by Ling Ma
Agent Dana Scully is an accomplished forensic pathologist, a few years out of Stanford Medical School. She meets Agent Fox Mulder when the Bureau assigns her to work with him on The X-Files. She thinks it’s a promotion but, as the Bureau men keep talking in the closed office hazy with cigarette smoke and late afternoon light, she realizes it’s really not.
At the time she meets Mulder, she has something resembling a social life. She goes out on dates. She helps babysit at her godson’s birthday party. Her home is a tasteful affair embellished with floral curtains and chantilly lace, like a Laura Ashley dreamscape. She wears midheel pumps. She is 28 years old.
At first, she doesn’t like Mulder, not that much. He is an impediment to her career. Once a renowned criminal profiler, having studied psychology at Oxford, he is now drifting into obscurity. And Scully, a few years out of Stanford Medical School, she knows so much about the body, how it reacts under trauma and duress. She identifies fibers underneath the nails, laceration marks on the skin. She knows all about secretions. She is not afraid to cut people open.
From the beginning, it’s clear: Mulder knows the mind and Scully knows the body. They can never quite come together.
But then something changes. This one time, they’re in New Jersey and he wants to investigate a hunch of a Bigfoot creature on the loose, cannibalizing the homeless of Atlantic City.
“Ever hear about something called the Jersey devil?” Mulder says, handing her an X-File.
“Kind of like an East Coast bigfoot?” Scully snarks.
She is not about to spend her weekend in New Jersey looking for mythical creatures. She leaves Mulder there, drives three hours in bumper-to-bumper back to DC. Later, she has a dinner date with a divorced lawyer or estate planner or someone she met at her godson’s birthday. The dress she decides to wear for this occasion, a white lace number that covers her arms all the way down to her wrists, could double as a wedding gown at a royal wedding.
“I have this fear of being replaced,” the date says, across from her at the restaurant table. His ex-wife had just remarried, and in the dating world, sometimes anxiety is the only emotion.
Scully’s cell phone rings. It’s Mulder. She goes over in her white lace to the restaurant phone and calls him.
“I just had an amazing thought,” Mulder says. “Maybe it isn’t a beast <i>man</i> we’re looking for after all.” On the other end of the line, he holds a drawing of a Sasquatch creature with breasts.
Agent Dana Scully leaves the man in the restaurant. She and Mulder fly back to New Jersey, and somewhere in broad daylight outside Atlantic City, she watches as local law enforcement track down a Sasquatch-like woman in the wilderness.
The feral woman is shot in the back with a tranquilizer dart, but she rips it out of her. Wounded, she woozily makes her way about the river bank. They lose sight of her through the bushes and foliage. Running across a bridge, they are stopped short with the sound of gunshots. A shot, then two, rings out.
And by the time Scully gets there, it is too late. The Sasquatch woman is lying facedown in the leaves.
Mulder bends down, closes her eyes.
Dana Scully knows so much about the body, but she doesn’t know her own body. In ensuing years, she is pursued by sexual predators and cult fanatics. They prey on her affections, fetishize her extremities and fingernail clippings. She is abducted by aliens. She finds a chip in her neck, and upon its removal, develops cancer. She is pronounced infertile, later mysteriously found to be pregnant. Her body is assaulted, probed, traumatized for the next nine years. She clings to her Catholicism.
She doesn’t know all that yet though.
After the Sasquatch killing, the date calls her again and asks her out, but she turns him down.
“Don’t you have a life, Scully?” Mulder asks.
“Keep that up and I’ll hurt you like that beast woman,” Scully says.
That was the turning point. After New Jersey, she commits. She commits to being Mulder’s partner. She gets into his car. She rides shotgun. She knows so much more than him. She negates everything he says.