprinting up hillsides.

“Ted!” he called, and paused to catch his breath. “Danielle?”

Where the hell had they gotten to? He swabbed perspiration from

his face with his shirtsleeve. “Danieeeeelllle!”

Not a sound came back to him. No skittering animals. No bird

calls. The forest had fallen utterly silent. Except for…

“What the hell?” A soft chuffing noise filtered through the

branches ahead. Not the wind –- the air was dead still. More

like…breathing. Or panting. Like the sound of Harvey’s three-

year-old grandson snuffling with a head cold.

Eyes glued to the underbrush, ears cocked, Harvey took a few

careful steps toward the sound. Something moved beyond the wall

of evergreen boughs.

Harvey cautiously parted the branches.

In a small clearing, not more than four or five yards away, a

group of men crouched over something on the ground. A dead

deer? Harvey counted five men, all with the same thin, lined

face and silver-streaked hair. Their hands were bright with

blood.

Oh, Christ, the blood…the blood…it wasn’t a deer. The

men…they used large knives to carve…oh, God…it was Ted.

Jesus, Jesus, Danielle…her arms and legs…cut off…stacked

like cordwood a few feet away.

One of the men sawed his knife through the joint at Ted’s hip,

and detached the leg with an unbearable tearing sound. Another

flayed the muscles from Ted’s severed arm. He then raised the

meatless arm over one knee and snapped the long upper bone in

two against his leg. The end with the dangling hand dropped to

the ground.

The contents of Harvey’s stomach lurched toward his throat.

This isn’t happening, this isn’t happening. Jesus Christ,

please.

The man who held the broken upper arm spun on his heel and

walked away from Harvey toward a gnarled cedar tree, where he

squatted next to a clump of ferns.

The snuffling grew more desperate. Half hidden in the ferns,

something moved. Something big. Something the size of two men.

A fleshy mass with too many legs and writhing arms and a

flattened grotesque head with two mouths, four eyes, and a mane

of dark hair. Its bulging blue-white eyes were so pale they

appeared almost colorless. The creature quivered, rolled,

seemed unable to lift itself from the ground. Air rattled wetly

from its two drooling mouths.

The kneeling man held out the broken bone. The creature opened

its crooked lips and the man aimed the bone into one of its

horrible, begging mouths. The monster latched on and suckled

the bone like an infant at its mother’s breast.

“Nnnoooo–” Harvey moaned, just before something struck the

back of his head. The wallop drove him to his knees. Fireworks

exploded behind his eyes. A second blow knocked him cold.

-x-x-x-x-x-x-

ACT ONE

FBI HEADQUARTERS

TWO DAYS LATER

2:23 PM

“You popped corn?” Scully’s eyes widened. God, it smelled

good. She was hungrier than she realized. Waddling under the

weight of fifty-some back issues of the Bennington Banner,

circa 1951, she crossed from the door to Mulder’s desk.

Mulder watched her struggle but didn’t move to help her. He

stood rocking on the balls of his feet, sleeves rolled up to

his elbows, arms wrapped around a big bowl of freshly popped

corn. A slanting cat-who-ate-the-canary grin produced a

seldom-seen dimple in his cheek.

Scully dumped the newspapers onto his desk. Dust spewed from

the pile, and she waved it away, nose crinkled and eyes

squinty, before reaching for a handful of his popcorn.

“Uh-uh,” he said, lifting the bowl high above her head. “Gotta

earn it, Scully.”

“What? Mulder, I just finished scrounging the FBI library for

you.” She stood on tiptoes and grabbed for the bowl.

He rose on his toes, too, placing the popcorn impossibly

beyond her reach.

“On my hands and knees, I might add,” she said. She indicated

the dust marking her slacks.

He took in the stains, but didn’t lower the bowl.

“Mulder, since when do we not share?”

“Switch off the lights.”

“Excuse me?”

“The lights. Off.” His eyes targeted the bowl. He waggled his

brows.

“Fine.” She marched to the row of switches next to the door

and flicked off the lights. “What’s this about?”

“Show time, Scully!” Mulder’s projector hummed to life and

shot a beam of white light toward the wall. A slide dropped

into place. Scully found herself blinking at an image of–

“A severed hand?”

“Belonged to Harvey Akins, USGS, Biological Resources

Division, last seen heading into Vermont’s Green Mountains.”

“For the purpose of…?”

Mulder slouched against his desk. He patted the vacant spot

beside him with one hand and shook the bowl of popcorn with

the other.

Lips pursed, Scully crossed the room. With a small hop, she

settled beside him on his desk. He helped himself to a handful

of popcorn and then placed the bowl in her lap.

“Harv and his two companions, Ted Rosenthal and Danielle

Valdez,” he said, munching his mouthful of corn, “researchers

from the National Wildlife Management Institute and UVM’s

Wildlife Research Unit respectively, were searching

Glastenbury Mountain for a large carnivorous animal, allegedly

responsible for devouring the Kerber family, who had been

hiking on the mountain the previous week.”

Harvey Akins’ dismembered left hand appeared larger than life

on the wall. The sun glared off his wedding ring and his blood

darkened the ground.

“I’d say Mr. Akins found his carnivorous animal. Or it found

him.”

“I’m thinking this might be a case of *un*natural selection,

Scully.”

“Meaning…?”

“Glastenbury Mountain. Hotspot for UFO activity, strange

lights, sounds, odors, specters, and mysterious creatures.”

“You aren’t going to show me a picture of a mutilated cow

next, are you?”

“Why would I do that?” He flipped to the next slide, which

showed a close-up of Harvey’s severed wrist. “Cast your

forensic peepers on that, Scully. In your professional

opinion, does *that* look like the work of an animal?”

Scully had to admit it didn’t. “Mr. Akins hand appears to have

been cut off with a knife or saw,” she said. “Do you have any

pictures of the body?”

“Nnnnnnnno. But check this out.” Mulder flipped to the next

slide.

“Right femur,” Scully said. “Broken at the narrowest part of

the shaft. Looks like a child’s. What does it have to do with

Harvey Akins?”

“Lab tests indicate it belonged to eight-year-old Tommy

Kerber.”

“One of the missing hikers.” Scully rooted through the popcorn

for “old maids.”

“Yep. It’s the only forensic evidence recovered from the

mountain — other than Akins’ left hand. The reeeeally curious

thing about Tommy’s femur is that it contains no bone marrow.”

“So?” Scully found an unpopped kernel. She showed it to Mulder

and smiled. Thrusting the kernel into her mouth, she crunched

it loudly between her back teeth. “Some woodland creature

probably ate it.”

“Exactly.” Mulder rose to sort through the newspapers Scully

had dropped on his desk. “Ever hear of the ‘Bennington Beast,’

a.k.a., the ‘Glastenbury Gorilla’?”

“Please tell me you do *not* suspect Bigfoot — not again.

Need I remind you about Doob Creek–”

“Who said anything about Bigfoot?” He selected a newspaper

from the stack and held it up for Scully to see. He tapped the

headline, which read: Missing Woman’s Body Found! “Frieda

Langer went missing on October 28, 1950, while hiking on

Glastenbury Mountain with her cousin Herbert Elsner. After

falling in a stream, Frieda told her cousin to wait while she

ran the half a mile back to camp to change clothes. She never

arrived at camp. Search teams combed the area and found

nothing. Repeated searches on November 5 and 7 also turned up

nothing. Same result on November 11 and 12 when more than

three hundred military personnel, police, firemen, and

volunteers scoured the mountain. On May 12, 1951, Langer’s

body finally turned up on an open ledge where she could not

have been missed during the searches. The cause of her death

was never conclusively determined. Locals, however, suspected

the Bennington Beast.”

“The Bennington Beast.”

Mulder advanced the projector to the next slide. Something

large and dark blurred the center of the picture, blocking out

the pine trees and underbrush. “Photographer Bruce Hallenback

snapped this photo on Glastenbury Mountain in 1994 while

hiking Long Trail to the summit.”

“It’s nothing but a blur, Mulder.”

“Hallenback claims it’s the Beast. And he’s not the only

person who’s seen it either. Horror stories about a killer

beast began to trickle out of Bennington as long ago as the

late 1800s when a stagecoach was attacked and overturned on

what is now Highway 9, just west of Glastenbury Mountain. The

occupants of the coach survived to tell the tale of a hideous

creature that, after capsizing them, escaped into the forest.”

“Two words, Mulder: urban legend. Did anyone in the stagecoach

disappear or get killed?”

“No, but they saw what they saw.”

“Stories about ape-like men and Dr. Moreau-esque lycanthropes

are just that…stories.”

“Two words, Scully: Jersey Devil.”

“The Jersey Devil was not an ape man or even an ape woman. She

was as homo sapient as you or I.”

Mulder took a step toward the image on the wall. “Okay,

Scully, I’m willing to leave the Bennington Beast theory…for

now. There are other possibilities, all equally X-Filish.”

“Such as?”

A new slide replaced the black blur, filling the wall with an

aerial view of the Green Mountains. A fire tower poked from

the summit of one craggy hill. “Glastenbury Mountain,” –-

Mulder walked to the wall and pinpointed the fire tower with

an index finger –- “is located in an area of Vermont sometimes

referred to as the ‘Bennington Triangle,’ so called because

four people disappeared from there in 1894. Ten more vanished

without a trace between the years 1945 and 1950. Only Frieda

Langer’s mutilated body was ever recovered. All of her bones

were broken.”

“All?”

“Apparently. Frieda was the final victim…until the Kerber

family vanished last week.”

“Hikers get lost in the woods everyday. They are missing

persons cases, not X-Files.”

“Twenty-one people, Scully, counting the Kerbers and the

biology researchers. All on the same mountain.” He swiveled to

look at her, fists on his hips.

“Maybe it’s a particularly dangerous mountain.”

“It is, but not in the way you might think. Glastenbury

Mountain is the mother lode of X-Files. Take your pick: alien

abductions, magic stepping stones, cursed winds,

interdimensional horizons –- all are said to exist there, and

all could explain the multiple disappearances.”

“Interdimensional horizons?”

“Doorways, if you will, between universes. People step in, but

they don’t step out.”

“Ah.” Scully crunched another unpopped kernel.

“Fifty-one years separated the first group of vanishments from

the second. Another fifty-one years passed between the

disappearances of Frieda Langer and the Kerber family. Did I

mention that Ms. Langer was found with all her bone marrow

missing?”

His last statement stilled her chewing. “Hmm. Change fifty-one

years to thirty and bone marrow to liver — you could be

talking about Eugene Victor Tooms.”

“I noticed that.” He studied the image on the wall. “We’re

flying to Vermont in an hour.”

“Considering the excess of paranormal possibilities waiting

for us there, I’m amazed we haven’t visited before.” She

pitched a fluffy kernel of popcorn at him. It bounced off his

head and landed somewhere beneath a bookcase.

He faced her and opened his mouth, inviting her to try again.

She aimed and lobbed one high and on target. With only the

slightest dodge, he caught it on his tongue, delighting them

both.

Crunching the kernel, he shut off his projector. “Don’t forget

to pack your fly dope, Scully,” he said, turning to find her

at his side. “I hear the mosquitoes are big enough to carry

you away.”

“Well, maybe that’s the answer to your mystery right there.”

“Maybe.” He snagged his suit coat. “Mutant mosquitoes. Not

exactly what I was thinking, but it’s very James Arness. I

like it.”

-x-x-x-x-x-x-

FIFE ‘N’ DRUM MOTOR LODGE

BENNINGTON, VERMONT

8:16 PM

“We got shuffleboard and horseshoe pits, if you’re

interested,” said the pudgy woman behind the front desk. Her

nametag proclaimed ‘Hi! My name is Tonya.’ She processed

Mulder’s credit card while he studied a rack of tourist

brochures. He selected one titled ‘Green Mountain Ghosts,

Ghouls, and Unsolved Mysteries’ and waved it at Scully.

“You ever catch a glimpse of the Bennington Beast,

Miss…um…Tonya?” he asked.

“Not me. A friend of my sister swears she saw it once. You can

see it, too, over to the Museum, if you’re interested.” Tonya

smiled at him, charmed by his earnest expression.

“Really? Where is that?”

“Meddie’s Museum. It’s a mile and a half outside of town on

Highway 9. They got all kinds of interesting things. Stuffed

catamount, world’s biggest nut, Indian junk.”

Scully leaned against the counter, her face solemn. “Imagine

that, Mulder. World’s biggest nut.”

“The Bennington Beast is at the museum?” Mulder asked.

“Just the head. There’s a picture in that brochure you’re

holding.” She pointed a plump finger.

Mulder unfolded the brochure and held it out for Scully to

see. Together they studied the photo of the alleged beast’s

empty-eyed skull. The cranium was massive with two sets of

distorted facial features, one on each side of its misshapen

head.

“It’s got to be a hoax, Mulder.”

“You think?”

“Museum’s open ’til nine o’clock, if you wanna see for

yourself,” Tonya said. She slid Mulder’s receipt across the

counter for his signature. “Rooms include coffeemakers,

microwaves and mini-fridges.”

“Dataport/modem line?” Mulder asked.

“Yes, sir.”

He signed the receipt. “Museum’s on Highway 9?”

“Turn left at the war monument.”

-x-x-x-x-x-x-

MEDDIE’S MUSEUM

8:46 PM

Meddie’s Museum — a low-slung log structure — sat tucked into

the woods at the base of Glastenbury Mountain. Evergreen trees

encroached on its small gravel parking lot, shadowing the

entire property and blotting out the setting sun. The lot was

surprisingly full — at least a half dozen cars and trucks

waited beneath the overhanging boughs. The plates came from all

over: Ohio, Iowa, Virginia, Maine, Alaska. A hand-painted sign

above the front door read: “Meddie’s Museum –- Emporium of the

Unusual.”

“Your kind of place, Mulder.” Scully stood beneath the sign.

She sidestepped to allow a young couple and their twin toddlers

to exit the front door. “Cute kids,” she said and entered the

museum.

Mulder trailed after her without comment. He paused inside the

door to let his eyes adjust to the dim interior. The air

smelled musty, thick with mildew and a hint of formaldehyde.

Despite the cars in the lot, the museum appeared deserted.

“Where is everybody? Hello?” Scully called, looking for an

attendant. When no one answered, she headed toward the back,

weaving her way around glass display cases and taxidermied

wildlife.

Mulder dawdled, inspecting the contents of the first case. It

held spear points, arrowheads and prehistoric axes. In the next

case, butterflies and bugs posed on pins. He recognized a

praying mantis and moved on. He passed boat models, farm tools,

a spinning wheel. He stopped when he came to a woodland diorama

where a large, fierce-looking catamount perched atop a papier-

mache mountainside, its fangs bared and glass eyes sparkling.

“Must be the kitty chow,” he said, and continued his search for

the Bennington Beast.

He found it displayed between two murky jars, which contained

moose testicles and a white-tailed deer fetus. The Bennington

Beast’s deformed skull was enormous, nearly double the size of

an ordinary man. It had four eye sockets and two distinct

mouths.

Ignoring the ‘do not touch’ sign, Mulder picked up the beast’s

head.

“Hey, Scully, take a look at this,” he called, rotating the

head in his hands.

She returned to his side, looking puzzled. “No one’s here,” she

said.

“Alas, poor Yorick!” He held out the skull. “What do you

think, Scully? Is it a fake?”

She took the skull. “It…it looks like the head of

cephalopagus twins, but–”

“Cephalopagus?”

“A rare form of conjoined twin — the upper body is fused,

with two faces forming on opposite sides of a single head.”

She flipped the skull over. “Strange. Most cephalopagus twins

are stillborn or die within twenty-four hours. Twins with a

defect as severe as this rarely grow to adulthood.”

“Can you be sure it’s an adult?”

She traced a zigzagging fissure across the cranium. “You can

tell by the sutures, and the teeth.” She opened and closed one

of the lower jaws.

“Maybe it isn’t human.”

“It’s human. Deformed, but human.”

“Not a fake?”

“I assure you it’s real,” a deep voice startled them from

behind.

They turned to see a slender man with a thin, lined face,

silver-streaked hair, and eyes so pale they appeared almost

colorless. He wore a dark suit, his knees stained with dust and

a cobweb painting one sleeve. He reached for the skull and

Mulder noticed what looked like blood beneath his ragged

fingernails.

Scully relinquished the head and the thin man placed it back on

its shelf between the formaldehyde-filled jars. He adjusted the

“do not touch” sign to a more prominent position.

“Where did it come from?” Mulder asked.

“The mountain,” he said, tilting his head in the direction of

Glastenbury.

“Do you work here, sir?” Scully asked.

“I’m both curator and owner — John Meddie.” He didn’t smile or

offer his hand. “And you are…?”

“Agents Scully and Mulder, FBI.” She held up her ID.

“How old is the skull, Mr. Meddie?”

“It was discovered by my father in the early fifties. I

inherited it –- along with this museum.”

“You think it’s really the Bennington Beast?”

The thin man pinned Mulder with a pale-eyed stare. “What else

could it be?”

-x-x-x-x-x-x-

ACT TWO

FIFE ‘N’ DRUM MOTOR LODGE

10:10 PM

“Shooz awf muh fed, Muller,” Scully said around her

toothbrush. Fresh from a shower, she was dressed in her

favorite white terry bathrobe and fuzzy slippers. She spit

into the sink and grabbed her dental floss. Leaning her head

out the bathroom door, she checked to see if Mulder had heard

her.

He had. Relaxed against her headboard, four pillows stacked

behind his shoulders, he toed off his shoes and kicked them to

the floor. Case notes and photos surrounded his legs. A

notepad rested in his lap. His laptop computer glowed from the

nightstand beside his sidearm and the weapon he usually wore

at his ankle. He held the Meddie Museum brochure in one hand

and the television remote in the other.

Scully stood at the bathroom door, flossing her teeth while

she squinted at Mulder’s clutter. “Why do you…” –- she waved

her limp floss at his papers –- “all over my bed? You have a

perfectly good bed in your own room.”

“I can’t believe you packed slippers,” he said without seeming

to take his eyes from the television set.

She looked down at her feet. “What’s wrong with slippers?”

“They’re not exactly survival gear. We’re sleeping outdoors on

a mountain tomorrow night, you know.”

“I like to be comfortable.” She dislodged a fragment of

popcorn from between her back teeth. “Besides, I’m not the one

clinging to the television remote. Is cable TV considered

‘survival gear,’ Mr. Boy Scout?”

“Indian Guide. And I’m not ‘clinging.'” He aimed the remote at

the set and raised the volume. David Attenborough’s voice

boomed across the room: //Many birds build isolated,

inconspicuous nests to avoid detection by predators. Some are

so successful at hiding their nests that even the all-seeing

eyes of man have hardly ever looked upon them…//

Scully retreated to the bathroom to finish flossing.

“Hey, Scully?” Mulder called from the bed.

She tossed her floss in the wastebasket and scuffed back to

the bedroom. “Hmmm?”

“Physiology of bone marrow –- what’s it do?” He spoke loudly

to be heard over the TV.

She crossed the room, confiscated the remote and muted the

television set. Without speaking, she cleared a space beside

him on the bed, collected his bios, photographs and assorted

newspaper clippings into a jumbled pile, which she dropped

into his lap along with the remote. She rounded the bed and

powered off his computer. A Web site called ‘Mystery Primates:

Yetis to Yowies’ turned to black when she closed the lid.

“Yowies?” she asked, and tugged a pillow out from behind his

head.

“The planet is full of human-like cryptids, Scully. The

wendigo of northern Canada, the Russian alma, the Chinese

yaren, the African ngoloko, kakundakari, and Tano Giant–”

“The Bennington Beast of Vermont?” She raised an eyebrow.

“Bigfoot, Sasquatch, call them what you want, Mulder, these

creatures don’t exist. Evolutionary throwbacks are genetically

impossible.”

“Impossible?”

“Unlikely, at best. Chromosomal abnormalities do occasionally

produce primitive characteristics, such as excessive body

hair, vestigial tails, two rows of nipples, but these are not

the result of devolution.”

“Two rows of nipples?” His brows peaked and he ran his palms

across his chest. “Scully, suppose creatures like the

Bennington Beast aren’t throwbacks, but have managed to

survive unchanged and undetected, hidden away for centuries?”

“Survival of the fittest contradicts the possibility. Such

creatures would be competing against modern man for resources.

Success is extremely unlikely.”

“But not impossible. We’ve seen something like this before.

The Moth Men–”

“Mulder, the Moth Men were not an example of *reverse*

evolution. Their mutation was the result of a new

environmental stressor that– What the hell am I saying?”

“Go with it, Scully.”

“It’s late.”

His eyes followed her around the foot of the bed. She placed

the commandeered pillow beside his and turned down the

blankets. Stepping out of her slippers, she removed her

bathrobe and hung it over the rounded post of the headboard.

She slid beneath the covers.

“Bedtime already?” He blinked at his watch. “You were going to

tell me about bone marrow.”

“Mulder, I’m tired.” She closed her eyes.

“We could talk some more about cryptids–”

Her eyes reopened. A sigh sifted from her lungs. “Bone marrow

contains a network of blood vessels surrounded by fat and stem

cells that give rise to leukocytes, erythrocytes, and

platelets.”

“I don’t know what you just said. Give rise to…?”

“White and red blood cells…and platelets.”

“I got the platelets part.” Mulder set his stack of photos and

papers on the floor beside the bed. “Go on. I love it when you

talk doctor. Wanna take my pulse?” He scooted closer, crowding

her side of the bed.

“Mulder…”

“Tell me more about stem cells,” he murmured into her ear.

She peeked at him through her eyelashes. “Stem cells are

undifferentiated cells, which means they can be used to

develop other cell types.”

“How is that?” His voice was no more than a breath of air.

“By treating stem cells with a mixture of antioxidants and

growth factors, scientists can generate nerve, muscle, skin

and other cells for transplantation.”

“That’s interesting.” He nestled closer, pressing his body

along the length of hers.

“Yes, it is.” She waited for him to continue, offering her a

new theory of some sort, but he remained uncharacteristically

silent. After a minute she asked, “What are you thinking,

Mulder?”

“I’m thinking…about two rows of nipples.”

-x-x-x-x-x-x-

MOUNTAIN VALLEY DINER

7:16 AM

“Here you go.” The waitress set a steamy cup of coffee in front

of Scully. Not much older than eighteen, the girl wore a tiny

denim skirt, dangly earrings and frosty pink lipstick. She

placed a second cup in front of Mulder. “My name’s Candy. Ready

to order?”

“I’ll have the number three, eggs sunny, extra bacon, and a

side of home fries,” Mulder said, not waiting for Scully. They

sat in a booth by the front window overlooking Bennington’s

Main Street.

Candy turned to Scully, pen ready. “And you, ma’am?”

“Toast and orange juice, please.”

“No, no, no. Bring her the number three, too,” he told the

waitress.

“Mulder, I don’t want the number three.” She looked at Candy.

“Toast and oj.”

“Uh-uh,” Mulder insisted. “You of all people know that

breakfast is the most important meal of the day. We’re going

climbing –- bulk up.”

“Mulder…”

“We could get lost, be gone for days.”

“We won’t get lost. We’re going with a guide, remember?”

“Two words, Scully: Donner Pass. Eat something.”

“Two words, Mulder: no thanks. If you’re worried about

survival, watch your cholesterol, not my caloric intake. Just

the toast and oj,” she repeated to the waitress.

“We have great French toast,” Candy suggested. “With fresh

fruit.”

Scully sighed, then nodded. “Yes, that would be fine. Thanks.”

With a wink to Mulder, Candy headed for the kitchen.

“Satisfied?” Scully asked.

“I am. What time are we meeting Ranger Whidden?”

“Nine o’clock. At the base of the mountain. And speaking of

survival, what did you pack?”

He ignored her question and dug into his pants pocket. He

pulled out his tourist brochure and opened it to the photo of

the Bennington Beast.

“Scully, what evolutionary advantages would a creature with two

mouths and four eyes have over us?”

“I would guess none.” She sipped her coffee.

“Wider field of vision. That might be an advantage.”

“It seemed to be for Sister Katherine. I swear she had eyes in

the back of her head.”

Mulder smiled. “Catch you at something naughty?”

“It’s too early for this conversation.” She turned her

attention to the window.

He chuckled and went back to his study of the photo. “It has a

larger brain case. Maybe it’s more intelligent.”

“Whales’ brains are four times larger than humans’, and

although they’re intelligent animals, they are not smarter than

us.” She watched the driver of an SUV struggle to parallel park

behind a car across the street. She winced when the SUV bumped

the rear fender. “Most of the time anyway.” Unsuccessful, the

driver tried again. “Whether you’re talking about absolute

brain size or the ratio of brain size to body mass, neither

determines intelligence. Bigger is not necessarily better.”

“Refreshing perspective. Men everywhere are sighing with

relief.” He watched the SUV pull forward, back up, try a third

time. It remained cattycorner and hopelessly far from the curb.

Mulder tapped the beast’s photo. “I wonder what this thing’s

body looked like. Do you suppose it had four arms and four

legs?”

“Mulder, stop hunting mutants. Enjoy your breakfast, drink your

coffee, watch the ordinary world go by.”

The driver of the SUV gave up and drove off in search of a

larger parking space. A rusty Volvo immediately took its place.

Two doors opened and out stepped John Meddie and what could

only be his identical twin brother.

“Look at that, Scully. There are two of them.”

“Actually, there are four of them.”

She nodded at two identical men hurrying down the sidewalk. The

newcomers joined the museum owner and his twin at the car.

“Quadruplets?” Mulder asked.

“Maybe. Or it could be just a strong family resemblance.”

“They look *exactly* alike.”

“Clones?”

He slid from the booth and headed for the door.

“Mulder, where are you going?”

“To watch the ordinary world go by,” he said over his shoulder.

He pushed through the diner’s front door and stepped out onto

the sidewalk.

The four men were already in the car and pulling away from the

curb when he approached. Two sets of colorless eyes gazed out

at him through the Volvo’s rear window as the car drove off

down the street. Mulder stared after them until they turned a

corner and disappeared from view.

Scully came out of the diner to join him on the sidewalk.

“Where’d they go?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know, but I want to talk to Meddie again

after we return from Glastenbury.”

“You think he’s involved in the disappearances?”

“Maybe.”

“How?”

“I’m not sure yet, but my Spooky Alarm is ringing.”

-x-x-x-x-x-x-

BASE OF GLASTENBURY MOUNTAIN

9:20 AM

“Hope you brought fly dope. The bugs’ll bleed you dry.” A lanky

man in his early thirties thrust out a hand to Mulder. Dressed

for hiking, he wore a Gortex rain jacket, sturdy boots and a

massive backpack. A fog of mosquitoes swirled around his head.

“I’m Ranger Whidden, USDA Forest Service, Manchester District.

Call me Rick.” He turned to the fresh-faced woman who stood

beside him. “This is Sheila Baxter, bio-technician on the UOP

Wildlife Management Project.”

“Hi,” Sheila said, smiling broadly and exposing a chipped front

tooth. “Generally I study bird habitats for the Upland Openings

Program, but rumors of a large carnivorous animal in the area

piqued my curiosity. Rick was good enough to let me tag along.”

She wore her long blonde hair pulled back into a thick braid.

Like Rick, she was dressed for the wilderness.

“I’m Fox Mulder. And this…” –- he gestured toward Scully, who

stood not far away stooped over their car’s open trunk –- “is

my partner, Agent Dana Scully.”

Scully gave a quick wave and continued pawing through the gear

in the trunk. “Mulder, did you remember to bring matches?” she

asked. “I don’t want to relive the Apalachicola Forest incident.”

“Got ’em, Scully.” Patting his coat pocket, he gave Rick and

Sheila an embarrassed smile.

“Have you two done much wilderness hiking?” Rick asked.

Mulder nodded enthusiastically. “We love the outdoors.”

“Good, you’ll find Glastenbury is an easy climb.” Rick pointed

to the mountain. “We’re gonna take Long Trail –- it runs

twenty-two miles to the summit. I expect we’ll be on the

mountain two or three nights max, depending on how much

exploring you need to do. We’ll camp near Langer’s Ledge.”

“Langer’s Ledge?”

“A wide, granite outcropping about two-thirds of the way up.

It’s where Frieda Langer’s body was discovered after she

disappeared in 1950. Have you heard the story?”

“A few sketchy details.”

“Mulder?” Scully called, her voice sounding a bit desperate.

She wrestled an enormous backpack from the trunk of the car to

the ground. It was his — she already wore her own.

Mulder hurried to grab the pack from her. He swung it onto his

back with a grunt. Although heavy, the load rested

comfortably. He looped the pack’s belt around his waist and

fastened the clasp. “Ready,” he announced when he saw Scully

had already shut the trunk and stood waiting at the trail’s

head.

The trail snaked into the trees and Sheila took the lead.

Scully fell in behind her, followed by Mulder. Rick brought up

the rear. The slope was gradual at first, the ground damp and

a bit muddy. Rain clouds blotted the sky and the sour smell of

rotting vegetation blended with the sweeter fragrance of pine

and cedar. Under the weight of their packs, all four quickly

worked up a sweat, despite the cool, overcast morning.

After a few minutes, the path grew steeper. Granite cobbles

and tree roots served as occasional steps. Enormous evergreens

veiled the daylight and blocked the chilly wind, isolating

them from the outside world. Every now and again, Sheila

stepped to the trail’s edge to hold an overgrown branch out of

the others’ way. She pointed out mud puddles, loose gravel and

slippery stones. “Watch your step.”

Scully breathed in the scent of cedar, pinesap, and last

autumn’s fermenting crab apples. A dense layer of rust-colored

needles muted her footfalls. The climb worked her muscles and

she was glad to be out of the office, away from field reports

and expense sheets.

Behind her, Mulder chattered nonstop to Rick, rattling off one

question after the next. The Bennington Beast. Frieda Langer.

Bone marrow, lost hikers, upended stagecoaches. Scully

listened while she watched Sheila’s long braid swing

hypnotically back and forth with every step she took.

“Agent Scully, does the FBI usually get involved in cases like

this?” Sheila asked over her shoulder, upsetting the rhythmic

sway of her braid. “You know, where people are lost in the

woods or attacked by wild animals?”

“Not usually.” Deciding it would be best to withhold Mulder’s

theories about ape-men and interdimensional horizons, she

added, “We’re here to rule out the possibility of a

kidnapping.”

Behind her, Mulder was asking Rick, “What do you think

happened up there?”

“My best guess is the victims were attacked by a large

carnivorous animal, maybe a catamount. Officially, there

hasn’t been a wildcat in Vermont since the 1920s, but people

claim to see them from time to time. There were several

sightings over the summer. Game Warden received five calls

from Bennington County alone.”

“That many?”

Rick laughed. “That’s at least a dozen fewer than those who

reported seeing the Bennington Beast. Glastenbury Mountain has

quite a reputation, Agent Mulder. Ghosts, goblins, aliens from

outer space — you name it and somebody swears they’ve seen

it.”

Mulder dodged a low branch. “You’ve never witnessed

anything…um…out of the ordinary?”

“Nah, I’ve been on this mountain at least a hundred times and

I’ve yet to spot anything that couldn’t be rationally

explained. There are more than 27,000 acres of mountain

wilderness on Glastenbury, Agent Mulder. In my opinion, people

get lost, hurt or die here because they come unprepared. They

fail to bring even the most basic survival gear. I guess they

expect it to start raining Whopper Jr.’s when they get

hungry.”

“I heard it rained weenies and marshmallows in Florida once.

Or maybe it was sleeping bags.”

“That sounds as unlikely as ghosts, goblins and the Bennington

Beast.”

-x-x-x-x-x-x-

GLASTENBURY MOUNTAIN

6:26 PM

“We’ll camp here for the night,” Rick said, and slid the pack

from his back.

The others followed suit. Freed from his burden, Mulder

stretched his arms and worked his sore shoulders. Scully

handed him a bottle of water and warned him to stay hydrated.

With a few thirsty gulps he emptied the bottle.

“Agent Mulder?” Rick crouched over a bloodied patch of earth,

summoning Mulder with the wave of two fingers. Mulder joined

him and squatted, too. “This is where Search and Rescue found

Akins’ hand.”

“Nothing else was recovered?” Mulder glanced over his shoulder

at the four hefty packs they had carried up the mountain.

“Not as far as I know.”

“I guess we’re looking for a catamount with a taste for

Evian.” He waggled his empty water bottle.

“It is strange S&R didn’t find more. The wildlife team was

carrying a lot of equipment. Cameras, FLIR, GPS.”

Mulder stood. “Can we go to the Ledge now?”

A roll of thunder thrummed in the distance. Rick squinted at

the darkening sky. “Storm’s heading our way,” he warned. “We

should set up camp before it starts raining.”

“Go explore,” Sheila said, her pack unloaded and gear spread

at her feet. “By the time you get back, I’ll have the tents up

and a fire going.”

Rick accepted Sheila’s offer with a nod. He rose to his feet.

“Okay, agents, this way.”

He led them to a narrow, cliff-side path. Out in the open,

away from the trees, a thickening fog whirlpooled around them.

Thunder rumbled and the sky momentarily brightened with a

flash of distant lightning.

They fell into line and walked along the trail single-file,

careful to steer clear of the ravine.

“It’s not far,” Rick said. “You can already see the ledge up

ahead.” He pointed to a crag of granite that protruded from

the mountainside about fifty yards to the north. The ledge was

broad and empty, shrouded in fog, and nearly as gray as the

sky.

“According to native legend, the ledge is enchanted,” Rick

said. He picked his way around scabby catspruce, past mounds

of fragrant mint. Last year’s Beggar’s Ticks clung to his

pants legs. “The four winds are said to meet there, making it

a powerful place. The Indians believed the stone was magic and

would swallow anyone who stepped on it. They avoided

Glastenbury, claiming that not even the animals would come

here.”

“Interesting, considering…*that*.” Mulder pointed at the

overhang where two identical men stared back at them, their

silver-streaked hair billowing in the updraft. “Will the real

John Meddie please stand up?”

Scully shouldered past Rick. “Let’s go.” She broke into a run.

Mulder sprinted after her. The men on the ledge backed away

and disappeared from view.

Mulder and Scully hurried up the path. At the base of the

ledge, they pulled up short, faced with a six-foot vertical

wall of granite.

“Hang on,” Mulder said. He grabbed her from behind and boosted

her up the stone wall to the shelf above.

She locked her elbows over the top. With another push from

Mulder, she was up. Finding a toehold, he pulled himself up

beside her.

The ledge was empty. The mysterious men had disappeared.

“Where did they go?” Scully spun, looking in all directions.

The stone, smoothed by centuries of wind and rain, was about

twenty feet wide and protruded from the mountain like an

eagle’s aerie. The back end was anchored in the forest. Mulder

crossed to the trees and drew his gun. Scully positioned

herself to one side, aiming her own weapon into the woods,

covering his back. Another roll of thunder echoed across the

mountaintops.

“Come out, come out, wherever you are,” Mulder said and

stepped through the evergreen boughs.

Beneath the trees, it was dark and difficult to see. Mulder

listened for footfalls or snapping twigs while he waited for

his eyes to adjust to the shadows. Silence raked the back of

his neck and the sweat between his shoulder blades felt cold,

rousing a rash of goosebumps along his arms beneath his rain

jacket.

Keeping his gun held high, he took several careful steps into

the woods. Then he heard it. A snuffling sound. Wet and

labored.

clip_image002

“Mulder?” Scully’s voice punched through the boughs behind

him. The snuffling died away.

Mulder ignored Scully’s call. He reached into his pocket and

withdrew his flashlight. Shining it into the woods, he

searched for the source of the noise, but his beam revealed

only more tree trunks.

He edged forward, arms rigid, flashlight held beneath the

barrel of his gun. He rounded a massive pine.

Jesus! What the…

Four colorless eyes glowed in the light’s beam.

-x-x-x-x-x-x-

ACT THREE

GLASTENBURY MOUNTAIN

7:16 PM

“Mulder? Are you okay?” Scully called from the ledge behind

him.

The four eyes vanished.

“Mulder?”

Mulder swung his flashlight, fanning the forest with its

light. The beam bounced off crooked branches and black tree

trunks. He saw no sign of the men on the ledge or the pale

eyes. Taking three more steps into the trees, he probed the

dark with his light.

Nothing.

Shit. He was certain he’d seen someone looking out at him. Not

quite ready to give up his search, he continued on. Six paces.

A dozen.

There was no one. No one at all.

“Mulder?”

He took one last look before retracing his steps. “Coming.”

Mulder found Rick waiting with Scully on the ledge. It had

begun to rain in earnest and lightning flashed — closer this

time.

“What did you see?” Scully asked when Mulder stepped from the

trees.

“I’m not sure. It was dark.”

“And it’s getting darker,” Rick warned. “We need to get back.”

“I’d like to come back in the morning.” Mulder holstered his

gun and pocketed his flashlight. He then lowered himself over

the side of the ledge to the path. When he stood with his feet

planted firmly on the trail below, he turned to help Scully.

She slid down the granite into his arms. He steadied her

before reaching up a hand to Rick.

A bolt of lightning turned the sky momentarily white. It was

followed by a furious crack of thunder that vibrated the

ground and filled the air with the smell of ozone.

“Let’s hurry,” Rick said, leading the way.

They made good time despite the rain and fog. Back at the

campsite, Sheila’s fire was a welcome sight. She had pitched

three tents and the tidy bivouac appeared deceptively safe.

“Sheila?” Rick called.

Wind scraped the upper branches and rain sifted through the

umbrella of evergreens. The fire sputtered, sending a flare of

sparks and smoke into the air.

“Sheila?” Rick called more loudly, his voice full of concern.

“I’ll check the tents,” Scully said and poked her head into

each. All were empty. “She’s not here.”

“Where could she be?” Rick asked. “Sheila?” He swiveled.

“Sheila! SHEEEEILAAAA!”

-x-x-x-x-x-x-

10:12 PM

Rick dropped another log on the dying fire, bringing the flames

back to life. Mulder and Scully stepped closer to warm their

hands. After several hours of combing the woods in the pouring

rain, they were chilled and exhausted. Finding no sign of

Sheila, they had reluctantly given up for the night and

returned to camp.

“You know what’s strange?” Rick crouched by the fire, his

expression grim. His voice was hoarse from calling Sheila’s

name. “All this soft, wet ground and we didn’t find a single

track.”

“She must have gone missing before it started to rain.” Scully

wiped rainwater from her chin. Her hair hung in muggy spirals.

Water dripped from her nose.

“No, I mean we didn’t see *any* tracks. No rabbit, coyote,

deer.”

“Would you expect animals to be moving around during a storm?”

Mulder asked.

“Animals are always moving. Have you noticed we haven’t heard

so much as a bird chirp since we unloaded our gear?”

Mulder squatted close to the fire, too, hoping the flames would

dry him a bit. “Fits with the legend,” he said.

Rick scowled, clearly not in the mood for legends. “Langer’s

Ledge is not enchanted.”

“I’m inclined to agree. I think what we’re looking at is a real

physical phenomenon, a gravitational anomaly, not something

mystical.”

“Mulder, I think we’re too tired for this.” Scully stood beside

him and laid a palm on his shoulder.

“They exist, Scully. The Oregon Vortex in Gold Hill, the

Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz, California, Spook Hill in Lake

Wales, Florida, the Wonder Spot in Lake Delton, Wisconsin.”

“The Wonder Spot?” Scully crouched beside him. “Sounds like

something discovered by Masters and Johnson.”

He smiled, appreciating her joke. “Not bad, G-Woman,

considering the late hour.”

“Go ahead, Mulder — what are gravitational anomalies?” she

asked, knowing he would tell her anyway.

“They’re places where high concentrations of energy cause

magnetic disturbances. Animals won’t cross them. Things inside

them defy gravity. Balls roll uphill. Light bends. People grow

and shrink.”

“Mulder…”

“The vortex in Oregon is more than 165-feet wide, Scully.

Witnesses claim to have seen all these things there. Some

believe the Bermuda Triangle is just such a vortex, explaining

the unsolved disappearances there.”

Rick stood. “Mythical beasts. Indian legends. Vortexes. This is

bullshit. Sitting around the fire telling fairytales won’t help

us find Sheila.”

“There’s nothing more we can do tonight,” Scully said gently.

Rick turned his back on the fire and bellowed into the woods,

“SHEEEEEILAAAAA!”

Scully stood and went to his side. “We can’t help Sheila if

we’re exhausted. We should try to get some sleep.”

Rick continued to stare into the woods. After a moment, his

shoulders slumped and he nodded.

“I’ll take the first watch,” Mulder volunteered.

“I’ll spell you,” Rick said, and went to his tent. “Wake me in

three hours.”

-x-x-x-x-x-x-

1:12 AM

A blast of wet wind followed Mulder into the tent and stirred

Scully from sleep.

“Sorry.” He zipped the flap behind him.

She snuggled deeper into the sleeping bag. “Whattimezit?”

“One o’clock. Rick’s on watch. You have another three hours.”

He saw that she had zipped their sleeping bags together. “You

have plans for us, Scully?”

“You’re the one who brought only one tent.”

“Oops. Musta been an oversight.” He sat beside her and removed

his raincoat and boots. “I remembered to unplug the coffeemaker

before we left though.”

“We’re on assignment. Sharing a tent might be construed

as…inappropriate.”

Feeling chilled, he considered sleeping in his clothes, but his

pants were drenched from the thighs down and rain had leaked

into his coat, soaking his shirt. He took off his guns and

tucked them under the sleeping bag within easy reach. “Correct

me if I’m wrong, Scully” — he wriggled out of his wet pants –-

“but I believe Bureau policy advises against male and female

agents consorting in motel rooms while on assignment.” He pulled

off one damp sock at a time and tossed them to the back of the

tent. “This isn’t a motel room,” — he yanked his shirt over

his head and lobbed it in the direction of his socks — “and

we aren’t consorting.” Stripped down to his boxers, he slid

into the sleeping bag beside her. He leaned close to her ear.

“At least not yet.”

“You’re wet.” She edged away. “And cold.”

“Warm me.” He wrapped himself around her and buried his nose in

her neck.

“Dammit, Mulder.” Her protest carried no real annoyance. She

settled into his arms. His skin was icy and stippled with

goosebumps. She combed her fingers through his sopping hair.

“See anything out there?”

“A guy building an ark. I booked us reservations.”

She ignored his joke. “Is Rick okay?”

“Mmm.”

They were quiet for a moment, listening to the rain lash

against the tent.

“Meddie’s involved,” Mulder said at last. “I think he and his

look-alikes are harvesting bone marrow.”

“For what purpose?”

“We’ve seen this kind of thing before. Samuel Aboah, Virgil

Incanto, Eugene Victor Tooms, Leonard Betts, Rob Roberts. Pick

a body part, and we’ve met a mutant who feeds on it. You said

yourself that bone marrow contains stem cells — cells that can

be used to create other cell types, even entire organs.”

“Yes, but those cells are engineered in a lab.”

“Maybe Meddie’s metabolism allows him do the same thing, in

vivo.”

“But why?”

“I don’t know. But Meddie…his brothers…they’re unusual

already, aren’t they? How common are identical quadruplets?”

“In the absence of fertility treatments, about one in 700,000.

They’re rare but they aren’t mutants.” She suddenly chuckled.

“What?” he asked.

“You.”

“Me?”

“Or us, maybe. We’re like some sort of mutant magnets.” She

leaned into his embrace.

“You’re admitting that Meddie is a mutant?”

“No, I’m admitting he’s strange.”

“Mu-tah-to, Mu-tay-to.” He closed his eyes and tightened his

hold on her. “As soon as it’s daylight, I want to go back to

the ledge. If we’re going to find Sheila, we’ll find her

there.”

-x-x-x-x-x-x-

5:16 AM

“Mulder?” Scully sat up and unzipped the sleeping bag. The

rising sun colored the tent a fiery orange and the rain had

stopped. It was late. Why the hell hadn’t Rick woken her? She

shook Mulder’s shoulder.

He lay on his side, face buried in the crook of one arm.

“Mulder,” she said more urgently. His eyes opened. “Get up.

It’s after five.”

“Five? Why…why are you still in bed?” He sat up and scrubbed

his face with his palms.

She fumbled through her backpack for fresh clothes. “Rick never

woke me. Something must be wrong.”

“Maybe he fell asleep,” he said, not really believing it. He

reached for the previous day’s shirt.

They dressed quickly and climbed from the tent. The sky was

clear and the early morning sun glistened on the dripping

evergreens. No smoke rose from the sodden campfire.

“Rick?” Scully called. Mulder checked the tents. “Riiiiick!”

“He’s not here, Scully.”

“Dammit. I feel as if we’re trapped in a remake of ‘Ten Little

Indians.'”

“‘And then there were two.'”

“Don’t leave my sight, Mulder.”

“That’s one thing you don’t have to worry about. Come on, let’s

try the ledge.”

They retraced their steps from the previous night, following

the narrow trail along the cliffs. The air was cool and still.

Mosquitoes pestered them, gathering in buzzing clouds around

their heads. Driven by the biting insects and their concern for

Rick, they made good time. After only a few minutes, the ledge

loomed into view, stark and empty against the clear morning

sky.

“Doesn’t look any friendlier in the morning,” Mulder said.

He led the way to the crag. Once there, he again boosted

Scully up and onto the granite shelf, then pulled himself up

after her.

Looking down at the valley, Mulder felt as if he stood on a

primeval stage. The broad, ancient stone jutted out from

Glastenbury’s north face and the range of Green Mountains

stretched away from it like a blue-green washboard as far as

the eye could see. Clouds, flat-bottomed and gray as tin,

gathered over the most distant peaks. It was eerily quiet.

Their isolation and vulnerability prickled the skin on the

back of his neck.

“Mulder?” Scully faced the trees, weapon in hand. She nodded

toward a snarl of ferns at the forest’s edge. Sheila’s long

blond braid, stained with blood, peeked out from the greenery.

Scully crossed the ledge and parted the ferns. “Dammit,” she

whispered. Sheila’s head lay on the ground with eyes closed

and mouth opened. It appeared to have been severed by a knife

or saw. Fresh blood matted the dead woman’s hair and stained

her cheeks. Scully glanced over her shoulder at Mulder.

He put a finger to his lips and tilted his head toward the

woods. She nodded and took the lead, stepping through the

evergreen boughs. Mulder followed, a brooding uneasiness

traveling up his spine when the branches closed behind him.

Despite the clear weather and rising sun, it was dark beneath

the trees. The air smelled sour. A few paces ahead, Scully

stopped and aimed her gun at the base of a large pine tree.

Mulder stopped, too, when he heard it — the snuffling noise,

the same sound he’d heard last night. What the hell was that?

Scully took a cautious step forward. “Oh, my God,” she said,

her gun wavering. “Mulder?”

He hurried to her side, but even at close range, he wasn’t

sure what he was looking at.

Jesus, it was a man. Or two men. Naked and conjoined,

they…it lay on the ground, snuffling through two disfigured

noses, its chest heaving for want of air. Its massive head

lolled on a too thin neck; its four nearly colorless eyes

stared listlessly at nothing. It had four arms and four legs.

A single torso. A feeble bleat squeaked from one of its two

misshapen mouths.

Scully holstered her gun and knelt beside it.

“Scully, maybe you shouldn’t touch–”

She ignored his warning and placed her fingers on its neck.

“Pulse is thready. I think…”

For a moment, it seemed to focus on her, but then its four

pale, frightened eyes rolled upward beneath fluttering lids.

“It’s dying,” Scully said. “Call MediVac. Have them send a

chopper.”

Mulder dug his cell phone from his pocket. “Uh, Scully…?”

She looked up at him. “What is it?”

He pointed to the ground. Next to the creature, a woman’s

hiking boot lay on its side. A broken bone protruded from the

boot. The splintered tibia was as hollow as a straw, emptied

of every trace of bone marrow.

-x-x-x-x-x-x-

ACT FOUR

BENNINGTON COUNTY MORGUE

9:14 PM

“What did you find out about our Bennington Beast?” Mulder

asked. He stood at the morgue door, leaning against the frame

with his rain jacket draped over one arm. Fatigue lined his

face. Pine pitch blackened his arms. Mud spattered his jeans

from the knees down. He had stayed behind on Glastenbury to

help Search and Rescue locate Rick Whidden, while Scully

accompanied the dying creature to Bennington Memorial Hospital

via helicopter. The S&R Team came up empty handed.

Thunderstorms and fog had moved in an hour ago, suspending the

search until morning –- assuming the weather cleared.

The creature hadn’t made it to the hospital alive. Now its corpse

lay on an autopsy table, split down the middle by Scully’s Y-incision.

“That would be plural,” she said, her hands thrust into the chest

cavity.

“Beasts?” He came closer, looked into the open chest and winced

at the gore.

“Mmhm. This is definitely more than one person.”

“Twins?”

“Not like any I’ve ever seen or read about.” She pointed a

gloved finger at the body. “There are duplicate organs — two

hearts, livers, stomachs — but they’re conjoined in ways that

are…impossible.” She ran her finger along a large bluish

vein that connected two sets of lungs. “See this pulmonary

vein? It should return arterial blood from the lung to the

left auricle of the heart, but it doesn’t. It connects to its

twin lung instead.”

“Maybe that’s why it…they…died.”

“What I can’t figure out is how they survived in the first

place. They have no workable systems –- circulatory,

digestive, or anything else.”

“That’s not all they don’t have.” Mulder pointed to the lower

half of the body where four legs sprouted from a single set of

hips.

“That’s right. No genitalia. No reproductive organs of any

kind. No prostate, testes, uterus, ovaries.”

“So is this a girl mutant or a boy mutant?”

“Let me show you something.” She stripped off her gloves with

a rubbery snap and crossed the room to a cluttered counter.

Shuffling through a stack of reports, she retrieved a PCR film

and held it up for him to see.

“What am I looking at, Scully?”

“The genetic makeup of your Beast. It has nearly twice as many

chromosomal pairs as you or I do, but there’s not an X or a Y

in the bunch.”

“How is that possible?”

“It’s not.” She tossed the film onto the counter.

Mulder returned to the autopsy table. He studied the

creature’s head, its oversized cranium, the two mouths, the

four opened eyes. Pale blue-white irises stared dully back at

him.

“Scully, is this sort of mutation inherited? Don’t certain

birth defects run in families?”

“There is one aspect of this case I can state with certainty,

Mulder: this anomaly was not a birth defect, not in any

literal definition of the term.” She crossed the room to the

corpse and donned a new pair of gloves. “This creature was not

born by conventional means.” She folded the flap of abdominal

skin back into place. “As you can see, it possesses no

umbilicus.”

“The plot thickens.”

“More than you know. I had the stomach contents analyzed.”

“Let me guess. Human bone marrow.”

“That’s right. And I’ll bet you a week’s pay the lab tests are

going to show the marrow is Sheila Baxter’s.”

“No bet. Put this guy on ice, Scully.” Mulder slipped his arms

into his coat.

“Where are we going?”

“Two words: Meddie’s Museum.”

-x-x-x-x-x-x-

MEDDIE’S MUSEUM

10:02 PM

The museum was dark when Mulder and Scully drove into the

parking lot. Mulder parked the car beside a Jeep Cherokee with

Alaskan plates. The lot was full, just as it had been the last

time they’d visited.

“Someone’s awake,” Scully said, nodding toward a dim glow from

a basement window at the far end of the building.

“Shall we have a look-see?” Mulder asked.

They climbed from the car and jogged toward the light, careful

not to make noise. The window was small and low to the ground.

Dust and cobwebs clouded the glass. They crouched to get a

better view.

At first, the basement appeared to be empty, but then Mulder

caught sight of someone in a back corner. John Meddie –- or

one of his look-alikes –- worked at a table skinning meat from

a long bone. A single bulb hung from the ceiling above his

head, draped with cobwebs and casting a dim circle of light on

the gory scene. Rick Whidden’s bloody Gortex jacket hung on a

chair nearby.

“Two words,” Scully whispered.

“Probable cause?” he mouthed back.

She tapped her nose with her index finger and they rose to

their feet. They came face to face with two more men who

looked exactly like John Meddie. Both held shotguns aimed at

the agents’ chests.

“Just in time for dinner,” said the man with the Remington,

his blue-white eyes bright in the dark. “How convenient. Put

your hands where we can see them.”

They raised their hands and the man with the Browning gathered

Mulder’s sidearm and the SIG Scully carried at the small of

her back. Pocketing the automatics, he motioned them to the

front of the building with a wave of his shotgun.

“Which one of you is John?” Mulder asked.

“Neither,” said the man who held the Remington.

“It’s polite to introduce yourselves when you kidnap someone

at gunpoint.”

Mulder’s smart remark earned him a jab between the shoulder

blades with the Browning.

“Shut up. Get inside.”

They entered the museum through the front door and the Meddie

brothers marched them through the display area, past the

insects, the catamount, the bones of the Bennington Beast.

“What’s the connection,” Mulder asked, glancing at the skull as

they passed it, “between you and the creature we found in the

woods today?”

Neither man answered. They herded the agents on to the back of

the museum where a narrow set of stairs led down to the

basement. The door was open and light bled up from the room

below.

“Did you feed it Sheila Baxter’s bone marrow?” Mulder asked.

“Do you plan to chop us up, too?” He turned to look directly

into the men’s pale eyes.

The man with the Remington responded by driving the butt of his

gun into Mulder’s temple, toppling him.

Mulder clutched for the stair rail but missed, his vision

blurred. He lost his balance. His stomach lurched when he

dropped into the open stairwell. With a bone-jarring crash, he

tumbled to the bottom of the steps. His head hit the concrete

floor and he lost consciousness.

“Mulder!” Scully shouted. She tried to go to him but the man

with the Browning grabbed her upper arm. “Let me go!” She

struggled and threw a left punch that caught him in the nose.

The blow knocked him backward and he released her. She lunged

for the stairs, but halted when the barrel of the Remington

speared her ribs.

“Walk…slowly,” the man said. He jabbed her once more.

She did as she was told and descended the stairs. At the bottom

she watched two more men who looked like Meddie snag Mulder

under the arms and drag him across the room. They dumped him on

the floor beside the cutting table where a fifth and sixth man

worked, cleaning flesh from bone. Jesus, all these men looked

like Meddie. They all had the same thin, lined face, the same

silver-streaked hair and they stared at her with the same pale

blue-white eyes.

“Agent Scully,” said one of the men at the table. She guessed

he must be the man they met upstairs two nights ago, the real

John Meddie. “Have a seat,” he invited. His voice was neither

cordial nor malicious. In fact, his tenor was so neutral, and

the circumstances so extreme –- the bones on the counter,

Mulder unconscious on the floor, six identical men watching her

from various locations around the room –- they made Scully feel

off balance, as if she were having a nightmare and would wake

up at any moment to find herself back at the Fife ‘N’ Drum, or

better yet, in her apartment with Mulder asleep beside her

and–

“I said *sit*,” Meddie repeated, his voice firm.

The man with the Browning tugged her arm. He pulled her to the

straight-backed chair where Rick Whidden’s jacket hung and he

forced her to sit. Mulder lay a few feet away, not moving.

Blood trickled from his nose.

“Let me go to him,” Scully said.

“It’s time,” the man with the Browning said, ignoring her

request. He appeared suddenly dizzy. Staggering a bit, he

handed his shotgun to the man with the Remington, who set the

12-gauge on the stairs.

“It’s starting.” John Meddie stepped forward to help lower the

unsteady man to a sitting position on the floor. The man then

stretched out onto his back. His skin had taken on a sickly

pallor, bluish and sweaty. He began to pant.

“What’s happening?” Scully demanded. “I’m a doctor. I can

help.”

“There’s nothing for you to do,” Meddie told Scully. He knelt

beside the prone man and stroked his arm, soothing him.

“Usually, we do this in private, on the mountain, away from

prying eyes. But you and your partner have made that impossible

tonight. State Police, Search and Rescue, other nosey do-

gooders, like yourself…and him.” Meddie’s colorless eyes

fastened on Mulder. “You’ve brought danger to the Nest. We’ll

have to make do here.”

The man on the floor groaned. The others gathered around him –-

all but the one who aimed the Remington at Scully. They removed

the sick man’s shoes, his shirt. They unbuckled his belt,

tugged his pants from his legs. When he lay naked on the floor,

Scully saw he had no navel, no genitalia, like the corpse at

the morgue. A deepening trench notched the man’s torso,

striping him from suprasternal notch to pubic bone. Another

trough divided each leg. Gutters formed along each finger,

furrowed each toe. His flesh ballooned around the

indentations. He moaned again.

Scully watched, astonished, as the man’s arms dimpled

lengthwise, and then split. Two arms separated into four. Ten

fingers became twenty. Jesus, he was dividing! Mitotic

reproduction, like a single-celled organism, only on an

unimaginable scale.

The man’s head expanded. His distorted face stretched to

accommodate the impossible formation of four eyes, two mouths,

and two snuffling noses. Air rattled in and out of his wet

lungs, unable to supply oxygenated blood to new organs.

He…they…gasped. Flailed. It was suffocating, just like the

creature Scully had brought down from the mountain.

“Quickly,” Meddie said. He motioned to one of the others who

hurried to the cutting table and gathered several long bones.

Two of each: femur, tibia, ulna, humerus. Several scythe-

shaped ribs. Scully knew these must be Rick Whidden’s bones.

One man handed Meddie a long femur. Holding the bone in his

fists, Meddie brought it down hard against his thigh and

cracked it in two. The creature whimpered at the sound. Meddie

gently offered the bone to it, holding a broken end to each of

the thing’s begging mouths and it sucked the bones greedily.

Scully saw yellowish marrow leak from the bone onto the

creature’s lips as it drank. She knew the marrow contained fat

and fluid filled with vessels, fibrous tissue, and cells.

Leukocytes, erythrocytes, stem cells. Undifferentiated stem

cells that could be used to generate new, specialized cells,

new organs.

That was it. The creature needed stem cells to replicate

itself.

Meddie cooed like a mother to her newborn while he nourished

the creature, feeding it one bone after the next. The other

men stood in a circle around them, concern written on their

faces.

Finally no bone marrow remained. The creature had consumed it

all and wanted more. Mitosis was incomplete. The twins

remained locked to each other, not entirely divided.

Meddie looked over his shoulder at Mulder.

“No!” Scully shouted, and rose from the chair. “Don’t touch

him!” She dashed for the Browning on the stairs. Before she

could reach it, the man with the Remington swung his shotgun

like a baseball bat and struck her in the neck below her ear.

The impact sent her sprawling. She landed face down beside

Mulder, her head near his feet. The sharp pain in her ear

brought tears to her eyes. She blinked to clear her vision and

Mulder’s ankle holster came into focus, peeking out from

beneath the mud-spattered hem of his pants.

“Cut them up,” Meddie ordered. Two of the men crossed to the

cutting table to sort through the knives. The creature whined,

an earsplitting cry, drawing the men’s attention. The man with

the Remington lowered his gun and took several steps away from

Scully.

She grabbed for Mulder’s gun, slipped it from its holster. In

one quick motion, she sat up and aimed the weapon at the man

with the Remington. “Drop it!” she shouted. He hesitated, his

pale eyes rounding with surprise. “Do it! Now!” she demanded.

He let the gun clatter to the floor. She stood on shaky legs.

“All of you, against the far wall, away from the table. Leave

the knives.”

Meddie glanced at the Browning on the stairs.

“Don’t even think about it, Meddie. I will shoot you.”

He offered her a desperate look, his colorless eyes grieving

for the creature that lay dying on the floor. She met his

gaze, her weapon steady. Finally, he nodded, surrendering, and

walked to the wall. The others followed him. She retrieved

both the Remington and the Browning, then stood between Mulder

and the five identical men. The only sound in the room came

from the creature, snuffling as it labored to breathe. Scully

slid her cell phone from her jacket pocket and dialed 911.

-x-x-x-x-x-x-

EPILOGUE

MOUNTAIN VALLEY DINER

7:16 AM

“What happened to you?” Candy gaped at Mulder’s black eye. She

carried two cups of coffee, which she placed on the table.

“Mosquito bite.”

“Really? Wow. You should stay outta the woods, mister.”

“Good advice.”

Candy took out her pad and pen. “You want the number three

this morning?”

“Make it a double order,” Scully said. “I’m starving.”

Mulder smiled and nodded. “Two number threes.”

“Okeydoke,” the waitress said and headed back to the kitchen.

Scully sipped her coffee while Mulder dug into his pocket and

withdrew the creased museum brochure. He laid it on the table

between them and tapped the photo of the Bennington Beast.

“You saw it, Scully. You witnessed an X-File…without me.” He

sounded envious, but pleased. “Gotta be a first.”

“I’m not convinced it was an X-File, Mulder.”

“A man split into two right in front of your eyes.”

“He didn’t split entirely.”

“Scully, *you* are splitting hairs.”

“I’m pretty sure the process can be explained in scientific

terms–”

“He had no genitals–

“–recent experiments indicate that stem cells can be

stimulated to transform into specialized cells given a

suitable environment–”

“–or a belly button.”

“–so it follows that Meddie and his brothers may have

developed the capacity to use stem cells to generate new

organs, even entire bodies…at least…that’s what I plan to

write in my report.”

“Why can’t you admit this was an X-File and you saw it?”

“Mulder, there were no interdimensional horizons, no enchanted

stones, no vortices, and *no* Bennington Beast.”

“No?”

“No. The ‘creature’ was not a cryptid or an evolutionary

throwback. It was a…a…”

“Mutant?”

“I don’t care much for that term.”

“I bet not.” Mulder smiled at her over his coffee cup. “Tell

me again how you saved my ass.”

“Mulder…”

“Tell it. I love a happy ending.”

She leaned an elbow on the table and propped her chin on her

hand. “For the millionth time, I grabbed your gun, they

surrendered, I called 911.”

“Hmm. It’s lost something since the first time you told it.”

He sipped his coffee. “Why didn’t Meddie attack you?”

“What part of ‘I grabbed your gun’ did you miss?”

“But they outnumbered you five to one.”

She pointed her finger at him and pretended to fire a bullet

into his heart. He lurched back in the booth and clutched his

chest, making her smile. “The ultimate equalizer,” she said,

blowing across her finger as if she blew smoke from a gun

barrel.

“Still, considering everything they stood to lose, you’d think

one of them might’ve taken a bullet for the home team.”

“The creature was dying and they knew it. Better to stay alive

themselves and reproduce later. They’re survivors, Mulder.”

Mulder leaned forward and studied the Beast’s photo. “Why

*did* the creature die?”

“I’m guessing it needed more stem cells to complete the

process. Meddie was practically drooling over your foot-long

femurs.”

“So there *is* an evolutionary advantage to those short little

legs of yours.”

He reached across the table and poked her arm just as Candy

arrived with their breakfast. Eggs, bacon, homefries, Texas

toast and two sides of baked beans, “on the house.” Scully

picked up her fork and began to dig in even before Candy

asked, “Will that be all?”

“We’re fine,” Mulder answered. “For now.”

With another “okeydoke” Candy headed back to the kitchen.

“Meddie called the ledge their ‘nest’,” Scully said, once

Candy was out of earshot.

“I have a theory about that if you’re interested in hearing

it.”

“Always.”

“I’m thinking this case is a ‘double’ X-File.” He draped his

napkin across his lap.

Scully studied her fried eggs. “Look, a double yolk.” She

tipped her plate so he could see. He acknowledged the irony

with a nod of his head. “Why a ‘double’ X-File, Mulder?” she

asked, and scooped a bite of egg into her mouth.

“Number one,” –- he held up a finger –- “the creature’s unique

physiology: its ability to reproduce asexually, dividing like

an amoeba into two new identical organisms. Number two,” –- he

held up a second finger –- “the geological anomaly of

Glastenbury Mountain, specifically Langer’s Ledge. Like the

Oregon Vortex, Spook Hill, and the Wonder Spot, I suspect the

ledge is a nexus of concentrated energy –- what the Indians

called the ‘meeting place of the four winds.’ The stone’s

abnormal magnetic properties would guarantee Meddie’s clan

plenty of privacy, keeping away animals and people, making the

ledge the perfect place to procreate. I think Meddie and his

progenitors have been using the ledge as a safe, secluded

maternity ward for centuries, returning every fifty-one years

when it was time to reproduce, the same way a salmon returns to

the stream where it was spawned.”

“The cars in the museum’s parking lot…”

“That’s right. Meddie’s brothers traveled from as far away as

Alaska to be in the Bennington Triangle at this exact time to

propagate their species…a species on the verge of extinction,

I might add.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Given the increased number of outdoor enthusiasts who hike

Glastenbury each year, it would be impossible for the clan to

keep killing victims while hiding the murders. It’s like you

said a couple of days ago, Scully — survival of the fittest

presupposes the clan’s failure. They were competing against

the modern American sightseer for territory. The mutants were

bound to lose eventually.”

“Well, they’re all in jail now. Without access to human bone

marrow, they won’t be able to replicate. The species will

become extinct.”

“Maybe not. There may be similar creatures reproducing at the

Wonder Spot right now while you and I sit here enjoying

breakfast and watching the ordinary world go by.” He suddenly

grinned. “Scully, what would you think about a side trip to

Wisconsin?”

She set down her fork, reached across the table and picked up

the museum brochure. Looking him squarely in the eye, she

folded it in half and tucked it away in her pocket. “Two

words, Mulder: case…closed.”

THE END

Author’s notes: Feedback, good or bad, is welcome on this or

any of my stories. Send comments to cindyet@tdstelme.net.

Visit my other fanfic at my Web site at

http://cindyet.xfilesfanfiction.com.

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One thought on “The Bennington Triangle”

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