Episode Seventeen: Judas

By Tracer & Thru Terry's Eyes

Part One

 

“Damn, bro, this has got to be what? A ten-pointer?” The dark-haired young man exclaimed excitedly as he discarded his rifle and traded it for his favorite hunting knife. Gripping the knife firmly, he knelt in the leaves carpeting the ground around his kill to finish the job. “I mean, look at this thing, Josh!”

Josh sauntered into the small circular clearing, rested his rifle on his shoulder and crouched down next to the fallen animal, admiring his younger brother’s handiwork and clapping him on the shoulder. “It’s great, Seth. You did good, little bro.”

The warm, pleased smile that appeared on the younger man’s face in response to Josh’s praise faded as the blood encrusted hand on his shoulder moved to the top of his head and began rubbing furiously over Seth’s short spikes of hair. “Stop it!” Seth yelped, jerking his head away. “I hate it when you do that!”

Josh laughed heartily as Seth pulled away, a feigned look of disapproval clouding his face as he swept his hands over his hair repairing the damage his older brother had done. “I’m doing that ‘til the day you die, little bro,” Josh replied, getting to his feet. “Now quit whining and move your ass. The sun’s setting and we need to get back before the rangers kick us out.”

“It’s open season.” Seth protested, but mimicked his brother and began to stand. “They usually let you stay a little bit later.”

“Yeah, well, I’m tired,” Josh admitted.

Seth wrinkled his nose, “And smelly.”

“You don’t exactly smell like the Irish Springs yourself,” Josh countered, grabbing the binding from Seth’s pack and beginning to tie the fallen deer’s limbs for better carrying, all the while keeping his body open to ensure his brother could see the proper way to do it. “Okay, all set. Let’s go. The trucks about a half a mile back.”

Tugging his camouflage jacket tighter against the encroaching chill of the evening air, Seth nodded and lifted the hindquarters of his trophy allowing Josh to lead the way back. The brothers walked in easy silence for a while, the steady crunch of leather boots against nature’s floor comforting in its familiarity.

The rusted dark blue truck was barely visible through the dense green, but the small hint of color was enough to encourage Josh to pick up his pace and ignore the fiery burn in his muscles from the day’s exertion. He nearly toppled back when Seth came to a dead halt behind him.

“What the hell?” Josh barked in surprise when his portion of the burden doubled due to Seth’s complete release of the deer’s dead weight. Josh’s irritated blue eyes watched as Seth wandered a few steps away towards a small ravine nearly indistinguishable from the line of trees and rock. “Seth, c’mon man,” he groused. “Get back here!”

“Can’t you smell that?” Seth asked, choking, his voice strained and mouth turned down in disgust as he reached to pull the neck of his t-shirt over his nose and mouth.

Josh snorted in annoyance but still sniffed the air once for good measure. “I don’t smell anything.”

“Seriously?” Seth questioned, his voice muffled by the layer of fabric, eyes widened in disbelief at Josh. With a confused shake of his head, Seth turned back toward the ravine.

“Seriously,” Josh replied with a huff. “Now can we go?”

Seth ignored him as he climbed onto a large rock along the ravine’s edge, eyes squinting against the blackened dark encompassing the crack in the earth’s surface. “I think someone left a carcass or something, man.”

“Who gives a damn, Seth?” Josh replied, irritated when his brother didn’t even acknowledge him. With a heavy sigh, the older man dropped his share of the burden and stalked over to where his brother was leaning haphazardly over the edge of the ravine, slapping a firm hand onto the brunet’s shoulder and pulling. “Let’s go,” he growled.

Seth yanked back from the contact, “I want to see wha--”

“I said we’re going,” Josh interrupted, grasping his brother’s shoulder harder as he used his leverage to jerk Seth semi-upright without relinquishing his hold.

“Josh, you’re hurting me!” Seth grit out, squirming under Josh’s white-knuckled grip, but each movement seemed to only increase the pressure of the fingers digging into his shoulder. “Dude, stop!”

Whether it was the pathetic plea or Seth’s pain-etched face, Josh suddenly released his grip but issued a firm push that sent Seth off the rock face and sprawling onto the ground with a resounding thud. “Seth, get up, for God’s sake!”

A tight groan on his lips, Seth looked up at his brother with wide-eyed confusion as he fought to stand. “What the hell is your problem, man?”

“You,” Josh snarled, gathering the crumpled material of his brother’s shirt front in a fist and hauling Seth gracelessly to his feet. “I’m tired, and want to go home; not chaperone your stupid search for some friggin’ rotted deer carcass.”

The older brother punctuated his words with a sharp thrust of his finger into Seth’s chest and Seth blinked rapidly, shifting nervously under his brother’s new-found fury. “Dude, what crawled up your ass? Calm down.”

“I don’t need to calm down,” Josh declared, the angry lines on his face deepening as his eyes lit with increasing rage. “Don’t tell me what to do!” he ordered, spitting the words out through his teeth.

Seth gaped at him. “I’m not,” he protested, raising his hands in surrender, his countenance pale with fear at his brother’s inexplicable outrage.

“Like hell!” Josh stepped forward, and Seth automatically shuffled back. “What’s the matter, bro? Scared? You always were the pansy of the family. Surprised Dad didn’t ship you off to military school or something, put some man in you.”

“J-Josh, what’s wrong? What did I do?” Seth’s hazel eyes frantically scanned his brother’s face for an answer, but only the eerie ghost of a smirk graced his brother’s features.

Josh pushed past Seth, ramming into his shoulder. Hard. “Nothing. Shut up and get in the truck.”

“What about my deer?” Seth questioned, heading over to his kill.

“Leave it!” Josh commanded and grabbed the lapel of his brother’s jacket, sending Seth stumbling toward the truck. Watching his brother’s frantic hands search for balance, Josh scoffed a laugh and picked his rifle off of the forest floor.

Defiance and anger slammed into the younger brother. “No way! That’s got to b--”

“Shut up, Seth, and leave it” Josh warned, his voice low with menace.

“No,” Seth countered boldly, “I’m not leaving without it.”

“I said shut up and come on!” Josh roared, spinning around to face Seth, his face twisted. “Just shut the hell up!”

“You go to hell,” Seth shot back, fury in his voice as his long legs carried him back to the prized carcass.

The swift blow to the back of his knees sent Seth to the ground. This action had hardly registered before he found himself airborne. A blast of pain shot up his entire spine as he crashed onto the rocky ground, back near the ravine, heaved there by his furious older brother .

“You just can’t listen, can you? Doesn’t matter what it is, you just got to have it your own way.” Josh sneered as he stalked up to Seth and stared down at the shaking form of his younger brother, pupils blown with rage. “Well, I’m sick of it, you whimpering little-”

“Josh, Josh, for God’s sake what’s wrong? What did I do? You’re not making any sense.” Seth’s voice was soft but desperate, quivering in shock as he tried to figure out what the hell was happening. His eyes searched his brother for a clue to the sudden outburst but landed on the hunting rifle gripped tightly at Josh’s side, alarm rising up in him as his heart thudded painfully in his chest.

“How the hell do you know what makes sense?” Josh spat, hatred evident. “You’re just another excuse for Mom and Dad to ride my ass and I. Am. Tired. Of. It.” Josh’s lips curled in contempt. “Tired of you.”

“You don’t mean that,” Seth gasped, emotion clouding his voice as genuine fear flooded his veins, making him shake under its intensity.

“Yeah,” Josh muttered, locking his brother’s gaze. “I do.”

The swift cock of the rifle smothered Seth’s shuddered gasp. Frantically, the dark-haired boy swatted at the earth beneath him, struggling to crawl away from his brother. His hands slipped frantically on the wet leaves and the deep muddy earth clinging to him, fastening him to the ground. A hard stomp of Josh’s boot to Seth’s ankle quelled any further attempts and Seth howled out in anguish. “Josh, stop! Please! Let me go! You can’t do this!”

Josh tilted his head, his forehead creased in thought. “Why?”

“What? Why?” Seth stuttered, shaking his head, holding out a hand. “Josh, please, I’m you’re brother...” he whispered dejectedly, horrified that this could mean so little in Josh’s mind.

Josh shrugged. “Didn’t matter before,” he countered frigidly, settling the butt of the rifle against his shoulder and lining up the sights. Seth lay three feet away, a perfect “T” shot, and little brother knew it. “Doesn’t matter now.”

Seth kicked out with his free foot to no avail, voice rising in a desperate panicked cry. “Josh---you can’t… Josh, no, I’m you’re brother! I’m your bro--”

A crack-fire report ripped through the incessant pleas, cutting off any attempt for more as the body arched, convulsing under the bullets Josh continued to pump in until the empty chamber clicked repeatedly. Thick red quickly smothered the entry wound and flooded Seth’s shirt front as his body jerked in its death throes among the golden leaves that were quickly becoming the deepest scarlet.

Josh tossed away his rifle, face fixed like stone as he stood looking down at the body of his younger brother. He reached down and grabbed the ankles of his kill and dragged it through the leaves a short distance. “You liked that ravine so much, lil’ bro, well, guess what? You get to rot in it.”

With a grunt, Josh hoisted his brother’s paling body over the edge, dumping it unceremoniously into the deep black. He waited until the sound of dull crashing ceased, then saluted at the darkness below him.

“See you in hell, little brother.”

* * * *

 

“We’re lost, Sam; just admit it,” Dean smirked following Sam’s lanky form up yet another rocky rise as they stumbled through the trees in the slowly failing light.

“We’re not lost, Dean. Stop saying that. I know exactly where we are.” Sam’s voice had a bit of an edge after hearing Dean chant “we’re lost, Sam” for the tenth or fiftieth time in the last half hour.

“I’m just saying, dude,” Dean continued as he followed Sam’s careful steps, his voice still holding a hint of humor, mostly because he just enjoyed rubbing Sam’s shortcomings in his face. Hell, if he was going to be stuck out here, he may as well have some fun. “It gets dark fast in the woods, we’re hell and gone from the car and all these friggin’ trees are starting to look the same to me. The Donner Party had a better chance, dude.”

“Well, don’t worry, bro. I promise to take a leg first.” Sam snarked, clambering up over the small roots overhand.

Dean eased himself up onto the higher ground, giving his brother an insinuating glance. “But which leg?”

“Shut up,” Sam huffed, shaking his head as he turned to continue onward.

Their boots crunched through the avalanche of gold and red leaves littering the ground, sadistically hiding the twisted vines and brambles that occasionally leapt snarling from their hiding places to catch one of the unsuspecting brothers by surprise and send him sprawling.

They had been following up a rumor of this forest being inhabited by Tree Sprites. Not their usual kind of gig, but those things were nasty little buggers, not capable of causing direct fatalities but definitely responsible for causing the momentary distraction that could lead to a serious injury if not a fatality. And with it being hunting season, when everyone from experienced to inexperienced hunters alike took to the woods in the joyous pursuit and annihilation of woodland creatures, it seemed to be a good alternative to the pig farm in Rock Hollow.

Dean couldn’t get into hunting something that didn’t have a chance in hell of fighting back. It just didn’t strike him as fair unless the deer got guns too. At least the ghosts and nightmare inducers were asking for it.

“The car is a mile that way,” Sam declared, pointing in a vaguely northwesterly direction. “We have plenty of time to get back before it’s dark.”

“Whatever you say, Hawkeye,” Dean replied, saluting. “I just don’t want to get my ass blown off in the dark by some good ole boy gunning for Bambi or Thumper.”

Sam turned, rolling his eyes. “Fine, Dean, have it your way. We’ll head back. I haven’t seen a single thing that points to Tree Sprites anyway. I think this was just a wild goose chase.” The dark haired brother sighed and brushed his hair out of his eyes. Even though it was cool, he had still worked up a sweat hiking.

Dean shouldered his shotgun, muttering a ‘thank god’ to the sky, and shoved his free hand in his pocket. He was hungry and it was getting colder as evening crept through the woods and right now his hopes of getting back to the car and civilization anytime soon were swiftly waning.

Sam started heading back the way they had just come, his own shotgun cradled in the crook of his arm, muzzle pointed at the ground. Dean followed in his wake, content to watch the back of Sam’s boots rather than the trail. After all, Sam said he knew where they were going and truthfully Dean really hadn’t been paying much attention. He hadn’t been that thrilled at hunting Tree Sprites anyway; kind of beneath them in his opinion.

Sam paused up ahead, frowning at the compass in his hand and turning left only to about face right a second later.

Dean rolled his eyes, irritation creeping into his face, as his lips formed a tight line and he strode forward stiffly. “Jesus, Sam, if you don’t know how to use a compass--”

The toe of his boot caught in yet another vine snaking through the leaves and he was down before he knew what was happening, the shotgun sailing off to one side. His hands and knees were gouged by rocks hidden beneath the wet leaves and he fell heavily on his right hip as he tried to avoid another jagged stone. “Shit! Dammit, Sam!”

Sam rushed to his flailing brother, but knew he was too late. “Are you okay?” he asked anxiously, reaching out a hand, and then laughing despite his better judgment when he caught sight of Dean’s mud-splattered face.

Dean jerked back out of his reach. “It’s not funny!” He leaned forward to try to work the vine off his ankle, whipping his left arm across his face to clear the gunk off it.

“I’m sorry,” Sam apologized, sounding damn near sincere. “You just looked funny. Are you hurt?” He kept his hand out for aid, but Dean slapped it away.

“Never mind! Just figure out where the hell we are and let’s get outta here,” Dean snapped, pulling out his pocketknife and starting to cut through the tangle of vines.

Sam straightened up, hurt clouding his features, and looked around. “I don’t understand it.” He pulled out the compass once again and held it away from himself, walking a few feet from Dean as he watched the little needle rock back and forth but never really settle. “Maybe there’s a lot of magnetic ore in the ground. That might explain it.”

“Explain what?” Dean growled, relocating his rifle and carrying the shotgun by the stock as he shuffled to join his brother.

“Why the compass is screwing up,” Sam replied, shooting Dean a dirty look.

“There’s nothing wrong with that compass, Sam.” Dean studied his muddied, gouged palms and carefully brushed his hands against his pant legs. “You’re the college boy, figure out the problem and let’s get the hell out of here.” There was no humor in his voice this time. In fact, he could feel the frustration building with each passing moment.

Sam shoved the compass at Dean. “You take it if you think you can do so much better!”

Dean glared at Sam but made no attempt to take the compass. Instead, he crossed his arms over the shotgun and braced his feet further apart, continuing to stare at Sam through lidded eyes, brows drawn together. “You’re supposed to be so damned smart, don’t look at me.”

Sam turned, making an exasperated noise. “Why do you do that?”

“Do what?”

“Keep throwing the fact that I went to college and you didn’t in my face? You’re not stupid, Dean. You could have gone to college.” Sam was honestly sick to death of this subject and couldn’t understand why it had come up now of all times.

Dean snorted, rolling his eyes. ”Yeah, right!”

“Dean, it’s not my fault you wouldn’t let yourself go!” Sam yelled back, gasping shortly after the words left his mouth as if that would draw them back in. He knew better than to go there.

Dean’s arms dropped, and he barked out a laugh in disbelief. “Let myself go? You mean just walk away? Like you did? Like I was the only one who mattered?”

Sam’s eyes lingered on his brother’s agitated form. “What the hell, Dean? Why are we having this conversation?”

A sharp, rank smell flooded Sam’s nostrils and the younger brother cocked his head, taking in the cloying stench of rotting flesh being carried to him in the breeze. With a sound of disgust and utter repulsion, Sam turned and followed the direction of the scent. His curiosity won out every time.

“Hey!” Dean barked angrily. “Don’t walk away from me when I’m talking to you!”

The sandy-haired brother dropped his gun on the ground again and set off after Sam, grabbing his arm and jerking him around. Sam yanked his arm free, a look of surprise and rage on his face. “Back off, Dean!” he exclaimed, sweeping his arm across his body, turning away again. “I want to see where that smell is coming from.”

Sam’s stomach lurched as he approached the source of the smell, which was getting stronger with each step he took. He literally gagged as he stepped onto a large flat rock and looked down into the shadows.

Dean saw his brother reach out into the darkness and grabbed him once again. “I told you not to walk away when I’m talking to you!” he snarled.

Sam jolted from the shock of Dean’s furious timbre, and would’ve lost his balance had it been for the way Dean’s hands were fisted in his shirt front.

“Dean? What’s wrong with you?” Sam demanded and pulled ineffectively at Dean’s grip.

Sam may have been taller and heavier, but Dean was incredibly strong, always had been, and Sam felt himself being pushed before he could brace himself. His hands instinctively gripped Dean’s arms tightly as Sam tried to climb back up to a secure position.

“Dean, c’mon man! What are you doing?” Sam’s voice contained pure panic as he locked his widened eyes with Dean’s blown pupils.

“You drag us out here for nothing, get us lost, it’s getting dark, we don’t know where the hell we are, let alone where the car is, I’m tired, I’m thirsty and I’m hungry and all because you can’t read a friggin’ compass and you wanna know why I’m mad? God, you are an idiot!” Dean was yelling now. The muscles of his arms bunched as he heaved Sam away from him with all his strength.

Sam cried out as he felt himself thrown backwards and clawed the empty air for any chance to stop or break his impending fall. The shadow below the rock he had been standing on wasn’t empty ground, but a deep ravine half filled with leaves that did nothing to soften the crunching blow as he hit the rocky side and went rolling out of control down the steep embankment.

A sharp cry of pain escaped the younger brother’s lips as hidden rocks and broken tree limbs battered his flailing body as he tumbled steadily downwards, coming to an abrupt stop as he slammed into a jutting piece of stone. Sam laid still for a moment, gasping and groaning but still warily conscious as he took a mental assessment of himself and his surroundings.

The stench was thicker here, engulfing every inch of the darkened landscape and Sam lurched forward, his mouth open as he gagged jerkily under the putrid odor. Tilting his head back up to where he knew must be cleaner air, Sam worked to steady his shaky breathing and quell the churning nausea in his stomach.

It didn’t work, and within an instant, Sam had braced himself on shaking arms, expelling every piece of the Quickie Mart’s Mexican Burrito Special onto the damp, sticky ravine floor.


* * * *


A far off cry and resounding thud shook Dean from his stupor and the older Winchester blinked slowly as cloudy jade searched the forgotten forest area as if for the first time. A sense of familiarity and then overriding panic snapped the hunter into full fledged horror as his mind cleared and the knowledge of what he had just done pounded into his memory.

“Oh my God! Sam! Sammy, are you hurt?” Dean screamed, not caring that his voice sounded incredibly frantic as he leaned over the rock’s edge only to be repulsed back by the wafting stench flooding his senses. “Sam! Answer me!”

When no reply met his waiting ears, Dean grabbed the flashlight out of his jacket hurriedly fumbling it on and carefully slid from the rock face into the ravine, landing knee deep in leaves. ‘Relief’ didn’t even begin to describe how he felt when he entered the repulsive hole and heard Sam coughing, the sound of brushing movements below him.

Dean balanced himself on a tiny ledge, bracing his upper body against the ravine’s wall and shone the flashlight’s beam in the direction of the shuffle. A shaky smile crossed his face when Sam’s quivering body filled the yellow beam, half buried in leaves floundering at the bottom of the ravine. “I’m coming, Sam! Hang on!”

Expertly, Dean shimmied down the rest of the rock wall, the flashlight beam bouncing erratically as he rushed to his brother’s position on the covered earth floor. Sam’s eyes widened suddenly and a yell flew from his lips as Dean approached, startling the older brother as he reached Sam’s side.

“What? Sammy? What? I’m not—god, I’m not going to hurt you.”

Dean’s statement went seemingly unheard as Sam’s glassed eyes were fixed past the older man, staring at something Dean couldn’t see. Turning around, Dean followed Sam’s gaze, flicking the flashlight beam in that direction.

A pale, stained object literally dangling from behind a small crevice caught Dean’s eye and he shot a look back to Sam who had made his body as small as he possibly could, his clouded eyes far from trusting. Dean sighed and reached out towards the curious object aware that his younger brother had moved closer in to study the sight as well.

A sharp crack was heard as the older brother made contact and Dean recoiled back as a miasma of decay rolled over him causing him to slam against Sam, and sending both brothers back and floundering into the space Sam had just vacated.

The flashlight hit the ground, illuminating the area right in front of Dean, who found himself face to face with a human head glaring out at him through the leaves. Rotted flesh curled and dangled from the bones, the decaying skin crawling with buzzing flies and maggots as they gnawed new holes into the stiff flesh expanding from every orifice and behind the remnants of empty eyes.

Gasping in shocked surprise, Dean leapt back and fell against Sam. “Holy shit!”

Gagging against the smell, Dean twisted himself around and tried to see Sam in the dimming light. “Are you all right?”

“Banged up a little, but nothing permanent, no thanks to you!” Sam snapped, pushing Dean away. “What the hell, Dean?!?”

At the moment, Sam wasn’t sure if he meant their altercation or the body at Dean’s feet. He had landed right against it, just as shocked as Dean, and could smell the stench of it on his clothes as well as his brother’s, a sickening odor that nothing but a burning would cure.

“I don’t know. Okay. It was like…like an Ellicot mind meld,” Dean answered, a half-smirk on his face, although Sam’s expression came more in the jutting finger and hard stare variety. Dean shrugged and turned back to the corpse, kicking the leaves away from the body he had nearly come to kissing. His flashlight revealed the entire body, clothing still relatively intact but the body was in a fair state of decay. Dean held his hand over his mouth and nose as he tried to breathe.

“This body hasn’t been here that long,” Dean commented, coughing. “Few weeks maybe.” he guessed gently toeing the stiff form with his boot. “Maybe he fell and broke his neck or something.”

Sam, still brushing himself down, made a face and joined Dean, staring down at the ragged mess of humanity. “You should check for ID.”

Dean blanched. “You look for ID if you’re so interested in who he is,” he countered, squinting into the shadows and shifting the flashlight a few feet beyond the body. The light expanded as Sam’s search for his own flashlight ended in success and the newly- added beam increased the illumination.

Both lights fastened on the same item sticking up out of the leaves, a human arm, only more bone than skin this time, skeletal fingers stretched outwards, about five feet beyond their first discovery.

“Jesus…” Sam murmured as they both moved forward. Another short leaf excavation with their boots revealed the second body was older, almost all the fabric gone from the bony frame, just a few dried shreds of muscles and skin remaining.

Stepping back, Sam tripped and fell back into the cushion of leaves, sending them fluttering. He felt objects crunching beneath him as he went down and rolled away, shining his light behind him.

“You okay?” Dean called from several feet away, continuing to swish through the leaves.

“There’s another one!” Sam exclaimed, pushing back to his feet, disturbed bones and another skull appearing around his feet. He stumbled backwards, every step kicking up more grayed remains.

“There’s more over here…” Dean said grimly, going to his knee and brushing more leaves away. His eyes ran over the ground, his eyes becoming accustomed to the light and seeing more and more flashes of what at first looked liked twisted limbs and twigs but he now realized were anything but that. Here and there eye sockets stared emptily at him as half buried skulls reflected his shaking light.

“What is this?” Sam asked, disgusted and horrified by the number of human remains surrounding them. “Some kind of killing ground?” he questioned, looking around as if the answer could be found in the surrounding area.

“I dunno,” Dean replied, getting to his feet. “But it ain’t Tree Sprites. There’s at least ten or twelve bodies here. Wherever they came from, they didn’t all get here at the same time. Some of these are really old, although that guy we found first looks as if he’s only been here a few weeks.” Dean rubbed a hand over his face. “Some of these have gunshot wounds to the head. There’s one over there with a knife buried in its chest.” He gestured with his flash, and Sam could see the dull glint of metal sticking up out of the leaves.

“Dean, what the hell is going on?”


Continue...

Discuss the episode here

E-Mail the Author!

Supernatural is ©2005 The WB Television Network. Other content is copyright the original owners. Original content is ©2005 Supernatural.tv/Virtual Season. This site is best viewed in IE (Internet Explorer) version 4.0 and up and Netscape 6.0 and up. Best resolutions 800x600 or 1024x 768.