Nine: The Great Gig In The Sky
Butte County, CA
were certain moments in his tangled life when Nathan
Cole felt things would be all right. Moments graced
with simplicity, and hints of the way things used to
be, in a time he couldn’t get back. Working on
the truck, listening to his little sister chatter, the
sweat of hard work soaking in the heat of the sun on
his back and neck, were all things that seemed to settle
peacefully against the turmoil within. Muting it for
his lungs with a hearty breath of fresh spring air,
Nathan destroyed the moisture collecting at his hairline
with the back of his hand, slow gaze moving from the
truck’s engine over to his sister, Chelsea, who’d
set up a picnic for herself in the front yard. Blankets
and dolls spread out before her, the seven-year-old’s
imagination moved between song and dialog flawlessly
as she poured out imaginary tea and straightened the
sun bonnet that had belonged to their grandmother. The
obnoxiously large rimmed hat covered her copious amount
of golden blonde curls and kept falling into her eyes.
smiled at the sight, especially when she turned, realizing
he could see her struggle with the hat, and smiled bashfully
before returning to her “guests.” She was
gonna break hearts. That was for damn sure.
looked out over the rolling hills, the overgrown fields,
and the rust-colored mountains in the distance. While
people outside of Northern California found the sight
to be breathtaking, Nathan was ready for a change of
scenery. To him, the way the landscape rolled on visibly
for miles, only to be halted at the mountains, gave
the feeling they were alone, confined. Then again, Nathan
wasn’t just ready for a change of scenery; he
was ready for a change of any magnitude.
Chelsea chirped, freckled face turned in his direction,
nose scrunched. “What are the chances those tornados
will come here?”
a beat, Nathan didn’t register where the question
had come from, thinking at first it was all part of
the game she was playing. But in the background, only
serving as noise until now, he could hear the radio
he’d set up in the garage, the DJ blathering on
about the storms that had hit south of them.
that’s beside the point. California hasn’t
seen deaths by tornado in what? Fifty or more years?
This is unnatural. This many tornados in just a few
weeks. This is Cali-friggin-fornigh-ay…not Kansas.
I mean maybe there’s something to this Global
Warming nonsense. Al Gore’s probably…”
flicked the off switch, shaking his head.
Chels,” he replied, smiling thinly. He nodded
toward the sky. “Just look at it.”
tilted back her head, bonnet slipping onto her back,
looking up into sky as brilliantly blue and clear as
her own eyes. There wasn’t a cloud there, and
that seemed to satiate her curiosity.
dropped the hood of the truck back into place, finished
giving it a look over. Having backed it into the garage
and lowered the door, he stopped by the edge of his
sister’s picnic to get her attention.
coming over tonight,” he said.
afforded him a wrinkled expression of disgust from Chelsea.
Nathan intoned, warily.
changed,” Chelsea shrugged. “Not sure I
like him anymore.”
it’s Jay. I thought you liked him. And hey, people
change…” He knew that all too well.
smiled weakly and handed Nathan a piece of candy she’d
probably been pretending was a tea cake. “Whatever,
dude. If he comes over he better stay out of our food.”
took the candy, cracking a smile. “Dude?”
says that at school.”
Nathan pondered that statement, rolling the tangy candy
over his tongue. “Why am I not surprised? You
gonna be okay out here?”
rolled her eyes. “I’m not two.”
I forgot,” Nathan replied tapping down her bonnet
over her eyes. “Seven going on twenty-seven.”
was a sad truth though. Forced maturity through circumstances
beyond what any seven-year-old should have to go through.
There were days when she’d say things that would
blow him away with her profound wisdom. Things that
made him question who really needed whom in this family.
Chelsea to enjoy the day, Nathan stepped inside their
house, ignoring the creaking of the screen door begging
to be fixed. The old frame sometimes jammed, and the
hinges were only a few slams away from breaking apart.
It was a sad reflection on the rest of the house. Nathan
couldn’t keep up with the repairs that needed
to be done.
passed the pictures of their mother in the hall, lingering.
In the photos she was healthy, full of life, beautiful.
It was how he wanted to remember her. Not sickly, with
translucent skin loosely pulled over bones, eyes dead.
Chelsea, in her vibrancy, looked a lot like their mother
before the sickness had taken her, and even though Nathan
hadn’t seen his father since he was a kid, both
he and Chelsea supposedly shared his likeness as well.
more testament to how screwed up their little family
was nothing screwed up about Chelsea, however. Chelsea
was all Nathan had left; probably the only good to come
out of their broken home.
his reflection in the picture’s glass, Nathan
scoffed at memories of being told he looked like his
father. Sweat-soaked dark bangs clung to his forehead
above tired, hazel eyes. If it was true that he looked
like his father, then it wasn’t any mystery why
lately he couldn’t stand his own reflection.
had brought in the mail and Nathan picked it up off
the hall table, sorting through it quickly. Bills he
couldn’t pay, letters of sympathy, advertisements.
He tossed them all back onto the table save one letter
from Wayne State he eyed wearily. He knew the contents
would be a letter asking him to come for interviews.
He ran a hand across his lips as he studied the envelope,
pulling at the corners of his mouth pensively with his
fingertips. Graduate school was a dream—a dream
belonging to someone else, not him. Not anymore.
tossed the letter in the garbage in the kitchen and
paused at the sink, suddenly dizzy, a heat and pressure
building and radiating behind his eyes. Bracing against
the counter’s edge, he started to run water, moving
his hands beneath the cold stream to bring overflowing
handfuls to his cheeks and neck.
his eye sockets in an attempt to alleviate the pain,
sending sparks of white skittering across his vision,
Nathan opened the cupboard above the sink, pulling out
some prescription pain meds.
a few pills into his mouth, he made his way to the living
room, collapsing on one of the couches. Too much sun,
or stress, he wasn’t sure, but the relentless
pounding within his skull made him sure his blood vessels
had mercilessly tightened in an attempt to strangle
his eyes helped, and after a few minutes he’d
slipped effortlessly into the painless quiet of sleep,
oblivious to the sound of the wind chimes in their kitchen
window spinning and dancing with increasing dissonance.
are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy
when skies are gray…” Chelsea sang as she
cleaned up her picnic, making sure the small plastic
cups and plates were all arranged neatly in her mother’s
hat kept falling off as the breeze would hit the large
brim and send it back. She’d given up adjusting
it, and let it rise and fall along with her curls like
a kite, attached only by the ribbons tied loosely around
wind had become stronger and she was hurrying to pick
up her things before the entire party was blown away.
She was unaware that the clouds had been gathering in
the sky, that the wind had become colder. She’d
welcomed the new breezes at first, as they cooled her
hot cheeks, but as they intensified, she found herself
annoyed with them for blowing around her blankets and
never know deeeeear, how much I love you…So please
don’t take, my sunshine…”
shadows spread across the ground, enveloping her and
the surrounding area, directing her gaze to the sun
above—or rather where the sun was supposed to
be. Black, ominous clouds rolled and swelled above like
whitecaps on the ocean, moving with a life of their
own, covering as far as she could see, swallowing up
her blue skies.
over her shoulder at the house, she called for her brother
slick silk ribbons around her neck slipped from their
knot, and the hat was pulled from her back and ripped
up into the sky on a strong gust of wind. She tried
to catch it, stumbling to her feet after the bonnet.
chimes dangling from the front porch bobbed and swung,
creating a deafening cacophony of noise as they slammed
repeatedly into each other and the nearby support beams.
Leaves from the trees in the front yard were tearing
free and cutting through the air, pulled by a wind that
was snapping through the flag by their driveway and
pitilessly knocking over the pinwheels Chelsea had placed
in the garden.
hat landed and rolled, Chelsea grabbing one of the ribbons
before it could take flight again, pulling it into her
chest and clutching it there. The overpowering electric
snap of lightning and thunder caused her to duck, unprepared
for the sudden splitting of the skies.
whipping around her face, she ran back to her blanket,
gathering up what she could carry, looking back toward
the screen door as her heart pounded a hollow into her
Comfortably unaware in the dark of sleep, Nathan only
became vaguely tuned into something amiss when a dull
and distant roar entered his dreams, clawing at the
back of his mind in persistent and nagging dives aimed
at gaining his attention. It was joined by a high-pitched
wail that twisted within the sound, grating against
every innate survival instinct until his heart beat
rapidly at almost the same tonal frequency.
was wrong. Something was undeniably wrong.
was an almost human quality to the howl, and when his
synapses finally flared to life against the painkiller-induced
fog that settled into his mind, his eyes snapped open.
Chelsea’s frantic screams finally wrapped around
his heart and snapped him back into adrenaline-fueled
gave definition to the dark in a hot and stuttered burst
outside the window and Nathan swore as he fell from
the couch, the room plunging once again back into black.
He didn’t know how it had gotten so dark so fast,
or how long he’d been out, but he didn’t
care as he twisted around to his stomach, digging his
toes into the carpet in an attempt to stand.
He could hear her screaming his name.
looked from the living room toward the front of the
house and could see her at the screen door—the
damn thing jammed again—pounding the living hell
out of the metal mesh, trying to reach through the ornate
design of the frame to get to the lock.
slightly disoriented, he tripped in his sprint through
the kitchen to get to her, falling just as the old ash
tree came through the kitchen window, narrowly missing
him. Covering his head as branches and glass rained
down on him from above, Nathan only paused a beat, bowing
his back, curling knees against his chest, tearing up
from under the debris toward his red-faced and terrified
breaking the handle off the door, he lifted up and pulled
the warped metal back. Chelsea fell into him, knocking
him off his center, her small hands fisted, face buried
quickly in his shirt.
her the sky crackled with life, and in the distance
he could see the clouds churning through the fields;
a pillar of lightning and dust and debris greedily devouring
the earth and sky.
Chelsea bellowed into his shirt, commanding him back
from his shock, her cries holding panicked supplication.
Save me! Save us!
gathered her up into his arms, making his way toward
the basement, ducking around the fallen tree in their
kitchen, heart in his throat as more windows broke,
more glass flew. Shielding her the best he could with
his own body, he made it to the basement stairs taking
them two at a time until his feet hit concrete.
couldn’t get in,” she was crying as he felt
in the dark for the pull chain for the light. His hand
kept coming up empty, grasping at the air.
so sorry, Chels. I’m so sorry,” Nathan repeated
over and over as he found the string and turned on what
light they had, the bare bulb flickering in and out.
a blanket from one of the trunks he wrapped it around
her and knelt with her on the floor, trying to calm
her, covering her with his body as the storm raged on
restlessly. Above he heard something break and snap,
the shed out back if he had to guess. More glass was
raucously raked away by branches, dust falling from
the rafters above them.
banshee-like cry of the wind became so thunderous and
all-consuming that Chelsea’s screams were drowned,
lost in the sound. He closed his eyes, rocking her,
praying the floor above didn’t come down on them
as the house shook. He could feel Chelsea’s heart
beating in spurts against his chest.
here…please…Not here. Not us.”
house gave one last shudder, moaning, and he thought
for sure they were done.
us!” he screamed, terrified, but above all else,
angry. Not here! Not like this!
someone had covered his ears, the silence that fell
upon them suddenly cast him into confusion and disbelief.
He unfolded from his protective cocoon around Chelsea
and looked up at the light swinging above their heads.
It browned-out a few more times before coming back,
illuminating air thick with dust.
still sobbing, refused to let go of his neck, and he
had to take her with him as he cautiously went back
upstairs. Making his way to the front door, stepping
carefully over glass and splintered wood, he assessed
roof was still in place, and minus the tree through
the kitchen, they still had a relatively untouched house.
In awe, he stepped into sunlight, sirens filling the
air, their warning sounding too late. Barely able to
regain his breath as Chelsea wrapped her arms tighter
around his throat, he saw some of the farms in the distance,
some leveled and others undamaged.
felt Chelsea turn her head and look up. He followed
her gaze to the bonnet snagged in the branches, ribbons
lifting weakly with residual zephyr. Nathan looked past
them, into clear skies, unblemished azure.
a cloud in sight.
Butte County, Early Afternoon
up my mind to make a new start, going to California
with an aching in my heart...”
both windows down in the Impala, the sun warming his
face, and Zeppelin’s Going to California delivering
soothing acoustic guitar that flowed with ease from
the speakers, Sam found himself getting sleepy. Leaning
against the doorframe, wind moving through spread fingers,
ruffling the hairs on his arm and lifting the bangs
from his forehead, he was lost in a moment of contentedness
that was both rare and coveted.
and he had been through a lot lately, and at times it
seemed that solace was only attainable through the simplicity
of moments like these. The only way to keep from falling
over was to keep moving. The only way to quiet the restless
noise in their heads was to drown it out with the road
and music. The only way to rest was sprawled out in
the front seat of the Impala.
had to take what they could when they could, and for
Sam, a little bit of peace had been bestowed on him
the last hundred miles.
stretched out a little, letting muscles pop and lengthen
in his legs, then cast a look at his brother, picking
up on a few of his subtle mannerisms. The way his jaw
was set, eyes fixed on the road ahead, shoulders squared
and tense, fingers lacing and unlacing around the wheel,
it didn’t take a lot for Sam to know the lyrics
of the song probably hit too close to home as they filled
the silence between them.
always thought that he was good at hiding things on
his mind, but Sam had somehow mastered the ability to
render Dean’s walls as opaque as cellophane. Two
things, among many others, had to be clawing around
that head of his: a distant father and a girl Dean had
distanced himself from.
ranches and seemingly endless hills, Sam knew the countryside
of Northern California was a far cry from the California
he had been used to. He preferred what he was seeing,
however. Trips to this state always proved bittersweet,
and the less this felt like the California he knew,
distinct scent of fire intermingled with the rain-thick
air and drew Sam’s attention toward the farm they
were approaching. At least that was Sam’s best
guess at what it had once been.
were piling debris from what looked like a barn in the
open fields, while nearby burn piles sent up thick plumes
of black smoke. A house in the distance was missing
one half, the three levels openly exposed, revealing
disheveled and destroyed contents of what looked like
a dining room and a few bedrooms. Wires and splintered
beams hung down from one level to the next like frayed
ends of cloth.
whistled and slowed down the Impala to take in the destruction,
shaking his head.
is the definition of ‘sucks out loud’…”
could see Dean’s eyes flood with concern, looking
at the workers. Maybe he was hoping to see the survivors
clearly labeled among them.
Sam huffed, pretty sure the closest he’d ever
gotten to something like this was from the comfortable
distance a television screen provided. “They said
it came out of nowhere.”
car picked up speed, Dean’s eyes back to the road.
“Don’t most tornadoes?”
passed a few TV vans alongside the road as they headed
into town. The reporters were using the backdrop of
the partially mauled Welcome to Butte County
sign as they told their stories.
uh,” Sam started, distractedly. “Yes and
no. To most people, how fast these things show up, it
feels like they came out of nowhere. This one, Dean,
literally did come out of
brow lifted in confused interest, but something else
was tugging at his attention. Vans and SUVs with what
looked like communication equipment strapped to their
roofs lined the main road into Oroville. It looked like
a tailgate party between the lawn chairs and the grills,
intermixed with cameras and equipment Sam couldn’t
can’t all be the local news…” Sam
tape in the deck switched sides and Zeppelin’s
Misty Mountain Hop replaced the melancholy
folk of the previous song. With the flip seemed to go
Dean’s mood as he stared, almost wide-eyed, at
the number of people setting up equipment alongside
chasers,” Dean snorted, slow grin spreading.
way,” Sam replied, doing a double take.
TV crews for local news were in clearly marked vans,
but the other vehicles…
variety? Thrill seekers? Scientists?” Sam asked.
both. Think we’ll run into that Hunt chick and
all these people nuts?” Sam ignored his brother’s
question. “You’re supposed to run away
Dean lifted a brow. “What the hell does that say
about us?” He waved a hand from one side of the
road to the other as if Sam couldn’t already see
the turn out for Butte County’s freak natural
phenomenon show. “Why are we here, again? I mean,
granted, you said you found a gig in California, I agreed
on your word that it had something to do with us…but,
uh…last I checked, you can’t rock-salt a
or false, we deal in supernatural occurrences?”
Dean huffed out a short laugh.
ranks thirty-two out of fifty states for frequency of
tornadoes, the risk of them occurring is…well,
forty-five out of fifty. No one has died from these
things in Cali in, oh, over fifty years.”
Focus. Ten tornadoes in increasing severity, all in
one week, even more numbers of violent storms, all claiming
twenty or more people across the touch down radius,
limited to Northern California…”
that is freaky…Doesn’t mean…”
Doppler activity before they strike, Dean. They literally
materialize out of thin air. Out of blue skies.”
you’re telling me, people are enjoying a Bing
Crosby-esque day, then BAM, their homes are
off to Oz?”
so you have a theory?”
well, I’m banking on demonic activity.”
eyes slid to the right. “Blanket argument.”
there was a lot of mythology and belief back in the
day that some natural phenomena were caused by demons
or demi-gods. Adad and Ishkur, Lilith the wind demon,
Shedu from Chaldean mythos,” Sam replied, counting
on his fingers the demons he could remember from his
research. “Uh, many cultures believed that tornadoes
were demons themselves or were controlled by them.”
Dean replied pushing out his lips for a beat and nodding.
“So why now? Which demon, if it is a demon, is
pissed at Northern California?”
what I hope we can find out before the next one strikes.
And maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it isn’t a demon.
I mean, with the former angel of light having way too
much fun topside, this could be his doing too, Dean.”
Satan,” Dean growled.
hear you, brother. It could be anything, but whatever
it is, it has scientists baffled and the behavior of
the storms feels…”
selection,” Dean mused. They passed a truck where
a group of people were tapping a keg on the back. He
nodded toward the sight. “Survival of the fittest
at its finest, Sammy.”
jaw worked with concern. “They shouldn’t
be here…” The Impala was slowing down and
Sam furrowed his brow. “What are you doing?”
the Impala alongside a row of black vans, Dean threw
her into park and nodded toward the paint job on the
side of one of them. “These people look friendly
Ride the Lightning album cover art was on the side
of the van in all its electric blue glory. Lightning
crackling around an electric chair, beneath the silver
metallic insignia of the band, screamed at Sam to run,
and run fast.
response was simple, eyes crinkling in youthful glee
as he laughed and pushed open his door before further
protest could be voiced.
stumbled out of the car after him.
practically tripped over his own feet and Dean’s
heels as he twisted around his brother to stand in his
sorry, but what’s the harm in asking a few questions?”
the harm? Sam blinked a little, mouth working but
only managing a scoff at first. For starters, Sam knew
how Dean’s convoluted mind worked.
I know you, and a few questions is going to turn into…Dean!”
brother ducked around him and started to knock on the
cab window. Sam could see a man behind the wheel, hitting
the steering column like his hands held drum sticks,
then switching to air guitar, head bobbing to music.
Music that Sam could hear clearly outside of closed
windows, the electric guitar vibrating through the entire
looked back over his shoulder, the corners of his eyes
creased back with his grin. Sam just returned the smile
with a glare before the guy suddenly noticed they were
there, rolling down his window. Van Halen’s Eruption
almost knocked the two of them over as it rocketed out
of the speakers.
guy turned it down, laughing his apologies. “I
just get in the zone sometimes and it’s
like gaaahhh!” He said, shaking his hands
in front of his face for emphasis like a stream of electric
current was going right through him. “You know?”
could tell right away, between the long hair pulled
back beneath the trucker hat, the goatee, the AC/DC
shirt, and the hemp wristlets, not to mention the smell
of something closely related to hemp, Dean and this
guy were going to be best friends. Sam smiled thinly.
just stared at each other for an awkward moment, Dean
nodding a little, then looked back and forth between
Sam and the man. Dean eventually dipped his chin, scratching
at the back of his head.
man. So uh…”
dude, sorry. I’m Russ,” the man introduced
himself, sticking a hand out the window to shake both
Sam’s and Dean’s. “You two must be
those college students Professor…oh hell, what
was his name? Rachel set it up. Didn’t catch the
names, bros. From California State University, right?
Dean replied, getting an immediate elbow in the soft
tissue of his back from Sam. “This is Sam…”
He groaned, wincing, but managing to continue undaunted.
on,” Russ nodded. “And welcome.” He
ducked back into the window and returned shortly with
a clipboard. “Need you two to sign a waiver.”
shot Dean a you’ve got to be kidding me
look as his brother took the waiver and signed one of
his usual pseudonyms in indistinct scrawl, then passed
the board to Sam.
must have taken Sam’s lemon-sucking face as a
sign that he had something against waivers, because
he tried to prod him along. “I know, dude. Hate
them too. Like, waiver, psf…what? It’s
just so you don’t, you know, trip on some equipment
and sue us, man. Seriously. We’re professionals.
Been chasing storm skirt since I was at your kneecaps.”
reluctantly wrote his name, or more like scribbled a
line where the signature would go, eyes burning into
Dean the whole time, then passed the clipboard back
through the window.
I’ll show you around,” Russ said, dropping
down to the ground and motioning for them to follow.
opened the back of his van and pointed to two guys who
were looking over what appeared to be sound and video
this is Sam and Dean, the brains from Chico. Sam and
Dean this is Greg and Jacks. They’re trying to
assess these mothers by sound, see if they can’t
catch the wraiths on camera.”
one named Jacks, looked back warily, eyes darting between
the two of them. “Don’t touch my equipment.”
nodded. “Okaaaay. Gotcha.”
laughed. “Yeah, dude, what we’re calling
these tornados. Damn things just appear and disappear.
Pretty effed up stuff…”
saluted the two and shut the doors, waving a hand again
for them to follow. Next to the van was a Chevy Avalanche
with a small moving trailer attached. Two more people
were working on removing something from the back.
leaned into both of them. “That fine rumpus right
there,” he said, nodding toward the woman who’d
just set an open trunk of wires and power cords on the
Stop talking about Wes like that,” she shouted
back without even turning a head in their direction.
guy with her pushed thick-rimmed glasses up on his nose
Rachel, and Wes,” Russ finally introduced, bowing
low in apology when Rachel turned and shook a hand held
radio at him.
told you I needed these live, Russ!”
pushed Sam and Dean toward her. “Your grunts have
Sam and Dean shot him a confused look and he grinned,
still backing away. “Rachel will fill you bros
in on the rest.”
thought with a sigh. He turned into an armful of communication
equipment that was dumped from Rachel’s into his
bright green eyes studied his reaction. “You’re
Professor Jinn’s students?”
Sam stammered, looking to Dean for a little help. This
was his idea after all…
his classes,” Rachel said, tucking a loose strand
of auburn hair behind her ear. “When he found
out what I do, he wanted to know if I’d take on
some of his students. Guess you two are top of his class?”
yeah,” Dean replied, the bull oozing naturally
from his persona. “I’m Dean and this is
Sam. Professor Jinn is amazing. Real…visionary.”
beamed. “What did you think about his paper on
common modes of mesoscale convective organization?”
face…God, Sam wished he had a camera. It was a
moment worth documenting.
watched Dean’s brain claw for purchase, smiling
at his brother and Rachel. There was no way Sam was
stepping into this one.
work. Awesome look into the theory of…”
Dean coughed, mumbling something incoherent into his
brow ticked up. “Sorry, didn’t catch that…”
Wes called from the trailer, causing the young woman
to hold up a finger at Dean and Sam.
that thought. We’ll talk later. Why don’t
you guys get acquainted with some of the equipment and
the rest of the team, huh?”
jogged off, and Sam looked over at Dean, smiling thin.
“The theory of… what was that again, Dean?”
theory of you’re a major pain in my ass. A little
help would have been nice,” Dean replied, returning
to the Impala.
followed, realizing when he’d reached the car
that he was still carrying the communication equipment.
He sighed, sliding the equipment to the ground, and
then swung in front of his brother once more.
listen to me, we can’t do this.”
expect us to be knowledgeable in this field. This isn’t
a good idea.”
how else did you want to get to the bottom of this,
shrugged, trying not to raise his voice. “I. Don’t.
Know. But I’m not exactly brushed up on my mesoscales,
Dean. And what happens when the students they are
car pulled up alongside the Impala from the road, its
occupants pointing to Russ’ van.
tipped his chin in their direction. “Think the
students from Chico are here.”
adjusted his collar, before striding up to the car,
his expression asking Sam to trust him as he leaned
coolly against the students’ car door. The passenger
window was rolled down and Dean flashed them a confident
grin. Sam joined Dean reluctantly, if only to be witness
to how bad things could get.
you guys Professor Jinn’s students?” Dean
sir,” one answered. Both looked like they’d
crawled out of an Abercrombie catalog.
guys, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but uh, we’re
gonna have to ask you to turn back around and go home.”
Why?” The one behind the wheel asked indignantly.
“We were told…”
I know you both were looking forward to this, but these
storms are unstable. We can’t risk you guys getting
caught in the suck zone.”
along with the two in the car all scrunched up brows.
The two college students were confused, Sam disbelieving
that Dean had actually just said “suck zone.”
man,” the driver sighed, disgust evident as he
started to back up. “Prof’s going to love
made a wide turn, almost taking out another team’s
equipment as they whipped the vehicle around. Dean dug
his hands into his pockets as he watched them go, rocking
a little on his feet.
One problem solved.”
suck zone, Dean?” Sam asked, incensed.
brother shrugged. “I’ve seen Twister.
We so can do this, Sam.”
of all, Dean, tornadoes don’t suck, they…”
stopped himself as Dean’s grin started to grow
mischievous, making him look innocuously twelve. “They
waved a hand through the air dismissively, deciding
that in situations such as these, walking away when
he’d set himself up for Dean’s humor was
the best way to preserve his dignity.
Rachel called out to them, as she approached at a slow
run. “I almost forgot.” She held out two
room key cards to Sam. “As soon as you two get
done with those radios, maybe you should get settled
in town. Professor Jinn paid for your room in advance.”
felt it coming before Dean’s hand clapped down
on his shoulder from behind. His brother’s way
of saying I told you so.
Rachel,” Dean said, plucking the cards from Sam’s
hands, looking at the name of the motel before tapping
them against Sam’s forehead. As soon as she was
out of earshot he laughed a little. “Come on.
Let’s hear it. This was a good idea.”
shook his head, unable to resist smiling at his brother’s
enthusiasm over a few key cards. “Wow, Dean. A
free room. You are the man.”
straight,” Dean responded, pocketing the cards.
to do some research, Sam remembered a detail in the
last report that he hoped Rachel could help him with.
Rachel,” Sam called out after her.
lifted her eyes from the computer she was looking at
out of the back of the van and tucked another rogue
strand of hair behind her ear. “Yeah?”
last touch down happened around here, right?”
nodded emphatically. “Yeah. A funnel touched down
and then disappeared over a farm off of Oakland. Few
miles up the road from town.”
Residence, Mid Afternoon
Cole residence was one of the few properties on their
way out of town that wasn’t completely torn apart.
While debris littered the yard, and the shed out back
looked like it had been reduced to a pile of toothpicks,
the two-story white farmhouse still stood.
Sam and Dean parked the Impala behind a truck in the
driveway, they could see one of the residents working
on the roof, replacing shingles. Moving in unconscious
sync, they stepped from the car and approached the house,
just beneath where the guy was working. Life of
my Own by 3 Doors Down was playing from the truck
cab, giving the sweat covered, bare-backed worker something
to labor to.
me while I’m still alive. Kill me while I kiss
the sky. Let me die on my own terms, let me live and
let me learn…”
coughed as they stood beneath him, hoping to get his
attention over the music and the determination clearly
set into the young man’s face. Sam didn’t
think the guy could be much older than Dean, much older
than him for that matter.
Dean eventually called out, grabbing the guy’s
attention, accompanied by distrustful narrowed eyes.
I help you?” The guy asked, squatting close to
the edge of the roof, passing the hammer back and forth
between his hands in an attempt to intimidate. “I’ve
already talked to everyone I care to talk to, gentlemen.
So if this is about the storms, you’re wasting
your time. Can’t you collaborate with the other
would just take a minute,” Sam pressed. “We’ll
be out of your hair in no time. We just heard that the
last tornado disappeared here, and wondered if you could
answer a few questions…” He opened his hands
in peace. “It would really help us out, man.”
I bet it would,” the guy sighed. “Please,
just go. I have a lot of work to get done. Or didn’t
you see the tree sitting in my kitchen?”
heard him mumble something about opportunistic parasites
before returning to work. The front door slammed and
both Sam and Dean turned to look at the girl who’d
come to sit on the front porch. She folded herself onto
the stairs, elbows on knees, head in hands, staring
with the news?” she asked.
me, mister, you want to get in your car and go,”
the little girl said.
the guy called down from the roof. “Go back inside.”
didn’t move, and Sam approached her. “Were
you here when the storm hit?”
heard a laugh from above, and looked up to see the resident
shaking his head.
guys are unbelievable,” he said, shoving the hammer
back into his belt. “I’ll give you a statement,
just wait right there.”
watched him crawl back through one of the open windows
and shrugged at Dean who shrugged back.
that your brother?” Sam asked Chelsea.
bobbed her head once. “Nathan.”
like a good guy,” Sam said, unaware he was about
to retract that statement.
came barreling through the front door, swinging the
shotgun in his hand up to eye level, steadying it on
Sam. Dean had somehow shifted completely in front of
Sam at that moment, hands up in momentary submission.
If Sam could have seen his eyes, he knew they’d
hold a different story; one that promised retaliation
if Nathan even thought about pulling that trigger. He
could hear it in Dean’s voice.
hey, just calm down!” Dean barked. “You
want us gone? We’re gone. Not worth getting shot
heard tires spinning up the gravel driveway, the heavy
back beat of punk rock, and then Rise Against’s
Chamber the Cartridge suddenly overpowering
all other noise, as a jeep skidded to a stop next to
the Impala. The driver barely took the time to shift
into park before falling out into a run and jogging
his expression, Sam guessed he’d seen Nathan with
the shotgun and was going to try to run damage control.
Dude, chill! Put the friggin’ gun away. No sense
shooting people,” the new party said as he hopped
up the porch steps, ruffling Chelsea’s hair as
lowered the shotgun. “Just trying to get them
to leave, Jay. It’s not even loaded,” he
sighed as the guy took it from his hands and set it
down on the porch swing.
Jay asked Sam and Dean, who’d since relaxed into
side by side formation, Dean still keeping one shoulder
tucked protectively in front of Sam’s body.
were just trying to figure out what happened,”
Sam replied honestly. “Didn’t mean any harm.”
damn, what’s the harm in telling the story one
more time, Arashi?” Jay asked Nathan, eyes dancing.
raised a brow at the unusual nickname. “Was that
laughed, “Yeah, little inside joke between the
two of us. Come on, Nate, just tell them and we’ll
get to work on removing that tree from the kitchen.
Unless you think it makes a sweet new table?”
could tell that Jay was trying to soften Nathan up,
make sure that he didn’t get in trouble, but Nathan
wasn’t going to give them much of anything. He’d
dropped his shoulder into the porch post, crossed his
arms, and was looking anywhere but at Sam and Dean.
Jay said with a dismissive wave of his hands. “I’ll
tell them. So it was friggin’ sweet. I, of course,
wasn’t here, but I’ve heard the story from
Nate, and I saw it touch down. Seriously, I didn’t
think those things could just drop down like that. Beautiful
day, then WHAM, there was a twister kicking
its way for Nate’s house. So I was like in my
jeep, pronto, trying to get here, right? The thing just
vanishes as soon as it hit Nathan’s property…I
mean, how freaking awesome is that? It couldn’t
touch my boy Nate.”
cast out a hand, knocking Nathan’s shoulder. “Couldn’t
touch you, man.”
shook his friend’s hand and turned, grabbing up
the shotgun and stalked back into the house. Jay sighed
as he watched his friend leave, the screen door slam
making him wince. Chelsea hit Jay in the calf before
to go, Jay,” she reprimanded.
What?” Jay whined, watching her retreat before
shrugging. “Don’t mind him. He’s had
a rough run recently. Just take my advice, and don’t
come back out here. Next time he might actually load
Dean replied dully.
need anything else?’ Jay asked. “Oh, name’s
Jaime Alden. When you quote me.”
Sam returned with a half nod, then watched Jay head
inside, dropping his shoulders. “That was weird.”
Dean sighed. “I need a drink.”
spent the past couple of hours with the “Ride
the Lightning” storm chasers, drinking beer and
listening to their stories. Sam had remained silent
for the most part, taking in the stories that were flying
across the table rapid fire. Each one of the storm chasers
had their own version of the most dangerous chase, and
through the smoky haze and florescent lights, Sam could
see Dean eating up every word.
had been flirting with Rachel, and Sam had been somewhat
glad to see that Dean was able to get his mind off of
things that had been plaguing him for weeks, but when
he saw his brother pull back and withdraw within himself,
taking on a careful, guarded persona with the beautiful
storm chaser, Sam knew he was padding those walls of
Dean…Sam thought, You’ll get your
shot at having someone.
deserved that at least. Sam had always thought Dean
could see Dean’s attraction to the team. The team’s
driver, Russ, was an adrenaline junkie, and even Rachel,
with her knowledge of what these storms could do, had
some of her own close calls that she described with
excited eyes and laughter.
whole bar was crowded with the other storm chasers and
reporters, and Sam could hear similar stories floating
around the room. Personally, Sam felt these people were
crazy, but who was he to make commentary on the lives
of storm chasers when he was a demon hunter?
been a small fight at the bar earlier, taking Sam’s
attention away from the team’s conversation and
directing it to the side door where a group of people
were being shoved outside. Sam thought he recognized
Jay, but couldn’t tell before the doors slammed
crowd tonight was loud and hyped up on adrenaline, and
Sam wanted to get going before more fights broke out.
He wasn’t exactly sure what kind of fights drunken
researchers could get into, but he didn’t want
to stay around and find out. He’d grabbed Dean’s
shoulder, pulling him in close so he could hear him
over the noise.
think we should go,” Sam said.
come on, Sammy. I want to stay. If I wasn’t a
hunter I’d be running around with Russ and the
gang. I’ve kinda always wanted to be a storm chaser.”
there it was again, that look that Sam noticed for a
while now had been void from Dean’s face. There
was nothing forced about his smile, that light in his
eyes, and Sam knew it was more than just the beers Dean
had slammed back. Dean needed this distraction.
thought you wanted to be a firefighter,” Sam returned.
laughed, taking another swig of beer. “You forgot
a mechanic, an astronaut, a bounty hunter…”
huffed, returning the cool beer bottle’s rim to
his lips and letting the dry flavor of the liquid swath
his tongue. Sam had no idea where to even start their
research, and so he was giving in to Dean’s methods
slowly. They would have to wait and see one of these
freak unnatural occurrences themselves, and it was probably
best to stay with the people that knew what they were
Dean, I hate to say it…but I think you were…”
didn’t get to finish, as the entire building shuddered
violently, the TVs throughout the bar switching to static
snow-white screens, the pub lights swinging above the
tables, flickering in and out. Everyone went silent,
the only noise in the bar coming from the jukebox, and
with the sudden quiet came the awareness of how loud
the wind was tearing around the building outside.
looked at Sam, then up at the nearest dancing light.
“Spirits, tornadoes, they both at least have something
in common. Both screw with the electricity…”
was transfixed by the beer bottle he’d set down
on the table as it started to shake, joined by the other
glasses surrounding it as they started to vibrate and
clank into one another.
but one sure makes one hell of a bigger bump in the
liquor bottles on the shelf behind the bar had started
to rattle against each other riotously, before another
tremor through the building sent them crashing in a
shower of glass and amber liquid to the ground. A woman
screamed, and the entire bar plunged into dark as storm
sirens kicked to life in the distance.
the episode here