Title: Bump in the Night
Author: nevdull
Rating: PG
Category: X
Spoilers: None.
Archive: Yes, anywhere.

Notes: At the end.



OCTOBER 30
5:43pm

She felt as if she'd stumbled into an old horror movie. Dust shrouded the neglected furniture, there was a cobweb veil across every doorway, darkstains of long-ago violence were splattered over the walls and tattered drapes. Only the haunting rumble of organ music was missing from the scene and she would have welcomed it to mask the hollow sound of her footsteps. The lonely echo reminded her that she had come to this place alone. Or so she thought, until something brushed against her shoulder.

Scully's inarticulate cry of primordial terror dissolved into embarrassed laughter when the source of the contact turned out to be delicate and beautifully-furred white cat with dark paws and face.

"Shouldn't you be all black?" Mulder reached out and lifted the animal from the fireplace mantel. "Where did you come from?" he asked quietly into its ear.

"I was about to pose the same question to you," Scully said. She tilted her head back to indicate the doorway from the dining room, the room's only entrance.

Mulder put the cat down on the floor, brushing off his suit a bit fussily. "Haunted houses, Scully, always hide more than they reveal." He stepped back to the floor-to-ceiling bookcase, and demonstrated its real purpose -- a secret door, swiveling away into darkness. "It's a stairway leading from the master bedroom, hidden behind a similar bookcase. Who else knows what lurks behind these walls?"

"The Shadow knows," she said, suppressing a smile.

His eyebrows rose in delight, but before Mulder could respond, the cat which had slipped away unnoticed came barreling back through the doorway.

It skidded on the dust-covered floorboards, stopping in the far corner of the room, and turned -- fur standing on end, back arched, yellow eyes glowering with brave anger.

Scully rushed to its side while Mulder drew his weapon and stood to the side of the doorway.

"What is it, honey?" she whispered, stroking its fur. She expected the terrorized animal to turn at her, but it refused to move its gaze from the empty doorway.

"Is it okay?" Mulder whispered loudly, holding his position.

"Seems so. Wait, there's a collar here." Buried under the thick fur, she found a thin strap of leather, and a small, circular cardboard tag. A meticulous hand had written the word "POGO" on the tag.

"Shh, Pogo", Scully murmured. "It's okay." She raised her voice. "It's probably nothing. Cats get excited over any --"

The crash and the almost-inhuman howl caused both agents to jump. "Mulder, what do you see?"

By way of an answer, he began to slowly peer around the doorframe into the darkened dining room. "Nothing... I think... I don't hear anything anymore..."

"Arrrgh! Cat!" Whatever they'd been expecting, the exasperated masculine voice with the familiar timbre was not it.

Scully stood up. "Sir?"

Skinner stumbled into the room, awkwardly dancing around the animal at his feet. "Agents. Agh." The last syllable was punctuated with a firm but gentle shove at the black and white cat which was frantically trying to disentangle itself from his legs. The harmless kick was sufficient to send it into the middle of the living room. "Pogo" responded immediately with a blood-curdling screech of terror.

"For godsakes, Agents, is there anything going on here besides this mess?"

Mulder stepped away from the doorway, holstering his gun and trying to think over the din. "Nothing, sir." He smirked at Scully. "Although it'd make a killer haunted house."

"Be sure to put that in your report," Skinner replied sourly. "Now get back to the office and finish up the paperwork. And turn on your cell phones -- I don't ever want to have to come looking for you again."

"But," Mulder protested, reaching for the phone he knew to be on.

"Agent Mulder!"

"Yes sir," he said quietly, following his superior out of the living room.

Scully looked down again at the cat, still howling its blustering threat at the almost identical creature near the hall. "Easy, Pogo," she muttered. After only a moment's hesitation, she swept the cat into her arms and moved out the door.

Outside, illuminated only by the headlights from Skinner's car, Mulder didn't bother to conceal his surprise. "What the hell are you doing?"

Scully's answer (which she couldn't provide anyway) was interrupted by a ringing from within her coat. Skinner stepped away from his vehicle and looked back and forth at the two of them like they'd finally snapped. "I thought your phone was off."

"No, sir." Mulder said.

Pogo snuggled further into Scully's arms, mewing quietly.


OCTOBER 31, 1999
10:10am

Mulder stepped into his office carefully, hesitating near the entrance. "It's not here, is it?"

"You mean she."

"Right."

"No, she isn't." Scully pushed back from his desk, file folders in hand. "Did you know that legend maintains that the pogo stick was invented by a poor farmer in Burma, to allow his penitent daughter to cross the rocks to her temple without getting her feet dirty?"

Mulder blinked. "Is this one of those body-switching cases? Because if so, I'm going home to take a bubble bath."

"Her name was Pogo."

"Who?"

"The daughter."

"What?"

"The poor farmer's daughter's name was Pogo. A German traveler brought the idea back with him to the West, and an American sensation was born."

"Don't we have paperwork to finish on that case?"

"You're right -- it is one of those body-switching things. Here's the forms you'll need to fill out. Call if you need me -- I'm going to go play video games with the Gunmen and shoot some hoops."

She expected him to smile, but he didn't. "Look, I'll be back later. Skinner wanted me to swing by the house one more time in the daylight and be sure the screams were just from those cats."

Scully forgot about her annoyance for a moment. "Have any of the other teams had any luck with the missing girl?"

He shook his head. "That was their only lead, hence my need to go over it again." Mulder put his jacket back on and left.

Alone again, Scully looked between the two piles she'd made on the desk: paperwork detailing their scouting mission the night before, and a pile of cat books from the library.

"Jerk," she muttered, and reached for the books. After a moment's search, she found what she was looking for.

"Whoever named you, Pogo, was very clever." Her newfound friend, she had discovered, was a Burmese.



5:50pm

"Hey."

"Hey."

Scully let in an obviously contrite Mulder. He was bearing paperwork, after all.

"Oh, there she is," he said, crossing the living room to the sofa, where the dozing cat looked up at him and purred contentedly. It was the same quiet care he'd taken when they'd first encountered the terrorized animal. "I wrapped up all the forms for last night. Oh, and there's something else in there for you."

Scully took the pile of folders from him and sat cross-legged on the floor. "Thanks," she said, mildly surprised. She didn't open them immediately, instead watching her partner and her roommate for a moment. "I never figured you for a cat person. Especially or cats of the non-possessed variety."

"I'm not, really." Mulder shrugged. "This one appeals to me."

Scully flipped open the first folder, and was surprised to find a photocopy not of an official Bureau form, but of a story. The title read, "The Legend of the Sacred Cat of Burma."

"How did you know she was Burmese?" Scully asked, looking up. She noted that Pogo was standing at attention, gazing out her window.

Mulder feigned surprise. "My subscription to 'Cat Fancier', of course. No, I stopped by the office and noticed your research, after I'd come back from visiting the house."

"Where you found?"

"Nothing. Not even a cat. And the records office now claims they can't find any ownership records for the house at all -- it's been abandoned for as long as anyone can tell. A moot point now, though -- Skinner had left a message for us that the Maryland field office found the girl and she's all right." He paused for her sigh of relief. "Actually, that's why I stopped by -- the whole team is celebrating at some harbor dive and there's nothing scarier on Halloween night than drunken government agents."

"Jeez, I'd totally forgotten the date. Wouldn't I need a costume?"

"You're showing up with a guy named Spooky. I think you'll have it covered." He noticed her hesitation. "Come on, Scully -- our social skills could use the practice."

"Speak for yourself," she said, but rose anyway. She paused, staring at the cat. "You think she'll be all right the first night by herself?"

Mulder handed Scully her coat. "When we get back, read the legend. I'm sure she can take care of herself."

Scully nodded, and gave the cat one final stroke on the head. "Be careful, Pogo."

The cat swiveled its head, owl-like, away from the window, and stared at the agent. Scully's smile faltered a bit. I thought her eyes were yellow, she wondered, briefly lost in the animal's blue-tinted gaze.

"Ready?" Mulder asked, and she was. The strange sense that this cat was asking her to stay was a bit too creepy even for October thirty-first.


When Scully returned home that night, her apartment was empty. The windows were closed and the door had been locked, but she felt curiously unalarmed. She sat down on the sofa and read the paper Mulder had brought:

In a temple built on the sides of Mount Lugh, lived in prayer the very holy Kittah Mun-Ha, great Lama holy of holies, the one of which the God, Song Hio himself, has braided his golden beard. Not a minute, not a glance, not a thought of his life was not dedicated to the adoration, contemplation, and holy service of Tsun Kyan-Kse, the Goddess with the sapphire eyes, the one who presided over the transmigration of souls, the one who permits the Kittahs to live again in a holy animal for the duration of its animal existence, before taking again a haloed body with the full and holy perfection of the great priests. Near him was meditating Sinh, his dear oracle, an all-white cat whose eyes were yellow, yellow from the reflection of the golden whiskers of his master and from the golden body of the Goddess with the heavenly eyes...

Sinh, the cat to advise, whose ears, nose, tail and extremities of his legs were dark like the color of the earth, mark of the stain and impurity of all that touches or can touch the ground.

Now, one night, as the malevolent moon had permitted the murdering Phoums who came from hated Siam to draw near the sacred place, the Grand Priest Mun-Ha gently entered death, having at his side his divine cat, and under his eyes the despair of all his overwhelmed Kittahs... It was then that the miracle came about - the only miracle of immediate transmigration: in a bound, Sinh was on the golden throne and sat on the head of his sagged master. He longer looking at its Goddess. And as he sat stiffened before the eternal statue, one saw the bristly hair of his white spine become sudden golden yellow. His golden eyes became blue, large and deep as the eyes of the Goddess. As he was gently turning his head to the south door, his four paws which were touching the old skull became a dazzling white, up to the place that the silk of the holy garments were covering. And as his eyes were turning from the south door, the Kittahs obeying this commanding look, which was full of serenity and light, hurried in the first breeze to close the heavy bronze doors.


Scully let the paper drop onto her lap, then ran her hand along the cushion of the sofa where she had left the cat. A pile of soft fur collected in her palm, and she was not surprised to find a mix of ordinary white and a most brilliant yellow.

She turned over the paper. There was a bit more:

The legend also has it that when a priest dies, his soul was transmigrated into the body of the cat and upon the cats' death the priest's soul's transition into heaven had been accomplished. "But woe also to he who brings about the end of one of these marvelous beasts, even if he did not mean to. He will suffer the most cruel torments until the soul he has upset is appeased."


She was also unsurprised to hear, then, the faint echo of a scream. It sounded not quite feline, not quite human, yet unmistakably agonized -- a cry of ancient retribution.


Author's notes:

"The Legend of the Sacred Cat of Burma" is largely taken from: http://www.birman.net/legend.html

The pogo stick legend is credited to: http://www.hvnet.com/pogoplaza/articles.htm

There is no reason to suppose any relationship between them, except that it seemed like a good idea at the time.

--nev

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