Dec 29 2016 11:00am
The X-Files Origins: Devil’s Advocate: New Excerpt
The X-Files Origins: Devil's Advocate by Jonathan Maberry tells the backstory of how Dana Scully became a skeptic (Available January 3, 2017).
In the spring of 1979, fifteen-year-old Dana Scully has bigger problems than being the new girl in school. Dana has always had dreams. Sometimes they’ve even come true. Until now, she tried to write this off as coincidence. But ever since her father’s military career moved the family across the country to Craiger, Maryland, the dreams have been more like visions. Vivid, disturbing, and haunted by a shadowy figure who may be an angel . . . or the devil.
When a classmate who recently died in a car accident appears before Dana, her wounds look anything but accidental. Compelled by a force she can’t name, Dana uncovers even more suspicious deaths―and must face the dangerous knowledge that evil is real.
But when a betrayal of faith makes her question everything, she begins to put her faith in being a skeptic.
April 1, 1979, 7:29 P.M.
“I want to believe,” said Dana Scully.
Melissa Scully looked at her sister. Dana sat a few feet away, red hair tangled by the wind, blue eyes fixed on the darkening sky. Above the canopy of leaves, the first stars of a brand-new April were igniting. The waxing crescent moon was low, slicing its way into the steeple of the empty church across the street. Deep in the tall grass, a lone cricket chirped, calling for others who were not yet born.
“Believe in what?” asked Melissa. She twisted a curl of her own auburn hair around one finger.
“Everything,” said Dana. She sat with her knees up, arms wrapped around her shins, cheek on one knee. “The stuff you keep talking about. The stuff Gran always talks about.” She shrugged. “All of it.”
“So,” said Melissa, giving her own shrug, “believe. What’s stopping you?”
Dana said nothing for a long time, and the cricket was the only sound. Twilight’s last fires were burning out, and the streaks of red and gold and lavender that had been painted across the sky were thickening to the uniform color of a rotting plum. Dark, purple, and ugly. A tidal wave of storm clouds was rolling in from the southeast, and there was the smell of seawater and ozone on the breeze. Although it was unseasonably warm for early spring, the storm was pushing cold and damp air ahead of it.
When Dana finally spoke, her voice was soft, distant, more like she was talking to herself than to Melissa. “Because I don’t know if they’re actually visions or only dreams.”
“Maybe they’re the same thing.”
Dana cut her a look. “Really? ’Cause last week I dreamed that Bo from Dukes of Hazzard picked me up at school and we went driving in that stupid car of his and then we made out like crazy in the church parking lot.”
“You never made out with anyone.”
“That’s my point. And when I do … if I do … are you going to sit there and tell me it’ll be with some grown-up guy on a TV show? He’s old. He’s like twenty or something, so it would be illegal, too. You can’t tell me I’m seeing my own future.”
Melissa laughed. “Okay, so maybe not all dreams are prophecies, but some are. And sometimes those dreams are really important.”
“How do you know that?” Dana asked.
“Everyone knows that. Dreams—okay, some dreams—are our inner eyes opening to the possibilities of the infinite.”
Dana sighed. “You always say stuff like that.”
They sat and watched the bruise-colored sky turn black. Way off to the south there was a flash of lightning that veined the inside of the coming storm clouds. Thunder muttered far away. The first breezes came spiraling out of the night, whipping at the leaves and lifting the corners of their blanket. Melissa closed her eyes and leaned into the wind, smiling as it caressed her face.
The wind faded slowly and then it was still again, except for the lonely cricket, which was beginning to sound desperate.
“Maybe if you tell me what the dream was about,” said Melissa, turning to glance at Dana, “then I could help you figure out whether it was a dream or a vision.”
Dana shook her head.
“Oh, come on … you’ve been in a mood all day long. It’s clearly bothering you, so why not tell me?”
High above, somewhere in the dark, invisible against the sky, they heard the sudden flap of wings and the lonely, plaintive call of a crow. Dana shivered.
Melissa reached out and put her hand on her sister’s arm. Dana’s skin was covered with goose bumps. “Jeez, you want to go in and get a sweater?”
“I’m not cold,” said Dana.
Dana finally said, “I dreamed … I saw … something bad.”
Her voice was small. It was younger than her fifteen years. Melissa moved closer and put her arm around Dana’s shoulders.
“What did you see?” she asked.
Dana turned to her, and the moonlight revealed two pale lines on her cheeks. Silver tear tracks that ran crookedly from eyes to chin.
“I dreamed I saw the devil.”
Outside Scully Residence
The car crouched quietly at the curb, lights off, engine off.
Two shapes sat in the front seat. There was a chill in the air and they had collars turned up and hats pulled low. The street was silent and a light rain fell, pattering on the hood of the car, plinking in puddles, hissing in the grass. The wet asphalt looked like a river of oil as it wound up and curved around the darkened houses.
The two shapes watched the Scully house, first in darkness and then lit by a last flash of distant lightning.
“She’ll do,” said the passenger, breaking the long silence.
“You’re sure?” asked the driver.
“Time will tell.”
There was a sound from the backseat, and both men turned to see another shape there. Bulky and soaked from the rain. The third figure, a big man in a dark blue uniform, sat hunched forward, face in his trembling hands, sobbing quietly. “Please,” he whispered. “Please don’t…”
The two men in the front exchanged a look and turned away.
Lightning flashed once more, tracing the edges and lines of the house with a blue-white glow.
The man behind the wheel smiled, his teeth as bright as the lightning.
Dana prayed she would not dream again that night.
She prayed hard, on her knees, hands clasped and fingers twisted together, trying to concentrate on her prayer despite the music from the next room.
Melissa’s bedroom was on the other side of a thin wall. She was in one of those moods where she played the same album over and over again. Tonight it was the self-titled Fleetwood Mac record that came out four years ago, when Melissa was thirteen. Sometimes her sister played whole albums without pause except to flip the disk over; and then there were long stretches where she’d play and replay the same song. Lately it was “Rhiannon.” Melissa was rereading Triad: A New Novel of the Supernatural by Mary Leader, the book that inspired the song. Melissa believed that she, like the character in the song, was the reincarnation of a Welsh witch.
That was Melissa.
Dana took a breath, pressed her eyes shut, touched her hand to the small cross she wore on a gold chain—an exact match of the one Melissa wore—and tried again to recite the prayer to the Virgin.
“Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”
Dana was not as diligent as she wanted to be. Faith, like belief in anything that was part of the spiritual world, took effort for her, but at the same time it interested her. She liked the orderliness and structure of the rituals and prayers; they were like formulae to her. She went to church, but not as often as her mother wanted her to. There were answers there, she knew, but maybe not to her own questions. Or maybe it was that her instincts told her that church wasn’t going to answer all her questions. She wasn’t sure.
She finished the prayer, rose from her knees, sat down on the edge of the bed, and opened her Bible to where she’d placed a feather as a bookmark. It was a crow feather she’d found on the bottom step of the porch. Dana used the soft, gleaming tip to brush the words as she read the passage. Second Corinthians, chapter eleven, verse fourteen. “‘And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.’”
Those words troubled her.
Since moving to the town of Craiger, Maryland, a few months ago, Dana had begun having more vivid and frequent dreams. Back in San Diego, her odd dreams had been strange but kind of fun. She’d dream the ending of a movie before the family went to see it. She’d know someone’s name before being introduced. The dreams were like a freaky kind of déjà vu, because she usually only remembered them when the substance of her dreams became the reality of the moment. Not that she ever had many of those dreams. A few, scattered through the months. They’d only turned strange and dark here in Craiger. And she was having them much more often. Maybe it was the town. Maybe it was that Dana felt more like an outsider here.
She had no friends yet. No real friends. Melissa, who was two years older and a senior, could make friends anywhere. She was that kind of girl. Dana wasn’t. She knew she was a difficult person to like because she was inside her own head a lot of the time. The switch from nine years of Catholic school to tenth grade in a public school wasn’t helping. Dana was unnerved by the lack of structure here—she was used to everyone being in uniforms and everyone following the rules. She was struggling to fit in at school, while Melissa acted like she’d been freed from prison.
Dana set the Bible aside and got up feeling stiff and sore, so she unrolled her yoga mat. That was something new to try. Melissa had gotten hooked on it back in San Diego and swore that yoga was a pathway to enlightenment. Dana was just happy enough to have something to untangle the knots in her muscles. The mountain pose was an easy place to start. She stood tall with her feet together, shoulders relaxed, weight evenly distributed through her soles, arms at her sides. Then she took a deep breath and raised her hands overhead, palms facing each other with arms straight. She reached up toward the ceiling with her fingertips. And held them there, concentrating on breathing and letting her muscles relax.
Yoga was probably another thing the girls in school would think was weird.
There was a definite animosity in school that everyone accepted as normal. It was some kind of invisible dividing line between military brats like themselves and townies. She’d seen it in San Diego and it was definitely here in Craiger—although it never seemed to touch Melissa. Her sister was always able to go back and forth between those groups, and people just seemed to accept her. And like her. It was never that easy for Dana.
If anyone at school here knew what Dana was dreaming about lately, they’d really stay away. They wouldn’t just treat her as a stranger.… They’d know she was a freak.
That was why she’d kept the dreams to herself.
After all, how could she ever explain that she’d seen the devil?
She hadn’t told Melissa the whole truth tonight, either. She hadn’t told her that she’d been having these dreams ever since they’d moved here—not just once but almost every night. There was something about the town. It wasn’t right in some way that Dana simply could not describe. Or understand.
She tired of the mountain pose and got facedown on the mat to do the cobra. She placed her hands flat with her thumbs directly under her shoulders, legs extended with the tops of her feet on the mat. Then she tightened her pelvic floor—an action that always made her feel a little weird and self-conscious—tucked her hips downward, and squeezed her glutes. Then very slowly and steadily she pushed against the floor to raise her head and shoulders and upper torso while keeping her lower stomach and legs in place. At the point of maximum lift, she tried to push her chest toward the opposite wall. The idea was to do the movement, relax, and repeat, but she held it, feeling the muscles in her lower back unclench. There were two small pops as something in her spine moved into place. That shift deflated a ball of tension that had been sitting in her lower back all day.
Okay, so maybe there was something to the yoga stuff after all.
She relaxed, and repeated, again holding the pose.
Through the wall Melissa sang along with the raspy-voiced lead singer. Talking about being taken by the wind. Talking about being promised heaven. That triggered another flash of the dreams Dana was having. The dreams were different and they came in fragments, like she was trying to adjust an antenna on a TV station just out of range. There were bits of images, snatches of words, but no real story in any of them. One thing was constant, though, and it made Dana feel strange, confused, and even a little guilty: in her dreams, the devil always looked like an angel. So pure and handsome. Dana knew that Lucifer had been the Angel of Light. It was confusing, because in Catholic school she’d always imagined the devil as hideous and ugly. What if he wasn’t? What if he was beautiful? Maybe, she thought, that would explain why it was easy for some people to fall under his spell.
The angel she dreamed about had kind eyes and gentle hands and a smile that was a little sad. He sat on the edge of her bed and whispered secrets to Dana, secrets she could not remember when she woke up.
But she knew it was important to the devil that she believed him. That she believed he was not evil. That he was misunderstood. That he was really good.
Deep in her heart Dana wondered if there was even such a thing as evil. After all, if God created the universe and everything in it, then he had to have created evil and the devil, also. And why would he have done that? Didn’t it make more sense that the devil was helping God by chasing confused people in the direction of faith and salvation?
She was sure the nuns in her old school would be furious with her for that kind of thought.
Dana realized that she had been holding the pose too long, and now the released tension in her back returned. She lowered herself to the floor, then rolled onto her back and stared up at the ceiling. Outside there was a rumble of thunder that sounded like laughter. Not raucous party laughter or her own dad’s deep-throated laugh when he was in one of his rare happy moods. No, this was different. Darker. It was a mean little laugh. As if the night were laughing at a secret it didn’t yet want to share. Wind hissed like snakes in the trees.
In the next bedroom, the song started again and her sister sang and the clock ticked its way deeper into the night.
Copyright © 2017 Jonathan Maberry.
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Jonathan Maberry is a New York Times bestselling author and five-time Bram Stoker Award-winner. He writes in multiple genres including suspense, thriller, horror, science fiction, fantasy, action, and steampunk, for adults, teens, and middle grade. His works include the Joe Ledger thrillers, Rot & Ruin, Mars One, and Captain America, which is in development for a feature film. He writes comics for Marvel, Dark Horse, and IDW and is the editor of such high-profile anthologies as The X-Files, V-Wars, Out of Tune, Baker Street Irregulars, Nights of the Living Dead, and Scary Out There. He lives in Del Mar, California.