The Kissing Curve
by wave obscura
Kissing Curve is at the end of Brown Barn Road, a winding goat path that leads to the grange hall and the feed store.
The grange hall and the feed store have been rotting there on Brown Barn Road for the better part of thirty years. Nobody buys feed anymore. They don't buy feed because there are no farms, just identical manicured fields snatched up long ago by an industrial grower that ate up the land with the business-like efficiency of a swarm of locusts.
According to Jamie's mother, the old grange hall was once alive with quaint local events, socials, harvest festivals, square dancing lessons and AA meetings. Then the building's foundation began to sink and a big crack appeared on the south wall and the owner didn't have the money to tear it down, so he boarded up the windows and moved to Florida with his wife.
Then the county stopped repaving the road beyond the feed store and the grange hall. There was nothing out there anyway, just a baby lake Monsanto had polluted so badly it wasn't swimmable anymore, not unless you wanted your skin to slough right off.
So nature quickly reclaimed the road, forming a wild cul-de-sac of blackberry bushes and creeping vines that swallowed the buildings damn near completely, joining them together in a haphazard twenty-foot ensnarement, a wall of unchecked growth.
The spot offered seclusion, a commanding view of the moon and a thousand stars, and that is what attracted all the horny teenagers who gave Kissing Curve its name.
Emily Ames and Andrew Floyd, sixteen years old, had a disagreement up there in 1994. Andrew thought that they should have sex; Emily begged to differ. There was a scuffle and Emily fell out of the bed of Andrew's dad's pickup, hit her neck wrong and broke it and died.
There is still a memorial up there for Emily Ames, a teddy bear dressed like a police officer encased in a plastic box. It's a little bit shabby now, all scratched and keyed and splattered in bird shit, but it was her favorite childhood toy and it's the thought that counts.
Emily's death didn't stop the teenagers from driving out to the Curve on Saturday nights, though. In fact, the memorial and the abandoned buildings gave the place an air of romantic morbidity; making out up there felt especially rebellious.
So teenagers kept dying, one every couple of years. Boys this time, not girls. It was like their souls were sucked right out of their bodies, leaving them flat and leathery and little more than skin.
Now no one goes to Kissing Curve. It is just as forgotten as the grange hall, as the feed store, as the old farming community, as Emily Ames' memorial teddy bear.
Jamie still remembers, though, because fifteen years ago it was her favorite spot in the world. It's where she met her boyfriend Kevin and where she lost her virginity (not necessarily in that order). And she wants to visit again, because today is her twenty-ninth birthday, which is depressing and shitty, and now that the birthday sex is over they're laying in bed watching the news, something about a mailman getting suspended from work for pissing on an apartment building.
"I'm fucking old," she says to Kevin, sucking birthday frosting off her thumb. "Let's do something dumb and childish. I want to have a pre-mid life crisis."
"We can't afford a Corvette," Kevin replies, belching into his can of Pabst. He nods at the TV. "Can you believe the shit they call news?"
"Kissing Curve. We can buy some grape Mad Dog. Like the good ole days."
Kevin pretends to gag into his beer. "Sounds good."
So he puts one of his old cardigans, the one with all the holes in it, a Motorhead shirt underneath it that stretches unflatteringly over his budding beer gut. She digs her ratty old Doc Martens out of the back of the closet, and they stop for a minute in front of the mirror to lock elbows and laugh at how ridiculous they look. Then they go.
They speed down Brown Barn Road's dark curves, listening to old grunge music, swilling cheap beer. It's pouring down rain, absolutely pouring, and Kevin keeps switching off the headlights to freak her out because she hates how everything goes black, like they're careening into nothingness, nothing but dark water and windshield wipers.
She's choking on beer and laughing hysterically and he keeps his cigarettes close to his heart is ringing in their ears and she is just starting to think that maybe twenty-nine isn't that bad when Kevin flips the headlights back on and there it is-- a big black car parked halfway across the road and they're a hundred feet away from plowing right into it.
"OH FUCK," Kevin bellows as he slams on the breaks. The truck skids a good thirty feet, jerking to a goddamn-that-was-close stop just feet from the car.
She's about to smack Kevin upside the head when she sees him-- a boyish-looking man with squinting, feverish eyes sprawled on the ground, propped up on one hip near the open driver's side door, like maybe he fell. He's got a cell phone, and quickly losing interest in the truck's glaring headlights, he looks down at it like he has no idea what it is, thumb hovering confusedly over the glowing screen.
Jamie gets out of the truck first. One of the man's legs is unnaturally straight, his foot sheathed in a cast. He has a crutch in one hand, its brother discarded an arm's length away.
"Hey," she says, "you alright?"
The man looks up. "She broke down. Dean-- Dean, he's right up the road. He's gonna burn it and come right back."
Jamie motions for Kevin to get out of the car. She kneels down at eye level with the man. "Honey? What's wrong with you?"
"Dean says don't get in the car with strangers," The man says drowsily, "You never know, it could be a demon."
"What's your name, sweetheart?"
"Dean," he says, "Dean calls me Sammy. But I don't like it."
"What... what do you like to be called, then?"
"Um." The man closes his eyes for a moment, thinking. "Sammy."
"He okay?" Kevin calls. He's still hovering by the truck.
"I think he's delirious." She wipes the wet bangs off Sammy's forehead. "He's burning up. Get your ass over here, help me get him up."
Kevin creeps up beside her. "What the hell we gonna do with him?"
"He says his friend Dean went up the road for help."
Sam studies them suspiciously through a curtain of wet bangs. "He's not my friend. He's my big brother. And he put on my pansy-ass music for me but it's cold."
"Jame," Kevin says, "he's out of his fucking mind."
"Yeah," Jamie says, thinking.
"Maybe he's trippin' balls or something. Maybe there isn't a Dean. Put him in his car and let him sleep it off."
"There's a Dean," Sammy says. Chin to chest he coughs wet and hard into his lap. "My leg hurts." He looks at Jamie, his thin mouth sloping downward into a little frown. "Can you tell Dean my leg hurts?"
Jamie inspects the leg, folding the denim over and pushing it up. Poor thing is sitting in a mud puddle and the cast is wet and caked in dirt but looks fresh. Really fresh. He must have really done a number on himself because it goes all the way up past the middle of his thigh.
"Doesn't look like you did any more damage. Come on, sweetie." She plucks the crutch out of his hand and slides the cell into his jacket pocket.
He looks down at his fingers, flexing them like he's not sure what happened. "My cell is gone," he says, stunned.
She hooks Sam's arm around her neck and scowls up at Kevin. "You gonna help me?"
Kevin hesitates. "I think we should just call the cops."
"Yeah good idea. I'm sure they'll be here in two hours or not all. Come on. Get his other arm."
"No more Surf 'N' Turf for us again, ever," Sammy mutters. "I don't wanna go to jail."
Taking a few moments to fidget impatiently like a three-year-old, Kevin finally kneels down and takes Sam's other arm.
"Careful Kev, he's got a broken leg."
"Yeah I saw that."
"Well careful then."
Sammy's just a tiny little thing sitting on the road, looks like a lost little boy, but once they try to move him it's like he magically expands, suddenly he's a full head taller than both of them with great big muscles and he weighs a ton. They stumble, Jamie loses her grip and Kevin's face disappears into Sammy's armpit.
"Ugh," he grunts, "Dude!"
"Well you gotta hold him up!" Jamie shifts to bear more of Sammy's weight, laying a hand across his chest so he doesn't fall. His lungs rattle beneath her palm, his fever burning through his many layers of wet clothing.
With much grunting and cursing, Kevin wrestles Sammy's arm farther across his shoulder, reaching over to hitch him up by the ass of his jeans.
"Thank you," Sammy mutters deliriously. "You're crushing my balls, but thank you."
"Yeah. Yeah my fuckin' pleasure," Kevin says.
Jamie is too out of breath to tell him to shut it.
Sammy and his long, unbendable leg just barely fit into the cab of the truck. They try several different positions, until finally Sam's back is up against the passenger window and Jamie is in the middle all squished up next to Kevin, the bad leg cradled in her lap.
Sammy's toes, poking out from the end of his cast, are wet and pruney and look so cold. Jamie can't help herself-- she uses her gloved hand to rub them warm again and Kevin scoffs.
"What?" She asks innocently.
As they continue down the road Sammy nods off quick as a drunk, then fusses himself awake, squirming against the passenger window.
"I can't leave her," he mutters, "He's gonna kill me... tell Dean my leg-- if it weren't for my leg--"
"Shhh, sweetie," Jamie says, reaching over to pat him on the chest. "We're gonna find your Dean."
"If there's a Dean to be found," Kevin grumbles.
They drive all the way up to the Kissing Curve before they spot him, hunched over in the rain, his collar popped around the wet fringes of his hair. He's holding something long and dark.
"Holy shit he's got a gun," Kevin squeaks. "Holy shit."
Dean turns, squinting into the headlights. His eyes are red-rimmed and feverish and vacant just like his brother's, his hair flat and slick on his forehead. He raises the weapon so it rests on his shoulder, the business end pointed toward the fullness of the moon.
It's just a shovel.
They can't hear him through the window but his mouth silently screams Sam, and he marches toward them, teeth bared, arranging the shovel like he plans to bash someone's head in.
"What should I do?" Kevin says, fumbling with the stick shift. "Jamie, what the fuck should I do?"
"He won't hurt you. He's my big brother." Sammy paws at the window for a moment and manages to roll it down.
"Dean don't," he says, "S'okay. Don't hit 'em, okay?"
"Their eyes might be black," Dean says, "Their eyes might be black, Sammy. Dad says."
Jamie can tell by the vacant expression, the graininess of his voice, the flush of his cheeks and the harshness of his breathing that Dean is much sicker than his brother. He's studying Sam with no real focus in his eyes, like he's seeing him in some alternate dimension.
It obviously confuses and pisses him off.
"Sam?" He says. "Sam why are you-- why are you in there?"
"Sweetheart," Jamie begins, but Kevin interrupts by knocking her frantically on the shoulder.
"Just push him out of the car. These two are obviously fucking insane."
"Shut up, Kevin," she says, turning her body to face Dean. "Honey, we found your brother down the road. He's real sick. You don't look so hot, either. Why don't you come home with us, huh? We'll put you in front of the fireplace or something."
"The hell we will," Kevin hisses, "Are you fucking in--"
"I said shut up."
Dean closes his eyes and reaches out to steady himself on one of the truck's side mirrors. He sneezes an exploding karate chop of a sneeze, one that sounds painful, then coughs violently, doubling over lower and lower until he's kneeling in the mud.
"I gotta get out," Sam announces, fumbling again with the door handle. "I gotta get the fuck outta this car. My brother's sick. I told him we shouldn't hunt the ghost tonight. I told him we were too fucked up. But he didn't listen, did you Dean? You don't listen to me."
Dean hawks something out of the back of his throat, sneezes again, then rights himself. "Don't talk about hunting ghosts in front of people." He looks blearily at Jamie. "Who are you?"
"They're not real," Sam says matter-of-factly. "I thought the girl looked like a lady in white at first, but she has a boyfriend."
Dean squints inside the cab of the truck. "Maybe uh-- maybe a man in white?"
"I don't know." Sam manages to open the door and wrestle his crutches out of the truck. "I'd have to do more research. Come on, Dean. Let's go find the ghost."
Dean holds the crutches steady (or maybe the crutches hold him steady) and watches swirly-eyed as his brother swings his casted leg out of the truck.
"Careful, Sammy," he says, briefly turning his head to cough into his shoulder. "I told you to stay in the car. I even put Ray LaDouchebag on for you."
"None of this is real, Dean. I'm dreaming. Why are you standing in the rain? You're sick. You're really sick."
Dean pulls a hanky out of his back pocket. "C'mere, you gotta booger hanging out your nose."
"Dean," Sam warns, turning his head away from the hanky. "This is adult me. Remember that."
Dean reaches up and clips Sam's nose with the hanky, catching whatever real or imagined substance that might have been hanging out up there.
"DONNNN'T!" Sam protests in the practiced tone of a harassed three-year-old.
"Jesus Christ," Kevin knocks the car in reverse, "We're getting the fuck out of here."
"No," Jamie says, "we gotta take them with us."
Kevin gives her a dismissive snort, throwing his hand over the seat in preparation to back up and turn around. The brothers are already tottering away, Sam heavy and dangerously unsteady on his crutches, Dean weaving a half-drunken trail in the mud just ahead of him. And all the while they're being pelted by a steady stream of rain.
Jamie whips back around to Kevin. "Those boys are sick as fucking dogs."
Kevin closes his eyes. "Jame. I'm just saying--"
"--I don't give a fuck what you're saying."
"The guy was gonna attack us with a freakin' shovel, for god's sake. They could be dangerous."
"Oh please. They barely know what planet they're on. Park the car. That poor guy is gonna fall and break his other leg."
As if to prove her point, Sam stumbles in the mud. Dean's arms fly out to catch him and they escape a disastrous fall that triggers an almost-but-not-quite-hilarious bout of synchronized coughing. Sam drops his crutches and drapes himself over his brother's shoulder; Dean pets his brother's head in a lost, uncoordinated motion that further proves he has no idea what the fuck is going on.
"You see that?" Jamie shakes her head. "You're a medical professional, Kevin. Didn't you have to take some kind of oath?"
"I inseminate cows!"
"You do more than that! You-- you-- help the cows give birth."
"I don't think either of those dudes are pregnant. God I hope not."
"But you must know something! Can't you call that dick friend of yours? The doctor?"
"He's a cow doctor."
"So what? We can't just leave them out here. The pretty one sounds like he has pneumonia."
Kevin scowls. "And which one's the pretty one?"
"Shut up. Get out of the car."
"We'll call the sheriff."
"Vernon'll be tanked by now and you know it. Texes Hold 'Em night at Larry's."
"Kevin. Park the goddamn car."
Kevin sighs a long suffering sigh and takes his sweet-ass time parallel parking the truck, with infuriating precision, between two rocks. Then he rummages through the glove box looking for something to light his bowl, and by the time he's good and stoned and they walk up to the old grange hall and feed store, Dean is already destroying Emily's memorial with the edge of his shovel.
"Oh my god," Kevin says, throwing his arm out to shield Jamie from going any further.
Jamie pushes past him, breaks into a jog, ignoring how her Doc Martens are kicking up mud. "Hey! Dean, sweetie... stop. Please? Don't... don't do that."
Dean doesn't seem to hear her. He keeps beating away at the plastic box, which is apparently stronger than it looks.
Sammy crutches over to her as she runs up, and he bends way way down to rest his head on her shoulder. "I don't feel good," he says.
Dean beats on the memorial until it cracks down the middle, shattering into six or seven big chunks.
"Sammy." Dean throws down the shovel and produces what looks like a salt shaker from his pocket. "You're supposed to be laying down. It's only been two days."
Sammy rights himself. He opens his mouth to reply but a cough comes out instead, crackling and gooey, and as if in response Dean begins to cough too, coughing and shaking salt on the policemen bear.
Jamie's not sure what to do and Kevin is still lagging somewhere behind her, so she just watches as Dean coughs and fumbles in his pockets, finally producing a Zippo.
Then he sets the bear on fire.
"Hey," Sam says, lightly elbowing her arm, "You should watch out, cause sometimes the ghost'll come out and toss you around a little bit before it dies. S'how I broke my leg."
"Okay honey," she says, putting her hand on his shoulder and christ, he's probably burning hotter than the goddamn teddy bear.
"Dean?" She calls. "Let's go now, okay? You killed that ghost totally dead. Um. Good job. I think you might need a hospital."
Dean looks at her with that odd, teary, wild animal look. The shovel and the burning bear forgotten, he puts the Zippo back in his pocket and starts barreling toward her. "Give him back."
Jamie tries to step back but Sam has dropped his crutches, again, and is leaning heavily on her. "What?"
"What's your name?" Sam says, like his brother isn't about to charge her.
"Get the fuck away from him," Dean says, looming ever closer. "You're lucky I don't got my demon-killing knife."
Okay, so maybe Kevin was right.
"Please, Dean," she calls as he weaves his way toward her, "I don't-- I'm just helping him stand up, okay?"
Dean stops in his tracks. She can tell he's used to being in control and is genuinely upset by his loose grip on reality. Tears are beginning to fall from his eyes and he's sniffling miserably. He looks at his brother.
"I feel like shit. I can't think."
"Me too. My leg hurts."
"What happened? Are you hurt?"
Sammy looks blearily down at his cast. "We already fixed it, Dean."
"Did we kill the ghost?"
Just over Dean's shoulder the bear explodes into high blue flames. She swears she hears shrieking. But then it's gone.
"I think so. I think it's dead."
"Let's go to sleep, huh?" Dean reaches down to pick up Sam's crutches. "You should have your leg up."
He hands his brother the crutches, hovering until he's confident that Sam is standing steady.
Then his eyes roll up and he falls face first into the mud.
With a gasp Sam drops one crutch and drapes himself over Jamie again-- she's going to tie them to his goddamn armpits, she swears-- so there's not a damn thing she can do but watch as Kevin straddles Dean, trying to pull him up but can't budge him an inch.
And it's still raining.
"Dean," Sam groans, "Dean, get up."
He's sagging heavier and heavier against Jamie; her knees are starting to buckle.
"Kevin," she gasps. "Hurry?"
He drops Dean's head with huff. "I'll go get the truck."
"It's just gonna sink in the mud."
Kevin surveys the expanse of black gunk surrounding the Kissing Curve. They're practically in the freaking Swamps of Sadness. His boots are sunk up to the laces.
"Nah," he says, "I can totally get us out of here."
"Yes," Sam says, "if you can please get us out of here."
"F--fine," Jamie wheezes as Sam arm locks around her neck. "Just-- something."
Kevin stands there for a moment, still straddling Dean. The lower lip comes out and quivers, just a little. Kevin is awesome at the lower lip. "Jame?
"Can I... can I have a kiss?"
He's got to be shitting. She can't believe-- she's being practically choked to death, and he wants to make out? Seriously, men are all so--
Then it dawns on her very suddenly.
"Kevin... are you... are you jealous?"
Kevin says nothing, but his nostrils flare just a little, and that means yes.
She makes at face at him, unbelieving. "Go get the truck. Just. Go get the goddamn truck."
Of course as soon as he's gone, Sam begins to sway dangerously. He switches all his weight to his bad leg; his eyes fly open.
"Oh god," he says. "Oh fuck my leg."
Luckily he's still got his crutch on his good side, because startled by the pain he leans to the right and hops a few steps away from her. She dives for the other crutch, pushing it under his armpit before he falls.
"Thank you," he says, and then looks and seems to really see her for the first time.
"I'm Jamie," she says preemptively. "You're burning up with fever, honey. You're delirious."
The information doesn't seem to register, though, because by then Sam has spotted his brother. Kevin had managed to turn him on his side so he wouldn't drown in mud, and that's about it. It's still just mostly his head that's turned, he's lying at a very disturbing angle. Like a discarded corpse.
With his wits about him, Sam is suddenly limber as hell. He drops both crutches and in one good hop is right next to his brother. He swings the bad leg in front of him and lowers himself to the ground, drags his brother into his lap by the armpits like he doesn't weigh an ounce.
"Jesus he's burning up," Sam says. "Dean? Hey. Dean?"
"My old man's bringing the car around," Jamie offers, "We can take you guys to a hospital."
"He'll be fine," Sam says unconvincingly. "He'll be fine."
Jamie sees her own shadow stretch; she turns and squints into the beam of the truck's headlights. Thank god he had the good sense to come quickly this time.
But the truck is sinking in the mud even as it's approaching. Kevin makes it within ten feet of them before the tires start to spin uselessly in the muck. She stands there watching them spin for god knows how long, for the first time feeling the rain beat down on her head. At her feet, Sam murmurs softly to his brother, the tiniest hint of fear in his voice because Dean isn't answering.
Kevin gets out of the truck and throws up his arms.
He's five foot seven, a mere two inches taller than herself, and weighs less and has no upper body strength to speak of, and now they're babysitting two very large, very sick men, one who's half-crippled and the other unconscious and immobile. It's only a matter of time before Sammy starts really feeling his broken leg. And they've got nothing in the truck but crackers, Pabst and pot. Maybe a Band-Aid in the glove compartment.
"Kevin," she says, "you got your phone on you?"
Kevin throws back his head and laughs miserably. "Hell no, Miss 'I Wanna Pretend It's 1994 Again.'"
"Great." She turns to Sam. "Can we use your phone, honey?"
"Uh...." he digs in his pocket, produces the phone. "It died."
It's really cute, how hard Sam concentrates on wiping the endless rain water off his brother's face.
Too bad cute's not gonna get them the hell out of here.