She stands in front of the mirror naked, drawing a finger gently down her sternum. This is where they’ll make the Y incision when she’s gone. Lying flat on the table, her body as cold as the metal it’s made of. She wonders if Mulder will be in the autopsy room, waiting menacingly in the wings until the poor medical examiner says “I’m sorry sir, but it was the cancer.”
Will Mulder believe him? Will he rage against the truth of what killed her, or lay down in darkness and not get back up? He will go one of two ways, both paths destructive, neither what she wants for him, but there’s no third way this could go. She knows him too well.
Her reflection is thin in the watery morning light. If she weren’t sick, she would probably smile at herself, thrill a bit at how she looked, go to a store and smugly tell a teenaged salesgirl through the fitting room door “I guess I’m going to need the size 4 after all.”
She moves her finger up her body to the point in between her eyes, pressing until the skin turns white. Two inches back, the mass lies in wait, slowly biding its time until it says to itself “let’s metastasize, boys, now’s our time!”
It could be any day. She wonders vaguely when it will start to hurt.
She remembers her first cardiac rotation: a patient didn’t want to get the ablation procedure needed to fix unexplained tachycardia. He could be sitting down watching TV and suddenly his heart would beat at 200bpm for an hour straight. Finally the attending just told him “your heart only has a certain number of beats, let’s not use them all now.” The patient agreed to the procedure.
She wonders how many more beats are left in her own heart. Enough for her to count them?
There’s a tiny speck of dried blood just inside her left nostril, so she wets a washcloth and rubs at it until there is no trace. It would not do to let Mulder see it.
She wonders if there’s anything she can say to him that might help, that might ease the burden of being the one that lives. He is the atheist in this foxhole, and she wants to wrap him in her prayers.
“I may not believe in aliens, but I believe in you.”
She will put that in her journal as well--all of the things she can write to him but isn’t brave enough to say out loud.
There’s a light knock at her door and she quickly dons a robe and answers it, knowing it’s him. She’s not supposed to drive herself home after a treatment, so he’s taking her.
His expression is blank, his jaw tight. He’s mourning her already, she can tell--grief surrounds him like a caul.
She lets him help her in and out of the car, lets him open doors, get her coffee, magazines. Lets him pay whatever penance he thinks this is.
She keeps him close.
If he’s not by her side, he would be out looking for answers, casting himself further and further afield, until one day, he’d look back and she wouldn’t be there, and she doesn’t want to remember him as a speck on the horizon, as a pillar of salt.