A/N: I know I have been missing for months- I've been madly working to finish my new novel The Sail Weaver—now available on Amazon (dot) com . In fact be the first to PM or mention you'd like a copy in your review and I will send you the Kindle version!
A/NII: When I embarked upon the Snark, I had always intended it to match the number of "chapters" of Lewis Carroll's amazing work. So, without further ado… Here it is…
Chapter the Eighth
Three Months Before
Erect and sublime, for one moment of time.
In the next, that wild figure they saw
(As if stung by a spasm) plunge into a chasm
The sun was just warming the valley as they made their way through Imnaha. Dean was trying to ignore the throbbing pain in his shoulder where the Jubjub had gripped him in its talons. It was hard to avoid shifting to make it more comfortable—the problem was every time he did, Sam would slow the car and give him one of those looks. Of course, he had every right to be giving him a look, if Sam had a wound like that on his shoulder, Dean would have locked him safely in the motel and taken off without him. Which was exactly what Sam had been doing an hour before when Dean woke up and caught his brother trying to sneak out without him. So far the trip had been one of those uncomfortable silences, Sam radiating worry and Dean trying to ignore the pain and his brother.
"Do you need anything?" Sam asked as they drove into the tiny town.
"No, we're good," Dean said. Sam gave him a sideways glance. "Well?"
"Nothing," Sam replied and headed out of town and onto the narrow track up to Hat Point.
They had decided that they would go straight to the top that day. All their investigations in the lower valley had not gotten them any closer to the Snark, and Sam had suggested that they should start at the top and work their way down. Dean readily agreed, he was tired of getting attacked by various ridiculous sounding creatures. In fact, he was almost longing for a simple salt and burn. Dig them up, light them up, beer and pizza. No Bandersnatches or Jubjubs or any of the other weirdness that this trip had been full of so far.
Sam passed the first turn out—the one with the sign warning people on the way down to pull out and let their brakes cool off. Dean watched it go by, and the road really started to climb. Every time they went up, the grade seemed steeper and steeper and the drop off looked that much more ominous. His brother was being cautious, the car was going less than twenty miles an hour, which meant it would take almost an hour to reach the top.
Something sparkled on the slope below them. Dean twisted in the seat, trying to get a better look. "How far up are we?" he asked.
"We're almost to the turn-out we stopped at yesterday."
"Where you saw the whatever-it-was and I got a flying lesson?"
"There's something out there." He had the binoculars on the seat beside him, picked them up and aimed them in the direction of the sparkle. For just and instant it was there, racing along the slope, then it was gone into the hillside. "Went into one of those lava ledges, probably a cave."
"Do you want to…?"
"No, let's stick to the plan, all the way to the top. Every time we stop to investigate, something tries to kill us."
"What?" Dean turned to his brother.
"You, everything seems to be after you." Sam said, inching around a hairpin turn. "The Bandersnatch, the Jubjub, the whatever it was that made you walk off the ledge at Hat Point."
"It's not just me."
"Okay, mostly me, but not all me."
Sam sighed. "Fine."
"Fine." Dean went back to watching the drop-off.
Once they started climbing away from the Imnaha River valley, the drop got even worse. He didn't remember it being so steep, but the day they drove all the way up, he'd been driving. As they neared the top, he noticed a large bird circling in the sky. He trained the binoculars on it and let out a sigh of relief when it turned out to be a buzzard. His relief only lasted a few seconds—out of nowhere another larger bird dove towards the buzzard and they both disappeared.
"I'm really starting to hate this place," Dean muttered.
"A Bandersnatch just took out a buzzard, they disappeared. This day is starting out fun."
As they reached the next turn, Sam slammed on the brakes and the car slid dangerously close to the edge. Once the car stopped, Dean looked out, something was on the road in front of them. Sam was opening his door to get out. "Stay here!" his brother snapped, pulling his gun out.
"Whatever it is, Dean, I'm pretty sure it's dead. So just stay."
Dean sighed, nodded, and opened his door, shifting in the seat so he could keep his gun on the object in the road as his brother walked towards it. Sam walked to the side of the road and picked up a stick in his left hand, then walked to the mass in the road. He poked it with the stick. When nothing happened, he put his gun away and crouched down for a closer look. Dean watched him, scanning the sky above them every few seconds just in case something else was watching the road.
"I don't know, it's… um… mostly goo."
"Any idea what the goo was before it was goo?"
"No, even the—well, I think they are bones—even they are goo." Sam stood and turned back to the car.
"You're not going to drive my car through a pile of goo are you?"
"What do you want me to do with it?"
"Push it off the road."
Sam huffed, Dean could see it. "No, Dean, I am not going to push the pile of goo of the road. We can find a car wash tonight." He got in the car. "It's a big pile of goo."
"Oh, even better. Drive my baby through the big pile of goo that we don't even know what kind of goo it is goo."
"Dean." Sam turned to him. "Get over it." He eased the car back onto the road and drove through the mass on the road. Dean winced as he heard a squishy sound on the tires. "Get over it," Sam repeated.
"You can clean it."
They were getting near the top. Dean could see the Seven Devils clearly now and the next turn was the one that led to the overlook at Hat Point. The parking area was empty. "Where's the ranger's car?" Dean said, getting out and looking around.
"I don't know. There should be someone up here," Sam said, walking across the parking area to look over the edge. "It's not down there."
"I'm not sure I find that comforting."
"Yeah," Sam said, walking back to Dean. "Out to the end?"
"As good a place to start as any," Dean answered scanning the sky again.
"Remember Bernie said he'd never seen the Bandersnatches up here."
"Yeah, he also recited Jabberwocky twice."
"I thought we covered that," Sam said with a sigh.
"Yes, he was right about a lot of things." Dean glanced at Sam. "It doesn't make him any less crazy."
Sam smiled. "Maybe."
"Maybe?" Dean laughed.
"Okay, maybe a little more than that," Sam agreed. "But he was up here a long time."
"He was." Dean was looking down into Hell's Canyon. "Look."
"That black mark, was it there last time?"
Sam leaned over the edge. "No, that's new. There was a stand of trees there. I remember, because they were in line with the fire tower that disappeared."
Dean let his eyes travel across the valley in a straight line from the dark mark—and sure enough he could see the spot where the tower had been, there was another dark spot further along the same line. "Another one," he said pointing it out to Sam.
"Are they getting more active?"
"The Snarks?" Dean asked.
"I don't know. Maybe they have some kind of cycle?"
"You'd think Bernie would have noticed something like that," Dean pointed out.
"Sometimes people are too close to things, you know that."
"Yeah, do you think it would be in the poem?"
"It could be, let me get the print out from the car. You stay here. No walking off the ledge, okay?"
Dean leaned against sign post. "I'll be right here," he said with a grin.
"Okay." Sam smiled back, and headed towards the car.
Dean glanced out across the canyon, his eyes tracking the various dark scars on the landscape. He wasn't sure what made him look up, but he did. Sam was nearly at the car when he turned and started towards the edge. "Sam!" he called. His brother didn't react. "SAMMY!" Dean was running towards Sam and had nearly reached him as Sam jumped. "SAM!"
His brother hung in the air for a second then with a strangled sound started to fall. Dean raced to the edge, but Sam was gone.
"SAMMY!" His scream echoed weirdly, bouncing through the canyon. "SAM!"
Silence, just the faintest lingering sound of laughter on the air, maniacal, all-consuming, life-devouring laughter. And then it was still echoing—not on the wind, but in his mind. The rest was silence.
Two months, three weeks, five days, ten hours, fifteen minutes, twenty-seven seconds after
The sun was shining, Dean stared at the ceiling of the room. He could hear Bobby out in the yard. The older hunter must know he was on the mend, it was the first time Dean had opened his eyes to an empty room since Bobby had found him two months, one week, twelve hours after. He didn't even know what month it was out in the world, only that internal counter to let him know that time was passing at all. Dean did know he'd been surprised when the older hunter had shown up at the motel, he had no memory of calling him. Maybe the madness had insisted? There was only a memory of pain, fever and movement.
Somewhere in those fevered hours, he thought he remembered the madness talking about what it was like in the limbo he was existing in. A place of strange times and creatures. Of course, it might have just been the fever, but Dean was sure the madness had told him about a cave, and how one night he had realized he could reach Dean, and how long it had actually taken to make that contact, and once he did, how hard it had been to get Dean to talk to him. The madness had been impatient.
Dean sighed. Sitting up, he noticed his bag was on the chair beside bed. He dragged it over, ignoring the pull of stitches, and managed to get it onto the bed. The book was still there. He'd been worried that after listening to his ravings, Bobby would have taken the collection of Carroll's poems away. He was probably more worried about keeping me alive. Dean pulled the volume out and flipped it open, looking at the notes left by the first hunter who'd owned it, and his own notations that he'd made as he and the madness spent hours poring over the book. They were still missing something, Dean could feel it, something was missing some part of the equation was still just out of their reach. Once he had that, he could go back and…
"Dean?" the madness whispered.
"Sam," he replied, comforted. He'd been worried that when the fever left him, the madness would as well. "What are we missing?" Dean's eyes ran over the poem for the millionth time. When he reached the end he stopped. "Son of a bitch."
"How could we have missed this?" He pointed to the passage in question. "It's all of them."
"You're right!" the madness rattled excitedly. "If that's true then…"
The phantom weight brushed the bed, Dean shifted over as if he were making room, then twisted the book so he could share it with the madness. They'd been stuck on several pages, not sure of which way to go for a long time. Even longer now, Dean had been ill for weeks.
"I have an idea," the madness said.
"You do?" Dean asked hopefully.
"I think I know what you need to take with you."
"You mean other than thimbles, forks and soap?"
"Yeah, the other missing pieces. I was thinking about it while you were sick. There's another poem where he mentions very specific items."
"There are several," he chided the madness.
"Not like this," the huff was so like Sam it hurt. "He actually points directly to it."
"What are you talking about?"
"'The time has come," the Walrus said, "To talk of many things/:Of shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax—/Of cabbages—and kings—/And why the sea is boiling hot—And whether pigs have wings."'," the madness quoted.
"And that is going to help how?"
"You need to get wax, cabbage, boiling salt water…"
"And a ship, a shoe, a king and a pig with wings?" Dean could hear the sarcasm and regretted it.
"Not exactly. I think the pig with wings was added for effect, the ship is transportation to where the Snark is and the king is the last person who was taken and the shoe means you need something that person owned."
For the first time in nearly three months a flutter of hope began to beat in Dean's chest. It wasn't much, the smallest whispering against the screaming madness in his mind, but it was there. "And then?"
"You know the rest, we've covered that."
"If I do it wrong…"
"I know," the madness said quietly. "At least you won't know you did it wrong for long."
"Yeah," Dean agreed. "And you?"
"If it goes wrong, I won't be around either."
It was a pact, a phantom hand brushed his shoulder and the madness sighed. Dean leaned over, like he'd leaned against Sam so many times and thought about what was to come. He'd tell Bobby they were going back to find Sam and bury him. The hunter would probably guess it was a lie, but if it meant an end to this, Dean would do anything to get back to Hat Point.
Two months, three weeks, six days, twelve hours, two minutes, ten seconds after.
Dean stopped the car in the parking lot at Hat Point, the area was completely abandoned. He'd called ahead and made sure that the ranger was not scheduled to be there in the late afternoon. In fact, the ranger's SUV had passed them on their way up, he'd given them a friendly wave and a funny look. Dean guessed he wasn't used to seeing large, non-four-wheel drive cars barreling up the road.
"Dean…" Bobby said.
"I've got to do this, Bobby, if it doesn't work, you can do whatever you want."
"If this doesn't work, you could blow this part of the world to bits."
"I might." Dean handed him the keys. "It would probably just be the ridge, you can get far enough down to be safe."
Bobby looked at the keys then up at Dean. "No."
"No, I came this far, I'll be damned before I don't see it through. You came to find Sam and kill that thing that took him. I'd like to see it dead, too."
That's not exactly what I'm planning. "Just promise you'll stay back until it's over." Dean waited. "Promise!" he snapped.
"Okay, I'll stay with the car."
Dean nodded and grabbed his bag out of the back. "What time is it?"
"Nearly brillig," Dean mumbled.
"What?" Bobby gave him an odd look.
"Brillig?" The older hunter paused. "Wait, like from the poem?"
"Yeah, it's a time."
"It's a what?"
"It's a time of day," Dean said. "I need to go. If this goes wrong, Bobby, I…" He swallowed.
"Yeah," Bobby said, nodding, his eyes bright. "It better not go wrong."
"It won't." Dean nodded and turned away, walking out to the very point of the overlook. The dark scars were still there, no plants had encroached into the area, nothing was growing—when the Snark took something it left death in its wake. That made something twist uncomfortably in his stomach, the hope fighting against complete despair. The madness rattled behind him as he knelt down and started laying the items he needed on the ground.
Getting out a small sterno stove, he lit it and put a pot of water on it, adding salt and waiting for it to boil. From somewhere in the distance he heard the shriek of a Bandersnatch. He looked up, scanning the sky for the creature, but there was nothing in the sky at all. The brassy blue expanse was empty. Even so, he pulled his gun out and set it beside him. He wasn't about to let something stop this now.
The water was starting to boil. Dean picked up the book and, following the notes the hunter had left he started reciting a spell pieced together from a collection of Carroll's poems. The water was boiling hard, he cut the cabbage into four equal parts and dropped it in to the pot. After another stanza he added the wax, then the soap and stirred it all with a silver fork. Two stanzas more and he picked up his knife, made a deep cut in his palm, letting his blood fill the silver thimble completely. He set the thimble carefully on the ground and picked up one of Sam's shoes. He took the boiling mass off the heat, added the thimble and blood.
For a moment he paused, wondering if this was all truly madness, hope gone wrong and he was crazier than Bernie.
I don't care.
He poured the entire contents of the pan into Sam's shoe. Everything was quiet. Nothing happened. Dean sighed, his head hanging in defeat as even the madness left him, no longer rattling softly behind him.
The world exploded.
Everything was gone from around Dean, the ridge missing under his knees, the sun over his head. It was all gone in a huge wave that blasted over him, a giant thunderclap deafening him as the sound of rocks being blasted apart clashed with the shrieks of unknown creatures. The rocks tore at his skin, he thought he felt a rib crack, he wasn't sure.
The quiet that descended was more startling that the explosion. Dean opened his eyes and stared up at the empty, brassy blue sky. He rolled over and managed to push himself onto his feet, turning to look where he had been. The ridge was torn up, a massive dust cloud still settling from the force of the explosion. He was debating whether it would be easier to just jump off the edge or have Bobby end him when he thought he saw movement in the dust cloud.
He stared, not believing.
His heart started hammering.
Then he was running towards the figure stumbling out of the dust cloud. "SAMMY!"
Sam looked up and started moving faster. "DEAN!"
Dean grabbed his brother and pulling him against him, ignoring the aches and pains, the wounds of the last three months and held on like a drowning man. Sam's hold was equally tight. They were motionless for a moment, then Sam pushed away, looking at him, his eyes running over him, Dean doing the same. He didn't care that there were tears on his face, Sam was crying too, the tears dripping off his nose the way they did. His brother looked older somehow, tired, Dean wasn't sure, but there might be gray in his hair.
"Are you okay?" Dean managed to ask finally.
Sam nodded. "You?"
"Yeah." Dean pulled Sam against him again. Just making sure this was real and not the madness. "Yeah."
"You did it."
"We did it, Sammy."
"Yeah," Sam agreed, leaning against him.
Three months, two days, twenty hours, thirty minutes, fifty-five seconds after
Hat Point, Hell's Canyon, Oregon, within view of the Seven Devils Mountain Range
Dean stood staring over the edge of the chasm. The dark spots below him were starting to show a soft green fuzz of returning vegetation. In the distance he could see several deer wandering along the canyon, heads down, unconcerned as they grazed. The sky was a bright blue, a few white puffy clouds drifting by, one or two looking like they might turn into storm clouds later in the day. The wind whipped up the walls of the chasm, whipping around him and bringing the scent of the valley below. He stood there, staring for a long time, thinking over the past months, the fact that the ticker was still running, keeping track of the days.
A warm hand closed on his shoulder. He looked over and met Sam's eyes. "Time to go," Sam said.
"Yeah," Dean said, and they turned and walked to the car together.
For the Snark was a Boojum, you see.