The Stone Lamb
At last they had crossed the border. The drive had been endless, really—pretty much as far from A to B as you could get on the continent. They'd fast fooded and coffee'd their way across 13 states, finally getting to the division between Maine and the province of New Brunswick. Customs was nerve-wracking. They were asked their purpose in coming to Canada, how long they planned to stay and numerous other questions. Sam had warned his rash brother to bite his tongue, no matter how annoyed he may have felt at the interrogation. After all; it could always be worse. The strongest argument Sam had in his arsenal was not a reminder to Dean of how his big mouth towards authority had affected the events in Bethel county, Louisiana, but rather the very real danger that they could, and would—strip the car down, and them as well; if they felt suspicious or punitive. Their arsenal in the trunk was hidden by a false bottom but it would hardly fool a customs officer on a mission. Just keep smiling and say Yes Sir. He did that, much to Sam's relief.
Once over the border they relaxed their frozen expressions of innocence and remembered to breathe. "Good roads here." Sam remarked. They were. Well marked, pot-hole-free and deer-fenced for mile after mile. Dean was sorely tempted to floor it, but reason prevailed; the last thing they needed in this new sanctuary was to attract the attention of the cops. -He's learning-Sam thought, with a rueful smile. Took a few knocks but eventually he figured things out. They drove and drove, passing endless miles of spruce forest, through New Brunswick, and finally into Nova Scotia. They could have saved a few hours by taking the ferry across the Bay of Fundy, but Dean was unwilling to part with the $300 plus fee, and was perfectly happy behind the wheel. By the time they were in Annapolis it was dark. Sam had his directions printed, and they found Helen's Cabins without any difficulty. They pulled up to the quaint and neat little white building and wearily began unloading. Sam headed over to the office to pay, and retrieve the keys.
"You wanna grab some late supper?" Dean asked, yawning. Tom's Diner was another venture associated with Helen's Cabins.
"No. I'm still full from those jalapeno chips you poisoned me with."
-Ha, that's nothing, just wait 'til later-Dean smirked to himself.
At least they didn't have to share a room. This particular cabin had two bedrooms, each with its own TV, and bathroom. Helen's cabins were spartan, but neat and tidy. If you wanted luxury, you were in the wrong neck of the woods; there was no travertine bath or designer vases of arty silk flowers here. but they were refreshingly clean and not in the least bit tacky. It was a huge relief to Sam, as he'd booked them online. He hardly wanted to hear Dean's complaints or derision if they'd proved to be a bad choice. –Not that he had much frame of reference; most of their accommodations were on the seedy side anyway.
Sam had met Tom, of Tom's Diner fame. He was an affable man in his sixties, with a quirky sense of humour that was delivered in an occasionally misunderstood dead-pan manner. Sam got him, though. Dean would have thought he was just strange. Tom had recommended a few local sights, for the touristy types. Annapolis Royal was a very old town; filled with history, significant architecture, and its share of ghost stories. There was a haunted cemetery tour, but both the Winchesters passed on that particular entertainment, having a bit of an inside track on the subject and not finding it entertaining at all. They hit the sack instead. This little corner of Canada could wait until they had shrugged off the effects of their prolonged travel.
Sam, predictably, was the first up. He brewed a pot of coffee, and sat perusing the pamphlets Tom had provided. Annapolis Royal was truly an old centre, as old and established as any New England town. It had some enticing pubs, and some really intriguing old sites. But Dean was less interested in historical real estate. He wanted to know where the women were at.
Sam had little useful advice. "Well, I don't know...it's kind of a rtame are, by the looks of it. From what I read of the pamphlets, I guess the chicks will be at, what-Antique shops?… Maybe a rug-hooking studio? One of these pottery shops?" He was at a loss. Even with Dean's lack of, well, refined requirements, Sam couldn't recommend any suitable hunting ground, other than the obvious pubs.
"Sam, this trip was your idea. Are you telling me that I have to hang out where the buses empty to find a date around here?"
Sam shrugged. "Yeah, it's kinda touristy...but hell, you could find a woman in the Vatican; you don't need me to direct you. Besides, ever thought of picking up a little culture now and then, instead…?"
"Culture, huh? Ok, fine; guide me, oh Enlightened One."
Sam was used to this. Dean was resistant to anything new, or different. Probably a reaction to all the grave unknowns that were such a driving force in their world, but it was frustrating at times. "Look, let's just tour around for a bit. This is an old area, lots of places to see. Relax, will ya? You don't always have to have company."
Dean grumbled, but agreed. They had a hearty breakfast at Tom's. And afterward, they just drove around leisurely, taking in the seaside views, the quaint and colourful old houses, the quintessential maritime vistas. They drove through Annapolis to scope out the evening's entertainment. They saw a couple of likely-looking hot spots-places where younger visitors could hang out, while the older set had their tea and read their history booklets. That established, Sam took a long drive along the ancient Granville Road, following the Annapolis Basin. Apple trees, horse chestnut, and hydrangea filled every corner. Flowering shrubs were rampant, despite the approaching autumn. It was certainly a verdant place. They passed an old house that had once obviously been festooned in climbing rose vines; they were a tangle over the doorway, the shingled façade-and even entwined through the fence rows. But they were all brown, dry—the flower heads blackened and shriveled. It was a stark contrast to the greens of their neighbours. The place looked as if someone had attacked it with Round-Up, or some other herbicide. It was weird, and sad.
"Check that out." Sam remarked.
A sign –The Rose Cottage—identified it. If the roses were a defining characteristic of the place, then it was in dire straits. They were all decidedly dead.
"Huh...guess the gardener's on vacation." Dean remarked.
"Or he's really pissed. That's not normal, compared to everything else around here, don't you think?"
Dean shrugged. It was dead plants…who cares? They drove on, and stopped at Port Royal, and wandered around the restored 17th century French fort. Dean finally succumbed to his boredom—there was only so much history & culture he could absorb in one afternoon, he was on the verge of mooning the incoming busload of blue-haired history-buffs. Sam recognized the stage he was at and they headed back to Tom's Diner for some lunch.
Chowing down, Sam couldn't shake the image of the dead roses on the cottage. "Hey Tom, what's the deal with the Rose cottage up on the Granville Rd.? How come all the roses died?"
Tom pulled up a chair. "Well—" he said, "Hate to gossip about the competition, but since you asked... You'd best avoid the place. Used to be a real nice little spot, always booked solid. Edith McDiarmid owns it. But lately, this spring-it all sorta went to hell, if you pardon my language. Seems that after the last guest left, the place got strange...all those roses died, and weird stuff happening inside."
"Weird stuff….like what?" Dean asked, intrigued.
"Well, I dunno...but I heard that the electrical's all outa whack; some people trying to rent got shocked. And I heard, and don't quote me; that stuff would sorta fly around, hit people…that sorta nonsense. Now, it sounds to me like maybe there was a loose raccoon or squirrel or something in there, and the power; well, it is an old place, if rats or coons are in there, chewing on the wires...you never know what'll happen."
"Yeah, I can see that." Dean nodded. But he caught Sam's eye.
They finished their wings and fries, and waved goodbye to Tom. Once outside, Dean broached the subject. "Wanna check it out? Sounds like something a little abnormal."
"Yeah, could be. When do you want to go; now?"
"Why not? Nothing better to do."
They retraced their earlier drive and pulled up in front of the house. There were no neighbours nearby, so they felt fairly safe in exploring a little.
"Let's walk around the grounds first." Sam said.
Dean shrugged and followed him. The yard was overgrown; soft, fine grass, now gone to seed, approached knee-high. The perimeter of the yard—front and back-was bordered by dry-stone walls and once-lovely gardens, predominantly roses. They were a desiccated ruin now; it was depressing—especially since there had obviously been great care and attention paid to them before.
"Weird…" Dean muttered.
They continued exploring, finally reaching the back of the property, where the dead gardens seemed to culminate in a small shrine-like clearing. In the middle stood an ancient, lichen-covered slate headstone.
"Dean, come here." Sam said, kneeling to read the inscription. It was obscured by the mossy growth, the lettering almost illegible. Sam brushed at it, revealing the wording more clearly.
In Memory of Hannah Shawe
Departed this life November 14th 1792
A good wyfe and Mother
Struck down by Griefe
that none could hope console
May God have mercye on her Soul
"Wow...that's an old one." Dean mused. "Wonder how come it's here, and not in the cemetery in town?"
Sam read it again. "Struck down by grief….and may God have mercy on her soul….that's unusual wording. Maybe she committed suicide after losing someone close to her. That would have been an unforgivable sin back then, could have kept her out of hallowed ground."
"Hmm." Dean grunted. He examined the earth around the old stone. Nothing seemed to be wrong with it, it seemed undisturbed, except that all the plantings, -once beautiful—were dry and lifeless. Something had affected them in a negative way, there was no doubt about that. There was a little patch of bare ground beside it, where even the grass seemed to have failed.
"Well something must have changed. She's been here over two hundred years without a problem it seems, but now."
"So you think this is something related to her? I mean, it could be anything; maybe even just critters, like Tom said."
"C'mon, Sam; you've seen as much shit as I have, you know this isn't normal. The dead plants, the stone, people being scared out of the house -that sounds like an angry spirit to me."
"I guess. But it could be anybody, this place has a long history."
They wound their way along the path of ruined roses, and returned to the house. Dean rattled the door, but it was locked. He looked around cautiously. "Wanna check out the inside?"
Sam nodded, and Dean took out his kit and swiftly gained access to the house. They made sure there were no watchers, and stepped into the hall. The air was stale; old-smelling. The house was dressed in period colours, spare and pleasing. Simple, early furnishings added to the décor. Naïve paintings, presumably of former inhabitants, hung on the walls...dour, serious faces.. Photographs in faded sepia showed early views of the house. Dust softened the edges everywhere. It was obvious no one had been here in some time. They wandered through in silence, looking for anything that could indicate what was happening. Sam stood in front of one of the paintings. The crackled paint showed a thin, pale child-a girl—with gossamer blond hair. She looked to be perhaps five or six years old. She wore a white dress, with fine lace, and embroidery, and ribbon roses at her waist. A grey kitten curled in her lap. There was no name or inscription. Another painting showed a woman, dressed in simple, stately clothing, typically 18th century. Her expression was soft; not smiling, but gentle nonetheless. The resemblance to the girl was striking. This work had a plaque on the frame. Hannah Shaw.
"Dean, this is her; the woman in the garden."
Dean joined him and gazed at the image for a moment. "Nothing seems wrong around the place." he said. "Maybe we should-"
He stopped, aware of a quiet, rattling sound. The pictures on the wall were beginning to vibrate, as if in protest to being fixed there. Sam looked at him, nervously stepping back from the images. They were suddenly aware of the plummeting temperature. The house wasn't warm, but now it was icy. Dean scanned around warily, and caught a glimpse of light, a crackle of blue in the outlet on the side wall. Tom's words came instantly to his mind-people getting shocked-
-shit!- "SAM! Get out!"
The warning was futile. Electricity instantly pulsed from every outlet in that room. It shot out like lightning, and hit both of them with a powerful jolt. Sam was thrown, skidding across the floor boards, and stopping midway to the hall, disoriented and shaking from the shock. Dean was hurled straight back with the strength of it.
Hannah Shaw revealed her fury, her spirit consumed by maternal wrath. Deep and terrible sorrow, as raw now as it was some two hundred years before, fueled a whirlwind of bitter anger, and she directed it at anyone who had the ill fortune, or ill-will to come to this place now. In short bursts, 100 amp power was unlikely to kill anyone outright, but it was certainly bloody uncomfortable, and had the strength to hurl a body some distance. Dean had hit the wall behind him with tremendous force. Once he was able to shake off the numbness, Sam stumbled to where his brother had landed in a confused and crumpled heap against the baseboard. He'd been tossed around on many occasions, they both had; and they usually walked away with some decent bruises, or on a bad day, maybe a concussion. But this time...
"...aw, shit...shit…" Dean murmured, screwing his eyes tight as the room spun.
A coat rack was nailed firmly into the wallboards, studded with smoothly worn old hickory pegs. It had been hand whittled by Benjamin Shaw himself, when the house was new; good and stout, to hold the family's heavy woolens. A testament to the skill and care with which they were made so long ago, the pegs held firm when Dean's weight slammed against them.
"Dean, you ok? Are you hurt?" Sam knelt over him anxiously.
He didn't answer directly, but repeated his stunned mantra. The buzzing shock was wearing off, replaced now by a growing awareness of something very wrong.
"Dean, c'mon..talk to me!"
Dean tried, but couldn't find his voice. He sucked in a breath to try again, but coughed painfully instead. He tried to push himself up, but slipped back to the floor. Sam feared that her angry energy was about to peak again—he could feel the charge building in the air, the static crackled from his fingertips. It was urgent that they leave the house. But it was clear Dean wasn't getting up; he'd have to drag him out, and fast. He slipped his hands under his brother's arms, preparing to turn him over.
"Sam, don't...don't.. Wait!" Dean panted. His pain was obvious; he blinked away tears, holding his hand up to keep Sam at bay until he could come to grips with it.
But Sam could feel the chill in the room deepen, the hairs rising on his neck and arms. Whatever had attacked them was an even stronger presence now, and they had to get out of harm's way. He was forced to ignore him. "I have to, Dean; we've gotta get out of here now!"
The impact had left Dean thoroughly winded. He just wanted to lie still, just for a few minutes, to catch his breath. But that was a luxury that they could not afford. Sam glanced around fearfully, expecting another assault at any moment. He was terrified to move him at all, but Dean seemed fully able to move everything at the moment. But if he jarred him now…well, the result could be something life-altering.
"It's gearing up again, Dean, I can feel it!" Sam warned urgently. He was trying to master the panic he felt. "We need to get out of here! Please, you gotta let me see!" He carefully turned him onto his side, moving his head and shoulders as one. Dean choked out a curse, resisting, and flecks of blood appeared as he coughed. He tried again to push Sam away.
"Don't move, Dean!" Sam barked. He had to keep him from curling up as he pulled up the shirts. -Always so damned many layers… A row of livid depressions formed a diagonal line under his right shoulder-blade; three distinct, circular marks. They obviously hurt, but none of them had found his spine, thank god. At least they were spared that particular horror. Ignoring his moan, Sam scooped him up under the arms and struggled back out, dragging him into the fresh afternoon air. He tripped in the long, overgrown lawn, and stumbled to his knees with his burden.
"It's ok, Dean...it's ok, we're safe now." he said, laying him down in the grass.
Dean's eyes rolled. He was struggling for breath, and growing frantic with the effort. "Sam-" he coughed, "I can't-"
Sam could hear the sound of fluid catching in his throat. He pulled him up to a sitting position, and held him there.. He'd guessed what was causing his distress. Dean had probably broken at least one rib when he hit those damned pegs. The bone, forced inward by the impact, had punctured his lung. He was choking like someone pulled from the water, and Sam feared that blood was flowing into his airways.
"Is this better?"
Dean nodded weakly, wheezing. His eyes were dark with fear. "Hurts to...breathe-"
"I'm gonna get you to the car, Dean. We'll find help, ok?"
He didn't answer. Wild-eyed and gasping in panic, he gripped Sam's arm and blacked out.