I had some issues with this one, and I don't know that I'm even totally satisfied now, but I decided to post it now or never. I love history, as I'm sure you'll be able to tell. This story is inspired in part by that affection, and obviously, required reading assignments. Some were good, others great and kept you hooked, and some left you banging your head against the desk, and hunting for Cliff's Notes. I was one of those kids that always resented being forced to read, since I was more than willing to do it on my own. Anyway, thanks for reading my work, and please review!
Note: PIN Pop. means Post-Invasion Population.
Walter S. Skinner High School formerly H.S. 107
Washington D.C. (PIN Pop. 121,000)
"Alright, settle down, folks," Shane Collins called his class to a quiet. Not an easy task with 20 seniors three months from graduation. They were wired on the thought that they could take on the world, and ready to try doing just that.
It took a good five minutes, and some quiet glaring on his part, but they eventually went silent. He smiled, and proceeded with the lesson. "Okay, so yesterday and Monday we covered the Freedom Fighters, Pre-Invasion, and what essentially lead to the fight for the future. Today we'll get to know those people on a more personal level with an old fashioned slide show."
They groaned. Old fashioned meant there was no snazzy touch-screen or 3D effects. During the war, the whole planet fell into chaos, everything shut down, and people were displaced all over the globe. They lost a considerable amount of technology, and were steadily regaining it back, but most of their best scientists were focused on defense technology. Still, he was using a computer, it wasn't that outdated. Shane hit the lights and started the show.
"Every single one of you better be able to name this man, and how and when he died."
His class chorused drolly, "Walter Serge Skinner, killed in 2020, shot by supersoldiers."
"Yes, our school's namesake did not survive the wars, but he was instrumental to the Resistance while he lived, and his death weighed heavily over the Freedom Fighters, especially his close friends."
Shane continued scrolling through pictures, faces he could put names to as easily as his own children. He'd just finished his dissertation on the Scully journals, he'd lived and breathed the Alien Wars for almost twelve years. John Doggettt, Alvin Kersh, Maggie Scully, and on and on. He stopped on the picture of a woman's smiling face. She was about thirty-five, with the dark hair and eyes of her Mexican mother, the pale skin of her Caucasian father.
"Monica Reyes," he said. "You should all remember from our discussion yesterday, how she died."
The class nodded, their faces going solemn. She'd died in 2017, barely half-way through the wars, after being abducted by the attacking alien forces, and tortured for information. So far as anyone knew, she never told them anything. Doggett and Skinner had found her three months after she disappeared, barely recognizable.
"And, if any of you try and tell me you don't recognize these two, I'm going to have to get nasty with your previous history teachers," he warned.
It was unnecessary, he could tell by the light of recognition on their faces, they recognized the people on the screen. It was taken circa 2014, not long after the start of the Invasion, when people still cared about things like photographs, and presumably after the man in the photo had returned from being in the field. It wasn't called combat or battle, since they didn't really openly engage the enemy. It was tactical missions and guerilla warfare, and being that the whole thing was run by former FBI agents, they just called it being in the field.
The woman, a redhead who was already fifty, looked startlingly youthful. One hand was around his waist, the other on his cheek, her head lifted to look at him. Her bright blue eyes said she was tired, but just happy to see him. He had aged a bit less gracefully, hair graying slightly, and small creases around his forehead and eyes spoke to the stresses of his life. His expression was similar to hers in that he looked happy to just be with her. It was an almost, uncomfortably honest photo--there was no pretenses of happily ever after, just two lovers in a moment of reunion.
"We all owe a lot to these two. Since we covered them yesterday, I won't retread all of that. Instead we're going to discuss something we didn't get to yesterday. Dana Scully kept journals, a whole lot of them." He paused, and walked to the board writing a series of dates.
September 10, 1993; May 18, 2002; March 5, 2010; December 14, 2012.
"Okay, September, who knows what that date is?" He searched his less than eager class until he found an arm cautiously raised. "Yes, Greg?"
"When they started working together at the FBI?" A young man in a black t-shirt and baggy jeans suggested.
"Yes, we know from Bureau records dug up that this was the date a rather young Dana Scully was sent down to the depths of the basement to work with the Bureau black sheep, Fox Mulder. She was only twenty-nine at the time, and had never really spent much time in the field. Think about that." He watched them, some seemed to consider it, others just continued to look at him with that look of perpetual boredom teenagers seem to learn instinctively.
"One more fun fact, you can probably tell from the photo--she was rather petite. Not more than a couple inches over five feet, and not much over a hundred pounds. A woman smaller than most of you was instrumental in saving our world. Surprising huh?"
"And paired with a really tall guy," a girl named Katie commented.
"Yeah, I think he was about a foot taller, give or take. And, what you can't tell about him from this picture is that he was rather athletic--running, basketball, baseball, you boys would probably get along with him well. And, he was in shape and crazy enough to jump on a moving train, among other things. They don't seem so boring now, do they?"
He could tell he'd made them think, the way they all were actually studying the photo, not just staring blankly past it. He cleared his throat to get their attention. "Next date. May 2002. Anyone?"
"Kim." He pointed to a young woman.
"When they ran off and went into the hiding."
"Yes, this was the first time. Scully resurfaced in 2005, and Mulder in 2008 after the FBI called for assistance. They disappeared again this date in 2010, after it became evident that the threat to Mulder wasn't gone, and to work on preparing for the invasion. Now, this last date in 2012, anybody have a guess?" He didn't expect them to know this date, they hadn't covered it in class yet.
"Well, it was two days after colonization began..." Mark commented, frowning at the date.
"That's right. Anyone else?" When no one jumped to volunteer, he decided to plow ahead. "Dana Scully kept journals on and off most of her life, unfortunately those have all been lost. Her wartime journals, however, were found and saved, mostly. This date," he pointed to the 2012 date with his chalk. "This is the date those journals start, at least the personal ones, and it's the personal ones that we're concerned with."
He walked to his desk, and picked up a thick black book about the size of a lengthy novel, off the stack of twenty. "There are a few good primary source--you better all remember that term--documents on the war, but this is the single best resource on those ten years. Anybody recognize the title?"
The cover was a blooming flower juxtaposed over an explosion, and the title read, 'Letters at the End of the World'.
Jackson, a very tall black boy raised his hand, "I think my mother read that book."
Shane chuckled. "That's something, thank you Jackson." He waved two students up, and motioned them to pass out the books.
"Dana Scully kept almost two dozen journals over those ten years, ranging from 150 to 300 pages. The originals are locked away in the Smithsonian, and copies are in our library. This book is the abridged, school-friendly version of those journals."
"That monster is abridged?" Tyler called with a dubious frown. He was a short boy, and not a bad student when he actually tried.
"Yes, abridged, stripped of most of her medical jargon, and sanitized of the really naughty parts. 713 pages of wartime prose, all so I can torture you. " He grinned. "She also kept--with other scientists and doctors--meticulous journaled records of their laboratory work. You'll all be spared that."
He was rewarded when their groans were abruptly cutoff with relieved sighs. "Remember guys, the woman was a doctor and a scientist, the original journals--if you ever read them--are filled with her thoughts on the biology of our attackers and potential weapons against them. That's one reason you don't get to read this until you're seniors."
He gave them a minute to study the very thick novels, wondering how many would make it through the book, and how many wouldn't give it a chance. "That's one thing I want you to remember reading this--she's very smart and a good writer, but gets a little clinical now and then. A lot of people tend to find that a turn-off. That's number one. Number two, open your books to the first page, and Andrea, please read the first couple paragraphs for us."
"December 14, 2012
It's so quiet. We picked this area, because we wanted to be isolated, safe from the virus. Now that all communication with the world it gone, we don't know what's happening. It's as if the world is already gone, and our little village of people here is all that's left. It's frightening, and so lonely, Mulder--all the more so now that you're gone.
You've never been one to sit around and wait patiently, and I didn't expect you to now. But, you have no idea how much I wish that just once you'd be lazy and apathetic, just so I didn't have to watch you leave. So, I didn't have to spend the infinitely long days wondering if you'll make it back. But, you know I'd never stop you from doing what you believe you need to do, just as I know you wouldn't stop me."
"That's enough, thanks Andrea. So, second thing, Dana Scully wasn't simply speaking to the book, or some person in the far off future who might one day find it, she's speaking to her lover. Which means, yes, there are moments where it gets a bit graphic, but like I said, this is the school version, which means it's been sanitized of all the parts that read like erotica. As to the rest of it, I don't know what to tell you, but at least they're both attractive." He held up empty hands to his class.
"Last thing, I want you to be aware of, turn to page 31." He watched the surprise register on their faces as they took the sight of the letter instead of another diary entry.
"It's from him," Jackson blurted out.
"Yes, it is. He spent most of his time out in the field, while she worked in the lab at the village, so they weren't together very much. To compensate, she wrote these journals to him, writing almost every night. In return he'd write letters to her, and stick them in between the pages of her journals, at least a few per journal. When he returned to the village, he'd return the journal he'd carried with him, and she'd give him a new one to read. It was a way for them to feel close to each other. His letters have also been santized, by the way." He was about to add more, when the bell sounded, and his students began clearing out. He sighed, used to it by now, but no less disappointed--the Scully journals were easily his favorite part of teaching history.
Reopened c. 2031
"Alright, now here is what I most wanted to show you," Shane walked backward talking to his students, into the document display room.
They'd just toured the model of the basement office of the Bureau building, where the fight against colonization had begun. They built it based on a few pictures that had been found, taken in the mid 1990s for insurance purposes, which turned out to be a good thing after the office was torched in 1998. There was the desk, the filing cabinets, the slide projector, and the overflowing papers and folders everywhere. Tacked to the wall were the spaceship poster, a multitude of newspaper clippings, and a single photo of the offices occupants. On the desk was the nameplate bearing Fox Mulder's name, and a framed photo of a little girl with dark braids, turned so visitors could see it.
His class was not terribly impressed, but they were teenagers, very little impressed them. They'd also visited the large area housing relics from their failed colonizers. Photos of spacecraft, pieces of ships, weapons, skeletons in glass cases, tools they'd left behind, and variety of other artifacts. His students were quite taken by the skeletons, and weapons, and he could understand that, they were the easily the most exciting pieces.
"In this room are the only surviving X files, found in the rubble of the Hoover building, along with other Bureau files. There's three--one on a type of flukeworm-human hybrid, another on a faith healer, and a third on a man who could push his will upon people. You'll notice they aren't in great condition. Also you will see, several of the notebooks kept by the scientists during the wars, and lastly, the original copies of that journal you were reading."
He spread his arms and sent his students free to roam and examined the encased books and files. "Only about four of her journals are ever out here at a time, they rotate the books out, giving them time away from the light, and a chance to be touched up by the preservation specialists."
Shane studied his students as they milled around cases, peering in, and either reading what was written, or moving onto the next display. He knew a few of his students were upset with him for not warning them what an emotionally harrowing experience the book becomes. He did that on purpose, so they'd feel it and remember it, because it was a story that needed to be remembered. Like their predecessors in history, the Freedom Fighters suffered and sacrificed for the peace and freedom they brought the future.
He noted that one of his students, Chandra, had been standing in front of the same photo for the past ten minutes. He walked over and stood beside her, understanding as soon as he saw the photo. One more reason some of his students ended the year angry at him; he never told them about the baby. He let them find out through the novel.
"He was cute," the girl said.
It was one of very few surviving photos of the child, the others the family kept for themselves. William was very young in the photo, only a couple months maybe, but smiling from his perch in his mother's arms. She smiled at him, the light catching her red hair and turning it gold for a peculiar glowing effect. If not for the latent sadness and longing in her eyes, she looked the picture of the happy young mother.
"Yes, he was, wasn't he?"
"Did they...did they ever find him? After the war, I mean?" The young woman's eyes shined, warning that tears weren't far off. The answer seemed very important to her.
"No. No, they never found him. Everything was terribly chaotic, people had been displaced all over the country, homes, entire towns and cities were destroyed, there wasn't much hope of it happening anyway. Most historians theorize that he's one of the many bodies that have yet to be unearthed from the few dozen we're still working on."
She shook her head full of tight black curls. "I don't think I could ever give up my baby."
Shane considered that. "Even if he was in danger every second he was with you?"
Chandra looked at the floor, and mumbled. "It just seems so unfair."
"Well, it is unfair. For what they brought us they should have had the happiest lives imaginable, but the truth is, without that struggle, without all that pain they went through, they wouldn't have been there to save us." He'd considered it many times himself while reading the journals for the first time. Almost 5,000 pages of their lives, it was hard not to empathize. It was hard not to be furious at what fate dealt them.
"Doesn't make it any less sad."
"No, I suppose it doesn't. But, I'll tell you this. There is a small group of us historians, that tend to romanticize the fate of that little boy. We like to think that because of his parents' sacrifices he survived the wars. We like to wonder who we see everyday that's related to William, to Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, and doesn't even know it."
She offered a small smile. "You think he survived?"
"I do, actually. I think that when the world needs heroes again, their great, great, great, great, great, grandchild will know it, and follow in their footsteps."
Chandra smirked. "You do romanticize it."
Shane shrugged self-deprecatingly. "When you've spent over a decade studying all this, you have to tell yourself something, or risk being pulled under by the sheer heartbreak of it all."
"They died together, didn't they?"
"Yes, in a particularly sick twist of fate, they were killed in a car accident not even a decade after the end of the war."
She gave him a look. "There's not a damn thing happy about their story is there?"
"Now, I don't think that's entirely true. Two emotionally closed off people managed to find each other through the general chaos of life, and through considerable adversity, were together one way or another for almost forty years. I'd say that's happy."
"I still say it isn't fair."
"Well Chandra, like life, history isn't fair. People suffer and die, sometimes in large numbers, young men and women come back from war with scars so deep medicine can't touch them, the world is changed in ways we can't begin to comprehend, and the people who live through it all weep, and then pull themselves together and move on. The world didn't end, and they know it's time to rebuild. And sometimes, we're lucky enough to have people who'll fight for us, even when the challenges facing them are staggering. For these people, we should be especially grateful."
That was why he taught history, to remember those people, and to pass that memory on to his students, so that those people are never forgotten.
"I think I might change my major for college," Chandra suddenly said.
"Oh? To what?" Her major was history. She'd always been one of his most enthusiastic students, and he'd be terribly disappointed if this book turned her off.
"Archeology. If he's out there in one of those graves, someone should find him."
Shane breathed and followed her gaze to the picture of baby William. He was perhaps the greatest disappearing act of the 21st century. Yes, someone should find him. Genealogists, archeologists, geneticists, and historians had been trying for years. Most scholars agree that it'll never happen, but that had yet to stop a rogue few from looking. And, that look on her face was so intense, so determined, Chandra might be the one who succeeds.
It was nice to know he got through to at least one of his students.