Four: Measure of a Man
Thru Terry's Eyes & Tree
Pine Barrens, N.J.
first punch of pain struck her earlier in the afternoon,
a hard fist to her abdomen that stole her breath away
as she was washing the dishes. Fear and excitement strangely
combined, she knew this was the beginning of the end,
which in itself was a relief. Nine months of waiting
and worrying, of cravings and nausea, and of carrying
around a belly that was certainly not conducive to good
posture, sleeping or even breathing was finally culminating
Now, several hours later, Elaine McGregor
lay on the living room sofa writhing in agony. The euphoria
of labor and the promise of soon meeting her firstborn
were now lost in the sheer pain that coursed through
her body. The contractions tore through her in one huge
wave after another, so rapid in fact that she barely
had time to catch her breath before the next one threatened
to drown her. That they had waited too long to leave
for the hospital was an obvious fact. But more than
the procrastination and imminent birth, a nagging fear
chewed at Elaine’s subconscious.
Stephan McGregor slammed the phone
down for the third time in less than ten minutes. He
also knew that they should have left for town long before
his wife’s water broke, but the damn Lamaze instructor
had insisted that first babies always took their time
and that there was no need to rush. What the hell had
that old biddy known anyway? He was willing to bet that
she hadn’t had a baby since before the invention
Elaine’s scream stole his attention
again and he rushed once more to her side. Her face
was bathed in perspiration and her brows were scrunched
up as she fought against the incredible pain that was
emanating from inside her. Looking closer, Stephan now
saw the large pool of blood beneath his wife that stained
the floral print of the couch. Something was definitely
wrong: Lamaze class never mentioned any of this. Another
scream from Elaine interrupted her rhythmic panting
as she sat forward, grabbing a handful of Stephan’s
“Where are they,” she managed
before collapsing back against the couch.
husband flew to the living room window, pulling aside
the curtain fervently seeking the familiar glow of flashing
red lights that signaled the approach of the ambulance.
When only the darkness of the night met his eyes, he
strained to hopefully pick up the telltale sound of
a siren. Grabbing the phone, he frantically dialed 911
“This is Stephan McGregor again.
How much longer will it be? There’s something
wrong, the baby isn’t coming and my wife is bleeding
Elaine tried to listen to the one-sided
conversation, but between the knife-like contractions
and the pounding of her own heart in her ears, she could
only focus on the sudden fear that covered her husband's
face. She watched as he came to her, dropping to his
knees on the floor beside her, the phone still at his
ear. She could vaguely make out a voice coming from
the receiver as Stephan listened intently.
“Okay, I’m here. What do
I do?” he asked anxiously. The voice responded.
Stephan followed the dispatcher’s
instructions, looking closely for any sign of the baby’s
head. A brief smile flashed across his pale face and
he excitedly voiced an affirmative into the phone.
“Honey, he says to push. The
baby’s head is right there, but you gotta push!”
Elaine sucked in a deep breath and
with more strength that she ever thought she could muster,
she forced downward. Another scream, more panting and
she tried again. And then again, repeating the process
until her body was tingling from hyperventilation.
tried to look encouraging despite his feelings of helplessness
and panic. He watched his wife with trepidation as first
blood-matted hair and then a whole head finally appeared.
Grabbing a nearby blanket, he held it there as Elaine
pushed one final time and the baby was expelled.
Collapsing backward, exhaustion taking
its toll, Elaine breathed more easily. Quickly regaining
her composure, anxious to see her baby, she scooted
upright, a broad smile covering her perspiration-soaked
face. Short-lived, the smile rapidly faded, replaced
by concern as she watched her husband. Stephan sank
limply to the floor, his arms still holding the small,
ominously quiet bundle. Panic gripped her, and Elaine
moved to the edge of the sofa, straining to see.
“Is he okay? Why isn’t
he crying?” she pleaded.
Stephan remained silent, unable to
tear his eyes away from the object in his arms. Blood
covered the blanket, his arms and hands and even the
baby, but he was too numb to even consider cleaning
it up. As he watched the little newborn wiggle within
the cotton swaddling, he fought down the bile that was
rising in his throat.
Elaine pushed closer to her husband,
reaching out to tug at his sleeve, forcing him to turn
“What wrong?” she asked,
her voice trembling with dread.
Stephan’s body twisted towards her, she caught
the first glimpse of her baby. Her hand flew to her
mouth, stifling the scream that threatened to escape
as her mind fought to process the visage before her.
the sound of the approaching siren drowned out the strange
mewling sounds of the tiny baby, new mother and father
could only stare in horror at the cruel joke nature
had played on them.
* * * *
Present Day – motel room – Cincinnati
Dean reached out to turn off the weak
drizzle of the shower, changing his mind at the last
second and turning off only the cold. He stood there
letting the hot water run over him for a moment, barely
registering the burn of it against his skin. No matter
the temperature, he always felt cold lately, ever since—
He made a disgusted noise and reached
out again, shutting the water off with an angry jerk.
Stepping out of the tub he grabbed the thin, scratchy
towel off the rack and roughly dried off his body.
he did so, his eyes roved over his skin, disturbed by
the fact that despite the brutality he had experienced
from Haris’ servants over what had been his nearly
week long time in hell, he was remarkably recovered.
The only sensation was the bullet wound he had taken
through the shoulder at his father’s hands, now
no more bothersome than a strained muscle. At least
He yanked on his boxers and ruffed
his short, ragged hair to get the excess water out of
Finally, reluctantly, he stretched
out the towel and rubbed the fog from the mirror over
the sink. He glanced at his reflection. The sudden shift
of blackness that slithered over his eyes, obscuring
the familiar green, was so fast it might not have happened.
Dean looked away, knowing it had.
Feeling sick, his hand closed over
the amulet hanging around his neck, darkened now to
almost the same black as the cord it hung by.
He closed his betrayer’s eyes,
not wanting to see that blackness again. Wondering how
long he could keep that darkness coiled inside him under
control. The battle raged constantly, the demon within
him howling and clawing for release. Dean kept reinforcing
the barricades but knowing that, despite his desperate
efforts, if they couldn’t find a solution to this
nightmare, time was against him. Slowly, but inexorably,
the barriers would give way, crumbling under the relentless
assault of the demon within him.
What hurt the most was the knowledge
that Sam no longer trusted him. He might say he did
and act like he did, but Dean was now an unknown quantity
and he knew Sam couldn’t afford the luxury of
trust. He would deny it if asked, but Dean couldn’t
blame him. Hell, he wasn’t sure he could trust
But it still hurt.
Dean gripped the amulet tighter, lifting
his eyes once more, daring himself to meet his reflection
in the glass. Feeling anger boil up as blackness danced
across his eyes once again, taunting him.
Dean’s fist smashed the mirror
before he realized what he was doing. Broken mirror
cut into the skin of his knuckles and blood dripped
onto the dirty sink.
“Shit!” he swore, cradling
the injured hand in its mate, not surprised at the sudden
knocking on the door.
“Dean?” Sam called out.
“You okay?” He didn't wait for Dean to reply
before opening the stupidly unlocked door and coming
Sam took in Dean’s bloody hand
and the smashed mirror in one quick glance. Sam didn’t
need to say it for Dean to know what he was thinking
and his face must have shown it because Sam quickly
forced the panic from his face and replaced it with
an expression of general concern.
“Your hand’s bleeding,”
Sam said, gesturing.
Dean grimaced. “Slight difference
of opinion with the mirror.” He forced the grimace
into a smirk. “So you never heard of knocking?
So desperate to see the body all the chicks fight over,
you just burst in?”
The thin humor Sam recognized for what
it was, a weak attempt to divert him from his fear of
Dean losing control. Of losing Dean.
“Lemme help you…”
Sam said quietly, reaching out.
Dean straightened, moving away. “No,”
he said quickly, a flash of a smile to go with it. “It’s
no big deal, I got it.”
They looked at each other for a long
moment, then Sam nodded. “Fine, well…hurry
up then. I got some stuff that might interest you. Maybe
a new hunt.”
lifted his eyebrows and nodded back. “Oh, good.”
He dabbed at his cut knuckles with the towel he’d
dropped on the floor. “l’ll get dressed
and be right out.” He looked over at Sam briefly
and then turned back to the smashed mirror.
Sam’s tongue drifted over his
lips and he nodded shortly again. “Okay.”
closed his eyes, dropping his head and sighing as the
door closed behind Sam and the latch clicked into place.
* * * *
A Week Earlier – Pine Barrens, NJ
Watch out Davey, you’re gonna hit my truck.”
“No, I’m not. Move over,
quit hogging all the toys. I had that one first!”
the blonde-haired boy shouted back, launching a fist-full
of sand at his older brother.
“I’m tellin’ Mom!”
the older boy cried out, blinking rapidly as he wiped
the offending grit from his eyes.
A split second pause and the two boys
were back to playing again, laughter filling the back
yard, a sibling’s transgression forgotten in the
desire to have fun.
creature observed the exchange from its position just
at the edge of the woods. It had carefully crept closer
and closer to the backyard, intent on the two children
playing in the afternoon sunshine. Normally, it never
chanced coming in so close to humans, especially during
the daylight, but ravenous hunger had driven it today.
It had watched humans before, especially
enjoyed the small ones, so much more accepting of his
presence than the bigger ones that usually screamed
or tried to hurt it. Never before though, had it ventured
so close as it had today. Hovering at the edge of the
tree line, obscured by the taller grass and bushes,
it maintained its position as another voice sounded.
“Boys! Come and eat. I made some
cheeseburgers for you.”
“Aw mom, we’re playing”
the young brothers whined in unison, reluctant to move
from their sandbox and toys.
“Okay, okay, I’ll put your
lunch on the picnic table, but don’t go feeding
it to Shadow,” the woman instructed, a knowing
smile broadening her face as the dog looked up in response
to its name.
The creature lifted its head, sniffing
the air as the smell of the cooked meat wafted on the
afternoon breeze. It licked its chops, mimicking the
large dog that was also eyeing the ignored meal. Hunger
was a powerful motivation, instilling boldness that
overrode caution. Stealthily, the creature edged even
closer to the backyard, its dark predator’s eyes
flicking back and forth between the children, the dog
and the house.
The distance between the relative shelter
of the forest and the plastic Little Tikes picnic table
wasn’t far, but it was all in the open, no cover,
and no means of escape except to turn and scuttle back
into the woods. Then there was the dog, chained to a
nearby doghouse, no telling how far the leash would
reach. The creature hadn’t survived for so long
by ignoring potential threats to its existence, and
the pet was definitely a threat.
Still, in the creature’s food-centered
mind, the gnawing deep inside was in overdrive, survival
instinct kicking in and driving the animal brain. It
inched slightly closer to exposing itself, its face
expressing something that could have been a smile had
it not been for the pointed and yellowed incisors that
peeked out or the saliva that began to trickle from
the corners of its maw.
As the small boys played, blissfully
ignorant of the thing that lurked so close by, the creature
stepped out of the wooded cover. Just then, the breeze
shifted ever so slightly and the black lab lifted its
head, testing the air for the hint of the foreign scent
that had just caught its attention.
dog’s ear’s pricked up and a low growl began
in the back of its throat. Muscles tensed and bunched
as its eyes caught the hint of movement at the forest
The creature took another step out
of its cover just as the black lab lunged from its crouched
position. Snarling teeth and raised hackles rushed in
a black blur towards the creature. Survival instinct
kicked in and the creature twisted in mid-stride and
disappeared back into the green foliage.
The dog’s second lunge was powerful
enough to snap the small chain links and its momentum
carried it into the woods in pursuit of the creature.
From behind it, the two boys dropped their toys and
had simultaneously begun yelling for their dog and their
The creature tore through the underbrush,
seeking nothing more than escape from the snapping jaws
that were nearly upon it. As it dodged behind the trunk
of a large pine, the dog anticipated its quarry and
moved around from the opposite side. The animal sprung
from the ground, powerful hind legs launching it at
its prey. The dog’s jaws clamped onto a flailing
appendage of the creature, teeth piercing its hide and
locking in as the creature loosed a horrifying scream
that radiated throughout the forest.
Reacting in fear and pain, the creature
slammed the dog into the trunk of the nearest tree,
once and then twice, until the dog’s broken body
released its hold. In anger, the creature lifted the
dead carcass of the family pet and threw it viciously
into the backyard where it landed with a sickening thud
at the feet of the little boys.
the children screamed in horror the creature watched
from its place of cover for a moment more. Hunger still
gnawing, but pain now dominating that need, it turned
away and moved silently back into the deeper forest,
the greenery swallowing it up as though it had never
been there at all.
* * * *
Present Day – Motel
Dean sat on the edge of the bed, absently
massaging the knuckles of his right hand which still
throbbed, reminding him of the basic law of nature that
states that flesh and bone is generally not an equal
of glass and drywall. He ignored the pulsating burn
as he always did, focusing his attention on his brother
seated across from him at the motel room’s standard
Laptop open, Sam’s fingers glided
over the keyboard, pausing occasionally to lightly touch
the built-in mouse pad. He worked the computer like
a pianist would tease beautiful music from a baby grand
and Dean was always impressed at how well his brother
could so effortlessly tap into the limitless information
contained on the Internet.
you caught some story on Unsolved Mysteries
about a woman and her kids that spotted a bear in their
back yard?” Dean asked skeptically. “That’s
your big, ‘hey, I’ve found a hunt’
Sam shot his brother a scowl that also
said “be patient” and then turned the laptop
screen to face Dean.
not just that single sighting Dean, there have been
dozens around the area over the past few months. Every
one of them with a similar description of a creature
or something that has been rummaging through trash,
killing pets, and stalking in the shadows around the
homes in Pine Barrens, New Jersey.”
“Pine Barrens?” Dean repeated,
eyebrows raised, his interest suddenly captured.
“Yeah, Pine Barrens,” Sam
replied as Dean leaned closer, his eyes now intently
focused on the laptop’s screen.
After a moment Dean sat back shaking
his head. “You’re thinking the Jersey Devil
aren’t you? There haven’t been any serious
sightings in over fifty years.”
“That’s not true Dean,
look here!” Sam said excitedly, swinging the laptop
back around, his fingers flying once more over the keys.
Dean rose, coming to stand behind Sam’s shoulder
and peering down to see what his brother’s search
“See Dean, sightings in 1951,
two boys in Gibbstown said they were chased for nearly
a mile by a winged creature, snarling teeth, saliva
dripping from its jaws. 1991, a women in Leeds says
she saw a creature ripping apart her German Shepherd
in the back yard. She said the creature had yellow eyes,
a white face like a horse and long teeth. 2001, a pizza
delivery boy breaks down on Lakehurst Road and is attacked
in his car by a large winged creature. Look at the picture
of the car, Dean. Seems like something clawed it up
Dean stood upright, stepping back and
sighing deeply. This was thin, even by his standards.
For a moment, he considered that Sam was just trying
to find some way to distract his older brother, that
tempting Dean with a hunt would somehow erase the constant
reminder of the demon inside him. Maybe it was even
Sam’s way of trying to erase how badly things
had gone with Laura. Whatever his brother’s motivation,
Dean wasn’t buying it.
Shaking his head, he strode back to
the side of his bed, his hand once more caressing the
tender skin of his right hand.
“I dunno Sam, the sightings are
all different, the descriptions don’t always match.
Besides, the Jersey Devil lore goes back to the 1700’s.
It can’t possibly be the same creature all that
long and hell, other than some scattered tracks, there’s
never been one shred of physical evidence,” Dean
stated. “It’s probably just some wild animal
from time to time that gets too close to some yuppies’
backyard picnic. I mean, come on, supernatural creatures
do not rummage through trash looking for food. They
break into houses and eat little kids,” Dean finished,
tilting his head and forcing a sarcastic smile.
Sam looked up at his older sibling,
unable to hide the look of astonishment that was plastered
across his face. He couldn’t believe that he was
trying to ‘talk’ Dean into a hunt. When
had his brother ever turned down the opportunity to
search and destroy? Wasn’t it always the other
way around, Sam being the resistant voice of reason
while Dean chomped at the bit to take on whatever ghost
of the week life had in store for them?
But maybe that was old Dean. Dean before
the possession had been dead set on destroying evil
anywhere and in any form. Dean after the possession
maybe didn’t have the same deep-seated desire
to destroy one of his own.
No way! Sam thought to himself, immediately forcing
away any thought that his brother could have changed
or been swayed by the demonic presence within him. Still,
how could he not be different after everything he’d
Sam quickly regrouped, determined to
make his case.
“I know that the lore behind
the Jersey Devil is prolific but vague, but Dean there
is a bunch of documented sightings in 1909, the whole
‘Week of Terror’. Night after night, the
creature was seen by dozens of folks; decent, respectable
people that corroborated each others stories. Besides,
there’s one other piece of the Devil lore you
should know,” Sam continued.
Dean looked up once more, the hesitation
and seriousness in Sam’s voice drawing his attention
as surely as flames attracted moths.
what’s that Sam?”
Sam took a deep breath before continuing,
the next piece of the legend chilled him to the bone
the first time he read it and its effect was not lessened
now as he prepared to repeat it.
“One of the stories about the
origin of the Jersey Devil says that the widow Shrouds
made a wish that if she ever had another child it would
be the devil. Supposedly, she did have another and it
was deformed, but that wasn’t the interesting
Dean came around the edge of the bed
and plopped down into the chair opposite Sam. His deep
sigh was audible and the look on his face said "go
ahead, I’m bored but listening". Sam ignored
him, but inwardly he was becoming exasperated by his
“Well, this one website says
that not long after the child was born, the widow’s
house caught on fire and burned to the ground. No one
saw the old woman ever again or the child, but Dean,
what if it somehow connects to the other kids like me?
Maybe even way back then?” Sam asked, eyebrows
knitted together, his green eyes clear but reflecting
the pain that constantly haunted him about his ties
to Haris and the demon’s plans for him.
shook his head, unable to believe that Sam would so
easily make that huge leap in logic. He knew that his
brother was preoccupied with finding out what the demon
had planned for him "and all the children like
him", but to imply that Haris had been at
work over three hundred years ago in New Jersey of all
places, well that just seemed like a stretch to the
are you listening to yourself? Why in the hell would
Haris be after kids way back then? Dude, I’m telling
you there is no connection between the Jersey Devil,
if the creature even exists, and that bastard or you,”
Dean stated. “Besides, if the damn thing does
exist, its never killed anyone, at least that’s
ever been documented. If it’s managed to survive
this long, then I say leave it alone; we shouldn't hunt
it down and kill it just 'cause people saw it and got
scared.” “I haven’t hurt anyone!
Can’t everyone leave me alone too?”
slammed the laptop closed while rising to his feet,
his face suddenly red with frustration and near anger.
“I can’t believe you, Dean!” he shouted.
“Why don’t you want to check this out? What
the hell has gotten into you?”
As the words slipped out of his mouth,
Sam saw the immediate reaction in his brother as Dean
visibly flinched, his head dropping down, his eyes instantly
a stupid bastard I am!” Sam thought to himself.
“Gee Dean! Just in case you forgot in the last
five minutes that you had a demon stuck inside you,
your dumb-ass brother has to go and remind you.”
“Dean, I’m sorry. I didn’t
mean it the way it came out,” Sam stammered, coming
to stand beside his brother, his hand automatically
reaching out to make contact with Dean’s shoulder.
An instant before fingers touched the
fabric of his shirt, Dean pushed up from the chair and
deftly twisted out of Sam’s reach. He moved quickly
to the side of the twin bed and began tossing yesterday’s
dirty clothes into his duffle, eyes remaining downward,
carefully obscured by long lashes and the turn of his
head away from his brother.
“Dean, I’m really sorry,”
Sam offered again.
“No problem, Sam,” Dean
“It is a problem Dean. Look,
I understand …”
“Understand?” Dean interrupted
shouting. “How could you possibly understand Sam?
Do you have a demon stuck inside you?”
“No, but …”
You don’t! You don’t have to listen to the
damn thing scream inside your skull every waking moment.
You don’t go to sleep wondering if you’ll
wake up the next day and be yourself or something …
else. You don’t spend every last drop of energy
trying to keep the son-of-a-bitch locked in some remote
corner inside of you. And you don’t have to worry
every friggin' second that if you don’t control
the thing that you might hurt someone!” I
might hurt you!
finished, his chest heaving from the emotion contained
in his outburst. He glanced up at his brother only briefly
before his head moved downward once more. “Don’t
look at my eyes Sam. Please don’t look!”
But the glance was long enough for Sam to see the desperation
and weariness contained in the hazel eyes.
now, Dean continued. “I know you don’t trust
me Sam. Hell, I don’t even trust myself anymore.
It’s getting harder and harder to control this
thing. I don’t know how much longer I can hold
out.” His shoulder’s sagging, Dean dropped
to the bed, running a shaking open palm across his face.
Sam closed the small space between
them and plopped down beside his despondent brother.
He knew implicitly that anything he said at this point
would be rejected by Dean as surely as the physical
contact had been moments before. Still, Sam knew he
had to say something. Was he worried about his brother?
Hell yeah! Dean could be intimidating enough under normal
circumstances, but having seen his brother in full-on
demon mode take on Haris and fight Laura had truly scared
“Dean, you’re my brother,
and I trust you. I’ve trusted you all my life
and I trust you with my life. You didn’t hurt
me in the chamber and I know you won’t hurt me
now, not ever,” Sam said sincerely. He watched
as Dean absorbed his words, hopeful that he could bring
some manner of encouragement.
Dean met his gaze, studying Sam’s
face, looking for the hint of uncertainty and fear that
he knew his brother felt. He had tried to brush off
Sam’s extra watchfulness over him since leaving
Bobby’s, he’d even overlooked the questions
that always bordered on asking if he was in control
or not. But the one thing Dean couldn’t ignore
was the apprehension in Sam’s face every time
he looked at his brother.
“Sammy, you never could lie worth
a damn dude,” he replied finally, the corners
of his mouth turning upward into a smile that couldn’t
remotely cover the agony he felt at knowing that his
baby brother was afraid of him.
“Dean …” Sam began
once more, ready to refute the implication.
“Come on Sam!” Dean interrupted
again. “You want to go to New Jersey and look
for some trash eating, dog mauling, pizza-delivery dude
terrorizing creature, then what the hell. Let’s
go! Not like there’s anything more exciting on
Stunned at Dean’s sudden acceptance
of a hunt that he had opposed so fervently moments before,
Sam sat, mouth gaping in silence as his brother shut
down the conversation in true Dean Winchester fashion.
his brother as he resumed packing his meager belongings,
Sam inhaled sharply as the briefest flash of black cascaded
over Dean’s eyes then reverted just as quickly
back to green.
do trust you Dean, but I can’t trust the thing
that’s inside you,” his mind whispered.
the episode here