World’s Child 1. Uncle Walter


I think everyone is familiar with every single detail of that apocalyptic day, ten years ago, when our old world came to an end and the new one began. Literally thousands of books have been written about it, countless documentaries have been made, and we have been bombarded with innumerable films and TV reconstructions – all detailing that day and the events leading up to it.  Everybody in the world knows where they were and what they were doing on that day, and, as I was at the centre of it, the public appetite for information about me has been insatiable. I don’t mind that – I understand the curiosity, but there’s always a certain human element missing, and I thought it was time I filled in that gap. I amhuman, after all, despite all the myths and legends that have sprung up around me. I didn’t just emerge from a chrysalis at the age of ten to take part in the most momentous occasion in our history; I was raised, nurtured, and protected by a group of brave people who I can never thank enough for their love and kindness to me over the years. Not all those people are still alive; some died protecting me, but I have never stopped loving them.


I’m often asked in interviews what my early childhood was like and my reply is always the same – which one? There were four distinct phases to my childhood – but the one thing I can say is that I was much loved in all of them, despite all that happened to me during my growing years.


My first childhood took me to the age of about 10 months. I have some memories of my birth mother but more of her later. Just before my first birthday I was adopted. That was the second stage of my childhood and it lasted until I was 6 years old. I remember those early years vividly – perhaps it’s because of the unique make up of my brain but I’ve always had the ability to see both my own life and the lives of those around me in particularly sharp colours. My memory is unusual but as a child I didn’t know that other people didn’t see the subtleties and nuances of colour and shape the way I did, that they didn’t remember smells and sounds and touch as vividly as if they were actually happening. Back then there was a lot I didn’t know.


My adoptive parents were good people. Hard working, conservative, and kind; they didn’t have a hope in hell of understanding me. Sometimes, even back then, I felt like a changeling. I didn’t belong – I knew that from the moment I was able to understand anything. I loved my mother and father but I knew I didn’t belong with them, and, more worryingly, I knew I wouldn’t stay with them either. My folks kept themselves to themselves – if it hadn’t been for their desire to adopt me then I don’t think they’d have ventured out into the world at all, and once they had me, they closed their doors once more and returned to the simple, peaceful way of life that they loved so much. They lived on a ranch in Wyoming – it wasn’t a big place, and they were pretty poor. They were as self-sufficient as possible, and Dad supplemented the rest of our income with his carving, leaving Mom free to keep the house – and educate me. I was home-schooled because my Mom had a panic about me being out of her sight – I guess she had waited so long to have a child that she was over-protective of me. Even aside from that, my parents were extremely religious, and didn’t want much to do with what they saw as a godless world if they could avoid it; we were cut off on the small ranch, visits to the closest town were rare, and we didn’t even have a television in the house, so I led a peculiarly insular life. It was probably this that kept me safe during the early years of my life.


My mother had long dark hair and a permanently worried expression. She fretted about almost everything – whether we’d have enough money to see us through the winter, whether the animals on the ranch would fall ill, whether I was too cold or too hot, whether I was happy. I was happy enough but even back then I felt that this wasn’t my real life although I was too small to put that feeling into words. I was waiting, although for what I did not know. I didn’t have any idea how big a finger of destiny was pointing at me. I played in the dirt in the yard, ran after the chickens clapping my hands, and generally got underfoot. Sometimes I could sit for hours just staring into space – this worried my mother and father who even thought that I might be autistic, but of course that wasn’t the case – in fact it was the exact opposite if anything. It was clear from a very early age that not only was I very verbal, but also that I was far more articulate than I should have been for my age and from the moment I could talk I was incredibly precocious. My perception of the world was also very different; I could see the world in sharper colours, hear sounds that weren’t audible to anyone else. I could open my mouth and taste the world on my tongue; I could identify hundreds of different scents all mingled together – the roses and lilac that wound around the house, the 14 different animal scents from the barn, the sweet, rich smell of the alfalfa growing in the field, the sharp tang of gas from the cars that sped by in the road a mile or two from the ranch…all of them mingled together and yet I could identify each and every single one of them. I could see a spectrum of colours – when my mother and father looked at a tree they saw only that it had green leaves, but if I sat still and concentrated, I could see subtle variations of shade as the sun lit the underside of each leaf. I could even hear the rasping legs of a wandering caterpillar crawling over them. The world was a place of sensory delight to me, and sometimes I would become lost in its beauty, in its sounds and sights, to the point where I could block out everything and everyone else around.


My father didn’t like me being different. If he saw me standing and staring, he’d lift me up, give me a chore to do, anything to jolt me out of my strangeness. He’d never let me just be, and just being was important to me – it made me feel connected, and at one with my surroundings.  My mother was more indulgent but my silences scared her and she worried and fretted over me until I learned to take myself off, away from them both, so that I could have some peace.


My fifth year was a very important one, because that was when Uncle Walter arrived on the ranch. I can still remember that day more vividly than most. It was late summer, and my father was busy putting up the second cut of hay. He was out at dawn and didn’t return until nightfall. My parents weren’t wealthy – they had a small cow-calf operation at a time when the big feedlots dominated, and it was a struggle to make ends meet so we were always hovering close to the borders of poverty. My father couldn’t afford anyone to help with the work, so, back then, it seemed as though Uncle Walter was heaven sent, a guardian angel, come to help us in our time of need. Come to think of it, that’s still pretty much the way I think of him, although he’d growl at me and shake his head if I said as much in his hearing.


It was late afternoon and the shadows were long. I was sitting staring at a centipede as it walked along the dusty path that led to the gate. I was transfixed by the sight of its multitude of tiny legs, and the little pitter-patter sound they made, that only I could hear. In fact, I was so engrossed that I didn’t notice the sound of the gate opening at the end of the lane. Usually I can hear people coming a mile or two away, but not this time. I didn’t notice anything until a large shadow loomed over me, blocking out the sunlight. Startled, I glanced up. I was a small boy, kneeling in the dirt, and from the angle I was crouching, Uncle Walter seemed to be a giant. He had long legs and a broad, powerful chest, and the fading evening sun was glancing off the back of his shining, almost-bald scalp. I gazed at him for a long time, and he gazed at me. I’ve never known anyone who could hold my gaze for so long without looking away or asking if I was okay and why was I staring but it seemed that Uncle Walter was as fascinated by me as I was by him. I swear that I saw the sun start to set behind him before either of us made a move or spoke. Then, after a long period of mutually fascinated study, he cleared his throat and smiled. I smiled back. I liked him immediately. I’ve always been a creature of instinct, and I knew, somehow, deep inside, that this was the most important thing that had happened to me in my short life so far. In fact, that meeting may well have been the single most important thing that ever happened to me.


“You must be William,” he said, his voice deep but friendly. I stared at him for a moment. My name wasn’t William and yet – William sounded right, and I knew that it was my proper name, my real name, and the name I should bear. I frowned.


“My parents call me Adam,” I told him.


He paused for a moment, considering this, as if it was unexpected and yet, when he thought about it, inevitable as well. He was wearing a pair of spectacles and I was fascinated by the way the sunlight caught the glass and made his warm brown eyes flash.


“Ah. Adam. Yes. It’s nice to meet you.” He bent down and held out his hand and I stared at it. Nobody had ever wanted to shake my hand before. I was a child; nobody shook a child’s hand. Uncle Walter was like that – he always treated me as if he saw the person I was inside, the person I would one day become, and not the child I then was. I took his hand, and if a choir of angels had suddenly started singing and the heavens had opened up at that moment in time I wouldn’t have been surprised. His hand was warm, and the minute my small paw disappeared inside it I knew that I would be safe with this man. The contact also provided something else – a memory of a name. I looked up at him, and I remember feeling a little surprised as this had never happened to me before, although he says I was so self assured that you’d never have guessed. He also says that my solemn, knowing expression scared the shit out of him – but not as much as when I opened my mouth and said:


“Uncle Walter. I’ve been waiting for you.”


His eyes flashed again although whether it was the sunlight or shock I don’t know. His jaw did a little sideways movement – a characteristic gesture that would soon become very familiar to me.


“Have you?” He frowned, and then laughed. “Well, maybe you have,” he said with a shrug. “How did you know my name, Will…I mean Adam?”


“It’s okay. You can call me William when my parents aren’t around to hear,” I reassured him. I never did answer how I came to know his name. I just did. I think maybe that I was born knowing his name.


At that moment I heard a voice calling the name my adoptive parents had given me and we both turned to the sound of it.


“Adam, what are you…? Oh…hello…can I help you?” My mother came to a halt, flustered, and gazed at the stranger. He smiled, and bowed his head courteously.


“Mrs. Granger? My name is Walter Skinner. I’m looking for…” he paused and glanced down at me. “Work,” he finished. She shook her head, and grabbed my hand, yanking me away from him as if she was afraid he’d steal me. My mother was always over-protective of me. She’d wanted a child for years, and when I came along she could never quite believe I was hers to keep – she was always scared I’d disappear. Looking back, maybe she was more prescient than I realised. There was always danger around me, even back then. That, after all, was why Uncle Walter had come, even though I didn’t know that at the time.


“We don’t have any work,” my mother said. “We can’t afford to pay anyone.”


“I don’t need to be paid,” Uncle Walter said softly. “I’m happy enough to work for my keep and somewhere to sleep – the barn maybe?” He glanced at the barn. “You look as if you have a lot of work going on with the harvest – I’m sure I could be of some help.”


My mother shook her head again.


“I don’t think so. I’ll have to ask my husband but I don’t think so,” she said, and I just stood there, serenely, smiling at Uncle Walter. I knew, even if she didn’t, that he’d be staying.


As it turned out, my father twisted his ankle that very afternoon, and, by the time he came hobbling into the house a couple of hours later, it was badly swollen. He couldn’t afford to sit around doing nothing until it healed, but he knew he was in no shape to get the work done either – it’s hardly surprising that in the circumstances the offer of help from someone who wasn’t even asking money for his labour was too tempting to refuse. And thus it was that Uncle Walter came to stay with us.


He worked hard, although I don’t think it was the kind of work he was used to. For all his height and sheer brute strength, he wasn’t a young man, and his fingers were smooth and clean. His whole bearing spoke of a man who wasn’t used to hard, physical farm work, and yet I never heard him complain. I think, maybe, he might have done some work on a farm or ranch a long time ago, because he had some skills – and he brought a pack containing everything he’d need, including tools, gloves, work clothes, boots, and a sleeping bag. He fully intended to find work with us, to make himself indispensable, and to stay as long as he could. He wasn’t even put off by the living conditions – my mother wouldn’t have a stranger sleeping in the house and insisted he bunked down in the dilapidated hired man’s room attached to the barn. Every evening I would creep out of bed and visit him there. His fingers were raw, cracked, and bleeding and I’d watch as he bound them with strips from an old shirt that he kept in his bag. The one electric light bulb strung up in the room lit his face, making his eyes seem dark and intriguing, full of mysteries that involved me, but which he wasn’t yet ready to divulge. I would sit beside him and he would put his arm around me and tell me stories. I’m not sure why I was so drawn to him – he’d be the first to admit that his stories were pretty dire to begin with. He clearly had little or no recent experience of either small children or ranch work, and yet somehow he managed to make a success of both. So much so, that when winter came, he ended up staying. He was just too useful to have around and he asked for so little and gave so much, from his unstinting work on the ranch to the attention he paid to me.


My parents were apprehensive at first – he was a stranger after all, and he was showing a lot of interest in me. My mother was particularly concerned, and watched me and asked me a lot of questions about the amount of time I spent with Uncle Walter, but I was so happy around him, and Walter was so useful to have around that eventually she started to relax, and accept him, although she never let him become close enough to think he was part of the family. He was the hired man, and my folks treated him as such, and kept him at arm’s length.


Uncle Walter was a reader. He kept a pile of books in his room, and frequently walked into town to visit the little library there and pick up some more. I loved just snuggling up against him and watching those big, blunt fingers of his turn the pages on the latest book he was reading. I could lie for hours like that, lost in the silence and the comforting warmth of his companionship. When I asked, he would tell me about the books he was reading – he was something of a civil war buff and he taught me all about the various battles and the life stories of some of the people who fought in them, and why the war happened in the first place. He had another area of interest though – he liked factual books about UFO’s. I never understood why he read them, as he seemed to spend most of his reading time arguing with them out loud, or cursing them for ignorance under his breath, but it was as if he was searching for some kind of important information, something that would make the subject slot into place for him and suddenly make sense.


Walter would often get books out of the library with the sole intention of reading them to me, but I much preferred listening to the stories Uncle Walter made up himself.


In the beginning, Uncle Walter’s stories were all about people who wore suits and lived in a big city, but I didn’t really have the experiences to understand or process the stories, so he began to change them. He told me about a beautiful red haired woman, and a brilliant dark haired man who went to towns and farms and various remote places, investigating monsters. I loved hearing those monster stories. My eyes would grow as round as saucers and I’d nestle in close to him, and he’d always keep that big arm comfortingly wrapped around my shoulders, keeping me safe. I had my favourite stories of course.


“Tell me the one about the man with yellow eyes,” I’d beg shamelessly, and he’d sigh and gather me close but he never once refused me.


“Once upon a time there was a man called Eugene Tooms who was so old that he’d been alive for over a hundred years,” he’d begin, and I’d feel that familiar thrill of anticipation, listening to his deep, rich voice, intoning in the shadowy, dimly lit room. I loved hearing how clever Agent Scully, and witty Agent Mulder would defeat the many foes they encountered.


“When I grow up, do you think I could be an FBI agent?” I asked Uncle Walter when he finished.


He gazed at me solemnly. “I think you’d make a very good agent, William,” he replied.


“As good as Agent Mulder and Agent Scully?” I pressed eagerly. He smiled and gently smoothed my dark hair away from my forehead.


“Why not?” He murmured, his eyes misty and faraway. “Why not?”


He lived simply – stretching out on an old iron spring bed in the hired man’s room at night, and joining us for meals during the day, but it soon became clear that his priority wasn’t the ranch work – it was me. He sought out every opportunity to be with me, and the plain truth is that I bonded with him much more than I had with my own parents. Mom and Dad did their best, but they wanted me to fit into their lives, to be what they wanted me to be. Uncle Walter wasn’t like that. He had much more time for me than my parents did, busy as they were running the ranch. When Uncle Walter wasn’t working he was with me – that was how he spent every free second of his leisure time. He taught me how to carve little animals out of wood, and bought me my first penknife, which my mother immediately confiscated as she was scared I’d cut myself. Uncle Walter wasn’t like that – he didn’t wrap me up in cotton wool. He’d go walking with me around the fields, woods and meadows. It was Uncle Walter who first taught me how to swim in the little pond behind the ranch, not my father. My father was a good man, but he wanted me to go at his pace, to learn the things he wanted me to know – Uncle Walter stepped into my world, and he was the first adult to do so. Uncle Walter wasn’t freaked out when I stared into space for hours on end. Sometimes I’d disappear inside my head at noon and wake up as the sun was going down, to find Uncle Walter still sitting patiently beside me, usually whittling away at a piece of wood, waiting for me to come back to the world. He never tried to chide me or jolt me out of it  – instead he asked me what it was I saw that I could stare so intently for so long. I tried to explain the many subtle variations of colour, the depth and richness of sound and taste and touch and he listened without interrupting, in a way that my parents never did. He was truly fascinated by me and didn’t seem at all surprised that I was different – he didn’t make me feel bad about it either. Instead he asked questions and tried to understand me, and I loved him all the more for it.


It must have been hard for my parents though – seeing me become so close to him, and I picked up on their unease. Yet it was to Walter I ran, crying, when I hurt myself, and to Walter that I confided everything of my babyish hopes and dreams and fears. I wanted him to be proud of me, and that was why I remember the incident with the duck so vividly.


We were out by the pond, he and I. It was evening and he was tired after a hard day’s work on the ranch, but I had insisted we go out there because I loved it so much. I didn’t really understand why we couldn’t spend all day out by the pond, or exploring the woods – it annoyed me that he had to work. He indulged me as much as he could, but he did still need a reason to stay at the ranch, and if he had shirked his work he knew my father would have sent him packing. All the same, any free time he had he spent with me. On this occasion I’d dragged him out to the lake, and he picked up a smooth stone and threw it onto the flat surface of the water, where, much to my astonishment, it leaped out again, not once, not twice, but three times before disappearing from sight.


“Uncle Walter! How did you do that?” I jumped up and down excitedly. “Show me! Show me please!” I begged, and, laughing, he did, but I was too small to master the technique, and every single stone I threw fell in and sank without a trace. I grew angry, and my throws grew wilder, and I became even more frustrated until, in a fit of temper, I threw one of my stones at a nearby duck who was paddling happily along. It hit her and she gave a squawk of alarm, although she wasn’t seriously hurt. She made off quickly, and I turned to Uncle Walter, a triumphant look in my eyes – I could at least hit targets, even if I couldn’t make the stones hop.


“See, I hit it! I hit the duck!” I yelled excitedly, only to find him shaking his head. I’ll never forget the look of profound disappointment I saw in his dark eyes that day. I knew, then and there, that I would go through hellfire and back rather than see that disappointment ever again knowing that I was the cause of it.


“What did the duck do to you, William?” He asked me quietly, and his low tone and soft voice hurt me more than all the yelling in the world.


“She’s a duck!” I complained. “She doesn’t matter! We eat the chickens in the yard so what’s wrong with throwing a stone at a duck?”


He stood there for a moment, considering this. “William, we raise the chickens for our table, and we treat them well. We don’t hurt them for fun – when we kill them it’s for food.”


I stared at him blankly, feeling resentful. My father would never have given me a lecture for this, and it annoyed me that Uncle Walter was making such a fuss about it.


“I don’t care about the stupid old duck,” I told him, kicking my feet in the dirt.


He looked at me solemnly for a long time, his dark eyes thoughtful, and then seemed to come to a decision. He sat down beneath a tree, and gathered me close beside him. I went, still feeling resentful.


“William, you’re young and normally I wouldn’t talk about this with you, but I’m afraid that you won’t be allowed to grow up in your own time. The world is changing too much for that.” He glanced at the darkening sky, with a worried look. “We don’t have much time, William, and while I don’t want you to grow up worried and scared of your future, at the same time I have a duty and responsibility to prepare you for that future now – I think you’d hate me more if I didn’t prepare you than if I do.”


“Prepare me for what?” I asked in a small voice, suddenly scared and no longer even caring about the duck.


“William, at some point in the future the fate of the world may well rest on your shoulders,” he said softly, his big arm wrapped warmly around me, keeping me safe as always, despite what he was telling me. “That may sound scary, but I believe it’s the truth. You’re a very special little boy, William.” I stared at him, but he wasn’t saying anything that surprised me. Even at that tender age I already knew that I was different and that some big task awaited me in my life. “When the day comes that the world needs you, William, you’ll need to love the world – not just me, or your mom and dad, or this ranch, but the whole world. You’ll need to love it enough to want to save it. I think in many ways you already do – you see things that nobody else does, and you’re already half in love with the colours and the sounds and the smells that you’ve described to me so vividly. That duck – she’s part of this world, part of the whole. She’s part of what we might one day lose, part of what’s at stake…” His voice choked in his throat and I flung my arms around his neck, and held on tight. Most of what he said went right over my head, but the serious tone in which he said it, and the look in his eyes, made me believe that what he’d said was of the utmost importance. He also confirmed to me something that I had understood on some level but had never been able to put into words, or even to consciously know until he said it; he confirmed to me that I was special, that I had a destiny, and was marked out for some great purpose.


“I’m sorry, Uncle Walter,” I whispered, and then I began sobbing against his shirt. “I’m sorry, duck!” I cried. I opened my mind to send the message to the assaulted duck and instead found myself a creature of feather and beak. I could feel the water beneath me, as my big orange feet paddled almost noiselessly…and there was a small, aching pain in my side where I’d been hit with a stone. Startled, I jolted out of the moment of empathy and that was when I began sobbing in earnest. That was the first time I’d ever had the experience of being inside another creature’s skin and it scared the hell out of me. Uncle Walter held me tight while I cried my eyes out on his shirt. I was crying for more than the duck though – I was crying for myself, and for a kind of loss of innocence. Uncle Walter was right – he did have to tell me, and he did have to begin preparing me, but all the same, I knew that I had lost a part of my childhood that day. I also knew that I never, ever wanted Uncle Walter to be disappointed by me ever again. His disappointment was too terrible to bear. I vowed then and there that I would do everything I possibly could to make him proud of me, even if that meant saving the entire planet.


The first real trauma to rock my little world came when I was 6 years old. My father had become increasingly jealous of my relationship with Uncle Walter – I clearly viewed the big man as more of a father figure than my actual father and that upset my dad. He was a good man, and didn’t deserve my disdain, but I was a child, and I just knew who I liked best and who I wanted to be with. Nobody could ever replace my mother – she was warm baths in winter and cold drinks in summer, she was my soft haven, where I could rest and cuddle up when I was tired. My father was a different matter, and a tense atmosphere developed in the house whenever Walter was there with us. It came to a head one day in the early summer of my 6th year when my father took me out to the pond and told me he was going to teach me how to swim. I’ll never forget the look on his face when I told him that Uncle Walter had already taught me the previous summer. My father was so unconnected with my world that he hadn’t even known – my excited chatter about the event had clearly gone in one ear and out the other. He took one look at me, stalked back to the house, and fired Uncle Walter on the spot. I stood there, aghast, tears in my eyes, and Walter looked back at me, dumbfounded – he clearly hadn’t expected this. My father strode into the house and Walter lost no time in striding in there after him.


“Nathaniel, please – what have I done?” He asked, in that calm, sensible tone he always had – Walter was a strange cross between warrior and diplomat.


“You’ve gotten too close to Adam. The boy isn’t yours, Walter.”


“I know that,” Walter agreed but something in his eyes said that I wasn’t Nathaniel Granger’s boy either and my father picked up on that and became enraged.


“It isn’t right. There’s something…” My father paused. “Something unnatural about it,” he sneered. I’m sure he didn’t mean it – he was just upset, but the look on Walter’s face showed how angered and devastated he was by that remark.


“I haven’t laid a finger on that boy. I couldn’t,” he said vehemently while I watched, not understanding this part of the conversation, but feeling all too clearly how it had upset both these men who I loved very much.


“I’m not saying you have but what do we really know about you? Who are you really, Walter? Why did you come here? Where are you from? I should have asked more questions at the time but it’s too late for that now – I’ve gotta protect myboy and you’ve got to leave.”


I saw Walter struggle to control his emotions, and his jaw did a familiar sideways click – he wanted to stay badly, but my father’s words and the implication in them had upset him almost beyond endurance.


“This is absurd, Nathaniel,” Walter remonstrated, still trying his hardest to win my father round. “You’re just upset. It’ll all look different tomorrow. Let me stay until then at least.”


“NO! I want you to leave now. If you don’t, I’ll get my shotgun,” my father replied. I’m not sure whether he meant it or not, but he was too worked up to be rational. Uncle Walter took one final, long, hard look at my father and then faced up to the reality that there was nothing he could do that would change his mind. I let out a howl, realising that the battle had been fought and lost. Walter turned on his heel and left the house without another word – with me following close behind. My father called me back but I ignored him – all I could think about was that Walter, my ally, the only person in the whole world who seemed to understand me, was leaving.


“Please don’t go!” I begged, as he returned to the hired man’s room to gather his belongings. “Please, Uncle Walter. Don’t leave me. They don’t understand. They don’t know,” I told him urgently.


“I know,” he replied, “but your father’s made up his mind. He’s talking about getting his shotgun if I don’t leave. I don’t have a choice, William.”


“But what about me?” I cried, with the self-absorption of childhood. “What will I do without you?”


“Hush, William,” he chided. “I won’t be far, boy. Did you really think I could abandon you? Of course I can’t! I have to watch over you in ca…” He bit his tongue at that. I think he was going to say something more, something about the danger that always threatened me, that I had sometimes glimpsed in the shadows out of the corners of my eyes, but he didn’t want to alarm me. Instead he crouched down to my level, put his hands on my shoulders, and looked me in the eyes. “I’ll be nearby, William. I’ll find a way to let you know where.” I could almost see his mind working frantically to figure out the details. “I’ll leave a message for you, out by the pond, or…” he began before shaking his head violently. “Christ, what am I thinking? I won’t need to leave a message. William…” He looked at me earnestly. “You’ll have to look for me, but that won’t be hard for you, will it?” He gave a smile, and gently brushed my cheek with his hand. “You’ll be able to hear me and smell me – right?” He whispered. I gazed at him, and then nodded slowly.


“Yes…I’ll be able to find you,” I whispered back. “But it won’t be the same as having you here!” I launched myself at him, wrapped my arms around his neck and clung to him, and he held me tight.


“You have to be strong, William,” he told me firmly.


“I don’t want to be strong!” I complained, rubbing my snotty nose on the collar of his shirt.


“We all have to do things we don’t want to,” he told me in a firm, no-nonsense, very Walter-like tone. I hung in his arms limply for a moment, my cheek against his shoulder, sobbing quietly, and he held me, his big hands rubbing warm circles on my back until at last my crying quietened. Then he disengaged me and put me back down on the ground. “Be strong for me, William,” he told me fiercely, and I nodded, wanting him to be proud of me.


“I’ll pretend I’m Agent Mulder,” I told him, squaring my chin and trying to look grown up. “I’ll pretend I’m Agent Mulder going into a dark house to face monsters. I have to be brave.”


Walter’s jaw did a savage sideways clench, but he managed to squeeze out a smile. “Agent Mulder would be proud of you, William,” he told me, his voice sounding jerky, and full of some emotion I couldn’t understand.


“And you?” I asked, timorously. “Will you be proud of me, Uncle Walter?”


He smiled and tousled my hair. “Always, William,” he said, before depositing a kiss on my cheek. He grabbed his pack and then, with one last look over his shoulder at me, he walked out of that room that I’ll always associate with him, leaving it neater, cleaner and a damn sight homelier than when he’d moved in. I gazed around the little room forlornly; it seemed so empty now, devoid of his reassuring presence. The room seemed haunted by the absence of his sleeping bag, his books, his pack and even his spare pair of glasses, which he kept on the rickety little table next to the bed. The emptiness of that room hurt me, but not as much as the loss of him, the solid, comforting presence of the man himself.


I found my mother and father standing by the house, watching him go. My father even had the shotgun in his hands although I think that was to justify his earlier tirade rather than because he thought Walter was any serious threat to us. The ironic thing is that in sending Walter away, my father sealed the fate of us all – himself, my mother, and me, in a way that he could never foreseen, and paved the way for the greatest tragedy of my young life.


I waited a few days before searching for Walter and I had to steel myself to wait that long, but Mom and Dad were jumpy and suspicious and my father’s hand was never far from his shotgun. I don’t think it was Walter they were worried about – I think it was the general sense of impeding disaster that wrapped itself around us like a suffocating cloak that summer. It was so close to us that even people like my parents, who couldn’t see what I saw, or sense what I sensed, somehow picked up on the vague feeling of unrest and danger that lurked just on the edges of our world. The ranch, that had once been the source of such peace, enjoyment and love for me, took on a sinister aspect. Sometimes I woke at nights barely able to breathe – the place seemed stagnant and the air around it heavy with a sickly smell I could not identify. I lacked energy, and often sat, just staring at my mother as she worked in the house. She was on edge, every loud noise making her jump, and she was more protective of me than ever. I accepted her cuddles with eagerness, wanting to make the most of a commodity that I suspect I knew, even back then, would soon be in short supply. I’ll never forget the cinnamon scent of her clothes, and the smell of cookies baking in the kitchen, the feel of her soft dark hair against my cheek and the lilting sound of her voice as she sang to me. She was the only mother I really knew and I remember her still. One day, as I watched her baking, a fly landed on her arm, and I let out a terrible, wordless scream. In my mind, I saw a swarm of flies, covering her body, while her sweet, sickly-scented blood washed out of the house and down the front steps. My mother, her back to me, hadn’t seen my reaction, but I knew that I had to get out of that house, had to find Walter, before it was too late – although too late for what I didn’t dare voice, even to myself.


I ran and ran, trying to escape the nightmarish buzzing sound in my head, and the memory of something that had not yet happened. I found myself in the woods and it was only in their cool, reassuring darkness that I began to calm down. I sat for a moment, trying to focus on Uncle Walter’s scent, and the sound of his rich, deep voice, and soon I heard a whisper of him on the wind. I got up, and began to follow that whisper. I closed my eyes the better to concentrate, and found that I could see the forest as perfectly as if I had my eyes open – every footstep I took was sure, I didn’t trip, or slip, or fall, despite the fact that my eyes were clenched tightly, and all the time I was following that whispering scent. Then it was all around me, and I found myself coming to a standstill in a small, grassy clearing, next to a tinkling stream. I opened my eyes, and looked around – it felt strange to be using my eyes to see instead of that sixth sense in my head. I could see signs of a little camp – there was Walter’s pack and sleeping bag on the ground, partially covered by a lean-to tarp, and the remains of a little campfire, still smouldering, but there was no sign of him. I was about to call out when there was a flurry of activity above, and something landed beside me.


“Uncle Walter!” I berated as he swung me up in his arms. “I knew you had to be here but I couldn’t see you! You were spying on me!”


“Yes, I was,” he admitted with a grin. “I heard you coming and shinned up this tree – I didn’t know who it was. I couldn’t believe it when you walked in here with your eyes shut. Did you walk all the way like that, William?” His dark eyes were intense and questioning.


“Yes. It was easier to follow the trail this way,” I told him, nodding. He was the only person I felt safe confiding my abilities to – I knew better than to let my parents know just how different I was.


“Have you ever done that before?” He asked and I shook my head.


“No. This was new – I didn’t know I could do it.” I grinned at him excitedly.


“You’re a special boy, William,” he told me softly. “I suspect there are lots of other things you can do that you don’t know about yet as well.”


I nodded, because I was sure he was right, and then I glanced around his makeshift home.


“There’s no shelter except for that,” I complained, pointing at his tarp. “You can’t live out here, Uncle Walter.”


“I’ve lived worse places,” he told me.


“Where?” I demanded, plonking myself down on his sleeping bag. He sat down beside me and gazed at me solemnly.


“A place called Vietnam,” he told me, and there was a sound in his voice that I hadn’t heard before.


“Why was that worse? What happened there?” I asked, almost breathless. His dark eyes were like whirlpools, sucking me in, lost in a distant, savage memory.


“There was a war. I was a marine – a soldier,” was all he said. Simple enough, but the expression in his eyes told a much darker story. I grabbed his hand to offer comfort and a dozen images flashed through my mind. I was running through a forest – a very different one to this, with different trees and plants and different smells and sounds. I was with friends – people I had come to view almost as family, other young men like myself. And then the sky turned black, and the sound of gunfire rent the air, and soon my friends were screaming, their blood rising up like a red tide to obscure my view, and then I was falling, my flesh ripped apart, and all around me was pain.


“I’m sorry, Uncle Walter,” I told him, stroking his hand, my heart beating too fast in my chest. “I’m sorry about that place.” Even though the memories were of a long time ago, I could still feel them like raw wounds in Walter’s psyche.


“I’ve a feeling that there’s a worse war yet to be fought,” Walter told me.


“Those men, your friends, did they die? How come you didn’t die?” I asked him and he went very still.


“What did you see, William?” He asked me softly and it was only then I realised he hadn’t told me anything about the men, or what had happened to him in Vietnam. I bit on my lip.


“I’m sorry,” I whispered. “I just…when I touched your hand…I saw you in a forest with your friends, and then there was shooting…and you were hurt…” I gazed up at him, a little fearfully, wondering if he would be angry that I had somehow had access to one of his most personal memories.


“Have you ever done that before?” He asked me.


“A little,” I admitted. “Not often – but sometimes I just can’t help it. When it’s a strong memory, when I’m touching the person…it all comes flooding out. I don’t know a way to stop it.”


“That’s okay. You haven’t done anything wrong,” he said. “Just…we might need to find a way for you to control it, or it’ll upset you. Okay?”


“Okay,” I agreed, resting my head against his shoulder. I wondered whether I should tell him about the flies I had seen on my mother, but decided against it – it wasn’t the same thing. It wasn’t a memory of what had happened. What I didn’t realise back then, as a child, was that it’s possible to have a memory of something that hasn’t yet happened. I sometimes wonder whether my life would have been different if I’d told Walter of my premonition – but I suspect, somehow, that the end result would have been the same. I believe that there are some things that have to happen, some things about which we have absolutely no choice – Walter and his Vietnam was one of those things, and me and my parents were another.


I visited him whenever I could – not every day but whenever possible. I don’t know how he lived, but he looked more and more gaunt as the days passed, so I started sneaking food out of the house for him. It was mostly whatever I could salvage from the kitchen, and my idea of what constituted a good meal rather than his, but he always seemed pretty grateful for the presents of squashed peanut butter sandwiches and the ceaseless supplies of chocolate chip cookies that I pressed into his hands, and ate them with gusto. As that last, long, hazy summer of my childhood came to a close, I crept out of bed one night, wandered through the woods, and found him lying drowsily in his little camp, looking at the stars. He berated me for a while for coming to see him at night, when it was dangerous, and I replied, solemnly, that the danger wasn’t here yet, and although his eyes widened, he seemed to accept that.


“Tell me a story about Agent Mulder and Agent Scully,” I requested, slipping under the blanket beside him.


“Not another one!” He groaned, but it was a token protest and we both knew it. An idea seemed to occur to him and he looked at me thoughtfully and then began to speak. “Once upon a time, Agent Scully grew lonely.”


“Why?” I asked, wide eyed. “She had Agent Mulder to be friends with!”


“That’s true – she also had other friends.” Uncle Walter paused, looking a little sad. I nudged him to continue. “But, people can get lonely all the same. Agent Scully had grown up with two brothers and a sister and she wanted a family of her own. She wanted a baby.”


“Were she and Agent Mulder married?” I asked naively, wondering how Agent Scully could have a baby if she wasn’t married.


“No, no they weren’t.” Uncle Walter’s eyes crinkled at the sides as he smiled.


“Oookay.” I shrugged, wondering where the monsters were in this story.


“But Agent Scully had a baby anyway,” Uncle Walter told me. “She had a beautiful baby boy, and she loved him very much.”


“Was this after Agent Mulder got taken away by the spaceship?” I interrupted, wanting to know where this particular tale came in the storyline. Uncle Walter’s stories always had a context. I’d often ask if this was before the yellow eyed man, or after Agent Mulder’s office burned down and sometimes Uncle Walter would have to pause and give it some thought and when I nudged him he’d tell me to be patient because he wasn’t as young as he used to be and he couldn’t remember all the details. I was struck by his use of the word ‘remember’ but I think even from the beginning I knew that he wasn’t making these stories up as he went along.


“This was after Agent Mulder got returned to us,” Uncle Walter said. He often spoke like that, as if he was actually there in the story, although he had never mentioned what he did or what he was to Agent Mulder and Agent Scully if he wasthere.


“How soon after?” I pressed.


“I don’t remember. It all happened around the same time,” Uncle Walter protested. “Now, do you want to hear this story or not?”


“Are there any monsters in it?”


He laughed out loud. “Only one – and he’s more of a munchkin than a monster,” he told me, looking straight at me.


“Okay then,” I sighed, not really understanding a word he was saying but wanting to listen anyway, even if there were no monsters in the story, because the sound of Uncle Walter’s voice was so deep and soothing.


“So, Agent Scully had a baby, but very soon after that, Agent Mulder had to go away, and Agent Scully was left on her own to look after the baby.”


“What was he called?” I asked. “The baby? What was his name?” Uncle Walter took a deep breath.


“Oh, I think he was called William, don’t you?” He told me, and I accepted that happily enough.


“But William was in great danger, and Agent Scully knew that if she kept him with her then her enemies would find him and hurt him.” Walter paused, and wrapped his arm even more tightly around me. I looked up, anxiously.


“William wasn’t hurt was he?”


“No – but only because Agent Scully decided to send him away to a safe place. A place so safe that Agent Scully didn’t even know where he’d gone, because if she knew the bad people might have been able to find out where her baby was and hurt him.”


I gazed up at Uncle Walter, with a frown.


“But wasn’t Agent Scully unhappy without her baby?” I protested. “And with Agent Mulder gone away!”


“She was.” Uncle Walter nodded. “She was desperately sad but she tried to be brave because she knew she’d done the best thing for her baby and that he was safe.”


“And was he?” I pressed, concerned about the fate of my namesake.


“For awhile, yes,” Walter said with a nod. “But meanwhile Agent Mulder got into some more trouble,” he sighed, and I laughed because Agent Mulder was always getting into trouble in Uncle Walter’s stories, and I was just a kid so that appealed to me. “And Agent Scully was forced to run away with him so that they would both be safe.” He paused for a long time, until I had to nudge him in the ribs with my elbow to continue. He jolted, as if startled out of a dream – a sad one judging by the look in his eyes. “While she was on the run, Agent Scully found out something about her baby that scared her and made her worry about his safety. She loved her child very much, even though she couldn’t be with him, so she tried to find him in order to protect him from the danger. She tried very hard to get to him, but she had too many enemies and she…” Uncle Walter paused, and, looking up, I was surprised to tears glistening in his eyes. “She lost her battle against them,” Uncle Walter said, his voice choked. I put my hand over his to try and comfort him and had a vivid mental image of a lady with red hair and wise blue eyes before the memory was swallowed up by waves of grief and it was only then that I realised the truth.


“Agent Scully died?” I asked him, horrified and not a little angry that he’d ruined our storytelling ritual with this shock happening.


“Yes, I’m afraid so,” he whispered.


“NO!” I said angrily. “I don’t want her to die. Make her undead.” He gazed sightlessly into space for a long time and then looked back at me.


“I can’t, William,” he said in a choked whisper. “She died.”


“What did Agent Mulder do?” I asked in a small voice, scared by the expression in his eyes and still reeling from the unexpected turn the stories had taken. Agent Scully had faced down monsters and ghosts – she couldn’t just die. It didn’t seem right.


“Agent Mulder was very sad – and very angry,” Uncle Walter informed me in a dull, distant tone. “He was so angry that he wanted to go and find the people who had done this to Agent Scully – but first…first he had to make sure her baby was protected. So, he went back to the FBI building where he used to work and spoke to an old friend and that friend agreed to go and find William, and protect him.”


“Hmmm.” I considered this for a moment. Up until now, Uncle Walter hadn’t mentioned this “old friend” at the FBI and I wasn’t sure I wanted to be introduced to a new character, especially not now my beloved Agent Scully had disappeared out of the stories. “Okay,” I said finally, reluctantly. “What was the name of the old friend?”


Uncle Walter looked down on me with a tight, faded little smile. “His name was Assistant Director Walter Skinner,” he said softly.


We stared at each other for a long time, and then, finally, I put my head against his shoulder and closed my eyes.


“I don’t like this story so much,” I murmured to him. “I don’t want Agent Scully to be dead – and where’s Agent Mulder gone?”


“Nobody knows,” Uncle Walter told me, and there was a slight catch in his voice as he spoke. “Nobody knows. But there’s one thing we do know.”


“What’s that?” I glanced up at him to find him looking down at me.


“That William is safe with Walter Skinner and that Walter Skinner would give his life to protect William,” Uncle Walter said softly. I smiled and he dropped a kiss on my head and soon after that I fell asleep.




That long hot summer seemed to last forever. In reality, I think only about three months passed between Walter leaving the ranch, and the event that would rip my young life apart.


It was early September, and the leaves on the trees were just starting to turn. It remained unseasonably hot though – the air seemed to hang around us, sticky, sultry and stultifying, oppressing us with its stifling heat. I felt increasingly as if I was living in a fog, and sometimes I even found it hard to see. I didn’t tell my mother, but there were days when I only managed to navigate my way around the house by my senses of smell and touch and my memory for where everything was. It was a peculiar kind of blindness – not rooted in any physical cause but in the heavy weight of the very air itself, obscuring my usually crystal clear sight and sinking me into a minor depression. I would spend every night curled up in my mother’s lap as she rocked in the chair, her arms around me, protecting me from god knew what, and, during that last week, I lacked even the energy to visit Uncle Walter. I knew he waited for me as close to the ranch as he dared – he didn’t like the idea of me walking through the woods to see him and when I would not stop visiting so late at night, he took to waiting down the lane at the end of the ranch instead. This was risky for him as if my parents had seen him I’m sure my father would have gotten his shotgun, but Walter worried about me. I didn’t really understand why – I knew both my parents slept like logs and I was always very careful to be quiet when I slipped out of the house. I had a sense that went way beyond my years and I knew it was vitally important that my folks didn’t know I’d been leaving the house to meet Walter. As it turned out, if Walter hadn’t been waiting for me so close by, then it’s very likely that I would never have lived to see my seventh birthday.


It happened on a Friday. The day had been as sticky and oppressive as ever. My mother tried to put me to bed but I clung to her, tangling my hands in her hair. She didn’t understand what was wrong and neither did my father, who hovered anxiously by the door.


 “Is the boy sick?” he asked, frowning.


“No…I don’t know…” She whispered, an unspoken fear in her eyes. She had picked up on the atmosphere much more than he had I think.


“He’s just going through a phase,” my father said, shaking his head. “He’ll sleep if you just leave him be.”


My mother’s eyes showed that she wasn’t so sure, but she kissed me, stroked my hair, and left the room. I stared after her as if to drink in the sight of her, with her long dark hair, un-braided, lying loose over her shoulder. I longed to get up and run after her but I was struck with what felt almost like paralysis. I knew then, that whatever was building up around us would have its release soon and I trembled in my little bed.


I lay there, utterly helpless, gazing at the shadows on the wall. After what seemed like an eternity, they started to move. I stared, transfixed, as they took on a sinister, almost demonic aspect – like every child’s worst nightmare. The shadows made a faint, rustling, hissing sound as they crept towards me, and then they materialised in front of me and I found myself looking, not at a monster, but at a man. He was big, with broad shoulders, a grim, ruthless expression in his eyes and a knife in his hand. It took all my strength to be able to break through the oppressive atmosphere surrounding me, to pierce the paralysis that had engulfed me, and to shriek, at the top of my voice.


I wish I could be spared the memory of what happened next, but the crystal clarity of my senses didn’t let me down on this occasion and I can still recall each sound, each smell, each vivid, bloody detail of it. One minute I was screaming, and the next my father had appeared at my bedroom door holding his shotgun. I saw his look of utter, incredulous horror as he saw the man looming over me, and the knife in his hand.


“Get away from him!” He yelled, but the intruder didn’t even react – it was as if he hadn’t heard. Instead, he lunged forward, his knife plunging towards my heart. I heard the sound of the shotgun like a booming, thunderous roar, accompanied by a bright, flashing arc of lightening, and the next moment I was spattered with a rain of red blood. I gasped, feeling it soak me through to the skin, but it barely stopped the intruder. He staggered, fell to his knees, rested there for a split second, and then got up again as if nothing had happened. In disbelief, my father fired again – and again, over and over again until the man’s shirt was ripped to bloody shreds and finally, as one lashes out at an annoying mosquito, the stranger turned towards my father, took two strides to reach him, and, with the merest flick of his wrist, slit my father’s throat. The stench of hot, sweet blood filled the room and I gazed in horror as my father fell to the floor, dead before he hit the ground. The stranger straightened up, turned, and began to walk back towards me, but before he was halfway to the bed, my mother appeared out of nowhere, and leapt on his back. I had always known my mother to be an anxious, timid type of woman, but now it was as if she was a lioness, protecting her cub. She yelled out loud, told me to run, and I scrambled out of the bed – but I couldn’t get past them as they were blocking the doorway, and there was no way to escape. So I huddled in the corner of the room and watched as the intruder shook my mother from his back, turned on her, and then, almost casually, plunged his knife into her body. I heard the sound of a scream rending the air but it didn’t emanate from her – it came from me. I screamed so loudly that I deafened myself but even as the sound pierced my consciousness I knew that I wasn’t screaming out loud – my cry for help was non-verbal, entirely instinctual, and so powerful that it almost blinded me. I felt as if someone had hit me over the head with a heavy object – there was a ringing sound in my ears and my head hurt so much that I lay there, stunned, unable to move as the stranger turned back towards me once more.


I felt sure I was already dead. I was just waiting to feel the tip of that sharp, cold knife that glistened with my parent’s blood. The man’s face was cruel, cold, and intent and as I huddled there, in my corner, I knew, without any shadow of a doubt, that he wasn’t human. He didn’t resonate to the same tune as everything else on this world – and I knew that because I had been listening to that tune, studying it, revelling in it and enjoying it, from the day that I was born. No, this creature standing in front of me with his bloody knife most definitely was not human – but he had been once. He was an abomination of a human being, ravaged by some kind of disease that turned his flesh into metal and his body into a ruthless automaton. He was out of sync with all the other living beings on this planet – whatever virus it was that had affected him had changed him into something completely other, something alien, something that didn’t belong.


I gazed at him transfixed, and I think, maybe, that the fascination was mutual. Maybe he saw into my mind as I saw into his because he paused, and glared at me for a moment, as if he didn’t understand what I could be. A split second later, something big and furious burst into the room, swung the alien being around, and sank his fist into the creature’s jaw. The intruder swayed for a moment, slightly stunned, and then recovered, as he had from the gunshots.


“No, no, Uncle Walter, he’ll kill you…” I sobbed, fearing I would lose the last person in the world left who I loved and who loved me, but Walter took no notice of me. Instead he swung again, and this time the alien blocked his punch and moved forward with his knife. Uncle Walter saw the knife glistening as it arced through the air and he grabbed the creature’s arm, deflecting the blow. The alien grunted, and twisted Uncle Walter’s arm where it was fastened on his wrist. Walter gave a growl of pure, savage outrage, his protective instincts every bit as finely honed as those of my parents but Walter was a warrior where they had just been simple farmers, and he got himself free, managing to wrest the knife from the alien in the process. He sank it into the creature’s body where it did as much damage as my father’s bullets had done. Realisation dawned in Walter’s eyes and he fumbled for something in his pocket – too late! The creature fell on him, and they both went crashing to the ground. I heard the grunts of two big men landing hard, powerful punches on each other, and then I saw Walter finally reach whatever it was in his pocket. He took out what looked to me like a piece of rock, and, without warning, pressed it into the creature’s eyes. The alien let out a roar, as if he had been blinded, this simple lump of rock hurting him far more than the bullets and knife had. He scratched at his eyes as if they burned him, and then fell, writhing, to the floor. He continued writhing, his skin going a strange shade of ashen grey.


Uncle Walter got up, breathing heavily. His jaw was bruised and his knuckles bleeding. He had a cut above one eye, and blood was dripping down his face. He gazed at me, and I gazed back, terrified.


“William. It’s okay. It’s me,” he whispered, holding out a hand to me as if I were a stray cat. “It’s okay,” he said again, although it patently wasn’t. “William, we have to leave. We have to go,” he told me urgently, glancing at the still writhing form of the alien on the floor. I shook my head, and huddled into the corner even more, gazing over his shoulder into my mother’s staring eyes. Already flies were alighting on her, feasting off her blood in the sticky, sultry, late summer heat. Uncle Walter looked back over his own shoulder to see what I was looking at and his jaw did that sideways clench. He turned back to me.


“William, she’s dead,” he said in a hoarse tone, full of raw sympathy. “I’m sorry, but they’re both dead and you can’t stay here any longer. You can’t even stay here for another minute. We have to leave.”


I shook my head again.


“William, I don’t have enough magnetite to kill him – he’ll recover eventually and even if he doesn’t, you must understand that he was just the first,” Walter hissed. “There will be others.”


I stared at him in dumb horror. “I’m sorry, William, but we have to go,” he said, coming towards me. I couldn’t walk – all I could do was hold out my arms and he picked me up as if I weighed nothing, and then ran out of the room with me. My last sight of my bedroom was of a scene of utter devastation; the dead, bloodied bodies of my parents lying on the floor, and the alien, still writhing and scratching his face, his body looking even less human now, his movements strange, jerky and utterly unlike anything a human body was capable of. Walter didn’t stop to gather any belongings – he just ran out of the house, and then tried to dump me on the ground outside.


“William, I need to set fire to the place – that’ll slow him down while he’s recovering from the magnetite,” Walter told me urgently but I refused to be separated from him, so he worked with me stuck to his hip like a limpet.


He grabbed a can of gasoline from my father’s stores, and threw it liberally over the house, concentrating on my bedroom, although I kept my eyes tightly closed as he poured the gas onto my dead parents’ bodies. Then he lit a match and threw it onto the gas. The whole place exploded in flames, but he didn’t stop to watch. He just hoisted me higher and closer, and began to run into the woods.


We ran for what seemed like miles. I have no idea how he managed to do it and to this day he tells me that he has no idea either – it was as if he found a superhuman strength from somewhere, just when he needed it.


“Where are we going?” I whimpered, clinging on to him for dear life.


“My car is just through here. I’ve always kept it nearby, ready…in case…in case something like this happened,” Uncle Walter said grimly, his chest heaving from exertion.


He ran through the woods and out into the lane on the other side. There he stopped by a big, silver car, opened it, and got in, me still attached to him. He managed to disengage me enough to get me seated but I was still practically stuck to his flesh. I gazed at him as we drove away from the town, full of surprise. Uncle Walter was my father’s hired hand, a man who worked for his food and lodging – he didn’t fight like a professional boxer, or have mysterious lumps of lethal rock in his pocket – and he didn’t own a big, shining silver car like this one we were driving in.


Uncle Walter glanced down at me, his face grim.


“William, are you okay?” He asked. “Did that man hurt you?”


“He wasn’t a man,” I replied, and Walter’s eyes met mine and held my gaze for a long, assessing second.


“No,” he replied after a pause. “No, he wasn’t a man.”


“How did you know he was there? How did you know to come?” I asked, knowing that I had not screamed out loud and even if I had, there was no way he would have been able to hear me from the lane. He shook his head.


“I thought you would be able to tell me that,” he said grimly. “I suddenly got this blinding headache and I swear I could hear you screaming although…” He paused and his jaw clenched again. “Although only in my head,” he finished.


“Yes, I screamed inside my head. I didn’t know you could hear me,” I murmured. Nobody had ever heard me inside their heads before; although I could often see into their minds, they seemed unable to see back into mine.


“You must have been frantic with terror,” Walter said, and that was when I lost it. I had been in a daze since Walter had killed the alien, but now I fell apart. I started to tremble and the tears tumbled down my face. Walter pulled the car over, and then pulled me over so that I was sitting in his lap and he held me and rocked me as I sobbed piteously against his shirt for what felt like hours. Finally, I cried myself out – for now at least although there would be plenty more sobbing sessions in the coming weeks. He stroked my hair, kissed my forehead and held me and I clung onto him, knowing that he was the only person left in the world who loved me. Little did I know then, that there were many other people who loved me – people I had met when I was much younger and had all but forgotten – people who had risked their lives for me already.


“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I didn’t know this would happen. I’m so sorry. I thought maybe Scully was wrong. Please understand, William – I didn’t have the power or authority to take you away from your parents and I didn’t want to either – you were so happy there.  I thought you might be safe – that ranch was in the middle of nowhere. I thought they might not find you, and that if they did there would still be time to get you out. I had no idea…we had no idea when we decided…Mulder didn’t think anything would happen, not yet, not until you were older…we thought we had time…I was just supposed to be a precaution…those poor people. Your poor parents…oh god, I’m so sorry.”


I didn’t bear him any malice – only gratitude for saving me from that cold, strange, alien creature who had tried to kill me. However I did get an inkling of Walter’s propensity to take everything on himself, and to shoulder more than his fair share of the blame. He couldn’t have known what would happen – who could? I blamed nobody but the stranger who had taken my parents’ lives and now he was dead so there was nobody left to blame – instead I had to find a way of living with my grief. Walter took out a huge handkerchief and wiped my face clear of my father’s blood and my own tears, and then reached into his pack on the back seat and found one of his own enormous sweaters to wrap me in so that at least the blood on my pyjamas was covered up.


“Where are we going?” I whispered as Uncle Walter then wrapped me in a blanket he found in the back of the car, and belted me into my seat again.


“We’re going to stay with some friends,” he told me, with a little smile. “I’ll take care of you, William, you know that, don’t you? I’ll always take care of you, while there’s breath left in my body.”


I stared at him – he seemed so strange and serious as he made that vow, and it reverberated around the car, clanging in my consciousness in recognition that it was something utterly important. I can see him so clearly – dried blood on his face, and a dark cut on his brow, his face covered in sweat and grime, those brown eyes of his totally solemn.


“Yes, Uncle Walter,” I whispered back. “I know.” I may have doubted many things in my life, but I never once doubted that. Little did I know it back then, but the third phase of my childhood had begun.


Walter tidied his own appearance up as much as he could, wiping the blood off his hands and face and pulling another sweater over his blood stained shirt, and then he glanced over at me.


“William, we have a long drive ahead of us. I’m taking us to see some friends – people who will look after us.”


“What about my parents?” I whimpered, tears flooding my eyes, as I remembered their dead bodies. Maybe some primal instinct within wanted the closure of knowing their bodies had been taken care of because I did know, rationally, that they were dead, but the child in me also hoped that somehow I’d wake up back in my bed tomorrow and none of this would have happened.


“They’re dead, William. I’m sorry,” Walter said, repeating what he’d already told me once. “We have to go – we can’t stay in case that man comes after us. We’re lucky that the ranch was so remote, and your folks didn’t go into town much. That’ll buy us some time before people find out what’s happened up there and start looking for you. We have a long way to go and I’d like to get there before the police get involved. Try and get some sleep, okay?”


I nodded, uncertainly, sure that I wouldn’t be able to sleep, but the smooth, gentle motion of Uncle Walter’s expensive car soon lulled me to sleep. It was an uneasy sleep, and I woke frequently, with a start, only to remember what had happened and to long for the oblivion of sleep again. I was dimly aware of Uncle Walter making a couple of calls on his cell phone and I wondered how he could afford the phone and the car and all these worldly goods that had been beyond my parents’ reach, dirt poor as they had been. I’m not sure how long we journeyed, but I remember vividly that he was anxious the entire time, looking in the mirror frequently, and not just to check on the other traffic. When day came, he hid the car and we slept, and then once night fell he began driving again, stopping only for long enough to refill with gas, and for us both to use the bathroom, and to grab some food en route. Just before dawn on the second night, I was roused by the sound of the car slowing down.


“Are we hiding again?” I asked.


He looked at me regretfully. “To be honest, William, I think we’ll be spending the next few years hiding,” he told me. “But for now, we can at least stop driving. We’re here.”


I had no idea where ‘here’ might be but on looking around I saw we were in the suburbs of a big city and I stared out of the window in amazement – I had never been in a city before, and everything looked strange and alien. There was a scent to it that I had never smelled before – full of so many overpowering odours that I almost fainted.


Walter drove the car onto a driveway, and a second later a man appeared at the front door. He silently opened the garage and Walter drove, just as silently, into it. The man outside then closed the door softly behind us. It must have been about 4am – and our arrival was so quick and quiet that nobody in the street was aware of it save ourselves, and the people who lived in this house. Walter wrapped me tightly in my blanket, and hauled me out of the car. I clung to him again, scared of this strange new place. At that moment, a door at the back of the garage leading into the house opened, and a woman appeared, haloed in the bright white light of the hallway behind her. I took one look at her and fell in love with the next mother figure my short life had thus far given me. She had thick, wavy dark hair and clever dark eyes – but most of all, I knew that she and I shared a genuine empathy. There was a warmth to her that I felt immediately comfortable with, and, as with Uncle Walter, I knew that I could tell her everything about myself and she would believe it all – even those parts that confused me and had upset my parents.


“Hello, William,” she said, in a voice that exuded comfort, love and sympathy. “My name is Monica.”


 “Hello, Monica,” I whispered in reply. “You have really pretty hair.”


She gave a little laugh of surprise, and then came towards me and kissed my cheek by way of welcome. I reached out a finger to touch her dark, wavy hair and she smiled down at me – and it was then that I saw the terrible knowledge in her eyes. She knew what had happened to my parents and she, like Uncle Walter, would do everything in her power to protect me from any more pain. I had no idea why this woman, who I didn’t know, would love me enough to protect me – I just knew that she did.


“God, sir, you look terrible,” she murmured, transferring her look of concern from me to Uncle Walter. I looked up, and couldn’t help but agree with her. Walter’s skin was grey and bruised, and there were dark shadows under his eyes. “Here – I’ll take William,” she said, reaching out for me. I gave a hoarse, inarticulate cry and grabbed Walter’s neck even more firmly. Even though I knew instinctively that Monica was a friend, Walter was my security blanket and I wasn’t about to give him up just yet. In fact, sometimes I wonder whether I’ve ever given up this particular security blanket.


“It’s okay. I’ll take him,” Walter murmured, heaving me up a bit more in his arms and then walking, a little unsteadily, towards the open garage door. “And Monica – call me Walter. It’s been a long time since anyone called me ‘sir’ and the truth is that I like it better that way.”


“Yes, Walter, “I could hear the smile in her voice but I was distracted a second later as we stepped into the brightly lit hallway and someone else loomed into view. I buried my face in Walter’s neck.


“It’s okay, William – that’s John Doggett,” Walter told me softly. “He’s a friend. A good friend.” I nodded, but still didn’t remove my face from Uncle Walter’s neck. He took me into a living room and sat down heavily on a couch, with me still wrapped up around him. John Doggett said something and I sneaked a peek at him, interested by his voice. He had an accent I had never heard before and I loved the way he spoke – it fascinated me. He had such a husky, low voice, deep in a different way to Uncle Walter’s rich baritone. I liked the raw, almost whispery quality of his voice and allowed it to wash over me. This man was a good person. I knew that immediately – just as I had known that Monica was a good person and Uncle Walter was a good person. I peeped out more openly from under my dark bangs, trying to get a better look at John Doggett. He was a thin man, with a firm jaw and almost opaque blue eyes. He was standing behind Monica, one arm wrapped around her body, their hands entwined. I was struck immediately by their quiet, but almost tangible love for each other. She was so different to him – a creature of instinct, kind hearted, warm, open and almost serene. He was blunter, raw edged, honest, bluff and lacking the imagination that she had in abundance. He hid his own kind heart much deeper than she, but it was still there, under the surface. That was their attraction – to the inherent good they saw in each other.  Their more superficial differences just added more spice to the mix but fundamentally they were a perfect match for each other. My parents were the only other couple I’d really known properly, and they had been well suited too. I recognised that same affection and underlying sense of love and attraction in John and Monica.


“What’s the news?” Walter was asking urgently, as I gazed at my two new friends.


John and Monica exchanged a grim glance.


“Tell me,” Walter urged.


“They found the bodies,” John said, in a low, flat tone. “A few hours ago so you got a good head start.”


“How many bodies?” Walter asked, his fingers going absently to stroke my hair.


“Just two,” John replied. “They put an APB out on the boy. So far, they haven’t mentioned you.”


Walter’s jaw did a sideways clench.


“After I left the ranch I went to the local feed and seed and made a big deal about having lost my job and getting out of town. I made sure everyone saw me, and then I hid out in the woods,” he said. “I wanted Nathaniel to think I’d gone and I guess it worked.”


“For now at least,” John said, and there was something about his tone that suggested he thought it wouldn’t be long before they tried to tie Walter to the murder of my parents.


“What did you eat when you were hiding in the woods?” Monica asked, in a fascinated tone.


“What I could find,” Walter replied. “It was summer – there were plenty of berries and I haven’t forgotten how to use a trap…and William was kind enough to often bring me food at night.”


I glanced up at him, surprised; he had never told me he was hungry – my bringing him food had been instinctual, and now I was glad that I had. I was just starting to understand the depth of feeling these people all had for me – Uncle Walter had been sitting starving in a forest rather than leave my side.


“Well, that reminds me – you both must be hungry,” Monica said. “I’ll get you some food.” She disappeared for a few minutes and I closed my eyes and listened to John and Walter’s deep voices as they talked. I dozed off for a bit, and woke to hear them talking in whispers, clearly thinking I was asleep.


“I’m surprised,” John said. “I didn’t think he’d look like this somehow.”


“I know what you mean,” Walter replied in an undertone, stroking my hair. “I don’t know what I was expecting but I kept looking for something of Scully in him…or even…” he hesitated, and then continued as if he hadn’t started that train of thought. “…but I never saw it. It took me awhile to stop looking for other people in him and start seeing him as he is and not the sum of who made him. John…” Walter’s voice went suddenly croaky. “John, this kid is something special – I meanreally special. There are things he can do…”


“Well, I guess we knew that,” Monica’s voice chimed in softly as she returned to the room. “I mean, I saw him when he was just a few months old, doing stuff that completely freaked Dana out.”


“I remember hearing about him making his mobile go haywire,” John commented. “Is that the kind of stuff you’re talkin’ about, Walter?”


“No – I never saw him do anything like that, although I don’t doubt he’s capable of it,” Walter murmured. “He just sees things in a completely unique way. It’s as if his senses are more finely tuned than ours – everything you can see, he can see with a hundred times more depth and clarity, and it’s the same with his hearing, his sense of touch, smell – all of it. He has a very good memory too – he remembers things in a way we don’t – I can’t describe it, but when he’s remembering it’s close to reliving the event.”


“Poor child,” Monica whispered in a horrified tone.


“I know.” Walter rocked me back and forth on his knee, in a comforting motion. “We have to make sure that there are other things he can remember – good things – so he doesn’t live Friday night over and over again. “


“You’re sure about all this, Walter?” John asked, in an uncertain tone, and I sensed his underlying unease with this kind of subject matter.


“Yes, I’m sure,” Walter said firmly.


“Sounds a little freaky, huh?” I could hear Monica touching John’s shoulder and there was a slightly teasing note in her voice.


“Just…well, if all that’s true then he’s a pretty frightening kid,” John replied.


“No – that’s just it,” Walter said. “I guess you have to get to know him, but I’ve never known a child that exuded this kind of…I’m not even sure what the word for it is – maybe innocence? He’s got this incredible charm – it’s hard to believe anyone could want to hurt him. It’s sin enough to harm any child, but this one has something about him that makes it unthinkable. He’s just…special. It’s as if he isn’t even here some of the time – he’s seeing things we don’t. He has this unworldly air…” Walter stopped short and I sensed the sudden rise of tension in the room.


“Well, there’s a lot we don’t know about him,” Monica said. “It’s possible…”


“No. He’s Scully’s kid,” John said firmly, as if he refused to entertain any other notion. “Scully and Mulder. He’s their son.”


I felt a thrill run through my body. Scully and Mulder – I had idolised them from afar because of Uncle Walter’s stories and now they were saying that the two agents were my parents? A couple of nights ago I had lost the only parents I had known, but now I had gained some new ones and that made me feel strangely comforted. I stirred, and Walter looked down on me with a smile.


“Hey, William. Monica made us some sandwiches. Want to eat?” I nodded, slowly, suddenly feeling very hungry. Walter and I made short work of the sandwiches and then Monica suggested that we both needed a bath. I clung to Walter as he got up, and walked slowly, wearily, up the stairs with me. I had never thought about how old Walter was – he was just an adult, like all other adults, but now I saw the fine lines around his eyes, and realised that he was older than my parents, older than Monica and John, and however strong he was, the events of the past few days had completely exhausted him – emotionally as well as physically. Monica ran a bath, while Uncle Walter sat on the closed toilet seat and began slowly undressing me. He looked fit to drop but I wouldn’t let anyone but him touch me, and I cowered against Walter’s legs when John offered to help.


“It’s okay. He just needs some time,” Walter said, but I saw the momentary flash of hurt in John’s eyes and wondered what that was about. Unbidden, a picture of another little boy, a few years older than me came into my mind but I pushed it away, too tired to think about it.


Monica and Walter bathed me, and then wrapped me in a big warm towel to dry. Monica gently tousled my hair and smiled down at me.


“Hey, so this is what you look like underneath all that dirt,” she said with a wink, and I gazed at myself solemnly in the mirror. I was very pale, and my eyes seemed to shine in my head, like huge, luminous, dark orbs. My eyes had always been a strange colour – they seemed to change with my emotions, going from brown to green to blue, but right now they were as black as the night. Apart from my eyes, I was a very ordinary looking child – I wondered if that was what John had meant when he’d said earlier that I wasn’t what he’d expected. “I bought these yesterday – I hope they’re your size,” Monica said, holding up a pair of pyjamas. They were a little too big but it felt good to get into something clean, and then Uncle Walter picked me up again and took me to a room with a little camp bed in one corner and a double bed in the other. He put me in the little bed, and I stiffened and clung to him, unwilling to let him go.


“It’s okay. You’re safe here,” Walter told me, gently but firmly disengaging himself. I moaned and shook my head – I had thought that I was safe back in my bedroom on the ranch but I hadn’t been. “I’ll stay right here until you fall asleep, then Monica will watch you while I take a bath myself, and I’ll come back and sleep in that bed over there. You won’t ever be alone,” Walter told me.


“Does Monica have any of that magnet rock?” I asked Walter in a quavering voice. He glanced up at Monica and she nodded.


“Sure I do,” she said, coming over and drawing a small pebble out of her pocket. “We all carry some, William. Here, why don’t you have my piece so you can feel safe?” She put out her hand and placed the piece of rock in mine, and I yelled and it dropped to the floor.


“That hurts,” I said, and she exchanged a worried glance with Walter. Transfixed, I reached down and picked up the rock again. It did hurt – not in the same way as it had clearly hurt the alien who had attacked me, but it tingled in the palm of my hand, and gave a burning sensation. When I let the rock fall onto the pillow and examined my hand, it was a little red where the rock had touched me.


“I’ll sleep with it under my pillow,” I told her. “It’ll be safe there.”


She and Walter glanced at each other again, worried frowns creasing their foreheads, but they nodded, and I pushed the little lump of rock under my pillow and then laid my head down. Uncle Walter pushed my hair out of my face, and sat there with me until I closed my eyes and fell fast asleep.




It was the middle of the afternoon when I woke the next day. John Doggett was sitting on the bed in the other corner of the room, reading a newspaper. He looked up, sensing my eyes upon him, and smiled. I liked the way the sunlight caught those pale blue eyes of his and I smiled back – and then my smile faded as the memories crowded back in, and I felt tears spring into my eyes.


“I thought maybe it was a dream,” I whispered, and he shook his head.


“I’m sorry, William,” he replied, getting up and coming to crouch beside me. I turned my face away from him.


“Want Uncle Walter,” I sobbed.


“Walter’s having somethin’ to eat,” John told me in a firm tone. “The poor guy’s completely beat – so why don’t you and I see if we can’t get you into some clothes and downstairs for breakfast, huh?”


I felt John’s hand on my shoulder and shook him away, my sobbing rising a decibel. The hand came back, more firmly this time.


“Hey, buddy – Walter isn’t your only friend,” he told me. “Monica and me – we’re your friends too.” I saw that boy again – he had spiky hair, like John’s, and a wickedly mischievous smile. I liked him. I saw him gazing up at John, laughing as they played some prank on the boy’s mother. If this boy with the wicked smile had loved John so much, then I thought that maybe he might be worth loving. I turned, and stared at John thoughtfully.


“Luke was 9 when he went away, wasn’t he?” I asked. John took a sharp intake of breath. “He had cool hair just like yours but his eyes were brown like Barbara’s.” Unsettled by the freaked out look on his face I added, in a bright tone: “I think you should help me get into some clothes and take me downstairs for breakfast now.” I was parroting back his earlier words in what I hoped was a reassuring tone. He gazed at me for a moment, and then nodded, still looking slightly stunned. I got out of bed, and he pointed to a red sweater, pair of jeans and underwear that someone – Monica? – had laid out on the dresser.


“Luke had a bike,” I told him as he helped me out of my pyjamas and held up my sweater for me to dive my head into. “Will you teach me how to ride a bike without training wheels, John?” I asked him as my head emerged the other side.


“Sure, buddy.” He gave a little smile, but I saw that I had inadvertently touched something deep inside him, something he would never speak about. I hoped he didn’t mind me talking about Luke.


Walter was sitting downstairs sipping some coffee when I walked into the room holding John’s hand. He looked a lot better than he had – he was clean, shaven, and was wearing a pair of clean jeans and a plain dark shirt. His skin had lost its greyish tone but the eye under his cut forehead was turning a nasty multi-hued colour, his jaw looked red and sore, and his fists were swollen and cut. I threw my arms around him and kissed him, then sat next to him to eat, guzzling a huge bowlful of Cap’n Crunch as I listened to the adults talk.


“Walter, we’ve been making some arrangements over the past six months in case something like this happened,” Monica said, tousling my hair as she passed and winking at me as she poured me some orange juice. “You clearly can’t stay here, so we’ve found a cabin up in the Blue Ridge. It’s very remote – and very small. We bought it in an assumed name so nobody can trace it to us.”


“Sounds good. When do we leave?” Walter asked.


“Tonight,” Monica nodded at John. “I’ll be coming with you,” she added quietly. “I’m handing in my resignation at the Bureau.”


“What?” Walter looked up sharply, his dark eyes concerned.


“Walter, it’s okay – the Bureau isn’t important. We have other work to do now. Vital


work.” She glanced over Walter’s shoulder at where I was sitting, busily stuffing my face and humming to myself at the same time. “John will stay here – and at the Bureau. We need someone on the inside to find out what’s going on – someone who we can trust,” Monica finished.


“And there ain’t a lot of people we can trust left in the Bureau,” John added with a sigh. “I’m sorry to tell you this, Walter, but after you went…well the place gets stranger by the day. I’m not saying I understand this, but the people just feel – different. People I used to work with just blank me as if I didn’t exist – almost as if they’ve forgotten we were ever friends.”


“It creeps me out just going into work these days,” Monica said. “John can handle the weirdness better than I can. Sometimes I’m talking to people and I get a chill that just crawls up my spine. I’ll be glad to leave. I don’t belong there any more.”


Walter was listening to all this with a grim, dour look on his face and I knew it hurt him in some way I didn’t understand.


“You guys will need to lie low,” John said. “Walter – I don’t want you or William leaving the cabin if you can avoid it for the next few weeks. Things are pretty sensitive out there and the police are looking for William. Monica can get the groceries or I’ll bring them over but you can’t rely on my visits – if they start watching me then there’s no way I’m going to lead them straight to you.”


“We’ll need to set up code words, and devise a means of reaching each other – we can’t assume that if John calls on his cell phone that it’s really…” Monica paused, “…really John,” she finished. “He has to give us the right password or we get out and start moving on.”


“I agree.” Walter nodded. “I think we have to assume that they still want William, for whatever reason – and our job is to protect him.” Monica looked at Walter and then at me, with a startled expression. “It’s okay – I won’t lie to William or hide the truth from him,” Walter told her firmly, putting his big arm around my small, skinny shoulder. “William, I told you once that you didn’t have as much time as I’d like in which to grow up and that’s still true. After Friday, you understand as much as any of us what kind of danger lurks out there for you. I don’t want you to go around being scared but I do need you to be careful. Just know that we – Monica, John and I – we’ll give our lives to protect you.”


“But I don’t want anyone else to die,” I whispered, thinking how my mother and father had both sacrificed their lives to protect me.


“Then we’ll do our best to stay alive,” Monica told me, with a wide smile. Uncle Walter was right – I did have to be aware of the dangers, and it was reassuring to know that there were people who would protect me, but even so, I was just a little boy, and I found it hard to comprehend what was happening in my young life.


“What about…?” Walter glanced at Monica and his jaw did that familiar sideways clench. “Have you heard from him?” He asked and I saw a light of such hope in his eyes that it almost hurt to see it extinguished a split second later by the regretful shake of her head.


“I’m sorry, Walter, but no,” she sighed. I didn’t know who they were talking about but I did know that he was someone that Walter wanted to hear from very much, judging by the dejected slump of his shoulders and the aura of disappointment that emanated from him so vividly as to be almost tangible. I also realised, without surprise, that Monica and John were more or less oblivious to it and only I could see it.


Monica had bought both Walter and me some clothes, which were already packed and stowed in the car in the garage. Later that night, Walter laid down flat on the back seat, with me lying flat on his large chest, a blanket covering both of us, and Monica drove the car out of the garage. John took off in his own car at the same time but in the opposite direction, as a “decoy” he said, and I spent a long time muttering the word over and over in an undertone because I liked the sound of it – although it didn’t sound as good in my tinny voice as it had in John’s husky baritone.


“Uncle Walter,” I piped up, lying there on his chest as if it was the most normal thing in the world to be ferried about in the middle of the night hidden from sight under a blanket. “What does ‘decoy’ mean?”


“Uh, William, it might be best if you kept real quiet right now,” Uncle Walter whispered back. “I promise I’ll tell you when we get to where we’re going. Okay?” I nodded happily, put my head down on his chest, and promptly fell fast asleep.


Okay, so I’m pretty sure that Walter kept all his important promises to me but some of the minor ones may have slipped his mind; I ended up having to ask Monica the meaning of the word a day or so later.


We arrived at the small cabin in the middle of nowhere some time after midnight. There was no hot water – just a spring fed cistern and an old hand pump by the sink. Nor was there any electricity but I didn’t care much about that because there was a creek nearby which afforded me hours of endless fun in the coming few weeks, from the sheer pleasure of listening to the sound of the running water, to the physical joy of getting in it and feeling that water washing over me. I liked the place immediately – I was used to wide open spaces, and I was too small to care much about the privations of the place.  There was very little furniture – Monica and John had managed to discreetly stock the place, but it was all pretty basic – an old, rickety table and chairs, sleeping bags, air mattresses, and a lurching cupboard was the extent of it, but it was safe, and that was all that mattered in the circumstances. I had the feeling we wouldn’t be there for very long anyhow.


As soon as we arrived, Monica and Walter unpacked while I sat on the back porch and gazed at the depth of the colours that made up the pitch black night sky. Monica shot me the occasional worried glance, but it had been awhile since I had last been able to gaze, unhindered, and fully connect with the world around me. Somehow I needed it in order to be able to re-charge my batteries and it soothed me after all I’d been through. Walter let me sit there while they sorted out the house as best they could. It was decided that Monica would sleep in the little back room, while Walter and I would sleep on air mattresses in the living room. When they had finished getting the car unpacked, Walter lifted me up, uncomplaining, in his big arms, helped me into my sleeping bag on one of the mattresses, and watched over me until I fell fast asleep. In fact, there were very few occasions over the next few years when he didn’t watch over me until I fell asleep – maybe he knew that those moments were the hardest, and the time when I was most likely to think about my dead parents.


I woke with the sun the next morning. It was a beautiful day and I enjoyed myself helping Monica and Walter to get the cabin into some degree of habitability. Monica revealed a surprising degree of capability for home-making. I say surprising, because she was a very different woman from my mother, who liked nothing more than to be busy around the house. Monica was a woman of other talents completely, but underneath her imaginative, quirky exterior was someone who liked things to be organised, and it was this talent that she put to good use in the cabin. The place wasn’t filthy, but it had been awhile since she and John had last been out to check on it, so it needed some work. She smiled as we got on with it, scrubbing the table and floors together – with me probably more of a hindrance than a help now I look back on it.


“I did this once before,” she murmured, tousling my hair. “When your mother was expecting you. We had to hide in a place like this then.”


“Why?” I asked. “Were there always people chasing after me, even before I was born?”


Monica considered this for a moment, and then nodded, a sad frown creasing her forehead. “Yes, William,” she sighed. “I’m afraid there were. You’re a very special little boy, you see.”


I nodded, happy enough with that answer. I had always known I was different so none of this surprised me, however out of the realm of most children’s experiences it was.


“Tell me about my mother,” I asked, softly. Monica stopped what she was doing and brushed a long strand of dark hair away from her face, studying me uncertainly. “Please,” I ventured, reaching out a hand to touch her arm. I immediately had a vision of a small, red haired woman, with fierce, intelligent blue eyes. “Agent Scully,” I whispered, recognising her immediately. I remembered her now, from when I was very small. It was harder to access those memories but now I had seen Monica’s memory of her it all came flooding back. I had spent so long in her arms, nuzzling against that red hair. I could remember the smell of it – like fresh apples.


“Your mother was a brave, dedicated woman,” Monica told me. “And most of all, she loved you very much. She loved you enough to give you up when you were in danger. She never rejected you, William. She thought she was saving you.”


I nodded, but I couldn’t stay to help Monica any more. Instead I went and sat on the porch, staring into space, going through these new memories that had been awakened one by one, treasuring the little time I’d had with the woman who had been my first mother.


Walter was busy collecting and chopping firewood for the little wood stove. They’d brought enough kerosene to keep a couple of lamps burning and they had a big battery lamp that lit the place well enough at nights, as well as several large flashlights. I still pestered Walter for stories about Agent Mulder and Agent Scully but now I had Monica to pester as well and she wasn’t a bad story-teller either – she even knew some stories about Agent Scully that Uncle Walter didn’t know. We spent many evenings toasting marshmallows in the woodstove, with those two adults telling me stories until I finally fell asleep.





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