a/n: Here I go again! This was created by my mind wandering on a recent road trip. A couple years ago I wrote what is still my favorite fic, "After Life in PPTH" for the House fandom. The concept came from an old St. Elsewhere episode where a character dies and drifts between Purgatory, Heaven and Hell. I put Dr. Chase through that scenario in that fic, and somehow I wondered how it would work if I put Sam Winchester through it. Of course the concept in this fic is very different, for instead of doctors trying to save Sam's life, it's a lot of Ruby, Dean and Castiel wrestling for answers while Sam faces his test. This is the beginning. I still don't have time for fics, but again this idea wouldn't die!
Hamistagan is the term for purgatory in Zoroastrian eschatology.
The arid terrain irritated his badly parched throat, but he had to keep moving. He had to find help. Every bit of his insides tinged with anxiousness, but his mind hadn't truly grasped how wrong this situation was. How he wasn't supposed to be there. How he even got there.
The dust kicked up from his boots added to the discomfort, as did the high scorching sun. The survivalist instinct had kicked in, and his mind narrowed toward reaching one goal, finding a way out of there.
"Dean?" Sam called out, turning full circle in hopes that his bleary and irritated eyes would spot his brother. He could see for miles and there wasn't a thing but dirt and rocks. Not a person, a car, a building, a road, nothing but the dry brush. Sam suddenly realized he wasn't thinking straight, and fished in his pockets for his phone. They were empty. He exhaled in distress and swallowed hard, his throat burning worse in the process.
Everything felt wrong, and each step only caused his uneasy feeling to spike higher. Something was eating at him, an exaggerated sense of remorse. Why?
This place felt vaguely familiar, but he couldn't place where he'd seen it before. He didn't want to waste much energy remembering either, for that would distract him from his mission.
Isolation is the sum total of wretchedness to a man. Sam shook off the stray thought, for he didn't need to berate himself with Thomas Carlyle right now. It wasn't his fault he was alone, was it? Is it possible he did this to himself? He cleared his wandering mind, focusing his eyes forward. He walked with determination, for he wouldn't go down without a fight.
The longer he carried on his anxious march forward, but more he realized that nothing about the landscape had changed. He raised his arm and twisted his wrist toward him, checking his watch to see how long he'd been walking. It had stopped at 10:18 pm. "Is time standing still?" He asked out loud, the words barely choking through his dry throat. He pinched the bridge of his nose and let out a small smile. That assumption was a pretty far leap over a broken watch.
He swiped his arm along his burning forehead, but there was no sweat there to cool him. With one tug he yanked his shirt up and draped it over his head to act as a shield from the sun. He didn't let himself think about the odds over how long he'd last in these conditions. He just hoped shelter or any kind of help would not be far.
Out of the blue, a sharp pain drilled him on the back of the head and a memory flashed before him. Dean was against the wall, being slowly choked to death by a man. Sam cried out, but his cry was silent as his lips kept moving. The man hurting Dean whipped around, his malicious glare dominated by those black eyes. The fury suddenly spiked in Sam and before he knew it his arm was out.
Sam found himself on his hands and knees, the hot dirt burning at his palms and knees. The baking sun wouldn't let up, but his worries were only of Dean. Was that a vision or a flashback? Is Dean okay? Where was he?
"Somebody help me!" He cried, but the only sound was the long echo of his troubled words.
His knees wobbled as he raised himself to his feet, and his next steps forward felt like lead weights were attached to his ankles. He felt the hot liquid drip down the back of this neck, confusing him since it was too dry to perspire. His hand came back from his neck red from his own blood. How did that happen? Nothing was near him for miles, what would cause him to bleed? The wound wasn't there earlier.
Another flash came to him again along with more intense pain. The dark warehouse in the background waved in distortion as glimpses of Ruby showed her struggle with her own attack. "Help me Sam," she cried. Paralyzing fear spiked within him and the vision morphed back to the hot dry desert.
Sam awoke flat on the ground, the scorched earth irritating his already cracked lips. The blood trickle now felt like a gush, and the ground was no longer steady, spinning in sickening movements. Now bile burned his throat, and the fleeting thought that death might be a better option right now darted through his mind. What was happening to him? Was this a punishment for his failures? Did Dean and Ruby die because of him?
Another vision struck with brazen agony as Sam thought his brain would burst through of the gash in the back of his skull. Dean turned blue, ready to succumb to the demon who had a hold of him. Guilt and helplessness overwhelmed a frozen Sam, twisting into him like the knife that took his live before. "Dean!" he yelled, but the noise of this hoarse voice only managed to snap him out of the troubling vision.
"No!" His fist slammed into the dust before he found the surge within to pull himself up. He wavered on unsteady legs, but kept going as his steps turned into slow and hard staggers. The wound now had the better of him, and not only could he not save his brother, he couldn't help himself either. Pangs of remorse consumed his already weakened state, taking any fight he had left. How could he let Dean down like that? How could he fail him again? As the surroundings around him went fuzzy, Sam believed any personal doom he faced was just.
"Sorry Dean." Sam tumbled face first to the ground and everything went dark.
"Any change?" Dean shouted with frantic tone, looking through the rear view mirror into the back seat. He pushed the gas pedal to the floor, the roar of the engine now in full throttle. How could this happen? How did they get so careless where he didn't have Sam's back?
A distressed Ruby lifted up her red soaked hand, confirming the situation was growing worse. She returned it to the bloody mop of hair in her lap, hoping applied pressure would slow the critical wound. She didn't have the words to answer.
"Ruby! Answer me!"
Dean didn't know where he was going, or where there was even a town where he could get help. After they grabbed Sam he got on the nearest main road and instinct told him to go north. Given the lack of civilization anywhere, he wanted to kick himself for not trying the other direction first.
"Where's a cop where you need one?" Dean growled in frustration. He looked at Ruby again, who didn't look so good either. "Why can't you tell me where the hospital is? Don't you have some sort of demon radar?"
"I…I," Ruby didn't have a good answer. She normally was quick on her feet, but this time, she was too stunned. Her other hand rested on Sam's chest, where the rise and fall grew increasingly shallow. She could barely feel a heartbeat anymore. Sam was losing the fight.
Dean saw a sign as he flew by. "There's a town ten miles ahead. Maybe we can find a doctor there." There had to be help somewhere. He couldn't lose Sam like this. This wasn't supposed to happen.
Ruby's stare fixed on Sam's faraway eyes. His pupils were large, so black that he could have been confused for a demon. She knew that even if he survived this, the damage was too great. None of this made sense. Slow suffering and death was par for the course in her long existence. Why was she fearing the worst for Sam? Why were thoughts of his demise ripping her insides to shreds?
"Dean!" Ruby said with a sharp panic. "He's not breathing." She climbed on top of Sam, straddling her knees on both sides, stretching him out on the back seat. She started chest compressions and mouth to mouth resuscitation.
"You better not be trying to get in his pants again!" Dean said.
"Shut up and get some help!" Ruby ordered in between her deep breaths. She knew her efforts were only buying time.
"I'm doing my best," Dean replied with bitterness, knowing he couldn't push his baby any faster. He kept glimpsing at Ruby through the rear view mirror, and swore he actually saw a tear glistening on her cheek. He didn't have time to check for sure though, for he slammed on the brakes and the Impala spun, fishtailing the rear of the vehicle before coming to a stop. Ruby slammed into the back on the front seat, but somehow held Sam in place.
"What the Hell?"
Dean gunned the Impala and headed the other direction, thankful for having such a fast engine. "I just spotted an ambulance. Just make sure he's alive by the time we catch up to it!"
"Rise and face your judgment." The words rang in his ears, but the source was lost on him.
"Samuel!" He heard this time. No one ever called him that. Not Dean, not Dad, not Jess. Who would dare use his given name of a piece of paper? The calling of his birth name was enough to rouse his interest. He blinked several times, the heavy light bothering his dry eyes. His mouth felt like Velcro, and the fact his face was millimeters from the dry dust wasn't helping. He slowly rose himself up from the ground, but it was difficult because of his shaking arms.
Sam gazed off into the distance, finding himself still in the open and exposed desert. This time though, he spotted something. He closed his eyes and shook his head before looking again. What he saw couldn't be right. It occurred to him this was the desert, so it was likely a mirage. He shuffled several painful steps forward, and now he knew he had to be hallucinating. There was a woman in the distance, sitting in the middle of this no man's land on a lawn chair. "Hello?" He called out, but his cracked voice barely made an audible sound.
Sam moved closer to the woman, although his progress was slow. He swore she looked familiar, but he couldn't tell for sure at that distance. The entire time she just sat there reading a book, looking up every now and then to check on his approach. There was an empty lawn chair next to her, but no sign of a companion.
After a while the woman came in view. Sam rubbed his eyes, convinced the air was playing tricks on him. It couldn't be her. It's impossible.
"Hello Sam," the woman said, lowering her book once he was a few feet away.
"Madison?" Sam was at a loss over how she couldn't be there. "I…don't get it. You're dead."
Madison put her book down, stood up and stroked her hand down the side of Sam's head. She gave him a huge smile. "So are you Sam."
a/n: Anyone interested in chapter two? Let me know!