Dean isn't scared of the dark. He used to be, when he was a kid. Before his mother died, before everything went to shit. But then he learned what was out there, and instead of making him more afraid, it showed him that yes, there is evil in the shadows, and it can be killed. So Dean isn't scared of the dark, and if anyone asks, he never was. There's no one left alive that can say otherwise.
He sits in the passenger side seat of his car, head turned as though he's looking out of the side window. He knows Sam realizes that's not the case, but he doesn't care. It's easier for both of them if Sam doesn't see his face right now. They're driving fast. He likes driving fast, but only when he's in the other seat. When Sammy drives fast, it's not for pleasure, it's because something bad is about to happen and he wants to stop it. Only this time, Dean thinks they might already be too late.
He feels the car come to an abrupt stop, and turns to Sam. His brother had been oddly silent the whole trip, and if anything, that makes him more worried . Before he has time to speak, Sam has opened the door and is outside. He hears feet on gravel, opens his own door and climbs out. It's cold outside, colder than it had been before, he thinks, but maybe that's his imagination.
He stands and waits, waiting for Sam to appear and help him inside, and just before he calls out, he feels a hand on his arm. "Ready?"
If doesn't matter whether he's ready or not, which he isn't, by the way, Sam's heading off, leaving Dean little choice but to grab hold of his arm and follow.
One hour earlier:
The spirit smiles, actually fucking smiles like a kid on Christmas day, as it raises its arms. Dean feels the pressure pinning him to the floor increase. He struggles against the invisible bonds, barely able to breathe as the crushing force presses against his chest, "S...Sam, any time..."
He can see his brother on the ground, crawling slowly forward, refusing to be beaten by the crack to the head he's just taken. Dean watches out of the corner of his eye, unable to turn his head, unable to move at all.
Sam, presses the lighter on and flings it forwards into the grave containing the ready salted corpse. Dean watches in anticipation, and then horror, as the light goes out before it even enters the grave and drops uselessly onto the bones.
The spirit, as though feeling how close she just came to destruction, roars in fury and with a wave of her hand, sends Sam flying backwards once again. He lands with a grunt as the air is forced out of his lungs. Satisfied that he is no longer a threat, the spirit turns her gaze back to Dean.
"Witness..." she whispers in a voice that is at the same time quiet and deafeningly loud, that sends shivers of revulsion through his body and leaves him trembling at what he knows is about to come.
Before his eyes, the scene changes, flickering and rippling like the surface of a pool of water. He hears Sam shout out to him, his voice full of panic, "Dean, look away!" Vaguely he wonders how his brother recovered quickly enough to shout to him, but it doesn't matter. He knows he should fight it, but he just didn't have the strength. It feels like drowning in a deep, cool lake, falling further and further into its depths until no one will be able to pull him out alive. And he knows he's in trouble, that everyone else this had happened to had died soon afterwards, but it's so easy to let go and drift down that he no longer cares. Not about destroying the spirit, not about saving his own life, not even about Sam...
Wait... that's not right. And then Dean Winchester becomes the first person to fight back against the pull of the cool water.
It doesn't make any difference.
As quickly as the image before his eyes had shifted, the ripples begin to form new shapes. Suddenly it isn't just what he can see that's different, he can hear, feel and smell the scene. The jeers of the crowd, the strong hands gripping his arms, holding him in place, the revolting odour of horse dung and rotting vegetables. He is there. In the past, standing before a crowd of angry townspeople, witnessing Hilda Marburg's last moments through her own eyes.
He finds himself in some kind of a town square. All around him, the crowd of people are watching, shouting and cheering. To his left and right stand two impossibly large men, one holding each arm, making movement impossible. He struggles against them, but they simply hold on tighter and Dean finds himself completely trapped between two walls of muscle. A piece of cloth tied around his mouth forces his lips wide apart and pins down his tongue, making all but the most unintelligible sounds impossible to form. He shouts anyway ,a terrified gurgling sound that only seems to please the crowd more.
None of this is real. He knows that, but it doesn't make it any less frightning. He wonders if the emotions he is feeling aren't his own. The ghost is making him experience everything she did in her last moments, maybe that means more than just seeing what she saw, maybe he had to feel the terror too. Reports from her previous victims were a little hard to come by, since none of the survived the experience. Most of what they knew was rumour and local legend, mixed in with stories from people who were unlucky enough to watch their friends die. They all screamed twice, the second time, they died.
He sees a man walking towards him, tall and thin, well dressed. In his hand he holds an iron rod, the end glowing a menacing red with heat from the blacksmith's furnace. It isn't just fear Dean felt now, it is something far beyond that, a cold dread that chills him right to his soul. He struggles all the harder, but escape is impossible. Hilda Marburg didn't escape, and he couldn't change the past. None of it was real, he knew that, but when the victims died the fact that nothing had touched their physical bodies didn't make them any less dead.
The man strides purposefully forward, the crowd parting to allow him through. He stops a few feet in front of Dean and looks at him, but not in the eye. "Hilda Marburg, you have been tried and found guilty of witchcraft by giving the evil eye. The punishment for witchcraft is death by burning, to be carried out immediately." He turns to the crowd, who have grown suddenly silent to hear the verdict, "For all who wish to witness, the burning will take place on Matthew Winter's corn field to cleanse to evil that has been left there. There is no danger of the witch giving the evil eye to more folk, I will remove the source of her power."
With that, he turns back to Dean raising the still glowing poker to his face, Dean's futile struggling becomes all the more desperate as one of the mountains of muscle moves his hands from Dean's arm to his face and forces open one of his eyes with rough, calloused fingers. He can feel the heat even before it came close to the sensitive flesh, and with no pause to allow him to brace himself, no opportunity to do anything other than frantically struggle in terror, the pain explodes through his eye socket, unlike anything he had ever experienced before, and he screams and screams, and screams.
Sam throws his second lighter into the grave just after the screams start, The sound of his brothers pain forces him forward despite his injuries and he throws all the harder, praying that it isn't already too late. The lighter fluid covering the bones catches as soon as it hits, but Sam doesn't take the time to watch them burn. Climbing painfully to his feet, he rushes to his brother's side. The spirit crumbles as flame consumes her form and Dean's body, laying on the ground appears to relax, the tension suddenly gone. For a horrible second, Sam thinks he might be too late, that the spirit had killed Dean inside his own mind, but then his body begins to move and consciousness slowly returns.
Sam kneels on the ground, one hand on his brother's arm, the other supporting his head, "Dean? C'mon man, wake up. You're okay." Dean's eyes flicker open and Sam smiles with relief, "Thank God. For a second I thought... Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," His voice sounded hoarse from screaming, "she really packed a punch that one," He raises a shaking hand to his head, rubs at his eyes and winces in pain at the memory of what he has witnessed. Then he opens his eyes, fully this time and looks around. He gasps, a quick, sharp intake of breath, and Sam's grip on his arm tightens.
"What is it?"
Still recovering from the crushing pressure on his chest, Dean coughs and then clears his throat, "Sammy, I just want to make sure of something, okay?"
Sam nods, "Sure, what?"
"You...This place..." Dean's voice has grown very small, and that fact alone sends a feeling of ice water chills into Sam's already churning stomach, "Is it dark? I mean like really, really dark? Completely black?"
Dean ceases his attempt to stand up and suddenly goes very still. "Shit. Sammy, I can't see."
"What?!" Sam holds onto Dean's arm tighter, as though that could somehow help and tries not to shout as he speaks.
Dean hears the beginnings of panic in his brother's voice and tries, and fails, to feign nonchalance, "Don't worry about it, it's probably temporary."
But even as he says it, he can hear his voice shaking. He raises an arm in the general direction of Sam's voice, "Give me a hand up?" For a moment his hand gropes in the darkness and he fights down an irrational stab of fear that Sam wasn't going to help him. Why Sam waited so long, Dean doesn't know, but when their hands finally touch, his brother's feels damp with sweat.
Dean struggles to remain upright as Sam half pulls him to his feet. His heart is pounding so loud in his chest that he can hear it beating, loud enough that he wonders whether Sam can hear it too. He ignores it and reaches into his jacket pocket, pulling out his keys, "Here, you'll have to drive. Get us back to the motel,"
He feels Sam's had close on the keys and stop, hesitating, "Shouldn't we get you to a hospital?"
Dean shakes his head. Whatever the ghost had done to him hadn't been physical damage, it had all happened inside his head. There wouldn't be anything for the doctor to fix. Nothing they could do. Oh God, there's be nothing anyone could do... "Just get me back to the fucking motel," he yells. Sam's hand flinches back quickly, taking the keys with him, and Dean draws a deep, shaking breath and fights off a stab of guilt, "Sammy, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to snap. Just feeling a little disoriented, I guess." He bites his tongue as soon as he said it, a second too late. The last thing he wants to do right now was let his little brother in on just how worried he was, and he had been half way to doing just that. He knows it isn't completely rational, but he just wants to get back to somewhere reasonably familiar and hide away until the problem disappears on its own.
"It's alright," Sam speaks so softly it's almost a whisper, "just relax, okay? I'll get you to the car."
Dean resists the urge to laugh. Relaxing is the last thing on his mind at this particular moment in time, and instead he nods. It wouldn't be a good idea to fall apart right now, because he doesn't know how long it will take to get himself back together.
"How are we going to do this?" Sam asks?
Dean frowns, "Do what? Oh, right." The practicalities of getting back to the car hadn't occurred to him. They had parked some distance away and now Sam faced the task of guiding his brother across grass, over fallen branches and around gravestones, all while trying not to injure him further. "Just..." Dean flounders as he fails to come up with a plan, and he knows he is starting to panic, "Where's your shoulder?"
He reached out with his right hand and Sam catches it and places it on his shoulder. "I'll let you know if there's anything in your way," he promises, and they set off, Sam carefully picking his way through the graveyard, choosing the path most free of obstacles, Dean trying not to dig his fingers too hard into his brother's shoulder as he reaches out with his free hand forwards into the terrifying darkness.
They make it back to the car without any major accidents, which feels to Dean ridiculously like a victory. Sam opens the passenger side door for him and Dean pushes him out of the way before he can try to help him inside the car too.
Dean pulls the door closed and waits for Sam. He hears footsteps passing around the back of the car, Whether he can see it or not, the inside of the Impala is familiar, and feels safe in a way the outside didn't. He feels himself start to calm down just a little. He takes a deep breath and tried to slow his heartbeat, but as it starts to work he opens his eyes again to see complete blackness and feels the fear start to rise again.
The passenger side door opens and Sam gets in. Dean listens to the key turning and the engine firing up, "Sammy?" He hates that his voice is shaking
"Second thoughts, maybe we should go to the hospital."