Warnings: Language and violence
Synopsis: After an attack in the woods, Sam is left alone and with amnesia. Dean must find his brother and together, with the help of some friends, they battle the thing that prowls Black Hills Forest.
Author's Note: This story was started on December 15th, after I recieved an email from Sassy. Herself, Amy and I tossed this idea around and I've been working on it ever since, occasionally calling upon the girls for help and inspiration. After it was completed in the beginning of July, Amy worked her masterful Beta skills and 'sharpened the edges'. And now, seven months and 67 pages later, I present to you my first multi-chaptered Supernatural story.
out the front door like a ghost into the fog
Where no one notices the contrast of white on white
And in between the moon and you the angels get a better view
Of the crumbling difference between wrong and right'
-'Round Here', Counting Crows
A frustrated cry escaped his lips as he curled in on himself. One arm wrapped around his aching chest and the other bent against his belly. He drew up his knees tightly, pressing his arms against his abdomen completing the tight ball as violent shivers racked his body. Warmth eluded him, though, as did the sanctuary of oblivion; blown away like a leaf upon the wind.
It was raining, he finally realized. The cold, fat drops of water splashed upon his skin over and over, relentless in their assault. He shivered harder. His clothes were soaking wet and heavy with the coldness that seeped into his bones. The earth beneath him was melting into mud, and it splashed into his eyes, lips and hair. He was sinking in it.
With unconsciousness only a fading memory, he faced the fact that it was time to act- to move.
He uncurled his arms, planting his hands in the cold, thick mud, and pushed himself into a sitting position. Coldness attacked his torso as his ribs exploded in pain, and his lower vertebrae felt like they were twisting out of his spine. Another cry escaped him, louder this time, but there was no one around to respond. A violent shiver ripped through him as his bones turned to ice.
His eye lids were heavy and it took a long minute of panting and self-control before he could focus on his
surroundings. How did he get outside? The sound of rain echoed all around him. Deciduous trees towered above him on all sides, their leaves twitching and jumping as the raindrops splattered upon them. It was night, but a full, heavy moon shone brilliantly through the tightly woven spider web of tree limbs. Dark shadows lay draped over the forest floor, as black as the holes of open graves. What was he doing here?
A wild fear flared within him. There was something here, and it was after him. He had to get out of here.
His fingers sunk into the cold, slimy mud as he pushed himself to his feet. The heavy denim clung to his legs and hips, weighing him down and making him sluggish and awkward. The mud made a sucking noise as he pulled his hands free, then he straightened and took his first tentative step.
Another shiver tore through him, and he lost his balance.
He reached out and gripped the scabrous bark of the nearest tree. He looked down, searching himself for a clue as to his identity, but only found himself dressed in nondescript clothes. His sneakers were untied and caked with mud. His light blue jacket was glistening in the moonlight, pregnant with rain water that dripped in excess onto the ground around his feet.
He felt empty. He reached up and raked a hand through his hair, pushing it out of his eyes as he pressed it against his skull. His head hurt from within, and he felt a large, swollen, tender knot near the base of his skull.
Questions forced their way through his pain, demanding attention with the gripping, paralytic force of a mouse before a rattle snake.
Who was he? Where was he going? What was he running from? What had happened?
Behind him, braches snapped and he jumped. A low growl echoed through the trees and his blood ran cold. He had to get moving; something was still after him. Something was after him, and it meant to kill.
He stepped forward, pushing off from the tree in order to gain momentum. Water squished in his shoes, pressing through the material like sweat through skin.
He had barely taken two steps when he tripped over something and stumbled. A tree caught his fall. He looked down at the object, knitting his brows as he struggled to bring it into focus.
It was a camouflage backpack, its straps tangled and pressed into the mud.
He obeyed. Never slowing, he bent and plucked the pack from the mud as smoothly as a hawk snatching a rabbit. He paid for the act when he became dizzy and cross-eyed, and the next several steps were spent regaining his composure.
The objects inside the bag were odd-shaped and clumsy and the banged against his back as he ran. The leaves were slick and they hid branches and holes on the forest floor. Several times he tripped and crashed into an unforgiving tree, his body screaming in agony. His head pounded and his limbs were too heavy. His chest burned.
Panic spurred him on. There was no time to think or feel- he simply had to escape.
His life depended on it.
Fifteen minutes later, what little strength he had was depleted. Hot sweat was dripping down his spine, mingling with the cold rivulets of rainwater. Goose bumps littered his flesh and he was unable to stop shivering. His teeth clacked together as even his jaw clenched. His breath turned to fog as he panted, and the steam raised upwards through the rain and limp leaves. His eyelids were heavy, unable to open more than half-mast, and he was no longer walking as much as he was stumbling.
He stopped, leaning his shoulder against the unforgiving tree next to him, and swallowed the thick saliva in the back of his mouth. His heart was beating so hard he could hear the rhythm in his ears. He couldn't go any further. His head was threatening to explode and the pain in his ribs forced him to take shallow breaths.
But then, up ahead, glowing like the fire of hope itself, he saw a light.
Instinctually, like a moth to a flame, he began to move towards it. It was coming from a large building, situated neatly in the center of a manicured grass field. He moved towards it. The woods gave way to the open lawn, and while he was grateful for the flatter terrain, there was nothing to grab onto when his vertigo got the best of him. He fell to the ground with a bone-jarring thud, and simply lay still as the world spun and he gasped for air. His muscles ached, his lungs burned, his throat felt raw- he didn't want to get up. His head was throbbing and before he knew what was happening, his body was wracked with pain as dry heaves stole even more strength.
But he needed to move, now! The feeling was strong; it consumed him and dulled his misery, driving him once more to his feet. Something of unimaginable evil was after him, igniting the most basic of all instincts: Survival.
And he ran, shakily, the remaining distance towards the house.
He stood, panting and gasping, before the last obstacle to his haven. Three rather daunting concrete steps that led to the wooden front door.
His lungs burned and his muscles were leaden with fatigue. He was staring his salvation in the face, yet was unable to push his weary body any further. So close, yet so far. A cold raindrop slithered down his face, and a hot tear followed closely in its wake.
At the edge of the woods, a blood-curdling growl- like that of a large cat- filled the air and he stopped breathing, paralyzed in fear. The sound was neither human nor animal, but something from the depths of Hell itself. He glanced over his shoulder- morbid curiosity getting the better of him- and saw the long black shadow of an over-sized panther racing towards him, its nails and teeth glinting in the moonlight. The eyes glowed fire-red.
He lurched forwards, announcing his arrival rather ungracefully as he tripped and collapsed against the house's thick door. The hair on the back of his neck stood up- the evil was closing in fast.
It would not stop until it had him.
He raised a hand and pounded on the door, splatters of blood staining the wood where his hands made contact. "Help!" he yelled against the doorframe, his voice hoarse and foreign in his ears. His pounding grew more intense as a sick feeling of despondency twisted in his belly.
It was getting closer.
More lights were turned on from within the house, and a shadow appeared behind the thin white curtain covering the front window. Pressing himself to the door, his desperation blossoming every second he was left unprotected out here unprotected, he continued to beat against the wood. His strength was waning.
The cat- if that's what it really was- was sliding through the darkness with frightening speed.
He was going to die.
Suddenly, his support fell away and he collapsed inside the house at the feet of an unfamiliar woman. "What on earth are you doing outside on a night like this?" she asked, instantly kneeling at his side. Her voice sounded like bells and he wanted to cry with relief. "Are you all right?"
"After me," he panted, clawing at the carpet in an attempt to pull himself completely inside the house. The thing wouldn't cross the threshold, somehow he was sure of it.
"After you? Who's after you?" The stranger helped him sit up. "You're bleeding!"
He winced, leaning back against the wall just inside the front door. She was worried about the wrong thing. He wanted her to be afraid of was lurking outside. He would be fine as long as he stayed inside, in her company. The light from the overhead chandelier was bright and it made his eyes ache and water, so he kept them pinched shut as he struggled to catch his breath. She moved about him, her voice full of concern as she murmured.
The door clicked shut and he was enveloped in warm, peach-scented air. He relaxed, feeling inexplicably safer now, and fought a tickle in his throat as warm, soft female hands traveled over his face and down his arms.
"Where all are you hurt? Oh look at you, I should get you to a hospital! You poor thing-"
"No," he grunted, struggling to sit up, "No hospital." He cracked open his eyes, finding a middle-aged woman standing before him in her nightgown, wearing a distraught, concerned look on her face.
A thunderous bang shook the door as if something had slammed into it from the outside. He jumped and the woman screamed, raising a hand to her face and backing towards the center of the room. Brilliant orange light pushed through the miniscule space between the door and its frame.
Flames licked at him from under the door.
He pushed himself away, dragging the sodden backpack as he moved.
"What's going on?" she cried, looking from the door to the stranger and back. Tears glistened in her eyes.
No sooner had she finished the question then a horrible screeching cut through the air, loud and piercing enough to send his hands to his ears.
It was the sound of pure anger and hate, and he was afraid.
The door began shaking as the creature threw itself against it relentlessly. A single silver claw splintered the wood and the woman screamed. He knew that unless he acted, they would become the evil's next victims.
His heart beat wildly in his chest. What was he supposed to do? How could he ever hope to defend them? He didn't even know who he was-
His eyes fell upon the backpack at his side. Had it been an omen?
He snatched it and pulled it towards him, wincing as the screeching became louder without his hands muting the noise. The woman was becoming hysterical so he ignored her; he couldn't allow her helplessness to overtake him as well. With bloody, trembling fingers, he ripped open the bag's zipper and dumped out its contents.
A plastic flask of water, a wooden cross, a leather-bound journal, and a small leather pouch fell to the floor- but it was the sawed-off, double-barrel shotgun that captured his attention.
Without any further thought, acting on an instinct he didn't understand, he grabbed the weapon and pushed himself to his feet.
"What are you doing?" the woman screamed, tear tracks glistening upon her cheeks.
He didn't answer because he didn't know. But he placed himself defensively between the woman and the door, the gun held tightly in his white-knuckled grip as he prepared to face his attacker. He couldn't stand by while an innocent person was dealt the same fate as his own. If he was going to die tonight, he would go down fighting.
He was holding his ground, feet spread wide and shoulders tense, when the noise died away. The light grew fainter and disappeared, and the door remained still and intact. The house was deathly quiet save for the hitching breaths of the woman behind him.
He dared to breathe. Where did it go?
He took a small step forward, raising the shotgun towards the door in paranoid precaution. Goose bumps raced over his skin as the temperature seemed to drop.
Moonlight filtered through the cracks in the door's once beautiful finish. His eyes strained to see outside.
Off in the distance, a long, lanky shadow stopped just inside the tree line. It was blacker than the night surrounding it, as if the thing weren't simply colored black, but was made up of darkness itself.
It wailed, the sound of frustration and hunger and vengeance, then it disappeared into the trees.
He shivered as the ice in his veins was- at last- warmed by relief. They were safe, for now, and the gun clattered to the floor, dropped from nerveless fingers.
Unable to stand any longer, he dropped to his knees and sat on his heels. Hands were on his shoulders, and he jerked at the touch.
The woman looked down at him, concern and pity written in her eyes. "Who are you?"
Emptiness swirled within him, where all his memories were supposed to be. He closed his eyes once more and ignored the tear of helplessness that burned down his cheek. He wanted to be strong, but his voice came out in a broken whisper.
"I don't know."
At last, unconsciousness returned to him.
Nine hundred miles away, Missouri Mosley bolted upright in bed, her heart racing as it ached for the young hunter.