Title: What Nightmares Are Made Of
Author: Reiko K.
Categories: Gen, OC-pov, Case-fic
Characters: OCs, Sam, Dean
Rating: R (for language and gore)
Word Count: ~2,982
Summary: There were many things Daniel Archer expected to experience during his weekend hiking through the Appalachian Woods of Pennsylvania, but being tied to a post in a deserted hut by something he still wasn't entirely sure was human wasn't one of them.
Notes: This is probably really horrible (not to mention morbid) of me to say, but I very much enjoyed writing this. OC-pov fics are just so much fun to write, especially when they're the victims of a case. Oh, I'm terrible. Anyway, this hasn't been beta'd. Enjoy the story.
Disclaimer: This is non-profitable fanwork.
What Nightmares Are Made Of
There were many things Daniel Archer expected to experience during his weekend hiking through the Appalachian Woods of Pennsylvania, but being tied to a post in a deserted hut by something he still wasn't entirely sure was human wasn't one of them.
The thing, whatever it was, had abandoned them for what felt like hours, doing God only knew what. Daniel wished it would stay away a long, long time.
The other three people in the room—a ranger named Dave, a fellow hiker named Willa, and a barely conscious old man who'd been there even longer than Daniel—were struggling with their binds, thrashing against the rope like at any moment they'd be equipped with superhuman strength and could burst free like a marvel superhero.
Daniel knew better. He wasn't the pessimistic kind by any stretch, but he'd struggled with the rope the first day, too, until the fibers had started sinking into his skin as a knife would a slab of meat. He still had the rope burns and dried blood on his arms to prove it.
Daniel was a realist. He bench pressed 150 every other day and despite all his efforts, couldn't so much as make the rope fray. Craig, the guy who'd been there before him (who the thing had carried out kicking and screaming, and Daniel wasn't even going to think about what it had done to him, what it was maybe still doing to him, no he wasn't), looked as if he could have bench pressed him. If a Steve Austen lookalike couldn't break free, nor Daniel, then there was no way in hell a guy who probably didn't know what a dumbbell looked like, let alone a five-foot girl who probably weighed 90 wet, would be able to.
He wasn't being cynical. He was being practical. And the reality of the situation? They were all fucked, and there was nothing any of them could do about it.
In the next five or so hours, another person was carried in. For all their struggling and yelling at him to do something, Dave and Willa had clammed up tighter than frightened church mice when that thing returned (and it really was a thing with the light of the afternoon illuminating it's twisted contours and highlighting all the ways it wasn't human that'd been obscured in the dark). Not that Daniel could blame them. He himself had been too horrified to so much as make a sound, comically hopeful that it wouldn't notice him if he kept quiet.
It was wistful thinking for certain, but Daniel venerated it.
The sight of the newcomer had made tears leak from the corners of his eyes. It was a kid for fuck's sake, no older than eleven or twelve, and thankfully unconscious. Had their captive been human Daniel would have hoped the kid was awake, just so he'd have the chance of running, but he'd seen that thing move, seen how fast it was, how strong, and he wasn't disillusioned to the fact that none of them would be able to escape even if they weren't bound as they were.
They were all screwed. So very, very screwed.
Later, when the kid started coming to, he'd looked at all of them, so much older and bigger and stronger than him, tied up and just as vulnerable, just as helpless, and started to cry. He never said anything, but his poorly stifled sobs spoke volumes of the futility of the situation. Daniel, who'd always felt a bit like a kid who'd never fully grown up, could imagine what he was thinking all too clearly: if even adults couldn't get themselves out of this situation, what were the chances of a kid like him being able to?
Daniel sagged and ignored the burn of the rope that dug into his skin. He was starved, dehydrated, exhausted, and every inch of him throbbed in an ache that delved deeper than his skin and meat, right to his very bones.
He tried to think of something to say to the kid, something to reassure him with, to ease his despair. He came up blank every time. What was he supposed to say, anyway? That things would be alright? That someone would surely come for them? That the kid's parents were probably tearing the forest apart?
Fact of the matter was, things weren't alright. No one would ever find them there, not so far away from the main trails into the very heart of the forest itself. And while a large part of Daniel hoped the kid's parents would find them, hopefully with a squadron of armed men close behind, he knew that was a long shot, too. Chances were, whatever it was that had brought them there would entrap, maybe kill, anyone who got too close. The rescuers would become the ones in need of rescue, just like them, and the cycle would continue again and again, an unending game of cat and cat-turned-mouse.
In the end, Daniel kept his mouth shut. He let Willa be the one to coo words of reassurance at the kid, be the one to lie, and watched the hints of sunlight shimmer behind the dusty window panes, irradiating but not penetrating. It cast a muted glow around the room they were in, like a weak flashlight in a dark tunnel, but it was something.
It was worst in the night, when the hut was pitch black, dim moonlight cast out by the grime on the windows. It was so dark the shadows had shadows, and the sound of anything—from breathing to the squeak of the floorboards to the rustle of trees—made you flinch, or startle awake if you managed to sleep.
Despite how pointless it seemed, Daniel closed his eyes and prayed. He'd never been much the praying type, was the sort of Christian laze-about who only went to church every fifth or sixth Sunday and on major holidays, but he figured now, when they could all use divine intervention, would be the best time to start.
The next day the monster took the old man. He was nothing but skin and bones, his t-shirt and pants hanging off him like a robe, and entirely too weak to scream, let alone put up a fight.
He'd looked straight at Daniel in the moments before he was carried out, and the sight of his gaze, sharp with terror, heavy with resignation, sent chills prickling down Daniel's spine. He watched, horrified and inadequate, as the man was taken away, the door to their prison slamming tightly behind him like a promise of what was to come.
The screaming started moments later, too distant to pinpoint where and not nearly far enough. It carried with the idle wind, crept through the creaks of the hut and hovered over them, made the room seem far too small, his binds far too tight.
It stopped after a minute, mercifully, and Daniel hoped he was dead.
He didn't want to think about what the monster was doing to him, had done to all the others before.
Would do to him next, 'cause he was first in line, now.
His mortality felt like a noose around his neck.
Daniel kept his eyes squeezed shut and forced himself to ignore the world. To ignore the animalistic sounds coming from somewhere outside their hut. To ignore the stares of the others who'd likely caught on to how the time game worked, how the meal order went.
He was going to die next was said in their silence.
Or maybe that was just the sound of his thoughts, filling in the blanks.
The monster returned hours later, hands and face smeared with blood. He circled all of them, like a mountain lion would its prey, and stopped at Daniel, the horde's weakest link.
It hovered in front of him, and it hurt to look at. Daniel cowered before it, feeling nothing like the powerful man he'd been weeks earlier, who'd moseyed the streets of his hometown like he owned it, big and powerful in a way he hadn't been throughout high school, but had worked his ass off to become while away at college.
He felt like he did when he was fifteen and the local jocks would crowd him at his locker and have their fun. Only he was more terrified now than he'd ever been then. For good reason.
The thing must have smelled just how afraid he was or something, because in the next moment it bared its teeth, sharp and stained with gore. Dark pink soaked the yellow surface, red on its gums and ravaged tongue, and between it's teeth were bits of flesh, pink and brown and—
Oh god. Oh god.
The thing left, and Daniel stared after it, bile like acid in his throat and heart abusing the inner wall of his chest.
Daniel threw up. Tied to the wall as he was, he could do little else but crane his neck and vomit onto himself. The little that was still inside his stomach rushed through him and out of his mouth, pale yellow and liquescent like tap water.
It smelled rancid, like vomit tended to, and burned the back of his throat and tongue. His stomach cramped from the betrayal. He shouldn't have thrown up. God, he shouldn't have thrown up.
The vomit combined with the stench of untended piss and shit made him dizzy with nausea. The back of his throat contracted as if it still had more to offer, but Daniel fought it down. He forced himself to breathe through his nose, get used to the smell of it the way he'd done with everyone's collective urine and excrement. In time the waves of nausea diminished to ripples, and then, finally, a still pond.
He passed out several moments later.
Help came two days later in the dubious form of two guys who called themselves hunters. When Willa had asked hunters of what, the shorter one had just smiled and said, "Things." You didn't have to be a genius to know what he'd meant by that.
The brothers, they'd called themselves that, untied them one-by-one, the tall one taking a few precious moments to soothe the hysterical kid. Willa's mouth was running a mile a second, questions and doubts pouring from her with as much force as a river. Daniel wanted to tell her to shut up, to let the guys talk and get on with the whole saving them thing, but the words wouldn't come. He was too tired, too dead on his feet, and when Malcolm Young, the shorter one—also older, he noticed when they were up close—cut his rope with a knife, he nearly dropped to the floor in his moment of freedom.
The thing that had taken them was called a Wendigo, whatever the fuck that was. Some ancient Native American hoca-paloca shit that had went right over his head. The part about it not being human and having unnatural strength and agility and eating people, though, that he could believe. Either way, he didn't really care what the fuck the thing was or where it came from as long as he was very, very far away from it.
Daniel sluggishly followed the rest of the group out of the hut, a few steps in front of the tall one, Angus, who'd volunteered to take the rear. Every step took effort, and his feet threatened to stumble and trip him if he didn't concentrate on walking like he was still a toddler just learning to walk. When he stepped outside, he'd nearly been blinded by the sunlight. He hid his face behind the crook of his arm and tried not to cry.
They travelled for a good maybe-hour before they heard the first shriek of rage behind them, raucous and frightening as it vibrated off the trees and chilled the air. The brothers gathered them into a group and ordered them to stay there, left a burning torch (despite it being the middle of the day, and why hadn't he thought to question that?), a shotgun, and two knives behind (one of which went to the kid, but no one could find it in themselves to complain), and then they were off, backtracking through the woods and toward the thing. Wendigo.
The word tasted sour on his tongue.
Waiting was excruciating. It was like watching a Stephen King movie and waiting for the suspense to end so you could finally find out what was going to happen. It was made entirely worse because they were the Stephen King movie, and they'd just gone through the climax of the story, waiting breathlessly for the resolution.
There were noises from the distance, gunshots that rang like, well, gunshots, and inhuman shrieking that split the ears. Any birds in the area had already flown away in terror, and aside from the occasional blast of the gun and the monstrous screaming that always followed, it was quiet. Even the trees had ceased their rustling, as if they too were waiting, anxious to see what would happen next.
None of them let down their guard the entire time they stood there. They were all waiting, all prepared for the distressing possibility that whatever made it through the grove of endless tree trunks wouldn't be human. That the brothers, Malcolm and Angus, would be killed, and the monster would be back to reclaim them.
As soon as the thought hit him Daniel decided that he'd slice his own throat with a knife. And maybe the little boy's, too, as a mercy.
He hoped God would forgive him.
Daniel tensed when the bushes to the left of them began to rustle wildly. The length of his outstretched knife trembled in wait.
The sight of the hunters clambering over the shrubbery was it for Daniel. The moment the taller one—Angus, he reminded himself again—smiled at them, weary and accomplished, his knees buckled out from under him and he fell.
The sharp rays of sunlight was cast out by his lids.
When he came to he was in Penn Hospital, IVs and other machines he didn't care to know about hooked up into his skin. He felt like his body was being pressed down by a cement wall, but he was alive, and he was safe, and by God, he'd actually survived.
According to the nurses, an anonymous male caller had notified the police of a group injured hikers just off the I-90. A clever mention that one of the hikers looked like the missing kid, Jeremy Robinson, had the state troopers, park rangers, and local police running to the rescue. It was a good thing indeed, the pretty nurse told him while she checked his blood pressure, as further element exposure could have killed him.
His parents and little sister came within the hour, frantic and relieved and oh-so-thankful, and at the sight of them Daniel hadn't been able to hold back a fresh bout of tears. He sobbed into his mother's blouse in a way he hadn't done since he'd been a child and even his father, the emotional cripple he was, had kept him in a death grip, fingers digging into his tender skin and leaving bruises. His sister, Anne, wouldn't go near him, but wouldn't let him out of her sight, either.
He succumbed once again just like that.
When the police asked who had taken them, Daniel hadn't lied. Mostly. He told them that the man—maybe a little Indian looking, he couldn't really tell—had been tall and big and abnormally fast and strong. Monstrous looking. By the way the officers glanced at each other resignedly, it wasn't, apparently, something they hadn't heard before.
Daniel told them that he and his friend, Carlos, had planned a hiking trip together, but Carlos had been late to arrive so he'd set up camp by himself. He hadn't even finished putting up his tent when he'd been knocked out. Woke up later in a hut, tied to a post, with two other guys (Craig Moore and Jonathan O'Reily, missing three weeks longer than Daniel had been. They didn't need to tell him that there were probably only pieces of meat and bone left of the both of them; their expressions said enough). The man—because the word monster just refused to leave the boundaries of his mind—had taken them both, one after the other a few days spread apart, and Daniel and the others had followed soon after.
When asked who the hell saved them, Daniel had just shrugged. He told them they'd been two guys (no, didn't know their relation) who came looking for them. They helped them escape, brought them to safety, then went back to the hut when they realized the man was probably going to go after them. He didn't remember anything more, had passed out soon after. Kept his mouth shut when the officers asked if he remembered their names, what they looked like.
They stood to leave a few minutes later, thanked him for his cooperation, and told him he was damn lucky to be alive.
As if he didn't know it.
The night Daniel Archer was released from the hospital and taken to his parent's house, he prayed. He slid off his bed and clasped his hands together, the way he used to when he'd been a kid, and just… talked to God.
He apologized for skipping out on mass and daily prayer, and thanked Him for looking out for him anyway. He'd been a poor son, and yet God had still saved him, sent him help and salvation in the form of two brothers.
Malcolm and Angus Young, they'd called themselves. Daniel's personal angels, sent from God Himself.
End Notes: Um, if you're not aware, Malcolm and Angus Young were the brothers who founded the band AC/DC. Yeah, the aliases were entirely Dean's idea, lol. Anyway, I really hope you enjoyed this story even though Sam and Dean's presence was very minimal. Comments are, as always, very much welcome.