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VII.  In the Confessional of the Mind

A confession has to be part of your new life.
 --Ludwig Wittgenstein--

Old Calendar:  June 21, 2011
New Calendar:  Day 1, Year 3 A.E.

That fucking bastard. There I stood before God and Country, with the President of the United States pinning an award medal on my dress uniform, and all I wanted to do was jump off the stage and beat the little shit until the blood poured. I don’t even remember what I said to the whole damn country while I was up there.

What the fuck is Mulder doing with him? Just what the fuck has gone on while I’ve been away? Why is that slimeball now being called Special Projects Director for the UNP?

I’ve got to go hit something before I get out of control.

No. No, I’ve got to put the brakes on this temper of mine and find out just what the hell this situation is all about. I can't believe they didn't tell me.

Old Calendar:  June 25, 2011
New Calendar:  Day 5, Year 3 A.E.

It didn’t take long to figure out that my going anywhere and keeping a low profile was not going to be an option after becoming the government’s poster boy for heroism. What a crock. And a pain.

But I turned it around and used my new-found celebrity to my advantage. There’s more than one way to get the information I wanted, and I got it. That’s all I cared about. I know Mulder has to know I’ve been digging; I haven’t been trying to cover my trail.

And Mulder certainly didn’t cover his trail a few years back. I’ve got the facts laid out in front of me in black and white:

1. The suspect, one Alexander Krycek, was apprehended by the local police in Vermont trying to break in a previously unrecognized (and supposedly non-working) Consortium facility.
2. Mulder flew to Vermont to personally take charge of the prisoner.
3. Mulder remained closeted with the prisoner for five hours. As one police officer present in the precinct at the time remembered, “Mulder could hardly wait to get his hands on the guy. Wanted time alone to question him, so sure, we put him in a holding room. I thought he wanted to rough the guy up a little, the Chief seemed to have a personal beef with him. Piece of shit like that, why the hell not? No one in the precinct blamed him. But five hours? Well, five hours later, they came out. They both looked like shit, but there’d been nothing physical going on. No marks, nothing messed up. They just looked like they’d been through the wringer. And the perp, suddenly he was barely able to say his name. It was very strange, but—it was the Chief, you know? We figured, hey, it was part of something we probably didn’t want to know about. So we didn’t ask.” After that, Mulder wasted no time getting the prisoner remanded to Four Corners because of “classified federal charges”. He flew Krycek back to the Capitol immediately.
4. Legalities were shuffled under the table once back in the Capitol, with Mulder basically getting a Federal judge to sign off on the charges, giving the now-released prisoner into Mulder’s care.
5. Mulder took Krycek back to his house (where he remained for the next two and a half years) and hired a Navajo woman to do housework and care for Krycek while Mulder worked, because…
6. By the time he arrived back in Four Corners, Alex Krycek was almost incapable of caring for himself.
7. The only time Krycek was seen for the next year and a half were during trips to a psychiatrist’s office in Chinle and occasional outings with the housekeeper or with Mulder. If anyone was invited to Mulder’s home on the Navajo reservation during that time, it wasn’t common knowledge. The only person who was a known guest was Dana Scully, Deputy Chief of the UNP.
8. Twenty-six months after Mulder brought Krycek to live at his home, he suddenly ensconces Krycek in an office at the UNP headquarters and bestows the title of Special Projects Director upon him. By this time, Krycek had recently moved out of Mulder’s house and was living in a small house of his own, still remote, still on Navajo land.
9. No one objects—at least, not out loud—because by this time, Mulder’s reputation is nearly legendary. As one of his assistants said to me, “The politicos all tip-toe around him because they know they’re screwed if they so much as sneeze the wrong way. Only those who are above reproach dare to object to Mulder’s actions these days…and that makes for a mighty sparse field of objections.”

Those are the facts I could dig up in five days. No, I have not yet approached either Mulder or Scully; I can’t. Not yet. I have to make some sort of sense of all this first. If I don’t, I’m afraid I won’t be able to look them in the eye and keep any semblance of rationality. I don’t want to walk up to either of them and lose it. Lose them. They…there’s too few people who I can call friend anymore. I don’t want to lose any more. I need to understand everything.

Old Calendar:  June 26, 2011
New Calendar:  Day 6, Year 3 A.E.

I’m going to have to think about getting a place of my own. The guest VIP quarters at the Capitol Complex are pleasant enough, but I’m going to need a place less conspicuous, more peaceful. Immediately. Right now, I’m sitting on a raised rock, watching the clouds rush across the sky, large shadows racing by on the ground with their passing.

I started off yesterday thinking I’d drive around to get away from the hustle of the Capitol, give myself some space to think about everything, but when I stopped for gas, an old grandfather was sitting in the back of a pickup truck next to my Jeep. His stare and unbound gray hair reminded me of Albert Hosteen, so I nodded with respect to him. He spoke up, startling me, and called me, “So-Na-Kih”, Two Star, and told me he thought I might like to head down to Lukachukai, to a small Navajo ceremonial taking place there. Something in his eyes caught mine and sent a shiver up my spine. I thanked him, and headed down Route 191 toward the small town with plenty of doubts in my mind, but for some reason, they didn’t stop me.

It’s wild country back here, beautiful and still untouched in many places. Instead of the ochres and rusts and browns I remember from my visit to the area many years back, signs of life now green the once-arid land. The male rains, hard downpours that caused flash floods, are not as prevalent. The washes still fill, the people still need to be wary, but the rains come less violently now. More of the female rains come, gentle, nourishing rains that soak in the ground instead of running off and flooding the land. Crops are growing with more abundance. Prosperity arrived because of more than the White Man’s Capitol.

I can understand the Navajo’s fascination with and ties to their land. There is a sense of timelessness here, a sense of peace that even I, an ignorant white man, can feel. I’ve traveled all over the world, been in many different places, but there is something here, something tangible.

Today and last night, there was something very tangible.

I drove to Lukachukai, a small town north of the Navajo Nation’s government seat at Window Rock, not really knowing what I was going there for. When I stopped in town for a drink and talked about an old man telling me about a ceremony taking place today, the young Navajo man behind the counter looked at me strangely and gave me instructions to someplace outside of town.

Ten dusty, rocky miles later, I pulled up to a canyon with no signs of mankind whatsoever except for the other scattered vehicles parked haphazardly. All sorts of warning signals were lighting all over the place, yet something within me kept pushing me forward. It was as if the old man I’d spoken to had touched something so deep inside with his eyes that I was unable to do anything but follow his suggestion. As I scrambled over large rocks to enter deeper into the canyon, I thought of all the past unexplained incidents in my life, all the incidents I’d been quite happy to leave unexplained and to walk away from as quickly as possible. Yet here I was walking toward another, willingly. Maybe that nerve agent had scrambled my brains more than I thought. At least, after the exercise I was getting today, I knew that all muscle weakness had left and I no longer needed to toddle around with a cane to steady myself.

I rounded a rocky cliff wall and entered into a beautiful place. The small waterway widened here at a bend, creating a large, round body of water caught between a sheer cliff face on one side and a sloping, rocky shore on the other. Trees, mostly cottonwoods, dotted the area, flourishing in the water of the river. Green vegetation and desert flowers bloomed like something from a movie. The sun was high in the sky, approaching zenith, and shown down clearly in the canyon space.

Twelve men, all Navajo, were turned and staring at me with varying degrees of shock, annoyance and anger. The gun I had stuck down in my right boot felt reassuring against my leg, but didn’t protect me from the awkwardness I felt. What in the hell had that old man sent me into?

One of the younger men, long black hair flying, turned to me and gestured as he spoke. “This is a private ceremony, white man. Please return the way you came.”

I shrugged, feeling even more awkward, and tried to explain. “I’m sorry. An old Grandfather,” I was careful to give him the term of respect, “in a pick-up today, up near Red Mesa, talked to me and told me I should come to see the ceremony here. He called me, “So-Na-Kih.” I felt completely ridiculous, and wondered how in the hell I managed to get myself into these situations. I couldn’t even blame Mulder this time.

At my words, the men who hadn’t been looking at me turned to stare at me intently. I watched one older man shuffle forward.

“So-Na-Kih. You are Two Star, friend of Ma-e-as-zloli. Fox-light, friend of the Dineh.”

Fox light. I smiled, and nodded, realizing they referred to Mulder. “My name is Skinner. I just came back from overseas last week. I’ve been gone for five years with the UN peacekeeping forces.”

The Navajo looked at one another, wordless, and turned back to me. The old man spoke up again. “Come, So-Na-Kih Skinner. The diyin dineh have sent you to us, and we must not waste time.”

With his words came a sinking sensation. I wanted to dig my boot heels into the dirt and not move, not go forward into whatever I had managed to get myself involved in this time. But again, something in me impelled me forward, and I walked into the waiting circle of men.

That was hours ago. The sun has gone around its circuit to the other side of the world and returned again. I think the hours spent in the presence of the Navajo and their land has infused in me their tendency to speak in poetic, creative form. Certainly, at the very least, it  purged me of the tensions and stress I brought with me yesterday.

I’m not at all sure what happened at the Canyon of the Spirits last night. I think there was something in that pipe, which is par for the course. Yet another substance in my body, on top of all the other substances, both good and bad. I should be used to it now, ever since… Anyway, I need to try and understand it all. I…saw things. I don’t know how, or exactly what happened. But I remember the chanting, I remember them passing a pipe around, and I thought, what the hell. They wanted me to participate, so I did.

Then things got hazy. I remember chanting, remember the fire they had going…but, it all gets distorted after that. Faces and scenes, colors and sounds. Maybe there was a hallucinogenic agent in whatever was in the pipe. The next thing I clearly remember, it’s light again, and most of the men are gone. Only two men were still there in the canyon by the river with me, the elder Grandfather and the young man who had originally spoken to me last night when I arrived. The old man laughed when I woke up. He said something in Navajo, which the young man (who turned out to be his grandson) interpreted: “Two Star walks long among the spirits. Maybe he doesn’t want the responsibilities the diyin dineh have decreed for him. Maybe he is too afraid.”

I was immediately angered, even though I wasn’t too sure what the old man referred to. “No, I’m not too afraid to do what’s right.” I’d just spent six years risking my life to do what was right. Maybe I was mad because I’d spent so many years before that trying to straddle the middle.

The old man smiled at me, unfazed by my anger. “Good. For you will need all the strength that you can find to keep the evil ones from carrying out their plan.” His next words caused my blood to chill. “An attack will come, to kill Fox Light. You, Skinner, will be his protection while the A-nah-ne-dzin, the hostiles, try to cause mischief. Listen to both mai-be-he-ahgan, both of the Fox’s arms. Trust them but no others.”

I had many questions for him, but the grandson just shook his head and said that’s all that his Grandfather knew, that’s all the spirits told him last night. I was frustrated, and glared at the old man. I noticed suddenly that he looked his age; the fire that had burned brightly in him last night now had sunk back from where it had come. I helped the grandson half-carry the exhausted old man back over the awkward terrain to where our two cars sat waiting in the morning light.

I realized I didn’t have a clue who these men were or how to get in touch with them again. I asked. The younger man pulled out a leather wallet, fumbled around and handed me a card that read: Joseph Begay, Master Electrician, with a address and telephone number in Gallup, New Mexico. He looked at me with mirthful eyes. “Business has been good these past years from the white man’s capitol. If you need Grandfather, I can get a message to him. His hogan has no phone.”

I handed Joseph a card with my cellphone number on it and told him to use that since I didn’t have any permanent home yet. He nodded, and I watched as he turned the car around and made his way back down the dry wash to the main road. Despite not having slept soundly all night or eaten, I was wide awake and not hungry, although I was thirsty. A bottle of water from the Jeep fixed that, and I pulled out my laptop and sat down right here on the rocks at the mouth of the canyon to type all that I could remember before my unreliable memory gave out.

Years ago, I would have been stuck in the whys and wherefores of everything that just happened. Now? I think I’ve finally allowed myself to accept those things that have no definitive explanation without it evoking fear in me.

I remember one thing from last night very clearly. I was five years old again, standing in the doorway to my grandfather’s bedroom. He lived in a very small house on the family ranch, far enough away from the main house to give him privacy, but close enough that a five year old was allowed to run over and visit. Mom had asked me to go over and look in on her dad, since we hadn’t seen him in a day. Not unusual, he was a loner by choice, from what I remember my parents saying later.

I smelled it when I went in the unlocked front door. Growing up on a ranch, you learn early what the smell of death is like. I remember walking so slowly through the house, knowing instinctively even at five what I would find. He was in the bedroom, on the floor, half-dressed in his pajamas. He probably died a day earlier when he was getting ready for bed. I remember the doctors saying it had been a heart-attack.

I stood there, looking at what had been my mother’s father, the man whom I had been named after, and later would take after in temperament and physical appearance. A gentle hand on my shoulder drew me away from the door; my grandfather stood smiling at me in the hallway. “Come away, Walter,” he’d said. “That’s not how I want you to remember me.” He took me, silent and unafraid, out behind the house to where someone had put up a wooden swing under the old cottonwood tree years ago.

In silence, he pushed me on that swing and we must have spent a good hour there together, never saying a word, before he stopped the swing and gave me a hug, and told me it was time to go back to the main house and tell them what I’d found. He stood tall as I walked away with a little push, and when I looked back a few steps later, he was gone.

Other than when his body was laid to rest those many years ago, I never saw him again. Until last night. I remember him standing by me as we looked at the fire, the chanting droning in the background. “Walter, my boy, I’m right proud of you. Just one more thing now, Walter, and then what you’ve been looking for will be yours.”

I know my grandfather Walter meant well, but my skin feels cold even in the rising heat of the day as I remember that line. “What I’ve been looking for” could be many different things. I wonder if he meant a respite from the ache of this life—a permanent respite. If what Grandfather Begay has predicted is true, I will gladly protect Fox’s light with my life, if necessary. That’s a decision I made many years ago.

And, after many years, I can finally admit to myself why: because I love him. I love Scully, too, which is why I tried to protect her over the years. But Mulder, Fox—I feel for him in ways I can’t even begin to talk about. I have no idea why; who can fathom the way things like that work? I certainly can’t. I don’t know if I care why at this point. It’s just such a relief to be able to admit it to myself. Maybe something that happened last night helped uncover this simple truth from the many things that clouded its clarity. Maybe all the thinking I’ve done about Krycek’s place in Mulder’s life now has helped me face why I felt so betrayed when I discovered the situation.

Or maybe it was hearing that Mulder’s life may now be in danger that stripped away all falsehood. Life is so short, I’ve wasted so much already. I don’t want to waste any more…one way or another, for Mulder, I want what’s left to count. If I admit I love him, I have to trust him. I have to trust that Krycek isn’t what I remember him to be. Mulder, of any of us, would certainly know exactly what Krycek is. I have to trust that he sees something I don’t.

Grandfather Begay spoke of both of the Fox’s arms…both. Scully and Krycek? From what I discovered, they are his two most intimate associates. All right, I can do this. I can refrain from punching Krycek’s lights out. Especially if Mulder’s life is at stake.

Now how in the hell am I going to tell him that? He’ll take one look at me and know how I feel, won’t he? Or—what if, all those years ago, he knew already? He knew before I even knew?

It’s too damn confusing to think about. I’m going to forget about Mulder’s abilities and just proceed normally. He’ll respect the Navajo elders and their warnings. He needs to know, that’s the most important thing.

The other thing has waited this long, it can wait until the danger has passed.

To be continued in part eight…

*diyin dineh:  holy people; the Navajo spirits and gods/goddess type beings that operate outside the form of humans.

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