It was cold. It was dark. It was wet.
They were wet. And tired.
Sam briefly met his eyes across the roof of the Impala, giving him a wry grin before he shook his head, yet again, to get his dripping bangs out of his eyes. He growled something under his breath which Dean couldn’t make out but wasn’t hard to guess. And yes, Dean would have had some nice ideas how they could have spent this evening instead of checking the damned place out.
He cast a brief glance back at the old, rotted out building behind them. Just like them, it had surely seen better days; if Dean squinted really hard, he could almost see the proud factory it must have been decades ago. But now, it was just old and wasted.
Or so he thought. The very moment he and Sam got out of the car, it had started raining, drenching the two of them almost instantly. And if that had not been bad enough, Dean had almost slipped three times.
Though that was nothing against what his brother had managed to accomplish; as usual Sam had to take everything just that one step further. Literally. A surprised yelp and Dean had turned in time to see his brother stumble down the stairs inside the building, his abrupt downward motion stopped finally by the wall opposite the stairs. Dean’s resulting chuckle had earned him a smack on the back of his head, which he hadn’t even tried to dodge.
But, despite a thorough search, they hadn’t been able to find anything but an abandoned, rundown ex-factory with slippery stairs. That and the fact that Sam seemed to have picked up some pretty impressive curse words along the way. Not that he needed them.
Sam tossed his sawed-off into the trunk with an audible clunk, pulling Dean out of his thoughts. He blinked and looked over at his brother. “We keep running around like chickens with our heads cut off here, Sammy. Whatever’s going on, I don’t think it’s here.”
Sam was busy shrugging out of his sodden jacket and stopped, turning a little to frown at Dean, then at the ruins behind them. “You’re probably right,” he admitted after a moment, “but three disappearances in the last five years? And five cases of sudden onset schizophrenia? Westlake, Indiana just isn’t big enough for that to be a coincidence. And this building was the only thing all of them had in common.”
Dean shrugged, tossing his own weapons into the trunk before he shut it. “We’ve been all over this place, Sam. Did you see anything that whispered that our kind of crap was up? Because I didn’t. And I’m not interested in looking again. I’m cold and I really wanna spent the rest of this night anywhere but here.”
Sam scowled at him, then stalked to the passenger’s door. “Yeah, you are cold, cause it was you who almost drowned in there…”
He was back to growling under his breath but this time, Dean heard him and couldn’t suppress a teasing chuckle. “Not my fault your big feet always get in the way. And you can’t drown in a puddle! Oh, well, maybe you can, but I got you out before it was too late. Quit whining!”
Sam sputtered at that. “All I remember is you laughing your head off, jerk!” His scowl darkened when Dean just grinned at him, then walked to the driver’s door and cast a last look at the building. “We need another plan for this.”
Dean hesitated as he watched his brother look back at the building, the humor quickly fading from his eyes. He could tell that Sam was… sensing something, the way his little psychic always did, that something had apparently tickled his spider senses. Though from the irritated frown, Dean could tell his brother was just as clueless as he was as to what or why.
Well, whatever. They were getting out of there for now, getting dry and having a beer in front of the TV. In that order.
Damn, he was tired.
He watched how the wounded one stood next to the car. When the man had turned so suddenly he had almost feared he had been spotted, that his presence had become known.
The wounded one was tall, taller than most people he had ever seen. From where he was lurking by the rear end of the vehicle, the man almost looked like a giant from one of the stories he had heard. Maybe he was one; maybe the man was just as strong and vicious as they were.
He was about to find out.
He waited until the man had turned back to the car, watched how he opened the door and prepared to get inside.
And then, he jumped.
Dean was about to get into the car when Sam suddenly staggered forward and gave a surprised grunt. He looked over at his brother, narrowing his eyes slightly. “You okay?”
Sam turned to look behind him. “It felt like something shoved me.”
His weariness forgotten almost instantly, Dean pulled out his EMF, pointing it in Sam’s direction. He frowned at the small screen. “It’s picking up on EMF, but we are standing in front of an old factory. The readings are all over the place.” He put the device down and gave Sam a shrug. “It’s pretty useless.”
Sam seemed distracted, turning to look once again at the building. “Something is here…” he observed quietly and Dean followed his gaze, letting his own eyes once again scan the lot.
Nothing moved. Nothing happened.
They were only getting wetter.
Dean sighed. “Look, we’re both tired, frustrated and drenched. Let’s call it for tonight and hit the books in the morning. See if we can get a better idea of what the hell is going on here.” He waited for a moment while Sam was still staring at the factory. “Come on, you drowned rat, let’s get out of this clothes and get some sleep, okay? Dude, I’m tired…”
Sam finally turned to him and nodded absentmindedly, brushing his dripping bangs out of his eyes.
“Yeah, you’re right, let’s hit it. I’m freezing…”
Both of them cast a last look at the building and with the usual warning for Sam not to get mud on the upholstery, they got into the Impala and left.
He is lost.
It is so dark around him he cannot see his hands in front of his face. He is alone, he knows that; there is nobody there but him. He is scared, can feel his heart beat so hard in his chest it almost hurts. He cannot draw his breath fast enough to keep up with his body’s demands and it terrifies him.
He cannot escape.
And suddenly he can see.
Walls, everywhere he looks. Everywhere around him there are walls and they are coming closer, they are closing in on him. They are changing, too. First they are just dark, then they become clapboard, then brick.
He cannot breathe anymore. His frantic gasps for air don’t get enough oxygen into his starving lungs and he finds himself starting to hyperventilate. His wide, desperate eyes roam the small space he is trapped in and suddenly his feet are cold. Ice cold. He looks down and finds the broken cement he is huddling on changing as well, watches in disbelief as it turns into cold, wet mud. He is barefoot, his shoes missing and he wonders who took them.
He is so alone. He doesn’t want to be here. It is too cold, too lonely.
He wants to leave, he needs to find (himherhim), he needs to find them, that is all there is, all he can think about. He isn’t supposed to be alone. He isn’t supposed to feel scared But he is alone and he is scared and it’s dark and it hurts so much and he can’t breathe, there’s no air left, the walls are moving and—
“Help me, DEAN!”
Sam jerked upright, panting desperately for air. He felt so cold his teeth instantly started chattering. Before he could even open his eyes, he groaned in pain, when he suddenly became aware of an excruciating throbbing in his back. He dimly sensed Dean snapping awake in the bed next to him and by the time his eyes had adjusted to the darkness of their motel room he could see his brother’s outline in front of him.
There was a click and the bedside lamp flickered to life, illuminating their room with light that was just too bright. He groaned and brought his hands up, shielding his eyes. The sharp pain in his back was gone as quickly as it had appeared.
“Sam?” Dean’s voice sounded worried and sleepy at the same time and Sam took a deep breath, trying to calm his racing heart. “Sam, you okay?”
He found his voice and croaked out, “It’s okay, just a dream. Sorry…” He slowly lowered his hands and blinked rapidly in the still blinding light.
Dean was watching him with a worried frown, the hand still holding the knife he usually kept under his pillow slowly dropping down to the blanket. “A dream? Or a dream?” he asked wearily.
Sam shook his head, finally able to breathe easier and he reached up to rub his arms, relaxing when warmth slowly started to creep back into his limbs. Why was he so cold?
Dean was still staring at him, eyebrows raised. Sam blinked, then shook his head again. “Just… just a bad dream… I’m really sorry. Go back to sleep.”
Dean looked at him for a moment, then shrugged and rolled over, muttering something about gags and little brothers under his breath. Sam watched Dean’s breath slowly even out as he fell asleep again.
He lay in the darkness for a long time, trying to make sense of his dream, the weird feeling that didn’t want to go away. Something was wrong, something Sam just couldn’t put his finger on. The more he thought about it, the less he could figure it out.
When a quick glance at the alarm clock told him he had spent the better part of the night awake, he knew he would be getting no more sleep. Instead, he decided to spend his time doing what he did best. And before that he would grab a quick shower, the nightmare… or whatever it had been had left him covered in a cold sweat.
Sam got up and shrugged out of his shirt, snagging a towel on the way. His back protested the movement as he bent down, something inside pulling painfully exactly where Jake’s knife had gone in, and he winced slightly. He briefly wondered when it would ever stop hurting—in more ways then one—but somehow, he had gotten used to the ever-present ache and so he just dismissed it.
Which was why he didn’t notice the long, thin scratches that now ran in parallel lines next to the welted scar left by Jake’s knife.
Something was at the door. Dean snapped awake almost instantly, one hand going to the knife under his pillow. He slowly slid open his eyes and tried to orient himself. Unfamiliar bed right next to another empty bed, no Sam, early morning… Uhm, yeah, been there, done that.
He didn’t move, listening into the semi-darkness of the room until he could hear the familiar footsteps of his brother. Only then did Dean release the grip on his knife and turn slowly onto his back, squinting up at the blurry form of his sibling. Sam was carrying two brown paper bags and a second later the glorious smell of fresh coffee woke Dean all the way, clearing his sight completely.
Sam was grinning sheepishly at him, holding out a coffee like a peace offering. “Sorry, didn’t mean to wake you…”
Dean cleared his throat and accepted the steaming cup, taking a small sip as he studied his brother’s face for a moment. He already knew the answer to his question before he had formed the words in his still half-asleep brain. “You up all night?”
Sam handed him one of the bags and sat down onto his own bed, peering into his bag, then closing it with a small sigh. “Most of it…” he mumbled absentmindedly.
Dean dug out his own sandwich—his favourite he noted with a content smile—then studied his brother while taking a big bite out of it. “You okay there, Sammy?”
“Want to talk about it?”
He gave Sam a long look, but then went back to eating, once again knowing the answer before the words made it out of his mouth. “So? You do any research last night?”
Sam scratched the back of his neck, then cast a look at the still running laptop sitting on the desk. “Some. I can’t figure this out, Dean…” He rose and wandered over to the small machine, scrolling through something as he listed the facts. “The factory was built in 1876, making field tiles for drainage systems. There wasn’t anything special about it, typical factory for the day, like long hours, hard work, deplorable conditions… the usual, you know? Nothing at all stands out to make it special…”
Sam huffed out a frustrated breath and looked over at him, watching as Dean attacked his sandwich.
“So why’d it close?” he mumbled out between bites, smirking when Sam wrinkled his nose at his eating manners.
Sam shrugged. “The Depression hit. People just didn’t buy field tiles anymore. The place was closed in 1934 and the stories started about a year after that.”
Dean nodded, sipping at his coffee to wash down the sandwich. “Kids, right?”
“‘The sound of disembodied children playing could often be heard in the empty, echoing old building,’” Sam quoted tiredly. “Always kids, always after dark.”
Dean watched how his brother’s eyes lost their focus as he stared at the screen, lost in thought. So Sam’s research hadn’t turned up much useful information, they still had no clue how to solve this case and on top of that his brother was back to spending his nights staying awake instead of getting rest. Peachy. Dean took a deep breath and thought about the facts for a moment, then sat up and put his feet on the carpet in front of his bed. “Maybe there was something on that land before the factory? Something to do with kids?”
Sam looked up, tilting his head slightly as he thought about that. “Could be. We could get the original deeds from the county archives, I guess…”
At least now he looked a little more awake. Dean nodded at him and got to his feet, stretching. “Okay, so right after I get a shower we’ll work on putting those little brats in their places, get some decent—“
He almost jumped out of his skin when the bathroom door suddenly slammed shut. Hard. Sam was on his feet a mere second later, almost knocking the table with the laptop over in his haste to get to his feet. Both of them stared at the door, arms raised into a defensive position, waiting.
“Sam, get the EMF...”
Not taking his eyes of the door, Dean watched out of the corners of his eyes how Sam grabbed his bag from beside his bed and dug through it, finally pulling out the small device. Dean turned back to the door, scanning it.
Behind him, there was a shrill whine, a sound like an explosion? and suddenly Sam yelped in pain. Something clattered to the floor. Dean spun around to find Sam staring wide-eyed at the broken EMF-detector on the ground. He was cradling his hands to his chest, shaking them out.
“What the hell—you okay?”
Sam’s head snapped up at him and he blinked, confused. “Dude, that thing exploded in my hands! That hurt!” he cursed.
Dean eyed the broken device cautiously. “That’s not normal…”
Sam looked around the room. “What do you think?”
Dean sighed, running a hand through his hair. “I think something followed us home.” Keeping his eyes on the bathroom door he slowly made his way towards the door and the windows, though he needn’t have checked, the salt-lines they had laid out the night before and the various protective charms were still in place, undisturbed. “Nothing’s broken. How did it get in?”
Sam sighed, running a hand through his hair as well. “Think we should do a cleansing ritual?”
Before Dean could answer, the lamp on the nightstand slowly started moving, tipped over the end and crashed to the floor where it shattered. He rolled his eyes. “The sooner the better.”
It was the smell that got to Dean, every friggin’ time. It wasn’t that he didn’t like rituals as such, but for most of them, he and Sam had to burn the funniest things for them to work at all. Which meant weird smells all over the place. He wrinkled his nose when Sam burned another small amount of whatever strange herb he had dug out of the back of the Impala and a sickeningly sweet aroma filled the air only seconds later.
Okay, so he really, really didn’t like the smell. At all.
Sam winked at him, never skipping a beat in his readings, while he put yet another… something...into the bowl in front of him. They had darkened the room as best as they could, lit some special candles and drawn about every protection/cleansing symbol they could think of. They still didn’t know what exactly they were trying to banish, so the ritual as such as well as the spell were very vague. But it was the best they could do in that short time and it would have to do.
Dean watched as Sam went through the last lines three times, completely focused on the words, and he could feel himself tense slightly. It was his job to have Sam’s back in case whatever decided it didn’t want to leave. Most of the time, the creatures they were protecting themselves against didn’t want to let them go once they had taken a liking to them and most of them threw a tantrum which often ended in one or both of brothers being thrown about the place.
The closer Sam got to the end without anything at all happening—no weird noises, no lamps crashing to the floor—the more nervous Dean got, his eyes darting around the room.
Sam finished the last sentence and looked around, eyeing him anxiously.
“Think it worked?” Dean mumbled softly, not feeling safe enough to loosen his stance.
Sam blinked, twice, then shrugged. “It should have.” He slowly got off from where he had been sitting cross-legged on the floor and stretched, working some kinks out of his back. Dean didn’t miss the soft hiss of pain he made when he bent the wrong way, but Sam didn’t seem too bothered by it, so he let it slide.
“Want to grab some lunch?”
Sam just nodded.
Twenty minutes later, they entered a little greasy spoon and ordered, waiting for their orders in companionable silence. When the waitress set the plates down in front of them, though, Dean saw Sam frown at it, then his brother reached up and rubbed at his eyes.
Sam blinked and looked up at him. “Huh, sorry, I zoned a bit… I guess…”
Dean frowned, picking up the burger. “More than a bit—“
He couldn’t finish his sentence. Suddenly, there was some noise in the background which gradually rose into shouted complaints from the other tables. Dean looked up and around and saw people staring in disgust at their plates. A child started sobbing while her mother called loudly for the waitress. Dean frowned and looked back at his brother, only to find him staring with a similar expression at his own plate.
He shouldn’t have looked down. The food on Sam’s plate, which had been fine just a second ago, was suddenly mouldy and rotted. And when Dean looked down at his own plate he gagged slightly at the foul smell from a rotted burger.
He closed his eyes, counted to ten and heaved a deep sigh. “I guess the ritual didn’t work.”