The 25th hour
Written for the Halloween challenge for IMTP
Virtual Season 11
Rating: R for some explicit language, and
perhaps some gory details, but nothing too
serious, MSR (but only a tad, no smooching going
Story: On All Hallow’s Eve, all the children
disappear in Old Town. Guess who
The 25th hour
The shit hit the fan, and all Mulder could think
about was the box of Halloween Candies
still tucked in his pocket; and the fact that
Scully had eaten all his liquorice bats. In real
life, Mulder detested those grisly black suckers
that left a foul taste in his mouth, but
right now they represented food. Or at least
anything else but the taste of bile in his
throat. Of all the things in the world she might
devour at such an untimeley hour, why
the hell did she have to go and devour these?
They seemed so perfect to eat right now.
“I’m dying, Scully. Can’t you at least wait
until I’m cold and stiff to start stealing from
me?” Mulder groaned, startling his partner by
stirring at the same time.
“Oh, you’re awake. Good. Feeling better?”
He pulled a face. Scully knelt down beside one
of the large oak trees roots that formed a
circle, in the centre of these dark and
dangerous woods. Somehow the clump of trees
offered them some shelter from the danger that
surrounded them. It hid them from plain
view, and all those creepy crawlers that wanted
to devour them, as he had wanted to
devour his liquorish bats.
Her mouth still full with the gooey black stuff,
she turned to him, her face still splattered
with his blood, and her hands and arms covered
in scrapes and scratches, coupled with
some of her own blood.
“Of all the things you have to complain about
right now, you’re whining about candy?”
she mused. “Interesting.”
Mulder tried to sit up straight, and groaned out
loud when the stake protruding out of his
shoulder prevented him from getting into a more
comfortable position, or a full breath.
“Well, there’s nothing else to whine about, is
“Use your brain for a way to get us out of this
mess, Mulder. With your eidetic memory,
you should’ve at least memorized where we
started from, how we can get back there,
and where we last saw the children.”
“I told you that I don’t know. There isn’t
exactly a manual accompanying this temporal
plane, you know. I don’t have a map of these
creepy woods either. For all we know, the
Blair Witch could be walking about. I have no
idea why the bushes seem to grasp at our
legs, or why the flowers sting and try to hurt
us, or even why nothing is as it seems. This
is not our usual zip code, Scully. There are no
laws of physics here.”
“Oh god.” Scully wiped her mouth with the back
of her hand and stood up, dusting off
her pants. “You sound delirious, and I feel like
Alice in Wonderland. No, make that
whatever-her-name is from the Wizard of Oz.”
“Funny. Now, what do we do? Sit around and wait
for the enemy to sniff out the scent of
our blood? Or try to do something useful, like
saving our ass’s and finding those
“I was thinking more in the lines of you leaving
my ass behind, and getting the hell out of
“Oh, and then who’s going to warm my bed at
“A hot water bottle. What else?” Mulder groaned,
as he tried to adjust his sitting position,
but anything he did sent swirls of pure pain
through his body. “If this is a dream, Scully,
as you insist on calling it; it sure feels
rather too vivid. I don’t think I’ve ever topped
situation, have I?”
“I don’t know what to call this place, and I
don’t know why we’re both experiencing it at
the same time,” she retorted, “and frankly I
don’t want to find out. I just want to get
back to where we belong, and get this over with,
not to mention get you to a hospital.
That’s a nasty wound. I’m not eager to explore
this strange new world, you know.”
“I wish you were.”
She knelt beside her partner and helpt him to
sit up straight. “Try not to move that
shoulder too much. And for goodness sake, keep
that sling in the right position. You don’t
want to damage yourself any further than you
“Did you see that the grave was open? Huh? You
would have fallen in too had you walked
in front of me.”
“Yeah, but I didn’t and I wasn’t as stupid as
you to carry a stake. This isn’t Buffy, the
vampire Slayer, Mulder. This is the real life,
whatever it is. You didn’t slay a single
vampire. You just angered them and they could
have killed you.”
“Sucked our blood and turned us into the undead
huh? Hmm, I wonder what it would be
like to live forever.”
“Oh please. You’d have let out a girlie scream,
and would have gotten the hell out of
“So it’s not a dream anymore?”
She sighed. “I’m not going to argue over the
details. All I want is to get us out of this
predicament, and you into a hospital. Do you
think you can walk?”
A huge crackling sound behind them startled both
agents. Suddenly the peace and quiet
of the moment was over, and they realized they
were back in business. Out of the woods
came the eeriest sound either of them had ever
heard. They both knew what it meant.
Run, baby, run.
“We’re not back in Kansas yet, Toto,” Mulder
groaned. “Let’s get moving.”
Scully helped her partner to get up, as he
scrambled to his feet. Panting and heaving as
he rested against the ancient oak tree, he
watched her gather up the few things they
had: their guns and her flashlight. His was left
behind in the grave that had nearly
become the end of him. She shivered once again,
when she recalled the sickening sound
of flesh ripping upon sharp, piercing wood. A
few inches to the left and … When she had
lowered herself into the grave to find him, she
had found him impaled on his own
weapon, and for a second, she feared he was as
dead as a doornail.
She recalled exactly how he had fallen into the
grave, and what had brought them there.
Their first arrival in the underworld brought
them in eye-to-eye contact, with creatures
that Mulder insisted were classic vampires.
“The undead, Scully. You know! Brad Pitt’s
Louis, Tom Cruise’s Lestat, that Angel dude –
“Yes, I know what vampires are,” she retorted,
“but those things are not them.”
The second she pointed at the creatures rushing
towards them, she paled. Their faces
were distorted, their glistening fangs hung out
of their mouths as if they were starving.
“Uh oh,” she said, “I might be wrong.”
“Run, Scully!” He’d grasped her hand and pulled
her towards the woods, going over a
path that seemed as dreadful flimsy as the rest
of the world, but they had no choice
whatsoever. They could hear the vamps rushing
after them; not panting or wheezing, but
running with ease at an alarming rate. They were
fast. She could feel them brushing her
clothes right on her heels. Just a few more
inches and –
Mulder stopped dead, and then pulled her to the
right, to the left; again to the right until
they were deep in the woods, and the noise of
“Quickly,” he had whispered. “Get some branches
off the ground, the sharper ones.”
And there she stood. “Scuffy, the vampire
slayer”. And she lifted her stake and waited.
So did Mulder.
“There!” he cried, and before she knew it, he
was the one rushing after them. Next she
had heard an almighty crash, the unmistakable
sound of someone falling, and the girlie
scream. No, it was more of a high-pitched, male
scream, yet loud enough to chase off
“I’d make a crappy vampire killer,” he had
grunted after she had crawled down into the
opened grave, and the coffin that rested six
feet under, open and empty. The stake was
impaled through Mulder’s flesh, and the
surprisingly white satin. His eyes had fluttered
open painfully. “I can’t even get the stake into
But all she could think of at that point, was
his possible close call with death.
No! She stopped herself mentally from thinking
about the What-if’s. All they could do
now, was try to find the way out of this
nightmarish dreamscape, and return to the living
where they belonged. In the real world, there
were no real vampires and creepy beings,
deadly creatures and monsters, despite some of
the stuff she’d seen with the X files. This
was all part of the Halloween illusion.
“On All Hallow’s Eve anything might happen,”
Mulder had warned her. “The 25th hour is
upon us, and you can’t go back if you’re in the
wrong place at the wrong time. That’s the
“Oh Mulder, stop believing those children’s
stories you heard in Old Town. It’s not true.
It’s an illusion. Time cannot be changed.”
“Oh yes, it can,” he groaned as he tried to move
faster than ever.
What if Mulder was right and they couldn’t go
back? What if they were already trapped
inside this world forever? What if all that
waited for them was blood and death; gore,
terror and darkness? What if they became one of
them, forever seeking solace for a
Oh god Scully, she thought. Get a grip. This is
not real. It’s the most vivid nightmare
you’ve ever had, but that’s all. It’s. not.real.
She picked up her gun, stashing it between her
sweater and trouser waistband. She put
Mulder’s gun back behind his belt too. “Don’t
use it unless you absolutely need to,
“ Would I be a bad person if I said that, that
turned me on?”
“Yes, you are.”
“Oh, I love being naughty,” he wheezed through
his pain and discomfort as she helped
him up, supporting him on his right, uninjured
side that was still in one piece.
The left side of him was a total mess, and one
she dared not to look at right now. The
arrow-sharp piece of wood that had lanced right
through his flesh, dangled on both sides,
having been frayed in the final proces of
piercing his shoulder. She knew he wouldn’t die
from the serious injury, but he was hurting
badly. There was much blood loss and muscle
damage that would need a heavy repair too. Any
slight movement jarred the wound,
threatening to send him into a world of
oblivion. He’d already passed out twice en route
to temporary safety.
Yet she couldn’t get the wood out all the same,
not safely, that required a hospital trip. If
she pulled it out, she might cause his shoulder
further damage than it had already
sustained. It was better to immobilize the
shoulder with an improvised sling, and hope
for the best. This way at least it would not
allow him to bleed to death. Shock was a
constant spectre she’d have to keep an eye on
But what good was Mulder in his current state?
He could barely stand up straight, let
alone go hunting for the missing children and
their abductor. The perp had taken them
god-knows-where throughout this freak world,
where every shadow could mean death.
They’d followed him, and the voices of the
captured children they had heard shouting and
yelling throughout the forests. Suddenly, they
had lost sight of everyone and their world
had turned pitch black.
She didn’t like it. She didn’t like it at all.
It seemed as if all the trees had eyes, as if
the rosebushes that grew unnaturally in
strange shapes and forms, were out to get them.
It was as if every single creature that
passed them had an unnatural form. This world
was out of place, and they didn’t belong
in it. As much as she wanted to deny it, she
knew this was the truth. They were alone.
Nothing. Not a single sound. Not a single soul.
Not human, anyhow.
Beady eyes staring at them. Shadows moving,
stirring. Leafs rustling through the trees.
No moon, no stars. Nothing. She looked up to
found two beady eyes staring at her. She
squealed, groaned and moved away, almost tearing
Mulder’s sleeve in the process. He
cried out in pain.
“That was a bat, Scully. A live one!” he
muttered through gritted teeth.
“I said sorry, didn’t I?”
She regained her posture and stretched her back.
“Grow up, Agent Scully.”
He laughed, despite everything. “Are you
“Of course I am. I’m peeing my pants here.”
“Goodie. Thanks for that piece of information.
Watch out for real life killers now, not
harmless little bats.”
The second he’d said it, hundreds of bats seemed
to fly into their faces, sending them
careening backwards onto the ground, and Mulder
into a series of fresh agonized gasps
“Oh god!” Scully cried as she felt something
crawl over her bare ankle. She batted it
away, and then laughed hysterically when she
discovered it was a snail. “Fuck this.”
“Fuck me,” Mulder agreed, rolling to his right
side where the pain felt less. “Let’s get the
hell out of here before the ground opens up and
something black and ominous comes
Then started a walk into nothingness. They had
no idea where they were. Scully just
knew they had to return to the path, which
somehow ran across the forest.
“We are drugged, Mulder,” she groaned after a
while as they made their way through the
frightening darkness. “We ate something
poisonous, a hallucination inducing poison.”
“No, we didn’t.”
“Those spare ribs were off. I told you they
“Then how come I’m sweating like an ox, and
panting like Elizabeth Taylor?” She shot
him an incredulous look.
“Because we’re living a vivid dream. Remember
“That was different. We were on a case, Scully.
Remember that? The Rat Catcher.
Remember the legend? We chased him into this
world, and now we have an hour to get
out of this hell.”
“That hour has long since passed, Mulder. The
25th hour, or whatever you call it is over.
We’re stuck here, trapped.”
“In this world it may be, yes, but not in ours.
I have the feeling that time is of no
importance in this place, Scully. Don’t you see?
We stand a chance to escape. I’m sure
“Ever hopeful, hey Mulder? And yes, I remember.
We came to Old Town because of the
legend. Because they have children that go
missing every year during Halloween, and
that there were reports of a man, playing the
flute to lure them, just like in the legend of
the Rat Catcher. I know the tale.”
“He punished a village because they wouldn’t pay
him for getting rid of all their rats, by
taking their children,” Mulder groaned. “And you
and I both made the link to the current
day, and to that village. Remember what old Mrs.
Whittle told us? On this night; All
Hallow’s Eve, the 25th hour comes. That’s when
he takes them away, leaving one hour for
everyone to find them, and an eternity for them
to find a way out. Unfortunately she was
stopped from telling us anything else.”
“I don’t remember getting here though,” Scully
sighed as she tripped over a branch. “I
recall falling, after we chased that man towards
the paddock, and then we were suddenly
“Alongside the geeks, the monsters, the
creatures, and vampires.”
“Yes.” Scully felt dreadful, suddenly realising
this wasn’t a dream. More like the worst
nightmare she’d ever experienced. She would give
her right arm to be back in the
comfort of her home right now, watching 24,
sipping a glass of Chardonnay and
munching her favorite chips.
Mulder’s petrified cry shook her out of her
reverie. In a flash, she saw how something
coming towards them. It was pitch black and
seemed to consist of nothing but shadows.
She couldn’t make anything of it; just that it
was strong and very powerful. It seized
onto them, swaying past them as if it had
appeared from nowhere.
She felt Mulder let go of her, and she dropped
to the ground, pushed aside, smacking her
head against the cold ground. Bushes seemed to
strangle her, their branches crawling
over her, holding her down. She cried out and
struggled, fighting against them. She saw
Mulder take on the shadowy thing that seemed to
be all over him. He landed with a
strangled cry and thud too; she heard him shriek
in agony. His hand reached for
something. A weapon. Anything. His ruined
shoulder made it impossible for him to reach
for his own gun. He was trapped.
Scully managed to pull out her gun, despite the
strong forces that held her down. She
pulled and broke free, fought and wriggled from
its grasp. Then she fired twice at the
thing. She spotted its contours clearly. She
knew her partner wasn’t in any danger, as he
lay immobile underneath the thing. The shadows
squealed like a banshee, stopped
fighting and then, was eerily still in the dark.
She couldn’t hear a single sound now. The
silence had returned. Even the leaves had
stopped rustling in the breeze.
The bushes released her suddenly. She struggled
to her feet, crawling over the ground to
her partner, who lay motionless underneath
whatever had attacked him. She pushed the
thing off him, almost puking her guts out, as
she took in its horrible consistency of
strange pungent gel that now stuck to her hands.
It didn’t have a face or appendages;
nothing discernable she could recognize. No form
to it. It was just … black goo. She
rubbed her hand onto her pants instinctively;
wanting to be rid of the horrible substance
and the feeling of dread it gave her.
“Mulder?” Her partner didn’t move. His face was
turned towards her, but his eyes were
closed. She could see the black goo smothered
all over his throat and chest. The thing
had tried to strangle him. She pushed away her
repulsion and touched two fingers to his
“Oh god,” she muttered as she couldn’t get a
pulse at first, horrified that he was already
gone. But at her frantic touch, he coughed
roughly and exhaustedly opened his eyes in
his attempts to breathe. Relief surged through
her, as she helped him to turn on his right
side. He heaved dryly. The taste of bile in his
throat returned. She held him closely,
waiting for the attack to subside, patting him
on the back.
“You’re okay,” she spoke soothingly. “ Deep,
even breaths. Think like you’re going into
“F – Funny,” he choked, and as soon he had his
breathing under control again,
continued, “What the hell was that thing?”
“I don’t know. It seemed like liquorish. A
“Oh Ha.Ha. Even better. Attacked by giant
“All I know is, we have to get out of here now.
I can feel them watching us.”
“Not without the children, Scully.” Mulder
crawled upward so that he sat on his ass, and
could dab tentatively at the damage to his
throat, that felt raw and squeezed.
“There are no children here, Mulder. They’re
gone. We don’t know where they are. Were
they even here? Perhaps it was all an illusion
too. And even if there are, where are we
going to start searching? I mean, look at us!
We’re two, battered wrecks trapped in some
situation we can’t get a grip on ourselves.
We’re putty in their hands, meat ready to be
sliced and diced. Ala Carte Food for creepy
“Has there ever been a controllable situation?”
he asked wryly. “Now get a grip. You can’t
give up hope now. We’ll find the exit of this
place; wherever it is. It has to be around
here somewhere. We didn’t go that far. If we
find the gravesite again, we’ll find our way
“Yeah, if we’re not devoured by vampires, or
gooey stuff, or whatever.”
“I thought you said they were insane humans?”
“Whatever. Humans don’t seem to exist in this
place. I never thought you’d be attacked
by some Star Trek-like black goo creature
“So what then?” Mulder shrugged. “Pretend this
didn’t happen, try to go to sleep and
wake up dead? I’ll take my chances with the
“Okay,” she sighed. “We’ll trace our path back
and see what happens. But you’re not
getting a new stake. The last one ended up
sticking out of you.”
“Yes mother. Let’s go.”
Scully was amazed to find her partner had
renewed energy, after his close encounter of
the pointy wooden kind. She helped him up again,
but he leaned more heavily into her
body than he should have. When he bumped into
her and muttered a sorry, she grinned,
After that, they made their way back through the
forest, using the same path they had
come through the first time. Then, several
abhorrent creatures had been chasing them,
but this time round it seemed awfully quiet. Too
quiet for Mulder’s liking.
He sighed, ears adjusting to the sound of
silence; he thought he could hear something
suddenly. It was only faint but he detected it
anyway. Then he turned to his partner.
“We’re in trouble.”
“Why?” she asked, by now worn out.
“They’re watching us.”
She felt shivers run down her spine and turned
around to look for them, but saw nothing.
It was pitch black in those woods, and all they
had was the single flashlight she’d used to
see their path with earlier. It was growing dim
to both their dismay. She knew they
should wait until morning, but they couldn’t
risk it. If the portal, or whatever it was that
had brought them here, closed, they would never
get back. For the first time in her life,
she felt a despair that washed over her, like a
wave of dark fetid water she couldn’t
avoid. It was the most horrid feeling ever.
Nothing had ever prepared her for this.
Please, let someone wake us, she prayed silently
before returning her focus on Mulder,
who was staring intently at the darkness, which
didn’t even reveal shadows anymore.
There was just … the dark.
“Keep your gun ready.”
Scully found herself propping Mulder against a
tree, and digging his gun out of the belt;
handing it to him armed and ready. She held her
own weapon and flashlight over each
other, shining it through the trees. She felt
every hair on her body stand up, and a deep
fear rushed down her spine.
They were everywhere at the same time. She could
feel their hands on them before she
even saw them. They pulled her backwards, trying
to force the gun from her. They
attacked her from behind, trapped her and drove
her away from Mulder. She turned and
turned, seeing a sea of eerie faces, contorted
in their uglines. Some were missing eyes,
others the nose. Some had no lips, or ears. She
thought she was in a Michael Jackson
video, but their touch was icy cold and very
real. She could see the veins ripple
underneath their skins. They seemed to be
lighter than the night. She could make out
each and every one of them. Vamps, zombies,
creeps, gooeys and a plethora of other
nastiness that crawled around her.
“’Cause this is thriller,” she squeaked out
softly as she tried to force herself loose. Her
partner was in the same predicament, and winked
at her all of a sudden.
“So you wanna play, hey?” Mulder groaned. “Well
then, let’s play.”
Scully didn’t need another signal, and started
kicking ass. She kickboxed, belted, hit,
punched, and shot her way through at least ten
of the ungodly creatures. Heads flung
everywhere. Arms and legs followed. She laughed,
as she kicked ass against another one
coming at her.
But Mulder did almost as good. Even with his
left arm in the sling and in pain, he only
needed one arm to fend them off and kick some
serious zombie ass.
“Zombie nation!” Scully squealed as she
pretended to be Scruffy, the vampire slayer
again. Mulder laughed as he dove at his next
And all of a sudden, it was over. The zombies
pulled their pieces together and rushed off
into the dark, aided by the vampire nation and
all the rest of the nightcrawlers. Scully
almost laughed when they saw them part as if the
lord of darkness itself was after them.
“High five!” Mulder grinned as he dealt a
winning blow to the last creep standing. His
smile faded a bit when the returned silence
again, made way for something or someone
else to find them.
This time, it was someone familiar.
The Rat Catcher stepped into the light and
raised his arms. In one hand he held a flute.
His body was very tall and skinny. His eyes were
large and bulging out of their sockets.
He had a large nose, big ears and a hairdo that
desperately needed a cut.
“Who are you?” Mulder asked, wincing in pain,
even though he already knew the answer.
He smiled and shrugged. “You are not supposed to
be here. It’s not my fault you’ve
“Where are the children?” Scully asked, keeping
her gun ready to go.
“They’re safe. In fact, they’re back where they
belong.” The man spoke with a soft,
almost gentle voice that seemed out of place
inside his body. It didn’t seem to belong to
him. Mulder felt a surge of trust going through
him. He liked this guy. He felt comfortable
here, almost content to be in his vicinity,
although couldn’t understand why. The agent
lowered the gun.
“Mulder, what are you doing?” Scully’s desperate
voice betrayed that her own active
mistrust in their situation. Yet strangely
enough, she too felt the urge to trust this man
beyond anything. She forced herself to keep the
gun up straight, aimed at his chest. Her
fingers trembled. It took every effort from
within to protect herself and her partner.
“Please, Agent Scully,” the man said, offering
his hand to her. “I am not here to harm
you. I want to take you back to where you
belong, just like the children.”
“I repeat: who are you?” Mulder asked in her
“I am the man that gives every child in this
town a happy Halloween, Agent Mulder.
That’s my job and my only business. After that,
I retreat to this ethereal world for a year,
and live happily until the next.”
“You take the children away from their homes,”
Scully protested. “They never return!”
The stranger sighed. “Agent Scully, I wish you
were a child still, so you would know what
it’s like for children to see the world through
their own eyes. Every boy or girl wants to
live a dangerous, fearless life. They cannot do
that in real life. Real life means school,
homework and chores. I can take them away from
that, if only for a short while. I bring
them to this world, where they live the life
they’ve always wanted to live. The boys are
princes and fierce dragon warriors. The girls
are princesses waiting for their savior. They
can play pretend for a whole hour that lasts
almost a lifetime for them, and when they
are weary of it, they return to the real world.”
“You lie,” Scully, said, “not a single child has
“Oh yes, they have, Agent Scully. The men and
women you’ve seen in that town, whom
you have investigated and talked to, all protect
this secret because they want their own
children to experience it too. They didn’t want
to answer your questions, or listen to your
banter. They wanted you out of town before the
time was near, but instead, you meddled
into business that was not your concern, and
were accidentally sucked into this world.
Only, you didn’t know that this world – safe as
it is for children – does not welcome
adults. It is not made for you and it does not
need you. ”
“You’re lying,” Mulder spoke hoarsely as beads
of sweat danced on his forehead; he was
starting to go into shock. “The children didn’t
“You believed a stupid story told by a woman
full of envy, jealousy and anger; an
outsider who wanted to punish the people of Old
Town for keeping their secret. You
didn’t know what you were getting yourself into.
I can reassure you that by the end of
the 25th hour, the children will all be home
“And what about us?” Scully asked. “What about
my partner, who was hurt and is in
need of aid?”
“You can return now, if you are willing to trust
me. I can guide you through the evil and
mischief that haunts all adults here, and
release you.” He smiled. “But you have to lower
Scully’s fears were replaced by uncertainty and
distrust, but for Mulder’s sake alone, she
wanted so badly to be able to trust. They didn’t
have any choice in the matter; Mulder
needed urgent hospital care. Every line on his
face spoke of agony. This stranger had
brought them here; he could damn well take them
“Okay,” she said, knowing her partner was at the
end of his rope. He had been attacked,
staked, attacked again, and then – just for a
change – once again been attacked. Life
was more fun in the other world.
The tall man turned, and began to make his way
through the woods, beckoning them to
follow. The trees and bushes seemed to move for
him. Somehow the path broadened,
and led them straight through the dark woods.
Mulder clung onto Scully, his movements
becoming much slower as the pain wore him down.
“We’re almost there,” Scully whispered. “I
He smiled wearily, knowing she was resisting the
urge to sing songs again to keep him
Everywhere they passed, they saw dark shades and
images, willowy figures and
enemies, darkness and evil. Yet in the far
distance, the images became a cascading
world of light and somehow, bliss.
“Look, the children!” Scully almost cried it
out; relieved now they had taken the plunge
and trusted the Rat catcher. “They’re alive.”
Yet they were surrounded by the same black
shadows, which had threatened the agents
before. The Rat Catcher turned and smiled at
them. “You’d better go now or you’ll be
here for another year. I wish I could tell you
that time goes by faster here, but it’s the
opposite. Every hour lasts twelve in your
reality. You wouldn’t live to see daylight.
creatures don’t like adults in their world.”
“What is this place?” Mulder asked tiredly. “A
playhouse for bored kids?”
“Yes. You could call it that.” The Rat Catcher
bowed his head. “And I am their referee.”
“So this is real?” Scully asked breathless.
“Only during the 25th hour, Agent Scully. Only
then. And only in Old Town. Goodbye.”
The children waved excitedly at the creatures
that – strangely enough – waved back.
Mulder was startled to observe happy faces,
strange, awkward grins and a lot of
friendship between the children.
“If this were any other place, I would be
euphoric with joy,” Mulder spoke dryly.
The Rat Catcher waved at the agents, as they
were swallowed into some sort of light. It
swirled around them, catching them in its beams.
“I’m getting woozy,” Scully whispered, and
suddenly she was sucked into a void where
she saw or heard nothing anymore. If she died
now, she could not have stopped it, but
somehow she sensed she wasn’t going to. She felt
safely back where she and Mulder
As she woke up, she found herself on top of a
bunk in a cabin where she’d been before.
No, not a cabin, but the Bed & Breakfast room
where they had rested yesterday too. It
felt strangely familiar, and almost homelike.
“Mulder!” She was startled to find herself alone
at first, and then realized her partner was
in the en-suite kitchen rummaging. She jumped
off the bed and went to look for him. To
her amazement and shock, the stake and damage to
his shoulder had gone; he looked
“Hey,” he said. “Coffee?”
“What?” she asked wearily, scanning his
reassuringly undamaged torso? There wasn’t a
mark on him. Then she realized she was fine too.
All the scrapes and scratches were fully
gone. He wore just a towel around the waste,
leaving her enough space to check him
“I don’t have any bats left, you know,” Mulder
smiled. “You ate them all.”
“So it wasn’t a dream?”
He smiled. “I guess not.”
“Scully.” He moved forward and placed a finger
on her lips, pushing a hot steaming mug
of coffee in her right hand. “Be grateful that
it wasn’t. And be happy that we’re no longer
trapped. We are back where we belong, and we
shouldn’t wonder about it too much. I
did a check-up. All the kids are safely at home.
The people of Old Town all knew we were
there. They consider us their friends now. We
can stay as long as we like.”
“I don’t know! How, why, what?”
“It’s over, Scully.”
“No buts. Just us.”
“Your butt then?”
“My butt is fine by me.” He sat down next to
her with a leer.