Welcome To The Harem
By The Rivers Dark by David Hearne
Summary: Post-col. Part of the Leonard Cohen collection of stories.
TITLE: BY THE RIVERS DARK (1 of 1)
AUTHOR: DAVID HEARNE
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Leonard Cohen seems to be the inner voice of "The X-Files." When I
heard "In My Secret Life," I thought, "What a perfect MSR song." I
knew that I would write a fic based on the song, even though it ended
up being about William.
"In My Secret Life" comes off Cohen's latest album. I've been
listening to the other songs and feeling inspired by them as well. I
decided to write a series of stories based on this album. Each fic can
be read independently as well as in the order in which they were
written. All of them are set in the post-colonization world.
Cohen's lyrics are quoted at the end.
The river kept itself in motion; the two men were still. One of them
lay on the grass. The other knelt before the river and dipped his hand
into the water. He felt the cool liquid rubbing against his skin.
"Think it's infected?"
"Most likely," the man resting on the ground said. "Should be safe for
you to drink, though."
"No. I'd rather not take that chance." Alvin Kersh removed his hand
from the river and dragged it through the grass.
Walter Skinner looked up at the stars gradually appearing in the
purple sky. "Need to get going," he reminded Kersh.
Kersh turned to Skinner. "Why?" he asked.
"FEMA patrols will be coming soon."
Skinner slowly raised his head and looked past his boots at Kersh.
"What's your problem?"
"My problem," Kersh said, "is that I'm up against overwhelming odds."
Skinner dropped his head to the ground. "Your point being?"
Kersh opened up his arms as if to indicate the miles of unpopulated
land around him, then dropped his hands to his bent knees. "You and I
both know the cost of pointless wars," he said.
Without looking, Skinner pointed at the backpack next to Kersh. "The
vaccine inside there can save lives."
"How many? Ten? Twenty? How many billions will be dead in four days?"
Skinner sighed. "Don't go pussy on me, Kersh."
Kersh stretched out his legs and placed his elbows on the ground. "Why
not? I started out as a pussy."
"So did I," Skinner said with a smile. "I had smoke blown up my ass
for quite awhile."
"Yeah, but you wised up quicker than I did."
"You're here. That's what counts."
The conversation paused for a minute, allowing both men to listen to
Then Kersh said, "Do you really think The Wandering Child is William?"
"Who else could it be?"
"Then we're screwed."
"We don't know anything."
"We know he's in D.C., chumming it up with the President..."
"We don't know...anything about it." Skinner took a moment of silence,
then said, "That's not our area."
"What does that mean?"
"We're soldiers. We don't contemplate the big picture."
"Why the hell not?"
Skinner frowned as he considered any possible rebuttal. When he spoke,
he said, "I guess there's no reason not to. But it's too late for me
to think about...theology, philosophy, whatever. I guess..."
He began coughing. Kersh waited for him to stop. After clearing his
throat, Skinner said --
"I've always seen my duty to be protecting lives."
"Well, you've done a mighty fine job of that."
"Not according to you."
Kersh waved his hand in dismissal. "Forget what I said. I'm just...an
old, grumpy soldier."
Skinner chuckled. "Me, too." His expression quickly turned solemn.
"Only now...I'm wishing I had been more. I wish..."
When he became quiet this time, the silence went on so long that Kersh
said, "Walter? You still there?"
The stars had brightened. Skinner whispered, "Wow..."
"It's...it's all right. I just had a...moment there. Nothing I can
explain." Skinner held a breath, then released it. "You know..." He
pointed at his legs. Long red wounds had moistened the bandages around
"...these are a long way from getting better."
Kersh nodded. "I know."
"And you know FEMA has gotten closer while we've been talking."
"I know, I know."
"So...you better tend to business and get moving with that vaccine."
"Right." Kersh stood up and hooked the backpack over his shoulders.
Then he pulled out a handgun from its holster.
"If I get a chance to meet Mulder or Scully," Kersh asked, "do you
have a message for them?"
"Tell Scully...I still wish I had done more. And tell Mulder..."
Skinner looked at one particular star. "...I got the courage to look
"All right. So, now?"
After he shot Skinner, Kersh started walking. He followed the path of
the river as the sky darkened.
"By the rivers dark
"Where I could not see
"Who was waiting there
"Who was hunting me."