It's horrible and I'm so sorry for that. But at least it's something.
Chapter Eleven: Speechless and Redundant
When, all those hours ago, Sam had dozed off into his cheeseburger, Dean sat around in the booth for only three minutes. Three long and arduous minutes he sat staring at the nappy head of his baby brother, silently contemplating whether or not it would be a good idea to wake the kid up. They were on a schedule after all, lallygagging was not allowed. Nor were nightmares for that matter, vicious nightmares that were liable to cause a vast amount of unwanted attention, and the last thing that anyone needed was unwanted attention.
But Sammy seemed to be so peaceful, so innocently demure of any terrors that Dean simply left his brother to sleep in front of his soggy French fries. Not wanting to make a whole lot of noise that would wake Sam up, Dean left his brother alone to saunter over to the registers. Traveling to an old, abandoned Corpus Christi railroad plagued by a demonic train really burned up the calories.
The pimple-faced cashier was already turning away from the fry cook – and his fascinating conversation about Clearasil – to acknowledge Dean when the elder man cleared his throat rather rudely. The kid didn't look so happy to be working at a fast food joint so late into the evening, and the lack of excitement was all the more evident in his voice.
"Help you?" he asked, angry red volcanoes disappearing into the folds around his mouth as words formed.
Dean smiled awkwardly, remembering his own adolescent days spent hunched over the sink with rubbing alcohol, cotton swabs and his two most trusted fingers. He hoped to God looking at this kid, who must have just come on shift somewhere between the time Dean had ordered the Winchesters' evening meal and came back for an ice cream cone – looking at him wouldn't make Dean break out in wild patches of acne.
The kid still stared with droopy, grey eyes and a violently red frown at Dean. He rubbed at his chin with the side of his right hand and for a moment Dean was utterly horrified. Let this punk handle his ice cream cone? No way, José! He wasn't going to chance contracting a rather severe bought of pimples through cross-contamination with a kid's greasy, acne-laden hand and a sugar cone.
He opened his mouth to speak, was going to ask if Fry Boy back there by the stoves playing Beef Patty Hockey could take his order instead, when the grip of terror loosened its hold. "Just a twist ice cream cone, my good man."
"Size?" the kid – "Gerald" proclaimed his gleaming white name tag – asked with a horrible lack of enthusiasm.
"La – " Dean began and then stopped, looking over his shoulder at the crumpled form of Sleeping Sammy. Better let the kid get his rest without a whole lot of slurping. "Small," he amended, his voice as plagued with disappointment as his cashier.
Up-nodding, Gerald punched a few keys on the only open register and asked for a rather stately sum for an ice cream cone. Dean handed him a twenty dollar bill and got his change back with a scowl and a forceful thrust. Several dimes clattered to the floor, one bouncing off Dean's left boot and another tinkling to a stop somewhere behind him.
With a cross sigh Dean bent down to retrieve his dropped currency, dirt and grime scraping against his fingertips. He scowled. If it didn't cost so much to fill his Baby with gasoline every ten miles he wouldn't be bothering with twenty cents. But bothering with twenty cents he was and so he set about scrabbling about the grungy floor like a crab to retrieve his change.
The first dime was easy enough to get to, having fallen under the soda machine beside Acne Boy's register, but the second was a rebel without a cause. When dropped it had bounced off Dean's right boot toe and rolled across the restaurant to the coolers, where it met up with a used piece of chewing gum. The gum, judging by the color of course Dean Winchester was no heathen, the stick of chewy sugar was Double Mint and atrociously sticky. It would not let Dean's shiny, 1995 dime go, the spot of change was held fast in the germ-ridden depths of gum and required that Dean use enough force in his tug to smash his knuckles against the bottom of the refrigerated display case. But at least he had his dime back.
Smiling, Dean pocketed his change and stood up on cracking knees. A quick glance in the glass, despite a weak reflection, proved that the ordeal had not damaged Dean's facade at all.
Dean could not afford for his good-looking, brutish armor to become so much as tarnished. People could not ever see what lied beneath the surface, because if they did… Dean didn't have to worry about that, his armor was perfectly intact.
Confident in his ongoing charade as an insensitive fool without a care in the world, Dean turned and walked back to the counter. Gerald was still making the ice cream cone, turning the caramel-colored sugar wafer slowly around and around. Perfection took time, obviously.
Anxious to get away from the acne-faced cashier, desperate to not get infected with a break-out himself, Dean huffed silently and shoved his hands into the pocket of his jeans. He looked back into the kitchen to watch the cook play with frozen beef patties, but the cook was no longer by the stove. The cook wasn't anywhere for that matter, just seemed to disappear into the belly of the Dairy Queen.
Dean hoped the cook wasn't doing anything immoral, anything that would slap a Department of Health citation on the door so fast the paper would smoke.
Twisting his face into a mask of disgust, the eldest Winchester brother resumed the study of Gerald's back – which was scrawny, even for a teenager. The shoulder blades pushed against the fabric of the kid's work shirt in awkward, almost anorexic-like angles. Either the kid really was harboring an eating disorder, or he was one of those talentless species of school children who couldn't even walk without tripping over their own two feet. Dean could clearly see this, too – see Acne Boy walking to the drive-thru window and suddenly, with the sparkling flare only accident-prone people can produce, fall flat on his face.
The blonde started to laugh at this image of a fellow human being falling down, delighted in the fact that he could laugh after everything he and Sammy had been through lately, when he felt a sudden urge to look up. It wasn't even really like an urge, either, because an urge is felt. This, though… Dean just looked up. He didn't know why, it was just one of those things people did without thinking about it. He lifted his head and there he was, staring up at the menu board.
Just a plain Dairy Queen menu board that resembled the how many millions of others across the country, the world – the Midwest. Just another menu board, changing on its own accord. No, not so much changing in the sense of metamorphism but in the sense that all the letters were being rearranged by an unseen set of hands. Every last letter, too, as well as the numbers. Gone were the cheeseburgers and chicken strip baskets, gone were the Cokes and Sprites and apple juice. Gone gone gone was anything feasible, anything normal.
The large black letters were being shuffled around like a deranged person who just lost big at Scrabble. They went back and forth and up and down, here and there and everywhere in a dizzying display that much resembled a swarm of flies against a window. It was odd, creepy even, and would have sufficed in giving Dean an excuse to leave this restaurant had it not gotten creepier.
The menu's numbers and letters hadn't just rearranged themselves, but did so in a manner that resulted in entirely English wording.
"GRAHAM MANSI0N" proclaimed the centered top line, the letter "O" being a zero. That was uneasy enough, a name that struck a cord somewhere deep down within Dean and brought flying up like a giant beach ball held beneath the water and suddenly let go, an image of a young Sammy standing by the bus line after school with a look about him that screamed "ESCAPED INMATE OF CRAZY FARM, SKIPPED OUT ON HIS LOBOTOMY".
And then, of course, Dean asked his brother what the hell had been eating him and all hell had broken loose. Dams buckled under the weight of all the water they were forced to hold back and Sammy cried – more than that, sobbed and weeped and wailed – had been completely inconsolable until – poof! – the kid stopped, plum ran out of water.
So the house with the so-called Killing Room was now the new title for the menu board, creepy as sin in its own right, but then Dean saw what was below it. A list. A very long list of names that began with the horribly unpronounceable name of D'avianna – was it "Dee-ay-vee-anna" or was it "Dave-ee-ah-nah" or some combination of both? – and stretched on for three columns, abridged by the look of it, and ended with something that chilled Dean to the core.
Right beneath the name of Steven O'Dell were small black letters and numbers that spelt Samuel and Dean "W1NCH3STER". It had all the charm of an Instant Messaging session with a tween girl from hell.
Reeling back in shock and fright, understanding nothing, Dean looked back across the counter. His ice cream cone was being held up by Eeyore incarnate with a paralyzingly bored expression on his face, one curling around the edges with suspicion.
"Not that I have anything better to do than hold this for you all night…."
Calm Dean could not be. He grabbed the ice cream cone from Acne Boy's hands and shuffled back to the booth his brother was zonked out in. He sat choking down the ice cream, his throat pinched and unwilling to accept dairy products. Gerald went home by the time Dean finished his ice cream cone, the boy's face constricted in confusion, the red volcanoes writhing in their skin crease canyon prisons.
The rest Sammy knew: Dean left in a daze to gather provisions in the convenience store and at the Little Debby end cap overhead a small group of people with silly accents talking about the very place that had been made into the title of the Dairy Queen's menu board, which had since returned to normal.
But, sitting there in the Impala trying to drive through a winter storm, Dean really didn't want to have to say anything else to Sammy regarding the Diary Queen incident and Sammy could tell.
Since his recitation of Talking Heads lyrics and his theories revolving around this whole screwy plot with YKO, Little Man hadn't said much of anything. He had the road map open in his lap, one hand rubbing at the stitches in his forehead and the other tracing along the road they were taking. He sighed and lifted his head to look out of the windshield.
The snow was thick, accumulating and mounting and drifting furiously as thundersnow had a tendency to do. Monique was from Rhode Island, it was tragically comical her lack of blizzard knowledge.
"We should be there very soon," Sam said. "Assuming, of course, we don't veer off into a snowdrift – a tree – and get ourselves killed."
"Nice way to go," Dean replied into the windshield. He was leaning over the steering wheel, squinting through the heavy curtains of snow. "Better than geists any day."
The walkie talkie crackled and hissed. "Exciting, isn't it?" Steve's voice was positively giddy, quite possibly from the notion of getting killed while driving through a blizzard. A little disembowelment here, a little beheading over there….
"Exciting isn't even the half of it, buddy."
Sam waited for the devil with the false teeth answer, despite neither brother pressing the button when Sam spoke – he just expected it to happen, for the man with the scar on his lip to hear.
He didn't, though. Instead Steve's shrill and convulsive laugh snapped and crackled and popped through the walkie-talkie. "It's just down this driveway up here. At least I think there's a driveway up here."
Which was an interesting statement – Sam could barely see the van's taillights through the snow anymore, but Steve could see a driveway? He let the map crease in his lap as he leaned forward, straining his eyes to see through the veils of harsh white flakes. Then, suddenly, he sat back.
"Something wrong, Sammy?"
Sammy looked back out the window, his forehead creased in a kind of scared concentration. His cut screamed whereas he voice could not. His throat was locked.
In the distance, hardly rising out of the horizon yet, was the vast structure of a house. It was in horrible disrepair, sagged toward the east as most ill-kept houses tend to do in one direction or another. Sam could tell all of this because, much to his shock and dismay, there was a strong yet milky yellow light radiating from a window on what might have been the attic floor.
Someone had left the lights on for them.