Title: Troubled Waters
Summary: In northwestern Washington, Sam and Dean run into a cult, missing people, plagues, some really humid weather, and possessed trees.
Disclaimer: As usual, I don't own anything. The geography in this story is fairly accurate; everything else is fiction. Oh, and apologies to William Butler Yeats.
Author's Note: Much thanks to BigPink, who listened to me whine about the troublesome nature of writing a story with an actual plot, and who did a fantastic beta-ing job. And who convinced me to use American spellings, as befits the Winchesters.
Part One: Thursday, July 6
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
—Genesis 1:27-28, KJV
Jasper Kelman stared out at the stormy waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, a perturbed expression on his face. The sea looked as it always did: frothy, grey and green, angry, powerful, commanding. A stern reminder that a human being was of little consequence to the ocean, was but a drop of water in the vast, measureless abyss. A stern reminder that the sea was not a benign giant, but an unforgiving monster. It giveth life, and it taketh it away.
He had conjured up swarms of pests, but this was not of his doing. He had deliberately brought curses on an island that needed reminding that they weren't the be-all and end-all, weren't God. Soon, he would show his power to the whole state and then the nation. The world. But this last… this was something different. It had taken on a life of its own, and Jasper was terrified.
He had been in control, directing the creatures of this earth to do his bidding. He knew when they would amass and when they would disperse, when they would wake and when they would sleep. He commanded their presence, and the creatures came. When the time came, he vanquished them, and his power and credibility grew. His followers increased in number, and their loyalty deepened and his authority was proven time and again.
But this last was something different.
He knew the old saws, that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, that great men are almost always bad men. He also knew that authority must not waver, that fear must not be shown. Weakness was unforgivable, as the sea, and weakness proved unreliability and unworthiness and lacking, and was undeserving of adoration.
His terror must be hidden, shared with no one, because no one could understand; they knew not what he knew. There was no one who could objectively appreciate his struggle, and of this he was proud. As his followers' devotion grew, so too did his influence, and he became more effective as their leader. He spoke a single word, and they followed him unto the ends of the earth.
He had a feeling that soon they might have to.
Dean's cell phone rang suddenly, shattering the amiable silence, making both Winchesters start. Sam, sorting laundry, dropped an armload of t-shirts on the dingy brown motel-room carpet. Dean, having spent the last twenty-two years alert, simply crooked an eyebrow. "Who could that be?" said Sam.
Dean carefully laid the stock of the .44 that he'd been polishing on the bed and grabbed his phone from the bedside table. "Hello."
"Hello, Dean Winchester?" Nervous, eager, female voice.
"Yes, speaking." Guarded. Exchanging a glance with Sam.
"Hi, it's Anne Edwards. Um, I got your father's name from my sister-in-law… She said maybe you might be able to help me." Her voice petered out, uncertain.
"Maybe we can, ma'am. What exactly is the situation?"
Anne sighed deeply. "It's my daughter… she's twenty-four and, well, not really focused, you know?"
Dean squinted in confusion. What the hell? "Uh, excuse me, but—"
"She was at school, you know, did two years of English literature and then decided it wasn't for her, so she took some time off, traveled a bit, Italy, France—"
"Mrs Edwards?" Dean tried. He'd wondered briefly if it was somebody playing a joke on him, but Sam was standing ten feet away and seemed only mildly curious.
"No no, call me Anne, please… and she lived in hostels and worse, believe you me, and then she switched universities, trying for a fresh start, but it's the finishing she's having trouble with, and…"
Bemused, Dean offered the phone to his brother, figuring he might have a clue what this school stuff was about.
Sam took it, frowning, covering the mouthpiece with his thumb. "Who is she, Dean?" he whispered. "What…" And he was distracted by the woman's voice, which seemed to be debating the relative merits of Emily's car and UBC, whatever that meant.
"I'm sorry," Sam interrupted, when he realized that his brother was just going to laugh unhelpfully. "What exactly is the problem?"
"Oh no, now you've done it," said Dean, shaking his head and smirking, and Sam waved an arm at him, shut up so I can hear.
But instead Sam's question seemed to rouse the woman and she said, quite clearly, "My daughter Celia's missing. She was going to be hitchhiking down in Washington, and she promised to call daily, but after the first week we only got one message, and Celia sounded off, and we checked the number, and it was for this address on Whidbey Island that the police said is—oh, I can't even say it!—but they can't do anything and, well, my sister-in-law said that your father helped her with, well, she used the word possession, but I mean, really…"
And Sam let her ramble on a few more seconds before interrupting again—"Mrs Edwards?"
"Anne, I told you, call me Anne, Dean."
"Right," said Sam, and didn't correct her. "Can you give me some specifics, please?" He grabbed a pen and paper from the night-table drawer and took notes.
And twenty minutes later, when there was no end in sight, Sam made staticky noises into the mouthpiece, shouted, "Sorry, battery's low! I'll call you back if I have more questions!" and hung up.
Dean, who had gone back to cleaning their guns, raised his brows and grinned. "So there is a limit to your politeness."
Sam ignored that. "Oh, man, that was brutal," he moaned, flopping down on his back on the bed. "I am going to get you for this, you know."
"Yeah, yeah," scoffed Dean. "So, she actually has a case? I mean, besides a mental case?"
Sam sat up and nodded. "Enough that we should check it out, anyway. I told her we'd do some preliminary research and then get back to her, see if this is really something we can help with or not."
"Okay. So, you spend some quality time with your buddy over there," said Dean, already halfway out the door and motioning over his shoulder to the laptop, "and I'll go get us some grub."
"So, looks like Mrs Edwards' daughter, Celia, has been drawn into a cult," Sam announced when Dean returned, bearing two large grease-stained paper bags. "Jeez, how long d'you think we're going to stick around? 'Cause that'll last us the week."
Dean glanced down at his purchases unconcernedly. "I was hungry. And, a cult? While admittedly freaky, not a supernatural phenomenon that I'm aware of."
"Yeah, but there's more. It's not just crazy people. It seems that the cult's been suspected in several instances of cattle mutilation and rustling—"
"Cattle rustling? Did you just say cattle rustling?"
Sam scowled at his brother. "Shut up, already. I'm just telling you what I found."
"Don't get your panties in a twist, Sam," chided Dean. "So, what else? Any crop circles, UFO sightings?"
"As a matter of fact," began Sam, and paused dramatically. "No. But they've been having electrical problems, for like almost two years, the power going out for the whole island for no discernable reason; the power company is mystified. They've taken to replacing great stretches of transmission lines, hoping to solve the problem."
"That's kinda strange, could be demonic activity. But… it's a cult. Couldn't they be siphoning off electrical current for their own purposes?"
Sam nodded. "Sure. Police have combed the area, thinking that they've got a drug lab in the basement or something, but nothing. They're clean. So, anyway, if these guys are summoning up spirits or something and affecting a whole island? That's some pretty awesome power they've got." He grinned. "No pun intended."
"Right. So where is this exactly? Which island?" asked Dean. He had been setting out the food on the table, and there appeared to be enough for a small army. "Help yourself."
Sam, notepad in hand, came over and inspected the fare. It was Chinese take-out, and there was fried rice; chow mein; sweet and sour something, probably pork; almond chicken; broccoli beef; three egg rolls (Why three? thought Sam); and wonton soup. "You neglected to get plates," he observed.
Dean paused. "True. Your point being?"
Sam rolled his eyes and grabbed a pair of chopsticks. "I swear, you were born in a barn. Anyway, Celia's from Vancouver, BC, and the cult is on Whidbey Island, which is in Washington State. From what I gather, Whidbey is the second-largest island in the Lower Forty-eight, after either Long Island or Isle Royale, Michigan." A sardonic shrug. "Two different sources sayin' two different things. If the Internet can't agree on basic facts like that, how are we supposed to believe even an ounce of anything else out there? What's the point?" Sam blew out his breath in frustration.
"I assume that's a rhetorical question," said Dean, after a beat. "Because, don't you remember before the Internet? We spent like half our lives in the library, with Dad."
Sam shook his head ruefully. "And yet none of it rubbed off on you. I don't understand. Okay, so the Internet's helpful, as long as you take it with a grain of salt… or, you know, a shotgunful of salt.
"Anyway, according to the local papers, those paragons of journalism, there've been weird noises late at night, like screaming and drums, but when the police have investigated—nothing. Everybody's asleep in their beds."
Dean was skeptical. "Maybe they just have a police radio and listen to it, know when to wrap things up and turn the lights out."
"Maybe," Sam agreed. "But listen. There've been plagues."
Dean raised an eyebrow. "Like the bubonic plague or the biblical plagues?"
Sam rolled his eyes. "The biblical ones. Specifically, there's lice, locusts, and frogs. Like, enough to blanket the island. Obscure the air."
"Lice?" Dean screwed up his face in disgust.
"Yeah. So. Strange, huh? Also, don't know if it's related or not, but there've been some missing persons cases around, women, mostly on Whidbey but some on, uh," he flipped through his notes, "Fidalgo Island. Guess there's this bridge that connects the two islands. Anyway, interested? Should we call Mrs. Edwards back and say we'll investigate?"
"What's this 'we', white man?" said Dean, and Sam sighed.
"All right, all right. I'll call her."