Well, thanks to Alice I's encouragement, I've finally posted a story longer than a drabble! Please tell me what you folks think. I'm trying to better myself as a writer, so constructive criticism welcome! And thanks for reading!
The Nukekubi in this story comes from an actual Japanese legend. I have stuck to the facts of the legend as well as I could. There are some details that are lacking in the legends, so I've taken a few liberties to fill these in. A couple of interesting points that I could not work into the story - the Nukekubis were supposed to look like a human during the day, distinguishable only by a ring of red markings around the neck. Also, they would sometimes live in groups.
This story is set during season 4, sometime after Yellow Fever, with references to Born Under a Bad Sign.
"A nookywhatsy?" Dean asked as he eased the Impala around a long curve in the two lane road snaking through southwestern Missouri. The piercing twin beams from the headlights revealed only trees hugging the edges of the blacktop.
"A Nukekubi. Bobby says it's from a Japanese legend dating back to the Edo period. Story goes, it looks like a normal human in the daytime, but at night, the head detaches from the body and flies around. "
Dean shook his head. "Leave it to Bobby to come up with some creepy-ass Japanese monster."
Sam chuckled. "And… it feeds on human blood."
"Oh, great! It's the Headless Horseman meets Dracula!" Dean's brow puckered as a thought occurred to him. "Can it turn people into nook…whatevers?"
"No, they just drain them dry."
"So how do we kill it?"
"According to Bobby, the head is damn near indestructible; however, the body is just as vulnerable as a human. All we have to do is find the body while the head's detached. Then, we either destroy the body, or simply hide it where the head can't find it. If the head can't reattach itself by sunup, it dies."
Dean glanced over at his brother. "And when has any hunt ever been that easy?"
6 hours later:
"I told you it wasn't gonna be that easy!" Dean groaned as he picked himself up off the dirt floor of the ramshackle abandoned barn – again.
Sam didn't answer – mainly because he was trying not to scream. The Nukekubi had managed to knock him off the edge of the hayloft, where he'd landed hard a few feet away from Dean. Besides the deep cut and knot on his head, he was pretty sure his shoulder was dislocated - or broken.
Dean offered a hand to his brother and pulled him upright. "You okay?"
"Mmm," was all Sam could manage between clenched teeth. He cradled his left arm tightly against his body – not that doing so relieved the pain at all. In fact, that particular agony was now radiating into his chest and down that arm.
Yet another shriek split the air, sending their eardrums into spasms of pain and shivers of terror up their spines. The head – its long, black hair trailing behind it – whipped by them only a few feet away, passing briefly through the woefully inadequate beam of Dean's flashlight. They both jumped back involuntarily.
"God, I hate when it does that!" Dean shouted irritably.
Sam couldn't resist and managed to get his jaw unclenched enough to say, "At least it wasn't a cat."
Dean glared at him.
Sam chuckled – or rather, he tried. It came out more like a cross between a groan and a squeak.
The Nukekubi screamed and hurtled itself at Dean so fast that he had no time to duck. It hit him squarely in the chest, knocking him ass over teakettle into a pile of stove wood. Sam winced, knowing from experience that that head butt felt like getting hit with a bowling ball.
As quick as the monster had come, it flew back again into the shadows.
"Dean!" Sam shouted, hurrying to where Dean was once again trying to pick himself up.
"Go find that body, Sam! I'll keep it busy!"
Sam started to protest – he didn't want his brother to have to fight it alone – but Dean waved him off. "Go!" he shouted, tossing the flashlight to Sam.
Sam looked around a bit to get his bearings and then homed in on one corner that the creature seemed to favor between hit–and-runs. Ducking another fly-by, Sam moved as quickly as his pain levels would allow, flicking the flashlight into any space that might be large enough to accommodate a human body; nothing. He heard the shotgun blast, another shriek, Dean yelling at it – the sounds of battle in their crazy, messed up world. It also let him know his brother was still ok.
He moved from corner to corner all the way around the barn, found nothing, and then faced the hayloft ladder again. Climbing up was a bit harder this time with only one good hand, but he managed. He quickly began shoving over stacks of dusty, half-rotted, forgotten bales of hay, searching for hidden spaces.
Suddenly, there was an enormous crash from below him, and then total silence. No shrieks, no Dean bellowing at the creature - nothing but his own breathing.
The quiet was eerie – and very wrong. Sam spun around and hurried to the ladder, not even taking the time to peek over the edge of the hayloft to see what was happening. He knew what was happening; Dean needed him. He knew it – felt it.
With his stomach twisted in knots, heart pounding, he jumped from the third rung, landed squarely on his feet, and almost went to the ground in pain from his jarred shoulder. Lights burst in his head and before his eyes. Fighting against the pain, he stumbled toward where the sound of the crash had come from – the big double doors.
He shone the flashlight back and forth rapidly, searching, probing the darkness, only half aware he should be keeping an eye out for the Nukekubi.
There! Dean was lying in a heap in front of one of the double doors beside a pile of old lumber and tangled fencing - not moving; unconscious.
"Dean!" Sam shouted, forgetting his own pain and running to his brother.
Please be okay; please be okay, he thought desperately.
As Sam grew close, he skidded to a stop at the sight before him. At first, Dean appeared to have two heads. But in the next instant, Sam realized the Nukekubi was feeding on him! The creature had its mouth firmly embedded against the side of Dean's throat, vampire style. The lower end of its neck – where it would normally be attached to its body - appeared to be covered with some sort of membrane. It was the color of blood and it pulsed and bulged grotesquely with each sucking motion of the mouth, growing as if it was expanding to hold the creature's meal. The skin on the creature's face was nearly transparent, bloated, and covered with deep red, spidery veins. For some reason, the image of a giant tick came to his mind.
Swallowing against the bile rising in his throat, Sam slowly lowered the flashlight to the ground. Grimacing against the pain in his left shoulder, he picked up a short piece of board with his good hand.
Holding the board for a one-handed swing, he crept up behind the creature, which was so focused on its meal that it didn't seem to notice Sam. He swung the board with all his might, landing a solid wallop to the disconnected head.
The blow merely knocked it loose from its grip on Dean's throat. It spun around to snarl at Sam with blood-stained lips curled back, exposing a mouth full of sharp teeth. With blood lust in the dull grey eyes, it flew straight at him!
Before he could get set with the board again, it hit him full force in the face, sending him staggering backward into a post. Blood gushed profusely from his nose, down his chin and dripped onto his shirt. His eyes refused to focus. His stomach felt like it was going to turn itself inside out. He leaned against the post for a moment, trying to clear his head.
Once again, the creature grew quiet. This time, however, Sam was close enough to hear a sickening suction sound. It had gone back to its meal, frantic, needy.
It's going to drain him dry!
Not if Sam could help it. Not Dean. Not his brother.
For the first time, Sam wished that the Nukekubi was a demon. For the first time in a long while, he wanted to use his powers. Demons he knew how to deal with; but this – he couldn't find the body. He couldn't kill it unless he found the body. But if he quit fighting it off Dean long enough to go look, his brother would be dead when he got back.
His vision cleared a bit, he saw the vile beast at his brother's throat, and rage took over.
The next thing Sam knew, he had crossed the space between them, grabbed the Nukekubi by the hair, and flung it as far as he could. The head, shrieking in anger, turned in midair, and flew straight back at Sam.
This time, Sam was prepared. After throwing the head, he'd grabbed up another piece of lumber and took a protective stance over his brother. He didn't dare take his eyes off the thing to even glance to see if Dean was still alive.
As the Nukekubi hurled itself toward the threat to its meal, Sam managed to whack it hard enough to send it careening off into the dark. Then he took a step backward and shoved open one side of the barn door.
The first rays of dawn brightened the inky blackness of the old barn through the pale rectangle of faint light. The creature screamed hideously and Sam saw a black streak as the Nukekubi flew straight up through a hole in the roof and disappeared.
Sam stumbled back to his brother, dizzy, and fell to his knees. "Dean?"
Trying to focus against the throbbing that seemed to have taken over his entire body, Sam took stock of his brother's injuries. The left side of his throat was covered in blood that was still oozing from a circular pattern of puncture wounds. He felt for a pulse on the other side; weak, but steady. And a slight gurgling noise told him Dean was breathing. Sam managed to pull off his jacket, trying unsuccessfully to stifle a groan. He wadded it up and pressed it against the wound.
They couldn't stay here. He needed to find a place to hole up and patch both of them up. But how was he going to get Dean out of the barn?
Maybe if I can get him over my good shoulder…
He stood over Dean, grasped his brother's shirt and started to pull him into a sitting position.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you."
Startled, Sam looked up to see a young woman standing in the doorway. He mentally kicked himself for being taken by surprise.
His brain automatically went into threat-assess mode. Right now, this girl could be their worst enemy or their best friend. She looked to be about his own age, petite, red hair pulled back in a pony tail, dressed in jeans, pink t-shirt, and muddy boots; no-nonsense attitude.
"He could have neck, back or internal injuries and you'll aggravate your shoulder injury," she said in a take-charge manner. She walked toward them, glancing once at Sam and then heading straight for Dean. Sam moved to block her path.
She stopped and looked up at him, directly in the eye. "I'm a doctor," she stated calmly. "Let me help you."
Her bright green eyes were full of fire – and cold steel; friend or foe? He didn't know, but - Sam took another look at Dean, and then stepped out of the way.
The girl knelt at Dean's side and quickly began checking for injuries. Her hands never seemed to stop moving.
Sam stood nearby and watched her closely. He cradled his injured arm against his side and started trying to think up answers for the inevitable questions – starting with "What happened?" However, the questions didn't come - which made him even more nervous.
"He's been shot." The girl snatched the wadded-up shirt from Dean's throat and pressed it against his left side under his ribcage.
Sam was startled. "What?" He knelt beside his brother's head. "Nononono - that's not possible. Are you sure it's not just a puncture wound? I mean, he fell…"
The girl lifted the jacket briefly so Sam could see the wound for himself.
"I know what a gunshot wound looks like!" she huffed. "We need to get him to a hospital - now."
"No!" Sam said, much more sharply than he intended. Emergency room doctors, gunshot wounds, and Winchesters – not a good combo. He took a deep breath to calm down and ran his hand through his hair. "Look… if you'll just help me get him into the car, I'll make sure he gets looked after. Please." He realized he was spitting blood as he spoke and that his nose was still bleeding badly. He wadded up the tail of his button-up shirt and pressed it gingerly against his nose. He tried to paste a smile on. "I appreciate your help, but there's no need for you to go to any trouble. I can handle it."
The girl looked at him for a long moment. Sam made a mental note never to play poker with this woman. Her face was absolutely expressionless. He had no idea what was going on inside her head.
"Keep pressure on that," she gestured at Dean. She suddenly stood, apparently having made a decision. "I'll take you to my place. It's just a couple of miles down the road. I'm going to pull my car up. It will be easier to get him into that than in yours. " She turned on her heel and disappeared through the door.
"Hey!" Sam called after her. "I don't even know your name."
She hesitated, but then said, "Kelly." She did not ask for his.
Sam did as he was told, closing his eyes for a moment against a wave of nausea and pain. He didn't know if this was the right thing to do or not – trusting a total stranger – but he really didn't know what else to do. Dean needed more help than he could offer - and he wasn't doing so hot himself.
Five minutes later, Dean was laying on a saddle blanket in the back of the girl's mint condition, red, 1972 El Camino. Sam sat with him, cradling his brother's head in his lap.
Come on, Dean – I need you to be ok. Just hang on.
That Nukekubi had really done a number on him – and where the hell had that gunshot come from? Dean had only been using his shotgun with rock salt rounds, and Sam had found Dean's .45 still tucked behind his waistband, so there's no way he could've accidentally shot himself. Not that Dean would ever be that careless, anyway. And Sam had heard no gunfire report except the shotgun.
As they sped further into the backwoods, Sam heard Kelly's voice. He glanced over his shoulder through the rear window. She was on the phone.
When the car pulled into the long dirt drive in front of a low, red brick building, Sam truly expected to be greeted by cops. Instead, she pulled the car around to a side door where a boy of about 10 and a young blonde woman stood waiting next to a gurney. He breathed a sigh of relief.
They managed to get Dean onto the gurney, rolling through the door, and down the long hallway. As Kelly and the boy guided the gurney, Sam followed behind, taking the opportunity to check out the place. His ears were assaulted by a cacophony of barking and whining, with an occasional meow thrown in. A few doors along the hall stood open revealing exam rooms, a lab, and a room stacked with cages – the source of the noise. Kelly said something to the blonde about getting back to work and she promptly disappeared into the kennel without a word.
"You're a vet?" Sam asked Kelly. "You said you were a doctor!"
She didn't bother to look at him. "I never said what kind. If you don't like it, you can go to the hospital," she said curtly.
Sam kept his mouth shut. Relax – she's trying to help.
Kelly had stopped in front of a locked door labeled "No Admittance". She pulled a key attached to a ribbon from around her neck to open it.
This was getting too weird. First, she shows up at dawn at an old barn in the middle of nowhere, claiming to be a doctor – and seems to know what she's doing. She asks no questions. She didn't protest at Sam's balking about a hospital. Now, she's leading them into a locked room at the back of a vet's office, with a key she apparently felt protective enough of to keep around her neck.
She opened the door to reveal a room that had apparently once been an exam room. The far wall was occupied by a long counter with drawers below and a small window above. Instead of the usual small metal exam table, there was a twin bed made up hospital style pushed against one wall. Two closed doors, a small refrigerator, and a decrepit looking recliner completed the room.
Kelly grabbed a towel out of a drawer, handed it to Sam and then waved at the chair. "Sit before you fall," she ordered.
Sam obeyed, settling in gingerly, holding the towel against his still-drippy nose and trying not to jiggle his arm too bad. He watched as Kelly and the boy slid his brother onto the bed and then went to work on him. Under the fluorescent lighting, Dean looked awfully pale – too pale.
After watching for a couple of minutes, Sam laid his head back against the chair. Whoever this woman was, she hadn't yet called the cops, and she apparently intended to take care of Dean – and that was all that mattered at the moment. He could feel the adrenaline drain from his system, leaving him utterly spent.
He must have dozed off for a moment, because he came to hearing a phone conversation. And the boy was gone.
"Hey, Martin! How's Lucy?"
Kelly had her cell phone cradled between her ear and the top of her shoulder and was hurriedly unwrapping some kind of tubing.
"Well, that's pretty normal," she continued on the phone. "You can give her a baby aspirin if she acts like it still hurts her."
She walked over to the refrigerator and removed a packet of blood. She glanced up at Sam as she continued her conversation.
"Listen, Martin – I need a favor. There's a black, older model Impala parked down at the old Munson place. If you could tow it up here for me, I'll count what you owe me for setting Lucy's leg paid. It'd be a huge favor!"
At the look of alarm on Sam's face, she held up a hand in a 'wait' gesture.
"Yeah, belongs to a friend of mine. Broke down on him." A pause. "Ok – I appreciate it! Thanks!"
She dropped the phone into a pocket in her jeans. "Martin's a good guy – he'll take good care of your car. And he isn't nosy."
She continued setting up for a blood transfusion. It finally registered in Sam's pain-fuzzy brain what she was doing, and he stood rather shakily and moved to the other side of the bed.
"Whoa. Hold up there – you don't even know his blood type! He's not some dog!"
Kelly sighed, but did not stop. "This is O negative blood. Mine, if you must know. It can be used for any blood type. I keep a small supply for emergencies."
She already had Dean's right arm in position and prepped. Without pause, she inserted the needle with practiced ease.
"Oh," Sam whispered. Now he'd offended their rescuer – again - and embarrassed himself in the process. "Sorry." If he'd stopped to think, he'd have remembered the little fact about the blood types.
"It's ok. You had a rough night. I understand."
Was that a crack in the rock-hard façade she was standing behind?
She's not just a vet.
Once the blood was flowing, she went back to work on the gunshot wound. Sam leaned back against the wall and watched.
She'd definitely dealt with gunshot wounds before; she doing as good a job as any ER doc he'd watched.
And that's a disturbing thought – that I've seen enough bullet wounds patched up to be able to compare the work.
Sam sighed. Suddenly, he felt about a hundred years old.
Kelly glanced up at him. "You really ought to sit down. You're not looking so good."
She still asked no questions.
Sam had plenty of his own, though.
About that time, the boy returned, carrying two large Ziploc bags full of ice.
The boy walked straight over to Sam and handed him one bag and a clean towel.
"For your nose and your shoulder," Kelly commented, not looking up from her work, "I'll work on them as soon as I get done here."
"Thanks," Sam mumbled, as Tommy helped him settle the second bag over his shoulder. Something about the boy seemed disturbingly familiar. He just couldn't say why. He knew he'd never seen him before.
A few minutes later, the room started to spin and he suddenly found Tommy doing his best to keep him from falling.
"Okay, I think you have to sit now," Kelly announced as she helped Tommy get him back over to the recliner. "Just stay right there, okay? Five more minutes and I'll be done with him."
Sam wasn't going anywhere. He leaned his head back against the recliner, still pressing the bag of ice against his face. He could feel Tommy holding the second one against his shoulder.
Just as Sam was thinking about how terribly thirsty he was, Tommy handed Sam a glass of water along with a couple of painkillers. The boy had yet to say a word. Neither had Sam heard Kelly speak to him. Not once.
"Thanks," Sam said to the boy. He showed no reaction.
"He's deaf. If you speak to him, you need to be sure he's looking at you so he can read your lips," Kelly offered.
"Oh. Sorry." He was saying that a lot.
A few minutes later, Kelly had Dean's injuries cleaned, sutured and bandaged. An IV bag hung from a hook attached to the wall, and an oxygen tube snaked across his nose from a portable tank. She set up a second unit of blood.
"Well," she said as she covered Dean with a blanket, "I've done what I can for him at the moment. It's up to him now." She turned to Sam. "Your turn."
She started with the cut on his head, cleaning and stitching quickly. Then she examined his nose, probing gently – although painfully. Not willing to let her see just how much pain he was in, he decided it was time for a real conversation.
"Thanks for helping my brother and me."
She ignored the comment.
"It's broken. Hold still – this might hurt a bit."
She was right.
After massaging his nose back into some semblance of a normal shape, she taped it and moved on to his shoulder. Tommy handed her a heavy book he had retrieved from the small closet without being told. The way these two worked together had Sam wondering just how often they brought bleeding strangers in here. She had Sam hold his arm limply to his side and then placed the book in that hand.
He wasn't quite able to suppress a grunt of pain.
"Try to relax, Sam," she said gently as she began messaging his shoulder.
Yeah, right – this is really gonna hurt! Need a distraction!
"You haven't asked me what happened," Sam said through clenched teeth.
Did she just call me by name?
"Don't need to – you were hunting the Nukekubi."