Sorry for the delay. Here's a longer chapter than usual to make amends. Warning - this chapter contains a slight spoiler for Season 3.
If You Go Down In The Woods – Chapter 4
It was still dark when I got the boys settled again. Dawn was approaching fast but for me it couldn't come quickly enough. I'd never been so eager to see those first rays of morning light, anything which would banish the dark shadows outside the window which danced like fingers moving over piano keys every time a breeze caught in the tree tops.
I'd gone only a few hours possessing the kind of knowledge these boys had carried around with them for...well, god only knows how long. A few hours and flickering shadows almost had me peeing my pants. I knew that being courageous wouldn't come easy to me but attempting it was a damn sight better than the thought of living the rest of my life needing a change of underwear every five minutes. Course, I'd be sleeping with my rifle every night from now on for certain, that and a flashlight of course.
Sammy had given up his place on the couch to his brother. Much to Dean's dismay and our amusement, Dean could only manage a feeble protest as Sammy and I lowered him onto the soft cushions.
I took a seat in my armchair and whilst there was another armchair free, like Dean had done before him; Sammy seated himself on the floor. His back lent against the couch, close to his brother. "Get some sleep Dean."
"There could be more, we need to get geared up."
"Dean, you can't move your arms or legs. What are you going to do, blink them to death?" Dean glared furiously at Sammy before shifting his concentration to his right hand. Sammy and I watched as he stared at it. Dean's brow furrowed and little beads of sweat formed from the exertion. After what must have been the most intense ten minutes of hand staring known to man finally, Dean's thumb twitched - a little. Almost like he was trying to work an invisible cigarette lighter.
"Awesome. I can give them a Fonzie big thumbs up when they eat me." Dean groaned earning a chuckle from Sammy.
"Don't suppose you'll be getting any more sleep? I know I won't." I said to Sammy.
Sammy grinned as he noticed Dean's eyes had slid closed. "Guess it's my watch now." Sammy said.
"No. It's mine." I replied. "Dean can barely move and you need to rest or you'll tear your stitches open." I picked up my rifle and walked over to the window pulling the curtain back a touch further. "I've already got one Kakli...whatever-the-hell...decomposing on my rug so if more want to come and join it, let them." I was either getting brave or getting dementia, right then I wasn't quite sure which.
One thing I wasn't getting was sliced feet that much I was determined about. I spared another mournful look at the smashed window at the far side of the room through which the creature had made its grand entrance and wandered off to fetch a broom to make short work of the shards of glass which covered the floor. When I'd finished I took my place back in my armchair, my rifle resting across my knees. "Dean told me about the things you kill but I still don't know who the heck you boys are. Not some secret government branch I can tell that much." I'd wanted to ask the question all night but had been a tad too preoccupied with all the patching up of blood soaked kids I'd been doing. Not to mentioning how I'd also been busy killing a Kakli bear thing which, by the way, was going to take pride of place on the biggest backyard bonfire I could manage. Just as soon as I figured out a way to haul its heavy hairy ass out of my lounge.
Sammy sighed heavily and when I looked at him, his gaze was fixed on the fire. He really was just a kid but sat there in front of the glowing fireplace, brilliant oranges and yellows alive in his eyes; he looked too old for his years and tired. Not just 'pooped out' tired, like I always was by the end of a long day but weary. The kind of weariness that seeps through your body and penetrates your soul. I'd caught the same look on Dean's face when he'd been tending to Sammy's wounds but Dean was quick to recognize when he was being scrutinized. Consequently his barrier shot up and the mask slipped back in place. Sammy's barrier stayed down longer than Dean's did but he had one nonetheless. I just wondered if the barrier was for my benefit somehow. Protecting others from the things he'd done, the things he'd seen. Perhaps he thought he didn't need protecting anymore. I don't know, even now. I wish I did.
It felt like an ocean of time had flowed between us before Sammy finally answered. "We're hunters. My dad was in the Marines and he trained us but we're ordinary people. We just want to save lives."
"Trust me, you're far from ordinary." Sammy's mouth twitched in a soft smile. "I'm guessing in your line of work you don't hear this a lot but what you do, it matters. People have been dying. You came to try and stop something which the folks round here couldn't even begin to comprehend. And if they did, they'd be packing up their families and quitting town. But you boys, you marched right on into the lion's den. That's something special right there." I stopped, feeling my cheeks color. That had been probably the longest damn monologue I'd managed in a heck of a long time and it felt good, embarrassing as hell but good. Like I'd released a breath I'd been holding in my lungs till the air had turned stale and my chest was burning. "What I'm trying to say is thank you." I mumbled out the last words and stared down at my knees.
"You didn't have to take us in. You opened your door when you could have bolted it shut; I reckon that counts as something special too."
Oh heck, there was going to be hugging, I just knew it. I coughed awkwardly and rose from my chair. "If we've got a couple more hours of sitting around on our backsides, I'll fetch us some coffee." With that I hurried from the room, trying to deny the warmth which gripped at my heart with each stubborn step.
I was rummaging in the depths of the refrigerator for some milk which hadn't curdled to cream when Sammy started yelling. I heard the familiar sound of my rifle firing and Dean's voice, groggy with sleep and briefly fearful before being replaced with stern barked orders. I dashed back to the room to see Sammy stood at the window which faced out onto the front of my property. The window had been broken and Sammy had the barrel of the rifle poking through the jagged glass that remained. "Sammy?" His face was tense and I swallowed. My throat felt dry and the saliva hurt like razor blades.
"They're outside, three of them...no, wait I can see another. There's four of them Dean. Smaller than the female but jeez, they're still big." Sammy's eyes shot to Dean who still lay stricken on the couch. Dean was twitching his thumb so frantically as he tried to get his hand to work that it was almost comical, almost being the right word.
"Son of a bitch." Dean stared back at Sammy, aggravated and clearly angry as hell that if they got inside, he'd be powerless to defend himself. But more so than that, he'd be unable to defend his brother. "Sammy, they get in here and you're not gonna be able to shoot them all. There's too many." Dean's eyes closed and I thought that if he had resorted to praying then we really were going to die but his eyelids swiftly flew open again and he blinked rapidly, like he was trying to hold back his fear. "Sam? Sammy?" He called for his brother to join him.
Sammy motioned me over and I took his post at the window, rifle pointing out into the darkness. Sammy walked over to the couch and crouched down on his haunches by Dean's side. "Sammy, I want you to make a run for it. I'm going to yell, get their attention and then you gotta take the old man and run."
"Now you just hold on a darn second..." I began.
"Don't you ever ask me to do anything like that." Sammy had lent himself close to Dean's ear and although his voice shook, his resolve to stay by Dean's side was strong and perfectly clear.
There was a sudden horrid high-pitched whining noise which emanated from outside the house, seeming to come from all sides and we froze, didn't even dare take a breath.
"They're surrounding the house, trying to draw us outside." Dean whispered.
"They're smart enough to do that?" I asked rubbing at the stubble on my chin with a shaking hand.
"They're smart alright." Sammy nodded.
"Then we've got to outsmart them. I reckon we should let them in." I smiled a little at their stunned expressions. I hadn't finally cracked, I had a plan. A hasty, wild, stupid plan but it was better than planning on ending up as a main course.
"Suppertime. Come and get it."
Dean wasn't happy, not in the slightest; I guess being carried like a kindergartener on the back of someone old enough to be your grandpa must have that effect on people. I stood by the front door, waiting. Dean was far from being overweight but he had enough lean muscle to make me doubt I could carry him for very long. We could hear Sammy upstairs hollering for all his worth and thumping the walls with his fist. "This had better work old man." Dean muttered only barely keeping himself calm.
"Can you move your legs yet?" I asked crabbily. Dean simply grunted and so I added, "Well, quit jabbering in my ear then."
There was a deafening crash from the back of the house which I reckoned was the rear door behind destroyed. That was it, the moment we had been waiting for. They were inside and I felt Dean's breath, hot and sticky against the back of my neck. I opened the door and lumbered down the porch steps, stumbled forward as quickly as I could manage until we were a safe distance from the house and only then I lowered Dean down onto the damp dewy grass.
The moment he was on the ground, Dean struggled like a landed fish to roll himself onto his stomach so that he could get a look back at the house. Through the downstairs windows, we could scarcely distinguish their vast shapes. Kakli Besars, four of them. They were indeed smaller than the female but just as repulsive and they were tearing my house apart in their search for us. Dean's eyes flicked to the darkened upstairs windows but there was no sight of Sammy. "Why isn't he out of there yet?" Dean was panting, trying to pull himself into a sitting position. I took pity then and lifted him so I was supporting his weight and he could see the house more easily. There was an ear-splitting cold-blooded bellow and Dean's breathing quickened. "Where--where is he?"
"Christ, I'm...I'm sorry." My plan had failed; I'd failed and was unbearably certain I'd got that young boy killed. 'Devastated' doesn't do the emotions which ran through my head justice. I couldn't bring myself to look Dean in the face.
"You ladies waiting for me?" It was then that Sammy came into sight; he hurried through the trees and plonked himself down between us. Dean scowled and I almost expected him to starting tearing into the boy but instead he broke out into a huge smile. There was fresh blood on Sammy's shirt and Dean resumed scowling when he spotted it. He shakily lifted a hand and prodded at Sammy's arm.
"You ripped your stitches." Dean growled.
"You're moving your arm." Sammy pointed out, trying to deter Dean's attention away from his wounded stomach.
Too thankful to really believe we had all gotten out of there, I forced my mind back to the matter at hand. "We've got to do this now. Before they realize the house is empty." I said with a groan as I handed my rifle over to Sammy. He wrapped his fingers around it tightly before glancing back at me.
"Are you sure?"
"Sure as I'll ever be. Just do it, fast, before I change my mind."
Sammy stood and raised the rifle. He took a deep breath as he took aim and then pulled the trigger. The kid was a good shot, he hit my sage green gas tank with the first bullet and the result was instantaneous. We dove for cover in the dirt as it exploded, taking my little house with it. The explosion was thunderous, the ground shook and the heat was so intense I was pretty sure it'd scorched my eyebrows and what little hair I had on the top of my head had almost certainly bid me farewell. I took a second to make certain I still had all of my body parts and then stood up, brushing dead leaves and dirt from my singed clothes. My house was gone and the Kakli Besars with it. Some of the building frame and foundations were still recognizable but it was still ablaze and the fire evidently had a considerable appetite. For a moment I was forlorn. My memories, my life, everything I'd ever owned, gone but we were all still alive and my house would have been no good to me if I was in a pine box.
"You boys better get out of here. That explosion won't have gone unnoticed." I was right; the plumes of smoke were enormous and would surely have a squad car or two out here within no time.
Sammy stood and pulled Dean up, slinging Dean's limp arm around his shoulder. "You'll be okay?"
I waved my hand, shushing him. "Just...get, before the police get here."
Dean's other arm which hung down at his side, jerked in the attempt of something akin to a wave. "You take care of yourself old timer. If there are more of them, we'll be back."
I might have grinned bemusedly and said something deep and meaningful, but instead I huffed and took another look at what had been my home. When I looked back they were gone.
I won't bore you with an old man's rambling yarn about what happened to me after that night. This story isn't really about me after all but to satisfy the curious amongst you, I'll tell you this much. I put my land up for sale the following month and then, I was free to go anywhere but I started with California. I no longer needed the crunch of leaves to know I was alive.
As for the boys, I never saw them again...until I switched on the TV two nights ago. There was a news report, the sound was turned down but I did a double-take when I saw the police photographs and quickly turned the sound right up. It was them. A little older, a little more haunted in their expressions but still them. The report said they had died. Killed in an explosion whilst in police custody. 'An explosion', huh, that brought back memories.
I didn't feel sad as I was certain those boys were alive and out there somewhere doing what they do best. Most folks might never know the truth about what's really going on in the world. Might live out their lives in blissful ignorance, never being grateful for the sacrifices those boys make for people they don't even know, for strangers like me. But I knew and I had a lot to be grateful for.
Hope nobody was too disappointed, writing an ending never comes easy for me.