Waterstar

Disclaimer:

the characters in this story are copyright to Chris Carter and 1013 Productions and have been used without permission. This story may be taken from this site, so long as it is not done so for any monetary gain, and so long as it remains intact with the author's name.

Mr Curly, Vasco Pyjama and the good people of Curly Flat, and the little poem at the end, are all the property of Michael Leunig and have also been used without permission. I highly recommend all of his books to anyone.

No harm has been intended by this use of other people's stuff.

This story is copyright Amanda le Bas de Plumetot.

This story first appeared on news://alt.tv.x-files.creative around December 1995.

Have a great Christmas everyone. There is no moral to this story other than that you should have fun.

This story is rated sugarplum fairy :)

WATERSTAR

Mulder knew it was inevitable. Sooner or later it was going to catch him, it was only a matter of time. All the paperwork he had managed to avoid during the year by fobbing off onto someone else or insisting that he needed more information or just plain procrastinated over had finally come due.

Scully frowned at the heap of files on Mulder's desk, "Mulder it's Christmas. You're not really going to come in here and work."

He shrugged, "Nothing like a couple of days of peace and quiet to really focus the mind."

"You'll turn into Ebenezer Scrooge."

"That's humbug, Scully."

"Come and have Christmas day with my family." Ever since she'd learned that Mulder's Mother was spending Christmas with her brother and his family, Scully had been trying to talk her partner into spending the holiday with her family.

"No, Scully, really. I'd be out of place."

"My Mother thinks you're fantastic and my brothers are dying to meet you. Besides...the table's getting kind of empty..."

"Your mother thinks I'm terrible, Scully, ever since I made the comment about her toilet paper."

"What did you say about her toilet paper?"

"Well, nothing really. Just that I thought it was kind of ironic, toilet paper with little fish and sea-stars printed on it."

"Oh, Mulder. You know she doesn't care about that. And I still think you should come with me."

The temptation to say yes almost overcame him. Mulder had been working with Scully long enough for some of his immunity to her big blue eyes to have been worn away. But the files were there. X-Files that needed his attention, work that sat at the right hand of his consciousness all the time and the holiday was his opportunity to work on them.

"Sorry, Scully."

Normally Scully wouldn't have even been in on a Sunday, but she had wanted to finish off a few details from the last job they had worked on, rather than leave the loose ends dangling during the days she would be absent. Now the work was all finished and she had tidied her desk in preparation for leaving. Finally, with her coat on and ready to go, Scully turned and pressed a large cube wrapped in plain red and finished with a green ribbon into Mulder's hands, "Don't open it till morning," she ordered, "I want you to have one Christmassy thing on the day."

Mulder handed over his package, wrapped in plain brown paper, tied with raffia, and finished off with a green and red Christmas sticker-label bearing the name of the shop where he'd bought it. He hoped the woman who wrapped it had remembered to remove the tag, "Merry Christmas, Scully. Put it under your Mom's tree tonight and sneak down before breakfast to open it."

Scully laughed. She threw her arms around his neck and he was too surprised to duck aside when her lips pressed briefly against his, "Merry Christmas, Mulder," she said, and left before either of them had time to say anything more.

Mulder poked at the junk on his desk. If he could focus a little he could get some work done now, but his attention was continually drawn to the parcel Scully had given him. Given the size and shape of the box, there was only one thing that could be inside; a Dimple. He rocked the box from side to side and listened to the slosh of liquid gold inside. He felt so embarrassed by the present he had selected for Dana. He'd gone out with the intention of buying her a nice pair of earrings, sapphires, maybe, to match her eyes, but jewellery was a hard thing to buy. He had looked at the perfume counters and been so overwhelmed by the chemical permutations available that he left empty handed. He had glanced briefly at the lingerie counter and tried not to dwell on the image of Scully in a black silk teddy. He had managed to get presents for everyone on his short list, except Scully. Then he saw the doll.

The squat shape of Scully's present to him loomed accusingly. He had bought her a doll. What the hell had gotten into him? He never even looked into those cutesie-pie craft shops, but for some reason he'd paused by the window of this one and been caught by the patchwork doll in the window. She wore a ragged pinafore with a black cat stencilled on the bib. Her long hair had been made up of several different shades of wool, magenta, plum, and claret. She had black drawn on dots for eyes and long eyelashes and a peculiar pouting mouth that reminded him of someone, though he couldn't quite place who. Mulder liked the doll, it was stupid and childish, but it was Christmas, and he wanted Scully to have it. Now he wished he'd stuck with the earrings. They were pretty. They were grown up. They were impersonal.

After shoving the files on his desk about a bit more, Mulder admitted to himself that he wasn't going to get any work done. He gathered up a few papers and his presents, the box from Scully and a poinsettia Skinner had given him. If he didn't take too long getting home he could watch the original Miracle on 34th Street and compare it with the new version that was being run later.

The weather was dismal. Unrelenting rain soaked him by the time he got to his car, and whipped his coat about his ankles. He stood in a puddle, trying to unlock the door and a ripple of water splashed right into his shoe. There was little traffic about. Despite the Sunday shopping, most people had been able to settle themselves early on Christmas eve. Mulder considered the state of his fridge and decided a visit to the supermarket would be an expedient move if he didn't want to spend the whole holiday living off kosher take out.

Headlights sparkled off the dim, smeary road. Up ahead Mulder could see a traffic jam. Someone had broken down in the wet and cars were having trouble getting past. He turned down a side street to detour around the mess. There was a small collection of shops on the side street, and he saw a sign saying "Rainbow Supermarket". It was a dingy little shop, not like the Safeways where he usually bought his food, but the prices were cheap enough.

Mulder had really only intended to buy a few staples, but the smell of the spit roasted turkey breasts was more than he could stand, and he bought one of them and heaped his trolley up with fresh vegetables and fruit as well. He wandered up the pet food aisle. He had meant to get his fish some live brine shrimp for their Christmas treat, but had left it too late. He bought them a new tin of exotic looking dried food, instead. At the end of the aisle was a gondola full of odd bits and pieces. A lucky dip that Mulder found irresistible. He stooped over it and began to rummage. There were jars of chutney fast approaching their use-by date, dented cans of dog food, and something that might have been shampoo, only its label was missing. Something glittered down the bottom of the gondola and Mulder reached it out. It was a small plastic vial about as long as his hand, and containing about half a cup of liquid. Floating in the liquid was something filmy and iridescent that might have been made of dragonfly wings, but was more likely cellophane. All it said on the label was "Waterstar". Mulder had no idea what it was or what it did, but he liked it, and for fifty seven cents, he was willing to take the chance.

It was good to get home. Mulder dumped his presents in the lounge room and his groceries in the kitchen and his clothes in the laundry. He pulled on his track suit and left his feet bare. They were wrinkled from being in wet socks for so long, but at least he was warm. He flicked the tv on and gave the fish some of their special Christmas food. It was edible. They approved. He arranged his things on the small table beside the fish, using the poinsettia as a tree. Scully's box sat at the back, its accusing bulk half hidden under the leaves of the plant. In front of that was the flat oblong Uncle George has given him. Mulder smiled, he liked George. His mother's younger brother was probably his favourite member of his whole family. Every year he and George had a contest, who could buy the other the most tasteless tie. George had a fine eye for really outrageous neckwear. George's wife, Helen would send him sox and handkerchiefs. His mother gave him a new shirt and a book voucher from a shop called "Unknown Places". Somehow, she always managed to find some out of the way little bookshop full of stuff he really needed. The voucher was in a card. She also had a knack for always being able to find a Christmas card that had a picture of a fox on it, though she never used the forbidden name, simply writing "with love from Mother" on the bottom of the card.

Mulder looked at the waterstar. He was tempted to empty its contents into the aquarium, but the water might have been contaminated, and he didn't want his fish to get sick. He found a brandy balloon and filled it with water, and then tipped the waterstar into it. It unfolded its gauzy points and floated in the middle of the glass. It was a very pleasing affect, and Mulder put it on top of the fishtank so that it almost looked as if the star was on top of the poinsettia. He made himself turkey sandwiches and sat in front of the tv, the original Miracle on 34th Street was just starting.

Mulder didn't remember falling asleep, he only remembered feeling happy, eating and being warm and looking, from time to time at his fish and his presents and the waterstar that hung sparkling in its glass. Now he was asleep, though, and dreaming and he was content to enjoy even that.

He was standing on a road which ran down the middle of the undulating folds of a meadow planted with trees. It was an unseasonal dream, the trees were bursting with pink and white blossoms that littered the ground like vivid confetti. There were all kinds of birds in the trees, too, some singing, some squawking. He could see them moving about, patches of grey and brown feathers, and, in places, the brilliant colours of parrots. From far off he could hear the merry sound of a little bell ringing.

He turned to see where the bell sound was coming from, and along the road came a most singular sight. It was an odd little wagon being pulled by a collection of animals. The leading pair were grey, round faced furry creatures that looked like cats on steroids and had long, prehensile looking tails. Behind them, also hitched to the wagon were three pairs of white Indian Runner ducks, strutting along with an awkward looking, very upright gait. The wagon itself was a brightly painted affair that looked like a cross between the little seahorse tails of fractals and something a hippie would paint. The curly motif was extended to the actual woodwork of the wagon, which curled its way to a curly pinnacle from which hung the little bell that tinkled jauntily as the wagon rocked along. Driving the wagon was, not unexpectedly, a curly man. He would have been an ordinary looking person (albeit with a somewhat large nose), except that his actual head came to a point, bending forward so that it curled over his eyes. It was possibly the sort of effect you might get if a Conehead had a perm.

The wagon stopped when it drew level with Mulder and the curly man leant over, "Welcome, stranger," he said amiably, "Would you like to share my ride?"

Mulder smiled, "Thanks," he said, and climbed in beside the curly man. The wagon rocked on again, the animals seemed unconcerned by the extra weight. Around them the birds raised their voices in joyful chorus and the blossoms filled the air. The little wagon crested a rise and below them Mulder saw more trees and green, and a little village.

"Welcome to Curly Flat," said the little man, gesturing towards the village, "My name is Mr. Curly."

Mulder shook the proffered hand, "Very pleased to meet you, Mr Curly," he said, pleased with himself at being able to keep a straight face and not offend his aptly named host, "My name is Mulder."

"I'm glad you were able to make it here for Christmas, Mulder. We try to do something special every year. My friend Vasco Pyjama will be here tonight, too. I think you'll enjoy talking to him."

"Vasco Pyjama?" said Mulder.

"Vasco is my dearest friend and a great traveller. I've missed him a lot lately, but fortunately, his direction finding duck, which always points him towards new joys, knows that the best place to be at Christmas is with your family, so he is coming home."

Mulder nodded. The sun was bright and warm overhead and Mr Curly's sense of serenity was, it seemed, contagious. Now that they had come down from the rise, the plant life had changed to cottagey gardens and wonderful trees. Everything was curly. There were curly palms and twisted willows. Convolvulus twirled through picket fences. The place was full of birds, too, and it wasn't until a large white bird with golden feathers on top of its head screeched a welcome, that Mulder realised the Sulphur Crested cockatoos' crests could be considered curly.

The little wagon drew to a halt outside one of the houses and the animals drawing it took off their harnesses. The furry leaders rushed up a tree and the ducks waddled across to a pond in the front yard.

"What are those things?" asked Mulder, indicating the furry animals.

"Ringtail possums, of course," said Mr Curly.

Mulder decided he was probably making that up. Their faces were softer than opossums', and he'd never heard of a "ringtailed" opossum. The yard, as well as being filled with plant life, contained a large number of chickens. It did not surprise Mulder in the least to see that the hens were all wearing little frilly frocks and the roosters were dressed in top-coats and bow ties.

"Why are they wearing those?" said Mulder.

"Oh, I tried putting the normal kind of ties on them, but they were too long and kept dangling in the dirt," said Mr Curly.

"No, I mean why are the chickens wearing clothes?"

"Why, I'm a poultry dresser, of course," said Mr Curly.

Inside, the house was so curly Mulder would have felt quite dizzy if he'd tried to focus on any of the patterns, or take any of it seriously. He was introduced to Mrs Curly, whose head was as curly as her husband's. In the back yard she showed him a trestle table laden with food. Again it was unseasonal, even for the dream, because there were bowls full of vivid cherries and soft peaches. There were two Christmas cakes, one huge and one even bigger. The larger of the cakes had a card on it, wishing love to a duck. There was freshly baked bread on the table, and bowls of hot, crisp baked potatoes, no roast turkey though. It probably would have been tasteless to even suggest such a thing in a town where the hens were wearing pinnies and the roosters were concerned about soiling their ties.

The yard filled with joyous curly people and Mulder found himself happy just being with them. There were dogs with curly tails and goats with curly horns and cats with curly fur. Along with the chatter of people there were birds filling the trees. Over the babble of their laughter he heard Mr Curly call out something about Vasco Pyjama, and through the picket of the back gate he saw the unlikely sight of an armchair being rowed along the path by a little man with a duck upon his knee. Vasco was mobbed by well wishers, but the duck ignored everyone and made its way directly to the large cake which it immediately began to devour.

The whole crowd set upon the tables and began to devour the heaps of fruit and cakes and shortbread and chocolate laid out. Mulder scooped up a handful of cherries and a handful of nuts as balmy twilight descended and stars began to clutter the sky. There was no particular rhyme or reason to the constellations and Mulder was not the least bit surprised when one particularly brilliant star twinkled insistently until it had gained everyone's attention and Mr Curly, indicating the star said: "It's time!"

A hush of expectation fell over the crowd and the star, as if it had been waiting for this moment, began to move. The crowd followed, filing through the gate of Mr Curly's garden, and wandering down the road to a tumbledown shack. A dog wandered out of the shack and stood by the door wagging its curly tail. The star made it look as though it was daylight. The people gathered in a half circle around the dog and the door, and when everyone was settled, the dog pushed the door wide to reveal a black and white bird which gazed at them with a beady eye for a moment before bursting into a breathlessly beautiful warbling song. Three of the best dressed chickens Mulder had ever seen came in and sat beside the bird, gazin avidly at it, along with everybody else.

At the end of the song, everybody sighed and wiped tears of joy from their eyes. Mulder caught Mr Curly's gaze.

"Could you tell me the significance of the bird?"

"It's a Christmas tradition," said Mr Curly, "The three wise hens and the adoration of the magpie."

Mulder was still laughing when he woke up. There was a choir singing on the television, the purity of their voices a counterpoint to the dirty light that clung to his window. It was Christmas morning. He'd fallen asleep on the couch in front of the tv again. The fish had noticed him and were performing their usual acrobatics, trying to induce him to feed them before he fed himself. The waterstar had gone, dissolved into a heap of iridescent feathers at the bottom of the glass. When he looked at the clock he saw that it was nearly noon. He was surprised at having slept so long. It was worth it though, for the dream.

The answering machine was winking at him. One wink, that was his mother ringing to wish him a Merry Christmas and wondering where he was at that time on Christmas morning. The second wink was Scully. He smiled. She loved the doll and she wanted him to ring as soon as he got through with going for his run or having his morning shower or whatever it was he was doing.

Mulder pulled Scully's present to him. He was really glad she had liked the doll. He had been so worried about it. Now it really didn't seem to matter. Christmas was fun and it was being with people you liked. He'd learned that. he was going to make a real effort next year. There was his resolution, a week early. He pulled the paper off the box. It was a plain white box, not at all what he had expected. Inside was a snowdome. Mulder's face split into a wide smile. A child's toy. A little curly man in his curly wagon, pulled by the ducks and ringtail possums, all swirled about with pink and white dots as they drove through the cherry orchard. When he put the snowdome down, it began to tinkle out the tune of "Good King Wenceslas", and written along the base of the snowdome was a little poem: Here comes Mr Curly now In his curly wagon With his basket full of bread And his trusty flagon. Riding out to meet the Spring Out to greet the blossoms With a splendid team of ducks Led by two fat possums.

the end

*:)

amanda