POV: Dean Winchester
Warning: Rough language ahead. Dean cusses. He has good reason to. Also, there is character death in this one. If you're looking for warm and fuzzy, then you definitely came to the wrong place.
Word Count: Oh, I thought the challenge was "A picture is worth at least 1000 words." My bad. Well, heck, I hit 100 words exactly on all those other drabbles. I deserve to go over the limit this time. So there.
Summary: E/O CHALLENGE: "A picture is worth 1000 words" extravaganza. Going into that house was the worst idea in the history of bad ideas, and Dean did it anyway.
That job over in Illinois was cake. I showed up, found Old Man Grady's bones in that abandoned factory. He threw everything but the kitchen sink at me, but I salted them down and lit 'em up like a Christmas tree. That's one less 'geist to worry about.
The sun came up just as I crossed the bridge over the river to the Missouri side. Not my first time in St. Louis. Me and Dad chased a black dog there once, about three years ago. I knew that if Dad called I'd probably go off in another direction. Get a call, go where the cases take you. Grady's aim wasn't half bad; he nailed me good a couple of times. I ache all over, but I've had worse. It's my life, so don't expect me to cry about it.
I was passing through the north side of town when I decided to stop and stretch my legs.
Felt good to get out in the sunshine. My ribs hurt and my back and knees had stiffened up on me. I leaned back against my girl and took a look around. The neighborhood looked like a demilitarized zone, run down houses, chain link fences and vacant lots. It was still early yet. Nobody else was on the streets.
That didn't seem weird to me at the time.
The place across the street was a dump. The bottom half was boarded up. The red shingles were faded, the color of dried blood. Two busted out windows on the second floor. The whole thing reminded me of this body, a floater, that Dad and I pulled out of a river once. The fish gnawed on the body, took the tip of the nose and the ears. The mouth was stretched wide open, with the lips drawn over the teeth. That's what that house reminded me of. It was a corpse, with the skin hanging off in strips.
I looked at my watch. It was a few minutes past seven.
Stopping like this was stupid.
I needed coffee. I always need that in the morning. Hadn't had breakfast yet, either. I could always grab something on the run, but lousy black coffee and microwaved mystery meat gets old after a while.
I pulled out my car keys.
The plan was to meet up with Dad that night. Drive straight through.
I looked at the house again.
You're on the clock, Winchester, I told myself. You don't have time to sightsee.
I walked around to the back, opened the trunk. I popped the clip of my Colt 1911, checked it, then slipped the gun into my back waistband. Took one of the flashlights too.
(Come play with me…)
I kept thinking to myself that this was a fucking bad idea, the worst idea in the history of bad ideas.
I walked across the street and I didn't look back.
The back door wasn't locked.
I held the Colt in a right handed grip, with the flashlight in my left, and I pushed my way inside.
I don't know what I expected, but I didn't expect this.
The place was clean.
A vacant house like this one should have been a magnet for neighborhood kids, junkies and homeless people. The air smelled dead and stale, but there wasn't any trash on the floors. No cobwebs on the ceiling either.
On the far wall someone had spray painted in white the words THANK YOU GOD in big block letters. There were unlit white candles on the floor underneath the words. I saw stuffed animals. Bundles of cut flowers.
That raised the hair at the back of my neck. Somebody had come through here recently.
I wanted to bend down, take a closer look, but I couldn't. It wasn't like Dad or Sam was there. No one had my back. I saw enough, though. There were handwritten notes. Poems. Kids' drawings. Photos of people tucked in among the candles and the other stuff.
Remember when 9/11 happened? People came to the firehouses and left notes, photos and flowers on the sidewalks.
Just like this.
This was a memorial. For more than one person.
What the fuck was going on here?
Something moved on my right. Living room. Three o'clock. I swung around, tracked the movement with the gun and the light. The only thing in the living room as this huge brown leather armchair.
My brother Sam sat in the chair.
Sam was twelve again. He wore faded blue jeans, sneakers, his brown jacket and a blue and yellow striped polo shirt. He blinked and raised his hands to shield his eyes. "Dude," he said with a laugh. "Chill."
I growled as I stepped back and aimed. Doubletap right between the eyes would do it.
"Who the hell are you?"
"I'm your brother."
I laughed. "Hell you are, you sonofabitch."
Sam shrugged. "Go ahead and shoot me then. Go on."
I tightened my grip, but I couldn't. Couldn't pull the trigger. All I could think of was Sam was here.
Sammy needed a haircut.
"You can't, can you, Dean? It's okay. It's all right."
"You're not my fucking brother!" I roared. My chest hurt. My arms got heavy, and I staggered a little.
"I can be, if you let me. Dean, it's okay. It is, really. I usually help only people in the neighborhood."
I didn't answer. I just stood there. I was having trouble breathing, and that was when I wondered if one of those bruised ribs of mine had punctured a lung instead.
Sam just sat there. If I didn't know any better I would've thought this was just another day, when we were younger, sitting in a park or a schoolyard somewhere wasting time.
He brushed the hair out of his eyes. "You? You're special. I sensed you out there. I called you, and you came. You came because a part of you wanted to."
My hands shook. I wanted to lower the gun, wanted to go over and take Sam in my arms.
This was fugly. This was wrong…
I shook my head no as I took a step back.
"Sam's at Stanford playing at being normal. I'm sorry he didn't understand how much you meant to him. Dad's half a state away, and he doesn't understand you either. You hide it well, but you don't do well alone, do you?"
"You don't know jack about me-"
"Yeah. Yeah I do. You haven't been sleeping well lately. You drink a little more. You get into fights at bars. You go through the motions, you save people, but deep down inside you wonder about that. You wonder why nobody came to save your family when they needed saving."
Sam stood up. I stood my ground, and that was when I got a good look at the chair. I could see the outline of a human body there, the shoulders and the legs pressed deep into the leather like a mold.
"What memories do you like the best, Dean? Do you want to be four again, with Daddy and Mommy and Sammy? Older, with your family around you? Your choice. Whatever you want."
He took another step towards me, and I backed up. I lowered the gun slightly, then raised it again.
"If you were going to shoot me, you would have done it by now. You haven't."
"Shut up. Shut the hell up-"
"You don't want to," Sam went on, just like I hadn't said anything in the first place.
Like he knew what was best for me all along.
"All you have to do is sit down in this chair. Sit down and let me in."
I could see it. I could see other people taking their place in that chair. Men, women, young, old, even kids, sitting there, smiling, finally having the life they wanted, the one they deserved, even if it was just inside their heads, while this thing ate them from the inside out.
"The people in the neighborhood know about me. They don't mind. They were scared of me at first, but they understand now." Sam nodded at the shrine in the hallway. "It's nice to be appreciated. They pay tribute to me and the ones I help. The ones like you, Dean."
I swallowed hard as I looked at the chair. It looked like the promise of things I'd had, and lost. Things I'd never have.
"So I end up like them?" I tried to sound hard, tough, but the words came out in a choked whisper. All that was left of them on earth was the outline of their bodies. Nothing else.
"In your line of work, it's just a matter of time," Sam said sadly. "You can choose, though. You can choose when, where and how. You can choose me and this place. The life you'd have here is better than the life you have now. No more fear. No more pain. Just peace and contentment for as long as we can make it last."
God, I wanted to sit down. Wanted to sit down, lean back, close my eyes.
My hands shook, and my shoulders ached. The world pressed down on me, and my bones felt like brittle old glass.
I lowered the gun.
"It's okay Dean," Sam said softly. "It is." He reached out for my hand. His fingers were cold as they brushed against my skin. He took me by the hand. He stared up at me and smiled.
He backed towards the chair.
I took a stumble-step forward. Then another. I can't say he pulled me along, or he held me tight.
I wanted this.
I looked at the chair, imagined the feel of worn smooth leather pressing into me from behind, like the collar of my leather jacket. I knew that once I sat down, I wouldn't get back up. Didn't bother me. Not one damn bit.
Another step closer. The gun in my hand didn't matter. I wasn't going to use it. We both knew that.
I blinked, long and slow. I could barely keep my eyes open, and then the thought hit me: months from now, when Dad tracked down the Impala in some police impound yard, I could see Dad walking into the house.
And I could see Sam waiting for him, wearing my face this time.
That made me stumble again. Sam smiled and gently pulled on my hand.
It's one thing for me to fuck up my own life. I can live with that. I can't live with the other.
Sam's gone to college. Sam ditched me. I stayed with Dad. I'm the good son. The one who didn't leave.
None of this would have happened if Sam hadn't left.
This isn't fair. It isn't right-
I raised my gun, put the muzzle right between Sam's eyes and pulled the trigger.
I killed him. I killed my brother.
Sam lay on the floor. There was a large dark round hole in his forehead.
The fingers of my gun hand twitched.
I killed my little brother.
I killed Sam.
No. Please, no…
I switched my grip on the 1911, from one to two handed. My right hand felt numb, and I fumbled at first, but I knew I could do this. I could put the muzzle in my mouth. I could pull the trigger.
Sam changed into this thing.
I jerked backwards. It was like somebody threw a bucket of ice cold water into my face. What was left was so fugly it hurt my eyes. I saw pale blue skin, needle sharp teeth. The arms and legs were too long and bent in all the wrong directions.
Must have blacked out. Don't remember exactly, but the next thing I knew I was on my knees right beside the damned thing.
Get a damn grip on yourself, you hear me?
He was just here a minute ago, he was…
Damn it, get a fucking grip—
I knelt there shivering and shaking. The Colt lay on the floor several feet away. If this damn thing moved, I'd have to hustle to get to the gun. The thought of being unarmed around that fucker scared the hell out of me.
I dived for the gun, ignored the way my knees cracked and the way my back screamed soprano for a moment. I ignored all of that. I wanted that damn gun, and I didn't feel better until I had it in hand again.
This was better. I could shoot if it moved again.
It didn't. It just lay there. What was probably its mouth was frozen in a large round O. Those puke green eyes were too large, but I recognized the look. At least I thought I did.
This fucker looked surprised.
You were supposed to die, that look said. You, not me. I had your number, boy. You wanted this.
"Number this, bitch." I jammed my pistol into the space between those eyes and pulled the trigger again, twice.
Afterwards I went out to the Impala and I brought in a duffel loaded with stuff. Fug boy still hadn't moved. I took the fire ax out of the duffel and went to work. The head came off first.
Doesn't hurt to be thorough.
At least, that's what I told myself.
I salted what was left, and then I spread the gas I siphoned out of my girl's tank around. One book of lit matches tossed into the house was all it took. I wish I could say I walked, not ran, back to the Impala, but I'd be a lying sonofabitch if I said I did walk.
Smoke and flames poured out of the windows by the time I made it back to the car. Several people came out on their front porches and stared at the house and then me.
Some of them looked sad. Some of them looked like a jury.
I felt like screaming at them, "What the fuck is wrong with you stupid bastards!"
I didn't. Pot calling the kettle black, y'know. Somehow I doubt they're going to call the cops, but even so I'm going to change my baby's license plates as soon as I can.
I'm not going to mention this to Dad, either. What's the point? It's over. Done. Besides, Dad has enough to worry about. This was my clusterfuck. Mine, and I handled it.
I turned the radio on, cranked it up loud just as I blasted away from the curb. Anything to keep from thinking. I needed something else to fill my head up.
Maybe it was a sign. First song that came on was "Highway to Hell."