Act II, Scene I
Disclaimer: I don't own "Supernatural" or profit from it in any way; I merely plunder its intellectual property for my own amusement.
Author's Note: This is break from the mile-a-minute angst I created for "The Year of Magical Thinking," and it's definitely a change-up from most normal story formats, but I hope you find it enjoyable just the same.
The rifle being cocked next to Sam's ear gave him a jolt of solace – a sign, he imagined, that he was adjusting to his latest hair-pin turn through the highway of his Life. His brother's preparations for the hunt ahead of them, a routine haunting they were pretty sure was a grouchy ghoul, had lately taken on a hypnotic quality. It surprised Sam in a way: that after all this time with Dean, with the one person who calmed him no matter what, it'd still taken more than two decades and a handful of random tragedies to turn hunting with his sibling into something soothing. Stanford Sam would have laughed, cackled with a burnt indignity. Surly Sam before him would have slammed a door, or the closest relative to that, before storming off. Sammy instead did neither, though a ghost of a sigh escaped his lips.
"Let's head in."
For a house doubling as a crash pad for an only slightly well-adjusted demon, the lawn showed no signs of it: it stretched widely in a verdant half-circle down from the front steps to the boy's black Impala. As the pair went trudging through the grass, a similar thought struck both men, albeit twisted in a surprising way for each.
"This could be our life," were the words that popped into Sam's head, "the happy exterior that leads each unsuspecting new person in our lives to a crumbling, homicidal, trap."
"Where'd that ghoul lawn service? I mean, he's a freakin' demon!" Though Dean. "And anyway, if they're willing to clean up the messes of a people-eater, maybe we should hire them to sort us out…"
It isn't any of the horror-movie clichés that actually trigger a sense of "something's-not-right" within the brothers. No creaking front door as it swung open to let a shaft of light into the abandoned house gave Sam or Dean the creeps. And the too-fresh blood stains coating parts of the walls in the former kitchen and dining rooms barely raise a hair on any human arms currently in residence. What does set off the "psychic-boy" alarms in Sam's head are the pile of heads he finds in the guest bedroom, and the shrine around which they are so tastefully arranged.
"Dean? You might want to come check this out: something I'm seeing tells me this isn't just a raving lunatic ghoul–" is all he finishes before two very unappealing arms wrap around his throat.
The muffled croak is all Dean hears. He was in the process of lifting up furniture "sheets, turning on lights, when he picks up the faint noise.
With one foot across the threshold, Dean can't quite tell what the ghoul is going to do to Sam; hell, the ghoul doesn't seem to know. And Sam's repeated almost-escapes sure must be throwing it for a loop after all the bland suburban fare it's had to feast on. Then it clicks: what he first mistook for a confused holding pattern – the two arm-pincers around his brother's neck – he now sees was the whole point. The two appendages aren't just held tight, they're sawing away at a very valuable piece of his baby brother's body; a rough down-home decapitation if ever he'd seen one (which, come to think of it, he hadn't).
"Aw, hell no." He pulls his trigger.
The gun should have fired; but, heaven help him, very few things seemed to be working when it came to his life. There was that whole mess that had gotten Sam back into his life, but then the fire clawed its way back too and took Jessica from his little brother; and then Dad those few months ago, his…whatever. This, though, on a routine hunt; a mess like this with a firearm he cleaned routinely every day, on the hour? And, of course, the jam or the misfire Dean knew was about to take place would never still incidentally hit the ghoul they were facing, or something harmless. No, it'd hit Sam. If he weren't struggling for breath as the butt of his rifle flew back into his ribs, he'd be cursing the heavens, or whoever lived up there in all that light.
The bullets loaded with such rapid precision not thirty minutes earlier slammed into blood and bone with a quiet "pop" deceptive of their strength. And it wasn't like either of the Winchesters hadn't known a bullet wound or two in their careers. And it was just another standard-issue hunting weapon, albeit modified to take out the supernatural. So what was all the fuss from the other side of the room? Oh, that's right: it was Dean. He was probably all stirred-up about the blood pooling on the floor; but wasn't that the ghouls (who was now lying crippled and still in a corner)? Wait, ghouls didn't bleed red. Oh.
"Damn it, Sam: you're always the damsel aren't you?" My brother said, approaching at a run that morphs into a crouch.
If I weren't suffering from still questionably-mortal injuries, I guess I'd label what I'd been doing on the floor of the site of our latest hunt passing in and out of consciousness. But I was suffering from these injuries (now surmised by Dean to be one massive lump on my head, and several deep cuts and burns along my neck), so trust me when I say, "What the hell is going on, Dean?"
"Nothing to worry about Sammy, I've got you; the monster's dead." Words to live by.
To stop the bleeding I had to think fast. Thinking fast meant tearing things to shreds. The only things available were the ghoul's body (something I doubted Sam wanted smeared all over his wound) and the better part of his pants and shirt. I made my decision and started unlacing his shoes. Getting him out of the house however, all bloodied and covered only very sparingly by a brand new pair of Abercrombie & Fitch briefs I'd picked him up at the mall (which were, oddly, still intact and shining brilliantly white against his battered skin), would be a different matter.
The sadness wakes me up.
I mean, what am I doing riding shotgun in a car with my brother, hopping town-to-town, hunting and scraping by? This isn't the life I had, I wanted.
I struggle for a minute then, spurred on by these recent thoughts, into something resembling alertness to give my big brother a piece of my mind. Then I realize I'm not wearing any clothes…scratch that, I've still got my underwear on. This odd turn of events blindsides me, then I feel the rough "bandage" around my throat. And that the bleeding has stopped. The bleeding: the hunt. Now it comes back to me, all of it – Dad in the hospital, Jess before him, and now Me: Demon Hunter Extraordinaire. Well, this was what such burning passion and thirst for revenge got me; if I planned to pursue it (and how could I stop?) then I'd best get comfortable with waking up at odd intervals in Dean's car, laid out after a battle in nothing but some preppy briefs.
It sounds surreal to me now; to a me that's been on vacation back in college for longer than I'd actually stayed around.
But that's ok, because I'd survived. With all this stream of epiphany-consciousness comes the last of the lot, the bitterest to swallow: I'm a hunter now, born and bred and on the fast track to an early grave.
"You awake back there kiddo?" Says Dean as he turns from the steering wheel to peer back at me. I smile. I've got a friend, a protector, and a confessor with me, and I'm only twenty-four. Death would hit me, I would make sure of it, but until then I'm going to fight. I'm going to kill.
"Let's back to the motel. Prepare for another day." Dean advises.