Alright, here we go with another one. This idea stems from being forced to watch the first 3 SAW movies in one fell swoop and doing whatever I could to keep my sanity through them all. It has far progressed beyond the original idea, but somewhere within you will find a similar concept to the movie. On another note, yes, I know I have a habit of going to the extreme when it comes to maiming Dean. I'm sorry, I just can't help myself. However, this is about as extreme as it gets. After this I'm backing off - promise. Hehe. Hopefully it won't seem too redundant. The story is complete, so save any unexpected interruptions I should be able to post on a regular basis (most likely every 3 days).
I should also add that this is the first story I have had beta'd, so a big shout out goes to Obaona who offered relentless and much appreciated hints and suggestions on improving my writing. It has improved tenfold because of you. Thanks again!
Disclaimer: Standard one. I don't own the boys, but anything you don't recognize is solely my imagination.
Reviews are love!
He wakes up slowly, the groggy feeling a constant presence within his mind. That - and the nagging insistence that something is wrong. Seriously wrong. It seems to take forever for his weary eyes to focus on anything, and when they do he immediately wishes he has never let them come back into focus in the first place. The overhead light is blinding, so bright he immediately closes his eyes again to prepare himself before finally opening them for good. When he does, it is done with a hesitant squint as he tries to see something more than just intense light.
"There you go. That's it. Come on, boy. Wake up now." That voice is annoying, filtering in and out of his brain in a hollow echo of disjointed sound. It sounds...off...somehow. The fog in his mind isn't allowing for much coherent thought, but there is just something about the voice, whose it is, where it is coming from, that simply doesn't sound right.
And then the light dims a little - or maybe his eyes just finally get used to it. Either way, he is finally able to take a look around at his surroundings, and he isn't sure whether to be disappointed or pleased. He'd thought he was in a hospital at first, but this is most definitely not a hospital. The walls are just simple grey block and mortar, the staggered seams a clear sign that the room has been poorly built. The ceiling is industrial in design, with a standard concrete cap and long florescent lights that hang down from cables. Everything is bare, nondescript, yet that is par for the course. It isn't the first time he's ended up in old, boring, drab buildings in his line of work.
What is odd, is that the voice is still talking to him, pushing him to wake up. Yet no one is in sight. Where the hell is that coming from? And who the hell is talking?
He opens his mouth, ready to call out to his brother, but the voice interrupts him before he can utter a sound.
"There now. So glad to see you finally awake. I was beginning to think you would sleep the whole day away." A hollow laughter sounds, followed by a slight sucking whoosh, and it finally sets in that the voice doesn't belong to anyone he knows.
"Who's there?" he demands angrily, attempting for the first time to sit up. Immediately he realizes he is shackled down. Nothing moves, nothing gives, and he growls louder. "Where the hell am I?"
"Tsk tsk, such language," the voice reprimands as answer, and then goes silent without explanation.
He pulls at his restraints once again, trying to crane his neck to see what kind of restraints are holding him in place, when he suddenly realizes that he can feel no restraints. As a matter of fact, he can't feel anything at all. His neck won't move to give him a glimpse of what he's trying to see, and that scares the shit out of him before he realizes that there is one part of his body he can feel. His face, his head, clearly have feeling in them as is evidenced by the throbbing headache that suddenly comes to light. And as he moves his eyes about in their sockets, frantically scanning in every direction they can move, he realizes there are bars on either side of his head running vertical from somewhere above his head to somewhere below his chin. But he can't see what they're attached to, and he doesn't know what purpose they serve.
"What the hell is this?" he shouts, the veins in his forehead and neck bulging from the strain of trying to move, to no avail. His eyes dart back and forth frantically as he desperately searches for something to latch onto that might give him a clue of what's going on. Realization hits like a giant boulder to his gut as he discovers that he has no defense against his attacker. "Who are you?!"
"You know me," the voice replies. "And in time, you will know how."
"What? Who are you? Show your face, damn it. Let me see your face!" He screams it now, as the fear grips him more. He can feel himself quivering with rage and determination – at least the parts that are capable of movement – and rivers of sweat drip down the side of his face and into his hair from the exertion. He continues his fight for movement, the muscles spasming uncontrollably in his neck, but nothing happens. Nothing moves.
He fights the hyperventilation he can feel coming on, and wins. But what is the gain in winning one fight only to face another, more daunting one? It's one thing to face an unknown attacker; to go up against someone you can't see, can't touch. But this - this total inability to even gain control over his body - this is something totally different, and he has no idea how he can fight something when he can't even move. And suddenly he comes to the heart-stopping realization that if he's in this situation, his brother might be too, and that scares him even more.
"Where's my brother? What have you done to him?"
The voice laughs again, deep and evil. Cold. And then he hears another of those sucking whoosh things, before it yields an answer to its captive. "Your brother is fine, for now. He won't come into this for some time yet. You'll know when he's here."
If it weren't for the thick sound of taunting, he might almost have considered that a reassurance, but instead he goes crazy with fear. "You touch a hair on his head and I swear I'll kill you. I'll fucking kill you. You hear me?"
More hollow chuckles follow, echoing all around him in the small room. "You have such a way with words, boy. Unfortunately for you, I happen to know just how idle those threats are, coming from you." The sound is interrupted by yet another sucking whoosh, and he realizes that it seems to come at constant intervals. But the thought escapes him as he hears the rest of what the voice has to say. "You can no more kill me than you can scratch your own nose. I've seen to that."
You've seen to that? "What the hell is that supposed to mean? What have you done to me?!" It amazes him just how quickly his confidence has waned just in knowing the voice is right. He can't move; and yet he tries to lift a finger anyway, just in case something has changed since the last time he tried. The pain in his head seems to increase with the effort he puts into moving something, and he finally just gives up when the pain becomes too much.
"I've done to you what you did you me. "I've taken away your ability. I've taken away your life."
"What the fuck?" he demands yet again, still confused by what he's hearing. He swallows convulsively, his adams apple bobbing up and down in his throat. "What did you do to me?!"
"Show him!" The voice booms out, and he feels as though his head might actually explode as it echoes around him, bouncing off the walls in a way porous concrete really shouldn't, and he suddenly knows for a fact that the voice does not originate within the walls of his confinement. Suddenly he knows it's coming from a speaker somewhere in the room.
But he also realizes he's not alone as the bed he's laying on is now raised up. His head screams out in agony as it elevates and something pulls against his temples, but the remainder of his body remains immobile, unfeeling, and he suddenly feels as though he is just a floating head. And he wonders if maybe it is just his head still there, and wonders if it's possible to survive as just a head. Suddenly, the pain is welcome, because it means he can feel something - it means a part of him is still there.
When the bed is raised completely, a woman steps out from behind it and crosses the room to the opposite side. She looks straight ahead, and he can't see her face yet because she has yet to turn to him. So all he can see is the hair pulled into a tight ponytail, brown, with just a few flecks of grey scattered in for good measure. He assumes she has some kind of a figure - she's not heavy by any definition - but whatever there is, is hidden underneath a shapeless pair of scrub pants and a white lab coat.
"Who are you?" he pleads to the retreating figure, wishing he could reach out and grab her arm to stop her, but once again realizing that that isn't possible. "Please - you can help me. You can let me go," he tries instead.
Instead of acknowledging his pleas, she simply finalizes her trek over to the floor length mirror with its wooden back facing him, and flips it over in its frame, finally revealing to him what he has become.
A harsh, strangled yell defines Sam's wakening, followed immediately by several more seconds of hyperventilation as he tries desperately to recognize his surroundings. His eyes dart frantically around the room, recognition failing to become a reality. His memory is fluff, mind bleary and disoriented. It's only after common sense takes over that he manages to fully take in the room he's in, but that knowledge does nothing to ease his over-active mind as he finally realizes he's alone.
The freshly painted walls are white, as are the lights overhead and the sheets and blankets on his bed. Everywhere he looks he sees white, and at his cry he is soon joined by a white-wearing nurse as she rushes in to see what the commotion is with her patient.
"Mr. Keyser, please calm down. Please, Mr. Keyser, I don't want to have to have you sedated."
It takes him a minute to realize who this Mr. Keyser is that she keeps talking to, and unconsciously scans the room for another occupant before finally realizing she is looking directly at him. It's you, you fool! He reprimands his groggy mind, reminding himself that he can't be Sam Winchester. Keyser is just the newest in a long line of aliases he and Dean have created. Where is Dean? Sam responds to the gentle yet firm voice issuing orders to his flailing self, immediately forcing his breathing to come back under his control as he recognizes his desire to not be placed under sedation. He finally slows his breathing and brings his eyes into focus, meeting the concerned gaze of the nurse immediately. He needs to be in control - he needs to assess the situation.
She smiles down at him as she realizes he's finally alright, and she releases her tight hold on his shoulders. "There now, that's better, right? Are you with me now?"
"Dean?" is Sam's answer, the pleading in his voice causing the nurse's brows to turn downward in concern and slight confusion.
"Who's Dean, sweetheart?" she prompts gently.
He stares at her as though she's grown a second head. Who's Dean? You don't know Dean? He's the guy who hasn't left my bedside ever since you brought me in here, except of course for right now when he's clearly gone to the bathroom or to get himself another steaming cup of disgusting hospital coffee.
"Who is Dean, Mr. Keyser?" she asks again, slightly louder this time as she tries to break him from his trance.
"My brother," he croaks out in confusion. Why isn't he here? And then it hits him, sucker punches him is more like it, as he remembers the accident that has obviously put him here. People were disappearing, vanishing into thin air. They had no logical reason to be seeking out this particular hunt, except for the undeniable indication that months earlier there had been supernatural activity in the area. They had come then, too, and the demon had been vanquished to hell. But there was always the possibility of another demon being dispatched to the area. That had to be it.
So he and Dean had hit the road, driving in the pouring rain, and were just miles from the town, minutes from pulling off at a run down motel and getting themselves a room to catch a good night's sleep before heading out the next day for recon, when the woman had come out of the middle of nowhere. She stood in the middle of the road, unwavering, and Dean slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting the obstruction in their way. But the road was wet, and the car fishtailed, and the next thing he knew they were slamming through a guardrail and plummeting down the side of the steep incline. The last thing he remembered before the front grill of the Impala slammed into a tree thirty some feet below was Dean crying out in angered desperation as he continued to force the brake pedal down in a futile attempt to stop the car's momentum.
"He's my brother," Sam repeats more desperately this time. "And he was in the accident too. He was driving."
It is his nurse's turn to reflect confusion and her face screws up into a combination of that, worry, and anxiety as she weighs her options on her reply. The way she pulls her lip between her teeth, chewing nervously as she breaks eye contact with Sam, tells him that she's hiding something from him; debating over how much information to offer.
Sam makes the decision for her when he demands an answer as he begins to crawl from the bed he's confined to. "I have to find him," he insists. "If you don't know where he is I'll go find him myself."
Her hand is on his shoulder, pushing him back into the bed before he can re-injure himself too much. "Honey, I'll tell you what I know," she offers. "Just...please, stay in bed. You're still weak."
Sam nods, in agreement for the time being. But his hand remains on the edge of the sheets, ready to bolt the minute he hears something he doesn't want to hear; the minute he hears that Dean is injured worse than him and that he might possibly need him. Because the only reason he can think of that Dean isn't at his bedside is that he physically can't be there, and that's downright scary.
She runs a hand through her hair, exhaling loudly as her eyes toy with where to land. She doesn't look him in the eye, averting her gaze every time Sam tries to draw her in. But finally something seems to click in her mind and suddenly she's staring him down, boring into his eyes in a desperate attempt to convince him. "Honey, you were alone when they found you. There was no one else with you - your brother, Dean, he wasn't there."
Sam shakes his head, disbelieving what she's just told him. "No," he protests. "No, he was driving. He was there. Did you check the area around the car? Could he have been thrown out? Or...or gone for help and maybe collapsed later?" Panic seeps into his voice as the terror of that possibility eeks into his consciousness. "You have to go find him!" Sam cries louder, sitting up again to the protest of his very clearly injured ribs. But he doesn't care. Dean is out there. Dean is injured. And no one even knows to be looking.
Again, the nurse places a hand against Sam's shoulder, holding him down as sadness for his fears shows through in her face. "Sam, they found you in the driver's seat," she insists. "I'm telling you, there was no one else in the car. I don't know where your brother is, but he wasn't injured in that accident. He wasn't there."
It's there that Sam realizes something is seriously wrong. He knows - without a fraction of a doubt - that Dean was in the car with him. He knows he wasn't driving. And he knows for certain that they have stumbled full on into the hunt they came to do. Dean has just become the latest victim.
Dean's first view of what has become of his body scares the shit out of him. It might have been easier to take if he really was just a head floating on a pillow - that would have made sense. But instead, he sees his full body, naked save for a sheet draped over his privates, and an IV port in the back of his right hand, and it looks normal. There's no reason he can see for why he has no feeling from the neck down, no explanation for why nothing will move. But he can see why he's in so much agony from the neck up, and it's all he can do to suppress a scream.
The voice seems to know when he's taken in the framework on his head, and intercedes Dean's tormented thoughts. "Ingenious, isn't it? What a great marvel of torture that thing is, yes?" It stops; waits for an acknowledgment of some sort from his victim. But doesn't seem too disappointed when Dean simply continues to stare in pure terror at his image in the mirror.
"They call it a halo brace. And you know, the clincher of it is, that this thing is a miracle of modern medicine. It's not some product of a sick, demented serial killer. No, no, no, my boy, this brace is created by doctors."
"Why are you doing this to me, you sick fuck?" Dean demands, spittle flying from his mouth as his eyes once again search for the source of the voice. But there's nothing, and he quickly finds himself reverting back to staring at his own image. It's no wonder he can't move his neck, and it's no wonder his head hurts so god damn much.
The halo, as the voice called it, is a piece of curved metal circling around his forehead at temple level, resembling a halo in view alone, and not at all in saintliness. Attached to it at four points are the bars Dean had noticed earlier, trailing down to a piece of plastic molded over top of his shoulders and chest. But none of that would be so bad if it isn't for the fact that the halo is physically screwed into his skull by two bolts into his forehead. And by the feel of it, he's willing to bet there are two more somewhere around the back of his head.
"Retribution," the voice explains in a sickeningly calm explanation, as though he's simply said 'please pass the salt.' Except, Dean realizes, that that's not so simple anymore. Because right now he can't even pick up the salt, let alone pass it to anyone…or shoot it at anyone, or even lay down a protective barrier to keep his captor from coming near him. And that's only providing that his captor isn't human – which he's not entirely certain about.
"I don't understand!" Dean screams. "What did I do to you? I don't even know who you are!"
"You'll know. You'll remember. When I want you to."
Dean realizes that he's getting nowhere with the intangible voice coming from everywhere, and nowhere, and decides he'll have better luck with the actual person in the room. He calls to her, unsure why he hadn't noticed before that she never turned around after she flipped the mirror over. She still stands facing the wall, arms straight at her sides, unmoving.
"Miss...please, miss. I could really use your help over here," Dean calls out, desperation strongly apparent in his voice. He fears he might actually shed a tear or two if he can't figure out some way to gain control of the situation.
She doesn't move. But the voice speaks up again. "You won't get anywhere doing that," it mocks in a voice that is faintly sing-song. "She answers only to me, Dean. She's mine. I made her."
Dean notices pride in the hollows of the echoing voice, recognizes it as that of a father - though how he would know what that kind of pride truly sounds like, he isn't sure. But he is certain that this man speaks the truth. "You made her?" he questions, adding doubt to his voice and his own version of cynical laughter to seal the deal; he knows the best way to elicit answers from a boasting man is to convey doubt in his success.
Sure enough, the voice responds in irritation, yet a need to brag is very near the surface and he spills all. "She's a zombon," it explains proudly, clearly pleased when Dean responds with enough of a look of confusion to show he has never heard of such a thing. "She's not really a zombie, because she has never died. But she's also not really a demon, because it doesn't control her. I do; hence, a zombon."
"You mean to tell me there's a real person in there? She's still alive in there?" Dean demands, although he already knows the answer to that one. He just realizes he needs to keep his captor talking as long as possible until he's able to figure his way out of this. The more they talk, the better chance he stands at getting some pertinent information. And lord only knows he could stand to have some pertinent information as soon as possible.
"Of course," the man laughs, as though anything to the alternative is utterly ridiculous. "She was a prominent doctor in her heyday. Still could be someday. Now she's your personal doctor. You should feel honored."
"Honored my ass," Dean replies, getting fed up with the minimum field of answers he's been receiving. The answers just aren't enough. "I'll feel honored when you tell me why the fuck you're doing this to me, and then let me go."
"I think I've heard enough," the voice booms angrily through the speaker. "It's time for you to sleep."
Dean's eyes widen, as he realizes his captor's order has prompted the zombon woman to spring into action. She crosses the room to Dean's bedside, and he can finally see her face - the face of a reasonably attractive forty something whose eyes are void of life. She sees him, but only the him that is a patient in her care, and with no expression whatsoever on her blank face, she fills a syringe from the tray at Dean's side and injects it into the IV port. His eyes follow the plastic tubing down to his hand as he only just now fully takes in the needle embedded into the top of his numb hand. But that is the last conscious thought he has as the fast acting drug takes effect and he finds himself pulled into a heavy, dreamless slumber.
The nurse flits around Sam for several more minutes, taking his vitals, changing the fluid bag on his IV, making notes in his chart, but he barely notices this action as his mind dwells wholeheartedly on the odd events surrounding Dean's disappearance. His head is killing him, pounding out an entire drum line solo, and it makes it hard to focus on the facts. But he's determined to get to the bottom of this. Dean needs him at his best.
"What would Dean do?" he mutters to himself, immediately smiling as he envisions his impulsive brother turning the entire hospital upside down and inside out in search of the younger Winchester. But as soon as that thought passes his mind, Sam realizes the fault in that logic. He already knows his brother is nowhere inside the walls of the hospital; according to the nurse, he wasn't even in the car, so there's no way Dean could have made it to the hospital. Which means Sam has a much larger span of ground to cover if he plans to find his missing sibling, and the longer he waits the colder the trail gets. He's got to get out of the hospital now.
Mind made up, Sam sets his sights on implementing his escape, and gingerly sits up. His ribs scream in protest against the pressure his new vertical position causes. His head swims. And his stomach does a series of flip-flops in direct proportion to the pain. But he pushes through it, thoughts set on one – and only one – thing. He has to find Dean.
There's an irrational thought running through his head that Dean should know better than to disappear like this. His bastard of a brother has the nerve to call him selfish, but Dean knows better. He knows what it feels like to have someone disappear out from under his watch, knows what it's like to be so panicked and out of his mind with worry that he can't think straight. He knows what it's like to have to go on a blind hunt with no leads and the certainty of limited time. Pa Bender and his spawn made sure of that. Yet he has the nerve to disappear on Sam without a word. Without an explanation. Without a goodbye.
Sam lets out a faint laugh at his illogical line of reasoning, and forces himself to believe that Dean isn't doing this to 'show him how it feels.' But that actually makes the situation worse, more dire, and that's all Sam needs to set himself in motion.
A shaky hand grips the IV port, and he pulls the needle out with a sharp hiss of pain. He's never liked needles; never enjoyed the thought of a piece of sharp metal passing through his skin despite the multitude of saving qualities said metal seems to have. But like everything else in his life, Sam ignores his feelings for more important things, like Dean.
Sam uses two fingers to staunch the flow of blood that seeps out from the vein the needle has previously occupied, sitting still on the bed and allowing his head to stop spinning while he waits for the clotting effect to take place. But soon a deep breath of resuscitative air brings him back to the present and he knows it's time to leave.
He closes his eyes tight against the pain and pulls himself to his feet, swaying unsteadily until he finally gets a handle on his balance. He dresses as quickly as his addled mind will allow and then stumbles across the room like a drunken madman, clutching tight to any solid object he can find to keep himself upright. Clinging tightly to the doorframe, Sam peeks his head out into the hall and waits for it to clear. He takes the first opportunity he has to clear out of the hospital, sneaking in full on Winchester stealth from the sixth floor to the exit in a matter of minutes. Only then, as his bruised and battered body issues a protest to being taken prematurely from the comfort of a soft hospital bed and pain meds, does he realize that he has no idea where to go from there and no way to get there even if he had a clue. The car is wrecked, and lord only knows where. But he can't stay here either, because he's certainly not taking the chance that they'll drag him back to his bed and strap him in. Not when Dean's missing. So he starts walking, going to the right because at least he can see another road from that angle, and as he walks he's thoroughly able to assess the injuries that he had been too busy to hear about earlier.
A definite concussion - that one doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out, and a least two, no make that three cracked ribs. Shit. His right hand is bruised, the wrist clearly sprained, but not broken and he's grateful for that. And the sharp, knife-like pains shooting through his leg tells him that he's injured his right knee, too, but the stiff walking brace assures him that he can manage through the pain. He has to find Dean. Dean would push the pain out of his thoughts, just work through it until it was nothing more than a mere memory. If Dean can do that, Sam is certain he can too.
So he focuses on ignoring the pain until the problem is no longer his injuries, but rather, Dean's predicament. Because, as Sam has learned in his earlier research, there is no trace of the missing people, and he has no leads to follow. But that's not the half of it, and he's already cursing himself as he limps onward toward the road up ahead. Because three people have gone missing in the course of three months time, and all three of them were hospital personnel - one a doctor and two nurses. So there's a definite pattern there, and he has no way to question anyone at the staff now that he's run away from the hospital - at least not until he has a chance to clean himself up and get a killer disguise. But then another question comes to the surface, because there is a definite pattern to the disappearances, until Dean went missing. Sure, Dean can sew a stitch like a pro, and he is pretty darn good at wrapping ribs, too. But he's far from professional medical staff, and that just about makes Sam's entire case go belly up.
He lets out a low moan of anguish as the road comes into view and sees there's no other building in sight for at least a quarter of a mile in either direction down the straight stretch of road, and it may be longer; his eyesight really isn't doing much for him as it wavers in and out of focus. He makes it maybe a few hundred feet further before it goes black completely and he does a face plant on the gravel shoulder with a final cry. "Dean..."