I recognize that tree, or was it that one? God, my back is killing him. No, I've gotta stop complaining. It's not helping Sam. Where's the car? I know I parked it ten minutes from the hiking trail. Of course, we got off trail six times; we could be on a totally different trail, now, or heading in the wrong direction...
Stop that, it's not helping Sam.
I look around, my eyes scanning the forest, seeing nothing helpful. There has to be a landmark somewhere, something I recognize other than stupid trees, but that was Sam's area of expertise. He remembers little, stupid, useless things: he's the brains, I'm the brawn. With a little street smarts mixed in. It's what makes us a good team, a great team…
Wait that rock. I recognize the giant, multi-colored rock that sits at the bottom of the hill. Sam had rattled on for five minutes about why it was different colors, but I tuned him out like always. If I wanted to learn I would have finished high school. But that rock meant we were close, I think. Jeez, I really need to sit down.
I lower Sam onto the ground, propping him up against a tree, and settle on a stump. I put my head in my hands, wondering when exactly this hunt got so screwed up. It could have been the fact that me and Sam did nothing but argue over what it could possibly be the entire time. Or it could be that we split up.
Never split up: it was one rule I came up with, one that we always seem to break. Yes, Dad always said splitting up made the hunt go faster, but it was also dangerous. You had no backup when you split up, nothing but yourself and the damn thing. And Sam had been the one to find it. It was a freaking shapeshifter, he had been right, and it had a habit of shifting into animals. This particular day it chose a bear, caught Sam in the side, he was still bleeding. I have to get him out of here.
I stand, nearly fall, black spots dancing across my eyes. I had hit my head on something, I think it was an exposed root, when that faux-bear back handed…pawed...? No, handed me.
When I regain my balance, I head back to Sam. God, he's pale, paler than normal, with a gray hue mixed in. He's semi-conscious, on the brink of unconsciousness, his right side drenched in blood. My jacket is draped over his, making him look bulkier than he really is. I have to get him back to the motel before he bleeds to death.
I get a shoulder under his arm, sway a little, but manage to haul him to his feet. 180-plus pounds lean into me, making me almost fall again. I keep my balance, with a little difficulty, and begin walking again.
"What was that song you used to sing?" I ask hoping he would respond. He doesn't, his head lolling over onto my shoulder. "It was stupid, used to sing it at the top of your lungs just to spite me. Caleb gave you the tape for your fifteenth birthday. Remember how mad you got when I burnt it." Damn, I wish I could remember that song. I think it was by Green Day. God, I hate Green Day.
We pass the large rock, but have to stop a feet later. There's a fork in the trail. Left or right? Right or left? It's like those true/false questions the teachers made us answer. There's a fifty-fifty shot that you could be right: a fifty-fifty shot. Except, a damn true/false test doesn't guarantee the death of your brother when you're wrong.
"Come on, Sammy. Tell me. Left or right?" I glance at my brother, his eyes fully closed, shallow breaths tickling my neck. Of course, he chooses now to pass out. Can't wait at least another minute, just to tell me the direction…
"Watch it, poison oak." Sam's voice nearly makes me jump. I glance at him, almost believing he was awake, but realize I was remembering earlier. He had pointed out a clump of weeds I had almost stepped in, grabbing my arm to yank me away. I spot those same weeds to the left.
"Ha, see I do listen sometimes," I say heading toward the left trail. It's a mostly uphill trek. An exhausting uphill trek that has me panting, my head aching, and my back and legs feeling like they're on fire when we reach the top.
"You…you totally owe…owe me," I manage to gasp as I lower Sam to the ground again. I crouch next to him, pulling his jacket and my jacket off and tossing them aside. I unknot my own red flannel from the wound, peeling his blue one back to get a closer look at the claw marks.
Three marks in all, two deep enough to need stitches. They go from just below his armpit, to a few inches shy of his waistline. I guesstimate a total of fifty, sixty stitches for each cut. Possibly more. I bank on the whole 'possibly more' thought. I would be better off taking him to a hospital, but since the thing in Missouri, we have been trying to avoid hospitals. Of course, if I don't get out of these damn woods soon I won't have to worry about any type of health care for Sam: makeshift or otherwise.
I re-knot my flannel, pull both jackets back onto his shoulders, and stand. Man, it's getting harder and harder to keep doing that. It feels like my brain is trying to escape through my skull. I scratch at my left cheek, dried blood chipping away. I wonder how deep my cut is, how many stitches I'll have to have. Stitching I'll probably be doing myself. I don't mind, done it before when Dad and I split up on separate hunts. Way before I came up with my 'no splitting up' rule. The rule we seem to ignore a lot, regardless.
"Okay, come on, dude," I say hauling my brother to his feet again. The swaying was getting worse, I can't keep stopping and resting or I probably won't get to the frigging car. I take a deep breath, will myself to keep going, and start walking again.
"I don't see why you like Green Day. I mean, they used to smoke pot and you never touched the stuff. Not once when I was around and I doubt you did it when I wasn't around. You just aren't the type." I am taking a page out of Sam's book, talking to myself to keep from totally freaking out. Yes, I know why Sam has to talk things out. If he doesn't he'd probably lose it, but still there were things he doesn't share.
Like, for instance, that deep, dark, supposedly horrible secret he had about Jessica. I guess supposedly wasn't quite the word to describe his secret. Mary pretty much tried to liquefy his eyes, (and mine, too, when I broke her mirror) so his deep, dark secret wasn't supposedly deep and dark; it was definitely deep and dark. I just wish he'd share it with me. I can help, that's what I'm there for. I may not like to share my feelings, okay I hate it, but that didn't mean Sam has to act the same way. No matter how bad the secret was. It's not like he killed Jessica or anything. I mean he didn't even know it was going to happen.
God I am so tired. Really, really tired. And not just physically either but mentally and emotionally, too. All this was redundant, plain and simple as that. Hunting down some deadly, dangerous, evil son of a bitch before it could claim another victim, patching up wounds that should not have been inflicted, worrying holes into our stomachs while we waited out the night hoping and praying (not that I did much praying) that an infection didn't claim the life of the one person who mattered most in the world. Avoiding hospitals and police as much as we could to keep from getting arrested. Wondering where the hell Dad was and why he was avoiding us. So, so, so redundant.
And that's when I remember the song. Sam used to belt it out when Dad started showing signs of wanting to move. Something about 'living in repetition', being 'content in the same old shtick again' and 'a production line going over and over and over.' It was called Redundant and Green Day did sing it. God, I really hate Green Day.
The car, my car, my baby, she's sitting right there. Right where I parked her six hours ago. I finally make it. Internally I am doing a happy dance, finally something has gone right today. I drag Sam toward the car, realizing for the first time that my legs are shaking pretty hard. Just add it to the list of physical crap that was wrong with me. It was a lot shorter than the mental/emotional list. A hell of a lot shorter.
"Hey, Sammy, it's the car. It's the car." If I were a girl I'd totally cry, but I man up and open the passenger door. I manage to get my brother's lanky, six-four frame into the car, make sure nothing was about to get slammed in the door, and shut it. I nearly trip over my feet rushing around the car, slam my hip into the front's edge, and finally manage to get into the driver side.
"Hey," I say, resting my hand on Sam's neck, feeling around for his pulse points. A weak, rapid pulse was still there, but his skin a little too clammy for my liking. His eyes slide open briefly before closing again. "I'll get you back to the motel, patch you up, and you'll be all right."
I dig in my jeans' pocket, looking for my keys, finding them in my left. My hand is shaking when I try to put the key in the ignition, miss twice, and finally get the car started. I back out of my parking spot, spinning the car around. I throw it in drive and speed down the road.
Eighty-two stitches each, one-hundred sixty-four all together. It is the most he had had to have. Lucky me doesn't need any for my cut. Yeah, lucky frigging me. It's two-thirty in the morning. I'm exhausted, aching, in need of a shower. Sam's fever broke about an hour ago, after twelve hours of him tossing and turning, crying out for Dad, me, and Jessica, but mostly me and Jessica.
I stand; my back aches from sitting for so long and carrying Sam through the woods. I collect the bowl of water, the wet washrags, and the bloody gauze from the nightstand. I throw the bloody bandages in the metal trash can, on top of Sam's and my bloody shirts. I'm going to burn them later, outback, when I'm sure Sam isn't going to need me for anything. I take the bowl and washrags to the sink, dump the water down the drain and deposit both bowl and rags onto the counter.
I stumble back to my bed, sinking down onto the mattress. I watch Sam for a second, his face completely lax. I wonder when his dreamless sleep would be plagued by nightmares. It seems every time he closes his eyes, some type of nightmare hits. Ever since he was younger, but they seem a lot worse now. A hell of a lot worse.
I figure I could get a few hours sleep before the nightmares hit. Or, at least one hour. I allow my eyes to slip closed, thinking of that Green Day song. Sam and I do live very redundant lives, but the only thing keeping us going was the fact that we help people. Hikers were going to be safe now that that Shapeshifter was dead. So, Green Day, take your crappy song and suck it, I hate you anyway…
I found this in one of my folders, collecting cyber 'dust' for a few years, and decided to finish it and publish. So, yeah.
It takes place around Season One, after Skin but before Home. And I have no clue where it came from.
So, drop me a comment if you can, I own nothing, and thanks for reading.
P.S. Not a medic, don't have aspirations to be one, so if anything medical is wrong I apologize...
P.P.S. I do like Green Day, I just don't listen to them much anymore. I stick to their older stuff...