Answer to my own challenge over at DeanDamage (dot) com. Because I really, really wanted to read this story, so I just wrote it myself.
Disclaimer: All recognizable characters and settings are property of their rightful owners. No copyright infringement is intended and no money is being made with this story.
Rated for some bad words because, well, they're Winchesters ;-)
Six Feet Under
The room was dark, but something had woken him. Pounding. Music? It could be a drumbeat, but not knowing where he was, Dean could not say for sure. He was about to turn around tell Sam to turn the frigging radio off when he noticed that something was wrong.
He couldn't turn around.
Not really. Something was confining his movements, and his heart started to beat faster in his chest.
Something was really wrong here.
Frantically, Dean blinked against the darkness, but it helped nothing. It didn't make a difference whether his eyes were open or closed, the darkness around him was absolute. His heart started beating even faster and the drumbeat in his ears picked up speed. His head, the pounding was in his head. The pulsing of his own blood in his ears and a fierce throbbing pain in his head, that was what the pounding was. Not music.
But still he couldn't see, and he felt the panic rise up unbidden inside of him, gripping him with icy fingers. Was he blind? Had he hit his head, been hit over the head, and something had been knocked loose so that now he couldn't see?
Where was Sam? If he was hurt, Sam always was around. Sam had to be around somewhere.
His voice sounded raspy in his own ears, a harsh whisper more than the determined call that he had been aiming for. And something was wrong with the sound. It didn't carry like sound was supposed to carry, it sounded muffled and…just not right.
And where was Sam?
Sam would be here if he was hurt, he was always there when Dean was hurt. But Sam wasn't here now, and that meant something was keeping him away from his brother's side. Dean drew a deep breath and tried to force the panic back down. There could only be one reason why Sam wasn't with him, and that was that Sam himself was hurt, injured bad enough that he could not be with Dean.
Which mean Sam needed him.
He couldn't afford to panic if Sam needed him, even if the mere thought about Sam being hurt threatened to send the next spike of gut-wrenching fear through him.
Dean raised his arm, lifted his hand to reach for the light switch, but instead of reaching into the space beside his bed, his hand met resistance only a few inches above his head.
What the hell?
With both arms, Dean reached around himself, movements getting more and more frantic. Wherever he reached, there were only a couple of inches of space, then his hands met resistance. Soft, padded resistance.
He was locked in. Locked into some kind of padded box, barely bigger than he himself was.
The pounding in his head picked up volume again as his hands reached around himself over and over again, skimming over the soft fabric and padding underneath in search of a hole, an opening, anything. But there was nothing, no opening, no way to escape.
His breathing was coming in fast, short bursts as Dean took his hands away from the strange padding surrounding him and started patting himself down. Car keys in his jacket pocket, gun in the inside pocket, nothing in his left jeans pocket…lighter in his right jeans pocket! His lighter was still there! Thank God.
His fingers felt clumsy as Dean flipped the Zippo open and thumbed the tiny wheel. The flint sparked once, twice, then the lighter caught and the flame spread a soft yellow glow into the darkness.
He wasn't blind.
But for a second, Dean wished he was. Because as the information of what he saw traveled from his eyes to his brain and was processed there, the panic he had forced down just a few moments before broke back out in full force, a heart-stopping, breath-catching, all-encompassing wave of panic that froze all rational thought.
He was lying in a casket!
Dean had seen enough caskets in his life to immediately know it for what it was, but he had never actually been inside of one. Especially not with the lid closed. The flickering light from the Zippo illuminated the white satin that was lining the lid and sides of the casket, basking it in an eerie orange glow.
Dean didn't know for how long he lay there and stared, his brain empty except for the word casket.
Casket, casket, casket.
He was lying in a casket.
It could have been minutes during which he wasn't able to move, didn't know if he was even breathing, but it felt like hours. But then another thought took over, urgent and primal and overwhelming everything else.
He needed to get out of here.
Dean was reluctant to flip the lighter shut, to extinguish his only source of light and throw his surroundings into darkness again, but he needed both hands to find a way out of here. The sudden darkness seemed oppressing and absolute, but Dean swallowed hard and breathed against the gut-wrenching panic inside of him as he put both his hands against the lid of the casket and pushed. He pushed with all his might, muscles straining from the effort, a groan escaping his lips, but the lid didn't move an inch.
That meant either it was screwed shut or…or he was screwed. Dean swallowed and pushed again. It couldn't be. Couldn't be true. Not possible.
He wasn't buried.
He couldn't be buried.
But no matter how much he pushed, kicked and tried to lever his body against the lid, it didn't even move the fragment of an inch. Yeah, six feet of packed earth right above the casket lid would do that. Six feet of packed earth between him and the real world, between him and an unlimited amount of precious oxygen.
Breathing hard, Dean fell back onto the padded bottom of the casket. His heart was racing a mile a minute, he was sucking air into his lungs desperately, his head was pounding fiercely and when he ran a hand over his hair and face, it came away sticky. Dean didn't need to light the lighter again to see that there was blood clinging to his hand.
Because seeing the casket made him remember all too clearly how he had ended up in here. That bastard had hit him over the head with a shovel, and while Dean had been unconscious, he must have buried him in the casket he had just recently dug up.
Just his frigging luck.
It had been a crappy hunt right from the beginning. Your ordinary Kentucky town, with ordinary Kentucky townspeople. And then some of those ordinary people suddenly started dying strangely. The Winchester kind of strangely. There was no connection between the victims, and nothing that clearly told them what was going on. Could be a spirit, might be a demon, some sort of creature – hell, for all the sense it had made to them, it could have been anything. There had been no frigging clue. Three days of investigating had brought them not a single step closer to finding out what the hell was going on. And then the next victim had died, which had kinda put a little added pressure on their timetable.
So they had made the first mistake.
He and Sam had split up.
Which was a nice way of saying that Sam had stormed off to the library after they had been fighting about what to do next. Frustration about the case, the death of that sixteen year old girl that shouldn't have died if they had only figured out how to do their job a little earlier, being cooped up with each other for too long, it all simply had become too much. So at the first little thing they had started yelling at each other, and in the end Sam had decided to go and do some research in the library – alone. He had been very emphatic on that part, and his parting words had been that he and Dean could talk to the victim's families again once he came back.
Which was when Dean had made the second mistake.
He had left the motel.
Honestly, he wasn't too sorry about that. He was a grown man, and Sam was in no place to tell him to stay put like a little kid. There was nothing he could do in the motel, nothing to help them finally figure out what was going on. And just for the record, he had tried to call his brother. But being the good little college student that Sam was, he had turned his cell phone off in the library.
So it totally wasn't Dean's fault.
It wasn't Dean's fault that he had suddenly remembered the dead plant in one of the victim's apartments, and that it had gotten him thinking about that zombie chick they had staked back into her casket not too long ago. It wasn't his fault that the next logical step had been to do some research on his own and then take a little detour to the town cemetery to take a look around.
And it totally wasn't his fault that he had found a suspicious looking half-dug grave during his tour over the cemetery and had decided to check it out.
The only thing that might have been his fault was that he hadn't heard the grave digger sneak up on him. At least not until it had been too late and that shovel had hit his head. Then everything had turned black, but since he was now lying in a frigging casket, it didn't take a genius to figure out what had happened.
Dean gagged a little at the thought that while he had been out cold, that…that freak had finished digging up the grave, taken out the fresh corpse and had buried Dean in its place.
Suddenly, the smell of death and embalming fluid seemed overpowering in his nose and the bile started to rise up in his throat. Dean forced himself to breathe, to swallow against the urge to retch. It was easier said than done, not with the smell of death clinging to everything inside the casket, clinging to him, but with a lot of deep breaths through his mouth he finally got his body back under control.
He should have seen it sooner. It explained everything. Somebody here was playing around with the dead. But honestly, if the only clue to that was that the one single potted plant in one of the victim's apartment was dead, they really couldn't be blamed for not noticing straight away. Seeing a dead plant, Dean's first assumption was that somebody had forgotten to water it, not that a zombie was making house-calls.
Dean had no idea if it was the exact same thing as the zombie chick in Greenville, Illinois, but it didn't really matter. Somebody was digging up corpses and people died in strange ways. That practically screamed walking dead.
And it didn't matter right now because he was buried six feet under, without his cell phone that probably wouldn't have worked anyway, and with no frigging means to contact Sam. Clumsily, Dean reached for the lighter, the panic rising again when his fingers didn't immediately close around it, but subsiding just as quickly as fingers brushed against the cold metal. He lit the flame again and checked his watch. Half past six. He had been out for a little over an hour. Maybe an hour and a half, he didn't know exactly. With any luck, Sam would come back from the library any moment now.
And Dean's guess was that if Sam came back to the motel to find both his brother and the car gone, he was going to be pissed, not worried. He wouldn't immediately go searching for Dean, especially not without a car. Maybe he'd call, but even if Dean still had his phone, cell phone companies didn't exactly have plans that covered calls from out of the grave.
Dean extinguished the lighter again, saving what precious lighter fluid was still inside. In the encompassing darkness, his breathing sounded extremely loud in his ears. He needed to calm down, if only to save oxygen. God, that thought sent another jolt of panic through him. How much precious air had he already used up with his panicked outbursts? How long was the air in the casket going to last him? Another hour? Two? Longer than that? How did one calculate that? Volume of the casket divided by his lung volume? He didn't know how much either was.
Dean had no idea how he could possibly estimate that. That had been the kind of question he had always skipped in math tests. Sam would probably know. Sam always knew weird shit like that. But since Sam wasn't here, Dean had to do a rough estimate on his own.
The air was already stale, but Dean had no idea whether that was because the air was running out, or because of the dead body that had been lying in the casket for the past day or two. Also, the air in the casket was getting warmer. Already, sweat was popping out on Dean's forehead, and he wished he had enough room to move around to shrug out of his jacket. It wasn't even his leather jacket, and the weather outside had been rather cold, but still Dean was sweating.
Did that mean his air was running out already?
People said that suffocation like this was slow, but that it was not the worst way to go. Well, screw people. What did people know anyway? Dean didn't want to go out like that. If he already had to go, he always imagined it in a blaze of gunfire, or while saving Sammy. Dean didn't believe that there was anything heroic to dying no matter how it happened, but still. Not like this. He didn't want to go out like this. He didn't want to go out, period. Not for a long time.
Blindly, he raised his hands again and started reaching for the satin lining of the casket. If he could only get it off, if he could lay bare the wood of the casket lid, maybe there was a way to get through that. Of course that would mean so many cubic feet of earth falling down on him, but maybe he had a chance of clawing himself out. It definitely beat lying around here, waiting to be saved. Or waiting until his air ran out.
The fabric was firm under his fingers, and no matter how much he prodded and poked, he couldn't get it to tear. And of course his knife was in his leather jacket. What the hell had he been thinking? He never left without his knife. It was one of his father's most important lessons to always have a blade on him.
Dean started patting himself down again, hoping to find something useful he had missed the first time around. Yeah Dean, where's your casket-lock-pick when you need it?
But there was nothing else than the things he had already discovered the first time around. The Zippo, his car keys, and the gun.
Setting the satin on fire might work to get it off, but then he could as well set himself on fire while he was at it. He wasn't desperate enough to stop thinking clearly, and he definitely wasn't stupid. Not to mention that he didn't have any oxygen to spare, so setting things on fire definitely was off the to-do list.
Of course he could try to shoot a hole into the casket lid. He still had his gun, though it was a mystery why the freaky grave digger had left him that when he had taken his cell phone. Dean had a vague idea why that could be, but he stopped his thoughts from going down that road. He definitely wasn't desperate enough to contemplate that. Not yet, and not at all if he could help it.
Shooting a hole into the lid might help him get it open. The bullet would probably get stuck in the earth above him, but the hole it tore into the lid might be big enough for him to get his fingers in, maybe tear it open farther and get out. But firing his gun in a confined space was a huge risk, especially since he had no idea what kind of casket he was buried in. All it took was a hardwood casket, a slightly wrong angle, a little thing going wrong and the bullet was going to ricochet. And in a confined space like this, he could as well shoot himself in the head straight away and spare himself the trouble.
No, the gun was out of question, at least not until he knew what kind of casket he was lying in.
Which left him only his hands and the car keys as tools.
Sweat was running down his face now, rolling from the bridge of his nose into his eyes and made him blink furiously in the darkness as Dean clumsily pulled the keys to the Impala out of his jacket pocket. He took the key and rammed it into the satin lining of the lid with as much force as the confined space of the casket would allow him. The round end of the key pressed painfully into his palm, but with some satisfaction Dean felt the satin lining give way and tear as the key was pushed against it. With a shout of triumph, Dean started moving the key to and fro, trying to tear as much of the satin as possible.
When he had created a sizeable rip in the satin, Dean let the keys drop without second thought and started to use both hands to claw at the torn fabric. His eyes were screwed shut tightly against the sweat dripping in his eyes. It didn't matter anyway. It wasn't as if he could see anything in the darkness for as long as his lighter was out. But he felt the pieces of fabric and padding drop down on him as his fingers tore them loose.
Again, his breathing was accelerating, and in a distant corner of his brain he knew that he should calm down, relax his breathing and try to save as much oxygen as he could, but right now that wasn't an option. He was finally getting somewhere, for the first time since waking up in this frigging nightmare he had the feeling that he had a chance of getting out of here.
Desperately, Dean clawed at the lining, until his fingers finally met resistance, fingernails scraping over something cool and smooth that could only be the casket lid. A sob-like sound escaped Dean's throat, far beyond his ability to control it, even as his hands were still trying to lay bare more of the lid from the padding and satin covering. Not a sob-like sound of relief. There was no relief. Because he didn't need to light the Zippo again to see what it was that his fingers were touching.
It wasn't wood.
The casket wasn't made of wood.
Of course, because that would have given him a chance. Of all the caskets he could have ended up buried in, he didn't get the pine box that was easily breakable. No, he ended up in a metal casket. A frigging tank of a casket, and no way for him to get out of this on his own. If he tried to shoot through the lid, the bullet was definitely going to ricochet off the metal and hit him. And no amount of clawing, banging and scratching was going to get him out of here.
Exhausted, Dean let his head sink back on the padded pillow that reeked of death and embalming fluid and wiped at his eyes which were still burning from the sweat and the hopelessness of it all.
He wasn't getting out of here on his own.
And if Sam didn't find him, he was going to suffocate.
He was screwed.
...SPNSPNSPNSPNSPNSPNSPN TBC SPNSPNSPNSPNSPNSPNSPN...
Thanks for reading and as always, please let me know what you think. Thanks a lot.